Today, We Escape
Now, a word of caution: the Garden State soundtrack, this ain't. If you've read anything I've written for this here site, you'll know by now that my tastes skew toward the populist side of things; straight-up rock and pop are what crank my engine. This list isn't full of songs cherry-picked from my collection to showcase my impeccable taste (no, I'll save that for the "What We're Listening To" segment to which I keep fucking forgetting to contribute). These songs are often sappy and/or sentimental, mostly earnest, and occasionally ripe for ridicule. You might also have noticed, by now, that I really don't care (about the mocking, that is). I'm not saying these are the best; this is a collection of songs that, at one time or another, have moved me. They're mostly about saying goodbye to someone or something. Some of them are more about change, and a couple deal specifically with separation from someone you care about (I get to spend the month of April living by my lonesome in West fucking Virginia).
I hope you'll join me in a good old ponder about life and how it changes.
Great Big Sea, "Boston and St. John's" - I'll begin with a song that I stumbled upon during college. This is not one of those "sea shanties" that Dustin mentioned last week when Great Big Sea came up in Robin Hood casting rumors, but a pretty acoustic tune about a seafaring soul begging the patience of his lady as he sea-fares. My favorite version is from their live Road Rage album, on which the flute-like instrument is prominent. A close friend of mine from college (a wee Irish lass) still makes me play her this song every time I pick up the guitar.
Rush, "Fly By Night" - Rush was a bit of an obsession for me during high school and college. I still love and listen to them these days, albeit with less psychotic fervor. Although "Fly By Night" came early-on in Neil Peart's impressive lyrical career, the clear-eyed optimism in the song still packs a punch, and the creamy twang of Alex Lifeson's guitar keeps me strumming this tune on my own.
The Refreshments, "Fonder and Blonder" - Ah, back to one of my old stand-bys. This is one of the more memorable songs from The Bottle & Fresh Horses, written with Refreshments-style cynicism about people changing in each other's absence. Roger Clyne observes: "in all the pictures that you send me now / your hair seems to get / just a little bit blonder," and revisits an older lyrical theme singing: "cars break down and / people break down and / other things break down, too." Really, this is a pretty unhappy song dressed up with jangly guitars and a catchy chorus.
The Format, "On Your Porch" - We continue with another band about which I've previously written, strengthening the perception that I only listen to five groups. This is a quiet, pensive and personal song, featuring just an acoustic guitar and Nate Ruess' quiet musings about leaving his home, his past, his future and his music. He wonders of his audience: "I can see their eyes / but tell me something / can they see mine?" and states of his band: "now we've got something to prove." The song was a favorite of an entire group of soon-to-be-failed musicians that I ran with for a couple years.
Butterfly Boucher, "Another White Dash" - I'll make no apologies for loving this song or its singer. Though it's terribly saccharine, Flutterby is full of impossibly catchy rock/pop treasures. This semi-hit is about the excitement of leaving it all behind, though I'd guess that she's thinking of more of an unplanned departure than I'm currently facing. Everyone's had this kind of fleeting fantasy at some point.
Skillet, "Say Goodbye" - Yes, this song is just a bit more high-schoolish. Yes, every line in this song is completely and unbearably clichéd and pretty much awful. But I'll be damned if that opening piano doesn't pull me in for the whole song and kick me on the ass at the end. Just...try to ignore the lyrics. Oh, those lyrics. I know. I know.
Coheed and Cambria, "The Road and the Damned" - This song is the emotional apex of a four album-long sci-fi story. I won't lie to you and say that I completely comprehend the whole thing (as I haven't read the comic-book versions), but I gather that this song features the protagonist saying goodbye to the woman he loves before he goes on to sacrifice himself and destroy a world. Or something. Great song, though.
John Mayer, "Stop This Train" - I don't care if you think he's a douchebag. I love John Mayer. His early music may be the stuff of overwrought, sappy legend, but he shaped himself into a mature, soulful songwriter for 2006's Continuum. Here, he more eloquently and gracefully expresses the fear of change and growing older. It's like "83" or "No Such Thing," but without the eye-rolling.
The Spill Canvas, "Low Fidelity" - The Spill Canvas went from a boring acoustic act in 2005 to a masterful rock band in 2007, releasing one of the most re-playable records I've heard in years in No Really, I'm Fine. "Low Fidelity" is another song about the perils of separation, a well-written tune that's seriously bolstered by some perfectly-placed horn blasts and a more-is-more approach to the cymbals.
Radiohead, "Exit Music (For A Film)" - An apt end to our little journey, here, I think. This song should be taught in a songwriting class on how to build a song from a mysterious opening to a spectacularly satisfying conclusion. To move from the tender beginning of "today we escape" to the bitter end of "we hope that you choke" is...well, it's Radiohead. 'Nuff said.
There you have it. Fire away, Eloquents. Add your picks and/or (more likely) your ridicule. At least, when I have no friends and no family for 180 miles in any direction, I'll still have you crazy bastards to make me laugh.
Sean Kufel is an engineer who, sadly, does not drive trains. He can very rarely be found sitting still and enjoys more pepper jack cheese than is probably healthy. He currently lives with his wife on Cleveland's west side, but will soon be gracing the town of Marietta, Ohio with his month-old-razor-sharp wit and shining mediocrity. More of his rantings can be found here.