Well, I don’t know about you, but around these parts it’s been kind of a rough week. I won’t go into the particulars, because what’s done is done, but I will suggest that now is the time, if you’ve been feeling a little down, to re-motivate yourself in a positive direction.
None of you will be surprised that the way I try to lift my spirits is through music. And while you might have felt more mournful than celebratory over the last seven days, I would suggest that it’s time for the mourning period to be over. Quit your bitchin’ and get to work.
Hard, positive works demands high-powered, upbeat music, and for me that means delving into the genre fondly (and somewhat loosely) known as power pop. You might not know the term – it’s often reserved for music critics and geeks who insist on putting everything in a box. For me, though, it’s always been a really big barrel into which I’ve noticed over the years the music I immediately loved could be placed.
My crucial (and highly personal criteria) are these:
- Guitars – We’re not talking Van Halen or Metallica solos here, just a solid rock guitar sound. However, there’s plenty of wiggle room, from the Television-style torrent of Matthew Sweet’s “Girlfriend” to the Byrds-style jangle of Elvis Costello’s “(The Angels Want to Wear My) Red Shoes.”
- Harmonies – They sweeten the sound and take the song from something that could be categorized as pure rock into that sugary pop realm.
- The beat – Mid-tempo to fast. No haunting ballads or sapy love songs here.
- The lyrics – Often about folks having issues with love or unrequited love. Ripped from the headlines of our hearts, as it were.
- The Feeling – I was marinated in the AM radio of the mid- to late-1970s, so the songs from that era form the basis of much of what I love now. I also became a Beatles fan around that time, so if something sounds like it could have been cut from “Revolver” or “Rubber Soul,” chances are I’ll like it.
But this post isn’t just about music, or how shitty things might seem. It’s about getting through and still making things happen. So, just like I might have done if we were teens going through a rough patch, I’ve done the most helpful thing for you I can do.
I made you a mix tape.
I offer up this exhaustive – but by no means comprehensive – collection of some truly awesome tunes that fall into the power pop vein in the hope that they might help you remember what being an optimistic kid, a hopeless romantic or a secretly sentimental hard-ass felt like. This playlist features new and old – stuff from your parents’ childhood, from your childhood and from yesterday. Air drums and guitars are encouraged, and I invite you to turn your iPods, office speakers or car stereos up to a most unreasonable volume. Clocking in at more than four hours, that’s half your work day, so dive in for the long haul and do something awesome.
After all, for those who must power through unpleasant times, you deserve, at the very least a soundtrack that’s going to get you there.