This is a new weekly series of threads that I'm starting today. In this series, each week I'll spotlight five songs from various artists, genres, and time periods, both historical and contemporary, and explain why I think the songs are worth listening to.
On a sidenote, if I keep this series up till next year, it's going to be hilarious when I have to write the title out during Michigan Hate Week.
Because metal always comes first with me, the first song I'm introducing is "Frontiers" by Omnium Gatherum, a melodic death metal band out of Finland. I recently had the pleasure of seeing them live in Orlando, where they played this very song, and let me tell you--it was fantastic. The musicianship alone was worth the ticket price, and the band knew how to work a crowd. Listen to this opening riff:
Up next, we'll shift gears just a little with a song from one of my favorite Indie Rock groups, Interpol. This song, "All the Rage Back Home" is from their most recent album, "El Pintor," and is surely the album's most catchy song. If the chorus doesn't get stuck in your head, you're listening wrong. Small caveat: I saw Interpol live last year, and while the setlist they played and the quality of their performance was top notch, I absolutely hated their lack of stage presence. They made no attempt to engage the crowd or even act like they wanted to be there, which made me respect them as musicians just a little bit less.
The third song of our medley is another shifting of gears, and a trip around the world and across time. Antonin Dvorak's opera Rusalka is two things: 1) a ripoff of Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid story and 2) one of the most underrated operas in the world. The most famous song from the opera is what I'm linking here, Mesiscku Na Nebi Hlubokem (Song to the Moon), which is an aria where the rusalka (a folkloric spirit of the water in Slavic myth, usually a drowned woman returned to life as a dangerous, sometimes murderous spirit) has fallen in love with a human prince and sings a prayer to the moon to allow her to love him. While this song is more romantic, perhaps even saccharine, the opera has a rather bittersweet (mostly bitter) ending: the rusalka's failure to marry the human prince causes her to become a dark spirit, and when the prince comes to her anyway even knowing the danger, he is killed in her embrace, and she is damned to remain a dark spirit for all eternity. So yeah, not quite the Little Mermaid:
Time now for some hip-hop. Here's one of my favorite rap songs from Action Bronson, featuring the ever wonderful Chance the Rapper. This song, Baby Blue, combines Bronson's bragaddocio with Chance the Rapper's more subtle touch. Where Bronson wants all his ex-girlfriends to know he's moved on to bigger and better (and more Brazilian) things, Chance the Rapper's verse combines hilariously over the top spite with a flash of tender contrition. If Chance doesn't have that moment ("I hope your tears don't hurt, / and I can smile in your face"), then the song just comes off as altogether spiteful and meanspirited, but that little moment adds so much more depth. Not to mention, who can't love the faithful tribute/parody of Coming to America in the video? Also, Mark Ronson's jazzy beat is classy as hell.
Last but not least, we have a great song by the bluegrass band Trampled by Turtles. There's not much to say here, the speedy, jaunty tune paired with the rather depressing lyrics speak for themselves. Trampled by Turtles take the Smashing Pumpkins route to songwriting: if you give a song a breezy, energetic, upbeat sound, no one will notice it's actually about depression or loneliness. Plus, anyone who enjoys the Adult Swim program Squidbillies (underrated and unfairly maligned by many, in my opinion) will enjoy the video for "Walt Whitman" by Trampled by Turtles: