Five of My Favorite Lyricists

[originally posted on October 24, 2014]

I take my music lyrics pretty seriously. I'm all about hooks and catchy melodies and great beats (by the way, most people are talking about great rhythms when they say they like a song for the beat. It would be weird if people liked songs about beating women because 72 BPM gets them turnt). 

But the point remains: I really, really like good lyrics. And great music.

A great songwriter, in my opinion, is one who writes great lyrics while using the song structure to give additional meaning to what is said, and who is interesting to listen to. You've got to have both great musicality and great lyricism, otherwise you're a composer (no lyrics) or a poet (no music). 

About the legend part: I think of things in lists. Normally. However, there are some artists I can't rank. There are stories I can't rank. I can't say Lord of the Rings is BETTER or WORSE than The Chronicles of Narnia. I might like one better one day or another, but I think they belong on a list without rank. Basically, a list of all my number-one-favorites.

That being said, here's a list of five songwriters that cycle between being my favorite all the time. 

I've also put in five songs from each of them and which project they did it with, so you can find the darn thing. 


*Disclaimer* This list is not comprehensive (read: I will revisit this topic the next time I have a difficult week, or whenever I feel like it). Also, I am sure I'm going to do one of these lists with bands instead of songwriters. Just not this week. 



BANDS: The Delgados, The Burns Unit, Emma Pollock

Paper and Glue - Emma Pollock - Watch the Fireworks


Emma is fabulous in every way. I was introduced to her when she was a part of The Delgados (who are also legends in my mind -- the first song I heard from them is here.). 

It takes a rare artist to really confuse me with their lyrics, without confusing me. 

Let me explain. I like it when I get every line (things make sense and aren't in gibberish) but I also like it when the meaning of the song escapes me the first few times I listen to the song. 

Also. Emma Pollock is Scottish. Done son. 


1. The Light Before We Land - The Delgados

2. House on the Hill - Emma Pollock

3. I Could Be A Saint - Emma Pollock

4. Paper and Glue - Emma Pollock

5. The City Consumes Us - The Delgados



BANDS: Relient K, Matthew Thiessen and the Earthquakes

Relient K - Forget and Not Slow Down


Oh goodness. I don't know how he does it, but I always feel a deep personal connection to Relient K albums. For your reading pleasure, I've included some favorite RK lines, all penned by Thiessen:

"I'd rather forget and not slow down than gather regrets for what I can't change now."

"Been convincing myself that I'm worthwhile, because I'm worth what I'll convince myself to be."

"I feel like I was born for devastation and reform."

Dat internal rhyme tho. 

Plus, he wrote the most epic 10 minute song I've ever cried to. It's here.


FIVE LOVELY SONGS (all from Relient K):

1. Forget and Not Slow Down 

2. Deathbed 

3. Boomerang 

4. Who I Am Hates Who I've Been

5. Therapy  


BANDS: The Postal Service, Death Cab for Cutie

Death Cab For Cutie - Brothers on a Hotel Bed


The magic of Ben Gibbard is not his voice or his lyrics. It's the combination of the two that makes his songs so memorable. He puts a hundred pounds of weight in every simple line. The layers of meaning are just INSANE and I can't get over it. #sorrynotsorry



1. What Sarah Said - Death Cab for Cutie

2. Your New Twin Sized Bed - Death Cab for Cutie

3. We Will Become Silhouettes - The Postal Service

4. Brand New Colony - The Postal Service

5. Talking Bird - Death Cab for Cutie


BANDS: Mat Kearney

Mat Kearney - Can't Break Her Fall


This guy though. He's all like, oh, I'll learn to play guitar. I guess I'll play covers. Oh. I suck at covers. I guess I'LL JUST WRITE FREAKING BOSS SONGS FOR FUN. 


Not every white guy can rap and play guitar at the same time. But Mat Kearney can.

Not everyone can write an epic ballad about their dad. Mat Kearney can. 


1. Can't Break Her Fall 

2. City of Black and White

3. Closer to Love

4. Hey Mama

5. Fire and Rain


BANDS: Switchfoot, Jon Foreman, Fiction Family

Jon Foreman - Somebody's Baby


Out of everyone on this list, I think Jon and Emma are the most versatile writers, but Jon has a style all his own. Beyond that, it is rare that you hear an artist in three simultaneous projects, where every song is clearly identifiable as belonging to one project or another. I figured more of you know Switchfoot, since they've been around since the late 1990's/early 2000's, but since not everyone in the entire world knows Fiction Family, here's a link to a great song. Seriously. 


1. Souvenirs - Switchfoot

2. Betrayal - Fiction Family

3. Give Me Back My Girl - Fiction Family

4. Somebody's Baby - Jon Foreman

5. I Am Still Running - Jon Foreman


There you have it: Five of my legendary list lyricists.  

Let me know what you think about it! 

I found all of my photos by searching for the artist's name in google image and none of them belong to me. 

All of the songs belong to their respective artists.