“Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors” by Editors. I first heard Editors on the New Moon soundtrack, and was instantly fascinated by lead singer Tom Smith’s voice. Intrigued by his vocals, I went in search of more Editors albums and came across this song. What I find particularly beautiful on this track is the percussion and the interesting use of the flute, though Smith’s voice is just as distinguishing as the first time I heard it. The lyrics touch upon starting over, rebuilding a life that has fallen to pieces. The song continuously builds until there is a gorgeous combination of vocals, drums, flute, guitar and bass. The last minute of the song is extremely powerful. It is a whirlwind of instruments and Smith sings, “Someone turn me around, can I start this again? Now someone turn us around, can we start this again?”
“Sowing Season” by Brand New. This track comes from Brand New’s third studio album, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me. I read a story about an in-store performance the band did while promoting this album, and afterwards a fan approached lead singer Jesse Lacey and asked in a timid voice, “Are you okay dude?” With absolutely heart shattering lyrics, this song is the epitome of emotional lyricism. The anger and sadness are almost tangible, making the track’s most memorable feature the lyrics. The music is both chaotic and melodic creating a perfect background for the vocals. My favorite moment of the song happens about three and a half minutes in when the music softens and Jesse screams, “I am not your friend, I am just a man who knows how to feel. I am not your friend, I am not your lover, I am not your family, yeah,” after which the music erupts.
“All Of The Lights” by Kanye West. This track is from Kanye’s latest release, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. This is hands down my favorite track from the album. It combines hip hop club beats, a full brass section, and beautifully played piano. It also features guest talent from Rihanna and Nicki Minaj. The song opens with brass and Rihanna singing, “Turn up the lights in here baby, extra bright, I want y’all to see this. Turn up the lights in here baby, you know what I need, I want you to see everything, want you to see with all of the lights.” It is a near perfect introduction to the following rhythms given by Kanye and Nicki, where they conversely discuss the negative side to celebrity. There is a grandiose presentation of fame and fortune with the extravagant musical backing while the lyrics paint the downside to living in “all of the lights”.
“Stuck Between Stations” by The Hold Steady. This song is nothing shy of an anthem. Opening with a solid guitar riff, adding in a pounding piano as the rest of the band follows, including the talking/singing of vocalist Craig Finn, this song encompasses the energy and excitement we all aim to feel. It is truly one of the few songs that I feel there is a perfect combination between witty and intelligent lyrics and mind-blowing music. About two years ago I was lucky enough to see this band live. It was an experience, one that even this wordsmith cannot accurately describe. There was a palpable power in the room. All the concert goers were no longer anonymous, but a beautiful conglomeration that was solely there to see these musicians. If you ever get the chance to see them live, do it before it’s too late.
“The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkel. When I was younger my father had a working turntable. Most Saturday mornings my family spent cleaning and listening to the soulful voice of Neil Diamond or the beautiful poetry of Simon and Garfunkel on vinyl. This song became one of my favorites. The soft guitar, the simple percussion and Paul Simon’s and Art Garfunkel’s voices combine and create a wonderful back drop for the story they tell. The image of the boxer is one that has stuck with me through the years: “In the clearing stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade, and he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him til he cried out in his anger and his shame, ‘I am leaving, I am leaving,’ but the fighter still remains.” Whenever I feel like things are becoming too tough, I remember Saturday mornings, and I remember Simon and Garfunkel on vinyl, and I remember my dad telling me about the boxer, and how he still remains.