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.

Favourite Year

I find myself doing this weird deep-dive across my life where I try to pin-point my favourite year. I don’t have a reason, and rarely does it have any bearing.

I hate that I resort to when I started working at a media store. It feels like a co-out, like the only reason I pick that year is because that was the first full year that I got more exposure than ever to everything. Then, I remember how, for the first year anyway, I just filled back catalogue in both music and movies. I mean, yes: all the new music I got into was released that year.

NAME THE FUCKING YEAR JAY

K. Fine. It’s the year 2007. So many great albums came out that year. It was the last year of All Cut Up and we recorded probably the most fun EP of our three year run. The Twin started to form late that year. Livestalk & the Bodies was put into motion right at the end of the year. Battles and Dear & the Headlights recorded and released 2 of my favourite albums of all time. Not to mention the plethora of mind-bending games that came out that year like BioShock, Portal and Mass Effect: 3 series that started that year and I remained a fan for a long time.

In the movie realm, all I have to mention is Juno and point out how amazing that soundtrack was. I could go further, but that one film sums up a large part of that year for me.

Interpersonally, I flourished that year. I don’t have many interesting stories, but needless to say that I was rarely home. The shows had all but dried up that year, so it was low on the totem of personal achievements. Maybe I should take that as a note: years that I don’t achieve anything matter more? That might be complete bullshit. There is a co-relation between years where I find happiness and being comfortable artistically. From 2005 to now-ish I have done something artistically placating every year. Hell, even this year I renewed my book for a second edition that is double in length and has half as many grammatical errors.

Do you have a favourite year? Want to gloat about some achievement that you have hit and never felt like you had the praise you deserved for it? Let’s talk about it either in the comments, or hit me up on FaceBook! There is a page, if you don’t feel like seeking me out personally!

The Decade

I was feeling like I haven’t accomplished much in the last little bit. I am used to being pushed in all directions at the same time, and I have been on this path of writing and blogging over the last six years. To overcome this feeling of uselessness that I have been burdened by, I revisited everything that I have done over the last decade.

2010: I played on the Livestalk & the Bodies LP. It still stands as one of my favourite albums of all time, let alone one of my proudest musical moments. I only played three songs, and they are not my favourite on the album, but they are a clear mark for my leaving of the punk/metal of All Cut Up and the beginning of my voyage into more complex structures.

2010: Release of the first Twin EP. We had a demo before that, but it was terrible. Nothing I was used to, and was literally a 180 from the Livestalk album I played on the same year. The EP did not turn out how we wanted it to, but I am still proud of it regardless. The same year, we released Victims and Dirty Dancin’ as singles. I believe The Twin have since released them as an EP, but I still consider them stand-alone projects because we went to two different studios to record them.

2011: Went on first tour. Though it was not very far: when the route is calculated, it’s over 1000 KM in total. It spanned roughly a week and had seven stops. We were joined by my good friend Gerald, who lent us his van that was more long-haul ready than mine at the time was.

2012: Played Warped Tour. That was a dream of 15-year-old Jay, and it actually happened!

2013: Inner Demons. Yes, The Twin took 3 years to go back into studio. That was because of relentless playing, writing, and fighting. Two new members on this EP, and it sounded like something new. It was so very different from what we had done before.

2013: I left The Twin because of non-exciting reasons. Teamed up with my old bass player and a good friend of mine. There was this poorly constructed demo they wanted me to listen to, and immediately I knew that I had to help them come up with the dream they had. It turned into my favourite recording I have worked on. Called the band Chance Procedures.
Became manager at the record store that I had worked in since ’07.
Died.
Then, didn’t die.
I spent from November to the end of the year stuck in a bed. Paralyzed from the neck down, and spent the little bit of the end of the year I was conscious being unable to emote.

2014: Was transferred between five different hospitals before finally being able to go home. Have been in a wheelchair since.

2015: Moved to Hamilton. Met Natasha. Started college.

2016: Failed out of two programs in college. Released You’re Not Dead. Got engaged. Moved back to Cambridge.

2017: Got married. Moved to Burlington. Had seizures. Discovered that I have had epilepsy for a while. Got our third dog (Tina).

2018: Started anewsin Publication. Let the first press of You’re Not Dead run out, but started harder work on the second edition to clean up some (lots) of missed errors.

2019: Assisted Hannah with some Chance Procedure demos that she had lying dormant in her head. Nothing to report on those, yet. I did construct a “music video” for one of them.

THINGS NOT LISTED: Our 3 cats. Our other two dogs. The litters that Tina had. The puppy-fiasco that was selling them. My previous band (All Cut Up) was from the decade before, and was not listed for that reason.

What have I learned? That I have done some pretty cool things. I am far from done doing cool things, and I want to double the length of this list next decade. I already have new projects in the wings. I have ideas and plans and some cookies! Oh, good flying fuck, I am so ready. So, please, help me to do something fantastic by considering a donation to my Patreon. It helps more than I can ever state.

It’s an update!

Hi! Hello! I have news about things that are boring kind of but I will tell you anyway!

The first album by Livestalk & the Bodies is now one long YouTube video.

Depressed updates releases finally figured out! For the month of May, I will be posting those. I am also going to be tagging them in a way that will make them be easier to find.

I have started writing another book! I want to actually write something longer than I have in the past. I will keep you posted with updates.