30 May, 2009


When I create a mix, I try to write some kind of poetry for another person, and sometimes for myself. It may not be great poetry, or even good poetry, but it does have some kind of meaning that I pull through the CD to the end. Sometimes it's as simple (or completely convoluted) as "I'm sorry" or "I love you," but sometimes I go epic and I spend weeks trying to pull together the perfect group of sounds and lyrics, with the perfect history, into the perfect order (matching ends and meanings, and overlapping lyrics - if I can). Sometimes I try to pull a John Cusack in High Fidelity and I organize my mix biographically, in the best possible order to elicit certain nostalgic memories, and other times I design a playlist that will see me through a certain period of time, and I try to create a mood that will be conducive to happiness during that time period.

For the past four summers, I have created a mix that was meant to define that summer. Last year's mix was particularly schizophrenic book-ended by Amy Winehouse's "He Can Only Hold Her" and Zox's "Homebody" (one a soulful cry for freedom, and the other an absolute declaration of love for home); 2007 was basically Rock 'n' Roll with some Soul music thrown in for good measure: it began with "Stray Cat Blues" by the Rolling Stones and ended with "Happiness Hotel" by the Muppets (a vaguely surreal childhood memory that I was reliving at that time); 2006 started with Rancid's "Radio," and ended with "No Such Thing" by John Mayer, it's not a bad mix, but it is a little bit emo; 2005...the year I began this blog is a tight mix (just eight fast-paced songs), beginning with Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher" and ending with "(Don't) Fear The Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult. Now, I could attempt to psychologically discover my conception of self through these summers (and through these mixes), but, to be perfectly honest, I just finished reading The Great Gatsby and it has me feeling a little less than positive about the art of reliving the past. What is done is done, and what is really important is living in the moment (and maybe finding that perfect song to capture the current moment).

With that in mind, I am ready to share my Summer 2009 mix. Below you will find the songs, and my "close readings" (gosh, I'm feeling disgustingly academic). You never know what summer will bring!

"Say Yes" - Elliott Smith
"I'm in love with the world through the eyes of a girl, who's still around the morning after..." is really how Smith bookends his song. I am not looking forward to feeling exactly this way this summer, but I also think it will creep in along the way, because I have realized something about myself since last summer: I am attracted (not necessarily romantically) to people who force me to see something different about the world. It's the best way I know of preventing apathy and boredom. This song works on many levels in my life, and it is the kind of song that will continue to be appropriate for a long time, if not forever.

"Paranoia in B Major" - the Avett Brothers
"They say you can't make everybody happy all of the time..." and so the summer begins. I have a feeling, deep in my gut, that the most difficult part of Summer 2009 will be the lack of time that I will have to give to other people, and to the projects that they want me to pursue. Now, I realize that the secret to happiness is in finding the things that make you happy, but what if the thing that makes you happiest is making other people happy? Yes, isn't that a conundrum. Luckily, the Avett Brothers have my back.

"When Your Mind's Made Up" - Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova
There's something about the tension in the instrumentation and vocalization of this song that brings me to a new level of musical enjoyment. It is fantastic, and it makes me feel the same way I do when I listen carefully to the highs and lows of a Mozart symphony. At the same time, the lyrics are so personal and yet so universal. He ends with a soft and subtle, but strong declaration of love.

"Battle of Who Could Care Less" - Ben Folds Five
I love Ben Folds, because after Billy Joel he is the best at making amazing piano rock songs. He also writes incredibly insightful lyrics. Apathy is a hole you can dig for yourself very easily, and sometimes I find myself supremely attracted to the lives of people who really just don't seem to care at all. As Folds says: "You're my hero, I confess."

"Norwegian Wood" - The Beatles
This is such an understated song, and yet the lyrics say so much.

"I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me...
She showed me her room, isn't it good, Norwegian wood.

She asked me to stay and she told me to sit anywhere,
So I looked around and I noticed there wasn't a chair.

I sat on a rug, biding my time, drinking her wine,
We talked until two and then she said, "It's time for bed"

She told me she worked in the morning and started to laugh.
I told her I didn't and crawled off to sleep in the bath

And when I awoke, I was alone, this bird had flown
So I lit a fire, isn't it good, Norwegian wood."

"Five Years Time" - Noah and the Whale
Sun, sun, sun and a sweet homage to nostalgia and the uncertainty of the future.

"Things I Wish" - Paul Baribeau
"When I was 19..." yeahh, you can fill in the blanks.

"Eyes of the World" - Grateful Dead
This song makes me so happy, and this is not because I am hippie and I think that everything in life should consist of a combination of flowers, and rainbows, and marijuana (because I'm not really, and I don't really), but actually because it makes me feel peaceful, and I respect that and think it shows a mastery of musical language. Also, I really do love the lyrics:

Right outside this lazy summer home
you ain't got time to call your soul a critic no.
Right outside the lazy gate of winter's summer home,
wond'rin' where the nut-thatch winters,
wings a mile long just carried the bird away.

Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world,
the heart has its beaches, its homeland and thoughts of its own.
Wake now, discover that you are the song that the mornin' brings,
But the heart has its seasons, its evenin's and songs of its own.

There comes a redeemer, and he slowly too fades away,
And there follows his wagon behind him that's loaded with clay.
And the seeds that were silent all burst into bloom, and decay,
and night comes so quiet, it's close on the heels of the day.

Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world,
the heart has its beaches, its homeland and thoughts of its own.
Wake now, discover that you are the song that the mornin' brings,
But the heart has its seasons, its evenin's and songs of its own.

Sometimes we live no particular way but our own,
And sometimes we visit your country and live in your home,
sometimes we ride on your horses, sometimes we walk alone,
sometimes the songs that we hear are just songs of our own.

Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world,
the heart has its beaches, its homeland and thoughts of its own.
Wake now, discover that you are the song that the mornin' brings,
But the heart has its seasons, its evenin's and songs of its own.

"Quelqu'un ma'dit" - Carla Bruni
Her voice is perfectly smoky and it rolls along in French like a lullaby. You can never have enough lullabies.

"The King of Carrot Flowers, pt. 1" - Neutral Milk Hotel
I have had too many heated discussions about overt sexuality running through this song. I don't think it really matters if it is overtly sexual or not, because what makes it great is that it is an unabashed love song.

"Jimmy Olsen's Blues" - Spin Doctors
To compare your love life to that of Jimmy Olsen is not only supremely geeky, but also incredibly endearing. This song is my childhood and my adult life compressed into a highly danceable four minutes and thirty-nine seconds.

"Let Your Loss Be The Lesson" - Robert Plant & Allison Krauss
This is a choice folk/country jam, and it makes me want to drive all around the state in an unhurried way, with my hand dangling out the window.

"Beautiful Girls" - Deer Tick
This is a Sean Kingston cover that sounds to me like it should be in a 2009 remake of Dirty Dancing (starring myself and Emile Hirsch? No...that's silly). If I were to have a 1950's themed doo-wop party, then this song would be on the set list. Now I want to go to the drive-in...so badly.

"Oye Como Va" - Tito Puenté and Carlos Santana
As anyone who knows me can attest, I get this song stuck in my head all the time! Unfortunately, I also don't know all of the lyrics. In order to save my friends the pain of listening to me repeat the lines that I do know, as I try so hard to get the song unstuck from my mind, my summer resolution is to learn all of the words. Oh, Santana! I think you will be my summer love.

"Now We Can See" - The Thermals
This is an intelligent song. It isn't smart, but it is very intelligent. I find myself totally blown away by their anthropological references, and their ability to harmonize beautifully and also rock admirably. I could put this song on and run forever in the direction of my dreams.

"The Times They Are A-Changin'" - Bob Dylan
I must admit that I was very impressed with the use of this song through the opening credits/montage in the Watchmen. The rest of the soundtrack was populated with amazing songs that made me kind of sick in their liberal use throughout the film (it was all just a little gratuitous). This song almost always hits the mark.

"Sugar Mountain (LIVE)" - Neil Young
Everything about this song is beautiful, and everything about it makes my heart sing and aspire to greater heights. "You can't be twenty on Sugar Mountain..." His metaphors are lush and they wrap me up, making me feel so safe and also so vulnerable. Life is a balancing act.

29 May, 2009

Casimir Pulaski Day - Sufjan Stevens

Goldenrod and the 4H stone
The things I brought you
When I found out you had cancer of the bone

Your father cried on the telephone
And he drove his car into the Navy yard
Just to prove that he was sorry

In the morning, through the window shade
When the light pressed up against your shoulderblade
I could see what you were reading

All the glory that the Lord has made
And the complications you could do without
When I kissed you on the mouth

Tuesday night at the Bible study
We lift our hands and pray over your body
But nothing ever happens

I remember at Michael's house
In the living room when you kissed my neck
And I almost touched your blouse

In the morning at the top of the stairs
When your father found out what we did that night
And you told me you were scared

All the glory when you ran outside
With your shirt tucked in and your shoes untied
And you told me not to follow you

Sunday night when I cleaned the house
I found the card where you wrote it out
With the pictures of you mother

On the floor at the great divide
With my shirt tucked in and my shoes untied
I am crying in the bathroom

In the morning when you finally go
And the nurse runs in with her head hung low
And the cardinal hits the window

In the morning in the winter shade
On the first of March, on the holiday
I thought I saw you breathing

All the glory that the Lord has made
And the complications when I see His face
In the morning in the window

All the glory when He took our place
But He took my shoulders and He shook my face
And He takes and He takes and He takes

26 May, 2009



23 May, 2009

The Classic Theme to a Classic Love Story

I watched The Great Gatsby yesterday - the 1974 film with the Frances Ford Coppola screenplay and with the Robert Redford/Mia Farrow duo making their appearance as J. Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan respectively - and I was noticeably caught up in the drama of F. Scott's story and characters. I have to say, I am most sympathetic to Nick Carraway (Sam Waterston) who watches the lives of his rich and often thoughtless friends implode. After Nick, I find myself caring most about Gatsby, a man who has willed/tricked himself into believing that the woman he loves is truly worthy of him, when actually her character is tragically flawed and she is more than a little selfish.

The opening credits to The Great Gatsby roll along with "What'll I Do" from Nelson Riddle's score for the film. It is a perfectly morbid song when played across a backdrop of Gatsby's possessions - both gratuitous and lonely - in his enormous house, with pictures of Daisy everywhere, and a half-eaten egg-salad sandwich rotting with flies in the picturesque atmosphere of the rich. There's something mortal being conveyed through that sandwich, in all the splendor: something mortal and a sense of abandonment that is only strengthened by the tenor and the intent of the song, which conveys a longingly broken soul resigned to that broken state.

"What'll I Do" was written by Irving Berlin ("Blue Skies," "Puttin' On the Ritz," "Alexander's Ragtime Band," "White Christmas," and many more) in 1923. It has become a jazz standard, recorded by many artists (and the version I have on my iPod is by the trumpet player Chris Botti with vocalist Paula Cole.

The original lyrics are as follows (in the Chris Botti/Paula Cole version, the first section of the lyrics is not sung, but instead the trumpet plays the voice):

Gone is the romance that was so divine,
'tis broken and cannot be mended.
You must go your way,
and I must go mine.
But now that our love dreams have ended...

What'll I do
When you are far away
And I am blue
What'll I do?

What'll I do?
When I am wondering who
Is kissing you
What'll I do?

What'll I do with just a photograph
To tell my troubles to?

When I'm alone
With only dreams of you
That won't come true
What'll I do?

What'll I do with just a photograph
To tell my troubles to?

When I'm alone
With only dreams of you
That won't come true
What'll I do?

Nat "King" Cole does a lovely, simmering, smoky version that downplays the heaviness and sorrow in the delivery. Garrison Keillor (whose voice I completely adore) does a softly sad cover as a duet with a female vocalist who I do not recognize and whose name is not credited in any of the places I generally look for credits. I love this song, and I wish I could find a cover by Etta James and Nina Simone, along with Zooey Deschanel + M. Ward, Regina Spektor, and Bat For Lashes. Sometimes standards are standard for a reason.

19 May, 2009

Sweet Heart, Bitter Heart (now I can't tell you apart!)

Zee Avi rocks my summer lack-of socks (she rocks me in my sandals, I guess). She has a wonderfully sweet voice, and an exquisite presentation that backs her lyrics: a compromise between Jaymay and Lily Allen. There's a taste of honey for that sweetness, and a splash of lemon evidenced by a witty sarcasm that surfaces alongside the sweet. I enjoy her realism and her hopefulness. The combination would make the perfect soundtrack for a campy, ironic Wes Anderson film, or maybe even Woody Allen (although I feel that the album is not quite jazzy enough for his discerning tastes). Whatever it is that makes her tick, Zee Avi is wonderful, and I cannot wait to enjoy the summer with her.

Here is her first single off her new self-titled album:

Bitter Heart - Zee Avi

17 May, 2009

You must listen to...

"Vengeance is Sleeping" from Neko Case's latest album Middle Cyclone:

Neko Case - Vengeance Is Sleeping

I didn’t know what a brute I was
I dipped my cigarette and rode the bus
Vengeance built me hastily
And I drag the clanging notion I was nobody, nobody

All I had was my invention
And my love invented on you
Oh, look what thoughts can do
What thoughts can do
If you’re not by now dead and buried
You’re most certifiably married
Oh, married

I’m sure you’re sleeping sound
With a mistress of the hours
The hours that grind your life to dust

Oh, easy loves
You keep like pets
Denied them you are powerless
Whatever keeps you sleeping through the night

I’m not the man you thought I was
My love has never lived indoors
I had to drag it home by force
Hired hounds at both my wrists
Damp and bruised by stranger’s kisses on my lips
But you’re the one that I still miss
You’re the one that I still miss
And it's ruthless that it comes as no surprise

I’m not the man you think I am
I’m not the man you think I am

"Can't Have It All" - Jay Brannan

Restless @ 3AM

I am reading an old article in an old New Yorker about the twin poets Michael and Matthew Dickman. It is a wonderful study in how imagination can extend beyond the circumstances of your birth and the situation in which you are raised, or your genetic make-up (in this case).

Here is a poem by Michael Dickman from an even earlier issue of the New Yorker (September 1st, 2008).

We Did Not Make Ourselves
by Michael Dickman

We did not make ourselves is one thing

I keep singing into my hands

while falling


for just a second

before I have to get up and turn on all the lights in the house, one after the

other, like opening an Advent calendar

My brain opening

the chemical miracles in my brain

switching on

I can hear

dogs barking

some trees

last stars

You think you’ll be missed

it won’t last long

I promise


I’m not dead but I am

standing very still

in the back yard

staring up at the maple

thirty years ago

a tiny kid waiting on the ground

alone in heaven

in the world

in white sneakers

I’m having a good time humming along to everything I can still remember

back there

How we’re born

Made to look up at everything we didn’t make

We didn’t

make grass, mosquitoes

or breast cancer

We didn’t make yellow jackets

or sunlight



I didn’t make my brain

but I’m helping

to finish it

Carefully stacking up everything I made next to everything I ruined in broad

daylight in bright


This morning I killed a fly

and didn’t lie down

next to the body

like we’re supposed to

We’re supposed to

Soon I’m going to wake up




There is only this world and this world

What a relief


over and over

10 May, 2009

Ben Kweller + Antoine Doinel

Last summer I watched Le Quatre cents coups right around this time of year (highly interested readers can search in this blog if they want to know the exact date). Today I found the lyrics to this song in a Facebook message.

This is a sign. I need to move.

07 May, 2009

"Soul Man" - The Blues Brothers

Soul Man (LIVE) by The Blues Brothers

I need to rent/watch this movie and Animal House this weekend. I am in love with John Belushi. Soul and a sense of humor are the keys to my heart.

Mommy's alright, Daddy's alright...

05 May, 2009

"Classic" is relative

I learned a choreographed dance to this song when I was six or seven. (I love the horns and the bass...)

04 May, 2009

It's been awhile...

...And really, I still do not have time to blog, but I promise my lovely readers that I will be back in full swing this summer (just around the corner).

Until that time, here are a few quotes that I have been playing with (in my mind and in my academic writing):

But the urn of language is so fragile. It crumbles and immediately you blow into the dust of words which are the cinder itself. And if you entrust it to paper, it is all the better to inflame you with, my dear, you will eat yourself up immediately. No, this is not the tomb he would have dreamed of in order that there may be a place [y ait lieu], as they say, for the work of mourning to take its time. In this sentence I see the tomb of a tomb, the monument of an impossible tomb - forbidden, like the memory of a cenotaph, deprived of the patience of mourning, denied also the slow decomposition that shelters, lodges, hospitalizes itself in you while you eat the pieces (he did not want to eat the piece but was forced to). An incineration celebrates perhaps the nothing of the all, its destruction without return but mad with its desire and with its cunning (all the better to preserve everything, my dear), the desperately disseminal affirmation but also just the opposite, the categorical "no" to the laborious work of mourning, a "no" of fire. Can one ever accept working for His Higness Mourning? (Cinders, Jacques Derrida. 1991. p. 55).

What a difference between cinder and smoke: the latter apparently gets lost, and better still, without perceptible remainder, for it rises, it takes to the air, it is spirited away, sublimated. The cinder - falls, tires, lets go, more material since it fritters away its word; it is very divisible (Cinders, Jacques Derrida. 1991. p. 73).

and here is a video that is wonderful:

Dirty Mouth from Joe Fenstermaker on Vimeo.

Love, Peace, and all that Jazz.