Comfort food music: “Boys” by Charli XCX

It’s been pretty stressful around here so I’ve found myself revisiting a song that always makes me feel better: “Boys” by Charli XCX. The music video in particular is just such comfort food. It’s washed in tones of bubblegum pink and features many of your favorite male musicians being wholesome. Plus Joe Jonas erotically eating a stack of pancakes, which must be seen to be believed…and enjoyed. 😉

I’m also thinking about the difference, if there even is one, between “guilty pleasure” and “comfort food” music. Perhaps the former is just a shade of the latter, just with overtones of shame layered over it. I’ve written about guilty pleasures before and am firmly of the mind that if you like something, just go ahead and like it

Besides, “Boys” is all about a woman enjoying herself. She’s thinking about all the boys she wants and has taken more than a few of them. That’s part of what makes the song just so much fun, in addition to the light puff-pastry quality of the beat underneath it.

Have a listen. Hopefully it has the same stress-reducing properties for you as it does for me.

The Shimmering Brilliance of “Baba O’Riley”

I can’t believe I haven’t blogged about this song yet given that I literally wrote an entire essay on it in college. I heard it playing tinnily out of a car’s radio as it drove past the other day so that’s what’s got me thinking about it again.

No, the song isn’t called “Teenage Wasteland”. The title refers to guitarist Pete Townshend’s musical and philosophical influences. You can almost hear that mysticism in the high, wavering organ in the background of the song. The beat starts out confident in mono then becomes unsteady, shifting, adjusting itself into Keith Moon’s iconic drum lines.

But what about the song makes it “shimmer”? I think that organ, to be sure, but also the rawness of Roger Daltrey’s vocals. “Out here in the fields,” he declares, “I fight for my meals/I get my back into my living.” I shiver every time the song starts because his voice immediately transports you into that rough and slightly desperate world. Moon’s drumming continues and almost sounds like a heartbeat.

Daltrey’s high wail is mixed with power as he describes how he doesn’t need to be forgiven. That assertion is emphasized by Moon’s drumming. This song gives me a confidence boost whenever I listen to it for that very reason.

Another thing that stands out to me about the song is how ageless it feels. Not just because it’s iconic, although of course it is, but those teenagers could be the subjects of the song (Sally?) or those the narrator decries.

I had the privilege of seeing The Who perform this song live last year. Fittingly, it came at the very end of their set. And just as I predicted I started crying. There is something so spiritual, so transportive about music, and this song in particular, that to experience it in its full force was beautifully overwhelming.

Favorite Songs: “Stolen Flowers” by Japanther

An occasional series where I write about songs I love and why.

I’m writing today about “Stolen Flowers” by Japanther. More info on who they are as a band can be found here.

This song is taken off their album Eat Like Lisa, Act Like Bart. Aside from being good life advice, the album’s name captures the snottiness and internal contrasts of “Stolen Flowers.” The song describes a girl (“my darling”) who is clearly at a punk show – and yet she “stands still.”

Ian Vanek’s delivery in this song is very disaffected, which fits the band’s punk/DIY aesthetic. This aesthetic spreads to the chorus of the song itself, where Vanek describes how “stolen flowers decorate her room.” His punk darling doesn’t care about “when the static stars and the music starts/And it all begins to blur.” All that matters to her is these snatches of beauty – wherever she can find them.

Favorite Songs: “Rill Rill” by Sleigh Bells

An occasional series where I talk about the songs I love and why.

Ooooh that “boom-boom-crunk” of “Rill Rill” gets me every time. It takes me back to high school, to freshman year of college. “You’re all alone friend/Pick up the phone then/Ring, ring call them up/Tell them about the new trends.” That line always hits close to home: it talks about how you might be alone, but “they” are just on the other end of the line, ready for a connection…even if it’s as small as talking about the “new trends.”

It’s such a heavy song: Derek Miller’s powerful, static-y guitar riff is layered neatly over those pulsing drums. And yet Alexis Krauss floats so easily over those instrumentals – she’s got light pop vocals that fit her status as a former girl group singer.

And that’s what I love about this song. “Rill Rill” has weight. It speaks to that time in high school/early college when you’re just waiting: maybe you don’t want to be the one picking up the phone all the time. Krauss’s breathy voice sings about how “we form the tarot pack/and I’m aware of that.” She’s as clean and dismissive as any Mean Girls clique, with a guitar wall that forms the weight of high school emotions to back her words.