Play List

I’ve been asked to put together a top ten listening list by one of the kids at the school where I teach, where I’m teaching (where sometimes I find myself parenting and doing other “ings”). Shameless. If I do this for more than a month or two I’ll get better at weaving the tags in rather than leaving them brazenly hanging out in the open like abandoned lemurs. Things like sticking the tags across word breaks: “at the tea, Ching and I drank a delightfully fizzy cup of orange blossom jasmine.”

But back to that top ten list. Tricky maneuver. I said “yes” of course because anything that gets you a little more recognition outside the classroom instantly translates to increased street cred and, hopefully, down the line, better holiday gifts. So I said yes, and now it’s locked in. It’s for a music zine two of the seniors put together, Feed the Trees, which is excellent, just a broad sheet with a concert calendar, reviews, a couple of opinion pieces, an interview with someone in the industry. It’s expertly done. I didn’t make the inaugural issue. Kerry Winsome, the popular sculptural arts teacher got the honor, and yeah that hurt, but it’s hard to compete with the art department on account of all the purple hair and pink Eddie Cochran glasses. Not to mention the stripy tights—no matter the gender. So anyway, I’m already like mid-pile, which was crushing, but, like I said, hard to compete, especially when Kerry has choices like the Penguins and Haim at one and two and then Neko Case and Hank Williams in the middle. Plus Liz Phair, Whitney Houston, Dolly Parton. An utterly irrepressible list. She’s getting a lot of nods to and from the arts building this week from people who a week ago barely knew we had an arts building never mind a sculptural arts teacher.

The impossible part of course is being cool without being too cool. A line thinner than a beetle’s foreskin. Insert pun apology. I’m actually listening to a lot of Mumford and Sons right now—a fact which needs its own kind of apology and explanation, but I’m not putting that up there. Instead, I need to see what past students are listening to on Spotify, students who graduated in the last two years, then do like a “mix-tape” of those choices, and throw in some old punk, things like the Clash’s White Man in Hammersmith Palais and the U.K. Subs, just to show where I was at, you know, back in the day of my own mohair sweater and white Rucanors (as I was emerging from my barely-missed-the-boat Ziggy phase). Bowie himself a touch too obvious, especially with his new album—bless his heart for that; he and Paul should tour together. Paul’s new album another bless his heart moment.

The list definitely needs some Taylor Swiftie kind of stuff on it cause that shows you’re not afraid to be down with the kids, the regular kids, the kind of kids who don’t put out music zines, don’t spend half their free periods round the back of the local supermarket sucking down Marlboro lights. The kind of kids whose parents buy holiday gifts for teachers. Maybe even One Direction though that might smack a little too much of trying to be user friendly. Tenth graders can imagine male teachers having sneaky crushes on Taylor Swift, but a makeshift boy band from England, that’s approaching a whole different side of the tracks, even if they do possess harmonies that set the nether regions a jangling. Georgia says I should definitely keep the One Direction, but Taylor Swift’s a bit weird these days, an opinion for which I may be partially to blame having spent a guilty afternoon with her—Georgia that is—trying to decode the liner notes to Red and coming up with things like “I wear heels now” and “tie my boots to my head.” We might have misread the last one, but all told, all of it a touch off-putting for an eight-year-old. So, she suggests some Katy Perry and La Roux instead. Hugo’s list, naturally, would include “Greensleeves” and anything that approximates the kinds of sounds made by plastic toys manufactured in China.

Despite all the help, I think I’m sticking with one of Swiftie’s break-up songs. Which one you ask? Fair question. The one about Jake. And then the Clash, the Undertones, followed by a few honest ones. P. Ribee, one of those past students I follow on Spotify in order to stay oh so au courant, turned me on to Katie Brunsfield’s Waxahatchee, which I really like, like honestly really like, and then some Youth Lagoon or some Phosphorescent, some Port St. Willow, which has to be one of the best bands I’ve come across in the last half dozen years. Maybe some New Order for the Manchester thing, and maybe Lana Del Ray alongside Taylor Swift. I’ll probably post the full list in the next week or so replete with abandoned lemur pictures and a snapshot of Ching. My new bestie.

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