Tabula Rasa

Recently, I embarked on a musical project in response to this message from a friend:

“I don’t know much about music but I do love listening to new stuff. I’ve definitely worn out the last batch of suggested material and would love some more! I’ll listen to anything at least once and have very diverse taste. Any suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.”

To the rescue! I don’t know if I’ve ever made a mix for someone whose taste wasn’t already pretty firmly established, so this was interesting to think about. I ended up sitting down with a pen and paper and writing down some of my favorite songs by different bands – and that’s pretty much what I put together, without changing the order around too much, or adding too many other tracks once I opened up my iTunes library.

I kept in mind that it can be overwhelming to hear a lot of unfamiliar music all at once, so I didn’t go digging for deep album tracks – when there was a choice, I went with a song that might be familiar (see note on “Little Black Backpack” below). Here’s what I came up with – 32 songs over 2 CDs. (The glaring omission here is The Cure, so I’d add “Charlotte Sometimes” or “Just Like Heaven” or “Friday I’m in Love,” probably between The Jam and Elvis Costello on the first CD. I was also assuming a basic knowledge of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Clash, The Who, etc., so I didn’t include any of their songs.)

1
Ups & Downs – Saves the Day
Road Songs and Rock Songs – The Ataris
We – The Descendents
Window – Guster
The Crane Wife 3 – The Decemberists
She Has A Girlfriend Now – Reel Big Fish
The Impression That I Get – Mighty Mighty Bosstones
21st Century Digital Boy – Bad Religion
Stardust Motel – Andrew Norsworthy
Crush – Jimmy Eat World
Safely – Hot Rod Circuit
Jenny Was A Friend of Mine – The Killers
Til I Hear It From You – Gin Blossoms
That’s Entertainment – The Jam
Alison – Elvis Costello

-After listening a couple times through, I’d sub out “Jenny Was A Friend of Mine” for “Smile Like You Mean It”; otherwise, I’m enjoying listening to this myself.

2
Don’t Ask Me – OK Go
The Future Freaks Me Out – Motion City Soundtrack
Old White Lincoln – Gaslight Anthem
Little Black Backpack – Stroke 9
Love Love, Kiss Kiss – Alkaline Trio
Gotta Have You – The Weepies
Psalm for the Elks Lodge Last Call – The Weakerthans
One More Hour – Sleater-Kinney
Olympia, Wa. – Rancid
Kimberly – Patti Smith
Little Mascara – The Replacements
Lean on Sheena – Bouncing Souls
Plastic Man – The Kinks
Panic – The Smiths
Here Comes Your Man – The Pixies
Gardenia – Stephen Malkmus
Chocolate – Snow Patrol

-Here I’d make a few more changes. Personally, I’ve heard “Little Black Backpack” too many times at this point, but it’s catchy and it was on the radio, and when throwing a bunch of new music at someone, it’s nice to have something they might find familiar. For The Weepies, I had “Take It From Me” in mind and put on “Gotta Have You” instead, but both songs are good. My personal favorite Replacements song is “Left of the Dial,” the track immediately after “Little Mascara” on Tim, and immediately preceding “Here Comes A Regular,” which is also a favorite, but I opted for “Little Mascara” here, for no reason I can explain. Finally, I might have chosen “Susannah’s Still Alive” instead of “Plastic Man” by The Kinks – I like it better musically, but “Plastic Man” is amusing.

What I’m reading: Traffic, Tom Vanderbilt; An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England, Brock Clarke
What I’m listening to: mixes

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