February 11, 2010

Wipe Away Your Tears With Pop Music

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A fairly new acquaintance of mine and I were talking music the other night and discovered, happy coincidence, that we have similar tastes. Perhaps it is something of a clichéd getting-to-know-you question, but I asked her what sort of music she liked. It went something like this: “What sort of music do you listen to, Becky?” She said, “a range,” which is, as you are probably aware, the standard answer to an equally standard question. We eventually narrowed down “a range” (be honest, however often you answer “everything” to this question, you do not listen to everything … no one listens to everything), to folk, folk rock, indie rock. Hey, sounds familiar!

Interestingly enough, at that moment, the “Bad Day” song, — “you had a bad day, the camera don’t lie, I have bad grammar, blah de blah blah” — you know the one, came on the radio, and we both, shamefully, sang along. This, of course, led to a discussion of catchy, cheerful music, which we both like. I called it a guilty pleasure, she said I shouldn’t feel guilty. So I admit it freely to you. Yes, I know the words to the “Bad Day” song, though I couldn’t tell you who sings it. I also know Miley Cyrus’ mountain song. So sue me. Or don’t please — I’m really broke.

You might be wondering where I’m going with this. I’m going towards a list of happy, cheerful, catchy music for your listening pleasure. As you may know, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and for those of you who are bumming (or whose boyfriends/girlfriends/love interests live six hours away — I feel ya), I firmly believe you should not wallow with emo teen-angsty musical stylings, but should instead, embrace the lightheartedness. And if your boyfriend/girlfriend/love interest is present and accounted for, you can buy some sunflowers and bon-bons and make a cheerful mix tape for him/her/it. Yay!

Australian indie-pop guru Ben Lee is great for happy, catchy music. “Catch My Disease” is probably my favorite song of his, and it’s romantic in a kid-in-a-candy-store kind of way, so it will even work for your mix tape (CD, DVD, whatever). It was also the single of the year in Australia in 2005, and has been featured on Grey’s Anatomy and Scrubs, so it’s got some street cred. Yes, I realize Scrubs has absolutely no street cred. Lee has seven solo albums, the most recent of which came out in February of last year, a few months after his absolutely adorable daughter was born. So he’s obvi got a lot to be happy about. Let his cheery tunes make you happy too.

Another good one to check out is the semi-absurdist Of Montreal, who are the indie-happy to Ben Lee’s folk-happy. Of Montreal’s sound is a little more rocky, and at first listen, really seems like it should be classified much, much lower on the catchy scale, but pay close attention to what your toes and your head are doing while you listen cuz I bet they’re bobbing, tapping, generally rocking out, etc. You can also check out an awesome YouTube video of them covering the Jackson Five with Beyonce’s baby sis, Solange, who they’ve, in keeping with their own tradition, dressed up in some sort of sparkly, gold, winged, cape thing. And give “Gronlandic Edit” a listen while you’re at it.

If you favor jazzy-catchy (with some partly melancholy pretty thrown in), British one-man-band Jamie Cullum is definitely for you. Cullum’s got five albums, including one from last year, though I think my favorite is the 2003 release Twentysomething. Cullum mixes originals with re-imaginings — some of classic jazz tunes done up a whole new way, some show tunes turned jazz tunes, and, of course, some Kanye, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, etc. rendered in gentlemanly jazz. It’s pretty awesome. And catchy! Which is why it’s on this list. Coincidence? I think not.

Finally, throw some Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz, Matt Nathanson and Josh Radin (you know the classic happy radio men) on your mix tape and you’re good to go. But don’t pay too much attention to that line in Jason Mraz’s major hit about a God-forsaken right to be loved because it makes no sense whatsoever and has driven me crazy for over a year now. If you prefer group sounds, add some Coldwar Kids, Phoenix or Phantom Planet into the mix, and you’re really, truly good to go. Happy V-day lovers, friends and fellow loners!

Original Author: Julia Woodward