I’ve been seeing a lot of posts lately about people’s top ten or twenty favorite movies. I love this idea! Now, I love movies, but I would have trouble picking just twenty, so I’ve decided to instead share with youthe top 10 bands that speak to me, and the two songs from each of them that I most relate to.
Music is such a huge part of my life. I grew up in a house filled with music, from hymns to folk songs, from classical to rock n’ roll, there always seemed to be a song playing somewhere in the house. My mom has a lyrical soprano voice, and my dad’s big, deep bass often boomed a counterpoint as she sang songs from musicals or from their youth. They both play the piano, among other instruments, and they passed this love of music on to me. I also play a number of instruments, and my vocal range allows me to sing second soprano all the way down to the lowest notes in the alto range. You can often hear me singing the songs on this list, among others, as I putter around the house, though I’m shy about it, and as soon as I know someone’s there I stop.
I’ve even dabbled a bit with song writing, though my husband is the true composer in my house. His songs can be accessed on Sound Cloud under the monaker Neeto Meskito (pronounced nee-toh me-skee-toh). His genre of choice is electronic, but don’t be fooled, he’s no robot. His songs are often soulful and very moving. The last song he posted there was written on his phone in GarageBand while he took his father home to Nashville for the last time.
Anyway, that’s enough side tracking for now, so without further ado, here’s the list:
Disclaimer: These are not necessarily my favorites. They are the songs and bands that I most relate to, so for the most part you won’t find songs with nonsense lyrics, or any instrumental music in this grouping, even though I love both of those things.
#10 – Barenaked Ladies: Who Needs Sleep? Pinch Me
Barenaked Ladies is my go to band when I want to have fun listening to music. Their lyrics are silly, and their tunes are bouncy and fun. Admittedly I don’t usually draw a lot of deep meaning from their lyrics, but the following two songs represent how I feel sometimes with a decent amount of accuracy.
“Pinch Me” has a kind of melancholy feel, between the lyrics that talk about it being “the perfect time of year, somewhere far away from here,” and the repetition in the melody and the choice of instruments. It’s a great song to listen to when it’s too hot to even think about doing anything. Of course, even though it implies a sense of stagnation and boredom, they still manage to make it fun, and put in a joke or two.
“Who Needs Sleep” is about having insomnia, plain and simple. The lyrics talk about the frustration of being unable to fall asleep no matter what you try, singing, “Lids down, I count sheep, I count heart beats, The only thing that counts is, That I won’t sleep.” It is a very frustrating feeling to lie awake in bed staring at the ceiling for hours, blinking rapidly to make your eyes tired, or counting to infinity to bore your brain, and then the sun shines in through the window to let you know that you just waisted eight or so hours doing practically nothing.
#9 – Matchbox Twenty: Unwell, 3 AM
I like the mournful yet hopeful quality that Matchbox Twenty portrays in their music and lyrics. Songs like “If You’re Gone,” and “Bright Lights,” speak so soulfully about lost love that they hope may someday return. It’s so melancholy and beautiful. Still, this list is about my soul, and not my heart, so I’ll leave the love songs alone for now and focus instead on these two songs that more aptly fit in this list.
“Unwell” describes with precision exactly how I feel having bipolar disorder and social anxiety. In the first verse it talks about having insomnia, and “Hearing voices telling me that I should get some sleep,” and in the chorus it says, “…stay a while and maybe then you will see, A different side of me.” Both of these things scream bipolar, the way my mania keeps me up all night, often telling myself that I need to sleep so that I can do something tomorrow, while the duality of the disorder can make me seem like a completely different person depending on what cycle I’m going through at the time. The second verse is all about paranoia, which is common for me when I go out in public due to my social anxiety. It literally feels like this: “I know they’ve all been talking ’bout me, I can hear them whisper, And it makes me think there must be something wrong with me.”
Sometimes I feel like I am the crazy girl from the song “3 AM.” When he sings, “She thinks that happiness is a mat that sits on her doorway,” he may as well be talking about me. I think a lot like the girl in the song, worried about irrational things and blaming myself for things that aren’t necessarily my fault, or blowing them way out of proportion. Like the fact that it’s almost 2 in the afternoon right now, on the day I intended to post this, and I’m still writing it. Is it my fault? Absolutely, but On the scale of how big a deal it is I’m pushing eleven out of ten, maybe even bumping it up to a twelve, although rationally I try to tell myself it’s a five at worst.
#8 – Green Day: Basket Case, 21 Guns
Now, I’ll admit, when I first claimed to like Green Day, I was being a total poser. I had no idea who they were, I had heard a few of their songs and I really liked them, but I didn’t make the connection between those songs and the band until long after I started claiming to be a fan. I’m not proud of it, but I did that with quite a few bands, back in the day. I was desperate for acceptance, so I fudged the truth a lot. I think the first song that I made me put it together was “21 Guns” and when I heard it I was like, “This is Green Day? Wow, I do like them.” When I looked into the other songs they had done, I was shocked at just how many of them I’d been listening to all those years, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” being chief among them.
“Basket Case” was an easy pick for this list, for obvious reasons. “I am one of those melodramatic fools,” as he sings in the first verse, and “Sometimes I give myself the creeps.” I have studied everything I could get my hands on about medieval torture, and I revel in morbidity and gore. I creep myself out with my writing sometimes, and I love that about myself, although I also recognize that it probably isn’t the healthiest hobby in the world.
“21 Guns” is about recognizing your limits and forgiving yourself for having them. The line, “When your mind breaks the spirit of your soul,” reminds me of all the times I have told myself that I’m not talented enough, or that I am too old, or fat, or lazy, or… I could go on forever, listing all the reasons I’ll never amount to anything. While it’s important to be realistic about these things, at some point you also have to have compassion for yourself, and “Lay down your arms, Give up the fight.” I don’t mean stop trying to follow your dreams, but rather accept that these things take time, and nobody is ever perfect.
#7 – Everclear: Everything to Everyone, Volvo Driving Soccer Mom
I love the sound of Everclear, the way they use strange or discordant sounds in a lot of their songs and others have a very acoustic sound to them is just really fun, as is the stark contrast of the somewhat brooding subject matter in their lyrics versus the upbeat melodies of their songs. I also really relate to the songs about growing up in a broken home, and listening to the lyrics made me feel less alone, and gave me hope that I could do something just as awesome as starting my own band someday.
“Everything to Everyone” is one of the few songs where it feels as though the singer is speaking directly to me, and what he says is extremely harsh, despite the uplifting tone of the music. Right off the bat he sings, “You put your self in stupid places, yeah I think you know it’s true. Situations where it’s easy to look down on you. I think you like to be the victim, I think you like to be in pain. I think you make yourself the victim, almost every single day.” Now while this song could be perceived as hurtful I choose to use it instead to motivate me to make a positive change. When I stop trying to be “everything to everyone,” it becomes much easier to avoid those situations where I would end up hurting myself or being hurt.
“Volvo Driving Soccer Mom,” on the other hand, is a song about growing up. When I first heard it I found it so depressing to think about going from being this party girl who had fun all the time to being a “…blond, bland, middle class, republican,” woman. Don’t get me wrong, I was never as bad of a “bad girl” as the woman he’s describing in the song, and I will never be a republican, but I have done a lot of growing up over the years. When I listen to the song now, it reminds me of all the fun I had when I was still figuring things out, while simultaneously making me proud of just how far I’ve come.
#6 – Lit: Something to Someone, Happy
The first song I ever head by “Lit” was “My Own Worst Enemy” and I fell in love right then and there. Lyrics are a big thing for me, and these lyrics told a fascinating story that I wanted to know more about, so I rushed out and bought their album. I did not, however, buy the CD that had that song on it. In my haste, I had bought the wrong one. Still, as I listened to the songs on it like “Lipstick and bruises,” and “Over My Head,” I was glad I did.
The ironically titled song, “Happy,” is about depression. The singer says, “It wouldn’t be so bad, if I could take a good thing and make it last,” and then proceeds to list a bunch of things that aren’t lasting. I can really relate to this. Money troubles are always not far from my mind, and I am always worrying about the time that is slipping away from me. The chorus goes on to say, “It makes me mad, ‘Cause I want to be happy so bad.” I try so hard to be happy, especially when my depressed cycle hits, and it can be very frustrating to be unable to make any effective change to the things in my life that are weighing me down. I keep trying though, because I really do want to be happy.
“Something to Someone” is about ambition. I’ve never thought of myself as being particularly ambitious. I’ve never really had a lot of motivation, most of the time I struggle to even get out of bed. Thinking about it these days I have discovered that I am. I’ve suppressed it heavily, but I do have ambition. I want to be a published author, and I even think I have what it takes to be on the New York Times bestseller list. I really want that. I want to be a household name, like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, where even if you haven’t read anything I’ve written, you still know my name. I want it so bad I can taste it. Now I just have to actually focus that ambition into action, and that’s going to be the tricky part.
#5 – Blue October: X Amount of Words, Drilled a Wire Through My Cheek
Even if I had no other reason, and their song sucked, I’d have to put Blue October on the list here simply because of the fact that they use the word bipolar in their song “X Amount of Words.” I’ve only ever heard one of their albums, but I really love the songs on it. They use playful metaphors and there are love songs aplenty, side by side with songs about mental illness. Although I didn’t include it, because I no longer feel it is relevant to my emotional state, the honorable mention would go to their song “Hate Me,” which was the first song I heard from this band.
“Drilled a Wire Through My Cheek” is an interesting song because it sounds at first as though he’s singing to someone else, but when you listen more closely to the lyrics it becomes clear that he’s really speaking to himself. Although much of the song is devoted to dark imagery describing an inner battle with himself like, “It’s proof to show I’d bleed for this, I’d cut myself to shame, To get to know this masochist, Who’s stolen my first name,” the ending has a hopeful note to it that I find inspiring, singing, “A dream we all should count on, Yeah, a vision I believe… where crying isn’t secret, It’s the art of how we grieve, And lessons are the key, To every goal I will achieve.”
“X Amount of Words” caught my attention instantly with words like bipolar, panic disorder, and phobia. The lyrics are a bit disjointed and vaguely nonsensical, but when he sings, “Give me recipes for happy, with the chemicals gone,” the message couldn’t be more clear, and the line that follows immediately afterward, “Drinking freedom from a bottle to the tune of belong,” is one I very much relate to. My social lubricant of choice has been cigarettes since I was nineteen, occasionally accompanied by alcohol. It’s just so much easier to talk to other smokers, and being in a social setting is easier on my nerves when I’m slightly inebriated.
#4 – Goo Goo Dolls: Iris, Name
I first started listening to Goo Goo Dolls in junior high school. I don’t remember how I obtained their CD entitled “Dizzy Up the Girl,” but it lived inside my CD player for a long time, before being replaced. There’s a short song on the album called “Acoustic #3” that I used to cry myself to sleep singing, because it just hit so close to home. A lot of their songs did. Despite being mostly love songs, there is a depth to their lyrics that speaks to my soul, so no list of songs that describe my soul would be complete without this band.
“I don’t want the world to see me, Cause I don’t think that they’d understand,” the opening lines of the chorus of “Iris” are so powerful to me. I’ve always been afraid of people witnessing my flaws and judging me based only on those parts of me that are broken. That’s why it has been so cathartic to write this blog. I have literally done the opposite of what I want, exposing my flaws, and the inner workings of my mind to the world, and without fail, you all have embrased and accepted me. I am so much less afraid to share myself with you all now, and I am enormously grateful for your continued support.
“Name” is about loosing track of your dreams, and as I went through my twenties it also represented the fear that I had missed my chance. When I turned twenty, and hadn’t yet completed a book, let alone been published, I was filled with despair. I was too old to start now, I thought bitterly to myself. I had literally grown up “…way too fast, now there’s nothing to believe.” So I gave up on my dream of becoming a fiction writer for many years, until I realized that while there is still life in my body, there is still hope that I can fulfill that dream.
#3 – Twenty One Pilots: Heathens, Heavy Dirty Soul
Twenty One pilots is another group that I only recently discovered, and fell instantly in love with. I haven’t listened to all their songs yet, but I am fascinated by this group of two, and I haven’t found one of their songs that I don’t like. The lyrics are fraught with emotion and meaning, and I love the genre switching that these guys use to create a new and unique experience with each song.
“Heathens” is a song about accepting others, and even recognizing that you could have something in common with anybody from, “the psychopath sitting next to you,” to “the freak show sitting next to you.” It’s so important to accept everyone because, as the song says, “You don’t know the half of the abuse.” Everyone has something in their past that has influenced the way that they view the world, and therefore how they react to it. Sometimes it’s biological, but it could also be something that happened to them, and once you know why they act they way they do you can begin to understand that everyone deserves compassion and acceptance.
As I’ve said in a few of my previous posts that sin, and feeling unclean because of things I’ve done or thought has been a big part of my life, so it should come as no surprise that a song titled “Heavy Dirty Soul,” has made it into the list here. In the chorus he begs the person he’s singing to, possibly God, “Can you save my heavy dirty soul?” Now, I think it’s up to the individual to determine what qualifies as a sin, and then make up for the wrongs that they’ve committed in their life. However, in the end, if there is a God you have to rely on Him to make up the difference when you fall short, and for me that’s what this song is about.
#2 – Linkin Park: Leave Out All the Rest, Forgotten
I know, I know. How stereotypical of me, a former emo kid, but you know what, I refuse to be ashamed that I love Linkin Park. They got me through some of the worst times in my life, and they are a lot more diverse in their message than they sometimes get credit for. I found that as I grew up, and went from blaming my parents for everything that happened to me, to accepting responsibility for my own actions, and taking control of my life, they stayed relevant to how I was feeling. Sometimes that relevancy came in the form of finding a deeper meaning to songs that I already loved, and sometimes it came in the form of a new song with a new attitude.
The imagery in the song “Forgotten” speaks to my artistic nature, but the words that seem almost contradictory in the beginning are what really get to me. At first he says that he’s forgotten, then he states that he can’t forget, and then he talks about the memory becoming incomplete or corrupted in some way. In high school the “memory” to me meant a memory of myself, or more accurately my sense of self. My favorite line from the song was “When the paper’s crumpled up it can’t be perfect again.” If you read my post, “Bisexual,” then you know that at that time in my life I felt like I was that piece of paper, crumpled up and discarded, never to be perfect again. As I grew older, and thought more about my past, the song spoke to me about my repressed memories and the gaps in my personal history, but like the song I asked, “…why should I care?” Those memories may be a part of who I am, and maybe someday I’ll be ready to face them, but for now I don’t need to go digging.
“Leave Out All the Rest” is a song about forgiveness, and leaving a legacy. In the beginning he sings about being afraid that no one would mourn him when he’s gone, and coming to realize that he had no meaningful legacy to out live him. Then he pleads with the listener to “forget the wrong that I’ve done,” and asks him/her to “help me leave behind some reasons to be missed.” The lines that stuck in my mind the most were, “Don’t be afraid, I’ve taken my beatings, I’ve shared what I’ve made,” and the reason it stayed with me is that while I have taken my share of beatings, literal and figurative, I hadn’t really shared what I’ve made. What legacy was I leaving? If I died today, would anyone but those closest to me even know I had lived? As an artist and a writer, I am always creating something, but I’ve never had the courage to follow through with putting it out in the world. That’s why this blog is so important to me. This is my way to finally get up off my ass and show everyone what I’m capable of, shouting into cyberspace, “I was here!”
#1 – Imagine Dragons: Demons, Believer
Imagine Dragons just gets me, on so many levels. Their lead singer’s support for the LGBTQ+ community is especially moving to me, as I was raised in the LDS Church, like he was, and I know how hard it can be to reconcile the church’s position on homosexuality as a sin with their doctrine of accepting and loving everyone for who they are, what ever their lifestyle. It was really hard to just pick two of their songs. Even though they are one of the newest groups on my list, I have to say, Imagine Dragons is one of my favorite bands of all time.
“Demons” is about wanting to protect someone you love, but also being afraid that you are a danger to them as well. At least that’s my interpretation. The line, “Don’t want to let you down, but I am hell bound,” is especially emotional for me because I’ve thought exactly that over and over through the years, as I struggled with the idea of coming out of the closet to my parents. You can read more about my thoughts on this song here, as I eventually used it to do just that.
“Believer,” on the other hand, is about taking all the bad things in your life, like hate, and of course “Pain!” and using them to change things for the better. The whole song just so perfectly describes my life. Feeling “Inhibited, limited,” by my past, my shame, my disorders, my lack of college, and my debt from what little college I did attend, “Till it broke up, and it rained down,” in the form of this blog. Through this blog I’ve been able to take control of my life again, and now I feel like I have the chance to use my past to effect real change in the world. Even though my reach isn’t very wide right now, if I can touch one person’s life and make it better, that is a change I am proud to be able to make!