Another Year, Another Blog

As many of my loyal followers noticed, I stopped blogging for almost the entirety of 2011. Well, it is now 2012, and I’m ready to blog again. Here’s the deal. I’m tired of making mixes, because I’m tired of having the same old music to.. mix. Don’t get me wrong, I love old music. The problem is, they don’t make it like they used to. Hopefully that is a true statement, and not a revelation that I’m getting old. But the radio hits these days just seem to get worse and worse. I take little to no pleasure in hearing truly new music.

The rest of the story, though, is I have recently relocated to a town outside of the “Live Music Capital of the World,” Austin, Texas. So if there is anything both good and new being created, I hope to find it here. So, goodbye, mix tapes. Hello, live music reviews!

Another change I’ve made in the past year: I have begun using a smart phone. The beauty of the smart phone, is that I can post pictures, videos, sound clips, and reviews, directly from the front lines of the pubs, clubs, and coliseums of Austin.

The challenge: find at least one, up-and-coming band and/or artist per month worthy of including in an old-fashioned Lena-style mix tape. The result: one killer, all brand-spankin’ new, mix of the year by the time the world ends (or doesn’t) in December.

It’s gonna be a wild ride, y’all. Welcome to Texas. Welcome 2012. Welcome back Lena Zen.

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Let’s save your troubles for another day…

Sorry this is late, Katrina. It was quite a challenge. Here’s the scoop, ya’ll. My friend, Katrina, asked me to make a mix of music she would enjoy. She gave me “Escapade” by Janet Jackson as the inspiration along with Regina Spektor and Bjork. Interesting, right? Well you all know me well enough by now to realize that’s not my genre of expertise. I thought it would be fun, none the less. Now, as far as sound goes, again Cyndi Lauper and Madonna are shew ins here, but Katrina asked me to take it a step further and find artists she most likely hadn’t heard of. This was beyond my capabilities on my own, so I’d like to welcome my best friend, Kamil, to the editor’s list on this one. She’s my source into the world of female r&b artists and was a big help. As I hadn’t heard many of these artists before I started this list, it took me quite a while to weed through and find just the right songs. So, Katrina, I really hope my research pays off and you like this list. Anyone else with suggestions or challenges, bring ’em on. If I feel like I haven’t done it yet, I’ll give it a whirl.

Why are you sleeping? – Katrina’s Mix

What You Do (feat. Ne-yo) – Chrisette Michele

So this was the first song I heard by Miss Chrisette Michele. I picked it because I know and, for the most part, enjoy Ne-yo. I really liked it. This song is almost classic blues, and has a bit of an old-school feel, but the rhythm takes it to another level. Really great suggestion, Kamil.

Floating Vibes – Surfer Blood

I am so glad I discovered these guys while making this mix. Katrina, it’s not exactly what you were looking for, but I’m hoping you’ll find it fits here as much as I thought it did. It’s upbeat but still really chill. Beach boys style chords, but totally modern indie-rock sound. Thank you, Youtube, for recommending this.

T-Shirt- Shontelle

Now, Shontelle is more mainstream so, sorry if you’ve heard this one before. But she definitely fits on this list regardless. Also, she’s ridiculously adorable and can wear my t-shirts any time.

Getting Nowhere ft. John Legend – Magnetic Man

Really chill song. This is the only one I listened to by Magnetic Man. I really enjoy the beat again coupled with that bluesy vocals feel. It’s not upbeat in any sense, but it is really laid back and has an inspired sound. I hope you like it.

Gotta Go Gotta Leave Vivian Green

At first, I was skeptical of Vivian Green’s potential to fit into this list. But when I came across this song, I agreed. The beat slows and speeds intermittently and really enhances the mood of the lyrics. Very jazzy feel with diva style vocals. Good tip from Kamil again.

Golden Phone Micachu

I dipped into my own collection on this one. I first heard of Micachu about a year ago while reading Bjork’s Ping blog. Super weird sound, definitely Bjork inspired, and I can’t help but love it. I started you out with one of the less weird ones, but the beats get crazier and crazier with Micachu. Enjoy.

Playgirl – Ladytron

This one’s straight off my iTunes as well. So I hope it’s not too off for your taste. Ladytron was one of my ex-girlfriend’s roommate’s favorite bands, so I got hooked when hanging out in their room in college. Very happy sound. Not sure I would call it upbeat, but.. at times it can be. It is catchy though, huh?

In the Sun – She & Him

Can I just say how much I freaking love Zoey Deschanel in everything she does? Because I LOVE her. Now, about the band, they have a bit of a Regina Spektor vs. Rilo Kiley sound going on. It’s a little more indie than I think you traditionally like, but I’m hoping it will spark your interest.

Sick Muse – Metric

So OK, I know I gave you Metric before and you apparently didn’t like them. But I refuse to accept that. So, I’m giving you another chance to fall for them. Metric is really happy-making music, for me at least, so I’m really hoping another shot will turn you on. On a similar note, I think there are a lot of artists on my previous mixes worthy of another shot in your book. I really can’t believe you didn’t like Solange and Rilo Kiley!

Elephant Gun- Beirut

Alight, I’m getting carried away with giving you my favorites from my iTunes. So after this one I promise, I’ll go back to R&B for a minute. First off, I’ll assure you that no, that is not a banjo you hear. Although, I’m still determined to get you to accept the banjo into the world of respectable instruments. I’ll follow up by saying if you don’t give Beirut a shot, you’re really missing out.

Energy- Keri Hilson

I know you’ve heard of Keri Hilson. But not sure if you’ve explored her at all. I really really love this song, and not many of her others, but she may be more your style? Although I will say I really love every song she’s done with other artists. I don’t know, I promised you another R&B song…

Zero – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

OK, R&B minute over, because well I’m just no good at it, and I have to end on a slightly more “Lena” note. So, I don’t know why I think you’d enjoy the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Probably because you like upbeat stuff and Bjork. See what you think of these guys. Although, I’m sure you’ve heard them before. Shake it like a ladder to the sun. Makes me feel like a madman on the run.

Here comes a bikini whale!

Alright guys, I’m just going to go ahead and prepare you for this one. It’s sad. Because tonight I’m thinking about my best friend in the whole world, who I love more than anything, and wish every day I could see one last time. To be honest, I’m at a loss for words on this one. What can you really say about the man who raised you that will express how much more than words he will ever mean to you? Daddy, this list is for you. I’ll always be your little girl.

El Paso- Marty Robbins

This was Daddy’s favorite song. That’s right, folks, I have allowed the evil country music into my mix. Here’s the thing, have you actually heard enough country to know you hate it so much? Because seriously… you think you’re so open-minded… but you think country consists of like a bunch of hillbilly folk banging on banjos and being drunk and racist. Just listen to this song. Once. For me?

I’m too Sexy – Right Said Fred

So right now you’re thinking one of two things (or possibly both of these things), What. The. Fuck? and/or you’re just taking my Freudian reference in “I’ll burn this whole city down” much more seriously. Well, let me stop you right there. My dad was possibly the funniest man I’ve ever met. He used to sing this song in the shower, and I used to sit in the bathroom while he was taking showers. If that’s not a normal thing for little kids, don’t tell me, my childhood is sacred. Anyway he had a really silly dance to it and everything. So, of course, I picked it up… as I did most of his traits (good and bad.) So I have this totally awesome picture of me circa 1995, in the shower, doing the Egyptian, with my hair spiked up in a Mohawk with soap suds, singing this song. I will try to find it one of these days. Too funny!

Tears in Heaven- Eric Clapton

You can probably guess why this song is on the list. In addition to the obvious, though, Eric Clapton is a legend and I can’t wait to see him live in Seoul next month. I’ll light one up for you to this song, Pops.

Drift AwayBob Segar

So.. OK.. I’m aware that I’m showing my Texas roots on this one, and I’m only slightly ashamed of it. But, everyone remembers the first movie they cried after, right? Mine was this weird Rodeo movie. I have no idea what it was called or what really happened. At the end, though, the rodeo clown dies and they play this song. I cried. Then whenever I heard this song after that I thought of the clown and cried. My dad laughed at me every time. Jerk!

Little Lies – Fleetwood Mac

I’ve told you before about our road trips to visit my grandma. That was Lena and Daddy time (my given name is Meredith, so he actually called me “Mere-Bear”.) I won’t tell you again about Fleetwood Mac, instead I’ll tell you a story about one of these road trips. I was just starting to read, so I read EVERY road sign. Well, we came upon a “Watch for Falling Rock” sign and for some reason it perplexed me. So I asked Daddy what it meant. He proceeded to tell me a story of an Indian chief whose son, “Falling Rock” had fallen in love with a girl from another tribe. Since their love was forbidden, they ran away, never to be seen again. Ever since, the chief, heartbroken, had put up signs all over the country saying, “Watch for Falling Rock.” Cute story, right? Here’s the kicker. I was literally 15 years old before I realized this story wasn’t true. I’m still skeptical.

Rock Lobster – The B-52s

Daddy and I could not resist dancing to this song. I learned every single silly dance I know dancing to the B-52s. If I ever need to just feel all around happy, this is the song. Just try listening to it without smiling. Try it! If you ever went to a party I threw, you know, when I get drunk and silly, this album comes out! You have my awesome father to thank for that.

Friend of the Devil- Grateful Dead

Daddy was a dead head. Kinda. Well he certainly made me one. This was the first song he helped me play on a jukebox. It cost a dime and I danced on his toes. This is a very fond memory and a dime extremely well spent.

My Name Is- Eminem

Stop with the head tilting already! Don’t you know I always justify the weirdness? So toward the end of his life, my dad was going through his mid-life crisis (and no, I’m not trying to be ironic.) He picked me up from school one day and asked me, “if you could have any car in the world, what would it be?” I was a teenage girl, so I picked a jeep. We drove straight to the dealership and bought one. My mother was furious. Soon after, he started hanging out with this silly white kid, Rory (he looked just like Eminem) but more importantly, he listened to nothing but rap. Dad and Rory were inseparable for a while. They tricked out the Jeep, then the home theater, and did a lot of coke. Anyway, this was the last album my dad ever bought me. In honor of his best bud, Rory. So, I love Eminem. What of it?

Nights in White Satin – The Moody Blues

Yes, I know it’s a really steamy love song. But another favorite of ours. We used to get stoned together and listen to this album. It was magnificent.

Baby Love – Diana Ross and the Supremes

I was Daddy’s baby. So when they asked me for a song to play as a father-daughter memorial kind of thing at his funeral. This was the one. I hadn’t cried about it at all until I heard this song. This happy-go-lucky, super upbeat song brought me to tears instantly.

Butterfly Kisses- Westlife

Warning: This song will make you cry. No matter how hard you are. No matter how much you hate country. No matter how much you hate your parents. You will cry. If you don’t, you’re soulless. No, but for real, I love you, Daddy.

Wishing you were somehow here again – Phantom of the Opera

You don’t have to actually listen to this song, but I want to share the story. Growing up an only child is different. You have to improvise during play time. I had a lot of stuffed animals and dolls (I still do, which some of you know) and I just knew there was life in them. So I talked to them all the time. But I also performed for them. My “thing”, as a child, was musicals. My favorite was Phantom of the Opera. I knew the entire play and I would perform it on repeat, casting myself as Christine and my “My-Size Barbie” as the Phantom. Daddy put up with hearing me sing this song sometimes five times a day, and back then I didn’t know how it felt… to really feel this song. Now I know.

Dead Flowers – The Rolling Stones

This one is actually for Bob. Who was like a father to me through a really hard time in my life. I think of you often, Bob, and wish things could have been different. Rest in Peace. I won’t forget to put roses on your grave.

People, let me tell you ’bout my best friend…

 You know how everybody has some little group they fit into throughout life that fits them neatly into a little box and labels them appropriately? Of course, you don’t have one! Because you’re far too cool for that and you reject labels and blah, blah, blah. But assume for a moment that everyone does, I’m sure you can find one to hide in. I’m like you (newsflash: everyone who’s worth knowing is) and jumped around from box to box. I never settled in one, though, which is perhaps the story behind my eclectic mix of friend songs. No real introduction on this one. Instead, I’d like to tell you a couple of stories about my memories of these songs.

Son, can you play me a memory? – songs of friendship

We are Going to be Friends- White Stripes

We all know this song from Napolean Dynamite. Well it’s also the theme song from the first time I tripped on acid. My friend, Jen, and I got into a water gun fight and this song was playing. I honestly thought I was a cat the whole time, though. Go figure.

Pepper- Butthole Surfers

Was playing the first time I had sex. No, not in the butt. But that would be something, wouldn’t it?

Bittersweet SymphonyThe Verve

Reminds me of the good ‘ol days chillin at “The Barn” with my friends. Sometimes I think I was a completely different person back then. Listening to these songs reassures me that I wasn’t, I’ve just grown a little. Well, ok, a lot, but I’m still here.

Round Here- Counting Crows

My first roommate in college, Kira, used to set her alarm to the Counting Crows’ August and Everything After. This is the first song on the album. Every time I hear the first few notes, I think of that first semester and waking up to Counting Crows, S’mores poptarts, and redbull.

Two Step- Dave Matthews Band

I wanted so badly to be one of those cool lesbians who weren’t out, but everyone knew they were gay because they played softball. So I tried really hard to get into that group. I played softball… I listened to Dave Matthews… I wore track jackets…still didn’t fit in. But this song stuck.

Summertime Clothes- Animal Collective

I was a late bloomer in the world of smart phones. But, when I finally got a blackberry, Slacker Radio introduced me to this song. It came into my life at exactly the right time. The weather was summery, I was in school and therefore a party animal, and I couldn’t get enough of Animal Collective.

Baby got Back- Sir Mixalot

I have a lot of good memories associated with this song. I’ll only share my one favorite, though, and it’s just a flash photo in my head of three of my dearest friends, Jen, Bess, and Willy, driving around in a beat up station wagon. Windows down, shades on, blasting this song. Good times. I’ll add (so as not to be too uncharacteristically sentimental) that I am TERRIBLE at Kareoke-ing this song.

Union- Black Eyed Peas

This one was from Leila. She used to walk around campus with speakers blasting this whole album out of her backpack. One night, we ate some shrooms and went down to the lawn. At some point I decided to separate from the group and lay by myself under a tree. Everything was amazing in that moment. The grass was damp, but warm, the stars were swaying in the night sky, the tree above me turned into a giant, colorful peacock and danced just for me. In the distance, there was this song playing from Leila’s backpack. I’ll never forget that.

Us- Regina Spektor

One of my best friends, Susanna, and I, used to get into all sorts of mischief around Dothan and later Seoul. This song is the essence of our entire relationship.

What’s left of the Flag- Flogging Molly

I took Ross to the airport at some point in our relationship. He left a CD in the car that had this song on it. I heard it once and loved it, so I played it again, and then again, and basically the entire drive home. I’ve been hooked ever since.

Pardon Me- Incubus

Ana swore by Incubus, and I looked up to her like she was a rock star. This album got me through adolescence, no lie. So now I swear by Incubus too. Thanks, Ana. Other notables that she introduced me to (circa 6th grade) include A Perfect Circle, Garbage, Pink Floyd (OK, Dad, I know you deserve credit for this, but at the time you were just not as cool as Ana.) 

Basket Case- Green Day

Green Day came into my life long before I had the capacity to appreciate them. My friend, Carolyn, had an older sister whom I will now admit, I had a huge crush on. Yes, even though she terrorized us to no end (she was a teenager and we were maybe 7 or 8). She had three posters in her room right above her amazing water-bed Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins, and No Doubt. So, I most likely owe my entirety of awesomeness to Carolyn’s sister. I don’t even know her name anymore!

Tik Tok- Ke$ha

Lauren says I look and sound just like Ke$ha when I’m drunk. Thanks, Lauren? I figured I needed a modern song on this list so.. this will have to do. Before I leave brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack, ’cause when I leave for the night, I ain’t comin’ back!

I’ll burn this whole city down…

Edit: I feel like I owe you a little back story. So, I’m a big fan of Freud and yes, I’m aware you hate me for that. Despite his less than modern, anti-feminist (at times) view of the world, I feel like he was on to something (on many fronts) but specifically on lust (and subsequent, more-relevant-to-my-story, love). With that introduction, I’m sure you know this is going to sound incredibly fucked up, but hear me out. I’ll sum it up with one anecdote that sort of gets at my point without getting too disturbing.

One day, when I was about six years old, I kissed my dad on the mouth and said, “Daddy, will you marry me?”

My dad replied, “I would love to, Kitten, but I’m married to your mom.”

At that point I had a choice. I could have accepted this and moved on, or I could have vowed to remove my mother from the picture (which possibly happened subconsciously, but has since been reversed), or I could have responded how I did:

“Oh, OK! Mommy can marry me too.”

So there it is. If you know me, you’re probably laughing your ass off right now. But, before you fall off your chair, let me briefly explain why I felt the need to share. When I think of missing someone, to the point of sadness, there really was, and is, only one guy (and one gal) for me in the world. The rest of them are all just attempts to find them again, my mom and dad. I find that the amount of attachment I form to a lover is directly proportionate to their similarities to my parents. So, for me, the sentiment of “missing” someone never translates to missing the lover, but missing the source of love; missing my parents.

It’s a lovely idea that there is just one person out there that exactly fits the mold, but it’s a load of bollocks. Not only do I personally disprove this theory almost once every full moon, but I also have never seen evidence to support it (beyond a reasonable doubt, of course).  According to all the good mothers of the world, two wrongs don’t make a right, so I rest my case.

Why then does the heart, in a metaphysical sense, ache (and we all feel it) when one of our loves goes away? Why do people so dread the day when they have to be apart from a lover, if only for a period of time? It has been a really long time since I could honestly say I knew what it felt like to “miss” someone. I just don’t work that way. But I see it everyday on Facebook; someone missing their true love dearly and wishing they were near. I’m guessing a lot of the lonely hearts out there are a result of not being raised on classics such as “Love the one You’re with” and “Ramblin’ Man.” But being one of those “lovechild”s who was, I have developed a unique skill: the ability to cure you of the sentimental bullshit that is holding you down. Step One: mix tape therapy!

Lies Over Verbose Eroticism – The Miss You Mix

FlutterBonobo

Really cool song. If you don’t like instrumentals, this one’s not for you, but it is super chill and I highly recommend giving it a listen.

When the Sun goes Down Arctic Monkeys

These guys are so much fun. Fun little pop culture references in every song, adorable British accidents, and always an upbeat baseline. Cheeky little punks!

Sally’s SongNightmare Before Christmas

OK, before you do the head tilt thing at me, listen to it! Danny Elfman has a gift for making music that people can’t resist listening to. Seriously, how many times do you skip a Nightmare Before Christmas song when it comes on your shuffle, and how many times do you sing gayly along instead? Right?

Jealous Guy- John Lennon

Whistle solo FOR THE WIN! If there’s anyone who understands the fluidity of love, it’s John Lennon. Yet, we still get these sappy love songs from him. So, not that you asked for it, but here’s my theory on that. People feel things. It happens. Lennon captures a feeling that he felt for a minute in a song, and we listen to it and feel the damned thing infinitely longer. So if you’re impressionable enough to believe that life can be lived through song lyrics, well you end up deeply, deeply emotional… when really, that was no one’s intention.

On RepeatLCD Soundsystem

I try to skip LCD Soundsystem when it comes on my shuffle because I feel like it’s cheating to listen to one song at a time, and I haven’t had time to experience the album start to finish yet. But this one slipped by when I wasn’t paying attention and I found myself head-bopping all the way through it. Cool. Thanks, Matt, I promise I’ll listen to the whole thing.

Passive- A Perfect Circle

I have had a love affair with APC for a very long time. I used to fall asleep to Mer De Noms. Something about Keenan’s voice is just so stimulating, and with a resume consisting of Tool, Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, and The Vandals (among others), how can you not swoon over this band?

Fire- Kasabian

I’m not sure why I’m confessing this, but I literally replaced QotSA’s Born to Hula with this song AS I was writing this paragraph because it came on my shuffle and I couldn’t stop myself. Kasabian has such a great sound, and this song just fits really well in this mix.

Would’ve Been the OneSolange

Solange has a weird sound to me. Funky, jazzy, poppy, diva. Anyway, fun song…

Sour Girl – Stone Temple Pilots

I’m still not sure I understand this song, or really any STP songs for that matter, their lyrics are pretty obscure. But, they are never the less awesome, and musically moving. This song makes me happy.. I’m not sure it should.. but it does.

O Valencia The Decemberists

OK, I know this song shouldn’t make me as happy as it does! Because I definitely understand this one. But it’s adorable and lots of fun! I really enjoy the Decemberists, and this song is the cutest thing ever.

Portions for Foxes- Rilo Kiley

I don’t like to think this song has anything to do with me. But, who am I kidding? Rilo Kiley will kick your ass if you don’t already know your flaws. Watch out. Also, good luck listening to just one song from this album. It will suck you in and before you know it, it’s repeating.

Blister in the SunViolent Femmes

I love that no matter where I go, if this song comes on, at least one other person feels obligated to skank and clap at exactly the same time as I do. I have made more than one good friend through this experience. Let me go on!

Girls on Top

Let me start by saying there are a lot of artists left out of this list. It was edited down to a mix tape sized portion from a very long list. Girl fans, don’t fret, the “Cherry Chapstick” mix is soon to follow and will contain much more girl power. Yes, I’m aware I’m missing Madonna, Pat Benetar, Cyndi Lauper, and the gang, but I try to give you the one’s you wouldn’t come up with on your own, so give this one a try.

Here’s how it is: I LOVE being a girl. I’m sexy, smart, and unstoppable. I can control a man’s thoughts with a blink of an eye or a wave of my hand. I can go out at night and not spend a dime. My body is a temple, and it loves to be worshiped… for hours. There are days when chocolate can solve all my problems. I don’t have to hide my true feelings about things. I could go on all day, but that’s not what we’re here for. We came for the music, and this mix is all about girls.

Si Es Perfecto – the girls on top mix

✓    Only Girl (In The World)- Rihanna

Every girl knows what Rihanna is talking about in this song and it’s hella fun to sing along to. Men, for those few hours you get with me, you better make me feel like I’m the only girl in the world. If you understand that (and understand when to turn it off), you’ve got women all figured out.
✓    Get Your Money Up- Keri Hilson, Keyshia Cole, and Trina

Talk about Divas. These ladies know how to make you move. I absolutely love this song. Now, let me see your booty drop.
✓    Paper Planes- MIA

Bad girls only wanna [insert gunshots] and take ya money. Sick song. Also, remember when I asked you if that song sounded familiar in the last mix? Does it sound familiar now?

✓    Battlefield- Jordin Sparks

This girl can sing her little heart out! And we love her for it. Why we gotta fall for it now?!

✓    Baby You Got Me- The Roots

I was torn between this song and honey.. and for some reason I always choose this one. Erykah Badu has got everything that is right in the world (and not just in her trunk.)

✓    Hips Don’t Lie- Shakira

That they don’t, Shakira! And what spectacular hips they are! I could watch Shakira dance for hours. In fact, I have! It doesn’t get old, trust me.

✓    If I Ruled The World- Lauryn Hill (with Nas)

Lauryn Hill would definitely get my vote for world ruler if she ran. Well, ok.. maybe not.. but what an amazing voice. Great song.

✓    Twin Cinema- The New Pornographers

This is one of my favorite bands, and Kathryn Calder is an incredibly sexy, and equally talented woman. Plus I got to set up their sound a couple times 🙂 If you don’t think she belongs on this list, fuck your shit.

✓    Jumpers- Sleater-Kinney

I’m aware this is a weird choice, and I strongly considered removing it to make room for Beyonce, but then I remembered the next mix I was making and decided to save her for later. Anyway, about Sleater Kinney.. weird ass band! But the girl power in me loves the hell out of them. What really gets me on this song, though, is the incredibly steamy sex scene to it in the L word. Go on, youtube it, the blog will still be here when you get back.

✓    Come On Eileen- Save Ferris

Ah, yes… the punk ska sensation of Save Ferris! If you can keep from dancing to this, you’re stronger willed than I.

✓    Monster- Lady GaGa

That’s right! I resisted Madonna and Beyonce, but gave in to Lady GaGa. What can I say? She’s the man! Every girl has an inner GaGa.

✓    Edge Of Seventeen- Fleetwood Mac

And we’ll end with Stevie because she’s so damned dope! Oooh baby oooh said ooooooh!

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