01 Grace Lightman – Halloween is Over
Because Halloween really is over 02 Inspiral Carpets – This is How It Feels
Lonely and nostalgic 03 Robyn Hitchcock – Raining Twilight Coast
“Just one thing, baby, you forgot my heart”. Glasgow in May 04 Soccer Mommy – Switzerland
“i trace and memorize your curves and lines until my fingers start to bleed
we could go some place alone
don’t you see
we could go somewhere it snows
just you and me
we could go to switzerland
never come back home again “ 05 Calypso Valois – Amoureuse 06 Luwten – Double for Me…You don’t want to need but need to know what you want/You think that if you need too much you’ll end up with none…
“What you said is not what you meant
You haven’t quite figured it out yet” 07 Lykke Li – Love Me Like I’m Not Made of Stone
Sweden 08 Nap Eyes – Alaskan Shake
Nova Scotia 09 Moonface, Siinai – The Nightclub Artiste
Pretty prolific Canadian from delightful British Columbia 10 Elvis Perkins – While You Were Sleeping 11 Niobe – Hawaii Duet 12 Summer Aviation – Thrust
Old friends 13 Nana – Gato é Crime, Denuncie
meow… meow… 14 DRINKS – Hermits on Holiday
For beloved grumpy would-be hermits and mugwumps 15 The Amazing – Perfect Day for Shrimp
Why, Swedish, of course… 16 Black Marble – Iron Lung 17 Vashti Bunyan – If I Were
A name-dropping opportunity 18 Lily & Madeleine – Devil We Know…Come the memories, come the shivering cold, let the rain fall…
Better the liar you know… 19 Fats Domino – Every Night About This Time
RIP – 2017 20 Al-Masrieen – Asef Gedan
Egypt. Cheers to Aurélien and Cat 21 Moon Palace – Shapeshifter
Is a person a liar or just a shapeshifter? …Seattle 22 Sylvia Striplin – You Can’t Turn Me Away 23 The Third Bardo – I’m Five Years Ahead of My Time 24 Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – The Pilot…A tough-love motherfucker, who was born a clown…
“What could I say? What was I after?
I forgot, but you figured it out for me again with your radio silence” 25 Sevdaliza – The Language of Limbo
Iranian-Dutch 26 Over the Rhine – Faithfully Dangerous
Memories of the 1990s. “I wonder which part of this will leave a scar”. Ohio. 27 LCD Soundsystem – Emotional Haircut
Glasgow in May? 28 Anchorsong – Butterflies 29 David Cassidy – I Think I Love You
RIP – 2017 30 Cults – Right Words 31 An Luu – Pourquoi tu me fous plus des coups? 32 Christopher Owens – Heroine (Got Nothing on You) 33 St Vincent – Sugarboy 34 Sébastien Tellier – Drunk on the Radio 35 Luwten – Indifference
Netherlands 36 Maggie Rogers – Alaska (acoustic)
“And I walked off you
And I walked off an old me” 37 Kyu Sakamoto – Sukiyaki
The old days: Japan 38 Laibach – Drzava
Slovenia 39 Otis Redding – That’s How Strong My Love Is
You can’t not love Otis 40 Eivør – Salt
Much love to very music-loving colleague, Eva
“langt burtur úr landi
hómi eg gráan av minnum
lati aldurnar taka meg
føli djúphavið darra
havið er í mær
er saltið í tárunum” 41 Tropic of Cancer – The Dull Age 42 Helado Negro – Lengua Larga
“Abre tu boca que quiero conocer
Y hay un gran vacío
Conocido” 43 Sound of Ceres – Gemini Scenic
For twins of all kinds: birthday twins, astrological twins, lost twins 44 Patio Furniture – Please, Please, Please Let me get what I want
A song for the hardy, sturdy patio furniture 45 Neşe Alkan – Kaçma Güzel
Turkiye 46 Acetone – Shaker 47 Aimee Mann – Knock It Off…You had your chances but now they’re gone…
“Seattle finally couldn’t hold her” 48 Summer Aviation – Angle of Attack
Old friends, lovely sounds 49 Coparck – A Dog and Pony Show
Martina! Here’s to, if not the end of dog and pony shows, at least new and exciting ones 50 Shura – Nothing’s Real
“I’m a dead girl walking
I need medicine” 51 Salma Agha – Barish Men Main Khari 52 Natalia Lafourcade – No Más Llorar
“No más llorar
Sé que ya lo nuestro no tiene remedio
Pero no más llorar” 53 Anna Burch – Tea-Soaked Letter
“I forgot to fake
The way that I was feeling
I guess it’s too late
Now all my cards are showing” 54 Malena Zavala – Should I Try (acoustic)
Argentina 55 Mdou Moctar – Iblis Amghar
Tuareg/Niger 56 Softer Still – 1993
England, of course 57 Ages and Ages – How It Feels
Portland, Oregon 58 Jaws of Love – Love Me Like I’m Gone
Thanks, with love, to Andreas 59 Heartless Bastards – Marathon
Cincinnati (why are people always surprised that Ohio has not only a bunch of cities but a ton of bands?). Not my kind of marathon, but okay… 60 Marta Kubišová – Cesta
Requisite Czech. Love to Martina, dearest Anne and Mr MI 61 P.P. Arnold – Medicated Goo
Good goo of random gum and love and life 62 Hatchie – Sure
Australia 63 Mattiel – Not Today
“Everything’s okay – but maybe not today” 64 Cinnamon Tapes – Cinnamon Sea
São Paulo. 65 France Gall – Les sucettes
RIP – 2018 66 Xenoula – Tororoi
South Africa/Wales 67 Essaie Pas – Futur Parlé
Montréal, bien sûr 68 Jonathan Bree, Clara Viñals – Say You Love Me Too
Thanks to Tom 69 Julia Holter – Don’t Make Me Over
The simplicity of this song makes me overly emotional
“Don’t make me over
Now that I can’t make it without you” 70 Angel Olsen – Fly On Your Wall
“I found a feeling inside
Or should I say it found me
I turned into someone I
Never imagined I’d be”
How do you tell a musician you’ve admired for more than 30 years how much their music means to you, how much it means that you were finally able to see him perform after 30 years of waiting for and wanting to? Providing the soundtrack to my nomadic life, he (Robyn Hitchcock) too has wandered, touring a host of unusual places, often landing in places where I should have seen him (Seattle). But I was always somewhere else – wrong place, wrong time. Finally, finally, I was able to catch him last night in Oslo in a small venue called Cafe Mono. Against all logic or reason, standing there in a small crowd, I found myself getting choked up with the emotion of the moment, and thought, “Ah yes,” because I do tend to forget this, “This is why we go to concerts and participate in these kinds of experiences.”
After the show, I had my 15 seconds to say hello and thank him, but I found it difficult to be able to find the right words in that moment. How can you convey something meaningful without being a babbling idiot cliché? I am not a ‘lingering’ or manic/maniac fan type (and I needed to jump on the subway to get back to my car for the long drive back to the woods) who sticks around to talk to musicians, but this time I felt such a need to say thank you (and the place was so small and all the Norwegians swarmed out quickly when the show ended). But feeling a bit tongue-tied, I managed only the thank you I intended (maybe that was enough) and the mist (“whoever remembers only mist – what does he remember?“) of his mild incredulity that I came from Seattle (“Viva! Sea-Tac”) but had somehow never seen him in the 30 years I had wanted to. Of course, touring musicians are not the only ones who wander.
What I felt like saying was some combination of the impersonal and personal. I never would have because I’m not that person, encroaching on other people’s space and time. It was rough enough to say ‘thank you’.
More impersonally, that Hitchcock is woven into the fabric of influence (he has been influenced by and has had influence on). And yet, when one talks to people and mentions Robyn Hitchcock, the majority are at a loss. Access to the surrealist ache of Hitchcock’s music is open but still somehow limited. As J put it: “I wonder how it is that I’m not familiar with Robyn Hitchcock? I did some cursory googling at 2:30 AM… and I can see that he has more than left his mark on the contemporary music scene. And yet… I have somehow failed to make him part of my musical culture.” I feel as though I have for 30 years enjoyed a gift modestly few people have embraced as they should. At times I wish more people knew him, but then I suppose the vague intimacy of what he does would be lost.
More personally, I remember first hearing songs from Fegmania! when I was little more than a child, but then Robyn Hitchcock really registered with me (it’s all about timing, I guess) upon seeing the video for “Balloon Man” one evening, and a visiting cousin expressed that the music ‘scared’ her. Of course “Balloon Man” felt like a novelty – it endures still because it is catchy and somewhat accessible, but in a way served only as a gateway to the more potent, mysterious and absurd Hitchcock work I know and love. Globe of Frogs became a constant soundtrack (and always springs to mind when I am driving in rainy Swedish summer weather, and the roads are covered in frogs, alive and dead), and Queen Elvis was transformative. I shared it with my best friend at the time, and we delighted in singing “The Devil’s Coachman” loudly while wandering around our suburban neighborhood. (We were children; we imagined we were scaring our neighbors. I am sure we were noisy nuisances.) “Autumn Sea” remains one of my favorite songs.
None of these impersonal or personal accounts would make a difference; the musician certainly hears variations on these every day. I thought about that while attempting to find the right words, and ultimately, only sincere and basic gratitude seems as though it could offer any meaning or value.
Since then the music has been a constant presence, accompanying me through every stage of this nomadic life. As I have spent time hopping from one country to another and then another, this growing, glowing, gorgeous, amorphous musical catalog follows. Grounding it, even if only once in my whole life, in the same place, same time, space-time moment, in face-to-face reality (and all reality is only reaction and interaction, of course – “the universe is based on sullen entropy – It falls apart as it goes on” – “The Devil’s Coachman”), as I was at last able to do, was worth the wait.
She “…was a personality before she was entirely a person, and, like anyone to whom that happens, she is in a sense the hapless victim of what others have seen in her, written about her, wanted her to be and not to be. The roles assigned to her are various, but variations on a single theme.”
These words evoked for me the feelings I have long had about, and the image of, Sinéad O’Connor in the late 1980s, an embryonic personality driving and sometimes hindering a skyrocketing career and startling voice. I’d always felt back then that the well-publicized “mania” (I wouldn’t really call it this), early in her career, had unfairly stuck to her, giving her a reputation she could never outrun. She was so very young when her career took off, and we forget – today, as always – that people are still quite unformed and incomplete throughout their early adulthoods; I’d venture to say that many people continue to be unformed well beyond youth. She fit Didion’s description: a personality before she was a fully formed person.
O’Connor, though, also experienced very public controversies (which many would dismiss as publicity ploys), public identity crises and shifts, and quite gut-wrenching bouts of depression and battles with other forms of mental illness (and here I mean gut-wrenching for her fans to watch her go through; I cannot even begin to imagine or put into words what these bouts are like for her, undoubtedly something much worse than just “gut-wrenching” – maybe The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon begins to touch on some part of it, but certainly not all of it), which continued well beyond her youth, worsening with the passage of time.
Could one say she never had the opportunity to become a fully formed person, to move beyond the preternatural talent and preconceived ideas people had about her? And, given the revelations she has shared over the years about her own experiences with abuse and mental illness, how could she ever become a fully formed person? How could she not struggle, often – again – very publicly?
I thought about all of this rather without aim while plowing through the Didion writing, humming tunes from The Lion & the Cobra album to myself, overcome by memories of the summer of 1988, listening to this album repeatedly (when I finally got it on vinyl, after waiting forever), so in love with its extremes of ethereal wave and primitive scream. How, oh, how, I was asked by classmates, could I like this? (Perhaps another case of people failing to look beyond the shaved-head surface.) Eventually Sinéad gave us I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, which, at least for a while, turned her into a mainstream favorite, and the masses could finally understand what I had been saying since 1987.
In one of those all-too-frequent little coincidences, it was only a week or so after being reminded of Sinéad by Didion’s writing that Sinéad herself posted a heart-rending video of herself on her Facebook page talking about her diagnosed mental illnesses and recent suicidal thoughts. It feels exploitative to post the video again (certainly in its complete form), although it’s on her official Facebook page to see. A cry for help, a need to be heard, a voice reaching out to others who perhaps felt as she did? In a way, this act felt very much like the Sinéad O’Connor who has always existed, no matter how lost she feels: she won’t be silenced; she won’t care if you, we, anyone doesn’t want to hear what she has to say; she is, despite being devastated by the effects of her illnesses and the rejection she has perceived from her loved ones, still defiant in the way only she can be. Hopefully it will be this defiance that keeps her going.
Birthdays are a funny time when you hear from people you never hear from; often people you have never heard from or actually talked to in your entire life, thanks to the wonders of invasive Facebook (of course it is only invasive because I let it be).
A guy with whom I had no actual acquaintance in junior high (and even less in high school), never sharing so much as a single one-on-one conversation but perhaps shared a handful of sarcastic group conversations, mostly arguing the (non-)merits of U2 (with whom I was abnormally preoccupied as an adolescent, steeped in the mania of the freshly released Joshua Tree album), popped up in my Facebook messages.
Back in junior high, my then-best friend and I were certifiably obsessed, and preached full-on religious zealotry like televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker at their zenith: Deliver U2 to the ignorant heathens: “THROW YOUR MONEY AT THESE IRISH LADS!” (I find these ‘lads’ in their past-middle-age incarnation to be rather sanctimonious, just as they were then – but a 12-year-old girl can’t see shit through the rose-colored glasses and distant, mystical music that plays silently when you mentally mythologize the Irish in any context.) That’s not to say that I don’t find The Joshua Tree to be an end-to-end marvel of aural achievement – only that my interest in U2 as a group dissipated along with most of the persistent drilling of teenage madness. Never again have I been as fervent a defender or ardent fan of anything, despite my wide-ranging passion for music. Perhaps after the U2 period, I moved fluidly into a ‘Madchester’ and shoegaze phase, but the musical palette continued to expand (and continues to this day), so U2 is a kind of speck on the horizon, even if they were the spark toward painting that multi-hued horizon. (And are, apparently, atop the list of anodyne sounds programmers report listening to while they work.)
But the point, though, was that this barely-an-acquaintance guy, who seems as an adult to be a genuine, cool and lovely person, but who had seemed in our youth, however vaguely I ‘knew’ him, like a too-cool, textbook-definition total dick (but this may well have been surface-level bravado; how many times have I written about the surface versus what’s underneath? We were all assholes at times, me included.), wrote to wish me a happy birthday and added: “U2 is still touring and playing the Joshua tree album, I was wrong in 8th grade and you were so right.”
In some weird way, I was touched, and this (here I am laughing) ‘vindication’ of my aggressive passion (he and his friends slagged off U2 at the time, but I don’t know if that was just to be contrary the way teenage boys are when they don’t have any idea how to actually communicate) was like its own happy little birthday present.
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!
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”
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…
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”
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…
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 ❤
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”
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
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”
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.
I remember with some trepidation and self-consciousness my very first attempts to read and make sense of French – taking everything so literally at first, taking my time with grasping idiom. It’s always a series of baby steps when transforming your brain to take in and process new languages. To really feel them and live them, you must, to paraphrase the late Derek Walcott, you must change your life. I did not change my life, and thus I’m still no expert, but better recognize the fluidity of language in a way that my grammatical and rigid approach to English never allows for.
One window (or ‘windae’, were we Scots) to crawl through to find meaning in disembodied, lifeless translation drudgery was music. As soon as I realized, as a teenager who wanted nothing more than to run away from my hometown (tout de suite), that much of my favorite music was inspired by literary greatness, I could at least immerse myself in those other worlds. Imagine, though, that somehow in the intervening years, I had completely forgotten the connection between “Les yeux des pauvres” (Baudelaire) and the almost word-for-word treatment by The Cure in “How Beautiful You Are”.
I don’t know if you can imagine how much it was like opening a window to the past, almost like time travel, to be reminded of this and to return in my mind to that time in 1988-9 when this song so deeply moved me to tears and led me to Baudelaire. And how, now in present day, having the memory reawakened when someone sent me the Baudelaire describing it as: “unutterably sad commentary on relationships and the human condition. I love it”, I am moved to find someone else is as deeply affected by the same feelings.
Music heard with you
at home or in the car
or even while strolling
didn’t always sound as pristine
as piano tuners might wish –
it was sometimes mixed with voices
full of fear and pain,
and then that music
was more than music,
it was our living and our dying.