Popular Songs: Volume I – Occasions

The air is mighty thick in here and blackness is all to see. Soon the worms will have had their fill and all you’ll be is bones for ever more. Is this heaven? Is this hell? Is anyone listening? This is a time to reflect on what was; a time to repent on what might have been had you not missed that train all those years ago. The question is, what would you do if you could start it all over again?

Explosions In The Sky – “Your Hand In Mine”
Maybe playing post-rock at a birth is a bit indulgent, but then again, little can rival the epochal grandeur of the genre. To my mind, the rises and falls of ‘Your Hand In Mine’ mirror the majesty of new life from old. MN
My Bloody Valentine – “Soon”
“Soon” just might be my favourite song of all time. It’s the closing track from one of my favourite albums, and it’s the best kind of closure; a succinct summation of everything that came before it, and yet so much more than just the sum of its parts. In that sense, it probably isn’t the most fitting choice, but paradoxically, it would be the perfect way to herald a new life. Towering, powerful, grand; full of choice, understanding that anything could follow from this event, aware of the endless possibilities a clean slate/new birth provides, and will in the near future live out. Soon. MM

Mystery Jets– “Young Love”
I think a good running song should be much like a good driving song, it should give you somewhere to go. ‘Young Love’ presents the sad story of a chance meeting with a wondrous woman and the ensuing despair of totally forgetting who she was-  ‘if i only knew your name i’d go from door to door’. Pull on your trainers, because you’ve got a lot of houses to check. MN
DJ Shadow – “Building Steam With a Grain of Salt”
There’s an inherent rhythm to walking, to steps, to putting one foot in front of the other and moving forwards. But it doesn’t have to be a soulless, inane activity, quite the contrary; it can be empowering, and master of percussive sampling Joshua Davis knows this. The birth of instrumental hip-hop can largely be attributed to Entroducing…, and the foundation of that album is purely metronomic drum sampling. Walking will never again feel so endearing. MM

Spin Doctors – “Two Princes”
I could stroll through Helmand beaming ear to ear were ‘Two Princes’ on blast. Its just that kind of song. An unadulterated guilty pleasure admittedly, but who could possibly resist these joyous thrashings. Its this blissful unawareness that I’d wish to replicate walking into the classroom for the first time and finding yourself very small. MN
Summer Camp – “Round The Moon”
As the bell tolls on education, a nostalgic door opens. What was once hated is hated slightly less in hindsight; its always the way. For all the good memories there is Summer Camp and some samples so transportive, even the most callous soul could not feel reflective. MN
Perfume Genius – “Mr. Peterson”
Fitting, really, that the song in question comes from an album named and thematically weighted around Learning. Its youthful author doesn’t let age obstruct a mature, patient delivery, and though the album can feel repetitive at places, certain tracks carry fantastic stand-alone weight. “Mr Peterson” is such a track, a vivid portrait of an eccentric arts teacher who shaped the life of his student, and later commits suicide. I’ll leave the moral behind such a tale open-ended for this one.

The Cure – “Just Like Heaven”
Step outside your body for a moment and picture yourself the protagonist who’s every close up is accompanied by a different musical movement- who’s every monumental moment is matched by a song its exact equal in tone and weight. That feeling that something special can always happen should never be without its instrumental counterpart, a notion never more true than in ‘Just Like Heaven’, perfect for the start of something new. MN

Wilco – “Jesus, Etc.” / Blur – “To The End”
Although the lyrics don’t fit, I feel the aesthetics of ‘Jesus, Etc.’ provide the archetypal 21st century slow dance. The chorus of ‘To The End’ is so ridiculously cathartic, it actually sounds (what I can only assume) finishing a marathon sounds like. MN
David Bowie – “Modern Love”
Lyrics don’t have to ‘fit’ at a wedding. The act is a passionate display of romance, a free-flowing exposure of jubilance and rapturous happiness; eternal affection trapped in a day of celebration, the concepts of embracing and escaping co-existing beatifically. Escaping, in the context of this song, from all limits social and psychological, that subvert us into self-denying the abundantly wild emotion that love is. “No confessions / and no religion /  God and man don’t believe in modern love.” MM

John Lee Hooker – “Dimples”
For a long time I’ve had a minor obsession with Delta Blues. I love the characters, the stories and what each of their works truly meant for the next 100 years of music. Were their invaluable input into the world of music as we know it to ever be forgotten, it would be an unimaginable travesty. As long as I’m still still smiling, i’ll still have ‘Dimples’. MN

Simon And Garfunkel – “Cecilia”
Such is the majesty of Paul Simon, I will happily dance into my grave with ‘Cecilia’ in my ears. People usually say that their funeral will be a ‘celebration of life’, but there has been no jubilant singing and dancing at any funeral I’ve witnessed. What I hope for is that the remaining image of myself is one of contentment and joy, sitting in my favourite chair- because knowing the world, someone else will have taken my place before too long. MN
The Antlers – “Epilogue”
That falsetto, that broken voice, that extinguished passion, that finality of tone, that acceptance of fate, the greatest denouement, the finest of exits, that unstoppable grasp of time upon life. That final forlorn guitar melody, fading into the past. MM

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