Archive forOctober, 2005


    New for fall: a mix by some old people for a guy just entering college.

I’ve been a little behind on new music over the last few weeks. Thanks to , I did pick up the Mercury Prize–winning Antony and the Johnsons CD late last week and am loving it. And my new-music slackness will surely end tomorrow, Tuesday, 4 October, which will go down as one of 2005’s biggest release dates for rock fans: Franz Ferdinand, Fiona Apple, My Morning Jacket, the Magic Numbers, James Blunt and a Beta Band best-of all hit the racks tomorrow (along with a Liz Phair CD I’ll be skipping for now and a Nickelback CD I wouldn’t be caught dead buying). I still need to get that Wolf Parade CD from last week, too.

While I’ve been sleeping on new stuff, I’ve been playing a lot of comfort music on my iPod. I’ve always kept a copy of any mix I’ve ever made for someone; I’ve done this since the days of mixtapes (literally, cassettes). But iTunes makes it especially easy to keep a mix after I’ve burned a CD for my wife or a friend and make it part of my day-to-day rotation. The mix that’s gotten the most play on my iPod recently is the newest and feels just right for fall: it’s called Collegiate.

I put it together at Emily’s request for her favorite young’un from Wayne, Pa., her next-door neighbor and onetime babysitting charge, Tim. He’s a little too big for Emily to babysit now. A week ago we finished the CD and mailed it off to him (along with a Shins T-shirt purchased at last week’s White Stripes show), to Wooster College, where he just began his freshman year.

When I started putting together this mix, I did a little searching at the iTunes Music Store and through Google to see what other “college” mixes were out there and get some ideas. I was shocked to discover that while there are tons of college-memories mixes out there specific to the people making them – like, “Awesome Songs from Duke Class of ‘98!!!!!” etc. – virtually no one has made a general, all-encompassing mix about entering college or being in college. Of course, all mixes are reflections of the people who make them or – more important, in my case – the people receiving them. My mix would have to contain stuff I thought would enjoy. But I wanted something applicable to anyone turning 18 and leaving home for the first time, reinventing himself, making peace with his geekitude, etc.

Sigh – if you want something done right, you’ve gotta do it yourself:

COLLEGIATE: A mix for T.S., from Emily and Chris

1 Never Going Back Again Fleetwood Mac
2 The New Year Death Cab for Cutie
3 U-Mass Pixies
4 Nightclubbing Iggy Pop
5 Starfish and Coffee Prince
6 (Don’t Go Back to) Rockville R.E.M.
7 Cut Your Hair Pavement
8 Supra Genius Soul Coughing
9 I Palindrome I They Might Be Giants
10 University Throwing Muses
11 Cemetery Gates The Smiths
12 Jumping Someone Else’s Train The Cure
13 School Spirit Skit 1 Kanye West
14 Sheep The Housemartins
15 The Girls Want to Be with the Girls Talking Heads
16 Kiss Off The Violent Femmes
17 Work Jimmy Eat World
18 I Will Dare The Replacements
19 Rudie Can’t Fail The Clash
20 The Sounds of Science The Beastie Boys
21 My Old School Steely Dan
22 Don’t Let Our Youth Go to Waste Galaxie 500

Obviously I took a lot of liberties with the definition of what’s “collegiate.” The Prince song is a singsongy ditty about grade schoolers, not college students – but I love the opening sound of an alarm clock. Throwing Muses’ “University” is a near-instrumental with no college relevance beyond its title (although the babbling vocals of Kristin Hersh’s toddler bring to mind Emily’s years of babysitting ). The Jimmy Eat World, Clash and Talking Heads songs have little relevance to the theme at all, though they might express certain concerns of the newly-liberated 18-year-old – who, by the way, is still too young to be “Nightclubbing” à la Iggy Pop.

Nonetheless, I managed to identify a few loose themes that felt right for this mix: songs about freedom (Fleetwood Mac, Death Cab, R.E.M., the Replacements, Galaxie 500); songs about geekitude (Soul Coughing, TMBG, the Beasties); cynical songs about school (Pixies, Steely Dan, the skit from Kanye West); and – most resonant for the smart collegian – songs about flipping off phonies and poseurs (Housemartins, Cure, Violent Femmes). Plus, the Smiths song is about literature and self-pity, which pretty much describes my college experience top-to-bottom.

The bulk of these songs predate my college years and just over a quarter came out later. Only two of the songs, from the Pixies and Beastie Boys, are from my actual college years (1989–93), because I didn’t want this mix to be about me; and although I wanted the mix to be -friendly, it’s not really about her college years, either. (No Weezer!)

Nonetheless, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that one of the draws of this mix for me – the reason I’ve been playing it a lot even after we gave it to its intended recipient – is the idea of college, of being 18 again, and of someone half my age experiencing that for the first time. I find nostalgia-wallowing an all too common and regrettable trend among aging rock fans, critics and onetime-hipsters – especially the truism that the music that came out when one is between 14 and 21 remains the most meaningful throughout one’s life. What’s nice about this mix is that I get to indulge in some virtual nostalgia that’s not specific to me or to any time period. Without falling into the trap of chauvinism for my own teenage years, I get to feel young and idealistic while commuting to my remunerative-but-hopelessly-adult job.

Damn, why didn’t I make this mix years ago?

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