So It Appears That I’m Living the Dream


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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Mix Tape Monday: The Apology Mix


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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Old Sad Bastard Music


October Project: “Bury My Lovely”

“I Don’t Want to Get Over You” the Magnetic Fields

“CALL ME CALL ME” The Seatbelts feat. Steve Conte

“Letters” Stroke 9

“A Murder of One” Counting Crows

I’ll write about the amazing Writer Unboxed conference another day — I’m still unpacking, literally and figuratively!

…But a bit ago, I organized about 15 years of mix CDs into chronological order in an effort to sort out the chaos of my life (or possibly act out High Fidelity, Cosby sweater and all).  I even made a sweet little book to organize track lists, because I’m crazy like that.  It’s an ongoing project for when I have a few spare hours on a Saturday night; a trip down memory lane, a reminder that as cool and awesome as I may be now, I was once a girl who thought “Hey Leonardo (She Likes Me For Me)” was essential to have on my person at all times.

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Sad Songs (Say So Much)

Jason and I are doing this MixCD thing pretty hard.  It’s a language we always spoke, a means of communicating what neither of us were very good at saying aloud.  In the two months since we’ve been back in touch, we’ve made a total of seven albums, (four from me, three from him).  It’s a tad obsessive.

But just because we didn’t speak for seven years didn’t mean that there weren’t songs that didn’t remind me of him that whole time;  The Killers “Miss Atomic Bomb” and The Smiths “Rubber Ring” and The Cure’s “Cut Here” that made this Cold War almost slightly bearable.  Because that’s what I do, that’s how I process emotion.  Elton John was onto something when he sang “If someone else is suffering enough to write it down/When every single word makes sense’Then it’s easier to have those songs around”

But now Jason and I are back to being cool, there’s just one teensy little problem: What do I do with all these sad songs?

Any mix-tape enthusiast knows that you can’t just pretend a song doesn’t remind you of someone anymore.  It’s not an emotional connection you can just flip on and off.  After seven years of playing Go West’s “King of Wishful Thinking” and crying whenever I got nostalgic, I wasn’t going to not be able to think of him when I heard it.  I don’t have any emotional use for these songs anymore,  but they’re too good to just lock away.  And I certainly can’t give them to him; we’re past the stage of past sorrows and regrets.

Ultimately, I gave him a few of my broken-hearted tunes as a way of illustrating “This is how much it sucked when you were gone.”  I let Morrissey sing my apology on “Bigmouth Strikes Again” and Tom Waits lament “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart.”  I let Warren Zevon beg him back with “Reconsider Me” and, luckily, he did just that.  And in time, I’m sure his memory will fall away from Nick Cave’s “Nobody’s Baby Now” and Stroke 9’s “Letters.”

But until then, well, sad songs say so much.