Thursday, April 16, 2009

All My Little Words

Man, the Magnetic Fields are so good!

But that isn’t what this week’s rambling is about. I’d like to address how I feel about lyrics. Umm…they are important.

In a nutshell, music with a voice as the melody has a huge advantage in terms of expressiveness. Not only is the voice the most naturally intriguing instrument, you add an entirely new dimension using words. You can marry the lyrics with the music and create a result that’s way better than the sum of its parts. It also gives a chance for the more thoughtful listener to analyze the verse like it was poetry (which many sets of lyrics undoubtedly are).

All of this is to say SONGS WITHOUT THOUGHTFUL LYRICS ARE WASTING A GREAT OPPORTUNITY. I’m not saying songs without thoughtful lyrics are bad. There are hundreds of songs I’ve enjoyed instantly without initially listening to the lyrics. But the reason that songwriting is such a glorious art form is because it combines the best of both worlds. The bone chilling power of music with the life-changing power of language can usually make something half-way decent.

It annoys me when people say they don’t really listen to lyrics. I pity them. They are missing out on so much. It’s like enjoying chips and salsa while never trying nachos. I understand it’s often difficult to understand and more enjoyable to be swept up in melody than straining ones ears for an understandable fragment. But there are countless times where I’ve looked up a song’s lyrics and it has completely changed my understanding of the song. For example, just today the song “Little Brother” by Grizzly Bear. Wow…

Two great tools to use:
-Harmonic by mindquirk software. Download it from If you have a mac, it adds a widget that will show lyrics when you use iTunes. Doesn’t work for every single song, but certainly works for the vast majority I’ve played. Is essentially a forum for people to discuss what they think songs are about. Lyrics are posted there of course.

I have two Decemberists album reviews I recently wrote. I thought it was appropriate as they are a band with ridiculously good lyrics. The Hazards of Love and The Crane Wife.

And on a completely unrelated note, Ichiro just hit a grand slam. My life is complete.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful, easy to read, to the point, informative. As someone has said many times, you're the best.

    See Jay Seven Zero (the Tullmeister) (D)