Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mix CD 2008!

As is by now is traditional, I'm once again slapping a handful of songs on a blank CD and palming them off on some mates as Christmas presents - aren't I a cheap thoughtful little bugger?

For the last couple of years I've given a lot of thought to the mix CDs, and started planning them about mid-November. In a breathtakingly honest moment, I'll admit that I've been a lot less organised this year - but on the other hand, the choice of songs actually came to me quite easily when I did finally sit down to put it all together.

Anyway, I'll stop all the procrastination and just get on with telling you all about the songs, hmmm?

01. If You're into it by Flight of the Conchords
We start with the ridiculous. Thanks to the ever-awesome iPandah, I got right into Flight of the Conchords this year - from the excellent TV show and album, to their debut EP, The Distant Future, which I subsequently hunted down. My choice of favourite Flight of the Conchord's song changes pretty much on a daily basis; sometimes it's Bowie, their inspired homage to, um, David Bowie, other times it's Robots, in which they tell the tale of a robotic uprising destroying humanity. Then it might be the jaunty Prince of Parties, while the next day I can't get enough of the dancehall inspired beats of Boom. If you really pressured me, though, I'd probably cite If You're into it as my favourite, though. It's a cracking little tune - an ode from Brett to his girlfriend Coco that starts out quite sweet and innocent before escalating into fruity hilarity as he suggests that he and Stu, Coco's roommate, could double-team her - if she's into it, of course.

I want Jermaine's little red piano.

02. Ivory Daggers by Phantom Planet
It's been both a good year and a bad year for me as a Phantom Planet fan. Good because they brought out a fantastic new album, Raise the Dead, and iTunes started selling a load of live albums and rarities, bad because, well, they split up in November. Humph! Anyway, this little gem of a song was hidden away on the EP for their song Do the Panic. I loved it from the first time I heard it, thanks to the infectious drum beat it starts with; whenever it comes on my iPhone while I'm walking to Hammersmith at lunchtimes I subconsciously start banging my hand against my thigh in time with the beat - and as it builds it makes me want to break into a run. I do manage to resist the temptation to run through the back roads of Hammersmith, but it is actually a great track to run to (it's responsible for at least a few of the spikes on my Nike+ graph). And it's not just the drumbeat that's infectious - when Alex Greenwald sings "this is a war cry, that's right, raise your hands, wave 'em high" I kinda feel it would be rude not to…

Now, I can't find a video of them playing Ivory Daggers, so I recommend going and checking it out on iTunes or something. In the meantime, here's them playing an acoustic version of the title track from Raise the Dead on guiter and, um, air-conditioning conduits…

03. If You Were a Girl by Simon Dawes
OK, so there's a connection between Phantom Planet and Simon Dawes in that I first heard this song on a video clip made by Phantom Planet, and absolutely fell in love with it. Unfortunately at the time the song was only a demo and wasn't available, so I had to satisfy my love for it by watching the video clip over and over and over again, while checking the band's Myspace page and iTunes every few months to see if it had been released. Imagine my delight a few months back when I found it had been - oh happy days! I'm not kidding when I say I listened to it so many times in the hours after buying it that it immediately shot into my iTunes top 25 played songs list. To be honest, I don't really know what to say about it; it's a just a lovely, lovely track. I'll let it speak for itself in this YouTube clip (the Phantom Planet video I originally heard it on).

And OHMYGOD isn't that kitten cute?

04. The Beginning is the End is the Beginning by Smashing Pumpkins
There's a bit of a ridiculous story to this song. Back in 1997 I bought the CD single for the The End is the Beginning is the End, the Smashing Pumpkins song that was used as the title track for the appalling movie Batman and Robin. Fast forward 11 years and I'm watching the trailer for the Watchmen movie on the internet. Not only is it an amazing trailer, but the song used in it is simply *awesome* and I decide I must have it. A swift bit of Googling later and I discover that it's called The Beginning is the End is the Beginning and it's by the Smashing Pumpkins. For days after I keep meaning to steal Big Bro's Smashing Pumpkin albums to get hold of it, but keep forgetting, and later learn that it's not on any of their albums. In desperation I decide to buy it from iTunes, but just as I'm about to click 'buy now' something - a voice in my head perhaps - stops me. I run to my CD shelves and scour them for I don't know what. Then I find that old single – and The Beginning is the End is the Beginning is one of the B-sides (it's actually a slower version of the A-side, The End is the Beginning is the End)! Imagine my surprise at finding that I owned it all along! Anyway, it's a cracking song; dark, moody, sinister, wonderful.

Nice BacoFoil skirt Billy Corgan's wearing there too.

05. Butterflies by Belasco
Say what you like, but I've discovered quite a lot of awesome bands/songs through my love of teen dramas like The OC. I first heard this song on an episode of One Tree Hill and decided there and then that I had to have it, so I Googled 'songs from One Tree Hill,' found out what it was, and had iTunes'd it up by the end of an advert break. I love the way it starts so slowly and hauntingly, then explodes into life with the singer screaming the lyrics with such conviction. It's a cracking tune. Unfortunately I can't find a YouTube clip of them performing it (hit the link in the heading to go to their Myspace page where you can listen to it, it's third in the list on their music player), so we'll have to make do with another one of their tracks, Chloroform, which is itself a great song, and has a brilliant video.

06. Lake Michigan by Rogue Wave
This is another band I found through my love of teen dramas, as they had songs on the fifth and sixth OC soundtrack albums. I was also lucky enough to get to see them play live earlier this year when they supported Nada Surf at the Scala, and a jolly decent live band they are too. This is a track they performed as part of their session for the wonderful Daytrotter website, where you can download it FOR FREE (hint: go do it!); it's a beautiful acoustic song full of strummed guitars and lovely harmonies, that makes me feel all wistful and relaxed. It reminds me a bit of Sufjan Stevens in that respect, but Rogue Wave have their own distinct sound which I think is really rather special.

One of the dudes in the band looks like Earl from My Name is Earl, but with crazier hair.

07. Let me be the One by Hotel Lights
Anyone by this point doubting my masculinity will be pleased to know that I did not find this song on a teen drama (although one of their other songs has been used on One Tree Hill). I found this band when I was bored at work one day and decided to Google Ben Folds Five (one of my favourite bands back in the day) to find out what had happened to the other two members after they'd split up. Turns out one of them, Darren Jesse, had begun performing under the name Hotel Lights. Now, as I said, I used to love Ben Folds Five, and while I do like Ben Folds' solo stuff I sort of think something is missing when comparing it to the group's albums. Hotel Lights, however, is just amazing. This track is the first song on the EP Goodnightgoodmorning, and it's by turns understated, melancholy, hopeful, uplifting and, well, really rather lovely. Unfortunately, I can't find a YouTube video of it, so let's make do with the video for Blue Always Finds me from his new album.

08. New Country by The Walkmen
My appreciation for this band exploded just a couple of months back when Yazzle Dazzle coerced me into going to see them with her. I'd previously only been familiar with one of their songs, Little House of Savages, but the band I saw on stage that night had so much more going for them then that one catchy song (which they didn't even play). This song is my favourite track off their new album, You & Me; it sounds kinda weary and reflective, and I love the singer's unique, almost heartbroken voice. It's actually quite a simple song when you really listen to it, but that doesn't take away from the fact that it's powerful, memorable, and just damn good.

And, BONUS: I found a live version on YouTube!

09. From a Mountain in the Middle of the Cabins by Panic at the Disco
Ah, 2008 - the year in which Panic at the Disco dropped the exclamation mark from their name, made a dramatic change in musical direction, and released Pretty. Odd, one of my very favourite albums EVAH. Admittedly it did take me a couple of listens to really 'get' Pretty. Odd, but from the word go this, along with Nine in the Afternoon, was one of the standout tracks for me. It kind of reminds me of a theme tune to a children's TV show when it begins, but then the melodic, almost lullaby-like chorus begins, followed by the somewhat demanding lyric "if you're going then go!" It's jaunty and likeable, and I never tire of listening to it. 

10. Betterman (with Walmer High School Choir, from Port Elizabeth South Africa) by Pearl Jam
Long before I fully came to appreciate how good Pearl Jam were, there were just a handful of their songs that I liked; Betterman was one of them. This is not the original version of the song, however. Apparently the band did a number of Christmas singles over the course of about 15 years or so (hell, they might even still be doing them now!), and this was on their 2004 one alongside a jaunty cover of the Jackson 5 song Someday at Christmas that kinda has to be heard to be believed. Anyway, this is a gorgeous acoustic version of Betterman that is made even more wonderful by the beautiful harmonies of the Walmer High School Choir from Port Elizabeth in South Africa. I'm not usually a fan of choirs singing on rock songs, but it genuinely works in this stripped down version of the song, contrasting superbly with Eddie Vedder's own voice, and adding an unexpected layer of warmth and emotion.

This isn't the version of Betterman I'm putting on the Mix CD, but the audience singing along to it has pretty much the same effect of sending shivers down your spine (in a good way).

11. The Lakes of Canada by Sufjan Stevens
Hurrah! After saying a couple of weeks ago how much I liked Sufjan Steven's cover of this song by The Innocence Mission I finally managed to track down a copy! There's not really much I can add to what I said in my earlier post - it's just an amazing version of a beautiful song that showcases Sufjan's remarkable voice to great effect. I love the sound he gets that banjo to produce - you'd think there was more than one person playing - and it's just 3 minutes 24 seconds of utter gorgeousness. 


There we go then, another year, another Mix CD. I hope there was at least one song in there that you liked. I'm off to make myself a BacoFoil skirt and watch some more teen dramas to get ideas for next year's CD…


CyberPete said...

That kitty is so cute. It really made me want to get one myself.

Tim said...

I know … couldn't eat a whole one though…

Inexplicable DeVice said...

Well, I like the kitten tune.

Or maybe I just like the kitten? To be honest, I wasn't really listening.

Umm... The Flight of the Conchords track was amusing. I like that one.

Tim said...

You … weren't … really … LISTENING!?!


T-Bird said...

You have excellent taste in music, sir. Let me buff that monocle as I look at that kitten one more time.

It appears I'll be live commenting my responses to all music. Yep - I love the Pumpkins. It's such a pity that they are so utterly shit live. I've never been to a worse concert than theirs. Could have been technical problems, but honestly, it was bad.

Can't wait for the overblown histrionics of Watchmen, by the way. I can't listen to Take a Bow at all without getting a nerdon.

Erm, Chloroform. I'm concerend we are all turning into teenage girls with loving this music. The film clip is a lot like a Radiohead one.

Rogue Wave. I heart them!

Heh. You do realise this is all making out music, right? Hotel Lights especially.

Except for Panic at the Disco. Although that's probably more my speed for making out - disturbing organs and all.

Thanks for another excellent mix cd. Every year I download stuff from your recommendations!


CyberPete said...

Are you sure?

I heard they are mostly fur.

Tim said...

T-Bird - Ah, T-Bird, at last, someone who appreciates fine music! I've never seen the Pumpkins live - they played a one-off show at the Shepherds Bush Empire a couple of years back (think very small), and me and Big Bro wanted to go but couldn't get tickets…

And yes, Watchmen looks awesome. Let's hope that legal dispute doesn't delay it.

Make-out music? It is?! Saucy!

Cyberpete - The long haired ones, yes. The short hair breeds and the ones that look like Yoda/Gremlins, no.

the projectivist said...

of course Jermaine is a God
and in some other reality i am his woman and he makes hot, sweet love to me every single day...

oh yeah - the music.
yeah it's good.
(especially like the Butterflies clip - the images are like that of a pop-up book)


Tara said...

I played that kitten video, and my cat was rushing around my living room looking very confused. Hehe.

Mixed CDs must be in the air, someone sent me one in the mail the other day! I really like mixed tapes. Really, really like them...(hint, hint)..

That robot song from Flight of the Concords is funny, I heard that song for the first time earlier this year.

T-Bird said...

Yes, this is standard makey outy music. You really need to stop playing Yanni when you invite ladies over the the Sparky Bunker.

Tim said...

The Projectivist - I could be wrong, but I think someone has a bit of a crush on Jermaine…

Tara - You should check out the Flight of the Conchords TV show, it really is very funny! And: I've run out of blank CDs, bear with me.

T-Bird - Really? Oh, interesting… I'm just going to be sitting here with my eyes closed making out with the air until some little hottie comes and attaches herself to me.

T-Bird said...

She'll only appear if you TURN THE YANNI OFF! And *sparkle* for her like a stalker. Girls like that.