WARMER MIXTAPES #354 | by Alexis Blair Penney
1. Annie Lennox | Legend In My Living Room
This song really speaks to me about being young and moving to a city (see also the Eurythmics - This City Never Sleeps) and having all these dreams and not always knowing how to make them a reality, until your dreams actually come true and you're like, what the fuck, who am I?! I always mocked my older gay friends when I was a young upstart punk fag, because they were always acting so haggard and world-weary at like the ripe-old age of 26 or something, but now here I am barely into my mid-twenties and I feel exactly the same way, like some drag queen Miss Havisham dolling out weird memories and bad advice to all my drag children, which is kind of where Annie ends up at the end of the song (and takes it one step further with Money Can't Buy It). The lyrics are impeccable, her voice as always is impeccable, the videos from this record (Diva) are so crazy and the production of this and her next record (Medusa) are really spot on. I'll always be so awed by her. This is also one of my favorite songs to do drag to.
2. Carly Simon | We Have No Secrets
Carly treads that line that is almost hard for me to listen to, because her music is so heavy with memories of my childhood. My mom, like me, was really uncomfortable with silence and had a meticulously curated soundtrack running in the background all the time when I was growing up, while she was shuffling around in really glamorous looks cooking dinner and talking on the phone. She loved Carly so all of her music is really deeply engrained on my mind, but now that I've rediscovered her as an adult I totally get it, she talks really real about relationships, her voice is super smooth and the production is really slick. I love the slide guitar in this one. I also get it, it's about getting to know someone you love really fully but finding you don't really always want to know everything about them. You always answer my questions, but they don't always answer my prayers... Such a true lyric. I would always ask my ex questions that I didn't really wanna know the answers to!
3. Cocteau Twins | Summerhead
Just a beautiful song, so perfect, I love their gibberish lyrics and how beautiful they blend the vocals with the instruments.
4. Mary J. Blige | All That I Can Say
Just perfect production, really encapsulating a moment in the 90's for me, and a really pretty vocal about loving or being horny for somebody and not knowing how to articulate it. I love Mary she's so crazy, and just always herself. Check out this video, it's got really perfectly bizarre imagery, I'm right in that moment with her.
5. Frank Sinatra | When I Was Seventeen
This kind of goes in line with Legend In My Living Room, it's a man looking back on all the seasons of his life, and what a lush, beautiful life it must've been. It gives me chills. This was another favorite of my mother's. Frank sings so suave and the instrumentation is full, like there's a full orchestra backing, but they keep it really low-key and almost a little creepy. I love the meloncholy side of classic American pop music. Those strings sneak in and it's just like uhhhhh.
6. George Michael | Free
This is a weird one, a really loungey instrumental, very futuristic and kind of dark, it reminds me of the Blade Runner soundtrack in a way. I love the cinematic quality of it. I guess I love a cinematic quality to anything, just mosying around my apartment pretending I'm really in a movie. This whole record has a really cool, dark 90's cyber tinge to it, it's really sexy and he's definitely more than obliquely hinting at being gay. I love when he whispers, Feels good... To be... Free... in the end.
7. Goldfrapp | Hairy Trees
Continuing in the lounge vibe, I just think the production on this her first record is sooo cool, super sexy, future, weird vocals talking about who knows what, this goes in with my weird cyber-movie-lounge fantasy that I have for when I'm hanging out in my apartment. That synth bass that comes in and out is sooo good, too, so thick. Ungh.
8. Giacomo Puccini | O Mio Babbino Caro (Perfomed by Maria Callas with Orchestre National de France; Conductor: Georges Prêtre) (from Gianni Schicchi)
From Gianni Schicchi opera... I've listened to this entire opera but I don't know exactly what it's about, other than this is a woman singing to her father, but this aria really hits it for me it's very like the Godfather soundtrack or something. I had this crazy drug trip on Christmas eve while listening to opera that finally culminated in me coming back to Earth as a gay Dracula, I was like in dress slacks and no shirt and I'm very pale already and had really pale face makeup on, and I have this great view out 3 bay windows over San Francisco and I was just standing in my windows watching the Sun come up, listening to this song and muttering, This is mine. This is all mine. I own all of you... It was a really funny ego trip but this song just reminds me of being posh and sexy and listening to opera in what I imagine to be my lavish pent house. It's a good one to wake up to.
9. Hole | Drown Soda
Factoring in to a really good scene in Tank Girl, one of my favorite movies, this is like such a powerful Courtney moment for me. The recording is really raw. It's off of My Body The Hand Grenade, which might be my favorite Hole record truthfully. One of the first like older art scene parties I went to as a teen in Kansas City, I remember Cody Critcheloe of the Ssion, who I'd later become close and tour with, was talking to me and my punk bff and asking us if we'd fucked yet, and this drunk queen sitting with him on a couch was like, Do you like Hole? and just handed me a burned copy of My Body The Hand Grenade and it kind of changed my life. I got way into it before I'd even heard Live Through This, so it occupies a special place for me in my musical memory. The footage of her doing this song at the Hole Unplugged concert is sooo good.
10. Mina | Ancora
A drag queen friend of mine did this song recently and I got obsessed. Mina is this totally wild Italian singer, kind of like a 60's Madonna, she had a really crazy look, bleached eye brows, dyed hair, really sexy clothes, and was actually banned from tv and radio by the Vatican or something, but she was such a big star that they had to rescind it because of the fan reaction. Most importantly she has the most incredible voice, like, out of this world. She really kills it on this song, and the tv performance of it is a must-see, she feels it so hard and is so sexy. I guess in the 70's she retreated from public and doesn't like leave the house anymore but has released an album a year for like the past 30 years from a studio in her house?! So cool.
+11. Sarah McLachlan | Sweet Surrender
This is so cheezy but I love the production on this song! They took like the softest edge of guitar feedback and chopped it up into this 90's alterna-pop diamond, I remember hearing this on the radio as a kid, it's just such a catchy and weird song, I love it. Her look is so dorky in the video but I still kind of like her, and I totally respect her, like we can all sneer at Lillith Fair but that was kind of a big fucking deal back then, so mad respect for Sarah hahaha.
+12. Sheryl Crow | I Shall Believe
In the same vein, I fucking love Sheryl Crow, I think she's a great song-writer and just a very Americana, everywoman kind of figure. If It Makes You Happy is a perfect song in my opinion. This song is on the darker, weirder side of her ouevre, really gorgeous guitars, I think it's really perfect and beautiful, it has a little bit of Cowboy Junkies to it. The hook is really catchy and will totally get you. I've definitely cried to this wasted.
+13. Dennis Brown | Wichita Lineman
I got really into the Glen Campbell version of this song because it was featured in this bizarre doc Tarnation, and then I heard a Lil' B track where he sampled this version of it. The melody is totally undeniable, like it will get in you and make you feeeeel, and the spaced out version that Dennis cut is really cool, voice like honey and a really good almost dub-reggae sensibility to it. I love his phrasing. Also my dad went to college in Wichita, I've driven through it a few times, though there is also a Wichita, TX. I just love Americana right now.
+14. Heart | How Deep It Goes
I love these girls. Such insane voices. My mom blasted this in the house too, of course. I remember when I was singing along so hard to Magic Man she asked me, Wait, are you singing about a magic man or are you the magic man?... I was so mortified, of course I told her I was the magic man. Lies! I was totally fantasizing about some creepy coming to steel me away from my parents, duh. This song is really pretty though, really lush imagery, a vague Vietnam reference, some chick talking about taking care of her dude with PTSD is what I take from it, love the flutes. Ann or Nancy actually played the flute live, which is so cool! I love doing drag to this one, too.
+15. Grace Jones | Inspiration
Of course, one of my biggest inspirations, such an insane song, beautiful synth washes and a theramin sneaking its way through the whole thing. The lyrics are infinitely relatable as well. I've often walked around with this in my headphones desperate for some inspiration. She's right in her perfect vocal range, too. Love Grace. A true artist and original.
+16. Labelle | Nightbird
I read this great Sylvester biography where they talked about the gang of drag queens he ran around with as a young queen in LA, the Barclays, they'd party at Etta James' house all night and end every night and start every morning in the apartment they all squatted in with this record. This song is so true to being a hard-living queen, She only touches down just to feel her wings again. It's so crazy and Patti and the girls really nail their vocals, as they always do. Such tight harmonies and so much soul and emotion. I can't get enough of this song. It's my life.
+17. Madonna | Drowned World/Substitute For Love
When I was 8 or 9 I received Ray Of Light as a gift, on Easter Sunday, in my fucking Easter basket. Imagine when they asked what the Easter Bunny brought us in Sunday school that day hahaha. I remember sitting in the corner of my Grandmother's house later that day listening to it on my discman, refusing to participate in any family activity, just losing it to this cd. It changed my life. I slept with the liner notes on my bedside table and would fantasize about Madonna being my mom, (She's my age, you know! my mom would always shriek), would sing along and try to hold that long note that she holds in Ray Of Light (still can). Madonna was and still is everything to me musically, I love almost everything she's ever done for so many reasons, but this record is really really special. William Orbit's production is really right there, at that moment and still really future, her songs were really deep and personal and spiritual and weird. This one in particular is really staggering. Kind of goes with that Legend In My Living Room, world-weary queen aesthetic. Too, too real.
+18. Elaine Stritch | The Ladies Who Lunch
From the original Broadway Cast of Company... My mother was in a local production of Company in the 70s or 80s which she would always talk about and the soundtrack was a fixture in our house. It's about a bunch of 20-somethings and their one single friend and just all the bullshit of couples and all of it, but this song really hits it. I got into it again recently when someone showed me the documentary on YouTube about the making of the soundtrack recording. Elaine Stritch really lives the part, and her first few terrible takes are so actually incredible, Stephen Sondheim himself in the recording booth with his head in his hands, the entire orchestra playing along with her for each take (perfect instrumentation, too), and then she cleans up and nails it. It's so insane. This song is my mom and every drag queen ever.