THE LINER NOTES:
Over the last five months, I had loved, lost, loved, lost, drank, made out, drank and made out some more.
It was a hell of a summer.
September and the change of season always felt like a chance to reset and begin again. And maybe that’s why Life In Rain is a 180 degree turn from the rocking mixtapes that came before it. This one’s melancholy. It’s downbeat. And it’s a little bit sad.
Time to slow things down, take a breath and reevaluate.
The summer of 1999 had been a lot of go! go! go! I crossed the country. I fell in love. I fell out of love. I broke up and hooked up and screwed up. And through it all, I was making mixtapes to push me through my days and nights and weekend fights. They were my constant, toe-tapping, fist-pumping personal soundtracks. Life In Rain takes a break from that.
But 16 years removed, I don’t remember the exact reason for that. I can’t tell you what state of mind I was in at the time of its creation. It could be I was just looking for a change. It could be I was reflecting on the past. Boston is a college town– my college town– and I wouldn’t be surprised if seeing the return of the student body had me thinking about how another year has come and gone. But more likely, I was just in a funk. And nothing helps a funk better than acoustic guitars, tender vocals and depressing, soul crushing lyrics.
Of course, I had no real reason to be in a funk. Things were going well. Life in Brighton was a nonstop party. Almost literally. Tim and I threw a lot of parties. We were happy trying to emulate the Chandlers and Joeys of the pop culture world. We lived in a basement apartment with a pink bathroom. A preppy young married couple lived above us. The husband called me Big Guy. Two Boston College co-eds lived across the hall. They generally ignored us. We watched movies all the time. We ate Chinese food all the time. We played NHL 98 on the N64 all the time. We made enough money at our respective gigs (he a barista, me a Fidelity customer service guy) to not worry too much about wasting it on beer, comics and CDs. Life was good, man. Life was good.
And Daniele was at a lot of these parties. Daniele was probably at all of these parties. After a summer of hook ups, I was now stuck on one woman I couldn’t be with due to my exaggerated sense of propriety. By this time, I was Daniele’s supervisor at work, and to try to date her would have been problematic… I led myself to believe. I mean, it probably would have been a problem, yes, but I was never actually told I couldn’t. I never received a memo telling me I shouldn’t. There was never a seminar about inappropriate behavior in the workplace. It was all in my head, and I often believed what my head was telling me.
So I imagine seeing her every day– and many flirty, drunk nights– could get a bit frustrating. And I guess that might put a person in a bit of a funk, I suppose.
THAT’S GREAT, BUT HOW’S THE MIX?:
- “Sad Song” – Oasis
- “Either Way” – Guster
- “She’s Got a Way” – Billy Joel
- “Beside Yourself” – Ocean Color Scene
- “Yellow Ledbetter” – Pearl Jam
- “Wild Wood” – Paul Weller
- “Pink Moon” – Nick Drake
- “Hunch” – Sleeper
- “Mirror Song” – Live
- “May This Be Love” – Jimi Hendrix
- “Here Comes a Regular” – The Replacements
- “She’s a Jar” – Wilco
- “I Do” – Jude
- “You’re So Great” – Blur
- “One Night” – Sean Lennon
- “Autumn’s Birds” – Cotton Mather
- “If I Only Had a Brain” – Harry Connick Jr.
- “Nothing Lasts” – Matthew Sweet
- “Is It Me?” – Dodgy
- “Life In Rain” – Remy Zero
- “Tootie” – Hootie and the Blowfish
- “Blue Pastures” – James
- “Thinking About You” – Radiohead
- “Don’t Fade On Me” – Tom Petty
- “Touchin’ Up” – Gomez
- “Everything’s Ruined” – Fountains of Wayne
- “Daniella” – Shack
- “I’m Happy to Be Here Tonight” – Shack
- “Alouette and Me” – Letters to Cleo
- “Talk” – Phish
Of all the tapes I’ve listened to so far for this little project, this is the mix I remember the least. I clearly didn’t play it that often. Yes, it’s a nice change of pace, but when it comes down to it, and I’m reaching for a tape to listen to as I commuted to work or hung out in Boston, inevitably I’d want something cheerful and upbeat.
These were, as the opening track hits a little too square on the nose, sad songs. But even that’s not entirely accurate. They’re not all sad songs. They are all sad sounding songs. Lyrically, it’s a little bit of everything. Which is another reason why the tape never caught on. It’s downbeat, for sure, but there’s no other connective theme to the songs. They’re not all about broken hearts, for example. Some are beautiful, simple songs about a coming apocalyptic death that none of us will ever escape.
So as a whole, this tape doesn’t really work. It was a drag to get through and felt far longer than the 110 minutes it had promised. But that’s not to say it isn’t full of stellar tracks. There are a lot of gorgeous tunes on this tape. I mean, Jesus– “Here Comes a Regular.”
Seriously. Don’t ignore that link. Play the damn song.
And there are a few other stellar standouts here. Wilco’s “She’s a Jar” is moving. Sean Lennon’s “One Night” is simple and sweet. And Harry Connick Jr. taught me the true meaning behind “If I Only Had a Brain.”
Taken as a whole. this is a tape I will pass over almost every single time. Because even if I am feeling down or melancholy, I’d much rather listen to a pick-me-up than a bring-me-down.
PLEASED TO MEET YOU:
Over the last two tapes, there has been a great influx of new (or new to me) artists. On Trick Candles, Built to Spill were the highlight, but that tape also had debuts from Idlewild, Remy Zero and the Isley Brothers. On this tape, we have Nick Drake, Shack, Cotton Mather and Guster.
Guster’s third album, Lost and Gone Forever, was in heavy rotation at the end of 1999. It was one of those albums that grabbed me right away, sounding both classic and entirely fresh at the same time. And there’s not a song on there I would skip over. “Either Way” is a beauty. The harmonies, the falsetto, the cutting lyrics. It’s a great introduction to the band if you’ve not yet had the pleasure.
WAIT. WHAT? WHY?:
Hootie and the Blowfish. It’s real easy to make fun of Hootie and the Blowfish. But I don’t have a problem with them. They’re not my favorite band, but I like they’re first two albums well enough. And this song has its merits. So– Wait. What? Why? Because it’s a pretty, sad little song with a nice string arrangement and a couplet about struggling to write a song about someone. I love couplets in songs about the difficulty of writing songs. (It’s about 40 seconds in.)
THE SUPER ULTRA MEGA SONG:
I like that these are getting to be more difficult to decide. The quality of tunes is improving, I think. Even on mixes that aren’t so great. So let’s remind ourselves how I’m judging these Super Ultra Mega tracks. They have to be fantastic songs, of course. But they also have to mean something more to me. Some classic simply cannot be denied (like “Cannonball” or “Laid”), while others may lose out to another track that holds a deeper personal meaning.
So that’s just me explaining why “Autumn’s Birds” beats out “Here Comes a Regular.” For a time, Cotton Mather was my band, and Kontiki was my album. Coming late to the music discovery party, I often felt behind, picking up on a band three albums in (See: Guster). But with Kontiki, I felt like I had the scoop on something great and I could be the one to help spread its gorgeous sounds to new fans. I shared the album a lot in 1999, and I’m happy to be sharing more of it again here.
And here’s (most of) the mix on Spotify!