Music is the thing that inspires me the most. It can augment a mood by being the perfect soundtrack to my day, and it can awaken an emotion instantly. To watch me listen to my ipod on shuffle, you might think I’m manic-depressive, I’m often so moved by each song – happy, sad, wistful, estatic. During this month of travel I’m in, music has been a great constant for me; I know that wherever I am, I can pop in my earbuds and listen to something familiar.
“I Don’t Know” by Lisa Hannigan – I have always been afraid of singing in front of people. I don’t mean silly singing – I will rock out at the top of my lungs in your car, if I know you pretty well and it’s a good song, and I will kareoke it up after a few drinks – I mean singing to sound good. I’ve come near to having a mental breakdown over a musical audition. So, when my friends & I decided to create a group where we’d all try something new, something we were afraid of, I knew I had to sing. This is the song I chose. It is the perfect love song about not being in love… yet. It is hopeful and ebullient and makes me incredibly happy. Favorite line: “If you want to, I am game / If you walk my way, I will keep my head we would feel our way.”
“Chicago” by Sufjan Stevens – We all make mistakes, we all grow from them, we all move on. To me this song is like someone telling a sad story with a laugh; you know it was a hard thing for them to experience, but they got through it and can laugh about it, and that in itself is uplifting. Favorite line: “I made a lot of mistakes / in my mind.”
“Also Frightened” by Animal Collective – I love Animal Collective’s crazy layered sound and sometimes it’s hard to discern the words to their songs, but when music is so all-encompassing and feeling, who needs lyrics? To me, this song is about looking to the future with a hopeful eye and admitting that you’re afraid, that we all are afraid, and that’s ok. Favorite line: ” Will it be just like I’m dreaming? / Are you also frightened?”
“Buildings and Bridges” by Ani Difranco – This is a beautiful reminder of the permanence of change. Ani’s an amazing lyricist & I could quote the entire song here but I’ll say my favorite line is: “Buildings and bridges are made to bend in the wind / to withstand the world that’s what it takes / all that steel and stone are no match for the air, my friend / what doesn’t bend breaks.”
“We Used to Wait” by Arcade Fire – Have you ever thought about the speed of technological and societal change in our lifetimes? When I was a kid, we played Oregon Trail on those chunky green-screen computers in the school library and I had to write letters to my best friend when she went on vacation. Now everyone’s got sleek little iphones and can connect with anyone, anywhere, anytime. I love how easy technology has made my life, but sometimes it’s a little unsettling; with all of this digital connection, are we going to lose real human connection? This song is about rediscovering your natural self while lost in the “wilderness downtown.” Favorite line: “Now our lives are changing fast / hope that something pure can last.”
“This Modern Love” by Bloc Party – Love stories just aren’t what they were in Jane Austen’s time, no matter what movies try to tell us. This song is an adorable portrait of modern-day romance, banal, nervous, frightened, and sweet. Favorite line: “I’ll pay for you / anytime.”
“Dog Days Are Over” by Florence and the Machine – This song feels like such a celebration of life and good things that happen when you’re not even looking for them. When the drums kick in I just gotta boogie. In Portland a week ago, we were driving through the mountains with the windows down, sun pouring in, just blasting this song, and it was absolutely perfect, a life-affirming, inspiration-filled moment. Favorite line: “Happiness hit her like a bullet in the back of the head / the dog days are over.”
“Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles – I saved the best for last; I can’t leave The Beatles out! This song is pure joy in its simplicity. It’s the epitome of inspiration for me. It always reassures me that there are better things around the bend. Favorite line: “It’s all right.”
…and, little darlin’, is IS all right.
[adorable photo by shankar, shiv]