Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mix CD 2009!

Whoa! It's that time of year again folks (Jeebus it's come around quickly) where I slap a load of songs on a blank CD and - VOILA! - instant Christmas present from a total cheapskate with a personal touch.

Unlike last year's 'slap-it-together-at-the-last-minute-but-phew-it-actually-turned-out-OK' job, I've been pretty prepared for the 2009 mix CD. In fact, I was so prepared that I was noting down songs for it from about July. How organised/mad is that? Very, that's how.

Anyway, enough jibba-jabba - let's get on with the songs.

01. You're So Vain by Carly Simon (Daytrotter Session version)
I've always had a bit of a thing for Carly Simon (not like that, pervert), although you could say I've loved her from afar; I've never bought any of her music, y'see, but I've always enjoyed it when I've heard it on the radio (which is rarely these days unless I unwittingly stray onto Magic FM on the drive home). Understandably, then, I was quite pleasantly surprised when Daytrotter, usually the purveyor of the latest up-and-coming musicians, made an acoustic session she recorded for them available for download. I'm going to be honest: I've in love with this version of You're So Vain. Partly because I love acoustic music, but more so, I think, because there's a something slightly magical about 64 year-old Carly Simon singing this song as opposed to the 28 year-old Carly Simon who had a hit with it back in 1973. There's a time-worn weariness to her voice here that hints at the experience that only comes with the passing of time; it's not so much anger or resignation, more like a steely determination. Either way, it's a stunning and, dare I say it, definitive take on a classic song, and I'd urge you to download the entire four song session from Daytrotter HERE.

Not the Daytrotter version, but a close approximation of it.

02. Corporate Coffee by The Californian
I found this band after following a link posted by Darren from Phantom Planet on his Myspace page, and instantly found my NEW FAVOURITE BAND. The Californian is, and I still can't believe this, currently unsigned, which is officially madness. Within about 20 minutes of listening to the songs on their Myspace page I'd bought their album of demos from iTunes, and then spent the next week or so listening exclusively to it over and over again. It's a fantastic collection of weary-sounding acoustic tracks that convey both the sunny disposition of California and a hint of underlying darkness. I love the album so much that quite frankly I would've been quite happy using it in its entirety as this year's mix CD, but that would be naughty. In fact, I love the album so much that I gave serious consideration to a) going to California just to catch one of their shows, or b) thinking about out how I might be able to arrange a gig where they could come over and play in London. Anyway, back to the CD; after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, I settled on this track, Corporate Coffee. As you know, I love corporate coffee and drink it every day, and this song by the same name is every bit as good. It's the kind of track that I can imagine an entire crowd swaying and clapping along to in a small, sweaty gig, their eyes closed and arms held aloft as they bask in The Californian's chilled out vibe. I highly recommend you go check out the new songs they've popped up on Myspace ahead of their forthcoming EP. And maybe buy the album too, yes?

Sadly I can't find any youtube videos of the band, but they do have a blog so go check that out instead.

03. Stop This Train by John Mayer
Very few things make me cry, but ohmygod I was driving to work one day when this track started playing on my stereo and the next thing I knew I was properly welling up. Big Bro has been a fan of John Mayer for years now, but I never really appreciated him until Big Bro forced me to listen to his live albums and I suddenly thought 'I get this guy.' Consider the lyrics - "Stop this train I want to get off and go home again/I can't take the speed it's moving in" - I think they really got me that day on the drive to work because they made me think about my family, and how life changes and evolves and you can't go back to how things were however much you might want to. There's a raw, aching sadness to this song that Mayer's gravelly voice just drives home. It's lucky I've never seen him in concert because I'd be a teary mess.

04. Even When Yer Blue by Joseph Arthur and The Lonely Astronauts
Ooo, a bit of a Sparky Malarkey exclusive here chaps, because this track is off the CD of the Joseph Arthur gig that I saw at Bush Hall back in July. I loved that gig full stop, but this song was a particular highlight of the evening for me. Like Stop This Train, Even When Yer Blue has the incredible/slightly annoying effect of making me a little bit emotional whenever I hear it; as you might imagine, then, putting the two songs back-to-back on the mix CD had the potential for leaving me a bit of an emotional mess when I was listening to the songs over and over and trying to put them in a specific order. Anyway, regardless of the state I'm in after listening to it, I love this song big time. Unbelievably, it's not been released on any of Joseph Arthur's albums - so I recommend if you get the chance you toddle along to see him perform it at one of his gigs. I'm pretty damn sure you'll leave a Joseph Arthur convert like I did.

05. Can't Keep by Pearl Jam
This was something of a last-minute addition to the mix CD. While all the other songs came together quite easily, I was having a bit of difficulty finding something to round out the acoustic-y/live first half - and then inspiration struck while I was walking out of Westfield one evening. This track popped on my iPhone courtesy of the shuffle function, and I think I listened to it about five times in a row, while coming to the realisation that a) I couldn't believe I'd missed such an awesome song nestling away in my iTunes library and b) knowing immediately that I'd found my missing link. This is a wonderful stripped back version of the track that appears on Pearl Jam's Riot Act, performed by Eddie Vedder and just a ukelele at Benaroya Hall in October 2003. I've grown into quite a Pearl Jam fan over the years (due mainly to considerable pestering from Big Bro), and they're another band that I find I prefer their live stuff to rather than the original album versions. This is a soulful, haunting, but strangely uplifting rendition of an already fine song.

All hail the mighty YouTube - here's a video of the original performance from Benaroya Hall!

(On a side note, I've just realised that this is the third year in a row that Pearl Jam have appeared on the mix CD, so if anyone I give these to doesn't like them: apologies! They won't be on next year's. Probably. Possibly. I don't know. You'll just have to wait and see, OK?)

06. Why Do You Let Me Stay Here? by She & Him
Back in September I made it quite clear to anyone who'd listen that I was a smidgeon obsessed with the movie (500) Days of Summer, ultimately seeing it three times in two weeks. This song isn't in the movie, but it is sung by Zooey Deschanel who plays the titular Summer, and a video for it was made by the movie's director, Marc Webb, starring Deschanel and her co-star, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It's a catchy little tune that kind of sounds like it might've been recorded in the sixties, beginning with a nice little plinky-plonky piano melody before the guitar and drums really kick in, followed by some supremely singable harmonies accompanying Deschanel's slightly mournful voice.

This video makes me want to dance.

07. Wallflower by Priscilla Ahn
I first became aware of Priscilla Ahn when I saw her support Jason Mraz back at the beginning of April. I fell in love with her a little bit (her voice and her music, I hasten to add; I wasn't following her around asking her to autograph my chest or anything), and when I found out she was playing a solo gig at Bush Hall I decided to toddle along. That gig was awesome, not only because it was the first time I'd been to Bush Hall (which is an incredible venue), but also because Ahn's wonderful songs, angelic voice, infectious personality and hilarious between-song banter made me forget the horrifically painful whiplash injury I was suffering from at the time, if only for a couple of hours. Now, ideally I would've popped her brilliantly titled Boob Song on the Mix CD, but as she doesn't appear to have released it thus far (saving it for the second album I hope) I've gone for Wallflower instead. This is a lovely little track that is a highlight of her really rather wonderful debut album; it's very melodic, very chilled out (like the whole album, actually), and the lyrics are really quite touching. Hasn't everyone found themselves feeling like a wallflower at least once in their life?

08 Miracle Goodnight by David Bowie
OK, so I got mildly obsessed by this song back in the summer. There was even one occasion where I was dropping Yazzle Dazzle home one evening and I put this song on repeat, actively told her to shush mid-conversation, and then did that ridiculous thing you do when you try to sing along to a song when you don't actually know the words and just end up looking and sounding like you're having an asthma attack or an aneurysm. Miracle Goodnight is from David Bowie's Black Tie White Noise album, which despite being a huuuuuuuge Bowie fan I didn't really 'get' until this year; I'd always liked Jump They Say (in fact I seem to recall that was the song that set me on the path to Bowie worshipping), but that was about it. Now, though, I love pretty much the whole thing, with Miracle Goodnight being a particular favourite. It's another song with a catchy, repetitive beat and chorus that gets stuck in your head on some sort of permanent loop rather easily.

09 The Love You Save by the Jackson 5
Although I never try to theme the songs on the Mix CD around the events of the year, I think it would be remiss of me not to put something featuring Michael Jackson on this year's. While I didn't actually get a ticket for the O2 shows when they went on sale, it was exciting to think that there was the possibility that I could've got one at some point and actually seen him perform. It was also sad that, regardless of what you thought about his lifestyle, it took his death to remind the world what an incredible performer he was. As something of a lapsed Jackson fan myself, it's been good to reacquaint myself with his music, and there's a hell of a lot of gems there to chose from. I've gone for The Love You Save here because one of the most memorable sequences in the This Is It movie was a Jackson 5 medley that included this song. While it's maybe not quite as well known as something like ABC or Blame it on The Boogie, The Love You Save is quintessential Jacksons. An infectious, immediate track little more than three minutes long - and almost guaranteed to have you at least bopping your head along to it with a broad smile on your face, if not up and dancing around your living room like a loon.

10. Getting Late by Rob Thomas
As a big Matchbox Twenty fan, I've always been left a little bit cold by lead singer Rob Thomas' solo efforts. There were a couple of good songs on his first album, but on the whole I thought it was a little bit too slick for my liking. His second album, Cradlesong, was for me a far more satisfying attempt, and it is from this album that this song is taken. Where this succeeds - in contrast to most of the songs on …Something To Be - is that it feels more relaxed, more natural; it sounds a bit more like a Matchbox Twenty song. This is the sort of track you can imagine being used at the end of a movie - a real character-driven film rather than a blockbuster - and I think in the right place (or wrong, depending on how you feel about these sort of things) it could probably have you crying like a baby.

They segue off into another song about halfway through, but you get the idea.

11. Christmas TV by Slow Club
Despite the fact I give these Mix CDs out at Christmas I don't think I've ever put a Christmas song on one of them - until now. That said, Christmas TV doesn't *really* sound that Christmassy; in fact, the first time I heard it was when it was used in the second season finale of Chuck, where it was played over a wedding scene on a beach. What it is, though, is a very melodic comfort blanket of a song - it totally envelops you and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. I like the fact that the voices of the two singers perfectly compliment one another; I love the twangy guitar that makes it sound like it came from the American midwest. Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered that Slow Club are actually from Sheffield. Wherever they're from, though, they've written a gorgeous song that I adore.

Right, that's another Mix CD done and dusted. *Phew!* So what didn't make the cut this year? Well, originally it was going to open with Dream Life of Rand McNally by Jason Mraz, which I heard for the first time at the gig in April and thought was an amazing (or amrazing, if you will) song. Being nine minutes long, however, it kind of made the CD drag a bit, so I sadly cut it. 40 Day Dream by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros was another track I loved this year, but which I didn't quite feel fitted - the same goes for Trashcan by Delta Spirit. Too Fake by Hockey was one of my favourite songs of 2009 even if it does have the most appalling ending that I've heard in a long time - it literally just peters out like they didn't quite know how to finish it. Finally, the only reason there's nothing by Mariachi El Bronx or Local Natives is because I only discovered them after I'd settled on the tracklisting. Definitely next year, though…


CyberPete said...

It's not really my taste in music however I think it's always kool to make mixed CDs and tapes. It's always fun to listen to other peoples collections.

Tara said...

I like two of Carly Simon's songs - the one you put on the CD, "You're So Vain" and also, "Let the River Run".

Didn't know Zooey Deshanel sang that song! She has a nice voice, she sang in the movie "Elf", too.

Dinah said...

Awesome stuff! I make lists all the time at work, and you'd think I'd be sick of them, but no, I still love them. Your bit on Michael Jackson is beautiful.

Tim said...

Cyberpete - Some Kylie for you next year, eh?

Tara - Let the River Run was the other Carly Simon song I was thinking about putting on there!!

Dinah - Bless you! I do love The Love You Save - it's currently registering quite highly on my iTunes most frequently played list!!

CyberPete said...

You know I'd love it!

I suppose a little more poppy pop or dance. Like early Girls Aloud and Rachel Stevens or Holly Valance..

Inexplicable DeVice said...

Ah, I know it's christmas when you post your mix cd songs. Happy days!

I love the 'Why do you let me stay here' song sung by Zooey, but it begs the question: Why don't you let me stay? Hmm?

Tim said...

Cyberpete - Yeah… that's not gonna happen!! Sorry!

Inexplicable Device - I like the way the line finishes "all by myself" - you're very welcome to stay as long as I'm not here!

CyberPete said...

Can't say I'm surprised.

Just a bit sad.