Category Archives: Favourite Songs

Favourite Songs #9 – Such Great Heights

Such Great Heights – The Postal Service

I am thinking it’s a sign
That the freckles in our eyes
Are mirror images and when we kiss
They’re perfectly aligned

What a perfect lyric to open this love song as the melodic blips and bleeps bounce from one ear to the other like a musical ping pong. It’s a song that warms as well as thrills, makes you happy as it makes you sigh a little. And all the while that persistent beat guiding you home. Nothing short of perfect!

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Favourite Songs #8 – Annie Let’s Not Wait

Guillemots – Annie, Let’s not wait

Put as simple as I can I think the melody to this song is glorious. The chorus alone gives me goose pimples. Add to that the charming lyric and the wonderfully addictive change in rhythm towards the end and you have the reasons this song has grown to be one of the most loved in my collection. On a completely irrelevant note I thought for ages that he sang ‘We could sit for years, staring at our feet’. It was of course:

we could sit for years
staring at our fears
oh they’re such pretty things
they’re so cute
but in the end they’re just a suit

Personally I like both interpretations 🙂 In terms of concept it is a straight-forward love song with an underlying idea that time creates an urgency when it comes to love. My favourite line in the song being

oh Annie let’s not wait
time’s not on our side
well it never was
you know that deep inside

The Guillemots have many great songs but for me this one is the one that shines the brightest, by far.

Favourite Songs #7 – A Change is Gonna Come

Sam Cooke – A change is gonna come

Did this song ever sound as sweet as it does today after Barack Obama’s victory? I love this song for it’s positivity in the face of despicable oppression and injustice. It’s a protest song, in support of the civil rights movement, which he was inspired to write after hearing Dylan’s Blowing in the Wind. Amazed that a white man had written such a song he was determined to also have a go at the topic so close to his heart. Obviously his own experiences lend the song extra gravity and the heart-breaking strings throughout the track remind the listener of the seriousness and difficulties expressed in the song.

The following extract from Wikipedia explains a little more of the background to the song;

The song, very much a departure for Cooke, reflected two major incidents in his life. The first was the death of Cooke’s eighteen-month-old son, Vincent, who died of an accidental drowning in June of that year. The second major incident came on October 8, 1963, when Cooke and his band tried to register at a “whites only” motel in Shreveport, Louisiana and were summarily arrested for disturbing the peace. Both incidents are represented in the weary tone and lyrics of the piece, especially the final verse: “there have been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long/but now I think I’m able to carry on/It’s been a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come.”

At times it’s hard not to have watery eyes listening to this song. At least today, finally, they can be tears of joy.

Sam Cooke – A Change is gonna come

Favourite Songs #6 – Top of the World

 Top of the World – Patty Griffin

Patty Griffin – Top of the World

everyone’s singing
We just want to be heard
Disappearing every day
Without so much as a word

It must surely be a crime against humanity that some foolish business men prevented the release of Patty Griffin’s Silver Bell album. Fortunately the age of the internet means that those who wish to acquire it can do so without too much difficulty. It’s a crime if only that this masterpiece of a song went unreleased for a good four years. It finally received its proper release on Patty’s 2004 Impossible Dream (my favourite PG album). The version I post here however is the original. Not too much different but enough to make even more charming for me.

It’s difficult to know what to say about this song as it elicits such vivid personal thoughts and emotions. The lyrics are easy to follow and therefore it’s best that each listener makes up their own mind. Suffice it to say I have been brought to tears time and time again. There is no better way to mark this song than show the lyrics and invite you to have a listen to one of the most touching songs I have ever heard.

I wished I was smarter
Wished I was stronger
I wished I loved Jesus
The way the my wife does

I wished it’d been easier
Instead of any longer
I wished I could’ve stood
Where you would’ve been proud
That won’t happen now
That won’t happen now

There’s a whole lot of singing
That’s never gonna be heard
Disappearing every day
Without so much as a word
Somehow

I think I broke the wings
Off that little songbird
And she’s never gonna fly
To the top of the world Now
To the top of the world

I don’t have to answer
Any of these questions
Don’t have no god to
Teach me no lessons

I come home in the evening
Sit in my chair
One night they called me for supper
But I never got up
I stayed right there
In my chair

There’s a whole lot of singing
That’s never gonna be heard
Disappearing every day
Without so much as a word
Somehow

I think I broke the wings
Off a little songbird
And she’s never gonna fly
To the top of the world
Now
To the top of the world

I wished I’d had known you
Wished I had shown you
All of the things I
Was on the side
But I’d pretend to be sleeping
When you’d come in in the morning
To whisper goodbye
Go work in the rain
I don’t know why
Don’t know why

Cause everyone’s singing
We just wanna be heard
Disappearing every day
Without so much as a word
Somehow?

Gonna grab a hold
Of that little songbird
And take her for a ride
To the top of the world
Right now
To the top of the world

You can buy one of my very favourite albums ever, Impossible Dream by Patty Griffin here for next to nothing.

Favourite Songs #5 – The Lord God Bird

Sufjan Stevens – The Lord God Bird

Sufjan Stevens does something strange to me. It is in his voice, a voice that can not only stop me in my tracks and fill me with awe but also does something indescribable. Literally that – I cannot fully explain what it is. It is a feeling, it strips me bare and comforts me at the same time. There are certain moments in his songs where this is accentuated like in John Wayne Gacy Jr where he sings ‘Oh my God’ in a way that sums up all the horror of that man and what he did. That point in that song has brought me to tears countless times.

And this special quality in Sufjan’s voice I find throughout this glorious song he wrote and recorded especially for NPR All Things Considered in 2005. Not yet on any album I consider it to be his finest. The Lord God Bird is a colloquial name for the Ivory Billed Woodpecker which was believed to be extinct for many years. More recently rare sightings have brought this notion into doubt. With Majesty, Snowbird being a highlight of his recent concerts and the beautiful wings he wore as costume I can’t help but wonder if there’s an album of songs about birds in there somewhere.

One thing for sure is that this track has everything I love about the man’s songs and voice in it. It is stunning!

The Lord God Bird

Favourite Songs #3 – The Only Living Boy in New York

Simon and Garfunkel – The Only Living Boy in New York

Like the ancient mariner I am continuing an endless voyage of harping on to strangers and friends alike about how underrated Paul Simon is. He has to be one of the very greatest songwriters of our time. And in my opinion the very best of all his songs is this one.

Despite its lushness and grandness it is incredibly intimate. It’s a love song for a friend. He wrote it about Art Garfunkel who was heading off at the time to make a movie in Mexico. He refers to him as Tom which is a reference to their early days together when they were called Tom and Jerry. His words being a show of support, a sort of a you’ll be fine, don’t worry.

The line ‘Let your honesty shine, like it shines on me’ still brings tears to me eyes. Love between friends is rarely explored in songs and the idea of admiring someone’s honesty almost never. The idea of honesty in lyrics is incredibly appealing to me. Likewise the ideas of innocence or decency. It is such a difficult thing to describe and write about yet something so lovable in a person. It is cutting everything else out of the equation and looking right into the soul – and when you really think of that and focus on it’s meaning, it can be quite breathtaking.

While this track is sentimental it is so in wholly pure way and fortunately doesn’t suffer from some of the sickly sweet production of some other Simon and Garfunkel tracks. I have no doubt it will remain a favourite of mine until the day I die.

Incidentally honesty features greatly in my next choice too. It must be in the air

The Only Living Boy in New York

Favourite Songs #2 – Out Of This

How is it that Carol Keogh, one of the very best singers in Ireland, has remained almost completely unknown? It has always baffled me that she has never ‘made it big’. I fell head over heels with her instantly when I first heard her voice on The Plague Monkeys by The Plague Monkeys. The Plague Monkeys were a sublime group who made deliciously fragile music. Their debut album remains on high rotation in Conorland, even after all these years. I had the incredible privilege of seeing them play live on my very last night living in Galway in 1998 (Just before fleeing to Windmill land). Carol’s voice is in a league of its own. It’s distinctive and sweet but laced with something that reaches down much much deeper. She can do playful and mourning, often simultaneously. I adore many many songs on which she sings but for now, in this series (I will do it more often I promise) I have chosen one of my all time favourites. Here she sings with Autamata – another woefully underrated Irish group.
Every single moment of this song is perfect. The point when Carol breaks into Japanese singing is the highlight for me. I still sigh when I hear it – it is simply breathtaking. It really and truly doesn’t get much better for me.

As a bonus I am including the song that first introduced me to Carol. I have about ten favourite Plague Monkeys tracks so I have a feeling I’ll be talking about them again.

Out of This – Autamata

The Plague Monkeys – The Plague Monkeys