I decided to mimic a buddy of mine and create a mix for the year. Some people received it for Christmas, and the rest of you will just need to go buy 21 CDs to make your own. I present ChrisMix 2006.
1. Take Your Mama Out – Scissor Sisters
This band is chock full of 70’s goodness. I lack a proper way to describe them, but I’d say they’re like the Bee Gees, only they’re cool. This track is from their first album, but they’re new one was released a couple months back and is also great. Blast this as you drive and have a great time.
2. Manchester – The Beautiful South
I had a Beautiful South phase this summer that lasted several weeks. They have a unique way of combining light and fun melodies with some edgy vocals that I find quite appealing. Here they sing of the glories of Manchester and raise the question, is it the rain that makes Britain great? I pretty sure it’s not.
3. Fidelity – Regina Spektor
I had been meaning to give this artist a listen for some time now, but only recently stumbled across her on the radio of all places. Hurray for WBER! Wikipedia claims that she sings anti-folk music, which seems to be complete gibberish. What exactly is the antithesis of folk music? Certainly not this. But her unconventional singing and occasional nonsense lyrics are certainly enjoyable.
4. Stoppin’ The Love – KT Tunstall
I had a chance to see KT in Columbus in September and sadly missed the opportunity. My roommate and I were going to find dates and go, but the combination of our studying, laziness and poor knowledge of available girls in the Columbus area kept us from attending. It’s a shame because I am confident that her brand of folksy rock would have been great in a live performance. Maybe next year.
5. True Affection – The Blow
I almost left this out of the mix because it doesn’t quite fit in with the other songs, but it’s what is currently stuck in my head so thought I’d be remiss to not impart it unto the rest of you. I love the stripped-down, laid-back tone of the song. You can almost imagine the group laying around as they perform. Maybe I’m the only one that thinks that’s great, but I do.
6. Blue Monday – Nouvelle Vague
Honestly this isn’t my favorite Nouvelle Vague song (I love their cover of The Killing Moon) but I thought it was the best introduction. This is a French group that sings bossa nova covers of New Wave classics. It’s an odd concept, but it creates some dang-catchy tunes. The group claims that they only sing songs if they aren’t familiar with the original English versions, which seems dubious. But regardless of their originality, I still enjoy the reinterpretations.
7. Haunted – The Pogues and Sinead O’Connor
Sinead is probably the best known artist on the list, though I’d guess that Joe Everyman probably hasn’t listened to the Pogues. It’s rather remarkable that I hadn’t heard this song until this year, but such is the case. I like the contrast between Sinead’s ethereal vocals and Shane MacGowan’s, who sounds like Oscar the Grouch. Also of note is that this is the fourth song on my iPod titled Haunted.
8. Overkill – Colin Hay
It’s sad that my musical tastes are influenced by television, but it’s true. I’ve sought out plenty of songs after hearing them on House or Alias, or in this case Scrubs. In fact Colin Hay (the lead singer of the erstwhile Men At Work) appeared in the episode where he sang this number, and has contributed several tracks since. I can’t say it’s as memorable as Land Down Under, but it’s almost certainly better.
9. Gotta Have You – The Weepies
I also had a Weepies phase this summer, immediately after the Beautiful South period. They both have male/female lead singer pairs, but otherwise I’m not sure what got me onto them. But they’re a talented little group with a pretty good variety of songs.
10. In Your Arms Tonight – Hedwig and the Angry Inch
I’d heard glowing reviews of this movie/play for a couple years and finally investigated it. Honestly, it doesn’t live up to the hype. It was good, and the music is great, but it’s not the opus it’s made out to be. Some of the songs are very specific to the plot, but this one rings true on its own. I enjoy the tribute album that was released, but the covers just can’t achieve the bombast and passion of the original versions.
11. That’s Me Trying – William Shatner
That’s right, I’ve got Captain Kirk on this CD. Who knew that his album would actually be listenable? It certainly doesn’t hurt that his backup vocalists are Ben Folds and Aimee Mann. Although he doesn’t actually sing, he does give us a touching monologue in a melodic voice, which works better than many songs on the radio.
12. Fresh Feeling – Eels
I’ve liked the Eels’ Novocain for the Soul for many years, but always figured that they were 1-hit wonders. Turns out they have some great songs that have never seen the light of day. I’m always a sucker for rock songs that feature a string section.
13. Your Ex-lover is Dead – Stars
Another song with a string section helping out. Also throw in a fantastic opening speech and you’ve got a winner. Any song that has an opening speech has potential.
14. The Way We Get By – Spoon
iTunes has been recommending that I purchase Spoon music for over a year now and I ignored them. You don’t know me iTunes! Stop telling me what to do! But it turns out that they’re pretty great. I guess that Steve Jobs knows what he’s doing. Their music is featured rather prominently in Stranger Than Fiction in case they sound familiar.
15. Lucky Me – Sarah Slean
Sarah has been around for a while now, and always does quality work. She normally does slower, folksier stuff, but occasionally she moves in the pop direction with a song like this. I can dig it.
16. Mushaboom (Postal Service Remix) – Feist
Take a good singer and songwriter like Feist, and throw in the excellent production of Postal Service and you’ve got an award-winning combo. Well they haven’t won any awards, but they should. This is one of the cases where I can’t listen to the original version any more because it likes the energy of the remix.
17. Destroy Everything You Touch – Ladytron
I wanted to include a pretty basic dance track, and this one won out narrowly over Paul Oakenfold’s “Faster Pussycat Kill.” Although this song can’t claim the celebrity vocals of Brittany Murphy, their vocals are better. Just consider yourself lucky that they’re not in Bulgarian, as Ladytron often does.
18. Chelsea – Stefy
Generally I ignore pop music, considering it the junk food of the musical world. But Stefy puts out some delicious junk food. Hopefully she can stay closer to her Eurythmics and No Doubt roots and steer clear of the pop diva sector, as that has never helped anyone musically. But seeing as this song appeared on the John Tucker Must Die soundtrack, my hopes may be in vain.
19. 9 to 5 – Lady Sovereign
I discovered Lady Sovereign in the nerdiest of locations: the Adultswim album. Although she didn’t rap about cartoons, as did many of the other artists, she does like to rhyme about being short and wearing oversized hoodies. This kind of material isn’t going to change the world, but it’s a refreshing break from the majority of rap lyrics. Hopefully she moves past the epithet of Feminem and can shift her British success over across the pond.
20. Beating Heart Baby – Head Automatica
I realize this brand of rock isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it’s great. They’re a little bit screechy and a tad generic, but they’ve got some great energy. This song is from their 2004 release, which I won from a radio contest. Their 2006 album isn’t as good, but is still a fun listen.
21. Space Game – MC Lars
This is the nerdiest song ever created. And I know my nerdy music: I have raps about superheroes, Space Ghost and Star Wars in my collection. But this takes the cake. MC Lars, who performs on stage with only a laptop, throws in dozens of sci-fi references, then moves onto literature and art. You can judge how nerdy you are by how many of the references make sense to you. And in case this is depressing you can take solace in the fact that I understand 95% of the first two verses and a good 70% of the last.