Greetings gentle pagans and unwitting celebrants of paganistic seasonal rituals – happy fall! (And to all my readers (I might have some you never know) south of the Equator, happy spring!)
Let’s be honest with each other, OK? Fall is the best season. Summer is great and perky, spring is very nice after a long winter, (and winter blows, mostly) but fall is the best. And – as much as I do love making my King of Summertime mixes each year – I love making my fall mixes more. Yeah I said it! I just love that mood, that feeling, that autumnal (great word) music puts you in. You know the one. It’s unbeatable. Need I say more? I needn’t. So with that, I give you my 2010 Autumn Mix:
I’ve been seeing and hearing the word wild a lot lately. Lately in the news we’ve heard the story of Abby Sunderland, the 16-year-old adventurer who attempted to sail solo around the world only to be caught in a storm in the south Indian Ocean and have her chances dashed. Her boat? Wild Eyes. The other day I watched Where the Wild Things Are, which I enjoyed immensely but not in the way I expected to. A while back I had my post on Ted Hughes’ “Wodwo,” wodwo being the wild-man. In music, this summer has brought the excellent album The Wild Hunt by The Tallest Man on Earth, which is itself a reference to an ancient pan-European myth, that of a group of ghost-soldiers on a hunt across the skies and earth. “The Wild Hunt” is also a recently finished story in the Hellboy comic, in which Hellboy is the object of the hunt.
In many retellings of the Wild Hunt myth, the charge is led by Norse/Germanic god Woden, essentially the Zeus of Northern European paganism, and whose name includes the rood wod meaning “violence” or “fury.” It may be just coincidence that the wodwo, or wild-man, and Woden, God of Fury, share the heteronym wod at their root, but then again it may be less then coincidental that ancient words for “wild” and “violence” have similar sounds and origins. By the way, we celebrate this ancient god every midweek, unwittingly, as we wake up, stretch our arms, and greet Woden’s day – Wednesday.
Anyway, with this collection of wild thoughts lurking around in my brain, I thought I’d take out my old Shipley book, The Origins of English Words, and have a look at where wild came from. The Indo-European root of wild is uelt, which means, perhaps a bit obviously, “open field.” OK, makes sense. Our wodwo is the man of the field. In Germanic the word is weald, which often is brought over to English as part of an ancient place-name, or by a fantasy writer looking for a bit of authenticity. To wilder is to lose one’s way, to become lost in the wild; to bewilder is to cause someone to do this. The noun wilder means a wild animal (with der coming from the root deor (deer) or dheu, meaning animal). Thus a wilderness is a place where wild animals live: wild + der + ness, with -ness coming from the same root as gather or together. Shipley also points out that the representative assembly of the Isle of Man in Great Britain is the Tygwald, the assembly of the field.
The word wild has come to have many subtle meanings, which we interpret variously as freedom, spontaneity, violence, revelry, fear, and an untamed nature which we sometimes cherish, sometimes revile. They all point back to this original root word, a simple expression of openness. At certain points in our lives we desire the wild life, salivate for it; we freak out and make for the woods (another word with wild at its root) to commune with our past. At other points we see wildness as something to be shunned, the opposite of civilization which we use to define civilization, as if we have completely forgotten where we came from.
I’m experimenting with this 8tracks site as a way to put up little mixes of songs I’ve been enjoying lately. So far so good – the site is super easy to use and make mixes with, so I think this could be the start of a great new friendship.
These days I usually just listen to the iPod at home and in the car, picking my own music instead of letting some unknown DJ pick it for me, but there are a few things on the radio that still make me sit down and listen – Mischke at night, The Current (though sometimes you can be to indie for your own good), Country Dave’s honky-tonk show on WOJB, and of course, A Prairie Home Companion. Yes, hi, I’m from Minnesoootah. While the format and gags on the show are usually pretty funny – but also pretty standard – the show excels at presenting great musical acts in a setting that promotes quality musicianship and – so important – quality sound.
One of Keillor’s favorite acts, it seems – and deservedly so – is the duo of Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings. For me, these guys sink right to the heart of everything that is good and true about American music. It also helps that Gillian has one of the best voices around today, and Dave Rawlings is perhaps the best and most innovative folk guitarist alive. They appeared on the show Memorial Day weekend to perform some songs from the excellent Dave Rawlings Machine record and a couple extras just for the show. One of those extras was a rendition of “Queen Jane Approximately,” a criminally underrated Dylan song from the Highway 61 Revisited album. Lost somewhere in the shuffle between “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Desolation Row,” where “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” is your signpost guiding you along, the siren squeals of “Highway 61″ jolt you from your reverie, and “Ballad of a Thin Man” just creeps you out, there are the thick tones of organ, fuzzed-out guitar, and jangly upright piano of “Queen Jane.” Listen again with some fresh ears: it might just turn into one of your favorite Dylan songs, as it has for me.
Naturally Dave and Gillian strip away all that, leaving just the simple, lilting chord progression and melody intact. And from that they build a new masterpiece: one filled with subtle but powerful harmonies and waterfalls of arpeggio scales, cascading over and over again as if from a dizzying height down to earth. The intricacy of the guitar work belies an emotional simplicity that is easy to latch on to as the song carries you forward.
Hey gang! Can you frickin feel it?! It’s Memorial Day, sun’s out, weather’s hot, the girls are playing badminton next door, the air smells like charcoal and cut grass – summertime baby! Forget this solstice junk (sorry Pagans). Everyone knows summer starts today. And you know what that means – another fresh batch of summer jamz from yer boy Mixmaster Jack. (I don’t know why I’m talking like this.) Anyway, no big theme here like the last few years – just a bunch of good summery songs smooshed together just for you. So I hope you guys out there enjoy my selections this year. And, if this is your first time stopping by for some of my summer mixery, I’ve got seven (seven!) mixes from previous years just waiting for you to rock out with.
King of Summertime 2010
1. The King of Summertime Intro
2. I Will Dare – The Replacements
3. Cousins – Vampire Weekend
4. Stickshifts and Safetybelts – Cake
5. Ridin’ In My Car – She & Him
6. Nothing Was Stolen (Love Me Foolishly) – Phosphorescent
7. Kick Back – The Anomoanon
8. Floating Vibes – Surfer Blood
9. Daisy (A Bicycle Built for Two) – John Fahey
10. Daisy – Fang Island
11. Honey In The Sun – Camera Obscura
12. Snow Is Gone – Josh Ritter
13. At the Beach – The Avett Brothers
14. Long, Sweet Summer Night – The Thorns*
15. Magpie To The Morning – Neko Case
16. King of Spain – The Tallest Man On Earth
17. Watch the Sunrise – Big Star
“Graceland” – one of Paul Simon’s finest songs, a statement of style, the musical centerpiece of the album of the same name – certainly one of my favorite albums, ever. Here, The Tallest Man On Earth – Swedish folksinger Kristian Matsson – breaks the song down into a simple folk tune, all lightweight banjo and howling vocals. The genius of this version is the way it highlights the lyrics in a way the original does not. Kristian sings with such outright emotion, a high-wire act between fragility and strength, that the language of Simon’s song is pushed to the fore. It’s difficult to really hear the lyrics through the thick haze of sound that surrounds Simon’s original, but here the poetry is beautiful, and devastating.
And she said losing love
Is like a window in your heart,
Everybody sees you’re blown apart,
Everybody sees the wind blow.
Even knowing all the words to this song from a young age, I can’t say that I ever really thought much about a line like this, thought about the sadness and vulnerability of it. This cover makes you do just that.
Everyone else is doing it. Surely the best reason to do anything, right? Over the past few weeks all the big style/culture mags and blogs have been looking back on the decade and declaring their favorite music, books, movies, etc. And while I could probably name ten movies worth seeing from the 2000s, and maybe a couple books (I’m still working on books from the 1900s – would you like a list from that decade?), one thing I can definitively discuss and rank is music. Looking at the lists from Pitchfork (too hipstery (also, “brought to you by Haagen Dazs”?! lol)), Paste (too…Paste-y), NME (too Britishy), Rolling Stone (I’m sorry but any list with System of a Down is automatically disqualified), NPR (John Adams and Britney Spears on the same list? Double lol), et al., and not entirely liking what I was seeing, I realized the only true judge of the best music of an era is one’s own self – because music is so utterly subjective, and debating the merits of one list or another tends to get both violent and boring after oh, five minutes. As one friend said: “how could you include ___ but not ___ or ___?” Just fill in your own blanks and you basically have the substance of every disagreements. So a guy’s gotta come up with his own list – not a “best albums” list, but a “favorite albums” list. I basically abandoned objectivity and just went with my gut on this one. Anyway, hope you do enjoy it, and maybe pick up some of the music listed here!
What up. Mixmaster DJ Sad-Kor here. I‘ve been interested for awhile in creating a podcast-style mix – that is, a mix that is a single long track, meant to be listened to all at once, and (possibly) tells a story. I’ve seen these sorts of mixes here and there, and really liked the results of some of them. And I thought, hey, I can do that. I can definitely do that! I think certainly the greatest asset of the pod-mix/mix-cast is the ability to blend songs together, to fade them in and out and from one to another, to manipulate the sound of the songs (but not much!) and the mix, and perhaps to add in some sort of background sounds, a unifying element. All that presents an interesting challenge that isn’t present in making a “mixtape” style mix.
Well, here’s my first crack at that. The mix is called It’s Been My Longest Night, I Can Tell. The story told here, as evident in the title, is of a long, sleepless night, told straight from dusk to dawn. While the story is loose and there is no plot, I think there is ultimately a narrative arc that presents itself. Rather than go into that I’ll let the mix speak/sing for itself and we’ll see what you think. The backdrop to the music is nighttime sounds, with the idea that our “protagonist” is, say, listening to the album with the bedroom window open to the night (which is basically how I got the idea). For an added layer, listen to it yourself with the windows open in your own bedroom. How meta! Anywho, here’s the tracklist coming up. I should say too that background sounds are provided by Neko Case via “Marais La Nuit,” (“Swamp at Night”) the final “track” of her Middle Cyclone album (best album of 2009!), and by The Freesound Project, which is totally awesome.
It’s Been My Longest Night, I Can Tell
“Northwest” by Richmond Fontaine
“Late for the Sky” by Jackson Browne [Update: Jackson Browne and Fruit Bats should have been switched as they are here. Sorry!]
“Magic Hour” by The Fruit Bats
“Alone in Kyoto” by Air
“Sea and the Rhythm” by Iron and Wine
“Pink Moon” by Nick Drake
“Porchlight” by Neko Case
“Fade Into You” by Mazzy Star
“Sleeping on the Roof” by the Flaming Lips
“Night Train to Valhalla” by John Fahey
“Midnight Moonlight” by The Be Good Tanyas
“The Mansion” by The Microphones
“Song for a Blue Guitar” by Red House Painters
“Very Long Dream” by Huck Notari
“Spelunking” by Laura Veirs
“Be Dark Night” by Phosphorescent
“Whip-Poor-Will” by Magnolia Electric Co.
“Big Day Coming” by Yo La Tengo
“At Dawn” by My Morning Jacket