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The Leaving Champaign Mix

I compiled this mixtape for myself to play during the last week of my stay in Champaign-Urbana. It served as a summation of my three-and-a-half years of mass book-reading and paper-writing, espresso-serving and ass-kicking (at the coffee and community womb that is Caffe Paradiso), bike-riding and chili-cooking, and beer-drinking throughout the fraternal twin towns. It also served as a way to sever the cord from a place that tends to strangle its young in cheap rent, even cheaper beer, and a lifestyle that is too comfortable for one's own good.

While my graduate school aspirations have me again looking to Champaign-Urbana's vast landscape of golden grains and pajama-clad youth, I realize the futile attempt to capture those same feelings and experiences of my undergraduate years. The songs may sound the same, but the words have changed their meaning.


1. Tally Ho!/The Clean
Innocent organs mimic the bouncing curls of some pre-pubescent girl, latching onto her lollipop as she skips with the beat. While my Freudian Psychology class would suggest eroticism and pedophilia in regards to this image, I will shimmy proudly alongside that little girl, smiling with the simple joy found in those snotty vocals. "Tally Ho!" takes you by the hand, no worries about where it will lead you.

2. I Put a Spell on You/Arthur Brown
With the first hit of those drums, you feel this one in your knees. Gravy-thick organs melt into Arthur Brown's howl and take you down to the floor. His vibrato brings you back up, anxious and scared with his repetitious "I can't stand it!" The song stops as hard as it starts, and you wonder why you feel this way. The man's put a spell on you, for Christ's sake.

3. A Sweet Summer's Night on Hammer Hill/Jens Lekman
When I heard this song was ripped off for a Maytag commercial, I wasn't particularly surprised. Tambourines, bold trumpets, handclaps, pretty Swedish girls cheering; I can practically see the grass stains lifting right off. Bouncing like bubbles atop a sea of spirited chants, the brass gets your head bobbing while Lekman's strange croon takes you home. On time and squeaky clean.

4. Listen Up!/The Gossip
You shouldn't be ashamed to dance, to shake and twist a bit. The Gossip helps you get your ass into it with this bass-and-cowbell jam. A staple at the cafe where I spent most of my hours, this song generated a room full of unabashed head-bobbing and toe-tapping. And with a voice like Beth Ditto's at the helm, how can you deny yourself the pleasure of pure boogie?

5. Sex Beat/The Gun Club
Slick and, well, sexy, this song starts in the thighs. Quivering vocals slice between rockabilly riffs, the drums prowling in the background. I would listen to this song when my walks to class needed a little kick. It gave me the hips and ass to snarl and mean it.

6. Sunshine/Screeching Weasel
I used to wear combat boots with nails holding the soles together. And when I listen to this song, I miss them.

7. In the Meantime/Spacehog
For whatever reason, this song will eternally remind me of bowling. Perhaps it's the spacey keyboards hovering like disco balls over those goofy vocals. Or maybe it's how this song seems to roll along, slickly sliding down those bass lines until it crashes into a chorus of possessed wooing. Either way, it's all neon bowling balls to this girl.

8. I Should Be Allowed to Think/They Might be Giants
I must thank my brother for introducing me to this band; there is simply no way I could have found this gem without his nerd-chic. While slamming TMBG to his face (for the sole sisterly purpose of seeing his glasses fog with pure annoyance), I would secretly listen to them by my lonesome, their mix of perfect pop and intelligent banter nurturing my covert nerd soul. When I finally came out of the dork closet and admitted my love for TMBG (my love of Zelda and Lord of the Rings disclosed shortly thereafter), my brother just smiled. We can smell our own kind, even behind closed doors.

9. Rise Up in the Dirt/Voxtrot
You are staring at your American Literature professor, half-anxious, half-complacent. For the one, you hated all the shit she made you read (except for the Ursula K. Dick novel, but only because it made the mousy girl in front of you uncomfortable). And now, as the last minutes of the last final of your undergraduate career come to a close, you are faced with the sobering fact that ten minutes from now, you will no longer be one of them. You turn in your paper, the pressure of something building as you collect your belongings. This song is you bursting through those doors, all that behind you, all of this in front of you.

10. Joy of Sound/The Make-Up
Ian Svenonius slithers all over this one, throaty wails and whines crawling on the skin. With its infectious funk, "Joy of Sound" lingers on the skin for days. A filthy itch you can't wait to scratch.

11. Time of the Season/The Zombies
When you are 12, you never really fathom the greatness of your father's record collection. Nor do you realize that you are sitting on a friggin' gold mine of delicately crafted harmonies, organ solos, and all-out jams. You just complain and insist he turn on B96 for your drive home. But your father is smart and is doing this for your own good. Thank God you listened.

12. Red and Blue Jeans/The Promise Ring
We all have our faults. This band is mine.

13. God Only Knows/Petra Haden
This delicious cover is made of spun sugar, its heart pumping sweet tarts to all its cells and parts. A primarily a cappella opus, Haden's rendition pops and sparkles, blending syrupy vocals with staccato hums that provide a female perspective to this classic that is both delicate and arresting.

14. I Can't Talk About It/El Perro Del Mar
The appeal of this 50's girl group-infused darling comes from its conflicts. The fragility of El Perro Del Mar's nymph-like voice as it seems to struggle over the chorus contrasts starkly with her instance that she has indeed "made a life of [my] own." There is something quite dark that lies beneath the finger snaps and saccharine melody; you are left to wonder what has kept this Swedish beauty so silent.

15. I Don't Believe You/The Magnetic Fields
This is one of those autumn songs; those crisp little numbers that have the feel of corduroy and the salty taste of pumpkin seeds. So put on some damn socks and that ragged thing you call a scarf and indulge in the baritone sincerity of Stephin Merritt. Soak up the lush strings. Bask in Merritt's use of "ampersand" not once, but twice!

16. Picture of Success/Rilo Kiley
The urge to make my departure from Chambana as silent as possible was huge; I pleaded with my friends to avoid any theatrics or parties that would leave me sloppily drunk and blubbering about the past. So, I let Jenny Lewis do the talking. Equipped with just the right amount of sentiment and folk twang, her modest yet charming voice lifts me out of the house parties and crowded quads and into the driver's seat. The car's packed, and the weather's clear. So go.

My friends threw me a party, anyway.


Catch up with the Beachwood's Playlist catalog, from what they're spinning at the Illinois Institute of Technology to Time-Life's folk rock collection and all points in between, including the Beachwood Inn jukebox. Contributions welcome.


Posted on October 17, 2007

MUSIC - Holiday Hullabaloo.
POLITICS - Bank Profits Soaring.
SPORTS - Chicago vs. Michigan, 1903.

BOOKS - Dia De Los Muertos Stories.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicagoetry: West Town Blues.

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