Monday, July 11, 2011

Soundtrack to the English Major

I'm having fun today. Someone (whose pseudonym on this blog has yet to be decided) was talking to me about what kind of music I liked. Well, what she said was, "Real quick, what's your favorite band?"

I adhered to the spirit of the question and answered, "Lissie."

And then I second guessed myself, because after all, Lissie is not so much a band as one person. So I had to follow it up with, "Actually, Jump! Little Children." Who almost no one knows about because they disbanded back when I was in high school and now when you want to buy their cds, they're used/out of print on Amazon, and it's all just extremely sad.

She hadn't heard of either of those, so I jumped at the chance to educate her. I sorted through my extensive discography of both and compiled a mixtape of each of them.

And then I started thinking. "There are so many other great artists and songs. These two are really not an accurate representation of my musical tastes."

So obviously I had to make a cd containing all of my favorite songs, because that's the way my brain works. I do this occasionally. I wish I'd kept all the various "Favorite Songs Ever" cds I've burned throughout my life, because they get more and more musically schizophrenic as time goes on. Hopefully they get better, but I doubt it.

My rules for a good mixtape are that you can only pick ONE song per artist, and there has to be one oddball song that doesn't quite fit but you can't bear to leave out. I don't know why there has to be an outlier. There just does.

Anyways. Here's the track listing for the (supposed) final cut.

1. Romans Revenge by Nicki Minaj (Remix ft. Lil Wayne)
This song was put first because I think it's a great introduction song. I love Nicki Minaj in general; I was originally gonna put 'These Girls Fall Like Dominos' on the mix but that song is really only better than this one if you're a lesbian. Which this mix is gonna be given to a straight woman. And honestly I only like 'These Girls...' for its novelty. This is probably my favorite Nicki Minaj song.

2. 1977 by Ana Tijoux
Ana Tijoux mesmerizes me. I don't speak enough Spanish to really understand her, but I can listen to her for hours - and have.

3. Pursuit of Happiness by Lissie (Kid Cudi cover)
This is hands down my favorite cover of all time. Maybe my favorite song of all time, but just as this cover. The original song is good but something about the way Lissie covers it really hammers it in for me. I was so beyond happy when she did this at the show I went to. I didn't think she'd do it because she usually only does one cover song per show, and she has a mighty arsenal of great covers. Except when she covers Lionel Richie's 'Hello,' because that song is just terrible no matter what you do to it.

4. Going Down by Florence + The Machine (Bruce Springsteen cover ft. Kid Harpoon)
What can I say? I like covers. It's hard to find good sound quality on Florence + the Machine collaborations with other artists, even though Florence has done shows and appearances with some greats. I love this song when Springsteen does it, but Florence and Kid Harpoon have something here.

5. The Cave by Mumford and Sons
This was the first Mumford and Sons song I heard. I don't know that I would have pursued them as voraciously as I did if I had heard any of their other songs first. This isn't anyone else's favorite Mumford song, and I don't understand why. I adore everything about it.

6. Dancing Virginia by Jump! Little Children
One of the biggest disappointments of my musical life is that Jump! Little Children disbanded. They were my mom's favorite band first; one of the first real bonding experiences of my teenage years with her - you know, when I first started thinking about my mom as another person instead of just my mom - was when she took me to a JLC show with her. This song is off the Licorice Tea Demos album, which has a more bluegrass feel to it than their later stuff. One of my favorite things about JLC was the fact that they weren't afraid to... not sound like themselves. They went where their musical ability would take them, which was just about everywhere.

7. We Gotta Get Out Of This Place by Katrina and the Waves
Here's my oddball. I totally adore this song. It's off the China Beach soundtrack, which is now out of print, and was never released as a single. I had to hunt it down, and finally found it in the collection of a China Beach lesbian fan fiction writer, who luckily was very friendly.

8. Won't Back Down by Eminem (ft. Pink)
I've always liked Eminem musically - at least, I've always liked the way he sounded. I really like the fact that he seems to have matured as a lyrical artist, and I don't have to ignore what he's saying in order to enjoy the music. 'Recovery' features collaborations with some fantastic artists, Pink being a prime example.

9. The Arrival by Zack Hemsey
If you haven't heard of Zack Hemsey, you should really do something about that. This is the first song off the album 'Empty Room,' which is one of my favorite things of all time: a concept album. That is, an album that tells a story as a whole. 'Desperado' by the Eagles is a concept album. I think this song packs a punch all by itself, though, which is the earmark of a well-done concept album - i.e. 'Tequila Sunrise' is a great song, even when it isn't following 'Out Of Control.'

10. Mykonos by Fleet Foxes (album version)
This is the most recent addition to the 'can't live without it' arsenal. I just discovered Fleet Foxes and I don't know much about them, but I'm looking forward to more from them because their songwriting skills are exceptional.

11. Swimming Pools by Thao and the Get Down Stay Down
I think 'Thao and the Get Down Stay Down' is one of the best names for a band ever. It's the kind of thing where I wish they had never thought of it, so I could think of it. But then I remember I'm probably never going to be in a band, and Thao makes good music, so I'm not bitter. 'Pear Blossom Motel' is totally taken, though. If I ever start a band, that's what it's going to be and you can't have it, super-talented and more-motivated person who happens to be reading my blog.

12. I Am The Boy For You by Astrid Williamson
It was a toss-up between this song and 'Hozanna,' but obviously this is a better song. I've just been avoiding it lately for other reasons, and I can't let those reasons dictate my musical preferences. Good music is good music. This is a great song. Astrid Williamson should make more like it (because - and don't tell her I said so - the rest of the album isn't nearly up to par with this one).

13. Rolling in the Deep by Vicci Martinez (Adele cover)
I realize this choice will garner controversy. Adele wrote this song, Adele is amazing, etc. But you know what? I love the song, and I love this version of it. Vicci's voice makes it rawer and more intimate, more plaintive and less self-assured. So that's why I put this one on the mix - even though I actually have 6 versions of this song. The only songs I have more covers of are 'Hallelujah' by Leonard Cohen and 'Bad Romance' by Lady Gaga.

14. Hurricane Drunk by Florence + The Machine
I broke the rules. I repeated an artist. I tried - really, really tried - to choose between this and the Springsteen cover, and I just couldn't. This song is me. I don't know how to explain it any better. A mixtape of my favorite songs wouldn't be honest without it.

15. World Town by M.I.A.
I think M.I.A. is a genius. She opened the door to Bollywood for me by seamlessly fusing hip-hop and Bollywood influences, and she's so fearlessly experimental musically. She's my angry music, she's my thinking music, she's my workout music... there are very few situations that I can't fit M.I.A. into. I always find myself returning to 'World Town' as my favorite song. I don't really know why. It just is.

16. 20 Years by The Civil Wars
When I saw this on the final track listing, I thought to myself, "There's no way that transition is going to work." But it inexplicably does. The Civil Wars are a recent obsession. I'm a sucker for good harmonies, and man, do they deliver.

17. Hair by Lady Gaga
I love Gaga. It's an important thing to know about me. She's everything I love about pop and dance music, and she's utterly fearless. Yes, she's extreme, and possibly legitimately insane, but I think the world needs a Gaga, so the rest of us seem normal.

18. Dance or Die by Janelle Monae (ft. Saul Williams)
Another concept album - the ArchAndroid. Janelle Monae is more than a little David Bowie and also more than a little talented. I hope she doesn't get refined out of existence.

19. Everybody Lay Down by Pat Benatar
In case you were worried about my classic rock roots. I've got 'em. My high school graduation present was tickets to see Pat Benatar live, and I'm still waiting for another artist to match her live. Lissie came awfully damn close, but Pat is the queen.

20. Shampain by Marina and the Diamonds
I think I've written about Marina on here before. I had a hard time choosing between this song and 'I Am Not A Robot' but finally I decided that this one fit better here. Also in this video she's really sparkly, and if you do like you should and go YouTube this song, you'll be treated to something sparkly. I like that notion.

21. I'mma Shine by YoungBloodZ
This song will get me moving when no other song will. I can't seem to find anything else by this artist - the song is off the Step Up 3 soundtrack. Awful, stunted movie, but amazing soundtrack. Much like The Legend of Billie Jean. Ever heard Pat Benatar's 'Invincible' off that album? Great song. Watching the movie is like when you have a splitting headache but have to balance your checkbook. It's hard to focus and you just want to close your eyes.

So there you go. The English Major's Favorite Songs, Annotated. I'm aware that it's an extremely odd mix of genres, but there you are.

A glaring omission in the lineup: There's no Bollywood here. I listen to a lot of Bollywood, but honestly the reason there's none on here was entirely practical. Bollywood songs are like three times longer than average. I was trying to fit this playlist onto one cd.

This song was cut at the last minute, because I needed to cut one song, and it didn't quite fit anywhere. So I'll let you have it here, because I really do love it.

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