It’s time for another 21st-century mixtape and this time Hazel Davis has picked her tunes. You’re welcome.
For me it’s all about the lyrics. I mean, I love a good tune, but how many times can you listen to “Fallen angel, the broken arrow / She comfort me and ease my troubled mind“* without vomiting up your toast?
So unless you’re peddling out-of-your-head jangly pop or happy house, come back when you’ve read a book. And these dudes sure have.
Joan Armatrading – It Could Have Been Better
So, I unthinkingly added this song to a playlist of music to help a good friend get over a nasty breakup. She emailed me a few days later, thanking me for the “Armatrading sucker punch” that had meant she had cried for the first time since moving out.
In hindsight, I GUESS I should have thought twice before sending her this: “It could have been better / If you had held my hand and smiled at me or questioned why my face was so distorted.”
Still, chin up love, it could have been worse (it couldn’t, really). It’s hard to be cross with a pal when she’s pointed you in the direction of one of the most beautiful voices and songwriters in folk rock, right?
Johnny Flynn – The Wrote and the Writ
“They’re taking pictures of the man from God / I hope his cassock’s clean.” Nobody does words better than troubadour extraordinaire Johnny Flynn, ironically, given the subject matter here. This song is lyrically heartbreaking and musically interesting, like all his work. And I mean seriously, have a read of this: “If you’re born with a love for the wrote and the writ / people of letters your warning stands clear / Pay heed to your heart and not to your wit / don’t say in a letter what you can’t in my ear.”
I mean, Oh My God. This song also reminds me of a very dear friend who is no longer with me and every single time I listen to it (which is a lot) it makes me well up.
Grinderman – Palaces of Montezuma
You could basically insert any Nick Cave-penned song here and the job would be a goodun’, but any song that uses “the spinal cord of JFK wrapped in Marilyn Monroe’s negligee” (I KNOW) should be top of any list with the word “wonder” in it.
There’s not really much else to say about this absolutely banging song (which, incidentally is musically glorious too – yah who cares?) other than that the year it came out I listened to it 700 times a day every day and every mixtape (yeah, what of it?) I made that year had it on it.
Bruce Springsteen – For You
Ok, or, again, literally any Bruce song. But this one is tops. “Remember how I poured salt on your tongue and hung just out of reach?” “And it’s not that nursery mouth that I came back for / It’s not the way you’re stretched out on the floor.” Whaaaaa? He’s a fucking poet, man.
This is from his debut album, Greetings From Asbury Park (true fact: the greatest album ever made), which was a commercial disaster at the time of release – ARE YOU KIDDING ME 1970s ALBUM-BUYING PUBLIC? – and remains one of his best songs. I don’t know who it’s about but her “life was one long emergency” and I think about her A Lot.
Martin Carthy – His Name Is Andrew
“His name is Andrew / He works at the canning factory / He doesn’t have a friend / He chooses to wait alone for his life to end.”
Yes, you’re welcome.
Jessie J – Do It Like a Dude
This is totally not because I saw her live last weekend and am still reeling from the wondrousness of her crap jokes, earnest platitudes, utterly shitstorming, gobsmacking voice and the fact she did the first half of the gig in a Scarborough T-shirt. After the gig I Googled reviews of her live, just to see what others had said.
Somehow, they’re not all five-star and it genuinely doesn’t make sense.
Except, perhaps this song explains it. “Stomp, stomp, I’ve arrived….” boasted the opening lines of her YouTube hit and we all went, “Well WHO does she think she is? Beyoncé?”
No. She’s better than Beyoncé (yeah, I went there). She’s flawed, braggadocious and, as this song demonstrates so brilliantly (“Bong, bong, hey, pour me a beer / No pretty drinks, I’m a guy out here / Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ money like a pimp / My B.I.T.C.H.es on my dick like this.”), bloody hilarious.
Billy Bragg – Saturday Boy
Oh SO many to choose from in the Braggary but this, from Bragg’s (1984) Brewing Up With… album is groaning with wit and pathos: “In the end it took me a dictionary, to find out the meaning of ‘unrequited’.” “I never made the first team, I just made the first team laugh and she never came to the phone, she was always in the bath.”
OK, I could have chosen one of the anti-war or satirical songs but this one is lovely, sad and relatable. And brilliant. And now I wish I’d just chosen seven Billy Bragg songs. Is it too late to change?
*It’s from EVERY Noel Gallagher song.1948 Views
Hazel Davis is a freelance writer from West Yorkshire. She has two tiny children but the majority of her hours are taken up with thinking about Alec Baldwin singing sea shanties and the time someone once called her "moreishly interesting".