For a while now, I’ve had a cycle of favourite songs, but none of them have lasted very long. The “favourite” slot is only a temporary position, which should really be called “song-of-the-moment”. I realized I started doing this because none of my music is sacred anymore — every time I hear an old favourite, there’s a memory that’s associated with it — so I’ve been looking for new favourite materials, trying to find new material that’ll be mine.
Here are the last eight, in order from least to most recent (going back a few months).
Leonard Cohen — A Singer Must Die
When I first heard this song, I didn’t know what it was about, but the words drew me in. Cohen paints this striking image of a singer in a courtroom, set to melancholy and minimalistic acoustic guitar.
Then read me the list of the crimes that are mine,
I will ask for the mercy that you love to decline.
And all the ladies go moist, and the judge has no choice,
a singer must die for the lie in his voice.
And I thank you, I thank you for doing your duty,
you keepers of truth, you guardians of beauty.
Your vision is right, my vision is wrong,
I’m sorry for smudging the air with my song.
I later discovered that Cohen wrote it about all artists eventually selling out (the lie in his voice), and this idea that women are turned on by a singer being martyred for it. I love this idea, because I’m always caught between trying to retain my artistic integrity, and at the same time trying to appeal to the masses to make money so I can continue being an artist and have better tools that would help me express myself.
Clann Zú — One Bedroom Apartment
Declan de Barra wrote this about his fiancee of five years leaving him. It’s filled with the most intensely personal lyrics, combined with moments of distortion and starkness. In an interview, he once said that this song defines the album, Black Coats and Bandages, and he had to write parts of it in the third person because otherwise it’s just too emotional if he sang it purely from the first person. The most common line in the song, repeated quietly as the piano rolls on, is “I will never love again”. I almost wrote an entire entry dedicated to this song, because I was identifying with the lyrics so much at that moment. I read a comment once on this song that said, “The goal in life is to never be able to relate to this song”. I agree.
Muse — Map of the Problematique
My favourite song off Black Holes and Revelations. I only like it because it moves so well. That’s pretty much it. There’s a breakdown of guitar at the 1:48 mark that gets me every time.
Clann Zú — Words For Snow
The first song off Clann Zú’s first album completely raises the bar on anything else they ever did. I just listen for the last half of the song. It builds and it builds with the snare drum, then the music recedes, until all you can hear is Declan de Barra speaking in his thick Irish accent, right into a smattering of STRINGS and BASS and Declan screaming “AND HE CRIED OUT FOR CHRIST’S SAKE HELP ME, FOR CHRIST’S SAKE GET ME OUT OF HERE, GOD OF ALL SICK THINGS GET ME THE FUCK OUT OF HERE, GET ME THE FUCK OUT OF HERE, GET ME THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!” and then quarter note rests into fucking strings times two and god I just came in my pants.
Magneta Lane — Wild Gardens
Okay, it should really be something like five songs on this list by Magneta Lane, because of their two fantastic albums, but the one that started it all was Wild Gardens (it has a cute video too). This song makes me think of sunny days, and green, and parties under foliage. I especially like it when Lexi Valentine says, “Now darling she can’t keep on waiting/Till you give a fuck that she’s fading”. I’m still saving enough money for three engagement rings so I can propose to this band.
Star Fucking Hipsters — Until We're Dead
This punk rock power-group, lead by Stza as his side-project from Leftöver Crack, is still characterized by the calm before (and after) the storm; in this case, gentle piano that bookends the catchy melodies and power riffs. Until We’re Dead adds the cute female vocals of Nico de Gaillo, which gives their sound a nice bit of contrast against Stza’s raspy voice.
Okay, so this song was only top for two days, but it remains in my top ten, and I still play it when I need that extra boost of energy. Works especially well as the first song when leaving the house.
No Motiv — Empty
I finally found a copy of No Motiv’s album, And The Sadness Prevails. I first gave this song a really good listen when I was delivering cases for work, which means I was soaking up the sun on the highway, which is exactly how I’ve ever heard every other No Motiv album. So, there’s always this perpetual image of summer that I associate with them. This is probably tied as the best song on the album, purely for the hook and the lyrics in said hook:
Eventually I’ll be left here feeling empty again
I’m still so confused about the part where you said
That you’re in my way
There is no one that can give me inspiration like you
And I’m still wondering why
so I’ll keep asking
do you like what you see?
because this is all of me
so here I wait for you
Leonard Cohen — Take This Waltz
And this brings me back to right now. I’m pretty much obsessed with this song, an English language version of the Spanish poem Pequeño vals vienés. It’s so unlike any other Cohen song before it. I like the idea of giving a song to someone, which I naturally related to. This also official marks the transition of his instruments to synthesizers, a transition I was dreading, but survived with an acquired taste.