I’ve sung the praises of folk music previously. I think its ability to elicit an emotional response in me is unparalleled by any other genre, not even the sad indie rock I often subject myself to. By extension, folk-rock is the same.
With allusions to Alice in Wonderland, though ultimately named after his grandmother, 'Dorothy' is Kevin Morby’s love song to his eponymous ruby red Fender Jaguar. It’s a beautifully simple piece of music, three chords in total, yet each of the five minutes feels necessary. As it proceeds, he sings praise to his guitar, introducing instruments to the rich texture until the music explodes at the almost triumphant climax. The pianos play, the guitars weep, and the horns speak whilst Morby tells the story of how Dorothy brought music to him.
Listening to another song by this band as I scanned through my playlists for a song to fit today's theme, it seemed like fate when I came across 'Luna'.
Like a lot of their more recent music, Bombay Bicycle Club's 2014 track possesses an other-worldly quality. With images of the moon against a dusty pink and blue sky coming to mind when I listen, the song is reminiscent of times spent thinking and walking on warm summer evenings in Newcastle.
Having always associated 'Luna' with its celestial meaning, I realised that I'd never really thought of this song as one with an obvious name in the title. But whatever the subject, it's a really beautiful song with a melody that makes me feel something whenever I hear it.
The Turtles are most famous for their song, “Happy Together”, but next on the roster is 'Elenore'. It’s a great song with such an upbeat chorus, similar to “Happy Together”, the song has quiet verses before suddenly launching loudly into a chorus that is simple and cheery. You may recognise the song from the film The Boat that Rocked, which is a great film with a brilliant soundtrack.
Once again, I’m back to some of Sheffield’s finest. I’m a massive fan of Reverend and the Makers, and I think they’re unfairly judged as being somewhat one-dimensional, but ‘Juliet Knows’ blows any such assumptions out of the water. Set to a backing of just guitar and tambourine, the outstanding voice of bass player Joe Carnall Jr is really given room to shine. The wistful, almost dreamy lyrics make this song feel like a hazy memory, the kind that might not be the clearest in the mind, but for which there is still that sense of nostalgia. Don’t just lump Reverend and the Makers in with other generic indie bands on account of tracks such as ‘Heavyweight Champion of the World’- ‘Juliet Knows’ proves that there is much more to this band than bog-standard ‘indie bangers’.
In the autumn of his career The Clash's former frontman Joe Strummer assembled The Mescaleros and recorded three albums. Whilst they never hit the heights of The Clash they released some good songs including Johnny Appleseed, my favourite of their songs. It, like all of The Mescaleros work, is much less punky and angry than The Clash, and has a great feelgood vibe uncharacteristic of his previous work. It makes me dead happy whenever I listen to it and reminds me of summer. Sadly the album this song is off, Global A-Go-Go, turned out to be the bands penultimate one as Strummer died in 2002. He led a remarkable career and left us with loads of great songs, and whilst the music he made with The Mescaleros is overshadowed by The Clash they're still definitely worth a listen.
I'm gonna be honest, it was next to impossible to pick a track for this one since there's so many bangers with names in the title. I ended up just making a playlist of all of them and listening to them on repeat, but I've settled on this one by Conor Oberst, my absolute favourite musician of all time (better known as the frontman of my favourite band of all time, bright eyes). 'Danny Callahan' is a ballad about the unpredictability of life, symbolized by a little boy, the titular 'Danny Callahan', getting cancer and dying of it at a very young age. Conor's unparalleled songwriting is on full display in this track, and shows clearly why he's so often called "The next Bob Dylan". While that is a corny, and frankly cliche comparison to make, It's not inaccurate when talking about Oberst. The instrumental isn't anything to scoff at either, but the main focus of this track is the vivid, beautifully saddening imagery the song brings forth. I get chills every time I hear it.
I’m going back to one of my all time favourite artists with this choice, as I pick the Red Hot Chili Peppers 'Dani California'. This song has an introduction which I can pick up instantly, with Frusciante’s funky bar chords matched with an even funkier bass riff from Flea. The song itself tells a narrative of a woman travelling all across America, with odes to Minnesota, Mississippi and, more important for the LA band, California. It’s a classic rock tune from the Chilis, with a fuzzy guitar solo which I wish I can emulate, and was one of the earlier tunes in my discovery of the Chili Pepper discography.
This song from The Zutons second album not only features a name in the title, but is a classic. Not everyone will know who wrote the song, but you can be sure most people know the words and the tune. For some the song may be better known from it's cover by Amy Winehouse. Dave McCabe, the lead singer of The Zutons has descibed the song as a mixed blessing, saying that there are days when he just can't write because Valerie is in his head, I can't disagree with him, from personal experience once this song is in your head, it'll be stuck there.
Songs named after people are usually filled with emotions somehow tied for love. 'Frankly Mr. Shankly' isn't one of those tracks. Written for an executive at Rough Trade, its lyrics are filled with Morrissey's signature wit and humour which was rife on The Queen is Dead. Johnny Marr delivers his usual jangly style of guitar which suits the track perfectly. While an unconventional tribute, 'Frankly Mr. Shankly' is certainly one of The Smiths finest and undoubtedly one of Morrissey's funniest.