April Roundup: Everybody Gets a Mixtape

Mixtape Madness: Well kids, it’s the end of our month long mixtape madness celebration. This month, we wrote mixtapes for bygone child stars and deceased musical legends. We wrote mixtapes based on our musical likes at ages 16 and 22. We wrote mixtapes for each other in the hopes that the mixtape recipient would start a band, get down with Stevie Wonder, and test drive some new songs.

Mixtapes for Celebrities: Warren Zevon and Lindsay Lohan by Claire and Joshua

Claire at 16: A Mixtape by Claire

Joshua at 16: A Mixtape by Joshua

Claire at 22: A Mixtape by Claire

Joshua at 22: A Mixtape by Joshua

Noura at 16: A Mixtape by Noura Hemady

Get the Band Back Together: A Mixtape for Joshua by Claire

I Promise, You’re Gonna Like This. Really. A Post for Claire by Joshua

Get to Know: We kicked off our Get to Know Series with five posts about five very different artists/bands. Each post is a handy 5 song guide to help you discover someone new.

Get to Know: Aimee Mann by Claire

Get to Know: The Decemberists by Joshua

Get to Know: Loudon Wainwright III by Claire

Get to Know: Miles Davis by Joshua

Get to Know: Arcade Fire by Joshua

First Show/Worst Show: We kept the First Show/Worst Show memories coming with a post by Baltimore based musician Andrew Luttrell. Want to see your post here next month? Submit your First Show/Worst Show today.

First Show/Worst Show: Andrew Luttrell

More Awesome Stuff:

No Guilt: Top 5 No Regrets Breakup Songs: Guest writer Amy Berkowitz offers up her Top 5 No Regrets Breakup Songs! Check out the video of the girl singing “No Guilt” by The Waitresses with her puppet…it’s amazing.

Tweet Tweet: Follow us on Twitter! We’re awesome.

RIP Levon Helm: We lost a musical great this month. RIP Levon Helm.

Listen to Covers: A collection of covers—add your favorite covers to the comments (and find some new great covers there too)

Song of the Day: Our daily mini soundtrack for you—enjoy!

***A big thank you to our guest writers this month: Amy Berkowitz, Noura Hemady, and Andrew Luttrell!

No Guilt: Top 5 No Regrets Breakup Songs (by Amy Berkowitz)

I thought I’d write a list of my top-five breakup songs, because there haven’t been enough of those on this blog. Just kidding! There have been plenty, and I’ve enjoyed reading each one. But this list is a bit different: All five of these songs are about breaking up and feeling no regrets. They’re about not liking the other person anymore, and feeling totally motivated to move on with your life. I personally think this is the healthiest mix a person could use to get themselves through a breakup. Sure, wallow around in a cat hair-covered hoodie humming “Nothing Compares 2 U” if that’s what makes you feel better, but I’ve found that listening to anything but these five songs after a breakup can be emotionally dangerous. You might wear that hoodie for two weeks straight and forget to eat. So here you go:

Note: Three of these five songs happen to have great videos. I think that ordering Papa Johns and staying at home watching YouTube videos with your best friend for one to two days is a pretty therapeutic thing to do, breakup or no. Definitely check out the videos.

“Black and White” by The dB’s

I’d say this is the best dB’s song. Some say this is the only good dB’s song. It’s the first track on their 1981 debut album, Stands for Decibels. I was at a party once where a girl put on this record and then dramatically got up to change it after “Black and White” because the rest of the album isn’t as good. It felt like an in-joke. I thought it was kind of abstractly mean. To be fair, If I were the dB’s, I probably would have sequenced the album differently. There are some total jams buried on side two, by the way (check out “Bad Reputation,” “Big Brown Eyes,” and “I’m in Love”). Anyway, “Black and White” is an amazing song. It does all the right things — it even comes to a complete silent stop in the middle! I love it when songs do that. And here’s the chorus: “Well I guess I just don’t enjoy you anymore.” Yes! That’s how it feels. You’re breaking up for a reason, you know? If you still enjoyed each other, you wouldn’t be breaking up. Another line from the song “Oh, we are finished / As of a long time ago / As of a long time ago.” That’s important to remember, too: If you’re breaking up, it’s been a long time coming. Things didn’t just suddenly get bad. In fact, you’ve been finished as of a long time ago — now you’re finally cutting the cord that’s been frayed for so long, and doesn’t it feel good? Doesn’t it feel like an impossibly bouncy guitar line that makes you want to get up and dance and wake up with a stranger?

“Amplifier” by The dB’s*

Breaking up with a self-obsessed musician? Great! I have just the song for that: It’s called “Amplifier,” and it’s another song by the dB’s. It’s got a strong narrative structure and sort of a country twang, and it starts: “Danny went home and killed himself last night.” Why did Danny kill himself? Because his ex-girlfriend broke into his house and stole everything — except for his amplifier. “She took his car, she took his bike / She took everything she thought he liked / And what she couldn’t take, she found a way to break / She left his amplifier.” Why is that especially depressing? Let’s look to the bridge for an explanation: “An amplifier’s just wood and wire / And wire and wood won’t do any good / When your heart is blazing like a wildfire / And all you’ve got to show for it’s an / Amplifier.” The music video is terrific. It features guitarist Peter Holsapple as Danny, who stands on a ladder with a noose around his neck, and later plays guitar while sitting on the ladder with the noose around his neck. Then, the other guys in the band heft up a piano so he can play piano while sitting on the ladder with the noose around his neck. Watch it until the haunting image of the towering amplifier rising out of smoke burns into your retinas. That’s how your self-obsessed musician ex-boyfriend feels right now: completely empty and lonely and starting to realize that he should’ve valued you more than his dumb gear. Or, he might be stoned and listening to Spacemen 3 and not thinking about you at all. But surely he’s having this realization on some level.

“No Guilt” by The Waitresses

This is really the best breakup song there is. And here’s a video of a spirited young woman lip-syncing it with a puppet — you’re welcome. The chorus goes: “I’m sorry that I don’t feel awful / It wasn’t the end of the world / I’m sorry that I can’t be helpless / It wasn’t the end of the world.” And the verses catalogue all of the improvements the singer has made to her life following the breakup, which are funny, quirky, inspiring, and spot-on. I’m going to quote some highlights: “Every day at seven, I’ve been watching Walter / I’ve been reading more and looking up the hard words / I’ve met people who get me on the guest list / My parents said that they would help me pay for grad school.” Also: “I know someone who really met Belushi / I fixed the toilet so it doesn’t always run / I moved a chair over by the window / I feel better if my laundry’s done.” In fact, you could use this song as a checklist to chart your own personal improvements after a breakup. Definitely move a chair over by the window if you haven’t done that already. It’s worth noting that the song starts, “Needed new posters, so I bought them.” This comes up a lot in breakup songs. Redecorating is important, and tearing down posters is very satisfying.

“Sleeping Aides and Razorblades” by The Exploding Hearts

Oh man, The Exploding Hearts. If you haven’t heard Guitar Romantic, the album this is from, you are in for a delight. I wish I could be there with you while you listened to it for the first time. Take a seat in that sunny chair I told you to set up and put Guitar Romantic on the stereo, and you won’t care about anything, because this record is one of the best things ever. Power pop from 2003. The vocals are so snotty and so sweet at the same time — yellow and pink, like the album art. And it’s not that the singer isn’t sentimental — he is; the song starts: “Well I felt so bad when I heard that song / Ya know it’s been such a long long time / It’s a little off-beat and it ain’t in tune / Ya know it’s just like this heart of mine.” But he also has his mind made up about how he feels about this girl and her decision to end the relationship: “And if it hurt (it hurt) when you left (you left) / Well girl ya know you only hurt yourself.” That is the takeaway from this song. Yep, he’s totally over her: “I got new girls and I’m runnin’ around / The house doesn’t look the same / I hung new posters on my walls / And the dog don’t remember your name.” What did I tell you? Another song about new posters!

“Picture to Burn” by Taylor Swift

This music video starts with a little scene — you know, like Bruce Springsteen’s video for “I’m on Fire.” Taylor and her best friend are spying on her ex-boyfriend with binoculars in his driveway (…), and they see him and his new girlfriend pull up to his house. Taylor’s friend is holding the binoculars, and exclaims: “He’s got a girl with him… She’s driving the truck.” Taylor, shocked, grabs the binoculars to see for herself: “He let her drive the truck? He never let me drive the truck!” And then the drums kick in, and the guitar, and we switch to a shot of a radiant and windblown Taylor performing the song on stage. She makes a wise observation in the second line: “I realize you love yourself more than you could ever love me.” I wish I’d thought about relationships that way when I was Taylor Swift’s age. I think it’s important to consider, after a breakup, the capacity that your ex has for love in general. It feels bad when someone doesn’t love you very much, but it’s nice to realize that it’s because they aren’t really able to love anyone very much. Moving on, the chorus is a perfect no-regrets breakup chorus, and it’s even better with her Southern accent: “I hate that stupid old pickup truck / You never let me drive / You’re a redneck heartbreak / Who’s really bad at lying / So watch me strike a match / On all my wasted time / As far as I’m concerned / You’re just another picture to burn.” Yes, Taylor, it was all wasted time. And that pickup truck you always wanted to drive? It is stupid and old. From personal experience, I do not recommend actually burning pictures. If you do feel the need to burn pictures, at least do it in a well-ventilated area.

* I’m going to be really nerdy and add this fun fact: There’s a They Might Be Giants song called “Twisting” (another really terrific break up song) that seems like it was partially inspired by “Amplifier.” John sings: “She doesn’t have to have her dB’s record back now.” And then the verse about amps: “She’s not your satellite / She doesn’t miss you / So turn off your smoke machine / And Marshall stacks.” Just like the amp rising from smoke in the “Amplifier” video, where the ex-girlfriend smashes the guy’s records. Just sayin. That’s probably why he picked the dB’s as the name to drop there. There it is: My contribution to all the epic TMBG song interpretations on the Internet.


I Promise, You’re Gonna Like This. Really. A Post for Claire

So, Claire’s list for me had this overarching theme – getting the band back together – but I’m not cool enough to create such a badass theme for my songs for her. My idea was to just find a few songs I knew she would like (including a few I’m sure she hasn’t heard) and make her be all like, “Damn, yo. Just….Damn.” Cuz that’s how I always do when it comes to mixes for people: “Oh man, who is this?” “The Beta Band.” “It’s good!” “I know.”

I know you’ll like these, Claire, even if it takes a few times through.

“Crown of Love” by Arcade Fire

I know you’re not supposed to start a mix on a downer, but I had to. This song how I think of breakups, and I have a feeling you may have felt this before. It’s such a pretty song, and Win Butler just oozes self-hatred and disgust in this song. He’s desperately asking for his lover back but hates the fact he’s come to this. And the music is perfect to describe that scene: it’s a droning, repetitive bass line played on the downbeats designed to drive every beat into your head with a drill. And then it speeds up! It’s a great song – the secret motive here is to make you listen to more Arcade Fire, which I know you’ll like.

“The Thrill is Gone” by Tracy Chapman and B.B. King

Ok, so, maybe two slow songs in a row is too much. But seriously. It’s fucking B.B. King playing the song he’s famous for with Tracy Chapman doing her thing. A thing I know you have a thing for. And she nails it here so hard, I wish she was the only one singing. I’m actually disappointed when B.B. takes the mike. And that never happens! But yeah. I’ve been really paying attention to the songs you’ve been putting up over the last few months and the blues are not represented well enough on your selections. So here’s a song to get you getting it on to the blues. Yes, that’s what I meant.

 “Rising Sun” by The Bridge

You kinda stole my thunder, two weeks running, when you included The Bridge on both of your posts about You at 16 and your post for me. But fuck it, I had to include this song. It’s tough for me to put this song on and not think of us at Bridge concerts. And I’m fairly sure you had a hard-on to this song long before I did. The point is, I had this on my list for you for like three weeks, and I was totally proven right. Also, this song rocks.

 “This is How We Do It” by Montell Jordan

There was no way I could write this list without one shitty 90’s pop song. Be honest with yourself: You are a pop music whore. And this fulfills all categories for songs you can’t help yourself to bounce to: Stupid, preposterous lyrics, a beat you can dance to, a simple and hilarious refrain, and overall ridiculousness. It’s patently crazy and right up your alley. It has lines like “Ever since I used to be a lower case ‘g’ / but I’m a big ‘G’” and “Designated driver got the keys to my truck” – only in the fucking 90’s could someone get away with that line – and “all the gangbangers forgot about the drive-by.” Ridiculous.

….Ok, so, I love it too. Also, bonus: The video is really fucking funny: What the fuck is up with the dude in the safari hat?!?

“I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)” by Stevie Wonder

It’s the song that ends High Fidelity. And it’s one of the best vocal performances by Stevie Wonder ever recorded on tape. It’s just gorgeous. And it’s a fucking ear-weevil like whoa. I put this on the list for two reasons: I know you either already love it or soon will and to make you endure the same fantastic torture I’ve been enduring for the past few weeks since I put it on one of my lists. It’s never more than three thoughts away from what I’m thinking.

But really, it’s one of the best Stevie Wonder songs ever done. It doesn’t have the intensity of “Superstition” or the base funk of “Maybe Your Baby,” but I’m convinced this could become your favorite Stevie song ever, simply because of how effortlessly pretty it is. You get sucked in to the sound and never want it to end. And when you finally get tired of him saying the song title…Bam! Right into the one of the funkiest sections Stevie can manage. Shazam!

Get the Band Back Together: A Mixtape for Joshua

Last week Joshua and I wrote posts about our Top 5 songs at 16, and both posts highlighted our early, local show going. Joshua kept it high brow (or at least non-embarassing) with Laughing Colors and Kelly Bell Band shows, I lowered that brow considerably with Voodoo Blue shows, and we both talked about our mid-teens love for The Bridge. But there was one shared show-going experience that we left out: Going to Joshua’s shows.

I saw Joshua play a lot in high school and in college—at art school coffeehouses,  in sweaty ballrooms at synagogues, at open mic nights. I saw him play at big parties and small parties, and one summer I saw him play once a week at these boozy balcony gigs. And he was good; not “Hey! Look at my friend with a guitar!” good, but genuinely good.

There’s a chapter in Nick Hornby’s “Songbook” where he talks about how much he respects Rod Stewart’s early work (a surprising point that I was prepared for based on this blog by Joshua). Nick Hornby says that Elvis Costello has some ideas for bringing Rod Stewart back to the masses, and Hornby himself has some ideas, and the chapter ends with a music geek daydream of reviving Rod Stewart’s career. I guess what I’m saying, Joshua, is that in this scenario you’re Rod Stewart, and Elvis Costello and I routinely talk about your musical future while eating sundaes and playing Trivial Pursuit (…in my dreams.) So here are some songs to listen to, to cover, and to think about as you get the band back together. And if that chapter on Rod Stewart taught me anything, it’s to stay away from straw hats. That’s my only piece of production advice (Elvis Costello will, of course, cover the rest.)

“Stop Talking,” by the 5 Chinese Brothers

I’ve always thought that you would really like the 5 Chinese Brothers, if I could just get it together and give you their albums. And since I haven’t, and am sure that I will forget the next time I see you, they’re at the top of this list. Singer Songwriter Beggerman Thief (the album this song is from) is one of my all time favorite albums and features some themes I think you could get down with—Baltimore love that borders on dislike, distressing father/son relationships, and breakup songs. Really, really good breakup songs that are so quotable they’ll spin through your head indefinitely. “I only wish you loved me/ Half as much as you’re enjoying this” is one of my favorite quotable moments, and it’s in this song (also see “I Always Knew” and “Don’t Regret”).

“Sledge Hammer,” by Peter Gabriel

One of the funnest, rowdiest covers I ever saw was when The Bridge covered “Sledge Hammer” at the Recher, probably 10 years ago. This is a song that was made to be covered at shows. It perks up a too mellow crowd, turns non-dancers into dancers, and gives the energy in the room a swift kick in the right direction. It’s classic Peter Gabriel mind control—though never a big fan, he has a few songs that are powerful tone-changers, that will swing the mood pendulum of your audience where ever you need to swing it. (Also if you found out that Peter Gabriel has scary mind control powers, would you really be surprised? Top 5 Maybe Mind Controllers: Peter Gabriel, David Byrne, Sting, Peter Frampton*, that girl who sings “Call Me Maybe”**)

“Rosie,” by The Bridge

You know how neither of us listen to The Bridge any more (other than in throwback, nostalgic ways)? This song made me wonder if we should change that. Also, though I haven’t heard you sing since some long ago karaoke night (did you sing, or did you just make Ashley and I sing “Ebony and Ivory”? Memories.), I think your voice would sound awesome on this.

“Let’s Straighten It Out,” by O.V. Wright

This is, in fact, already a cover, but a very good one, and I found it lodged halfway through “Songbook,” a book that solidifies Nick Hornby’s status as the unwilling godfather of the Charm City Jukebox. I like it because it’s not a break up song, or a love song—it’s a song that sounds and feels sexy, but in reality is about working on difficult issues in a long term relationship. It’s slow too, but not too slow, so if at some point you need to cool down your “Sledge Hammer” fueled audience, this would be an unexpected place to take them. Trust me, after listening to those songs back to back, it does the trick.

“You’ve Got a Friend,” by James Taylor

I’ll be honest: I think James Taylor has all the corny charms of frequent-pun-users and shiny, eager kids who try to convert you outside of college Student Centers (Taylor, to his credit, is not a pun abuser or Christ peddler, but on the scale of minor annoyances, they’re all on the same level)

One of the weirdest reading experience I ever had was with “Girls Like Us,” which tracks the careers of Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, and Carole King. It’s a great book, and there’s nothing particularly odd about it, except for the characterization of James Taylor, who comes across as a troubled drug addict rock star sex god. It’s not a new character; anyone who has ever seen a movie about musicians or read a book or fallen down a Wikipedia rabbit hole knows that’s pretty par for the course. But James Taylor? Really? It was like finding out Randy Newman got his start in porn.

While “Girls Like Us” made me take a new look at James Taylor the man, the Isley Brothers made me take a new look at James Taylor the musician. They turned “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” into soulful bedroom soundtrack fodder, and made me wonder if other Taylor songs could be re-imagined into something raunchy and delightful.

“You’ve Got a Friend” is a sugary song about the joys of friendship that, if delivered with a raised eyebrow and some solid funk, could be downright raunchy. Imagine it as an ode to long-standing booty calls (“You just call out my name/ And you know wherever I am/I’ll come running to see you again”). It’s an interpretation that could be simultaneously sexy and hilarious, since this song was relegated to the world of middle school choirs and youth group campfires long ago. It’s like finding a hidden, dirty double meaning in the Sesame Street theme song. Take a cue from the Isley Brothers and unlace this straightlaced Taylor gem.

* The title of Frampton Comes Alive! was Peter Frampton’s confession that he is a zombie.

**One day Carlie Rae Jepsen will rule us all. Exhibit A.