I Have A Weird Hobby

Having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder my whole life has led to some strange interests and fascinations. For one thing, I’m one of the few fantasy role-playing game enthusiasts who actively loves level grinding for hours on end. It’s a great way to relax, let out stress, and concentrate on listening to audiobooks, podcasts or music, while doing the same monotonous task for hours and growing my characters.

Over the years my collection of music has grown from a few CDs to a massive iTunes library of 50+ GB of music. Much of it is legitimately purchased, and much of it has been torrented, although I do make an effort to still support the artists I like, and buy physical copies of albums I love.

Since I have so much music, one of my favorite activities, apart from keeping it all meticulously organized (and it is: my library is organized alphabetically by artist, then chronologically by release date, and I have several B-Sides collections for artists like Tori Amos, organized by era, and I try to always have high quality album artwork, as well as properly formatted song and album titles), is making playlists. My enjoyment of making playlists has led to a strange new hobby: creating fake Greatest Hits albums.

There are some incredible musicians whose catalogue is not exactly newcomer-friendly. Case in point: Tori Amos. When I discovered Tori, she had at the time released 11 studio albums, along with various collections and EPs, and I had no idea where to begin. I started with her own greatest hits collection Tales of a Librarian, but it turned out to be a pretty terrible collection for a newcomer, and then got her box set A Piano: The Collection, but that was 86 tracks long so it wasn’t exactly easy to digest. I ended up just going through albums as I chose, mixing in new Tori with old Tori, but there’s never been a Tori collection that I feel really encapsulates her entire career and gives newcomers a good place to start.

Kate Bush is an even more difficult situation, because she has only one small greatest hits collection, and it’s from halfway through her career, with only a few of her best songs on it, plus the audio quality is pretty bad because it’s never been properly remastered. Her box set This Woman’s Work contains almost all of her albums, plus B-Sides, but that’s not a very place to begin either.

So, I’ve had a lot of fun organizing playlists to create fake Greatest Hits albums for artists I like. Sometimes I keep them in playlists, and sometimes, like recently, I actually create disc-length mixes and give them their own album in my library. I’ve had so much fun creating these that I decided to share them with you, and hey, if you’re a newcomer to these artists, you can feel free to use these as a place to begin!

As it happens, I kept them all within standard CD length, so they should all be mixes you could burn to a physical CD if you like.

The Essential Tori Amos

I based this collection on “the essential” album series. You’ve probably seen them in Wal-Mart or other stores before: they always have a black and white cover, with white and red font, and usually contain two discs, spanning an artists entire career, in chronological order. If you’re unfamiliar, take a look at The Essential Heart, The Essential Sarah McLachlan, the Essential Sade, or something like that, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. I actually really love this image of Tori, it’s from The Beekeeper era tour book, and it was used as the album art for A Piano The Collection’s bonus DVD, but I think it works perfectly for something like this. I also looked up the actual font used on the cover of “the essential” series and used it on this photo, so I think it actually came out looking pretty official. The selections span Tori’s entire career, mostly important singles or landmark songs, although there wasn’t room to include any B-Sides because of the limitations on length, but I think that for a 2 disc collection of an artist who’s released 15+ albums, I did a pretty good job. Track listing is below.

Disc 1

1 Precious Things
2 Crucify (Unedited Single Version)
3 Silent All These Years
4 Winter
5 Pretty Good Year
6 God
7 Past The Mission
8 Cornflake Girl
9 Talula (The Tornado Mix)
10 Hey Jupiter (The Dakota Version)
11 Mr. Zebra
12 Caught A Lite Sneeze
13 Spark
14 Raspberry Swirl
15 Jackie’s Strength
16 Playboy Mommy
17 Bliss
18 Concertina
19 1000 Oceans

Disc 2

1 A Sorta Fairytale
2 Taxi Ride
3 Gold Dust
4 Angels
5 Snow Cherries From France
6 Sleeps With Butterflies
7 Sweet The Sting
8 Marys Of The Sea
9 Big Wheel
10 Bouncing Off Clouds
11 Welcome To England
12 Maybe California
13 Star of Wonder
14 Pink and Glitter
15 Carry
16 Flavor
17 Programmable Soda
18 Trouble’s Lament
19 Invisible Boy

 

American Doll Posse EP’s

Tori’s ninth album American Doll Posse is told from the point of view of five personas, representing different elements of the divine feminine, and utilizing goddesses from the Greek pantheon. The album is great but suffers from being a little too long, simply because of the album’s variety. Tori herself commented on it “Either I was making five seperate albums, or I was speaking with different voices.” So these fives voices are all jammed together as tightly as the one hour and twenty minutes a CD will allow, meaning that the album is more than a little cluttered. Although I think it still came out fine, the final album is 23 tracks long, which is pretty staggering. There are also three bonus tracks available on different versions of the album. I thought it might be fun to separate the songs into 5 individual extended plays based on the Posse personas. Even though I like the album the way it is, I can imagine the excitement fans would have felt as she released the five EP’s in sequence, each one about five tracks long, with fans devouring the songs, comparing the EP’s, discussing the themes present in them, and wondering what would come next. I created my five Doll EP’s just as a fun little project, and then actually made some album art for them too. By the way, Tori’s EP begins with an Isabel song, which I chose to do because I think it’s a good opener, and Isabel already has another “interlude song.” Clyde is the only one who didn’t get a brief opening song.

 

Tori (EP)

1 Yo George
2 Big Wheel
3 Digital Ghost
4 Father’s Son
5 Code Red
6 Posse Bonus

Clyde (EP)

1 Bouncing Off Clouds
2 Girl Disappearing
3 Roosterspur Bridge
4 Beauty of Speed
5 Miracle

Pip (EP)

1 Velvet Revolution
2 Body and Soul
3 Fat Slut
4 Teenage Hustling
5 Smokey Joe

Isabel (EP)

1 Devils and Gods
2 Mr. Bad Man
3 Drive All Night
4 Almost Rosey
5 Dark Side of the Sun

Santa (EP)

1 Programmable Soda
2 You Can Bring Your Dog
3 Secret Spell
4 My Posse Can Do
5 Dragon

The Essential Kate Bush

You really can’t be a fan of Tori Amos without hearing Kate Bush’s name bandied about. There is an unfortunate tendency in music reporting to compare EVERY female singer-songwriter (particularly the quirky eccentric ones) to Kate Bush, and to a lesser extent, Tori Amos herself. The way in which I first heard of Tori Amos was through reviews of Evanescence’s albums comparing Amy Lee to Tori Amos (the only real connection between them is that they’re women who play piano and sing, sometimes about dark and gritty subject matter). Then, when I got into Tori, I couldn’t read an interview or review of her music without hearing about Kate Bush. As it happens, despite this weird tendency in music journalism to compare every woman to the same two women who came before them (as though there can be only one weird alternate female singer-songwriter), as opposed to men who do NOT all find themselves being compared to David Bowie or Prince, it is for the best that I learned about these two women, as their music is not something that should be missed.

Kate Bush’s catalogue, like Tori’s, doesn’t offer a lot of easy entry for newcomers. You can ask around and you’ll probably hear that the best place to begin is Hounds of Love, as it’s sort of the midpoint of her career, combining the quirky weirdness of her first three albums with the pop sensibility and melodic hooks of the next three. I decided to try and put together a two-disc Essential Kate Bush, and I’m pretty proud of it. A lot of things had to be left out (I struggled over how and whether to include Un Biser D’enfant, Army Dreamers, and Hounds of Love), and the latter half of her career is difficult to represent because most of her newer work is very lengthy. As a consequence, disc 2 is a lot shorter and spans less material, but overall I’m pretty happy with how it came out, even though I had to leave out a couple of her duets and most of her soundtrack songs (I included Lyra though, because it’s never been included on any of her official collections, due to coming out after the release of her box set.

Disc 1

1 Moving
2 Wuthering Heights
3 Them Heavy People
4 The Man With The Child In His Eyes
5 Hammer Horror
6 Wow
7 Symphony In Blue
8 Breathing
9 Babooshka
10 Army Dreamers
11 December Will Be Magic Again
12 Sat In Your Lap
13 The Dreaming
14 There Goes A Tenner
15 Suspended In Gaffa
16 Ne T’enfuis Pas
17 Night of the Swallow
18 Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)
19 Cloudbusting
20 Hounds Of Love

Disc 2

1 Wuthering Heights (New Vocal)
2 Experiment IV
3 Be Kind To My Mistakes
4 The Sensual World
5 This Woman’s Work
6 Deeper Understanding
7 Love And Anger
8 Rubberband Girl
9 The Red Shoes
10 Eat The Music
11 And So Is Love
12 King of the Mountain
13 Aerial
14 Lyra
15 Flower of the Mountain
16 Wild Man
17 And Dream Of Sheep

That’s all for now! I’ve got a lot of exciting stuff I’m planning to write and post about soon, so I hope to have more to tell you all soon about life, projects, and what I’m up to. Happy listening!

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#110: I’m Terrible At Beginnings

Stephanie Pui Mun Law Garden

(Notes from the FUTURE: The numbering system on my blog has been weird forever. I didn’t initially number my blog entries, then at some point I briefly started numbering my poetry posts but then I stopped. When I started a seperate blog that was intended to be more of a journal [and which was ultimately moved here] on Livejournal, I numbered the posts, and I really enjoyed doing that. My plan here was to start a new series of blogs where I numbered each entry, ideally writing every day. It didn’t work out that way. I can’t say what the numbering system looks like now if it does exist anymore, but originally this post was titled “#1: I’m Terrible At Beginnings.” – 4/19/2016)

It applies to every part of my life: I suck at beginnings. When I write, I start in the middle of a scene, almost always in the middle of a story. In a relationship, I’m terrible in the beginning: I overthink things, I scrutinize, I make things harder, I cry, I have anxiety attacks, I panic. Beginnings are difficult for me, and that’s why this post has taken me about five weeks.

Yep, five weeks. Maybe give or take a week or two. It’s a simple idea: write every day. And if you miss a day that’s fine, but number the posts, and then it’s an ongoing project. And you can write about what’s on your mind.

Every day, I want to write about something. I want to write about my day, about what I’m thinking about, what I’m listening to, what I’m reading, what I’m afraid of. So many things. But I never start, because I don’t want to write the FIRST one. The one where I begin, and explain what needs to be explained, and talk about how I’ve had this blog for six years but have hardly really written actual journal entries about my life, my thoughts. It’s because whenever I do, I usually write a really lengthy and well thought out post, and then I hold myself to that standard in the future, and I’m afraid to write something small, because it won’t be as good as the previous post. It won’t be an “article.” It won’t be good enough.

And that’s why I’m taking this time to just start the damn thing. Sometimes my writing is good, sometimes it’s fluid and I use a lot of fun words and it reads well, and I’m proud of it. And sometimes it’s pulled right out of my head from that moment, and I’m still proud of that too. The point is I want to create something. My phone and my notebooks are filled with ideas for blog entries. I want to write about musicians I love, I want to write about discovering music and books and art, I want to write about my opinions, I want to write about things that scare me, I want to write about my own WRITING, the novel I’ve been trying to bring into the world for years. I want to write about my life. About how EVERYTHING has changed.

I want to write about how I came close to suicide. I want to write about how sometimes I still find myself on the ledge. I want to write about mental health, about my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and how it’s affected my life, I want to write about my anxiety. I want to tell my story.

But there’s just SO much to tell. And I never know where to begin. I thought about beginning these journals with entry #2, just so that I don’t ever have to write the first one, and if I want, I can retroactively add in the first one. I’m terrible at STARTING projects. As it happens I’m also not great at finishing them. But in the middle, I’m great at that part! I want to write what’s in my head as it happens. If I write down an idea for a blog post, I’ll come back to it three days later and think “I don’t really want to write about that anymore.”

I have so much to say. The thing about dying that scares me the most is that I’ll leave the world without ever having said all the things I want to say, or playing the songs in my heart, or writing the stories in my head (maybe they should be coming more from my heart than my head, maybe that’s the problem, maybe I’ve made a breakthrough, I don’t know).

I know this reads disjointed, or at least I think it reads that way, I don’t know because I’m not reading it, I’m writing it. I’m feeling a little like Delirium right now (and by extension, maybe a little like Tori Amos? I don’t know, I haven’t met her. I’ve met her in music, though).

I want to talk about everything. I want to say everything. What I want more than anything is to tell the truth.

The beginning of this blog is a little hard to read, if I go back and look at those entries from six years ago, when I was twenty, and when I was terrified, and when I was desperately trying to be positive. It feels so fake now, reading it, but I know that my attempt to be positive helped me then. I ended every entry by blessing the reader, by being positive, even though I was in a very stale, very negative, very terrible place. I was plagued by guilt, and lies, and hatred, and love too. I hated and loved someone very much. And I hated and loved myself very much. Now I’m in a place where I can be honest with myself. I recognize dishonesty in myself when it happens, and usually I do my best to stop it.

I try to tell the truth. That’s important to me. Some people lie until their lie becomes truth. I just tell the truth. Sometimes the truth is horrifying, or… breaking. I can’t say heartbreaking because it’s not just that. It’s not just heartbreaking or mindbreaking, it’s breaking. The truth can break. That sentence can mean a few things. Or maybe just two, I’m not sure, but I know that I’m still very broken. I will probably always be shattered, and that’s fine, I want to be authentically who I am, and if who I am is shattered, then cool.

There’s a lot to say. I’m shattered. My thoughts are in many places and go in many directions. But I want them to live, and to be expressed. I want to get them all out of me, so they can live. I want to give birth to my ideas. I want to create.

So, this is the first one. Unapologetically, the first one.

I’m starting. There aren’t any rules. I don’t have to write every day. I don’t have to stick to a schedule. But I’m writing now, and that’s that.

I made it through the beginning.

Now we can keep going.

smilingannie

Little Brother

Sneak into the closet to get our presets
Take a break for story time
Let’s take a walk through the woods at night
Tell me your name and I’ll tell you mine
You are the happiest time of my life
You are the happiest I’ve ever been
I’m so guilty that I can’t sit still
I wanted to tell you I’m sorry for looking
Tell you I’m sorry for lying
A little is enough for me
Two days of the week is enough for me
There is a picture of you on my wall
I’ll borrow this and you can borrow this
Hours that go by as moments in time with you
Believing anything that brings me nearer to you
I’m swelling when you’re nearby
You understand me so well

Why does it feel like we’re growing apart
When once you understood my thoughts
I’ll draw you this symbol if you’ll show me that picture
I’ve been saving snapshots of you in my heart for all these years
All love is a shadow of the first
All those who came after you are pale imitations of what you gave me
I never even pressed my lips to yours until after it was over
Saying your name over and over
You pulled me out of the wet desert my world
Your wet grass and morning gray
Work with me and play again
I watched your heart breaking
I wouldn’t take advantage

I said you were my brother
I wanted you to be my lover
We were in love
I think I’m seeing that now
I think you were in love with me too
Were you?
You asked me, “what about us?”
I never thought you knew there was an us