Charlotte Cornfield Ranks Her 5 Best Songs

"When writing each one, I think I experienced a little bit of magic and a feeling of exhilaration that is rare and special"
Charlotte Cornfield Ranks Her 5 Best Songs
Photo: Brittany Carmichael
Charlotte Cornfield is the type of songwriter whose lyrics are universally relatable precisely because they're so specific — the kind of writer who can disarm you with a tiny detail, setting the scene for wide-scope stories that play out within her narrow corner of Toronto.

Her latest album, Could Have Done Anything (out May 12 via Next Door Records), carries on this tradition, its lyric sheets peppered with references to Magnetic Fields concerts and Subaru rides.

"There are so many intricacies in our day to day interactions that are easy to overlook because they don't always fit a standard beginning-middle-end story arc," Cornfield tells Exclaim! "But those little details — the colour of the walls, the feel of a sweater, the glance down after the goodbye — those are the most fascinating and interesting and heartbreaking things to me."

To mark the release of Could Have Done Anything, Exclaim! asked Cornfield to rank the five best songs from her entire catalogue as part of our High 5 feature. While she understandably struggled with the word "best," she chose some favourites that have resonated with fans. "One common thread in these five that I chose is that, when writing each one, I think I experienced a little bit of magic and a feeling of exhilaration that is rare and special."

Read her picks below, and check out past High 5 instalments here.

5. "Storm Clouds"
The Shape of Your Name (2019)

This song took the longest to write of anything I've done. I remember working on it in little chunks over a period of months, without rushing. It felt like it really clicked when I figured out the refrain, that rolling cycle of moods. I brought it to a Banff Centre residency I did in 2015 and we did a recording of it there, with Charles Spearin on bass, horns and synth, and that's the version that ended up on The Shape of Your Name. It feels special to me, and represents a particularly powerful time in my life.

4. "Partner in Crime"
Highs in the Minuses (2021)

This one started with the bassline. I was just riffing in the basement one day and this slow-burn arrangement started to take shape. It's simple and straightforward, but it really worked as this bed for the story. "Partner" is particularly fun to play live because of the way it builds, and then comes back down, and then builds again. When we recorded this at Hotel2Tango, [producer] Howard Bilerman added these little swells of noise that grungeified the whole thing and made it feel more epic.

3. "Skateboarding by the Lake"
Highs in the Minuses (2021)

This one started off as a voice memo, just this little vignette. I had the intention to draw it out and finish it, but when I revisited it a couple of months later, it felt finished, like a photograph. In the studio, Liam O'Neill — who is such a crushing drummer — came up with this march-y feel to take it out. Ali Levy from Ada Lea was on bass, and she locked in with Liam in this beautiful way, and it just came together in a take or something. Very open and breezy.

2. "In My Corner"
In My Corner (2020)

There's a bounce to the chord progression on this song that was totally elevated by Evan Cartwright's drumming on the track. His feel is so deeply musical and airy, and there's so much space for the lyrics to sit out front. Sam Gleason played some really beautiful guitar here, too, that's just simple and spare. There's a real summeriness to the imagery in the lyrics, and though the narrative traverses a rocky friendship, there's a real optimism and hopefulness to the whole thing — in my mind anyway.

1. "Silver Civic"
The Shape of Your Name (2019)

When I wrote "Silver Civic" I was alone at my old place. My roommates were all out of the house and I was sitting in the dining room. Some songs take forever, but this one gently tumbled out over the course of a couple of hours. There are a lot of verses before the chorus happens, and that's because that's how long it took me to get the idea for the chorus, which — and I say this honestly — just came out of nowhere. Somewhere, but nowhere. It instantly felt special.