Saturday, June 14, 2008

A musical will

Though I will endeavour never to be only what I like, I would be lying if I said that I don't consider the books, movies, television and music I love not to be a significant part of who I am. So when a favorite student of mine asked me back in March to make her a mixCD, I was superterrificallyexcited to share some of the music that has shaped and continues to shape me.

Amy and I were talking recently about the power of the mixtape and how it's a fave gift to give and get. I hope that never changes. I've been thinking lately that gift clusters of a book, mixCD, movie and drink recipe or microbrew would be the best gifts ever (maybe along with an action figure, too).

Anyway, here's the mixCD (technically three) that I made with some remarks about why each song was chosen:

“The Bleeding Heart Show” -- The New Pornographers, Live from Soho -- At 2:44 it becomes obvious why this song would lead off a playlist. It’s the soundtrack to every bold step taken down the path of future uncertainty.

“From A Million Miles” -- Single Gun Theory, Like Stars In My Hands ... -- A fave song from high school and one of the first songs I loved that out-obscured EVERYONE. Thank you CFNY (the alternative radio station in Toronto).

“More Than This” -- Roxy Musc, Avalon -- Classic new wave that has influenced just about every newer band that I like now.

“Sons & Daughters” -- The Decemberists, The Crane Wife -- (Cinnamon + aluminum) in one song = optimism.

“85” -- Rilo Kiley, The Initial Friend (EP) -- The saddest song ever written?

“Feed The Tree” -- Belly, Star -- Another high school fave. I fell in love with Tanya Donelly and it’s criminal that she and her band aren’t considered one of the ALL-TIME bands of the 90s, because this album could only be made by one of the all-time bands of the 90s.

“Express Yourself” -- Madonna, The Immaculate Collection -- One of the first pop songs I could admit to loving when it was totally uncool to love pop music.

“Little Bones” -- The Tragically Hip, Road Apples -- Aggressive rock from Canada, too bad this band has since gone soft. Not many better songs to play at a large party; no one will know it, but I think everyone will like it.

“Stay (Faraway, So Close!)” U2, Zooropa -- A song that gets better with the video. Go watch Wings of Desire right now.

“A Million Tears” -- Kasey Chambers, Barricades & Brickwalls -- OK, a rival for “85” in the saddest song ever territory. I think Kasey’s girlish voice makes this lament even more melancholy.

“When Smokey Sings” -- ABC, The Best of ABC -- I hope I’ll never not be a sucker for catchy British pop music.

“Short Skirt/Long Jacket” -- Cake, Comfort Eagle -- Not just a hilarious song, but incredibly well-constructed. The video was shot in Venice to boot and is the funniest music video EVER.

“Spin The Bottle” -- The Juliana Hatfield Three, Become What You Are -- MTV used to show videos and when it did there was a show called Alternative Nation. This video was on a lot. It was a good time to love both music and MTV.

“1979” -- Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness -- I wonder if the 70s captured the 70s so well.

“The Drinking Song” -- Moxy Fruvous, Live Noise -- I fell in love with these guys because of CFNY. A way better Barenaked Ladies. The highests and lowests of drinking. Recorded in Buffalo!

“Let’s Get Out Of This Country” -- Camera Obscura, Let’s Get Out Of This Country -- High school is over!

“Drawn To The Rhythm” -- Sarah McLachlan, Solace -- More Canada. I used to watch this show called Good Rockin’ Tonight late night on weekends. That’s where I discovered Sarah McLachlan. Before she became queen of easy-listening she made really interesting and insightful music about youth pondering its future.

“Here's Where The Story Ends” -- The Sundays, Reading, Writing And Arithmetic -- Alternative Nation again. A band that never received near the acclaim that it should have. If you can cite these guys then you’ll forever have cred with people born in 1975.

“Me & Bobby McGee” -- Janis Joplin, Janis Joplin's Greatest Hits -- A tip to history. I have a weakness for the Lilith Fair days. There’d be none obviously without Janis. I know she didn’t write the song, but from anyone else one of the wisest lyrics ever doesn’t sell. “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

“Why Can't I Be You?” -- The Cure, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me -- The band probably most responsible for taking me from hair metal/metal to where I am right now musically.

“Work It in Black” -- Nelly w/ Justin Timberlake // AC/DC -- My favorite mashup ever.

“Keep Me Here” -- Gemma Hayes, The Roads Don't Love You -- The Irish section of the playlist starts now. She’s one of the most aesthetically beautiful people I’ve ever seen in person. The way she sings about love and heartbreak (and what else is rock n roll for?) proves that her music is even better than she is beautiful.

“The Minstrel Boy” -- The Corrs, Forgiven, Not Forgotten -- Traditional folk song. War doesn’t create heroes only sad memories.

“Cannonball” -- Damien Rice, O -- Still being Irish, which means deep depths of sadness and an indomitable spirit to endure.

“Fanatic Heart” -- Black 47, Fire Of Freedom -- This band’s revolutionary ideals and Irish-infused rock and fusion is pure passion. Another discovery thanks to Alternative Nation.

“Bad” -- U2, Wide Awake In America [Live] [EP] -- I can’t imagine how a band can write so many songs that could compete for my favorite-song-by-that-band. This one’s about heroin addiction.

“Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl” -- Broken Social Scene, You Forgot It in People -- I wish this song had been written when I was in high school.

“Worn Me Down (EP)” -- Rachael Yamagata, EP -- Along with Rilo Kiley and Stars one of my three favorite musical discoveries since moving to Los Angeles. Her smokey-voice captures the hurt better than anything.

“If She Knew What She Wants” -- The Bangles, Greatest Hits -- 80s pop song. Nuff said?

“Acid Tongue” -- Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins, Live at the 9:30 Club 10.15.06 -- My favorite Jenny Lewis song. I am praying that it’s on the second album.

“Born Of Frustration” -- James, Seven -- The band is most famous for its song “Laid,” which is incredible, but this one’s better.

“Would?” -- Alice In Chains, Dirt -- One of my 10 favorite songs in high school. I spent hours driving the roads of Amherst, NY to this song with my best friend in his mom’s Plymouth Sundance.

“I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” -- Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot -- I didn’t “get” Wilco the first few times I listened to them. Then I did. I hope everyone does someday.

“Symphony No. 1 (In Memoriam, Dresden, 1945)” -- Dan Bukvich, Univesity of Idaho Wind Ensemble -- War doesn’t create heroes. It reminds us only of the worst of what humanity is capable of. The German words being shouted mean “smoke,” ”fire tower,” “fire” and “help.”

“The Last Song” -- Elton John, The One -- This song plays over the closing credits of And the Band Played On ... (which is about the rise of the AIDS crisis in America). It’s the saddest and most redeeming song I’ve ever heard.

“The Scientist” -- Coldplay, A Rush Of Blood To The Head -- If the band wrote songs only like this, they wouldn’t be ridiculed by the music snobs. One of the most intelligent songs I’ve ever heard.

“Favorite” -- Neko Case, Canadian Amp -- Is there a better voice in any genre recording today? I think she loves being a little obscure. I think I love her for that.

“Political” -- Spirit Of The West, Labour Day -- Another gift from CFNY and Canada (this time Vancouver).

“Frozen” -- Curve, Pubic Fruit -- Dreamy and optimistic in its electro-muddiness. Another thanks to Alternative Nation.

“Mascara” -- Killing Heidi, Reflector -- Albany, NY did get one decent radio station, WEQX from Vermont. These kids from Australia are finished as a band, but I still heart this song.

“Elevator Love Letter” -- Stars, Heart -- The soundtrack to urban love. I could listen to this song 1,000,000 times and still love it like the first.

“Samson” -- Regina Spektor, Songs -- I’ve seen her evolve from stage-timid and shocked people knew her songs to leading sing alongs. Yet she still seems amazingly sweet on stage and this song is all sadness and regret, which makes it great.

“Poison Oak” -- Bright Eyes, I'm Wide Awake It's Morning -- Today this was my favorite song from this perfect album. I wish I felt every emotion as Conor Oberst does on this album. Then again we’d probably have life spans measured in days if our lives were felt this intensely.

“Edge of a Broken Heart” -- Bon Jovi, 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong -- This is sincerely my fave Bon Jovi song ever, more than Wanted and Livin on a Prayer.

“Love U More” -- Sunscreem, 03 -- This song was MTV’s bringing techno to the suburban kid masses in 1992-3. I would play this at my wedding right now.

“Such Great Heights” -- The Postal Service, Such Great Heights - EP -- A perfect song? ABSOFUCKINGLUTELY.

“Pictures Of Success” -- Rilo Kiley, Take Offs & Landings -- My favorite song ever.

“The Boy With The Arab Strap” -- Belle & Sebastian, The Boy With The Arab Strap -- Them ending their Hollywood Bowl show with this is one of my fave concert moments ever, so it seems a fitting end to this mix.


Quing said...

I LOVE Such Great Heights!

“Work It in Black” -- Nelly w/ Justin Timberlake // AC/DC -- My favorite mashup ever.
... can you send it to me? :)

Connie Chung said...

mike, you don't even know how you've influenced my world that is music and all greatness.