Liner Notes for a Year, p. 2

As I mentioned in my previous post, I put together my annual “Year in Review” CD and wanted to put together some liner notes for this year’s choices. Here’s part 1 of 2 of that.

“We the People” – A Tribe Called Quest. Coming up with the first song to a mix CD is one of the biggest challenges. You want to set the right tone, and draw listeners in immediately. Starting on a good foot will help make sure people stay engaged, or willing to be engaged, even if they don’t love every song you’ve selected.

I went back and forth on this one for a while, really wanting to start with a Bowie song, since for me his death in the beginning of 2016 really set the tone for the rest of the year. I also obsessively listen to Blackstar when it first came out and for the month following Bowie’s death. But as this project kept evolving, starting the CD with one of those tracks didn’t feel right.

After listening through my “Songs of 2016” playlist again, I immediately knew I found my first track when it came up.

This song really had it all: An iconic group, known for addressing social and political themes in their music, releasing an album after a decades-long hiatus that spoke to the current climate of the country. And, true to the seemingly mark of the year, one of its members, Phife Dawg, passed away earlier this year.

“Wintersleep” – Amerika. I think I can credit my discovery of this song to my XM subscription–it seemed like any time I got in the car while I was still driving an hour each way to work on 95, I heard it playing on the radio. (I don’t know if I can chalk that up to coincidence as much as a limited playlist rotation on most of the satellite channels). Although it wasn’t a favorite of mine right off the bat, it grew on me and began to feel a bit like a battle anthem as I sped down the highway, usually on my way to or from Jersey, Philly, or Wilmington.

“The Ministry of Defence” – PJ Harvey. I admit I made it to the PJ Harvey party late in the game. Although her stuff has been recommended to me since college (including a mix CD pass along by an admirer which is still tucked away in a CD sleeve somewhere), I never really had that “ah ha” moment with her until fairly recently, and this song especially seemed to pull me in. I created a 2-song playlist (featuring this and “The Nurse Who Loved Me” by A Perfect Circle) that I listened to fairly exclusively for a 2-week period early in the summer.

“Fill in the Blank” – Car Seat Headrest. Car Seat Headrest was my biggest discovery of 2016 and was on pretty constant rotation for most of the year. I actually debated which song to include on this mix, since I rather obsessively listened to both “Vincent” (Which proved to be a fairly decent running song) and “The Ending of Dramamine” (this was actually the original track I was going to go with, but I wanted to use the Spotify session version, which wasn’t easily available to download). CHS taps into all those angsty, middle school feels that I’ve realized I’ll never fully get rid of. It’s proven pretty versatile, too, fitting the mood for long summer evenings just as well as it does for snowy January Saturdays. In the end I ended up going with “Fill in the Blank” since it seemed like a good introductory song to the band and to that feeling/attitude they have that I like.

“Your Best American Girl” – Mitski. This song was permeating my world for a while, but I didn’t really pay much attention to it until one day it clicked and became an obsession for me and Colin. It’s been on pretty heavy rotation throughout the fall and winter months, and when this year’s CD and some of its themes started taking shape, it seemed like a no-brainer addition. (Note, I never actually watched the video ’til just now when looking up links…Maybe listen to it first without it…)

“I Need Never Get Old” – Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats. This wasn’t really a song I listened to extensively throughout the year, but I found it on one of my saved monthly playlists (Each month I create a new playlist and throw any music I hear throughout that time period onto the list so I can go back and check it out later when I’m in need of something to listen to/in preparation for this CD). While going through songs to include for this mix, I rediscovered this one, and it felt like it helped add balance to some of the more somber, heavier songs in the collection. I also dig the throwback feel and am reminded of the Jukebox Jewels tapes I adored when I was little.

Shut Up and Kiss Me” – Angel Olsen. This album is on a lot of “best of 2016” lists for a reason (clearly they got their hands on my holiday CD before coming up with their selections). Ch-Ch-Check it out.