I need you so much closer

death_cab_for_cutieI’ve had boyfriends introduce me to all sorts of music — artists I probably never would have listened to, or appreciated, had I not sat in their cars as songs blasted through our open windows or let the tunes lilt over us on lazy Sunday afternoons. To me, these artists are synonymous with the relationships — and when I think of a man I once loved, I invariably hear the opening chords of Death Cab For Cutie.

Yes — Death Cab is my Break-Up Band Du Jour.

First, their songs are just . . . sad. And melodic. The lyrics are haunting, and they have a tendency to bury themselves in my skin and reappear at strange, unexpected moments. And despite being years removed from the first time I fell in love, I can still close my eyes and let “A Lack Of Color” or “Title And Registration” basically incapacitate me. It’s easy to feel confused and heartbroken anew with the same soundtrack blaring in the background.

So, despite the fact that I want to bawl my eyes out every time their songs pop up on my iPod, why do I keep listening to them?

Well, I love them, first of all. Their music is complex but straight-forward — filled with simple tunes constructed in a unique way. The lyrics seem to pluck right at the heartstring I most don’t want plucked at a particular moment — and remind me why it is I fell in love with their songs — and one man — all over again.

Would I have become so attracted to their music if I hadn’t been introduced to them by someone else? Probably not. His presence in my life — and his absence since — has shaped me far more than I would typically admit. And the music he exposed me to has been my companion since he left.

Is that the rock-hard truth here — that I listen to his music to feel close to him?

This is the part where I’d probably curl up inside myself, shake my head furiously and deny it — probably spouting out a snarky comment or two, rolling my eyes and babbling self-righteously about how I’ve “moved on.”

But that’s dishonest.

So I’ll just play “Transatlanticism” a little louder, burying the speakers deep inside my ears, and go on with the day.

Play me a sad song

Music is worthless unless it can make a complete stranger break down and cry. — “The Dumbing Down of Love,” Frou Frou

Everyone has those surefire sad songs — the tunes you put on when you’ve had a really, really rough day and no, you don’t want to be comforted or cuddled or uplifted. You just want to be sad, all right?! You just want to lay down on your bed, shove your little iPod earbuds in your ears or flip on the radio and be . . . upset.

Though I’m happy to say I don’t have many days like that, I do have my go-to sad songs for those moments I just want to feel sorry for myself. So I present a random assortment of my very own Pity Party Soundtrack.

My top choice? “Tiny Vessels,” by Death Cab for Cutie. I won’t even explain it — I’ll let their lyrics do the work for me. It would help if you could hear the haunting melody playing behind it, but I’ll leave that part ot your imagination for now:

This is the moment that you know that you told her that you love her, but you don’t. You touch her skin, and then you think — she is beautiful, but she don’t mean a thing to me. Yeah, she is beautiful, but you don’t mean a thing to me . . . I wanted to believe in all those words that we were speaking as we moved together in the dark . . .  All I see are dark gray clouds in the distance, moving closer with every hour. So when you ask, Is something wrong? I’ll think, You’re damn right there is, but we can’t talk about it now. No, we can’t talk about it now . . .

Next up? “Hearts In Pain,” by Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers. Never heard of them? That’s okay — they’re pretty, uh, underground? I can’t describe someone as “underground” without feeling like a tool, so strike that from the record. But you catch my drift. I’ll give you a taste of my saltwater tears on this one:

You know when a heart’s in pain, there’s nobody you can blame. The only light under the doctor’s knife is that we’re the same — hearts in, hearts in, hearts in pain . . . Who’s to say the muscle’s dead? I gave it up to her when we got married. There were things I never said . . . But I’m an idiot, and marriage is scary. And what you would say if I told you so true that I love her more now that the marriage is through?

Ray

Ray

Ouch! And moving right along to Ray LaMontagne’s “Empty.” Yeah, I felt sad just typing that little title! It’s haunting, sparse, melancholy. Perfect for crying your eyes out.

I never learned to count my blessings; I choose instead to dwell in my disasters . . . I walk on down the hill through grass grown tall and brown, and still it’s hard somehow to let go of my pain . . . Will I always feel this way? So empty, so estranged . . . Well, I looked my demons in the eye; Laid bare my chest, said ‘Do your best, destroy me.’ See I’ve been to hell and back so many times, I must admit you kinda bore me . . .

Poor Ray. He generally seems to need a hug and a cuddle — but that’s why I love listening to him!

And my final sad song choice of the moment? I’m going to have to go with John Mayer’s “Slow Dancing In A Burning Room.” I was in love with the tune the first time I heard it — which happened to be live at a show in September 2006. I know I’m a nerd to know that, but I love JM! Even when he makes me depressed (like with the whole Jennifer thing, but we won’t go into that now!).

It’s not a silly little moment; it’s not the storm before the calm. This is the deep and dying breath of this love that we’ve been working on. Can’t seem to hold you like I want to, so I can feel you in my arms. Nobody’s gonna come to save you; we’ve pulled to many false alarms . . . We’re going down, and you can see it too. We’re going down, and you know that we’re doomed. My dear, we’re slow dancing in a burning room . . . Go cry about, why don’t you.

Fine, John — I just might!

The songs I love — and the songs I actually listen to

img_4821In another of her thoughtful schemes, Kelly asked me for a list of my top 12 favorite songs “of all time” the other day. What she’s doing with said list, pictured at right, I’m not sure . . . but it was fun thinking of my answers! She wanted my “desert island” songs — the songs I could listen to for the rest of my life and never stop liking.

Like most people, I’m a huge fan of music — mostly in general. You’ll have a hard time finding me without iPod in hand, flipping through my little crafted playlists and searching for good working music, or writing music, or running music . . . or whatever music. So I thought, Hey, since I listen to so much music during the day, all of my favorite songs should be found pretty easily. The greatness that is the iPod creates a special playlist for you: Top 25 Most Played.

But I was shocked. Of all the songs in this “top 25” list, I wouldn’t necessarily consider many of them to be my favorites. I like them, obviously, but they’re not my all-time, can’t-breathe-without-this-song classics. Most of them are tunes I’ve recently discovered, or great songs by artists relatively new to me.

So, I will now present the two lists — and I’ll limit my “top 25 most played” to just 12 songs. In the interest of uniformity!

Megan’s Top 12 Favorite Songs of All Time! (in random order)

• “Stop This Train,” John Mayer
• “A Movie Script Ending,” Death Cab for Cutie
• “Bruised,” Jack’s Mannequin
• “Such Great Heights,” Iron & Wine
• “Look After You,” The Fray
• “Penny and Me,” Hanson
• “A Lack of Color,” Death Cab for Cutie
• “The Hat,” Ingrid Michaelson
• “In Your Atmosphere,” John Mayer
• “Hey Jude,” The Beatles
• “Still,” Ben Folds
• “All These Things That I’ve Done,” The Killers

Megan’s Top 12 Most Played Songs (in order)

• “Warning Sign,” Coldplay
• “This Time,” Jonathan Rhys Meyers
• “This,” Brian Eno
• “Keep Breathing,” Ingrid Michaelson
• “The Letter,” James Morrison
• “Love Me Like The World Is Ending,” Ben Lee
• “Who Knew,” Pink
• “Nothing Lasts Forever,” Maroon 5
• “Bruised,” Jack’s Mannequin
• “We Can Work It Out,” The Beatles
• “A Movie Script Ending,” Death Cab for Cutie
• “The Last Goodbye,” James Morrison

Jack’s Mannequin and Death Cab made it on both lists; so did Ingrid Michaelson, though not for the same song. John Mayer, my FAVORITE musician ever, is not in my top 25 most played list! How is this possible?

So there you have it — my “desert island” songs. And, apparently, all the other tunes I actually . . . listen to.

And now it’s your turn! What are a few of your “desert island” songs? Do we have any in common?

An ode to my favorite fall music

Now that it’s officially cold outside (I’m in a hoodie every moment I’m not in “fancy” dress clothes!) and I’m running in and out of my heated car and office building, it’s time for some excellent cold weather tunes!

Everyone has music that reminds them of special things in their life — summer, winter, senior year, college, first love . . . music is what connects all of us and brings us back to those really incredible points in life like nothing else can. Between music and getting a random sample of cologne while out innocently marching through a department store or grabbing groceries, I can find myself nineteen again — or five, or twelve, or twenty-two.

And musically, the fall for me is all about . . . thinking, reflecting, becoming all nostalgic and crazy. I guess it’s the whole cyclical nature of things — getting ready to usher in another holiday season, looking back at all the time that has already passed, putting away the sandals and replacing them with boots and jackets. It’s another transition. And these are the folks that always come along for the ride with me . . .

Ingrid Michaelson

I adore her whimsical, light and pitch-perfect voice. I don’t think life gets much better than hunkering down in your Toyota, waiting for the heat to kick on and defrost your windshield while humming along to “The Way I Am” (the sweater song from the Old Navy commercial — yeah, you know it), “The Hat” or one of her newest ones, “The Chain.”

“The sky looks pissed. The wind talks back . . . my bones are shifting in my skin. And you, my love, are gone. My room seems wrong. The bed won’t fit. I cannot seem to operate. And you, my love, are gone. So glide away on soapy heels and promise not to promise anymore . . . and if you come around again, then I will take the chain from off the door.”

I bought Ingrid’s album Girls and Boys last fall and listened to nonstop through Christmas . . . it’s one of my favorite albums to listen to while writing. In fact, my NaNo novel last year was built in part after listening to “The Hat” for the hundredth time! Such an awesome song.

“I knitted you a hat all blue and gold to keep your ears warm from the Binghamton cold. It was my first one and it was too small; it didn’t fit you at all, but you wore it just the same. I remember the first time we danced. I remember tunneling through the snow like ants . . . What I don’t recall is why I said, ‘I simply can’t sleep in this tiny bed with you — anymore.’ I should tell you that you were my first love.”

Her lyrics sort of punch you in the gut with their simplicity — when you say “I should tell you that you were my first love,” there’s no real hiding from that — or misinterpreting it. It just is.

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