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Mixtape for a New Year

January 6, 2012

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Music to kick off 2012 just right.

Mixtape-Jan6-575.jpgPhotograph via Flickr by Tim Snell.

Goodbye 2011; say hello to 2012. What better way to kick off the new year than with a Guernica mixtape. This new series will feature some of our favorite writers and artists filling us in on what tracks they can’t stop listening to. To “kick out the jams,” Guernica’s staffers delve into what tracks start 2012 just right.

Click here to launch playlist on Spotify.

“The Future Starts Slow” by The Kills

I love this album (Blood Pressures, the Kills). I’ve been listening to it on the subway, in the grocery store, in the airport before heading to a friend’s house for the post-holiday; and in the gym. For me it’s a perfect mix of heavy beat, nuanced vocals, creative mixing (the sound of ping-pong in “My Heart is a Beating Drum”). Besides, the thought of a power-duo making this much sound is awesome. “The Future Starts Slow” is a nice subtitle for 2012.—Genevieve Walker

“Heroes & Villains” by The Beach Boys

Here’s to hoping 2012 is full of more heroes, and less villains. Here’s to hoping that more people give the Smile reissue a second—or first, oh how I envy you if this is your first—listen. Here’s to hoping that this New Year marks the year we embrace creativity, artistic expression, and a serious resistance to the “norm,” in the fullest imaginable way, as only Brian Wilson & Co. circa 1966, would want us to.—Christine Larusso

“Gitme” by Selda Bağcan

Selda was (still is) a ferocious guitarist and a haunting vocalist whose political songs got her persecuted by the Turkish government in the 1980s. “Gitme” is not exactly political. It’s a single from 1971 about being tormented by a toxic, lost love. Why this song for the new year? 2012 is my year to be fierce like Selda, and the wild power in the track makes me feel like I can inherit some of her magical powers. But even badass women can get their hearts broken sometimes, and the song is a good reminder for me to own that hurt and turn it towards something even better than love. Heartache will make me a better writer someday… right? At least it’s cheaper than an MFA.

The first line of the song translates to, “I’m devastated by love”

My other favorite lines, from the Turkish:

“My life depends on the string of your hair, love

I’ve wandered the deserts like Mecnun*

I’m a stranger, left by you in foreign lands

Don’t leave before bandaging my wound”—Kaye Cain-Nielsen

*Mecnun is one of the main characters in a famous novel, Leyla ile Mecnun (Leyla and Mecnun) who’s immensely in love (with Leyla) by which he’s gone insane and wandered the deserts looking for his love.

“Maybe” by Asa

My song is “Maybe” by Asa, a Nigerian singer who is just beginning to cross over to the American scene. I love her sound—often poppy and fun, but never afraid to look at the world around her and call it as it is and put her politics on display. “Maybe” is a great song for the new year since none of us can know what will be, but we can all speculate on what may be. The beginning of year is a time for dreaming of many maybes, and then making a few of them realities.—Glenna Gordon

“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” covered by Cat Power

I’ve been listening to Astronautalis a lot—especially his “Lakefront Property.” I love the song because it’s about as meta as you can get: it samples Cat Power’s cover of the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”

Most of the original lyrics are obscured, so it’s no longer a rock star’s fabu-ennui pain cry about someone “doin’ this” and “signing that.” It’s instead the story of someone who seems to have been left behind by his more Jagger-worthy friends. Astronautalis is left “standin’ on the edge of a lake/they all left for Rome but I couldn’t get a passport in two days/I guess a mistake they said, it just slip they mind/and I’m standin’ here on my own grindin’ my time.”

There isn’t any “ridin’ round the world” (mainly because he can’t get no passport). And he’s not “satisfied” because he’s imagining everyone else is. At the end, he’s “doin’ this” and “signing that,’ but it’s Chan Marshall’s voice, so maybe he’s just imagining that, too.

And if you don’t know Cat Power’s cover of the Rolling Stones song, you should listen to it. Chan Marshall avoids the problem of the boring cover song by slowing down the beat and not singing the chorus. Is she satisfied? She’s not telling, because she’s not giving out any “useless information.”—Meakin Armstrong

“Look at Miss Ohio” by Gillian Welch

This assignment reminds me of the first day of my first poetry workshop during which we were told to introduce ourselves and name our favorite poets. The instructor followed these easy instructions with, “But don’t say Yeats or Eliot or Plath or, you know what? Don’t say anyone dead.” My palms started sweating immediately, and no amount of wiping them on my jeans helped. The problem was that at twenty-years-old, the only living poet I knew was Maggi Vaughn, Poet Laureate of Tennessee. Somehow, I was the last student to introduce myself, and I mumbled that I was from Tennessee before being interrupted by the instructor: “Near Nashville? Do you like Emmylou Harris?” Why yes, yes I do.

We chatted about Lucinda Williams, Gillian Welch, and Lyle Lovett before he handed out a poem for the class to read. Which is to say, I was never asked about favorite poets. Now that I have a ready answer for that question, Guernica asks me to choose a New Year’s song, and while their lips are saying, “Choose anything you want,” their cool glasses are implying, “But don’t choose something that everyone knows.” Well, I can’t do that, but Gillian Welch is on my mind. Let’s go with my favorite, “Look at Miss Ohio,” which provides some stellar new-year advice: “do right, but not right now.”—Erica Wright

“I Can’t Get BehindThat” by William Shatner

With the election madness just beginning, defining oneself by oppositions is likely to be a major 2012 theme. William Shatner’s “I Can’t Get Behind That” may be a few years old now, but the sentiment remains true today:

ROLLINS: I can’t get behind that! Everybody knows everything about all of us!

SHATNER: That’s too much knowledge!

BOTH: I can’t get behind that!—Jamie Goldenberg

“Whale” by Yellow Ostrich

My husband’s in a CD club with some of his friends, and it was on one of the mixes from this summer. I turn it on every time we get into the car. So much so that he wonders whether I will ever get sick of it. I will not. —Katherine Dykstra

“Sunday Morning” by Nico & The Velvet Underground

Beyond the fact that New Years Day this year actually fell on Sunday, its quiet brightness conjures someone awakening from years of slumber (“It’s just the wasted years so close behind”) ready to face the world anew.—Sam Kerbel

“This Will Be Our Year” by The Zombies

I first heard this song in college, when the directors of a play I was in used it for the soundtrack. I don’t remember much about the play, but the song has stuck with me—its short and simple sweetness, the reassuring piano riff that sounds like something you want to try at home. “Now we’re there, and we’ve only just begun,” Colin Blunstone sings. What better way to start the year than with such optimism? I can’t think of any other words that encapsulate so perfectly the simultaneous weariness (another year gone) and resolute hopefulness (another one coming) we feel at this time: “This will be our year, took a long time to come.”—Jillian Steinhauer

“Un Día” by Juana Molina

“Un Día” starts with a prediction—“One day I will…”—that is repeated throughout: “One day I will do everything differently…;” “One day I will be different…” These chants devolve into a dream-like narrative that is almost drowned out by a collection of “found” sounds that swell in cheerful discord (“One day I will sing the songs with no lyrics and everyone can imagine for themselves if it’s about love, disappointment, banalities, or about Plato.”). The musician has had a strange life narrative herself, having once had her own sketch comedy show in Argentina. WNYC Radiolab’s podcast about Molina can be heard here.—Rebecca Bates

________________________________________________________________________

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