Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Music to Give to a Stranger

The other day, while perusing McNutt's blog, I noticed his post about Operation Disc Drop, put forward by CBC show The Hour. Now I was obviously very intrigued by this project, as I love both sharing music and random acts of kindness, so obviously an opportunity to do both was a great idea. The instructions for the project are really simple, and can be found on The Hour's Disc Drop Blog:

STEP 1: Make a mixed CD of your favourite tunes. Somewhere on the disc write: "DISC DROP -"
Be sure to include a track-listing so people can track down more music by the artists on your disc.
STEP 2: Drop off your disc in a random public place.
STEP 3: Go to the "I Dropped a Disc - What Now", click on the comments, and write down where you dropped off your disc and the track-listing. Check back later to find out who picked it up, and where it's heading next.

So I spent a few days thinking about what kind of a disc I would make, and where I would put it. After a bit, I decided to make a playlist to introduce people to some "Indie" bands, and give them a few songs that I felt had some deep meaning and could have those "Change your life" type moments. Here's the catch though, I wanted to leave it at school and aim it at some High School Students, so I had to be especially careful in my selection.

Here's what I ended up coming up with, complete with YouTube links to the songs in question:

1. Feist -- "1,2,3,4". I started out with this song as a bit of a Trojan Horse. I figured that most teenagers would know it from the iPod commercials (something that I have mentioned on here before) , and probably love it since they would associate it with their most prized possessions. I wanted the people to find this CD to want to listen to, and I figure starting it out with a familiar, and trendy song would make them want to give this a listen.

2. Guillemots -- "Trains to Brazil". Now here's were we start the education. I wanted to follow up the song that most of them would know with a song that most of the would not know. Also, the trumped themed joy of the first song led well into the trumpet themed optimism of this song.

3. The National -- "Fake Empire". I decided to make this CD follow a very typical structure. Start out with a bang, up it, and then bring it down. Here we are bringing it down a bit. I decided to go with one of the best songs, off of one of the best albums of 2007, and I kept with the trumpet theme, by going with this one.

4. Apostle of Hustle -- “My Sword Hand’s Anger" (Sorry this was the best video of this song that I could find). And we take things down a bit more. I have talked about Apostle of Hustle before on here, and I must say, that they have been one of my favourite musical discoveries of 2007. I mean, I had heard them before but I hadn't really LISTENED to them before, and seeing them live was one of my musical highlights of the year. I really like this song, and I feel it went along with the slow descent that is going on in the theme of this disc.

5. Matt Weddle -- "Hey Ya". Here's where the fun starts. This is the first of three covers that I used on this CD. Now more than any other, teenagers are very protective of their musical tastes, and often say things like "[Insert particular genre] rulez, everything else is teh suck"...or something like such, I decided to take a few songs that they may find familiar, but were reinvented a bit to expand their horizons a bit, and maybe introduce them to a different type of genre. Here is the first one as Matt Weddle, takes one of the best songs of the 00's, "Hey Ya" by Outkast and changes it from a dancy-pop-love-fest to a sad-acoustic bit of brilliance. Plus it really fits with the slow descent that I'm going for here in the middle of the playlist.

6. Broken Social Scene -- "Marketfresh" (Sorry, I coudn't find a video to this one...). I knew that I needed to include some Broken Social Scene on this one, but I had to remember that I was making this one for students, and there was an outside chance that my principal could find it, so I knew that I could have any swearing, or strong sexual references, thus eliminating "Time = Cause" and "Lover's Spit", the two songs that got me hooked on this band. So I decided to go with a brilliant bit from Beehives their forgotten album. Also, I figured that there was less of a chance that someone would have heard this one, making it more likely to be a discovery for more people.

7. The Shins -- "Young Pilgrims". This song is aimed clearly at the Garden State crowd. I totally agree that "New Slang" is a brilliant song, but there is SO much more to this band than that one track. Chutes Too Narrow is very overlooked, since it came out slightly before Garden State and it does not have "New Slang" on it, but it is probably their best work to date. As such, I took this great track from that great album to expose people to this band as a whole.

8. Joseph Arthur -- "Echo Park" (You owe it to yourself to find a better recording of this song, it is brilliant). I went with another slow, melodic song here. I took this song, one that very few people would have heard as a gem for people looking to really expand their musical horizons. For people who weren't, I sandwiched this track between two songs that would have some appeal to the average person, as a way to essentially, make them listen to it.

9. Tori Amos -- "Smells Like Teen Spirit". Here comes Cover #2, this time of one of the greatest songs of the 90s, as Tory Amos rethinks the Nirvana classic, with just her voice and the piano. It is haunting and amazing. Like I was hoping that The Shins song would go for the artsy crowd, I'm hoping that this one speaks a bit to the grungy kids.

10. Dispatch -- "Hey, Hey" (You're going to have to jump to about 3:50 of this video to hear the song, before that it has "Free Falling" by Tom Petty...not a bad song either). Now here's where I get a teachy and preachy. I didn't want to go too over the top with strange music, so I think that this one stays in people's comfort zone, plus it has some pretty solid life lessons in the chorus saying "Question yourself, are you really what you seem?", which is a solid lesson for any teenager.

11. The John Butler Trio -- "Nowhere Man". I mentioned this song back when I did my travel playlist, when I said " [The song] is a great way to sum up those long bus/train trips when you feel like you aren't anywhere." And really that's the main reason I put it here, I just think that it's nice and hopefully awaken the wanderlust in some of these kids.

12. Hawksley Workman -- "Don’t Be Crushed". This song really is gorgeous, and touching. I thought it may be a good one in case one of the students was going through some sort of teen angst thinking that their life is over and maybe this one will help. Also, I wanted to include a song by Hawksley, but I ran into the same problem that I had with Broken Social Scene, too much swearing and raw sexuality...

13. Eva Cassidy -- "Time After Time". Here is cover #3, and the slowest portion of the CD. While I know that most of the teenagers out there don't know much Cyndi Lauper, but I know that this song was used on the Smallville soundtrack, so it may appeal to some of them. Plus, it really is awesome.

14. Wilco -- "What Light". I knew that I needed to feature Wilco somewhere on this disc, and I originally had "Heavy Metal Drummer" as my song, but I decided that I needed to give people something a little bit more familiar, so I went with the best of the Wilco songs that has been used on Volkswagen commercials this year. Plus, it has the whole "Be Yourself" message that seems to be so popular with the kids these days.

15. Death Cab For Cutie -- "Soul Meets Body". Death Cab is one of the popular "Indie/Alternative" bands out there, so I figured it would be nice to have a song that would appeal to any kids who may have heard of them. With this song (and the last two) I was trying to give some kids a reason to pop this into their CD player, and keep it playing. Plus this really is a great, soft, song, whose poppy beats help bring the tone of the playlist up as we near the end.

16. Peter, Bjorn & John -- "Young Folks". Speaking of poppy beats, we have PB&J, one of the greatest Indie Pop bands you can find. The opening whistle of this song is a great hook, and hopefully will keep the recipient of this disc interested. This song really speaks about a teenage romance saying "We don't care about the young folks, talkin' about their young style. We don't care about the old folks, talkin' about their old style too.", and has some rebellious teenage undertones.

17. The Arcade Fire -- "Rebellion (Lies)". Speaking of teenage rebellion, we have one of the greatest songs ever made on the subject! This is probably my favourite song ever made, and it really speaks to my cynical, slightly rebellious side. A side that I know is loud and clear in teenagers.

18. Sufjan Stevens -- "Chicago". Sufjan needed to present, it's really that simple. This is one of his most accessible and catchy songs, and it has that added bonus of being a song that people will say "I know this song from somewhere" (i.e. The Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack)

19. Stars -- "On Peak Hill". I devoted an entire post to my pure love of this song, and I have to say, that not much has changed since then. I simply adore this song, and this band. I had a ton of their work to choose from, but I went with this little ditty from one of their earlier albums, since it is less known, and because it helps cool things down near the end.

20. The Weakerthans -- "My Favourite Chords". I couldn't think of a better way to end this CD with this simple, eloquent, lullaby. It's just like a warm musical hug.

So that's my list. I decided to make 5 copies of this CD and put them in five pretty random places around campus (I left one in the staff room, one in the art classroom, one in the main reception area, one in a popular student hang out, and one in a random hallway). I know that the one in the staff room got picked up, and I'm hoping that the other ones will get nagged soon, and that other people keep this great idea alive. I know that I want to get one...

Until next time,


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