Mixtape: Listen in Silence…The Singles II

This one reminds me of Silver Lake Cemetery. In that short summer between graduating high school and entering college, I got a job at my home town’s Public Works department and spent the entire season mowing the several local cemeteries. Silver Lake had always been my favorite because it was the biggest and most varied in landscape and we could take our time with it. We could easily find a quiet spot and hide for an hour if we wanted. It gave me a lot of time to think. I went through cases of AA batteries listening to my Walkman that summer.

I really love this one a lot; I played this one to the point of nearly wearing it out. It’s full of songs then getting airplay on 120 Minutes, WMDK, records picked up at Al Bum’s and Main Street Music, with a few oddities thrown in. I’d started it with the two first tracks on each side, requested from a friend’s music collection, and I built it up from there. The idea was for the first side to be upbeat and/or energetic, with the flipside being downbeat and/or moody. It wasn’t the last complete mixtape of my hometown teen years — the first Untitled gets that honor a few months later, which I’ll post here at a later time — but it does have that feeling of finality, which was deliberate, especially with that Smiths/Joy Division double-punch at the end. I was more than ready to escape this place and head out into the real world.

[Side notes: The Procol Harum song does stick out a bit, but the reason it’s there is because it was used prominently in the movie New York Stories which my friends and I had gone to see that summer. The GnR song sticks out a bit too, and that was because it had originally been added more as an add to my collection rather than an integral part of the mixtape, but it does kind of fit moodwise. The two Love and Rockets songs are in fact the very same song, played in completely different styles, fitting in perfectly with my upbeat/downbeat theme.]

Listen in Silence…The Singles II, created June 1989

Side A
1. That Petrol Emotion, “Creeping to the Cross”
2. Siouxsie & the Banshees, “The Killing Jar”
3. The Cure, “Babble”
4. The Smiths, “The Queen is Dead”
5. Soul Asylum, “Sometime to Return”
6. Love and Rockets, “Motorcycle”
7. The Cure, “Fascination Street [Extended Remix]”
8. Voice of the Beehive, “Beat of Love”
9. The Smiths, “Shoplifters of the World”
10. Camouflage, “That Smiling Face”

Side B:
1. Guns n’ Roses, “Patience”
2. Talk Talk, “Life’s What You Make It”
3. REM, “The One I Love”
4. Procol Harum, “A Whiter Shade of Pale”
5. Julian Cope, “Charlotte Anne”
6. Ultra Vivid Scene, “Mercy Seat”
7. Love and Rockets, “I Feel Speed”
8. The Cure, “Plainsong”
9. The Smiths, “Reel Around the Fountain”
10. Joy Division, “Atmosphere”

Mixtape: Untitled XII

Early 2002 was definitely a time for personal change. Considering we ended the previous year with a terrorist attack and the reactive political wargasms that inevitably followed, I’d started unplugging a bit and refocusing on what was important to me. Part of that was writing A Division of Souls and beginning The Persistence of Memories. I was reading a hell of a lot more, continuing my comic and cd run, and writing new songs on my guitar. Trying to live life a bit more positively.

Nearly all the songs from Untitled XII come from Newbury Comics runs. A lot of deep cuts with some radio songs sprinkled in between. So where did I hear about them? From CMJ sampler CDs and music magazines, mostly. I’d read the reviews and pick out the ones that sounded like they’d be in my wheelhouse. It worked out great 80-90% of the time, too! It’s also a return to form with my mixtapes, as I’d kind of run out of inspiration from around late 1999 onwards. There are a few good but not great mixes from that time. I’m sure it was partly due to my leaving HMV, partly a change in musical tastes, and other non-musical things (personal and otherwise) affecting me in one way or another. But I remember starting 2002 with the determination that I’d be in a much better place emotionally and mentally, and immersing myself in more great music definitely helped.

Side notes:
–I was introduced to Mistle Thrush by my former HMV manager Tom, who’d become a Newbury Comics manager. The singer was a good friend of his and, as it happens, part of NC’s upper management!
–Cornelius gets three tracks as Point was getting very heavy play in the Belfry. He’s been in the Olympics news lately for acting like an arse some years ago, but I still love this record.
–The Massive Attack song is a bit out of place being four years older than every other track here. Some cosmetics commercial used it as a backing track at the time and got me back into listening to Mezzanine during my writing sessions.

Untitled XII, created 14 February 2002

Side A:
1. Cornelius, “Point of View Point”
2. Massive Attack, “Inertia Creeps”
3. Mistle Thrush, “Enginehead”
4. Pulp, “The Night That Minnie Timperley Died”
5. Rufus Wainwright, “Across the Universe”
6. POD, “Youth of the Nation”
7. Stephin Merritt, “This Little Ukulele”
8. Elbow, “Little Beast”
9. Starsailor, “Tie Up My Hands”
10. Foo Fighters, “The One”
11. Bis, “Two Million”

Side B:
1. Sigur Ros, “Svefn-g-Englar”
2. Turin Brakes, “The Door”
3. Cornelius, “Smoke”
4. Ben and Jason, “The Wild Things”
5. The Strokes, “Last Nite”
6. Puddle of Mudd, “Blurry”
7. The Church, “Radiance”
8. Mistle Thrush, “3 Girls Walking”
9. Cornelius, “Brazil”
10. Stephin Merritt, “Tiny Flying Player Pianos”

Mixtape: Untitled VI

This one was made during my last summer living in Boston. I was living in a two-bedroom apartment with a Berklee piano student on Brighton Avenue in Allston and working full time at the old Sony Theater that used to be up near Assembly Square Mall in Somerville. (A half-hour commute by the T, so of course I listened to a lot of tunage there and back.)

A lot of this mix came from different places: used CDs from Nuggets in Kenmore Square, album dubs from friends, a few Columbia House purchases, and a lot of taping off the radio, mostly WFNX. [I know, I know. I should have saved my money for things I needed, but I somehow made it work.] The title Untitled comes from a mix I’d made back in 1989, where I’d made a really great tape but could not for the life of me come up with a decent title. Calling it such seemed to fit somehow, and that particular series became one of my favorites to make. [I am currently on Untitled XXV, made last October. I need to catch up and make another one.]

There’s a lot of peak 90s bands here, and many songs that were highly popular with the alt-rock crowds. It was what got the most play on Boston radio at the time, plus there were some great tracks dropped then. I’d been listening heavily to Alice in Chains’ Jar of Flies, Soundgarden’s Superunknown, Stone Temple Pilots’ Purple and Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral at the time (among other things) and they’d pretty much become my personal soundtrack for the 1994-95 season.

I really like how this mixtape worked out, and I still listen to it from time to time. It’s not as adventurous as some of my other mixes, but it’s solid from start to finish and has some of my all-time favorite mid-90s songs on it. It also has a sense of humor to it; silly and lighthearted songs bump up against gloomy and angry songs, and each side ends in extremely short and funny filler. And in early 2003 I’d make a two-cd “reissue” of this mix featuring nine extra songs from the era that I’d loved but couldn’t fit on the original.

Bonus: That U2 song, which would be featuring on the Batman Forever soundtrack later that summer, had been recorded off WBCN in early April when it was world-premiered by DJ Carter Alan, a close friend of the band.

Untitled VI, June 1995

Side A:
1. Bad Religion, “Stranger Than Fiction”
2. Green Day, “Basket Case”
3. Live, “I Alone”
4. Pizzicato Five, “Twiggy Twiggy/Twiggy vs James Bond”*
5. Nine Inch Nails, “Closer”
6. Frank Black, “Headache”
7. Dig, “Believe”
8. The Flaming Lips, “She Don’t Use Jelly”
9. Alice in Chains, “I Stay Away”
10. Grant Lee Buffalo, “Mockingbirds”
11. Jeff Buckley, “Last Goodbye”
12. They Might Be Giants, “Spider”

Side B:
1. Blur, “Girls & Boys”
2. Danzig, “Cantspeak”
3. Ween, “Voodoo Lady”
4. The Afghan Whigs, “Gentlemen”
5. The Smashing Pumpkins, “Never Let Me Down Again”
6. Soundgarden, “Black Hole Sun”
7. Nirvana, “All Apologies”
8. Stone Temple Pilots, “Interstate Love Song”
9. Blur, “Parklife”
10. U2, “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me”
11. Bjork, “Army of Me”
12. Pearl Jam, “Bugs”

* – Not available on Spotify

Mixtapes: Music from the Waystation

I’ve been meaning to do this for ages, and I may as well start it now: I’ve been making mixtapes since I was a wee lad in the early 80s, well before I even knew what mixtapes were other than songs I taped off MTV and the radio that I liked. I usually average about six or so mp3 mixtapes per year nowadays, but back in the late 80s it would be upwards of maybe twice or even three times that.

Anyway, I’ve been wanting to share my mixtape playlists with y’all for ages because I’ve always gotten a positive reaction from them. In previous posts I’ve posted them as YouTube links, but now I’ve finally started getting around to building them as Spotify playlists. [I’m still annoyed that musicians’ earnings on the site are laughable, but I’ve come around to thinking that maybe pushing these mixtapes will help put a penny or two more on their paycheck.]

SO! Without further ado, I’m going to start off with a triple-play (heh) of mixtapes curated as soundtracks for one of my current novel WIPs. I’ve been listening to these quite a bit lately, so hope you enjoy them too!

Theadia: Music from the Waystation
1. Secret Machines, “3,4,5, Let’s Stay Alive”
2. Haelos, “End of World Party”
3. Bob Moses, “Love We Found”
4. Sault, “I Just Want to Dance”
5. Pretenders, “Message of Love”
6. Throwing Muses, “Dark Blue”
7. Billie Eilish, “My Future”
8. Bob Mould, “Everything to You”
9. PVRIS, “Good to Be Alive”
10. Algiers, “Dispossession”
11. We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use It!!, “Versatile for Discos and Parties”
12. Doves, “Carousels”
13. Bob Moses, “Hold Me Up”
14. Secret Machines, “Everything’s Under”
15. Haelos, “Hold On”
16. Cut Copy, “Love Is All We Share”
17. Doves, “Universal Want”
18. Secret Machines, “Everything Starts”
19. BRONSON, “Dawn [feat. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs]”

Theadia 2: More Music from the Waystation
1. Annie, “The Countdown to the End of the World””
2. Hatchie, “Sleep”
3. Pearl Jam, “Alright”
4. Georgia, “Started Out”
5. Shadow Show, “Glass Eye”
6. Field Music, “Money Is a Memory”
7. Låpsley, “Bonfire”
8. Hayley Williams, “Simmer”
9. Stone Temple Pilots, “Three Wishes”
10. Spectres, “The Head and the Heart”
11. The Cinematic Orchestra, “A Caged Bird/Imitations of Life [James Heather Rework]”
12. Phantogram, “Ceremony”
13. Georgia, “About Work the Dancefloor”
14. ADULT., “Why Always Why”
15. Caspian, “Flowers of Light”
16. Soccer Mommy, “Yellow Is the Color of Her Eyes”
17. Ultraísta, “Mariella”
18. Nicolas Godin, “What Makes Me Think About You”
19. San Fermin, “The Hunger”
20. Bob Mould, “Next Generation”
21. K/DA, “I’ll Show You”

Theadia 3: Waystation Blues
1. Grandbrothers, “Silver”
2. Roosevelt, “Echoes”
3. Flyying Colours, “Goodtimes”
4. Girlfriends and Boyfriends, “Your Touch”
5. Jane Weaver, “The Revolution of Super Visions”
6. Middle Kids, “I Don’t Care”
7. Anna Schulze, “A New Way”
8. Brian Vander Ark, “In Your Eyes”
9. Jeremiah Fraites, “Maggie”
10. Miss Grit, “Blonde”
11. Shame, “Human, for a Minute”
12. Field Music, “Orion from the Street”
13. Siamese Youth, “So Far from Home”
14. Anna Schulze, “Satisfied”
15. Grandbrothers, “Unrest”
16. Sorry, “Heather”
17. Jane Weaver, “Modern Reputation”
18. Flyying Colorus, “White Knuckles”
19. Roosevelt, “See You Again”
20. Quivers, “You’re Not Always On My Mind”

Spare Oom Playlist, July 2021 Edition

OH HEY it’s that time again! Lots of great new tunage came out last month, and here’s some of my favorites!

Inhaler, It Won’t Always Be Like This, released 9 July. The debut from this Dublin band — yes, the lead singer is Bono’s son Elijah — is filled with upbeat alt-rock tunes that remind me of Embrace and later-era Manic Street Preachers.

Tkay Maidza, Last Year Was Weird, Vol 3, released 9 July. Tkay’s music is not quite hip-hop, not quite rap, not quite anything you can easily label, really, but it’s good weird fun in the veins of Tricky and Missy Elliott. [Go check out her great cover of Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind” as well!]

The Goon Sax, Mirror II, released 9 July. What is it with Australian indie bands nowadays? They’re all breaking at once and I’m loving each and every one I hear! This band veers more towards the semi-quiet tones of The XX rather than the Go-Betweens jangle of, say, Quivers, but that’s not a bad thing at all.

Snoh Aalegra, Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies, released 9 July. Groovy, laid back soul grooves and lovely melodies. Thanks to KEXP for bringing my attention her way, as this is one hell of a fine album worth multiple listens.

Yves Tumor, The Asympoptic World EP, released 16 July. Sean Bowie is one seriously eclectic musician, and his records lean somewhere between alt-rock, electronic, and experimental, and yet he manages to lay down some seriously great and memorable tracks.

Ora the Molecule, Human Safari, released 23 July. A very quirky indie band that reminds me of Warpaint’s echoey production and murky 80s college rock, which of course means I was automatically drawn to it, heh.

Piroshka, Love Drips and Gathers, released 23 July. Miki Berenyi (ex-Lush) and KJ ‘Moose’ McKillop arrive with their second album and it’s even dreamier and spookier than the previous record.

Guardian Singles, Guardian Singles, released 30 July. AllMusic.com described this band (oh hey, another Aussie group!) as deeply inspired by early 80s American underground, with hints of Mission of Burma via its ferocity and angularity. No surprise that I was ALL OVER IT in a heartbeat! They definitely have that tense Burma post-punkiness, maybe with a bit of Ride’s shoegaze melodicism added. It’s a short record, but it’s an amazing one! Definitely one of my top picks of the month.

Yola, Stand for Myself, released 30 July. Another soul-inflected record that reminds me a lot of that mid-90s wave of singers like Dionne Farris and Tasmin Archer, and it’s fantastic. “Stand for Myself” is one hell of a fine earworm and will definitely be on my year-end list.

**

Whew! I actually had to pare this down, as there were a TON of great records that came out last month! These were just the ones getting heavy airplay here in Spare Oom. Hope you enjoy them!

Twenty Years On: 2001, Part V

It took a bit of time for life to get back to some semblance of normalcy after September, and for me it was getting back into the groove of writing and continuing my comic and music purchases. I shied away from most of the political commentary and conversation that floated around at the time. If anything, it made me even more determined to keep up with what had long been my true career as a writer.

Starsailor, Love Is Here, released 8 October 2001. Named after a Tim Buckley album (they even borrowed the same font for their logo!), Starsailor is similar to Elbow in that they have their own unique sound and mood that might not stand out upon first listen, but their songs definitely stay in your head.

Lamb, What Sound, released 8 October 2001. Where 1999’s Fear of Fours was an exercise in odd time signatures and emotional tension, its follow-up was a lovely, calm respite filled with some of my favorite Lamb tracks ever. This was on heavy rotation in the Belfry as it served as a perfect soundtrack for what I wanted to achieve with A Division of Souls.

Death Cab for Cutie, The Photo Album, released 8 October 2001. This Seattle band had been around for a good number of years and hiding in plain sight, but this was the album that gained them the most national attention at the time. Their popularity would only grow exponentially with each release.

Sloan, Pretty Together, released 16 October 2001. Canada’s Other Great Band doesn’t always get the love it so justly deserves, but those (like me) who love them have been fans for a LONG time. This is probably one of my favorite mid-career albums from them.

Pulp, We Love Life, released 22 October 2001. This band’s last album comes almost twenty (!!) years after they started, but they went out on a supreme high note. Every track on here rocks, and contains some of Jarvis Cocker’s best lyric work. Bonus points for the video for single “Bad Cover Version” which is a hilarious watch!

Lovage, Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By, released 6 November 2001. One of Dan the Automator’s weirder side projects (as if 1999’s Handsome Boy Modeling School wasn’t weird enough) featuring Faith No More’s Mike Patton and Elysian Fields’ Jennifer Charles on vocals. It’s trip-hop meets film noir meets b-movie drama and it’s a hell of a fun listen.

Andrew WK, I Get Wet, released 13 November 2001. It all started here, with one hell of an attention-grabbing album cover (the iconic AWK with a bloody nose) and songs that rock your ass off so hard that you’re not quite sure if he’s being serious or taking the piss. And he’s still partying hard twenty years later!

Various Artists, Not Another Teen Movie soundtrack, released 14 December 2001. The late 90s/early 00s wave of teen movies covered everything from sex comedies (American Pie) to bro-filled sports films (Varsity Blues) to weekend parties (Can’t Hardly Wait) to horror movie pastiches (the Scream series). A lot of them were terrible, but that didn’t always mean they weren’t fun to watch. Most of the time, however, the soundtracks were often the best part. This particular one is filled with then-current bands covering 80s songs you’d have found in John Hughes films.

**

I went into 2002 determined to make it as positive as I could. Not so much because of then current events, but because for the first time in years I was in a good place and could pull it off. I dedicated all my free time to writing, to the point where I was writing every single day, including weekends, on a major project I had a lot of faith in. I had good friends and the ability to keep in constant touch with them. And 2002 was indeed a stellar year personally as well as with the music that I loved.

Twenty Years On: 2001, Part IV

It’s hard to talk about 2001 without bringing up the events of that second Tuesday of September, but even then I wasn’t about to let that disrupt my life. I would still head down to my writing nook and nail that word count. I would still do my weekly comic and cd run. There was a lot to process, and life in the US would definitely shift in a direction I felt wasn’t the smartest or safest one, but I kept going. And as always, music helped me get through that.

System of a Down, Toxicity, released 4 September 2001. Another summer record, all the local alt-rock stations played “Chop Suey!” “Toxicity” and “Aerials” heavily. SoaD could be badass but they could also be hysterically funny, sometimes within the span of a single song.

They Might Be Giants, Mink Car, released 11 September 2001. TMBG has long been a favorite of mine, but their 90s output after Apollo 18 always felt a little lackluster to me. Fun, but not quite up to the level I’d hoped. This record, on the other hand, was a great shift in their sound — they felt a hell of a lot more self-confident and freewheeling here and sounded like they were having fun again.

Ben Folds, Rockin’ the Suburbs, released 11 September 2001. Folds’ first official solo record (not including 1998’s Fear of Pop) finds him continuing down the road of smart and funny pop songs and beautifully heartfelt ballads…plus the title song which would become my Live Journal title a few years later. Folds is still the only musician I know who has ever played with the San Francisco Symphony and managed to get the entire hall audience to scream “fuuuuuuck!” multiple times.

P.O.D., Satellite, released 11 September 2001. I’d known about this band for a few years from my HMV job, but this was the record that broke them into the mainstream. It’s a widescreen-sounding album which works to their benefit — “Alive” and “Youth of the Nation” sound spacious yet so full of life and power. It’s a solid hard rock album and still one of my favorites of that year.

Curve, Gift, released 18 September 2001. Curve didn’t release too many albums, but each one was brilliant with its sonic abrasiveness, dreamlike melodies and Toni Halliday’s amazing vocal delivery. They were like Garbage’s older, often-ignored sibling that had a much cooler music collection and less inclination to hold back on their creative endeavors. This was another Belfry soundtrack with heavy airplay.

Bis, Return to Central, released 18 September 2001. This Glaswegian trio had formerly been known for its punk-twee ‘teen-c power’ cuteness (and the closing credits theme for The Powerpuff Girls) but eventually morphed into a dance-ready groove machine, and the evolution worked shockingly well. I absolutely loved this record — it’s one of those with a handful of great singles and deep cuts, and “What You’re Afraid Of”, “Protection”, and “Two Million” sound great as standalone tracks — but it also sounds wonderful as a whole. Highly recommended.

Days of the New, Days of the New III, released 25 September 2001. Travis Meeks was pretty much the sole member of this band by then (the original lineup having quit in frustration and formed Tantric), and while this isn’t nearly as grungy as the first album or expansive as the second, it’s just as melodic and fascinating.

Sense Field, Tonight and Forever, released 25 September 2001. I got into this band quite late but their records have always been fun to listen to. Not quite emo, not quite alternative rock, but full of great songwriting and memorable tunes. Another Belfry soundtrack!

The Verve Pipe, Underneath, released 25 September 2001. Two records on from their ridiculously popular Villains and Brian Vander Ark was still writing amazing records, even if the band’s labels didn’t give a shit. This is a wonderful record full of some of BVA’s best love songs.

**

More to come!

Twenty Years On: 2001, Part III

Summer 2001 stretches on, with hot days and cool evenings. I’d started picking up a guitar again after ignoring it for far too long — I hadn’t written any new music in years, and it felt right to get back into that. Went to my first science fiction convention, Readercon 13, getting the feel of cons and what they offered for fans and writers. Saw a lot of movies as well. Really leaning hard on finding new inspirations and influences for my creativity.

The Chameleons UK, released 2 July 2001. Like Love Tractor, this British rock band resurfaced out of nowhere with a stellar comeback featuring their signature dreamlike post-rock sound. This one got a lot of play during the cool summer evenings down in the Belfry.

Tricky, Blowback, released 2 July 2001. This isn’t everyone’s favorite Tricky record — Tricky himself isn’t the biggest fan, having recorded it “for the money ’cause I was broke” — and it’s not nearly as experimental or weird as his usual records, but despite that it contains a lot of great tunes. “Evolution Revolution Love” is definitely an earworm and features Live’s Ed Kowalczyk (he would return the favor by popping up on their V album a few months later on “Simple Creed”).

L’arc~en~Ciel, “Spirit Dreams Inside” from Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within soundtrack, released 3 July 2001. I actually loved this movie, despite its flaws! (I’m still of the mindset that gamers familiar with the FF universe had much higher expectations than I did, which led to its panning.) This was also the first L’arc~en~Ciel song I’d ever heard, and instantly became a huge fan of the highly regarded Japanese rock band.

Ivy, Long Distance, released 10 July 2001. I loved the late 90s/early 00s chillwave movement! It wasn’t just about laid back electronica or lazy dance beats, it was also the sound of relaxing alt-rock grooves like this band. Just the perfect thing to listen to while staying up far too late at night on the weekend working on my novel.

Jimmy Eat World, Bleed American, released 24 July 2001. The happiest emo band ever, this was such a brilliant, fun and energetic album you couldn’t help but love all every track and blast them at top volume. You still hear “The Middle” and “Sweetness” on the radio to this day.

New Order, Get Ready, released 27 August 2001. Their first record in eight (!!) years following 1993’s Republic, this was definitely a welcome return. It felt like they’d finally shed a bit of their Ibiza hedonism from the last couple of records (and countless remix singles) and got back to the gritty four piece.

Explosions in the Sky, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever, released 27 August 2001. Alongside Godspeed You Black Emperor and Mogwai, I’d caught up with the post-rock movement and fell in love with its soundscape experimentalism — I mean, what better music to listen to while writing a science fiction trilogy? This was the one that started it for me, and I’ve been a fan of the style ever since.

Puddle of Mudd, Come Clean, released 28 August 2001. Say what you will about this band and its ties to Limp Bizkit (Fred Durst helped them secure a major label deal and rebuild the band), this was a surprisingly tight and extremely melodic record with some amazing songs on it! “Blurry” is still one of my favorite 2001 tracks.

**

More to come!