The Harbinger Online

Deegan’s Encyclopedia of Music: D


Photo by Kaitlyn Stratton

Hey everyone, I am back again for another year of Deegan’s Encyclopedia of Music for the Harbinger. Last school year, I went from letters A-C, and I hope to do a lot more than that this year. Since then, a lot of really good music has come out, and. I’ve listened to and discovered lots of other music too. Some of my favorite new albums that have come out since my last entry include are Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book, Whitney’s Light Upon the Lake, and Freetown Sound by Blood Orange. I will probably write about those down the road, but today I’m going to write about the letter D (for Deegan).

The band I’m discussing today, The Dubliners, is very relevant to my weekend. Over the past few days, I have been celebrating my Irish heritage at Crown Center for the annual Irish Fest. During many of the performances I watched, songs either The Dubliners wrote or made popular were performed by nearly every artist. Why? Because they practically y single handedly wrote the book of Irish folk music.

Nearly every song The Dubliners performed became part of the canon of Irish folk songs. In their 60s, The Dubliners were very popular in Europe due to the explosion of folk music. Their songs tell stories, like the marauder who is betrayed by his wife and imprisoned in “Whiskey in the Jar” and a woman who leaves her older husband for a younger man in “Maids When You’re Young Never Wed an Old Man”. They also retell history and how the Irish lived, like a mining explosion in Springhill, Nova Scotia in the aptly titled “Springhill Mining Disaster” and the Irish sailors’ lives in “The Holy Ground”.

These songs would not be as interesting to listen to if they weren’t so catchy, performed with such conviction, or simply as fun. Musically, there isn’t a lot going on with the chords, most of their songs being in the keys of C, G, or D, but the melodies sang and played make the songs a lot catchier and interesting. For example, listen to “The Black Velvet Band”. The chords never change their order, but the catchy melodies keep you hooked into the story. Many of the recordings I recommend are live versions of songs, and I did this because their bands’ energy live is so strong that it’s the best way to experience these songs. Live, there is a new level of humor and spontaneity added to the songs that it’s hard to listen to them any other way. For example listen to “Home Boys Home” and tell me that you’d want to listen to it without the entire crowd singing and clapping along.

This humor and energy comes from the members of the band. My two favorite members of the band are singers Luke Kelly and Ronnie Drew, who also played banjo and guitar respectively. Overall, I like Luke Kelly more however, because he sang so forcefully and with such power, he’s what really sold many of their songs to me. He’s a huge influence on my singing in my band, The Heartland Rovers, and I don’t think I’d appreciate the band or their music as much if it weren’t for him.

Speaking of my band, we owe a massive debt to The Dubliners. Most of the songs we play we do because they played them. The way we play and sing them is our imitation of they way they performed them. If you went through our setlist, it would read much like a Dubliners’ greatest hits. The Dubliners are a fantastic way to get into the world of Irish music, and even if you aren’t sure it’d really be your thing, I’d at least suggest checking out a few songs.

While they had many great songs, The Dubliners were a part of an era when the album format wasn’t fully established as a serious way to listen to music yet, so they don’t have any really good albums. But, here are some great albums that start with the letter D:

  • Darkness on the Edge of Town – Bruce Springsteen: This was my first favorite Bruce Springsteen album, and it’s a very transitional record. Compared to his previous album, Born to Run, Darkness is a very stripped down and darker album, as the title would suggest. “Adam Raised a Cain” is a very angry song about betrayal and deception. The title track is a song about keeping hope when you’ve lost everything. However, it’s not all gloomy and dark: “Badlands”, “The Promised Land”, and “Prove it All Night” are much brighter and more anthemic, the lights in the dark tunnel. This album is also home to my favorite Springsteen song and one of my favorite songs ever: “Racing in the Street”. It’s an amazingly beautiful song, full of longing and despair, and it leaves you hanging with an extended instrumental outro. While it’s not my favorite Springsteen album anymore, it’s still an amazing album that you should check out.
  • Donuts – J Dilla: Dilla’sThe final, dying breath of Dilla. However, it doesn’t sound like it. J Dilla was a master hip-hop producer, known for producing classic songs like Common’s “The Light” and The Pharcyde’s “Runnin’”, and this is his last album he made, released three days before he died in 2006. He knew he was dying, so he filled this last album with enough life to last forever. This is an album made up only of instrumental beats, so if you’re looking for #bars, this isn’t where to look. If you want beautiful music that you could rap over if you really wanted to, then you should absolutely listen to this. The tracklisting may look daunting, with over 30 songs, but most of them don’t go past the two minute mark, and with how quality the material is, you’re going to wish that they were longer.
  • Doolittle – The Pixies: Here is where the potential of alternative music was final beginning to be realized. This album came out on the tail end of the 80s, but it sounds more at home in the 90’s with Nirvana and Green Day. The Pixies were actually very influential to Nirvana, and it’s easy to see why. The songs are filled with compelling dynamics and hooks, which weren’t all too popular in the 80s alternative scene. Songs like “Debaser” and “Here Comes Your Man” are incredibly catchy, and could almost pass for pop songs. “Monkey Gone to Heaven” and “Hey” are weirder experiences, but are just as great as the more fun songs. If you’re into 90s alternative rock, please check out this album, I know you’ll love it.
  • Dummy – Portishead: Is the hip-hop you’re listening to lacking in trippiness and female singers? Then check this out. It may be easy to dismiss this as good mood music, but to do that would be ignoring the depths of emotion and beauty in the songs. Many songs deal with betrayal, and are just all around kinda sad. The production is a marriage of hip-hop beats and more  dark elements. Beth Gibbons brings an eerie presence to these songs, and really elevates everything about the album to greater heights. If you like the more trippy production of rappers like Danny Brown or A$AP Rocky, this is an album I would have to recommend.
  • Disintegration – The Cure: Disintegration is very much like Dummy in mood and lyrics, however this is by a rock band who was aiming to make their most grand statement. It’s an album coming from a dark place, however it’s closer to the light at the top of a hole than the bottom of it. Songs like “Plainsong”, “Pictures of You”, and “Disintegration” are built on a grand beauty, that it’s hard not to feel joy in light of Robert Smith’s despair. Other songs like “Lullaby” and “Fascination Street” play with stronger rhythms. There’s one song on here that marries both of these elements really well, and that’s The Cure’s biggest hit “Love Song”. It’s a very simple song about love, but it sounds like the most important love in the world, a love that the world depends on. This album sounds like the world depends on it, and maybe it does need this marriage of joy and pain, which is what life essentially is. Check this out if you like bands like newer vibe bands like Glass Animals or romantic 80s bands like Depeche Mode.

While these albums should definitely be experienced as a whole, here are some songs that start with D that stand out really well on their own.

  • “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” – LCD Soundsystem: A punky party song that’s about a party. A lot of fun to listen to and pretty funny too.
  • “Dapper” – Domo Genesis with Anderson Paak: Paak comes through like he always does with a sunny hook. Domo just flows right over this funky beat.
  • “De Camino a La Vereda” – Buena Vista Social Club: This song puts you right in the streets of Cuba. Sunny, español fun.
  • “Deacon Blues” – Steely Dan: A sublime song about how sometimes stuff doesn’t work out. It also low key sounds like he sings “Deegan Blues”.
  • “December” – Antennas Up: Antennas Up are a local band, so you should check this out to support your city! It’s also a fantastic song, I still get it stuck in my head all the time.
  • “Deja Vu (Uptown Baby)” – Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz: This song samples a different Steely Dan song from the same album as “Deacon Blues”. It’s also just a fun rap track.
  • “Do I Do” – Stevie Wonder: A kind of obscure 80’s Stevie track, but one that is perfect for parties, as I’ve learned from DJing some. Such a fun, tropical sounding song.
  • “Do You…” – Miguel: Miguel flips the phrase “do you like drugs” into two different meanings in this sweet song about love. It’s actually a pretty pure song.
  • “Don’t Break the Needle” – J. Roddy Walston and The Business: My favorite song they play the three times I’ve seen them. So much fun to scream along to.
  • “Don’t Worry Baby” – The Beach Boys: Such a sweet and beautiful song by a band who specializes in these songs. This is one of my favorite songs of theirs’.

Thank you for reading! I hope you liked it and check out some of the music I suggest. I hope to be back soon with an installment about the letter E. As always, I have a playlist of everything I mentioned in this article that you can listen to here. Thanks again, and see you next time!

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