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Song Stories

“You Are a Tourist”

Death Cab For Cutie | 2011

The 2011 album Codes and Keys found Death Cab For Cutie experimenting with layered arrangements and the addition of electronic sounds to their guitar-based indie pop. But when singer Ben Gibbard wrote the single "You Are a Tourist," he wasn't thinking about texture; in fact, he wasn't quite sure what the song was about. “That song is not meant to be a larger statement than it is," he said. "To me, it's just a series of affirmations and positive thoughts. It's somewhat telling that it's a single voice in the bridge underneath, a low register vocal that's almost whispering at you, after you've been shouted at."

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Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

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