Bands of Words and Letters

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By Drew Waldo > Senior > English and Journalism > University of Maryland, Photo By Riley Blanks > Sophomore > Sociology and Studio Art (Photography) > University of Virginia 

The theme this week is: books. Featuring songs with books, reading, authors, titles or basically any other literary association to them. The occasion being the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference in D.C. this week, which has featured events at the Black Cat as well as other venues.

 
Predictably, it starts off a little precious, while sticking with indie music from when “indie” was the cool moniker. But that does not mean the music is devoid of anything rawer.
 
Like a few other artists on this list, Belle and Sebastian have been writing songs suited for going to the library for a long, long time.
 
The whole album In An Aeroplane Over the Sea is supposed to be, loosely, about Anne Frank. Though the allusions may be difficult to spot on most of the record, “Holland 1945” is fairly explicit. Why is this song, so ingrained in the minds of many music listeners for 15 years, relevant? Jeff Magnum plays his first actual, not-a-surprise show at All Tomorrow’s Parties this fall. Which is absolutely mind-blowing.
 
For the unfamiliar, Smith, better known as John Allyn Berryman, was a major American poet of the 20th century. This song ends Okkervil River’s magnum opus to the life of an artist The Stage Names, and follows much of Berryman’s career to great, depressing effect.
 
This could be a stretch, but when lead singer James Murphy says “You forgot what you meant when you read The Descent” most anyone who reads inserts their own title for whatever book defines their own bygone era. It is kind of pathetic, to think of the kind of nostalgia we come up with for things we read just five years ago, but then again, so is a eight minute song about no longer being the hippest hipster (This song is great, for the record).
 
The duo just released their first album in years, but they have not lost any of the weirdness that made Kurt Cobain love them. “Oliver Twisted” being just one example of how they choose to title their songs.
 
Unrequited love, suicide, an overarching gloom: all literary things featured in this Smith’s track from way back when.
 
Spoon join Belle and Sebastian on this list as another band who would not look out of place working your local bookstore (if those still exist). The track, from Girls Can Tell, is instrumental, and therefore good reading music, or fit to soundtrack a film. Whichever you have time for.
 
This band has a few songs that could be on this list, but this anthem single about the singer losing his virginity in the library is probably the best, not to mention brightest, considering the sorrowful nature of books in music. “Young Adult Friction” speaks to a more hopeful, confused sort of depression. Listeners can almost hear the singer overcoming shyness as the breakdown builds into the confident refrain (confident enough for puns), “Don’t check me out.”
 
“Fuel,” as in to read by a fire, not to burn books in one. Though it is impossible to imagine M. Ward ever being alone, much less playing 45s and sitting by a fire alone, this song presents the perfect shopping list for all the literary loners out there.
 
This acoustic rendition of the Wilco track is a testament to Tweedy’s general musical prowess, breathing pulsating life into the bare acoustic take. Even the joking falsetto he does could be taken seriously, maybe. The lyrics speak to impotency of heady religion, who’s practitioners “don’t know nothing, about my soul.”
 
A lot of Titus Andronicus songs could be labeled as an existential crisis. The band is essentially a voice to disaffected youth worn out with being the “disaffected youth.” At one point the whole band screams, “Cause we don’t give a fuck about nothing.” They resolve on a brighter note, of sorts, but naturally, they do not seem so sure.
 
The list will end on a mellower note. The Decemberists are by now well known as a “literary” band, as if that were a genre itself. Most of their songs are stories, though as far as stories go, nothing compares to “A Mariners Revenge.” Anyways, hopefully this song can remind us all enough about summer, and wine, that we survive this winter.
 

 

 

 

College Magazine Staff

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