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.

Another Top 10

I awoke this morning with lyrics in my head. I assume that is not strange for the masses, but I am a drummer: I usually do not remember lyrics because I am distracted by the music. I had this urge to highlight songs that actually mean something to me, so here are the top 10. I know that I have done something like this before, but I am going to point out the songs that mean something to me, not the albums. This list contains tracks from albums that would never touch a top ten, and there are one or two that I only listen to the album for that song.

I reiterate: I am a drummer. A couple of these songs are just on this list because the drums are so fucking cool. In the interest of transparency, I will point that out when it comes to fruition.

Animals as Leaders- CAFO
Let’s start with one where the drums sold me on the very premiss. CAFO is easily one of those complicated songs I have ever heard. I think why I put this on my top ten as opposed to something from Godspeed You! Black Emperor is because it remains one of my favourite memories. I saw this back open for BTBM a few years ago. They were playing a flawless set, then they got to this song. The drummer added just ONE snare hit before a fairly easy part (compared to the rest of the song, anyway), and the guitar players got SO lost. It was just so fantastic to see that even Gods can fuck something up.

Samsaris- Góða Tungl
No, I cannot pronounce this title to save my life. I can, however, proudly put it in my top list. This song is absolutely beautiful. There is something incredibly haunting about the clarinet in contrast with the vocals. This song speaks to me on every level, though I have no clue what they are saying.
I refuse to look up a translation. I am afraid of hating what they are actually saying.

Blood Brothers- Love Rhymes With Hideous Car Wreck
A rather bleak way of describing eternal love and blind devotion, I first heard this song around a time when I thought I was in love with a girl. In hindsight, she was horrible. I know she does not read this blog (because we hate each other now) but, this song is for you.
Love love love love love love love. (rhymes with pity now)

Kevin Drew- TBTF
There was a time I almost got those four letters tattooed on my person: TBTF (to beautiful to fuck) is a story about love. Innocent love. A desperate person holding onto the relationship they have with a friend who is attractive.
ALTERNATE MEANING:
Someone who is rejecting someone they should be interested in, but they cannot justify it.
To be honest, I have no fucking idea what this song is about. I just know that I love it and relate far too much to it. Because I am oblivious to what it is actually about, I use it to rationalize uncomfortable situations I found myself in with friends.

The Dresden Dolls- Girl Anachronism
Piano and drums? Yes, please! Is it to bold to ask for sarcastic and self deprecation on the side? No? Perfect.
I play. This whole album is amazing, but I think that it is perfectly summed up by this track. Fast. Angry. Dynamic.

Incubus- A Crow Left Of the Murder
Puns in the name and probably the coolest guitar riff ever written by a band, it is easy for me to talk about how much I love this song. The more interesting way to do it is to leave the link up top and see how many of you listen to it.

Placebo- Without You I’m Nothing
Think Pink Floyd, but modern. I almost put the version with David Bowie on this list, but the original will do beautifully.

Nine Inch Nails- La Mer
I fucking love this song. Soothing, beautiful, haunting. The trifecta of amazing. I actually refuse to look up the translation for this song for fear of ruining the feel of it.

Poison the Well- The Realist
Does this song demonstrate everything I love about this band? No. It does the opposite. This song contains the most beautiful vocal melody I think I have ever heard and I just need to share it with everyone I meet. Listen. Enjoy.

Sufjan Stevens- I Want To Be Well
This was the song that actually inspired me to make this list. I fell in love with this song back when the album came out in 2010. I was working in a record store and was trying desperately to be the cool-indi-music-guy (and failing very hard at it). I had gotten into Sufjan about a year earlier from the Illinoise album, and I thought I got where he was coming from. The Age Of Adz proved to me that I should shut up and admit that I do not understand anything about music what-so-ever.
This song was my anthem. When I was cruising around at three in the morning, I would blare this song out my windows, singing along and staining my voice. I am positive that I disturbed a few sleeping people, but I was earnestly saying those words in all their glory. “I want to be well.” If I only knew then that not five years later I could relate more those words than I did at the time. If I only focused on what I had and not what I was loosing. Maybe, just maybe, things all could have been amazing.

I digress. Do yourself a favour and PLEASE listen to these songs. Especially the last one, it holds a place in my life that only I know of.

To state again: these are just 10 that remind me to listen to the whole album again. They are in no way my top favourite albums, and not even the top recommendations I could make. They are just some great songs that I find myself thinking about a lot.