Music was something that was in my life from a very young age through school and home life but I only ever began to properly engage with it when I was fifteen years old after receiving my first ever mp3 player as a Christmas present, a Creative ZEN micro. This would change the way I would interact with music as I now had a place to store all the music that I owned and listen to it whenever I wanted. The Creative ZEN also had the feature that allowed you to record off live radio, which revived the old action of sitting beside the radio waiting for the song you requested to come on so that you could start recording and the eternal battle to contain your irritation as the DJ continued to speak over the beginning of the song that you were trying to record.
As the years went on I began to realise that music was the art from that spoke to me the most. TV shows would occasionally suck me in but that was usually by accident rather than by design and very rarely did I finish a full run of a series. Movies were never something that I felt that I could ever fully appreciate, I too often found myself getting bored midway through and I always struggled to properly appreciate that for many people they provided an escape.
Music was different though, I began to realise that the stories that were told in songs were more relatable to me than anything that I had ever seen in a movie. Since then music has become an even bigger part of my life. Live music is probably my favourite form of entertainment, the feeling of being in a packed out venue with like-minded people enjoying a performance by a band that has obviously connected with you in some way is one of the most inspiring moments that life can offer.
Life can sometimes end up being quite disillusioning. Very often I find myself feeling as though I should have achieved more, or that I should be further along on my life’s path than I actually am. There are also times when I feel that I should be attempting to broaden my horizons for new experiences to grow as a person, but it can often be hard to find the motivation and/or the resources to push beyond my comfort zone. More and more often I find that listening to music is the only time that I actually feel alive and feel any real sense of fulfilment or contentment. It comes in those moments when a guitar solo kicks in, or a heartfelt lyric is sang in just the perfect way, that I feel transported to a place where I feel that I am living my best life, which can be rare.
This article will attempt to highlight just a selection of the songs that have made me feel.
Walking on Cars – Don’t Mind Me (Everything This Way, 2016)
My relationship with this band and this song is somewhat bittersweet. Back in mid August 2012, I received a text from my then girlfriend who was on a night out with her friends in Killarney. In the small pub in which she was enjoying a drink, there was live music coming from a band who called themselves, Walking on Cars. What provoked the text to me was that the dance moves of the lead singer, Patrick Sheedy, reminded her of me. Intrigued by this I decided to google the band and this was the first song that YouTube displayed, I instantly loved it. In the subsequent years, Walking on Cars have become one of the most popular and successful bands in Ireland and their ascension has meant that they have been getting a lot of radio play in recent years.
The reason I enjoy this song so much is the sentiment at the core of the song. Sheedy sings about that sensation that you get when you have romantic feelings for someone and you are in their presence. That feeling that while you are with that person you finally feel as though you have a purpose to your existence. A powerful concept.
Don’t mind me, I was just thinking of you
Calvin Harris – This Is What You Came For [feat. Rihanna] (This Is What You Came For (Single), 2016)
People who know me might consider this to be a strange inclusion on such a list, but again this is a song that contains an idea that I find very powerful. This is a song that dominated night outs during a certain period of my life in 2016 when its message was seemed extremely relevant.
The primary sentiment in the song references the idea of being in a nightclub with your romantic interest. What clicked with me was the way this was is presented by Harris. The song talks about how your romantic interest is wanted by everyone else in the place and yet all she (in this case) wants is you. I love this idea, quite simply because it reminds me of when I used to experience that feeling of the most perfect person in the club, in your eyes, wanting to be with you and only you. I honestly can not think of anything that is more exciting or exhilarating than that moment.
And everybody’s watching her, but she’s looking at you
The War On Drugs – Red Eyes (Lost In The Dream, 2014)
There is actually no way to articulate what the guitar solo at the end of this does to me. Just listen.
You won’t get lost inside it all
R.E.M. – Nightswimming (Automatic for the People, 1992)
This song pretty much sums up my whole sentiment of this post. This is a nostalgic lament by Michael Stipe as he remembers going swimming at night in his past. He talks about the simplicity of this act while still leaving the listener in no doubt that these moments left a profound effect on his emotional and personal development.
Ultimately that is all any of us want. We want moments where we finally feel at one with our place in the grander scheme of things. We want such moments to be worthy of becoming memories. We want those memories to become something that we will want to look back on in the years that follow.
As well as the heartfelt lyrics in this song, it is difficult to think of another piece of music where the instrumentation fits the sentiment as well as this.
Remembering that night…
Jack’s Mannequin – The Mixed Tape (Everything in Transit, 2005)
The song only entered my consciousness after it featured at the end of an episode of One Tree Hill back in 2005. At the time it did not really hit me just how good a song it was but in recent years it has returned to my consciousness in a big way.
In recent years I have realised that I like sending people songs as a means of getting to know them better. It is my personal belief that our music taste will help to teach other people more about us than we will ever be able to actually articulate through conversation. By judging someones reaction to a piece of music that you like and have shared, you get a sense of the inner working of their thinking and to find that you have this compatibility with someone is very powerful.
The Mixed Tape is a song about demonstrating to someone just how much you understand them by sending them songs that you know that they will like. The wait to hear their verdict is always an exciting, if slightly nerve wracking, period.
It’s like I wrote every note with my own fingers