I hinted at it during my last post, but I’ve been thinking a lot about lyrics lately, both in regards to the musical project I’m working on as well as the music that I listen to.

I’ve always been sort of a casual absorber of lyrics in songs, and while I appreciate well-penned lines, bad lyrics aren’t something that will kill a song in my mind if the music surrounding them is good enough. There are, of course, a few exceptions to this rule, but it’s rare to find a song with lyrics so absolutely awful that they obliterate well-crafted music.

On the other side of things, there are artists whom I appreciate for their solid word crafting skills but whose music leaves me feeling absolutely bored. From this angle, it’s near-impossible for great lyrics to rescue a song that’s poorly written, so perhaps I am a bit biased towards the musical side of the quotient.

Great lyrics are fairly subjective, but it’s a part of the current musical project that we haven’t been willing to ignore or even take shortcuts on. In some ways, it’s held us back at times, looking not only for a good phrase, but the perfect phrase for every moment (not only in descriptive ways, but at phonetic and other levels as well). In doing so, there have been levels of analysis and research that I haven’t found myself working at since I was in college.

In saying the above, I know that many of the references and lines and phrases used within our songs won’t be understood by a good portion of those who listen to our music. That’s not to say that we’re working at a higher level than other lyricisits, although on an immodest level I am very proud of them. Instead, I think it simply goes back to that notion that a good portion of people (including myself at many times) appreciate great lyrics, but at the same time aren’t going to spend a great deal of time poring over lines and then making connections between phrases to find threads of ideas that run through songs and even albums themselves.

I think that the aforementioned sentiment has a lot to do with what kinds of lyrics I myself find to be the most engaging. I like lyrics that tease me a bit and give me clues and provide themes without spelling things out in always-obvious ways. Albums like OK Computer by Radiohead have always drawn me in due to their sometimes obscure references mixed with pop culture commentary and reflections of human life in general. I don’t want things to be spelled out perfectly, rather I want something that I can interpret a bit and come to my own conclusions about while having some lines that stick in my head at the same time.

Some people will call that pretentious, and that’s fine to me. I’m sure that the lyrics I’ve had a hand in will come across as obtuse to some and obvious to others, but as mentioned above, I will say that the process in writing them has (so far) made for some some of the most frustrating, interesting, and creative writing moments that I’ve had in the past ten years. It’s all a learning process, and that’s a good thing.