Memoir Mixtapes Vol.1 / Track 33

On “World Spins Madly On” by Brianna Rae Olsen

I found “World Spins Madly On” by The Weepies when scrolling through my sister’s iPod Classic, which I stole from her (she always got better birthday presents). The music video was one of the first things I ever searched on YouTube and I remember waiting patiently for my dial-up to load the whole thing before pressing play so I wouldn’t have to hear the sound of myself crying whenever it paused to buffer.

If you haven’t seen the video – just imagine a depressed little claymation monster. That’s me. A little seventh grade monster who half-assed made my bed in the morning and avoided eye contact with my reflection while brushing my teeth. Headphones permanently installed into my ears, never said more than two words a day to my family if I didn’t have to, and was best friends with my bedroom carpet and the way my ceiling looked at sunset.

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Memoir Mixtapes Vol.1 / Track 32

On “Try a Little Tenderness” by Leesa Cross-Smith

I don’t know if I can remember a time when Otis Redding wasn’t my favorite voice. I have other favorites  too like Stevie Nicks and Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra and Miranda Lambert and Nina Simone. But, Otis. Who sings like Otis? No one before and no one after. So often when I listen to Otis, I turn to my husband, my kids and go who sings like Otis? No one.

There isn’t a song by Otis Redding that I don’t like. But “Try A Little Tenderness” was my personal gateway to all things Otis. My dad’s favorite song is “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” and my dad isn’t really a music person. My mom loves Otis. Who doesn’t love Otis? No one. Who sings like Otis? No one. I thank Otis Redding in the acknowledgements of my debut novel Whiskey & Ribbons. My characters dance in the kitchen to “Chained and Bound.” Back in 2000, right before my husband and I left for our road trip honeymoon to Santa Fe, I bought a double-disc Otis Redding album to take along with us because being in the car for twelve hours a day means listening to Otis. When I gave my kids my old iPhones to load up with music, Otis was already on there.

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Memoir Mixtapes Vol.1 / Track 30

Shot through the Heart with a Cannonball by Joyanna M.

When “Cannonball,” by The Breeders, first came out, I couldn’t get enough of it. The bursts of machine-gun snare, and the pop harmonies; the chunka-chunka guitar riffs and Kim Deal’s alto voice. But when they run the vocals through the distortion in the chorus is pure musical orgasm. The edgy anger smoothed over with a fat compression, a blend of cotton and steel wool, makes you instinctively reach for the lube.

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Memoir Mixtapes Vol.1 / Track 29

The Way that Kindness Died: An Updated “American Pie” by Gavin Lakin

The man there said the music wouldn’t play.

Eleven years old, in the sweat and smog of the San Fernando Valley, I learned about the day the music died. Actually, it was my understanding from listening to 93 KHJ that rock music was alive and well. James Taylor was singing “You’ve Got a Friend.” Tapestry, Carole King’s living room album brilliantly produced by Lou Adler was changing the world. With cinnamon bun sugar sticking to our acne-filled faces, as we played triangle-shaped paper football at the lunch tables, Don McLean’s epic lyrical tale resounded over the school’s speakers. Meaning flew over my head like the daily seagulls that swarmed in for scraps. Understanding its many verses wasn’t necessarily the point (or even possible); “American Pie” captured something about my country, about being human, about innocence lost. I may have been a kid, but I was able to innately feel he was speaking for us all.

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Memoir Mixtape Vol.1 / Track 27

Your Long Arms by Marcus Civin

I convinced my parents to spring for the bus to San Francisco. I said, “It’s hard.” I said, “But it’s good.” I said, “At least I know I’m not ready for college.”

A roommate fresh from Peace Corps falls in love with an Italian lawyer. Leaving for his family olive farm, she says: “I’m bad at goodbye,” shoves at me two shoe boxes stuffed with cassettes. One is orange. One is unadorned brown cardboard.

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Memoir Mixtapes Vol.1 / Track 26

The Hardest Part by Ryan Peckinpaugh

Growing up in the 90s, I had to listen to some shitty music. At the time I didn’t necessarily think the music was so bad, but then again, hindsight. Recently, I found a box of CDs in my childhood bedroom. Among them included Creed’s “Human Clay,” Nickleback’s “Silver Side Up,” Lifehouse’s “No Name Face,” “NOW 6,” and a CD called “Everything You Want” by a band called Vertical Horizon (yes, I actually spent money on this). Needless to say, they all went back in the box.

When I was a kid this was the music readily available to me. I enjoyed the pop of Third Eye Blind, the cheese of Smashmouth, and the incessant catchiness of the Goo Goo Dolls. Even today, when browsing a random 90s Pandora channel, this music still induces fits of nostalgia. But it doesn’t mean it was good.

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Memoir Mixtapes Vol.1 / Track 25

On “Grounded” by Pavement by Joseph S. Pete

As a young enlisted soldier at Fort Lewis, Washington, I had an evening routine when training permitted. I would head to the chow hall to dine on a bland nursing home-like meal of rubber chicken, starchy mashed potatoes, and a mushy vegetable, usually one with a lot of butter and marginal nutritional benefits like green beans or corn. It was institutional feeding for cannon fodder instructed to tie a dog tag into your boot laces so they could identify your corpse. After filling up on the overcooked cafeteria fare at the dining facility at the end of a long day, I’d hit the pull-up bars just outside the barracks before heading off to the gym.

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