Posts tagged music as religion

scary beautiful-mix

One of the most treasured compliments I ever received was when someone told me “You are beautiful and scary, as all wild things should be.” Sometimes, I wish I could paper my insides with these blessings to fortify myself during times that I doubt myself and place little value on my own self-worth. In my own way, I do, but the paper sometimes wears thin and the wind carries it away, so I find new words to cover the tatters of the old. I’ve spent so long trying to reconcile all the girls that I’ve been and all the ways I’ve evaded death. In Queen Christina Greta Garbo asks, “Must we live for the death?” Then, she says she will not die an old maid, but a bachelor.

This is a film dominated by a woman, and yet, she must behave as a man to gain power. This is contrasted with a weak, feminine countess who cowers and weeps. I would never want to be a man, locked in narrow choices. Being a woman means that you can borrow what you wish of men, while maintaining whatever you wish of femaleness. The choices one makes, say, in selecting pants over skirts, are not as openly questioned. Give a man a dress and see what happens.

Give me my eyeliner and jeans, tights and work boots, pearls and trousers. I should have the liberty to be Viking or ballerina. I only want the ability to choose. A choice is simple and elemental, much like love or fire. Or compliments. I once told a friend I was “a cat for his words” because I eagerly waited to lap them up. It never occurred to me that he or others might have felt the same way about me. I’m learning to accept and meld into this understanding. And O, I am afraid of nothing, except perhaps myself, but that’s always the biggest obstacle in any mythology, right?

“scary beautiful mix” found here:

1. “Wonderlust King” – Gogol Bordello
2. “Jockey Full of Bourbon” – Tom Waits
3. “Twilight Omens” – Franz Ferdinand
4. “Let’s Start a Band” – Amy McDonald
5. “The Enemy Guns” – DeVotchKa
6. “Girl Anachronism” – The Dresden Dolls
7. “Don’t Make Me a Target” – Spoon
8. “Home” – Edward Sharpe and Magnetic Zeros
9. “El Desierto” – Lhasa de Sela
10. “They Done Wrong/We Done Wrong” – White Rabbits
11. “Shadow Stabbing” – Cake
12. “Kiss Off” – Violent Femmes
13. “Id Engager” – Of Montreal
14. “The Cold Part” – Modest Mouse
15. “Consolers of the Lonely” – The Raconteurs
16. “Break My Body” – Pixies
17. “Honeybear” – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
18. “Venus in Furs” – The Velvet Underground with Nico
19. “She’s Long Gone” – The Black Keys
20. “Cactus” – Pixies
21. “Dead Leaves and Dirty Ground” – The White Stripes
22. “Oh My God” – Ida Maria
23. “Une Année Sans Lumière” – Arcade Fire
24. “Lover” – Devendra Banhart
25. “Last Day of Magic” – The Kills
26. “Carbon Monoxide” – Regina Spektor
27. “These Days” – Nico
28. “Dead Sound” – The Raveonettes
29. “Love Like a Sunset, Pt. 1” - Phoenix

[Image from the NastyGal catalogue.]


[The following is unearthed from my Filthadelphia journal, a good reminder of who I am. I made a mix today as a second reminder of this, this me, and why I fought so hard to keep this girl alive, even though she sometimes sees too much and curses and goes into the darker places that other people see but are afraid to confront.]

Days crouch over the nights with skirts hiked up. Midnight yanks my hair back, exposing my throat. These are the times of concrete and monster machine-growls, of wild city-lilies pushing through the cracks, of piss and steel. My old-lady brain and prophetess-eyes are too wise for this Philadelphia. I pass strangers and divine the skeletons in their cupboards with a too-long, too-intimate glance like the press of a hand on the inside of a stranger’s thigh or how you can fuck with pedophiles at the grocery store by staring at them when they gaze longingly at their younger cousins. Everyone else pretends not to notice, but I sharpen my stare on their naughty-bones and repulsiveness and communicate that I know exactly what their dirty, secret heart’s wishes are. I am a survivor of such wishes, so I have the second-sight to know who is a predator and who is not. This sight is my curse, and never a gift, because I wouldn’t give it to anyone. I stare because I want them to know that I know.

These are the ancient hours, the ones where I feel like I hold the planet’s history in my hands. My hands are crone-long and lined with wars and attempts at peace. I’ve never seen an ugly tree before this city. The sight of these trees, butchered for power lines and better views of musty waterways angers and saddens me, and adds twenty years to my shoulders. I am old and young, alive and dead.

Then, after a day of watching money funneled through business people’s fingers, racing around and being told one thing and then, demanded to do another, I fold into myself, bent in two, where chest presses to knees and knees to the ladder of the ankles, and I feel a child. My heart has never really known greed or filth or how to use others, and it rents my soul. I don’t know how to deal with it, and so, I sob into hiccups, hiccup into gasps, and gasp into unconsciousness, finding rest an uneasy lover. I sleep with a stuffed dog for the first time in twenty years and say baby-prayers on the wings of my dragon fly Tiffany lamp. I wish for dogs and ponies, faery-friends and for the first time in my life, unicorns. When I was a kid, unicorns bothered me, mostly because of classmates who wore them on pastel sweatshirts or carried them on those strangely sexual Lisa Frank notebooks and stickers. Now, I understand how important believing in unicorns is. Clap if you believe in them! I beat my hands bloody clapping for unicorns. I am weak with wishes.

I am two women in battle and in lust, in innocence and in light, rock-salt tears and fists clenched, crab apple-hard. My father is also a product of extremes, the pilot who can solve complex mathematical equations in his head, yet insists on surrounding himself with interesting things and traveling to the literal ends of the earth to see new sights. He tells a story of how he once had to make an emergency landing during flight school in a field of horses. Horses danced, dappled gold and brown in the fading light. Most people would have waited for assistance. My father decided he wanted to ride the horses—bareback. He dared his instructor to ride one; the instructor broke both of his arms and gained a source of teasing and legends. Dad climbed onto one of the young horses and rode just as it started to rain, a man of land and air, in motion, in sound.

Anyone who’s met him knows how I came to be and why I am two precious extremes. The world around me notices the dichotomy. I’ve never felt so divided, like one could cleave me in two and find completely different beings on either side of the cut. Babas in colourful wraps at the grocery store, true judges of character, pat me and call me “baby-girl.” Strangers often say, “You are such a good girl!” At the bus-stop, a Jamaican gangster talks to me about Obama and Hillary, while his homies snicker. “Safe, not safe,” the pendulum swings. He thinks me safe, so we talk about presidents and bitches and hope. Yet, most of my friends insist that I am the one they’d want on their side if a fight ever broke out. Those who meet me often comment on my ass-kickingness and the wildness lurking just below the surface, even when I am quiet and turning my knees inward and combing the tangles in my hair out.

Reconciling these two creatures is a part of growing up. Grow up is so painful, almost like the time you go to school and a kid in your class spoils Santa Claus by telling you it’s not real. You still believe a little while longer, but something cries when you think of presents under the tree and how much you believe in this jolly old guy who just wants children to smile. Getting this new job has taught me more in the way of that than I ever expected. What I’ve seen is that you should do what is your passion or you will soon be unfulfilled and unhappy, no matter what amount of money you are making.

You are what you do. I want to do great things.

Even when I despair, I recognise that I am a very blessed woman and that many people think I lead a charmed life. I don’t lead a charmed life, but I do live. I live rebelliously and gently: a hundred girls with a hundred histories in this one, tall body. Sometimes, I am doing this with metallic turquoise eyeliner traced around my eyes in New Wave streaks and my hair a Lichtenstein car crash, poked with Warhol (Edie, can you hear me?). Other mornings, I do this with black kohl rimming my inner and outer lids, like I’m an Egyptian goddess and the sun is too bright for my eyes, so I must remind it that everything cool to the touch is black. I carry a dangerous handbag. The handbag is dangerous because it possesses its own personality and life, and is the stuff of which petting and fawning is made. Although I drop things and rattle around like I am still lost, I am learning so much, and seeing how much trust is being placed into my lap. I am its gentle container.

I am how I live, which is fierce and true. I know things’ll work out if I remember that.

"collison" mix found here:

1. “Back to Black” - Amy Winehouse
2. “What Goes Around … / … Comes Around Interlude” - Justin Timberlake featuring Timbaland
3. “Rolling in the Deep” - Adele
4. “Space for Rent” - Who Made Who
5. “When Did Your Heart Go Missing?” - Rooney
6. “Hang Me up to Dry” - Cold War Kids
7. “I’m in Here (Piano/Vocal Version)” - Sia
8. “About Her” - Malcolm MacLaren
9. “The Gift” - Angels and Airwaves
10. “Fences” - Phoenix
11. “I Want the World to Stop” - Belle and Sebastian
12. “The High Road” - Broken Bells
13. “Soul Meets Body” - Death Cab for Cutie
14. “Destroy Everything You Touch” - Ladytron
15. “Colourless Colour” - La Roux
16. “Howl” - Florence+the Machine
17. “How Many Loves?” - Naomi
18. “White Blank Page” - Mumford and Sons
19. “Woodstock” - Joni Mitchell
20. “My Punishment for Fighting” - The Rosebuds
21. “Pacific Coast Highway” - Hole
22. “Speak of the Devil” - River Rouge
23. “Portions for Foxes” - Rilo Kiley
24. “My Moon My Man” - Feist
25. “Satellite” - Guster
26. “Sandy” - Caribou
27. “Giving It All Away” - Dead Confederate featuring J. Mascis
28. “Infinitely Late at Night” - The Magnetic Fields
29. “Paris Is Burning” - Ladyhawke

[Image is Woman with Dove by Tamara de Lempicka, circa 1931.]

everything old is new-mix

Much as with disco, I wasn’t quite born at the right time for New Wave. Lateness is sometimes an issue I have. Obviously, I have more regrets about coming late to New Wave than I do about disco. That doesn’t count these clandestine flirtations I have with disco at roller rinks. One cannot skate or do the Duck to anything but a solid boogie-butt disco album. Since life is not a roller rink and car windows are happier when they’re down to blast New Wave, New Wave is an easier choice.

New Wave followed the same trajectory as punk. While punk was about stark contrasts and rebellion, New Wave captured upbeat melody, while still remaining true to that scraped-knuckle, punk rock philosophy. Indie rock wouldn’t have been born without New Wave, or more specifically, Sire Records and CBGB. Where punk wanted to break a bottle over your skull and pierce your ear with a rusty safety pin, New Wave wasn’t afraid to be romantic, even sardonically ridiculous. There was an aloof anger in New Wave, but mostly, it was pleasing and catchy. Punk was for slamming in the pit; New Wave was for putting on your highest pink pumps or gravity-friendly Vans and dancing.

One hit wonders populated the New Wave scene. Fame, like life, was fleeting. It was all right to sing about masturbation, as long as you were talking about turning Japanese or whipping it. Love was tainted. We all needed Eileen to come on because a bunch of dudes in overalls on a street corner wanted it very badly.

Foreign singers warned against all kinds of evils. I didn’t know who Der Kommissar was, but he sounded like one spooky-ass guy, and I still won’t turn around because he might be there. We didn’t understand what the hell luftballons were and why there were 99 of them, but Amadeus was going to rise from the grave and rock us. We had a passport to anywhere; we could put on the Ritz, take it down to Funkytown, or be too shy with Kajagoogoo. Duran Duran told us the Union of the Snake was “on the climb,” and Christian evangelists preached about the connection of the devil with the “rock and roll lyrics.” Billy Idol smirk-snarled about white weddings while dancing with himself, and we had to follow suit. We’ve grown up, but Billy still looks the same: platinum blonde spiked hair, a whiplash smile, and lean, leather-clad legs that have wrecked many a girl on the road of fascination. Obviously, we haven’t stopped feeling his “sex attack.”

Video predictably killed the radio star. Videos heralded the New Wave era. For some reason, almost every awful ‘eighties New Wave video featured men with enormous amounts of make-up and the requisite, obsequious girls in black-and-plum striped body-suits or a white horse galloping in slow-motion. Breaking things sexily was also vogue: glass windows, shower stall doors, pencils, and hearts, natch. Bless John Hughes for getting it, and giving us films with whole New Wave musical montages (I’m looking at you, sneaky, sliding hallway hijinx in The Breakfast Club). I was fairly young when all of this happened, so there’s a bit of wistfulness when I listen to Echo and the Bunnymen, Simple Minds, or Blondie. I always wished I could have seen them live, which is where New Wave really took off—in seedy little bars where lead singers looked like bubble-pop candy and wore custom-cut garbage bags or tinsel and holiday lights. At the end of the gig, sometimes, the band didn’t wear anything at all, because the crowd ripped it off, or in divine offering, they’d torn it to throw like petals over the oil-slick of teenagers.

Lucky for me, New Wave inspired many other musicians and movements. The adage of nothing being new applies here. Every time I step into a French Connection, I hear the heavy synthesisers and cold perspective of New Wave. It’s kind of fun to relive a past that was never mine in that way. The reality star seems to have killed the video star, so we don’t have as easily accessible visuals, but that’s what brains were created to do. There’s more methods to personalise it now, rather than relying on hackneyed disc jockeys. Everything old is new.

Of course, I’ve made the requisite mix to express this. Don’t take it too seriously, but I promise you, you’ll chair-dance and want to wear glitter and metallic turquoise eyeliner, if only for an instant, and in that moment, we are all new as babies, old as time itself.

"everything old is new" (Located here: )

1. “Hazy Shade of Winter” – The Bangles
2. “Sin of the City” – Duran Duran
3. “Song for No One” – Miike Snow
4. “O.N.E.” – Yeasayer
5. “Dance the Way I Feel” – Ou Est Le Swimming Pool
6. “History” – Groove Armada featuring Will Young
7. “Don’t Call” – Desire
8. “Young Aren’t Young” – The Hundred in the Hands
9. “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?” – Moby
10. “Stars” – The xx
11. “Burning” – The Whitest Boy Alive
12. “UFO” – Sneaky Sound System
13. “Hurricane Jane” – Black Kids
14. “I Can Talk” – Two Door Cinema Club
15. “How Soon Is Now?” – The Smiths
16. “Greatest Hit (Edit)” – Annie
17. “Up the Mountain” – Bomb the Bass featuring the Battle of Land and Sea
18. “Happiness” – Goldfrapp
19. “Don’t Stop” – Brazilian Girls
20. “Sweet Disposition” – The Temper Trap
21. “Flesh for Fantasy” – Billy Idol
22. “Kick You to the Curb” – Pony
23. “Hot Sahara” – Fans of Jimmy Century
24. “AM/FM Sound” – Matt & Kim
25. “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo” – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
26. “Dancing on My Own” – Robyn
27. “Devils” – Say Hi
28. “The High Road” – Broken Bells
29. “Pumped up Kicks” – Foster the People
30. “Broken in All the Right Places” – i am jen
31. “Atomic” – Blondie
32. “Miracles (Radio Edit)” – Pet Shop Boys
33. “Heartbeat City” – The Cars
34. “Transparent Things” – Fujiya & Miyagi

[Image is Deborah Harry of Blondie at International Center, Toronto, October 9, 1977. I like that she’s not all tarted out here. She looks like a savvy, sexy girl-of-the-world who won’t take your ish.]

my adolescent angst-mix

Yesterday, I touched on my teenage bullshit and rebellion, my mascara tears in the girl’s locker room for no reason and bus-stop trauma.  Today, I decided to make a mix that captured all the notebooks filled with song lyrics and scribbled pictures.  My best friend Lara—and once someone receives that title, it stays for life, whether you ever talk again or not—and I kept spiral pads filled with poems and music we wished had been written about us.  I carried the notebooks with me everywhere, and seized every opportunity to capture a new lyric.  This mix hearkens to those evenings spent alone with a boy breaking my heart and my bed full of stuffed animals.

"my adolescent angst" (Listen to it here:

1. “Late at Night” - Buffalo Tom
2. “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)” - Cracker
3. “Spin the Bottle” - The Juliana Hatfield Trio
4. “Free” - The Martinis
5. “Just Like Heaven” - The Cure
6. “Grey Cell Green” - Ned’s Atomic Dustbin
7. “If You Were Here” - Thompson Twins
8. “Designs on You” - The Old 97’s
9. “Life and How to Live It” - R.E.M.
10. “Never Said” - Liz Phair
11. “Save Me” - Aimee Mann
12. “Halah” - Mazzy Mann
13. “For Nancy (‘Cos It Already Is)” - Pete Yorn
14. “No Myth” - Michael Penn
15. “Ruby Red” - Heather Nova
16. “So Alive” - Ryan Adams
17. “When You Come Back to Me” - World Party
18. “Like a Friend” - Pulp
19. “Charm Attack” - Leona Naess
20. “Shadowboxer” - Fiona Apple
21. “I Go Crazy” - Flesh for Lulu
22. “Connection” - Elastica
23. “In the Blood” - Better Than Ezra
24. “Fall Down” - Toad the Wet Sprocket
25. “Do You Sleep?” - Lisa Loeb
26. “Caught a Lite Sneeze” - Tori Amos
27. “Jane Says” - Jane’s Addiction
28. “Breathe Me” - Sia
29. “Not a Pretty Girl” - Ani DiFranco
30. “Goodbye” - The Sundays
31. “Siren” - Tori Amos
32. “Do Wot You Do” - INXS
33. “Regret” - New Order

[Art from a publicity still for the genius, dearly departed American telly show, My So-Called Life. Where the hell is Tino?]

music: the religion I’ve held the longest

Making music mixes is one of my favourite activities in the world.  I possess a wide and bizarre range of music, and love smearing it together like one of my childhood mudpie concoctions.  Crafting a mix reminds me of my alienated adolescence (and really, did anyone have less than a brutal teenagehood?).  I’d sit up late on a Sunday night listening to the only alternative radio show in town.  Even then, my musical tastes veered from the mainstream.  I never quite reconciled why I liked music that no one else did.  I wanted to understand New Kids on the Block (err, New Kids Suck the C***) and all the other candy that came from pizza shop speakers, but I never could.  It would have made my life easier.  Instead, I’d hide out and find the music that spoke to my insides, mostly on Sunday night and sometimes, on satellite dish channels from Europe.  Joshua Tree era U2, INXS, Roxy Music, Neil Young, and so many others weren’t just musicians for me.  They were my soul-mates, my mouthpieces, and the keepers of my secrets.  They had the power to say what I couldn’t yet say; they were the confessors of the words in all my scribbled journals.  It wasn’t just the music of the alienated spirits that I absorbed either.  I listened to music that people wouldn’t have connected to me, discovering that you didn’t have to be male, female, heterosexual, gay, white, or Black to claim music.  Music belonged to everyone.  That’s how I bonded to the Black songstresses Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, and Sophie Tucker.  These women sang during racist times, yet they had their own ideas and plans for being Black women in the world.  Nina was the most political.  In the live opening for “Mississippi Goddamn,” she announced, “The name of this tune is ‘Mississippi Goddamn.’  And I mean every word of it.”  Who would have thought she’d have an audience chuckling as she tackled lynchings and racism?  She made her audience pay to hear her sentiments.  Who would have thought such a thing could happen when segregation was still in effect?

Each mix, each teardrop, each flame-tongued confession, I kept.  Later, when I started performing onstage, telling my own tales, I let loose every fire that had been given to me by music.  And I still make mixes, often sending them to friends, my way of entering the priest’s confessional and revealing sins and successes, sadness and dancing.  Once, a psychic told me, “You wear a coat of secrets.  It’s not just your secrets.  You have the power to make people tell you their secrets.  You wear the secrets of others.”  Although I’ve never given much credence to the words of self-proclaimed seers, she was right.  Music gave me a way of making all the secrets I wear all right, of healing the wounds that knowing so much can cause.  I’m so grateful for every musician or singer who’s ever dared to tell the truth.  I’m still sitting next to my radio, fingers poised, ready to collect the knowledge and to discover another soul-mate.  Isn’t that what we all want in the world anyway—connection and intimate understanding of another soul-mate?  It’s what I’ve always wanted, and what music, unfailingly, has always granted me.

In that spirit, I started a little free mix radio station.  I plan on uploading mixes from time to time, a quicker way to send music to the ears of my friends.  Music should be shared like an embrace: hearty, full-body, and with sincerity.  The address is:

The first mix is called “blue rooms with decayed smiles.”  I’d love to hear what everyone thinks of it.  The tracks are:

1. “Hell” - Squirrel Nut Zippers
2. “Whatever Lola Wants” - Sarah Vaughan
3. “See Line Woman (Stereo)” - Nina Simone
4. “Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia) [Ultimix]” - Us3
5. “Freddie Freeloader” - Miles Davis
6. “Pallin’ with Al’ - Squirrel Nut Zippers
7. “Mambo Italiano” - Dean Martin
8. “Come On-A My House” - Rosemary Clooney
9. “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” - Marilyn Monroe
10. “I’ll Be Seeing You” - Billie Holiday
11. “Flower” - Amos Lee
12. “Christmas Time Is Here” - Vince Guaraldi Trio
13. “Green Hornet” - Al Hirt
14. “Resolution” - John Coltrane
15. “Parker’s Mood” - Charlie Parker
16. “Speak Low [Bent Remix]” - Billie Holiday and Bent
17. “Broken-hearted Melody” - Sarah Vaughan
18. “Drown in My Own Tears” - Eva Cassidy
19. “Run the VooDoo Down” - Cassandra Wilson
20. “Swing Pan Alley {USA)” - Duke Heitger and His Swing Band
21. “Miss Otis Regrets” - Ella Fitzgerald
22. “Ko-Ko” - Charlie Parker
23. “Hickory Dickory Dock” - Wynton Marsalis
24. “You’ll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini)” - Ella Fitzgerald
25. “Backatown” - Trombone Shorty
26. “Sing, Sing, Sing [RSL Remix]” - Anita O’Day and RSL
27. “Clear Blue Eyes” - Amos Lee featuring Lucinda Williams
28. “Vonetta” - Miles Davis
29. “Po’ Lazarus” - James Carter and the Prisoners
30. “My Blue Heaven” - Fats Domino
31. “Anything You Can Do” - Ethel Merman and Ray Middleton
32. “I’m the Last of the Red Hot Mamas” - Sophie Tucker
33. “April in Paris [Instrumental]” - Count Basie and Quincy Jones and His Orchestra
34. “Shotgun” - Junior Walker and the All Stars
35. “Barefootin’ ” - Wilson Pickett
36. “From a Whisper to a Scream” - Allen Toussaint
37. “You Know I’m No Good [Remix]” - Amy Winehouse featuring Ghostface Killah
38. “Rolling in the Deep” - Adele
39. “Rich Girl” - Daryl Hall and John Oates
40. “MoneyGrabber” - Fitz and the Tantrums
41. “No Ordinary Love” - Sade

[Painting credit: Ernie Barnes. It’s called “Sugar Shack” and was the album cover for Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You.” Mr. Barnes was the very first interview I ever had when I wrote for Numb Magazine. He was so lovely and humble. He was a featured artist for the Olympics and has paintings pretty much everywhere. One of his favourite projects was a family portrait for Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith. He’s been a pro football player and is a remarkable story unto himself.]