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.

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