Sunday, December 21, 2008

2008 Recap - Music - Lyrics

I sought the assistance of Alipete for the '08 lyric recap, because she spent her year paying attention to modern wordsmithery while I passed the time replaying old Soundgarden tunes. Her choices and commentary will be shown in pink.

You will note that rap and most other popular music is not found in our recap. The Village Voice has a funny feature on terrible lyrics that can make up for the shortcomings of Alipete and myself. Feel free to share anything we've missed in the comments.

Worst Lyrics

Jack Johnson - "If I Had Eyes"

If I had eyes in the back of my head
I would have told you that you look good as I walked away

I heard this song on the radio one day on the way to work. Although 2008 had barely begun, I knew this would be the worst opening line I'd hear all year. Jack, you don't need eyes in the back of your head to determine if someone looks good. Your regular, front-facing eyes will do just fine, as your neck allows your head to swivel, identify, and evaluate your target. Technically, you don't need eyes on either side of your head to tell someone (I'm guessing a girl? That likes to surf? And just, like, chill?) they look good. Your mouth, lips, tongue, vocal cords -- all that good stuff -- are used to make the word sounds.

Vampire Weekend, "Oxford Comma"

Why would you lie about how much coal you have?
Why would you lie about something dumb like that?
Why would you lie about anything at all?
First the window, then it's to the wall
Lil' Jon, he always tells the truth
Disclaimer: I like Vampire Weekend. I think their album is fun and catchy, if slightly overrated. But this? A Lil' Jon reference? This is impossible to defend. It’d be better if these lines were taken out of context, but they're not. "Oxford Comma," like many Vampire Weekend songs, sounds like disjointed Mad Libs. I don't even know what to say.

Best Adjective

The Tallest Man on Earth, "Where Do My Bluebird Fly?"

With all this fever in my mind,
I could aim for your kerosene eyes

This guy, Kristian Matsson, is the latest to be named The Next Dylan. Sometimes the title is bestowed laughably inappropriately (I'm looking at you, Oberst) but this time it seems pretty on target.

Worst Adjective

Vampire Weekend - "Bryn"

Eyes like a seagull
no Kansas-born beetle
would ever come close to that free
Beetles elsewhere? They might as well be in prison. Only Kansas-born beetles can freely roam.

Best Overall Verse
Okkervil River, "Calling and Not Calling My Ex"

Here, on another quiet night,
I will wait until another indistinguishable day arrives outside,
where the light's even and bright,
where my life's sweet as it's (slightly disappointingly) just gliding softly by.
When it comes to lyrics (at least this year), I think everyone is vying for second place behind Will Sheff. This is probably my favorite song of 2008, lyrically speaking. The entire song is pretty stellar, but this excerpt I thought was especially lovely.

Gary Louris - "Omaha Nights"

All the days are numbered
Are they slipping through my fingers?
Am I singing melodies all meant for other singers?
Occupying spaces that were clearly meant for others?
Am I growing old in the arms of the wrong lover?
Am I ready to put a gun in my mouth? Almost. It's that wistful, Gary. Well done.

Land of Talk, "Got a Call"

Darkness dares to the dial tone
As I sing myself to sleep
The most beauty I've seen
Lives in a dream
Where we laugh and want to live for the little things
Once you get past the mumbling of Land of Talk, you will discover some other amazing lines, like: "You can't keep down the girl who loves music." I don't know whether that's true, but I can appreciate the sentiment.

Best Rhyming Couplet

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - "Cold Son"

Who is it that said the world is my oyster
I feel like a nympho stuck in a cloister

Soul Asylum Funeral/Urinal Memorial Award: Best Half-Rhyming Couplet

Aimee Mann - "Phoenix"

Got out of Phoenix
just in time
A box of Kleenex
for the ride

Best Repetition

Okkervil River "Singer Songwriter"

You've got taste, you've got taste,
What a waste that that's all that you have

It's one of my favorite lines of the year.

It's all in your hand, it's all in your hand,
Like a gun, like a globe, like a grand.

This song is such a treasure trove of lyrical brilliance, it's hard to pin down what I love most about it. I hope those repetitive couplets do it justice.

Worst Metaphor or Simile

Jenny Lewis - "Trying My Best to Love You"

Our love is sweeter than strings
Our love is thicker than angel wings

Sorry, Ms. Lewis. You are adorable, but you can't compare a metaphysical attribute of an emotion to a physical attribute of a nonexistent (or unmeasurable) being.

Best Metaphor
Cloud Cult "Journey of the Featherless"

And my fingers, they are blisters
And my eyes, they are bullet holes

Liz Phair - "Ant in Alaska"

I'm just an ant in Alaska to you.

Fleet Foxes, "He Doesn't Know Why"

Memory is a fickle siren song

Best Simile

Death Cab for Cutie - "Long Division"

They carried on like long division

The Hold Steady, "Constructive Summer"

Me and my friends are like
the drums on "Lust for Life"

Most Puzzling Simile

Death Cab for Cutie - "Cath"

She holds a smile like someone would hold a crying child
I appreciate the thought, Mr. Gibbard. I want to know how she's holding the smile, and I also like your twist on the verb "hold". I fault your execution. She holds a smile like SOMEONE would hold a crying child. Who? Whom? If a bachelor like myself is holding the crying child, she's smiling in a particular way, and if a mother of five is holding HER OWN crying child, that smile looks completely different. Why is the child crying? If baby hit his bottom and made a boo boo, I'd hold him much differently than if he were crying because of, say, dehydration sparked by cholera.

Best Use of a Non-Word

Bon Iver, "Blindsided"

I'm not really like this... I'm probably plightless

Worst Couplet

Coldplay - "42"

Those who are dead are not dead
They're just livin' in my head

Best Alliteration

The Submarines, "1940"

But curious shapes shift in the dark,
They vanish with the sunrise spark

Okkervil River, "Pop Lie"

Sweetly sung and succinctly stated

Vampire Weekend, "Oxford Comma"

All your diction dripping with disdain

Best Assonance

Okkervil River - "Lost Coastlines"

Is that marionette
real enough yet
to step off of that set

Best Imagery

Fleet Foxes, "White Winter Hymnal"

And, Michael, you would fall
and turn the white snow red as strawberries
in the summertime.

I first thought he was singing "And what's so red as strawberries in the summertime?" As someone who loves strawberries, especially in the summertime, I thought that was delightful. Turns out it's not.
Bon Iver, "Skinny Love"

Staring at the sink of blood and crushed veneer
Gruesome! There's a blood theme here, which is not intentional and completely uncharacteristic.

Most Obscure Rhyme

Vampire Weekend - “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”

As a young girl
Louis Vuitton
With your mother
on a sandy lawn

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