“Free of Me” by Joshua Radin. I am a huge fan of Joshua Radin. Singer/songwriters and folk pop are two genres that I hold in high esteem. I grew up listening to Simon and Garfunkel, Neil Diamond, Harry Chapin, Jim Croce, and Cat Stevens, so it seems fairly linear that I have a preoccupation with whisper soft vocals crooning over acoustic melodies. That, and lyrics are my du jour. When a genre concentrates emphatically on expressing themselves through lyrical and musical poetry, you better believe I am going to pay attention. This particular track comes from Joshua’s album Simple Times. The music is relatively straightforward with no real deviation from the consistent drum beat and repetition of notes on guitar. But what drew me to this song are the lyrics. He is telling his significant other that she should leave him, because his life has tumbled into chaos and all that can happen is him hurting her. Favorite lyrics: “I could be who you wanted somewhere down the road, when I’m whole, when the rains are done, when I’ve reaped all I’ve sewn. But here and now, on my hands and knees, I crawl through the mud. And your bed is so soft and warm, and I’m weary and tired. You’re shelter from the rain, turn around, walk away. Go now, and don’t look back. My life has come off its tracks and you should be free of me.”
“Breakable” by Ingrid Michaelson. There are few artists who I believe can appeal to the listeners on such an intimate level as Ingrid Michaelson can. Her lyrics are conversational, as if she is directing the words to a single listener, asking questions or stating facts. Her music is relatively simple so it does not detract from her voice or words. I love this song, in particular, because I feel like all the pieces come together so smoothly. The piano is fast pace and keeps time with the constant drum beat, while the vocals are the slowest part of the track. The variations in speed hint at the kind emotional chaos the lyrics suggest. She sings about how fragile we are by using the visual of the human body and paralleling it to the cognitive parts. The song opens: “Have you ever thought about what protects our hearts, just a cage of rib bones and other various parts, so it’s fairly simple to cut right through the mess and to stop the muscle that makes us confess.”
“The Beauty of the Rain” by Dar Williams and Chris Botti. I honestly cannot tell you how I came across this track. To the best of my knowledge, I found it in one of my many moments of musical discovery and quickly fell for the simple acoustics, horn, and haunting vocals. This is a track that I have been able to enjoy both lyrically and musically. The guitar is reminiscent of droplets of rain as they fall and spatter against windows. The horn punctuates throughout giving the track these moments that feel like someone calling out, crying. If you remove the lyrics, the song still maintains strength and evokes an emotional reaction. It tugs on your heartstrings. Dar’s voice is soft and beautiful, and it adds potency to the words. She is communicating with her lyrics, reflecting on a relationship and love. In the end, it is a gorgeous testament to relationships lost.
“Home” by Glasser. I found this track at the end of 2010. Amazon typically does end of the year “best of” lists for different genres. It is an interesting way to find new music especially since they have one whole section dedicated to obscure and indie artists. This is one of those artists. Glasser is the stage name of experimental musician and singer/songwriter Cameron Mesirow. Her music typically consists of a variety of instruments (ranging from hand clapping to xylophones and organic materials, like glass bottles) as well as her voice. Based on her vocals I believe she considers her voice more of an instrument than a vehicle for words. The lyrics are not as important as the atmosphere she creates with her sound. I have termed this type of music as “art student élite” and “experimental sound.” This specific song, for whatever reason, always brings to mind Jackson Pollock and his splatter paintings though there is nothing in the song that mirrors the explosions of color. However, the overlapping beats, rhythms, and melodies reflect a sense of intertwined chaos.
“Good for Great” by Matt & Kim. I absolutely love Matt & Kim. I have heard them described by many people as a guilty pleasure. No reason to feel guilty for liking Matt & Kim people! They are a fun duo to listen to. Their lyrics are oftentimes simple and expressive, occasionally reaching nonsensical. The music is bubbly and would definitely be classified as “pop”. This song comes off their latest release, Sidewalks, therefore it has a more refined sound than previous albums. Synth beats, drums and Matt’s wavering voice, and you have the perfect combination for smiles, positive thought, and yes, dancing. My favorite lyrics from this song are kind of in opposition to me. I am a bookworm through and through, but I believe the best line from this song is: “The books I won’t read, the air I’ll breathe, the colors I’ve seen, I’ll leave these pages in the trees.” The reason I love those lyrics so much are because they are encouraging people to live their life, and not vicariously through books, therefore he is leaving the pages in the trees. Carpe diem! Seize the carp people! SEIZE THE CARP!