An international take on an American playlist

ENgLIST contributor

The opening notes of “Call Me the Breeze” by J. J. Cale immediately transfer the listener to the era of blues and rock, with both music genres mixing together to give the song that special sound that can only be considered “American.” The simple lyrics of the song give the impression of riding down the highway in the South with the windows down and the breeze ruffling your hair as you listen to the radio turned up as loud as it can go to really feel that 12-bar blues guitar riff. In general, an experience we would probably all like to have. 

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On the other hand, Childish Gambino’s “Have Some Love” does not build on impressionism as much as J. J. Cale’s song. “Have Some Love” is essentially a plea for people to love each other as brothers because the times are getting rougher, all while the funky bass riff in the background provides a constant reminder that we can have some fun and dance even in the worst of times. It certainly seems that Childish Gambino knows the solution to all our problems and it might just be love. We should totally listen to him. In more ways than one. 

Kanye West proposes a different reaction for when the world gets tough, and it has to do with remembering how free and happy we were as kids – certainly not how most of us are feeling now under the pressure of the modern world. The entire song is therefore in juxtaposition with real life, which is carried through the rhythm and especially highlighted by the sound of an arcade pinball machine in the background. Those were the good old days! 

The new wave song “This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)” by Talking Heads definitely carries some of that 1980s tune, especially the short bursts of synth as the singer tells us about the power of love. It is also incredibly interesting to read the comments under the YouTube video of this song, with people claiming how this is a “feel-good” melody or that it brings forth happy memories of their loved ones. I guess this has something to do with the almost hypnotic melody, where the riffs keep repeating and there is really no polyharmony to be heard. Some would call that a bad song, I am going to call that an exercise in hypnotizing people into happiness and love. 

“Big Me” by Foo Fighters is probably more interesting to watch than to listen to. It has to do with the video being a parody on Mentos advertisements. It was so popular that fans even started throwing Mentos at the band on their concerts whenever they would play that song. The music itself is nothing special; it carries that Foo Fighters’ pop rock tune throughout the verses and the chorus with no guitar solos that usually make rock songs so popular. The lyrics themselves are a bit confusing, having no special meaning except for maybe trying to invoke a carefree attitude in the listener. 

Grouplove’s “Good Morning” certainly has a pop melody that entices the listener into bobbing their head but the lyrics are on the level of a middle school songwriter. It seems at moments that the lyrics were simply written to fit the beat, with no special regard for their meaning. 

That being said, I have heard worse. I would recommend this song for background noise while washing the dishes. 

I have never really been a fan of Paramore, but their song “Ain’t it Fun” has very good energy. This is mostly due to the lyrics, which are a “burn” for narcissists who think that the world revolves around them and are suddenly surprised when they figure out it isn’t so. It is certainly an important message, to realize that you are responsible for your own life and that the choices you make are your choices. 

I absolutely adore the intro to “Dearly Departed” by Shakey Graves! The drums are a great starting point for the later inclusion of vocals. The lyrics themselves fit the melody like a glove and the man-woman duet is absolutely fantastic. Esmé Patterson’s slightly husky voice reminds me of some of my favorite country love songs and it plays off Shakey’s vocal so perfectly, they might as well be meant for each other! 

Eddie Vedder is no less than a genius when it comes to songwriting, and “The Fixer” is a (good) proof of that. Pearl Jam’s music has that distinct energy of alternative rock that is amplified by Vedder’s vocals. This truly is a “feel-good” song, maybe also due to the varying beats in the chorus and the verses, but in general it’s just an all-around great song to play on a road trip!

Ok Go’s “The Writing’s on the Wall” has a terrific video (I have to say this first). It plays around with the composition and angles to create optical illusions and although it does not reflect what the lyrics are all about, the video goes along beautifully with the pop rock feel of the song. The distorted bass in the background gives it a 90s groove that emphasizes the playful and yet melancholic mood of the lyrics. All around a good listen and a good song to end this review with. 

This review is a contribution from ENgLIST poetry editor Ariela Herček, a student at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia. 

Read The Tropolitan’s review of Slovenian musicians here.

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