On my blog, Just Dread-Full, I’m adamantly open and enthusiastic about my love for all things (or most things) horror. Indeed, this passion is foregrounded so much that it often eclipses my other loves in life – a reason why I started another blog a few years ago, one I didn’t have time to follow through with and for which I ultimately stopped writing. One of those passions that I don’t frequently share on the horror-centered Just Dread-full is my love for music – and my interest in what I would consider a wide variety of music.
So, when Michael said I could guest DJ (or VJ) for his Friday Night Video series on his blog, My Comic Relief, I sat down excitedly in front of my computer, shuffled through some playlists with gusto, and came up with a delightful list of classic songs that I loved during college. I often think in terms of memories, so I thought a nostalgic angle was the best thematic approach for this project. Lo and behold, after I composed my list, I realized that in college, I listened to a lot of American Classic Rock/Alt-Rock bands, each comprised of approximately four white males. Such compositions consumed the bulk of the list, with few exceptions. This troubled me a bit (and let’s face it, such an approach is kinda boring) so I fast-forwarded to a period in my life where my musical taste bourgeoned, in terms of diversity and eclecticism.
When I was 21, I moved to Houston, Texas, where I lived for five years and taught high school. As I sifted through my nostalgic Houston playlists, I realized they were far more diverse (and perhaps interesting) than the college mix I’d originally comprised. Indeed, for my first (and perhaps only) appearance on Michael’s Friday Night Video Series, I wanted to present a list with better representation. The result is the list below, which is a list diverse in a lot of ways – in terms of who I associate the music with, who introduced me to it, the memories it’s aligned with, the music’s genre, and the demographics of the musicians. I’ve also placed the songs in an order I thought were appealing. As a forewarning, I wanted to mention old friends on this list, but I thought it best to leave off names, so there will be a lot of anonymous nostalgic references. With that (rather long) introduction, kick back, relax, and enjoy the music of my early 20s (2006-2011 – although the songs’ origins span many decades), when I lived and taught in Houston, Texas!
1.) Nicki Minaj – I’m the Best (2010) – American Rap:
I love this song. It’s perfect for rocking out in the car, and it’s a more-than-apropos song to listen to when you need to feel fantastic about yourself. I had a friend who worked at the same school I did. We taught the same grade, and we’d hang out at her house some weekend afternoons, writing creative short stories together and enjoying a glass of Moscato. She introduced me to Nicki Minaj, and particularly to Minaj’s phenomenal CD, Pink Friday, which I fell in love with instantly. This song is associated with purely good memories, as it always put me in an excellent mood (and I tended to listen to it when I was already happy). It’s full of stamina, pride, and a tinge of deliciously unapologetic grandiosity.
2.) The Cure – Just Like Heaven (1987) – British Pop/Rock:
It’s hard to pick a favorite song by The Cure, but if I had to, this one would rank high on the list. The second semester of my first year of teaching, I met a guy at my apartment complex. We were both sitting outside smoking cigarettes (back when I did that sort of thing) and, perhaps for lack of better conversation fodder, we got into an awkward verbal exchange about tea. Well, that very day, we went dictionary shopping together (really, at a two-story Borders that no longer exists) and we started dating, on and off, after that. We’d often go out on the weekend, and I remember, once, hearing The Cure playing at one of our favorite Irish bars. Indeed, I think we listened to them on multiple occasions. As such, The Cure reminds me of hot Houston nights out on the town – always a good thing. And I loved dancing to this song!
3.) Otis Redding & Carla Thomas – Tramp (1967) – American R&B/Soul:
One teacher at the school I worked with threw a huge file of his favorite music my way during, perhaps, my second or third year of teaching. I was thrilled with this addition to my repertoire, and more than a little intrigued by his excellent, eclectic music taste. I remember moving to the Otis Redding portion of the file, playing this song one sultry Saturday afternoon (references to heat will probably appear a lot in this post, because Houston was always hot) and immediately dancing. I’m not sure what it is about this song; I’ve just always liked it. And I still do. The exchange between Redding and Thomas is fantastic. As such, it makes my first trip-down-memory-lane flashback Friday Night Video song list.
4.) Saathiya, Vivek Oberoi, Rani Mukerji, Adnan Sami – Aye Udi Udi (2002) – Indian (genre unknown):
This song comes to you (or came to me) from the first man I dated in Houston. I met him through Teach for America (the teaching organization I was a part of) early on. I remember going back to my brand new, barely furnished apartment, looking this song up, and playing it, probably through I-Tunes. My stay in Houston was starting, I had an awesome place to live, and I was thrilled. Making this list recalled this song to mind after many years—for which I’m very thankful! And bonus, now I’ve seen the music video, which I never bothered to look up before. I’m definitely not a connoisseur of music from India, but this light-hearted, playful song comes with a cute, romantic music video.
5.) Elliott Smith – Angeles (1997) – American Folk:
This is a slightly different version of the song than the version I used to listen to, but I wanted to find a rendition that actually came with an interesting video, and this one does. This song, well, I think I discovered it myself when I looked up the soundtrack to Good Will Hunting one night on my own – perhaps while I lived in Houston, perhaps while I was younger. There’s no one associated with this memory. When I was feeling depressed during my stay in Texas, I would shut myself up in my room and listen to this song. However, the alluring melody always made me feel better. As such, this song becomes associated with mixed memories—a beautiful song that combines aesthetic appeal and some strange, mournful sense of malaise and discontent.
6.) Edith Piaf – La Vie En Rose (1947) – French Traditional Pop:
Another teacher at the school I worked at introduced me to Edith Piaf. This teacher was a really sweet person, a fantastic teacher, and a lover of Jane Austen. I walked into her room one day and heard this beautiful music emanating from it, so I had to ask her about it. That’s how I came to know Edith Piaf. I’m not an Edith Piaf fanatic – I can’t understand the lyrics, of course (they’re in French), nor do I know everything in her canon – but I love the sound of her music, and particularly this melodic, vintage song that conjures up imaginary musings of times gone by, moments for which I wasn’t born. Really, it’s such catchy music.
7.) Edna St. Vincent Millay – Recuerdo (1919) – American Poetry:
Okay, so this isn’t a song, but it makes the list anyway. A friend and I were browsing through the Houston Borders when he stumbled upon this awesome, eclectic poetry book accompanied by CDs, which recorded the poets reading their own works. I include this poem because I’d listen to these poems like they were songs, admiring each creation of each poet as I drove in the car, appreciating not just the word choice and the rhythm, but the feeling, the ambience that each poem conjured. One night, when I couldn’t sleep, I lay in bed, reciting this poem to myself. Suffice it to say, I love it; it creates such a picture of freedom, vitality, and enthusiasm. And, bonus, I’ve studied just enough Spanish to know that the title means “I remember!” (P.S.: In the included recording, Millay reads her own work).
8.) Joan Baez – I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine (1967) – American Folk:
I just freakin’ love this song. I just freakin’ love Joan Baez. I mean, I like Bob Dylan. How can you not like Bob Dylan? But Joan Baez just sings Dylan songs in a way that Dylan himself cannot, plus she writes moving songs herself (see, for example, Diamonds and Rust). Baez was actually introduced to me by my own, dear little sister Alyssa, probably one summer when we were both home visiting Erie. Baez, and especially this song, got quickly integrated into my Houston routine. I remember sweltering Houston nights, staying up all night listening to music, reading books, writing stories, even reading Wikipedia. I’d take cigarette breaks, walk around my quaint Montrose neighborhood at 3 a.m. in my pajama pants, and listen to this song on my MP3 player. I still listen to this one all the time. Later, when I met Michael, he bought me a Baez sings Dylan CD that I adore.
9.) The Fratelli’s – Whistle for the Choir (2006) – British Rock:
Along with introducing me to Joan Baez, Alyssa also introduced me to The Fratellis, also on some break while I was living in Houston (she was at school in New Orleans, but we’d touch base in the summer and on major holidays). I’m particularly excited that my Italian studies have allowed me to realize that this simultaneously English and Italian band name (The Fratellis) can be translated loosely to “The Brothers” (as gli fratelli, I believe, means “the brothers” in Italian). Anyway, I chose this particular song because it aptly described my Houston sentiments. It’s about a guy who meets a cool girl in a big city, a girl who’s always lonely but says she’s not. Well, I met a lot of interesting people in Houston, but I still felt lonely a lot, so I loved listening to this song, and I could always relate. I enjoyed a lot of songs on The Fratelli’s CD Costello Music, but this was among my favorites.
10.) Black Eyed Peas – Hey Mama (2003) – American Dance-pop/Hip-hop:
Good God, this is another group that I just absolutely love! When I used to run, even after my stay in Houston, I would always run to Black Eyed Peas songs, because they’re just so fun and upbeat! I went to a movie with some other girls one night during my pre-teaching institute. I remember, on the way to the movies, whizzing down the 610-loop in Houston, marveling at the Aquarium’s expansive Ferris wheel flanked by looming skyscrapers, just sort of intoxicated with life as this song played. And so began a life-long love of this particular group. It’s hard to pick one favorite song by them, but this is definitely among them.
11.) Wyclef Jean ft. John Forte, Pras – We Trying to Stay Alive (Remix – 1997) – Haitian Rap/Funk:
This is a fantastic song. It came out long before I travelled to Houston (indeed, before I graduated from High School, or even Middle School, for that matter), but I re-visited the Fugees’ music in Houston, and I got more deeply into some of Wyclef’s hits. I loved rocking out to this song. I remember walking into a club one night, about to meet the guy I was then dating (the one who talked with me about tea) and his friend. The music was booming and the lights were vibrant. This guy and his friend would always let me pick our outings, and would say, jokingly “We’ll do whatever Kalie wants to do.” It was, in many ways, a delightful period in my life, and this song often takes me back to it, even as it’s become part of my present-day existence. This is also a perfect workout song, and the music video is, in my opinion, phenomenal.
12.) Blondie – Maria (1999) – American Pop/Rock:
Fun fact: I feel I may have spent half my life in Houston making mixed CDs or downloading songs on I-Tunes. This song was on one of my many early 2000s Houston mixed CDs. It was the beginning of a new school year, and I was driving one of my teacher-friends somewhere – maybe to the store – in my ridiculously messy car during teacher orientation. I was excited to be back, to start my (I think) second, maybe third year of teaching, and to see everyone I’d met the year before. Indeed, I probably listened to this song a lot, because I was always lost in my car somewhere in Houston, but I remember that one little “spot of time” the most – driving my friend to the store –when I hear this song. Bonus: it’s off the album “No Exit,” an album which shares its name with the fantastic, unsettling Sartre play about being stuck in an atypical version of hell.
13.) Wilco – Reservations (2002) – American Alt/Indie Rock
I was quite torn regarding whether I should put the live version of this song on this list, or the album version. I went with the album version, because that’s what I used to listen to in Houston, even though I couldn’t find a music video for it. The same teacher-friend who gave me a huge file of songs included Wilco in this file, and I quickly fell in love with this song. It may not be apparent on this playlist, but I’m a sucker for mushy love songs, and this one absolutely did it for me. I don’t have any particular memories associated with it – just that huge, seemingly infinite Houston sky that lingered above all those sky scrapers – the friends and frivolity, the loneliness and uncertainty, and that feeling of being young, that feeling of romance, excitement, boundless possibility that was so prevalent in my early 20s. That’s all encapsulated in this song, and in this playlist.
There is, of course, much more where that came from. When I sat down to brainstorm song names and favorite groups from my Houston days, the list got rather large rather quickly. But these are thirteen songs (or, in one case, a poem) that remind me of that bittersweet period in my life, a time that seems so long ago now, so vaguely defined, so exciting, but so florid and difficult, so strangely inaccessible. I may well keep up this series on my own blog, since I think we all need a break from horror, even though I love the horror genre. In the meantime, it’s 3:30 a.m., and I have a busy day tomorrow, so it’s time for me to go to bed. Thanks again to my boyfriend Michael of My Comic Relief for letting me guest VJ this week. This little memoir-esque song list has honestly been one of the most enjoyable posts I’ve ever written!
P.S.: I apologize if the reader disagrees with any of my genre classifications! I did the best I could, but in some cases I decided on my own instead of consulting google/Wikipedia. In other cases, google/Wikipedia classifications may be questionable.
P.P.S.: Pardon the trip down memory lane. I figure people write memoirs. This is a semi-succinct memoir through music of a particular period in my life. I’ve left a lot of details out, but I thought I could at least provide a snapshot of my life as it synced up to the music I presented. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for listening!!