Yeah, I am turning 30 today which is awesome because I think that my twenties were a hot mess and probably the main reason why I am not making enough money, am not already famous and haven’t yet moved out of the land (Germany) where “from rags to polyester” is the big dream.
So, to honor this day – which I probably will celebrate with a Disney-movie, a bath and a cake that I will eat on my own – I spent the last two weeks racking my brains over 30 songs that I absolutely adore which also means that the following songs most likely have been featured on this blog before because I like nothing more than redundancy. Yay, redundancy!
Disclaimer: There are some artists missing that I absolutely adore for the simple reason that I picked favourite songs that really stayed with me for a very long time and popped up over and over again throughout my life. Even a great song sometimes doesn’t do that, simply because it’s often a combination of context, song quality and personal associations that can signify a favourite song. And I would have made the list longer but then it wouldn’t fit the theme of this entry anymore and no, I won’t let that happen!
1. Ben E. King – Stand by Me
This is one of my earliest favourite songs and it featured prominently on pretty much every mixtape I made during my early to late teens. That it’s part of the soundtrack for one the greatest movies of all times is twice a reason to let it have the first place in a list that actually doesn’t have a certain order.
2. The Temptations – My Girl
I simply can’t listen to this song without smiling; I am completely incapable of ignoring this wonderful love song that was actually written for Smokey Robinson’s wife who was in The Miracles back then but as so many songwriters sold some of his hotter material to get sung by other bands. Oh, and if you want to watch a cringe-worthy version of this song, there is a version where Bing Crosby sings along and it is as awkward as you imagine it to be. That man was not destined to sing soul that much is certain.
3. Gogol Bordello – Through the roof and underground
Admitted, without the movie “Wristcutters” and the fact that this is kind of the only song featured (repeatedly) in the movie, I probably never would have gotten into this song because this genre is not really my cuppa. But the co-relation between the lyrics of the song (getting stuck and one day deciding to simply break out) and the movie (getting stuck in limbo and trying to find whoever knows how the hell to get out of there) is so beautiful and perfect and let’s face it – who wasn’t in a situation where they wanted to bust some ass to get out of a dead end?
4. Bat for Lashes – Pearl’s Dream
I love Natasha Khan’s dream-like concepts and especially her first two albums were mythologically so complex and magical that I just had to list one of her songs. Her music is so otherworldly and injects a little bit of surrealism into everyday life, whenever I listen to it. Especially this song is like a recurring dream, always appearing in my head subconsciously. Mystical, indeed.
5. Wintersleep – Weighty Ghost
Even though I only discovered this song last year, it already has a place in my heart. For some reason, this song was the main soundtrack to what I would describe a year of crap and kept me going because it somehow feels neither happy nor sad but just floats in-between, like a search for a way out (oh, there’s the limbo-theme again). During a time when you’re really not in the mood for the hand-clapping dance-track, a song like this is a real lifeboat.
6. The Who – Baba O’Riley
Of all the big British rock bands of the 60s and 70s, The Who are my absolutely favourite for sheer ingenuity, the balls to create two epic rock operas and an overall strength in songwriting paired with the kind of instrumentals that conjure up the grandeur of its time. As much as the Beatles shaped rock music, as much as Led Zeppelin are this cult-band (especially for my mom) and as much as the Rolling Stones are still playing on stage (with or without the devil’s blessing), The Who are the band that means most to me in lyrics, music and creative finesse. And this song is the epitome of Rock ‘n’ Roll in the 70s – the fact that this song is not a celebration but rather a devastated look at teenage idealism turned to crap over drugs and alcohol is simply awesome.
7. Peter Gabriel – In your eyes
It was a tight race between this song and “Solsbury Hill” but then I thought about the stupid ninjas that always decide to cut onions right next to me whenever I listen to “In Your eyes” and the decision was made. I wrote it before and write it again – perfect love song.
Remember when people wore ethno-vests? The 90s were crazy! Also, this is the laziest choreography ever.
8. Blind Melon – No Rain
I always felt for the bee, maybe I thought I was the bee, I don’t know. But this video was a staple of my MTV-during-the-90s-memories and the song is probably one of my most-played-songs ever. The guitar alone is so beautiful and this 70s vibe in the midst of the height of depressing alt/grunge-music is absolutely gorgeous.
Another great thing: This bee-dance led to this amazing thing that happened and I cannot believe that I only now start to appreciate the comedic genius that is Weird Al Yankovic.
9. Incubus – Wish you were here
Ok, apart from the chiseled six-pack that Brendan Boyd presents us with during the entire length of the video, this is actually a great song. It’s from the album “Morning View” which I still associate with the beginnings of my caffeine-addiction and long stares out of the window into the rain. Yeah, Incubus were a big part of my teenage-years but this song also reminds me of the sea aka my hometown.
Who do I wish was here? Maybe a pizza-delivery-guy with free pizza?
10. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – You’re all I need to get by
This song is one of the weirdest and most delightful recurring “earworms” of mine. Just as the song, it usually slowly fades into my consciousness and stays there, softly building up to the euphoria of Motown music. It’s absolutely beautiful how it sounds like the first bouts of love actually feel.
11. Interpol – Evil
This video gets me every time. I didn’t know that this song was about a notorious serial killer-couple from England for years and always thought that it was a sad song about the loss of a partner. Fortunately, I never put it on a mixtape for a crush. I mean, I don’t even know what would have been more awkward: If he would have recoiled in terror or seen me as his serial-killer-soul mate.
12. Kate Bush – Cloudbusting
Man, Kate Bush is such a genius and her lyrics are otherworldly! I love the video; the idea alone that she plays Wilhelm Reich’s son is so typical for her and has this theater-quality to it. I love the idea in the lyrics that something is so special that you just want to bury it because you are otherwise too scared to lose it. Ok, that also could be interpreted as serial-killer behaviour. Jule, tread lightly now…
It should be mentioned that the idea of this rain machine and the video and the lyrics of the song are a lot more romantic and wonderful than the actual life of Wilhelm Reich who was very dubious…very. If you want to stare at the computer screen in utter disbelief for a few minutes, just google him.
13. Efterklang – Modern Drift
To this day, this song is closely associated with one of the most beautiful festival-experiences I ever had. Everyone was happy, smiling and looking at the awesome musicians on stage. Soap-bubbles weren’t annoying for once and there was an overwhelming feeling of community. Maybe we were all just very heavily drugged but since that day, I love this song so much.
14. Kings of Leon – Knocked Up
This song totally reminds me of the time I was knocked up…just kidding, I actually listened to this song during my exchange year in Cardiff and this story of an expecting young couple that plans to run away despite the protest of their parents just really moved me because I was living on my own (well, in a flat with 5 other people) for the first time, in another country and without much money. Luckily, there was no pregnancy in sight and no asshole to convince me to run away (well, Lifetime-movies taught us how that ends…).
Clapping at concerts…I know that bands encourage this even but…urgh.
15. Regina Spektor – Human of the Year
One of the greatest songwriters of our time, I think I can use the hyperboles for this dame because she can create living breathing biographies with her songs, it’s unbelievable. I love this song because it breaks into tiny little pieces, as if you’re watching everything from the back, only slowly grasping everything by focusing on single elements of the picture Regina paints in only the most beautiful colours. There was a time a few months ago when I – completely out of nowhere – had this song in my head and couldn’t get it out. I am not a spiritual person but it’s very weird when “Hallelujah” is drifting in and out of your mind constantly.
16. Harry Belafonte – Turn the world around
You know, I want to post another video because I always post this version and this version only but it is just so amazing and it is everything the Muppets stand for – it’s sweet and imaginative and unifying and funny and unique.
17. Morrissey – Every Day is like Sunday
Although I would have been the perfect target group, I never was as much into the Smiths and Morrissey as I probably should be and enjoyed Echo and the Bunnymen much more. But there is no denying that hardly any other band has the gloomy, cynical, arrogant self-importance of a teenager down to a T as The Smiths do (and I mean that as a compliment).
18. Maximo Park – The coast is always changing
Now and then I dream of simply packing my things and leaving everything and everyone. Now, the older you get, the more difficult it actually gets (cancellation period is such a nasty thing for every free spirit). And I am quite sure that whenever I “suddenly” decide to leave, it will have been planned for months ahead because one thing I learned: As much as I would like to be, I am everything but spontaneous (that’s also one of the reasons why I will never be a Manic Pixie Dream Girl).
19. The Decemberists – Crane Wife 1,2,3
This song, you guys/gals, this song. I love the story (a Japanese fairy tale if I recall correctly), I love Carson Ellis‘ design for the cover of the album (which was named after this song) and the beautiful sadness surrounding the whole song. The theme of lack of trust and therefore the loss of a loved one is actually a very common theme in fairy tales from all continents. It’s a weird little kink that so far hasn’t made its way to a Disney movie but would make for an interesting spin. I mean, you don’t have to know everything about your partner; you can let them be themselves and let them have some secrets (the ones without hookers and drug lords) without risking your relationship, right?
20. The Music – Too High
I saw one of the last shows of The Music and it was amazing but also made me feel super old because I was not in the moshpit but sitting on the balcony and enjoying it because the kids downstairs were too rowdy! Anyways, I grew up with this band in a way because it was one of the very rare bands I discovered when their debut came out and I shed a tear when they disbanded. The group went through some serious crap, they had the whole “Major label ruins the production of the sophomore by forcing producers and stylistical decisions on the band”-drama going, their singer Rob became addicted and pretty much based the third (and last) album around his experience on the road to recovery. This band put out three albums but has been through everything horrible a band can suffer. This song – that’s a bloody mantra for these guys right there. Plus, it’s psychedelic awesomeness at its best.
21. Wye Oak – Civilian
This song is killing me. I get goosebumps whenever I hear it and I remember the first time I heard it, it was after a Cold War Kids-interview right before their show and the supporting act (surprise twist: Wye Oak) was still having sound check and performed this song. I only heard it from the backstage area but was immediately struck by it and when I later saw them performing it properly it just blew me away. This song feels like you’re being pulled into the night, breathless and with your heart beating so loud.
22. Modest Mouse – Float On
One day I will write a kid’s book with this message because it’s the most crucial and true thing you can learn in life: Life totally sucks most of the time but sometimes it doesn’t, so you better enjoy it! I still don’t know whether it should be a cuddly teddy bear or a cute fluffy owl who loses his job, gets cheated on by their partner and then wins a free pizza when he sob-orders it at his favourite pizza-place…
23. Polaris – Hey Sandy
I don’t even know what the song is about. Maybe I once looked it up but since then forgot because whenever I hear it, I just have weird Nickelodeon TV-shows in mind (specifically “The Adventures of Pete and Pete”, after all, that’s the title-song). Those shows helped a lot to keep the little weirdo inside of me intact while puberty tried to make me as conformist as possible. And I am not talking about the twin I devoured during our nine months in my mom’s uterus.
No, this song reminds me of pure optimism, creativity, enjoying the little weird perks of life and appreciating nice things.
24. Dire Straits – Romeo and Juliet
This is one of those songs (see: “Evil”) that I thought was super cute and romantic and then I learned English and actually read through the lyrics and realized that it was so much better than that because it was snarky and cynical and very funny. Knopfler wrote it after being dumped by a woman who – according to him – might have used him to boost her career. Ah, showbiz. My dream is to meet the (famous) man of my dreams and then dump him as soon as I don’t need him to be in the headlines anymore. That’s the dream right there.
25. Broken Social Scene – 7/4 Shoreline
This, ladies and gentlemen, is my best friend and me (I hate that description – best friend -, like, I have quite a few super great friends, isn’t that enough? Although, she is probably the one person I would live with if my sudden fame (remember, after having that super-popular boyfriend?) turned into a nervous breakdown)…where was I? Ah yes, my best friend and me go completely nuts whenever this is on and we’re on the dance floor. It’s one of those great songs that allow you to slowly find the rhythm and then bust a move because the chorus is like this spark of energy bursting through the waves. Woohoo!
26. I am Kloot – Proof
It’s not just Christopher Eccleston being incredibly dreamy in this video, no, this video might have been the single sole thing that kept me over water a few (more) years ago when I had a rough time getting accustomed to my hometown after I spent roughly a year in Cardiff on my own. It can feel really bad when you can’t be completely happy at the place where all your friends and family are because it doesn’t really feel like home. Music like this, that is warm and calming, really helps to keep that wanderlust in check, so you can finish your bloody degree and start making (some) money.
27. Loudon Wainwright III – Swimming Song (performed by Bruce Peninsula)
I love Loudon’s songwriting in this, it’s silly, funny and still has a sort of melancholy like flipping through an old photo album of your childhood. And I do love what Bruce Peninsula did with the song because it has this rambunctious energy, so you want to grab a friend and dance along the beach.
28. Sonny & Cher – I got you babe
My dream is still to sing this in a Karaoke bar with one of my many tall, long-haired girlfriends (no seriously, for some reason, most of my close female friends are amazons) and be Sonny. I have a whole collection of glue-on-moustaches just for that occasion.
Till then, I just put it on as my waking song for my alarm clock, so I can pretend I am living in “Groundhog Day” whenever life becomes too repetitive and boring. Well, without the thousand suicide attempts, though. Sadly enough, also without the “eating every pie from the menu”….damn.
29. Clap your hands say yeah – let the cool goddess rust away
It’s weird how some songs can just bring me calm no matter what. I am Kloot can do this and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah can do it with this beauty of a song. It’s one of very few songs where I don’t dance as weirdly as I usually do but just sway around (weirdly) as if I am being casted as an extra in a Woodstock-movie. I mean the guitar/bass-work in this song is just absolutely amazing and would probably sound lovely without anything else. I also love that the whole band is a bunch of music-nerds. Those are the best.
30. Cold War Kids – Miracle Mile
So here I am, I am 30 and have a whole bucket list full of stuff ahead of me. Like eating the cake that I talked about in the first paragraph of this entry or moving to Great Britain, Canada or America to date that famous person (Jeremy Renner…call me). What I need is a song with one of those piano-bits that sound immediate and hasty, as if to urge me out of the door. I need a song with some “oohs” because those are somewhat spiritual and therefore inspirational. I need a song with lyrics that allude to doing something with your life after you’ve been stuck for too long. I need a song that has this one part where everything slows down just to explode into a somewhat chaotic culmination of guitar-solos and background-singing and a mantra that is perfect for situations that feel defeating and too heavy to bear…
Come up for air.