Booking Through Thursday: Sing a song

booking_through_thursLet’s go Booking Through Thursday! It’s not about books, but it is about words . . . so we’ll go with that!

“If you’re anything like me, there are songs that you love because of their lyrics; writers you admire because their songs have depth, meaning, or just a sheer playfulness that has nothing to do with the tunes.

So, today’s question?

• What songs … either specific songs, or songs in general by a specific group or writer … have words that you love? Why?
• And … do the tunes that go with the fantastic lyrics live up to them?”

Wow! I frequently blog about my favorite lyrics, great artists, sad and happy songs and just artists I love in general. I can’t think of a song in which I like the lyrics but don’t really like the tune. What’s so great about music is that deft combination of the two. Even now, typing out the lyrics to the songs I love just isn’t going to do any of them justice. You have to hear them! Otherwise, they’re a little like scrambled poetry. All of these songs “speak” to me in some way, usually because they deal with growing up, making decisions, falling in and out of love and basically becoming an adult. Many of them were songs I listened to in high school and college, so they remind me of a very specific time in my life. It’s fun to let music take you back.

Jumping in, my usual response to questions like this features me rambling on about the awesomeness that is John Mayer, my favorite musician of all time. He’s incredibly talented songwriter, guitarist and performer, and I’m usually in some ceaseless amazement of his . . . hotness. Yeah, I think the man is gorgeous.

Some of my favorite JM lyrics?

“Stop This Train”

So scared of getting older, I’m only good at being young; So I play the numbers game to find a way to say my life has just begun; Had a talk with my old man, said ‘Help me understand’; He said, ‘Turn 68, you’ll renegotiate’; Don’t stop this train; Don’t for a minute change the place you’re in . . . And don’t think I couldn’t ever understand; I tried my hand; John, honestly, you’ll never stop this train . . .

“New Deep”

I’m so alive; I’m so enlightened, I can barely survive a night in my mind; I’ve got a plan — I’m gonna find out just how boring I am, and have a good time; ‘Cause ever since I tried, trying not to find every little meaning in my life; It’s been fine; I’ve been cool with my new golden rule . . . Numb is the new deep; Down with the old me . . . I’m done with the analyzing tonight; Stop trying to figure it out; It will only bring you down . . .

“Why Georgia”

I am driving up 85 in the kind of morning that lasts all afternoon; Just stuck inside the gloom; For more exits to my apartment, but I am tempted to keep the car in drive; And leave it all behind . . . ‘Cause I wonder about the outcome . . . Am I living it right? Am I living it right? Am I living it right . . . Why, Georgia, why? . . . I rent a room and I fill the spaces with whirling places to make it feel like home, but all I feel is alone; It might be a quarter-life crisis, or just the stirring in my soul; Either way, I wonder sometimes about the outcome . . . So what, so I’ve got a smile on. Well, it’s hiding the quiet superstitions in my head . . . Don’t believe me, don’t believe me when I say I’ve got it down.

And now I’ll go ahead and branch out — I’ll hit you with a little Sara Bareilles!

“Morningside”

I’m not scared of you, no, or so I say; There’s no reason to run, although I may; Not as sure as I seem, this much I know; What does it mean when you leave, and I follow? Well, I try to forget what you do, when I let you get through to me; But then you do it over again; Like a rage, like a fire . . . Keep my distance, I try; No use, no; No matter the miles, I’m back to you . . .

And some of The Killers?

“All These Things That I’ve Done”

If you can hold on, hold on . . . I want to stand up, I want to let go — you know, you know — no, you don’t, you don’t . . . Another head aches, another heart breaks; I’m so much older than I can take; And my affection, well it comes and goes; I need direction to perfection . . . You know you gotta help me out, oh, don’t you put me on the back burner — you know you gotta help me out; And when there’s nowhere else to run, is there room for one more son? These changes ain’t changin’ me — the gold-hearted boy I used to be . . .

And, for good measure, Ben Folds, another of my favorite artists!

“Still Fighting It”

Good morning, son; I am a bird; Wearing a brown polyester shirt; Do you want a Coke? Maybe some fries? The roast beef combo’s only 9.95; It’s okay — you don’t have to pay; I’ve got all the change . . . Everybody knows it hurts to grow up; And everybody does; So weird to be back here; Let me tell you what: The years go on, and we’re still fighting it, we’re still fighting it . . . And you’re so much like me. I’m sorry . . . Good morning son, twenty years from now, maybe we’ll both sit down and have a few beers. And I can tell you ’bout today, and how I picked you up and everything changed . . . There was pain, sunny days and rain, I knew you’d feel the same things . . . You’ll try, and you’ll try, and one day you’ll fly away from me . . . Good morning, son; Good morning, son . . .

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.

Continue reading

Burn up in your atmosphere

I love listening to John Mayer albums — but I adore going to John Mayer concerts. Everything I love about John’s music is absolutely amplified by the live experience — the piercing guitar solos, the smooth voice, the emotional outbursts, the random ad-libbing. And the snippets and random verses he adds to classic songs.

A case in point would be a live version of “Home Life” from an import album I have — which is really random, I know. But it’s those seemingly strange, patchwork verses placed almost in addendum to the actual songs that I really love the most, I think.

“In Your Atmosphere” is another classic example of this — these emotional, thought-provoking bits and pieces he adds into his songs when playing live, usually at the very beginning or the very end. The final piece of this song is enough to fillet my tender little heart! And I mean that sincerely. I don’t know how to phrase it in a way that isn’t ridiculously cliche, other than to say that I really feel like I “get him.”

“Wherever I go, whatever I do, I wonder where I am in my relationship to you . . .”

Continue reading

I’ve always liked the name ‘Ben’

I stumbled across a ridiculously awesome website called Wordle — where, basically, you enter a block of text and the gadget creates a visual diagram of your most frequently used words. So I took my latest novel, the one I’m constantly querying, and figured out that I love, in no particular order, the words “okay,” “eyes,” “hand” and “just.” And Ben, too. My main male character gets a lot of love in this book.

It’s really interesting to see how often I really use random, seemingly insignificant words like “something,” “really” and “around.” I’m kind of obsessed with this thing.

Here’s one I did for “Stop This Train”:

And one for “Still,” one of my favorite songs by Matt Nathanson:

Anddddd, last for tonight (before I’m up until 3 a.m. creating Wordles and getting no sleep at all), Coldplay’s “Warning Sign”:

We’ll never stop this train

Leaves starting to turn by the office, Oct. 2007

Leaves starting to turn by the office, Oct. 2007

In addition to being ridiculous good looking, John Mayer is quite the musician, guitarist — and writer. It’s pretty rare that I listen to one of his songs and don’t really feel something, however momentary. Most of his music hits me straight in the gut, honestly, and I find myself thinking about snippets of songs constantly without even realizing it.

All this thinking about fall brought me to tons of JM’s lyrics, most notably my favorite song of all time: “Stop This Train.” I don’t know what reminds me of the fall persay — he doesn’t explicitly say anything about autumn. I guess “driving away in the dark”? I don’t know. It just seems sort of lonely, retrospective and sad — a song I would listen to while driving home from College Park. Somehow I always feel nostalgic while driving.

Regardless of the sadness of some of the tunes (or because of it?), I love him. His sophomore album “Heavier Things” was one of the first purchases I made with my own money from my first job. I had it on repeat my freshman year of college as I cruised around Southern Maryland, trying to figure out where I was going and what I was doing and if I was making the right decisions about so many — oh, so many — things.

I’m still that 18-year-old kid driving around listening to John Mayer, it’s just that now I have the added five years of experiences to ponder and add to the mix of chaos.

My view of John Mayer in D.C., July 25, 2007

My view of John Mayer in D.C., July 25, 2007

Continue reading