My Life in Songs
Most of my time is spent listening to music, whether it’s playing Bowie on repeat or discovering new songs and artists from various backgrounds, with different sounds and inspirations. Below is a small list of songs which I believe presents a peek inside my life and who I am. It would be impossible to dedicate my words to all the songs that have inspired me in my short 19 years, but here are a few which have either recently creeped themselves in my heart or have stayed with me since my first listen.
Incinerate by Sonic Youth. Despite many Sonic Youth fans hating this song, as a huge Sonic Youth fan…this is definitely my favorite song by them (followed by Teen Age Riot and Schizophrenia). It’s easy to listen to. The song carries a lazy but effective rhythm which collaborates beautifully with Thurston’s voice. The drums and guitars clash, taking you different directions of the song, but I typically find myself surrendering to the allure of the guitar’s riff, especially during the chorus. The song lacks the energy of their older stuff, but is just as much as an enigma.
Harness your Hopes - B -side by Pavement. I never really listened to Pavement until this winter, and it was actually this song which made me accept Pavement as a pretty great fucking band. The song is the most Pavement—esque song they’ve made; everything about it is simple, repetitive, a word-play, random, and, ultimately, it all works. To be completely honest, all the reasons why I love this song and Pavement are also reasons why I love The Velvet Underground. Plus, there’s something kind of sexy about Stephen Malkmus’s laconic voice.
Barely Legal by The Strokes. Although not my favorite song by The Strokes (which, I must add, is my favorite band)…lovely memories come from this song. Walking down St. Mark’s Place in the middle of the night as Julian’s idle voice blasts in my ears, sitting on fire escapes with old friends as Albert Hammond Jr rocks his way through the speakers…plus, my favorite performance by them is when they played this song during their MTV Unplugged concert. I’ll never grow old of The Strokes and the memories they bring.
Vicious by Lou Reed. The Strokes may be my favorite unity of musicians, but Lou Reed is the prime solo man. Yeah, The Velvet Underground was astonishing (which is an understatement), but the thing about Lou Reed is, give him a list of words and send him off (which Any Warhol did) and he will come back with something beyond imagination (he came back with song Femme Fetal). Vicious isn’t my favorite Lou Reed song (that goes to Take a Walk on the Wild Side, which isn’t just my favorite song but my lifetime lullaby), but it’s a song worth attention. It’s another song inspired by Warhol, but it’s perfectly Lou. The exuberant distortion of the song collaborating with Lou’s clever and poetic lyrics (“vicious, you hit me with a flower…”) never fails to hits a nerve. The sharp guitar, the darkness of the song contrasting with Lou’s high spirited voice…everything. The truth is, I can go on all day about Lou Reed and everything that man has done, but I don't have to. Just turn a song on by him and you’ll fall under his spell as well.
Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush. Such a strong, ebullient song carried by the dominance of Kate Bush’s distinct voice. This song written by the then-unknown 18-year-old Kate Bush herself, was her key into the spotlight when David Gilmour of Pink Floyd listened to it and knew she was something special. Although a pop-song, there’s something wicked about the bop, leading the song to be more grand than the other 80’s pop songs that were coming out at the time.
Miss You by The Rolling Stones. Nothing can get better than The Rolling Stones taking a chance on disco. With it’s slick base, polished grooviness, and the natural sexiness of Jagger’s voice, this song became an ubiquitous single. Have a bad day and play this song on full volume, let yourself become overpowered by The Stone’s seduction.
Pain and Love by T. Rex. The sharp electric guitar, simple rhythms, vocals doused in vintage slapjack echo…this song is simultaneously melancholy and triumphant, typical T. Rex genius. The song is somber in a way British-pop never truly explored until T. Rex stepped in the spotlight.
Life in LA by Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti. I’ve always liked this song, but it wasn’t until I played it on aux during my first time in LA just a few months ago, that I actually realized how much I love this song. As a bona-fide New Yorker, I’ve always thought of LA as a cliché. However, there’s something very low-key and spooky against LA’s sunny and lackadaisical backdrop that doesn’t get much recognition. Maybe I only see it because I spent my time in Victorian cafés and the museum of death, but listening to this song allows me to remember those LA nights, walking along the concrete, passing drag queen shows and ostentatious thrift stores. I love the song’s laziness. It’s an easy listen without compromising it’s groove and beauty.
Waterloo Sunset by The Kinks. A song that can make me cry. The romantic, light flow brings such joy while the lyrics, which are described as “like an extract from a diary nobody was allowed to read” bring a melancholy sense of togetherness. It’s the perfect song to wind down to. Need a cleanse? Listen to this song, it’ll show you your past, present, and future. As the last line says, “Waterloo sunset’s fine”.