Top 5 Songs: The Week of 8/2/13

5. “Our December” – Thriving Ivory

Returning – albeit in a lower position – from last week, my feelings on the song haven’t changed, as it’s been one of my favorites for a few years now.  To put into a single word, there’s one thing that this song represents to me: nostalgia.  Part of that is just the fact that I’ve created memories associated with it over the past three years, and the other part is that the song is a wistful look at happy times.  Emotion is the most important thing to me in music, and if just the mood and lyrics of a song can create something as strong as that, it’s extremely impressive to me.

4. “Book of Love” – Jimmy Eat World

“Book of Love” is in a category of music that’s always intrigued me; sad songs that have a deceptive, happy coating.  In the case of this song, though, I think it’s especially appropriate.  The optimistic-sounding title is followed by an unfounded optimism in the song; the narrator sees warning signs and detects the collapse of a relationship, but assumes that everything will be okay.  The upbeat tone, major key, and light acoustic guitar throughout the song further puts that mood across.  But the instrumentals and lyrics all change when the chorus comes around; the drumbeat falls away, electronic sounds echo, and all but the first chorus conclude with a realization: “Finally seeing us for how it really is / I’ve been alone, just never known it.”  I love how the tone and the false optimism match; I love the unusual change to a slower, softer chorus in contrast to typical musical style; and I love that last line of the choruses.  It’s such a moving, heartrending realization.

3. “I Almost Do” – Taylor Swift

In general, I could not be called a fan of Taylor Swift’s latest album, Red; although I’m a large fan of a handful of songs, the singles have been too generically poppy for me, and the rest I could’ve taken or left.  My opinion of it grew substantially when I had a chance re-encounter with the album recently, however.  “I Almost Do” was one of the songs that grew on me considerably, and I can’t quite pinpoint what I didn’t appreciate about it before.  Some are turned off by her general focus on relationships, but I find that even when she is writing about relationships, even if not everyone appreciates that kind of music, she does a really excellent job of it, and this song is an example of that.  It has the appeal of Swift’s typical acoustic guitar ballads, with her reflecting, honest, heart-on-her-sleeve lyrics.  Telling the tale of a broken relationship she wishes she could come back to, but knows it would be worse if she tried.

2. “All Too Well” – Taylor Swift

Despite my change in opinion with “I Almost Do,” this has been a song I’ve loved off of the album from the start.  Again; criticize Taylor Swift for a focus on relationships in her music, but she writes it honestly, and, in my opinion, she writes it well.  She does something different in “All Too Well” that she doesn’t typically do; she doesn’t discuss a moment or an ongoing feeling so much as just recalling the happy times that once were and questions what really happened.  The narrative she constructs of this relationship is compelling and heartbreaking in and of itself; she doesn’t recall general aspects of the relationship, or just the hobbies and physical traits of her former lover, but she goes back to specific memories, like leaving her scarf at his sister’s house, driving on a town street, and dancing to the refrigerator light together.  That all piles up as the song reaches an emotional climax in the bridge, where the soft acoustic guitar takes a step up into powerful electric guitar, the piano ceases, and Swift’s voice becomes so much more emotional and affected, reaching high notes and singing question after question of what happened; “Maybe we got lost in translation / Maybe I asked for too much / But maybe this thing was a masterpiece ‘til you tore it all up.”  Overall, it’s just a deeply emotional song; it’s evident Taylor Swift put an extreme amount of work into it.

1. “Cut” – Jimmy Eat World

“Cut” is a prime example of the experimentation that Jimmy Eat World tried in their writing on their second-most-recent album, Invented, where Jim Adkins essentially free-wrote after looking at photographs, based on the first things that came to mind, and when writing songs for the album, writing from those sessions would end up playing a role.  I’ve always found this to have created a really unique and emotional album, despite the fact that many fans of the band consider Invented to be particularly lacking in emotion.  Mostly defined by nitty-gritty acoustic guitar riffs, “Cut” is a pessimistic tale that could be interpreted in many ways.  The most evident one, however, is an ending relationship where the narrator is telling their significant other, “I’m not cut for this no more.”  As the song moves on, it expands upon the simple acoustic riff and vocals with soaring harmonies and vocalizations.  It stays simple enough to have the raw feeling that makes the song what it is, but it has just enough to really bring out the emotion of it all.

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