Stories Behind Songs: Our Writing Staff’s Personal Picks

The Neon Observatory took a brief hiatus after we reached the end of our first writing rotation, but we’re in the process of returning with regular content!

This post is the result of the first exercise we’ve taken in a new, collaborative approach.  Twelve of our writers submitted a song to which they have a strong personal attachment.  You can each song with a short description by the writer below.


“Chrissy Kiss the Corpse” by Of Montreal

“I love this song.  It brings back sweet memories of riding in my ’87 Saab with David and Tommy in the middle of summer–which also reminds me that the Saab never did have working air conditioning, so I bet it was like a furnace in there.  David was the one that introduced me to Of Montreal, and since he had just purchased some of their CD’s only mere minutes prior, we decided it would be fun to listen to them.  This song was the only one I liked at the time, so I give this tune credit for propelling me forward into the world of Indie Music, which I am a huge fan of today.  The songs back-handed way of delving into almost innocent sounding necrophilia makes me feel jovial and amused… in a morbid sort of way.”


“Carnival” by Natalie Merchant

“Sometimes, I still feel like a little kid walking through a carnival, utterly enthralled and terrified by the whirlwind of dripping colors and sounds. What do I see and what can I understand?”


“Desired Constellation” by Björk

“I would not consider this song one of my favorite songs, or even one of my favorite Bjork songs necessarily, but I have had an attachment to Medulla lately. It would be a truism to call a Björk song strange, but “Desired Constellation” is particularly strange in the context of the rest of the record. Medulla is almost entirely composed of vocal samples with sparse production, resulting in a sound that is very organic and often unsettlingly visceral, and yet in the middle of this bizarre choir you encounter a completely disembodied, electronic interlude, with a single vocal drifting freely over a subtle, softly pulsating synthesizer. The lyrics follow naturally from this sound, expressing a state of suspension due to a feeling of having lost one’s bearings, being completely at the mercy of fate.”                              a;dslfjk asd;dfjkl as;dfaj ;asdjk fasd; fjkasas;d


“Rubber” by Yuck

“The closing track from Yuck’s wacky self-titled debut album renders an internal creative struggle between individuality and conformity through massive, sludgy waves of thick guitar and heavy reverb.  The song juxtaposes the anthemic instrumental melody with lyrics that relate a message of resignation: the narrator ponders following up the failure of a personal artistic vision (‘I’ve tried painting from the inside out/But I’ve done nothing that I can shout about’) with transformation metaphorically represented by the ‘rubber’ from the title (‘If I put rubber in your head/Would you make something that time will stand?’).  Ultimately, ‘Should I give in?’ is followed by ‘Yes I give in’ and outside forces prevail (‘Put me on a chain and change my name/And lead me to a place that I need to go’).  ‘Rubber’ makes me look back at film and literature projects that I poured a great deal of passion and effort into because they mattered a lot to me at the time, but that I eventually had to abandon.  While the main draw of ‘Rubber’ for me is the awesome performance by the band that buries Daniel Blumberg’s vocals in layers of messy noise, I also love how the song finds value in the moments of our lives when we have to leave behind a little bit of ourselves to keep moving forward.


“Airships” by VNV Nation

“I am a fan of electronic music, and VNV Nation is one of my favorite electronic bands.  Their songs typically have somewhat poetic lyrics and catchy beats, which is probably why I like their music so much.  Airships is a song about leaving everything behind and going some place new.  This makes me think of my recent transition to grad school and moving away from my home in Nashville; ‘I’m leaving ground, stepping into a new world.'”


“Daunting Friend” by Lost in Trees

“I really like this song because it alludes to the weird and sometimes dark dynamics friendships can have, as well as friendships that pass and fade away.  It’s a really haunting tune when you listen to it.  It’s perhaps a bit dark, especially for a blog that’s for keeping us all in touch, but I think it’s relevant to all the awkward transitions all of us are going through after college.  Making new friends is hard, amiright?  It’s a good song for reflection, though.  xoxo Caitlin”


“Recessional” by Vienna Teng

“One 2AM my sophomore year at college I had the revelation that this song had 128 plays on my iTunes and lulled me to sleep every night because maybe just like the narrator I maybe hypothetically perhaps loved a lady/maybe loved ladies in general/maybe was going to resign from my position as ‘heterosexual human’ and commit my life to putting my face on cute ladies’ faces? And that was okay? This song captures, in a very universal and non-sexuality-specific way, the beauty and fear of being blindsided  by your emotions and taking those tentative steps towards getting to know the person you’ve fallen for.”


“Inside Out” by Eve 6

“This was the song that turned me on to rock music. I remember hearing it over the radio for the first time while helping to repair my father’s work boat on the shipyard. It made me visibly excited just a few notes in, and I was pumped for the rest of the day, even while doing tedious work under a hot Louisiana sun. And even today, having since consumed much rock music, I still get amped whenever I hear this song.”


“Love Show” by Skye

“I’ll preface this by saying my musical taste is very varied – like classical for breakfast, dubstep for lunch, tibetan throat singing for dinner and Bowie for a midnight snack. That being said, this song has my heart its cheesy but its a sunny song for rainy days and in the PNW everyone needs one of these.”


“Strong Hand” by CHVRCHES

“B-side bliss. I jammed out to the Chvrches album this fall (like everyone else), but somehow I missed the b-side tracks until just recently.”


“Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield

“While uncharacteristically happy for my usual tastes, ‘Unwritten’ by Natasha Bedingfield has always struck a powerful chord with me. Whenever I feel despondent or overwhelmed, I can listen and it will cut through those emotion’s current hold, reminding me that ‘today is where your book begins, the rest is still unwritten.'”


“Hello, I’m in Delaware” by City and Colour

“I don’t exactly know why I picked this song besides the fact it has been stuck in my head for months now. It is a sadder song than I would have liked to pick but as lame as it sounds, it reminds me of this couple on tumblr and they are just so in love but one lives in New York City and the other in Jacksonville and they have to fight the long distance. So even though it is a bit of a sad song if feel like it is also a song that brings a bit of light. Also it is just fun to sing to in the car with the windows down when the weather is nice out.”


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