I have been asked to write about something other than education. Since I don’t currently have access to my kitchen, and since things are a little too busy on the reading-for-fun front, I decided to do a play-list blog-post.
In January I took my oral examination, the last hurdle before becoming All But Dissertation (ABD). For my field and my university, orals are quite a doozy. There are two rounds. Round 1 involves giving an hour-long-minimum presentation on a paper close to your thesis area; this talk is announced to the entire department, and anyone is welcome to attend and ask questions. Round 2 is closed-door and involves you, your five-member committee, and a syllabus. You can guess what happens and how long THAT could last. I spent over a year preparing for this, and naturally had a special soundtrack for studying purposes. Here ’tis:
- “Frontier Psychiatrist” by the Avalanches
This is amazing. The Avalanches are an Australian electronica group that so-far seem to be one-hit wonders. This song comes off their only album, Since I Left You (2000). What I’ve managed to catch of the entire album is unbelievable. These guys took bits and pieces of more than 3000 tracks to make this album. The video for “Frontier Psychiatrist” is a great example of the entire album–trippy, fun, and unlike anything you’ve ever heard before.
- I’m So Tired by the Beatles
I have an almost-obsession with the Beatles. The White Album has consistently been one of my top choices for “favorite album” (even though High-Fidelity-esque music snobs may disqualify it for being a double album). This song has always gotten to me. John totally manages to convey “tired-ness”: he starts off slow and subdued–almost like he’s in a coma–but then he gets more and more frustrated and erratic as he’d “give you everything he’s got for a little piece of mind.”
- Swing Swing by Bibi Tanga and the Selenites
I heard this song courtesy of an iTunes radio station. I have not been able to find much about the artist, though I have bought the corresponding album. The sound is a little French, a little African, a little R&B, and a little electronica. Just very hard to describe. This is by-far the most “catchy” song on the album, though the style is the same on all tracks.
- Oh So Quiet by Bjork
This is a cover of what I thought was originally a Betty Hutton (of Annie Get Your Gun fame) track. Bjork is incapable of doing anything “normally,” which I think is what makes this really work. Even if you don’t know the history of the song, it sounds retro, but then in a crazy Icelandic way.
- Tighten Up by the Black Keys
The only thing better than this song is the video. I originally heard the Black Keys on NPR of all places (their All Songs Considered pod-cast is amazing). This band has had an interesting history. Their early stuff sounds nothing like their current stuff. They started off with an almost punk sound–definitely “hard rock” if nothing else. Now they seem a little more…not subdued, but maybe “hip”-per? Or maybe they’ve just tightened up…
- This is a Man’s World by James Brown
If you don’t love this song there’s something wrong with you. That’s really all there is to say.
- Au Port by Camille
This is a girl who probably would prefer being called an “artist” instead of a “singer.” I just love this sound, though. She’s got a fantastic voice, and a unique performance style. If you like this song, you should check out her video for “Ta Douleur” (which is probably the closest to a “hit” she’s had in America).
- In My Place by Coldplay
Okay, so it’s old-school Coldplay. But I love this album. This may not be what most people pick for a study-mix, but I’ve always felt the desire to hear the words “I was scared, tired and unprepared” when prepping for an exam. Call me masochistic. But it works for me.
- Run by Gnarls Barkley
Gnarls Barkley is yet another piece of evidence that good music can come from Atlanta. While some may think “Crazy” or some other track may be better for studying, I always liked “Run.” It pumps you up, it entertains you, it hooks you. And the video is awesome–Justin Timberlake almost steals the show.
- The Hill by Marketa Irglova
This is a girl who will make you feel unaccomplished. At 18 she won an Academy Award for best song–thanks to the movie Once. This song was also featured in the movie, and it just seems very painful yet serene.
- Rock ‘n Roll Suicide by Camille O’Sullivan
This woman fascinates me. She’s Irish. She’s an award-winning architect. She’s now also a lounge/cabaret singer. This is an almost-perfect cover of what already is an almost-perfect song. I cannot get enough of this.
- Use Me by Esther Phillips
If you look up the lyrics, and are in the right frame of mind, this summarizes what it’s like to be in graduate school. Why else would people continue go unless it feels that good getting used?
- La Foule by Pink Martini
Pink Martini is a group with a diverse sound. This sounds like nothing else of theirs I’ve heard. They basically took an Edith Piaf classic and remixed it. Edith is great, but she’s not exactly “peppy.” This version of Edith is.
- I Put a Spell on You by Nina Simone
Music snobs, load your weapons: I am not a huge fan of Nina Simone’s voice. And I feel bad about that–she was a remarkable woman who led a very interesting life. But she sounds like a creepy drag queen to me. That voice doesn’t work at all for “classics” like “Ne me quitte pas,” but it works for this song.
- Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho by Rosetta Tharpe
In every study mix you need something uplifting. And what’s more uplifting that old-school gospel? This will get your toes thumping and your blood pumping. Go on and break down those walls!