Wherein I Discuss One of My Favorite Songs

by Noise Pollution

I don’t think I could tell you my favorite songs of all time in an ordered list. I don’t even think I could make an unordered top ten list. I’d be leaving out too much. The best I could do were I to actually attempt something like that is tell you my absolute favorite song and then follow it up with an unordered list of somewhere between forty and a hundred tracks.

That sounds super fucking boring. I really want to discuss my favorite music, and I think my previous format of scribbling down lyrics of songs I like in a completely non-committal way and then writing vague comments about them wasn’t working. I think instead, I’ll try to post about one individual song, artist, or album at a time, go relatively in-depth on it, and then maybe discuss a few songs surrounding that topic, too.

I wanted to start this off with a song that is a bit of an outlier when it comes to my usual tastes. A song that would definitely make my list is Brick by Ben Folds Five.

It’s not very similar to other songs that I like, but it’s fantastic. I really enjoy songs where my favorite artists slow things down and focus on one or two simple melodies and the lyrics, and in the case of Ben Folds, his slower piano-only stuff is kind of why I’m into his music in the first place.

I guess I should give just a bit of context for this song. It was released in 1997 on the album Whatever and Ever Amen. Folds wrote the song about an experience he had with a former girlfriend, when she got an abortion. The fact that it was released in 1997 is relevant here because, well, I was young when the song was released. I was four, actually. I heard it on the radio all the time, and enjoyed it back then, though for different reasons than I do now. I just thought it was pretty, and had a really odd interpretation of the lyrics that had nothing to do with anything sad. As it turns out, young kids aren’t really actively thinking about abortion and relationships and stuff all the time. After a good long run of radio airplay, I stopped hearing it so often and forgot the song even existed.

I don’t think I rediscovered the song until I was around fourteen or fifteen, when I started listening to a (fantastic, by the way) pop-punk band called Motion City Soundtrack. I fell in love with their album Commit This to Memory and quickly found their next release, Even if it Kills Me and listened to it feverishly for a while. I did a bit of digging on that album and found that the song The Conversation was written to sound like a Ben Folds song. [long aside here: they were pretty damn successful at capturing that sound, too. After finally listening to a bunch of Ben Folds’ music, I’ve found that quite a bit of their music was influenced by his work. If you’re looking for music with a similar vibe to him that isn’t directly ripping him off, they are the way to go.] That got me digging deeper until I realized that this song from my childhood was written by Folds.

I dug around in my basement and found an old copy of Whatever and Ever Amen, and while I found it hard to appreciate some of the music on the album, Brick and Cigarette (another quiet song off of the album) dug deep into my soul. Well, actually, in the case of Brick, it’s more like it was buried in there somewhere and finally surfaced right then.

So I’ll admit that quite a bit of my love for this song is nostalgia-based, but if it wasn’t actually good, I wouldn’t still love it now. The song is beautiful and tackles a heavy subject without really condemning anyone or anything. Folds just expresses what it was like for him, without over-analyzing it or trying to make some sort of commentary. He puts you in his shoes and keeps you from stepping out of them with his poetic verse and calm, simple piano line.

I love this song. I’ve learned how to play it on guitar, and do frequently. The high notes in that song are the only high notes in any song I really make an effort to sing without just changing the octave. It goes kind of into falsetto range. If it weren’t this particular song, I’d feel embarrassed about it, but I want to do this song justice every time I play it.