Songs with Strange Uplifting Energy (some calming, some toe-tapping):
"I'm Happy, She Said" - M83
One of my favorite songs is "I'm Happy, She Said" by M83. It's a great song. I used to give Zoe her middle of the night bottles while listening to it. It's beautiful, it builds nicely, but at the same time, it requires and inspires and little bit of patience.
"Nutshell" - Alice in Chains
I like their original band name better "Alice and the Chains." It's a complete meaning shift to shorten it. This is a sad and somewhat unnecessary song that came about because of an alienation of some sort. Strangely, the singer seems to understand a lot of his feelings of injury. I'd be inclined to say that the song is not just a product of ignorant rage or blind self-indulgence. But has an actual element of transcendence in the actual music. Layne Staley was great, he's another dead artist, but we notice that artists never die when performing, just when they have too much time to themselves.
"If It Be Your Will" - Leonard Cohen
This is kind of backhanded thank-you note for life. I'm not christain or jewish or buddhist or anything, but I love all people, and I treat their religions as I treat any poem that's sacred to someone I love. I may be loved or hated for it, and I'm not necessarily proud of where I stand with it, but its where I find myself when I'm really truthful to myself both emotionally and intellectually. This song is addressed to his G-d, and he says if you want me to be quiet, I'll be quiet. If you want me to sing out, I'll sing out. But the fact that the song exists and is being sung pretty directly indicates that he's received his order. So it becomes kind of a love note or a thank you note of some sort, and at the same time a commitment to surrender. Anyway, that's what I think when I listen to it.
"Headphones" - Bjork
This is an avant garde song. And to be honest, it's actually a perfect description for what happens when I listen to the first song listed above (The M83 song). She listens to a new tape with new sounds and it just opens up her mind. and intermittently she sings, "these headphones, they saved my life, your tape, it lulled me to sleep." If you've ever fallen asleep to calm alienlike music you can totally relate to this. It's kind of like a form of meditation. I like to put this song on my mp3 player, lay on my back, close my eyes, and just calmly listen. It's a great song.
"One More Cup of Coffee" - Bob Dylan
People are really likely to write abstract descriptions of Bob Dylan songs. You basically can either 1) write abstract blurbs in an attempt to weave a poor man's version of the song, 2) quote lines verbatim as if you understand them or 3) come clean. I come clean. What the fuck? Hmm, A girl rejects someone. I guess someone has been groomed to fight. We got a family of gypsy psychics. And then there's the prosaic coffee and the mysterious valley below. Death? War? Just a valley? Who knows. Perhaps there's a direct meaning and reference in here somewhere that I haven't properly researched. Either way, It's a great song and I am soothed by its mystery.
"That I Would Be Good" -Alanis Morisette
I have no business liking this song. It's clearly written by a young women for other young women. I can just pretend that I'm researching good art to pass on to Zoe when she's of age. What a lie. I like this song. It's honest, and extremely straightforward. She's got a beautiful voice. It's got a flute solo. I really like this whole album a lot.
"Plucky's Lament" - Bela Fleck
An instrumental. It feels like I grew up on this song even though I heard it for the first time 10 years or so ago.
"Going Home" from the Local Hero soundtrack (Mark Knopfler)
I love this song. It's so unobvious (not a word, but I use it regularly). The whole album is built off of this beautiful and calm riff. It's amazing. The theme actually picks up and carries you off on the back of some angel of 1980's saxophone music! Don't let yourself get distracted by the cheesiness of the happy ending. It's just a vehicle for relaxation. You'll smile when you listen to this song.
"Race Among the Ruins" - Gordon Lightfoot
Bob Dylan said that when he hears a Gordon Lightfoot song he wishes it would go on forever. Lightfoot carries tunes in such a soft egoless (another non-word) manner. You almost forget there's a person actually performing the song. And he carries it so lightly and smoothly along. It's a great song, and the lyrics are good too.
"Attics of My Life" - Grateful Dead
Jerry Garcia is America's wacky uncle. He's always got that goofy smirk underneath that beard. He writes humble songs. I don't know who wrote this melody, or who's idea it was to get the potheads to harmonize on it, but it worked!! It's so simple and easy. It almost feels like they're making it up as they go, and just picking out the same lyrics by happenstance. I love hippie music. I'm always extremely aware of its hippiness, but it never distracts from the fact that its an awesome song. I could have seen this song debuted by a bunch of grungy old men with toe tickling beards on America's got talent. They'd get a standing ovation, smile their rotten tooth smiles, and then get booted off the next week. Hey buds, get back in the van, I need to talk about the next song now.
"Run Free" - Hanz Zimmer
A song from the "Stallion: Spirit of the Cimarron" Soundtrack. Really! This is probably as bad as Alanis! This song is the quintessential triumph of the human spirit song. Play it before a test, a job interview, a thumbwar, whatever? This song will get your blood pumping like no other. I like to play it so loud that I can't hear myself scream. That's the proper way to play it. Play it when you're dishing out some rocky road ice cream. Play this motherfucker. And when you're done, buy the dvd and watch that horse fly!
"Hide and Seek" - Imogen Heap
Nothing can really follow that last song. But this is just a collection, not a playlist. This song has some weird effect that kind of steals the show. The lyrics are a little too forced for me. But that's fine. It gets oddly rhapsodic at the end and kind of sparks your mind a little bit. I got addicted to it at one point.
"Shine" - Joni Mitchell
This is an unbelievable song. It has an unbelievable ability to unpack stress and frustration. It's a pretty simple song in which she basically prays for the best and worst of mankind. It's got a "Leaves of Grass" quality to it, with a little bit more truth about some of the ugliness of it. She's got some lines I don't really agree with, but that's fine. I really love this whole album.
"King of May" - Natalie Merchant
An elegy for Allen Ginsberg. But really for all the virtues that Allen supposedly embodied. To her, he definitely did. You can feel the real emotion that she feels for him in this song. It's not an overtly sad song, as "River" is. But a celebration of his life. The strings build up slowly and perfectly.
"The Teacher" - Paul Simon
The version of this song on the Paul Simon dvd in Paris is incredible. The lights are perfect. The sound is perfect. The audience is perfect. He's got that ridiculously awesome-looking guitar player. He looks like he rose out of some sort of mist with his robes and his guitar. His fingers are so long, it looks like he can wrap them three times around the fretboard. Anyway, the song and the performance are magical.
I better stop here. These are just some songs that have a strange way of sneaking on to most of the mix-CDs that I burn. They are great songs. I thought I'd share them. I can totally understand if you give 'em a try and hate them. That's just the way it is.
Anyway, I gotta work tomorrow and it's 1:04 am. See you later!