The first time I went over to Gabe's house, I looked at her CD collection and said something along the lines of, "So, you stopped buying pop music sometime in the '90s, huh?" Generally, pop culture is a barely perceptible blip on the outskirts of her radar, so although she has a great ear and a genuine love of music, her taste is more haphazard and utilitarian than a music nerd like me. This relative naiveté, paired with Gabe's natural instinct for learning new things, has proven to be a great opportunity for me to jabber at her about music, share my idiosyncrasies and theories, and attempt to inculcate her with my my own highly distinct and diverse taste. Although she remains unconvinced on many counts, our conversations continue to be fruitful and fun, giving me a chance to share the most important thing in my life with the most important person in it. In many ways, these conversations are what inspired Faux Sounds in the first place. But, as my obsessional repeated listens to this mix have demonstrated, our musical conversation is truly a dialogue, and I suspect my musical life will continue to get richer with Gabe in it. Educator by trade, world-traveller by disposition, Gabe lives in Hyde Park, Chicago with her two wildly original kids and a pair of silently judgmental pet turtles.
Gabe’s First Mix Tape It’s true. I have never made a mix tape. I’m a late bloomer. So here’s my first mix tape. Hopefully I’ll get better with time.
Los Fabulosos Cadillacs – Mal Bicho I first heard Los Cadillacs drinking a mojito in Havana, Cuba. What else can I say? I just can’t get enough.
The Stranglers – Nice N' Sleazy I keep hearing that “nice and sleazy does it.” I wish I could adopt this approach to life, but I tend to just be sleazy. Being nice just isn’t that intuitive for me.
Calexico – Algiers This is maybe the sexiest song I have ever heard. My experiences in Algiers were rough, like sandpaper; grime, uncertainty, mystery, hot winds, and the Atlas Mountains in the distance. This song would not have been the soundtrack to my experiences in Algiers at the time, but hearing it now it’s a great overdub for memory... Sleeping on the rooftop of a Land Rover in the customs yard of the international port after a ferry crossing from Spain. The coast of Africa, the city of Algiers, white and distant behind the fence calling while our expedition team was sequestered just on the other side…. Cats yawling, their calls echoing up empty elevator shafts in a hollow, old hotel; skirted, veiled women; Islamic music bleeding beyond the patios of European cafes decorated with men smoking and sticky shot glasses of black coffee; diving into an icy swimming pool in December and having the wind knocked out of me from the cold; tagine and couscous; calls to prayer from turrets on every corner. There is actually nothing about this song that is like the Algiers I experienced in 1993 - or what Algiers sounded like - except that it is magical.
10,000 Maniacs – Like The Weather I love this whole album. I could have picked from a bunch of the songs on it. I remember the moment I realized that each of the songs has a message about a social issue – illiteracy, abuse, alcoholism – and this one, which I can relate to – depression and the helplesseness that comes with it. “You’ve put in about half a day, while, here I lie…” The album endeared Natalie Merchant to me. I really love her new album, mostly for kids but not really – Leave your Sleep.
The Lilac Time – If The Stars Shine Tonight I bought this album because the band name had the word lilac in it. I would do it again.
Cassandra Wilson – The Weight A friend gave me this CD for my birthday. I love the way this song opens and how her voice is thick like molasses. If I could sing, I would want to sing like this, deep in the throat like sunshine on tiles radiating heat. The song unfolds a story with just a few lyrics each time, and each time I hear it I hear the story in a new way. “I saw the devil and Carmen walking side by side…I have to go but my friend can stick around.” It’s like a musical short story.
Etta Jones – Nature Boy First heard this song in the movie Moulin Rouge and went out to find it. Seek and ye shall find. “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and to be loved in return.” Sign me up for THAT course!
The Brian Setzer Orchestra – Caravan When National Geographic made a documentary about one of the expeditions to Niger I was on, they made “Caravan” the movie theme song and commissioned a bunch of musicians to develop interpretations in different musical styles. If you’re going to have a theme song, Caravan is a pretty awesome one to have. Thanks master documentary producer John Bredar for being so smart.
David Byrne & St. Vincent – Who I heard this on the radio – 93XRT – a few months ago and was like “what the HECK is THIS?” This combo is like a little salt in my dark chocolate. Poyfect.
James McMurtry – Talkin At The Texaco If you ever grew up in a small town, went to a small school, or passed through either, (especially West of the Mississippi and East of the Rockies), this song tells a story you already know. I am a sucker for a story song, and James McMurtry comes by story telling naturally with writer Larry McMurtry as his dad. (That’s my small tidbit of extra knowledge for this blog.) So many of his songs tell a little story about a lot of angst in pockets of places in America that we don’t otherwise see or hear from. I have a lot of favorites on this album, Painting by Numbers, Angeline, but American Master is a close second.
Love And Rockets – No New Tale To Tell Speaking of tales it’s time to pick up the pace on this mix tape and so here we go with Love and Rockets.
Ramones – I Wanna Be Sedated - Remastered Album Version It’s 1992. It’s summer. You’re in a Blue Skylark flying down the highway approaching Atlanta with your college roommate. She’s smoking menthols and drinking Diet Coke; you’re drinking green Gatorade and eating Doritos. You’ve got 6 days and 3,000 miles on the road under your belts. Nebraska, New Mexico, and New Orleans are behind you; New Jersey is on the horizon. In 20 minutes you’ll be at her obnoxious boyfriend’s house. What’s on the radio?
Talking Heads – Burning Down The House Did you ever play that game where you move into a new place and the first song that comes on the radio “christens” it (foreshadowing of what’s to come?) Two times Burning Down the House. Can that be coincidence?
Los Fabulosos Cadillacs – Matador I dare you to try to NOT have a little bounce in your body when you hear this song. “Matador – they’re coming for you. Where are you going matador?” The words in this song play on both sides- the Matador (killer, bullfighter) is being hunted by the police… who are, of course, matadors themselves. The song is making (somewhat) veiled references to the Argentinian military dictatorship and a resistance fighter. The matador in this song is the peace fighter who wages a war of resistance… Matador, where are you going matador? I told you I just couldn’t get enough of Los Fabulous Cadillacs.