I promised my friend Chenz a mixtape of perfect songs too long ago.
How do you tackle something so ultimate?
So I've decided not to make it a closed top 10 perfect songs, but an ongoing grateful mention of songs that moved my world.
Here is a list of a first 10 Chenz. It's impossible to make it definitive. They are not obscure and/or super-cool and you will know most/all of them but for some reason or another, they are perfect to me... purely and objectively perfect to me. Love ya!
(please turn the volume up and pour yourself a drink)
Farewell Transmission - Songs: Ohia
Jason Molina took hold of my heartstrings many moons ago. I feel his lyrics in my bones.
The day he died I cried into the pot while cooking minestrone.
He weaved words into magic lines like
'as lonesome as the world's first ghost'
'Mama here comes midnight with the dead moon in its jaws'
'Everything you hated me for ...Honey, there was so much more'
I was travelling with my boyfriend at the time overland from Ethiopia to South Africa via methods of transport that included the tops of lorries, the backs of utes filled with chickens, buses that were missing parts of the floor. Through Namibia, with a little more comfort, we shared a 4WD with two Israelis. Sometimes we wouldn't see another vehicle for hours on the roads and when the sun got low on the horizon we'd pull over and set up camp for the night amongst long grasses and jackals. In the mornings, Shachar would cook Shakshuka on the camp stove and make fresh coffee and we would wash in a desert stream, once even with wild elephants near us. The car radio would sway in and out of reception and on an epically long and lonely drive along the skeleton coast, the clouds above us burst and the static gave way to Toto, I kid you not. We sang along at the top of our lungs and really did bless the rains in Africa. I know it's a guilty pleasure song, but it was one of my life's highlights, and this song always brings me back.
Long, Long, Long - The Beatles
When Michael and I moved all our belongings into our first home together - a rundown worker's cottage in Collingwood sporting an avocadao green facade and every other hippie colour throughout, a leaky hallway roof and powerplant in the backyard - the first thing we did was set up the record player and speakers. Armed with take away pizza and too many bottles of red wine, amidst our makeshift fort of packing boxes, we listened to the Beatles all through the night, drumming on the empty pizza cartons along with Ringo, gesturing wildly over our mutual love for George, replaying songs again and again. I mean, everyone loves the Beatles. But that night will forever go down as one of the most special. Sharing great loves with my great love, our future so shiny bright ahead of us. This song is one of Michael's favourites and on the odd day, when I dare to think about the fact that I could lose him, I always think that this would be the song I would grieve to.
Anenome - The Brian Jonestown Massacre
A few years ago I found myself up the front of a Brian Jonestown Massacre gig. People were messy, angry and full of push, shove and anger. The gig was packed tight. To my immediate left, right, front and back, magically, were complete strangers that simply closed their eyes to it all and let it all wash over them. Our bodies all locked into each other, as if magnetic, so neatly linked that we became one moving spine, slinking in S-shapes to the music, for at least three quarters of the entire show. None of us wanted to break the spell, even while things escalated outside of our grooving bubble. It was the most sensual way I ever experienced a live show.
A Little Bit of Rain - Fred Neil
The song I chose to have played at my Dad's funeral.
Nighttime -Big Star
On a five hour drive back from a wedding one night, I hit a kangaroo. It was the first time I'd ever hit an animal (that I know of). It jumped right out in front of me and even though I slammed on the brakes, I crashed right into its hips. It was a pitch black country road and although I pulled over and got out of the car to check on it and couldn't quite see it, I had this sense of a flapping fish behind me. I shone my mobile phone in its direction and it gave up on getting away, laid on its front legs and just stared ahead. The thing that I found especially chilling is that there was no sound. You know how a dog or sheep would howl or bleat if it were in pain? Kangaroos are voiceless.
After calling first (and unsuccessfully at that hour) the wildlife rescue numbers, I called the cops. I waited another five or ten minutes in the dark until a stranger pulled up next to me and got out of her car, asked me a few questions and called the police a second time. She must have sensed my shock and touched my arm. That was enough of an invitation for me to grab her and fling my arms around her, bursting into tears and pretty much clawing at her like an idiot. She was very patient.
A policeman finally came to put the poor soul out of its misery. For the rest of the way home I listened to radio shows about Chinese working conditions. It felt very End-Of-The-World-y. Michael dutifully waited up for me and had the rest of a bottle of whiskey ready. We drank it until the wee hours of the morning, talking through a breadth of topics spanning most of a trivial pursuit board (except sports) and our own mortality.
This song isn't about a kangaroo, but it was playing a few times that night. And I love it. And it has that thing I like so much, where something is both sad but happy. Like the Mona Lisa. And I feel like it gets me, this song. Much like the stranger lady on the street, and my husband that night.
You and Whose Army - Radiohead
Amnesiac is my favourite Radiohead album. I have a wonderful memory of staring at an abstract horse painting for a couple of hours with the record on repeat, letting the music wash over me. Though technically a collection of B-sides, it has some of my favourites and this one tops the list.
Barstool Blues - Neil Young
I came to Neil Young way later than anyone I know. It's not that I never liked him before. I always enjoyed Harvest. It's just that it one day happened to feel like he gripped my heart in his melody, made a fist around it with his voice, and to this day squeezes and squeezes.
How wonderful a thing to find your way to certain things in your own time.
Sempre Libera - Verdi's La Traviata
When I'm really drunk I love to dance to this outrageously, sing it at the top of my lungs and pretend that it's somehow because of my European upbringing that I love this so but really it's actually just insanely great, don't you think? My Dad used to love the opera and as Mum hates it so much, I used to happily be his date, even as a little girl. I remember having the most horrible stomach ache during a performance in Zurich. I curled up into a tight ball on the floor of one of the balconies rocking along to the dramatic stories and voices until he scooped me up at the end of the night.
This song and peppermint tea will always help an upset tummy.
This song follows more twists and turns than a roller coaster and a pretzel combined.
And ain't that just the way of life?
Now I can't wait to get a next top 10 songs list started. What would be yours?