Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Mix CD 2006!

I'm starting a new tradition this Christmas: the Sparky Malarkey Mix CD!

There are several reasons behind me doing this, but the main ones are as follows:

1. It's a rather personal gift in that I've actually thought about what goes on it.
2. I love introducing new music to people, whether it's in the form of draggin' them along to a gig or playing a CD in the car to my mates.
3. It's a cheap way of making it look like I'm giving more presents this Christmas.

Anyways, as I consider all you lot out there that take the time to read this tat I publish far too often my friends, I thought I'd run through what's on the inaugural Mix CD so that if you want you can scurry over to iTunes and compile your own (or, no doubt the more unscrupulous among you will download it by more nefarious means - don't steal music kids!).

I've thought long and hard about what to put on the CD, and I've tried not to be too obvious. In a lot of cases, I've gone for songs that have meant something to me over the course of the year (not necessarily my favourite songs, but ones that take me back to particular instances, for example), while in others I've gone for tracks that, y'know, I just kinda like. I've tried to stay away from big commercial chart hits (hence no Muse, Killers, etc), because I want people to listen to it without any preconceptions (such as "Eeeeow, I'm not a big Muse fan"), and I think I've come up with something that flows sort of ... nicely.

So, here ya go - the official Sparky Malarkey mix CD 2006! (with links to relevent websites/Myspace pages in the titles!)

01. Blizzard of '77 by Nada Surf
I love Nada Surf. I discovered them on an OC soundtrack a couple of years back, and snapped up their back catalogue pretty swiftly. This track is the opening song off their album Let Go. It's short (2:09), and sometimes I wish it would go on forever; it's so melodic - just listen to way the guitar and the singer's voice go so achingly well together. The lyrics just draw you into the unfolding story of the song - I simply love the chorus, which kicks in for the first time around the 48 second mark when he sings "but in the middle of the night I worry/ it’s blurry even without light."

And it's only when the song finishes that you realise it's just one dude and a guitar. Beautiful.

02. In Between Days by Ben Folds
I was a big fan of Ben Folds Five, and while I've followed his solo career with dedication, I've always felt that a little bit of the fun was missing when compared to the stuff he did with the band. His latest album, the wonderfully titled Supersunnyspeedgraphic: The LP brought me back into the fold, if you'll pardon the pun, and this cover of The Cure classic, which is the first track, is my favourite on the entire CD. Just listen to the way the song opens as he pounds on the piano keys - it's so infectious it makes me sway regardless of what I'm doing; in the car, doing the washing up - whatever!

03. Middle of the Hill by Josh Pyke
This incredible song was brought to my attention by Miss T and Dora after they saw Josh Pyke in concert, and I subsequently sat there on his myspace page with this playing on repeat. I love a twangy accoustic guitar, and this song combines that with a meloncholy tale of childhood memories. It's actually quite dark when you really listen to the lyrics, which is kind of unsettling when, on first listen you just think it's nothing more than a happy clap-along. And what a true final line: "I don't pay enough attention to the good things when I got 'em."

04. Casmir Pulaski Day by Sufjan Stevens
I might ramble on for a bit here, because I *heart* Sufjan Steven's music BIG TIME. It's a cliche to say it, but there is truly something awe-inspiring, almost life-changing, about the songs he produces.

Although not similar in style, I often compare Sufjan Stevens to Jeff Buckley in the fact that they are both the sort of artist that I can listen to regardless of my mood - they're equally well-suited to listen to while walking through the streets on a beautiful summer's day, or while you're feeling a bit moody in the middle of winter.

I really thought long and hard about which track to pick, because quite frankly this mix CD could've turned into a Sufjan Stevens album. I ultimately chose this one, from his Illinois album, because it was the first song of his that I really *got* - something literally clicked in my mind and I thought this is simply amazing. I love the fact that there's a definite story here; and like the Josh Pyke track, it's actually quite dark. Not in a sinister way, but just in an everyday sort of way. Does that even make sense? But on the otherhand, it's also uplifting - like a warm blanket. There's a sense of hope woven into the song, which leaves me feeling refreshed and at peace.

(Special mention should go to Jacksonville, also off the Illinois album, which was constantly vying for position with Casimir Pulaski Day right up until I finally settled on the track listing - look, just go buy the Illinois album, OK?)

05. Beautiful by Clem Snide
This is where we kick things up a gear. I saw Clem Snide supporting Ben Folds at a gig a few years back (well, actually it was just the lead singer doing an accoustic set), and when he started playing this I turned to Yaz, and she turned to me, and we both said "I recognise this song..."

It was only as the chorus kicked in that we realised it was Christina Slaguilera's Beautiful.

The thing I don't like about a lot of modern pop is that I feel they drown the song under vocal warblings and over-production. Strip that away, as Clem Snide have done here, and you realise there's a f**king awesome song under there. How uplifting are the words "Because you are beautiful in every single way/ words can't bring you down?" It's almost inspiring.

And it makes me want to dance my way down the street when I'm listening to my iPod on the walk to Starbucks at lunchtime.

06. Crush by Gavin DeGraw
Another one who's guilty of over-production, but Gavin DeGraw more than made up for it by reissuing his debut album as a two-CD set, the second disc featuring the entire album done as an accoustic set. And it's bloody brilliant. After a quiet start, this track just powers on into one of the catchiest (is that even a real word?) choruses going. And he's amazing live - please, please, please go see him if you get the chance, and find out that there's so much more to his music than just the theme tune to One Tree Hill.

(This was a rather late addition - this spot was going to be filled by a stunning accoustic cover of Joe Jackson's It's Different for Girls by a band called Farrah who I saw supporting Phantom Planet last year, but I kind of felt that the CD was getting a little bit too unbalanced and subdued - however beautifully - in the middle, so sadly I took 'em off. Do check out their website though, as they are definitely worth a listen)

07. A Lack of Color by Death Cab for Cutie
If you don't like, or have never heard of, Death Cab for Cutie then shame on you! This was another band I found through an OC soundtrack - in fact, this song was the first of theirs that I heard (it's actually taken from the Transatlanticism album). It's such a heartwarming song - uplifting, inspiring, gentle, melodic. For some reason it reminds me a lot of Otis Reading's Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay, one of my all-time favourite songs, and there's not really much higher praise than that, is there?

08. Conversation by Adj
I found this song while surfing around Myspace, and was instantly beguiled by the electro-poppiness of it, which is weird because I usually don't do electro-pop. But there's something here that just grabbed me, and it quickly became one of those tracks that crept up my 'most listened to songs' list on my iPod. Maybe it's the fact that, again, the lyrics are quite dark ("everyone you know will let you down in the end," perhaps?), or it might be that there's something inherent in the song that reminds me of London and modern life: "the more I have, the more I want," for example.

This dude used to be in the band Kubb, but I find that I like his solo stuff more. I hope there's an album on the way. In the meantime, check out his Myspace page - this track is no longer up, but there's a couple of other quality tracks available to listen to.

09. Just by Mark Ronson ft. Alex Greenwald
This was another summer favourite of mine. I think I heard it for the first time on the Xfm remix show on a Sunday evening, and I was all, like, that sounds familiar. Then I realised it was a Radiohead cover. Now, I'm not a real follower of Radiohead - I can appreciate them, and there are a lot of their songs that I love, but I sort of find them a bit cold and distant. In contrast, this cover of Just just clicks for me. It starts slowly, then jumps up a notch with an infectious beat that feels like it wouldn't be out of place in a sweaty club in Havana where everyone's doing the rumba! I'm a huuuuuge Phantom Planet fan (they are awesome live!), and Alex Greenwald has such a unique voice; it suits the song perfectly.

Kudos to Mark Ronson for an incredible spin on a classic song.

10. Valentine by Delays
I worked with a super lady called Lorna for a few years, and she loved Delays. I never really got into them, though, despite her insistance that they were great. I might've labeled them "too poppy" at the time. That all changed with this track. It's the sort of song that just grabs you and twirls you around - it almost makes me want to spin around with my arms held out, and who cares who's watching? Just listen to those soaring vocals - awesome.

Ironically, for what I thought was their greatest song, this track, and the album it came from, didn't do as well as the singles from their debut release. A shame, but on the otherhand they've made a new fan. I missed out on seeing them at the Shepherds Bush Empire back in the Spring - I hope they play again soon.

11. Headlights by Sean Lennon
Sean Lennon? Yes, Sean Lennon. I remember back in about 1998 when both Sean and Julian Lennon released albums on the same day. Julian's was very much an album of quality songs, consistant, melodic, and worthy. Sean's album was different; experimental, inconsistant, almost without direction. But there was something in it that made me keep returning to it over the years - something I couldn't quite put my finger on. I knew there was a real talent here, but I didn't quite think he'd hit the nail on the head just yet.

Fast forward eight years, and Sean Lennon releases his second album, Dead Meat. This is a far more coherent collection of songs, and there were at least three tracks I pondered over for a while. I settled on this song, Headlights, because I love the rythmic hand-clapping - I can't help but tap along on the steering wheel when I'm driving. There's something incredibly haunting about Sean Lennon's voice too; yes, he sounds like his dad, but there's far more to him than just a clone of John Lennon. He's a great talent in his own right.

12. Tumbling Dice (Live) by The Rolling Stones
There's at least one person who's getting a copy of the mix CD that HATES the Stones, but tough - I love them, and there's no way I could NOT include them here somewhere.

Strangely, for a band with such an incredible back catalogue, this track was easy to pick. It's taken from their recent Rarities: 1971-2003 album, and was intended for the Stripped album back in 1995 (one of my all-time favourite albums), before it was cut.

I find that the Rolling Stones are always better live - give me a live recording over one of their studio albums anyday; there's something shambolically loveable about their live performances. And this proves why; there's so many more layers added to the song, as if they've built-up over the years the band have played it on tour. I like the rawness - the muted introduction with Mick Jagger's vocals accompanied only by hand-claps and piano - it just sounds like a bunch of old mates jamming late at night - before it explodes into life around 48 seconds in. It's timeless music, and it takes me back to that amazing concert at Twickenham in August.

It's the sort of song that really makes me wish I was the lead singer in a band. Man, I'd love to Jagger around stage if I could shout out a tune like this.

So that's it folks, my 2006 mix CD. I hope you like it, or at the very least you find something on there that you like, and that it leads you into discovering an amazing artist or song. And feel free to chuck some recommendations my way 'cos I'm ALWAYS looking for decent tunes!


skillz said...

I'm worried I don't know most of them songs... must get downloading.

The cover of Just is great though!

Miss T said...

That is an incredibly perfect mix of songs - even the ones I am not familiar with!

Thanks again for introducing the blogosphere to Sufjan Stevens, he truly is awesome and a lot like Jeff Buckley and Josh Pyke. ahhhh. I am going to update my ipod right now!

Good on you, you little tacker, Timbo!

Miss T said...

I think you might like Sean Lennon's bud Ben Lee. We went to his concert early this year, and he is amazing!

Tim said...

Skillz - nothing to be worried about! Just go check 'em aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaut!!!

Miss T - Glad you like it! Aaaah, the joy of music...!

I did a double take when you wrote 'Good on you, you little tacker' - I thought you'd written 'good on your little tackle.' Slurs against body parts will not be tolerated!!!!!

I'm going to check out Ben Lee - ta muchly for the tip!

Dinah said...

Ben Lee was Claire Danes' ex-boyfriend.

Awesome songs, Tim, thanks. Will definitely be doing some more investigating in the near future.

Miss T said...

Hmmmm. Well, we should all celebrate having a bit of tackle, but let it be on the record that your subconscious went there first!

Claire Danes the harlot who dumped him for Billy "I left my pregnant partner" Crudup.

CD has crazy eyes.

Tim said...

Dinah - Shocking! The twisted WEB of Hollywood romances!! (Adopting best Bruno Tonioli accent) They're all SLUTS... AND THEY LOVE IT!

Glad you like the song choices!

Miss T - Um, yes, my brain did set sail for that particular port, didn't it? Hmmm...

Claire Danes as well!? The BITCH! And Billy Crudup?! What an arse! Ooof! They make me SICK!

(Just listening to some Ben Lee on iTunes... I kinda like it, although the song title Catch my Disease is a tad off-putting initially!)

Miss T said...

Ben Lee was something of a child prodigy. He has his own band at 14 or something. Anyway, he's my age, but has been around for donkeys. He kind of went through puberty and his early 20's in the public eye, which wasn't very good for him. But he came out of it to write even more awesome music!

There's so many cool songs on that latest CD. Now I can't get 'na nana na na naaaaa naaah WOOHOO' out of my head! Dora, Whizzy and I saw him perform with Missy Higgins early this year, and they did a show stopping duo of 'she only comes when she's on top' at the end. Awesome show.

Inexplicable DeVice said...

Lawks! I barely know who any of that lot are. Hmmm... must do some audio-research.

Anyway: Hello! I'm back!

Loving the beardless look (beard was good too, though) - I might have to phase through the intermaweb thingy to have a stroke of your cheeks* to see if they're still smooth!

* Not those ones, just in case your subconscious gets here first. Unless, of course, you've gone for a whole lifestyle change?

Tim said...

Miss T - So he's kind of like Michael Jackson, but without a manky nose, or the habit of dangling children over balconies. Or looking like a white woman?

I'm going to check out some more of his stuff... I expect he has a Myspace!

Inexplicable Device - Is back!!!

The cheeks are a bit rough again now (not those ones), because my nan liked the beardy look so I sort of feel compelled to grow it back for her - it's like a super cheap Christmas present!

Now scurrying off to IDV's to see where the hell you've been... I hope there's a tale!

Inexplicable DeVice said...

The tale cannot be told. Yet.

You must be so disappointed... 'pointed... 'pointed...

I'm on a total Simpson's rush at the moment. I'm just waiting for the real State Comptroller Atkins to rush in and hand me a giant cheque for my services to laughing-in-all-the-right-places.

Tim said...

Ooo... cryptic...!

I shall bide my time until such, um, time as the tale can be told then...!!