Monday, December 17, 2007

Mix CD 2007!

Yes, it's that time of year again - that time where I fob off some of my friends with a CD of songs I've cobbled together and passed off as a Christmas present. Some might say that in these days of Christmas becoming increasingly commercial, I'm making the effort to take it back, to make it more personal; I would nod sagely to such comments, all the while thinking how awesome it is that Christmas cost me the price of a few blank CDs. 


Seriously, though, I like the fact that the mix CD gives me the opportunity to share some of my favourite songs, and other stuff I've enjoyed or discovered throughout the year, with my mates and anyone out there reading this. As with last year, I'll link to the relevant myspace pages, but I'll also whack up some youtube videos just for the hell of, and because I know that some of you will be *soooooooo* excited by all this that you'll want to check the songs out ASAP.

Right, in the words of the Chemical Brothers: here we go!

01. How Far We've Come by Matchbox Twenty
I got into Matchbox Twenty about eight or nine years ago, at the time that their lead singer, Rob Thomas, did the song Smooth with Santana. At that point they only had one album out, so I sort of slipped in at the right time, and in the years that followed I got to see them in concert three or four times (once with Jo, who to this day still talks about Rob Thomas swinging his arms around like a crazy), and they brought out a couple more albums. Then Rob Thomas went solo. To be honest, I considered this a bit of a bummer, because although his solo album had a few really good tracks on it, it paled in comparison to any of Matchbox Twenty's; it's kind of like when Mick Jagger does solo stuff - it can be good, but without the rest of the Stones there's something missing that you can't quite put your finger on. Anyway, he sort of went all Gwen Stefani after she did her solo thing away from No Doubt, and got all popular with singles that actually got into the chart, and I thought that was it for the band. 

But I was wrong because Matchbox Twenty are back, baby! OK, so their new album, Exile on Mainstream is a greatest hits album, but it does have six new tracks on, which is more than you'd usually get on this sort of thing. How Far We've Come is the lead-in, and in my opinion, the best. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's one of their best tracks ever. It's just 100 percent jaunty-awesomeness. There's an infectious urgency to it; when they first put it up on their Myspace page I JUST KEPT LISTENING TO IT. It kind of just bursts into life, then flies into this brilliantly catchy chorus that almost demands to be sung along to, even if the lyrics are kind of dark if you really pay attention; I love it at about 1:20 in where they go "I sat down on the street/took a look at myself/said where you going man you know the world is headed for hell/say your goodbyes if you've got someone you can say goodbye to." All in all, then, a snappy, punchy return for a band that is criminally underrated on this side of the Atlantic, and I heartily recommend Exile on Mainstream as a place to start for Matchbox Twenty newbies.

02. Our Velocity by Maximo Park
2007 is the year I 'got' Maximo Park. I'd kind of liked some of their stuff before, but in a 'I like it on the radio, but not enough to go out and buy the album/see them in concert' way. But then they released this, the first single off their second album, and I went absolutely nuts for it. Within a couple of weeks I was fully Maximo'd up, with both albums a constant presence in the CD changer in my car. And after all this time, Our Velocity is still my favourite Maximo Park song. It's brilliant; it makes me want to jump around like a loon. I love the way it kicks off, I love the chorus, I love the way the separate strands of the song all come together toward the end, and love the way it just stops dead at the end. It just leaves you breathless, and it's quite honestly one of my very favourite songs of the year. Awesome stuff. On the downside, it's also featured in Project Gotham Racing 4 on the Xbox 360, and although it always makes me drive better and faster in the game, I have to be very careful when driving in the real-world now. Vroom vroom!

(I'm posting Maximo Park's performance of Our Velocity from the Reading Festival because I posted the actual video earlier in the year when I first wrote about my newly-developed obsession with them)

03. Eternal Life (Road Version) by Jeff Buckley
Jeff Buckley is one of my very favourite artists, and one that I'm saddened to say I only became aware of years after his untimely death. I love everything about Grace, the one and only album he released in his lifetime, including this version of Eternal Life, featured on the second disc of the Grace Legacy Edition, that he honed while on tour. It's a lot more powerful than the regular album version; faster, angrier, grittier. But amongst all the wailing guitars there's still that incredible voice that could do everything from the most beautiful ballads to full-on rock and yet always sound unbelievably brilliant.

(OK, I can't find a video for this song, and Sony BMG won't let you embed any of their Jeff Buckley videos from youtube *cough-bastards-cough*, so have the final scene of Season One of The OC with his version of Hallelujah playing over it.)

04. Knowitall by Phantom Planet
I don't think I can describe how much I love this band. Yes, I know one of their songs is the theme tune to one of my favourite TV shows, but I'm glad to say that I actually got into their stuff before The OC, because it means that my passion for their music isn't built on just one song. In fact, I first became aware of them after hearing the track Lonely Day on the Smallville soundtrack; I subsequently picked up their first album, then heard California on The OC and picked up their second album. They're a really interesting band, because all three of their albums have had brilliantly distinct sounds; the first was very much a pop record, the second rather laid-back and summery, and the third (which this is taken from) really quite dark and angry. Knowitall was the immediate stand-out track for me; it's sinister-sounding, and yet driven by an incredibly melodic, wailing chorus that almost demands you sing along to it. 
I got to see them play live back in 2005, and it remains one of the best gigs I've ever been to; hilariously, they kept the teenage audience members who were only aware of them because of The OC captive by playing the dark stuff from the third album first and leaving California until last - and they even made a point of saying that. Recently, I've been watching the videos on Phantom Planet's youtube page featuring some of the songs that'll be on their next album. It feels like I've been waiting forever for album number four, but if the snippets of songs I've heard turn out to be half as good as Knowitall it will have been well worth the wait. If you get the chance to see them live, take it.

(This video's kinda quiet, so I recommend you crank up the volume big-stylee)

05. West Coast by Coconut Records
Knowitall leads nicely into track number five, because Coconut Records is actually the actor Jason Schwartzman, who used to be in Phantom Planet. He left to focus on acting, and then unleashed a rather wonderful little album, Nighttiming, upon the internet this year. This track is my favourite off the album, and another of my favourite songs of the year. If I say this song was the soundtrack to my summer I'd be doing it a bit of an injustice because summer was pretty crappy this year, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that listening to this song had the miraculous effect of making me feel uplifted and amazing whatever the weather or my mood; it's the kind of song that begs to be used on the soundtrack of a critically-acclaimed low-budget, life-changing indie film. It certainly makes me want to take a long road-trip. 
And if you're not sucked in by the soaring chorus and the beautiful lyric "and we both go together if one falls down" (possibly my favourite single line from a song this year), Dr. Tim will be round later to check your pulse.

06. The Storm by Patrick Watson
This was a rather recent discovery for me, as regular readers will know. Long story short - saw this band (yes, they're a band, despite having both a first name and a surname) support the Cold War Kids, actually loved this band MORE than the CWK, bought their album, and am hoping they head back over here from their native Canada to tour again soon. It was a toss-up between The Storm and another of their tracks called The Great Escape (which I'm flagging up because it's just *beautiful* so you should check it out anyway), but The Storm won out because I love the quiet intensity of it. It sounds very low-fi; in fact, the album (Close to Paradise), I'm delighted to say, sounds a lot like they do live - it's almost like everything was caught on the first take. So yeah, this song starts quite quietly in a rather haunting, ethereal way, then builds until it hits this point at about 02:17 in where it sort of goes all techno-y, but in an acoustic fashion. Rustic techno, maybe? I don't know what to call it, but I like it. Very much.

07. Build God, Then We'll Talk by Panic! At the Disco
It's disgusting how much I love this band and their emo-esque, overly-wordy songs. Their album is fantastic, and they utterly rock live, despite the fact that I've only seen them play at the Decaydance Festival where they only got about 40 minutes on stage and I was still coming down after seeing The Rolling Stones the night before. I bought their album in January and still haven't taken it out of the car; it's lived in slot 5 of the CD changer since then, and I can't see that changing in the foreseeable future. 

Truth be told I literally could've just bought up copies of this album and given them out as the mix CD - that's how much I love it; unfortunately, that goes against the rules of the mix CD, so I've rolled my eyes in an emo-esque fashion, sighed like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders, and plumped for this - a live version of Build God, Then We'll Talk. I almost went for a live cover of Radiohead's Karma Police that they did, but figured at the last minute that It'd be a bit rude not to use one of their own songs. Anyway, why the live one? Well, I want to convey how amazing they are in concert. When I saw them they didn't have the flamboyant costumes and stage show that they'd used on their own tour, but this helped focus on the fact that Panic! At the Disco are just a goddamned good band. The lead singer has an incredible voice (admittedly when I saw them it did take a song or two to warm-up and really kick in), and they're one of those bands that I just think everyone should go see given the chance. I'm really rather excited at the prospect of their second album.

(Panic! At the Disco at this year's Reading Festival - now 97% emo-free!)

08. Wish Upon a Dog Star by Satellite Party
Although I rather like Jane's Addiction, I can't say I've ever been a big fan of Perry Farrell's solo stuff, so I was understandably a bit "meh" when I heard that he was forming a new band (even if it did have Nuno from Extreme in it), and a bit guilty when I convinced my brother to get tickets to go see them. And when it turned out that he couldn't give the spare away for love nor money, I reluctantly agreed to go along with him. Luckily, just a few days before the gig, I heard this, the first track off Satellite Party's album, and was immediately bowled over by it. It's very Jane's Addiction-y, very funky, and Perry works it well. And in concert he's one of those beguiling frontmen that sort of makes all your problems melt away as he draws you into the music. Although the Satellite Party album is good, I'm not convinced that there are many other songs on it of this calibre; still the fact that Wish Upon a Dog Star is on it more than justifies its existence.

(Holy crap - this is from the gig I was at!)

09. Given to Fly by Pearl Jam
Ah, here's an interesting one. This is the year that, finally, my brother broke me and got me to admit that Pearl Jam are pretty darn good. Although I felt like a bit of an outsider at the gig back in the summer, I'm slowly educating myself in the ways of these grunge survivors, helped along most recently by the utterly stunning soundtrack that lead singer Eddie Vedder has released as the soundtrack to the movie Into the Wild. My initial thought was that I was going to put Do the Evolution on here, which is very angry and shouty. Then I thought about putting something quiet and introspective off the Into the Wild soundtrack on. But I decided I'd look over some of Pearl Jam's over songs to find something somewhere in the middle-ground - which is how I came to Given to Fly. There were a couple of other songs that I almost plumped for, but I like this one for reasons I can't quite put my finger on. It starts quietly, then escalates in intensity to the point where, if I'm listening to it on my walk to Starbucks at lunchtime, I'm almost tempted to hold my arms out to either side, close my eyes, and bop along the street in a gentle one-person rock-out. It's one of those songs that inexplicably kind of makes you feel better about yourself and the world around you.

10. Never Get Old by David Bowie
I'm actually shocked at myself for not putting any David Bowie on last year's mix CD, whereas music snobs might be shocked at me for not picking something off Ziggy Stardust, but this song has a weird special meaning to me. It's off his most recent album, Reality (which is actually coming up for five years old), and it grabbed me from the off. I think, maybe, because I went through a period a few years back where I kind of felt that life was passing me by a bit, and there was nothing I could do about it, then this middle-aged singer who many claimed was past his prime came up with this song that screamed out pretty much everything I felt and I thought that was kinda cool. I remember reading an interview with Bowie at the time, where he was asked about getting older, and he said he was angry that he wouldn't be able to do what he does forever. A few months later I saw him perform a mammoth gig at Wembley Arena lasting almost three hours in which he belted out this song with such intensity and raw passion and utter defiance that you truly believed he never would get old. And to this day this remains one of my favourite Bowie tracks; it's a damned awesome song that I think is right up there with his classics.


Right, that's ya lot for another year - I hope there was something in there that you liked…


Inexplicable DeVice said...

Yay! First!

Just had to get in here quick before Tara - She's getting way to good at it.

Anyway, I'll listen to these after work. Perhaps you could come around later to check my pulse...?

Tara said...

Ahh, I'll let you have your glory IDV. :)

I like some of MatchBox 20's songs too, and I've taken a liking to some of the singles Rob Thomas has put out recently. One wound up on my MySpace profile temporarily, and then I changed to Christmas songs. Thank you for the music selection, Tim!

Inexplicable DeVice said...

* prepares self for a beating - and not the good kind *

The first five were 'Meh' (first four, actually - Coconut Records is no longer available). However, Patrick Watson more than made up for them. How fantastic?!

I'll listen to the others when I'm out of the bath.

Or tomorrow.

After my beating.

Tim said...

Inexplicable Device - She is getting a bit quick of the mark these days, isn't she? And no, I shan't be checking your pulse. Or anything else.

Tara - I've been told a few times that Matchbox Twenty are too middle of the road for some people, but I don't see what's wrong with a bit of MOR every now and then. I like MB20 for their catchy tunes and great live shows, and I'll defend them against any who dares to diss them!

Inexplicable Device - Um, Coconut Records works for me - have you broken the internet? And, er, you didn't like Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley? You're not just getting a beating - you're getting a full-on bitch slap!

T-Bird said...

Mixed CDs are the best.

team gingerbread said...

Sounds like a great cd. Personally, I'd prefer a gift that someone spent a lot of time on, than an expensive, but hastily-bought one anyday.

Tim said...

T-Bird - You're back! Yaaaaaay! And secondly, yes, yes they are!

Team Gingerbread - Hello, hello! Thanks - the most time-consuming part of doing the mix CD was actually doing the blog write-up. Next year? Shorter explanations…

missy&chrissy said...

ah, i remember the mix cd of 2006! there were some goodies on there, so i'm looking forward to taking a listen to this year's batch...

Inexplicable DeVice said...

OK, I'm going for another listen.

(that bitch slap really hurt!)

Inexplicable DeVice said...

There. All done. Coconut Records (I didn't break the internet this time) and David Bowie were OK, but Patrick Watson were still by far the best - I even had a listen to The Great Escape!

Still don't like Jeff Buckley.

Tim said...

Missy&Chrissy - Ahh, yes, the 2006 Mix CD. It was a classic! Let's hope this year's goes down in history equally well!

Inexplicable Device - It was meant to. Hurt, that is.

Inexplicable Device - OK? OK?! Humph. And don't try and sweet-talk me by saying "ooo, I listened to another Patrick Watson song as well!"

You do know there's a special place in hell for people who don't like Jeff Buckley, don't you?

Inexplicable DeVice said...

I'll be certain to stop by next time I'm down there.

Tim said...

Hmmm… Very well, if Hell is too good for you, try LAKESIDE SHOPPING CENTRE ON CHRISTMAS EVE!!!!!

Inexplicable DeVice said...

Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!! Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!

I repent! I repent!

Tim said...