Looking for poetic, lyrical, music
September 10, 2019 10:17 AM   Subscribe

I've seen a host of topics about music recommendations here, even some very similar to my request, however they aren't quite I guess in the same vain as what I'm looking for. Any help?

I like music with complex lyrics and poetic content. You know, a song to incapsulate your imagination and let your emotions take you on a journey. Clever rhymes, obscure meanings left up to the interpretation of the listener, everything you like about a college lit class. It isn't that I don't like music with stereotypical lyrics (I love swing after all), but those are a dime a dozen so that itch is already scratched (thanks Frank Sinotra.

I will list the artists I tend to like, and hopefully you can find some of these to enjoy yourself so that this isn't purely a request for info, but providing it also.

In no particular order:

Regina Spektor, Leonard Cohen, The Jane Austen Argument, Al Stewart, Rufus Wainwright, Tori Amos, Don Mclean (not American Pie!). Maybe also The Moody Blues and Elton John but I'm more hesitant to include those.

Also for comedic relief but still thoughtful and clever, Tom Lehrer, Garfunkel and Oates, and Tim Minchin.
posted by MrFahrenheit to Writing & Language (35 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Mountain Goats
posted by sacrifix at 10:20 AM on September 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Art song is essentially interesting poetry set to music. Try anything by Ned Rorem - you might enjoy "Spring and Fall" or "Early in the Morning".
posted by amtho at 10:27 AM on September 10, 2019

Best answer: Joanna Newsom
Neutral Milk Hotel
posted by fourpotatoes at 10:32 AM on September 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Joanna Newsom, Fiona Apple, Neutral Milk Hotel, Jets to Brazil

Also maybe: The Magnetic Fields, The Weakerthans (though these are less lyrical and more sharp/ironic but still well-written and interesting lyrics)
posted by overglow at 10:36 AM on September 10, 2019

Best answer: Van Morrison, the album Astral Weeks. Particularly the title track. Another track on that album, "Sweet Thing," has one of the best lyrics I've ever heard:
And I shall drive my chariot down your streets and cry
"Hey, it's me, I'm dynamite and I don't know why"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:41 AM on September 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Dougie MacLean

Here are two songs: Ready for the Storm and Caledonia.
posted by Botanizer at 10:42 AM on September 10, 2019

Best answer: Oh. And Tom Waits. Anything from the album Swordfishtrombones up to the present. The instrumental part of his songs are going to be very different than the others you've suggested, and it's a grittier sort of poetry, but my word what poetry. Everything around him sort of turns into poetry; even people just writing a simple article about the man start to lapse into poetic hyperbole at some point.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:44 AM on September 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

Stan Rogers. The Rush album Roll the Bones. Gordon Lightfoot.
posted by Enid Lareg at 10:53 AM on September 10, 2019

Best answer: Old times here Pearls Before Swine - Tom Rapp
posted by Freedomboy at 11:02 AM on September 10, 2019

Best answer: SZA CTRL
posted by Dressed to Kill at 11:13 AM on September 10, 2019

Best answer: Hey, thanks for the selections!

A lot of these are a bit more hard rock / indie rock than the ones I listed, but I do quite like some of them. I was already aware of Dougie MacLean and Gordon Lightfoot and I like some of their songs. Some of these artists the poetry might be OK but I don't care for their singing style. Re: Joanna Newsom and Magnetic Fields.
posted by MrFahrenheit at 11:18 AM on September 10, 2019

Best answer: Bon iver & Ben Howard's newer material
posted by speakeasy at 11:42 AM on September 10, 2019

Best answer: Oh what about Elliott Smith

or Sufjan Stevens
posted by Dressed to Kill at 11:49 AM on September 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Joni Mitchell!
posted by Daily Alice at 11:51 AM on September 10, 2019 [5 favorites]

Mark Eitzel has been unjustifiably forgotten by too many, but his "official" debut solo album, 60 Watt Silver Lining, is a master class in this sort of thing.
posted by mykescipark at 11:59 AM on September 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

John Prine
Joni Mitchell
posted by sallybrown at 12:26 PM on September 10, 2019

This goes against the tenor of the other artists you mentioned, but have you considered exploring the wide world of alternative/conscious hip-hop? That is definitely the genre where I see the most talent for verse and poetry. Just to pick a random example, consider "Vomitspit" by MF Doom.
posted by zeusianfog at 12:31 PM on September 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

I came in to say Josh Ritter. He is the child of a literature professor and a physics professor (iirc); and it shows. Laurel, Hardy, Shakespeare, and poker all in a song about having, losing, and finding again, faith in God. And that just scratches the surface of his ability to use allusions in his writing.
posted by wg at 12:37 PM on September 10, 2019 [2 favorites]


John Cale
posted by Beardman at 1:03 PM on September 10, 2019

You should dig into the work of Nick Cave (with or without the Bad Seeds). His most recent stuff is probably the most poetic he's done in a long time, but all his music has complexity, poetry, and tons of power and emotion.
posted by pdb at 1:36 PM on September 10, 2019

I'm rarely impressed by the lyrics in songs, but Augie March's album Strange Bird really struck me. Very interesting musically too. Their previous album Sunset Studies also has some wonderful stuff.

I found Laura Gibson's album Shadows on Parade also interestingly lyrical.

Also nthing Joanna Newsom. Listen to the song "Emily" and be transformed.

Jason Molina/Songs:Ohia has some wonderful storytelling in there, and in a similar vein I think Castanets really hits home on What Kind of Cure.

Looking forward to checking out some other stuff in this thread!
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 1:43 PM on September 10, 2019

Maybe Spencer Krug aka 'Moonface', for example Love The House You're In.
posted by misteraitch at 1:55 PM on September 10, 2019

I’ve been enjoying Randolph’s Leap recently who do some of that, although they might be a bit too indie for what you’re after. E.g. Clumsy Knot.
posted by fabius at 1:56 PM on September 10, 2019

Indigo Girls

Nthing Elvis Costello

Maybe Ani DiFranco

For comedy (based on your list) I'd add Jonathan Coulton
posted by Mchelly at 2:08 PM on September 10, 2019

I'll mention J.A. Seazer here because practically all of his lyrics are poetic and surreal, but that may not scratch your itch because they're all in Japanese and most of them have not been translated. However, there are copious translations and exegesis all over the internet for the songs he wrote for the Revolutionary Girl Utena anime. Here is a good resource for those.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 2:23 PM on September 10, 2019

I've been listening to a lot of Wax Mannequin lately.
posted by Poldo at 2:59 PM on September 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Marissa Nadler (covering Leonard Cohen and Radiohead)
Suicide (covered by Bruce Springsteen)
Phosphorescent (or covering Willie Nelson)
Bonnie Prince Billy (my favorite songwriter of all time)
Bobby Birdman
Iris DeMent
Nick Drake
Randy Newman (covered by Harry Nilsson)
The Star Room Boys
M Ward
Silver Jews (singer David Berman was a published poet before becoming a singer - he was also Purple Mountains)
Future Islands
Bill Callahan
Smog (or with children's choir)
Guided by Voices
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone (now recording as Advance Base)
Songs: Ohia (and the wonderful Jason Molina)
Poet Gil Scott-Heron (covering Bill Callahan - covered by the wonderful Esther Phillips)
The Tallest Man on Earth
Lou Reed and John Cale
Grant Hart (especially his songs for Husker Du
Brian Eno's album with lyrics by poet Rick Holland is great (bless this space and Pour It Out and Breath of Crows)
The incredible Scott Walker (whose style changed drastically over time)
Laurie Anderson under Colin Stetson
Pete Townshend's terrific early songs for the Who (Substitute being a fantastic example)
Nick Cave
The Roches
Palace Music
Decemberists (certainly one of the most clever rhymers in pop the past 2 decades)
Scout Niblett
Van Morrison's mind-bogglingly great Veedon Fleece
Two Gallants (Stephens is another extraordinary rhymer)
The Afghan Whigs
Mercury Rev playing under Alan Vega and poet Robert Creeley
Since you mentioned humour: Ass Ponys
Townes Van Zandt
Nico singing a song Jackson Browne wrote when he was 17
Joel RL Phelps (of Silkworm) - (covering Iris Dement and Fleetwood Mac and Townes Van Zandt)
And the wonderful storyteller Nina Nastasia
posted by dobbs at 3:24 PM on September 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

Neko Case, specifically check out Fox Confessor Brings the Flood and Middle Cyclone, but pretty much all of her (solo) work has a similar quality.
posted by tobascodagama at 3:26 PM on September 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

Dan Mangan - Basket
posted by HillbillyInBC at 5:03 PM on September 10, 2019

Lots of good suggestions already, but some not yet mentioned: Dessa. Loudon Wainwright. Bruce Cockburn. Greg Brown. Passenger. Chuck Brodsky. The Civil Wars. Danny Schmidt.
posted by shadygrove at 8:40 PM on September 10, 2019

Ron Sexsmith - for example April After All
Tunng - for example Weekend Away
BA Robertson - for example Bang Bang
The Divine Comedy - for example Catherine The Great.
posted by rongorongo at 11:14 PM on September 10, 2019

Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer.
posted by eruonna at 11:31 AM on September 11, 2019

Kate Bush
Beck (Midnite Vultures if you're feeling dancey; Sea Change or Morning Phase for a more melancholy vibe)
posted by DrAstroZoom at 1:56 PM on September 11, 2019

Three suggestions:

Brian Eno: And Then so Clear

Brian Eno/Laurie Anderson: Like Pictures

Sinead O'Connor: Song to the Siren

I will include links, apologies if they don't work, they are all simple You Tube searches.
posted by effluvia at 3:31 PM on September 11, 2019

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