Posted in Commentary, Creations, Music Mondays

It’s a Very Shenry Christmas VIII: Barrel of Monkeys

When Shenry first announced the swap theme for the year, I was excited.  And then I messed around with the draft playlist I add to all year long, got frustrated, and proceeded to send him this e-mail:

I still think it’s a valid point, and following the theme would leave all kinds of cool songs sad and unused in that playlist until next year, but I decided to quit crying and give it a go anyway, instead of wussing out.  I worked with what I had first, and filled in the gaps, resulting in one of the most eclectic mixes I have put together to date.  It helps to have a huge music library with a fair amount of world music in it; if not for my music addiction, I might not have been able to accomplish the task at hand. For those of you involved in the swap, you should know that I crafted the CD covers by hand, recycling pages from an Australian Rainforest calendar that was gifted me by some Australian friends.  I get points for recycling; and I think I get extra points for recycling a rainforest calendar.  And, of course, monkeys live in rainforests.  Not barrels.  For those of you not involved in the swap, but interested in the mix below, you may download it here.

1.        Hey Bulldog -The Beatles
I love the guitar throughout this song, but especially the opening riff that drives the whole thing.  It first caught my ear in the LOVE soundtrack, largely divorced from the rest of the song and mashed up with “Lady Madonna.”  The groove is sexy in a way I can feel but can’t really describe.  If I could have a personal soundtrack, I would walk into every room with that riff playing.  (That, or Vader’s theme.)

2.       Girl Can’t Help It-Journey
Journey=awesome.  I love this song for the a cappella last line; it truly makes the whole song for me.  I’m also very amused at the California-born and -bred Steve Perry singing “stahnding in the rain” and “girl cahn’t help it.”  Let’s hear it for random British pronunciation!

3.       The Sinking Feeling-The The
I have to thank the Red Baron for this song, and introducing me to this artist.  Evidently, Scott had heard of The The back in the ‘80s when they came ‘round the first time, because he listened to college radio back in the day, whereas I didn’t know there was any radio besides top 40 and oldies stations back in the ‘80s.  I listened to Casey Kasem every week, and could tell you the top song of the week pretty reliably.  I recently checked out the charts in the Rolling Stone I picked up (Jon Stewart was on the cover—SOLD!), and didn’t recognize half the bands in the charts.  I’ve gotten old and also (inadvertently) pretty indie in recent years.  In any case, this song never fails to make me dance, even if I’m seated.  I read a quote recently that said something to the effect that a hit song is a song with a happy beat and sad lyrics; I think this one definitely qualifies, though I don’t know if it was ever a hit.  If it had been, Casey would’ve told me.

4.       Give Up-Supreme Beings of Leisure
So there I was:  the CDs were all burned, and I was prepping the covers, and was typing out all the names, and then I got to “The Sinking Feeling” and couldn’t help but notice that “Peace Is Only,” did not start with a ‘g.’  Not even an imaginary silent one.  Crap.  How did I miss that?  (I figured it out eventually, and was annoyed at myself.*)  Do I accept that the work is done, and this is the flaw in my Persian rug, or do stay true to the theme I’d worked so hard on and fix it, realizing it might well blow up my entire playlist if I can’t find a G—P song?  I decided I would look for the song and fix it, because it would annoy me to live with the mistake, but if I couldn’t find one, they were going out with the error anyway.  It is appropriate that it was this song, because I got it from Shenry himself after enjoying this band on one of his early mixes (maybe even the first one).  This mix couldn’t be complete without the mastermind behind the swap.  Thanks, bro!

5.       Peace Is Only-New Model Army
NMA has made several appearances in my mixes, which is funny because if you asked me who my favorite bands are, they probably wouldn’t make the top 10…and yet, they stick with me emotionally on a regular basis.  This song ends with a mantra that can either depress you or free you; maybe both.  I dig it.

6.       Yours Truly, 2095-ELO
This has been waiting for 2 years to be in a mix, and it complicated this one a bit, ending in a number and all.  I’ve been an ELO fan probably since Xanadu; and I’m not going to apologize for either of those things.

7.       57821-Janelle Monáe
I believe I was first introduced to JM last year or the year before, because her song “Tightrope” appeared on 2 separate mixes, and I was intrigued.  So I downloaded The ArchAndroid, and proceeded to have my mind fairly blown by this ridiculously young, brilliant musician.  This song was completely unexpected in its Scarborough Fairishness.

8.       One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces-Ben Folds Five
A song about a revenge fantasy for childhood bullying.  Pretty much everyone I know, including myself, can probably relate.  Ben is a staple, for my listening and on my mixes.

9.       So He Won’t Break-The Black Keys
I had heard of The Black Keys for the first time awhile back, but when I previewed them, I wasn’t impressed, and promptly forgot about them.  Then I got my latest issue of American Songwriter, and they were the cover boys.  And I read the article, because I’m curious about people, and what else am I going to do while I eat my cereal?  But I ignored their music.  But I was driving in the car the other day, listening to KXCI, a community radio channel I recently started listening to (after living in this city for 13 years and never listening to them once) because they’re playing cuts from
Ryanhood’s new album, which means they’re playing ME on the radio, and have heard all kinds of interesting new stuff, including this track, which struck me hard and hasn’t let go yet.  I didn’t know it was them, though, because, Christ, can anyone actually announce what they’re playing on the radio these days???  Is that NOT precisely the job of a DJ?  So I googled the few lyrics I remembered when I got to a computer, and lo, and behold!  Black Keys again.  So I tried them again with an extended Spotify listening session, and I like them fine, but nothing else I heard of theirs grabbed me like this song does.  It’s just so sad and gritty and the “But you-ou-ou know” part howls at the soul, or maybe from it.

10.   Kamppi-Maria Kalaniemi & Aldargaz
Thank goodness for world music titles to fill in the gaps.  Maria Kalaniemi is a Finn (in case the name wasn’t a dead giveaway to you), like myself; I found her some years back on a search for good accordion music…or was she featured on
Ladyslipper’s streaming?  I can’t remember.  Doesn’t matter.  Anyway, I like accordion music. 


11.   I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow-The Soggy Bottom Boys
I just love this song; lead is Dan Tyminski, of Alison Krauss’s Union Station.

12.   We Need You-Duran Duran
This song is just so beautiful.  This was a B-side of the “Skin Trade” 45 that came out in 1987 and never appeared on any album until the second half of their Singles box set came out in 2004.  I had been waiting forever, because it was unavailable in the 17 intervening years, and my 45 had a skip in it.  To this day, when I listen to the song, I anticipate the skip in the last 12 seconds, because I’d recorded it to a cassette (so I wouldn’t end up with more scratches and skips on the original) and that’s the way I listened to it for years.  It’s not there now, but I still “hear” it.

13.   Ugly Love-Eels
I’m usually a big fan of excellent singers, but there’s something about this guy’s songs that is so heart-wrenchingly sincere that his scratchy voice just makes him more endearing.

14.   Etiquette Lesson-Danny Elfman
This is from the Edward Scissorhand’s soundtrack, which, on the whole, sounds like winter to me, and puts me in mind of the
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.”  This was such a sad movie.  Poor Edward.  It wasn’t his fault.

15.   Naked Eye-Luscious Jackson
I don’t remember when or where I first heard this song, but I had to buy the album immediately.  The rest of the CD was a total disappointment, but I’ve never lost my love for the layers and harmonies of this song.  Ordinarily I’m not a fan of spoken word, but I made an exception in this case.

16.   Everything is Burning-Ivan & Alyosha
The Civil Wars mentioned this group in a FB posting, and since I love TCW, I checked out the EP and promptly bought it.  They’re good.  I’m especially enamored of swelling horns in the bridge… “Why is it every time I come to California it’s on fire?”

17.   Give Me Back My Job-Carl Perkins, Tom Petty, Bono, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson
I needed a G—-B song at this point in the mix, and I was looking for one, but had it in my head that I was looking for a G—P song, *and then I realized my “mistake,”—B, not P!—and started looking for B instead, leading to the problem mentioned in #4 above, only to realize later that I needed one of each.  (Glad I could share that disaster of a mental process with you; for those of you not yet 40, you have something to look forward to! ) This song is done by an all-star group, the oddest member of which has to be Bono.  And I love Johnny Cash’s rumbling bass here.  But I think the song is timely:  For each of the imagined welfare queens and benefit leeches people imagine in their worst fiscal nightmares, I believe there are 100 people who are like this song.  They just want the opportunity to do good work and create their version of a decent life.  The income inequality that some people dismiss out of hand is myth is the direct result of inequality of opportunity, which isn’t a myth at all.  I worry about the 100, not the potential of the 1, and speak out and vote accordingly.

18.   Butcher’s Paper-Mike Bloom
One of the best broken/lonely heart songs I’ve ever heard.  The imagery is so vivid, the guitar and strings so beautiful.  Love it.

Hope you enjoy the mix!



I've been doing some form of creative writing since 9th grade, and have been a blogger since 2003. Like most bloggers, I've quit blogging multiple times. But the words always come back, asking to be written down, and they pester me if I don't. So here we are. Thanks for reading.

6 thoughts on “It’s a Very Shenry Christmas VIII: Barrel of Monkeys

  1. Well if I have imparted anything then to have spread the word of the genius of Matt Johnson would make me a lyrical John the Baptist, appropriate at this time of year, course I’ll get me head cut off at the behest of some woman but it was ever thus.

    1. Yay! I always enjoy your mix, Robynn, so I’m looking forward to it. So far I’ve listened to June’s, which was good, and filled with all kinds of new-to-me stuff, and I’m in the middle of Ghost’s; I’ve got them in the car.

  2. Just like you, there were a couple times I would skim my music library looking for a song that started with a “X” and ended with a “Y.” Thankfully, I found the building blocks I needed.

    I wish ELO had put together an official music video for “Yours Truly, 2095″… it would’ve been timeless.

    1. You might not say that if you’d SEEN Xanadu. :p ELO was largely pre-video, weren’t they? I find it funny that I am old enough to remember life before, during, and after MTV.

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