Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Words of a Song

Most people were born with music--their parents listen to albums over and over again and thereby instilling the same songs in their children. So they grew up knowing who the Beatles and Billie Holiday were, from their parents and older siblings. For me, this wasn't the case. My parents moved here from Saudi Arabia in 1984. They had their own music: Bengali and Indian folk and pop songs, most featuring the strums and plunks of the harmonium.

That was the my background music of my childhood, but it was never the focus of it. Every Sunday, our "home" days, as we called them, my parents relaxed in their room, listening to their music. My brother, sister and I stayed in the living room, watching TV shows.

So the point is, I had no grounding in American music. I was familiar with television because my father made sure I had that special American privilege, but music? They knew nothing at all.

Eventually, I caught on, catching music videos on TV, listening to the radio and then to my major source of music: friends' recommendations and the wonderful world of the Internet.

While listening to my iPod recently at work, I thought about why certain songs caught my attention. There are specific subjects and words that captivate me, and when I can find them in a song, it makes the song just that much better.

- maps

Wilco's "You Are My Face"

I have no idea how this happened
All of my maps have been overthrown

Wilco's "A Magazine Called Sunset"

Let's take a map across your pillow
And breathe the sky in through your window
I'll stay in the riddle and watch your books cave in

- the water/rivers/boats/oceans/anything else water-related

Decemberists' "The Island, Come and See, The Landlord's Daughter, You'll Not Feel the Drowning"

There's a harbor lost within the reeds
A jetty caught in the overhanging trees
Among the bones of cormorants
No boot-mark here nor fingerprints
The rivers roll down to a soundless sea

Wilco's "On and On and On"

Please don't cry, we're designed to die
You can't deny even the gentlest tide

(I love the way Tweedy sings "gentlest")

- traveling

Modest Mouse's "The World At Large"

The days get shorter and the nights get cold
I like the autumn but this place is getting old
I pack up my belongings and I head for the coast
It might not be a lot but I feel like I'm making the most
The day's get longer and the nights smell green
I guess it's not surprising but it's spring and I should leave

- stars

Oasis' "The Importance of Being Idle"

I don't mind
As long as there's a bed beneath the stars that shine

Bob Dylan's "Desolation Row'

Now the moon is almost hidden
The stars are beginning to hide

- some sort of act of defiance

Decemberists' "And Here I Dreamt I was an Architect"

And we are vagabonds
We travel without seatbelts on
We live this close to death

- about other places

Arcade Fire's "Cold Wind"

If you're going to San Francisco
Lay some flowers on the gravestone

Spoon's "Chicago at Night"

But then she'd never been to Chicago at night before the fall
And it don't stop, not at all

Sufjan Steven's "Chicago"

Drove to Chicago
All things know, all things know
We sold out clothes to the state
I don't mind, I don't mind
I made a lot of mistakes
In my mind, in my mind

- about the city and New York in particular

Wilco's "Jesus, Etc."

Voices whine
Skyscrapers are scraping together

- dreams

Wilco's "Dreamer in my Dreams"

There's a dreamer in my dreams
Swinging from the beams
With a light shining off the lake

These examples, it must be noted, reflect my current listening habits, therefore certain artists appear more than once, like Wilco. I have to say, though, it's impressive that I still listen to Wilco because I usually tire of an artist after three months. Thank you, Chicago boy.

1 comment:

gabo arora said...

i like the poetry, avant garde, even if you quote wilco too much..just messin, wilco is ok, modest mouse cool, though I am stuck in the 60s and 70s and feel the only new music that matter is radiohead, the new album is hauntingly achingly tender...