Life ay, it’s one of those things. Unavoidable, but it does give us much to think about, including today’s tunes. The songs that make us ponder about life, and our place in it.
‘A Day In The Life’ – The Beatles
This is a song about life. More specifically it is about a day in the life, but we don’t know who of. The song is credited to Lennon-McCartney, with Lennon having produced the bulk of the lyrics himself, but the day they describe briefly in the middle-eight doesn’t sound anything like the magical mystery tour you would expect The Beatles to experience. In fitting with the theme of the album, maybe the day being described is that of Sgt Pepper, or of Billy Shears, but I would expect them to both have much more exciting lives too.
Ignoring the first segment, whose lyrics are a rewriting of a Daily Mail article detailing the car crash that Guiness heiress Tara Browne died in, and musings about “four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire”, the day itself described in first-person by the singer is limited to waking up, falling out of bed, brushing his hair, drinking coffee, taking a bus to work and having a smoke. It seems like quite a mundane day to choose to describe in an album full of many of The Beatles’ best works.
This song makes me think about life, but not my life, or life in a more existential sense – rather the daily life of this unknown coffee-drinker, hair-brusher and wake-upper, who may or may not be one of the Fab Four.
Afternote – Wikipedia has yet again destroyed by imagination. Apparently it was McCartney who wrote the middle-eight “as a wistful recollection of his younger years, which included riding the 82 bus to school, smoking, and going to class.”
‘Do Your Best’ – John Maus
When I can I like to go on walks at night. Never too far, never too late, but there’s something soothing about the lack of people. I don’t particularly like walking around the city in the day when there’s a constant barrage of people from all angles. The night is quiet.
John Maus is an artist I like to listen to on these night walks. His music has a quality that’s hard to describe. I don’t think it sounds its best when the sun is up. It has dark colour, but it’s not all sad and scary. It’s a reverb-soaked background against which you can gather your thoughts and end the day to synths and drum machines.
‘One Day Like This’ – Elbow
Having made a playlist dedicated to tunes like this, there are so many songs I could have chosen for today’s theme. After much deliberation I settled on ‘One Day Like This’, a song that came to my attention again a few weeks ago when I heard it on the radio. As I listened, the sun was setting over the houses from my window and the element of thinking about life really came into its own.
With appearances across major sporting events and dramatic nature documentaries, film producers clearly agree that musically the song is a euphoric reminder of beautiful days and phenomenal achievements.
Beautiful enough to stop you in your tracks, the song gives hope that even when life is looking rubbish, every once in a while you’ll find that one perfect day & that is enough.
‘Someday’ – The Strokes
I was trying to think of a song that makes me be all deep and think about life in that way, but that just isn’t something I do so I’m taking it in a different direction. ‘Someday’ by The Strokes basically makes me think about how mint life is. It’s got a really nostalgic vibe to it and reminds me of warm summer evenings sat outside drinking and smoking with mates as the sun goes down, which I think is just about the best thing that life has to offer. Is This It is an album packed full of incredible songs and ‘Someday’ is one of the best on the album and definitely the most evocative.
‘Everything Now’ – Arcade Fire
‘Everything Now’ is always the song that seems to come on when I’m in a world of my own, whether that’s walking down the street or gazing out of a window. Arcade Fire have a whole roster of these kinds of songs, but ‘Everything Now’ always sticks. It’s got a steady and calming rhythm, and the lyrics sang by Win Butler just sound so calming, I love when the song hits its peak and you’re left with the backing singers’ “la la la la” and you suddenly snap out of the trance you’re in and carry on with your day.
‘That’s Life’ – Frank Sinatra
Quite contrasting to the typical Indie and Rock tunes which I’ve discussed during this challenge, when thinking of songs about life, this one hits the mark. Sinatra’s 1966 reprisal of the 1963 record by Marion Montgomery is perhaps his most famous track, and was recently introduced to me by the box-office hit Joker. I’m not really one for swing-music, but Frank Sinatra was one of the many figureheads of the genre, and with a song that truly encapsulates what life is like for the average Joe, it was guaranteed to be a hit. It highlights both the highs and lows which we’ve all experienced, how you can be “riding high in April and shot down in May”, and Sinatra’s conventional vocal style makes it an emphatic yet easy listen. Whenever I hear it it reminds me to sit back, take a deep breath, and keep on keepin’ on.
‘Walk Away as the Door Slams (Acoustic)’ – Lil Peep ft Lil Tracey
Lil Peep completely altered hip-hop as a genre. His fusion of “emo rap” made him a sensation, and a talent taken from us far too soon.
‘Walk Away’ as a song is beautiful. It displays the malleable nature of Peep’s music and his ability to make songs that are incredible both originally and stripped back. A simple chord progression backs the track and Peep and Tracey’s vocals sound pure and almost untouched. It was the final track on the latest and probably last Lil Peep album and is a truly fitting end to a legends discography.
Peep no longer being with us makes this song one that insights much more emotion than perhaps intended. ‘Walk Away as the Door Slams’ perfectly captures the essence of leaving things unfinished and unresolved. His untimely death not only makes me think about just how fragile life is, but also how important it is to resolve all arguments and repair all friendships as soon as you can.
‘Half the World Away’ – Oasis
I’m pretty sure that if I didn’t include an Oasis song in my 30 days they wouldn’t let me move back to Manchester after Uni so here it is. A more melancholic song than your typical Oasis, ‘Half the World Away’ leaves you questioning, are you in the right place? Is there somewhere else that is better for you? It isn’t necessarily a sad song however, more just about leaving. For me the significance of the song is in where you are going to, it’s about moving away or forward to something better for yourself. I see it as about going and getting what you want, ” You can’t give me the dreams that are mine anyway”.
‘Clair De Lune’ – Debussy
I searched through my library looking for a song with lyrics that made me “think about life”, and while it’s true there’s a lot of them that make you think, I realized that classical music is the perfect backdrop to doing some actual self-reflection. I’m by no means a big classical fan, but your thoughts about life need to come from yourself, not some folk songwriter. I remembered a day a while ago where I was in Sainsbury’s, stoned to fuck at 7am, having not slept all night, listening to Clair De Lune, truly taking stock of my life. For me, nothing stokes self-reflection quite like Debussy. There’s a certain finality to this piece that makes me think the credits are rolling on my life, and makes me think about all I’ve done and wanted to do.
‘Satisfied Mind’- Johnny Cash
For a song that makes me think about life, there is nothing better than Johnny Cash’s ‘Satisfied Mind’. As is typical of Cash’s music, this track is stripped to its bare bones, consisting solely of acoustic guitar and that legendary, gravelly voice. As such, when listening you are focused intensely on what Cash is singing, making his depiction of a vacuous life that is centred around material gain all the more powerful. Cash’s music is simple and his message is too- don’t focus on financial gain and learn to appreciate life’s little pleasures. Sometimes one’s priorities can become skewed, but listening to ‘Satisfied Mind’ is perfect when thinking about life and what is truly important within it.
‘Alone Again’- The Weeknd
Loneliness is a tough thing to understand for people who have never felt it. A person can be surrounded by people they love and yet still feel empty inside. ‘Alone Again’, the opening track from The Weeknd’s latest album After Hours, perfectly captures that emotion. At surface level, Abel is lamenting over a lost love and without her in his life he feels alone. However, when you dig a little deeper you find that Tesfaye thinks he is living the life of another. The emptiness has grown to the point where he has lost himself in it, even questioning who he is. ‘Alone Again’ is strikingly honest and vulnerable. Its soft droplets of synth under Abel’s falsetto are breathtaking with hints of Kissland in the oriental keys. If ‘Alone Again’ is Abel at his weakest he isn’t afraid to show himself. That is the nature of a performer. The sad irony of stepping on stage to thousands singing your name and still feeling empty. Alone.
30 day song challenge 30 days of music A day in the life alone again Arcade Fire Clair de Lune Debussy do your best elbow everything now frank sinatra half the world away John maus johnny cash lil peep lil tracy Music oasis one day like this satsified mind someday thats life the beatles The Strokes the weeknd walk away as the door slams
Last modified: 23rd April 2020