In a desperate attempt to separate myself from all the great blogs that recommend songs, I am going to focus on moments--instants, really--within songs. Or, as they shall forever be known henceforth: Great Moments In Music. (GMM) A GMM can be anything: the instant when a drum kicks in, a plaintive harmony, the beginning of a guitar solo--even a single note.
Here are a few GMM that have been in my head of late.
1. The Hold Steady: "First Night"
If you do not currently own the newest Hold Steady album (Boys and Girls in America) go now and buy it. I will wait. Really. It is the best rock album I have heard in three years. Thin Lizzy meets Bruce Springsteen meets Jack Kerouac. Only better than all three. It heals scrofula. It will repaint your apartment. It will insulate you from the cruelty of traffic policemen. It can dance the forbidden dances.
There's a moment, at the end of the the song "First Night": the song seems to be over. They've been repeating the same chorus over and over. Then, from nowhere, begins the lyric: "Boys and girls in America. Boys and girls in America...." The music swells. Salvation draws near. The song ends again, this time with this line describing the "sequencer boys": "When they kiss, they spit white noise." (Backup singers repeat: "White noise.") IT ROCKS.
2. Jupiter One: "Countdown"
I learned of this band through the most random of channels. When I started this blog I was given links to other blogs that were recently begun. (To gather ideas, I guess?). This band has a new website; I went there; I listened to their songs. And I loved them. (To check them out, go here.)
Anyway, the GMM occurs at about the 50 second mark; the chorus begins. "Hey now, wake up...it's a beautiful day." Sounds a little trite, lyrically, but it works.
3. Van Morrison: "Sweet Thing."
Astral Weeks remains one of those albums that can always do something to me. It is, in the truest sense of the word, magical. Mystical, in the best, insane, Irish way. I could pick ten different moments from this album, but I'm going to pick the moment about five seconds into "Sweet Thing" when the string bass enters. It dances and cavorts. The song is all joy, all joy and love. ("It's me, I'm dynamite and I don't know why" is one of the many great lyrics from this song. Also: "And I will not remember that I ever felt the pain." To say THE pain--as if all pain was only one pain, which we all sometimes shared.)
I remember reading a book about songwriters; in it, a singer described the essential quality of a great singer. "They have to have the YARRGH" in their voice," he said. (I think it was Bono?) The person quoted then went on to point to Van Morrison; he, HE, has the Yarrgh in his voice. It's true. (That's "yarrgh" by the way. NOT "yarggh." Yarggh is something Scottish people do with sheep.)