Music

The 10 Best Songs About New Beginnings

Beck's 'Morning Phase'

In honor of a new year, here is a list of songs that can help nudge even the idlest of souls off the couch in 2015.

 
5. Radiohead -- “Separator“ (King of Limbs, 2011)

This transcendent song from Radiohead's last album, The King of Limbs, expresses a rare sentiment for the band, one of renewal. While Radiohead are constantly reinventing themselves, Thom Yorke rarely sings so frankly about transformation. In “Separator“, Yorke sings: “Finally I'm free of all the weight I've been carrying“, among other things, including a giant bird and falling out of bed. Altogether, the song is a divine experience that comes at the end of the album, which, as has been suggested, could mean “Separator“ is about death. The line "If you think this is over then you're wrong“ may have dual implications: perhaps it's about reincarnation, and also the fact that this is not the last we will hear from Radiohead.

 
4. David Bowie -- “Absolute Beginners“ (Absolute Beginners: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, 1986)

This David Bowie tune, recorded for the movie Absolute Beginners, was born out of Bowie's friendship with director, Julien Temple. Bowie also starred in the film in a supporting role as “Vendice Partners“. The film -- a musical shot in 1986 about London in the '50s -- came with a soundtrack that includes contributions by Sade, the Style Council, and Ray Davies. The title track by Bowie outshines the film and stands on its own as a song about starting out in the world naïve and unschooled.

The song, recorded in 1986, combines doo wop-style backing vocals with sweeping orchestral arrangements. It reached as high as number two in the UK charts and number 53 in the U.S. The accompanying video combines scenes from the film with scenes of Bowie walking city streets at night in classic noir fashion while chasing after a woman who looks straight out of Cats.

 
3. Tori Amos -- “Pretty Good Year“ (Under the Pink, 1994)

This song from Tori Amos's Under The Pink album isn't about the year ahead, but a reflection on a year that has just ended. While it wasn't released as a single in the U.S., the track reached number seven on the UK charts. The song starts out with a lovely piano line and Amos singing: “Greg, he writes letters and burns his CDs / They say he was something in those formative years“ before the song takes a grunge-like turn and guitars grind the song up.

Amos told The Baltimore Sun that the song was inspired by a guy named Greg from the UK, who wrote her to say his life was over. This was not new phenomenon to Amos. She told the paper that she had seen this complaint in many 20something men. “The tragedy of that for me,“ she stated, “just seeing that over and over again, got to me so much that I wrote Pretty Good Year." That may also explain the bizarre video that accompanies the song, depicting a beautiful young Amos in a white arm chair in a white room, interspersed with clips of her dancing among a group of 20something men wearing what looks like white paper bags on their heads.

 
2. Nina Simone -- “Feeling Good“ (I Put a Spell On You, 1965)

Originally written for the Broadway musical The Roar of the Greasepaint -- The Smell of the Crowd, this uplifting tune became Nina Simone's when she recorded it on her 1965 album I Put a Spell on You. At the time of the album's release, "Feeling Good“ wasn't put out as a single. When the song was used in the UK for a fabric softener ad in 1987, however, it became well known and was subsequently released as a single, which reached number 40 on the UK charts. Hearing the words: “It's a new dawn / It's a new day / It's a new life for me / I'm feelin' good“ in Simone's legendary croon is stimulus enough to get off the couch and do something you've always wanted to.

 
1. Beck -- “Waking Light“ (Morning Phase, 2014)

Recorded last year for one 2014's most gorgeous albums and one of Beck's most prolific records since Sea Change, “Waking Light“ is Morning Phase's last song and crowning jewel. Like a lot of the album's tracks, the song speaks of shedding the things that hold us down. For Beck, one of those thing was a spinal injury that hindered his voice on his previous release in 2008, Modern Guilt. In 2013, he told Rolling Stone that on Morning Phase “I get to shout and yell. I'm like, 'Thank you!' I had a lot of ideas and things I'd been wanting to do. This last year and a half, I feel like I can really do them." Lucky for us he gets to do the,m because the album is a haunting and gorgeous work that proves Beck Hanson knows a thing or two about renewal.

Prev Page

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Music

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

Acid house legends 808 State bring a psychedelic vibe to Berlin producer NHOAH's stunning track "Abstellgleis".

Berlin producer NHOAH's "Abstellgleis" is a lean and slinky song from his album West-Berlin in which he reduced his working instruments down to a modular synthesizer system with a few controllers and a computer. "Abstellgleis" works primarily with circular patterns that establish a trancey mood and gently grow and expand as the piece proceeds. It creates a great deal of movement and energy.

Keep reading... Show less

Beechwood offers up a breezy slice of sweet pop in "Heroin Honey" from the upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod.

At just under two minutes, Beechwood's "Heroin Honey" is a breezy slice of sweet pop that recalls the best moments of the Zombies and Beach Boys, adding elements of garage and light tinges of the psychedelic. The song is one of 10 (11 if you count a bonus CD cut) tracks on the group's upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod out 26 January via Alive Natural Sound Records.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image