Listening Exercises with Beal

Sarah Beal

I’ve never really been able to say “this is my favorite song” without “right now” directly following it. Realistically speaking, I do have all-time-best-ever-top-rated songs; to name a few: “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel, “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers, “Never Let You Go” by Jakaranda, “Soul Meets Body” by Death Cab for Cutie, “I’m Gonna Be (500 miles)” by The Proclaimers, “Ohh Ahh” by the Grits, and “The Thing About It” by Sweatshop Union. Nevertheless, I can’t say – for certain – that I like these better than some much more contemporary (as in today) picks.

It actually seems more fitting to refer to them as recent obsessions. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about; I doubt there are many of you who haven’t found at least one song you deemed worthy of the endless repeat phenomenon, regardless of how much it annoyed your roommate.

And it’s perfectly all right to have pondered whether it really was that disrespectful to leave one headphone in during class just to keep listening (as long as you didn’t actually do it). Maybe that’s a little extreme, but I must confess I’ve had the urge to regress to the early 90s and walk down Persson steps with a boom-box on my shoulder, blasting a recent obsession for all to enjoy (baggy jeans, wife-beater, and flannel shirt not included).

But what is it exactly about these songs that make us well, fall in love with them? And how the hell do they survive the obsessive overplaying? Whether you just heard it for the first time or you rediscovered it thanks to “party shuffle,” it doesn’t really matter. Something happens when that song hits your ear drums; in a word, it’s serendipitous – right person, right state-of-mind and the right song. For instance, hearing “Moving Too Fast” by Supafly Inc. would not have the same effect early on a Sunday morning after getting fried at The Bacon (pun intended), but you might rediscover “wild horses” by the Rolling Stones instead – and it just works.

Still, most of the responsibility falls on the song itself. For me, it’s usually the beat and melody that first pique my interest. Songs that I can’t help but move and sing along to are pretty fine in my book. The lyrics can even further impress me to obsess over a song. I have a certain place in my heart for incredible lyrics such as those of “Australia” by The Shins; they require in-depth interpretation in order to uncover the underlying themes, over-arching meaning, hidden symbolisms, and clever allusions, which won’t come to you on the first or even the tenth play.

Other lyrics can just perfectly define your mood or feelings at that time in your life. Or maybe it’s the artist that makes you love it so much. Even the person who recommended it to you (ahem…) could have an effect over whether you’ll love it. Overall, songs that warrant obsession, are typically those where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Synergistic songs are those that just tend to resonate with us, but we’re not exactly sure why.

Whatever it really is, I hope your recent obsessions survive the obsession. But if I can offer you any advice, play it till you can’t take it any more – why fight it? Then hopefully, there’s the chance (although minimal) that you’ll forget about it, and you can rediscover it months down the road and experience an echo effect of gratification. So maybe we can’t really put a finger on why we love a song right now, but I’ll admit I’ve beaten the matter to death, and I guess my friend Gavin had it right: that he obsesses over a song simply because “it’s just a dope tune.”

Listen to:

1. “None Shall Pass” by Aesop Rock

2. “Boy with a Coin” by Iron & Wine

3. “Constance” by Mr. J Medeiros

4. “Take Me to the Hospital” by The Faint

5. “Wet and Rusting” by Menomena

6. “Do you love me still?” by The Kooks

7. “Hush” by Kula Shaker

8. “Never More” by Super Furry Animals

9. “Let It Go” by Brit and Alex

10. “If I Had Eyes” by Jack Johnson

11. “Hometown Glory” by ADELE

12. “GirlKillsBear” (Low-Fi-Fnk Remix) by SoftLightes (Shout Out Thanks (S.O.T.) to Nikki Sansone)

13. “Come Around “(feat. Timbaland) by M.I.A. (S.O.T. Kimmy Cunningham)

14. “Face” (switch remix) by The Black Ghosts (S.O.T. Julie Geifman)