The Forever Songs Pt.4
Cilvia Demo – Isaiah Rashad (2014)
Whilst undoubtedly not a member of the TDE big three (Kendrick, Schoolboy, Jay Rock), Isaiah Rashad has carved out a lane for himself in blazed-out introspection and sun-soaked production. He’s become almost a cult, with his fans hanging on every release with unparalleled dedication, and his debut “Cilvia Demo” was met with widespread love and acclaim. The title track from his debut to me encapsulates everything that makes Isaiah Rashad a great artist. He has a style of rapping that’s undeniably southern, but that’s ease and smooth cadence can sometimes override the impressive lyricism. This song feel’s like a song that Rashad was always supposed to make, as he reminisces over his childhood in what seems to be a nonchalant way, revolving around drinking and picking up girls, but he intertwines this with motifs that transcend this – with reference to Emmet Till and troubles with his own father. These references are openly brief and surface level, but they serve to paint a picture of a childhood where the disgusting tragedy of Emmet Till and the troubles of fatherhood were never mentally too far away. This isn’t a display of crazy lyricism or storytelling, but it’s perfect Rashad: it has beautifully rich production, a catchy hook and a brilliant flow that endeavours to peel back the layers of this new artist. (This is also a must for night driving – just has that nocturnal feel to it)
Moonlight Mile – The Rolling Stones (1971)
This song gives me chills every time I listen to it, and I listen to it a lot. My favourite song from my favourite band, this song has unprecedented clout in my library. This song just resonates and moves me a lot simply because of the first time I heard it, and every time I have heard it since it takes me straight back to that exact time and place. Just coincidentally, when I first properly listened to this song all the way through, I was absolutely miles away from home, and I’m not sure why but I was in a mood were I was, simply put, very homesick. This song just so happens to be about that very concept, and ever since then I have associated it with a strong pull towards home. The song explores the concept of isolation and loneliness for a train bound traveller of Mick Jagger’s imagination, whose longing for home and lack of companionship is overwhelming him. This may have been a result of the relentless touring that The Stones had been enduring. This song to me is the most moving, and emotional track the Stones ever recorded, and it very rarely gets talked about as one of their greats. The raw and sombre acoustic guitar being comforted by the light piano keys is such a simple but overlooked marriage, and Mick Jagger’s lyricism has never been more poetic, with the lyrics “For I am sleeping under strange, strange skies…My dreams is fading down the railway line” leaving an especially profound impact. As strange as it sounds, this song found me at a real point of isolation in my life, which gives me a strong sentimental attachment. That aside it’s a beautiful song from one of the greatest bands in the world.
Love In The Sky – The Weeknd (2013)
This was the biggest surprise in this list for me. You might be wondering how it’s possible to surprise myself in a list of my personal favourite songs, but this song was no where in it for me. As I have discussed, the word “favourite” is endlessly complex in my opinion, and so when it came to The Weeknd I immediately went to House Of Balloons and began picking my favourite, only to realise that the song I probably return to most was this one right here. This song is not a classic Weeknd favourite at all, as it’s off his most misunderstood project. This debut album (the hugely influential “Trilogy” is classified as a mixtape) was considered a flop by most critics out there, as it was lacking a hit lead single, and it wasn’t particularly linear at all. Both those statements reign true, but this album captures a vibe like no other album. It’s almost like one gigantic song that bleeds in and out of the track list, overwhelmed by it’s own weight. The Weeknd wanted to make a midnight album that represented his melancholic, depressive outlet whilst touring in cities like Tokyo, and that he did. It’s impossible to talk about the song without making reference to the grandeur of this albums dark, disturbed and luscious soundscape. He was both inspired by his oriental surroundings, but deeply troubled by his increasingly alien, and inebriated sense of self. “Love In The Sky” is the centre piece of all this. First off, the beat is stupendous. The low-end thumping that kicks in triggers what sounds like a lighter spark of hi hats, snares and neo soul-inspired African drums. Add on top of that the dramatic guitar lead that melts over the mix, so downcast it’s almost out of tune, only to be picked up by the snyths that come in later. The Weeknd’s never faltering vocals take us on a journey as Abel talks to a mysterious girl, inviting her to join him in the clouds. On the surface these lyrics seem like a slightly blunt declaration of love, but Abel’s vocal tone and lyrics to me paint the picture of a star completely out of control, suspended in drugged up stupor, pleading for this far off girl to join him in “the sky”. The chorus “You’ll learn to love how to dream” suggests that he’s there and she must adapt, but the lack of response from this other party depicts a delusion in The Weeknd with his newfound fame. The song is just endlessly dramatic, sonically awesome, and vocally stunning.
C.R.E.A.M – Wu-Tang Clan (1993)
Some songs send a shock wave through the music industry that the fall out can never ever be returned to its previous state. This is the embodiment of that. Everything about the Wu-Tang Clan was different. They were from the forgotten borough Staten Island, there music revolved around the concept of oriental ninja flicks, and there was fucking nine of them. NINE. But that didn’t stop the genius. This song today is so iconic and has spawned so many babies that it’s authenticity may fade to our generation. But at the time, this song sounded like nothing out there. RZA’s production on this song is something to marvel over, the piano loop is everything Hip Hop stands for. It’s gritty, infectious, and has a strange beauty to it. The drums are slightly muffled and underproduced, yelling at the listener this this is music straight from the gutter, and there is no overproduced glamour to be found here. The bass line is fuzzy and full of static, thumping through the mix in all the right places. Raekwon’s first verse is one of the most famous to ever hit the paper. Method Man’s hook is beyond iconic, evening the slang word “C.r.e.a.m” and Inspectah Deck’s verse quickly catapulted him to the forefront of envied MCs. A once in a lifetime song that changed everything.
Plainsong – The Cure (1989)
There were two song’s off this epic that could have made this list. “Pictures Of You” would have been the obvious choice for me, as it was the first The Cure song I heard, I grew up with it, and it’s absolutely fantastic. But the opener Plainsong took it for me. This album is truly unique as it sounds like nothing I have heard before. It’s production is murky and watery to the point where first time listeners are lead to believe “this album needs a remaster”, and the lyrics are hauntingly depressing. Robert Smith’s troubled feelings towards turning forty resulted in an album in which every aspect is dedicated to the motif of depression and melancholy. The songs are self-indulgent, excessive and long but it works as they take their time to reveal their layers to the listener, and as they wax and wane they gain almost a sense of hypnosis, a feeling of total and utter musical consumption. “Plainsong” is the grand opening to this theatre of trauma and provides a taster of what’s to come. The quiet sounds at the start mirror that of a gentle breeze dancing through wind chimes and tempt the listener to reach for the volume button, but before they can do so there is a boom. The song churns into action, cascading over the listener with stunning force, resulting in a sensation that feels as though you are spiralling through this sonic universe all by yourself. The aquatic production makes it difficult to separate the instruments from their cloudy atmosphere, until the lead guitar croons in with an irresistible lick. By the time Robert Smith is feeling nice enough to join us in this world, the reader is completely under the spell of this album, and his poetic vocals act like rainfall, not overpowering the instrumentation, but simply joining it.
2009 – Mac Miller (2018)
Written about this song in a lot greater detail in my article on “Swimming” so will keep this very brief. Easily my favourite song by the late great Mac Miller, “2009” is a mixing pot of orchestra, hip hop and neo soul. The string section at the start is enough to bring tears to anyone’s eyes, and the way it peaks into the pretty piano section gets me every single time. It has all the components that make “Swimming” my favourite album of 2018, so check out the article.
What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye (1971)
The misconception (amongst our generation mostly) that Marvin Gaye was the sex symbol soul singer that made a few raunchy classics and that’s it is infuriating because “What’s Going On” exists. On Rolling Stones official “500 Greatest Albums Of All Time” this album is 6th. Let that sink in. That’s absolutely nuts, and completely justified. In a time where Motown was king, the American population loved Motown’s music as entertainment, but there was a real sense that African American artists were there for solely entertainment and couldn’t make intellectually stimulating or thematically complex music. Marvin Gaye took this and proved the world wrong. He dedicated his entire album to the treatment of African Americans in what was then the modern world, with “ghetto” perspectives on drugs, violence, and religion. The truly tragic thing about this album, and in particular this song, is that it’s painfully relevant today. This song is a cry for peace and love, with Marvin’s emotionally charged and one of a kind voice begging “for some loving here today”. But the lyrics that really hurt to listen to in these times are “Picket lines, Picket Signs, Don’t Punish Me with Brutality”. The fact that in 2020 those lyrics are arguably more relevant than ever is heart-breaking. Themes aside, musically this album is a dream. It’s right up there with “Dark Side Of The Moon” in terms of composition and cohesion, with each track seamlessly transitioning into the next. The title track is spellbinding. The horn section flying off into the night, Gaye’s luscious vocals, the groove, and the liberatingly gorgeous chorus is yet to be topped.
Love Is A Losing Game – Amy Winehouse (2006)
Being exposed to this album for the majority of my memorable life is truly a gift. Its sad how many artists on this list were gone before their time. To be completely honest this song could have been any song of off “Back to Black” because I really can’t choose, so I went with what I was feeling on the day. Amy Winehouse managed to make a contemporary soul album in the vein of Nina Simone when popular music was turning to the Usher’s and Craig David’s of the world. The audacity, genius and raw talent that comes through with songs like this one is truly something to behold. Not only did she create an album with nostalgic roots, she did so whilst bringing a contemporary authenticity, making it immensely popular as she did so. “Love Is A Losing Game” is an incredibly cool, chilled out slice of soul that highlights the painful futility of love in a way only Amy could. The lyrics are where the song really steals me, but the immaculate production is equally important, with every key, drum, string, horn and bass falling in their right place to make musical heaven.
The Rain Song – Led Zeppelin (1973)
When George Harrison told Led Zeppelin that he loved their music but they were missing a ballad, I wonder if he knew what they were going to hit him with, because “The Rain Song” is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard. I really can’t describe this 7-minute wonder to you so I won’t try, but it’s the musical equivalent of a plant growing. It’s slow, acoustic, beautiful, emotional and technically flawless at different points throughout this soundscape. Jimmy Page’s guitar work on this song proves why he is one of the most revered stars to every pick up the instrument, and he steals the show completely. This is his love letter to balladry and the humanity of the guitar. But the song wouldn’t be complete without Robert Plant’s endearing vocal control, dictating the energy and passion of the song as he goes. I have kept this one short, but not because there isn’t much to say, but just I have a lack of words for this song. It’s one of the most important on this list. They even pay homage to “Something” by The Beatles with the opening chords.
Life In Technicolor – Coldplay (2008)
To all the people that waste their breathe trying to impress everyone with their hate for “Coldplay”, please just be quiet. It’s not a substitute for a personality, and no it doesn’t make you musically more sophisticated. Are Coldplay derivative? Yes. Are Coldplay ground-breaking? No. Did they make some great songs back in the day? Yes. There we go that wasn’t hard was it?
“Viva La Vida” was the first album I ever bought when I was eight years old, and for that reason it holds a very special place in my heart. But it’s great for other reasons too, it was Coldplay’s first venture with Brian Eno, who revitalised their sound and pushed Christ Martin’s writing thematically. “Life In Technicolour” was probably the most beloved song of mine when I was a kid. It brings back a barrage of memories, and it’s just so feel good. It’s entirely instrumental, but it was the song that made me want to play the guitar. When the plucky riff punctures the spacey warmth that proceeds it, I’m still slightly moved. The song then plummets into a wall of sound with drums, vintage Coldplay “woahhsss”, and almost folk-influenced guitars. It’s over before it starts, but it’s a piece of my history.