Can Music Be Happy and Good?

I started writing a piece about optimism and pessimism the other day, and it got me asking whether or not I even have happy music in my 36-day-long collection of songs.

Knowing that I could never go through all 36 days worth of music, I pulled a few that may or may not be happy.

Dresden Dolls — Good Day
I know it seems like I picked this song based on name alone. It took me a couple of listens to figure out whether or not it is actually happy, however. I kind of feel that it is more cynical than not happy? If that makes sense? It is basically an anthem about how strong someone is in the face of a brutal breakup that would potentially render someone uncontrollably depressed. So, a final verdict? If we are going on the A) B) options I have given myself, I would have to say happy.

Deftones — Teenager
Very symbolic, and alludes to tragedy instead of happiness. It is a song that seems to be about moving past pain and abandonment. To say that it’s pessimistic is undermining potential readings of what the poetry of this piece could be.

Deer & the Headlights — Sweet Talk
I fucking love this song. Not happy at all, and does not even pretend to be. Musically, it could be argued that it sounds “boppy” and aloof. The heartwrenching lyrics are about seeing an ex with a new lover for the first time since you separated. Juvenile? Very much, but a very relatable situation for most of us. What holds this song apart from most in the pessimism group is that it doesn’t really give the listener any sort of reprise, or even an alternate way of looking at the situation. Can I call it happy? Hell no.

Cursive — From The Hips
The most cynical song I think I have come across in my life. It is trying to make an argument that the pinnacle of human interaction is sex. The singer alludes to the idea that sex is the only time we are all truly honest and without alternative motives.

Braid — Do You Like Coffee?
I may be biased by my love for the black substance that is the subject of this song, but I would confidently put this in “optimism” pool. The song tells a tale about seeing someone for the first time in a long time. It could been seen as bitter-sweet, but still optimistic.

Livestalk & the Bodies — Pourvous
I actually forgot about this one until I asked a friend of mine about what they would recommend. I’ll probably get to their suggestion, but I want to point out the irony that one of, if not my absolute favourite song that I played on is incredibly happy-bordering-on-cute. (Don’t tell Kevo I called it cute). A song of love, confessing all manners of appreciation for all parts of the narrator’s partener. Plus, this song has the most amazing piano line written and did I mention that I love it and I played on it and I didn’t write the drum line but I wish I did am I rambling without punctuation I am so sorry.

Broken Bells — The High Road
As a fan of the bands The Shins, of course I came across this gem. The best parts of Danger Mouse cira 2010, and released just before Modern Guilt by Beck, this album combines and jangly guitar that The Shins were known for, and the trip-hop grooves that Danger Mouse produces so well. The name, and parts of the lyrics, lead one to believe that it is going to be a happy song. When you really listen to it, however, you notice that it is about someone burning out after living a great life. So, as most of the other songs on this list: cynical, at best.

The Fratellis — Flathead
EVERYBODY DANCE! FEEL HOW GREAT THE GROOVE IS! BEAT THE PISS OUT OF EVERYONE!
*ahem* This song is great. I will never get a bigger smile on my face than when I’m analyzing this one, but it hides a dark secret behind the bombastic chorus’ and bigger-than-life transitions. It’s alluding to the idea that people are two-faced at best, and horribly spoken about at worst.

The Junction — Untitled (Revised)
This song is not a great example of the album, but it remains one of my favourite pop songs of all time. I have a very hard time deciphering lyrics at the best of times, and this song is a whearwind of metaphors and complicated prose. I THINK that it’s happier than most, even though if fits very nicely in a dark sounding chasm.

The Tokyo Police Club — Bambi
This song is a coating of blunt opinions and a harsh tone over joyous celebration of youth. Maybe I am biased because of the fantastic keyboards coupled with how happy the keyboard player looked while they performed this one day, but I will forever see this as an optimistic song.

WHAT IS MY CONCLUSION? Happy lyrics are possible. Non-cynical lyrics are possible. Music is an expression of the musician’s soul, and it is easier to dwell on the horrible rather than the best of times. Hell, that Livestalk & the Bodies song is the only one out of the full album of fifteen that might be mostly unhappy.

Now, all of this conjecture is just that. I admit that I am horrible with figuring out lyrics meaning on the best of days. There are probably of happy songs. Hell, I didn’t touch ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky, Of Montreal’s entire catalogue, or C + C by Tom Vek.

Classic Album Review :: Stabbing Westward — Darkest Days

I might be wrong: I think everyone forgot about this album. I find it strange because this album is like a strange radio-friendly version of early Nine Inch Nails mixed with Bush X. It is both accessible and hard-hitting. I do not have it in my pantheon of constant rotation, but it is a very welcome addition to my library.

The album opens with a haunting soundscape, very mechanical and broken. The bass then kicks in driving a simple 4/4 riff while bells chime overtop. It is incredibly haunting, even if it is simple in execution.

The coolest part for me is that the vocalist starts by singing in almost a whisper, only to crecedo when the music does. And how it does! The opening track is in my top 10 opening tracks for demonstraiting the full capability for a band. Nothing is very from a skill perspective, but it is very impactful and hard-hitting.

One of the last lines of the first track (everything I touch I break) gets repeated over and over in the second track. Not in an “I’m 13 and know everything” kind of way, but more that dark and brooding way that Deftones does — point out the horrible in people and exploit it. The kind of angst that never really comes off as whining, but more like that expression of a soul done by someone who has actually seen some shit. The kind of writing that we all wished we were capable of in high school, tried, but came off as spoiled children instead of creating the portrait that we were trying to express.

Have I mentioned that the late nineties, in particular ’97 through 98, is my favourite moment in music? I do not know what was going on in society, but everything was perfect. From Beautiful Midnight by Mathew Good Band to Rabbit In Your Headlights by UNKLE came out right around the release of this fantastic album. I have gushed about the atmosphere of the former, and I plan on writing something on the latter in a bit, but that year is peppered with genre-defining moments of all forms.

Anyway, I have gushed enough. I know that I did not go further into specific instrumentation, as I normally do. This album is better defined through the overall feel, not to say the individual parts do not matter. For a proper breakdown of the instruments, all I can say is nothing special happens and that actually makes it better. Give it a listen. You’ll know what I mean.

The Single Hardest Project Ever

I had a discussion with a good friend of mine whether or not we could come up with a Top 10 list of albums. We both agreed that it would be very difficult, so I tried to make one up after he left. My result was a top 20, so I gave myself further restrictions and now it’s a Top 10, finally. As I am writing this, I am stuck thinking about what I kept off the list.

RULES: One album per artist. No “Honourable Mentions”*. No regrets* with what I have listed.
(Only one exception because it should be on this list, but I made a promise to do 10)

NINE INCH NAILS :: The Fragile
I could not resist putting this album in the list. I love it so. Between “La Mer” and “Just Like You Imagined” I would be set for a very long time in the event I loose everything but this. I have heard rumours of an instrumental version existing: if you know where to get it, please pass me along a link.
Recommended listening: Just Like You Imagined

That song is a strange example of the rest of the album. Beautiful, which is a fantastic snapshot, but extremely tame compared to songs like Starfuckers, Inc. Please enjoy. If you know the album, what is your favourite?

CURSIVE :: Domestica
The album I have listened to the most, hands down, in the last few years. It is actually my favourite album of all time: it flows perfectly from end to end. I do not have it on vinyl because I have never seen it around for a reasonable price ($30 is too rich for my blood, though it is tempting). It honestly has the (second) best ending of an album ever. (the best ending belongs to Sparta on their debut album Wiretap Scars. Only Honourable Mention I will do because it was axed only due to space)
Recommended listening: Radiator Hums

Jazzy and fantastic: this song contains some of my favourite lyrics ever portrayed in a song. It is just so biting: so harsh. Yet, like the rest of the album, self deprecating and pretty. BONUS POINTS: The chorus is so much fun to shout along to.

DEFTONES :: White Pony
Do I really have to justify this being on my list? It’s heavy: both emotionally and musically. A brilliant collection of sounds, it has been a major influence on the music I have collected in the years.
Recommended listening: Knife Party

Beautiful. That statement is even before the chaos that is the ending. Her vocal range is astounding. The drums contain some of the coolest licks I have heard.

DEERHOOF :: Vs. Evil
Everyone has to have a strange album they listen to. This band is in my top list simply because I always am blown away when I listen to them. Like everything great, I do not know how I found this album because it exposed me to what music can be.
Recommended listening: The Merry Barracks

I put the music video as the sample for this song because.

DIE HEXE :: ST EP
Anyone who has talked to me in the last year has known about my obsession with this EP. The beauty in its distopic view of reality is astounding to me. Do yourself a favour and listen to it, please. This collection is easily my favourite independent album to exist in years and one of my favourite albums of all time.
Recommended listening: The Entire Album

Not only is the whole album fantastic, they are independent. It does not seem fair pointing out one song to ignore the feat they have managed.

BIBIO :: Ambivilance Avenue
Think folk mixed with trip-hop and jazz, and you only get a mild idea of what this album contains. Perfect background sounds for writing or meditating. Also, the last thing I listened to before I ended up in hospital.
Recommended listening: Fire Ant

I guess this is not a fantastic example of the rest of the album, but it is, by far, one of my favourites. It is an example of what a hip-hop beat could be if a DJ was given free-range.

WEAKERTHANS :: Reconstruction Site
Punk, but with a twist. Some of the most brilliant and soul-destroying lyrics you will ever hear.
Also, I cannot listen to it without thinking of my good friend, Elianna.
Recommended listening: Our Retired Explorer (Dines with Michel Foucault in Paris, 1961)

This was the first song I heard by this band ever. Not going to lie, the line “yes a penguin taught me french back in Antarctica” sold me almost instantly.

WINTERSLEEP :: Untitled
This was a favourite album of mine for a very long time. The emotional weight it portrays is amazing. The song “Lipstick” perfectly encapsulates being alone while surrounded by people.
Recommended listening: Danse Macabre

I figured it out after years of listening to it, but that drum line is STUPID!

BLONDE REDHEAD :: 23
Hauntingly beautiful and beautifully haunting. Really, there is little to write home with this album: there is nothing to it except that it is incredibly pretty. So pretty, in fact, that I love it this much.
Recommended listening: The Publisher

This song has my favourite vocal progression, by far.

DO MAKE SAY THINK :: Goodbye Enemy Airship, the Landlord Is Dead
This is my favourite album. It doesn’t have any words, and that almost makes it better. The juxtaposition of the instruments is spine tingling, the rhythms and flourishes that it finds is jaw-dropping, and the crescendos bring tears to my eyes every time. Every album they have released is astounding, but this one is perfect. I cannot even show this album to everyone because I KNOW that not everyone will appreciate it.
Recommended listening: Goodbye Enemy Airship

That is my favourite song. Full Stop. I fucking love this song and every emotion that it evokes. I have been listening to a playlist of all these albums since I came up with this idea, and I stop everything I am doing to listen to all 12 minuets of this song every time it plays.

WHAT DID I LEARN!?

I toss around top-ten labels way too easily. It is not malicious or a lie, just a spur-of-the-moment label. Most of the CDs I give that label are, in fact, held in a very high regard.

In fact: I am of the assumption that if everyone did that in regards to something that they love, they will notice where priorities lie.

I still feel like I forgot about something very VERY important. I am also upset at the fact that Blood Brothers, Poison the Well, and Said the Whale are not on the list anywhere, but I promised no honourable mentions.

Also, ‘Frequently Played’ numbers are not to be trusted. Sometimes, you get into a habit of playing something because it reminds you of something. That may be a time, a place, or right now. It has nothing to do with the love for the actual album, however. Tom Vek is in my top plays but he was not even a contender for the list.


These are the albums that I listen to almost daily.

One may argue that this is not an appropriate post for this blog. There is nothing about health or life in a wheelchair.

YOU ARE FUCKING WRONG.

A large part of health, in and out of a chair, is finding peace in whatever is around you. I have always kept music a massive part of my life: so much so that when I had to go almost 10 months with either nothing or crappy radio I was horribly depressed because of it. Yes, I am aware that I focus too much on music. I need to, or I will get swallowed up in my situation and dwell on how things can be better. It motivates me to get back to drumming the way I used to. It reminds me of how things used to be and shows me how they will change by being in everything I do. ‘You’re Not Dead’ has a soundtrack, and the book I am working on now does, as well.