My first car was a 1994 Mazda Protégé with a tape deck and one out of four functioning speakers. The only tape I owned at the time was Tone Loc’s Wild Thing. Yeah. I made mixtapes. People made me mixtapes. I drove for endless miles on them. The valleys and hills of both upstate New York and the life of a suburban teenager can always be boiled down into a song fighting its way through a car stereo mired by static.
In 2004 I bought my first new car: a charcoal grey Mitsubishi Lancer with power locks and a CD player! I still remember the first time I took my baby on the highway with the windows down listening to Girl in the Green Jacket by Bigwig as loud as it could go. Appropriately, the boys in my life turned to the Mix CD, a more practical option for the hormonal teenager. But as with all young love, the romance eventually gave way to a destructive trail of Dashboard Confessional lyrics and vicious death stares. People and love have always gone tumbling through my life in their own special way. My car and my music were always there. For every drive home there was always a soundtrack and a feeling. Nothing in the world can come close to your favorite song on an open highway alone at night feeling perfect.
Two days ago, I sold that car. As for the Mix CDs, I still have them all. These are the ten best songs off of them.
Jimmy Eat World: For Me This is Heaven – This song is like a great red wine from burgundy. It’s not about the power, but the simple elegance and complexity that builds over time. We all know that matter where we are in our lives, we are always running out of time to live, to find love, or to listen to a song one more time and songs like this make us want to make more out of the hands on our own clocks.
Joni Mitchell: A Case of You – You are in my blood like holy wine/you taste so bitter and so sweet/I could drink a case of you and still be on my feet. Sometimes it’s too hard to describe how special a song can be; how much you can cling to some words and phrases and the idea of the person who gave them to. Who knows if it’s possible to fall in love with a person and a song at the same time.
Saves the Day: Hold – Chris Conley could write songs about sawing off a girl’s leg and then turn around and sing about rolling in the grass and girl would throw themselves at him without fail. Saves the Day’s music may have taken an uncomfortable turn over the past few years, but the impact of albums like Through Being Cool and Stay What You Are on the soul of American teenagers was inconceivable.
Onelinedrawing: Bitte Ein Kuss – Jonah Matranga writes with a certain sort of whimsy; his lyrics filled with boyish curiosity and an almost childlike outlook on love. Time for a bit of in-the-bed disco.
The Beatles: I’ve Just Seen a Face – This was the first song on a mix given to me by a person I completely fucked over. Young and stupid was a massive understatement. It’s one of those songs that will never be taken at face value; a love song that can’t be loved.
Superstitions in the Sky: Things Said in Passing – No mix from a tough guy with a soft heart is ever complete without an acoustic love song about holding hands. Even the title, scribbled illegibly across the bottom of the disc in black sharpie, is called “Your Hand in Mine.”
Jose Gonzalez: Save Your Day – Few voices incur such a deep sense of calm as that of Jose Gonzalez. He’s like musical Xanax. This song was the first of his I ever heard, the second track on a perfectly crafted mix and forever a favorite.
Paul Simon: Slip Slidin’ Away – He said Dolores, I live in fear/My love for you is so overpowering I’m afraid that I will disappear. I dated a musician once. It only happened once because I quickly learned about the ocean of crazy one finds themselves swimming in upon bedding down with a songwriter. Alas, his cover of this gem was titanic.
The Getup Kids: I’ll Catch You – Hands down (did someone just make a Dashboard reference?) the best emo love song of all time. Seriously. If you grew up in the Northeastern part of the US and wore sweaters, this song moved you to tears at least once.
Butch Walker: Cigarette Lighter Love Song – Guy with issues meets girl with issues. They get together. Guy screws up, girl screws up. Guy has regrets but keeps screwing things up because of issues. Guy writes a love song. It’s great. The end.