21 March 2008

The Anatomy of a Mix: Part I

A while ago, I was driving around with Mama B, listening to whatever mix CD was in the player, and she just busts out with "you know - you've always had a very musical memory. I remember when I had to bring you in for an interview before you started kindergarten and when Mrs. Marcott asked if there was something special she should know about you, I told her, 'well, Alec has a musical memory.' And she said that was very surprising, especially for someone your age. And I said, 'well... yeah!'"

Oh, mom. Tragically, I have no musical talent, but could sooner function without music than I could sans air... well, maybe not air - but, as Nietzsche said, "without music, life would be a mistake."

You tell 'em, Fred.

I'll [temporarily] post a few songs that somehow changed me or what I thought about music... you know - songs that have that little bit something extra. It's like an iTunes celebrity playlist... but without the pesky celebrity.

Josh Ritter - Best for the Best | Now I listen to my sweetheart, and I listen to my thirst / I don't spend time listening to other people's words / Sometimes they're right, most times the reverse / They say the best is for the best when the best's for the worse

In the introduction to the only live version of this song that I've heard, JR says, "this song is dedicated to Mark Twain, who said 'loyalty to your country always, loyalty to your government when it deserves it.'" It gives more context to the song, but I still feel the same about it - it still feels remarkably personal.

After seeing JR live last December at the tiny Songs For A Friend show, I got on the train and while it still sitting in South Station, I turned on my iPod and this song came up; inexplicably, tears started to roll down my cheeks - not out of sadness, but something else. He hadn't sung the song at the show, but for some reason, its beautiful simplicity just struck me all the more.

JR's music as a whole, means a lot to me - sometimes I have trouble wrapping my head around it it's just so... good. But this particular song means something more... it reaches down so far you can almost feel it. I could go on and on about this song, but there's an undefinable quality to it that is probably best left alone. But bottom line is that I find it to be extraordinarily comforting - listen to it on a set of good headphones in a quiet room and maybe you'll see what I mean.

Bob Dylan - Like A Rolling Stone | When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose / You're invisible now - you got no secrets to conceal

I can't say that I'm crazy about Bob, though he's been steadily growing on me the past few years. This song, however, is just so chock full of everything a good folk song should be - cross that - everything a good song should be - that you can't deny its excellence.

This song is just Bob. Bob freaking Dylan, man. And he's telling you that you screwed up - you did. Big time, too. And he's asking - demanding of you - how does it feel? But maybe there's something in that fall from grace... maybe you've got something going for you - something that you never had before.

I usually turn this song on when I'm cooking or doing something menial that I want to forget joyously. I open the windows, turn it up, and sing the whole time.

M. Ward - To Go Home | God, it's great to be alive / Takes the skin right off my hide / To think I'll have to give it all up someday

M. Ward's got that crazy voice... that crazy 12-packs-a-day voice that never bottoms out and never gets louder than it needs to... unlike Daniel Johnston, the writer of this song.

But it just goes to show - take a good song, give it to M. Ward and he'll make it great. He did it with Alejandro Escovedo's "Way It Goes," and he did it here. The musical arrangement behind this track is so joyous and so lusty and powerful, it barely hangs on to itself. It's a song of contradictions, but it's carefully balanced. And like a carousel that keeps going faster and faster, it's jarring, but exciting... and you're sad when it's over.

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