In anticipation of next week’s release of his band’s fourth record Lovelessness, Bison B.C. guitarist/vocalist James Farwell penned one of the most introspective and honest playlists we’ve ever run. He also sent over the following introduction, which is fortunate because we could not have put it any better. Listen along to his picks here.
“Here are ten songs that taught me about honest songwriting. The feelings they invoke inspired, to some degree, the compositions for Lovelessness. These songs have all had a part in showing a light in darkness. Exorcizing poisonous feelings that may have caused agonizing sleepless nights and thoughts of drowning in a bathtub of whiskey. In their sadness, their melancholia, their desperation, they have given themselves, to soothe our own symptoms of existing on the wrong side of the living. Enjoy.”
Neil Young & Crazy Horse—”Cortez The Killer” (from 1975’s Zuma)
“And I know she’s living there, and she loves me to this day, I still can’t remember when or how I lost my way.”
One endless riff, slowly and methodically pulling you into the song. Such subtlety, such a calm build that you almost don’t notice the violence as it rises. A true love song! The definition of bare bones. This song is for everyone I have ever wronged in my life. It is the quintessential lost love song. Love can be violent, even if it exists in some tender moments. Violent, evil bastards fall in love too.
Vic Chesnutt—”Flirted With You All My Life” (from 2009’s At The Cut)
“Tease me with your sweet relief. You are cruel and you are constant.”
It’s like a tropical, whimsical death march. Euthanasia in paradise. This song is genius, the thought of this as a love song. Simple enough of an idea, the sweet relief from suffering. Flirting with it, being sick. That idea has been with me for some time, the connection between love and death, both related to the relief of pain.
Thin Lizzy—”Cowboy Song” (from 1976’s Jailbreak)
“Lord all these southern girls, they seem the same!” (for Audrey)
This is freedom, an impossible dream. Late night, settled around some fire or lake drinking with friends, new and old. Countless times has this been sung in a van driving down the highway at night, drunk and carefree, far from home, far from someone. Pure newness, reborn into a fresh new being. This is the escape song. That being said, it does lead to capture in the right hands, that is the true goal in the end. Being caught.
Lucero—”The War” (from 2005’s Nobody’s Darlings)
“I could not stand to get my friends killed. So I took care of myself first. Now I know that don’t sound right, don’t think too bad of me. Now it keeps me up nights what I could have done differently.”
This sounds the way a guy and a guitar should sound. I have so much respect for this band. True hard working dudes, and honest with there tunes. I love to hear people singing about the old guys in their life. Even if their lives weren’t perfect, full of hard choices, impossible circumstance. I dig the idea of love existing through bad choices. Though we try, we don’t always make the right choices in our lives.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds—”Hold On To Yourself” (from 2008’s Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!)
Another drawn out build. So subtle and vague in its uprising, that when it takes you, it’s almost violent. This is the intensity every songwriter should aim for. This is about missing your love I think. Not being able to reach it. I remember driving through Roger’s Pass, snow pasting the road, appearing like static through the windshield. Having such a white-knuckled conversation with a friend, half listening. I now realize I made a commitment I didn’t fully understand, as my attention was unfortunately drawn between the song and the road, not her words. Good fucking song.
Samiam—”Clean” (from 1991’s Soar)
“I’d like to hide away. Somewhere without light.”
This song has always sounded like a young person’s loneliness. Though now, at 40 years old, it still gives me goose bumps. Just a good progression, intense and honest, it sounds like human beings are playing this music. There are flaws in it, which adds to its charm and fragility. Pure self-indulgent desperation. Simple depression, numb to the world, perhaps after some undescribed shitstorm. This is one of my go-to “shame over” songs.
Mark Lanegan—”When Your Number Isn’t Up” (from 2004’s Bubblegum)
“Turn out the lights, don’t see me drawn and hollow.”
Another testimonial, a council. Haven’t we all found ourselves late at night, red eyed, on our knees praying for something to end and something to begin. Just add a sparse crackling background and we could almost be as cool as this asshole. Even as we wept, alone and naked and pathetic, coming down off of whatever high had carried us to flail in the moonlit street, screaming a name into the ether. But rather, we would calmly duck out and whisper everything we wanted into our sleeve. Like the time my friend was locked in a bathroom, just bleeding, feeling no use, no love. While we were all getting it on in the downstairs living room he was unnoticed until someone went upstairs to do some lines.
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band—”Fire Lake” (from 1980’s Against The Wind)
“Who’s gonna make that first mistake?”
Regret. Imagine a way out. All I can say is, I’ve been Uncle Joe, man and “Fire Lake” is a fucking saving grace. Even the thought of it, the idea of it. A gamble, for the better. And this simple story, the strolling guitar, a lesson to us all. Sing this all day, everyday. Say it to yourself, it’s okay to never cut the cake.
Jawbreaker—”Accident Prone” (from 1995’s Dear You)
“What’s the closest you can come to an almost total wreck and still walk away, all limbs intact?”
This tune will always get me. It became ingrained in my heart one terrible day many years ago while on a lonesome ferry ride from Vancouver Island. Beginning at a young age, Jawbreaker would be the cornerstone of my emotional development for many years. Teaching me about the more complex parts of love and social predicament. That was a hard day, traveling back from Victoria to Vancouver, alone and lamenting the loss of a girl and the discovery of another. Drowning in agonizing thoughts while under the familiar overcast, a slight drizzle washing over my face, as I tried to smoke despite the weather. Drinking my secret drink on the deck.
Paw—”Jessie” (from 1993’s Dragline)
“And Jessie you’re a good dog, please don’t follow me. Just go on home.”
On May 17th, 2012 at 2:02 pm my dog Milo passed away after a courageous battle with cancer. After an intense surgery that took his spleen and then an amazing recovery, we had a glorious month together, to drink beer and eat poutine and pizza in the Bocce Park. It was our chance to say goodbye, before the cancer spread to his liver and took him. Fuck the world. Write a song about a dog.
*Pre-order a copy of Lovelessness here.
**We update one Spotify playlist for each new Decibrity entry, so feel free to subscribe to that here. Past entries include:
A Life Once Lost
Witchcraft (Ola Henriksson) (Magnus Pelander)
Vision of Disorder
Anders Nyström (Katatonia) (Part 1) (Part 2)
“Best of” Rush (Part 1) (Part 2)
Greg Mackintosh (Paradise Lost) (Part 1) (Part 2)
“Best of” Meshuggah
Shane Embury (Napalm Death) (Part 1) (Part 2)