So It Appears That I’m Living the Dream

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A last hurrah in Binghamton, April 19, 2007

Binghamton, 2006.  I’m 23, living in a fire-trap basement apartment in the ghetto.  I’m that kind of art-poverty broke where I live on black coffee and scrambled eggs and dinner is paid on for on a rotating basis between whichever one of us got paid that week.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my life except that I know I want to write and listen to records.  Out of college just over a year, I’m kicking myself for not having spent more time in music classes because I’ve got a subscription to Spin and being a music journalist would have been a kick-ass career.

I started a blog, Kill Your Ipod and reviewed shitty CDs from indie bands that I solicited over email.  No one read it except a couple of stalkers.  I wasn’t even sure how to write about music.  I lacked the technical language; all I had was this intense passion, this gut feeling whenever I listened to Tom Waits or Warren Zevon or the patchwork of mix CDs that stood in for conversation with boys I liked.  I hung around the record store and worked at FYE like a model waiting tables, hoping the right person might notice me and ask me to move back to NYC to write for some new music magazine.

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I Got To Write For Yacht Rock!

LOOK AT HIS ADORABLE FACE!

LOOK AT HIS ADORABLE FACE!

I’ve been a disciple of the webseries Yacht Rock for years (thanks to Matthew, of course).  It helped re-awaken my love for smooth music, plus it’s funny as hell and I think that JD Ryznar is super-cute.  (I think my love of midwestern guys as firmly been established on this blog).

So naturally, when the guys of Yacht Rock got on Twitter to promote the new Beyond Yacht Rock podcast, I stalked them until one fateful day when JD messaged me to tell me that he enjoyed my Record Saturday pick.  I seriously fangirled, everybody.  Like, embarrassingly so.  We got chatting more, and I sent him a copy of The Big Rewind.  And when they started The Captain’s Blog, I offered to write for them.  He accepted my pitch, and the essay, titled “I F**king Love Steely Dan & You Should Too” was published earlier this week.

It was, to put it mildly, a hit.  It’s also the most honest thing I’ve ever written, coming straight from the gut.  I really do love Steely Dan that much.

The essay is here.  It contains extremely vulgar language and threats of violence, so if you’re my Dad, please don’t read it.  You’ve been warned.  They are always seeking content, so send them a pitch!

I’ve also got a piece on The Smiths, Meat Is Murder at the RS-500, an amazing blog that’s compiling stories inspired by every single album on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums list.  It’s been a great week for my music journalism career!

Ahead By a Century

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I discovered the Tragically Hip in 2005, when I was working at a tiny sandwich shop in Cobleskill.  The owner, who’s name I have long forgotten, would put on In Between Evolution.  It was magic. It was like love.  I asked her to burn me a copy, because I was so poor from the lousy wages she paid that I could barely afford rent on the apartment I shared with my sister, let alone a CD.  She obliged, and that album became the soundtrack to one last hometown summer and of the strange year in New York that would eventually inspire The Big Rewind.

I still think of a late-night run along the promenade in Brooklyn when I hear “Goodnight Josephine.”  I played “It Can’t Be Nashville Every Night” on my honeymoon as we drove through Tennessee.  And “In View” was the first song I played for Jason when we got back together.

And last night, my love for The Hip was rekindled as they performed for three hours in their final concert, broadcast live on the CBC. And not final as in “We’ll get back together in five years and tour again and you’ll pay big money to see it, suckers.”  Final as in no more, the end, forever, because Gord Downie has terminal brain cancer at age 52.

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In Praise of Adult Contemporary Radio

I was not a cool kid.

Yes Please!

Yes Please!

While my sisters and peers were in love with Devon Sawa and JTT, I was crushing on Matthew Modine in Cutthroat Island and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  While they were listening to Mariah Carey and Blink 182 on Fly 92, I was calling in to B 95.5, the adult contemporary station, in hopes of hearing George Benson’s “Turn Your Love Around.”

When I discovered The Smiths and Siouxsie & The Banshees in high school, then Tom Waits in college, I could finally feel cool.  Sure, it was a hipster-goth kind of cool, eschewing the flair-leg jeans and trucker

Bask in my total fucking coolness (or don't, who cares.)

Bask in my total fucking coolness (or don’t, who cares.)

hats of the early-2000s for Doc Martens and cabby caps.  I discovered a lot of incredible music during this time period, aided by some awesome mix CDs from great people.

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Who Says Who The Muse Is?

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Papa Don & Uncle Walt

I got in a Twitter fight the other day with some guy I went to grad school with over who “Rikki” in Steely Dan’s “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” is.  Common lore is that it’s a Bard classmate of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, author Rikki Ducornet, who claims to any half-baked rag that will listen that Fagen gave her his phone number at a party one time and, guess what?  She lost it!  Crazy, huh?

There’s just one problem with her story.  Fagen won’t confirm, and at times has flat out denied her account on multiple occasions.

But of course, Grad School Guy insisted that he “believed Rikki” and attempted to repeatedly mansplain Steely Dan to me, a girl who’s first chapter is titled “Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me).”  Not a good idea.

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Mix Tape Monday: The (Unrequited) Crush Mix

Portlandia Mix Tape

Welcome Back to Mix Tape Monday, the blog series that celebrates the lost art of mix-tape making.  Today is Part II of our “Crush Mix” series, the Unrequited Crush!

Now, there are two types of Unrequited Crush Mix.  The first is made up entirely of Smiths songs like “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me” and is made for moping around because boo-hoo, your crush doesn’t notice you.

This is not that mix.

Rather, this is one that celebrates the unrequited love as a love that cannot ever be, but is still fun to have.  It’s the kind of crush that makes you happy and tingly because you know it can never be consummated, which is how it can remain so perfect.  This is a mix solely for you to listen to when you are feeling dreamy and excitable and giddy in love, so go crazy.

This mix is called the Grey Chalk Playlist (2014) and it’s fairly brief.

Fan Mail

Because I made this one for my TV-crush, I open it with a sound clip from one of his shows so I can hear his sexy, sexy voice.  It, ah, sets the mood.

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True Confessions: Billy Joel Edition

I’ve had more than one person confront me on my deep loathing of Billy Joel since the publication of The Big Rewind and a series of tweets decrying the fact that “Only The Good Die Young” is a serious neg and terrible song in it’s own right.  But I value you, dear readers, and so I feel that it’s time to come clean with this black mark on my soul.

You want to know why I hate Billy Joel?  Because I used to fucking love Billy Joel.

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Mix Tape Monday: Worst Song On A Mix?

Billy Joel Sux

Welcome back to Mix Tape Monday, the blog series that doesn’t care that no one owns a boombox anymore.  Last week, while setting my radio alarm, I heard Billy Joel’s “Only The Good Die Young.”  And it suddenly occurred to me EXACTLY how much of a dick Billy Joel was being to this girl.  Virginia has clearly said no to the sex, (which, given that it’s Billy Joel, is probably a good plan) and instead of being like “well, okay, I respect your decision to do what you feel is right with your body,” he proceeds to insult her by shaming her faith.  “Don’t let me wait/you Catholic girls start much too late/sooner or later it comes down to fate/I might as well be the one.”

I seriously fucking hate this guy.

I seriously fucking hate this guy.

Translation: Your needs and values are meaningless because I want sex, and eventually you’re going to give it up to someone, so you might as well fuck me.  There’s no mention of love, or even that they’re dating.  He wants to bone her, she said no, and he’s negging on her.  This is not a romantic song, and Billy Joel has once again shown that he is a horndog douche.

I tweeted this, and my friend Emily replied that a boy had actually put this on a mix for her, despite her not even being Catholic.  He used a mix tape for evil!  That’s just wrong.

So I ask…what was the worst song anyone has ever put on a mix for you?  Bad in sound or intention or both?

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Mixtape Monday: The Crush Mix

Say-Anything1

Welcome back to Mix Tape Monday, the blog series that celebrates all things mix-related.  Today we’re talking about the whole reason Mix Tapes were invented–The Crush Mix.

You know the drill.  You’re so head-over-heels in love with someone that every song you hear reminds you of them.  You savor the music that played on the radio when they happened to glance your way, convinced it was destiny that that song came on at that exact moment. But you don’t know if they’re feeling the same, so you test the waters with a tape that could be plutonic…but really, your heart is bleeding through every single lyric. The Crush Mix is meant to be listened to on headphones, alone and in one go, so plan your lyrics and transitions accordingly.  Sound clips are not advised here.

There are two types of Crush Mixes–the hopeful and the unrequited.  Today, we’ll be looking at the first, using a mix I titled Songs For Your Future Front Office (2005).  I’m not going to tell you who I made it for, but if you’re out there, Darling Recipient, feel free to identify yourself.  Obviously, this one went unrequited, but it was still fun to make, and I still think fondly of the recipient.  Let’s get started!

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Mix Tape Monday: The Apology Mix

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There’s a lot more to making a mix than just throwing a bunch of songs onto a Spotify playlist or a CD.  It’s about creating a mood or emphasizing an emotion, playing to a theme or singing what you can’t speak aloud.  You don’t make someone a mix unless they’re really important.

So I have a new feature here on the blog–MIX TAPE MONDAY.  I’ll dissect mixes I’ve made for other people, and maybe even a few people have made for me, to dissect what works.  A note before we begin: we’ll use the term “Mix Tape” as a general term here, because “Mix CD” or “Playlist” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

The Big Rewind CoverUp first, we have the APOLOGY MIX.  I’ve made a few of these in my day, but this one, titled The All Or Nothing Days (2014) is especially poignant because it was made for my friend Jason.  The epic fight we had, which lead to seven years of silence between us, was part of the inspiration for The Big Rewind, and the first thing we did when we reconnected (thanks to our awesome friend Corey, seriously, she rules and I owe her my whole life.) was make each other mixes.  I would be lying if I said I hadn’t planned a lot of this mix ahead of time, and I was glad I finally had a chance to use it.

A quick word about Jason: He was my mix tape protege, and has taken the art form to a new level.  He can pick songs and clips that are so precise, so devastatingly perfect, that it borders on sadistic.  He has made several of my all-time favorite mixes, including She Doesn’t Think My Tractor’s Sexy Anymore (2005) which should be in some sort of mix CD museum for it’s sheer brilliance.

The Apology Mix is meant to be listened to on headphones.  It’s a close, intimate type of mix, so make sure each of your messages comes through loud and clear.  You won’t around to explain the meaning of each song, so be precise in your choices.

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