A weekly feature in which our writers and photographers share their favourite tracks on a theme. Today, we’re all about pure morning songs from the soundtrack to early beginnings to the alarm clock to the just plain invigorating.
Spiritualized – ‘Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space’ (chosen by Damien McGlynn)
A friend of mine was continuously shocked by the fact that it took Tom Cruise’s character in Vanilla Sky to make him realise that Radiohead’s ‘Everything In Its Right Place’ was the ideal alarm clock song. He’s wrong though. Close but no cigar. (Cigars for breakfast are not recommended.) The finest alarm clock song to wake you in the morning features in the same film a little later on. The opening track of Spiritualized’s defining album sounds like it was crafted in a dream but has more than enough urgency to give you the necessary kick up the backside in the morning. Beginning with a whisper from Kate Radley to let you know we’re not quite in touch with reality, Jason Pierce slowly ushers in the horns that should do a splendid job in blasting you down the stairs provided you haven’t hit the off button by the time Pierce has uttered “All I wa-“. His dual vocals – sounding both sleepy and focused, depending which one you are in the mood to listen to – seem to loop endlessly into a crescendo that will unfortunately be the highlight of your day.
The Cardigans – ‘Sick and Tired’ (chosen by Ciaran Gaynor)
Over the last few days I have been rediscovering the joys of Life – the breakthrough album by The Cardigans. Much of the material on it had been released previously on an album called Emmerdale, and like all of the band’s best work it was recorded in Tore Johansson’s Tambourine Studio in Malmo. Listening to the record now, I’m struck by what a strong song ‘Sick and Tired’ is; there is absolutely no flab here, every note is justified, every instrument in the right place. This is music to draw the curtains back to; crisp, brittle, bright, and the perfect aural remedy for a hangover.
James Blake – ‘Measurements’ (chosen by Niall Byrne)
Granted it’s not the kind of song that will wake you from a slumber when you’ve only had two hours sleep but for most normal days, ‘Measurements’ will improve your morning mood by precisely 1000% and make you feel like you’ve got a choir of little James Blakes at the end of your bed. There’s something wonderfully hypnotic about those organ chords throughout the song that immediately demand a positive disposition from its bleary-eyed audience. Blake’s vocals surge with gospel tendencies and snake in and out of the sparse production, adding multiple harmonies that build – they are not precise and in time. This is a good thing, as your own uncoordinated self could barely do a slow clap first thing in the morning. The silence between verses is the most pleasant equivalent of a short snooze button imaginable.
Megadeth – ‘Wake Up Dead’ (chosen by Dara Higgins)
With the tumbling insistence of a drunkard falling down a flight of stairs, then getting up to start a fight, ‘Wake Up Dead’ was the sound of a hangover, and some kind of financial necessity winning out over a nice lie in. At times an apparent showcase for every chord Dave Mustaine knows, and with more angular rhythm changes than an epileptic doing the ironing, ‘Wake Up Dead’ could have been 5, 6 or 7 separate songs, such was the fecundity of Mustaine’s creativity at the point in time. Back in the past, before children ensured that I no longer require an alarm clock, there was nothing better to wake up to than a bit of old school thrash. In fact, I was listening to this before it was even old school, back when it was current. Guaranteed to put a spring in your step as you attempt to punch yourself awake.
The Boo Radleys – ‘Wake Up Boo’ (chosen by Elizabeth McGeown)
Remember long wave radio Atlantic 252? In those heady days of the early ’90s that radio station became a kind of a craze on our school: To be cool, you had to listen. You had to listen to the Top Seven At Seven, you had to listen before you went to bed, and you had to listen first thing in the morning. This was unfortunate as at any given time the station seemed to have only five songs in rotation. The one year I listened in the mornings one song was played every morning without fail because of its highly suitable name. Did The Boo Radleys have any other songs? You wouldn’t have known from listening to Atlantic 252.
The Boo Radleys – ‘Martin, Doom! It’s 7 O’Clock’ (Chosen by Darragh McCausland)
There’s a blatantly obvious morning song written by the Boo Radleys in ‘Wake Up Boo’ but ubiquity has sadly robbed it of any charm it once had. However, hidden away towards the end of the Wake Up! is this elegaic gem, which is also about getting out of bed and which is perhaps more representative of the sort of slightly sad psychedelicists the underrated band were. Starting literally with alarm clocks ringing, the song is a simple back and forth between a sleepy Martin Carr and dreamlike harmonies exhorting him to get out of bed and face the world. With its snoozy bedtime trippiness, it is a lovely distant grandchild of (Carr’s hero) John Lennon’s ‘I’m Only Sleeping’
The Divine Comedy – ‘Gin Soaked Boy’ (Josh Clarke)
Mornings are getting darker. 6:30am is no time for dark and alienating music. What’s needed is a joyful montage song. Hannon’s soothing tones coupled with lilting acoustic melodies are a gentle call to consciousness. The slow build to the triumphant chorus is the call to coffee. The nonsense lyrics and tinkling pianos a call to dance on the train like Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club. “I’m Jeff Goldblum in The Fly, Well Who Am I?” …haven’t a clue Neil but you’ve made my day.
The National – ‘Daughters of the SoHo Riots’ (chosen by Michelle Bond Dolan)
This is actually the song that wakes me up every morning, or at least the first 30 seconds of it before I scramble out of bed and turn off the alarm. The opening melody is soothing and tender and makes the morning seem easier and gentler. Even Matt Berningers’ baritone vocals have an early morning craggy depth to them. Taken from 2005’s Alligator which although was their third full album, it was the one that got them noticed.
Angelo Badalamenti – ‘Lauren’s Walking’ – (chosen by Simon Roche)
Since his show on Radio Ireland in the mid ’90s Dinal Dineen has been responsible for about 90% of my purchased records. Having seen David Lynch’s film The Straight Story he once confessed that he had a film just like that in his head for the last 10 years but now someone else had made it so he had to scrap his years of thoughts. It didn’t stop him playing some of Angelo Badalamenti’s beautiful score for the movie, amazingly finding space on the national airwaves for the most beautiful and obscure of music. Though back then his show was from 10pm till midnight, this track is basically the sound of waking up with the tell-tale sign of blue skies and sunlight outside the window. It’s getting out of bed, hangover-free, in your own home with nothing to do but make some coffee and stare out into a field.
Fight Like Apes – ‘Something Global’ (chosen by Elaine Buckley)
A good dose of vintage Fight Like Apes at full blast in the morning is far more effective than a cup of coffee. FACT. Anytime I’m feeling the morning-time slump on the drive to work, ‘Something Global’ goes on in the car and within four frantic, raucous and zealous minutes I’m ready to face the day ahead. If you ever see me stopped at traffic lights screeching and head-banging along – please ignore.
Ride – ‘Vapour Trail’ (chosen by Alan Reilly)
When selecting a song to set on your phone as an alarm call, there are a number of rules.
- Switch vibrate off: nothing will break a phone quicker than the unmerciful whack against a wall it gets when gnaws at beside your head like a giant angry wasp.
- Don’t be precious: be careful of picking a song you love, you may grow to hate it.
- Soft landing: gentle intro required – preferably some light strumming.
‘Vapour Trail’ works for me. It’s not that the song isn’t precious to me, it is, but Ride can fuck me off one day and we’ll be thick as thieves the next, without a word of an apology. My alarm goes off at 6am. It doesn’t wake me, I’m always awake before it rings. I wait for it to go off anyway, but I rarely let it get to the singing, and definitely not the kick of the first bass drum – that’s 9 and 17 seconds respectively. I don’t need to, it’s etched into my brain – every jangle, string sweep, soft thump and round vowel note. I play the rest out in my head as I shower. I like to pretend I might head downstairs to flake around the sitting room. Maybe finish off some Kings Acre. Maybe finish off that nodge. Maybe watch Withnail & I again, then Countdown at 1. But that’s not the case. Hasn’t been for a long time. I don’t do might or maybe anymore. I’m up at 6am because my bus is at 7.05am – I never miss it (I have another alarm at 7 to remind me to leave the house). I’m up an hour early, because I don’t rush. When I rush, I forget things. When I forget things, my day’s organisation goes out the window. I don’t do unorganised. I am that person. But for four minutes and 16 seconds (precisely), I’m a wide-eyed slacker.