Every year, when I finally finish the business of the previous movie year, I get to a project that now feels like it's bursting at the seams, waiting to be completed: I make my annual mix.
It's actually a mix for exactly two people. It was only one until recently, but last year I added a second since he's also a close friend and the two of them were making mixes for each other. In fact, the guy who has been reciprocating with me for something like 15 years now was giving the same mix he made for me to this other guy -- though I suppose he could have been making it for him and giving it to me. I like to think he had both of us in mind when making it, but let's be honest -- you make a mix more for yourself than you do for anyone else, because there's a good chance you'll end up listening to it more than the recipient.
So last year, I decided to start sending my mix to the third guy and have him send his mix to me. Now I get exposed to twice the new music every year without any additional effort on anyone's part.
I don't know how many nearly 50-year-olds -- one actually turned 50 yesterday, the other does so on March 1st, I do in October -- still make mixes. But I never want to give it up. It allows me to use my sound editing software Audacity, which I love, and it keeps me engaged with music on a year-round basis, as I spend the year collecting contenders for the following year's mix. The editing software comes into play because I like to string the tracks together to blend into one another (where appropriate), or so there's no pause between songs with a hard ending and a hard beginning. Then I export it as one 80-minute track and chop it up into proper tracks using the same software. (The 80 minutes comes from the capacity of a CD, and even though we don't send each other CDs anymore, it still feels like a good length for a mix.)
My song candidates come from a number of places, obviously, the most common being the radio. I'll Shazam a song I like, email it to myself and add it to the Excel spreadsheet where I log my candidates for each year's mix. This year I ended up with 73 candidates for what ended up being 23 songs, down from 80 last year.
But each year, as a benefit of watching in excess of 150 new releases, I also Shazam songs in movies. If I did not, I probably would not be writing about it here.
I swear I've written about this on this blog before, but using the key words "shazam" and "mix" did not find it for me. Well, the next time I do that search it'll at least find this post.
I was inclined to tell you all the songs I've ever selected from movies for one of these mixes, and someday that would be a good post -- then I could also tell you the five best. But that's more work than I have time for today.
So today I'll just tell you which ones contributed this year.
The interesting, and probably obvious, thing is that a movie doesn't have to be good to contribute a song to my mix. In fact, I learned about the banger "Dance Off" by Macklemore featuring Idris Elba from the movie He's All That, which came in at #164 out of 170 last year. There aren't any that low this year, but they do represent a range in my rankings -- with one not actually coming from a 2022 movie, as I teased earlier.
Here they are, with YouTube links in case you want to check out the songs. I'll go in order of where these movies ranked for me:
1. "Quietly Yours" - Birdy
Film: Persuasion (#59)
Track #: 21 of 23
A quiet, pretty, piano-driven ballad like this has to go near the end of the mix, and there can be at most two of them in any given mix. In this case, the song itself, which plays as the camera draws out from two lovers on a coastal cliff at the end of the movie (no spoilers), was almost responsible for tacking on an extra half-star to Persuasion. I am a sucker for this sort of sentiment in a song, with the piano and Birdy's beautiful voice turning me into putty in both the singer's and the movie's hands.
2. "I Have Never Felt More Alive" - Madison Beer
Film: Fall (#65)
Track #: 8 of 23
This also plays over the closing of Fall, if memory serves, again in a situation where the camera pulls out. This, however, is more of an empowerment song, driven by increasingly industrial synthesizer as the song progresses. This is not only a story of literal survival, but of surviving a relationship betrayal, and the lyrics go well with that. Track 8 is usually a part of any mix where I'm still supposed to be giving you a bit more of a fun, party vibe, but what can I say, there were not as many fun, party vibe songs in this year's mix.
3. "Barbarian" - Besomorph & Jurgaz
Film: Tar (#88)
Track #: 14 of 23
The song "Barbarian" is not from Barbarian. Who knew? My memory betrays me a little on this one because I was going to say this was from the closing credits of Tar, but then I remembered that Todd Field puts most of the credits at the start of this movie, so I don't know for sure what the context was. But there's something icy about this, which perfectly encapsulates Lydia Tar's fall from grace. It's the only instrumental on my 2023 mix. (I usually have two or three.) Track 14 is a good part of a mix to be dwelling in the dark before either becoming lighter or more romantic by the end.
Film: The Wretched (from 2020)
Track #: 7 of 23
"Ready" - Montaigne, from Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (#83)
"Sometimes" - Erasure, from Fire Island (#28)
"We're All Going to the World's Fair (Main Theme)" - Alex G., from We're All Going to the World's Fair (#75)
"Wolf Like Me" - TV on the Radio, from Wendell & Wild (#22)
"The Girl in the Window" - Mark Lenover, from Banshee Chapter (released in 2013)
"Hot Girls" - Charli XCX, from Bodies Bodies Bodies (#26)
"My Power" - Beyonce, from The Woman King (#128)
"Assassin Montage" - Ramin Djawadi, from The Man from Toronto (#143)
"Topdown" - Channel Tres, from Emergency (#20)