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Favorite Song Titles

Music, Guest Lists | April 20, 2010

Featured Guest List by Nick Thorburn

Best known as the frontman of indie rock outfit Islands, who we recently ranked among the best Canadian Indie Rock Bands, Nick Thorburn likes to stay busy. In addition to three acclaimed Islands albums since 2006, Thorburn also has released records with side projects Reefer and Human Highway. Of course, he was also a member of The Unicorns, whose 2003 Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone? is an indie classic. Thorburn recently began working on a new project with Man Man's Honus Honus and Joe Plummer of Modest Mouse and The Shins. With all those obligations, we're delighted he found time to pen this Top 13.


Songwriting can be tricky. Sometimes, it's sort of like a puzzle, and the more you pile on musically, the harder it can be to wedge words in afterwards. One approach that sometimes works is starting the process with only the title in mind. I've done this with past songs of mine, such as "Tuff Ghost" (from The Unicorns' Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone) and "Don't Call Me Whitney, Bobby" (from Islands' Return to the Sea). It's like the establishing shot in a movie. It sets up the scene we're about to see, and serves as the exposition of the narrative. Coming up with a title before anything else can be inspiring, and lead to interesting and unexpected results. What follows are, in no particular order, my favourite song titles from musicians I respect.

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Jim Guthrie - Now More Than Ever


Jim Guthrie - Now More Than Ever


The title track from one of my favourite albums of all time, Jim Guthrie's "Now More than Ever" is, ironically, an instrumental track. Ironic because Jim has a particularly adept way with words and my favourite moments of his songs usually lie in the lyrics. The great thing about this title is how personal it is to his work. In the first song on Now More Than Ever, "The Problem with Solutions," Jim laments, "the longer the hesitation, the smaller the celebration," and Jim is all to aware of the timeliness of his movements throughout this record. The title track is the centerpoint of the album, allowing the whole thing to breathe momentarily, while the singer can collect himself.

Laurie Anderson - Let X=X


Laurie Anderson - Let X=X


The phrase "it is what it is" has to be one of the most irritating things ever uttered, and the title to "Let X=X" from Anderson's 1982 debut, Big Science, skims dangerously close to the same sentiment but does so in an unfathomably superior manner. It's an anguished plea, and not an annoyingly self-satisfied cop out.

David Bowie - Always Crashing in the Same Car


David Bowie - Always Crashing in the Same Car


Kind of a depressing conceit that speaks for itself. At the time, Bowie was a recovering cocaine addict, and it's been said that the title of the record this song comes from, Low, was in part titled due to his "low" moods at the time. A very lovely way to describe feelings of pessimism and self-destruction.

Mister Heavenly - Diddy Eyes


Mister Heavenly - Diddy Eyes


Self-promotion alert! The new project I'm working on has a song called "Diddy Eyes." It's a working title so it will change, but for now, it's called "Diddy Eyes." My bandmate, Honus Honus, and I were watching a 1987 NBA All-Star game replete with some of the biggest players of the game: Magic, Jordan, Bird, Mozart. But there was one who stood out as player of the game. While Jordan was airballing threes and Magic was fumbling his passes, Rolando Blackman was an undeniable force of rebounding skills, deft ball handling and reliable free throwing. The most interesting thing we both noticed was how similar his eyes were to Puff Daddy, aka P. Diddy - beady and very close together.

The Tornados - Pop-Art Goes Mozart


The Tornados - Pop-Art Goes Mozart


During the time this song was hitting the airwaves, the pop art movement of the 60s was achieving a newfound respect within the upper crust of the art community, and Joe Meek's in-house backing band, the Tornados were riders on the storm. (ew, I just made a Doors reference).

Brian Eno - On Some Faraway Beach


Brian Eno - On Some Faraway Beach


Eno has always been good at naming songs after what the music sounds like. On "Here Come the Warm Jets," he wasn't naming that after "water play" (also known as a "golden shower"), but rather the similarity of a jet engine to the sounds of the guitars he'd recorded through a modular synthesizer. Same goes for "On Some Faraway Beach." The beginning really does sound like he's calling out from some far off beach, and he's perfectly content to live out his days there.

Giorgio Moroder - Son of My Father


Giorgio Moroder - Son of My Father


Moroder, the Italian progenitor of disco, is a producer best known for his work on Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" and his own solo work, "From Here to Eternity." Before synths and dance music were en vogue, Moroder had a U.K. hit with "Son of My Father," the title track from the 1972 Son of My Father. It's his stab at glam rock with a Beatles bent.

This title is funny because that's you, Giorgio!

Blonde Redhead - Falling Man


Blonde Redhead - Falling Man


Simple and succinct. Sometimes you need to learn how to fail.

Neil Young - When You Dance I Can Really Love


Neil Young - When You Dance I Can Really Love


I have a deep fear or dislike of public dancing, but I've done it before and I can say that it is quite a liberating experience. It can almost be transcendental if done correctly, and it ceases to become about impressive dance moves and more about a pure unadulterated joy from letting the "spirit move you." It's worth noting that Neil Young also has a song that has my least favourite title: "A Man Needs a Maid."

Penguin Cafe Orchestra - Giles Farnaby's Dream


Penguin Cafe Orchestra - Giles Farnaby's Dream

The name of Simon Jeffes' group, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, comes from a dream he had in which he walked into an imaginary venue, the Penguin Cafe, and heard beautiful music. He woke up and tried to recreate that music for the rest of his life. I'm guessing this song is from a dream he imagined Giles Farnaby, a baroque composer from the 16th and 17th century, would have. I bought a Giles Farnaby record at Amoeba Music in Hollywood years and years ago, and it did sound a little like bits of Penguin Cafe.

Kate Bush - Cloudbusting


Kate Bush - Cloudbusting


Wilhelm Reich, an Austrian psychiatrist, invented the Cloudbuster, a rain machine which could break up cloud cover or cause them to form. Kate Bush wrote a very literal telling of the development of the machine and Reich's subsequent incarceration, through the eyes of his son, based on his book, A Book of Dreams.

Sparks - This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us


Sparks - This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us


Sparks has a plethora of funny song titles, from "Lighten up, Morrissey" to "Don't Leave me Alone With Her" and "Barbecutie." This is their most well-known song, from their most well-known record, and it's great because the title is so inherently musical. The way Russell Mael chants the chorus in a clipped staccato, in a crazed rhythmic phrasing, showcases how funny oft-heard phrases can be interpreted in a tuneful way. Another example is Swizz Beatz's "Money in the Bank." When my friend and I used to hear that blaring in Brooklyn a few years back, she remarked how the line "She ain't got no money in the bank" sounds like it may have been an offhanded utterance in conversation that jumped out as being particularly musical and was subsequently written into a song.

Royal Trux - Juicy, Juicy, Juice


Royal Trux - Juicy, Juicy, Juice


There's some juiceboxes in the grocery store near my house called "Juicy Juice." Every time I walk by them, I think of this song and I wonder if that's where they got the song title from.

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Comments Leave a comment

ajay ★★

Wonderful list. Looking forward to hearing Diddy Eyes.

They're like cat eyes.

3:47 AM   Apr 20, 2010


I like some of the titles towards the end of the list. Two of my favorites off the top of my head are by The Tragically Hip: "It's a Good Life If You Don't Weaken" and "Escape Is at Hand for the Travelling Man". Great idea for a list.

7:24 AM   Apr 20, 2010


Some great ones:

The Flaming Lips - Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell
Radiohead - Everything in its Right Place / Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box
Built to Spill - Randy Described Eternity
Beck - Satan Gave Me A Taco
Tom Waits - The Piano Has Been Drinking (not me)
Interpol - Stella Was a Diver and She was Always Down

And of course:

Bloodhound Gang - The Lap Dance is so much better when the Stripper is crying

10:43 AM   Apr 20, 2010


Mr. Bungle - "Desert Search for Techno Allah"

7:28 PM   Apr 20, 2010


That Bowie one is the greatest.

11:51 AM   Apr 21, 2010


'dance me to the end of love'
'did i shave my legs for this?'
end of story.

12:37 PM   Apr 24, 2010


we hate it when our freinds become successful
you're the one for me, fatty - morrissey

12:41 AM   May 18, 2010


I have to say the Bowie title is by far the best...he has some of the best titles ever.

5:02 AM   May 28, 2010

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