Sour Times of Summer – Random Gum, Summer 2017

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Yet another mix to get through the summer…

It’s fun to go back to old mixes – I have been doing these formally since 2004, so there are a lot of them. It’s extraordinary to feel so strongly the feelings felt at the time of selecting the songs. Even songs that did not have particular import at the time – now I can remember exactly the feeling associated with listening. The 2017 Moving On mix from the early part of the year, for example, included “Trouble” by Girl Ray, which was never a favorite, but now when I listen to it, I imagine this whirlwind trip to Stockholm in December 2016 to pick up my new car and the long drive home (5 hours), the strange feeling of it being snowy and wintry in Stockholm but not at home in the woods in western Sweden (really unusual reversal of winter fortune).

Or I look at the Halloween 2007 mix, and even though I had no idea at that point that I would be leaving Iceland the following year, there are all these hints scattered through everything that I would eventually move to Sweden. Not to mention the ongoing themes of melancholy and uncertainty (the entire 2007 mix reflects that). I can sense an almost palpable shift in the way the mixes were done and the mounting intensity of my music searches and listening as soon as I got my bearings in Norway/Sweden.

In 2008, I made a mix but was almost rootless, and I think I see that rootlessness in the ‘floating’ and almost lazy nature of the mix (even though I had connections to and reasons for the selections, but as a whole it remains one of my least favorite mixes). By 2009 I was deep into ‘discovery’ mode, and that has mostly continued ever since. In 2009, influenced heavily by a French guy, initials BB, dontcha know?? (When am I not under the influence of French guys?) I put a bunch of songs from Diving with Andy on the mix and promptly forgot all about this band until a few weeks ago when Mr Firewall mentioned he had seen the French TV show Maison Close and really liked some songs heard in it from a band whose name he misremembered, but which turned out to be Diving with Andy. Music is a bit like … puzzle pieces. They fit into place sometimes in more than one puzzle, sometimes many years after the puzzle is boxed up and put away.

I guess the truth is life shifted and became something totally different after I left Iceland. It has just taken me ten years to fully recognize and appreciate that difference. Now we are in the 13th year of these mixes. And every year, every time I think… why am I still doing this? But when I consider stopping, I just don’t.

Most parcels will contain some ultra-sour candy from Sweden (I have not included it for everyone, as I knew some people would not like it at all and others would be allergic or not able to consume one or another of the ingredients). I recognize that sour candy isn’t a lovely surprise to everyone (certainly not the way chocolate is welcomed), but sour candy is just about the only kind that I can’t resist. At least here you can appreciate the fun packaging. Rest assured, if I keep this up, I will probably revert to more universally palatable treats. Enjoy your summer!

Whole playlist on Spotify (except those songs that don’t exist there, of course)…

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The Good Goo of Random Gum: The Sour Times of Summer 2017

01 Flock of Dimes – “Semaphore” …What we cannot keep and we cannot kill/What we cannot communicate…

02 Mekons – “Ghosts of American Astronauts” …It’s just a small step for him/It’s a nice break from Vietnam…
“John Glenn drinks cocktails with God/In a cafe in downtown Saigon”

03 The Undercover Dream Lovers – “Good Luck” …Calm me down/we’ve both been here before…

04 New Order – “Thieves Like Us” …It’s called love/And somehow it’s become unmentionable…

05 Elvis Perkins – “Emile’s Vietnam in the Sky” …And do you ever wonder/Where you go when you die?…

06 Blouse – “No Shelter” …There is no shelter from this storm/Nothing in nature can make my body warm…
“Let’s be alone again, so far away/I’ll ditch all my friends/They won’t even miss me for a day”

07 Psychic Ills/Hope Sandoval – “I Don’t Mind” …Maybe we just can’t/Let it go…

08 Jason Molina – “Tower Song” …The end is coming soon, it’s plain/A warm bed just ain’t worth the pain…
The late Molina doing the late, great Townes van Zandt. “Your fear has built a wall between/Our lives and all what lovin’ means/Will have to go unfelt it seems/And that leaves only sorrow”

09 Chris Cornell – “Before We Disappear” …But there’s a door in every cell/A pearl inside of every shell…
RIP. Never my favorite artist but, my goodness.

10 Julia Holter – “Silhouette” …He can hear me sing/Though he is far/I will lose sight of him…
“No time to hesitate/I cede all my love and play your abandoned fool”

11 Lindstrøm, Prins Thomas – “Boney M Down”
No-No-No-Norway

12 Laura Marling – “Soothing” …I banish you with love/You can’t come in/You don’t live here anymore…
“May those who find you find remorse/A change of course, a strange discord resolved”

13 Robyn Hitchcock – “Mad Shelley’s Letterbox” …Love is all we lay to waste/Now it’s only lips of loneliness that taste you…

14 Charlie Hilton – “Pony” …Get off my back/I’m not your pony…
For Martina ❤ & our dog and pony shows and all the unreasonable expectations of corporate life

15 El Perro del Mar – “Breaking the Girl”
For dear Ben ❤, whom I think of often and miss

16 Aimee Mann – “Poor Judge” …And I can see your light on/Calling me back to make the same mistake again…
“You might have found some other reason/To leave me in that dark ravine/My heart is a poor judge/And it harbors an old grudge”

17 Pumarosa – “Priestess” …It must be hard, you’re being so statuesque…

18 Kingdom of the Holy Sun – “Flown Away”
Yay Seattle. Thanks to Naomi ❤

19 Gun Outfit – “Legends of My Own”
Originally an Olympia band… “I looked familiar in a foreign land/I couldn’t speak, but I could understand/From another life I rode/Into a desert of my own/And when I put my blanket down/I’m going to dream all over”

20 Matt Berry – “Take My Hand” …You could be the one for all I know…/…I can see the light, it looks like you…
For J ❤ “Everybody I know these days is boring me/Or ignoring me/But not you”

21 Martha Wainwright – “Around the Bend”
“I’ve been around the world and back again/I still can’t get those cards to win”

22 Mikko Joensuu – “There Used to Be a Darkness”
FUNland!

23 No Middle Name – “Fading Photo” …I didn’t fall in love to feel this bad…
“Got tickets for our favorite band/The original plan was just to hold my hand”

24 The Monochrome Set – “Eine Symphonie Des Grauens”

25 Shonen Knife – “Baggs”
Japan ❤ This reminds me so much of high school and searching Japanese music stores

26 Ibibio Sound Machine – “The Pot is on Fire”
Perfect for jumping around the kitchen, especially if the heating goes out in winter

27 Goldfrapp – “Anymore” …The power of you/Transforming me…

28 Le Couleur – “Femme”

29 Vorderhaus – “Love Finds Suffocated Blood”
Thank you, ML

30 Moon City Boys – “Rockets”
Swedish music ❤

31 Esin Afşar – “Zühtü”
It’s all Jill ❤ all the time. Thanks, love.

32 Jane Weaver – “Mission Desire”
Maybe I just love people named Jane ❤

33 Jay Som – “Rush”

34 Papercuts – “Future Primitive” …We are here and we’re gone/It’s our work that marches on…

35 Blue House – “I Found My Limit”


36 Heron Oblivion – “Rama”
Another glorious thanks-to-KEXP discovery

37 Amen Dunes – “Lonely Richard”

38 Chris Cornell – “Imagine”
More RIP sentiments

39 Yves Montand – “Sanguine
Ah, Jacques Prévert

40 Kevin Ayers – “May I?” …May I sit and stare at you for a while?/I’d like the company of your smile…

41 The Cure – “How Beautiful You Are”
For J, sparking my memories of Baudelaire and contemplations on humanity. Love for Gary and our junior high school obsessions

42 The Clientele – “Breathe in Now
43 Low – “What Part of Me” …What part of me don’t you want?…
“Can’t you see that I’m bleeding out here?”

44 Tim Darcy – “Still Waking Up” …Yeah you say I’m not awake, but still alive/Isn’t it funny how that happens?…
“Something about the way you blink your eyes/Tells me that you’re not ready/Tells me that you’re still waking up, alone/With too many years left to plan”

45 Novella – “Does the Island Know” …without consequence/is insanity…
Consequences…!

46 Fionn Regan – “The Meetings of the Waters” …Meetings of the waters/Heartaches in the woods…

47 Dusty Springfield – “Wishin’ and Hopin’”
Just a groovy sound that reminded me of something – but definitely not admirable lyrics

48 Robyn Hitchcock – “Flavour of Night” …But who needs to talk when you’re caught in the flavour of night?…
“Eyes you don’t trust, but the fingers have beckoned/How long you got left? Well how long do you reckon?/But who goes to waste when they’re tasting the flavour of night?”

49 Soundgarden – “Black Hole Sun”
RIP. At this point the most cliché, overused song but oddly it was one I had not much heard until Cornell died. I was more likely to run into Soundgarden members at the Broadway/Cap Hill Safeway than hear their music

50 Charlie Hilton – “Funny Anyway”
“Put your arms around me/Tell me I’m ok, even though I’m not laughing/It’s funny anyway”

51 Kadhja Bonet – “Honeycomb”
“Beckoning – with fickle majesty/Your whims are always met/Honeycomb/And I lucky fool in courtly jest/But the jokes are all on me”

52 Maybird – “Big Sun Explosion” …I finally lifted my eyelids to see light/And when they were open, I saw the big sun explosion…
“Poor vision and poor health, what do you tell yourself?/Objects appear a little more clear when they’re nearer”

53 Yo La Tengo – “My Heart’s Not In It” …And there’s just nothing I can do/To get that feeling I had with you…

54 Cate Le Bon – “I Just Wanna Be Good”
For SD Firewall. “I don’t wanna be the cold cuts lying on your floor/I don’t wanna be the stray dog scratching at your door”

55 The Clean – “Anything Could Happen”
New Zealand ❤

56 Michael Kiwanuka – “Falling”

57 Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam – “1,000 Times”
“I had a dream that you were mine/I’ve had that dream a thousand times”

58 Guided By Voices – “Tractor Rape Chain”
Alcoholic Mr Rogers! Love to Naomi. “Why is it every time I think about you/Something that you have said or implied makes me doubt you/Then I look into your cynical eyes and I know it/As if it never meant anything to me”

59 Bjørn Torske – “Hard Trafikk”
More (S)Norway

60 Pepe Deluxé – “Go Girl Go” …Ladies: You win…
For Annette and Tilda: “You’re at the party and it’s your show”

61 Electrelane – “The Valleys”
Taken from/inspired by Siegfried Sassoon’s “A Letter Home

62 Tom Williams – “Everyone Needs a Home” …There’s nothing here for us any more…

63 Curve – “Ten Little Girls”
Still sounds as good today as when it was new. Curve still comes to mind often

64 Trance Farmers – “Lone Star”

65 Savoy Motel – “Hot One”
Another jumping-around-the-house kind of song. Keeps you awake and warm

66 Ultimate Painting – “Into the Darkness”

67 Julie Byrne – “Sleepwalker”
“I lived my life alone before you/And with those that I’d never succeeded to love/And I grew so accustomed to that kind of solitude/I fought you, I did not know how to give it up”

68 Portishead – “Sour Times”
Mostly just to accompany super sour candy

69 Karl Blau – “If I’ve Died on You”
From good old Anacortes

70 David Bowie – “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” …Oh, no, love, you’re not alone…

71 Aimee Mann – “Invisible Ink” …I suppose I should be happy to be misread/Better be that than some of the other things I have become…
“Oh, I could get specific but/Nobody needs a catalog/With details of a love I can’t sell any more”

72 Low Roar – “Give Me an Answer”
“I know the time and the space that you need; it’s blurry but I’ll get on/It’s getting hard to tell day from a day, just say it and I’ll move on”. If only people would lead with actual answers

73 Piano Magic – “Closure”
“Let’s get this thing sewn up, let’s get this thing signed off, let’s tie up these loose ends/cause you say we can’t just be friends/All these people open wounds/the English always too polite to say what really must be said/They’d rather take it to their death/But you never get, no you never get…closure”

74 Robyn Hitchcock & Emma Swift – “Life is Change” …you don’t want to see that life is change…

75 Townes van Zandt – “If I Needed You” …And you will miss sunrise/If you close your eyes…

76 The Finn Brothers – “Last Day of June” …The city draws its breath in/I can almost hear it thinking/There are people within my walls/See their wild disorder/Driving their machines/Swarming like a million bees…

77 Meshell Ndegeocello – “Either Way I Lose”
It’s weird but this song and interpretation of it desperately makes me want to have sex. Haha.

Come Away with Me & other randomness

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It’s always a world of tiny coincidences. A few weeks back we were batting about the expression ‘come away with me’, daydreaming of running away and doing things both out of control and outside of our “normal” lives. Eventually we more or less came to substitute ‘Norah Jones with me’ for the expression ‘come away with me’ – for what should be obvious reasons. I had not thought about Norah Jones in years, if ever. Then suddenly, the very next day, I saw that she gave the first performance at the Fox Theatre in Detroit after Soundgarden the night of Chris Cornell’s death. Jones did “Black Hole Sun” (who didn’t, though?) and made it sound more like something Tori Amos than Soundgarden.

In another coincidence, I told some colleagues at lunch the other day (sitting in glorious and rare sun) the story of someone I used to work with who was basically a complete lunatic (I used it as a story to show how difficult it can be to fire federal workers). I had not thought of the crazy co-worker in years, but I got a message from my mom later that same evening telling me he had died.

“The resultant fervor of human belonging”Wole Soyinka

Life is full of these little things – coincidences and things we want in some fiendish fever to connect: the pieces must connect! … I wonder if it is all completely random or if it’s feedback from “energy” we’ve put into the world by conjuring these things up actively that then comes back to us like a boomerang.

Probably it comes down to intent and motivation.

As Pamuk asks in Strangeness in my Mind: “Intentions come in two forms: That which our heart intends and that which our words intend”. And these are indeed different phenomena. The heart will lead us to do the most irrational things (‘come away with me’ and whatnot), intending as it does to make us connect, impervious to the knowledge that it is a bad idea. The head, our words, will instead look for reason and sense, and in some cases, protective gear and weaponry in the form of iron-clad excuses not to do things that maybe we should brave our fears to do.

Are we seeking the missing pieces that link our lives and events together? Are we looking for words to explain coincidental happenstance? Do we intend to share knowledge (“Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete.” –Paul Kalinithi, When Breath Becomes Air)? Do we intend to join what Soyinka referred to as the ‘fervor of human belonging’ (which has its duality, light and dark)?

Motivation can be even more tenuous. I find myself succumbing, as Doris Lessing describes in The Golden Notebook, to the pull of acting out multiple personalities, playing different roles, playing off another (like Saul and Anna), driven by the one keenly stupid motivation: “I wanted to see what would happen”. Maybe this is a solid motivation in scientific experimentation. In human relations, not so much. But with curiosity the driver, the one great motivator, you do get adventures; you do get disasters. No one will claim your life was devoid of interesting stuff.

“And yet—an excitement. The unspeakable excitement you feel when a galloping disaster promises to release you from all responsibility for your own life.” -from Hateship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage  Alice Munro

Or is that just the cynic speaking?

Wave goodbye

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“So now you start to recognize
That every single path you see
Leads to a tear in your eye
So wave goodbye, wave goodbye”
Chris Cornell, “Wave Goodbye

The other day virtually everyone I ever knew in Seattle (okay, not everyone, but an awful lot of people) went to see U2 play their now 30-year-old album The Joshua Tree in its entirety. Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder joined them on stage. I joked with my mom that Eddie Vedder is now the Tom Skerritt of music. See, Tom Skerritt constantly shows up everywhere – in film, in TV shows, in the fucking Pacific Northwest Ballet. He turns up in the big budget stuff, in tiny, no-budget indies, in large, memorable roles and in the tiniest roles ever. I mean, the guy appears in MASH (the film), Top Gun, Steel Magnolias, Picket Fences, Cheers, Huff and a whole compendium of other things. There were moments when I thought I was safe from Skerritt, and then, as if just to taunt me, he’d appear – for example, the little-known film, Smoke Signals, an adaptation of Sherman Alexie’s short story “This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” from his book The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. Or for example when he turns up in the film Singles for just a few minutes of screen time as the mayor of Seattle.

I could carry on almost endlessly listing off Tom Skerritt sightings, but my point: Eddie Vedder turns up on other musicians’ stages (frequently in Seattle but often in cities all over the world) so often that he rivals Skerritt’s ubiquity – only in the music realm.

It’s strange, then, today to think that Eddie Vedder is kind of … the last man standing of grunge-era frontmen. News broke today that Chris Cornell of Soundgarden had died at age 52 after playing a triumphant show in Detroit. Never quite “of” the grunge ‘movement’ (if you could really call it that), never quite getting his due as a songwriter (this has immediately changed upon posthumous evaluation). I’m guilty of underestimating the guy – I never cared a whole lot for the Soundgarden sound but have only, in Cornell’s death, taken a look at the songs and lyrics. I did not recognize the beauty or power of his talent (either the writing or the voice) fully until seen in another context (i.e., both in death and in hearing him in stripped-down versions of songs from other genres and sounds).

Of his own work, I honestly had no idea that Cornell’s writing was often so dark (even if that is not all it was). But I was certainly not alone in this errant and incomplete appraisal; masked by various labels and categorizations (“He was a cock-rocker in an era when everyone was supposed to be too depressed or doped up to fuck”, ‘grunge’ being but one of them, it’s almost as though many people just didn’t listen to what was beneath the sound. (One of the many articles on Cornell today cites, as an example, Johnny Cash’s cover of Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage” as an unlikely avenue through which people started to see Cornell’s writing genius.)

“It’s sort of a morbid exchange when somebody who is a writer like that dies, and then everyone starts picking through all their lyrics.”

What can you say about something like this? It’s a sad ending for someone who entertained, who evaded easy categorization, who defied labels and continued to reinvent and moreover brought solace and beauty to the lives of so many people. This is the best that can be said for most of us.

Photo (c) 2007 Guillermo Ruiz used under Creative Commons license.