A Student’s Soundtrack II

A Student’s Soundtrack II

So I started in the previous post by talking about new albums that have kept me company during the endless months of revision. However, these times have also called for some familiar favourites, the type of albums that instantly make me think of home, so I thought I’d highlight a couple of personal favourites that offer that unique brand of comfort.

When it comes to music at home I have two very distinct settings for my memories. One is in the car on family road trips (most often to Cornwall) where the CDs would go some way to shortening the seemingly never-ending drive. The other is just back at home in the kitchen while sitting down for family meals. These, for me, are albums that bring back memories I would never want to part with and I am very grateful that they have this power over me.

Hejira, Joni Mitchell

As soon as I hear the first notes of ‘Coyote’ my mind is flooded with nostalgia. When I was listening to the album in the car as a child I wasn’t so concerned with the lyrics but found a pleasant calm in just enjoying the rhythm and melody that these songs provide. Often there’s a sense of comfort in the way that Joni Mitchell is almost talking to the listener as though sharing some well-kept secret. It is so easy to get lost in.

If ever there was an album that was poetry put to the most beautiful melodies, this would be it. There are many cases within this, Joni Mitchell’s eighth album, where I still can’t quite work out how she makes the lyrics fit, but the relentless and effortless stream of words that weave through these tracks never feels out of place.

There’s a jazz influence to this album that sets it apart from her earlier work. It offers a sort of freedom and reflects the overall story of this album as it talks a lot about the open road and travelling. I’ve already used this word but effortless is the best description here. Its complicated forms must have taken so much planning and skill to perfect but the execution forgoes all of this and hides it in the background, far away from the spotlight and the listener’s attention.

In the title track, ‘Hejira’, the opening lyrics offer a perfect description of the album and its themes:

I’m travelling in some vehicle
I’m sitting in some café
A defector of the petty wars
That shell shock love away

There’s an escape that the listener can share in and be taken away by. The idea of some vehicle and some café make the whole scene very vague but, for me, that’s the best thing about this short quote. There is no exclusive club here; anyone could be that defector of the petty wars, whatever they may be, and listening to this album on long car journeys was certainly more appropriate than I ever comprehended when I was younger.

Daisies of the Galaxy, Eels

Listening to Daisies of the Galaxy, I’ve always found it to be perfectly peaceful while carrying messages of the deepest melancholy. If lines like, ‘Don’t take any wooden nickels when you sell your soul’, sung over gentle fingerpicking acoustic guitar don’t get that across, then I don’t know what will.

I like how Mark Oliver Everett (or E as he is known) just comments on the everyday lives of people while tying it into his own experiences. There always seem to be characters populating his songs that are instantly relatable and he often takes on the position of an observant narrator in the midst of it all. His songs become stories, mostly gloomy ones, but having learnt more about his troubled past, there is a new power to these tales of failures and triumphs.

Within Daisies of the Galaxy, there is quite a wide range of styles with different levels of reliance on guitars, drums and keyboards (with the occasional brass break) throughout the songs. Somehow there is a coherence to it though. There are similar effects throughout despite each song’s unique elements so there is an overall sound that is consistent throughout and carried by E’s vocals.

When I was younger I was slightly obsessed with the track ‘I Like Birds’ because of its simplicity. Listening to the lyrics now, there is much more to it. There’s the idea of being fed up with all of society’s frauds and rules but the strumming guitar, hoarse vocals and bouncing rhythm to it were enough to mask all of that when I was younger.

There are many songs on this album that could rely on their riffs alone and, in doing so, still create a great album. They don’t though, as Eels will add layers of instrumentation and vocals to create a complete piece while there is often a simple riff that will remain in the background throughout any given track. In this album, there is also a certain feeling of chaos. A fair few of the songs end with a complete breakdown of the consistent elements that have run up to that point and sudden breaks or changes in style characterise this album as well as any feature could.

Looking at the cover of Daisies of the Galaxy and listening to the songs at only a surface level, you could very easily be led to believe they were completely innocent songs or almost children’s nursery rhymes. I think ‘Flyswatter’ (possibly my favourite song on the album) is a classic example of this. It begins with gentle chimes that have that lulling effect but soon the lyrics come in and then there is the addition of distorted guitar at the chorus that completely changes the tone of the song, adding more sinister and rocking elements.

This is an album that will always carry memories of home back to me but even without that sentimental attachment, it is definitely an album worth checking out. Just make sure not to be put off by any bizarre moments as there are plenty in the album. Overall, they only add to the experience and, once you get to know them, I’m sure they will become your favourite moments (as they are for me).

So once again, that’s that. There has always been background music in my life from childhood to the present days of student life but some have crossed the dividing time better than others. These two albums are priceless in that collection and timeless in their appeal to me.

Until next time.

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Jack Davey

I’m an undergraduate physics student but have been determined not to lose my passion for writing during my time at university. With that as my motivation, I’ll write about anything that interests me just for the sake of writing and to share my thoughts with the world. Mostly this includes books and reading but my list of interests seems to be in a constant state of flux so I really couldn’t say what I’ll end up writing about.

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