A week or so ago our staff writer at Noisey UK, Lauren O’Neill, sent out this tweet. For those that don’t want to add another tab to the myriad of disparate expeditions currently branching out across their browser, it said “do u ever get that thing where u feel like a line in a song (words + delivery) has literally pierced u in the chest, like the physical sensation makes u wince?”, to which we all replied “yes, let’s write about it”.
And so to this piece. It’s a collection of spine-tingling music moments from VICE UK staff members, in which we recount specific songs and the lines in them that make us feel good / bad / higher than God / alive. You probably have your own set of songs and lines for similar emotions. Maybe email them to us or write a letter or do something about it. Or just read what we have here below.
Built to Spill – "Car": “I wanna see movies of my dreams”
There are a lot of stand out lines on Built To Spill’s “Car”. The one about learning what comet stars and moons are all about; the little part about wanting to get stoned on a breezy afternoon; the whole idea, really, of getting the night off from work to go on a long drive and figure out how the world works. My fav though? The elongated part about wanting to “see movies of my dreams”.
“Car” is about yearning for the things we can’t have, and dreams are usually the closest approximation of that. Or, at their weirdest, they’re Leonardo DiCaprio and your mum having a fight in the kitchen of your second year university house. Whatever: the subject is irrelevant. All I know in this life is I want that shit on VHS. As Doug Martsch sings, “I want to see it now”. All of us do. The way this line is repeated over and over again only rams that point home. Please, @science, make it happen. Ryan Bassil
Athlete – "Wires": "Running, down corridors, through, automatic doors"
The bit in "Wires" where all the instruments but the guitar drop away, and the singer blasts out "Running, down corridors, through, automatic doors" with a passion rarely heard in mid-2000s dad rock, and then all the instruments come back in – that bit makes my head and my heart swell. Why? Because, when we were 15, my friends and I all got really into that song, for some inexplicable reason. One Thursday afternoon we all skived off PE and bought a load of booze with a brand new "European Driver's License", drank it in the woods near school and sang along to that bit at the tops of our voices.
I rarely hear that song these days, but if I do – in an HSBC waiting area or as Vodafone hold music – it reminds me of that time in my life, when the only stuff I had to worry about was saving up for ten bags and getting my report card signed at the end of each lesson. Also, it bangs. Anon (AKA, spin the roulette wheel on which VICE UK staff member is too ashamed to put their name to this really touching anecdote)
Sheryl Crow – "Hard To Make A Stand": “And I say ‘Hey there, Miscreation / Bring a flower, time is wastin’”
On “Hard to Make a Stand” from Sheryl Crow’s 1996 self-titled album, she actually sings a variation on the lyrics: “And I say ‘Hey there, Miscreation / Bring a flower, time is wastin’” four times. It’s on that fourth go that I get the same overwhelming physical sensation every time I listen to it.
There’s a millisecond at the centre of her phrasing of the word “Hey” where her voice embodies an almost transcendent purity. The tempo lulls a little bit, giving her time to make a meal of the syllable, and I’ve got to tell you, what she does with it is truly gourmet. Whenever I hear it – when Sheryl Crow makes that ‘e’ sound, the country tones in her voice shimmering – it fills me with a totally unexplainable warmth. It’s easily my favourite natural phenomenon: sunsets? Shit. Mountains? Cba mate. But the way Sheryl Crow sings the word “Hey” two minutes and 16 seconds into “Hard to Make a Stand?” Inject it into my motherfucking veins. I want to feel this contentment forever. Lauren O’Neill
Frank Ocean – "Self Control": “I, I, I / Know you gotta leave, leave, leave / Take down some summer time”
There is a moment in Frank Ocean’s “Self Control” where it spills over from ‘tender’ into ‘fucking hell why doesn’t this come with a content warning’. I think you all know what moment I mean. At first it’s a pretty straightforward sad jam with a guitar line that sounds like something John Frusciante would have whipped out in a tutorial video. Then a warm layer of keys rises into the mix and Yung Lean has a bit of a croon and you’re like, 'OK, this is starting to stick its nose into some deeply unexamined emotions here.' Then 2:31 hits and it’s all over.
That guitar solo, yearning away like a dog that’s been left alone for too long. Frank, mourning the end of a romance with another brutally simple sentiment. Another vocal layer, then another, then another, until eventually the song swells and rises into a one man choir of feeling that physically forces you to pause and consider the beauty in everything around you, and how none of it can occur without sadness, and how meaningful things are only made meaningful by virtue of the fact that they will eventually be gone, and what the fuck is that. And then a concerned man in a fleece is tapping you on the shoulder asking if you’re alright because you’re stood in the middle of the freezer aisle at Sainsbury’s clutching a bag of oven chips and crying. You know? Emma Garland
Wham – "Everything She Wants": “My God! I don’t even think… that I love you!”
As with anything George Michael sings, this is less about the words and more about the way he delivers them. Even though this song seems so euphoric from the outside, it’s really about being stuck in a shitty relationship, and the lyrics trace an inner dialogue in which he asks himself why he’s going along with something that doesn’t make him happy anymore.
But then, for me, the real kicker arrives at 3:32 when he goes “My God!” as if the realisation has literally just hit him at that very moment, like a punch out of nowhere, and he can’t contain it anymore, “I don’t even think… that I love you.” You know when you say something and you only realise it’s true the moment you say it? That’s what this line sounds like to me. I’ve always found it so heartbreaking and visceral, but also super powerful in that way realisations can be. Like a mask has been lifted, the fog has cleared, the self deception breaks. And his voice sounds like silk. It’s unreal! Daisy Jones
Young Thug: "With Them": “I got cash in my pants”
Yeah, so what if the only thing rolling around in my pockets is a 50-pence piece, a pound coin and a dozen other pieces of cash shrapnel? If it’s making noise, it’s something. And when that noise runs in conjunction with listening to Thugga rap “I got cash in my pants” somewhere around the 43 second mark on “With Them” I feel Gucci rich on Primark money. Ryan Bassil
Soccer Mommy – "Still Clean": “Only what you wanted for a little while”
Some lines wallop you with sentiment you’ve felt as a non-verbal pang before, but never managed to articulate, not unlikef Eastenders’ Ben Mitchell beating another child about the head with a spanner while uttering the words “You need slappin’ down.” In this analogy, Soccer Mommy’s Sophie Allison is Ben Mitchell, I am the kid, and the blunt object is the line “Only what you wanted for a little while,” repeated on her track “Still Clean.” These eight words tell an entire story that we all know the ending to (drunk/sad/eating crisps in bed and then sitting in the crumbs for ~three days – delete as appropriate), set to a melody so fragile it needles at your skin. Devastating, honestly. Lauren O’Neill
Kevin Abstract – "Runner": “And boy I’ll be back when you’re lonely, if you want me to / My parents don't know what's gotten into me since I've met you”
Omg this whole song sounds like sweat and sun on skin and the sweetness of a hangover after spending the night with someone you really like. But it’s the opening I’m most obsessed with – specifically the bit at 0:47 when Kevin Abstract basically drools the words as if he’s so caught up in daydreaming about someone he can barely remove himself from his own head. And then his voice gets higher and higher and it kills me every single time. Daisy Jones.
Eminem – "Stan": “I can relate to what you’re saying in your songs / so when I have a shitty day I drift away and put them on”
Ultimately the reason we’ve published this piece is because music can burrow into and draw out a very specific feeling. As lame as it is for me to look back on Eminem as a 26-year-old, that line still cuts deep. Beside the really #dark stuff like murder and shoving nine inch nails into each one of his eyelids, Eminem’s life mirrored mine. We grew up poor as fuck (my parents slept on a sofa bed in the living room, while my sister and I shared the single bedroom upstairs), families were broken... it was all very white working class male grows up moody as hell and sits in a dark room. Hooray!
“Hailies Song”, “If I Had”, “Mockingbird”, “Cleanin’ Out My Closet”, a slurring benzo’d up Em lamenting the loss of his buddy Proof on the non-album cut “Difficult”... these are songs I didn’t realise were like therapy at the time but quite clearly were because listening back they give me a lump in my throat. And really, that’s what makes music great. “Stan” is a creepy, stalker-ish song but underneath its obvious obsessive overtones is the idea that music can offer palliative care. It provides insight and empathy, often catalysing catharsis. And if it’s not? Well at least it’s always going be there when you have a shitty day. Sorry to be so sincere but that’s the truth and facts are facts, that’s just the law. Ryan Bassil
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This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.