April 8, 2010

Andy Hess's Eternal Mixtape

When I first read about this mix tape project I was hesitant to submit something. I have a pretty embarrassing music history. It’s grounded in Top 40 and classic rock formats, but the songs I picked for this were ones that I remember listening to until the magnetic tape broke, CD scratched or I accidentally deleted the MP3. Music means a lot to people so I know I’m not the only one who is an obsessive like myself. I sequenced my playlist as if I was recording to a cassette tape from the radio like I used to do. I tried to limit myself to an hour on each side, but Side B ran a little over.

I really, really enjoyed revisiting the songs I have come to love and loath over the past 23 years.


Side A:

Amy Grant – “Baby Baby”

I don’t know what’s more groan worthy on this mix-tape. The first two tracks on the entire thing or the unnecessary amount of post-hardcore on the b-side. Regardless, this song was my first love. I bought the cassingle. I professed my love for this song during show and tells in elementary school. I literally played this tape until the tape was caught in the car tape deck. This was because my mother really liked Amy Grant. Thanks mom for the pro-tip. It’s still one of my favorite songs to annoy people with at karaoke.

Real McCoy – “Another Night”

I listened to this song for the first time in nearly 17 years when I was putting this mix-tape together. It’s still pretty terrible. Like “Baby Baby” I spent a lot of time with this song. I also remember calling in to every radio station in Memphis, Tenn. asking them to play it. None of the DJs ever played that request. I’m glad they didn’t.

Green Day – “She”

I didn’t have cable and I only listened to the 80’s, 90’s and today station. I never heard of Green Day until my cousin gave me Dookie for my birthday. Sure, it has the monster hits of “Longview” and “Basketcase”, but neither of those songs caught my ear like “She”. It also led to claiming Green Day as the best band in the world until they released American Idiot.

Nirvana – “All Apologies”

I didn’t care for grunge music or Nirvana. It was too loud and angsty for my 7-year old tastes. But I remember watching the news of Kurt Cobain’s death. I was touched by how much his music meant to everyone. I don’t remember much from the events leading up to his death, but I remember getting chills the first time I heard the Unplugged version of “All Apologies”. It’s still as haunting on the thousandth listen.

Tom Petty – “Free Fallin'”

I. Hate. This. Song. The only reason this song is even on the list is because it was on the 10 music video rotation on VH1’s daytime programming.

Spice Girls – “Say You’ll Be There”

Out of all the embarrassing music on this mix-tape, this song is, er, queen. I loved the Spice Girls. I had a tomboy step-sister and she didn’t care for them so I really have no idea how I became such a fan. I remember them being fairly attractive so that might have been it. I haven’t listened to this song since I lost my cassette of SPICE, but I probably still know all the words.

Busta Rhymes – “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See”

This was the first rap record I bought. I remember being entranced the video and how one person could spit out that many words at once. I still love Busta Rhymes, but this album will be my rap album of choice with Wu-Tang Clan’s 36 Chambers coming in a close second.

Hanson – “Man From Milwaukee”

No comment for this Hanson bonus track. (Really, Andy?)

Savage Garden – “I Want You”

I tried Cherry Coca-Cola for the first time after listening to this song. That’s essentially the significance of this one: it made me try my favorite soft-drink.

Foo Fighters – “Everlong”

The Color and the Shape was the first CD I ever owned. I always feel like Dave Grohl gets shafted when it comes to discussing Nirvana. Kurt might have written some great songs, but Dave was always the most talented member of the group.

Will Smith – “Will 2K”

I remember this being my New Year’s ’99 anthem. It also got me into The Clash after my step-mother picked out the sample while I was watching the absolutely ridiculous music video.

Counting Crows – “Hangin’ Around”

Counting Crows were the first band my dad and I really bonded over. I don’t care what you think about Adam Duritz’s hair because this song is a stone cold jam.

Blink 182 – “What’s My Age Again?”

I have always thought Blink 182 is the perfect soundtrack for middle school: It’s dumb, it’s fun and the songs don’t require much attention to enjoy. I listened to so much Blink 182 in middle school I kind of regret giving everything else a cold shoulder. Those other bands probably didn’t have many dick and fart jokes in their songs.

Linkin Park – “Cure For the Itch”

I think everyone in my eighth grade class had this CD. I remember it being the first album I bought for myself after saving up for a CD player. While the obvious choices for this record might have been “Crawling” or “In The End” I chose the beat-filled instrumental, sample based song. I always thought it was the best track on the album. After this record I found myself more open to electronic based music, but I still preferred loud guitars instead.

Weezer, “Tired Of Sex” and “Hash Pipe”

I didn’t know who Weezer were in the early 90s. I actually picked up Pinkerton in the used bin at a Sam Goody’s (Remember those?). I liked the cover. I ended up loving the album. The next month I saw the video for “Hash Pipe” and immediately picked up the Green Album. It disappointed me compared to Pinkerton so I worked backwards. Even though Rivers Cuomo has taken terrible songwriting to an R. Kelly like level, I still have a faint hope that he will release another Blue Album.

Thursday – “Understanding In A Car Crash”

Thursday kicked off my obsession with breakdowns and the unnecessary third guitar player. I spent the majority of my high school years feeling angsty for no real reason. I had a decent life. I had no reason to hate my parents. I still don’t know why I loved screamo and post-hardcore so much.

Thrice – “The Artist In the Ambulance”

Like Thursday, Thrice’s second record holds up surprisingly well after a few years. This is probably the only song I can stomach all the way through, but it reminds me of the days where staying after school with your friends in some lame club was better than sitting at home.

Side B:

The Strokes – “Last Nite”

I absolutely hated The Strokes when this song premiered. Hated. And then one day out of the blue I met this girl who loved them and naturally I loved them too. I faked liking them for a long time and then one day I realized I actually enjoyed the songs. Is This It? had earworms for days and this song isn’t even the best on the record.

The White Stripes – “Ball and Biscuit”

I didn’t understand the hype until I heard “Ball and Biscuit”. This song literally changed the way I listened to music. That blues riff. Hell, that solo. I don’t listen to The White Stripes as much as I probably should nowadays, but this song still kills.

Ted Leo + The Pharmacists – “Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?”

I heard this song for the first time while watching Late Night with Conan O’Brien. At the time I thought Ted Leo was the savior of rock and roll and picked up everything he ever recorded promptly. I don’t think that now, but he’s still one of the most consistent, talented and friendly people I have ever encountered in music.

Brand New – “Jude Law and the Semester Abroad”

Thanks Steven’s Untitled Rock Show on FUSE TV the tip on this one.

Taking Back Sunday – “Cute Without the E”

This song was my definitive high school jam. I still love this album. No shame.

Fugazi – “Waiting Room”

I bought this record during the summer between my junior and senior years of high school. I had read about Fugazi, but I never heard them. I remember hearing the bass line at the beginning of this CD and having my world flipped upside down. After listening to 13 Songs I started listening to everything with a more critical ear. If I had to pick a CD from this mix-tape that has done more for my listening habits than any other it would be this one. Since moving to DC, I’ve see Ian MacKaye around town. One of these days I’m going to go shake his hand and tell him thank you for all he’s done.

The Decemberists – “Sixteen Military Wives”

In high school I was a movie snob. I was also a moving snob that really knew nothing, I would just act like I knew what you were talking about. I had recently watched Rushmore for the third time and I came across the video for this song. I figured any band that spoofed Rushmore in their music videos would be the band for me. I downloaded this album track by track on Kazaa (I feel old) and burned it to a CD. I’ve gone from hardcore Decemberists fan to a very casual one in recent years but this record will always be my favorite of the bands.

The Mars Volta – “Inertiatic ESP”

The Mars Volta was the first concert I ever attended. They didn’t play this song. Actually they played a lot of songs from Frances the Mute. It was the album they were touring after-all. I remember being very bored by the end of the show. While this album still retains the spirit of their former band At the Drive-In, The Mars Volta have become an exercise in excess. I hate that because De-Loused in the Comatorium is a classic.

TV On the Radio – “Staring At the Sun”

When I finally got a car when I turned 17 I spent a lot of time in the Barnes and Noble music section. Their prices were cheaper than Best Buy and we didn’t have a local record store in Pensacola, Fla. I grabbed Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes because I liked the album cover (I did this a lot since our Internet connection sucked at home). It turns out that I managed to pick up some of my favorite albums ever this way. “Staring At the Sun” is still the best song written by TV On the Radio.

Sufjan Stevens – “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.”

This was the album that everyone of my friends could agree on our first year in college. I remember loving the Garden State soundtrack that I checked out those bands further, which eventually led me to Sufjan Stevens. I’m still not a convert to everything he’s done and I haven’t cried at his shows (though I know a lot of people who have), but this song is equal parts beautiful and depressing. Any song that makes me feel sorry for a serial killer is always worth a listen.

Neutral Milk Hotel – “Holland, 1945”

The first time I heard Jeff Mangum’s warble was at a house party. It was decade’s themed where we started in the 70s and every two hours we changed it over to the next decade. This was the first song to be played for the 90s section of the evening. I immediately ran over to one of my roommate and asked him what it was and that I needed to have it.

Talking Heads – “Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)”

I remember really liking “Once In A Lifetime” but I didn’t really listen to the Talking Heads until one of my college roommates suggested them to me when I was looking for new music. This was the first band I ever became really obsessed with. A completist at heart, I went around buying everything I could by them. This lead me to David Byrne’s solo stuff and the Tom Tom Club. Man, I love the Talking Heads.

Bright Eyes – “Four Winds”

On April 11, 2007 my mother died. I woke up to a phone call from my step-father who was boarding a plane to Memphis in tears. She died in her sleep — the way anyone wants to go. I never liked Bright Eyes other than I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning but I had picked up the mediocre Cassadaga that week. When you’re hit with news like that you don’t really know what to do. I did the obvious things like call my professors and tell them that I wouldn’t be coming to class until the following week if not later and reached out to my family. I was in Mississippi without a reliable car and waiting for my dad to pick me up on the way to Memphis. I don’t remember much from the next few days, but I know I spent a lot of time driving for no real reason listening to this song on repeat. I still haven’t listened to that song since that day. I’ve come to terms with her passing, but I don’t think I’ll listen to that song again.

The Hold Steady – “Stuck Between Stations”

This song has lead me to making this mix tape. Like usual I was looking for something new to listen to and I came across a glowing review of Boys and Girls In America in Rolling Stone. I had gone to see my girlfriend in New York at the time and picked up this CD while I was there. I listened to it here and there, but it wasn’t until I had a long drive that I really clicked with this album. It’s a driving record that’s for sure. But there’s a certain grace and sophistication other than music that keeps you awake at the wheel. Since stumbling upon that review, I’ve driven countless miles to see this band — the first being Bonnaroo ’07. I met them the same day. I didn’t have anything for them to sign so they signed my Bonnaroo map. Craig wrote “Stay Positive” on it while I blabbered about how much they “wailed” (apparently I had watched Wayne’s World recently) and asked Franz how he grew such a killer mustache. These are things that a normal human being wouldn’t say to their heroes.

LCD Soundsystem – “All My Friends”

I ended up getting pretty depressed after my mother died. I wouldn’t interact with people, I was generally crabby and I drank more than I probably should have. The summer of 2007 was more formative than any other year. I studied abroad that summer. I ended up meeting my future roommates and best friends. I got a chance to do something I never thought I would do. It made me realize that I want to work in journalism and that I absolutely loved dancing.

Holy crap, do I love to dance and cut loose. This LCD Soundsystem song isn’t their most dance filled number but the lyrics make me nostalgic for that summer where I stumbled home most nights and learned more from my friends than any book could have taught me.

Titus Andronicus – “Titus Andronicus”

I lived in a house that was notorious for their parties in Mississippi called The Belafonte (I don’t really know why it was named that so don’t ask). I moved in after I got back from London in the fall of 2007. Halloween was a particular fun time, but in 2008 we started throwing house shows. Titus Andronicus were the first touring act to make a stop at The Belafonte. My roommate Eric and I fell in love with The Airing of Grievances and decided to shoot the guys an e-mail. They said yes and ended up being some of the coolest people we’ve met.

Andrew Jackson Jihad – “Brave As A Noun”

We booked Andrew Jackson Jihad for our second house show. They played at midnight on Halloween night to a room full of my closest friends and acquaintances. No microphone. No amplifiers. Just two dudes with an acoustic guitar and bass. They did this between their New Orleans show date and their date at The Fest in Gainesville, Fla. (which is roughly 9 hours away from my old house). They played, had a beer or two, sold some merchandise and hit the road. The set might have been 20 minutes long, but it was still the best I’ve seen in a long time.

Daniel Martin Moore – “It’s You”

This past August I got married to my girlfriend of six years. This was the song to our first dance as husband and wife. It’s still one of the happiest days of my life. I got to celebrate with my family, her loving family and my great, great friends who I miss dearly. Two days after my wedding we moved to Washington, DC so she could start graduate school. I know a few people around town, but we don’t hang out much so right now it’s just me and her versus the world. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. It might be lonely at times but I’m glad I have her.