Somehow it’s been more than two years since I’ve updated this objectively crummy music blog.
I’ve moved across country, gotten married and listened to a whole lot of music in the ensuing months. Those first two have an awful lot to do with why I haven’t written about that last one.
However, in light of the lists circulating naming songs and albums of the decade as well as the impended year-end round-ups that will soon spring forth from egghead critics like Athena from Zeus, I’ve decided to shake off my rust and write about music.
A good old-fashioned listicle with a loose theme seemed like as good of a way to kick things off as any, so without further ado, here’s 10 songs about sleep or sleeping and some commentary on my choices.
“Basement Scene” by Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest was an album that was utterly impossible to escape in indie-loving circles 10 years ago, and it’s probably an Important Band’s best album. In the near-decade since, I’m not sure it’s reputation has stayed quite as lofty as it was, but this is still an all-time jam about dreaming. It sounds the right amount of distant, warm, friendly and fuzzy like parental voices drifting into your childhood bedroom while you drift off.
“Wake Up” by Arcade Fire
I guess this song might be more about the opposite of sleeping than sleeping itself, but it’s a modern anthem, and it seemed impossible to exclude it. I’m not sure whether people love it for the soaring “Ohs” or the livelier, Dixieland-meets-“Lust for Life” wind-down of the song’s last minute or so. I’m all about the accordion and strings version of Arcade Fire. It’s really the only time the band seems to justify the frankly preposterous number of members it has.
“I’m Only Sleeping” by The Beatles
John Lennon wrote about sleeping a lot, but this is probably his best song about sleeping. “I’m So Tired” is a close second. “How Do You Sleep?” is excellent, but contains so much misplaced venom directed at Paul that it can be a chore to enjoy. “Good Night” is so aggressively OK that I often forget it’s the closing track to my favorite Beatles album.
“Sleep When Dead” by A Giant Dog
This track is a revved-up standout from 2016’s “Pile.” It’s an album of unfashionably straightforward rock that didn’t really crack year-end lists, but deserves to be in the music libraries and playlists of every rock-centric dweeb. Sort of like Guns N’ Roses’ “Mr. Brownstone,” this song sounds super playful while warning about the tiring repercussions of substance misuse.
“I Wanna Sleep In Your Arms” by The Modern Lovers
Somehow, this song by Jonathan Richman and Co. might not be the most explicit song about sleeping and romance on this classic eponymous album. “Astral Plane” with the lyrics “If you won’t sleep with you, I’ll still be with you on the astral plane” probably takes that cake.
“Sleeping Lessons” by The Shins
I adore this song. The moment the woozy beginning gives way to a wide-awake power pop song is absolutely stunning, and it’s a total earworm. I think time has been supremely kind to “Wincing the Night Away,” which was initially received as a solid-but-not-spectacular album by one of the most critically revered bands of an era. I’d posit that it’s actually the best The Shins album since it also boasts “Phantom Limb” and “Australia.”
“I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams” by Weezer
Is it slightly embarrassing that an approximately 30-year-old Harvard student perfectly captured the consumptive passion of adolescent love over the course of about a dozen songs in 1994?
Yeah, at least a little.
But Pinkerton and it’s B-sides that were never assembled into a planned rock opera set in space still rule pretty aggressively. This has always been my pick for best track from the whole project, including the actual Pinkerton album. I’d even just barely give it the nod over the much more obvious “Only In Dreams,” which is also great but way less esoteric.
Throwing this on a sleep songs playlist is a Mr. Fantastic-level stretch, but it sounds like Rachel Haden is sometimes singing about conferring with her dream man in actual dreams, so I’m including it.
“oh baby” by LCD Soundsystem
This songs is supremely comforting. Something about the gently surging synths and James Murphy’s voice really nails the gradual clarity of waking from a bad dream. It’s also off of an album called American Dream so it’s got sleep-related points to spare.
“Hold My Liquor” by Kanye West
This is such a weird song that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Chief Keef and Justin Vernon Harmonize, the beat is driven by intermittent noise blasts that sounds like an industrial pterodactyl and Kanye’s rhymes are loose and scatterbrained. Like the rest of Yeezus it just works anyway. It also features a ton of references to waking from a comma, so it qualifies for this list.
“By Your Hand” by Los Campesinos!
This song is indie pop perfection by one of my favorite bands of the past 15 years, and it contains the phrase “I’ve been dreaming you’ve been dreaming about me.” It’s really just the cherry on top of this rambling return to action, and a playlist that mostly sticks to its theme.