This is the last Tuesday Ten of 2018, and in one of those quirks, I also finish working at my current job next week. After nearly nine years working at the same company (in about three discrete roles), after a company re-organisation I’m taking redundancy and am looking for a new role.
Tuesday Ten: 352: Happy Endings
Suffice to say I’ve got mixed feelings about this. It rather came out of the blue so it has taken a couple of weeks to process, and yes, while I’m sad to be leaving – I’ve made a number of friends there and have broadly enjoyed most of my time there – I’m also taking it as a positive as a chance for a fresh start. Whether that’s in telecoms still, or I decide to take my skills and apply them to another industry, I’ve no idea yet.
But what it also got me thinking about was the idea of endings. Not the ends of songs, but songs dealing with the subject of things that end. This was an exceptionally broad subject, as the huge number of suggestions proved, and yes, it does involve death (a subject that I’ve long vowed to myself that I don’t really want to cover directly.
Thanks to all that submitted as usual – there were no less than 205 suggestions, with 186 individual songs suggested by 100 different people. Twelve songs had been used before (which nowadays will normally mean that they aren’t used again, unless there is a really compelling reason to do so), which left me with 174 songs to pick from – and this was one with a lot of really great suggestions, so I hope I’ve done this subject justice with the ten that I picked.
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me, or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
Look out, as usual – and starting next Tuesday – for Countdown: 2018, where I’ll wrap up the best music of the year.
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How It Ends
How It Ends
One of the more charming support acts I’ve seen over the years, I must confess that I’ve rather lost track of their output in more recent years. But this track still sticks clear in the memory from that show where they were support for a riotous, chaotic Dresden Dolls show back in 2006. Elsewhere in the set – and elsewhere in their songs generally – they can get pretty upbeat and energetic themselves, but this song slows things down with a wonderful elegance, as vocalist Nick Urata considers the dread at the heart of unstoppable, unavoidable events. No matter what you try and do, you know the ending, and you have to deal with that eventuality regardless.
Here Is The Place
One thing I was conscious of avoiding this week was writing about too many songs that deal with death. Aside from the conceptual Ten 238: Dead on “TV”, I’ve never actually posted a Ten directly dealing with death – frankly it’s too difficult and I’ve dealt with too much in the death in recent years. But that said, maybe this post is the right place to feature a couple of songs on the subject, as death is perhaps the ultimate finality, the only true end. Empathy Test added to the fairly short list of truly moving songs about death with this astounding song that closes out one of their pair of albums released last year (and has often been the closing song live, too) – that reflects on dealing with the death of loved ones, but also a sense of place in knowing where you want to be laid to rest. It’s such a moving, extraordinary song that I actually find it difficult to listen to without a shoulder to weep on.
Last Stop: This Town
So, about that thing about trying to avoid death? Probably one of Eels’ greatest songs, at least as far as I’m concerned, it has an odd story behind it, and like many of Mark Everett’s songs has a shiny, bright sheen that helps to obscure the darkness beneath. This is an ending, of sorts – dealing with the death of his sister and the end of that connection, and how you move on and begin again, without someone close in your life. Thankfully all of my close family (i.e. parents, siblings, partners) are still alive, and there are points where I do wonder how I will deal with it when they no longer are.
After the enormous success of Ten, Pearl Jam seemed a bewildered, unhappy band, saddled with a success and position that they didn’t anticipate and certainly didn’t want to have to deal with. Vs. the previous year saw them retreat away from the anthemic nature of Ten, and Vitalogy took it further, with the best songs by far being the considered, elegant ballads like Nothingman, Better Man and Corduroy. The opener, though, is a snarling thrash that sees – through a whole host of diverting metaphors – Eddie Vedder considering his position and future, if there was one that he could see. Did they stop there, was this their last chance? They took a stand, too, that nearly ended the band on the subsequent tour, as they boycotted Ticketmaster venues and took on the ticketing behemoth to make a stand, in an ultimately fruitless but principled stand. Personally, I’m happy that they didn’t end there, instead continuing to the present day as one of the most respected rock bands still going.
The Waiting Room
I’d not actually heard of the singer Lhasa de Sela (known as Lhasa) before I heard this heartbreaking song, which was written and recorded before she died on New Year’s Day 2010, but perhaps understandly took some years to be completed. This is a song about friendship – one (Stuart Staples) asking the other (Lhasa, as Lucinda) to come out drinking with him, before the summer ends and they get too old to enjoy it. But Lucinda is consumed by memories of the past, no longer enjoying the now, a point hammered home by this truly heartbreaking line: “I just dance to remember how dancing used to feel“.
It perhaps also refers to Lhasa’s condition at the time of recording her vocals, as she was to die of cancer not long after it. Tindersticks have done a number of duets over the years, but none of them pack the crushing emotional hit of this.
There Will Come A Time
Sure, the second-to-last track on this album is The End is Nigh, but that’s nothing compared to what awaits us with the closing track, where Orbital bring in Professor Brian Cox to explain what will happen when the world literally ends – the actual end of the world as we know it. Even in what might be termed dry, scientific terms, even the thought of the Earth no longer existing, even if that is millions of years from now, is still quite a chilling thought. That said, the only disappointment is that Milliways doesn’t appear to await us.
Your Vision Was Never Mine to Share
Amid the brooding, gothic menace of the third Misery Loves Co. album – an album riven with distrust and fear of an uncertain future – one of the most striking songs is where Patrik Wiren’s fury is unleashed with full force. No Exit appears to detail a situation where the ending is out of sight, out of hope and desperation takes over, trying to find a way to end a literal nightmare. Misery Loves Co. were never the most uplifting of bands – and nor were there many, if any happy endings, in their songs, but rarely did they plumb the depths of smothered hopelessness quite with this power. I’ve been there, too. Where there is no light, there is just the darkness of an absence of hope with no apparent way out. It’s frankly terrifying, and I never want to go there again.
The Show Must Go On
I was never a particular fan of Queen – unlike a great many of my friends, who’ve suggested them 26 times in the various suggestion threads of the past couple of years – and so this perhaps explains why Queen have only featured once in this entire Tuesday Ten series before now. But this one very much fits the brief here.
In effect the last Queen song released before Freddie Mercury’s death (and just weeks before it, too), this song details his considerations before he passed away and a suggestion that things continue – and as I recall Mercury’s illness still wasn’t public at the time of the release of the song. Interestingly, of course, the band did pick up and continue, firstly with Paul Rodgers, but more recently with Adam Lambert as their vocalist.
Way back in 2009 – nearly ten years ago – on 067: Tracks of the Month (March 2009), I featured the first collaboration between these two artists, and for some reason I never actually featured this exceptional song (I covered Do It Again instead). This is a song about making a mark. When you are no longer here, what do you leave behind? Is it something good, is it something worthwhile? I’ve been wondering this as I prepare to leave my employer. It’s a much smaller scale, but I’m constantly asking myself – did I leave my mark, did I make things better?
The word “cinematic” is genuinely impossible to ignore with relatively new Sheffield band Promenade Cinema, as their songs on debut album Living Ghosts are all shot through with filmic nods and references, and indeed some of the songs are structured like mini films of their own (and recent single Polaroid Stranger has a video that suggests those influences are not just felt musically). The arrival of a song near the end of the album that appears entirely constructed around the idea of it soundtracking a credits reel seems entirely apt, then, as the song – like others in this list – considers the idea of your own impact and what you’ve done, and crucially, what you didn’t do.
Anyway, a credits reel of sorts as I close the book on the Tuesday Ten series until 2019. Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to suggest songs – remarkably, over five hundred of you, and the handful of people who provide input in other ways (corrections, additional information or even inspiration, you know who you are. Also thanks to the artists, labels and promotional people who kindly take the time to send me music to listen to, I’m only sorry I can’t cover more of it.
Finally, thanks to you, the reader. I’ll be back next week to begin the round-up of 2018 on Countdown: 2018.