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Lyrics, Lyrics, Lyrics! Ten Examples of Songwriting Genius!

I like music.

I like music and lyrics.

I like music and lyrics that make me go wow-wee!

I like music and lyrics that make me go wow-wee and cor blimey!

I like music and lyrics that make me go wow-wee and cor blimey and here are ten examples that do just that.

1.   Best Kept Secret - Laura Veirs

I never fail to be touched by these lyrics.  You can tell in Veirs' voice that it's real and beautifully, beautifully true.

December, I was lost in a darkness I couldn't shake, 
Called you in California and you answered right away, 
You answered right away, 
You picked up right away. 

2.  Boyfriend - Marika Hackman 

A line that's perfectly delivered.  Sound and meaning in perfect synchronicity.  

You came to me for entropy and I gave you all I had. 

3.  K. - Cigarettes After Sex

A modern-day love song.  I'm always drawn to narratives in music and I love listening to a song with a strong sense of place.  This one ticks both of those boxes.  It also sounds beautiful.  

I remember when I first noticed that you liked me back, 
We were sitting down in the restaurant waiting for the check, 
We had made love earlier that day with no strings attached, 
But I could tell that something had changed how you looked at me then.  

4.  Your Young Voice - King Creosote 

King Creosote's ethereal voice and the repetition of a small but significant admission is one to be cherished. 

It's your young voice that's keeping me holding on, 
To my dull life, 
To my dull life. 

5.  Don't Let the Kids Win - Julia Jacklin 

There's a lot to love on this album, but I plucked this line out as a favourite.  Real heart-in-mouth stuff, especially the line about walking your sister down the isle.  And I haven't even got a sister! 

And don't let the time go by 
without sitting your mother down 
and asking what life was like for her 
before you came to be around 

6.  Baby Birch - Joanna Newsom 

I first heard Newsom sing this live at Somerset House in 2008 and it's made it's way steadily up the list of my favourite Joanna Newsom songs ever since.  No one in music can write lyrics as poetic as she can.  It puts the majority of poets to shame.  A songwriter in a class of her own. And seeing this performance of it is a great privilege of this age.   

There is a blacksmith and there is a shepherd and there is a butcher boy,
and there is a barber who's cutting and cutting away at my only joy.
I saw a rabbit as slick as a knife and as pale as a candlestick, 
and I thought it'd be harder to do, but I caught her and skinned her quick. 
Held her there, kicking and mewling, upended unspooling, unsung and blue -
told her wherever you go, little runaway bunny, I will find you.
And then she ran, as they're liable to do.  

7.  Horizon - Aldous Harding 

There's just something about the way Harding sings this one line.  It's more like a possession than a performance.  And I can't work out whether Harding is the demon possessing the song or whether the song is the demon possessing her. 

Here is your princess, here is the horizon.  
Here is your princess, here is the horizon.

8.  Sleepwalker - Julie Byrne

When this first came on the radio, I was convinced by the end of the guitar intro that this was a Laura Marling song.  The guitar picking is exceptional and really evocative of that Marling style.   Then another voice began "I lived my life alone before you" and I was sold instantly.  There's a confidence about that Leonard Cohen-esque first line that made me fall in love within forty seconds.  And the album cover may be the most beautiful I've ever seen.  

I lived my life alone before you,
and with those I'd never succeeded to love, 
and I grew so accustomed to that kind of solitude.
I fought you - I did not know how to give it up.  

9.  Night After Night - Laura Marling

I couldn't leave Laura out.  I've been listening to this young woman for a very long time.  The new album is a slight return to form so I was going to add some lyrics from 'Nothing, Not Nearly'.  But I frequently go back to her first three albums, which are packed with modern classics.  So here are some lyrics from 'What He Wrote' from the 2010 album 'I Speak Because I Can'.  Few lyrics run as deeply as these do. So good in fact that I was left open-mouthed by the sheer quality of this song when I rediscovered it last year.  To my mind she's the most talented British singer-songwriter of her generation.  

Begged him to stay in my cold wooden grip.
Begged him to stay by the light of this ship.
Me fighting him, fighting like fighting dawn, 
and the waves came and stole him and took him to war.  

10.  Rotterdam by The Beautiful South 

And finally a fun one: 

The whole place is pickled, 
The people are pickles for sure, 
And no one knows if they've done more here
Than they would ever do in a jar.  


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