It was a wintry afternoon in 1989 and my roommate Eileen sat on the floor of our off-campus apartment eating a tube of raw Pillsbury chocolate chip dough with a plastic knife. A guy she was indifferent towards, dumped her and left her suddenly heartbroken.
I knew a weekend of sitting around drinking Smirnoff and eating Ramen was in the cards if I didn’t find a way to accelerate the grieving process. My solution was “The Depressing Tape”, an emo-ish collection that started out with the likes of Peter Gabriel (“Red Rain”), Kate Bush (“Don’t Give Up”), and Peter Murphy (“Cuts You Up”) to get the cry out, but ended with Paula Abdul’s “Cold Hearted Snake” to switch Eileen into revenge mode.
My my hope was that a kick in the ass from Paula would lift her out of the mopes and onto the dance floor at Riddles, the local club with a smoke machine and bouncer who overlooked our crummy fake IDs.
Eight years later we would be in my tiny NYC apartment, getting ready for my bachelorette party and fantasizing about the Sex in the City Night we were sure was waiting for us. “The Depressing Tape 17”, blasted with a heavy rotation of Air, Thievery Corporation and Zero 7 creating the loungy, cool, down-tempo mood we wanted to follow us around that night.
Since then, over 32 “The Depressing Tapes” (now iTunes playlists) have been made and passed from girlfriend to girlfriend for just about any girly occasion. My “Depressing Tape” playlist has gotten me thru both the big and small experiences of being a girl. From my daily walk to work, to post-partum depression and chemotherapy.
The thing is, the “Depressing Tape” series isn’t actually depressing at all, it just has a moody, melodic, laid back vibe, that women (and gay men) dig. Straight men on the other hand, get a look on their face like they have a hair in their throat and eventually ask “what are we listening too”. Maybe it’s the moody thing.
According to Pandora, the musical recipe for what I consider the perfect Girl Jamzz includes the following:
“Four-on-the-floor beats, headnodic beats, extensive vamping and use of vocal samples and groove based, downtempo electronica with elements of dub step. All underscored with rhythmic intros and a subtle use of answer call vocal harmony coupled with unsyncopated ensemble rhythms with laid back vocals call. Touches of minor key tonality, repetitive melodic phrasing and use of a string ensemble.”
Wow, 25 years musically summed up in one hard to understand paragraph.
So now, after almost 25 years, I’m rebranding “The Depressing Tape” and just calling it what it is; Girl Jamzz.
Onto the music with one word of caution; this mix is sublime when listening. Most of the videos, however are terrible (looking at you Empire of the Sun boys) so just shut your eyes and plug-in.
1) The Xx, “Nighttime”. Bear with me, there’s no video just a still slate, but this song is so perfect for being moody I can’t take it. I had to share.
2) Tegan and Sara, “Walking With A Ghost”. The ultimate break-up song. Tegan and Sara, where were you when I was 16? And I love your homemade video. It at least has an idea.
3) Lana del Rey, “Born to Die”. I don’t know any man who loves her music as much as women do, but Lizzie you rock my world.
4) Shawn Lee’s Ping Ping Orchestra, “Kiss The Sky”. Total chick music.
5) Radiohead, “Reckoner”. Still nice and moody, but it’s got a little edge to it.
6) Pretty Lights, “Finally Moving”. I’m not sure this is even a real band, and you’ll recall this is just a super slow riff on that Taio Cruz song “I’ve Got A Good Feeling”. I don’t care, it works for me.
7) Florence and The Machine, “What the Water Gave Me” Probably the most talented singer, songwriter that exists today. She reminds my of a giant red headed fairy that casts good spells.
8) Nero, “Promises (Skrillex Remix)”. Nero’s original song is typical synth pop, but when Skrillexed, it has a nice angry edge that provides a much better alternative to “Cold Hearted Snake”
9) Empire of the Sun, “Walking on A Dream” It’s hard to believe a song this delicious is supported by a video this bad. Turn off the sound, and just ask yourself if you’re watching a trailer for The Hangover 3 Meets Ab Fab. Or maybe they’re secretly the mental cousins of Wham!
10) Smashproof and Gin Wigmore, “Brother”. I feel bad even sharing this video because it’s tough to download in the US. I stumbled upon them in New Zealand a few years ago and fell in love with the story and Gin Wigmore. This is probably the most unisex of the all the songs, but I couldn’t resist.
11) Nightmares on Wax. This instrumental group has a slew of sexy, loungy tracks and are worth checking out beyond this post, especially if you like jazz. If I had a personal soundtrack to follow me around, this would be it. Imagine what entering a meeting would be like?
12) The XX, Islands. Again, with the video. How does a band this talented get stuck with what looks like the cast of Glee grapevining in the background?
13) Miike Snow, Black and Blue
14) Calvin Harris, Feels So Close
15) Bruno Mars Locked Out of Heaven. And now, something to bring us back to life with this little ditty that reminds me of the old Police. This is one video worth watching if only for Bruno’s way with a Fedora and shades. It’s an earworm though. You’ve been warned.
What would be on your Girl Jamzz playlist?
- Tegan and Sara: Low-Maintenance Fashion Mullets (bellasugar.com)
- Tegan and Sara are not your heroes, but they have a new song for you anyway (o.canada.com)