Happy Songs.

So my friend Madelyn, who blogs over at A Dinosaur in Brooklyn, shared a playlist the other day of songs that made her happy.  It’s a good list, too, and I would really reccomend clicking through.  (The Noah and the Whale song is excellent, and “Walking to Do” is a top-notch Ted Leo song.)  I liked the idea, so I decided to do the same, but after I made my playlist I realized that some of the songs on my list aren’t happy songs at all.  A few (particularly the last two) are downright grim. So this is more just a playlist of songs I’m currently listening to and obsessing over, some of which make me happy and others of which I just love.

There’s a bit of overlap with the “2008, For Me, in Music” post I wrote a week or two ago, but not, really, all that much.  And this time I figured out how to embed a handy little lala playlist, so you can listen to the songs right here in the browser, and you don’t have to click around YouTube for everything you want to hear.

1. “Birds” – Frida Hyvonen. This song is two-and-a-half minutes of pure sunshine, and I love it despite the fact that I have no earthly idea what it’s about.  The song is introduced by a little cello bit, and there’s two incredible builds in the song, and also some little xylophone things.  The only thing that I don’t like about it is that the ending always comes too quick.

2. “The Ballad of Bird Love” – Blitzen Trapper.  This playlist has a lot of birds on it so far.  I didn’t really plan that.  Regardless, this bouncy, piano-based ditty is a bonus track off of Furr, that was packaged along with the iTunes version of the album.  Goodness knows why they left it off the album proper, because its just as strong as anything else on the album, and its become the most recent BT song I listen to constantly.  Plus, for whatever reason, I love that the piano is miked such that you can hear the actions moving inside.

3. “Raquel” – Neon Neon.  Neon Neon’s first (and only) album is called Stainless Style, and it’s a concept-album based on the life of millionaire playboy Jim De Lorean, who invented the gull-winged, time-traveling car that bears his name.  This song, then, is an absolutely earnest love song to Raquel Welch, and it somehow manages to work perfectly.  This is what electronic pop should sound like.

4. “I Don’t Know” – Lisa Hannigan.  Hannigan is best-known for being that-chick-who-sings-with-Damien-Rice, but her first album as a solo artist is better than anything Rice ever put out.  And this song is a gentle, lush song, with a rat-a-tat drum beat and a strangely triumphant trumpet.  It’s the kind of song that makes you wish you knew the person who recorded it.

5. “Woods” – Bon Iver.  The Blood Bank EP, Bon Iver’s follow-up to last year’s For Emma, Forever Ago, is a decidedly mixed bag.  But this song is possibly the best, most unexpected use of AutoTune ever, and once you get used to the strangeness of the whole thing, the song becomes incredibly beautiful.  It’s a bit like Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek”, but better.

6. “Wagon Wheel” – Chris Podeka.  This is a cover of an Old Crow Medicine Show song, and OCMS based the chorus of the song on a fragment of a never-finished Dylan song.  So “Wagon Wheel” has a long history of interpretation.  Podeka’s throaty, vibrato-filled voice suits the song perfectly, and like the best covers, it makes you hear the song in a totally different way.

7. “Jazzy Fur Elise” – Pianafiddle.  I don’t know where I got this.  I found it in my iTunes library a couple days ago.  But it was a happy accident, because this piano-and-violin duet takes the original, well-known Beethoven song and, after a beautiful classical-style intro, turns the whole song on its head.

8. “No More To Leave You Behind” – The Infamous Stringdusters.  Obviously, I’m a sucker for a good fiddle.  And banjo.  But this song is bluegrass at its best – technically accomplished, driving, and unabashedly sentimental.  The Infamous Stringdusters are relatively young guys, but they sound like they’ve been playing this stuff for decades.

9. “Grounds for Divorce” – Elbow.  Elbow have had to battle a lot of unfair preconceptions throughout their career – they’ve been called, at various stages, Radiohead-lite and Coldplay knock-offs, despite being older (as a band) than either.  Their newest album, The Seldom Seen Kid, is also their best, but part of what I like about this song is that it doesn’t sound like anything else on the album – it’s a stomping, bluesy, Led-Zeppelinesque thing, and it comes completely out of left field.  But in a good way.

10. “High Lonesome” – The Gaslight Anthem.  I like that the Gaslight Anthem aren’t afraid to acknowledge their influences, even when those influences aren’t exactly “cool”.  For example, this song lifts lines both from Bruce Springsteen (cool, or at least respectable) and the Counting Crows (not at all cool).  But who cares?  It’s enthusiastic, straightforward rock and roll, and if it owes a bit too much to people who came before, then it at least takes what was best about those artists.