“The Wind” by Cat Stevens. This song clocks in at one minute and 44 seconds. Despite not having extravagant music – a simple guitar and Stevens voice – it is one of the more powerful songs I have come across. I remember when I first found this song, I was snooping through my dad’s CDs and found a burned copy of The Very Best of Cat Stevens. I knew I loved “Peace Train” and “Wild World,” so I popped it in my discman (yes, it was that long ago), plopped the headphones over my ears and sat down to listen. The simple lyrics echo the simplicity in the music. He sings: “I listen to the wind, to the wind of my soul. Where I’ll end up, what I’ll think, only God really knows. I’ve sat upon the setting sun, but never, never, never, never, I’ve never wanted water once, no, never, never, never. I listen to my words, but they fall far below. I let my music take me where my heart wants to go. I’ve swam upon the devil’s lake, but never, never, never, never, I never make the same mistake, no, never, never, never.”
“The Girl” by City and Colour. January 2010 was the first time I heard City and Colour. I was stalking my friend’s last.fm account and began downloading his top five favorite groups, with Dallas Green‘s solo work being number one. Immediately I fell in love with “Sleeping Sickness” but my second favorite was this song. I found it utterly romantic and could relate to the song, but from the view-point of the unnamed girl. He is singing to her because she has been by his side through everything, supported him through everything, and she has not asked for the typical things in return, like a diamond ring or a string of pearls. Simple acoustics, Dallas Green’s voice and a few back-up vocalists in a sing-along scenario. It’s a beautiful gift for “the girl”.
“Can You Tell” by Ra Ra Riot. I discovered Ra Ra Riot the summer of 2009. I was in one of my all too frequent music discovery moods, looking at and downloading samples of countless bands. After I found this song, I became enamored with it. There is a constant beat, beautiful moments that use strings, and Wes Miles hits it with his vocals, coming across as shy. The song describes the beginnings of a crush, he sings, “Oh have I been too discreet, how long am I supposed to wait? I think about you nightly, can you tell I’m losing sleep? Oh, what am I supposed to do, it’s hard to stay cool when you smile at me. I get nervous every time you speak.” Maybe a perfect song to go on a Valentine’s Day mix-tape. (This past fall they released another album, The Orchard, which you should check out! It’s only $5.00 at Amazon.com.)
“The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” by The Postal Service. I like to think that I came into my own, in regards to music, while in college. It was the first time I had cable television and was able to view channels like MTV and VH1. And as everyone knows, they don’t exactly play music on these channels anymore, however, they do have off-shoots, like MTV college, where relatively underground bands can showcase their wares. It introduced me to a variety of music and musicians, realizing I had only been on the cusp of great music while in high school. The Postal Service, and more specifically, this song, were part of the few fledgling steps I took my freshman year of college. To this day, this song reminds me of the University of Iowa campus during fall and winter. The unique electropop sounds, the whisper soft vocals from Jenny Lewis, and Ben Gibbard’s intelligent lyricism, it is hard to not love The Postal Service, and even harder to not enjoy this song.
“Firework” by Katy Perry. First, let me say this: I love this song, and I love making fun of this song, well I’ll amend, I love making fun of the music video. The message is a beautiful one where Katy encourages her fans to be themselves and shine bright even in the darkest times. However, I cannot help but see Katy on top of a building with fireworks shooting out of her ta-tas as she goes into her epic chorus, belting out “Ignite the light and let it shine, just own the night, like the fourth of July, because baby you’re a firework, come on show ’em what you’re worth…” However, if you are looking for an encouraging song, lyrically, and something to bring your mood up, this song does it. When I lived in Utah this past summer, I would drive around when things were getting a bit hectic, and put this song on. The huge build-up to the chorus, and the chorus itself, allowed me to smile and start laughing at the absurdity and beauty of it.