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The Music of 2013: Quarter 2

Fun fact: Glee only appears twice. TWICE. [edit: four times. I thought I was missing numbers. I have totally let the Word document go to seed this quarter, preferring to immerse myself in full albums - thanks to my fancy new CD-playing ability while driving - rather than keep up with why I love individual tracks, and the quality of this post reflects it. Realizing I had to hunt down YouTube links after I finally finished writing almost made me cry.]

April (“All My Ladies Get It Up” month)
31. Anna Kendrick – Cups (radio edit)
I’ve got my ticket for the long way ‘round
The one with the prettiest of views
It’s got mountains, it’s got rivers, it’s got sights to give you shivers
But it sure would be prettier with you


One day I'll see Pitch Perfect, OK? But the radio got to me first. I am pleasantly surprised by the instant catchiness of what sounds like a country fiddle tune.

[CD Rec: Vanessa Carlton, “Rabbits on the Run.” Because she's always magnificent, and there are no bad tracks (though the last one might be a little boring. This one has a spring/summery feel and is lyrically murkier than usual, like she was majoring in philosophy while writing it. (side note: while not in my top half, “I Don't Want To Be A Bride” should be like the definitive theme song for anyone who lives by the philosophy that a marriage certificate is irrelevant to commitment) ]

32. Carousel
For all you broken hearted lovers lost
Go find another one
'Cause you know time won't wait and you'll be late
White rabbits on the run

Catchy, life-affirming piano + snazzy tambourine beat. Also I just really like the lyric that gave birth to the CD title.

33. Fairweather Friend
And you didn't mean to do it
So I don't have to believe it
If you didn't really mean it
Then magical thinking gets us by


Makes me think of college. And magical realism. Wow, this is not a lot of words for my second-favorite track.

34. Hear The Bells
And the graveyard on Elizabeth, no one ever goes
Kneeling, praying to a gravestone
But the gravestone never tells


It's just delightfully eerie-creepy. Like Edgar Allan Poe crossed with Pan's Labyrinth, are the images in my head.

35. Dear California
Cause he loves me as I leave, so I'm gonna go

Really peppy; that's literally what it has going for it (plus my general inclination to love songs named after places + the "just me and my pup on the open road" = great driving music).

36. Tall Tales for Spring
Pray to a ghost that we've never met
Time turns for a cure from the scientist for this madness
Madness of the heart


Fun conflation of science and religion. Also, this is an arbitrary pick for fifth favorite, because the first four are in a tier of their own, and after that I can't really pick between the remainder that are not the last track.

[CD Rec: Taylor Swift, “Red” (as noted here, which I'll be quoting from a lot today because words and thoughts are hard, I like them all except 10 & 12 – and even those I occasionally like - but the ones below are the ones I never skip)]

37. State of Grace
So you were never a saint
And I love in shades of wrong
We learn to live with the pain
Mosaic broken hearts
A good intro number - innocuous, but with a good drumset beat, until gradually the lyrics filter into your brain. Kind of a melancholy take on relationships when you get a good look at it.

38. Red
Losing him was blue like I’d never known
Missing him was dark grey all alone


I just really like all the color imagery and assorted similes involved. Plus I will always think of this as my (red) car's favorite song.

39. I Knew You Were Trouble
No apologies, he'll never see you cry
Pretends he doesn't know that he's the reason why


Catchy chorus? Sometimes I just let "single hype" win. I love the alternating accent emphasis on the title phrase.

40. All Too Well
You called me up again just to break me like a promise
So casually cruel in the name of being honest


The perfect bittersweet kind of sad. It always gets me in the worst/best way when there are all these cute lyrics about innocence at the beginning and then we end up...here. My favorite slow one.

41. I Almost Do
I bet it never, ever occurred to you
That I can't say hello to you
And risk another goodbye


The one I can alllllllmost strike off this list for being a tad too slow, except I am too attached to these lyrics for Kurt & Blaine.

42. We Are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together
Then you come around again and say
"Baby, I miss you and I swear I'm gonna change, trust me."
Remember how that lasted for a day?


The music is so darn catchy that despite the idiotic spoken part in the middle, it's become one of my faves. Also I like how fandoms in love/hate relationships with their shows adopt it as their theme song.

43. Stay Stay Stay
All those times that you didn't leave
It's been occurring to me
I'd like to hang out with you for my whole life


Cute, bouncy, happy-go-lucky puppy love song, one of the few that sounds like her younger work.

44. Holy Ground
Well I guess we fell apart in the usual way
And the story's got dust on every page

“I don't come across very many stories where I understand how you can appreciate a past relationship just for the time it lasted, so having one in song form is nice.” Especially with such a fast and catchy pace.

45. The Lucky One
And they tell you that you're lucky, but you're so confused
Cause you don't feel pretty, you just feel used
And all the young things line up to take your place


You know how I love my stories about girls. Even though it's mostly in first person, it feels like a narration of someone else's life. This has actually become one of my top 3 favorites.

46. Begin Again
I've been spending the past 8 months
Thinking all love ever does is break, and burn, and end
But on a Wednesday, in a cafe, I watched it begin again


Awww, and there's your hopeful, uplifting ending.

47. Glee Cast (Sarah Jessica Parker/Naya Rivera/Lea Michele/Chris Colfer) - At The Ballet
Mostly the first two. And yes, it's a ridiculously long song (the same-length performance may or may not help), but once you decide to commit yourself to a 6-minute Broadway number, you get carried away in the storytelling and expressive emotional content.

May
48. Glee Cast (Amber Riley/Darren Criss/Melissa Benoist) - Superstition
Two of them are my favorite people and the other is one of the few people who should cover Stevie Wonder. IT'S MAGIC*. Especially given my lukewarm feelings about the original.
*Magic may have taken several additional weeks to kick in; Melissa is not the strong part of this trio. Unless of course you love her and actively work to love anything she does. In which case you will soon be dancing and grooving, ideally in an awkward white-person way.

49. Glee Cast (Melissa Benoist/Darren Criss) - All Or Nothing
I can't stay here
I am not the girl who runs and hides
Afraid of what could be


TWO FAVORITE PEOPLE TOGETHER (and without anyone else) AT LAST. Awesome, original and radio-friendly pop song. I fell in love after about 20 seconds and it just keeps growing.

50. Glee Cast – Hall of Fame
Do it for your people, do it for your pride
Never gonna know if you never even try


THIS MUSIC IS SO GREAT, and it's secretly really inspiring. It's one of those songs where on the original, will.i.am contributes and you're like SCRIPT, WHAT ARE YOU DOING INVITING THIS LOSER TO WORK, but then you get a song where the Glee kids start rapping and you're like, “awww, this is so cute and wonderful!” The soloists are all just so individually great. (the performance version is half length, but enjoy it anyway!)

51. Frank Turner – Recovery
If you could just give me a sign, just a subtle little glimmer,
Some suggestion that you'd have me if I could only make me better


Music rec #1 from Chris. I was highly skeptical, but turns out this one is pretty great. One of those dichotomous songs with depressing lyrics, as he's mostly singing about what a loser he is/was, but has such a fast-paced, upbeat tempo of music that it sounds like a happy song. You could absolutely dance to this.

52. Josh Groban – Below The Line
Young girl, she's got time left to grow up
See the light of hope in her eyes that she gives to you


The only one that instantly “popped” for me on his new CD on the first play. It's very peppy, kinda folksy, somehow makes me think of a recession-battered Midwest.

53. Josh Groban – Brave
Hold on, hold on so strong, time just carries on
And all that you thought is wrong is pure again


The next one to grow on me – songs chosen as singles are almost always picked for a good reason – with his signature “build to epic sound.”

54. Josh Groban – False Alarms
Like a bird you’ll spiral onward
And you’ll know just where I’ll be


Some very cool music, especially in the intro, all full of trepidation.

55. Josh Groban – Happy In My Heartache
Coffee's on the table, and I
Just can't seem to wake up this aching heart of mine
One more day without you and I'll be fine


Simple arrangement, but I think it's my favorite set of lyrics in this batch, and is rapidly gaining traction as my second favorite overall. The fact that he played it in the background of a Mac/Christine scene on CSI: NY did not hurt at all.

56. Josh Groban – Sincera
The only foreign-language track I like this time around, it starts slow but the way it swells to a majestic organ feature makes it feel like a religious experience by the end.

57. A Fine Frenzy - Whisper
Running the race like a mouse in a cage getting nowhere

I tried to fall in love with this years ago when I heard it on House, but it ended up boring me in the full version. Then I discovered it was on the same CD as “Almost Lover,” and that sealed the deal for a second attempt. Slow, breathy and soft, but a nice mood setter.

58. Lykke Li – I Follow Rivers
There's a Glee version somewhere I'm sure I'll love, but CSI: NY convinced me to fall in love with the original singer's unique voice. Interesting electronica elements.

[CD Rec LIKE WHOA: Michelle Tumes' self-titled album. Yes, it's a Christian album. Yes, every song makes that clear if you pay close attention to the lyrics. But with the exception of the last eye-rollingly overt track (“Hold on to Jesus”), this fact is mostly very subtle and musically speaking it's a basically perfect adult contemporary album, light and sweet and innocent. Like a lower-register Hayley Westenra, or lots in common with other crossover-Christian artists I have recced here like Brooke Waggoner and Joy Williams. I played it in 30-second clips on eMusic, and I instantly swooned for every single one, so I bought the whole album (minus the last track) on the spot and have not been disappointed. All ten tracks are sheer magic, and as a whole it creates a very relaxing ambiance. I've already recced 3 of its tracks [December 2011], so let me just pick 2 more to highlight:

59. Michelle Tumes – Introit
He's the fire in the winter
He's the light that shines in shades of gray


The opening track, one that is nearly guaranteed to have you nodding your head along and snapping your fingers to its pleasant, laid-back beat.

60. Michelle Tumes – Domine
I tried to wade so high above reality
I crashed into the lies of calamity


Peppier and more upbeat, so I might actually have you start with this track if you're undecided.

61. Glee Cast - Say
A straggler that should have appeared in April; not sure how I failed to miss it, other than lingering anti-John-Mayer feelings. But by now I have forgotten that this ever belonged to him, because it's been transformed into such a lovely, light, soft and pleasant number. It feels like one of those "everything will be okay" numbers that I sense will become a focal point in my Glee history, where just hearing it will transport me back to what it felt like the week it aired.

June (“Dudes Are Now In Charge Of Finding My Music” month)
62. Sparklehorse – Hundreds of Sparrows
Chris music rec #2. I am ruining my own reputation of hating bands here, so I will say it's not quite as strong a love as some others here, but its existentially odd lyrics intrigue me anyway.

63. CD REC: Sufjan Stevens, “Come On, Feel the Illinoise!
This is something I'm recommending as an entire album, because of Reasons.

64. Geek and Sundry - Write Like the Wind
Lewis took five years to chronicle Narnia
Tolkien had twelve years, and Rowling took ten
Lucas spent nearly three decades on Star Wars
And we all know how that one turned out in the end


An ode to George R.R. Martin that has a thoroughly addictive folky/wandering-minstrel tone to it. janusfiles is responsible and I don't think he's even sorry that I played this for like two hours straight one day while trying to drag myself through survey work. :P

65. Macklemore – Thrift Shop (PG-rated version)
It's also possible I played this about 89 times during one round of particularly hellish work to keep me going. Have I mentioned how grateful I am for the scrubbed-clean version that erases the ugly without sounding like gaping holes have been left behind? I honestly thought I was going to have to listen to the kiddie version to get my fix of the saxophone riff, and that would not have been pleasant at all. The fact that the video is clean is beyond perfect, because it's hilarious and it would have been tragic to miss that.

/End

[Meanwhile, I haven't tried to listen to even one Darren Criss song. I should probably do that at some point, I'm just...lazy. Actually, it's because I did not fall in instant swooning love the one time I tried to listen to “Human,” so I'm afraid I won't love anything, especially not after knowing there's at least one new song of his whose gross lyrics tick me off. My excuse proper is that live versions are hardly the way to fall in love with music anyway; might as well wait for the most polished quality.]

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