This time of the year, it seems like everyone is taking a look back and making their ‘Best of…’ lists. Time picks a person of the year. News websites review the biggest stories. It makes sense – it’s only natural to feel reminiscent about the people and things that got us where we are today. And for me, that comes in the form of music.
I grew up surrounded by music. My grandfather played the organ in church (and had the most beautiful, baritone voice that would warm even the coldest of hearts.) My Mom was constantly playing the piano, and my Dad was in a band in high school that was featured in TimeLife magazine, so there was always a guitar or drum practice pad laying around. The record player – later, the tape deck and the CD player – were constantly blaring The Mommas and the Poppas, The Carpenters, or – and if you say a nasty word about my slight obsession with her I will block your IP from downloading my musical goodness – Barbra Streisand. Basically, I grew up with a healthy, if not gratuitous, love affair with music.
And so it’s no wonder that once again, as the days continue to get shorter and the nights, even here in California, call for woolen scarves and mittens, I find myself looking back over the past twelve months and capturing what inspired me most. The songs that I put on repeat on my iPod. The ones that got me through a really rough month or two, and somehow brought me through to the other side, mostly unscathed (albeit a bit warier than before). The songs that made me listen to, and learn from, the lyrics. The songs – while not all released in this last year – that served as my soundtrack of 2008.
I titled this mix “In the Daylight Anywhere Feels Like Home” which is a line from the soon-to-be-released song Daylight by Matt & Kim that reflects the transient nature of the year about to close. I spent a lot of time in a lot of different cities & countries these last twelve months, and found myself – while loving seeing and experiencing new places – taking a bit of home with me wherever I was. Many of these songs were the connection between home and away, and it seemed like a fitting title.
I contemplated sending this mix to just a select few of my close friends, but realized that while I was traveling, while I was learning and growing and moving on, a lot of people I *don’t* know in person – through their kind emails or notes on Twitter or my website – also served as that connection I was seeking, near and afar. And so I’m choosing to share it with all of you.
Download: In The Daylight Anywhere Feels Like Home
1. You and What Army – The Parkas
This song was on constant rotation in the early part of the year; I got a chance to see The Parkas live at SXSW, and I think it was the best show of the entire week. Unfortunately, they didn’t play this song as their bass player wasn’t with them, and alas, I must find them whenever they play next (within reason) and request it. (The lead singer – who is hot, and sadly, married – is now my Facebook friend. So I consider that a win.)
2. Sex on Fire – Kings of Leon
This song has everything going against it. It was first introduced to me by someone I was dating, which ended badly. It was playing on Saturday Night Live the very night that very same person chose to make out with someone else (after I chose to stay home from the party that was the scene of the crime, a decision I think was probably one of the wisest ones I’ve ever unknowingly made, in retrospect.) It is – God forbid – ON THE RADIO. And yet, hot DAMN it’s got a catchy beat and never fails to pick me up and make me sing along. Perhaps you *can* find love in unexpected places after all…
3. Daylight – Matt & Kim
Though it’s not technically released yet, I think this song garnered the most playtime in the shortest period of time, ever. Something like 16 plays in two days. Matt & Kim put on an AMAZING, energy-filled live show, and they’re still playing smallish venues, so I urge you to go see them when they come to your part o’ town. Also, I dare you to stay in a bad mood while listening to this.
4. Better Things – Passion Pit
Another jubilant, bouncy, upbeat lil’ ditty. Another one that instantly puts you in a better mood. Another one that picked me up when I was upset and angry and hurt while attempting to keep my shit together on minimal sleep, minimal food and maximum stress in London.
5. Backwards Walk – Frightened Rabbit
Anyone who follows me on Twitter or reads DailyTuneage.com will know that The Midnight Organ Fight is a likely contender for my favorite album of 2008. Anyone who reads this website right NOW will learn that it actually tops that list. I’ve now seen them six or seven times live, and they’re very different – even better, if you can believe that – in person. This song was my daily mantra in late Spring when I was attempting to extricate myself from a very difficult, very personal, very emotional situation. (It was successful, and I still adore the song.)
6. Fix It (live in Albany, Sept. ’08) – Ryan Adams and The Cardinals
If any song was the soundtrack for a wronged woman, and if that wronged woman was yours truly, this would be the song. I chose the live version because it’s the one I had and played incessently before the album version came out. It’s also a few minutes longer than the one on Cardinology, which means I love it even more.
7. Song for Gypsy Rose Lee – The Coast
I discovered this band midway through this year, and absolutely adore them. This song is the slowest one on their album Expatriate, and also my favorite. Still haven’t been able to see them live, but hope to remedy that really soon. (Also, their manager Ben, is super rad.)
8. Skinny Love – Bon Iver
Justin Vernon’s epic album, For Emma, Forever Ago, tops many a music editor’s “Best of 2008” list. It’s one that I’ve listened to all year, but has only recently been put into high rotation. I’m angry at myself for not loving it earlier, but I suppose all things in time.
9. About Today – The National
This comes off of their older album, Cherry Tree, and I think I heard it on a TV show and had to immediately Google it to find out the name. It is THAT beautiful. I want to drink Matt Berninger’s voice…it’s like dark, sultry molassas.
10. Going, Going, Gone (live version) – Stars
Released this fall on their Sad Robots EP, I hadn’t been acquainted with the original version of this song until I heard this live version. I prefer this one, and often found myself waking up with the lyrics in my head.
11. Innocence – The Airborne Toxic Event
Found out about this band from my friend Keith, purveyor of fine music. Haven’t yet seen them live, but will next month, and I can’t wait. I hear only good things, and I do love this song. (Check out their entire self-titled album; the song Somewhere After Midnight is also amazing.)
12. Rocky Took A Lover – BellX1
They were opening for The Submarines at Cafe du Nord earlier this summer, and I fell in love. There’s a lyric in the song that says “My ass is the perfect height for kicking” but that’s NOT TRUE. The lead singer has a disproportionately high butt, so you would have to kick a little higher than average. Just in case you needed to kick his ass. (I’d suggest that you don’t, however…this band – who used to play with Damien Rice before he spun off to do his own thing – is pretty phenomenal. And really, what did he ever do to YOU?!?)
13. Calling and Not Calling my Ex – Okkervil River
I sometimes hear this song on Sirius/XM, and get a little angry. Ok, a LOT angry, as I’ve found myself being somewhat possessive of this tune and kind of want to keep it as my own. But I won’t – Okkervil River is one of my favorite bands, and they, too, put on a great live show. Also, I’m kind of in love with Patrick Pestorius.
14. Ready for the Floor – Hot Chip
Makes me dance in my chair. ‘Nuff said.
15. Rooftops – Pela
This song is a paltry 2:49, and that’s a travesty. I want AT LEAST 3 more minutes of the instrumentalized awesomeness. (I ‘discovered’ Pela while at Sasquatch back in May; we were waiting for another band to start at one of the side stages and they were playing and I was instantly hooked. Went home and downloaded – legally! – every single one of their songs.)
16. Blood Bank – Bon Iver
Happy Holidays, everyone…this is my little treat to you, since this EP doesn’t come out until January. It’s one of four songs on the EP and even though I just head it last week, I can’t stop listening to it. Would have been on my ‘Best of 2009’ mix most certainly, but I couldn’t finish this mix in good conscience without including it. It represents my favorite song as I close the year, and transition into the next.
17. Where Have You Been? – Manchester Orchestra
There is something raw and needy and beseeching about this song. It gets under my skin and makes me melancholy and nervous, yet has a triumphant feel about it as well. Somewhere in this dichotomy, it makes sense.
18. Hallelujah – The Helio Sequence
This song has ended nearly every mix I made in 2008. The last 2:11 is a jubilant celebration, the perfect ending to the mix; in this case, my perfect ending to my imperfect year. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Music makes me want to live and laugh and love, and do better. BE better. It urges me on to whatever is next, reminds me that wounds do eventually heal, and that a healthy dose of perspective is often all it takes to move on. That’s probably how I would succinctly describe 2008: learning how to move on. And this was the soundtrack of it all. I hope you enjoy it – and the experiences that it accompanies – as much as I have.
*The mixtape artwork was lovingly created by the ever-talented Ryan McManus, who serves as my musical muse many times over. Also, as he so succinctly says, “And if you find an unfamiliar song and want to hear more, I encourage you to buy the album. The best music is, after all, made by friends.” I couldn’t agree more – you’ll find most of these songs on iTunes or Amazon or the artists’ website, so please support them and their music.