Thirty Years On: May 1988

May 1988: A good portion of my closest friends are graduating quite shortly, and will be taking off in various directions for their college careers.  Thus starts the era of me being a moody bastard for about six years.  Meanwhile, after about five years of recording songs off the radio and creating my own proto-mixtapes, I finally decide it’s time for me to create my own mixes straight from my own growing collection.  I call them ‘compilations’ instead of ‘mixtapes’ because it sounds more professional, considering how detailed I get in creating them.  Thirty years later I’m still making them, digitally.

Wire, A Bell Is a Cup Until It Is Struck, released ?? May. The second album in their ‘beat combo’ era, the band moves closer to their eventual electronic experimentation, using samples, loops, and treated instruments. I played the hell out of this album for a good couple of years after it came out.

Colin Newman, It Seems, released ?? May. In tandem with the above, Wire co-lead singer Newman dropped an even more electronic and experimental album. While the Wire album is more rock oriented, this one’s for sitting back and listening.

Heavenly Bodies, Celestial, released ?? May. A somewhat obscure album featuring vocalist and 4AD friend Caroline Seaman (who would pop up on a few This Mortal Coil albums) and a few ex-Dead Can Dance members, it’s a proto-darkwave album with a moody groove to it. “Rains On Me” got some serious airplay on a lot of the college stations when it came out.

Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Nothing Wrong, released ?? May. The noise-punks from Leeds released an excellent album of sludgy, growling alt-rock that might not have been to everyone’s tastes, but those who did like it (like me) absolutely loved it.

Living Colour, Vivid, released 3 May. Loud, abrasive, political, funky, humorous, and absolutely amazing. Lots has already been said about this album, and it’s all true. I got to see these guys at UMass Amherst in 1989 (it was part of MTV’s college campus tour, with the Godfathers opening up), and they put on one hell of a great show.

Depeche Mode, “Little 15” single, released 16 May. The last single from 1987’s Music for the Masses. It’s also one of my favorite tracks from it due to its amazing dynamics, starting off quiet and delicate and ending up Wagnerian and bombastic. It’s one of those songs you need to hear in headphones to get the full power of it.

Fairground Attraction, The First of a Million Kisses, released 16 May. It took me years to finally buy this album, but I remember the above track getting played incessantly on WMDK and the other AOR stations in the area. A fun and irresistibly catchy tune. The rest of the album is great too!

Compilation: Stentorian Music, created 20 May. The first of many compilations was an ongoing experiment of a themed mix; this one featured songs from groups like The Sisters of Mercy, Love and Rockets, The Cure, and The Screaming Blue Messsiahs among others, and designed to be played loud. It was put on a 60 minute tape and it came out reasonably well, considering.  Not bad for a first try.

Compilation: Preternatural Synthetics, created 20 May. Yeah, even then I knew I was getting a bit ridiculous with the titles, but it was just something for fun, after my titling the old radio mixtapes with corny ‘Love & Rock & Roll’ titles. This one was a 90-minute tape featuring all synth and/or electronic-sounding bands, such as Pet Shop Boys, New Order, Depeche Mode, and so on. It’s a perky mix, and rather enjoyable!

The Timelords, “Doctorin’ the Tardis” single, released 23 May. A ridiculous single from the KLF/Justified Ancients of MuMu/JAMMs/etc. gang.  Mixing Gary Glitter’s “Rock & Roll Part 2” and the Doctor Who theme, it’s one of those earworms that the college crowd loved.

Camper Van Beethoven, Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart, released 24 May. Another college rock band that went from indie (Pitch-a-Tent) to major (Virgin) in 1988, this record was indeed beloved by a quite a few fans, both old and new.  I particularly loved this single, which also got a lot of play on the AOR stations.

Morrissey, “Everyday Is Like Sunday” single, released 31 May. Say what you will about his current nutjob shenanigans, his early post-Smiths records were fantastic. This second single from Viva Hate was another ‘borrowed’ single that popped up at the radio station I worked at. I soon fell in love with the gorgeous deep cut “Will Never Marry”, which would end up on quite a few of my future compilations.

The Sugarcubes, Life’s Too Good, released 31 May. This album was an instant hit for the college crowd, with its eclectic mix of often bizarre lyrics, infectious melodies and the balance of its two lead singers: the pixie-like Bjork and its weirdo horn player, Einar. Not to mention its dayglo album cover! Another band I got to see at UMass Amherst around that time.

Next Up: June 1988!

Songs from the Apartment Complex

garden of words apartment

from Makoto Shinkai’s The Garden of Words

New mixtape/mp3 playlist!  This one’s Songs from the Apartment Complex, and I have to say this is probably one of the quirkiest mixes I’ve made in a while.  The Apartment Complex story (still working on the title, folks) has evolved into an unexpected direction for me.  Unlike previous book-centric playlists where most of the songs are there to set a mood, many of these tracks here are aimed at specific characters and what kind of person or being they are.  Hope you enjoy it!

  1. The Sound of Arrows, “Stay Free”
  2. U2, “Get Out of Your Own Way”
  3. Ra Ra Riot, “Water”
  4. Beck, “Dreams”
  5. Elbow, “Firebrand & Angel”
  6. Gang of Youths, “What Can I Do If the Fire Goes Out?”
  7. The Naked and Famous, “A Still Heart”
  8. U2, “13 (There Is a Light)”
  9. Embrace, “Love Is a Basic Need”
  10. The Sound of Arrows, “Don’t Worry”
  11. Shame, “Friction”
  12. Elbow, “One Day Like This”
  13. GoGo Penguin, “Strid”
  14. Eels, “There I Said It”
  15. U2, “You’re the Best Thing About Me”
  16. The Sound of Arrows, “Beautiful Life”
  17. Love Tractor, “We All Loved Each Other So Much”

EDIT: As you may have seen over at Welcome to Bridgetown, I’ve put the Apartment Complex story on hiatus as I’m having even more problems with it than I thought, and need to put it aside for a while. Frustrating, yes. VERY frustrating. But I’m still keeping this up, because I think it’s a pretty interesting mix, and something I’ll listen to when I come back to the project. [And I *am* coming back to it — I just don’t know when.]

The Singles 2017

Entry #1…the 2017 best-of compilation! Same mix rules apply as per the last few years.

Tape 1, Side 1
1. Spoon, “Hot Thoughts”
2. The New Pornographers, “High Ticket Attractions”
3. Japandroids, “Near to the Wild Heart of Life”
4. Elbow, “Magnificent (She Says)”
5. Cosima, “To Build a House”
6. Arcade Fire, “Everything Now”
7. Grizzly Bear, “Mourning Sound”
8. Portugal. The Man, “Feel It Still”
9. St Vincent, “Los Ageless”
10. LCD Soundsystem, “Tonite”

Tape 1, Side 2
1. Minus the Bear, “Last Kiss”
2. Radwimps, “Zenzenzense [Movie Version]”
3. Beck, “Up All Night”
4. U2, “You’re the Best Thing About Me”
5. Nothing But Thieves, “Sorry”
6. Sylvan Esso, “Just Dancing”
7. UNKLE, “The Road”
8. Rainer Maria, “Lower Worlds”
9. Alvvays, “Plimsoll Punks”
10. The Sound of Arrows, “Stay Free”
11. Decomposure, “Cordillera: Let’s Go Back to the TV Screen”

Tape 2, Side 1
1. The Districts, “If Before I Wake”
2. Cold War Kids, “Love Is Mystical”
3. The Jesus and Mary Chain, “Amputation”
4. Spoon, “Can I Sit Next to You”
5. Dishwalla, “Give Me a Sign”
6. The Charlatans UK, “The Same House”
7. Depeche Mode, “Where’s the Revolution”
8. Slowdive, “Star Roving”
9. Gorillaz, “Saturnz Barz”
10. Future Islands, “Ran”
11. Weezer, “Feels Like Summer”
12. Arcade Fire feat. Mavis Staples, “I Give You Power”

Tape 2, Side 2
1. Lydia Ainsworth, “Ricochet”
2. Radiohead, “Lift”
3. Wire, “Short Elevated Period”
4. Sylvan Esso, “Die Young”
5. Broken Social Scene, “Halfway Home”
6. Alt-J, “In Cold Blood”
7. The War on Drugs, “Pain”
8. Grandaddy, “Way We Won’t”
9. Maxïmo Park, “Get High (No, I Don’t)”
10. The The, “We Can’t Stop What’s Coming”
11. The New Pornographers, “Whiteout Conditions”

Tape 3, Side 1
1. Gord Downie, “Introduce Yerself”
2. Colony House, “You & I”
3. Alice Merton, “No Roots”
4. Hollerado, “Born Yesterday”
5. The Beatles, “Penny Lane [Stereo Mix 2017]”
6. Minus the Bear, “Robotic Heart”
7. The National, “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness”
8. Temples, “Certainty”
9. The Sound of Arrows, “Beautiful Life”
10. The New Pornographers, “Avalanche Alley”
11. LCD Soundsystem, “American Dream”

Tape 3, Side 2
1. Gang of Youths, “What Can I Do if the Fire Goes Out”
2. HAIM, “Want You Back”
3. Royal Blood, “Lights Out”
4. Wolf Alice, “Yuk Foo”
5. Tricky, “New Stole”
6. Jeff Lynne’s ELO, “Twilight [Live]”
7. Liam Gallagher, “Wall of Glass”
8. Death from Above, “Freeze Me”
9. Ride, “All I Want”
10. Slowdive, “Falling Ashes”
11. Gorillaz, “We Got the Power”

Coming up: Entry #2, the end-of-year favorites lists!

New Vacation Compilations

anime music listening

As always, when we’re going on vacation, I always create a new compilation or two to listen to during the flights.  I’m a little behind in creating these, so they contain tunes from most of the spring and summer of 2017 (including a few reissues).

Here’s the playlists, with the YouTube links where available.  Enjoy!

Walk in Silence XIX

Side 1
1. Cold War Kids, ‘Love is Mystical’
2. The Drums, ‘Blood Under My Belt’
3. Overlake, ‘Winter Is Why’
4. Spoon, ‘Can I Sit Next to You’
5. Mutemath, ‘Hit Parade’
6. The Charlatans UK, ‘Different Days’
7. Sylvan Esso, ‘Die Young’
8. Dishwalla, ‘Give Me a Sign’
9. The New Pornographers, ‘Avalanche Alley’
10. LCD Soundsystem, ‘American Dream’

Side 2
1. Radwimps, ‘Zenzenzense [Movie Version]’
2. Lydia Ainsworth, ‘What Is It?’
3. Wire, ‘Short Elevated Period’
4. Imagine Dragons, ‘Believer’
5. 311, ‘Too Much to Think’
6. The Charlatans UK, ‘There Will Be Chances’
7. Day Wave, ‘Wasting Time’
8. Bush, ‘Mad Love’
9. Future Islands, ‘Ran’
10. Slowdive, ‘Falling Ashes’
11. Gorillaz, ‘We Got the Power’

 

Untitled XXIII

Side 1
1. Ride, ‘All I Want’
2. Future Islands, ‘Cave’
3. Liam Gallagher, ‘Wall of Glass’
4. Lydia Ainsworth, ‘Ricochet’
5. Wire, ‘Brio’
6. Royal Blood, ‘Lights Out’
7. Alt-J, ‘In Cold Blood’
8. U2, ‘One Tree Hill’
9. Alexiane, ‘A Million On My Soul [Radio Edit]’
10. Maximo Park, ‘Get High (No, I Don’t)’
11. Big Wreck, ‘Skybunk Marché’

Side 2
1. Radiohead, ‘I Promise’
2. Cold War Kids, ‘Can We Hang On?’
3. Phoenix, ‘J-Boy’
4. Toro y Moi, ‘Girl Like You’
5. 311, ‘The Night Is Young’
6. Panda Riot, ‘Ghosting’
7. Au.Ra, ‘Above the Triangle (ii)’
8. Sylvan Esso, ‘Just Dancing’
9. Slowdive, ‘Sugar for the Pill’
10. LCD Soundsystem, ‘Call the Police’

Yet More On Making Mixtapes

memorex dbs gif

Yes, I know I’ve gone on about making mixtapes how many times here?  Bear with me, I’m about to go on just a bit more.

Every now and again I return to my catalog of mixtapes — that is, the mp3 recreations — and give them another listen.  By now I can tell which ones worked for me and which could probably have used a bit more planning.  Not that I’m going to change any of them, though…they’re a specific part of my past, and changing them now would only turn them into something different.  [Case in point, when I remade a few of them in 1999 and 2000, I was missing a few songs on each and replaced them with different tracks from the same era.  The mix worked just as well, but it didn’t feel like a true recreation…it felt like a ‘remastered reissue’ instead.]

As I’ve mentioned before, around 2014 I chose to reinstate the mixtape rules when making new mp3 mixes: double batches of roughly 45 minutes each, just as I would on one of those Memorix DBS I 90s you see above.  This forces me to think further about the flow of the music and the balance of the mix.  The upside to this is that the end result is a pretty solid and well-flowing mix.

The downside?  Well, I seem to still be throwing songs that don’t quite fit into the context of the rest of the mix.  They’re good songs, they just don’t quite work with the rest.  I’m thinking the main reason for this is that I’m no longer building the mixtape the true old-fashioned way, dubbing from tape or cd or vinyl, listening all the way through the song before adding the next one.  I’m just that little bit distanced from the mix, just enough where I don’t always catch when it doesn’t sound right.

I’m making up for it with these last few mixes by taking that extra time to select the music I think will work best, and listen to a rough set list so I can get the songs in the right order.

Why do this in this digital age, you ask?  Who makes mixtapes anymore?  Well, these are for my own enjoyment.  I listen to them at the gym, on long plane rides, during my writing sessions, and during Day Job hours.  I’ve only ever shared my mixtapes with a few others, and in truth I’ve only made maybe four or five tops specifically for other people.  I’m merely continuing the art of mixtape making as I know it.

 

Listen in Silence XXI

cassette30082013

For your listening pleasure, here’s my latest compilation/mixtape that I created a week or so ago.  All the links are to their respective YouTube visuals and will open in a separate window.

On a side note, I’m greatly amused that I’m still using a mixtape name that I created way back in the spring of 1988.  I usually used the LiS title for ‘favorite poppy alternative songs’ mixtapes (whereas Walk in Silence was used for ‘favorite moody alternative songs’).  There was a stretch there in the early 00s when I used a different title and the mixes were more varied (this would be the Re:Defined mixes).  Hey, if the titles still fit, might as well keep using them, right?

Side A

  1. Spoon, “Hot Thoughts”
  2. Colony House, “You & I”
  3. Cloud Nothings, “Modern Act”
  4. Depeche Mode, “Where’s the Revolution”
  5. The New Pornographers, “High Ticket Attractions”
  6. Elbow, “Magnificent (She Says)”
  7. Slowdive, “Star Roving”
  8. Dirty Projectors, “Keep Your Name”
  9. The Orwells, “They Put a Body in the Bayou”
  10. Cosima, “To Build a House”
  11. Beach Slang, “Roadrunner”

Side B

  1. Grandaddy, “Way We Won’t”
  2. Los Campesinos!, “I Broke Up in Amarante”
  3. The XX, “On Hold”
  4. Bastille, “Good Grief”
  5. Arcade Fire, “I Give You Power (feat. Mavis Staples)”
  6. Minus the Bear, “Last Kiss”
  7. Temples, “Certainty”
  8. OK Go, “Interesting Drug”
  9. Japandroids, “Near to the Wild Heart of Life”
  10. Portugal. The Man, “Feel It Still”
  11. Of Verona, “Wish You Were Here”
  12. Dropkick Murphys, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”

Songs from the Eden Cycle, Vol 1

cassette30082013

The TDK D90 blank cassette. My tape of choice for almost all of my 90s mixtapes.

One thing I’d always done during the course of a writing project is to give it a soundtrack.  Whether it’s a playlist, a list of specific albums, or a mixtape, it serves to create a specific mood that I’m looking for.  With The Phoenix Effect, having envisioned this as a multi-book project even then, I’d given the series the name The Eden Cycle (referencing both obvious religious imagery and EdenTree, a megacorporation that would be a part of the plot).  It seemed fitting to give the mixtapes the same title.

At the time, my idea had been of souls inhabiting AI cybernetic bodies — which in hindsight created a lot more trouble than it was worth — so the imagery I was looking for was much darker and creepier.  That said, however, I chose not to focus on dystopian pessimism; instead I wanted my story to ascend past that into something positive.

This is the first of four mixtapes I made during 1997-8; this one was made in mid-April of 1997, just before I went on a road trip out to Ohio to visit a friend of mine.  One of the major reasons for making it was so I could listen to it during my commute and think about what I was going to write.  Over the next few days I’ll be sharing the other three original volumes from this era.  The links are to their YouTube/Vimeo videos (they’ll open in a separate tab), and I’ll also provide a brief background as to why I chose the song for the mix.

Side A

  1. Poe, “Hello [Band Version]”
    I liked Poe’s Hello album, but the kickass single remake of the song felt like a perfect opening to a mix tape.  It fit in with the cyberpunk feel of TPE that I was originally aiming for as well.  An ‘opening credits’ song, if you will.
  2. Failure, “Heliotropic”
    Fantastic Planet was getting a crapton of play on my cd players, both at work and at home during my writing sessions.  This track’s spaciness, loudness and extremely heavy, crunchy bass evoked the exact amount of tension I was looking for.  It had that feeling of being outside on the brightest day with the heaviest of hangovers.
  3. U2, “Mofo”
    Pop was still getting a lot of play as well, and I loved how twitchy this one was.  I used this track as a kind of gauge to remind me of how Bridgetown felt on a spiritual energy level: a sprawl of millions of people, each with different levels and directions of this energy, all dissonant and discordant.
  4. David Bowie, “Dead Man Walking”
    I’ll be honest, I wasn’t the biggest of Bowie collectors — I think I only owned maybe five or six releases, tops — but Earthling (released earlier in 1997) connected with me big time.  I loved its techno influences and its paranoia.  This track fit my image of Nehalé: a man who was destined to take a specific action that would affect a vast number of people, and he had to force himself to come to terms with that.
  5. Psykosonik, “Need to Die”
    There was a brief surge of darkwave techno in the mid to late 90s (super-generalization: darkwave = gothy electronica) that I got into, and Psykosonik’s Unlearn was handed to me by one of my HMV coworkers (Thanks, Doug!).  I put this here mostly as a mood piece, but I did like how it fit in with one of the TPE themes: people didn’t necessarily have to die to be reborn spiritually.
  6. Live, “Lakini’s Juice”
    Another mood piece, this one suggesting (to me) discomfort in a situation one could find themselves in.  I believe I used this as inspiration for Poe’s constant irritation at not being able to complete tasks put before him.
  7. Elysian Fields, “Lady in the Lake”
    Their Bleed Your Cedar album was handed to me as a promo, and I liked its swampy feel.  The album (and this track) helped me focus on how a recently awakened character would have to deal with their situation; both feeling disconnected from everyone (I’m the only one like this) and superconnected (I can intimately sense everyone around me) at the same time.
  8. Moby, “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver”
    As a Masshole, I had to appreciate Moby covering the Mission of Burma classic (as well as putting out a punk album, considering he’s more known as an electronic musician).  Just like the original, this song was a perfect example of dedicated and determined nonconformity that fit in with Vigil.
  9. The Verve Pipe, “Veneer”
    Not that long before this, I’d seen this band live in Boston, and they did a beautiful and transcendent version of this track (which, as it happens, is about a long road trip through Michigan while high).  To me, it evoked a sensation of being elsewhere; in the process it inspired how I had my characters react when they first visited Trisanda.

Side B

  1. Richard Einhorn, Anonymous 4, “Exclamavit”
    I’d heard Einhorn’s Voices of Light on NPR one evening when I was driving into Boston in the summer of 1995, and I was completely floored by the gorgeousness of it.   [It was inspired by Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc and can be heard as its soundtrack on the Criterion dvd.]  I wasn’t the biggest orchestral music fan at the time, but this slowly set me on my way.  This particular opening felt like another good ‘opening credits’ piece, and thus opens Side B of the tape.
  2. Pulp, “Common People”
    The album version of their classic single is a much more sinister affair than the single version (there’s an additional verse that truly reveals the disgust he holds back in the rest of the song).  While the plot of the song doesn’t quite fit the plot of my story, it does reflect the bigoted view of The Other that was part of my story’s plot.
  3. Sponge, “Isolation”
    There’s a great Lennon tribute album called Working Class Hero from 1995 that I listened to a lot then, and I loved this version of the Plastic Ono Band track.  This ties in with the previous Pulp track, a forced cultural disconnect that one can only accept for so long before one has to fight back.
  4. The Offspring, “Gone Away”
    Part of the reason this one was on here is that I heard it so many times during that Ohio road trip!  Again, tension and discord.  This time because something’s been taken away and you can’t do a damn thing about it.
  5. Filter, “Hey Man, Nice Shot”
    This track inspired my love for the Slow Build:  starting off quiet and sparse, but gradually growing louder and more intense in energy.  The original Chapter 1 of The Phoenix Effect used this song as a template, which carried all the way to the opening of A Division of Souls.  The ADoS opening is supposed to feel like someone slowly turning the volume louder and louder until it climaxes in an intense burst of energy.
  6. Failure, “Daylight”
    Okay, how many times is this track on one of my mixtapes?  One of my favorite songs of all time, and even at the start of the project I knew it would be the Ending Credits track to my story.  [NOTE: I’m planning on writing a script of the ‘director’s cut’ for the ending of A Division of Souls and posting it over at the Bridgetown blog later this month, which uses this song as its soundtrack.]  The story is done, everyone’s exhausted, and the day has been saved…but the fight is far from over…and roll credits.  [Seriously, folks…go buy Fantastic Planet.  It’s a fucking phenomenal record.]
  7. U2, “Wake Up Dead Man”
    A denouement track after the epic ending track preceding.  I knew TPE was going to end on an unresolved note, leaving it wide open for its sequel.  The day has been saved, but the work’s not over.  Relationships between certain characters have been strained or broken; others have refused to give in so easily.  For me, this song is a plea for the war to cease before it goes too far. [I never forgot this idea and eventually used it in The Balance of Light.]
  8. The Tragically Hip, “Grace, Too”
    Canada’s favorite band with one of their favorite hits, which I remember seeing on MuchMusic back in 1994 (partly because I loved that the video was created using monitor feedback).   A lift from the previous song, in which we shift viewpoint to someone who knows they’re in the lower classes but still has high hopes for themselves.  This idea would later become the gathering of the Mendaihu at the Moulding Warehouse in A Division of Souls.
  9. Jamiroquai, “Virtual Insanity”
    …and after all that, ending on a slightly more positive note (somewhat), the final track brings a kind of…well, not hope, but an awareness.  This was a big plot point even in TPE: the characters had to become completely aware of their situation, where the conflict wasn’t in trying to figure it out, but in coming to terms with it and choosing either use it, abuse it, or avoid it as long as they could.

 

Hope you enjoyed my little bit of tunage sharing there!  I’ll be following up with the other three volumes in the original series soon!