Originally published August 6, 2009 on 710 ESPN.
Here’s a recap of the first 8. Check out Part 1 for the the details on these:
1. Smog – “Dress Sexy at My Funeral”
2. Pavement – “Heaven Is a Truck”
3. They Might Be Giants – “Dead”
4. Richard Buckner – “4 AM”
5. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – “Death to Everyone”
6. The Pixies – “In Heaven”
7. Ween – “Buenos Tardes Amigo”
8. The Thermals – “You Dissolve”
9. For Stars – “If I Could”
This is a strange choice, really, as this song was played at the culmination of my wedding ceremony. And yet, seeing as how that didn’t work out either, it seems appropriate for my funeral, as well. This is a love song, but again seems like a solid choice, as the title alone is meant to be an homage of sorts to all of the folks in attendance. Well, that’s assuming anyone even bothers showing up. But with lyrics such as “If I could / I would free your heart from pain / That’s what I’d do / Cause I love you,” this track is meant to be cathartic, at least in this instance. Let go, people. I’m fine.
10. Songs: Ohia – “Hold On Magnolia”
First of all, let me point out that this song comes from an absolutely dynamite album, Magnolia Electric Co. Don’t be confused; Songs: Ohia would later change its moniker to Magnolia Electric Co. following the release of this record. Yeah, okay. Be confused. Interestingly enough, the opening track on this record is an opus entitled “Farewell Transmission,” which perhaps might seem more appropriate. Still, album closer “Hold On Magnolia” is an absolute tearjerker, and to not include it would be criminal. I still think of driving from Chicago to Harrisburg, PA, and pulling into my hometown right around midnight with this song blaring from my car stereo. Kind of on the nose, really, as the song opens with “Hold on magnolia to that great highway moon.” This song is about acceptance; it’s one man coming to terms with his own mortality: “You might be holding the last light I see / Before the dark finally gets a hold of me.” What’s more, I can’t hear this song without thinking of Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” Miles to go before I sleep, friends.
11. The Flaming Lips – “Waitin’ For a Superman”
Here’s another fantastic track that recalls my beloved two years in Chicago. From the still vastly underrated The Soft Bulletin, “Waitin’ For a Superman” (which appears twice on the album, the second time as the album closer), Wayne Coyne and friends convey that there are some things too much for even Superman to bear: “Tell everybody / Waitin’ for Superman / That they should try to hold on / Best they can / He hasn’t dropped them / Forgot them / Or anything / It’s just too heavy for Superman to lift.” And yet despite the realization that this should be a heartbreaking notion, the song is somehow uplifting. The Soft Bulletin is a concept album — it’s the soundtrack to its own film. Superman, here, functions not only as the commonly understood of the Superman character, not to mention the Jungian concept of the Superman within our collective unconscious, but, well, as God. Sometimes we just need to do our best and realize there’s not always a bailout. Some things are just too heavy for “Superman” to lift. (Bonus: here’s a nice YouTube cover by someone who goes by “thebrooke.”)
12. Neutral Milk Hotel – “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”
Any funeral playlist of mine would be a sham without some contribution from Neutral Milk Hotel, whose album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea remains my favorite of all time. (I’ll not get into it here, but let’s just say the record serves as a tribute to Anne Frank. What’s more, I’ve “taught” the record to coincide with various essays in several college-level Composition classes. I’m a total nerd for it.) While the record is somewhat “down” on the whole, there is so much hope in this song that to not have it played at my final day in the sun would seem an insult. The song embraces the inevitable, and yet focuses instead on the here and now: “And one day we will die / And our ashes will fly from the aeroplane over the sea / But for now we are young / Let us lay in the sun / And count every beautiful thing we can see.” Let this, then, serve as a direct order to my countless admirers in the seats this day.
13. The Beatles – “The End/Her Majesty”
If you knew me at all during my middle school and high school years, you knew that I was an obsessive fan of The Beatles. My bedroom was literally covered in posters and images torn from magazines and books of these Liverpudlians. I knew Beatles trivia the way some people (ahem, Cousin Dave) knew sports. (For instance, did you know the original working title of “Yesterday” was “Scrambled Eggs”? Yeah, I’d say they made the right choice on that one.) To this day I still internally debate as to which is my favorite Beatles album, Abbey Road or their self-titled release, what’s come to be known as The White Album. Either way, I contend that side 2 of Abbey Road may be the greatest stretch of recorded music ever, as the whole side functions as one long jam. It’s impressive, really. And it’s also why I’m including these two tracks as one. I mean, yes, there are a few seconds of silence between the songs, but “Her Majesty” is so stinkin’ interesting because it’s an afterthought of sorts. I mean, it sounds so out of place on this record, as if tacked on after the fact, and yet it works perfectly. There is great irony in ending a record not on the track called “The End,” but on an extra song that might sound like a modern day “hidden track.” As far as “The End” goes, there’s maybe no truer or simpler lyrics then the final lines of the song: “And in the end / the love you take / is equal to the love you make.”
14. Elvis Costello and the Attractions – “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding)”
Sure, maybe an obvious pick, but Elvis Costello remains, in my mind, perhaps the greatest songwriter of all time. I mean, how many musicians were able to write as many catchy hooks and as many great lyrics as the horn-rimmed wonder boy? As the ultimate cynic, I rarely find solace in external mediums of hope. And yet there’s no denying the energy of this song, nor the inspiration of the lyrics. Here Costello looks at “this wicked world” and asks, “Is all hope lost? / Is there only pain and hatred and misery?” Immediately, then, he answers his own question, singing, “And each time I feel this way inside / there’s one thing I want to know: / What’s so funny ’bout peace, love and understanding?” In other words, what’s wrong with abandoning our cynicism and instead embracing hope, however abstract it might be? I guess that’s why this song makes so much sense to me on this list, which might be the ultimate post about cynicism. I mean, who creates a playlist for his own funeral?
15. Do Make Say Think – “Soul and Onward”
Don’t know who Do Make Say Think are? It’s a shame. I’ve been singing their praises for the past decade. This instrumental, post-rock, Canadian outfit writes “cinematic” music, so to speak. That is, music that creates a visual “story” in the mind of the listener. “Soul and Onward,” from what I consider their crowning achievement & Yet & Yet, has to be the final song played at my funeral. Again, with a title so on the nose and a song that’s equal parts moving and upbeat, I guess it’s what I’d like to be finally remembered by: ironically, without words. Weird, too, that a writer wouldn’t want words to encapsulate him, but again, I suppose that’s the power of DMST’s music, in that I’d prefer the imagery to create the words in the minds of those paying their last respects.
So, was this an exercise in the macabre? An exercise in self-indulgence? A trip down (post-)memory lane? A poor excuse to expose more of you to some of my favorite bands? Sure, it’s all those things. Either way, I’d advise you to start thinking about your own funeral playlists, lest you forever be remembered by Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven.”
Until next time, have at it, you vultures!