Welcome to the 9th annual mix CD swap, this year brought to us by Ghost. This year’s theme was “The Message.” As usual, I sorted through the list of songs I spent all year adding to a playlist I call “something else,” a digital warehouse of all the songs that strike me as contenders for this year’s mix, picked the ones I liked, and after the fact, as I wrote up this post, found a way (in most, but not all, cases) to rationalize their connection to the theme. In some cases, it really WAS the song’s message that got it on the final list, so its place there is totally legit. In other cases, however, it was the music, or a turn of phrase that made me love it, rather than any particular message. I’ve been known to love songs whose message I find incomprehensible; even a few that I’ve found contemptible. I feel bad about those songs.*
I realized after all the CDs were burned, covered, and sealed into envelopes that there were two typos (that I saw). This sort of thing bothers me, as evidenced by my “Dammit! *sigh*” when I realized it. However, I’m old and have mellowed some, and it doesn’t bother me nearly as much as reprinting, recutting, and regluing all those covers would. So we’re all going to have to live with it. I daresay they are correct below.
If you are a part of the swap, you should have my CD soon; I mailed it Wednesday. If you aren’t a part of the swap, but would like these tunes, you may download the .zip file here.
1. Hunting High and Low-A-ha
“I’ll be hunting high and low
There’s no end to the lengths I’ll go to
Hunting high and low
There’s no end to lengths I’ll go”
I love this song; A-ha was a seriously underrated band. I chose to interpret it for this mix as less stalkerish than it might otherwise come off, but rather that “she” is meaning, wisdom, purpose in life. I think I’m a seeker of truth. Sometimes I find it because I’m really looking for it, hunting high and low; most of the time, I trip over it. If I have any insight at all, though, it’s in being aware of it when I do and taking the lesson.
2. Textbook Answer-Vanity Theft
“I wrote the textbook, I am the expert
I know what it took, To find the answers
I’d roam the edge of the earth, in hopes it’d be worth
More than just an A+ for effort”
More along the same lines as #1, regarding the search. Plus, this band is badass. I dig chicks who rock.
3. The Freshmen-The Verve Pipe
“For the life of me
I cannot remember
what made us think that we were wise
and we’d never compromise.”
The first time I heard this song, and every time after, I am struck by the poignancy of its particular truth. At 41, I look back to my twentysomething self, and laugh at her. Just the other day, my dad asked me something and I said, “I don’t know.” When he expressed mild surprise, I said, “I’m not 17 anymore, and I don’t know everything.” Sometimes I wonder what my 61-year-old self will have to laugh about regarding my current self. It should be interesting.
4. Wow and Flutter-April Smith & the Great Picture Show
“Don’t hate a girl because she knows
All the ways to get beneath your clothes.
You play those games down to the letter
You’re just mad ’cause I play them better”
I was introduced to this band because they opened for Fitz and the Tantrums, I believe, last year? 2 years ago? I lose track. Anyway, she was darling, and fun, and I bought her album of retro, rockabilly kind of tunes. This one makes me chuckle, and I appreciate the table-turning, brashly sexual lyrics. Frankly, from an interpersonal standpoint, the behavior of the persona in this song isn’t any better or more acceptable because she’s a girl, *but I’m not above enjoying a good revenge fantasy. I also stole a chord progression from her chorus of “Dixie Boy,” another one of her songs, wrote down the different melody that played in my head every time I heard her song, and that song became “Lonely Ocean.”
5. The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys-Jim Capaldi
“The percentage you’re paying is too high priced
While you’re living beyond all your means
And the man in the suit has just bought a new car
From the profit he’s made on your dreams”
If you know this song at all, you probably know the Traffic version. That’s the only one I knew until I heard this one on 10 @ 10 on KFOG some years ago. The song was written by Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi (who were both in Traffic), the latter of whom performs it on my mix with some gorgeous guitar. Either version is great, but I think I prefer this one…maybe because it’s such a departure from the one I knew. As for the message, I’m pretty sure this is about the music biz, but I’m equally sure that it applies to anyone who has to work for The Man.
6. Stained Glass-Bruce Cockburn
show me a sequined sky
Rubies shine in my glass of wine
on oiled water
paint a pointillist facade
It’s a ceaselessly shifting world
I’m far away
I see your face behind
each time-blurred pane
music leaps out
in a shimmering intrigue
words unsaid whirl away like dust
from the sidewalk sweeper’s broom
across a fold in space you touch my hand”
I’ve written before, many times, about a certain kind of late afternoon, autumn light that always makes me wistful and nostalgic, with a sweet yearning for I’m not sure what…something missing. I suppose that’s what we’re always yearning for, isn’t it? Anyway, if that light had a soundtrack, it would be this delicately beautiful little song, painting an equally beautiful vignette. It gives me the exact same feeling. This is my favorite Bruce Cockburn song, from my favorite album of his, Salt, Sun & Time.
7. Lips Like Sugar-Echo and the Bunnymen
“Just when you think she’s yours
She’s flown to other shores”
A song about the chase, I guess; I just like it. The first time I heard this one was on a mixtape Scott made me for our first Christmas (1990) when we were dating. I had to fly to Minnesota to be with my family for the holiday, but I listened to this tape over and over again to feel close to him. Prior to meeting Scott, I was strictly a Top 40 girl. I’d heard of The Cure but wasn’t a fan, maybe had heard of the Violent Femmes, but was completely unaware of alternative music, or the entity known as “college radio.” He changed all that. 22 years later, though, I’m the one who introduces him to new indie stuff.
8. It’s Been Said-(the artist formerly known as) Terence Trent D’arby
“It’s been said, but here it goes again, I love you.”
I love TTD’s voice. Always have. And he’s an interesting, adventurous composer as well. Love this song. And there’s no better message…yes, we’ve all said it, maybe many times, but contrary to what some people think, I don’t think it loses its power. Not for me, anyway. If you love people, you should tell them. I have lived long enough to regret not saying it enough; I do my best now to make sure I don’t add to that regret.
9. Thanks For Your Time-Gotye
“Don’t ask me, I just work here, man”
Believe it or not, Gotye has written more than one song. He’s quite good, and this is the second time he’s appeared on one of my Christmas mixes. First time I heard this song, I laughed in recognition. More than a few times in my life, I’ve wondered how many years I’ve squandered on the phone trying to get people to do their jobs. Too many, man. Too many.
10. Dark Matter, White Noise-The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger
“Wake me in a thousand years
when computers can shed tears”
I always wonder why everyone creates these dystopian visions of the future. If it is the nature of the universe to evolve, isn’t it just as likely that we’ll find our way to something that, by today’s standards, seems like utopia? But the real reason I love this song is Sean Lennon’s gorgeous melisma on “cheese” and “movies,” lyrics that don’t generally require that level of singing; it’s the juxtaposition that gets me. I’m a music nerd like that. Among other ways.
11. Go Hibernate-Loquat
“Stop your complaining, ’cause it’s draining me out“
First time I heard that lyric, I thought, “Yes! This!” It’s not that I don’t complain. It’s not that there are things worth complaining about in this world. It really only becomes a problem when there’s constant negativity. That just grinds me down.
12. Pedals-The Love Language
“The truth is all these changes take time
I held you with broken arms“
The lyrics I pulled are from two different verses, though the the lines are adjacent. The first is true of most big changes. As for the second, I liked that lyric because even if we love imperfectly, we can still love, and that’s what matters. Plus, musically, it’s beautiful.
13. Quinta Anauco-Maria Marquez
“Todo empezó con el amor.” (Everything begins with love.)
From that line to the end is why I love this song. And the accordion. I love me some accordion. It is mournful and passionate and layered. So beautiful. I keep saying “beautiful” a lot in this mix. Oh well. I like beauty.
14. Be Here Now-Ray LaMontagne
“Don’t put your trust in walls
‘Cause walls will only crush you when they fall
Be, be here now, be here now
Be, be here now, be here now”
Ram Dass wrote a book called Be Here Now the year I was born. I never read that…I read his book Still Here. Still good advice. I like the bit about walls especially; I have talked to many people, usually people who want to be romantically involved but are afraid and annoyed by all the dating that necessarily precedes being involved, who have gotten tired and frustrated and want to give up on the whole thing. The point I tend to make is that avoiding the pain of disappointment will not necessarily negate the very real pain of loneliness. You’ve got to pick your poison. Hiding out in your bunker may save you one kind of grief, but pretty much guarantees you’ll remain lonely. A 1% chance of happiness is still better than a 100% chance of unhappiness, no?
First time I heard this song, I thought, “This sounds like Eddie Vedder? Could it be?” I consulted the intarwebz and was surprised to find I was correct, because it’s an unusual song for them, though I admit I’m not fully conversant in their oeuvre. It’s a great, “what’s important in life, in a nutshell,” song, I think. All you need to know is here; truly understanding it is where there work comes in.
16. Marvelous Clouds-Aaron Freeman
“I’ve looked in the eyes of your heroes
has they sailed from faraway lands
the mud on their uniforms, mud on their boots
blood on their faces and hands
And the marvelous clouds sail by
I laugh in the sun, summer sky
I heard this song in passing one day, and it seemed an anachronism, even for KXCI which plays a pretty wide variety of stuff. Post-googling, I learned that Aaron Freeman, of the band Ween, chose to do a bunch of Rod McKuen songs for his solo debut. I don’t know McKuen’s work (which is to say, none but this song), but what I liked about it was the airy, unconcerned “marvelous clouds” chorus separating much starker verses, including the one I quoted above. We’ve been at war for years and years now. It’s got to stop, and we need to bring our soldiers home.
17. Go On, Say It-Blind Pilot
“If you’d’ve said it right”
The sound of this song touched me first, which is how it got on the short list in the first place. I didn’t really pay attention to the lyrics until I started writing up this post, but I found a blurb from the writer who said it was about something his girlfriend at the time said that, had she said it differently, might’ve been fine, but as it was, he realized it had just killed their relationship–it could never be the same again between them. How often could we avoid unintended damage, if we really thought about what we were saying, and framed it kindly, thoughtfully? Words mean things; it pays to pick the right ones if at all possible.
18. Virus-Duran Duran
“When I interface
Nothing will remain.
Everything will change forever.
target and align
the message will survive
everything will change forever.”
This song has been waiting two years to end a mix, but it didn’t fit with the theme the last 2 years. Just listen to it, and you will understand why it is a totally boss ending to a mix CD.