February 10, 2011
1:23 am

Don’t Make Lists of Lists.

As a former/occasional journalist of sorts—which is to say, I made a small living as an entertainment writer for several years, despite no formal education or justifiable talent—I’m a person who takes a particular interest in the dialogue that musicians share with the contemporary climate of the music media. What’s of particular interest to me—if only because it relates specifically to $ and ¢—is the economy of blog content. It’s an interesting thing, every time we muster the courage to release a new anything, the cycle of promotion, of communication, and particularly of new content creation that—if we’re lucky—tends to follow. But where once I could attach palpable gains to my word counts, I now happily jump at the opportunity to provide free content to more or less whomever will have me. Not that I’m complaining, of course: I still like to write, and even more than that, I still like to write about myself. It’s just curious to think of the desperation of musicians—myself included—to endlessly provide content at no charge to any high school student with an awkwardly titled blogspot. CONTENT TO CONTENT.

Such Is Life.

That said: my favorite thing to do blog-wise is to curate mixes. Because there’s no accounting for taste unless it’s mine, obvs. I just made a new one called “There Are No Words,” for Don’t Make Lists. You can download in here:


Having revisited, with no little narcissism, a few previous mixes in the process, I thought it might be nice to put them all together in one place, for easy piracy. Without further ado: Some weird playlists I’ve made over the years, knowing full well that basically no one would ever take the time listen to them. Turns out I really like Scott Walker. Sorry for the overload.


originally compiled for The Weekly Mixtape

“Less than a month ago I purchased a second-hand, dual head cassette recorder from a charity shop, with the expressed purpose of crafting a pair of tapes for a lover’s car stereo. The contents of said cassettes were uncannily similar to the mix presented here, which should give some indication of the context. For the record: the tape recorder has since been binned. Among other things.”

“Heartbreak” by Celebration

“Because I am old, and because old people are frightened by the new things that young people make, it only stands to reason that I am mostly terrified of contemporary music. One notable exception in pretty regular rotation at the convalescent home is Celebration, whose “Heartbreak” is included here primarily to give this dour mix something of a pulse.”

“Nothing Compares 2 U” by Jimmy Scott

“Every single person who ever walked away from you has been waiting for all these years in the stuttered pauses of Jimmy Scott’s castrato. It is impossible to have a good day after listening to this song.”

“On Your Own Again” by Scott Walker

“One of Scott’s most succinct and evocative originals—the sum of its abstract, snapshot imagery a perfectly elusive picture of love lost and isolation. I am a fan of any song that can manage to break your heart, and still clock in under the two-minute mark. “Cool Summer” by Bob Lind As you read this, Bob Lind is probably playing some shitty dive in Boca Raton, Florida—his voice still strangely intact. He’s there, quietly performing a handful of the most beautiful, awkwardly verbose songs ever written—songs without proper choruses to speak of, with confoundingly elaborate rhythmic patterns—while Bob Dylan continues to play crowded amphitheaters for $100 a head or whatever. In case you still imagined there was such a thing as justice.”

“Dive For Your Memory” by The Go-Betweens

Like many of the best Go-Betweens songs, “Dive For Your Memory” comes off deceptively sappy on first listen—a case that’s never been particularly aided by the group’s consistently crystalline production values. But what’s so great about it is Robert Forester’s occasional tone of ambivalence to his departed love, even as he begs for her to reconsider. He opens the song with a couplet that, for me at least, undermines all of the sentiment that follows—and yet every measure of sentiment still manages to cripple upon impact. Good show, sad man.”

“Permanently Lonely” by Timi Yuro

“A spiteful Willie Nelson number made famous by the lovely lady Yuro, I’ve always felt more fellowship with the accused than with the song’s martyred narrator. Which probably says more about me than the song.”

“Chosen One” [Accumulation None version] by Smog

“Some 20-years on, Bill Callahan still somehow makes the act of near-constant emotional resignation sound totally fresh and heartbreaking. But he never said it better than he did here.”

“Don’t Forget Me” by Marianne Faithfull

“Marianne’s voice—in both its bird-like infancy and world-worn rasp—is an instrument of pure, feral pathos. Her rendition of Harry Nilsson’s greatest song exceeds the original in its desperation, if only because Faithfull’s voice reads between Nilsson’s veil of smug cleverness into the song’s soul of despondency.”


originally compiled for MOG—no notes, no discernible theme, Elvis Costello reference.

“Music” by Red Krayola

“Party Fears Two” by The Associates

“Fletcher’s Favorite” by Curtains

“Move Over Darling” by Doris Day

“Every 1’s A Winner” by Alan Vega

“This Little Bird” by Marianne Faithfull

“The Clarke Sisters” by The Go-Betweens

“Hot On The Heels Of Love” by Throbbing Gristle

“I Luv Your Girl” by The-Dream

“Group Velocity” by Arnold Dreyblatt

“Crisis in the Credit System” by Petit Mal

“Sebastian” by Cockney Rebel

“Cousin Jane” by The Troggs

“Darkness” by Scott Walker

“L’Escargot” by Michael Nyman

“Counting” by Bob Lind

“Grey Lagoons” by Roxy Music

“Bach To Bach” by Elaine May & Mike Nichols

“Moonshot” by Buffy Sainte-Marie

“Big Stereo” by Tracy And The Plastics

“Either Way I Lose” by Nina Simone


originally compiled for You Ain’t No Picasso

“In the summertime, these are the cartoonish sorts of melodrama that get boxed and buried away with the sweaters and soup cans. Fast-forward a few months, to these dimming days of grey, and they somehow all seem like reasonable expressions of universal truth—not pouting, puerile hysterics. It’s hard to say which is the more balanced view of things. Or perhaps not. Either way, this is how Winter 2008-09 feels so far in my headphones. (Author’s note: This collection attempts to exclude the likely list of professional miserablists [Cohen, Morrissey, etc.], who’s catalog of despair goes a little too deep to be able to pin-point moments of pronounced darkness.)”

“I Who Have Nothing” by Shirley Bassey

“Shirley Bassey is probably my favorite singer—she makes every word she sings sound like it’s the last thing she plans to come out of her mouth. “I Who Have Nothing” is just about the most desperate stab at the gut she’s ever managed—that sad kitten “pressed up against the window pane” line absolutely slays.”

The Shangri-Las – Past, Present and Future

“The ultimate expression of Mary Weiss’ bang-swept forlorn, set questionably to the soundtrack of “Moonlight Sonata”—“Past, Present, and Future” is the Shangri-las’ most bizarre-o moment. Also: their best?”

Scott Walker – Next / Farmer in the City

An unprecedented tie in the playlist department, I give you two sides to the Scott Walker coin: 1968’s creepy orchestral masterpiece “Next,” and 1995’s haunt(ed/ing) “Farmer In the City”. “Next” is Walker’s most visceral lament amongst his many Jacque Brel renditions, the content—from the “wet head of [his] first case of gonorrhea” to the “burn[ing him]self alive”—bleeding with violent (if somewhat campy) despair. “Farmer In the City,” on the other hand, is pure moodpiece—the strings and hollow falsetto propelling perhaps the most bleakly emotive tone Walker ever managed. Both are devastating.”

“A Labor More Restful” by Dave Longstreth

“Perhaps more firmly realist than desperate, this beautifully realized Longstreth ballad may simply betray a certain personal desperation in your faithful narrator—the fear of responsible, adult resignation. In some ways it feels like Dirty Projectors’ “Everybody Hurts” moment—an abridgment of the typical obscurity for the sake of an eloquent bomb drop on the human condition. (So okay, “Everybody Hurts” fails miserably in this ambition, but still: I stand by my comparison).”

“Holocaust” by Big Star

“The most believably bleak song ever written, ever.”


Originally compiled for something called “ForSkinnySteve,” which doesn’t seem to exist anymore.

“So Marke from forskinnysteve asked us to put together a mix of some kind to accompany our new record, Entanglements–which we took to mean a sort expository companion, designed presumably to allow some direct insight into our process of creative plagiarism. This was a process that proved especially sticky for us, given the record’s penchant for deliberate inter-musical and inter-textual quotation, but one that seemed like an interesting challenge.

What follows is more a calculated break of our collective poker face than a full-on tipping of the cards–one which is hopefully just as enjoyable on its own as it might be to the infinitesimal few who might care fuck-all about knowing what old pop song we’ve undoubtedly ripped off.”–Zac Pennington & Matt Carlson, Parenthetical Girls.

Bernard Hermann – Soundtrack to “Vertigo”

“The arrangements of Bernard Hermann display a mastery of how the different instrumental families complement each other. Vertigo’s lush brass swells and arpeggios give me chills whenever I think of them.”—Matt

“The All Golden” by Van Dyke Parks

“Van Dyke Parks’ Song Cycle is, in one man’s opinion, the greatest pop record ever made. Unlike some people, however, we don’t have the kind of money or clout that buys the guy outright–so we just had to try to fake it ourselves.”

“Get In The Swing” by Sparks

“Sparks’ entire career is a seemingly endless font of inspiration, but the Indiscreet LP has always held the softest spot in my heart–an arrogantly ambitious record in a long line of arrogantly ambitious records. This particular selection is just dripping with some of Ronald’s best one-liners, but my favorite has to be this little diamond from verse one: ‘the night is younger than the girl who’s got the touch… but not by much’.”

Nino Rota – Soundtrack to “8 1/2”

“Arguably the best Italian film composer after Morricone, Rota’s scores for Fellini’s classic films have always held a special place in my heart.”-Matt

“Just Drifting (For Caresse)” by Psychic TV

“A sucker for the art of context, I’ve really fallen in love with early Psychic TV’s playful juxtaposition of beautiful pop songs with the cloud of horror that generally surrounds everything Genesis P-Orridge touches.”

Krystof Penderecki – Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima

“Penderecki’s early compositions offer some innovative approaches towards dissonance in string writing.”-Matt

“The September of My Years” by Frank Sinatra

“Gordon Jenkins’ arrangements for Sinatra are an obvious enough touchstone–schmaltz-sick, wistful, surprisingly weird. This one’s played pretty straight relative to some, but is no less effective for it.”

“Charmaine” by Frank Nitzsche

“In 1979, Frank Nitzsche was arrested for “rape by instrumentality” after allegedly assaulting his ex-girlfriend with the barrel of his handgun. Four years earlier, he wrote “Charmaine” for Milos Foreman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Like Spector and Joe Meek, Nitzsche’s creative work is an anomaly of true beauty as manifest in pure, grotesque evil.”

“Ballade de Melody Nelson” by Serge Gainsbourg

“‘Ballade’ is positioned here somewhat arbitrarily, as a placeholder for the whole of Histoire de Melody Nelson. I don’t speak French, but I know it’s dirty.”

“Madame George” by Van Morrison

“People shouldn’t be allowed to write about Astral Weeks.”

Ennio Morricone/Mina Mazzini – Se Telefonado

“While legendary for his scores to Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns, Morricone was also an ace arranger for 60’s Italian pop tunes. This song’s continually building intensity is admirable.”-Matt

Charles Ives – Central Park in the Dark

“Ives was using free atonality and incorporating quotations from popular American brass-band songs back in 1905, and in doing so almost singlehandedly inaugurated the project of 20th century American experimental music.”—Matt

“Swee’ Pea’s Lullaby” by Robin Williams (Harry Nilsson)

“From Harry Nilsson’s masterful soundtrack to Robert Altman’s Popeye musical–which is, incidentally, the unlikely favorite film of two Parenthetical Girls: both Rachael Jensen and Jherek Bischoff. Also, a sly way of sliding in one more VDP-related jam.”

“Reach Out For Me” by Dionne Warwick

“Another somewhat arbitrary bookmark for the whole of the Bacharach/David cannon, but Dionne really kills it with this one.”

“The Amorous Humphrey Plugg” by Scott Walker

“My favorite Walker original this particular moment, “…Humphrey Plugg” melts around the typically sumptuous arrangements of Wally Scott, who always seemed to know what moves to borrow from Sinatra’s hitmen–and then how to amplify it into the utterly ridiculous.”

Bela Bartok – String Quartet #4

“While never approaching this level of complexity, the energy of Bartok’s late quartets is something I aimed for at times.”-Matt

“Sing Another Song, Boys” by Leonard Cohen

One of Mr. Cohen’s more over-looked masterpieces–a fatalist epic of lust, and power and inevitable disappointment. This is what I think makes for good pop songs. And that is why, presumably, we will never be successful.

“Let’s Face The Music and Dance” by Fred Astaire

A melody that gets stuck in my head perhaps more than any other, performed as it was intended. That opening phrase kills me every time: “There may be trouble ahead…”