I have certain rhythms that keep my life in check. It's kind of like having my own little personal liturgical calendar--a way ritually to mark the world according to certain realities. Since I'm more of a Good Friday guy than an Easter guy, I started a few years ago a tradition of making a playlist on Good Friday to mark a year in music. Its my way of saying that no matter what life's circumstances might be, joy is always possible. Music happens. And so today I mark the end of a good year in music to make room for a new one.
Making a playlist is a very important skill. It's not enough just to pick good songs, you have to put them together in a way that makes the listening a satisfying experience. I like my playlist for this year. It's full of joy in a kind of subversive way. Nice hooks, but with just enough edge to gritty things up a bit. Some heartache along the way, but a hopeful ending. So, without further ado, here goes.
1. Angel Dance--Robert Plant. You have to start well. You can't hear the first few notes and wonder whether or not you're in the mood for this. I always smile when this song starts. It sounds like an angel dance.
2. Down by the Water--The Decemberists. For a good second song, you have to match something of the mood in the previous song, take it down a notch, but not too far. Great drum opening keeps the tempo where we want it. Then a great melody/lyric/harmony song. "Down by the water, down by the old main drag..."
3. Real Love--Lucinda Williams. Lucinda evidently has found love. But there's always a bit of a snarl to her, even when the song is all sweetness. We've kept the tempo here, but taken a little risk by going more straight ahead rock and roll. But I think it works. "C'mon baby, we really got something. It's a soul connection, you're changing my world...It's a real love, It's a real love."
4. I Should Have Known It--Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. While we've got the electric guitars out, we'll let the Heartbreakers have a go. Great, great guitar licks. "It's the last time you're going to hurt me."
5. She's Long Gone--The Black Keys. And so we stay with a killer guitar lick, but take it down a notch in terms of the sonic wall. Blues moves. Distortion. "She's long, long gone..."
6. Sick of You--Cake. We stay in heartbreak alley a little with the happiest, dreariest song I know. Great groove on this one. "I'm so sick of you, so sick of me, I don't want to be with you."
7. White Blank Page--Mumford and Sons. We stay with the theme, but we've dropped back into acoustic mode. Great cd. Great song. "You did not think when you sent me to the brink. You desired my attention, but denied my affections."
8. Calamity Song--The Decemberists. We stay in the folk rock mode. With these guys, you always get great melodies. And here some great apocalyptic lyrics. "You and me and the war of the end times..."
9. The Cave--Mumford and Sons. These guys are after something serious. And you can feel it in the intensity of the music. It takes me to the limit of my banjo tolerance, but in this case it fits the intensity of the song. "But I will hold on hope. And I won't let you choke on the noose around your neck."
10. Holy Rollers for Love--Jakob Dylan. This cd started the year in music for me. Jacob Dylan with T. Bone Burnett is a pretty great combo. And I got to see him in concert in Portland this past summer. This is my favorite song on the cd. Great lyric. "World is crazy or maybe just holy rollers for love.
11. The King Knows How--Over the Rhine. I don't think this is as good as some of their earlier cd's. But this song is so much fun. Karen Berquist has such a great voice, smoky and full of texture. "I'm thinking it might be time so slide on over, slide on over."
12. Are We Really Through--Ray LaMontagne. We stay with a smoky voice, and bring it way down. Just an acoustic guitar and Ray's voice. This song hooks you in that gray place of real hurt and its memory. At the very least, you know you're alive. "Get so tired staring at the walls, weight so heavy and that mountain so tall. Is there no one there to catch me if I fall?"
13. Days Like This--Over the Rhine. Now we have to start thinking about the big finish.We can't let Ray have the last word. But we can't get there too fast. So, we go with OTR's cover of Kim Taylor's song, Days Like This. We keep the tempo down and stay with the acoustic feel, but bring the outlook up a bit. Longing to be sure, but hopeful. "All I wanna do is live life honestly. I just wanna wake up and see your face next to me. Every regret I have I will go set it free. And it will be good for me. It will be good for me."
14. Nothing but the Whole Wide World--Jakob Dylan. We're back in hopeful mode and Jakob keeps us there, without less of the longing. "Nothin but the whole wide world to gain. Nothin. Nothin. Nothin but the whole wide world to gain."
15. Everlasting Light--The Black Keys. I love this song. We're back to the blues riffs, but with this crazy falsetto lyric. It's as happy as songs like this can be. It's a funky, fun way to end a very satisfying 57.5 minutes of music. "Let me be your everlasting life. A train going away from pain. Love is the coal that makes this train roll. Let me be your everlasting light."