I forget who originally suggested that I do a post discussing the songs I put on my Winter 2008 Mix, but after I mentioned it a few folks requested that I do, and I am happy to oblige. One of my favorite things about sharing music with friends has always been those times when we sit down and play each other our favorite things and talk about why we came to love them and sing out the best lines and verses and just generally share the love. If someone recommends a band to me, I am only 10% as likely to get interested in it if I don’t get to hang out, listen, talk, and sing about it. So consider this post a transcript of all the things I would say to you about these songs if we were riding down the highway smoking clove cigarettes with the windows down and I was feeling confessional and I also had some new songs I just HAD to tell you about.
And again, if you haven’t got it already, is the album art for the mix made by Jair:
Click on the image to get to the full, CD-sized pic.
Also, please to be indulgent: I started this post, like, a GOOD WHILE ago and have had perhaps too much wine to be writing and publishing things on the internet. Sentiment and typing errors are sure to abound.
1. “Long Division” – Death Cab for Cutie
It’s no secret that I love Death Cab for Cutie, and this song is no exception. It is, however, an exception to the pattern I’d gotten in for a very, very long time where I was letting Plans (the previous album) play over and over again for months and months on end, reveling in the heartbreaking songs, most of which are about the loss of a loved one. That album came out right around the time that one of my best friends passed away, so its perfect fit into my life was at once wonderful and sad and hard to escape. This song, on the other hand, deals again with sometimes sad subject matter, but does so in a more teeth-grittingly determined and rocking way. It was my Death Cab for Cutie antidote to the Death Cab for Cutie overdose I was happily suffering for so long.
2. “Supermassive Black Hole” – Muse
Horribly embarrassing confession time: I don’t really know anything about this band, because, well, do you know where I got this song? The…the, ah, the…Twilight soundtrack. There, I said it. It’s in a really good scene, okay? What? WHAT? Oh FINE then.
3. “Bad Things” – Jace Everett
After what I just confessed w/r/t Track 2 there above, I’m not quite as embarrassed to tell you why I love this song: It’s the completely fucking awesome theme song to True Blood, that sexy vampire show on HBO that all the kids are watching these days. If we’re being honest, it’s kind of a terrible show. The best thing about it, in fact, is the opening credits sequence. Here’s the video for you to please enjoy.
Now wasn’t that excellent? This is a really great song for listening to in the dark of night while drinking whiskey and possibly also throwing shoes at the wall. Y’all know how I love to do that.
4. “Inside of Love” – Nicole Atkins
This tune is a cover of the Nada Surf song, and while I really like theirs, this is the version I fell in love with. I have to credit my friends Suomichris and Sho (frequently of the comments’ section here) with introducing me to Nicole Atkins. I love her voice: it’s perfect for belting it out in the car. Use caution, however: the kind of unbridled belting this song will provoke should only be done in solitude. Be prepared, also, for other drivers to give you the stink eye at intersections.
5. “Furr” – Blitzen Trapper
I got this Blitzen Trapper album on the recommendation of my friend Brandon at Another Portland Blog, and his post about the album spells out one big reason why I like it – those “timeworn Northwestern clichés” help both feed and perpetuate my current jones for the Northwest. “Furr” is maybe my favorite song of the entire year. It’s sad and sweet and wonderful, and the following lines, which suggest the sad longing for the freedom of past lives, make my heart almost break every single time:
And now my fur has turned to skin.
And I’ve been quickly ushered in
to a world that I confess I do not know.
But I still dream of running careless through the snow,
Through the howling winds that blow
across the ancient distant floe
and fill our bodies up like water till we know.
6. “Remember November” – Juliana Hatfield
This song was immediately one of my favorites from Juliana Hatfield’s new album, How to Walk Away. I loved the longing in this song right off the bat (it seems that’s one of my themes right now), and I was drawn to it with the idea of winter and the year’s end in mind — but I loved it even more when something else occurred to me. I already have one song tied to the 2008 presidential election (the Stevie Wonder), but as I thought of this one, I realized much of it could also apply to my thoughts about politics this year (not to mention my boyfriend Barack). Give it a listen with that in mind: “A reason to keep trying,” and so on. Indoodly.
7. “The Engine Driver” – The Decemberists
Any winter mix requires a Decemberists song, as they are the perfect band to play when nestled cozily indoors, under a blanket, safe from the freezing fog, cup of coffee in hand. This isn’t a particularly new or germane song, but you’ll have to forgive me here. I really just started listening to The Decemberists in earnest about a year or two ago, so all of a sudden I had all of their albums at once and I just started with one and listened to it for months and then finally shifted to another and so on. At some point I got hooked on this song, in part because it reminds me of Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman” and in part because I love the way these guys create characters. He is a writer, a writer of fiction, who has written pages upon pages trying to rid you from his bones. Who can deny that? I ASK YOU.
8. “Acid Tongue” – Jenny Lewis
I love love love Rilo Kiley and Jenny Lewis both, so I was thrilled to get her newest solo album a few months back. As I listened to it for the first time in the car, this song (the vocal harmonies in the chorus especially) sent shivers rocketing down my spine. And then I listened to it again and again and again and the same thing kept happening. Those raw vibrating chords just DO that to me, man. This is another one whose lyrics, upon closer inspection, had me nodding my head in agreement the whole way through:
To be lonely is a habit
Like smoking or taking drugs
And I’ve quit them both
But man, was it rough
Now I am tired
It just made me tired
Let’s build ourselves a fire
Let’s build ourselves a fire
9. “Jolene” – Dolly Parton
We all know this tune, and man can Dolly sing the everloving hell out of it! I grew up in the same part of the country as Dolly did, about 90 miles up the road (Dollywood, in fact, was the glamorous destination of so many of our school trips), and I’ve always had a soft spot for her. “9 to 5” is a karaoke favorite of mine, and I even love her newer songs (“Travelin’ Thru,” and the fact that she wrote it especially for Transamerica, impresses me a lot). This song, though, “Jolene,” is just wonderful. The sad, staunch, desperate, determination; the clever use of the conventions of love poetry to address a romantic rival — it’s all sheer genius. Love.
10. “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” – Stevie Wonder
Did you catch that raw, righteous scream in the first second of this song? Well go back and listen to it. One of the best screams in American music, I think.
Moving on, though: Stevie Wonder, Musical Genius has long been one of my all-time top-five artists, and this song is brilliant. It was always one of my favorites of his, but this year it achieved a new significance when it became an anthem of the Obama campaign. Watching Stevie perform at the DNC was amazing, and when, during the televised election night celebration in Grant Park, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” was played again, the whole room full of people at our election party erupted into song. I’ll always remember us laughing and clapping and cheering, crowded into my friend S’s living room, singing this song together.
11. “Way I Are” – Timbaland (featuring Keri Hilson & D.O.E.)
“State. Of. Emergency,” claims the first line.
Oh, indeed. The emergency is this: everyone who has received a mix from me in the last two years has, I am sorry to say, been subjected to this song. I JUST CAN’T HELP MYSELF. I love this song. It has the perfect beat for strutting up and down the street like you are on a fucking catwalk — the catwalk of OWNING the SHIT out of EVERYTHING AROUND YOU. Trust me, just try it. You just go WALK up and down that street! DO IT.
And there is a bonus: this song has possibly the worst lyrics of all time. EXAMPLE:
Baby it’s all right now you ain’t gotta flaunt for me
If we go Dutch you can still touch my love; it’s free.
I KNOW. I CAN’T HELP MYSELF.
12. “Under the Blacklight” – Rilo Kiley
This Rilo Kiley album was greatly anticipated by me and practically everyone else I know. While it’s still not great enough to rival More Adventurous, it’s pretty damn solid. This song, the title track, quickly became the indispensable anthem of the album (and the semester) for me. Even more than a year after the release, I still love to listen to this on repeat a few times in a row. Like the Nicole Atkins track, it’s best listened to in solitude, ’cause you’re basically not going to be able to stop yourself from singing along at embarrassing levels.
(Weirdly, I just noticed that almost inevitably, where Rilo Kiley and Jenny Lewis are concerned, the title track WILL ALWAYS BE my favorite track. No avoiding it yet.)
13. “No Outlet” – Juliana Hatfield
I should maybe mention w/r/t Juliana Hatfield that I have loved her forever, ever since high school. She was my first (rock) concert. Hello, 1992, you still sound great to me. This track is from her first album, Hey Babe, which is so completely good through and through that I could honestly have chosen any song from it and it would have been just as irrestistible as this one is. This one, of course, seems to fit perfectly into the unplanned theme of longing and frustration that this mix entails. (And hey, who doesn’t love self-analysis via mixtape?) Favorite part of this song: the unexpectedly angry and earnest coda.
14. “A Cause des Garçons” – Yelle
Oh hey! Time for another embarrassing confession! Do you know where I first heard this song? On MTV’s masterpiece of reality television, The Hills. Oh, indeed. But at least the song is French, and we all know that the French are irreproachable in all things related to art and culture. I have nothing more to say about this, but, um, look! Over there! Shiny! Poppy! Dancey! French! FRANÇAIS!
15. “We’re Not Alone” – Dinosaur Jr.
I may have to get sad on you for a minute here: Dinosaur Jr. has been my favorite band ever since my late, great friend and ex-bf, G., played them for me on the bus back from a band trip freshman year in high school. As he and I dated, split, lost and regained touch, and then grew closer over the dozen or so years we knew each other, this band was always our thing. We really, really, really love/d this band. When I saw the original lineup reunite for a tour in 2005 (after their own years of rocky separation and after my friend had passed away), it broke my heart a little bit to think that the coming back together of our lives and the coming back together of our favorite music had just barely missed each other in the darkness. He would’ve loved seeing it, would’ve loved to know they were back together in the studio again, too. Would’ve loved this new song, “We’re Not Alone.” When I listen to this, it’s incredibly bittersweet to think about all the things that have happened in the last 3 years that my friend would have so loved to see, how happy — how boisterously, ebulliently happy — he would be.
16. “Die Zeit Heilt Alle Wunder” – Wir Sind Helden
I always say you don’t have to speak or understand German to like this band, but this song is an exception. It’s a freaking great song to just listen to, I would think (I can’t make myself not understand German to test this theory, though), but if you do understand it, it’s just that much more effing brilliant. EXAMPLE:
The title, in German, is Die zeit heilt alle Wunder.
The title, in English, is Time Heals all Wonders.
See, it’s almost like Die Zeit heilt alle Wunden,
which means Time Heals all Wounds,
except it’s not.
I won’t go through the whole thing, but if you imagine taking the “time heals” philosophy (and attendant set of metaphors) that normally apply to wounds and applying it instead to your sense of wonder, you’ll get the picture. Brilliant. Sad. Funny. Love.
17. “Pata Pata” – Miriam Makeba
Miriam Makeba was an amazingly talented South African singer (you may have heard of her but you may not), and this was her biggest hit song. I’ve loved it for ever and have subjected my mixtape recipients to it for ages and ages. Then, on November 9, 2008, Miriam Makeba fell ill at a concert while performing “Pata Pata” and died shortly after. Despite the sad circumstances (DOG, why do so many songs here turn out to be about DEATH? I swear I didn’t plan that.), it’s still such a wonderful, invigorating song that I can’t resist it. You certainly don’t need to understand Xhosa to love this one, do you? I don’t.
18. “My Eyes” – Felicia Day & Neil Patrick Harris
I’m glad I’ve got so many Dr.-Horrible-lovin’ peeps out there, otherwise I would’ve felt like a giant dork putting a song from a musical on a mixtape. I mean, what am I, some kind of high school theater (oops sorry I mean theatre) nerd? Ha ha ha ha HA.
Er, sorry, theatre people. I love, you; I really do.
BUT MOVING ON. You know I’m a major fan of the Joss Whedon shows, Buffy and Angel in particular, and that I really, really love Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which “aired” on the internet tubes this summer. “My Eyes” is by far my favorite song in the picture. It’s the cheesy, emotional love-pair duet, complete with a scene where they each sing passionately to each other without knowing it because they’re on opposite sides of a split screen. I KNOW*. In spite of the fact that this would normally be highly mockable, I love every second of it! It’s Horrible! And Penny! And, and, THEY SHOULD BE TOGETHER! OMG! (Except in the case where Horrible and *I* are together, which supersedes and Horrible-and-Penny star-crossed destinies, of COURSE.)
[*For examples of why I mock this, plz to see Mamma Mia, if you think you can stand to. Bring your barf bag.]
19. “Done With Love” – The Whispertown 2000
The Whispertown 2000 is a relatively new band to me, but I really fell in love with this album. I like the raw and intimate feeling a lot of their songs have, and this one in particular. The resignation behind “tell everyone I’m done; tell everyone I’m done; tell everyone I’m done” just socks it right to my gut.
20. “Follow the Lights” – Ryan Adams
I do love me some Ryan Adams, which I think is no secret. I’ve talked to a few of you about how none of his later albums ever measured up to the awesomeness of Heartbreaker, but I do contend that each one of those albums (Rock N Roll excepted; please never listen to that album if you can avoid it) has at least one track that rivals Heartbreaker‘s goodness. “Follow the Lights” is one of those songs. Like so many of his tunes, it pulls me in to a state of reflective longing and makes me want to alternately take a long drive to the armpit of nowhere, take deep pulls off a bottle of Tennessee Whiskey, scribble in a notebook, slow dance, and sulk in the dark.
ALSO: Did any of you guys also hear he’s retiring? Did you hear that it’s because he’s permanently losing his hearing? I heard that on the campus radio (dubious source). The retirement bit I have corroborated via other news sources, but not the permanent hearing loss bit. Either way, it’s a loss. Ryan Adams is one talented, prolific-ass motherfucker.
21. “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” – Iron & Wine
Question: What the holy Hell do these lyrics mean? Sam Beam, dude, you are as ever inscrutable.
Also: I kind of love that “American mouth” sometimes sounds like “arrogant mouth” when he sings it.
But moving on! I love this song in ways I don’t even know yet how to describe. Intensely. I bought this Iron and Wine album pretty shortly after it was released in late 2007, but (as is typical for me), it took me a while to get acquainted with the songs closer to the end of the album. Once this one found its way into the rotation, it was never too long between plays. Like “Acid Tongue,” this is a song that sends deep chills of pleasure to every corner of my body when I listen to it. That crescendo in the second verse fucking gets me every time.
Wow! These are great liner notes. Now I feel almost embarrassed to write down some for my mix. Thanks for sharing the good, the sad, and the awesomeness (erm, “Twilight”?) with all of us.
And I’m completely with you on the Ryan Adams thing – he’s actually only released two classic albums, ‘Heartbreaker’ and another one, a song at a time, padded with enough filler to potentially hide the brilliance. That said, it’s sad that he’s retiring, and too bad about his hearing.
I am so glad you included a Whispertown 2000 song! They are really fantastic, and it’s a shame more people don’t know of them. When I saw them live a few months ago, there were less than 50 people in attendance! And when Jenny Lewis mentioned them at her show last week, I think only five of us clapped for them.