This will be a series of letters about songs I love. Here's why I'm writing them and what you can expect.
Growing up, all I wanted was to be immersed in music. I wanted to listen to music, to play music, to write music, and to write about music. Songs were what animated me, what made me feel most alive.
From songs I learned about love and heartbreak, and about the longings and regrets that can shape a person. I learned, as well, some of what language can do. It was lyrics, not books, that first made me excited about words.
Music, for a long time, was everything.
Life, of course, intervened, with its various surprises, obligations, and Important Decisions – sensible and otherwise. I did indeed listen to a lot of music over the years, and I wrote and played some too. But I didn’t often write about it.
I’d like to change that.
This newsletter (is that the right word?) will be about songs. Not in general, but in particular. Each post will focus on a single song. I’ll think about what makes it tick: how it does what it does. I’ll write about lyrics, since words are my thing. But I’ll write, too, about the interaction between those words and the music they inhabit – the synergy, if you like, and sometimes the friction.
I’m not interested in dispelling any mystery or magic. The best songs repay you for close attention. They repay you for listening again. But a song will never tell you everything it knows.
The songs I’ll write about will be those I enjoy. Some will be songs I’ve known most of my life, while others will be brand new. Inevitably, personal taste will narrow the selection. Defining one’s taste by genre tends to be reductive and unsatisfying, but the songs I’ll choose are likely to be those labelled rock, or country, or folk, or pop, or Americana, or blues, or punk, or maybe even calypso. Often, they will belong to that most sprawling and meaningless of genres: ‘singer-songwriter’. I’ll try my best to keep them diverse.
In each post, I’ll briefly introduce the artist, then let you listen to the song. Below, I’ll share some thoughts about how and why that song works. I’ll also include an audio version of the text so that, if you prefer, you can listen to the words alongside the music. Some posts will be short, others will offer a little more depth. None should take more than ten minutes to read.
I hope you enjoy these song-letters (is that a better term?). If you subscribe, they’ll arrive in your email inbox every couple of weeks. I’m looking forward to writing them.
Please do leave comments of your own below each post, or write back and let me know what you thought. You can even suggest songs I should consider for future letters. I’ll promise I’ll give them a listen!