Mix: 20 Songs by Jason Molina
This is a playlist of songs by Jason Molina, who died March 16 at age 39. Jason put out hundreds of tunes during his 15 year career, many of them sadly foretelling his death. And so it goes with this mix.
I’ve spent four months trying to catch up with Jason, wading into the waters between his peak albums, discovering new favorites (“The Dark Don’t Hide It” and “Hammer Down”) stuffed between the old (“Hot Black Silk” and “Just Be Simple”). He sings that “pain like this will even outlive the dark,” and in truth, this is hard listening. But Jason’s hardest moments are among his best and most intricate.
"Everything you hated me for," he sings. "Honey there was so much more. I just didn’t get busted."
It’s songs like “Just Be Simple” that pull you back in, even as you whince, frown and cry. He hates himself throughout, magnifies his faults even, makes you stare, and promises not to change. Honesty is what makes this music work, even when it’s almost unbearable.
"Now who was I?" he asks on another song. "Now, who am I? Lord what have I done? What comes after the blues?”
He continually raises the question we’re all pondering. He’s comfortable with his fate, but uncomfortable with the wake it might leave. The music leaves you sad as well as angry, but what can you do but listen some more?
Henry Owings from Chunklet wrote right after Jason’s death: ”Jason leaves behind him an enviable body of work that will be continually rediscovered because what Jason wrote wasn’t fashion. It was his heart. It was his love. It was his demons. And ultimately, it brought his life to an end.”
Though I can’t seperate the tragedy from the music, celebrating the music makes me feel better somehow.
Hence, the mix. This isn’t a “best of” since I’m not really an expert enough to make the necessary distinctions. This probably has his five or six best known songs, buried in a pile of my personal favorites as well as a couple favorites of friends.
I’m a sucker for the Magnolia Electric Co. era so the mix favors a five year window in the middle of his career (2002-2007) but I tried my best to put in a sprinkling from throughout. If I missed your favorite, please leave a comment and let me know.
1. Hot Black Silk – Songs: Ohia
2. Hammer Down – Magnolia Electric Co.
3. Just Be Simple – Songs: Ohia
4. Cabwaylingo – Songs: Ohia
5. Get Out Get Out Get Out – Jason Molina
6. Almost Was Good Enough – Songs: Ohia
7. What Comes After the Blues – Magnolia Electric Co.
8. Coxcomb Red – Songs: Ohia
9. It’s Made Me Cry – Magnolia Electric Co.
10. O! Grace – Magnolia Electric Co.
11. Nashville Moon – Magnolia Electric Co.
12. Captain Badass – Songs:Ohia
13. The Dark Don’t Hide It – Magnolia Electric Co.
14. Blue Factory Flame – Songs: Ohia
15. Don’t Fade On Me – Magnolia Electric Co.
16. North Star – Magnolia Electric Co.
17. Trouble Will Find You – Songs: Ohia
18. Twenty Cycles to the Ground – Molina And Johnson
19. Farewell Transmission – Songs: Ohia
20. In the Human World – Magnolia Electric Co.
Mix: New is the New Old
This is a mix I made for my brother-in-law and Pete. Pete is my music sensei, one of a handful of people who knows more about the music I love before I’ve heard it. This makes it extra challenging to make a mix for him. There’s little hope of unearthing some amazing Beach Boys track he’s never heard before. And unlike most mix recipients, he’s not looking for guidance on new music. In fact, he sort of discourages it. One gets the sense that, like Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon, he’s getting too old for this shit.
To remedy this age old problem, I tried an age old mix-making angle, intermingling the new and unfamiliar with the totally familiar. Knowing he might dismiss the newer stuff for sounding derivative or sounding generally like something that’s come before, I intentionally accompanied each new track with an old one performed by a band that clearly influenced them. Hopefully this hot wires his brain (and yours) into liking the whole thing.
A couple of notes:
- I didn’t necessarily include old songs that sounded exactly like the new song. Didn’t want it to get to samey.
- I stuck to one track per artist. Lest Neil Young fill out an entire half the mix.
- I didn’t work to go obscure. Why try to out master the master? Just give him something he loves but probably isn’t tired of.
- The pattern is newer song / older song. Some of the newer songs are admittedly older newer songs.
- The first song doesn’t follow this pattern. It’s just a palette cleanser.
- Neither does the last song, it’s just a great closer.
The mix’s real opener is track 2, “Hammer Down,” by the late, great Jason Molina, who died recently at the way-too-young age of 39. Listening to his music these last few weeks, replaying old favorites and trying some stuff I never got around to trying, it was hard to overlook the foreboding, often mournful tone that pervades his 20-year career. Death is something we all think about but Jason stewed in it. It’s nagging and unpleasant as a listener when you can’t ignore it, something I probably did previously.
On “Hammer Down,” Jason pictured himself dying. But rather than mournful, the song is oddly open and positive. He’s not looking forward, but up. He walks us into heaven, opens the door, and shows us people dancing:
I think stars are just the neon lights
Shining through the dance floor
Of heaven on a Saturday night.
And I saw the light.
Stay tuned for a mix of my personal Molina favorites. Until then, hope you enjoy this.
Stream this playlist on Spotify.
1. Grandma’s Theme – John Mellencamp
2. Hammer Down – Magnolia Electric Co.
3. Don’t Cry No Tears – Neil Young
4. Gentle Stream – The Amazing
5. Goin’ Back – The Byrds
6. Feels Like We’re Going Backwards – Tame Impala
7. Oh Woman, Oh Why – Paul McCartney
8. Lovely Night – Richard Swift
9. Feel Flows – The Beach Boys
10. Oh Yeah – Foxygen
11. Ventilator Blues – Rolling Stones
12. Gallup, NM – The Shouting Matches
13. Handshake Drugs – Wilco
14. I’m Writing A Novel – Father John Misty
15. Sitting On A Barbed Wire Fence – Bob Dylan
16. The Quotidian Beasts – Phosphorescent
Mix: AM 1570 Revisited
Many moons ago, I co-hosted a radio show in Bloomington, Indiana with Mark Groeschner of Public Nigmity and Into the Mild infamy. The station was student run and broadcast to approximately 12 people during peak listening hours. Our shift was midnight to 3 am and it usually drew two listeners: Mark and me.
We never had an opportunity to develop, artistically-speaking, into the legendary disc jockeys we were bound to become. One of us, tragically, got drunk on the air (while the other also got drunk but less noticeably) and was busted by the station manager, who threw the offending party off the station’s hardly transmitted airwaves.
This mix imagines: What if that fatal night never happened and the show was still on the air for your listening pleasure? What if WIUS’s AM signal could reach you in your house right now? For all 3 of you reading this and especially the two of you who are imagining with us, we hope you enjoy.
1. Monad - Chris Cohen
2. One Way Glass - Manfred Mann
3. Archie’s Army - Apache Dropouts
4. I Follow You - Melody’s Echo Chamber
5. Breaking the Yearlings - Shearwater
6. Something to Say - The Action
7. Doughnut for a Snowman - GBV
8. Definitive Gaze - Magazine
9. Flood’s New Light - Thee Oh Sees
10. Tell Me (What’s On Your Mind) - Allah-Las
11. Ode to Viceroy - Mac Demarco
12. Do You Love Me Now? - The Breeders
13. Run To Your Mama - Goat
14. Illogical - Ego Summit
15. Master of My Craft - Parquet Courts
16. Say Yeah - Tyvek
17. Bend Beyond - Woods
18. Midnight Submarine - Swell Maps
Mix: Nisei Lounge Love
A Valentine’s Day mix for my love. On our first date (nearly 14 years ago), we hit the Nisei Lounge on Sheffield in Wrigleyville, Chicago - hence the title of this mix.
1. English Rose - The Jam
2. You & I - Local Natives
3. Wonder Why - Vetiver
4. Try To Be - Blue Hawaii
5. Only One More Kiss - Paul McCartney
6. Back of My Mind - The Autumn Defense
7. Think About Me - Fleetwood Mac
8. Tougher Than the Rest - The Mendoza Line
9. It’s Only Life - The Shins
10. Ain’t That Loving You - Johnnie Taylor
11. Eight Avenue - Hospitality
12. San Francisco - Foxygen
13. I Don’t Know What Love Is - Vashti Bunyan
14. Emmylou - First Aid Kit
15. International Hair - The Amazing
16. You’re in My Heart (Acoustic) - Rod Stewart
Mix: Looking Back at 2012
1. Hold On - Alabama Shakes
2. Would That Not Be Nice - Divine Fits
3. Life’s A Beach - Django Django
4. Impossible Sky - Woods
5. Give Out - Sharon Van Etten
6. Rollercoaster Rider - Chris Cohen
7. What’s Wrong - Grizzly Bear
8. Jesus, Etc. - Bill Fay
9. Nancy From Now On - Father John Misty
10. Cherokee - Cat Power
11. The House That Heaven Built - Japandroids
12. Elephant - Tame Impala
13. Impregnable Question - Dirty Projectors
14. Watch the Corners - Dinosaur Jr.
15. Gone Tomorrow - Lambchop
16. Wrecking Ball - Bruce Springsteen
Mix: Wind, Whiskey & Water
The title sort of sums up November 2012, as I’ll remember it. My wife and I are extremely thankful our home and family remained safe before, during and after Sandy, but the storm left quite an impression.
Without public transportation, I worked from home, and without preschool, my 4-year-old did the same. For two weeks, the four members of the French clan huddled in our two-bedroom apartment and tried to keep it cool. As anyone with two kids under 5 years old can attest, this requires a lot of patience and a bit of bourbon, hence the title of the mix.
1. Wind and Walls - The Tallest Man on Earth
2. Steady Rain - Warren Zevon
3. Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake - Small Faces
4. What’s Wrong - Grizzly Bear
5. Peace Like A River - Paul Simon
6. Loveless Love - The Feelies
7. Laura Palmer’s Theme - Twin Peaks Soundtrack
8. Lost in the Flood - Bruce Springsteen
9. Apocalypse Dreams - Tame Impala
10. Share the End - Carly Simon
11. Song After Sex - Neutral Milk Hotel
12. Impregnable Question - Dirty Projectors
13. Mandolin Wind - Rod Stewart
14. Classy Girls - The Lumineers
Stream this playlist on Spotify.
Mix: Haunted Saab
This is a continuation of the “Saab” playlist series you all know and love…
Wait, what? You don’t know what I’m talking about? I guess that makes sense since the two previous playlists have been enjoyed by a total of five people. But they LOVE ‘em. For the Saab virgins, you can listen to Saab, After Dark and Saab in Space for priming.
With this third mix, we go to the dark side. What started as a tribute to my Saab-loving father has quickly mutated into a synth-laden cauldron of moderately scary music. Something to enjoy whilst Frankenstorm comes and goes.
Thanks to Into The Mild (author of “Saab in Space”), Anne Dehmer and Steve Mayne for an assist on a couple of these tunes:
1. The Fires of Hell
2. The Hurting - Tears For Fears
3. Manhattan - Cat Power
4. My Love Is Real - Divine Fits
5. Little Girl - Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse
6. Fela’s Riff - Talking Heads
7. The Haunted Forest
8. Rulers, Ruling All Things
9. Vincent Price Intro
10. Dracula’s Wedding - OutKast
11. Victim of the Crime - Phoenix
12. Good Man In A Bad Time - Ian Hunter
13. Please Take - Wire
14. The Evil Laboratory
15. The Seer Returns - Swans
16. I’m So Afraid - Fleetwood Mac
17. Last Night I Had A Dream - Randy Newman
18. Flight - Bernard Hermann
19. Running Scared - Roy Orbinson
20. Do You Want To Die Together - Stars
21. It’s Not Over - Holy Ghost!
Bonus Track: Werewolf Bar Mitzvah - Tracy Morgan
Mix: Crayola Payola
This is the second playlist I’ve made for my girls. (You can check out the first, “Drool Worthy,” here). With the first one, I stuck exclusively to music created with for kids. Here I tried to do more non-kids songs, but ones my girls love.
Not surprisingly, they dig pop (Monkees), dance-friendly (Harry Belafonte), silly (Flight of the Conchords), musical theater hits (“Trolley Song”), folk (Pete Seeger) songs, and so on, so the playlist covers a lot of ground.
Hope it holds together for your kids’ listening pleasure. Here’s the tracklist:
1. Mickey Mouse March - Mickey Mouse Club
2. Roll Over Beethoven - Chuck Berry
3. Baby It’s You - The Shirelles
4. Singing in the Shower - Sandra Boynton
5. Singing in the Rain - Gene Kelly
6. Baby - Os Mutantes
7. Jump in the Line - Harry Belafonte
8. Foux du Fafa - Flight of the Conchords
9. Robo Dancing - Yo Gabba Gabba
10. Let’s Get Together - Hayley Mills
11. It’s The Hard-Knock Life - Annie
12. The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers - Tigger
13. Home on the Range - Pete Seeger
14. Four Strong Winds - Neil Young
15. Baby Mine - Betty Noyes
16. The Trolley Song - Judy Garland
17. Que Sera Sera - Doris Day
18. The Woody Woodpecker Show
19. Bones (Inside of You) - The Count
20. I’m a Believer - The Monkees
21. Don’t Be Shy - Cat Stevens
22. When We Grow Up - Diana Ross
23. ABC - Jackson 5
24. I Love You Too - The Marleys
25. This Must Be the Place - Talking Heads
26. Pajama Time - Sandra Boynton
27. Goodbye Song - Yo Gabba Gabba
You can listen to the mix on Spotify.
July 23, 1972: An unpublished picture of the Jacob Riis Park parking lot in Queens. Photo: Michael Evans/The New York Times
Mix: Courting Janie
My wife’s parents celebrated their 40th anniversary in June this year - a totally inspiring thing for us marriage newbies. To honor the occasion, I created a playlist of songs released during the nine-month window they dated: October 1971 to June 1972.
It’s a strange thing looking at a period of music 40 years ago that’s less than a year long. Classic rock devotees always look back at years, sometimes decades or eras, but never nine months. This mix doesn’t even span a school year (technically it’s more like the NBA season and postseason).
But, man, what a nine-month period. Both Led Zeppelin IV and Exile on Main St. came out. Neil Young dropped Harvest , Pink Floyd issued Meddle, and Big Star debuted with #1 Record. Bowie released both Ziggy Stardust and Honky Dory.
John Prine put out his self-titled debut; Randy Newman, Sail Away; The Allman Brothers, Eat a Peach; Todd Rundgren, Something Anything?; Harry Nilsson, Nilsson Schmilsson; Faces, A Nod Is As Good As A Wink…; and Nick Drake, Pink Moon — arguably the best albums by each of these artists.
Going through the process, I intentionally sought out songs that fit with the spirit of love and marriage. Again, this window had more than it’s fair share: Faces, “Stay with Me,” Todd Rundgren, “I Saw The Light,” Stevie Wonder, “I Love Every Little Thing About You,” The Stones, “Happy,” Neil Young, “Heart of Gold,” and, most magically, Al Green, “Let’s Stay Together.”
Like a lot of these songs, “Let’s Stay Together” isn’t a song I would ordinarily think to drop onto a mix. Every one knows it, heard it a million times. But it’s probably the boldest, best love song of all time. And for a 40th anniversary mix it’s probably the perfect song. The opening verse practically reads like wedding vows:
I, I’m so in love with you
Whatever you want to do is all right with me
'Cause you make me feel so brand new
And I want to spend my life with you
It is the perfect balance of youthful romance (“Loving you forever is what I need”) and mature commitment (“I will keep on loving you whether times are good or bad, happy or sad.”) It also happens to be perfectly written and damn near perfectly recorded. I can’t think of another “hit” that sounds as good on its 2,000th listen as it does on the first.
It also happens to be sung by a Reverend.
There were lots of other great songs from this period, but they didn’t necessarily fit the bill of romance and/or something I’d want to put on a mix for my in-laws. (Sorry: No Steely Dan, Can’t Buy A Thrill, Neu! S/T or Hawkwind, In Search of Space here.) There were also albums and songs that just missed the window that might have been fun to incorporate (The Who’s Next missed by two months, sigh. But would “My Wife” really work here?) and huge hits that I personally just wouldn’t ever put on a mix (see: “American Pie” and “Horse with No Name.”). I would also like to point out that it took a lot of restraint to leave off the demo for “Mary Queen of Arkansas,” recorded by a very young Bruce Springsteen, in a studio audition for John Hammond at Columbia in May of 1972.
If anyone else has ever looked at a less-than one year, greater than six month window, I’d be curious to know how it compared, quality-wise. Looking at the crazy list of music that came out here, I wondered if this was a truly rich window or more average. My gut is that it’s at least in the Top 5 Nine-Month Window of All Time. Let me know your thoughts.
1. Little Martha - The Allman Brothers Band
2. Happy - The Rolling Stones
3. I Saw The Light - Todd Rundgren
4. I Love Every Little Thing About You - Stevie Wonder
5. Family Affair - Sly & The Family Stone
6. The Ballad of El Goodo - Big Star
7. Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard - Paul Simon
8. Rock Me On The Water - Jackson Browne
9. Rocket Man - Elton John
10. Memo To My Son - Randy Newman
11. Angel From Montgomery - John Prine
12. Heart of Gold - Neil Young
13. I’ll Take You There - Staple Singers
14. Let’s Stay Together - Al Green
15. Wild Night - Van Morrison
16. Stay With Me - The Faces
17. From The Morning - Nick Drake
Mix: Broseph Stalin
Here’s a mix I made for my brother Steve, who just graduated from business school - hence the title. (Is it just me or does Super Mario look a little bit like Joseph Stalin?) This playlist is largely comprised of songs by bands that dudes like: Ween, Steely Dan, Dr. Dog, and so on. Best enjoyed on a Friday night with a can of Budweiser.
1. Exactly Where I’m At - Ween
2. Missing Pieces - Jack White
3. If You’re Changing - White Denim
4. Dirty Work - Steely Dan
5. Strangers - Lotus Plaza
6. Everyone Thinks I’m A Raincloud - Guided By Voices
7. Hey Jane - Spiritualized
8. Vibracobra - Polvo
9. These Days - Dr. Dog
10. I Got Shit - Pearl Jam
11. Brains - Lower Dens
12. Going Underground - The Jam
13. The House That Heaven Built - Japandroids
Mix: Woodland Creatures vs. Critters
This is basically an extension of the “Oh, Classic Me" playlist from earlier this year. I’m a bit embarrassed that I managed to include Bob, Bruce, and Neil on the same mix, but only in the sense that I can’t hide from my own music taste any longer. These are obviously amazing songs by my favorites sprinkled among some songs I’ve been enjoying a bit lately. On a side note, I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t able to find Mp3s for the Ronnie Lane or Dory Previn songs included here. Both are stellar, if you can find them.
1. Hold On - Alabama Shakes
2. Goin’ Down To Laurel - Steve Forbert
3. Backs Turned Looking Down the Path - Warren Zevon
4. Gone Tomorrow - Lambchop
5. Anniversary - Ronnie Lane (not on 8tracks)
6. Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street - Bruce Springsteen
7. Michicant - Bon Iver
8. See The Sky About To Rain - Neil Young
9. I’m Wrong - Sharon Van Etten
10. Beware Of Young Girls - Dory Previn (not on 8tracks)
11. Chocolate Town - Ween
12. Tattler - Ry Cooder
13. Jumblegloss - Stephen Malkmus
14. Blind Willie McTell - Bob Dylan
15. My Children, My Angels - Dr. John
16. Whole Love - Wilco