To preface: I am not a music critic. I don’t have a degree in Musicology, I can’t play any instruments, and frankly I can’t even sing unless I’m drunk in a private Karaoke room or all alone in my car.
But I like music. I’ve come across a lot of tunes that – from what I can tell – never received Top 40 level radio airplay. But I love these songs, and feel lucky to have come across them one way or another. Maybe it was in a movie or TV soundtrack. Maybe it was in a commercial. Maybe in a bar or a store. Or, maybe I just lucked out on Amazon Music or Spotify. At any rate, I’d like to share them with other people. Maybe this will help more people discover these songs, even if the artists may already well-known.
I’m thinking of doing one of these once a month, but that’s more of a notion than a plan. I may do them a little more frequently, or a little less. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll try to limit one song per artist on each list, but I expect there will be many recurring artists as this blog goes along. So, without further adieu, here is my first list of songs.
Starlight – Ingrid Michaelson – It starts like a lullaby, and plays like one for the first couple minutes. Ultimately, though, this is a song about having to be away from the people you love. But that the love you have for them never fades, because it burns a brightly as starlight. This one always gets me a bit misty, and it makes me think of my two boys more than anything else. The song closes with a lovely, cathartic release, which I’ll never not enjoy.
Favorite Lyric – “I can’t promise you the moon / I can’t even promise that I will be home soon / Just leave the light on / Like you do / ‘Cause you know I’m always coming home to you”
Lonely Town – Brandon Flowers – 100% pure glossy ’80’s pop, even though it was released in the 2015. It gives me flashbacks, the good kind, of being a kid growing up in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. Sounds like sweet sugar tastes, only with a slight undertone of regret.
Favorite Lyric – “Spinning like the Gravitron when I was just a kid / I always that things would change / But they never did”
Calling It Love – Animotion – The sort of song that “Lonely Town” clearly modeled itself after. Pretty much everyone has heard “Obsession” and “Don’t You Want me” but I honestly thing this song is superior to either of them. It’s simply (or complicatedly) about being in a relationship that has run its course, but you don’t really know how to end it, or even if you honestly want to. This one has the synth backdrop that was everywhere at the time, but also a pretty ripping guitar solo in the middle. And it gives lead singer Astrid Plane the chance to sing like she’s finally releasing everything pent up inside her from the band’s two big hits.
Favorite Lyric – “I’ve been spending my life / Thinking you’re the one / Now I’m holding my lies / And the damage is done”
Wings – Birdy – This one comes in strong, and has no hesitation about rolling out the melodramatic string section at every opportunity. It’s tinged with a bit of longing, but ultimately soars with the power and hope that came effortlessly when you were younger. But, when I fire this one up, I have no trouble getting back to that place again.
Favorite Lyrics – “Oh, damn these walls / In the moment we’re ten feet tall / And how you told me after it all / We’d remember tonight / For the rest of our lives”
Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young – Fire, Inc – One of two songs written for the soundtrack to the cult classic Streets Of Fire by Jim Steinman, who wrote every Meat Loaf song you know. He also wrote “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” for Celine Dion, and “Holding Out For A Hero” for Bonnie Tyler, both of which this song shares more DNA with. I’d honestly love to hear this performed with a full cast in a Broadway show, or even in a community theater. But hey, that’s how I imagine it every time it comes up anyway. Multiple choir sections sing different parts that are sprinkled through until the big finish, when they are combine to form an overlapping mega-choir.
Favorite Lyric – “Let the revels begin / Let the fire be started / We’re dancing for the restless and the broken-hearted”
Sunday – Bloc Party – A prayer for the poor, hungover souls of the world. Okay, that’s part of it, but it’s also about embracing the freedom you have in those morning-afters where you’re still in-love, sober and head-achy as you may be. The percussion drives the song along until the end of the journey, when you are treated to one bad- ass, soaring guitar solo by the underrated Russell Lissack that snaps you out of whatever trance you may have been lulled into.
Favorite Lyric – “You see giant proclamations / Are all very well / But our love / Is louder than words”
Munich – The Fray – These guys are mostly known for “Over My Head (Cable Car)” and “How To Save A Life” but they got a really solid catalogue otherwise. “Munich” captures that feeling when you’re maybe not ready to fall in love, but you’ve found someone who you can’t describe your feelings for with any other word. It then makes the synths sing like a choir of angelic robots telling you to let go, and let yourself fall.
Favorite Lyrics – “Step to the edge / You and I / Then we fall below / Take a breath / Hold my hand / And now you’re not alone”
Love Is Only A Feeling – The Darkness – I have no idea how The Darkness’ only crossover hit was “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” because these guys deliver all the hair metal goodness missing from the past 30 years on every album. “Love Is Only A Feeling” hits those power ballad vibes, not to mention those crazy high notes. They manage to mix the acoustic, mandolin-sounding strings, and wailing electric solos in a way that tells you “Damn right, it’s cheesy. But damn right, you want to dive into that pool full of melted nacho cheese.”
Favorite Lyric – “I had touched, I had tasted, and I truly believed / That the light of my love / Would tear a hole right through each cloud / That scudded by / Just to beam on you and I”
Something Special – Randy Newman – If you’ve seen the classic(?) 1987 rom-com Overboard starring Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, then you’ve heard this song playing over the end credits. But, in the event that you have heard it, but never sought it out, here it is. Randy Newman writing great little ditties is nothing new, but this one holds a special place for me. Yes, Overboard was on basic cable all the time when I was growing up, so I’m conditioned to respond to most anything involved in it (talk to me about “Can’t Help Falling In Love” sometime). But I’m always on-board for any song that sells the simple joys of a mismatched love affair.
Favorite Lyrics – “It’s alright / Baby, it’s okay / We’re gonna make it / No matter what they say / Sure as the stars shine in the sky above / There is something special about our love”
Sunset – The Midnight – Another new wave throwback that takes me in the way back machine to when I was a kid who’d never been anywhere outside the small suburb where I’d always been. Back then, I felt trapped, as many other kids have as well. And this song sounds like it would have been my manta if it came had been released in 1988 instead of 2016 (though I likely wouldn’t have been able to fully relate to it until the mid-90’s). It starts with a spoken word verse of a girl making an offer that I would have found very hard to decline in 1995.
Favorite Lyric – “They say it’s darkest before the dawn / We’ve been in this town for far too long / They say it’s darkest before the dawn / We’re moving on, we’re moving on, we’re moving on”