1. Full On — Oasis
My reaction to this song must light up the exact same portions of my brain as would Vicodin just kicking in, or a perfect, strong cup of coffee sucked down at just the right temperature. The same portions would burn as bright as when I catch a whiff of Tyson’s cologne not worn in awhile, or when I see Daniel Craig in action (a sidebar worth discussing another time). I have such an immediate gut reaction that I want to condense that feeling, bottle it, and then mainline it directly into my system.
I hear my heart beatin faster
I feel it in my bones
I want it now cos I have ta
and why, no one knows
In short, this song turns me on.
I heard “Full On” for the first time less than two years ago, although the song is a B-side to the “Sunday Morning Call” single, from the 2000 album, Standing on the Shoulder of Giants. Somehow along the way, I’d missed it, and what a shame it took so long. “Full On” is unlike most Oasis songs, and definitely unlike the usual Noel-sung acoustic heart-stealers. With a howling, rhythmic crunch of electric guitars and piano keys as percussion, it takes the amazed attraction of “I’m alive when you walk that way” in the song “Step Out,” and turns the lust to eleven.
It’ll be all right
if you stay tonight
It’s where we both belong
It’s gonna be full on
The song could be about sex, drugs or both, but that doesn’t matter. The feeling behind wanting those things is the same, the end result is the same. Every addictive personality out there knows what I’m on about, and it’s lucky that I let my addictions manifest themselves in mostly caffeinated and musical ways. In writing about this song, I’ve probably hit ‘repeat’ twenty times, and I’ve not tired of hearing it yet. That about says it all— it’d be redundant to try and articulate the feeling any further.
2. Flagpole Sitta — Harvey Danger
I can hear you groaning already, but I really do love this song. Then again, maybe since it is one of those songs that gets stuck in your head for days, it is infectious in a way that makes me believe that I love it.
In the same way that I make fun of hipsters now, this song pokes fun at the 90s version of smug trendiness masquerading as counterculture: indie kids. I find much of the song funny, but the line that makes me laugh the most has to be “I wanna publish zines and rage against machines.” We all know that guy — the one wearing the Che Guevara shirt, a Bob Marley patch on his backpack full of his xeroxed political poetry, saying things like, “I’m really into world economics right now.” Wander into any diner near a college campus and you’ll find him with a cluster of friends, all nodding and chin-stroking, all competing for the most profound cultural observation. Each decade will give them a different name and the tightness of their jeans will change, but the personality will never cease. I suppose that’s all right — occasionally one of them actually produces something culturally relevant instead of only lamenting over what they see as the dearth surrounding them.
You could argue that by making fun of them I’m just as bad as any hipster, but would a hipster genuinely love a song most likely to land on a 90s one hit wonder album, and love it not in an ironic way? Maybe not. Yeah, yeah, I know — Everyone is judgy in their own special way.
Aside from being funny and catchy, “Flagpole Sitta” one of those songs that you may not immediately remember the title, but you and your friends will still know and sing all the words, likely in a bar after tossing a few back. The alcohol will let you forget that you’re still supposed to be tired of this song, even a decade later.
3. Flowers in the Window — Travis
I came to Travis by way of Oasis. They toured with the band, and Oasis has a history of picking good openers (Well, maybe not Cornershop, as entertaining as “Brimful of Asha” was). “Why Does It Always Rain on Me?” had some play on the music channels, and Amanda had seen them on the tour and enjoyed them. I have the first three albums, and although I sometimes forget about them, I always think “I should really put these guys on more often” when I do listen. Grace has taken a liking to them, so we’ve heard the second album from which this song comes lately more often. I have yet to hear the most recent album.
Believe it or not, the strings were not what drew me to “Flowers in the Window” first. Probably in a subconscious way they affect my opinion, but what I love about this song is how happy it is. For all the great songs about complication and heartbreak, I find it refreshing to find one so full of joy with maybe a splash of nostalgia.
You are one in a million and I love you so
There are plenty of seasons to feel bad, sad, mad
It’s just a bunch of feelings that we’ve had
to hold, but I am here
to help you with the load
I’m reminded of late spring afternoons where the weather finally warms up enough to not need a jacket all day. They come with a sigh of relief, an easy and leisurely meal outdoors, and for a moment, life feels completely satisfying. All the better to share it with people you love, of course.
4. Falling in Love — Lisa Loeb
My brother is easy going to the point that his older sister can convince him to do just about anything, including handing over one of his CDs in exchange for say... cleaning his room, once. I’m not sure why my brother had the second Lisa Loeb album, Firecracker. My dad had her first album (and despite my persistence, would not let it disappear into my room until years later when he finally couldn’t remember the last time he had listened to it), and really, I don’t know if my brother paid all that much attention to what my dad was playing. Maybe he’d seen Lisa Loeb on MTV and thought she was cute, I don’t know, but I wanted that album too. No way was my brother, a casual fan of music in general, going to have a semi-neglected CD in which I had genuine interest. This was before the age of CD burners by a couple of years, and with little convincing, my brother decided that it was easier to just let me have the album than to have me bothering him about it.
I maintain that the best position in birth order is to be the oldest sister, preferably with a little brother. Jack is in for it with Grace, I bet. Or I’m in for it, if they are both strong-willed, right?
With my determined battle for ownership behind me, I now had the time to really get into Firecracker, and I was pleased that I liked it just as much as I’d enjoyed the first album (11-year-old me may have played “Stay” about 40 bajillion times at the height of its popularity). I like the way that Lisa Loeb can tell a story within a song in the same manner a country song might, without actually producing country music. “Falling in Love” might be a little country, with lines like “She wanted to be a cowboy/ She was shootin’ ‘em down,” unhurried strings and Ryan Adams-esque acoustic guitar.
“The time between meeting and finally leaving” — In four minutes, this song fleshes out the headfirst tumble into an intense relationship that can hardly be absorbed until after it has ended. A movie could come out of this song.
Well one night while sleeping alone in her bed,
the phone rings, she woke up
and sat up and said,
“What time is it...
What time is it?”
“Well it’s 5:30 here and it’s 2:30 there, and I won’t be home tonight,” he said.
Near the end of the song, I love the quiet reflection on the relationship after the fact: “The grey sky was romantic because he was holding her hand/ He was her man.”
I wrote an entire story about a depressed man falling in love with a woman with varying degrees of crazy, set on the abandoned lighthouse-filled coast of Maine, inspired entirely by this album and Fleetwood Mac’s “Sweet Girl.” Since I was still in high school, the quality of the writing isn’t that great, but it may be a story worth revisiting sometime.
5. Feel to Believe — Beth Orton
Seventeen Magazine is not exactly known for broadening readers’ musical tastes, but a review probably not any more than 100 words caught my attention. My friend Heather’s sister had a subscription to the magazine, and I’d flip through them when I was over at their house. Perhaps Orton because was an unusual last name, or that an album called Trailer Park could be described as electro-pop and had interesting cover art, but I bought the album based on that review. I’d never heard a single note, but it ended up one of my favorite albums. There’s not a bad song on it. When the second album, Central Reservation, came out a couple of years later, I picked it up.
“Feel to Believe” stands out from the other songs in its simplicity — it’s just Beth and her guitar singing about finally getting out of a relationship past its prime. She’s not angry, but she’s realistic that it’s best for them both. “I won’t waste a single second/ living in hell like it’s some kind of heaven” — Most everyone fails to come to this smart realization right away, and I know I’ve failed before. I’ve failed to notice while listening and singing along to this very song, even. Every good failure, I think, always seems clear from the outside. In the middle of everything, it’s easy to try and cobble together the bits and pieces that drew two people together, but it’s just scotch tape on the inevitable.
Like “Angel Child,” this song tries to find the hope within difficulty.
If one truth leads to another,
isn’t a one that we can’t uncover
There isn’t one that we cannot discover
It’s the right time
It’s our time
It’s our time to discover
I don’t know if I’m drawn to certain songs because they remind me of my book, or if the ideas for my book that I’ve worked on in some form for a decade now come from my favorite music. I realize I’ve mentioned the book a few times without going into details, but since it’s in the sprucing up stage, I’d rather not summarize. Hopefully it’s enough to say that it means a lot to me, although I hope I haven’t developed a relationship with it that mirrors this song. I hope that I am not in the middle of something that would benefit retirement so that I can move on to better things. Maybe I do have better things within me, but I just have to get this one down and out of my system. I’d rather not the phrase “kill your darlings” apply to entire book to which I’ve invested so much time.
Perhaps I like these songs of despair because I doubt my path in similar ways. I like knowing someone else is in my boat even if it’s not the same situation. I think the difference between realism and optimism is that realism means searching for that optimism and not staying passive in the assumption that good things will come. Perhaps nothing good comes when I’ve not worked for it. I have a hard time believing in winning life’s lottery and that just a random assortment of events will make my life grand. If anything, I can become suspicious of sudden good fortune — “You know it/ You want it/ You just can’t believe you’ve got it” — wondering if I really did get something right, trying not brace for the other shoe to drop but at the same time realizing that it could happen. Songs like this remind me to pause, find patience and to remember that good efforts will be rewarded.