So I've not been feeling particularly festive of late, but then like a glove-slap to the face I found myself putting together this year's mix CD and because the mix CD has turned into a bit of a Christmas tradition (this is the sixth year I've done one don't ya know) I've suddenly found myself overcome by a smidgeon of Christmassy feeling. Just a smidgeon, mind. Anyway, I've actually been quite organised this year and have been keeping a list of songs I wanted to include on the CD, so it all came together quite easily. Which is just as well because Best Mate Jo turned to me a few months back and said "last year's mix CD was really quite good, y'know," so I feel like I'm having to pull all the stops out this year to top last year's overachieving collection of awesomeness.
And you know what? BY JOVE I THINK I'VE DONE IT!
Let's crack on.
01. Everybody Loves You by The Californian
If you're a regular reader, or a stalker, you'll know that I adore The Californian and want everyone with ears to listen to them; I've put songs by this band on the last two mix CDs and by God I'm putting them on this one as well. This track is the opening song from their self-titled debut album (which yours truly has a thank-you credit on I'll have you know, and which I reviewed HERE), and it's … well, it's brilliant. It starts all slow, as if the listener is emerging from the sea, then just kicks into this utterly gorgeous singalong chorus. It's darker and has a slightly more melancholy feel to it than some of The Californian's earlier stuff, but it totally works. I could go on about how much I love this band and this song ad nauseum, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating, or in this case the listening: head over to The Californian's website where you can stream their album, and then do yourself a favour and buy it or I'll track you down and thump you.
02. Memories by Panic! At the Disco
Aaaah, memories. I saw Panic! At the Disco play live three times this year and they were brilliant every time. This track is from their latest album Vices and Virtues, and while it's by no means my favourite (that'd be Let's Kill Tonight), it's a wonderful song and actually makes me think of certain happy memories; during the Shepherds Bush Empire gig that Yazzle Dazzle and I attended we were highly amused by two young chaps pogo-ing around to this song, so much so that whenever we talk about the gig or mention the word memories we spontaneously begin jumping around and howling the chorus like loons. So there we go. Anyway, it's a cracking example of what I think a real pop song should be - fun, energetic, melodic, and with a wonderfully soaring chorus. And look, here's a video of it from the gig I went to in Norwich.
03. Starfish and Coffee by Prince
I'd like to think I'm a pretty big Prince fan, but somehow this awesome little song passed me by until I heard it on 6Music earlier this year. Taken from Prince's Sign 'O' the Times album, it's a short track about a young girl who has, um, Starfish and coffee for breakfast each day. Odd, yes, but it works. And it's just classic Prince: utterly bonkers and completely brilliant. Anyway, I can't find any live performances of official videos for this on youtube, but look: here's Prince performing Starfish and Coffee WITH THE MUPPETS!
04. Negative by Project Jenny, Project Jan
I wrote at the end of last year's mix CD post that I already had a song in mind for the 2011 edition - and that song is this song: Negative by Project Jenny, Project Jan. This track is just mad; it's kind of hip-hop-ish, and almost verges on being a parody as it tells the story of a guy taking saucy photos of his girlfriend and then losing the negatives. It's one of those songs that *shouldn't* work but it does. It's also really rude. And it's the one track that I think Best Mate Jo will turn round to me and say "yeah, loved the mix CD EXCEPT for *that* song." Equally, she could think it's the best thing evah. I, obviously, lean towards the latter.
05. Tear You Apart by She Wants Revenge
I found out about this song via The Californian funnily enough, as they toured with She Wants Revenge earlier in the year and posted a video of them performing this song. It's a really great track, very Talking Heads-ish, very sinister, and with possibly the creepiest chorus you'll ever hear on one of my mix CDs (probably best not to sing it aloud in public unless you want to be arrested). Basically this song is just gagging to be used in a serial killer movie, and I mean that in the nicest way possible.
06. Love at First Sight by The Brobecks
Here's another song that I came to via another band that I like. Basically The Brobecks is Dallon Weekes' band, and he's the bass player in Panic! At the Disco. I can't remember how I found this out, but I did and I'm so pleased that's the case because The Brobecks album is a delight and this is by far the best song on it. Why? Well, it's just a lovely, sweet little song about falling in love. It's utterly heartfelt and honest, and it tells a beautiful little story. If you don't like this song I'm just going to go ahead and call your time of death because you're evidently lacking a pulse or a heart or whatever. Anyway, there's no official video of Love at First Sight, but among the various youtube clips of it from Brobecks gigs I found this spontaneous performance of it at an airport. Ignore the sound of looming aeroplanes and enjoy this wonderful song.
07. In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel
I experienced a sudden resurgence of love for Peter Gabriel this year brought about by this song in particular, and more specifically its use in a TV show called John From Cincinnati. In Your Eyes played a key role in that short-lived series, and it managed to worm its way into my head until I turned to iTunes and bought it, and I'm glad I did because it's awesome. Without doubt one of Gabriel's best, even after you start exploring his back catalogue and realise that, yes, you do know a hell of a lot of his songs and they're pretty much all amazing. Here's a cracking live performance of In Your Eyes from Later … with Jools Holland, made even more brilliant by some awesome side-jumping dance moves.
08. It Had Better Be Tonight (Meglio Stasera) by Michael Buble
Ahhhhh, Michael Buble. Or Bubes as I like to call him. Who doesn't like Bubes? I think my appreciation for Michael Buble began with a begrudging respect that then just caved into me acknowledging that, yes, I really like his stuff and he comes across as a genuinely top bloke whenever he's interviewed. This is by far my favourite Michael Buble song; it's got a decent rhythm that compels you to wiggle your hips to it and it gives him a chance to show his fine voice off to good effect. It's also one that I belt out without a care when I'm driving around. This song just makes me feel good.
09. I Like It by Foxy Shazam
I'll be honest: I Like It is my sole instance of exposure to Foxy Shazam, but on this basis I promise I'll explore their back catalogue - and their forthcoming album The Church of Rock and Roll from which this track is taken - as soon as possible. The best way to describe this song, and I mean it in the nicest way possible, is if I were to say that it's the sort of thing you'd expect from the bastard offspring of Queen and Led Zeppelin. It's just this raunchy, punchy instant hit of sheer over-the-top rock 'n roll, and I like it. A LOT.
10. Immigrant Song by Karen O and Trent Reznor
Despite what I said above, I'm actually not a massive fan of Led Zeppelin, yet when I heard this incredible version of Immigrant Song on the trailer for David Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, where it went hand in hand with the visuals so perfectly, I was sold. I'm probably what you'd call at most a casual fan of Trent Renor's Nine Inch Nails, but the application of that band's sound to this classic rock song, combined with Karen O's almost tortured vocals, make this nothing less than an immense success. It's darker and more menacing than the original and, dare I say it, I actually prefer it. A genuinely awesome cover.
11. Proud Mary by Ike and Tina Turner
I've long been a fan of this track; it's one of those perfect songs that really defines a certain generation of music. It starts so slowly, so soulfully, and then about halfway through just bursts into life, transforming into this incredibly potent rock. And you know what? I'm a bit of a closet Tina Turner fan and she really just nails this song. This is also one of those songs, like Memories earlier on this CD, that I'm forever going to associate with a great memory - in this instance, the yoga Christmas party that I went to at the beginning of the month. Basically, Proud Mary came on over the stereo and everyone - I mean EVERYONE - just started dancing to it in unison, as if the moves had been hardwired into their brains. It was like a scene from a movie where entire crowds spontaneously break into dance, and just a brilliant moment.
12. Impossible Soul by Sufjan Stevens
A general rule with the mix CD is that I stop at 11 tracks, but I'm going to throw that particular rule out this year because quite frankly I couldn't put this CD together without including a Sufjan Stevens track. And yes, I know he's featured quite regularly over the last couple of years, but 2011 was the year I finally got to see him live and it was quite probably the closest I've ever come to a genuinely spiritual experience. Anyway, call me crazy but I've decided to round out the mix CD with this 25 minute-long behemoth of a song because it encapsulates everything that was brilliant and bonkers and so completely wonderful and inspiring about that gig back in May. Sufjan himself referred to Impossible Soul as the "adult contemporary miniseries song," adding that it will take you through "heartache, melodrama, heartbreak, restoration, rehabilitation, a little bit of prog rock, and maybe some funky dance." And he's right: it is by turn the saddest, happiest, most heart-wrenching, most joyful, inspiring and uplifting song I've ever heard, and I'm so glad there's someone mad and brilliant enough in this world to create a track such as this. I'm also glad that some wonderful loon on youtube recorded an entire performance of it at one of Sufjan's gigs. Enjoy.
So there we have it - another mix CD! But what didn't make the cut this year? Well, Carry On My Wayward Son by Kansas came very close to going on there because it's another song that reminds me of the Panic! Norwich gig (they covered it), and I do love me some 70s classic rock, but it just didn't quite feel like it fit in particularly well with the overall vibe of this mix CD. Elsewhere, I've been meaning to include Duncan by the Delta Spirit for the last few years because it's just an amazing song with a wonderful story, but again it got squeezed off; maybe next year? And finally, just as I'd finalised and burnt the first copy of the CD I heard Steel Mill by David Berkeley and I completely and utterly fell in love with it. Too late for this year, perhaps, but next time round for sure. Other than that, I'm really pleased with this mix CD - all that remains is to see how Best Mate Jo rates it against last year's effort…