In a joint collaboration with my weekday roommate and Bronx ally Skip Serpico, I’ll be discussing a mix CD a week. He makes them, I listen to them and provide my in the moment commentary. You, hopefully, read said commentary and maybe open up your musical horizons. You can come here every week for the Serpico Mixes. And you should also visit Skip’s site, Fission Spaghetti, for his musings on food and Saturday Night Live (and more!)
Can We Still Be Friends by Todd Rundgren- So…not for me. At all. Very late 70’s adult contemporary. I thoroughly reject this offering.
Doing It Wrong by Drake- Despite the declinist perspective of this song (the whole we’re the generation that’s only pretending to be together thing) this is an offering I really enjoyed. It nicely conveys genuine sadness while still being upfront about this relationship being really truly over. A refreshingly unmelodramatic song about a break up.
Looking at the Front Door by Main Source- I confess, with blushing embarrassment, that I thought the man rapping the lyrics in this song was Ladies Love Cool James (you may know him by his birth name L.L. Cool J). My initial first paragraph was all about hats being like sharks’ fins and Michael Myers. It would’ve slain, I assure you. Sadly, no one in Main Source is actually Ladies Love.
Anyway, it’s not a bad song about a bad relationship nearing its inevitable end. The problems are refreshingly “normal” and neither characters seems overly bizarre in their reactions to the stressors. That said, the oft-repeated “I’m looking at the front door,” bothers me in a way I can’t quite wrap my fingers around. On a very base level, I just find it annoying. And that’s a shame considering how I feel about the rest of it.
Gonna Get Along Without You Now by She & Him- I think “I’m going to find someone twice as cute because I never liked you anyhow,” is a wonderfully wounded declaration of “whatever”-ness that happens only in the midst of a breakup. Especially when shortly thereafter Ms. Deschanel admits that it has been months since she last saw or heard from this gentlemen caller. Musically not a hit for me, but I like the lyrics quite a bit.
Back to Manhattan by Norah Jones- Thinking of New York as a place of refuge after a breakup is such an odd concept to me as it has always felt like a profoundly lonely city, a place to be surrounded by people and yet untouched. Actually as I write that, I completely get it. Where better to go when you feel shattered than a place where you can be relatively certain no one will stop and gawk at your pain. Longterm, probably not the best healing strategy. Who of us haven’t wanted to just lose ourselves in the crowd in the hopes that without identity maybe things won’t hurt so damn bad.
This song has the unique distinction of being the only Norah Jones song I am aware that I would recommend to others. In general, I find her a bit of a snooze, I confess, but this song is the exception to that rule.
Lover, You Should’ve Come Over by Jeff Buckley- I have very little sympathy for the “I broke up with her for freedom but then realized I really needed/wanted to be with her” kind of complaint. Perhaps as the always dumped, I can’t help but feel so hard for the victim of that ending that the dumper’s later turmoil and realizations mean very little to me. I understand it intellectually, I do not give a damn emotionally.
I probably overstate a bit here. I mean, I’ve worked with murderers, perpetrators of sexual violence, and narcissists and found a way into being empathetic with them so I probably could join with such a person in a therapeutic setting. But in my pop culture? No go.
That said, you’re here for the song review , right? Despite my opinion of his complaint, Jeff Buckley goes big and bold with his feelings in such a way that one can feel his anguish. I still can’t help but think if his intended takes him back, he’d dump her again in a month, but in this moment, his feeling reads as though he really believes it.
Everything Reminds Me of Her by Elliott Smith- This is a good song about that idea that the leaving isn’t hard, it is the coming back. Ending something is easy until you start to see signs of the other person here and there, in ways that you cannot seem to erase. Having said that, this song feels weirdly long. It’s just over two and a half minutes long but it seems longer. I do not even think that is a bad thing, just an observation.
There’s a moment in the song at about 1:28 when Smith references hearing the same sermon all the time that I really like. I’m not sure what he means, but I interpret it as him complaining about the post-breakup platitudes people layer on you. You know, “better off,” “other people out there,” that sort of thing. It is no surprise that Smith nails this pain in his usually insightful way.
The Bed’s Too Big Without You by The Police- A song sung by Sting about a breakup that isn’t all that creepy? Something’s not quite right about that.
(And don’t try to come at me with this “What about ‘I’m So Happy’ nonsense. You’ll just be embarrassing yourself.)
I’m a sucker for Sting and/or the Police so I am fully onboard with this one. If you are less of a fan of him, well, first, you are wrong and second, this will probably do little to persuade you otherwise.
How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore by Prince- For a February Prompt entry in 2012 Stephanie Jerzy used this song for her song of inspiration for her story so now I associate the tune with her. Not to be all cross-promotional, but why not click on her name there and read her tale. It’s good stuff.
As for the song itself, it’s perfect Prince. Great vocal gymnastics set against a stripped down piano arrangement and a sense of true sadness. Remember, Prince isn’t just about the sex, he’s also about the love.
And the Rainbow Children. But that’s neither here nor there.
Silver Springs by Fleetwood Mac- My thought process with this song went something like this.
“Oh! Oh…women have been rarer on this disc, so I wish I liked this song more.”
“Is it Fleetwood Mac? It feels like Fleetwood Mac. I don’t think I really like Fleetwood Mac.”
“Nope, don’t like them.”
At 2:13: “Wait, wait…what’s this?”
“Ooooo, this I like. Her voice is coiling up. Like the meanness there. She sounds literally wounded.”
At 2:36: “Wait, false alarm. This instrumental interlude is terrible.”
At 3:18: “Oh, sure. Ol’ coiled voice is back. Not falling for it this time.”
At 346: “Fine. This is good. Once the song finds its energy, it’s good. You win this time Fleetwood and/or Mac.”
Dancing on My Own by Robyn- At the beginning of this song I thought it was an entry in the sub-genre of songs that I have given the laborious title “breaking up with me for someone else was the worst choice you could’ve made” songs which made me realize that it is a sub-genre that women excel at and men seem to…not. I don’t know why that is. However, before we can get too much into that, the song banked left when I thought it was heading right and became something else.
I don’t know about anyone else but I can relate to this song on both a real and fantasy level. I don’t think I’m alone here (but perhaps I am) when I admit that I have fantasized at running into an ex with their new someone and having them crumble a little bit as they unfavorably compare the “new” model to the classic one they let go. On the other hand, as illustrated by this song, the reality where they continue to far prefer the new model because, you know, they dumped you for a reason seems significantly more likely. So the first verse hooks into the fantasy and the rest of the song goes ahead and savages it.
I’m tempted to label this a guilty pleasure but there’s nothing about it I feel remotely guilty about enjoying.
Also, for those counting, this is the second Robyn song I’ve liked, so maybe I’m a closeted fan and I never even knew it.
Company Calls Epilogue by Death Cab for Cutie- I’ve never attended an ex’s wedding. I’ve never attended an ex-crush’s wedding for that matter (at least not that I can recall at this moment). I’m glad for it, especially because while I can’t imagine myself being a drunken disruption, this songs “sounds” like I imagine it would feel to be in that position. Even if the relationship should’ve ended and you both have moved on, I imagine there’s something about being an ex’s wedding that pulls for those kind of feelings of regret and “what if.”
Cheers Darlin’ by Damien Rice- The rhymes are a bit labored at points (the “Here’s to you and your lover man,” and “I just hang around and eat from a can,” couplet being a particularly gruesome example) but the rawness of not being the “one” is unmistakable.
Also, on a very basic level, I’m in the tank for most songs where the music swells, the lead singer holds out a note of tragedy or outrage, and, via production magic, also sings lyrics underneath that note, as what happens around 4:04 on the track.
Rice does lose points for the last 1:13 or so of the song as the instrumental noodling robs the song of its urgency and emotion. If it was a song in a film, the instrumental piece at the end would be fine as score, but as part of the song, it is papers over some of its power.
Band of Gold by Freda Payne- Sometimes a track placement on a disc makes all the difference about how you receive the song. That’s the case here. I’ve never been a big fan of this song, but coming at 14 on the album with its big expansive splashy sound and full out singing, it just kills…
The Tracks of My Tears by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles- … which is bad news for this one. “Band of Gold” and “Tracks of My Tears” are by no means the same song (Tracks is far more complex and released 18 years prior to Band) but they “read” very similarly in comparison to much of the other offerings on the disc so following from 14, it doesn’t hit as hard as it might’ve if it was a little more isolated, say if Band came in at 7 and Tracks came in at 15, for instance. Still, Tracks being a great song is undeniable.
She’s Gone by Hall & Oates- See above and then add in, “plus, I just don’t really like this song.” Although I have to give it up for “Let the carbon and monoxide choke my thoughts away.” That’s grim in a way that I think we, here in the 2013’s, forget pop music in the early 70’s could be. And especially given that this is a Hall & Oates song.
Cry on Demand by Ryan Adams- What’s going on here?
The most lyrically beautiful part of the song, “Real like a plastic bouquet./That thrives on the smoke from an old fireplace./And dies every night with her face on the news.” seems to imply that the goodbye here is because someone died.
A closer look at the lyrics seems to confirm this but also suggests that, in a larger sense, it is about the passing or cycle of bad relationships. Adams’ “character” in the song is the victim of the bad mom (or mother figure) and has, in turn, seemingly transmitted that cruelty on to his now leaving him ex.
I’m quite taken with this one. I like the layers of endings it offers and how it nods at the possibility of ambivalence in these goodbyes as it suggests, “Sure, death is tragic, but it doesn’t mean we have to or even can cry for the departure of those that hurt us.”
If There is a Chance by The Cardigans- This is a little bit of a different sound for the Cardigans. It even has a mid-90’s “first time we swung for pop music” country to it at times. It’s not my favorite Cardigans’ tune, but Nina Persson’s voice is so beautiful even not great Cardigans is still a chance to hear her and thus worth a listen or two.
Cold Town by Iron & Wine- This song feels like a cold rainy grey day. I’m thinking February (although I’m guessing it is actually set around this time of the year), one of the warm days where the temperature can fool you a bit and the rain makes it all feel closer to the bone somehow when you start to feel the cold.
If you are of a mind to do it, it is a nice companion piece to the Smith song above. They are very similar in the “she’s everywhere I turn” sense of the world shrinking around you, trapping you, and betraying you. Here, even your bedroom, in bed, with the covers up, is a snare waiting to be sprung.