For the 12th year in a row, a small group of merry music lovers have agreed to come up with a tasty mix CD (yes, actual CDs–we’re old, though if you find yourself interested in having this mix, and are not a swapper, hit me up and we’ll see what we can do) and send it, in the spirit of holiday giving, to each other. There are only 5 of us left, and of those, only 2 that have done every swap (I’m one of them), though at its height, I think I might have sent out as many as 10 CDs. I’m dedicated like that, and am happy to have any excuse to a) create a mix playlist that b) shows off my incredible taste in music, and c) the wonder of my vast and eclectic music collection. (Whether it actually accomplishes the last 2, I really don’t know, but I flatter myself that it should.)
Long-time readers know that creating the mix is only half the project; the other half is to do a blog post explaining why you chose the songs you did, or how the songs pertain to the theme, or why the songs mean something to you, or free-associate about all of the above and then some, which is what I like to do. This year’s theme, conjured by Ghost, who has taken over the swap administration in recent years (bless him!), is “Comin’ in Hot.” Enjoy!
- Barton Hollow-The Civil Wars
I can’t remember now how I found this band. I think some other musician I follow on Facebook may have posted them. Or maybe I happened upon them on one of my Tuesday afternoon perusals of the new releases I did back when I was chained to a desk in my cubicle. In any case, they were featured on last year’s mix with a song from their second and final album, and the year before that as well, if memory serves. I really love their music; it’s a shame they couldn’t hold it together. “Barton Hollow” is actually from their first album of the same name. I remember the first time I really listened to it hard. I was driving home from Beth and Pam’s one Friday night, rounding the curve where Harrison becomes Wrightstown, and it hit me. And then I hit the replay button again and again. And then the next time I had a guitar lesson, I made my teacher help me figure it out. (I’d tried on my own, and had made some progress, but it was in drop-D and I never recognize alternate tunings.) I’ve played it ever since, thought at a faster tempo. And then my duo played it. I figure these songs will never be played again by The Civil Wars, so we may as well. I don’t think I’ve ever rehearsed it just once; it’s so fun to play that to my recollection we’ve played it at least twice at every practice. I’ve been known to play it more times than that in a row when I’m alone.
- Bit by Bit-Vanity Theft
This song just drives, which seemed to fit with the theme. Plus, I never tire of all-woman rock bands, of which there are not enough.
- Come Closer-Miles Kane
Last year I had 2 Miles Kane songs in contention for the mix, and it was close right up until the end. This is the one that didn’t make it last year; I think I finally broke the tie by assuring myself that I could put this one on next year’s mix. Listening to it again now reminds me that I think this would be fun to learn to play, especially that crunchy lead guitar. As if I play lead guitar…but I could start.
- Your Love Is Mine-Corinne Bailey Rae
This is just kind of sweetly sexy and lovely. All of CBR’s songs remind me of relaxed summer afternoons, breeze blowing through the curtains, and perhaps also the jasmine in my mind.
- I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know-Marc Broussard
This song is actually a cover of an old Blood, Sweat & Tears song, but Marc kills it. The sax is a nice touch. His live show still ranks among the best I’ve seen; but the man continues to break my heart by not coming back to Tucson. Jerk.
- Don’t Make Me Hold Your Hand-Lake Street Dive
Lake Street Dive was an opener at a show I saw; I can’t remember who they opened for, but I see a lot of shows, and it’s rare that I am totally mesmerized by the opener. The bass line in this song, doubled by the guitar, is killer. The whole band is fun and solid, but lead singer Rachael Price’s voice kills me. Unique, strong, sexy, nimble. They’re coming back to Tucson in February. Do yourself a favor and go. I’ll be there.
- Death Letter Jubilee-The Delta Saints
I am so delighted that my Android phone has this little musical note icon to listen to KXCI and tell me who’s singing whatever is currently tripping my trigger. I probably have a hundred screen captures on my phone of just that kind of instant musical research (because if I think I’ll remember enough of the song to google it when I get home, I’m dead wrong) that got me this song. It rocks. That is all.
- You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional-The Lone Bellow
Had a bit of a Miles Kane situation (see #3 above) with this band as well last year. I like pretty much everything they do. This song is fantastic.
- Sodade-Lila Downs, Niña Pastori, Soledad Pastorutti
“Saudade” (as one more often sees the word) is a Portuguese word without a direct English translation that “describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return.” This version has been translated from the Portuguese original, made famous by Cesária Évora, to Spanish. The percussion and the groove throughout kills me. I got to see Lila Downs perform last year; she is simply amazing live.
- Calabash & Catamaran-Gabriel Kahane
I’d never heard of Gabriel Kahane until he opened for the Punch Brothers this spring with a set of some of the smartest, most challenging, yet entirely catchy music I’ve ever heard. I was an instant superfan, and told him so at the break when I went out to buy his album. You have to listen hard to Kahane’s music; there’s a lot going on, and it has unexpected, but perfectly wonderful twists and turns, evidence of his classical music education, but frequently veering into modern composition with unusual time signatures and surprising melodies. He IS more composer than mere songwriter, but using traditional rock band instruments along with the rest of the orchestra, and still his music is accessible. His voice is warm and rich. And his lyrics are smart, too…and often funny. I’m obsessed with the chord progression in the chorus here, to the point where I’m planning to steal it outright to write a totally new song and melody over it. This song has banjo, synthesizer, electric guitar, and a brass section. How can you not love that? Of the 2 albums of his that I have, this is my favorite song. And with all that said, I think this song is, at least in part, about an iPod, which is droll as hell. “You caress the dial, it makes you whole again…” Listen to the outro again, to how many sonic layers there are in it behind his voice. OMG the layers…so good.
- Wake Up Alone-Amy Winehouse
I came very late to my appreciation of Amy Winehouse…like in the last year or two, long after she was already gone. I wasn’t particularly interested in a young throwback drunk/junkie, and I didn’t bother to give her a listen when she first hit the scene. Somehow, along the way, no doubt thanks to a fellow pirate, her album Back in Black ended up in my collection. I would hear her songs come up on shuffle play from time to time and think, “You know, she’s better than I thought.” I guess it’s kind of like talking to someone on the internet and liking them before you see their face…her sneaking up on me randomly, where all I could hear was her voice, allowed me to judge just her music, instead of all the collateral stuff about her lifestyle. But even so, it took this song sneakily winning me over one day. If I can nerd out a little (or perhaps I should say, a little more after #10), the unexpected progression of the Am to the G# in the verses, and then how the last line of the chorus resolves…man, that just kills me. It kills my guitar teacher, too, as he had to sit there and listen to me play the latter over and over again, with giddy celebration of the awesomeness of it after each and every time, during my last lesson. Poor guy is so patient.
- Uptown Funk-Mark Ronson, featuring Bruno Mars
The first time I heard this, I was backing out of my garage, and I was all, “WHO IS THIS???” (Bruno Mars is such a musical chameleon, and I’m not all that familiar with his work, so I didn’t recognize his voice.) And I wasn’t aware that Mark Ronson did anything but produce other people’s stuff. It’s so fun and makes you want to get your dance on. In fact, I am dancing right now on my chaise as I type this. However, my current ensemble, which I could best describe as Hobo Pajama Party, is NOT club-ready. But the song definitely is comin’ in hot.
- Be Fearless and Play-WookieFoot
Maybe last year…maybe the year before (memory fails), my brother sent me 2 CDs of this band he knows. I think he might even know some of the people in it. They write thoughtful, uplifting songs, and this one particularly spoke to me awhile back. And now it’s especially important, as PLAY is my new mantra. More on that in this space soon!