Happy birthday Alexis Corrinne Myricks, your aunt is an obsessive compulsive audiophile.

On my 14th birthday, my best friend gave me an original pressing of Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced. Now I’ve wrapped it in bubble wrap and sent it to my niece as today is her 14th birthday. I sent her a letter as well explaining everything, a mix CD, and a list of 25 albums she should familiarize herself with.

From the letter:
“I’ve been planning on giving this to you for almost twelve years, and now that time has come. Treasure it as I have. I have taken this through 18 states while living in 5 different houses and 10 apartments. It is the first thing I unpack every single time I move. I have played it hundreds and hundreds of times; I know where it skips and where it’s scratched and I’ve learned to anticipate it. I absolutely love it, and now it’s yours.”

My first task? Coming to grips with having to part with my Hendrix album. Next: deciding on 25 albums that have shaped modern music. If you know me, you will note that I have been [a little] self-indulgent with this list. I picked:

The Velvet Underground—White Light White Heat
The Kinks—self titled
The Beach Boys—Pet Sounds
The Beatles—Abbey Road
Led Zeppelin—III (three)
Ramones—self titled
Sex Pistols—Never Mind the Bollocks
The Clash—London Calling
The Go-Go’s—Beauty and the Beast
George Michael—Faith
Michael Jackson—Thriller
Beastie Boys—Paul’s Boutique
Pearl Jam—Ten
Green Day—Dookie
Pavement—Slanted and Enchanted
Built to Spill—Keep It Like a Secret
A Tribe Called Quest—Midnight Marauders
Genius/GZA (Wu Tang)—Liquid Swords
Weezer—self titled (the blue album)
Ryan Adams—Gold
Soul Coughing—El Oso
Wilco—Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

Next, a mix CD. Now this was much trickier than I had initially thought it would be, because not only did I want each track to spurn some small anecdote about music history, it also has to be appropriate for a 14 year old so that 1) it holds her attention and 2) it doesn’t get confiscated by my older brother. Also, it had to be recorded within her lifetime. I finally came up with this mix.
It’s called “This Will Not Kill Your Brain Cells” and is so titled because I am always telling Lexi that pursuits such as listening to the radio and purchasing Justin Timberlake albums will. I was so tempted to put a bunch of rediculous metal and weird art-rock ambient stuff--but I mean, come on. She's 14. This is the greatest pop mix I have ever created. Mwuhahahaha!

I’m the Man Who Loves You—Wilco
When the band Uncle Tupelo broke up, frontman Jay Farrar went off and created Son Volt while lead guitarist Jeff Tweedy created the legendary and far more successful, Wilco. This is from what is arguably their greatest album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

Helicopter—M. Ward
No one can deny the pervasiveness of Nebraska’s Wunderkind and lead singer of Bright Eye’s, Conor Oberst, even if only for the musicians he allies himself with. Although not signed to Oberst’s label “Saddle Creek”, M. Ward broke into stardom when touring with Oberst and Bright Eye’s in 2003. This track is from Ward’s third album, Transfiguration of Vincent.

Such Great Heights—The Postal Service
Although he proved a remarkable session player for Jeremy Enigk and his famed Seattle band Sunny Day Real Estate, Ben Gibbard had bigger dreams that came to fruition when he created Death Cab for Cutie. Although created as a side project, Gibbard’s The Postal Service and their debut album Give Up quickly attained more success than anyone anticipated, and also served to catapult sales of Death Cab’s next album, Transatlanticism.

Left Side Clouded—The Sea and Cake
If Stephen Malkmus was the most influential musician to Seattle, then Sam Prekop and his band The Sea and Cake is Chicago’s answer to Pavement. Created from the ashes of the band Tortoise almost a grillion years ago, they have remained one of the main stays of the Chicago music scene as well as paving the way for such other synth-pop bands such as The Postal Service and FischerSpooner. This track is from 2002’s One Bedroom. Also, Tortoise is supposedly back together now.
[edit: also--the band I'm thinking of is totally not Tortoise. It's Shrimp Boat. I always get my chicago bands confused--another good reason to have "is not chicago" tattooed on the back of my left elbow.]

Things Replaced—Built Like Alaska
This band belongs to the greatest label of all time that no one’s ever heard of, Future Farmer Records here in San Francisco. They share a label with frikken’ ridiculously dope musicians like Beulah and The Minders. This track is from their album Autmnland.

Beautiful—Clem Snide
Forget Christina Aguilera; this song was in fact written by Linda Perry, lead singer of the mid-nineties grungy fox-core band, 4 Non Blondes. In this version, its lyrical simplicity is highlighted by Israeli-born lead singer Eef Barzelay’s pitch perfect vocals. It’s from a 5 track EP aptly dubbed The Beautiful EP.

Three Is a Magic Number—Blind Melon [edit: I added this]
When the movie “Reality Bites” became an instant cult classic in 1993 or 94, it brought with it the rebirth of “School House Rock” because of one scene where the cast sings “Conjunction Junction” on a rooftop. This track was recorded for an album called School House Rock Rocks! in which many popular alternative musicians were asked to cover a School House Rock song, Blind Melon being one of them. Now listen very, very carefully to the rest of this story.
Shannon Moon was the lead singer of Blind Melon, which gained instant stardom with their debut album and its HUGE hit single “No Rain”. Unfortunately, it was their first and last album because Moon died of a drug overdose. He was brilliant, and he died. Just like that. I remember where I was when I found out, just like when Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) and Elliott Smith (Heat Miser/solo) died. It was that traumatic. This, “Three Is a Magic Number”, was the last song the band ever recorded.
Proceeds from the sale of School House Rock Rocks! goes to the Children’s Defense Fund, which aims to educate poor and minority youth about the importance of getting an education and the consequences of drug use.
Jimi Hendrix was HANDS DOWN THE MOST BRILLIANT GUITAR PLAYER EVER IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD, but now everyone remembers him not just for his music, but also because he died from suffocating on his own puke after ingesting a cocktail of alcohol and pills. Don’t ever, ever, EVER waste your talents like that. Don’t take from this world everything you have to offer. Don’t be a Ghetto Fabulous statistic like Shannon Moon.

Need it Just a Little—Fruit Bats
Eric Johnson was a session player for Tim Rutilli and Jim Becker’s band Califone which was originally created as a side project of Calexico, I think. Don’t quote me on that. With a little prodding from these mentors, he created Fruit Bats and this album, Echolocation. Although based in Chicago, he was signed to Seattle’s most successful independent music label of all time, Sub Pop.

Held Down—De La Soul feat. Cee-Lo
They have been together forever and only continue to get stronger. This track is from 2003’s Bionix. Whenever you have and for the rest of your life ever see someone on the turntables, you can thank De La Soul for making that happen.

Wake Up—The Walkmen
After the dissolution of Washington DC’s Johnathan Fire Eater, some of the members joined forces with New York’s Hamilton Leithouser to create The Walkmen, as well as Mercata Recording, where they record not only their own, but the albums of many more of NYC’s finest. This is from their debut (save the split EP they did with Calla) album, Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone.

Champagne for Monkeys—Gomez
From day one, Gomez has been extremely successful in the UK from which they hail, but with their most recent studio album, Split the Difference, they’ve now gained super-stardom here in America. This album was produced by Tchad Blake who has also had his hands on some of the greatest albums of all time including all three of Soul Coughing’s studio albums. Gomez is known for having three lead singers: Ian Ball, Tom Grey, and the oft compared to Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, Ben Ottewell.

Jennifer—Stephen Malkmus
When he had had his fill of fronting the most influential band in Seattle’s recent history, Pavement, Stephen Malkmus set out on his own with this self-titled solo album.

Blue Diamonds—The Long Winters
At the end of the nineties when Grunge was officially dead, a wave of extraordinary Power Pop bands popped up all over college radio like Ben Folds Five, Braden Blake’s Superdeluxe and John Wozniac’s Marcy Playground. One of these was Sean Nelson’s Harvey Danger; but when their second album, King James Version, did not receive the critical acclaim Nelson had hoped for (even though it is frikken’ awesome), the band broke up. While Nelson pursued his career as a rock writer for Seattle’s free weekly “The Stranger” among other venues, the rest of the band formed The Long Winters. Harvey Danger has since reunited.

If you have ever seen the OC than you are probably familiar with this song, and if you have ever seen the movie "Rushmore", than you are familiar with Jason Schwartzman, the lead singer of Rooney's brother. He was also the drummer of Phantom Planet who sings the song California, which as far as I know [because I've never seen it] is the themesong to the OC. Whatever. Don't watch that crap--watch Buffy on DVD, specifically the episode where she breaks up with Riley and Aimee Mann plays at the Bronze. I'll stop now.

Blue Star—Los Halos
Lead singer Sammevouz created a synth-pop tour de force with this 2003 Loveless Records release, Leaving Va. He is to my knowledge also the only artist that sells many of his albums on the honor system—asking visitors to his website to simply pay whatever they can reasonably afford for them. The only point is that this is totally awesome, and indicative of the way independent music has grown.

Sleepless—Soul Coughing
Mike Doughty continues to be one of the most brilliant songwriters of our time, and truly shines in his now solo career. This track is from 1996’s Irresistible Bliss, when he was still the lead singer of the band Soul Coughing. I used to play this song for you all the time when you were 4 or 5 because there is a line that goes “and now I’m out on the veranda” but I would sing it to you “and now I’m out with Aunt Miranda”. I doubt you remember this.

The Rain--Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot
After years of producing the best of the best in American hip-hop, Missy Elliot stepped out from behind the scenes of music and into the forefront with her debut album, Supa Dupa Fly, on which she shared the spotlight with greats like Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Timbaland, Aaliah, and Li’l Kim. This title track and its hot Ann Peebles sample reminds us not to forget the Old School. Elliot has done far more for music than she ever gets credit for.

When Play first came out, Moby took a lot of crap from independent musicians for selling most of the album off over and over again to be used in commercials. Now, five years later, every company and their mom’s cousin will try and sell you everything from cars to shoes to the soundtrack of such ‘independent’ musicians like Beck, Modest Mouse, Louis XIV, The Walkmen, and even Kaiser Permanente’s new ad campaign featuring “Such Great Heights”. To answer your question, yes, I think they are all total sell outs.

Much Respect—Mos Def
Mos Def has not only influenced music, but poetry and slam poetry as well, which Wordsmith’s like me appreciate. He is just as likely to be seen hanging out with Saul Williams as Talib Kweli. They call him the Godfather of hip-hop. They are all right.

So there you go. Today is also my anniversary. I’ve lived in San Francisco a whole year today. Last year when I finally got here, the first thing I did was call my niece and wish her happy birthday.


~PhoenixRising said...

Due to the mention of Wu Tang and Portishead in your top 25, I cannot hate. But I must ask this question: Deep down, in your heart of hearts, don't the first 6 tracks of the Justin Timberlake album ROCK YOUR FUCKING WORLD? I mean, Neptunes and Timberland on the beats and little Justin Timberlake talking like he's older than 12... you can't beat that shit! You can't!

Now my brain is going to explode though.

On a side note, You've inspired me to finally get off my ass and try to write an essay-type thing. The topic? Pink is the New Black. Annnnnddd Go!

charles.bukowski.costanza said...

f me, yo. this is great can i have a copy. if it'll help i'll agree to be your nephew mark.

Queer Comandeer said...

The Ramones but no Misfits?

C'mon, Miranda...

Thaozee said...

Where are the pixies!? I KEEEL YOU!

Queer Comandeer said...

I second thao. Surfer Rosa directly influenced about 8 of the bands you listed, making it a spacesaving entry. For god sakes, Kurt Cobain himself said that Nirvana would never have existed if it hadn't been for Debaser.

Anonymous said...

dear miranda myricks:

i was just googling a bunch of people i went to elementary and middle school with, and you were the first one i found. congrats! there are like a scrillion yuko inoues on the intronet.

anyway. hi. i am reading your blog. sounds like you're doing well, so hooray.

meg van huygen
f.k.a. megan huycke