It seems entirely appropriate that the final song on this list is Catch The Wind by Donovan off his What’s Bin Did and What’s Bin Hid album. This is another timeless song and one I didn’t come to until 2005, when I hate to admit it but I heard it in a commercial. I had heard of Donovan, since my mom was a huge fan of his when she was a young girl, but I hadn’t really paid much attention. This song, though, is an incredibly sweet and loving song. This is also a song I always think of the season of fall with as well. When the winds start to pick back up and the air starts to chill again, that is by far my favorite time of year. If I didn’t have fall, I’m not sure what I would do. With this list I tried to capture a sense of what my musical tastes over the first 30 years of my life have been and maybe learn a little bit more something about why I chose the music I chose. I was able to do all of that, and during the process of this find the girl who is my soulmate to boot. This is a great song, an upbeat one, to end this list on and I urge you to go listen to it, close your eyes and just picture the coming fall.
The Middle was a song that jumped out of nowhere, to me at least, and became one that I, and a lot of other people too, loved immediately. This one by Jimmy Eat World off their Bleed American album was ubiquitous in 2001, you literally couldn’t go anywhere without hearing it and with good reason too, because it’s incredibly catchy. This kind of music, the sort of pop, sort of rock, sort of punk, is something I listen to sparingly, but Jimmy Eat World is one band I still have followed because I guess they’ve grown like I have. This song though, will always be the middle of college for me, when my musical taste was expanding rapidly outwards. I vividly remember the video for this song too, which involved kids at a party in their underwear. It’s one of those songs that is sort of an anthem for those of us who were just waiting for high school to end. I wasn’t picked on or anything, I just was ready to get out of the school I had been in with the same people since kindergarten. Turn this one on and go back.
Masters Of War is one of those songs that will always be timeless as long as there are a class of people sending off other people to die in their name, and since that’s the way wars have been fought in all of human history it doesn’t seem like this one is going to become meaningless anytime soon. So it shouldn’t surprise you that this is a song by Bob Dylan from his second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. I remember when I heard this song for the first time in college and at that point we as a nation were not yet at war, since this was prior to 2001. But as everything began to happen after 2001 this song became more and more important to me, since the mistakes of the past seemed to be repeating themselves over and over. I feel that this song is about more than just combat war though, because it also speaks to a certain class war that takes place with the wealthy keeping their boot heel on those below them through any means necessary. It’s a timeless, human tragedy, and one that I, through a fairly sheltered existence had yet to learn about until I got to college, which is I guess the age most Americans learn about things. My favorite part of this whole song is the very end when he says: even jesus would never forgive what you do. He then goes on to talk about how money won’t buy back their soul, which is the cold consolation anyone can take for those who watch others ravage and destroy the planet and people they live with. Everyone will be dead some day, and we’ll all end up in the same place. (sorry for the downer, but it’s the song)
It also seems apt, as we get into the final 4 songs on this list, that one of them would be mired in the problems of the world during the 2000-8 era and beyond. Leaders Of The Free World by Elbow does just that. This is the title track off of Leaders of the Free World and speaks to a lot of things that were (and still are) going on in the world when the album came out in 2005. That year in particular, with the Iraq war spinning out of control and Hurricane Katrina finally laying bare what exactly a conservative America was always intended to look like, was a hard reminder of what we are up against. This is a rock song that rages against all of the apathy that seemed to have gripped large portions of the population, especially in regards to the war. That was a group I was definitely confused by, I mean I understand why they didn’t care in the sense that they weren’t directly effected by it through a draft, but that still doesn’t explain why it took so long for so many people to turn against an illegal war and the murder of thousands of civilians and soldiers over nothing. But like Elbow says: it’s easy to ignore till they’re knocking on the door of your homes.
The final song on The Shepherd’s Dog by Iron and Wine is Flightless Bird, American Mouth and it just so happens to be the final (of 16!) Iron and Wine song on my list. It’s saying quite a lot about my taste in music that out of 365 songs by 135 artists almost 5% of them are made up by one man. So, like I said, 16 songs and 6 albums later we’ve reached the last Iron and Wine song to grace my list of the most important songs of my first 30 years. This is a fitting end too, since it possesses the most “last song” sounding tune of the bunch. I can run out the usual reasons I give for my love of Iron and Wine, from his amazing imagery to his use of dreams to his obsession with death, but for the most part I can’t quite articulate how important Sam has been to me over the past seven and a half years. The gorgeous final minute and a half of this song says more than I ever could, so go listen to that and just bathe in the warmth that Sam brings to every song he ever writes. You won’t regret falling in love with Iron and Wine, I never did.
It’s fitting that as we get into the final week of songs here on my list we come to a Matt Pond PA song. It’s even more fitting that it is Closest (Look Out) off their Emblems album. This is probably one of the happiest songs this guy has ever written and it’s probably one of my top three favorite songs by this band period. But, Matt Pond PA has sort of been the band I’ve attached the most to this period of my life. I first started listening to them in college and haven’t stopped in the intervening 8 years. There have been a lot of bands that have come and gone, but these guys have always been there. My favorite line in this song is probably right at the top with…
there is danger even in the simple word hello
hiding in the reeds
you would not believe where darkness goes
The act of saying hello to certain people is fraught with all kinds of meanings and many different outcomes. There are some people we can just go up and talk to and it’s no big deal, while there are others, we all know who these ones are, that we wouldn’t know what to say if they walked right into us. This song, like the rest of this album, will always define the end of my first year out of college and all the colossal changes that came with that.
Though I was not a drama student in the sense of acting, I can totally relate to the sentiment behind I Was Meant for the Stage by The Decemberists. This grand wail of a song comes from their album Her Majesty and really puts you in the mind of those of us who have chosen a career in the arts. Like I said, mine wasn’t for the stage as an actor perhaps, but there is a part of you that always believes you were meant to tell certain stories and get them out to the people. Not everyone understands why you chose this path, especially since as a career it’s not always going to lead you to prosperity. One of the best parts of this song, like others on this list, is when seemingly every instrument at the bands disposal start to play at the same time as everything starts to descend into a cacophony of singing, yelling and banging instruments. I have to say this song is a perfect song for someone who would be interested in learning why those of us in the arts have chosen to be here and why it’s so hard for us to give it up without a fight.