As a girl and a closet romantic, I think there could, in theory, be nothing more flattering than being serenaded with a song written specifically about you. To know that a person knows you well enough and adores you so much to compose a song in your honor must be a very overwhelming experience–for, you know, the girls who get songs written about them. It’s not a wild fantasy of mine or anything. (Side note: I went on a quest to find a song entitled “Ann” for a little pick me up. Found the Josh Ritter song “Anne”…apparently “conversations are slow” with myself in “dead parking lots.” Why am I “just wasting away?” He soooo gets me.)
The thing is, movies, TV, and pop culture have lied, and they are only just starting to fess up. Films used to be full of the whole “use music to win her heart” thing, giving the guy confidence with his grand gesture of affection. As a girl, I totally bought into it. But the gimmick is up. Now, there is no more cringe-worthy moment in a movie than when a guy turns around with a slick acoustic guitar in his arms, only to find his “muse” staring back at him, horrified about what’s about to ensue. I would point you to this and this for evidence. Singing a song about a person to that person now unfortunately just seems like an all-around awkward experience.
But what all that doesn’t change, thank goodness, is the music itself. Mary Ann, Lyla, Julia–these ladies have inspired some sweet tunes, whether or not the desperate admiration, the infatuating love was reciprocated in real life. Most of the songs below are of the I-love-you-you-beautiful-angelic-creature variety, but there are always the unrequited-love-you-don’t-know-I-exist’s, the someday-we’ll-be-together-you-just-don’t-know-it-yet-this-isn’t-creepy-though’s, and of course, the why-don’t-you-love-me-anymore’s. Every genre has its version of the serenade. No one does it better than The Beatles in many categories, but especially this one. Other rock legends like The Kinks, Oasis, and The Libertines have offered their iterations of the ode to [Insert Name Here], and so have jazz idols like Ray Charles, pop crooners like Dave Barnes, and folk geniuses Simon & Garfunkel, Fleet Foxes, and Bon Iver.
Here are some of the best odes to ladies, old and new…enjoy!
MP3: Ray Charles-Mary Ann
MP3: The Beatles-Julia
MP3: Fleet Foxes-Lorelai
MP3: Bon Iver-For Emma
I don’t quite remember when I first heard Simon & Garfunkel, but it must’ve been early. Maybe even in the womb. I have a wisp of a memory where I’m sitting in the backseat of my mom’s car at night, listening to her play “The Sound of Silence” on tape. It’s one of the most relaxing memories I have, I think about it almost every time I hear Simon & Garfunkel hum their way through my ears. The days have gone by, but that song still hits its chord–
“Hello Darkness, my old friend…”
Perhaps not-so-coincidentally, Thursday was Paul Simon’s birthday. If your’e reading, Happy Birthday! I once had a friend who was a huge Paul Simon fan who didn’t realize that, yes, that’s Simon from Simon & Garfunkel. It was sort of like the time I realized we say “afternoon” because it’s literally after noon. Or that “soft drinks” are called “soft” because they don’t have alcohol. I was embarrassingly old. But back on track…I like to think that if Sunset were around in the 60s and 70s, we’d be all over Simon & Garfunkel. Better yet, if Lydia were born decades earlier, Paul Simon would’ve had a damn good shot on that “5 Artists I Want to Marry” list. Maybe even Art Garfunkel if he did something about that hair.
Beyond any shadow of a doubt Simon & Garfunkel are true poets. Their rhymes are often simple, but the imagery and stories they surround them practically drip out of my speakers. You can see it, taste it, hear it…you can live in it.
I’ve posted this song before, but I’ll do it again. A live recording of one of my favorite Simon & Garfunkel songs of all time….this is the poetry in music at it’s best.
Now from his pocket quick he flashes,
The crayon on the wall he slashes,
Deep upon the advertising,
A single worded poem comprised
Of four letters.
And his heart is laughing, screaming, pounding
The poem across the tracks rebounding
Shadowed by the exit light
His legs take their ascending flight
To seek the breast of darkness and be suckled by the night
Beyond lyrics or stories or rhyme, Simon & Garfunkel set a new standard of harmony. If you’ve ever heard them (which hopefully you all have!), you know what exactly what I mean. They can both sing at the same time, but you only hear one resonating voice. And no studio trickery..they nailed that shit live:
If you’ve only heard a few songs by S&G, go out today and get one of their albums, and I guarantee you won’t regret it. It’ll give you warm company in the winter, and relaxation when you’re stressed. Play it in the morning, or play it in the wee hours of night as you pound coffee. I’ve posted some of my favorite songs below, enjoy
ZIP (including above) or individually:
MP3: “America”- Simon & Garfunkel
MP3: “Song For The Asking”- Simon & Garfunkel
MP3: “At The Zoo”- Simon & Garfunkel
MP3: “I Am A Rock”- Simon & Garfunkel
MP3: “Cecilia”- Simon & Garfunkel
MP3: “Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. (Live)”- Simon & Garfunkel
MP3: “Keep The Customer Satisfied”- Simon & Garfunkel
MP3: “The Only Living Boy In New York”- Simon & Garfunkel
MP3: “Leaves That Are Green (Live)”- Simon & Garfunkel
MP3: “Baby Driver”- Simon & Garfunkel
MP3: “The Dangling Conversation”- Simon & Garfunkel
August 17, 1969 — Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young play their first live concert at a venue in Chicago. Somewhere during the performance, they tell the audience that they’re going to place called Woodstock the next day, but they have no idea where that is.
Lo and behold, the next day, the last day of Woodstock, they get on stage:
“This is only the second time we’ve performed in front of people, man. We’re scared shitless.”
MP3: “Woodstock” – CSNY
We are stardust/We are golden
This song is from CSNY’s awesome 1974 album So Far. But surprise, surprise, it was written by Joni Mitchell in a NYC hotel room as she watched reports of the festival on TV.
I first discovered CSNY when I was in 7th grade, long after the group had released their last album. I got a couple albums from one of my friends, and another couple after digging through my Dad’s CD collection. You had good taste back in the day, Pops! Getting all those albums in a matter of weeks was almost (but not quite) as awesome as discovering Scrubs 5 seasons in. Eeeeaaaggglleee.
CSN and CSNY were a pillar of my musical identity for a long time, and I still get it moods where I can listen to them for hours at a time. If you’re not familiar, definitely give them a listen.
Download ZIP or individually below (and above)
Ok, don’t panic.
Hey! Yeah you. Stop scrolling down. Anyways, in the spirit of spontaneous Sunset mixtapes this week, I just couldn’t help myself. So here it is, Sunset riders, a Not-So-Throwback Thursday mix for your weekend playlist. I started off trying to write a piece about mood music; picking moods and then finding great songs to match, but it ended up spinning the other way around (picking the songs first, moods second). The list kept growing and growing, and I totally lost focus. I feel kinda bad about that, but I hope you all like these songs. I sure do, I love them ALL. As you can see (yeah, I’m talking to you, you premature scrollers), I’ve kept the moods above the songs. I also tried to order the songs so they sound relatively pleasant next to each other, so feel safe listening to the whole thing through.
In other news, I had a music disaster yesterday #whitepeopleproblems
Long story short, I ended up breaking the very tip of my speaker audio jack inside my computer. Like, we’re talking only the last 4mm of the metal part. Two thoughts hit me one after the other: 1) FUCK, my speakers are broken and 2) Omg this shit is lodged in a tiny whole in my computer and I won’t be able to listen to anything. No more music, no more True Blood. After an hour of unsuccessful prodding and tweezing, I decided to MacGyver the situation; put a dab of crazy glue on the end of the broken speaker jack, and then I jammed the sucker inside my computer. Waited 20 minutes. Any bets on what happened?
Anyways, here’s the mixtape, enjoy : )
1) Tip the hat, I’m feeling classy
MP3: “Juicy New York, New York” – The Notorious B.I.G & Frank Sinatra
2) It’s dark out, and I’m wearing all black. And damn I look good
MP3: “Everlasting Light” – The Black Keys
3) Feelin’ Wu, what more can I say?
MP3: “The Heart Gently Weeps” – Wu-Tang Clan [George Harrison's son played the guitar on this!]
4) Dazed stumbling, but I’m loving it
MP3: “Playground Love” – Air
5) Summer night in the city; Enjoying the seven stars of SF
MP3: “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl) – Looking Glass 
6) Just the right amount of wine
MP3: “After All” – Sondre Lerche
7) In the mood for a Wes Anderson movie
MP3: The Summer (Alternate Clip) – Coconut Records
8 ) It’s raining, and I’m on the pottery wheel. How magical when this song comes on
MP3: “Shelter From the Storm” – Bob Dylan
9) I bet no one knows about this secret Jack Johnson stash…
MP3: “Frankie and Albert” – Jack Johnson
10) Fiine, here’s another
MP3: “Moonshine” – Jack Johnson
11) Like, actually, it doesn’t get any more relaxed than this
MP3: “Three Little Birds” – CMH World’s Hawaiian tribute to Bob Marley
12) Out of the blue, I ain’t blue no more
MP3: “Furr” – Blitzen Trapper
13) Guilt. I think I listen to this more than the original.
MP3: “Us (Me and Mrs. Officer)” – My Sick Uncle, from (500) Days of Weezy.
14) Today’s going to be an Eminem day
MP3: “Lost Under a Bridge” – DJ Moondance (Eminem vs. The Red Hot Chili Peppers)
15) It’s 2pm and I just woke up? What a night
MP3: “Sunshine” – Atmosphere
16) What was that song with that baaad-fucking-ass verse by Black Thought from the Roots? Oh yeah!
MP3: “Slow Down” – Chiddy Bang
17) I wish I could make mashups
MP3: “Cash Run (feat. The White Stripes, Biggie, 2Pac)” – Adrian Champion
18) Are my eyes red?
MP3: “Ganja Babe” – Michael Franti
19) Can’t wait to spend this weekend in NoYork!
MP3: “First Things First (feat. Miguel Jontel)” – Blu // Oops, this didn’t make it on the full mixtape, but here it is
20) One of my favorite Sunset posts [link] ever by Lydia
MP3: “Bombay Bicycle Club” – Ivy & Gold
21) Is my play count really this high?
MP3: “The Most Beautiful Girl [In The Room]” – Flight of the Conchords
22) Feeling electriccc
MP3: “All Along the Watchtower” – Jimi Hendrix
23) Man I love that Freddie Mercury Rage meme
MP3: “Somebody To Love” – Queen
We’ve all been there before — on Facebook, Google+, or maybe (god forbid) even myspace. We’re there, staring at the “favorite music” section, scheming about what artists we should write in to portray our true musical identity. Or perhaps our not-so-true musical identity. Pshh, no one needs to know about that Christina Aguilera album I listen to everyday when I work out. Or maybe Pshh, so what if I only have one Dr. Dre song, I swear he’s one of my favorite artists. Yeah, I’m talking to you.
I can’t lie, I’ve been there done that. Topping my guilty pleasure top three list is probably 1. True Blood, 2. Girl Scout Thin Mints, and 3. Akon. Love me some good Akon. Still, even if it’s true, I probably wouldn’t tell people that on any sort of social media (wait…fuck). Anyways, to be honest, I’ve always found it too treacherous to fill those “favorite music” sections out, and anytime I do end up writing something, I delete it eventually. It never seems to quite convey the musical identity I want it to…or maybe it’s that it makes me feel toolish. I don’t know. But what if Facebook automatically plugged in the favorite music section by connecting to your iTunes/iPod and adding the top 10 played artists/songs? What would it show? For me, Andrew Bird would sit at number one, by a disgusting and beautifully vast lead. Yet mingled in there, though, are songs I would never dare admit I listen to (*cough* Justin Bieber *cough*). C’mon, judge me. Fuck you.
MP3: “Sunny Day” – Akon
I’m squirming at the idea of posting this on Sunset. But it could’ve been JB, so count your blessings. Listen for Wyclef’s mediocre verse, but awesome voice somewhere around 1:45.
MP3: “The Happy Birthday Song” – Andrew Bird
But back on track, a question this poses is what is one’s true musical identity? Is it what one listens to the most? Or is it something else, like artists one listens to less frequently but finds more meaningful? Maybe artists or songs that have influenced your life in some way. It’s hard to say what it is, but one thing I’m convinced is true is that one’s musical identity is strongly intertwined with one’s identity identity. You’re sitting there filling in your favorite music section, and whether consciously or not, you’re filling it in not to let people know what music you listen to, but to let them know what type of person you are. I’m a gourmet blend of Andrew Bird and Jack Johnson, with some Outkast swirls and a heavy dusting of the finest Jay Z and Eminem. And some after notes of Coconut Records. And I get better with age.
MP3: “Microphone” – Coconut Records.
Coconut Records is Jason Schwartzmann. You know, Darjeeling Limited, Rushmore. Jason Schwartzmann. Check out the wacky but great music video to the song:
And also this amazingly ridiculous iPad advertisement:
Sorry, that must’ve been distracting. Again, anyways, perhaps more indicative of the type of person you are isn’t actually the music you listen to, but the music you want people to think you listen to. I think that might be why I feel uncomfortable filling out “favorites” sections…a part of my brain knows that I’m trying to give off a certain vibe, and another part of my brain is calling that first part a douche. I guess I don’t feel genuine. Does that make sense?
But nevertheless, in terms of accurately portraying the type of person one is, I think that musical identities really are like vibes; they aren’t always accurate, but sometimes they hit the nail on the goddamned head. I remember reading a FML a while back that went something like this: “I’ve been crushing hard on this girl for months, and last night we finally became friends on Facebook. When I went to her page, I saw she was a republican and liked Nickleback. FML.”
My freshman year of college, we all had to fill out a roommate selection form that had fill-in-the-bubble scales of things like how late you stay up, how early you get up, socialness, cleanliness, and a bunch of other things. There was one place to write in your favorite music. Finally, you could choose one of the items on the form to give the most weight to when it came to assigning you a roommate, and I obviously chose music. Not because I cared so much about what he listened to, but because I thought I’d get along best with someone who shared the same musical tastes as I did. Our music tastes weren’t so similar, but he was an awesome roommate nonetheless. I know amazing people who love terrible music. And I also know people who hate my music but don’t think I’m so bad either (I hope).
MP3: “It’s the Chemicals (feat. Scarub)” – Inspired Flight . This song is amazing.
Well, that’s it for another edition Not-So-Throwback Thursday, see you guys next week!
PS: This made me laugh so hard: Every time I smell old milk to see if it’s still ok:
My grandfather is turning 85 this weekend — he was in born in Berlin in 1926, and he came to the US when he was 11, in 1937. That was a hell of a long time ago. I don’t know if any of you have experienced something similar to this, but every time I sit down with him and chat or, more likely, listen to one of his thousands of stories, I get this incredible feeling where I can see a huge part of myself in him. Like, this man is definitely my grandfather. We’re different people from extraordinarily different backgrounds, but at the end of the day, way at the core, it’s almost as if we’re the same person. It’s bizarre.
Like me, my grandfather loves music. But unsurprisingly, our musical tastes aren’t so similar. Almost exclusively, he listens to classical music. Piano, orchestra, opera, waltzes, and on and on. I couldn’t even name all the subgenres, let alone the composers. Classical music is beautiful, and I love it too, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to listen to it with entirely the same ear that he can. And when it comes to the music I listen to, well…he doesn’t listen with any ear. The music my parents grew up with — the music I call oldies — wasn’t around until my grandfather was almost 40. And hip-hop only began to appear when he was in his 60s. Like generations before him, my grandfather grew up listening to classical music. It’s what he knows and it’s what he loves. Here’s one of Chopin’s amazing Nocturnes. Ever stressed out? Throw this on and watch it melt away.
So, as I was saying, my grandfather never enjoyed the music my parents grew up with. I remember hearing stories of my grandparents giving my aunt shit when she was a teenager for listening to Simon & Garfunkel and Bob Dylan. (Are you kidding me?!) But, like fate, my parents don’t enjoy the music I listen to. Admittedly, I’d be more than a little taken aback if I caught my dad listening to Biggie…or even Andrew Bird to be honest. But still, why is that? I like to think that I’m pretty open-minded about music, but what will I be listening to when I’m 40? Or 60? Or 85? Will I enjoy the new music of my kids’ generation, or will I think it sounds like crap and wonder how on earth they do it? A related South Park clip where Randy (one of the fathers) tries to prove to himself and his wife that parents can enjoy the newest rage in music that their kids are listening to… (If you don’t like poo jokes, skip this one):
Haha god that clip always puts a smile on my face. Anyways. A few months ago I got new headphones, and I was back at home visiting the family and my amazing dog. My dad wanted to try the headphones out, so I thought just for kicks I’d throw on some, err, electrofolkstep and see how he took it. The James Vincent McMorrow dubstep remix posted in april. He could barely take 30 seconds before telling me to put on some “real music.” I succumbed and threw on Led Zeppelin.
Surprisingly, I’ve made progress introducing my mom to hip-hop. She most definitely doesn’t listen to it or know the names of any artists, but I was able to break down one of the biggest barriers — that mass rejection of hip-hop on the grounds that it is just vulgar, or violent, or mindless. I took her to my room and brought up the lyrics to 2Pac’s Dear Mama on my computer screen. I didn’t play the song for her initially, I just had her read them.
Pour out some liquor and I reminsce, cause through the drama
I can always depend on my mama
And when it seems that I’m hopeless
You say the words that can get me back in focus
When I was sick as a little kid
To keep me happy there’s no limit to the things you did
And all my childhood memories
Are full of all the sweet things you did for me
And even though I act craaazy
I gotta thank the Lord that you made me
There are no words that can express how I feel
You never kept a secret, always stayed real
And I appreciate how you raised me
And all the extra love that you gave me
I wish I could take the pain away
If you can make it through the night there’s a brighter day
Everything will be alright if ya hold on
It’s a struggle everyday, gotta roll on
And there’s no way I can pay you back
But my plan is to show you that I understand
You are appreciated
MP3: “Dear Mama” – 2Pac
It’s real, honest, heartfelt poetry, and she saw that. But when I played her the song, no matter how powerful the lyrics, it just wasn’t something she could sit down and enjoy.
Is the ability to enjoy new music quashed by age? And if so, why? I heard a statistic somewhere that if you’re over 35 years old when a new genre of popular music comes about, there’s a 95% chance you’ll never listen to it. This might be a nonsense statistic, but it actually sounds kind of true. It makes me wonder, though, how and if the internet might change this. Discovering and exploring new music is easier than it ever has been. It’s leaps and bounds easier for us than it was for our parents, and even more so compared to our grandparents. There’s definitely a social aspect of learning to enjoy new types of music. That is, you’re more likely to give music a chance if you have people around you listening to it and enjoying it themselves. Maybe that environment has historically been harder to come across as you age, but perhaps the existence of social media might change that.
It’s hard to imagine what music will be out there when I’m 85. Maybe I’ll still be truckin, giving the iTunes its daily injection of new music. Or perhaps I’ll longingly look back on the days when electrofolkstep reigned king…
It’s another Thursday, so I hope y’all are thirsty for a little throwback. Today’s TT is continuation of the story I posted last week — how music forever entangled itself within my life, how my music tastes evolved, and I how I ended up listening to what I do. We left off somewhere around the end my high school years, when I left Texas for bigger and badder adventures in the wild wild west…
When I think of the summer after my first year in college, in terms of music, I think of the Cambrian Explosion — when out of the blue, like, 600 million years ago, life decided to diversify like crazy and start being badass. I was working in Beijing and studying Chinese (long story), and I was living with some friends from other California colleges. One of them, my friend Supallav, was a total hip hop snob and connoisseur. I was not. I didn’t know shit about hip hop, top 40 or otherwise. I never thought poorly of hip hop, and I certainly wasn’t one of those guys to ignorantly bag on it — I just didn’t know where to start, and I knew it.
So I asked my friend to give me some of his albums for me to listen to, and he basically sat me down, laughing, and told me he was going to do it the right way. He began introducing me to all the greats and legends one by one, an album a day, and at the same time he’d let me in on their stories, histories, philosophies, controversies and the works. I had an hour commute to and from work everyday. I spent the entire summer walking and riding the Beijing subways to Jay-Z, B.I.G, Nas, Wu-Tang, Lil-Wayne, Eminem, 2pac, Dr. Dre, and on and on. I couldn’t get enough of it. He’d make me listen to all the old school records, something I don’t think I ever would have listened to without him pushing me. I remember standing in crowded ass subways listening to 2pac’s All Eyez on Me or GZA’s Liquid Swords. The first Jay-Z album I heard was Reasonable Doubt. I remember exactly where I was walking the first time Juicy came on when I first listened to Ready to Die. I had no idea how famous that song was, and when I came back to the apartment that night telling my friend how awesome it was, he just sighed and shook his head. Gang Starr, A Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def, Common, The Roots, Dead Prez, Blu. It was SO good. Kanye and Lupe Fiasco. Every once in a while I’d come back to our apartment, complaining that some of the old school music sounded dated — he’d then play the song on his computer, and break it down for me line by line until I was forced to admit that these guys were clever as hell.
The first song I want to share is D’Evils, from Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt. Another one of those songs were I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing the first time I heard it. A super powerful song about friendship and competition between two friends who grew up together — how life hustling on the streets can infect, corrupt, and poison the mind. Look up the lyrics to this song and take your time.
We used to fight for building blocks/now we fight for blocks with buildings that make a killin/The closest friends when we first started/But grew apart as the money grew, and soon grew black-hearted/Thinkin’ back when we first learned to use rubbers/He never learned so in turn I’m kidnappin’ his baby’s mother
MP3: “D’evils” – Jay-z
Hidden Bonus Track on Johnson&Jonson’s self titled album (Blu and producer Mainframe). If you’ve never heard of Blu, get on it. There’s something so real and honest and youthful about him, something that very few hip hop artists seem to touch. It’s hard to put a finger on, but I think this song does him justice. That John Lennon sample…so good!
Old School, from 2pac’s Me Against the World. Ok so I admit it, I threw this one in because it is, after all, throwback thursday. But a great song nonetheless.
MP3: “Old School” – 2Pac
The year after I discovered hip hop, I became a music blog addict. Like friends and the outdoors, music can reinvigorate life like nothing else can, and especially new music. I discovered Blind Pilot and Bon Iver around this time…oh my. Those two guys helped me through one of the toughest times of my life. And Andrew Bird. Don’t get me started on Andrew Bird.
A little while later, I heard Chiddy Bang’s Swelly Express for the first time. A couple weeks later they came to play at my school. I was front row, fist-bumping Chiddy:
I was still happily discovering all the amazing hip-hop in my iTunes that my boy Supallav had introduced me to, but for the first time I was also stumbling on mashups. Do you guys remember when the Notorious XX album came out, the mashup between The XX and the Notorious B.I.G.? Amazing. I was coming across so many DJs, so many mixes… I was in heaven. Some of my favorite indie-rock songs fused with hip hop raps and beats, or with dubstep lines or electronic melodies. I found Big Z Remixes on Sunset maybe a little less than a year ago. All I could think was, holy shit, this guy is so young but his music is SO good.
Here I am a year later, still uncovering incredible music…some new and some that’s been out for ages. And as I move forward with my life, musically and otherwise, I’m just trying to take it all in and shut nothing out. You never know what you’re missing.
I’m resisting the urge to post Bon Iver’s re: Stacks. I’m sure you’ve all heard it before, and if not, it’s on Sunset’s Flying Through Summer mixtape. But..of course, of course I’m posting an Andrew Bird song. Actually, to be embarrassingly honest, I’m actually wearing an Andrew Bird shirt as I write this…I swear I’m not creepy. He’s an amazing artist, and he does everything by himself (even live!) using looped tracks he makes on the spot. It’s nuts. Here’s Plasticities, from Armchair Apocrypha.
My favorite Big Z Remix song, Slow Down (feat. Lupe Fiasco and Mos Def), with a beautiful sample of Nico’s These Days. The song is soft and melodic and wise and powerful, with great verses from Lupe and Mos Def. Mos Def’s verse comes his song Priority, from The Ecstatic. It’s a one verse song, but with a totally different feel.
Save Me Concubine (Ghostface Killah vs. Beirut), TheHoodInternet remix. I’ve listened to this song hundreds of times. Ghostface is a hard dude, but this story is surprisingly touching and sentimental. It was on repeat during another tough time for me.
Finally, here’s an Arcade Fire cover I stumbled across some weeks back, by Mr. Little Jeans. One of the best covers I’ve ever heard. This girl’s voice is gorgeous, and it fits perfectly over the dreamlike dubstep coatings.
If you had to pick 5 or 10 songs to represent the history of your musical discovery, what would you choose? Treacherous, huh?
Throwback Thursdays?? WHAT?
Before I get to that, I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Patrick, and this is my first ever post here at Sunset! Super excited. I’ve been following this blog regularly for almost two years, and it’s meant a lot to me. Daily injections of incredible music, like a warm gun in the arm. Bang bang, shoot shoot. Sunset’s always felt like my secret internet oasis, and so for the longest time I refused to tell people about it (I was bad, I know). But I’m way over that. Discovering and sharing music keeps my soul happy, afloat, and pleasantly humming, so I hope to share lots of it with you all in the coming future. It’s totally strange and totally awesome to be writing for Sunset after all this time, but lets give it a go—
So Throwback Thursdays, what’s that all about? Well, I’m not sure either, but it’s going to be the shit. Hopefully. I’m envisioning it as the (conceptual) love-child of Straight Talk Sundays and, err, Womp-Womp Wednesdays. Music posting incorporated into a little more talk, discussion, and story-telling; some meatier posts for those of you with bigger appetites. And as a throwback themed daily special, the music I post won’t necessarily be the freshest off the griddle, but I’ll always try to keep it just as hot. For today’s post, I want to throw you guys back into my own history of music discovery. Everyone’s got a story about how they got listening to what they do, a story about how all those damn gigs of music got into the iTunes library, and why some have a million plays and why some have none. Music has a way of powerfully tying itself to life’s ups and downs; here’s how some of the songs and bands that mean most to me got entangled with my life.
So the other day, my mom asked me who Bob Marley was. *Cringe.* Thank the gods, my dad has always been far more musically literate, at least when it comes to the music of his day. I grew up an oldies boy, listening to whatever he did. I was born and raised in Houston — and if you know anything about that city, it’s that you don’t walk anywhere. Too far, too hot, too humid. You drive, and it was driving with my dad where I first introduced to music. Simon & Garfunkel, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, America, CSNY, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, and on and on and on. I was hopelessly hopelessly oblivious to any of the music people my age were listening too, almost until the end of middle school. All of my music I scavenged from my parents’ cd collection, save for one (amazing) Outkast cd given to me as a gift from a family friend. Oh how foretelling that cd would be. But the 60s and 70s were my shit back then. It was all I knew, and all I was listening too. It’s almost impossible to pick a song to capture that time for me, but here is (quite literally) the first song to come to mind. It’s a live (1967) song by Simon & Garfunkel called A Poem on the Underground, the “poem” referring to the word “Fuck” scrawled on a subway wall. Brilliant. It’s a beautiful song that I think really demonstrates how Simon & Garfunkel themselves were truly poets — just listen to those lyrics. More than that, the harmony between their voices is surreal. You forget they’re both singing at the same time.
I’d describe myself as a late musical bloomer. As great as all those oldies were, someone really needed to sit me down, slap my face, and open my eyes to the brave new world of music that was out there. If anyone deserves credit for getting that first crack in, it’s my older brother. We went to the same school until he graduated, and again, driving in the car did the trick — blasting Weezer on the way, I’ll never forget it. Weezer is fucking awesome, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. This one’s for him, “The Good Life.”
For the longest time, all my music came through the bro. He was like a human music blog, relaying the good stuff for me. He introduced me to Radiohead, Coldplay, The Shins, Smashing Pumpkins, Belle & Sebastian, and tons others that I refuse to admit that I didn’t find by myself. Perhaps most momentous, he introduced me to Ratatat. It felt like what I imagine a dog thinks after tasting human food for the first time. “You’ve had THAT all along, and you never told me?! WTF.” Maybe it was my narrow horizons, but that sound was completely new for me, and I couldn’t get enough it. Loud Pipes, Wildcat, Seventeen Years, Gettysburg. Incredible. The song I want to post though is my favorite Ratatat song to date — Cherry, off their first (self-titled) album. It’s one of their mellower songs, but it’s got a little something about it that resonates with me every time. There’s that one drop that feels like the entire song is building up to. I’ve heard it hundreds of times, but that one part gets me every single time I listen. Turn up your speakers and bass, dim the lights, and let it play.
MP3: “Cherry” – Ratatat
While you’re in that mood, take a listen to this Shins song off their last album, “Sleeping Lessons” (song, not album). You hear that melodic up and down thing that opens and stays with the song? Isn’t that awesome?
Around this same time, somewhere in high school, I found my first music blog. Correction: my brother found my first music blog. -sigh-. It’s now defunct, but I was discovering music left and right. Sondre Lerche, G. Love, Of Montreal, The Black Keys. Ratatat’s Remix albums came out and I nearly crapped myself. I met Jack Johnson and Feist for the first time, and I fell in love. But actually! I met a girl in England doing a study abroad program, and we became mad about each other. Turns out she went to a boarding school in Durham, and this was right around the time I was looking at colleges. I convinced my parents that I was super interested in Duke, and to let me visit alone because I had a friend I knew there. It worked, and lets just say I never set foot on Duke’s campus (no offense to Lydia, of course!). My dad worked for an airline then, and had the hookup with plane tickets. We ended up dating for a long time (my first girlfriend!), and she also took me to my first concert ever in Asheville, a Feist concert. Feist was incredible, and opening for her was an unknown band (at least to me) who after the concert stood in the hallway peddling signed copies of their cd: Grizzly Bear. We all have those songs that we use to torture ourselves when we’re feeling sad or when we miss someone, and this was mine for her — Brandy Alexander, by Feist.
Stay tuned for a continuation of this story next week, when hip-hop finds its way into my life…