13) Steely Dan – My Old School


Steely Dan is another one of those artists that has come in and out of my life. We had an early childhood introduction, that was followed by a high school resurgence. I remember when I was young asking my mom if she had ever seen Steely Dan in concert. She said no. In the 70’s/early 80’s they were more of a studio band than a touring band and that the sounds and synths they made didn’t translate to tour technology at the time. I found it so interesting that they had been so successful without touring.

My Steely Dan high school resurgence was two fold. 1) I would sometimes get rides home from school from my friend Phil. He was cool and had a car. I remember asking him if he could drive me home one day and he said ‘Sure, but first we have to go to Best Buy to buy the new Steely Dan album and then I’ll drop you off at home.’ I didn’t even know Steely Dan was still making music at that point. But it definitely earned Phil cool points in my book. Unfortunately, we never made it to Best Buy. When we got out of school that day, Phil’s car had a flat. He and his other swim team buddy didn’t have the easiest time changing the tire, I jumped in by reading the instruction manual. They eventually got it changed, but we were both late going home so there was no Best Buy that day. Steely Dan was not meant to be.

2) The summer after high school, my parents used to love to sing this song to me when we drove by my ‘old school’. Probably because high school was not my jam and I was glad to be outta there. It wasn’t the happiest of memories, at the time. Now I look back and it’s neither here nor there.

There’s currently a DJ on the Sirius channel ‘The Spectrum’ that likes to play old Steely Dan these days. It makes me smile. I crank it up, roll the windows down, and people probably think I’m a 55 year old crazy lady singing along. ‘I remember thirty-five sweet goodbyes…’


12) The Head and The Heart – Rivers & Roads


In 2011, I was really into The Head and The Heart’s first album. What can I say, I love the folksy, indie vibe. This is my favorite song off this album. It’s not noisy and doesn’t have a lot of instrumentation going on. It’s simple, and soulful, and comforting in an eerie way. When I left Chicago for California I listed to this song a lot. I’m very close to my family and I had a really great group of friends that were/are like family and it was really tough to leave. I don’t regret leaving and it wasn’t a bad decision or anything, but it was still difficult to move in a different direction. This song got me through it. It was comforting. It made me feel like everything was going to be ok and, more importantly, that I was going to be ok. Songs are powerful like that. My mantra when I got homesick became ‘Rivers and roads, Rivers and roads, oh rivers til I reach you.’

When I lived in Kansas City, I got to see them live. When they played this song it gave me goosebumps because it was even better in person. This is why I’ve picked my favorite live version for the blog, but the record version is on the playlist.

11) Wham! – Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go


Who doesn’t love George Michael? The hair! (head and chest) The denim! The earrings! This song is the epitome of POP! I think Wham! was the first boy band I was ever into. Although, technically they were a boy duo. (This was pre-NKOTB.) I always thought ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ was a great dancing like a crazy person song. I also found it a 10 on the happiness scale, which always helped improve my mood and ability to face the day. This early love, later lead to an equal love of ‘Freedom’.

In 2003/2004 I was in my final year of college and was living off campus with a few of my girlfriends. My roommate, Steph, was really into music. She introduced me to bands I had never heard of, that weren’t mainstream, and had a different sound. She also had a record player. We went to this record sale in some sort of hall in Urbana. She bought Wham!’s record (and Susan Vega’s – ‘Luka’) and it reignited my girlish crush on George Michael. (Now knowing that I never stood a chance.) And that’s the great thing about her, she has excellent music taste, but she doesn’t judge – she appreciates the silly, catchy, fun musical stylings of all genres.

We received the news that George Michael died on Christmas eve of this past year. We had just finished family dinner. So we had a ‘Freedom’ dance party in his honor, percussion instruments included, shaking your booty – required.

10) The Beatles – Run For Your Life


The Beatles is another one of those bands we grew up. They were weekend music, originally listened to on record and then moved to CD. When I was about 4,5,6, ‘Run For Your Life’ was one of my favorite songs. I thought the Fab Four were singing to me and I was the little girl. I ran around the apartment living room to this song. I imagined a little Carlin running through a desert/tundra type setting. I’m not sure what I was running from, I was running for my life, but it was fun. I wasn’t scared, I was smiling. The wind was blowing through my hair and my cheeks were flushed. Then, little me, would stick my head in the sand, like an ostrich. The end result was that I’d morph into an ostrich and totally escape. I would have been great at music videos…

It wasn’t until I was significantly older, that I actually listened to the lyrics. ‘Well, I’d rather see you dead, little girl, Than to be with another man. Well, you better keep your head, little girl, Or you won’t know where I am.’  This is an absolutely TERRIBLE song! Some real Henry VIII drama. I’m firmly against any sort of domestic physical or mental violence, and this song is highly inappropriate as a result, but I still love it. Ultimately, I just picture a little me running around morphing into an ostrich. Luckily, that memory is the most vividly associated with this song. Plus, it gives you a little insight into my creative imagination.

I looked a little into the song, mostly because – 1) How did this song even get made? Apparently it was John Lennon’s LEAST favorite Beatles song and the song he regretted the most writing. George Harrison, on the other hand, said it was his favorite song off of ‘Rubber Soul’. Those Beatles…John would later revisit the same theme, in a softer, less abrasive tone, in his single ‘Jealous Guy’.  In which I thought he was just being mean, but now I wonder if it was worse than that.

9) Paul Simon – The Obvious Child


Paul Simon’s ‘Concert In The Park’ double CD was a Saturday morning staple in our family household in the 90’s. It was a pleaser for all – the kids and the adults. As I’ve grown up, I keep going back to this album and Paul Simon in general. For me, he’s an artist, where every time I listen: I hear something new, I understand a lyric a different way, how the beat carries, how it relates to me more. My bougainvillea plant is named Paul, after Paul Simon, for his line in ‘The Coast’. Paul and I are tight, I don’t name my plants after just anyone.

‘The Obvious Child’ is one of my favorite Paul Simon songs. It blends in and out of my childhood memories and I can clearly see my parents on our back patio, having a drink, and singing along.

Growing up we lived in a duplex. There was an older couple next door, but not elderly, they had a college aged kid. They were fine. They weren’t outwardly nice, but they weren’t rude or terrible either. They kept to themselves. So their college aged son would come home at holidays and what not, but he was around so little and was already away by the time our family moved in that we never knew him. Somehow you always knew when he was home. So my parents called him Sonny and they always laughed when this part of the song came on. ‘We had a lot of fun, we had a lot of money, we had a little son, we thought we’d call him Sonny’.

My sister and I both think this is also an excellent song to run/work out to. The drums section, especially in the beginning, has great rhythm, and it carries through the length of the song. Working on sprints – Paul’s got you. Working on distance – Paul’s got you. Want to squeeze that last little bit of energy out – Paul’s got you. Want to dance across a finish line – Paul’s got you.

8) Feist – Mushaboom

IMG_6924I got really into Feist’s first album just after college. The album ‘Let It Die’ played on repeat for me constantly. I had just moved into the city (Chicago) and the pop-y, hopefulness of ‘Mushaboom’ was a great soundtrack to my early 20’s. On my own, everything had a grit to it. Being an adult for the first time is daunting  and it was by no means easy, but she put a pep in my step. (Ok being an adult now is not easy either.)

I’ve had the luck of seeing Feist live twice. Once in concert thanks to my friends Nate and Nicole. On ‘Let It Die’ there’s a song called ‘Now At Last’ and she brought a tap dancer on stage to tap to the song. It’s a terribly sad song, but this made it a million times amazing! Tap dancers always put a pep in your step.

I also got to see Feist at a super small, private, Live from Studio X show a month before I left Chicago for California. It was one of my last hurrah’s! It was the perfect closing to an important chapter in my life that her music had been such a big part of.

I originally thought Mushaboom was a made up word. It didn’t help that the video reminded me of the ‘tea party on the ceiling’ scene from Mary Poppins, so then it really seemed like a made up word. However, it is decidedly not. It’s a community in Nova Scotia. Also, note that her dress has cut out shoulders, which is one of the popular styles right now, that I don’t happen to understand. Feist is a pretty freaking cool Canadian.

Some of you may be remembering Feist from her electric blue sequin jumpsuit in ‘1234…’ and that Ipod nano commercial. That’s from her second album, and for some reason that song now reminds me of Sesame Street. ‘1,2,3,4 chickens just back from the shore…’ (Her second album is really good too.)



Update: Carlin’s Correspondence Campaign

Today is June 7th and I wrote my 7th letter. (Cue the fireworks!) I feel good about this. I did have to do a couple days of doubling up since I fell off the letter wagon because my mom came to visit. So I’m back on track. My one vice has been not going to the mail room every day. It’s not that far and it’s not that hard, I’m just a little lazy and it’s not really on the way to anything. I like efficiency, but on the plus side I’m getting a letter done a day. They might just all have the same date stamp on them. So it’s a win.

However, I don’t know that I’m going to get 40 letters done in 30 days, but I’m going to try. It might just be 30+ days as a more realistic outlook.

7) C+C Music Factory – Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)


This song is the most awesome dance party song of my family household. It started in the early 90’s as an innocent, all ages dance song (parents and kids). As we have matured, this song is still active in the family party rotation. It comes out towards the end of the party, either shortly before or shortly after the round of tequila shots. The tequila shots is how you know it’s a good party. Even wedding showers end in tequila, C+C, at 4pm. My father (aka Papi), plays latin percussion as his hobby.  So the cowbell and the triangle are clutch in a C+C Music Factory dance party, especially at the ‘Da da da da’ part. No matter the age, everyone can get down to C+C – ‘dance til you can’t dance no more’.

I swear all videos from this time period had an intricate, choreographed dance sequence with bangin’ back up dancers and billowing silk fabrics. However, the bike wheel really throws me off, but I’m sure there’s some higher meaning that I have yet to understand. Also the kids? Why are they in there? And why is that little girl wearing a terrible school uniform? But all is forgiven, because who doesn’t love a button fly (minute 3:37)…

‘Give me the music!’

6) Lord Huron – Time to Run


Lord Huron hit the music scene about 5 years ago and I listened to them a ton when I was traveling through California and Arizona. (I even got my co-worker who traveled the territory way into them as well.) Their sounds were peppy and fun, but their lyrics a little twisty. I will say, I don’t watch music videos very often, but the way Lord Huron tells their stories and the imagery in their videos is stellar (and also a little twisty). The entire ‘Lonesome Dreams’ album is a true experience in musical narrative. ‘Time to Run’ is one of my favorite songs off this album, mostly because it’s become my frantic soundtrack for when I have to run through an airport to catch a connection. It makes you pick up your feet just a little bit extra to make it just in time or be totally defeated when you miss it. Seriously, this should be on constant loop at all airports (specifically IAH for me).

5) Fleetwood Mac – Never Going Back Again


Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’ is probably the most hipster thing out there these days. Especially if you have it on vinyl. My parents had the original record that we listened to when we were little, but Stevie Nicks and crew wasn’t as influential on me until much later. I remember our formal introduction during Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign and ‘Don’t Stop’ was his election song. At that point I dabbled. But it wasn’t until about 10 years ago that I was driving somewhere with my dad and he had decided to put it on the CD changer and I loved every second of it. Is it over rated these days? Yes. Do I feel like I need to be drinking a PBR and listening to it on vinyl to fit in? Yes (but I’m not.) Was there just way too much drama associated with them? Yes. Do I sometimes dance around like Stevie Nicks in my empty apartment? Yes.  ‘Never Going Back Again’ is beautifully instrumental and it’s message is so simple. There’s also so much personal turmoil that we get to be a part of through the music and I love a good telenovela.