Mixtape by Daniel Hudon
Back in the era of LP records, I used to love making mixtapes as a sort of “greatest hits” of recent album purchases. They were great for giving to friends and for road trips. And, in the spirit of mixtapes, they had highly original names like Various I or Miscellaneous II.
So when I saw Moonchild Magazine was soliciting mixtape suggestions, I wanted to come up with something because it had been so long.
These are some recent discoveries, some songs that have long been with me and some I keep coming back to for one reason or another.
1. Courage of Lassie – All That I Know
For a long time, this was my favorite band and while I lived in Toronto I saw them
several times at the Cameron House. They have a wonderful collection of quiet, affecting pop songs, like this one.
2. Felix LeClerc – Le P’tit Bonheur
LeClerc is Quebec’s troubadour and I found out about him on a road trip to Quebec
City in March before the pandemic shut everything down. The song is a sweet tale about what happens if happiness is a tangible object.
3. Wim Mertens – Hufhug
I’ve known this Belgian minimalmalist composer’s music for many years and have
two of his albums where he sings his own strange language accompanied by his piano playing, to moving effect, and this one is from the album “Strategie de la Rupture.”
4. Mazzy Star – Fade Into You
There’s a terrific 19-minute live concert on Youtube of Mazzy Star from 1994 that I often watch because Hope Sandoval, the lead singer, looks like she’s summoning the music from some far off place. And this song, Fade into You, is one I’ve been trying to play on the guitar.
5. Nick Drake – Cello Song
I bought a sampler disk of Nick Drake tunes in the ‘90’s and this is the song that turned me onto him. Bought the box set soon after! If ever there was a rainy-day minstrel and poet, it was Nick Drake.
6. Red House Painters – Mistress
From the phenomenal second album, Rollercoaster, which has two versions of this song, this one, and a stripped down piano version, which is also a favorite. Simultaneously wistful and cutting. I love the line “I need someone much more mysterious…to be my mistress”.
7. Ozgur Baba – Dertli Dolap
A 14-minute song is a bit long for a mixtape, but this is recent find during self-isolation and as the first comment tells us: “The algorithm moves in mysterious ways.” Truly, what a find! Evidently, Baba is some sort of mystic in the hills of Turkey singing the woes of a waterwheel in a poem by Yunus Emre who was a contemporary of Rumi. The plaintive nature of the song captivates me. And if you’re ever feeling down on the world and people, you can come here to read some of the nearly 12,000 comments – they will set you right!
8. Cantares – Juan Manuel Serrat
I guess the singer is someone of a legend in Spain and I stumbled on this one night while browsing YouTube, or I was looking for something by Machado because a friend once sent me a copy of this poem for my birthday. I don’t remember, but it’s a wonderful version of a great poem and the line “Traveler, there is no road, the road is your traveling” is something of a mantra for me.
9. This Mortal Coil – Song to the Siren
In the 1980’s, 4AD was one of the most important labels for alternative music and I was a fan of many of their artists including Bauhaus, The Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance (see below), the Pixies, Throwing Muses and Red House Painters (see above). This Mortal Coil was a loose assembly of many of their artists who performed mostly covers. There are now many versions of this amazing Tim Buckley song, but this is the cover that stunned everyone, including me, when it came out and brought the song new and deserving fame.
10. Odetta – Masters of War
It sounds like the ‘60’s, but I think Odetta made this anti-war song by Bob Dylan timeless. I love the restrained power in her voice and the drama in the musical arrangement.
11. Peter Gabriel – Biko
I played this song on my phone for a fellow traveler in South Africa last year and realized many younger people may not yet know it. I try to play this on the guitar and can barely get through it without choking up. Written for the murdered South African human rights activist, Steven Biko, the song gains new resonance this year with the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
12. Schubert – Der Leiermann, sung by Thomas Quasthoff
Schubert songs are marvels of music and poetry. This one is a standby for me, and comes at the end of his song-cycle “A Winter Journey.” Here the lovelorn poet meets an organ-grinder (der leiermann) whose music and situation seem to capture the sadness in his heart. Quasthoff is one of the finest Schubert singers today and he sings this with real gravitas and empathy.
13. Dead Can Dance – Amnesia
I’ve been a Dead Can Dance fan since the beginning and this is them at their most epic. From the album “Anastasis,” which, for a period of several months, I only listened to late at night in bed. Poignant lyrics about memory, loss and how we define ourselves.
Daniel Hudon, originally from Canada, teaches physics, astronomy and math at the college level. He is the author of “The Bluffer’s Guide to the Cosmos,” a chapbook of prose and poetry called “Evidence for Rainfall,” and “Brief Eulogies for Lost Animals: An Extinction Reader,” named a Must Read in the 2019 Mass Book Awards. He has recent essays in The Smart Set, The Revelator, Hidden Compass and Appalachia Journal. He can be found at danielhudon.com, @daniel_hudon and in Boston, Mass.