Thursday, 16 February 2012

Writers Picks: Favourite Lyrics

For this first edition of 'Writers Picks', the writers were asked the simple question of 'What are your favourite lyrics?'. For any music fan, this is a gargantuan task, to leaf through all their most loved tracks and find just 1 or 2 lyrics that resonate more emotionally and personally than any other. So it is after great pain-staking decision making that we present to you, the writers of Sound Influx's favourite lyrics of all time.

Jeffrey Lewis – To Be Objectified (Picked by Ned Powley)

“I left a trail of myself every place that I have been through /
And going bald is the most manly thing that I'm ever gonna do.
I tell the earth, ‘thanks for the hair, thanks for the skin, thanks for the bone’ / Though I now slowly give it back I still appreciate the loan.”

Jeffrey Lewis has written and released hundreds of songs, some of them good, some of them bad and some of them utterly, unequivocally beautiful. In the space of four lines Lewis comes to terms with his ultimate fate, accepts his lot in life and sneaks in some self-deprication. As easy as it is to write him off as just another overly-earnest singer-songwriter, but his lyrics never lapse into needless sentimentality or simplicity.

Of Montreal – Our Riotous Defects (Picked by Will Hall)

“My god, I should've realised / On our second date / When you dragged me into the bathroom at Tameka's house / And screamed at me for like twenty minutes / Because I had contradicted you in front of your friends / I was like, "Oh!" / And then later that night, at my apartment / As punishment, you killed my Beta fish / You just threw it out the window / I did everything I could to make you happy / I participated in all your protests / Supported your stupid little blog / Got a Bowflex / Wore coloured contacts to match your dresses / Whatever your eyes caught, I bought but still we fought / Like Ike and Tina, but in reverse”

These have to be the funniest lyrics I’ve ever heard. I was thinking about writing about Frank Zappa’s hilariously perverted social commentary on ‘Fembot in a Wet T-shirt’, but there is no way I couldn’t write about ‘Our Riotous Defects’. In this spoken-word verse, Kevin Barnes delivers the most bizarre lyrics in such a held back way. It’s as though he is telling a story that the listeners can’t distinct as either humorous or scary. Should we feel sorry for him, or just laugh at (with) him? As the backing vocals chirp and the bass line climbs, Barnes tells of the woes of a past relationship in stunning detail. The line about killing the Beta fish still creates a vivid (and hilarious) picture in my mind.

LCD Soundsystem – Losing My Edge (Picked by Toby McCarron)
“I used to work in the record store.
I had everything before anyone.
I was there in the Paradise Garage DJ booth with Larry Levan.
I was there in Jamaica during the great sound clashes.
I woke up naked on the beach in Ibiza in 1988.

But I'm losing my edge to better-looking people with better ideas and more talent.
And they're actually really, really nice.”

James Murphy is the god-father of self-aware pop culture commentaries in lyrics. This excerpt from ‘Losing My Edge’ sums up the changing nature of music and how easily things can become outdated, as Murphy frequently notes ‘I Was There’ in the face of the younger crowd vying for attention and attempting to make him obsolete. For me though, the killer bit of these lyrics is the end line about them being really really nice and more talented, a glorious backhanded compliment? Or an admission of being past it? Either way, it’s very clever.

Patti Smith – Gloria (Picked by Grace Barber-Plentie)
“Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine."

This is just one line of the song and it's only the first line but seriously, could you get a better first line? It's so Patti Smith, hard and not afraid to say whatever she wants and super-cool. This is the sort of lyric I want on my gravestone just to piss people off and because it's amazing.

Andrew Jackson Jihad – Big Bird (Picked by Eliot Humphries)

"I'm a straight white male in America; I’ve got all the luck I need.”

The whole song is basically centred around this line – the truth that if you are a heterosexual man living in the richest and most powerful country in the world, you are the most successful, the most carefree and the most dominant people in the world. And it also satirises the notion that if you are not that, you are subject to different kinds of applicable scrutiny and there is very little you can do to change that because it's so ingrained in the culture.

Arcade Fire – Ready to Start (Picked by Aurora Mitchell)

“If the businessmen drink my blood,
Like the kids in art school said they would” 

Arcade Fire's lyrics have always been politically charged, often criticising how corrupt the political system is. I could have picked hundreds of lyrical snippets across AF's three albums but this just hits harder than most. Having a deeply flawed political past, America is no stranger to financial crisis'. Especially in the 1920s around the time of the Wall Street Crash, many Americans were dragged into scandals without realising what dirty businessmen were doing and that still carries on today under our noses. Arcade Fire know how to pack a punch with a one liner. Instead of harbouring idealistic ideas, this as with many of AF's lyrics, shows that reality is often grim and many put too much trust in their government without enough knowledge.

The Streets – Everything is Borrowed (Picked by Braden Fletcher)

“I came to this world with nothing, and I’ll leave with nothing but love. Everything else is just borrowed.”

If you want the spokesmen for a generation you need look no further than Mike Skinner. This is a standout Streets track for me in so many ways, but the main hook comes in the chorus, “I came to this world with nothing, and I’ll leave with nothing but love. Everything else is just borrowed.” It’s just life affirmingly brilliant and there’s nothing anyone can add to that.

 Los Campesinos! - Light Leaves, Dark Sees Part Two (Picked by Julia Christmas)

"The pain of the silence before bed,
Oh for the sound of your pissing through the thin walls, or stroking your head"

These have got to be my favourite Los Campesinos! lyrics and I think it's because of the brutality in which Gareth Campesinos writes them. However pretentious people may think his lyrics are, you can't help but sit and think about those little things after the end of a relationship - how irrelevant they were at the time and how relevant they are afterwards.

The Beach Boys – God Only Knows (Picked by Calum Stephen)

"The world could show nothing to me,
So what good would living do me?"

This line from the gorgeous ‘God Only Knows’, taken from The Beach Boys' masterpiece 'Pet Sounds', is not only beautiful but heart-breaking at the same time. The way the line is delivered, with its stunning melody and internal rhyme, combined with the idea of losing the one you cherish and care for the most, create an incredibly sincere and heartfelt lyric. "God Only Knows" is often described as one of the best songs ever written, and it's not difficult to see why.

Tom Vek – On a Plate (Picked by Aurora Mitchell)
“The night is a cup I want to fill,
I know I won't always reach its lip,
Cause something will always knock it over,
Spilling my dreams to the curb'”

Whilst also talking about the human instinct to rain on anyone's parade who is doing better than you are, Tom Vek also addresses his stance on whether he is a glass half full/half empty kind of guy, saying that he wants the glass to be full but there's always going to be a glass half full person there to empty it. Always a fan of well executed metaphors in lyrics; this particularly appeals to me because every time I hear it, I see a cup being knocked over and the contents slowly trickling down the drain as Tom Vek's dreams contained within are washed away.

Girls – Summertime (Picked By Hannah Bettey)

“grow out my hair,
go anywhere,
sleep in until afternoon,
summertime, soak up the sunshine with you”

Christopher Owens is a truly heartfelt lyricist, whilst still remaining quite simple. For me, these lyrics remind me of the freedom and fun that comes with summer. The ‘grow out my hair/go anywhere’ line evokes a sense of adventure and change, in an optimistic and hazy, summery way. Everyone can relate to ‘soak up the sunshine with you’, be it having spent a day with a friend or loved one. Owens makes everything sound poetic, romantic and extremely fun, whilst not being cheesy or unrealistic.

Frightened Rabbit –My Backwards Walk (Picked by Braden Fletcher)

“I’m working on erasing you, I just don’t have the proper tools.
I’ll get hammered forget that you exist, there’s no way I’m forgetting this.”

Tragically, yet perfectly though it’s heartbreak that brings out the best lyrics in artists. Selecting a key lyric from Noah and the Whale’s First Days of Spring is like having a favourite £20 note, whilst just mentioning For Emma is enough to make people emotional. One band that is arguably overlooked from time to time is Scotland’s Frightened Rabbit. Take ‘My Backwards Walk’ for example. “I’m working on erasing you, I just don’t have the proper tools. I’ll get hammered forget that you exist, there’s no way I’m forgetting this.” Amongst a pile of other beautiful lyrics, this stands out. Happiness brings so much, but it’s heartbreak that brings out beauty in people.

Radiohead – Fake Plastic Trees (Picked by Adam Laurence)

"She looks like the real thing,
she tastes like the real thing,
my fake plastic love,
But I can't help the feeling,

I could blow through the ceiling,
if I just turn and run,
and it wears me out"

These lyrics, as well as having a degree of cynicism, manage to be hopeful and are thought provoking. I try not to delve too far into that song and other Radiohead tracks like it, otherwise they may wear me out, but these are just simply sweet lyrics.

Bastions - Augury (Picked by Eliot Humphries)

"Anxiety has me this pale, hanging on by my finger nails.
When sorrow knocked at my door, I was too afraid to answer anymore."

The lyrics of Bastions are always very passionate and emotional – but above all others, this line really got to me the most. Any kind of lyric relating to struggle or suppression really cuts at me deep, and it's just that image Jamie Burne paints of being so worn out by depression and misery that even contemplating it is too much to bare – it's not only brilliant poetry, it's also a very powerful statement on such an under-represented emotional crippler.

Slow Club - Dance Till the Morning Light (Picked by Grace Barber-Plentie)

"I heard you were looking for a man to lead, but I can tell you I'm not the man you need. I'm always three steps behind the dance and the times, and if I can’t change for you, then I won’t change for me."
I always like to try and be different to everyone else when it comes to favourite songs by bands and I've been very stoic in the fact that this is my FAVOURITE SLOW CLUB SONG EVER since I heard the demo of it. It's my favourite song for a very good reason - this lyric. I always like lyrics that I can kind of relate to and this sums me up - horrifically un-co-ordinated, and very, very stubborn. Also there's something about Slow Club's lyrics that I always find so moving and charming, and this one in particular has always stood out.

Parenthetical Girls – Love Connection (Picked by Eden Young)

“Some things are best left unsaid"

These Parenthetical Girls lyrics were adopted by Los Campesinos! On their track ‘Heart Swells / Pacific Daytime’ but used in totally different ways. 


Edited By Toby McCarron

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