Christina Aguilera’s Bellybutton

DATE:

September 25, 2000

COVER:

IMG_2294

THE LINER NOTES:

The last tape we talked about was Baby’s First L.A. Tape, which was a June 2000 departing gift for my ex-girlfriend Carrie. This entry jumps ahead three months to the fall of that year. And somewhere in that time frame, I moved.

But not to California. I wasn’t going to be doing that. No, Tim and I left our legendary basement bachelor pad in Allston/Brighton and moved into the bottom floor of a three story house in Malden, Massachusetts.

Malden– come for the relatively affordable rents outside of the city, stay for relatively affordable rents outside of the city.

In our new living situation, we were not alone. Our sitcom roommate lifestyle now had a third– Tim’s little sister. Or rather, “younger” sister. She wasn’t five. And since I have not yet reached out for permission to use her real name in this blog, I’m going to call her Ruth. Soon after we moved in, Ruth adopted a cat that she named Lucy (that’s the cat’s real name.) And since we were kind of co-parenting this cat, I went on to name her Lucy McClane. Tim took it a step further and named her Lucy McLean Stevenson. And the world’s greatest sitcom cat was born.

Our life in Malden was fairly similar to whatever it was we left behind, save for the fact that we were further away from the bars and restaurants and the city proper. This meant we had to think long and hard about actually leaving the house. Therefore, in this suburb situation, we did the only reasonable thing– we bought a used ping pong table that just barley fit, taking up two-thirds of the living and two-thirds of the dining room. And the world’s greatest sitcom obstacle was born.

And since we’re continuing with the sitcom analogy, let me say that I was having a pretty decent third season. Like, I said, we brought in a new roommate and a pet, but we also added hilarity to the workplace portion of the show. I was promoted and suddenly found myself responsible for 15 people that, in all honesty, I had no right to be responsible for. At this point in my life, “work” was really just the eight hours we had to endure before drinks and chicken fingers. And since my second season love interest had left the series for her own spin-off, there were suddenly a lot more guest stars dropping by for post-chicken-fingers hijinks.

Life was good. Malden, or not.

THAT’S GREAT, BUT HOW’S THE MIX?:

Carrie and I didn’t have a lot of crossover episodes that year. (And with that, I’m going to stop with the sitcom thing). But we stayed in touch.

During my down time at the job, I was sending hilarious, supportive emails. We would talk on the phone fairly regularly. And I was still making her mixtapes. This one– Christina Aguilera’s Bellybutton– was the first one I ever mailed to her. And as an example of my mixtape geekdom, when she called me to tell me she got it, I made her pop it in to her tape deck so I could listen to her listen to the first song.

Read that again. I made her play the tape, while on the phone, so I could listen to her listen.

Go ahead and play the song above for me. It’s 50 seconds of acoustic guitar intro, and some subtle strings before the first lyrics are sung. “Nice.” she probably said. “No, wait. Listen.” I probably replied. The sweet melody continued. We don’t speak. At around 1 minute, 43 second, I likely said, “Okay, here it comes.” Ten seconds later, tempo change and electric guitars.

Me: “Ah? Right? Yeah?”

Her: “That’s nice.”

Whatever. It was nice. It IS nice. I have no idea what Tim Burgess is actually saying, but I love that song.

In fact, I love ALL THE SONGS on the mix! This mixtape is outstanding. The palette of sounds have expanded. The band choices have expanded. The “Pleased to Meet You” section of this blog has expanded.

PLEASED TO MEET YOU:

On this mix, we welcome not one, not two… but six bands to the record collection.

With my Britpop leanings, I was an early adopter of a little band called Coldplay.  I introduce them to Carrie with this tape. And with that, I created a mega band.

Another British band hitting my mixtapes for the first time here is Doves. One might say they were Coldplay-esque, and there’s some truth to that, though Doves have an edge to them the other band is missing. “Melody Calls” is my favorite off their debut Lost Souls.

Keeping things British, this tape also marks the debut of Badly Drawn Boy. And again, here’s an artist that could fit into that Coldplay camp (though not exactly). I can’t recall if this is true, but I can imagine I read through one issue of Q magazine that featured all three of these bands and subsequently stopped at Newbury Comics to pick up all their import CD’s. There were occasions I would do this and end up wasting my money. But with Coldplay, Doves and Badly Drawn Boy, I got my money’s worth, taxes and all.

But the new hits don’t stop there!

I think this is the first mixtape to feature The Super Furry Animals as well. And if that’s right, I find it strange that I chose to introduce the band to Carrie with their all-Welsh sung “Torra Fy Ngwallt Yn Hir.” Except it makes perfect sense because it’s awesome!

Equally awesome, and finally showing up, are The Apples in Stereo. I had this album long before making this tape. In fact, I remember reading the review of the album sitting in that basement apartment of yore. Only days later, I had the album in my hands, songs still unheard. And then, 23 seconds into the first song, they were one of my favorite bands. “The Bird That You Can’t See” was a go-to for all my shared mixtapes of this era, so of course we were going to find it here. After the two moodier songs that opened the mix, the party needed to start.

The last new band to welcome, is actually an old favorite of mine. I had the Mr. Hood cassette from KMD back when I was in high school. I absolutely loved it then. And I have no idea how I had lost it. But years later, likely lying on the floor with Carrie, naked, listening to The Man Who, I brought up the band and the album and the lost cassette. Carrie listened. And while I was the guy mailing her homemade mixtapes, she was the girl tracking down and ordering this album for me on CD. She was a nice friend to still have.

WAIT. WHAT? WHY?:

There’s really not one song on here that’s problematic. Some of you might be leaning towards Kula Shaker, but I like that album and absolutely love the summer sunniness of the “Tattva” verses (chorus?).

But what I really question here is the doubling up of bands. Travis, Ben Folds Five, and Built to Spill each have a song per side. And Gomez and two (2!) on Side B. Two! Generally, I didn’t like to do this. I figured, if someone was actually going to take the time to listen to the mix I’m making, I’m going to use the opportunity to fit in as many bands as possible.

But it’s a minor complaint here, as the songs from each band are fantastic.

I had a CD single from Travis that didn’t always play in my stereo. If it did play, you couldn’t skip forward to the next song because then nothing would play. The third song on this disc was “Whenever She Comes Around.” So if I wanted to add this song to a mix, I would have first get the disc to play, then listen through the first two songs, then be at the ready to release the pause button and start recording at the perfect moment. If I missed the beginning, or caught the end of the previous track, I’d have to start to entire process over again.

Take a listen to the song and let me know if it was worth it.

I’ll highlight a fun little Gomez song here, too.

Less than 90 seconds long, this track will be turning up often to close out many an upcoming mixtape. It’s a silly, odd, bouncy, conga-driven ditty.

THE SUPER ULTRA MEGA SONG:

Almost every song highlighted so far is a contender for this tape’s Super Ultra Mega Song.   And when it first came on, I really thought it was going to be “The Bird That You Can’t See.” But then I locked on to Ben Folds Five’s “Philosophy,” especially the punk piano thrashing at the song’s end.

But after the last couple weeks of listening through this phenomenal tape, one song kept bringing me the most joy. “The Day We Caught the Train” originally appeared on Ocean Colour Scene’s debut album. It’s a bit of a stomper in it’s original version, upbeat and fun. This acoustic version is off of their collections album “B-Sides, Seasides & Free Rides.” This still a bit of stomp here, but overplayed with a melodic melancholy. I prefer it to the album version.

And as I’m leaving work singing along to “You and I should ride the coast and wind up in our favorite coats just miles away,” you can’t help but want to get away. Riding a tune as wistful as this.

“When you find that things are getting wilder, don’t you want days like these?”

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