WARMER MIXTAPES #566 | by Brendan Press of Ekra

1. Bruce Springsteen | I’m On Fire
One of many autumn Sunday excursions my father and I would take. The car smelled like brown leather jackets and mint gum, always nauseous from the smells. This one was probably early-mornin’-cruisin’ on the Taconic. I wasn’t sure what Springsteen was singing about when I was seven, but the music said it all.

2. Kraftwerk | Trans-Europe Express
My mom had this one on vinyl. She used to put it on while cleaning the apartment. As a baby she said I’d hysterically cry every time it went on. It was on often; she thought I was cute when I cried, and she loved to be the sole consoler. Thanks Kraftwerk.

3. Ekra | Sagittarius A
This one is ours, but I felt it needed mention, not just to plug, but because of where we were when it was being recorded. It started out as a fast paced blink-182 jam. We worked on it for months; it was the first song recorded for our debut Moons. With two weeks off from the daily drudge (clerk/waitress positions), early November, we’d start with oatmeal (mixed with banana, Nutella, and cashews) and coffee, watch Melrose Place, and then work twelve hours; it was fun. This one finally fused when we transposed the chords, and changed the lyrics. In the vocal booth (apartment closet) Mrs. Press urged me to sing breathy and sexy. It worked. All these elements made us feel like yes, we’ve got something special here. This song will always be the chisel to the carving ahead.

4. Nine Inch Nails | Head Like A Hole
I’m an only child, and growing up Cousin George was my biggest hero. We lived a few blocks away from each other, so I’d be at his house every chance I got. He was an artist, his true passion sculpting. Inadvertently, he chiseled my creativity into fine form by introducing me to amazing music, and Horror movies, which my mom never lets him live down. She was on Freddy Krueger watch every night I had to tinkle. Cousin George always had Roma Plastilina #3 lying around, and amongst that smell, and a montage of Fangoria clippings on his gray wall, was the first time Pretty Hate Machine graced my ears. I was ten. It was one of those I-can’t-believe-this-exists moments. Perfect Music.

5. Red Hot Chili Peppers | Under The Bridge
My parents sent me to sleepaway camp for two months when I was nine. It was my first time away from home. They wanted me to mingle. It was a terrible experience (no details, sorry). But in one of my weaker moments I tried to fit in, and forced my parents to buy me the cassette single, even though I hated the song. It sounded like music for geriatrics which in my mind translated into an image of Dusty Hill and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top. I’m genuinely sorry to both bands. I ended up begging for the full length, because of the b-side The Righteous & The Wicked. Mom refused to get it, because of the cover. After two months she caved. It was a perfect album; the end of Under The Bridge is beautiful, so yes, I won’t leave it behind.

6. Depeche Mode | Walking In My Shoes
Songs Of Faith And Devotion was the first album I found by my own volition. I saw the video in my grandma’s apartment, didn’t know who performed it, but remembered the line if you try walking in my shoes. With that, my mom and grandma took me to a record store on Kings Highway where surprisingly the (most likely) Russian clerk knew what I was talking about. One of my favorite songs, and definitely a top 10 album in the Press Catalog.

7. The Cranberries | Electric Blue
When I was 15 Cousin George wanted us to start working out together. He felt it was time I rid myself of the fat-80’s-goth-kid visage. He paid for my gym membership, and at 5am every other day, before school, we’d take the R train to Astoria Sports Complex for a quick swim. For some bizarre reason I’ve reserved a specific season for every Cranberries record; it must be the Thoreauvian in me. Bury The Hatchet had just come out, and I dragged Cousin George to see them live. As a kid I would become infatuated with a band after a show, and listen to them endlessly for weeks. In my Spring revisiting, it felt right to bust out To The Faithful Departed. Unfortunately, the memory that sticks out most when listening to this song is going swimming, and George’s friend Gonz persuading me to see a gastroenterologist. He was convinced the smell coming from the bathroom was from me, and not the lifeguard--a fat, silver-chest haired Russian in a red Speedo.

8. Type O Negative | Machine Screw
Another one of those Cousin George bands. I remember the day he bought Bloody Kisses. Somewhere between adolescent libido and shock value, the cover projected. Something told me I had to own it. My mom, scared that I couldn’t tend to myself, still enlisted Lilia (a middle-aged Russian woman with a gold tooth, and a heart full of the same element) to watch me. With early Christmas money in hand, we marched to Numbers (the mom and pop record store in Jackson Heights) and picked up a copy. Back home we started decorating the tree while listening. Lesbians moaning, complete awkwardness. It took me into the middle of Christian Woman to muster the guts to apologize. Her reply, eh, no problem; it happens.

9. Madonna | Did You Do It?
I look back and cringe a lot. Throwing a fit at Tower Records next to the Erotica display case, because my parents said I was too young to own it was one of those moments. The real reason was that it was wrapped and waiting in the closet for Christmas morning. It was my first CD. This song is a winter trip to Hershey’s with my parents, and paternal grandmother. At some point we got lost; the three started hysterically fighting. We stopped in what I remember was a tundra, snow and ice for miles. I tried to block out the screams with this song, pretending I was the rapper performing on stage. What a sap. Hey, I was nine. I didn’t know what the song was about, but it made me awkward. My first foray into the world of Sex. Thanks Madonna. Never doubt that you can learn something from Pop Music. Just listen to Where Life Begins.

10. Skinny Puppy | Cult
Every band has at least one good song. 1:23 to the end is Perfection, those, yes, they went there moments. Cult always take me back to my freshman year in highschool, specifically Orientation, and that first month. It was Indian Summer. I remember walking home in a buttoned white collar shirt and a Navy blue, Martini olives print tie. No more baby-sitters; there was a sense of Freedom and Maturity wafting through the Humidity. And how do I honor that commitment? I procrastinate my homework assignments, listen to Dirty by Sonic Youth, and watch Suburbia (the Skinny Puppy song appears on the soundtrack) repeatedly. This song always reminds me of that hot, awkward time, when I finally had freedom to be alone with Music. Such a sad beautiful song.