exciting, informative, snarky, and very likely fabricated tales of life as an american expat in london

the soundtrack of my life – 1990s

by Jen at 9:25 pm on 17.02.2010 | 5 Comments
filed under: tunage

i am endlessly fascinated by the soundtrack of my own life – it ebbs and flows, swallows up the new and spits out the old, wandering in this direction and that.  it is always morphing into something new that surprises me every time i turn around – kinda like the evolution of personal relationships, my relationship with music is ever-changing.  and one of the best parts of discovering new personal relationships is discovering new music.  it becomes the background theme to the times and places and people that you will forevermore associate with a particular song or album.  and it is this emotional panorama that makes music so intensely, acutely personal.

those sentimental attachments have been playing a lot on my mind, of late – and playing a lot in my mind.  a lot of memory lane has been on repeat in my brain.  so often music *is* our memory – a stand-in for emotion and nostalgia.  memories of our childhood, memories of events, memories of family, friends and lovers.

so often, long after the details are forgotten, the music remains.

if you could distill an era of your own down to a few songs, what would they represent?  with that in mind, i thought it would be interesting to do a series of playlists based on the decades of my own life…

… starting with the 90s.  i graduated high school in 1990, so the 90s were the decade when i went to university, the decade i lived in montreal and new york, the decade i got married.  the decade i was young and then grew up.

AC/DC -You Shook Me All Night Long – this song is my university drinking song, the song we used to blast before we went out, and the song we would drunkenly blast when we got home, much to the annoyance of everyone else in the dorm.  i was 17, underage even by canadian standards, and determined to break out of my “good girl” mould.  this song is all about freedom and rebellion, and it was the beginning of mine.  and lets face it,  is there a more rocking drinking song? i submit there is not.

The Smiths – Asleep – this was the song on endless repeat the months in university that i spent contemplating suicide.  after a fun few months as a freshman, i got dumped.  hard.  by the person who’d introduced me to the smiths.  combined with a lot of other crap going on, it was the beginning of a downward spiral.  and though i’m pretty sure this song is probably the most popular suicide song ever, when you’re fast in the grips of the blackest depression, it seems like it’s meant for just you. and when you’re looking at the snow six floors below your window, this song provides the words to the feeling that you could never put words to for yourself.

Beastie Boys – No Sleep Till Brooklyn – two years in, i dropped out of university and moved to brooklyn. this song was playing.  coincidence and fate are sometimes two sides of the same coin.

Notorious B.I.G. – Juicy – this was one of our rooftop songs.  the first years in brooklyn were the poorest, and yet richest of my life.  it felt like i was truly living for the first time, and i was in the best city in the world. and when you feel like that, you gotta go up on the rooftop.

Counting Crows – Rain King – i hate this song.  for a year in 1994-1995 in brooklyn, i lived with 7 other people in one apartment, and they played this all seemed to play this fucking album incessantly.  i was working full time, going to school full time, and i would come home, exhausted and needing to write a paper, only to find giant impromptu parties in my living room and the fucking, fucking, fucking counting crows playing.

Diana Ross – I’m Coming Out – the upside of living with 7 other people was that there was always a party in my living room.  we lived just above a liquor store, and with a russian who always had quality vodka in the freezer.  the girls would get wasted on gallon jugs of cheap white wine and do the bus stop while the guys smoked bongs and drank vodka.  it was hella fun.

Heatwave – Always And Forever – in the summer of 1997, i got married.  this was our song.  i know, i know!  but that’s the thing about couples’ songs – you don’t choose them, they choose you.  it was a ridiculously hot day, i was so late that our minister nearly had to leave, we got married in the park, i wore a white dress and purple sandals.  i don’t really remember too much else about it.  that’s the weird thing about weddings – you think you’ll remember every detail, but it all goes by in a giant blur.  but i remember this song.  funny – until i looked it up just now, i thought it was by ‘peaches and herb’.  just goes to show.

Len – Steal My Sunshine – in february 1999 we moved from brooklyn to the burbs of boston.  it turned out to be ill-advised for so very many reasons:  i took a job i came to loathe, and it was effectively the deathknell for my marriage.  but for one glorious summer, it all seemed fantastic.  we had a giant flat with a garden.  we had a dog.  we had a car.  i used to come home from work, crack open a beer, bring the radio and newspaper outside, turn on the sprinkler and let the dog loose.  it was my own little slice of suburban heaven, and this song captured it all.

turns out, i wouldn’t be that happy again for a long time.  but i didn’t know that at the time, and i did not yet know of all the changes the new millenium would bring for me…

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covers and others

by Jen at 5:27 pm on 22.10.2009 | 1 Comment
filed under: tunage

i collect music like some people collect stamps or buttons – i love the variety of shapes and colours and patterns. and one of the things i like to collect most is cover songs. i love it when someone brings a fresh or surprising perspective to a song i thought i knew, allowing me to see it in a whole different light. it takes talent to take something familiar and make it seem new again.

here then, are some of my favourite covers, for your enjoyment:

  • sympathy for the devil – the rolling stones as covered by jane’s addiction.mick jagger sang the original with swagger and braggadocio. perry farrell sings this with creepy lecherousness.
  • i want you – bob dylan as covered by bruce springsteen. bruce gives this song a plaintive edge that bob never allowed it to reveal, in spite of the lyrics.
  • hallelujah – leonard cohen as covered by bob dylan. everyone knows the jeff buckley cover of this song which makes people think it’s supposed to be a pretty one, but i like that bob gives the song back some snarl. the “hallelujah” almost sounds deliberately sarcastic. maybe it is.
  • i know it’s over – the smiths as covered by jeff buckley. speaking of jeff buckley, the lyrics of this heartbreaking song become extra poignant knowing about his early demise.
  • black star – radiohead as covered by gillian welch. i think this is a perfect cover – thom yorke’s cold, nasal alienating vocals turned into something rich and warm and embracing.
  • a case of you – joni mitchell as covered by prince. prince manages to turn a sweet introspective folk song into a sexy r&b ballad.
  • when doves cry – prince as covered by the be good tanyas. prince’s iconic 80s pop song goes countrified.
  • let’s hear it for the boy – deniece williams as covered by doveman. neither of these artists are household names, but if you knew the cheerleader version from the early 80s, you can appreciate the truly different take that doveman puts on it, making it sound sad and reverential, like a funereal hymn.

click below to play them all
MP3 playlist (M3U)

and here’s the Podcast feed for downloads in itunes or your other music manager of choice.

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the dog days are over

by Jen at 10:28 am on 23.08.2009 | 6 Comments
filed under: tunage

this weekend has been decidedly autumnal… despite the fact that we’re not even out of august, there is a noticable chill in the morning air.  all a reminder of how incredibly fleeting summer is here on this grey island.

i’ve been playing around with the blog this weekend, and you may see a few changes.  one of which is that i’m finally going to host my own music, for however long my bandwidth holds out.  my “rotation” featured playlists will eventually be back once i get around to recreating them – there was no real clamour when they quietly went dead (the free host deleted my files) but i like to imagine that people gave them a listen every now and again. or at least, i enjoyed creating them.

so to stave off the lament over the change of season, and inaugurate the new music subdomain: a new playlist.

fun and bouncy songs for a sad summer’s end.

golden age – tv on the radio
turn cold – cut off your hands
sunshowers – m.i.a.
no sunlight – death cab for cutie
feet on grass – future clouds and radar
dog days are over – florence and the machine
steal my sunshine – len

click below to play them all
MP3 playlist (M3U)

and here’s the Podcast feed for downloads in itunes or your other music manager of choice.


one day i’ll be able to say, “i knew him when…”

by Jen at 7:24 pm on 3.08.2009Comments Off
filed under: tunage

my friend andy is the lead singer in a band. through many, many months of dedicated practice, beer-fueled inspiration, perspiration, and dogged determination, they have managed to craft a full-length album. thirteen songs borne of their heads and hearts, committed to music and memory.

it’s kind of amazing when you stop and think about it. it takes a special mix of courage, passion and ego ) to create a piece of art and put it out there for the whole world to see. very few people ever see their dreams through that way. that’s an achievement anyone should be proud of.

oh…and it’s really damn good.


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run like you mean it

by Jen at 8:31 pm on 9.02.2009 | 3 Comments
filed under: this sporting life, tunage

officially beginning to train up for the edinburgh marathon at the end of may. first and foremost, i needed new running shoes. you’re supposed to change up every 300 – 400 miles. when you’re training, you’re generally clocking anywhere between 20 – 50 miles per week, which means a pair of shoes can start wearing out in just a few months. but because they cost around £100 a pair, i don’t switch them up as often as i should.

witness the most recent pair to be retired:

there’s something a little sad about retiring a pair of shoes. i always hang on to the last pair, even though i never actually wear them again. i guess i just like to remember the good runs. and luckily, much like the pain of childbirth, the mind seems to block out the memories of the bad ones.

running shoes are, as a rule, hideous. seriously, who designs these things? it’s almost like the ugliness is a badge of honour – if your shoes are ugly, you must be a serious runner. i also admit to being one of those judgemental runners – i can tell at a glance who’s a serious runner, and who’s not, based on what they’re wearing and how they’re running. people who choose their outfits based on the cuteness quotient, people who run by swinging their legs to the side, people who run wearing completely improper shoes. and the number of women who don’t have a proper sports bra makes my chest ache just thinking about it.

i’ve developed a *fantastic* running playlist – a small portion of which i will unselfishly share with you here. no matter how leaden my legs, these songs get my ass moving a bit faster.

MP3 playlist (M3U)

and here’s the Podcast feed for downloads.


christmas classics

by Jen at 3:36 pm on 13.12.2008 | 1 Comment
filed under: photo, tunage

today is possibly the dreariest day so far this year.  pouring rain, whipping winds, cold and nasty.  in spite of this, my christmas cactus has burst into shockingly vibrant blooms, an assault of determined festivity.

more than ever, i need something cheery today.  the house is full of the spicy smell of freshly baked pumpkin bread.  the cat has become uncharacteristically cuddly and is curled up on my lap.  i’m about to light a few candles for glowy effect, and play some christmas classics.

Bing Crosby – White Christmas
Ella Fitzgerald – Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
The Ronettes – Sleigh Ride
Nat King Cole – The Christmas Song
Louis Armstrong – Winter Wonderland
Brenda Lee – Rocking Around the Christmas Tree
Vince Guaraldi – Christmas Time is Here

MP3 playlist (M3U)

and here’s the Podcast feed for downloads.

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80s soundalikes

by Jen at 10:04 pm on 5.10.2008Comments Off
filed under: tunage

i can’t stand the resurgence in 80s fashion…

… but i’m quite enjoying the newest 80s sounds!

a playlist, featuring:

architecture in helsinki – hold music
mgmt – electric feel
of montreal – suffer for fashion
morningwood – nth degree
black kids – i’m not going to teach your boyfriend how to dance with you
another cynthia – let down
the ting tings – shut up and let me go

MP3 playlist (M3U)

and here’s the Podcast feed for downloads.

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homesick blues

by Jen at 9:14 pm on 19.08.2008 | 2 Comments
filed under: tunage

every once in a while, you just need to wallow. since i’m missing home, here’s a playlist of homesick blues. they’re beautiful songs, but not particularly cheery – you’ve been warned.

Bon Iver – Blindsided
The Good Life – You Don’t Feel Like Home to Me
The Weakerthans – Left and Leaving
The Morning Benders – Mother and Child Reunion (P. Simon cover)
Feist – How My Heart Behaves
Wilco – How to Fight Loneliness
Regina Spektor – Somedays

MP3 playlist (M3U)

and here’s the Podcast feed for downloads.


summer sounds

by Jen at 10:01 am on 22.06.2008Comments Off
filed under: tunage

thus far this june has been a typical london summer – mostly cool and grey. but with the official start of summer yesterday, i need some sunny songs to fill in where the weather won’t…

Marlena Shaw – California Soul
Kings of Leon – Fans
Sounds Under Radio – Portrait of a Summer Thief
Narrator – Panic at Puppy Beach
Death Cab for Cutie – Summer Skin
Jose Gonzales – Stay in the Shade

edited to add: i was asked very nicely (and very quickly) to take one of the songs down. fair enough. so if there’s a gap, that’s why.

MP3 playlist (M3U)

and here’s the Podcast feed for downloads.

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james yuill

by Jen at 7:59 pm on 16.06.2008Comments Off
filed under: tunage

one of the many highlights this weekend was getting to see james yuill play again.

i’ve enjoyed him since seeing him last year at the wye festival, and there’s just something really endearingly geeky and awkward about him that appeals. he plays what’s been termed “folktronica” by some folks, but is really just a lovely melange of acoustic guitar and delicate electric pings and beeps, sometimes with an insistent thumping undercurrent, sometimes not.

if you like “the postal service” at all, you’ll like him. i’m keeping my eyes open for future gigs.

here’s a video for his latest releasee, “no surprise”

and here’s a crappy snippet of video i shot at the festival this weekend. the backup vocals are too loud so it looks like he’s singing with a girl’s voice.

check him out at his website, and listen to his music here or on his myspace page. it’s rare that you find someone new that you enjoy enough to want to share with others…

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april showers

by Jen at 6:23 pm on 26.04.2008Comments Off
filed under: tunage

for bringing may flowers…

The Coral – Put the Sun Back
The Acorn – Spring Thaw
The Magnetic Fields – All the Umbrellas in London
Regina Spektor – Raindrops
The Weakerthans – Sun in an Empty Room
Architecture in Helsinki – Spring 2008

MP3 playlist (M3U)

and here’s the Podcast feed for downloads.

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i just got lost in your eyes

by Jen at 6:16 pm on 17.03.2008Comments Off
filed under: eclectica, tunage

i never thought i’d be jealous of will ferrell…

i love dave grohl.

i do not, however, love the jesus freak look he’s sporting lately.

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rocking out february

by Jen at 4:52 pm on 24.02.2008 | 2 Comments
filed under: tunage

a playlist of some of the songs that have been getting heavy rotation in february – it trends towards upbeat, boppy stuff because, let’s face it, february sucks.

Vampire Weekend - Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
Architecture in Helsinki – Like it or Not
Black Kids – I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You
Beirut – Elephant Gun
Okkervil River – Unless It’s Kicks

MP3 playlist (M3U)

and here’s the Podcast feed for downloads.

roll on march…


merry music 2007

by Jen at 10:31 pm on 18.12.2007Comments Off
filed under: holidaze, tunage

to put a little holly in your jolly, here’s this years xmas playlist, featuring:

El Vez - Feliz Navi-Nada
The Waitresses - Christmas Wrapping
Magnet - Let It Snow
The Ronettes – Sleigh Ride
Stiff Little Fingers – White Christmas
The Ramones – Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)
Death Cab For Cutie – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

MP3 playlist (M3U)

and here’s the Podcast feed for downloads.

happy holidays!!

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covers and others

by Jen at 7:14 pm on 14.11.2007Comments Off
filed under: tunage

i seem to have acquired a large number of cover songs in the itunes library. cover songs are great because it’s almost like getting a whole new favourite song.

the problem with cover songs is that because they’re so often done live rather than in the studio, the sound quality isn’t great. ah well, they’re still fun though.

here are a few catchy remakes of new classics and older hits.

MP3 playlist (M3U)

here’s the Podcast feed: Subscribe for those of you with ipods.

Ben Lee – Float On (Modest Mouse cover)
OK GO – Jessie’s Girl (Rick Springfield cover)
Foo Fighters – Keep the Care Running (Arcade FIre cover)
The Blow – Come On Petunia (Police cover – Every LIttle Thing She Does is Magic)
The Shins – We Will Become Silhouettes (The Postal Service cover)
The Bird and the Bee – How Deep is Your Love? (Bee Gees cover)

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by Jen at 6:29 pm on 18.09.2007 | 4 Comments
filed under: tunage

i don’t know why i’m in such a funk today. maybe it was the overwhelming depress-itude of the christmas advert, but i was sorely in need of a little fluffy, upbeat, sweet music to improve my mood. and voila! – a playlist was born.

MP3 playlist (M3U)

here’s the Podcast feed: Subscribe for those of you with ipods.

featuring regina spektor, feist, peter bjorn & john, sara bareilles, and future clouds & radar


i was buried in sound

by Jen at 11:20 pm on 16.08.2007 | 5 Comments
filed under: tunage

oh happy day! i’m going to see wilco at the brixton academy in november!

because every girl loves a little electro-experimental lo-fi alt-country twang.

(this *almost* makes up for the fact that i’m going to miss modest mouse while i’m out of the country.)

a few of my favourites:

wilco – jesus, etc.

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wilco – handshake drugs

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wilco – say you miss me

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wilco – company in my back

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wilco – heavy metal drummer

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full of cheesy goodness

by Jen at 5:53 pm on 22.07.2007Comments Off
filed under: tunage

was watching an old vh1 “songs of the 80s” special, and have been inspired to put together some of my own best cheesy goodness, for your listening pleasure.

MP3 playlist (M3U)

here’s the Podcast feed: Subscribe for those of you with ipods.

featuring deelite, erasure, journey, the eagles, prince, ac/dc and others.


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world music for the weekend

by Jen at 9:24 pm on 15.06.2007Comments Off
filed under: tunage

latin and african rhythms, all rolled up in one.

MP3 playlist (M3U)

here’s the Podcast feed: Subscribe.

quantic and nickodemus – mi swing es tropical
babaloo -Samba Formosa
miriam makeba – Pata Pata
antibalas afrobeat orchestra – Hypocrite

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the friday unwind

by Jen at 7:47 pm on 18.05.2007 | 2 Comments
filed under: tunage

Hellish, hellish work week – the kind that drives you to tears – and i want nothing more than to turn up the volume, dance my ass off, and forget everything but the music.

so indulge me.

MP3 playlist (M3U)

featuring dj riko, diplo, goldfrapp, tv on the radio, i’m from barcelona, and the blow.

here’s the Podcast feed: Subscribe.

dj riko – p-funk is playing at my house
diplo – shake it over and over
goldfrapp – strict machine
tv on the radio – wolf like me
i’m from barcelona – this boy
the blow – come on petunia (police cover)


redemption songs

by Jen at 8:51 pm on 3.05.2007Comments Off
filed under: mutterings and musings, tunage

music is such an intensely sensory experience – there are few other things i can think of with the power to reach in under my solar plexus, clutch at my heart, and either lift it skyward or send it plummeting through the pit of my stomach. that can transport me back to a time and place with such immediacy it’s like reliving the experience all over again.

i’ve ruined a lot of perfectly good songs for myself – songs i insisted on playing in endless loop during particularly painful breakups, or the depths of a dark pool of depression. there are songs that have all the force of a suckerpunch to the gut when i hear them unexpectedly, knocking the wind out of me while blowing me sideways. i often wish i could go back in time to that girl and tell her to turn it off, because someday she’ll regret tainting such a great song with permanent greys of sadness. and still, once they become tangled up in memory, it’s hard to let them go, no matter how painful they are.

but there are also songs of such immense, irrepressible joy that i can hardly contain myself. songs that make it impossible to sit still – there is no other remedy for it but to sing at the top of my lungs. music that makes me want to light the world on fire and dance as it burns. music that makes me physically high, like being full of sweet, pure oxygen and light. deliciousness.

so i find myself hoarding music these days. greedily inhaling the temperament of certain rhythms and lyrics. collecting emotions in a jar. searching for sparkling new highs like diamonds in the weeds. piling them up in heaps. drowning out the drab, careworn songs of another time, another girl, with a flood of brilliant sound and light.

the ragged:

fleetwood mac (stevie nicks) – landslide

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and the glorious:

the hold steady – stuck between stations

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