The art of making mixtapes has become as revered to music fans as the music on them. Cherished for their personal touch and their sometimes sentimental value; they have been part of music culture for as long as we can remember. From those mixtapes you’ve made for your high school crush, to those made for the road; they are an indelible part of any music lover. So we here at Sound the Sirens continue on the long tradition of mixtapes and bring you Songs of a Mixtape; select tunes from some of our favorites of today, yesterday, and tomorrow. Our first edition, named “Here’s Looking At Us,” shares songs of personal value to each writer- for reasons noted in each accompanying text.
(This article has been updated since 2004 to include links to the songs in new formats- Ed.)
01. Operation Ivy – “Sound System”
From the album Energy (Lookout, 1989)
This song rests on the shoulders of a talented bunch. Included in this bunch is the great Jesse Michaels. While I love every song on Energy I chose this one merely because it says what I feel. By that I do not mean that it is profound or that it is inexplicably articulate. What I mean is that it is simple, fast, and wonderful. I am an admirer of Jesse Michaels’ voice. It seems to have changed since his Operation Ivy days but admirable nonetheless. The lyrics may make this seem like a cheesy and lame choice but I don’t really care. This song is great, it makes me smile, it makes me happy, it makes me want to jump around, and it provides me with a superb visual image of being saved my good music (which is a heavenly and most difficult feat). Fast, energetic, and lovely. This is one for the ages. – Shivani Verma
02. Jimmy Eat World – “For Me This Is Heaven”
From the album Clarity (Capitol, 1999)
This album was one of my very last memories of a great friend that I haven’t seen in over four years. It was this friend who introduced me to music that was full of quintessence and substance. Introduced me to music that could make your eyes fill up with water because of how beautiful it sounded and how close you could hold the lyrics to your chest. It was this friend, who gave me the meaning of “memories and melodies”.
This is the real Jimmy Eat World that most only knew after their mainstream success. What a shame for them. This entire album is full of instrumentation that ranges from string assembly, bells, chimes, keyboards, pianos, vibraphones, and coated vocal synchronization that form the masterpiece that is. It is all best displayed in this very song. A song that whenever I listen to it, my insides cave in. This song was able to provide an ideal showcase of my friendships, relationships, and changeover during that portion of my life. Maybe the song moves me because it reminds me of that friend, maybe it reminds me of a time of innocence and incorruptibility, and maybe it reminds me of what music should be. For whatever reasons, I still feel the butterflies. – David Walter
03. Elliott Smith – “Happiness”
From the album Figure 8 (Dreamworks, 2000)
I’m a huge Elliott Smith fan and I’ve always been completely in love with all of his songs. So when it came time to pick a single song that meant something to me I had to go directly to his music catalogue. I listened to all of his albums back to back and went through a different memory with each song. I remember listening to “No Name #2” while I was in one of my lowest moods and finding comfort in his voice, declaring “St. Ides Heaven” my personally summer anthem and then following suit, crying to “Oh Well, Ok” when I found out he had died, making a mix tape for my friend and finding that most of it was songs from XO, and I’m still trying to learn how to play “Waltz #2” on the piano.
After all of this I decided to pick one song that I felt the most connected to at this current moment and that song happened to be “Happiness.” Isn’t it funny how one song can perfectly describe everything you’re feeling in the smallest amount of words? The lyrics “she made her life a lie so she might never have to know anyone” seemed to have come directly from my mind and then to follow that up with “What I used to be will pass away and then you’ll see / that all I want now is happiness for you and me” just seemed to be a blessing of the lyrical kind. This song is my life’s anthem at the moment and whenever I hear it I’m filled with this inner warmth that can only be interpreted as happiness. – Angela Rodriguez
04. Something Corporate – “Konstantine”
From the compilation Welcome to the Family (Drive Thru, 2001)
So much of music today is disposable and vapid; with no feelings and incites no emotional reaction what-so-ever. Singers don’t write their songs, and even if they do they lack vulnerability that makes a song feel intimate. When I find a song I can actually connect to it is an exciting prospect. I came across “Konstantine” a couple of years ago, and listened to it over at over again the second I got my hands on it. From the first time I heard it I was entranced. At 9:35 it is the longest song I have ever really liked. “Konstantine” is so intense that even though it is nearly ten minutes long, it seems to end far too soon.
Explained in the blandest of terms the song is a monologue on the rise and fall of a relationship. By monologue I mean that as a listener you actual feel like singer Andrew McMahon is telling you this story first-hand, and that makes it much more emotional. An extra perk to the song is that it makes reference to one of my other favorite songs Jimmy Eat World’s “For Me This is Heaven.” This is the type of song you listen to on an iPod at 1 am while you lay on your bed pondering life. Want some intense introspection? Plop this one on repeat. This song has inspired more than one piece of successful writing, because it sparks so much feeling. It’s comforting to know that genuinely emotional songs can still be found. – Ashley Lefor
05. Boy Sets Fire – “Rookie”
From the album After the Eulogy (Victory, 2000)
The past year of my life has been full of change. I’ve moved away from the world I know and ventured out into a new part of my life. I loved my first year of college. I feel free because I have been exposed to diverse people and ideas. “Rookie” by Boy Sets Fire shows my change in perception. The contempt in the verse is mirrored by my disdain for the small redneck town that I grew up in that influenced many of my opinions growing up. The song is very important to me because it is about growing up and realizing that the only important thing is to be yourself. It may be very cliché because we are all told to be ourselves from an early age, but now, for the first time, I really know what it means to be myself. – Mary C. Smith
06. Big Drill Car – “Friend Of Mine”
From the album No Worse for the Wear (Cargo, 1994)
Unfortunately, like a host of other unlucky folks, I came into Big Drill Car long after they had faded into the members respective “next chapters.” Nonetheless, it was around 1998/99 that I came across No Worse for the Wear, it was post-graduation and time had come to leave behind something I had only begun to know … moving from one coast to the other and in the process, discovering an entirely new group of friends. The one track that elicited more repeated listens than any song I can remember was “Friend of Mine” – a near perfect exposition of friendship’s strange, complicated, yet undeniably human quality. At least this is what I’ve gotten from the song (both lyrically and musically) each time I listen to it. And I’d be damned if I didn’t get a little teary-eyed every time. So to that I say, “I’m not drowning in my beer / so let’s make that one fact nice and sparkling clear.” – Billy Ho
07. Warren Zevon – “Keep Me in Your Heart”
From the album The Wind (Artemis, 2003)
On September 7th, 2003, we lost one of our finest American songwriters, Warren Zevon. He was a consummate artist that combined an extraordinary sense of melody with finely honed, often satirical and sometimes beautiful lyrics. During the last year of his life, he chose to chronicle his impending demise with an eleven song record called The Wind. Last week, while driving to my Mother’s home in San Diego, I listened to this powerful record with my wife Kelly. I found myself intently caught up in the last song on the album, “Keep Me in Your Heart” and wanted to share a passage from this profoundly moving song:
“Sometimes when you’re doing simple things around the house, maybe you’ll think of me and smile. You know I’m tied to you like the buttons on your blouse, keep me in your heart for a while. Hold me in your thoughts, take me to your dreams; touch me as I fall into view. When the winter comes, keep the fires lit and I will be right next to you.”At the end of this song, my eyes were full of tears, remembering that life is all too brief. It reminded me that it is important to savor the joys this world has to offer. As Mr. Zevon so succinctly said, “Enjoy every sandwich.” – Phillip E. Hardy