The 'I'm happy to be alive' tape
Music is my favourite thing about being alive. Pretty much any song that gets into my body in any way makes me feel thankful for existence. But I thought I'd try to pick 7 songs that, for me, condense that feeling into themselves sonically and lyrically. This is what I came up with.
You can listen along on the Spotify playlist here.
01. Oasis - “Live Forever” (from Definitely Maybe, 1994)
Immortal. Back before Oasis had all the ego (or less of it, at least) they could sell a song like this. One full of pure love-of-life innocence, the kind of song that reminds you of being a child and knowing that there will always be a tomorrow. Like most of their lyrics, especially on the debut album, there are some rhyming couplets that don’t bear scrutiny, but when sung sweetly along with Liam Gallagher, seem to say volumes; “maybe I don’t really wanna know/ how your garden grows, cos I just wanna fly/ lately did you ever feel the pain/ in the morning rain, as it soaks you to the bone?” It’s meaningless but it sounds epic; it’s like postcards from an old friend, reminding you of a long lost summer holiday memory. And who can’t relate to wanting to fly? The soaring guitars in this song, and probably the best solo Oasis ever committed to record, certainly aid in achieving that feeling. And then, somehow in the lyrics, the nonsense coagulates into the most pointed poetry Noel Gallagher ever wrote: “Maybe I will never be all the things that I wanna be/ Now is not the time to cry, now’s the time to find out why/ I think you’re the same as me, we see things they’ll never see/ You and I are gonna live forever.” Truly immortal.
02. Bright Eyes - “Bowl Of Oranges” (from Lifted, or The Story Is In The Soil, Keep Your Ear To The Ground, 2002)
This seems less a song and more an opportunity for Conor Oberst to fully unfurl his lyrical and poetical prowess, as he weaves a tale of waking from a dream with a new appreciation and love for life. “I dressed myself and left then, out into the fray streets/ but everything seemed different and completely new to me/ the sky, the trees, houses, buildings, even my own body/ and each person I encountered I couldn’t wait to meet.” There’s no chorus needed when the lyrics are this good, and flow this perfectly. That’s not to take away at all from the song itself, which is melodic and jaunty, with plenty of finely produced elements that keeps it rambling along, animating his words. “I came upon a doctor who appeared in quite poor health/ I said “there’s nothing that I can do for you you can’t do for yourself”/ he said “oh yes you can just hold my hand I think that would help”/ so I sat with him a while and I asked him how he felt/ He said “I think I’m cured, in fact I’m sure of it/ thank you stranger for your therapeutic smile.” And yes I typed that from memory, because I’ve listened to this song a million times, and it always makes me re-evaluate life, look at things from a different angle. It makes me appreciate my neighbours. Like any good piece of art, it makes me feel more human.
03. TV On The Radio - “Golden Age” (from Dear Science, 2008)
The song that gave me the idea for this playlist. From the moment it starts it’s just infectious - you feel it in your hips, that groove. The lyrics are playful and flirtatious, while not intellectual “and all this violence/ and all this goes away/ and the vibes that rise like/ fireflies illuminate our play.” Then they hype you up, like a proper party anthem, “and oh it’s gonna drop, gonna fill your cup!” It’s the perfect build up for the horn-injected chorus; “the age of miracles, the age of sound/ well there’s a golden age, coming round.” We live in an incredible time, we need to appreciate it. The light and sound at our disposal, in all sorts of ways and means, is truly a miracle. And in a time like this, don’t we always have a reason to be positive? No matter how you’re feeling right now, it’ll pass. There’s a golden age coming round.
04. Lift To Experience - “These Are The Days” (from The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads, 2001)
Life is tough. No matter how great it can be on some days, there are always those days that feel like you’ve been through hell and back, pushing between dead, stinking bodies to get to some hole or other, only to have to do it again hours later when you’re exhausted. In “These Are The Days” we go epic in scale; bad days are brutal, bloody wars: “with our instruments and swords, weapons of war/ marching around the city seven times,” but we’re not begrudging, we’re excited for battle: “and I can hardly wait to hear that great trumpet sound/ pouring out across the land.” We want to fight. We want to struggle. Because even the days that are tough are still days that we are alive. And if we want to get to that next glorious, heavenly day, we’ve got to get through days like this. “These are the days that must happen to you.”
05. The Morning Benders - “Excuses” (from Big Echo, 2010)
And these are the kinds of days you wait for. This song (and whole album) screams summer to me, and remains a constant sunny day choice among my oldest pals. Going to see them on tour of this album all together is a really special memory. And what to say about the song? Well from the beginning it’s just a flower in bloom, sonically, and lyrically we have the utter joys of youthful, beautiful intimacy, “You tried to taste me/ I taped my tongue to the southern tip of your body.” Ultimately this song exudes that feeling of bliss, of utter carelessness about the past or future, and just living in the daydream that is the present. You ponder weightlessly “We’ll still be best friends when it all turns to dust.” And then you imagine the whole world going up in a beautiful puff of smoke, and you couldn’t care less. “Dum, da-dum…”
06. Fleet Foxes - “Grown Ocean” (from Helplessness Blues, 2011)
Everything that Fleet Foxes do sounds like life; it resounds with joyousness and a verdant grace. “Grown Ocean” is one of their less ornate songs (relatively), as it favours a swift acoustic guitar, ushered forth by lightly stampeding percussion. This is a story of escape out into the wilderness; life is waiting. “Eucalyptus and orange trees are blooming.” You feel Robin Pecknold’s voice riding a steed out into the desert and beyond, singing with nature, feeling truly alive. And at the end of it all, there’s someone you dearly love waiting for your safe return; “I will see you someday when I’ve woken/ I’ll be so happy just to have spoken/ I’ll have so much to tell you about it.” This life is a dream, get out there and achieve what you want before it’s too late. May the wandering spirit of this song fuel your ejection into the world.
07. Deafheaven - “Gifts For The Earth” (from New Bermuda, 2015)
The epic closer from my favourite album of 2015, the ever divisive Deafheaven, who will be an immediate turn off for most as soon as you hear the vocals. But I love it. No, I fucking love it. Deafheaven’s music is just colossal in all ways; I’m ascendant every time I hear their music, I feel invincible. “Gifts For The Earth” features a glistening lead into the immortal meteoric riffs that they’re known for. So, OK, this song does depict a suicide by drowning, but damn it’s explosive and beautiful, like going out in a hail of fireworks. And the final message is that of giving back: “cocooned by the heart of the ocean floor/ In the dark, my flesh to disintegrate into consumption for the Earth.” Even after death, you will contribute more life.