09 July 2006

October springs Eternal
(or, "Hope Spring's Autumnal")

[at long last...anticipated and promised...the track list (and much more besides) for OiE, my crazy-goose birthday mix from three quarters ago. now that i've completed this mix's complement - which is either the '05 finger tape that covers the other end of my listening spectrum circa the time i was making this, and thus is bouncy where this is contemplative, or else popsical which is summery where this was fally (and wintry was wintery) - it's high time to go back and break it on down. here's how this is gonna get done ...]

Title: October is Eternal
Format: CD-R (80 min)
Date: October 2005; revised November 05 ["thanksgiving edition"] and April 06 ["continuous content"]
Packaging: manufactured plain white paper sleeve with clear plastic window on front; typewritten title, list of artists (not songs) and mix details on reverse. DJ Rec Rev logo on CD in black sharpie.
Notes: General purpose, mass distribution, continuous mix (made using Peak TDM 2.63)

Contents (with comments):

1. "Twenty Three" by Four Tet
i think i knew from the beginning that this was going to be the opener. this cd started out as a birthdaytime mix for me - the title (taken from an of montreal song that's not on this cd but just precedes the one that is) suggests to me that that warm, comfortable, glowy feeling of autumn [i think of the fading glows of summer sunburns and the growing glows of winter woodfires] can continue...forever...if we just hold on to it. that's the feeling i was trying to express with the music on this mix, and this piece captures it pretty perfectly, with its happy amble and jumble of friendly sounds.

it's a bit of a chestnut - one of the two standouts on Pause, an album i picked up largely on the basis the influential Amazon.com best of 2001 list. and chestnuts are autumnal too!

also i was turning 23 which made it particularly appropriate (not that i have any idea why it's called that.)

2. "The Stubborn Horse" by Mahjongg
a nice whinnying segue into a similarly loping groove with the burner turned up just a notch. this song feels like an instrumental even though it actually has a perfectly present and normal lead vocal part. i think is because the other components of the song - the various instrumental lines and even the periodic background vocals - feel equally important to its composition, each taking its turn as the focus. i don't like it when the opening songs on a mix assert too strong of an individual identity before the mix has a chance to present one of its own, which is why i opened this one with two songs that almost function as background music - it's as though by the cd has already been establishing an aural environment for a while by the time the listener is made to start paying attention.

my favorite part of this track is the chunky guitar that continues at the end after the other parts have dropped out. the clicks which lead into the next cut on the mahjongg album are conveniently exactly the right tempo to lead into the commanding opening drum fill of...

3. "How Am I Different" by Bettye LaVette
easily the most dynamic cut on the cd so far. the tastefully funky slow-burn of the previous two tracks is carried over here, but now it's all focused around bettye's hate-to-say-it-but-electrifying vocal performance. a wholesale reimagining of a song that, in its original incarnation - as the restrained opener of aimee mann's bachelor no. 2 - kept its venom politely concealed within convoluted lyrical insinuations and underplayed by mann's rather genteel delivery (so much so that her use of "fuck" feels forced, glossed-over, and almost uncomfortable.) here, bettye practically spits the venom in your face - conveying as much with her vicious, insistent vamping on the word "how" as aimee does in her entire mincing lyric - and detonates that f-bomb with a casual almost-grace. [j't'aime, aime', but babe...]

oh yeah - if this sort of interpersonal strife don't seem to flow with the falltime feeling, don't worry: this will all get sorted out soon, with a little help from our friends. but first...what's this!?

4. "Fallen Love" by Daedelus

a sudden plunge back into "fake-instrumental" territory. i love daedelus, and he's the best for mixtapes, even if you don't usually notice that he's there. come to think of it, despite the occasional crooning interjections ("do you think you might have fallen...in love..?"), there's quite a mess of sturm und drang in this track that allows it to follow up that last quite effectively.

5. "Measuring Cups" by Andrew Bird

sort of a mann-style nursery rhyme; sweetly caustic and just a sprinkle obscure. lovely little melody that latches on pretty quick. clever little mutter on conformity and censorship (of Gorey!) the last verse (same as the first) is too lazy to finish its lines.

6. "Peach Plum Pear" by Final Fantasy

not quite sure where this came from or why i had it, but it's a joanna newsom cover that's almost as endearing as her version, which is saying something. alyssa said she thinks this is what sufjan stevens is trying for and not quite achieving. (substituting pizz fiddle for harp or banjo?) if this is a plea for interpersonal connectedness, then it fits right in.

7. "High Doses #2" by the Mountain Goats

first rock song on the mix? this is from come, come to the sunset tree, the vinyl-only collection of lo-fi demos and excisions from the similarly titled album - which i'm still waiting like a fiend for my actual copy of, so thank god for small favors from well-placed friends with access to mp3 servers. this tune didn't make the final cut, and i'm wondering if it was just a little too nasty to fit with the ultimately - heartbreakingly - hopeful tenor of the album (fellow cast-off "collapsing stars" is also rather bleak.) 'cause this is nasty. gleefully so - "the great big world is out there", after all. but we're headed for catharsis.

8. "Matter into Energy" by Kelley Polar

adding this song is only the only change i made for the "continuous content" edition of the mix (that name trying its punningest to simultaneously sum up the theme of the mix and describe its method.) the earlier (and actually better-distributed) version had spoon's "i summon you" here - i swapped this in because i figured that tune would be well-enough exposed among emp types and others, but also because i wanted to spread my love for the polar album and it fit the mix's mood perfectly. wasn't expecting for it to be such a simple swap-in, but even though the two songs don't sound much alike at all, the transitions into and out of this were just as easy and possibly more satisfying for the extra layer of contrast they introduce.

this track is less kinetic than much of love songs of the hanging gardens, but it's absolutely romantic, meditative, and glowing. transmutes human relations into the celestial realm, without a whiff of pretension or forcedness.

9. "I Can't Let Go" by Evie Sands

just a great lil' slice of sixties soul-pop. there's something about those yearning, antiphonal chorus harmonies - over the held bass note - that feels almost modern. reminds me of the new pornographers (who showed up here on alyssa's original version, but got axed to make room, i guess.) baby! Baby! BABY! luv that harpsichord, too.

10. "Inside and Out" by Feist

i've been kind of kicking myself that i didn't save this for '05 finger disco (which, come to think of it, doesn't have any disco), but i'm glad more people got to hear it here. what a number! (a well done straight-up dance remix - not altering too much, just stressing the disco elements - that rubbery bass - would just slay.) does this make sense in the context of this cd? sure, i think it does. why not. i'm still trying to figure out where the bee-gees version of this is available. (anybody?)

11. "What's the Use" by Jamie Lidell
perfect, no-futzing-necessary segue! carrying right on with the blue-eyed funkyness. and here's where the soul-searching commences in earnest. what's the use of figuring it all out? well, fortunately, he answers his own question before asking it again: "life may sometimes be sad but it's always beautiful." not to put too fine a point on it, that could be the death-by-cheesy summing-up of this whole business.

(btw, if there's a video for this song, i really really hope it features an animated, person-sized question mark with jamie's crooning face, walking the streets and alleyways.)

12. "Push the Feelings" by Matthew Sweet
absolutely crucial. this song's the heart and core of this mix, and not-so-coincidentally smack dab in the middle of the tracklist. bettye, andrew, mr. goats (and a host, or maybe planet-ful, of slighted, defensive individuals): listen up! here's your anthem! "put those feelings in their place" - a total bleeding battle cry for emotional self-determinism - positivity by brute-force, in the face of rampant fuckwittery - a demand for, if compassion's too lofty, then at least non-intolerance. and it's lashed to a pounding, lunky rock march (this is actually the first rock song here, not that it needs that distinction) - sweet blunt power-pop power.

even so now way is this some blithe feel-good ditty - sometimes the lyric seems to flip-flop every half-line between egging you on and consoling you: "fuck the world around/don't let it confuse you/you're not heaven-bound/so god cannot abuse you" - even when it's not being maddeningly ambiguous - "this lousy human race don't deserve them/they don't deserve you"...wait, is "they" your feelings? is "you" you? wtf?

13. "Gemini (Birthday Song)" by Why?

because it's a birthday song, of course (or so the title claims.) this is impossible to do justice to with a description, but it's exactly the mood i was going for, and it's so beautiful and human, and also funny and completely bizarre. and so is the rest of elephant eyelash, which somehow seems like it could charm its way into anyoldbody's heart in spite of its extreme and willful eccentricity. and this - a surreal song-poem on love and mortality - is one of the best. so many precious lines. the "today i fell asleep in a bath of hair" verse is a gorgeous making-strange of a commonplace everynight scene, evening toilette and shared bedtime.

14. "Mean Old World" by Sam Cooke

this expresses some of the same emotional content as the why? song, but in plainer english and sweet out soul. it struck a strong chord the first time i heard it, scanning the man who invented soul box - and i still sing it all the time. it's another plea for human connection, that's all.

15. "I'd Like to See the Bad Guys Win" by Margo Guryan

so cute! i guess you could skew this as a loveblind compassion-for-all ditty, but i don't really think that's necessary. a little good-natured comedy; keeping a light touch amid this deep - if not necessarily heavy - content. this is from the 25 demos cd - apparently it was inspired by mae west, but her performance isn't really like that. that raggy rhodes-playing sounds so sweet.

16. "Too Happy" by Edith Frost

and i love how it skips straight into this one. the fourth piano number in a row. these comments are obviously getting shorter, but i don't feel like it's because i'm tired or bored - just that these songs - which are most central to the content of this mix - speak so well and simply for themselves. this song is from edith's first album, which i only got around to getting last year, and it crushes me just as much as when i first heard it. a recognition of the world's deficiencies, and hers, but: "i don't want to be bitter anymore." another sweet crystallization of the essence of my project, contentment and community.

17. "The World Is Showing Its Hand" by Jonathan Richman

jojo's a great man for showing us the world's cracked beauty, in a manner both worldly-wise and pure naïf. the innocence is preferenced here, of course, this being a recounting of earliest smell-memories: diesel exhaust, a piss-stained alley, "a mowed lawn, an ozon[e? i like to pretend he's talking about the director..].. anyway, you know the drill.

18. "Certain Songs" by The Hold Steady

more beauty in the dirt and sweat of everyday, more nostalgia, more ultramundane mundane shared experience - this time it's all to the greater glory of rock and roll. this is my favorite hold steady song hands down, and one of my favorite songs about music. i just want to quote all the lyrics, so i guess i won't. but "i guess you're old enough to know" could be a birthday sentiment too.

19. "Why? (What's Going On?)" by The Roots

it feels a little tokenistic to have this here, and i feel like i should feel particularly guilty about my token rap cut being the frickin' roots [they're sore thumbs on '05fd too], but then i also felt guilty - as a longtime fan - for not picking up the tipping point sooner, mostly based on lukewarm reviews. (also, who else would fit in with all this earnest songwriterness? and why? are at least a quarter hip-hop, rite?) anyway it's a great album - it shows them manouvering 'maturity' in a respectable but not boring fashion, it has a bunch of seriously hot beats, and i'm more inclined to listen to it than any of their other records save maybe things these days (granted, b/c it sounds/is more modern.) also i love the part where thought mispronounces "kylie minogue."

as for this cut, it's just a great funky mellow groove, capably bringing us back to the musical mood established earlier in the mix (after a minorly jarring rock interlude). the ridiculously simple hook is also ridiculously infectious, even though it's basically just an excuse to let the beat ride. (plus it hearkens back to the artist of the same name, as well as jamie lidell's more self-directed and wordier question.)

and, you know, here we're back to complaining about the world's ills, and more politically than anything else here (i guess the andrew bird comes close), and not in an especially interesting way, but it's still got that positivity thang. but there's definitely less clarity to that positive vision - which maybe does a good job of setting up the next song:

20. "Smells Like Content" by the Books

oh man do this band and i love each other. they're stealing my pun here, of course, er rather i stole theirs. this is a particularly swattie-friendly riff on most of the themes of this mix - delivered in a sort of pseudo-pseudo-jargo-babble that sounds like intellectual-sounding nonsense, until you pay more attention and realize that it actually does make sense, almost too easily - who would have thought the books would starting writing songs that are about things? it's okay guys, i won't tell anybody.

you can read the lyrics for yourself (the code: if a line doesn't make sense, it's not necessary to understanding what the song's about), but i'll just excerpt a little - "the world without end is a place where souls are combined/but with an overbearing feeling of disparity, disorderliness..." - so, exactly what i've been talking about: communal contentment is compromised by a tendency to focus on the negatives that leads to cynicism - and "to ignore it is impossible," but, faced with "a glut of possibilities, contingencies/with ever increasing faith, we decided to go ahead and just ignore them/despite tremendous pressure to capitulate and fade" - it just takes determination and a little faith to push past that and rediscover "a density reminiscent of the infinite connectivity of the center of the sun/and therein lies the garnered wisdom that has never died."

maybe i'm pushing this a little, but i think it's fair to say the books are fundamentally hopeful about humanity. anyway, none of this is necessary to enjoy this song, which creates (for me anyway) a powerful and curious emotional effect primarily through sonics, not rhetoric. it's really pretty. for the mix, i changed the ending by cutting off brother mikey's forest ramblings at a point that i think is apter and funnier. (see, i should be a book!)

21. "Kids" by MGMT
ho-kay. after all that silly overanalyticality, it's time for a dance party! this was the feel-good hit of the fall, no question. it fits the bill lyrically, fart jokes notwithstanding: "enjoy yourself/take only what you need from it" is as good a continous content slogan as any (brings to mind xtc's "do what you will but harm none.") and bonus points for the breakdown verse line about "sending me shivers," which recalls a party and series of mixes i made for myself (named after the mouse on mars track)

anyway, this is just a delicious song, as you'll all agree. weird that it's the only synthpop here, since that's all i breathe now. i saw this band when they opened for of montreal, and so it's only fitting that they're doing the same here.

22. "The Repudiated Immortals" by Of Montreal
a very pretty but slightly silly song, about, apparently, some fallen angels or otherwise sent-down immortal beings, who take it upon themselves to look after the humans with whom they now share a plane, after they (the humans) have been mocked and scorned by their creator. or something. that set-up doesn't really matter, because the crux is in the chorus, which echoes jamie lidell's ur-answer almost verbatim: "don't feel sad/cause it's a violent world/but there's still beauty." and then adds to it the community/human interconnectedness angle: "i'll take care of you if you take care of me." short, simple, beautiful.

23. "Waterslide" by Mice Parade

almost done. this feels like a slide back into the minimal background environment of the first two tracks, taken together with which this bookends the "content" of the mix nicely. bem-vinda vontade was one of my favorite records last year - completely unassuming and charming in a similar way to why? and four tet, an album of songs that fall somewhere between genres, recalling electronica and indie pop but most prominently featuring some very accomplished jazz-inflected instrumental work. in fact, this is another one of those fake instrumentals (even i always forget that it has words), and it just so happens that the words are apropos, offering another simple reminder to smile through your troubles, and not take it so hard: "the uphill ride is worth it all" i like how it ends with what sounds like the drummer's sticks clattering on the floor.

4 comments:

Socks said...

does anyone have the lyrics to Mgmt's Kid's? they sound really good, but I can't find them anywhere.

Anonymous said...

on no authority, this is what i have

You were a child
Crawling on your knees toward him
Making momma so proud
But your voice is too loud
We liked to watch you laughing
Picking insects off plants
No time to think of consequences

Control yourself
Take only what you need from him
A family of dreams wanting to be haunted

The water is warm but it’s sending me shivers
A baby is born crying out for attention
Memories fade like looking through a fogged mirror
Decision to decisions I’ve made and I’ve bought
But I thought this wouldn’t hurt a lot I guess not

Ross said...

i always hear "from it," not "him," and "family of trees."

and i definitely always heard
"decisions to decisions are made
i burp and i fart"

but i guess that's not correct, oh well.

Anonymous said...

i always heard " a famliy of trees falling to be alterd" but im prolly compleatly wrong and a friend told me it was enjoy not control but i always hear control...