Top 5 Songs: The Week of 6/28/13

I’ve decided, as an effective way of writing about and recommending songs, every week I’ll do a brief post on my top five songs of the week and just a little bit about why I enjoy them so much.  Note that “the week” I’m looking at starts on Saturday and ends on Friday, even if my post about my top five ends up getting out a few days after Friday, and it will be labeled as “the week of” that Friday.

5. “Better Than Alone” – Thriving Ivory

Despite being a demo – and therefore having a less-than-pristine production – “Better Than Alone” is a song I really love by melodic-rock group Thriving Ivory.  From the piano focus during the verses to the emotional strings in the choruses, along with lead singer Clayton Stroope’s poignant vocals, “Better Than Alone” is packed with emotion.  This is true lyrically as well, as Stroope pleads, “So lay me down with a ghost / ‘Cause anything’s better than alone.”  It’s definitely not a happy song, but it’s a really wonderful song for a rainy day.

4. “Sugar, We’re Goin Down” – Fall Out Boy

I’m a bit late to the craze here; I heard this song back when it was first popular, but never gave it a particularly close listen.  Fall Out Boy lead singer Patrick Stump is often hard to understand in the first place, and even so, I only listened to it when I saw the music video on television. (The story in the music video seems to be drastically different from the meaning behind the lyrics.) But here I am, rediscovering it nearly a decade after this song was popular, and I’ve come to realize that I really enjoy it.  If you can’t stand pop-punk, your chances of enjoying the song are fairly slim.  For those who enjoy the style, though, it’s a catchy, sometimes melodic, and occasionally snarky (“I’m just a notch in your bedpost / But you’re just a line in a song”) composition.

3. “I’ve Got A Dark Alley And A Bad Idea That Says You Should Shut Your Mouth (Summer Song) – Fall Out Boy

Yet again I’m late to the party, as this song comes from the same album (From Under the Cork Tree) as the previous song.  I’d never heard this one until I got the whole album, though.  With an exceptionally long title – as Fall Out Boy is infamous for – “I’ve Got A Dark Alley…” is a fairly upbeat song with a rather mellow core.  Given the source of the song, I’m sure a lot would write this song off as “teenage angst,” but I think it’s a little deeper than that.  It seems to me that it’s more about actual depression, with everything going wrong, even the little things (“And the record won’t stop skipping”), and being overall miserable. (“Force a smile, baby, half-dead from comparing myself to everyone else around me.”)  In any case, I appreciate not only emotional depth to songs, but as a rule I tend to enjoy songs that are more sad/mellow a lot, so of course I appreciate this one.

2. “Blue Tulip” – Okkervil River

I guess this is a bit of a downer of a week for me musically, because here we have yet another song along more mellow and sad lines.  One of the things I enjoy most about the song is the buildup of it (I’m a sucker for big buildups).  The fact that it has a whole six minutes during which to build up is a help with that.  Still, the way it works from the soft, slow pace at the start to a more standard pace, and then works up to multiple declarations of “goodbye” as the guitar begins to erupt into full power is just brilliant.

1. “Not My Plan” – Ben Jelen

My number one this week is – surprise – another mellow number.  (It has a buildup, too!)  With a start of piano and vocals, it slowly adds instruments and a beat, eventually replacing the piano with guitar, shortly before the song really reaches a peak, with Jelen repeatedly singing, “This was not my plan.”  Putting the music aside, even, I really love the idea and emotion behind “Not My Plan”.  It carries the idea of pushing through and moving forward in life, even when things are not working out as you expected. Honestly, who doesn’t go through life at one point encountering that feeling that you planned for things to go differently?  Things often don’t turn out how you thought they would, or how you hoped they would; when you feel particularly like that, this song becomes really relatable.

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