80. Sunny Sweeney ”Unsaid”
79. Menace Beach ”Suck It Out”
(from Lemon Memory)
78. Purity Ring ”Asido”
77. Curtis Harding ”Face Your Fear”
(from Face Your Fear)
76. Waxahatchee ”Never Been Wrong”
(from Out In The Storm)
75. Tara Jane O’Neil ”Laugh”
(from Tara Jane O’Neil)
”…there were so many jumps that it sounded sloppy so I decided to sing both the low and the high which made it sound a little more Beach Boys-y or something, a little more lush…..”
74. Real Estate ”Stained Glass”
(from In Mind)
”I wrote that song in my house where I lived – I have since moved – my old house in the town where I live upstate, just outside of New York. I think that was one of the last songs I wrote before the band got together to start working on the songs I had been writing for this record. I feel like it made quite a transformation. My demo version of it wasn’t as bombastic as the final song turned out being. It’s kind of fun for us to play it, ‘cause it’s got this… It sounds like a single! Like when we played all our songs for the label the guy was like ‘that’s a good one to be the single’. I remember writing the lyrics to that song on a train. Obviously it’s a lot about winter coming when the leaves fall off the trees and the branches. It sounded poetic in my head, kind of stupid… To me, it’s a very classic song in my style of lyric writing. Mostly just description, ha ha! Describing the town I live in, the seasons changing. A portrait of my life at a very specific time.
Another thing about that song is that it was the first song we recorded when we went in the studio. We got a really good take that we really liked, but then the drum sound was still being dialed in at the time and ended up sounding weak and not as good as the rest of the record. So we ended up re-recording the drums. That’s the only song where the drums were actually recorded in a different studio. In New Jersey, actually, with Joe Agnello who is a pretty cool producer. He just did that one thing and nothing else on the record. We got his drum take and stuck it in there. When I listen to the record it sticks out a little bit because the drums are loud and on the rest of the record they are super tight and dry.
When I first wrote it, the vocal melody jumped a lot more between the lower and the higher harmony. Then I felt like ‘this is really hard to sing well’, there were so many jumps that it sounded sloppy so I decided to sing both the low and the high which made it sound a little more Beach Boys-y or something, a little more lush. The bridge too is another part of that song where we just kept putting more and more stuff on it. It sounds really good the way the producer Cole ended up layering things. With each subsequent pass of the bridge there’s another layer added: the harmonies come in, the strings of the Chamberlin. I liked using that instead of a Mellotron as so many people had that on their songs. I mean, it’s like a Mellotron but it’s not that classic sound, it’s slightly different.”
– Martin Courtney
73. Diet Cig ”Tummy Ache”
(from Swear I’m Good At This)
72. Toothless ”You Thought I Was Your Friend (I Want To Hurt You)”
(from The Pace Of The Passing)
71. Ezra Furman ”Love You So Bad”
70. Bleachers ”Don’t Take The Money”
(from Gone Now)
69. Sam Outlaw ”Tenderheart”
68. Nadine Shah ”Yes Men”
(from Holiday Destination)
67. Girlpool ”123”
”I wanted the music to reflect that feeling of letting go at a party. My drum machine was the musical starting point. I picked the ‘cha-cha’ beat and went from there…”
66. Hannah Lou Clark ”Don’t Sweat It”
(from The Heart And All Its Sin)
”I started with ‘champagne takes the edge off me’ scribbled down in my note book. I heard someone say it at a friend’s house one night, and thought it had a ring to it. I based the lyrics around that idea – How sometimes we are scared to let go in social situations, and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of dutch courage if it means you can relax and feel more free.
I wanted the music to reflect that feeling of letting go at a party. My drum machine was the musical starting point. I picked the ‘cha-cha’ beat, sped it up a bit, and went from there. The rest of the song kind of wrote itself. The finished track was recorded at Urchin Studios in Hackney with the help of Tarek Musa (Spring King). We spent a lot of time on the drum machine to live drum ratio, as wanted it to have a laid back feel, but still a sense of urgency, like you can’t quite keep up.
It’s always been fun to play live, and is probably one of my most hopeful sounding tracks musically.”
– Hannah Lou Clark
”‘Spotted gold turned black and blue’ is imagery of something good becoming tarnished. I wrote it about a girl I was playing in a band with a few years ago…”
65. Stef Chura ”Spotted Gold”
”There is this clear narrative in the song of acting like you don’t care, when actually it kills you, ‘Spotted gold turned black and blue’ is imagery of something good becoming tarnished. I wrote it about a girl I was playing in a band with a few years ago. I could tell our friendship was going sour and I didn’t know how to fix it. We were young. I lied to her and told her the song was about an old boyfriend.”
– Stef Chura
”…the band worked out their parts, brilliantly, in my opinion. Scrappy’s guitar solo is one of the saddest and loneliest I’ve ever heard…”
64. Slaid Cleaves ”If I Had A Heart”
(from Ghost On The Car Radio)
”‘If I Had a Heart’ was written over a fourteen month period, in my guest house, where I sequester myself for a few days at a time, several times a year, to try and get away from daily chores in order to write. I write lyrics on a laptop and make recordings on an iPhone, which I then e-mail to my laptop for storage. My memory is that this song began with me just playing around with guitar chords and coming upon the verse progression, which I felt was something new and evocative. The first attempt to add lyrics was me singing ‘if I had a heart’ over these verse chord changes. While the verse lyrics mostly come from the disillusion of watching the news of the world, other parts of the song are less bleak and focus on the hope that the next generation brings. I remember thinking about my nieces and nephews a lot while writing these parts.
In April 2016 I was working on the other songs that comprise Ghost on the Car Radio. I was scheduling time for recording, and going over each song to try to make it the best it could possibly be. I decided ‘If I Had a Heart’ needed a bridge. After running through the song a couple of times with producer/guitarist Scrappy Jud Newcomb at his house, we recorded a pre-production version. Then in May 2016, ‘If I Had a Heart’ was the first song recorded on the first day of recording Ghost on the Car Radio. It came together quite quickly and easily, giving us all a boost of confidence and setting the tone for a very productive first week of recording.
We did three of four takes. I was most concerned with getting the tempo right – I recall slowing it down a few times – while the band worked out their parts, brilliantly, in my opinion. Scrappy’s guitar solo is one of the saddest and loneliest I’ve ever heard.”
– Slaid Cleaves
”…the point in a break up where you’re not really that sad or angry, you just wish it would be over and you could be friends… but also maybe you’re still a little petty and want to get the last word…”
63. Dude York ”Tonight”
”‘Tonight’ was a song I had written years before I brought it to Dude York. It’s about the point in a break up where you’re not really that sad or angry, you just wish it would be over and you could be friends… but also maybe you’re still a little petty and want to get the last word. I think I had the pre chorus and chorus riff and just kept coming back to it until finally it was a pretty complete song, but I had never really written a song by myself and I didn’t have anything to do with it.
At some point in the writing process of Sincerely we were all hanging out at Peter’s house and started casually sharing bits and pieces of song ideas we had on an acoustic guitar and I played it for Peter and Andrew. I was SO NERVOUS, I had never played a personal song I wrote for anyone before. They were very quiet and then when I was done they were both like, “That’s a GOOD song. That has to be a Dude York song.” They were super supportive and excited about about me contributing to the band and it is really the reason I kept writing at all and started finding my voice as a songwriter. They’re the best!”
– Claire England
”These stories went just like fire on social media and had a chain reaction when people of all ages shared the stories they had of sexual assaults. It became a really interesting movement…”
62. Dream Wife ”Somebody”
Rakel: ”Lyrically, it was written around the time of the SlutWalk in Reykjavik. The SlutWalk is an annual march through the town centre that is talling upon justice for rape and sexual assault victims. It’s calling for the justice system to change a lot of procedures that are harmful to these cases. Its purpose is to annually remind people of what goes on behind closed doors, that sexual assault is real and more common than you think, and so is rape. This march happens simultaneously with the same thing in a lot of other cities around the world. During that time when Somebody was written all three of us in the band took part in the march, but also a lot of our friends and acquaintances who all shared their own personal stories of sexual assault and rape, and also how the system and community had failed them.
By doing this it became an uproar of showing it, a really brave thing to do to speak about this on open platforms. These stories went just like fire on social media and had a chain reaction when people of all ages shared the stories they had of sexual assaults. It became a really interesting and beautiful movement. That song is inspired by that movement. The same thing about the words ”I’m not my body, I’m somebody”.
Also it’s about gender. You have no idea of what I’m capable of if you only see me as a woman and not what’s behind me. You can’t judge me for the body that I somehow have possessed. Because of what my thoughts are, that’s the person you should see. So it’s inspired by that event and the generalization of being judged because you happen to be a girl instead of being judged by your intelligence or input to this world.
The reaction after it was released was incredible. A lot of people came up to us and the chain reaction continued. People were opening up and told stories, not necessarily about sexual assault and rape, but also for when they felt judged just because they were a woman in their positions. So a lot of our friends and peers and strangers started coming up to us at shows telling us about how much Somebody meant to them. Every time from the very first time we played it live I get goosebumps all over because everyone is singing along. All the girls up front are screaming ”I am not my body, I’m Somebody!” and that’s just so powerful. I don’t know, it brings such a togetherness in the crowd.”
Alice: ”Yeah, it’s a solidarity thing, it’s just amazing.”
Rakel: ”But also, they’re smiling!”
Alice: ”Yes, it’s so positive!”
Rakel: ”It’s only been a couple of months since the song was released, but I hope it will live on so in a decade from now, a fourteen-year-old will discover it. Somebody is not a pop song in that kind of way, it’s a song that hopefully will have meaning not just now.”
– Rakel Mjöll, Alice Go and Bella Podpadec
”I always like choruses to feel like you’re being swept up, or lifted into it. We really leaned hard into that, lots of harmonies and string pads, with that sort of simple ‘Be My Baby’ kind of beat…”
61. Japanese Breakfast ”Boyish”
(from Soft Sounds From Another Planet)
”‘Boyish’ is a song that has gone through many transformations. It started as Day 6 of a lo fi song a day project I pursued in 2013 called June. I wrote and recorded songs every day for the month of June. You can hear a pretty horrible early version of the song here: https://michellezauner.bandcamp.com/track/day-6. I brought the song to Little Big League and we arranged it together and recorded it in 2014. It was one of those songs I just really wasn’t happy with. I loved the composition, the way the song moved and the lyrics, but something about the way we arranged it together, and the way it was produced, it never sat right with me. You can hear that version here, there used to be a bridge that was cut in the Japanese Breakfast version: https://littlebigleague.bandcamp.com/track/boyish.
‘Boyish’ was just a song that I kept coming back to, that I felt hadn’t reached its potential. I really loved the chorus lyric ”I can’t get you off my mind, I can’t get you off in general,” and I guess I just felt like I should try to reopen it and do it justice. Craig Hendrix, who co-produced the album Soft Sounds From Another Planet, was a really instrumental part of getting it to where I wanted it to be. I just think the song is so sad, it has a lot of feeling and natural dynamic sweeps into the chorus, which is something I always chase in my songs. I always like choruses to feel like you’re being swept up, or lifted into it. We really leaned hard into that, lots of harmonies and string pads, with that sort of simple ”Be My Baby” kind of beat chugging it along all the way.
The song is basically a plea for someone to love you back. It’s about a partner straying and how ugly that can make you feel. The song always makes me feel like I’m at a school dance waiting to get picked, and winding up alone, dancing with yourself.”
– Michelle Zauner