Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
Music is one of those things that's hard for me to talk about with other people – not because I don't want to – it's more that I sometimes just don't have the words and then I just end up fumbling for the right thing to say and it turns into a novel.
Sometimes a song, like a book, is nothing to you until and unless it reaches you at exactly the right moment, and then it transforms into this bigger thing that's just intangible – it becomes bigger than the moment alone, which is why when you listen to it three years later, you still get transported back to the memories you had and the feelings you felt and maybe even the life stage you were in. (It's also why – for me, at least – songs can sometimes feel tainted when you hear them in a car commercial or at the mall… It's like, how can this sacred thing be tossed around in such an ordinary, casual way??)
So that's part of the reason why this week's Top Ten Tuesday list is challenging for me… 10 songs I wish were books? Are we talking about songs that are the foundation for a scene in a book? Or for a character? Or for a complete story or vibe? Because some songs are for the smaller moments, and others really are enough to launch a thousand ships that could carry the threads of a story in a hundred different directions. You see my dilemma. We'll see how this goes.
1. Salted Wound by Sia
Okay, (another) one of my problems is that maybe 80% of the time, the songs I love are already associated with a book or character – either in my head, or officially. Like Salted Wound. This one is from the Fifty Shades of Grey film soundtrack. I've never read that book, but I watched two-thirds of the movie and… kind of liked it? And I love this song because I love, love, love Sia, who seems to understand the human condition so acutely. And because Salted Wound is so clearly about a character who pretends to be one thing but is really another. And I will never say no to books with complex characters!
2. Broken Piano by Frank Turner
I love Frank Turner. Love. Him. One of England's great singer-songwriters. Broken Piano is a great, raw, powerful song with a savage beat. (So great that I'm including it twice. The album version and a live version.) I feel like it would be kindred spirits with books like Wolf by Wolf or Wild Awake – books that have their own savage beat poetry.
3. Wanderlust by Frank Turner
When this album came out, I must have listened to Wanderlust a couple hundred times at least. It really shook me to the bones because I kept imagining some kind of cowboy-esque figure, a boy who doesn't stay, a boy who lives for adventure, for independence, for freedom – who somehow finds himself in love but unable (or unwilling) to stay. I'M ALREADY SAD JUST THINKING ABOUT IT.
4. Handcuffs by Brand New
This song is 1000% for the complex villains. I feel like a lot of Brand New's music (and Jesse Lacey's lyrics) lean that way in general. Dark, with a pinch of self-loathing. The words sometimes feel stark and crude, but the melodies have a strange haunting beauty of their own. See also: Jesus Christ.
5. Runaway by Matt Corby
Matt Corby is one of the great musical loves of my life. He represents a really interesting and emotionally important time in my life, and this song is equally interesting and emotionally charged. I imagine it to be about a girl who plays games, who says all the right things without meaning them, who is something between a masterpiece – wild and beautiful and reckless and free – and a real piece of work. (Look at that wordplay! Maybe I should be the one to write this book.) If you look at the lyrics objectively, it almost feels a little like a guy suffering from Nice Guy™ syndrome – how dare you put me in the Friend Zone, how dare you not want to be with me, etc. etc. – but the music is so pretty and so layered and complex that it feels less petty and more… I don't know. Sad and wistful, maybe. I could see this song being the basis for an epic love story about two people who are total trainwrecks, who fall madly in love and it doesn't end well. (Or maybe it does. Because as much as I love angst, I'm a sucker for the happy ending, too.)
6. Do What You Have to Do by Sarah McLachlan
This is one of my weirder musical obsessions, but I went through a solid 2 year period where I listened to this song on repeat for HOURS. I don't even know. It was just so filled with yearning and sadness and regret, and I think those things make for interesting characters and stories – I mean, just imagine a story about a man who wants to be with someone but has been burned one too many times and knows that he should move on but can't and instead just settles for getting through the day intact while being steeped in self-loathing. RIGHT?! Or maybe he's separated from what he really wants due to circumstance – like duty and responsibility, or societal expectations, and he's struggling with what his heart wants and what his head tells him is right. SO MANY POSSIBILITIES.
7. You Are the Moon by The Hush Sound
Literally the only song I've EVER liked by the Hush Sound. It feels like a dark love song, and I feel like that concept could be applied to a story – a dark love story, whatever that looks like…
8. We Walk by The Ting Tings
Trying to change up the pace here because I'm realizing that I have morose, depressing taste in music. Does anyone remember this band?! I like that the melody feels a little bit off-kilter and the beat is so full of energy. I could see this song transposed into a character's thought process as they're coming to grips with a realization that turns their world upside down.
9. Wedding Song by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs
It took me a long time to get around to listening to and loving the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. My sister recommended them to me for AGES before I caved – I just never thought I'd be a fan – they were always a little too edgy, too post-punk for my tastes. (I still sort of feel that way, although I have consistently LOVED all of their acoustic stuff.) Anyway, Wedding Song feels like great music for a turning point, like the perfect backdrop to a crush that develops into something else. It's the song that plays on late night aimless drives, when you start to see someone in a new light.
10. Signal Fire by Snow Patrol
One of my favorite, favorite songs. What I really love about this song, as far as storytelling is concerned, is that it sounds like a story, with the way it ebbs and flows – and it doesn't feel time- or genre-bound. It could be a story that takes place in ancient history, and it could just as easily happen in outer space a hundred years in the future. To me, it's a song and a story about love and safety and two people who depend on each other and how they keep it together in the face of external factors that threaten to tear them apart.