This is the second post of a series that will explore lyrics from the 90’s onward. The first can be found here.
In my opinion lyrics add the most substance to a song’s worth as art. Unfortunately, most songs that have come out recently (well, for a while now) are just plain terrible. This of course is a subjective opinion, and if you don’t like it… well then you better not put a ring on it.
As a writer I am fascinated by words and stories, and songs often transcend mere storytelling by being textured with so many levels of passion. These levels include songwriting, melodies, harmonies, performance and the likes. I’ve put together a little list of 10 songs written since the 90’s (I don’t want to fight with Queen, Dylan or Lennon loyalists) that I think contain some of the best lyrics, and have shared my personal favourite lines as well. Give them a read and a listen, and feel free add to the list in the comments. There is obviously so much that I have missed.
I am a Scientist – Guided by Voices
I am a scientist – I seek to understand me
all of my impurities and evils yet unknown
I am a journalist – I write to you to show you
I am an incurable
and nothing else behaves like me.
We Used to Vacation – Cold War Kids
I’m just an honest man
Provide for me and mine
I give a check to tax deductible charity organizations
Two weeks paid vacation,
won’t heal the damage done
I need another one.
Saint Simon – The Shins
After all these implements and text designed by intellects
So vexed to find evidently there’s just so much that hides
And though the saints dub us divine in ancient fading lines
Their sentiment is just as hard to pluck from the vine
Fight Test – The Flaming Lips
I don’t know where the sun beams end
and that the star light begins; it’s all a mystery…
Jesus Don’t Want me for a Sunbeam – The Vaselines (popularised by Nirvana)
Jesus don’t want me for a sunbeam
Sunbeams are never made like me
My defeat sleeps top to toe with her success
Mykonos, Fleet Foxes
And you will go to Mykonos
With a vision of a gentle coast
And a sun to maybe dissipate
Shadows of the mess you made
A Wild Pack of Family Dogs, Modest Mouse
My dad he quit his job today, well I guess he was fired but that’s ok
And I’m sittin’ outside my mudlake, waiting for the pack to take me away
Two Headed Boy (part one), Neutral Milk Hotel
In the parlour with a moon across her face
And through the music he sweetly displays
Silver speakers that sparkle all day
Made for his lover who’s floating and choking with her hands across her face
And in the dark we will take off our clothes
And they’ll be placing fingers through the notches in your spine
Van Helsing Boombox, Man Man
Only time will tell if I’ll allow the
scenery around to
eat me alive.
When anything that’s anything becomes nothing, that’s everything
And nothing is the only thing you, ever seem to have
The Breeze, Dr. Dog – The whole damn song! But especially:
Are there dark parts to your mind?
Hidden secrets left behind?
Where no one ever goes
But everybody knows
It’s all right