MYSTERY ACHIEVEMENT, PART 1

What follows is a music mix (via youtube clips) and a corresponding short story that I recently made for a friend. Although the mix fits on one CD, the story has four parts. For brevity’s sake, here’s the first (with the other three to come)…

1. She wakes up, throws on a hoodie and sweatpants, puts her disheveled blonde hair into a ponytail and walks out the door. The West Village glistens in the morning sun. She’s confused—did she not stroll along the Seine the night before? How long did she sleep and, more importantly, how did she get from there to here?

2. Memories of last summer suddenly wash over her: the weekends along the coast, coasting from town to town, searching for the beach with the cleanest sand and the clearest water where she’d sprawl out without a blanket, an ever-looping Sinatra playlist on her iPod.

3. Now, it’s autumn, it’s cold, and after grabbing a coffee she returns to where she spent the night. He sits in the kitchen, a mug in one hand, the Times magazine in the other. She doesn’t acknowledge his presence as she swiftly turns around and leaves.

4. She takes the Amtrak all the way to Albuquerque, mulling over her night in the Village. At first, she obsesses over it but within a few hours, physically, she’s moved on (psychologically, well, that’s another story).

5. “Moving on to nowhere / holding on to no one” she sings to herself as the Railrunner she hopped on in Albuquerque pulls into Santa Fe. She’s so damn happy and honestly doesn’t know why.

6. Practically skipping down Guadalupe Street, she feels the rush of falling in love with life itself. She wants to take absolutely everything in, all the colors, shapes and sounds encircling her. By nightfall, however, she’s at the Rouge Cat Lounge, knocking back gimlets and chatting up a girl half her age.

Sinatra Had His Shit Figured Out, I Presume…

Some Summery goodness from what is still my favorite album of 2012.

My Favorite Music of 2012

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Martha Wainwright

The Best Tracks of 2012 in two Spotify playlists:

Volume 1: Someone Who Looks Smashing In Athletic Wear

1. Saint Etienne, “Tonight” / 2. Tanlines, “All Of Me” / 3. The Magnetic Fields, “Andrew In Drag” / 4. Diamond Rings, “Runaway Love” / 5. Stars, “Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It” / 6. Jens Lekman, “Some Dandruff On Your Shoulder” / 7. Jessie Ware, “Wildest Moments” / 8. Of Monsters And Men, “Mountain Sound” / 9. Hot Chip, “Let Me Be Him” / 10. Rufus Wainwright, “Bitter Tears” / 11. Sinead O’Connor, “Queen Of Denmark” / 12. The Ting Tings, “Guggenheim” / 13. Aimee Mann, “Labrador” / 14. Imperial Teen, “Out From Inside” / 15. Miike Snow, “The Wave” / 16. Twin Shadow, “Run My Heart” / 17. Martha Wainwright, “Proserpina” / 18. Fiona Apple, “Hot Knife” / 19. A.C. Newman, “They Should Have Shut Down The Streets”

Volume 2: You Enjoy Sucking On Dreams

1. Metric, “The Void” / 2. Calexico, “Splitter” / 3. Sharon Van Etten, “Serpents” / 4. Regina Spektor, “All The Rowboat” / 5. Dr. John, “Revolution” / 6. The Gaslight Anthem, “Here Comes My Man” / 7. Deep Sea Arcade, “Girls” / 8. Keane, “On The Road” / 9. Bat For Lashes, “Laura” / 10. The xx, “Chained” / 11. Emm Gryner, “She’s Gone” / 12. Paul Brill, “Breezy” / 13. Patti Smith, “April Fool” / 14. Andrew Bird, “Lusitania” / 15. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes, “Man On Fire” / 16. The Shins, “No Way Down” / 17. Ben Folds Five, “Away When You Were Here” / 18. A Fine Frenzy, “Now Is The Start” / 19. Goldfrapp, “Melancholy Sky” / 20. Field Music, “(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing” / 21. Beth Orton, “Mystery”

Top Ten Albums:

1. Jens Lekman – I KNOW WHAT LOVE ISN’T
2. Fiona Apple – THE IDLER WHEEL…
3. Saint Etienne – WORDS AND MUSIC BY SAINT ETIENNE
4. Hot Chip – IN OUR HEADS
5. Rufus Wainwright – OUT OF THE GAME
6. Martha Wainwright – COME HOME TO MAMA
7. Ben Folds Five – THE SOUND OF THE LIFE OF THE MIND
8. Imperial Teen – FEEL THE SOUND
9. Stars – THE NORTH
10. Jessie Ware – DEVOTION

Also Recommended:

Often, I struggle to find enough worthy albums to fill out a top ten. This year, I could have easily done a top 15. Here are a few worthy candidates, along with favorite tracks in parentheses.

A.C. Newman – SHUT DOWN THE STREETS
Far more focused than his second solo album, slightly less convincing than his first, and preferable to the last two New Pornographers records. (“They Should Have Shut Down The Streets”, “Hostages”, “You Could Get Lost Out Here”)

Andrew Bird – BREAK IT YOURSELF
After seeing him perform most of this material in concert two years ago, I diagnose him with a case of Ani DiFranco Syndrome—the studio recordings can’t quite match the live renditions, but at least he cut out the filler that marred Noble Beast. (“Lusitania”, “Eyeoneye”, “Near Death Experience Experience”)

Bat For Lashes – THE HAUNTED MAN
She’s an artist in transition, still finding her voice. For all the studio wizardry on display here, she’s most effective when she places her vocals and melodies front-and-center. (“Laura”, “All Your Gold”)

Metric – SYNTHETICA
Ever confident and insanely catchy, but it breaks little new ground. Nonetheless, a solid follow-up to Fantasies so competent that grumpy old man Lou Reed doesn’t even embarrass himself in a cameo. (“The Void”, “Clone”, “Breathing Underwater”)

Miike Snow – HAPPY TO YOU
A strange but not unbecoming mixture of top 40 dance music with an indie rock sensibility: martial drum rolls, house music pianos and campfire whistling never sounded so good together. (“The Wave”, “Paddling Out”, “Bavarian # 1 (Say You Will)”)

Patti Smith – BANGA
She must have got something out of her system with that awful documentary about her from a few years back (or perhaps you can just blame its director); in her stunning memoir and now this, she’s rarely projected so much lucidity and warmth. (“April Fool”, “This Is The Girl”)

Sinead O’Connor – HOW ABOUT I BE ME (AND YOU BE YOU)?
Still a perpetual Hot Mess, but better that than a boring one. Easily her best since I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, “Queen of Denmark” proves her gift for interpretation hasn’t diminished. (“The Wolf Is Getting Married”, “Queen of Denmark”, “Reason With Me”)

Tracey Thorn – TINSEL AND LIGHTS
After only a few spins, it’s now my favorite modern Christmas album and a testament to her continued relevance that the two originals are highlights. (“Tinsel and Lights”, “Joy”, “Taking Down The Tree”)

Top Ten Albums of 2012: # 1

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1. Jens Lekman – I KNOW WHAT LOVE ISN’T

I named his last album, Night Falls Over Kortedala my favorite of 2007, although its impact has faded for me over time. So, with many flashier, more obvious candidates to pick from, how is Jens once again responsible for my favorite album of the year? He doesn’t exactly pick up where Kortedala left off, although rest assured his lovably droopy voice and sardonic sense of humor are still intact—perhaps even more hangdog and acerbic than before. He’s also more genuinely world-weary, having apparently faced his share of heartbreak between the two albums (not to mention a bout of swine flu). He’s even called this record his “debut album” (although it’s actually his fourth) and it distinguishes itself by largely eschewing Kortedala’s sample-heavy aesthetic for a more organic, mostly acoustic palette that ranges from guitar-and-vocal simplicity (“Every Little Hair Knows Your Name”) to full-blown sophisti-pop (“Some Dandruff On Your Shoulder”—the warmest sounding tune he’s ever written). Lyrically, Lekman’s still nearly infatuated with heartbreak, but rather than sentimentalizing it or wallowing in self-pity, he plays the part of wizened observer (one astute chorus goes, “You don’t get over a broken heart / You just learn to carry it gracefully.”). What’s really so wonderfully affecting about Lekman is that he never suggests he’s entirely given up on love; you always sense his yearning to participate in the madness of it all, even if he doesn’t explicitly say so. With I Know What Love Isn’t, he’s found the ideal music and melodies for this pursuit—compelling, kind, and just a bit tart. For me, no other record this year has come close to matching its emotional pull.

Favorite tracks: “Some Dandruff On Your Shoulder”, “I Know What Love Isn’t”, “Erica America”, “She Just Don’t Want To Be With You Anymore”, “The End of The World Is Bigger Than Love”, “Become Someone Else’s”

Video for “I Know What Love Isn’t”:

Video for “The End of The World Is Bigger Than Love”: