I was a sophomore in high school in the Fall of 2006. I didn’t have cable TV or high speed internet at home – dial-up was the name of the game, which made it a constant struggle to find things to do. I couldn’t stream videos, downloading pictures was time-consuming, and downloading music was even more difficult, with one song often taking hours of uninterrupted internet time to download. Instead of dealing with the shitty internet service, I would take out a stack of CDs (up to 20 at a time) from artists I was interested in from my hometown library and import all of them to my computer. My personal collection of songs was only a few hundred songs at the beginning, but I felt like I was discovering more and more nearly every day.
I had started making playlists for myself in middle school in the form of CD-R’s made up of songs that I wanted to listen to on any particular day or week, but I really didn’t start making official playlists for friends until high school. The first couple were, admittedly, pretty lame:
Over time, I got better at making playlists that I thought that people besides myself would actually enjoy. By the time sophomore year started, I wanted to give my friends a new mix that didn’t actually suck. At the time, I dubbed it “Zack’s Mix III” because it was the third CD I gave to my friends, but, for simplicity, it’s the music I now associate with the Fall of 2006.
At the time, I included a note that said that this playlist was “made…with all the effort that I could put into anything at one time. I tried to combine all of my musical tastes (soft, folk, rock, alternative etc.) into one true compilation CD of who I am,” and 11 years later, I still honestly think that still holds. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and highlight some songs from this mix that stick out to me over a decade later:
The Middle – Jimmy Eat World
The amazing thing about music is that sometimes you can’t even explain why a song connects with you. Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle” is one of those songs that everyone in my generation knew. Mainstream enough to be a top 5 hit, but it still felt like your own perfect, secret song that spoke to you and no-one else when you listened to it, “The Middle” is one of those perfect songs that everyone knows the words to. I had heard “The Middle” before – in movies and TV shows and commercials and radio, but it was a major turning point for me musically when I finally knew what the song was and had it in my collection early on in high school. It showed me that there were other modern bands doing amazing things with a guitar besides Green Day, and it was the perfect way to kick off this playlist. Now, “The Middle,” with its euphoric, inspiring chorus and slick guitar line, has gone down as one of, if not the best, pop-punk songs of all time, and it still gets me going every time I listen to it.
The Importance of Being Idle – Oasis
I’ve always been interested in tracking my musical tastes over time, finding out when I really started liking a band, artist, or genre, and then looking for clues to see how my journey through music has progressed over time. This song, “The Importance of Being Idle,” from Oasis’ 2005 album Don’t Believe the Truth is without a doubt one of the most important in my musical development. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this Kinks-styled march sung by Noel Gallagher would not only launch my interest in Oasis, but also began my journey into the genres of garage-rock revival, Brit-Pop, psychedelic rock, and other British groups of the sixties besides the Beatles. That’s my musical bread and butter right there.
My interest in Oasis would bloom throughout high school and especially during college, with my attention being drawn to the fact that they idolized the fab-four both melodically and instrumentally. Post-college, Oasis has always been a great fallback band to listen to (especially their first two and last two albums) As it happens, Oasis were one of the first bands I took the time to write about during the Spring of 2013. The rest, as they say, is history.
Mad World – Gary Jules
Donnie Darko was the cult movie of my high school years. It was almost a rite of passage to have seen this movie, and the best part about it is that it still holds up as a wonderfully fresh science-fiction thriller despite its clunky narrative and heavy reliance on a fictional book. Donnie Darko is also an amazing timepiece – set in 1988, its soundtrack revolved around post-punk bands like Joy Division, Tears for Fears, and Echo and the Bunnymen (heh). In fact, not one, but two songs stick out to me from Donnie Darko. The first, an abridged version of Tears for Fears’ “Head Over Heels,” plays during the slow motion scene at the school towards the beginning of the movie, while a cover of another Tears song, Gary Jules rendition of “Mad World,” ends the film on a suitably haunting and chilling note. I don’t know why I pulled so much towards Gary Jules rendition of “Mad World.” It fit the movie to perfection and was suitably understated and angsty enough for high school, and while I don’t feel nearly as connected to this track as I did back then (shock: I mainly just think of the film when I hear it), it still brings back distinct memories.
The Only Living Boy in New York – Simon and Garfunkel
The entire discography of Simon and Garfunkel played an enormous role in my life. That’s because my sister was obsessed with the work of Paul Simon while I was growing up. When I would ride in the car with her, it was more than likely that we would be listening to something off of one of their five unbelievable studio albums. Burned copies of Simon and Garfunkel/Paul Simon albums and mixes littered my sister’s car – we had inside jokes that referred to obscure S&G lyrics, one that pops in my mind now was about the middle school principal and how freaked he would be if I told him that “the mirror on my wall casts an image dark and small but I’m not sure at all it’s my reflection” – it doesn’t make sense now, but it somehow did back then. Whenever we listened to “The Only Living Boy in New York,” on a car ride somewhere, my sister would always relay the story of how Paul Simon wrote the song while Art Garfunkel was in Mexico filming Catch-22, and how lonely he felt without Garfunkel being there.
“Only Living Boy” stands out to me from their collection as one of their finest moments not just because of the strength of the song and the story that my sister told me – it also featured in a key scene in the indie movie Garden State, which coincidentally also got a lot of play from me during high school.
Take a listen to my Fall 2006 playlist on Spotify (unfortunately, three songs, Green Day’s American Idiot-era b-side “Favorite Son,” Emerson Hart’s “Generation,” and the Eagles Hell Freezes Over rendition of “Hotel Calfornia” aren’t currently available)