Barnwell “Talk Me Down”: a rollicking take on a relationship rife with ambivalence. Lead guitarist Ross Swinson twanged-up interludes compliment lead singer Tyler Gordon’s passionate vocal. “Stop / I swear I want to be around / call my name—oh, won’t you calm me down?”
Brandy Clark “You Can Come Over”: is a soulful piano from her sophomore album Big Day in a Small Town. This song is admirable for its groove and how it packs its complicated narrative with striking detail—“I’d put on that record / you’d give me that look / oh, you know the one. Bonus points for how the final truncated chorus resurfaces after the bridge.
Lori McKenna “Halfway Home”: a midtempo character sketch about someone who is sleeping with a man “who would be driving (her) home / if he was worth half a shit / and his daddy had raised him up right” At parts the song is wilting, at others it is life-affirming. “rinse the smoke out of your slept-in hair / wash your face and change your clothes / we’ve all been there”
Parker Milsap “Heaven Sent”: This song is about a character’s struggle with their homosexuality and how the Church’s hatred feels at odds with the teachings of The Bible. It’s a heavy, heavy song with searing lyrics. “Daddy you're the one that claimed / that He loved me through the flame. / Now why can't you do the same? Well I've been born again / but first was born in sin / Did you love me then?”
Conor Oberst “Tachycardia”: The album’s opener, this song sets the stakes of Ruminations. After a jarring piano intro Conor Oberst begins and takes the listener back to places where they first fell in love with his music. “Tachycardia” features an innovative metrical construction. Additionally, the song showcases Oberst’s ability to find unique slant rhymes “needs a cold draw / to slow his tachycardia / in a dark bar / the world just melts away.”
Pony League “Harder than a Rick Ankiel”: this song’s verses grooves with a rich narrative that is bookended by rollicking choruses. Lead singer and pianist Gus Ferguson plays frenetically like a hopped-up locksmith picking at a safe. During the bridge the band slows down to amp up the energy for the final romp of “harder than a rock / I just couldn’t watch you”.
Slow Parade “Jackpot”: One of my favorite songs this year, “Jackpot” wanders through a landscape where “dust clouds echo / like a dog in the snow.” Matthew Pendrick ragworn croon is complimented by the lockstep of his band. The song culminates with a final tape-looped chorus, defined by the tolling of an orchestral bell.
Ben Trickey “No Marquee”: a closing ode to the working class songwriter. This unadorned song captures the Sisyphean reality of performing. “Another house show / another high-five, giving hugs, “how have you been?” / but I got to work at eight / so let’s pack it in”. “No Marquee” isn’t a victory march, but it’s not a eulogy. It’s a testimony of being here and living now.
Young Mister “Would It Kill You”: an uptempo rocker where Stephen Fiore pokes fun at himself. The instrumentation is somewhere between Asbury Park and Sunny California, but the lyrics are pure Nashville: “get your pen and paper / and your telecaster set / with the spring verb and the midtones / your song has heart but no bones.”
The Sound Connector is an online magazine for songwriters. We feature songwriting challenges, monthly interviews, and the opportunity to discover new songwriters. We are interested in all things related to the craft of songwriting.
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