What I’ve Been Listening To #1

20/02/17 – 26/02/17

Top 7 Songs

One More Time With Feeling – Regina Spektor  
Favourite Line: ‘You thought by now you’d be so much better than you are.’

This is one of those versatile songs you can play when you’re both ecstatic and utterly miserable. The Smiths will always be the masters of combining sad lyrics with a chirpy beat, but Regina Spektor does a pretty stellar job too. The chorus and the verse are even broken up with a twee intermission of ‘doo doo doo doo doo’, which is more fun to sing along to than I care to admit. There’s a slight pause each time right before the chorus kicks in; the anticipation makes it near impossible to not belt out ‘Hoooold on!’ Regina Spektor’s voice with its lovely Russian twang alternates between powerful and mellow, intertwining with the melody of the piano beautifully.

Zombies – Childish Gambino
Favourite Line: ‘We’re eating you for profit, there is no way to stop it.’ 

Even those who shun hip-hop should sample the music of Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover). This song, in fact this entire album (“Awaken, My Love!”), is yet more proof of his talent and non-stop innovation. Zombies is a psychedelic, exaggeratedly eerie song that taps into the listener’s sense of fear. What I love about Gambino’s music is his ability to create songs that often have more serious connotations and meanings whilst still being ridiculously entertaining to listen to; a lot of modern hip-hop artists are quite either/or. Zombies is actually referencing people who feed off another’s fame, creativity and/or success, and may also be a jab at the exploitative nature of the music industry. Gambino’s acting skills definitely pay off too; he uses the tone and intonation of his voice to convey fear, alongside female backing vocalists half-singing, half-whispering lines like ‘we’re coming out to get you’ over the unnatural, funky instrumentation. The combination of these components creates a song which is difficult not to want to replay over and over again.

(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano – Sampha
Favourite Line: ‘You would show me I had something some people call a soul.’

I’ve only recently discovered Sampha, although I wish I had much earlier. He’s been up-and-coming for the past couple of years, gaining more and more popularity with each single he releases. I listened to this song and instantly fell in love with its minimalism and rawness of emotion. From his recent album ‘Process’, (No One Knows Me) Like The Piano is a ballad about childhood; specifically about how playing the piano saw him through difficult times and struggles. Sampha personifies the piano by addressing it as ‘you’ in his lyrics so that it is almost an eponymous character, and as expected, the instrumental is solely acoustic piano-playing. Nonetheless, it is Sampha’s own instrument, his incredibly soulful, sincere voice, which takes centre stage – his delivery of the lyrics as well as the layered vocal harmonies both pack an emotional punch. I think the reason why I adore this song is because I can relate to its message; I also feel as though music has often saved me. If you’re someone who believes in the power of music as a medium for giving people strength, give this a listen, you’ll be glad you did.

Someone In The Crowd – ‘La La Land’ soundtrack
Favourite Line: ‘Somewhere there’s a place where I find who I’m gonna be, a somewhere that’s just waiting to be found.’

The arrangement of Someone In The Crowd is classically and unapologetically musical theatre, from the blaring trumpeting orchestra to the quiet near-acapella solo in the middle of the song. Despite its recent release, I’m already a huge fan of ‘La La Land’ and this is probably my second favourite song after City Of Stars. The song is essentially about Mia’s housemates trying to persuade her to go to an LA party, as she might meet somebody there who could propel her career, such as a casting agent. I love the double meaning behind ‘someone in the crowd’; usually it refers to a romantic situation – seeing the perfect stranger across a crowded room. Here, that’s only to be read to between the lines. It’s full of rise and fall, but most of all it’s just incredibly enjoyable to listen to; you can’t help but smile and feel the urge to dance.

The Less I Know The Better – Tame Impala
Favourite Line: ‘I was doing fine without you, ‘til I saw your eyes turn away from mine.’

Apparently, Tame Impala is the band that all the hipsters are listening to and quite frankly I don’t blame them. Tame Impala have managed to create their own distinctive sound; they’re the type of band whose music is so recognizable as theirs that they essentially have their own genre, making the band very influential in the indie music scene. I’ve got to admit, I struggled with picking a favourite line for this one as the lyrics, at least in my opinion, aren’t the main selling point. Instead, as every line of the verses rhyme, the lyrics are mainly used as a filler for a brilliant, catchy rhythm. There is something almost hypnotic about the combination of Kevin Parker’s androgynous vocal with the typically Tame Impala-esque electronic, psychedelic instrumentation and bass line. It is quite evident that they were going for an 80s vibe; the song could quite easily fit into a ‘Stranger Things’ soundtrack. I love all music which can make me feel druglessly disorientated and hazy, so it’s no wonder The Less I Know The Better is right up my alley.

Song(s) Of The Week

When – Dodie
Favourite Line: ‘Gotta get it in my head: I’ll never be 16 again.’ – possibly one of my favourite lyrics of all time; it speaks to me on another level.

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve listened to this song over the past few weeks. Dodie (also my favourite YouTuber, her channel is called ‘doddleoddle’ if you’re interested) is a British singer/songwriter who recently released an EP. You’ve probably already heard of her as she’s becoming somewhat of a musical sensation. When is the song which stood out to me in her EP; it’s the one which hit me in the heart.

It’s a song whereby you get out what you put in – if you’re hearing but not really listening, some of the emotion can go under your radar. It’s not a song to listen to passively. Dodie is a very skilled lyricist; her words have this powerful simplicity but they also have a brevity, an understatedness which when you’re able to catch, can make you feel as though every word was written for you. When is a soft ballad sung over an accompanying piano, double bass and a single violin. It is not so much about depression as it is written with depression as the exposition or explanation. It’s about time and love and nostalgia and romanticizing the past whereby it distracts you from the present. So many lyrics stand out, but ‘memories painted with much brighter ink’ and ‘I’ll take what I can get, because I’m too damp for a spark’ really resonate with me. Listening to the song, I feel as though I’m being guided through the forlornness of Dodie’s experiences as well as my own. The idea of yearning for former happiness in which it ironically degrades your current happiness is something I think a lot of people can relate to. Her ethereal spidery feminine vocal blends so well with the mood and the lyrics’ quiet presence; you believe every word which is sung. When should be listened to by anyone who has ever pointlessly wished they could turn back time.

Use Me – Maisie Peters
Favourite Line: ‘but that was before I knew nothing felt as whole as having you.’

Jeez, I love this song. I would marry this song. I’ve likely replayed it upwards of 40 times now and God knows how much more by the end of this month. I stumbled upon Maisie on social media, then saw she had a YouTube channel, so I listened to some of her music and was immediately taken aback by her irrefutable talent. This song in particular though, bloody hell. It’s probably in my top 20 of all time. I’m a sucker for anything acoustic, and this is just Maisie and her guitar.

Technically minimalistic but emotionally overflowing, this song is the perfect example of ‘showing’ rather than ‘telling’. So often heartbreak/break-up songs are overly dramatic (think Total Eclipse of The Heart); they demand us to feel a certain way and it has the opposite effect. Use Me, however, is bravely honest and vulnerable. Maisie, with her quirky, breathy sound, shows us her experience, touching on feelings like shame and disappointment, which we’ve almost all faced in situations of unrequited love. It’s somehow sung with so much dignity despite one of its themes being a lack of this same trait.

Use Me explores the idea of how love weakens us, how we think we’re stronger and more dignified than we ultimately prove to be, to the point where we’d rather be used than be without the person we’ve fallen in love with. I couldn’t help noticing the repetition of ‘can’ and ‘can’t’ in the lyrics (e.g. ‘I can be anyone if that means I become the one you want to stay’ / ‘you can’t knock me breathless, then find somebody else whose breath is new’) and I think it’s so clever – it reflects the black-and-white thinking pattern of a person in these circumstances, as well as the desperate denial they often feel. (It’s also quite refreshing to see such lengthy lyrics now that the norm seems to be for songs to be short and lyrically repetitive.)

The attention to detail in Use Me is what makes it a great song as opposed to a good one.  For example, on the last line of the chorus (‘you can use me if you want to’), Maisie momentarily stops playing the guitar, simply allowing the chord to hang over her voice. The effect of this is that the lyric’s impact is much stronger. I also adore the guitar-tapping (I find that it can give a song texture) in the bridge, sung quieter, followed by the cathartic climax before the song ends; the volume peaks and it feels as though she’s releasing her heart-ache through her voice.

I think it’s quite easy to just write and sing a song. But it’s very difficult to write and perform a song that is structurally, emotionally, instrumentally and lyrically outstanding. I really believe that Maisie Peters is someone to watch out for in the coming years.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tphAQ1rZp_M (deserves a million views IMO)

Mixtape 1

https://open.spotify.com/user/meahbree/playlist/1O2ejjGxtkbqySkpndiiBk

Use Me – Maisie Peters
Sable On Blond – Stevie Nicks
You Got Me – The Roots
Chinatown – Luna
W
ake Up Alone (original recording) – Amy Winehouse
The Less I Know The Better – Tame Impala
Zombies – Childish Gambino
Wolf & I – Oh Land
Love – Lana Del Ray
(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano – Sampha
When – Dodie
On & On – Erkyah Badu
Paul – Big Thief
Ventura Highway – America
Colossus – Tyler, The Creator
Me, Myself & I – Beyoncé
One More Time With Feeling – Regina Spektor
Strange Things Will Happen – The Radio Dept.
All Cats Are Grey – The Cure
Ascension – Moses Sumney
Someone In The Crowd – ‘La La Land’ soundtrack