Sunday, 16 June 2013

"Feel Good" Playlist

If I’m being honest, all of my “feel good” songs are by Elvis Costello.  This man can sing one syllable and my happiness is through the roof.  However, for the sake of diversity, I’ve put together a selection of songs that always lift my mood regardless of my location, situation or any prior feelings.  It’s a combination of some of my favorite songs and some that I can really only describe as feel good.  This doesn’t necessarily mean the happiest songs but rather songs that never fail to put you in a good mood.  One time, I was playing the song “This is the Day” by The The to a friend and explaining how this song always puts me in a good mood.  He replied: “Sarah, I’m pretty sure this song about suicide”.  Clearly, my radar is a little bit off.  However, I think these songs are perfect because they have the ability to put you in a good mood in a discrete way, meaning that the lyrics aren’t always blatantly happy.  I even managed to narrow it down to just one Elvis Costello song!  Okay, he sings in Jenny Lewis’s “Carpetbaggers” too, but that’s not really cheating… is it?!

I began this playlist with Joe Jackson’s “Pretty Girls”.   By the end of your first listen of this testosterone-fuelled song, you’ll be singing the chorus.  Jackson (not to be confused with Micheal Jackson’s father!) is one of my favorite performers to watch.  He’s incredibly gangly and awkward and makes these herky-jerky movements on stage that are a little ridiculous to watch (check out his 1980 performance of “Kinda Kute” on YouTube for all the proof of this!).  The next song is an odd choice as the song is literally repeating the words “why don’t you go away?”  Yet, the following line, “Why don’t you come back, baby” makes it a lyrically brilliant give-and-take and I like the uncertainness of it.  I think it’s really relatable, especially for those who have as much difficultly making up their mind as I do.

I decided to choose The Wallflowers’ most famous song.  It’s a really great song and I’m going to write an introduction to them, so I thought I’d start with this as a sort of pre-introduction.  It really baffles me how Jakob Dylan isn’t more famous than he is!  The next song, “Safe in L.A.” by Gold Motel is pretty different, but such a feel good song.  It’s an easy listen and I think it’s really uplifting as the lyrics can be applicable to anyone and any situation.  “O Valencia!” by The Decemberists is another song like “Safe in L.A.”  with an easy upbeat melody and simple but enjoyable lyrics.

With this blog, I’ve tried to present a pretty varied selection of artists and songs.  I like the new stuff, but I really like the old stuff, like this next song, too.  “Runaway” is the song that Del Shannon is known for; it was a Number 1 hit in 1961.  After Shannon’s suicide, the Traveling Willburys released a cover of “Runaway” which is really worth listening to, especially if you like the original.  The next song I’ve included is another famous one.  The Hollies have endless great songs but “Bus Stop” is one of their happiest.  It’s a simple love song (the first stanza clearly doesn’t waste any words!) and I challenge anyone to not have his or her mood lifted after one listen of this song.

“It’s Too Bad” is one of my favorite Jam songs.  With a playlist like this, it’s difficult not to just list my favorite songs, but I think this song is pretty universally loved.  It’s a little difficult to write about some of these songs, as I think with bands like The Hollies or The Jam, anything there is to say about them has already been said.

Jenny Lewis is one of those package deal artists.  Anyone who likes her, almost with complete certainty, will also be a fan of She & Him, M. Ward and The Wallflowers.  Historically, the term “Carpetbaggers” was used in America as an equivalent to the word “Yankee”; i.e. what southerners would call northerners.  I’m not entirely sure what this song is about, but it seems to be describing someone who feels out of place.  I really enjoyed this song at first and when I got to Costello’s addition to the song, it perfected it for me.  It has a slight country tone to it, so perhaps that relates to the southern point-of-view of the title.  The next song, “People Got a Lotta Nerve” has a similar beat to “Carpetbaggers”.  My dad is a concert promoter, and he introduced me to Neko Case when he was promoting a tour with her in 2009.  As he was playing some of their music he was explaining how she was one of the kindest artists he has ever worked with.  If you watch the music video for this song, her laid-back, sweet personality shines.  Also, what I really like about it is that she chose her back-up singers based on talent.  They both have great voices, but aren’t 6ft, 95 pounds and wearing 6-inch stilettos.   They’re clearly just normal people with talent, just like Neko Case, which is surprisingly rare to find in the music industry!

Speaking of “normal” people in the music industry, Ray LaMontagne fits this to a T.   I think that “You Are The Best Thing” is the perfect first dance wedding song, and it is just so peaceful to listen to.  The combination of the orchestra and the soft background singers perfects it.  Even though the songs are very different, I think that this song flows nicely into the next one: “Hustle” by Tunng.  This is another relaxed, easy-going song that has the perfect melody to lift your mood.  Maybe it’s just that I’ve spent my summer afternoons listening to this song for 3 years now, but to me this song just screams summer.  It has a happy-go-lucky melody and while the lyrics seem to depict a complicated and difficult relationship, the up-beat aspect makes it perfect for beach dwellers and relaxing days.

“Over Under Sideways Down” is a really unique song and I think it flows nicely into the next song, “Uncertain Smile”.   While The The is, let’s face it, the worst name I’ve ever heard for a band, singer/songwriter Matt Johnson is a creative genius and this song is no exception.  I chose “Uncertain Smile” primarily due to Jools Holland’s amazing keyboard solo, but the lyrics are also some of the greatest I’ve ever heard to describe an unrequited, obsessional love for someone.

It’s pretty self-explanatory why I’ve included “Sunny Afternoon” on this playlist.  The last song,  “Then He Kissed Me” will also be self-explanatory for anyone who has either grown up with it or has seen the beginning of Adventures in Babysitting!  As a girl, I can confidently state that there are no girls who do not have the exact same reaction any time this song is played.  I chose to conclude the playlist with this song as I think it's a definitive “feel good” song in absolutely every way!

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