Happy Birthday, Claire! (Sort of!)

It's the birthday owl!

It’s the birthday owl!

So, yeah, I’m a day late on this, but I’m hoping I can make up for it with this playlist. Also I hope it makes up for the fact that I haven’t written on this blog for, I dunno, forever? Too long.

This playlist arises out of a conversation I’ve had a few times with Claire about the music at her upcoming wedding, namely that Claire has exacting standards when it comes to music. The basic idea was good music, and a complete lack of things you hear far too often at these types of gatherings. I’m of course talking about any song that requires a large group of people to do the same steps in the same order for 5 minutes – basically any song with the word “slide” ending the title. I get that. It’s tough to “program” for a wedding – you have to appeal to the drunk 20-somethings that comprise the friend group while still allowing for the parental groups to get their groove on as well.This is a task I’m usually uniquely suited to. I love obsessively putting together playlists that appeal to a wide demographic, and I like to think I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

This, however, was a real challenge for me, because of the fact I cannot, for the life of me, dance. Not even a little bit. It’s really weird, too, because it’s not a matter of time keeping or feeling the rhythm – I’ve played bass for two-plus decades. I can stay in the pocket no problem, I can set myself up behind the beat no issue. I can wait 140 bars not playing anything and come in on the and-of-three without a second thought. Can I move my arms and legs in a pleasing fashion to a beat? Not to save my life.

Still, I had to try. I decided the best way to do this effectively was to come up with a theme appropriate for a wedding put on by Claire. That theme is this: middle school dance, circa 1997 meets coked-out disco, circa 1978 meets the dance club from Walk Hard: A Dewey Cox Story where people go to dance erotically. I can almost hear the squeal of joy across the coast when Claire hears this list – it’s chock full of those tracks that makes a dance floor go, “Ooooohhhh!”

Some quick hits:

  • I had to start the list off oddly and awesomely, with the New Orleans-style bounce jam from Mystikal, “Bouncin’ Back (Bumpin’ Up Against The Wall).” It’s ridiculous and the beat does, in fact, bounce. And those horns!
  • There was no way I was going to make a list for Claire’s birthday or wedding that didn’t include “Return of the Mack.” I think she might walk down the aisle to it.
  • “Go Your Own Way” isn’t perhaps the most danceable, but it is a song to jump up and down and shout and play air drums. Maybe it can be played after the chicken dance.
  • I did keep to a couple wedding cliches – you can’t have a wedding without some Michael Jackson. I think it’s actually illegal in most states.
  • The real crown jewel of this list is, as it was always going to be, “Ignition Remix,” which is why it’s the last song. I toyed with playing it first, but I didn’t wanna blow my wad on the first song. It’s such an awesome song, I’m not sure I remember what it was remixing.

Happy birthday, Claire, and I cannot wait for your wedding.

Stephanie Tanner’s Makeout Party Mixtape

gia from Full House

Who are the rebel icons who inspired your wild spirit in your formative years? David Bowie? Courtney Love? Gia from Full House?

Yeah, Gia from Full House. Me too. Because she started smoking when she was 11 and threw makeout parties and had a perpetual jean jacket that epitomized the word “bitchin.” Clearly I was a Stephanie Tanner (precocious sarcastic nerd rocking questionable haircuts) tryna be a DJ (good at school, boys, and having blonde hair/ editor of the school newspaper). But Gia was maybe my first exposure to a TV bad girl, (even though they reformed her in later seasons and made her a fun loving side kick, who knows why, we all know that role belonged to Kimmy Gibler). Her final rebellion pre-sidekick transition takes place in one of my favorite sitcom episodes—the one, the only, “Making Out Is Hard to Do.”

After school special style episodes of all 90s family sitcoms are clearly the best, and “Making Out Is Hard To Do” is no exception. Gia throws a lights-out, frenching-fest while her mom is working the night shift at the restaurant. Stephanie, of course, shows up with a board game. But even she can’t escape the strong desire to mack, which she does, briefly, before (25 YEAR OLD SPOILER YOU GUYS) she calls home for a ride and the party gets busted by one of our nation’s filthiest comedians.

I fulfilled my life long dream of becoming an early 90s makeout party DJ with this playlist, and answered the question on all of our minds: What would Gia put on her makeout party mixtape? Lets take a closer look:

  • “Satellite” by Dave Matthews Band: Oh Gia, little do you know that this will remain the makeout music du jour for the next several decades of bros. And no one can completely avoid the siren song of bros. Look forward to OAR.
  • “All That She Wants” by Ace of Base: Because it is the 90s and it is mandatory and you already ruined “I Saw the Sign,” or maybe you do that in the future? There are limits to my Full House knowledge. There aren’t many, but there are some.
  • “Fade Into You” by Mazzy Star: Obviously swiped from the tape deck of a brooding college aged older sister who we never see. I imagine her coming home on breaks with a backpack full of zines and feelings and a Tiger Trap tape.
  • “The Sweetest Taboo” by Sade: Falls into the “stolen from mom” category, a category that, if the show had gone on for three more seasons, would’ve included the station wagon and some cheap chardonnay.
  • “Back And Forth” by Aaliayah: The jam, forever and always. Pairs well with makeout party mainstays like “I’ll Make Love to You” and “Dreamlover.”

Hey—were early 90s hits racy in a way that feels, while technically less explicit in language, more frankly sexual? I used to sing the words to many of these songs, loudly, whenever I got the chance, and the results of relistening now are blush-worthy.

Anyway—go forth. Makeout. Channel you inner rebellious teen. Meet me in the comments for a 90s nostalgia party—your favorite cringeworthy early 90s song, or Full House episode. GO!

Summer 2014 Belongs to Burger Records

burger records image

It’s summertime, kids—time to get the highest SPF and the fuzziest guitar hooks. The season is four days old, but already a musical success, because I finally have a name for the genre of music that I want to listen to from February through August (yes, I start rebellious summer music season early—Bay Area, no seasons, you know the drill). “Suburban perma-teen mutants.” Or “sugary, eccentric power pop and audacious garage rock, extolling a carefree message of love, music and DIY attitude.”

Basically, if Burger Records touched it, I want in. They’re part indie record label, part cassette evangelist, part record store, part “rock n roll philanthropic quasi-religious borderline-cultish propaganda spreading group of suburban perma-teen mutants.” They sum up my summer 2014 sound, and I’m hoping you’ll get equally obsessed. Here are five starter songs from five bands with Burger Records connections that belong on your summer playlists.

“Sweetest Talk” by Habibi 

I’m in a fight with Spotify Radio right now. Buddy, we get it, I love Habibi, but I’m getting to that territory where I know it’s too much and I’m on the edge of burn out.

I’ve gotta be careful. This isn’t a Top 40 jam that I want to OD on and discard. This is a classic, the kind of album I’ve been waiting for, one that deserves a dedicated dance party beyond the one occurring daily in my living room. Do you like the kind of Motown girl group inspired, indie rock songs that demands twitchy syncopated dancing, turned up speakers and rolled down windows? The kind of songs that make you want to drive faster and stay out later and get in a dash of trouble, because you know you have the perfect soundtrack? Here you go. Habibi. Enjoy.

“Gold Sneakers” by Wax Idols

Clock in at maybe two and a half minutes. Sound breathless. Create breathlessness. Conjure words and feelings like “giddy,” “elated,” hell…maybe even “jubilant.” Yes, light hearted garage rock can be downright jubilant in the hands of Wax Idols, especially with lyrics like “Can’t you just be happy to be alive/ Either way, I wanted you to know/ I l-l-l-love you.”

It’s a summer song recipe, all of this, and “Gold Sneakers” should be your go-to example of a summer song done right. Serve it up on every party playlist for the next three months.

“Only One” by Colleen Green

I was in DC on a business trip and I couldn’t stop calling stuff fun. It’s a verbal twitch that makes me cringe—one part stress, one part exhaustion, combine and the results for yours truly is a weird adjective fixation. I unknowingly pick one and embrace it, hard.

Colleen Green is fun though—in fact, she might be the funnest, and this is no twitch (I know this for a fact, since I just went to an event where inexplicably everything was “awesome.” Sigh.). “Only One” is a rare tribute to awesome boyfriends. The lyrics are straight forward loving relationship gems, undisturbed by jealousy or cynicism. The high potential for cheesiness (the chorus is “Uh huh/ Oh yeah/ I really love my boyfriend”) is mitigated by Colleen Green’s sweet distorted vocals and all around relentless coolness.

“Dreamphone” by Peach Kelli Pop

Suburban summer time blues get the twinkly vaguely retro treatment with “Dreamphone.” It’s all sitting in your room alone, a head dizzy with calls you want to make but never will. A baby blue phone under your pillow; crushes and longing all dressed up with bells and cymbals and yummy fuzzy vocals. In an alternate universe, we all wear little pastel dresses and play bass guitar and this is a summer hit.

“Generator” by Gap Dream

Weird dreamy pop, with that stretched out sound like bodies slowing down in heat. Words tumble out like they’re clinging to the tongue. Underneath it all, the steady clap, bright pockets of a borderline surf rock sound.

It’s almost never drag hot here—maybe a week here and there, and everyone loses their mind. Some kind of psychic energy in the city goes unhinged, unlike in Baltimore and DC where there’s a persistent low tremor of humid discontent, the kind that makes you feel mean and wild. It can be a little fun in small doses, when you misbehave in small ways and the mean never quite sets in. You stay out a little too late, you say the wrong right thing. “I’ve got a funny feeling/ everything’s gonna be alright/ You always do things better at night,” Gap Dream teases on repeat at the end. Spot on parting words for sweaty summer malcontents.

In Which Justin Timberlake Makes Better Human Beings of Us All (A Guest Post By Daniel Saunders)


This year, I finally stopped clinging to any notion that I don’t love pop music above all else. I tried to tell myself that I was a bigger fan of indie stuff for the past few years, but the best defense I had was that I just didn’t listen to the radio all that much. It made me the worst kind of music snob: the illiterate. I made mash-ups on my guitar to prove that every Katy Perry song sounds the same and that Justin Bieber is basically Rebecca Black with Usher’s money behind him, with very little knowledge of their larger music libraries to back me up. Meanwhile, I still listened to Jason Mraz as if his opera-trained voice made up for the fact that his music usually sounds like a nursery rhyme wearing a fedora.

That all changed when I learned Justin Timberlake was coming out with a new album. Suddenly, I was ten years old again, and all five of the CDs I owned were either Backstreet Boys or N*SYNC. To me, those were the good old days of pop, when no matter if artists were in love, heartbroken, or anywhere in between, they would still find a way to have fun. I don’t know why I thought pop music ever lost that, but I’m gonna go ahead and blame the rise of dubstep.

south park

Then, my good friend and fashion blogger Maddie (plug #1: http://modaiolo.wordpress.com/) made me listen to “Suit & Tie” and finally, the fun was back, and this time, it was sexier. It took some modern sounds, some Motown, some Jay-Z, and a little bit of class, and rolled up a big, fat blunt with it. And it was awesome. And I was (and still am) obsessed. And I started listening to the radio again. And for the first time since wub-wub dropped the bass along with all the fucks I had to give, it seemed like the artists actually dared to put out music they were proud of as opposed to what would get people to dance mindlessly (read: Rihanna 2009-11). And though these 5 songs weren’t all on the radio this year, they’re the reasons I’ll keep listening.

“Same Love” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Mary Lambert

“Thrift Shop” proved that there are more good white rappers out there than Eminem. “Same Love” did what more mainstream rappers should be: going personal and political. Drake can go on and on about that time he got to second base under the bleachers in seventh grade; Kanye can (and probably will) give a free copy of “Blkkk SkkkN Head” to everyone who buys his $150 white T-shirt; Kendrick Lamar can take a huge dump on Big Sean (too late); it doesn’t matter. No hip-hop song was more important than this one this year.

“Mirrors” by Justin Timberlake

I could probably write three separate posts about Justin Timberlake and why this year should belong to him, but I’ll settle for writing about this song. Simply put, it’s what N*SYNC would sound like if they were still around today. A capella groups (plug #2: http://www.facebook.com/HarmonicCombustion), which are one of the hottest So Hot Right Now trends of 2013, have a huge boner for this song. I don’t think it’s the best song off of his album (that honor goes to “That Girl”), but it’s perfect as a pop song. The hook is catchy as hell, the lyrics are just deep enough so that it won’t lose the 7-year-olds listening, and it’s sung well. Extra props to Timbaland for making the best-produced album in a damn long time.

Side note: though the breakdown is unpopular, I love it, especially when paired with the video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuZE_IRwLNI), which is also my favorite of 2013.

“Ragtop Car” by Noisettes

Noisettes have been written before on this blog, because they rule. Hard. Seriously, if you haven’t heard of them before, do yourself a favor and spend some time getting to know them. This song, off their 2012 album “Contact,” is the most laid-back love song I’ve heard in a really long time. Though it’s not popular in this country, it is pop music, and I’m including it because I think it’s everything “Ho Hey” wanted to be but couldn’t because The Lumineers kept writing the same song over and over again on their last album.

“Get Lucky” by Daft Punk ft. Pharell Williams

Man, did Daft Punk have it right this year. This song sums up pretty much what the entirety of “Random Access Memories” was trying to say: dance music can and should be simple. Besides the indisputable fact that Pharell is basically King Midas when he touches a track, and should be revered as highly as bacon, “Get Lucky” was Daft Punk’s answer to dubstep, and I think it’s nearly dead because of songs like this. That’s not to say I don’t like dubstep; there are subgenres like trap and house which, despite the fact that they’re still largely underground—never mind; that sentence doesn’t deserve an end. The point is, real instruments have started to find their way back into computerized dance music, and SURPRISE—it’s fun to have both, which is what these faceless French nerds have been saying the whole time.

“Somebody” by Jukebox the Ghost

I can’t figure out why this band isn’t more popular. They kick a lot of kinds of ass, and after seeing them live, they kick all kinds of ass. “Somebody” did come out in 2012, but it’s definitely my favorite song of 2013. It’s balls-to-the-wall sunshine that clearly came from a personal place, and if that’s not fun to you, then you can continue being a cynical asshole. I’ll be in 2014, where hopefully, hipsters will go to die, and the mainstream can have just as much to offer as everywhere else.

Happy Birthday, Claire!

So in keeping with my birthday wishes mixed with ridiculous 80’s songs, I have chosen the 1981 not-so-smash hit (well, actually, I think it did ok, as it was written to try to get Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday declared a national holiday) “Happy Birthday” by none other than Mr. Stevie Wonder. Not only is it hilariously 80’s, but just try not to have that happy birthday chorus stuck in your head for the rest of the day!

Bonus song, cuz Claire is the jam: