Monday, December 24, 2007

Favorite Songs from 2007: #10

Lists have become super-sized. No one is content with just 10 any more. It has to be 20, 50, 100. Blame it on my generation's belief that they don't have to choose. They can have it all. I am guilty of it, too, so this year I have resolved to make choices. My lists will be kept to ten regardless of how painful it will be to leave off some deserving choices. Heck, I won't even mention the runners-up. Ten and I'm sticking to it. We start with songs.

"West Coast" by Coconut Records

Album: Nighttiming

Coconut Records is Jason Schwartzman, indie actor and scion of the Coppola filmmaking dynasty, who, through his stint as a drummer with Phantom Planet and now on his own, displays a talent for pop craftsmanship. "West Coast" can be described as a sequel of sorts to Phantom Planet's big hit, "California," which notoriously became the theme song to the show "The OC." There's the obviously similar subject matter and both share a winsome melancholy.

While "California" can be described as a song about arriving, the anticipation of a reunion, "West Coast" is a song about departing, leaving behind someone--perhaps forever. The beauty of "West Coast," though, is how triumphantly lonesome it all sounds. Rather than dwell on the sadness of parting, Schwartzman captures the catharsis that comes hand in hand with melancholy. Mostly he does it by pairing the lyrics to music that embodies the locale it refers to. Had the song not been titled "West Coast" it still would have been evident that it is a song very much about the sweet loneliness of living in LA, especially while in love. It has a summery, Beach Boys-inspired sound full of ooh-ahh harmonies and a swooping melody that sounds like a drive along a coastal highway. Then there's Schartzman's voice, mopy and sweet, which imbues the song's lyrics ("I miss you I'm going back home to the west coast/I wish you would have put yourself in my suitcase") with poignancy. He's a hopeful romantic, in love with the feeling of being in love. When the song reaches the glorious choral "ahhs" "West Coast" soars. Like the best pop songs, it sounds like how you wish felt all the time: so glad to be so unhappy in love.

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