Hi. My name is Matt. I spend a lot of time on tumblr (my account is letsgoskysailing, come say hi!) and I love music. That’s pretty much all you need to know about me, so I’ll get onto talking about the playlist I’ve complied for you.
I was asked to pick a theme to base my song choices around, and that’s exactly what I’ve done. I decided to attempt to tell the story of a failed relationship from the point of view of the guy, which if I’m honest, was quite heavily influenced by some of my past experiences. I’ve tried my hardest to encapsulate all the feelings at every part of the relationship. The optimistic feeling as you’re first falling head over heels for someone who’s about to become a significant other, the euphoria of love which allows you to ignore certain failings, the sense of panic and desperation as things start to fall apart, the bipolar sense of depression caused by the loneliness, the tiny spark of motivation as you begin to recover from a tragedy and finally the happiness that comes from moving on and being able to look towards the future. Enjoy.
1. Fairytale Lullaby – Bombay Bicycle Club
I chose this song as it seems perfectly displays the sense of wonderment when you meet someone new. You don’t actually know where you’re going to end up or how things are going to play out, but somehow, you’re convinced that it’ll be your fairytale ending. The sense of being invited into someone’s life and the promise of a new wonderful life is what I’m really trying to get at.
2. The Saltwater Room – Owl City
This track tells the tale of a young couple who have just met and are about to fall in love. I like the way that it acknowledges that the only thing standing between him and love is time because I think that’s a way everyone has felt at some point, and if you haven’t yet, you will one day. My favourite lyric from this song is "We’ll turn off all the lights and set this ballroom aglow".I think it puts the feeling you get when you’re intimate with someone into words perfectly.
3. The View From Here – We the Kings
This a song that is absolutely full of hope and looking toward the future. I really like the way that the first verse creates a feeling of lost control, but in a pleasant way. It’s like the feelings you have are all snowballing together into something amazing. The chorus goes on saying ”push ahead, past the highest ledge” and I feel like this is referencing some issues the guy in the relationship has noticed but even so, his overall feeling about the future is optimism.
4. All About Us – He Is We ft. Aaron Gillespie (Incorrectly billed as He Is We ft. Owl City on Spotify)
This is a very simple song about love. You may also notice a connection to ‘The Saltwater Room’ from earlier in this playlist in the theme of dancing. This was deliberate as I’m basing the story I’m trying to tell loosely on a failed relationship of my own, and dancing was a huge part of that. It seems weird, but neither of us were really dancers, but we did spend a lot of time dancing together in our bedrooms. Not in a euphemistic sense, we just slow danced a lot. I can’t even explain why, but it really seemed to strengthen the bond between us and make things a lot better. I also really like the lyrics in this song and the way they express that when you’re in love, everything really is all about just you and your significant other.
Finally able to step away from taking these mixes. It was fun but I’m glad to have some other people do the leg work, since that’s the point of this blog.
I’ve had a few people sign up, but let me know if you’re interested, I’m still looking for more. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or use the Ask/Submit features.
Our first contributor is Matt. You can find his blog here. His theme will be about a doomed relationship and he’ll start his posts tomorrow and continue until next Sunday. I’m really excited to see what he comes up with and I hope you all enjoy the change of pace. The more different voices we get on this blog, the better it will be.
1. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents theme 2. Jo Jo’s Jacket — Stephen Malkmus 3. Debaser — Pixies 4. Silent Film Star — Grandpaboy/Paul Westerberg 5. Tom Courtenay — Yo La Tengo 6. The Union Forever —- The White Stripes 7. The Right Profile — The Clash 8. Monty Got A Raw Deal — R.E.M 9. We Suck Young Blood — Radiohead 10. Bela Lugosi’s Dead — Bauhaus 11. The Seventh Seal — Scott Walker 12. Cary Grant’s Wedding — The Fall 13. Dialogue from Get Carter 14. Michael Caine — Madness 15. Robert Mitchum — Julian Cope 16. Ingrid Bergman — Billy Bragg & Wilco 17. The Man with the Harmonica — Ennio Morricone 18. For Charles Bronson — The Mountain Goats 19. Like Dylan in the Movies — Belle & Sebastian 20. Main Title Theme (Billy) — Bob Dylan 21. Losing Momentum (For Jim Jarmusch) — Kurt Vile 22. Cassavetes — Fugazi 23. Slapped Actress — The Hold Steady 24. Celluloid Heroes — The Kinks
Interested in making a mix for One Week \ One Mix? Please e-mail me at email@example.com.
21. Losing Momentum (For Jim Jarmusch) — Kurt Vile
An instrumental that has more in common with Jarmush than just it’s dedication. Like the indie filmmaker’s best movies, the song is slowly paced, fairly repetitive, simple to the point of delicacy and strangely hypnotic. A fitting tribute.
22. Cassavetes — Fugazi
"Shut-up!" Guy Picciotto shouts in the opening, after a teeth rattling drum line opens the song. "This is my last picture!" It’s tempting to read this film as a big FU to Hollywood, praising the legendary independent auteur for his authenticity, realism, deliberate pacing, and challenging subject matter. But I’ve always felt like this song is something of a cautionary tale. John Cassavetes last movie was Big Trouble, a comedy starring his friend and frequent collaborator Peter Falk. Falk recommended Cassavetes for the job after the original director (Andrew Bergman, also the screenwriter) was fired from the movie. Falk and Cassavetes basically threw the script out and improvised much of the dialogue to disastrous results. His contempt for the material signals that he took the job for the money, and to help out his friend. Taking jobs for the money was something Cassavetes mostly did with his acting career; appearing in all sorts of roles he hated so he could fund personal movies that few people cared to see, aside from a devoted fan base. There might be some kind of beautiful truth in some of Cassavetes best movies, but the end of his life is terribly sad and problematic, dying of liver cancer stemming from alcoholism, making a lifeless comedy for cash.
There certainly is contempt for Hollywood in this song, with it’s sad-eyed moguls reaching for their wallets, buying up genres and the names of talented directors. But there’s at least a little bit of contempt for Cassavetes too. He wasn’t always a pleasant man to say the least, and those “shut-ups” that begin and end the song emphasize his complicated nature as a director and as a man.
23. Slapped Actress — The Hold Steady
Sticking with the Cassavetes theme, the Hold Stead’s uneven fourth album Stay Positive is the sound of a band trying to figure out which road to go down and not really making a definitive choice. Slapped Actress is the last song and the best, giving the listener the impression that the behind the scenes business with this band isn’t always fun and games and can be as tumultuous as a Cassavetes movie. “Sometimes, actresses get slapped,” Craig Finn sings, referring to Cassavetes’ several on screen slaps given to wife and frequent collaborator Gena Rowlands. “Sometimes fake fights turn out bad.” The song very much acknowledges the falseness inherent in rocking out like you mean it more than anything night after night, but also acknowledges that, like the infamous director, reality can easily mix in with the fantasy on several occasions, creating natural tensions within the band mates. It’s no wonder keyboardist Franz Nicolay left after this album, radically impacting the bands sound on subsequent recordings. Slapped Actress is a departure as a Hold Steady song, acknowledging that while the band feels like they have the greatest job in the world, rocking out while singing about young dumb fun, it all comes at a price. “Some nights it’s just entertainment,” Finn sings. “And some other nights work.”
24. Celluloid Heroes —- The Kinks
This beautiful Kinks ballad is pretty self explanatory, so rather than write a whole bunch of nonsense, I’m just going to let it speak for itself, like it’s the end credits to a halfway decent movie. Enjoy.
Sergio Leone’s masterpiece (one of several) Once Upon A Time in the West had four main characters so strong, composer Ennio Morricone decided to give them all their own theme to accompany them whenever they appeared on screen. My favorite has always been this track that accompanied Charles Bronson’s strong, silent, sad unknown gunslinger that announces his presence by playing the harmonica. We find out why in the film’s climax, and it’s a testament to the power of Leone and Morricone that while the reveal could be considered a cliche, the power of the music and the film making are so strong that it seems like a situation we’re witnessing for the first time. Bronson’s piercing eyes do a good job selling it too. I love how the harmonica sound seems to be crying, wailing, hinting at layers upon layers of repressed emotion Bronson’s character is too afraid to let out, unless he’s using bullets.
18. For Charles Bronson — The Mountain Goats
I hesitated to include this song, because I just used a Mountain Goats song last time, but it’s just too good to pass up. A beautifully touching ode to Bronson’s last days, that gives him the respect he deserves while hinting at the sadness that was written all over his wrinkled face, like Ehrenfeld, Pennsylvania.
19. Like Dylan in the Movies — Belle & Sebastian
I’ll be honest. I don’t think this song is about Dylan or Don’t Look Back, the infamous documentary on the singer-songwriter by D.A. Pennbaker. As far as I understand it, it’s just a simile. But it’s a good song, and it gives us a good excuse to consider Dylan in the movies. Look up his filmography. Go ahead, right now, take a look, right now. Interesting, isn’t it? Strange. Varied. Different. Odd. Eclectic. Sounds about right.
20. Main Title Theme (Billy) — Bob Dylan
And that song leads nicely into this one. I really love the soundtrack to Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garret and Billy the Kid, which was provided by Dylan. The music seems natural and beautiful and kind of liberating in a way that seems perfect for a revisionist western. And Dylan wisely decided not to include lyrics, which would tether a song like this to an unnatural type of reality unsuited for it. Dylan appears in the movie too, and he’s actually pretty good. The movie is a mixed bag, but I honestly feel like the soundtrack is some of the most underrated material in his career.
Theme: At the Movies (special TGIF/Hollywood Icon edition)
Yet another reminder; if you’re looking to contribute, please sign-up! I’m throwing down the gauntlet. Who can make the greatest mix of all time? Think it’s you? Prove it!
It’s Friday and I have a ton of work to do, so I’m going to be a little lazy and keep the writing to a minimum. Hey, I’ve made three of these mixes, people, so cut me some slack.
12. Cary Grant’s Wedding — The Fall
Why the preoccupation with Cary Grant’s wedding? No idea, but I have to admit there is something particularly opulent sounding about a wedding held for Cary Grant, a self made man if there ever was one. Mark E. Smith seems to be commenting on the showy falseness that stems both from Hollywood personalities and weddings, and Grant (who was born Archibald Leech and transformed himself into the handsomest leading man of the 20th century) is a prime target for Smith’s ridicule.
What might sound like a goof on Caine’s personality is actually a sly political commentary, built around one of his movies. In The Ipcress File, Caine plays a spy for the CIA who becomes a brainwashed sleeper agent, sent to kill a former department head through the use of a trigger word (kind of like The Manchurian Candidate). Madness uses the song to discuss informers for the IRA during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, which was a huge issue at the time. Because the person is a turncoat, he feels like he’s given up on his home and has no idea who he is. He has more in common with a brainwashed spy from a movie than his home country.
15. Robert Mitchum — Julian Cope
"I wrote a song for you," Cope sings, and indeed he did. This is a pretty straightforward fan letter in simple song form (with a great whistle solo in the middle). Cope talks about how he would do the same thing as Mitchum if he were busted by the Hollywood vice, and gives him respect over the way he handled the loss of his wife. It’s a simple song and not sarcastic at all, but if anyone deserves it, it’s Mitchum. He rules.
16. Ingrid Bergman — Billy Bragg & Wilco
Another fan letter in song form, this one written by Woody Guthrie of all people, and song by Billy Bragg. I love the idea of Guthrie watching Notorious or Casablanca, picking up a guitar and quickly tossing out this lovely little ode to the fantastic actress. My wife kind of reminds me of Ingrid Bergman too, so there’s that too. I also love how I’ve got a reference to Cary Grant, spies and Bergman all in one stretch. As the first song indicates, I love Hitchcock.
Reminder: looking for contributors. Please let me know if you’re interested. I have the next couple of weeks booked, but after that I’m practically wide open. I’d love to see what kind of mixes you guys could come up with.
Mix 3: Tracks 9 — 11
Theme: At the Movies
9. We Suck Young Blood (Your Time Is Up) — Radiohead
I guess you could argue that the meaning of this song is ambiguous, but to me it always seemed like a clear send-up of the destructive allure of Hollywood. This could be the theme song to the nightmarish parts of Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. “Are you hungry?” Thom Yorke croons delicately. “Are you sick? Are you begging for a break?” Later, he could double as a casting director. “Are you sweet? Are you fresh? Would you do anything?” Hollywood as vampire might not be the most original metaphor, but the stripped down production and that empty, dry hand-clap percussion hints at a starving, menacing beast ready to strike, something far more scarier than a vampire. And then things get really crazy during the bridge. Is it a feeding frenzy? Much is left to our imagination, but this song doesn’t seem to have a typical Hollywood ending.
10. Bela Lugosi’s Dead — Bauhaus
The original goth rock classic seems like a fitting follow up to a song about casting director blood suckers. Over nine minutes long and recorded live in the studio, Peter Murphy doesn’t begin his brooding vocals until nearly three minutes in. What is it about? Are Bauhaus commenting on Lugosi’s actual death or the film image he made infamous, which is forever preserved via the power of cinema, which will always be “undead, undead, undead”? Nothing here here seems tied to reality, not even the music, with its crazy, wavering dub guitar distortion, Murphy’s growling baritone to wolf howl vocals and an eerie relentless high-hat percussion beat, the song, like Lugosi’s legendary performance, is meant to unnerve you.
11. The Seventh Seal — Scott Walker
Walker’s straight-up retelling of Ingmar Bergman’s most well known movie is full of fascinating imagery pulled directly from the film. “This morning I played chess with death, said the knight,” Walker sings as what sounds like a choir of monks moan back-up. Like the movie, the song is about how life is a game that always has one outcome. We can’t beat death at life; in the end, we all end up knocking over our king in surrender and death leads us away. As Walker sings the last lines, the music sounds downright rousing and triumphant, as if he’s found freedom in accepting the inevitable. Despite the grim subject matter, the movie always felt hopeful to me too. Death might be the end, but it must come for us all. Reminding ourselves of that fact every now and again makes the chess game we tangle with on a daily basis all the more meaningful.
Reminder: sill looking for contributors. People are starting to fill up the calendar for May, but I still have plenty of weeks wide open. I’d like to get things scheduled as far in advance as possible so I’m not scrambling to find people to week to week. If you’re interested, read the “Contribute” section on the top of the page and e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
Mix 3 : Tracks 7 & 8
Theme: At the Movies
7. The Right Profile — The Clash
Both of these songs are about Montgomery Clift, but both of them have drastically different tones. Clift was a pioneering method actor whose face was seriously damaged in a car accident in 1956. The injuries were extensive; Clift’s friend and frequent co-star Elizabeth Taylor was at the scene of the accident and reportedly pulled one of Clift’s teeth from his tongue, and from that point on, when shooting a movie, cameraman shot Clift to focus on his right profile, since that side of his face was mostly unscathed. The accident had a devastating effect on Clift, who took up drugs and alcohol and died a few years later at the age of 45.
For such a sad story, it seems strange that The Clash’s account of Clift’s last years sounds so joyous, including a bright sounding guitar riff that bounces through the whole song, and a horn line that punctuates the chorus. Joe Strummer alternates perspective between folks spotting Clift on the street (“It’s Montgomery Clift, honey!”) and Clift himself, singing “Go out and get me another roll of pills, there I go shaking but I ain’t got the chills,” before descending into an impression of Clift that sounds like nothing but mumbles, grunts and groans. It’s a sarcastic ode to Hollywood image, written by Strummer after London Calling producer Guy Stevens lent him a biography on Clift and suggested a song about him.
8. Monty Got a Raw Deal — R.E.M.
Michael Stipe’s take on Clift seems to have a little more sympathy for him, especially as a closeted gay or bi-sexual man. Clift was infamous for wanting to step away from the typical Hollywood limelight, glitz and glamour and focus on his acting. Naturally, this didn’t sit too well with the Hollywood press, and neither did the fact that Clift was gay and possibly a communist (at least one of these things isn’t true — guess which one)? Stipe acknowledges that Clift got a bad deal in life, while also possibly wishing he would have embraced publicity a little harder, but for more personal reasons. “You don’t owe me anything,” Stipe sings, “but heroes don’t come easily.” Does Stipe wish that Clift was more open and honest about his sexuality, paving a way for gay entertainers like him? Perhaps, but in the end, Stipe at least acknowledges that Clift got a pretty raw deal in life no matter what.
Reminder: looking for contributors. Please e-mail me at email@example.com to sign up to be a contributor. Let me know what theme you’d like to develop your mix around, and let me know if you have any questions. Read the “Contribute” button up top if you’d like more info.
Mix 3 : Tracks 4 — 6
Theme : At the Movies
4. Silent Film Star — Grandpaboy / Paul Westerberg
Paul Westerberg’s fourth solo album Stereo was packaged with another album by the former Replacement’s leader, recorded under an alias. The album was called Mono and the alias was curiously named Grandpaboy. Mono remains, for my money, the best post-Replacement’s album I’ve heard from Westerberg (although to be fair, I haven’t listened to all of them) and of it’s eleven tracks, nine of them really stand out, Silent Film Star no exception. Although it isn’t about any specific silent film actress, Westerberg plays with his conceit cruelly and playfully; the first line of the chorus may convince you he’s complimenting the object of his affection. “You outta be a silent film star,” Westerberg sings. “Keep that pretty little mouth shut,” follows quickly after. Apparently, this lady is deciding between two guys and can’t stop talking about it. “It’s the dialogue I can live without, hurry up, my place or his?” Westerberg demands. To this guy, actions clearly speak louder than words.
5. Tom Courtenay — Yo La Tengo
Tom Courtenay is a British actor who made a name for himself in the 60’s with starring roles in movies like Billy Liar and Doctor Zhivago (both opposite Julie Christie, which explains the first line of this song). Ira Kaplan claims to have written this song to try and capture the allure cinema, literature and media have over young people. Do we make gods out of these ordinary people because we wish someone would make gods out of us?
6. The Union Forever — The White Stripes
Part of Jack White’s appeal has always been his mysterious nature, and his downright prankster mentality when it comes to self-promotion. The Stripes have their color scheme, their sister-brother mythology, their husband and wife mythology (even if it’s true, there’s still something larger than life about it, and you better believe that Stripes exploited it to a certain extent). So it’s fitting that White clearly identifies so much with a fictional character like Charles Foster Kane, a man from modest upbringing who became incredibly rich and famous, searching endlessly for acceptance and his own, firm sense of identity. In Citizen Kane, the young Kane is playing with his sled outside while rich men speak to his mother, making him rich. “The union forever,” he yells, playing civil war games with himself. White takes that phrase and makes it about his own marriage; like Kane, he’s also had trouble in love, and arguably has tried to make his wife (reluctantly?) famous via a music career (I guess we can all be thankful that Jack never pushed Meg into opera). Personal through subterfuge, the Union Forever is the sound of a man revealing everything about himself while holding us at a distance. Borrowing the song composed and performed for Kane and sandwiching it in the middle of the song has the same effect as the shifting narratives in Citizen Kane. The reporter, desperate to learn what makes Kane tick, talks to everyone who knew him and learns everything and absolutely nothing at all. It’s like that shot of Kane, walking to his death bed, starring into two double mirrors, one on each side of him. The effect is thousands of Kane’s, spilling out on either side of him. Which is the real him? Not even he knows, and White seems to be admitting the same. By showing us a hint of his own personal rosebud, White just might be making one of his most personal statements through smoke, mirrors and celluloid.
Just a reminder that we’re looking for contributors. I’ve had a couple people sign up for the first couple of weeks, which is great news. Let’s keep it going. Check out the “contribute” section on the main page and drop me a line if you’re interested.
Starting a mix about cinema seems to require some kind of opening credit sequence, and what better than the theme music linked to the most famous movie director of the 20th century? I know this is specifically connected to his television show, but Alfred Hitchcock’s movies were the reason he was given a show in the first place, and you can’t really separate the music from the image of the master filmmaker. Plus, the music isn’t really the “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” theme music, it’s a composition written by composer Charles Gounod titled “Funeral March of a Marionette,” which first appeared on the soundtrack to FW Murnau’s monumentally influential classic silent film Sunrise. So it has roots to important cinema in all sorts of different directions.
2. Jo Jo’s Jacket — Stephen Malkmus
Of all his post-Pavement material, I prefer Stephen Malkmus’ first eponymous solo effort better than anything he recorded with his band The Jicks. It’s a relatively underrated album, with some phenomenal songs (Dead-O, Church On White, Jenny and the Ess-Dog) that creep up on your with their subtle, catchy hooks and clever but heartfelt lyrics. Jo Jo’s Jacket seems to be sung from the point of view of Yul Brynner (and begins with a soundbite of him talking about shaving his head). Through Malkmus’ eyes, Brynner tells us that his role as a psychotic, robotic cowboy in the science-fiction film “Westworld" was "his best role."
Westworld, of course, played with Brynner’s Hollywood image, distorting one his most famous roles (Chris Adams from The Magnificent Seven) into something demonic and frightening. Malkmus seems to be suggesting how easily pop-images can be tarnished into something ugly, or even evil. Brynner began shaving his head after his role in The King and I, and it became his signature, often referred to as a “Yul Brynner look.” Despite the “liberation” Brynner gained from shaving his head, despite the “stupid vanities” he avoided because of it, his look, his very persona, was still used to underline the dark, horrific aspects associated with Hollywood filmmaking. The concept of Westworld is that visitors of the theme park can disappear into their fantasies, trying out gunfights, gambling in saloons and having fun in a brothel for a thousand bucks a pop. Naturally, things go wrong, and some of the electronic android characters develop minds of their own and wreak havoc, reminding the customers of the real life danger inherent in all these fantasies. The movie is suggesting the danger of watering down the violent reality obscured by pop Hollywood movie making, suggesting viewers are comforted by a false sense of truth, forsaking what was once reality, what once had powerful as being connected to reality, for nothing but empty fantasy. Malkmus is commenting on our preoccupation with severing the reality associated with these images, and he uses not only Brynner’s corrupted image to comment on this, but Bob Dylan, “toy guns that spark” and “flesh colored Christs that glow in the dark.” In the end, nothing is sacred; not the King of Siam, Bod Dylan’s blood, Yul Brynner’s bald head or the image of Christ himself. We turn it all into trash to please our own sensibilities.
3. Debaser — The Pixies
In my sophomore year of college, I took a film class that changed my life. One day, my professor showed us a silent film. At the time, I assumed all silent films were boring, but after watching Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel’s Un Chien Andalou, I quickly realized the error of my ways. A short, surrealist fantasy that includes images as varied as a razor blade cutting into an eyeball, ants crawling out of a large wound in the palm of a hand, a man tethered to mutilated parts of a horse crawling through his apartment. It’s the product of two creative young men who want to see just how much of a nightmare they could recreate on celluloid.
Debaser is basically just the sound of a guy who watches the movie and loves what he sees, a love letter to the ballsy surrealism. Frank Black casts himself as one of the directors and boasts that he’s got a movie where he’s “slicing up eyeballs,” and then has a hearty laugh about it. It’s a much more simplified a fantasy then anything we see in the surrealist masterpiece; Black just wants to be as crazy and cool as the directors he worships. His inability to come up with any original images of his own in this song makes you realize that this is basically fan worship. It’s not as if Black never came up with weird images on his own in any other song. What keeps him restrained here, focused on the movie? Basically, he’s writing a fan letter to two major influences, and we can’t help but get caught up with his enthusiasm.
Are you sick of me making playlist’s yet? I’m not, I think it’s fun, but I could use a bit of a break. Hopefully, this will be the last week and I’ll be able to hand this over to contributors for quite some time.
If you’re reading this and you’re looking to contribute to the blog anytime within the near future, now would be a good time to let me know. Check out the “Contribute” button on the front page and send me an e-mail or drop a line in my “ask” box. It’s okay if you don’t want to go next week; if you have a week in mind, let me know and I’ll pencil you in. If you’re open for anytime, that would be good to know too.
As for this week, I’ll be churning out one last mix. This one will be centered around one of my other favorite obsessions; movies. I’m going to be building a mix of songs that reference movies, movie stars, movie directors, etc. I’ll be putting up a few tracks later today.
1. Breakin’ the Law — Destroyer 2. Police on my Back — The Clash 3. Package Thief — Superchunk 4. An Amateur Thief — Chisel 5. Shoplifting — The Slits 6. X Offender — Blondie 7. Car Thief — Beastie Boys 8. Pusherman — Curtis Mayfield 9. Wamp Wamp (What It Do) — Clipse 10. I Put A Spell On You — Screamin’ Jay Hawkins 11. Where The Wild Roses Go — Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds with Kylie Minogue 12. Catherine — PJ Harvey 13. State Trooper — Bruce Springsteen 14. Possession (Piano Version) — Sarah McLachlan 15. Polly — Nirvana 16. Westfall — Okkervil River 17. Palmcorder Yajna — The Mountain Goats 18. Staggoloee — Pacific, Gas & Electric 19. Cocaine Blues (live) — Johnny Cash 20. Mashin’ on the Motorway — DJ Shadow 21. Come On Wreck My Car — They Might Be Giants 22. Spray Paint — Black Flag 23. Becky — Be Your Own Pet 24. Jailbreak — Thin Lizzy 25. Breakin’ the Law — The New Pornographers
I often like mixes to have some kind of symmetry, and I think the progress in this mix, from petty crimes to a long list of serious offenses culminating in a jailbreak, deserves an epic finish, especially compared with the relatively modest opening. I’ll often begin a mix with an original and end with a rousing cover, but it’s rare that I’ll end with a cover from a band featuring a member of the original. As I wrote way back under track one, I like the Destroyer version of Breakin’ the Law, but the song benefits greatly from the powerful vocals and musicianship the rest of the Porno’s bring to this, especially that final, rousing chant of “breakin’!” If Bejar sounded hesitant about working himself up into a criminal mindset, the Pornographers embrace it with great relish.
No worries, we’re not spinning off (just yet!) — but OWOB reader Jeff felt inspired by this blog to start his own variation on our theme, and is currently setting up One Week \ One Mix, a mixtape Tumblr on which each week a new contributor will build and write about a Spotify playlist. Sounds like a neat idea!
We’re always flattered and humbled to be the source of inspiration, so check out his blog. Best of luck to Jeff!
I’m touched by Hendrik’s kindness and support. This idea wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the inspiration of his excellent blog, and all the writers that have written for him. If you made your way over here thanks to his generous plug, welcome! I’m working on ironing out some details and plan to include a FAQ for future contributors. I’m going to finish the mix I was working on this past week and then create one more more mix starting tomorrow. While I post those songs, I’ll be regularly asking for contributors. So if you’re interested, please start thinking of a theme and some tracks!
I’m going for a variety of crimes here. The mix is about illegal activity, after all, not “murder” or “drugs.” So, I was originally intended to put Jonathan Richman’s “Stop This Car” in this spot because it’s a great, fun song about someone driving recklessly and also because I believe any mix featuring Jonathan Richman makes for a better mix. Low and behold, Spotify doesn’t have the album (Jonathan Sings) that “Stop This Car” appears on, so I started thinking about other speeding and wreckless driving songs that weren’t “I Can’t Drive 55” and “Move Bitch.”
DJ Shadow’s second album The Private Press got a lot of flack when it came out for not living up to Entroducing, but it’s a solid album featuring the talented DJ trying out and experimenting with a lot of different techniques, moving further beyond his already influential first album. That said, this song is a bit of a goof, although I do enjoy it. As someone known for their crazy driving, I can appreciate both the attitude of the arrogant narrator, and the countless people he pasts, flipping him the bird. I also like how the music escalates, speeding and braking along with the imaginary car, with sounds flying by us like traffic right up to the unfortunate ending.
21. Come On Wreck My Car — They Might Be Giants
I often obsess over making sure I’m using as much of the 80 minutes on a mix CD as I can, and often turn to They Might Be Giants Apollo 18 for choice time-filler. There’s a long “Fingertips” song suite at the end of the album featuring tracks no more than ten to twenty seconds long. I slipped it in because I thought it was a quick, amusing follow up to the previous track. I’m weird like that.
22. Spray Paint — Black Flag
Moving the mix into a brief, punk detour, this Black Flag quickie is like a professional wall tagger; it gets in, does its business, leaves you tainted and gets out before there’s a chance of geting caught.
23. Becky — Be Your Own Pet
I’ll never forgive Be Your Own Pet’s Jemina Pearl for knocking Martin Scorsese’s After Hours (clearly, she didn’t understand it), her and the rest of this band enjoyed a good solid four years getting hyped up as a hot new thing before they imploded. This is their best song, with Pearl putting on her best, sarcastic high school juvenile voice and detailing her jealous rage over a friend choosing a girl named Becky (or, “Becky Facelift”) over her. She gets so mad about it that she hangs out after class with a new friend of hers, both of them carrying knives. “Now you know everyone hates me a whole bunch, just because I made you cry a little bit at lunch.” How did she make Becky and her former friend cry? By the end of the song, it’s become clear that she’s murdered Becky’s friend, and maybe Becky too, and is being sent to juvey for teenage homicide. The thrill Pearl lets out when she explains it was all worth it, “cuz’ in the end it was fun!” is infectious and silly and a little frightening, and cuts to the heart of the tangled mess of teenage angst, confusion and even bullying. If you were a pissed off teenager ever, you might have to think back, but you should probably find a way to relate to this song, even if you might not want to.
24. Jailbreak — Thin Lizzy
Brian Robertson’s guitar sounds like it could break us all out of jail, curt and cutting one minute, snarling and curling the next. Another song full of danger and risks that sounds like a huge kegger. Are these guys breaking out of prison or a football stadium? Even with that middle-bridge section where it sounds like they’re about to get caught, featuring that great alarm sound, this song never once lets you slip into having anything close to a bad time, and Phil Lynott’s tight, Irish snarl perfectly sells the song, and even when he sings “don’t you be around,” he makes it sound like a winking invitation. A classic worth repeating.
And that is one eclectic bunch of songs. But that’s what a mix is all about, right? Tune in tomorrow for the big finish.
Has a song detailing a drug den ever been so lovingly described, or ever sounded so cheerful? It’s not as if the details shouldn’t give you pause. “Carpenter ants in the dresser, flies in the screen,” John Darnielle sings in his patented nasally voice, and later he explains the first of several dreams, a house haunted by “all you tweakers with your hands out.” This song was the first single from The Mountain Goats’ 2004 album We Shall All Be Healed, which was inspired by Darnielle’s experiences as a teenager in California and Portland, Oregon, hanging around a group of friends, all addicted to meth. When introducing the song live, Darnielle has referenced a “love-hate” relationship with meth, and one can get that impression here as well. Despite the gruesome details, he describes his companions, with laugh lines on their faces, reflective tape on their pants, occasionally screaming that they can’t take it anymore, and all this signifies a feeling of destructive commodore. And then there are those fascinating dreams, always punctuated with the image of “headstones climbing up the hills.” One gets the sense that Darnielle is fantasizing about him and his junkie friends being wiped out by a massive meth lab explosion, which, it seems, would suit him just fine. Is the final dream a reference to a professional meth lab where “shiny new machines” manufacture what the tweakers need? Or is it a reference to all the many factories that do exist, creating what any consumer could demand or want? I prefer this interpretation because it suggests that in the end, whether we’re destroying ourselves through drugs or in a slower way, those headstones will still be there waiting for us all.
18. Staggolee — Pacific Gas & Electric
Stagger Lee is a murder ballad that originated in the early 20th century and has been covered hundreds of times, often with the name changing with it (Stackerlee, Stack O’Lee, Stack-a-Lee, etc). The song was based on the murder of Billy Lyons by Stagger Lee Shelton, a legendary pimp who was part of a St. Louis group of crooks known as The Macks. In most versions of the songs, Stagger Lee is a figure so fearsome that his neck refuses to crack and goes to hell to take over duties from the devil (the recently departed Dick Clark made Lloyd Price change the lyrics so that nobody died, however, when Price was to perform his cover on American Band Stand). The song is so legendary that two of the artists on this mix also covered it; Nick Cave (on the same Murder Ballads album) and The Clash (a part of “Wrong Em’ Boyo,” a cover of The Rulers’ song of the same name, working a part of Stagger Lee into the fabric of the rest of the tune).
This version from late 60’s/early 70’s blues-rock outfit Pacific Gas & Electric just has this wonderful, bluesy, relaxed charm to it, with that hiccuping harmonica and casual beat. You get the impression of a village elder out on his porch telling you about a real bad guy he encountered at one time. Grab some iced tea or a beer and raise a glass in thanks that this bad guy is no longer with us.
19. Cocaine Blues (Live) — Johnny Cash
From one mythology to another, Johnny Cash has a lot of outlaw songs, but this is one of his most rousing, and there’s something especially fitting about it being sung to a room full of convicts, who respond with much enthusiasm. Cash was wise to bust out this cover of a 1947 tale of drug abuse and murder to his Folsom Prison audience (it was first recorded by country-western singer Roy Hogseed), but playing up his “Man in Black” stature while making clever edits (“Folsom” prison rather than “San Quentin”) allowed his audience to create even more empathy with him. Not only was this guy playing for them, he even seems to understand; and while Cash never lived the life of a criminal, he easily admits that he very well could have. This performance here suggests that he didn’t mind at least thinking about it, and to this day, singing about a horrible crime and subsequent trial to a room full of prisoners is quintessential rock n’roll attitude. I love hearing Cash’s voice relishing some of the more dramatic lines, playing up his bad boy persona. Sometimes, the stars align and there’s just a perfect mixture of song, singer and audience. This is one of those times.
I received some kind words and good advice from someone who has been running a blog like this for some time and knows what he’s doing. Turns out, I don’t need anyone to submit playlist’s, they’ll just e-mail me their link and content, and when I sign their posts off, I’ll link to their blog, twitter, Facebook (if they want), or nothing (if they don’t want). I’m going to finish this mix, make one more next week, and once Monday rolls around put out the call for contributors. I’m also planning on making an FAQ concerning process and contributors. While hopefully dozens and dozens of contributor requests pile in next week (haha…yeah) I’ll slap together one more mix. And then we’re off and running.
Have I lost any of you yet? Posting a Sarah McLachlan track? She of that commercial for the End Animal Cruelty Campaign that has undoubtedly broken your heart on more than one occasion? On a mix with a theme about “illegal activity?” What crime has she committed, breaking your heart, or radio over saturation, or overproduction? Truth be told, the regular version of this song that opens McLachlan’s 1993 album Fumbling Towards Ecstasy is overproduced. This piano-only version that is tucked away as a hidden track is much different; starker and ten times more powerful. The song was written from the point of view of one of McLachlan’s stalkers who wrote her obsessive letters, some of which contained threats of sexual violence. One of these stalkers, Uwe Vanderi, actually sued McLachlan for using one of his letters as the basis for the song. He was found dead of an apparent suicide before the case made it to trial.
I know it’s not “cool” to like a McLachlan song, and plenty of her material would send me away screaming (if I hear “Angel” one more time, I’m likely to convert to Satanism). But despite some of the lazy lyrics here, there’s something incredibly powerful about a songwriter singing from the point of view of one of her obsessed fans, and McLachlan does have a tremendous voice. This song obviously is very personal for her, and more than a little disturbing, and this version cuts to core of that obsession. Give it a chance.
15. Polly — Nirvana
It’s fairly safe to assume that Kurt Cobain must have had strong feelings about rape, since there’s a song dedicated to the horrendous crime on each of Nirvana’s three studio albums. Polly is inspired by a story Cobain read concerning Gerald Arthur Friend, a serial kidnapper and rapist who was caught and convicted in 1987, after a 14 year old victim escaped at a gas station after being raped and tortured for over two days. Cobain wrote Polly from the point of view of Friend, and what’s chilling about it is how relaxed it sounds, suggesting the warped mindset of a serial rapist while lines referencing rope and blow-torches get sung almost nonchalantly. “She’s just as bored as me,” Cobain sings after Polly suggests getting untied. The respect Cobain shows for the victim for tricking the rapist into untying her so she can escape is clear. Even Friend the protagonist respects her. “She caught me off my guard. It amazes me, the will of instinct.” There’s another version of the song that fits-in better with Nirvana’s early punk sound (you can hear it on the B-side collection Incesticide) but the relaxed nature of this version is a far more disturbing listen.
Bonus song trivia: this is the only Nirvana song on Nevermind to feature former drummer Chad Channing. He was replaced by Dave Grohl before the band recorded any other tracks. It’s not much, but at least it’s something.
16. Westfall — Okkervil River
A chilling murder ballad that builds and builds and finally explodes. Like the other two songs in this section of the mix, it’s based on real events, the 1991 Austin, Texas Yogurt Shop Murders. As soon it begins, we know there’s going to be trouble; this is a brooding track, and the shivering banjo (or is it mandolin?) that creeps into the mix gives the impression of dark clouds gathering. Will Sheff sets the scene, giving us enough to know that something bad has gone down. His unnamed protagonist is being guarded “by at least twenty men.” And then he details his crime, but not before pointing out that he’s always felt like an outsider. He hangs out with his buddy Colin, who knows a couple of girls from a nearby school (“Kenwood Christian”). They go hang out at Colin’s house, which is in a place called “Westfall,” a house they’d hide in when rain came (I told you those clouds were coming). And then, the protagonist mentions killing one of the girls easily. “I got down on my knees and she ain’t coming back again.”
In any other song, that would be the climax, and the music does kick into high gear in that moment. But there’s a far more disturbing notion in the song that gets an even bigger (and deserved) crescendo. After the subsequent trial and media attention, Sheff sings about the “cameras focused on my face, you’d think they could see it through my skin.” What’s the “it?” Evil, that terrible force that makes us do bad things, that makes this killer kill someone “easily.” Finally, the real weight of the song sinks in. “Evil don’t look like anything,” Sheff sings over and over, louder and with more power each time, and we all know it’s true. This sentiment makes us all, to some extent, capable of horrible crimes. That’s not to say we’re all going to do anything about it. But we could, and there is no such thing as an “evil looking person.” It’s all tucked away in the inner darkness where nobody could ever trace it.
So, I thought there was a way to submit playlist’s to other people’s blogs, but apparently there isn’t. So I’m not sure how this is going to work, now. I’m a little disappointed.
In fact, there doesn’t seem to be an option to submit any audio at all. Hmm.
I could just reblog other people’s posts, but that’s not the best case scenario for anyone. Any ideas on how to get around this? I’ve seen other blogs feature submitted audio posts. Is this just a problem with the new Spotify thing? Because if that’s the case, I’m not quite sure how to proceed.
Originally intended as a straight-up love ballad, this classic proves it’s all about the delivery; once the maniacal laughter and wicked screams that gave Jay Hawkins his namesake are added to the mix, a love song becomes something far more sinister, perhaps the greedy insistence of an obsessed stalker. What is the spell he’s casting on the one that he insists so passionately is his? Is he talking about voodoo or something even more evil? If his intended is “his” then why does he need a spell? And why does he sound so unhinged? For a song from 1956, this was ahead of its time and remains incredibly disturbing and delightful.
2. Where The Wild Roses Go — Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (with Kylie Minogue)
Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue in a duet? How could that work? Well, if she’s singing about being an innocent victim in her verses and he’s singing about seducing and then killing her in his, that somehow makes perfect, morbid sense. Coming from the Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album Murder Ballads, this song is a sweet and nasty centerpiece; the lush strings and haunting production emphasize the sad cruelty of this story of desire, obsession, power, control and eventually, murder. Compare the imagery between verses; in Minogue’s first, she sings “He would be my first man, and with a careful hand he’d wipe off the tears from my face.” In Case’s last verse, he sings, “I kissed her goodbye, said all beauty must die, and I knelt down and planted a rose between her teeth.” Cave’s delivery is tender yet convincing while Minogue is the perfect sound of naive innocence. But try singing along to those last lines without feeling like an absolute creep.
3. Catherine — PJ Harvey
Jealousy, envy, desire, all leading to murderous intent. There might not be an actual crime committed in this soft, muted, rhythmic song, but for something so understated, it feels incredibly dangerous, like a snake hidden in the grass, slithering along, ready to strike. Obviously this is about rejection that has driven Polly Jean to an obsessive degree. “I gave you my heart, you left the thing stinking. I ‘d shake from your spell if it weren’t for my drinking,” she sings softly, only later to add how envious she is of the former love who has hung her out to dry. “I envy the road, the ground you tread under, I envy the wind, your hair rising over, I envy the pillow your head rests and slumbers, I envy, to murderous, envy your lover.” Does she want to be Catherine’s lover or Catherine herself? Either way, she “damns to hell every second” Catherine breaths and won’t be satisfied until the spotlight is fixed strongly on her. Does that imply attention from the media thanks to criminal activity? Whether she acts on her jealous impulses remains unclear, but the chilling coda and subsequent fadeout leave an even more unsettling impression. Harvey has plenty of songs about obsession, sexual dysfunction, even jealousy, and several of them are loud, angry, even frightening. But somehow, the quiet intensity of this song trumps them all.
Also, I take a somewhat sick pleasure of stacking Harvey back to back with Nick Cave, since they used to be an item and their break-up has led to plenty of good songs from both of them.
4. State Trooper — Bruce Springsteen
Like a few other songs on this mix, we’re not really sure what illegal things the protagonist has done (other than driving without a licence and registration, but that’s small potatoes). Whatever he’s done, he sure doesn’t want to get pulled over, as this tense but muted prayer/plea suggests. At least he has a clear conscience about his illegal activity, and he’d probably feel just fine killing a cop that stands in his way if he does get pulled over. What’s interesting about this song is the twisted morality; his fear of getting pulled-over isn’t because of the trouble he’s in, he doesn’t want to get pulled-over because he is the trouble. “Maybe you got a kid, maybe you got a pretty wife,” he speculates about the Statie in his rear-view, implying that he doesn’t want to feel worse about killing the guy if the red and blues start flashing. “The only thing that I’ve got’s been bothering me my whole life.” If that line alone wasn’t enough to suggest a serious, tense heap of trouble behind the wheel, check out that desperate wolf howl Springsteen lets out at the end of the song, followed by a quick, abrupt, nearly violent fade-out. Like a master suspense filmmaker, Springsteen doesn’t let us know what happens at the end of the song, but he suggests quite a lot with the pulsating, quiet intensity of his acoustic guitar (building off of Catherine quite nicely, I feel). He goes even further with the howl and the fade-out, forcing us to wonder what bad business is about to go down, implying that the cop has just turned on his lights and sirens. Chilling.
“When I ask someone, ‘What have you been listening to?’ I’m trying to learn something about them. The one-line ‘This is my jam’ approach is useless to me, because your relationship to the song in question— beyond the fact that you like it and want to share it— is completely unknown. The fact that someone would find music interesting purely by virtue of the fact that I am listening to it is foreign to me. What I listen to does not seem notable; why I listen to it might be. I need context.”—Mark Richardson on This Is My Jam and the trappings of “sharing” culture in the latest Resonant Frequency. (via pitchfork)
This might as well be the mission statement of this blog. It’s why I don’t want to just post links to songs or playlists. I hope people agree that thinking about why we like music is as important as liking it.
Okay, so we’ve broken the law and we’re running from the police. Now it’s time to get into our specific crimes. Let’s start small; even though package stealing is a relatively minor crime (at least compared to most of the ones below), Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan sings about it as if he’s committing an atrocity and just might be thrilled with getting away with it. “The kids around are scared, they keep their distance, room after room, stolen goods, means nothing to her,” he sings with increasing intensity, the rest of the band matching him every measure. I like how the stabbing guitars link this slightly with Police on my Back, and the fact that this feels even more urgent than a song about running from the cops.
4. An Amateur Thief — Chisel
Chisel’s best known for the band Ted Leo was in before he went solo and then added the Pharmacists. This is a fun track that’s up to no good. “Gonna do a little midnight raiding where the extra special price is free,” Leo shouts on that blistering chorus. I think this builds off of Package Thief’s intensity really well, and the worse our crimes get the more excited the songs seem to be celebrating them.
5. Shoplifting — The Slits
Sometimes, a life of crime doesn’t pay all the bills and put food on the table. So, naturally for crooks like us, we need to go steal some cheese and other food from the local corner shop. I like how this ties back into running from the law (“Do a runner, do a runner!”) and that in the end, Ari Up is so scared of getting caught that she pees herself. Crime isn’t easy, after all. I love The Slits sound; weird reggae rhythms mixed with guitar squeals and a lead singer with a German accent? And somehow it works; the thrill Up releases when she does that “run” scream in the middle of the song confirms that crime kinda does pay, even if it’s only paying our secret desires. Thanks to davebloom for the suggestion.
6. X Offender — Blondie
A prostitute falls in love with the cop that’s arresting her, and when she tells him how he feels he just laughs at her. Brutal! Debbie Harry keeps waiting for the cop to have a change of heart as he watches her heart burst, but it just doesn’t happen. Not only is there the “public defender” vs “sex offender” theme here, there’s a great element of kink with the references to “handcuffs,” badges,” and “rubber boots.” But perhaps the most sinister part of the song is how innocent it all sounds; like it was inspired from a late 50’s rock and roll classic. If your mom listened to this song in the car and didn’t pay attention to the lyrics, she’d probably think nothing of it. Add deception to the list of offenses.
7. Car Thief — The Beastie Boys
Yeah, the song is called Car Thief, we get a strong confirmation of that with the last line, but by then there’s already a list of offenses as long as the clever pop culture references; assault and battery, domestic abuse, destruction of property, drug abuse, drug dealing, drug growing, buying drugs from cops (!), tax abuse, the list goes on and on. And the incredibly funky samples and production makes it all sound so alluring, even with those harsh, nasally Beastie vocals. The Dust Brothers mix Funkadelic, Trouble Funk, Donovan (again, !) and more into one wicked song pulsating with pure tempting evil that’s a pleasure to listen to over and over again.
8. Pusherman — Curtis Mayfield
Everyone’s heard the story about how Curtis Mayfield was horrified by Superfly and wanted the soundtrack to give the movie some morality. But can anyone deny that he takes a certain delight in playing the part of the drug dealing character here? Listen to that laugh he delivers after the first batch of lyrics. This guy is enjoying himself, and who can blame him with that incredibly slick bass line, teeth rattling percussion and pulsating, electrifying wah-wah guitar; if Car Thief pushed us towards temptation, Pusherman is the sound of a man embracing the devil only to realize that he’s known him all along.
9. Wamp Wamp (What It Do) — Clipse
Now that we’re living high on the hog thanks to all our illegal deeds, it’s time to brag about it. No Malice and Pusha T have repeatedly said that they sold drugs to make money and then retired after making enough to focus on hip hop. It’s a familiar story in dozens of songs, but this one stands out as a celebration both of their success as criminals and MC’s; the confidence on display is infectious, and the lyrics are clever and catchy with a great use of language. “So proper, hammer time, gun cocka, top shotta, me hestiate non pop ya,” Pusha rhymes, throwing in a bit of Patois for fun. It’s lines like that mixed in with all the bragging about “models and gold bottles” that reminds you these guys have fought for what they have and that’s why they care about it so much. And they’re not about to let it go easily. And how about that production? The Neptune’s sample steel drums for that unique beat, and the percussion is repetitive but all over the place. You come back for that beat as much as the boasts.
Kind of a no-brainer; after the low-key Breakin’ the Law opener, it’s time to kick things into higher gear and bring a sense of urgency to the mix. This is a cover of the British Invasion band The Equals original, but The Clash were always excellent at choosing great songs to reinvigorate and putting their own unique stamp on them (see also, Brand New Cadillac, Wrong em’ Boyo, Pressure Drop and Revolution Rock).
Of all the songs on the sprawling Sandinista, this is the one that feels the most like old-school Clash, which is kind of surprising given that the vocal duties fall to Mick Jones (not that unusual, but for comparisons sake, Jones averages roughly one lead vocal track per each side of Sandinista, and there are six sides and thirty-six tracks total). The band one-ups the Equals with their pacing and the fantastic, distorted siren guitar wail, which really builds quite nicely in the end, given the impression that there is a whole police unit chasing behind these punks by the fadeout.
In terms of theme, I like how this builds off of Breakin’ the Law; while the crime in that song is ambiguous, here we have just a little more information. “There was a shooting,” Jones sings, but did “he” commit a crime? “What have I done?” he asks over and over again. No time to wonder about it, and he must be somewhat guilty (or have a healthy distrust of the police), for whether he’s guilty or not, whether he knows why he’s guilty or not, he’s running seven days a week.
I haven’t looked at this yet because A) I don’t want to be too heavily influenced and B) I’m at work, and Spotify only runs incrementally, but I wanted to add this playlist to the blog so that others could enjoy.
Now that Tupac has joined will.i.am in the realm of musical holograms that look like they’re being projected out of R2D2, which musician would you choose to bring back to life and perform in hologram form?
I first heard this song on the first New Pornographers record, Mass Romantic. There, it’s a rousing finale that builds to an overwhelming sing along, with all the impressive pipes of the muscular “super group” singing along to the coda, sounding like a kids camp choir (in the liner notes, they jokingly credited the kids camp from Meatballs, which is pretty amusing). The original version of the song was recorded by Porno member Dan Bejar, under the Destroyer pseudonym he’s been using for years (it’s the thirteenth track on 1996’s We’ll Build Them A Golden Bridge). I like this version quite a bit, and I think it fits as a good mix-starter. Even stripped down to its simplest form; acoustic guitar, a little bit of keyboard, and without the vocal additions of the powerful Neko Case, Carl Newman, or several other band members in the coda, there’s a simple beauty in Bejar’s strange voice (unlike any other in rock and roll) singing lines like “you’ll come too, little Indian giver,” and later commanding to “burn this hall of justice down.”
I mostly think this fits the theme because it sounds like someone working himself up to do something drastic, as if Bejar is giving a little speech to the troops before they storm a castle they’re not supposed to touch. “They’re no longer a hundred feet tall,” he sings, “And we’re just here, another hundred feet stronger.” What is he up to? No idea, but judging from the title, it must be no good.
So now that I’ve got some basic content up, I’m going to make another mix and follow a theme a little more closely. After this week, I’ll start doing some promotions and hopefully getting some people willing to submit mixes.
Now would be a good time to remind folks that if you’re interested in being a contributor in the near future, let me know.
So the theme I’m going to be working on this week is illegal activity. There will be some songs from that trusty murder ballads genre, for sure but I like this theme because it’s wide open and include lots of different songs and genres.
If you’ve got any songs you’d like to hear as part of this mix, let me know. I might not include them, but I’d be curious to hear what some of your favorite songs “illegal” songs are.
Hi there. I’m kicking off this blog and looking for followers. I know, it’s annoying, but if you follow within the next hour and forty five minutes, like or reblog any of my posts to officially enter. The deadline is midnight.
One winner will be drawn totally at random. They’ll win a customized mix from yours truly, along with three CD’s (good CD’s, not crap).
Oh, and let me know if you’d be interesting in submitting a mix in the future. Once I get this thing rolling, I’m going to be looking for weekly contributors. Thanks!
Followers will get followed back. Unless you’re racist, homophobic, sexist, etc.
Tracks 17 —- 25 : Finishing Up (In case you couldn’t tell, I like my mixes long).
17. Golden Years —- David Bowie
Station to Station is one of my favorite David Bowie records, mostly for how odd yet accessible and listenable it is (I think it’s hysterical that he doesn’t really seem to remember making it). This track is certainly the most accessible, but for the purpose of the list, I wanted to suggest some kind of maturity. If the theme of the mix is movement, then this is the point where the mix realizes it’s gotten old, so it’s time to “run for the shadows in these golden years.”
18. Marie Provost —- Nick Lowe
A song about a former silent film actress who was found dead in her NYC apartment. She faded into obscurity and nobody checked up on her, so after she died her body was left unchecked for days and her dog ate her to stay alive. Horrific, right? So why does this sound like such a great time? Nick Lowe’s black sense of humor and the excellent Beatles-esque musicianship ease your mind while Lowe describes the story in detail. I think this fits here because Lowe always reminded me of a bit of Bowie (he even named an early EP Bowi as a joke response, referencing Bowie’s album Low) and it fits with the maturity theme a little bit, although in terrifying way. While everybody fears of dying alone, who can resist cackling at a line like “she was a winner who became her doggies dinner?”
19. Receptacle for the Respectable —- Super Furry Animals
As a band, Super Furry Animals are inconsistent, but their best album is 2001’s Rings Around the World; there’s something about the go-for-broke production and the amount of caution being thrown to the wind that makes it a under appreciated classic for me. This is one of the strangest tracks, but I’ve always been a fan of song suites in mixes, mostly because it feels like I’m getting more bang for my buck. I love the journey this song takes, and even though you could argue that it becomes downright silly in it’s final moments, I actually don’t. Listening to the lyrics of the song, it seems to be about a person who’s sick of being abused by someone with more power then them. I imagine a young kid getting mistreated by someone with money, so they go home and listen to death metal or something. Bonus trivia: Paul McCartney plays “celery” on this track. Crank it up and see if you can hear it.
20. Memories Can’t Wait —- The Talking Heads
One of my favorite Talking Heads songs, and one of their darkest I think. There’s something sinister in the musicianship, in those insistent keyboard blips, in the dramatic build up at the end, with David Byrne’s vocals going full-yelp, making sure that we understand that his memories really, really can’t wait. We all have that happen to us sometimes, when we’re held hostage by our past. I think this fits the musical direction and the new “maturity” theme. As we get older, our head gets filled with more and more memories, although they also fade and become harder to visualize and pinpoint. A disturbing thought, perhaps, but a true one.
21. Sunlight —- tUnE-yArDs
Who Kill was one of my favorite albums of last year, and it made me go back and reevaluate tUnE-yArDs first album Bird Brain. I liked it at the time, but now I think I appreciate it more because it’s so clearly a first step, while Who Kill is a solid second. I really love the beat to this, and even though this is fairly low-fi (especially compared to the beautifully produced Who Kill) there’s something hypnotic and peaceful, yet subtly unnerving, in the looping and dreaminess of the song.
22. Dancing Choose —- TV on the Radio
Picking things up a bit after Sunlight, this is one of my favorite TV on the Radio songs. First of all, I love puns, and this title is a solid one. I think this track showcases the best of what TV on the Radio do in a minimal amount of time; great vocals, great lyrics, lots of energy, wonderful production with a mixture of funky live instruments, synths and horns. And the sentiment is great too; we live in a world where everyone would rather listen to their music, be entertained by the internet and be left the hell alone. We’re so busy distracting and entertaining ourselves that we don’t want to be distracted by other people having a good time, so the line “just keep your dancing choose off mine” really resonates with me.
23. Needles in the Camel’s Eye —- Brian Eno
I was originally going to go with a more electronic sounding Eno track, but sometimes a mix is crying out for a classic. I love how urgent he sounds here, and while he claimed he took more time writing it then he did singing it, lines like “Birds of prey with too much to say, what’s my destiny? Another rainy day” suggest an intense feeling of powerlessness to me.
24. My Ma —- Girls
I usually close out my mixes with slower, sadder songs. I’m not sure what that says about me, but I feel like it brings a sense of drama to the whole thing. Something is ending, after all, and even if it’s just a mix tape, that should mean something. I really think this song is gorgeously sad, heartfelt, lonely but also kind of uplifting. First of all, how can anyone feel bad after they listen to that slide guitar? There’s also the sentiment that this is written for someone’s Mom. Yeah, “ma” could be referring to someones wife, girlfriend, etc, but I choose to think that this is written from the point of view of a guy who is so lonely, he doesn’t even have his mother to comfort him. The ghostly choir vocals at the end try to console him, but it’s no good.
25. Dark Parts —- Perfume Genius
I like this track quite a bit, and this album. I’m surprised actually, because much of Perfume Genius’s first album left me cold. Yeah, there’s something cliche about a guy singing heartfelt songs while playing passionately on his piano, but when done right you can see why it became a cliche in the first place. A sad song, no doubt about it, but I love the idea that, once again, there’s something uplifting in the “dark parts.” We all make sacrifices for other people, and that includes taking on all the bad things they experience and carrying their pain on our shoulders so that they feel less alone. That’s a sad but beautiful thing, and I think this song does a good job at selling the pain and the beauty.
Since I’m kinda just building content and testing this out as a “demo” version before I actually run a regular week or ask anyone to contribute, and since I started this on Thursday, I’m going to add a lot of songs today and tomorrow, more than the typical three. Also, it’s a beautiful day, so I’m going to write minimally about these tracks so I can get outside and enjoy some sunshine.
10. The House That Heaven Built —- Japandroids
My favorite song of the year so far. I just can’t help but fall under the spell of its sincerity, its passion, its relentlessness. It’s the type of song that you crank in a car when you’re feeling miserable, roll the windows down and force everyone you pass to witness your mood improve as you shout along with the “oh oh oh’s” and “and if they try to slow you down, tell them all to go to hell’s.”
11. My Sunshine —- Ty Segall
The perfect garage punk song, this song moves away from the Japandroid optimism and has Segall literally sneering at the beginning and he doesn’t stop for a second. I’ll be honest, I put this on because I’m sitting on my porch and it’s sunny, and I wanted a crunchy punky tune to compliment where the mix is at the moment, but sometime tells me that Segall is being just a wee bit sarcastic here, but when he bellows that he wants hope in his hand, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to give him any.
12. Scrapple —- Kudgel
Kudgel is a fairly obscure “chimp rock” Boston based band from the 90’s. The sound of desperation, which I think builds off of My Sunshine perfectly. I know the shredded vocals means this won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but I like to challenge listeners with songs they might not usually listen to. And I love the sentiment of the song; we can all relate to moments where all we want to do is sit around listening to music, not wanting to get up.
13. Boxcar —- Jawbreaker
The friend who introduced me to Kudgel compared their desperation to some Jawbreaker songs, and I thought that made sense. I was going to go with a different Jawbreaker song that my wife recommended (Chesterfield King) but Spotify didn’t have it (boo!) so I went with one of their pop-punk hits to move the mix in a slightly more accessible direction.
14. Bill Baily —- The Gun Club
I like having The Gun Club in this section for a couple of different reasons. For one, when I saw Japandroids live recently, they performed a cover of a Gun Club song (For The Love of Ivy, which will be on their upcoming album). Also, more people should know about The Gun Club, they were a terrific post-punk band with southern roots and country influences. This song is a leg-stomping good time.
15. Hard To Be Human Again —- Mekons
More post-punk with a country twinge, that bridges the country elements of Bill Baily with the more straight-up post-punk of the next song. I love that moment in the middle of the song where everything feels like it’s about to break down. It sounds like a robot ready to explode, but then that beautiful strumming rhythm guitar kicks its ass back into gear again.
16. Outdoor Miner —- Wire
If there ever was an accessible Wire song, this is it. Stunningly beautiful and simple, but with a gorgeous refrain with that repeated chorus that asks, “He lies on his side, is he trying to hide a fantasy earth that he’s known since birth?” Several Wire songs sound like nightmares, but this one sounds downright dreamy.