I am writing this on Christmas night when I most certainly should be sleeping. I’m in my parents house in Sarnia at the kitchen table, everyone else is asleep. I had a weird year. It was great, the best year of my life certainly. Huge swings up and down for me this year, and these are some of the songs I listened to while I was swinging. I do find that my taste is changing with age. I need songs to make sense now. I mean, not really, but, you know. I’m 33 so I need some proof that someone put some thought into something, or what am I even doing? I could just listen to silence instead, I’m 33. I can just sit and look at a wall and I’m totally happy, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m 33.
So here’s 10 songs I got into this year, I think there might be 11:
Lori McKenna – My Love Follows You Where You Go
This song is a groove and a rut, you know? Lori is just one of the best writers presently writing if you’re gonna ask me. The whole album is good, it’s called Massachusetts, which is where she lives. Her songs are actually “rough” and “real” and “gritty” – all things that one million male singer-songwriters, myself included, claim to be and NEVER actually are. These songs are about folks’ lives. She also co-wrote a Hunter Hayes #1 hit this year called “I Want Crazy” which is a song that has 42 hooks and still could not be more clear and good. She’s also a married mother of 5 kids, so don’t you ever say “I’m so busy” ever.
Lorde – Royals
Yeah, who didn’t like this shit, eh? I remember the first time I heard it, in July in Nashville. I had just picked up a rental car was flipping through the satellite radio trying to find CBC Radio 2 because, I’ll be honest, I like hearing myself on the radio in other countries. I wasn’t on, so I switched to Lightning 100, Nashville’s hippest fedora-scarf-type station. They played this song and I was all, sweet God in heaven, that is moody. Has a song ever hooked you quicker? I was all-in on the first line. It sounded like 2013 to me. It wasn’t a throw-back or re-hash of anything and that’s about as hard as sudoku to do (I can’t do sudoku).
Kanye West – Blood On The Leaves
What the hell is this even? Late one night I recorded a cover of this which no one will ever hear. If you’re going to sample “Strange Fruit” you better have something to say about some shit, and he does. Look up that song, if you’re not familiar with it. His screaming “We coulda been somebody!” is exactly what I like about songwriting. Slightly off, and exactly right because of the wrongness. Oh god, what a stupid thing to write. I’m an insufferable artist, I see that, but I won’t delete it because I’m 33 and getting ready to die.
Charlie Worsham – Trouble Is
I did a whole whack of co-writing in the Warner Chappell building in Nashville this year, and up and down the hallway of songwriting studios people were talking about Charlie Worsham. A lovely guy, they all said, and just wait until you hear his record. This is what country can be, when folks pay attention. (Three tips for getting inspired: 1. Pay Attention 2. Pay Attention 3. Pay Attention) It’s an album full of great, well-crafted, smart songs that hit you in the heart and feel good. This is just one that I think is representative of the greatness of the whole album. The record is called “Rubberband” and you should try it out and see for yourself.
Drake – Come Thru
This is on the deluxe version of Drake’s new record so my friend Matt hadn’t heard it and I was all, “what bud?” I love this song for so many Drakey reasons. I wish Drake had been making heart-break anthems when I was having my heart broke. There’s one song on this record where he just raps directions to a girl’s house in Toronto. That some sad-sack shit, and I LOVE it. Drake satisfies me completely as an artist. Every time he releases something, I’m into it huge. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I cannot get enough.
Frightened Rabbit – The Woodpile
This song is badass and it has distorted guitars. Ever heard of those? “A lit torch to the woodpile, aye” is the chorus line and isn’t that quite the thing to sing in a song? It’s a grindy, angsty jam that I would’ve loved when I was 25. I still love it now, but I don’t play it real loud in my car like I would have then; I don’t record a cover of it on my voicemail and send it to some sweet-faced girl I’ve been bothering like I would have then. Thank God.
Leif Vollebekk – Southern United States
I kept seeing this guy’s record on the iTunes chart while I checked to make sure people were buying my record. I don’t actively seek out singer/songwriter records because if they’re good they depress me, and if they’re bad they depress me. What’s the point? Eventually I sampled this song and loved it. It’s clear he really likes Dylan, but what’s wrong with that? I do too. Leif does that “Blood on the Tracks” rambling-guitar-with-only-
Tim McGraw – One Of Those Nights
I love this song. I yelled out loud, drunk in the summer, to my sister, “This is my favourite song of all time”! I didn’t mean that, and it’s not, but man, did I like it this summer. The verse melody just rolls out of your mouth when you sing along. The harmonies are always just right there asking you to sing them. The chorus rolls in like a calming little wave and warms up your feet. It’s fun to sing loud. The value of fun, cool words phrased well cannot be over-stated. This song picks you up and doesn’t drop the ball, it just rolls you along in your car. It may not be your thing, but you can’t deny that it doesn’t let you down one inch. It delivers the feeling of what it describes. Music is just selling you a feeling, and, to me, it’s no wonder people bought this one.
The 1975 – Chocolate
Yeah, this is great. A hook machine. I don’t know what the hell dude is talking about. I think he says, “…and your hair smelled like chocolate” and then a bunch of stuff about petticoats. I don’t know. I heard it in a bar in London (London, UK) [which is something you have to say in Ontario or people think you’re talking about London, Ontario which is a town that I don’t love deeply, I’m sorry] a long while back and thought, THIS IS A HIT SONG. I think it was to a certain extent. It’s a song for dancing maybe? I can’t think of a song like it. It’s good.
Kacey Musgraves – Merry Go Round
When this song came out, writers in Nashville said things like, “If that’s a hit, we’re in good shape”. It wasn’t really a hit, but it’s getting enough attention that folks are excited. This song is doing what country music is supposed to do – display plain truths in plain language – and it’s so nice to hear. Kacey writes songs real well and sings them real well – she’s a compelling artist to me. (Shane McAnally co-wrote this one with her and a guy named Josh Osbourne. Look Shane up if you like, dude is massively talented and compelling as well.) She’s nominated for Grammys and stuff now, so soon everyone will know. Maybe everyone does already? Bless her heart.
Shark Tank – Out For A Rip
This song so perfectly captures how I talk it’s frightening. It is a complete work of art. His swearing is poetry. He never sounds like he’s trying to rhyme or speak rhythmically, it just sounds as if he’s speaking. It’ll make everything else you hear today sound pretentious and ridiculous. I love it very much.
Timber Timbre w/ Feist – Homage
This is just sad and beautiful. I heard it first in a rental car pulled over to the shoulder because it was raining so hard in Mississippi that I couldn’t see. I was driving to see William Faulkner’s grave in Oxford, MS. I got there at about 2AM, I had to climb a small fence. I saw the grave and I felt nothing. Here’s what I tweeted, to prove it to you: https://twitter.com/