I am, generally, exceedingly reluctant to critique music publicly. Privately obsess over it or sarcastically shit-talk a sentimental line here and there? Yes. But criticizing someone’s music in the written word only leaves me wide open to it myself. I generally don’t like to be listening to music all the time, or quickly hear something and move on to the latest “amazing” release of the week. I like to get a new record and absorb it, slowly, and generally I’m only comfortable doing so when I’m not torturing myself over my own latest creative project. It sounds like a made-up excuse for being lazy and insular, but it really is true that it’s hard to hear your own music when there’s a lot of noise in your head. Still, I’d be a lying asshole to say I don’t have times when it’s all I want to do. I love analyzing production, why someone chose to sing a line a certain way, a simple-but-heartbreaking guitar part. And I love the moments when you realize a certain song can forever take you back to a moment or even an entire year. Music makes a mark on you. Without further ado, here’s my opinion. I hear they’re like assholes. —Lydia Loveless
“Without me, you’re nothing” is such a shitty thing to say, but you get the sense in this song that the person deserves it. When Ke$ha sings it, it’s painful and moving; when your shitty ex-boyfriend says it, it’s reprehensible. I feel like that goes for most things, though. Obviously, I love this song as I’ve covered it. It’s dripping with emotion even through the clubby “doink, doink, doink” sounds people love to add to songs.
Echo & The Bunnymen, “The Killing Moon”
This song ruined my life—ha ha ha! I love it, but ever since we covered it, people often tell me it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, which is just depressing. I think this song is the definition of moody, isn’t it? It creates its very own setting. That’s an accomplishment. Not many people get to write such a song in their lives.
The Replacements, “Here Comes A Regular”
I love this song. It’s so Midwestern. It was the first song I ever sang at karaoke, and about halfway through, I thought, “What the fuck am I doing?” It’s the worst karaoke song ever, but damn if it isn’t great to listen to at the end of a day on tour. Especially as someone who’s been in bars since the age of nine, it’s gut-wrenching, really. Maybe not everyone finds it quite so relatable, but hearing it never fails to make me tear up.
Hank Williams, “There’s A Tear In My Beer”
17-year-old me couldn’t get enough of this one. You can’t really go wrong with Hank, and this is his simple ability to capture heartbroken misery at its finest. Is it corny? Yes. Is it still great to sing to yourself in the throes of self-pity? Absolutely.
Laura Jane Grace, “The Best Ever Death Metal Band In Denton”
I couldn’t love this more. A blend of two of my absolute heroes. John Darnielle’s music got me through some of the worst years of my life, as did Laura’s. Anytime I hear either of them sing, I am instantly transported to my shitty restaurant job at 18—the only job I was able to hold for more than a couple days. I was such a shit show. I’m grateful for them.
The Ramones, “Chinese Rock”
Probably one of my least-favorite punk songs. I know, I suck. I do appreciate the sort of mythological aspect as far as who wrote it. It’s almost Biblical. Or maybe I’m making that up.
Loretta Lynn, “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)”
One I used to cover. Who knew my romantic tribulations would one day reverse and I’d be more like the subject of the song than the writer … Ha! Loretta Lynn is obviously someone who really packs a punch in a song, and she’s also really been through some shit. It’s why her songs are so influential to me even as I move away from country. She’s the opposite of social media, really. She uses every bit of her life to make her art.
Dungen, “Ta Det Lugnt”
I want to like this song more than I do because I love the language and the label (Kemado). It’s a fun song, but it doesn’t stick with me.
Elvis Costello, “Down Among The Wines And Spirits”
This sort of production on songs doesn’t grab me so much in my old age. Even though I like the song, it makes me feel like I am at a horrible, early-afternoon street festival surrounded by hippies wearing baby carriers and drinking $10 IPAs.
Times New Viking, “No Room To Live”
Makes me feel 17, raging with social anxiety at a house show. Because Columbus? It’s nostalgic for me, even though I never particularly listened to this band. It’s probably because I am a sucker for jangly melancholy—or at least it feels melancholy to me.