compiled by Brandon Stosuy

CD enclosed with the June/July 2007 print issue

  1. Deerhunter, “Hazel St.”
  2. No Age, “Everybody’s Down”
  3. Oxford Collapse, “Please Visit Your National Parks”
  4. Sufjan Stevens, “In the Words of the Governor”
  5. I’m From Barcelona, “The Painter”
  6. Aesop Rock, “The Next Big Thing”
  7. Reykjavík!, “Rex”
  8. YACHT, “I Believe In You”
  9. The Twilight Sad, “Watching That Chair Painted Yellow”
  10. Of Montreal, “Du Og Meg”
  11. Page France, “Without a Diamond Ring”
  12. Clogs, “I Used To Do”
  13. The Blow, “Parentheses” (Rory Phillips Remix)
  14. Bill Fox, “My Baby Crying”
  15. Explosions In The Sky, “The Long Spring”
  16. Magik Markers, “Body Rot” (the no nude mix)
  17. The Drones, “I Don’t Ever Want To Change”
  18. Zach Condon, “Venice”
  19. Lightning Bolt, “Deceiver”
  20. Grizzly Bear, “Easier” (Alternate)”

Each year the Believer staff convenes to choose a theme for the annual Music Issue CD. In the past we’ve asked bands to cover other bands; last year the focus was lo-fi, or spontaneous recording techniques. We’ve yet to make a CD about “love.”

This past November, sitting around a banquet table in Franz Josef Land, after days of thematic brainstorming (lullabies? tributes to food? a homage to the works of Slavoj Žižek?), one decaffeinated copy editor (“the new guy”) made a suggestion: “The Believer CD should be composed of eight a.m. music/breakfast-substitute jams, like that commercial from a while back with the guy who gets out of bed over and over again while ELO plays over his morning routine. You should tell all of the bands to write/contribute songs worth listening to within three minutes of waking up.”

We packed up the toboggan, said goodbye to the friendly walrus we’d met, and flew home. Not because we agreed with the new guy (he was fired), but because his suggestion inspired us to ditch the idea of “themes” entirely. We decided instead to assemble a collection of songs strung together by a subtler geometry. Maybe it was too much to ask, but we hoped the music would congeal and, inadvertently, if not exactly thematically, amount to something.

The formula for a truly excellent mix, especially one lacking an overtly stated theme, isn’t easy to diagram. In order to get the balance right we had to leave our neighborhoods, harnessing sounds from various locales—Iceland, Sweden, Scotland, Australia, and Maryland. Norway isn’t represented, but the Of Montreal track, “Du Og Meg,” is about a girl from Oslo, and we’re guessing (dictionary in hand) that the title’s even written in Norwegian. The contemporary isn’t always the best place to be, so we went as far back as 1998 for one lovely, melancholic folk song and plopped in a favorite Sub Pop anthem from 2006. At times preexisting songs (even B-sides, remixes, and other rarities) didn’t work, gaps remained, so we mustered gumption and asked folks to record music especially for us. Sufjan Stevens, Lightning Bolt, and Zach Condon responded to site-specific queries, taking our instructions and running in very different directions.

Still unsure what to do with a CD that lacks a theme? These twenty tracks have been calibrated to function as a soundtrack for driving along that proverbial endless highway with the top down… or halfway down, or not down at all, or walking, or on the subway. These twenty songs won’t work as a soundtrack for anyone riding on a Segway.

We should mention that even in early November, in Franz Josef Land, we kept the date of this issue’s release in mind: These are summer songs, songs to be enjoyed in the summer. Though, of course, it’s always summer somewhere.

NOTE: there are more horns than usual on this compilation.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Brandon Stosuy

Brandon Stosuy, a staff writer and columnist at Pitchfork and columnist at Stereogum, contributes art, book, and music criticism to various publications. Up Is Up, But So Is Down, his anthology of downtown New York literature, was a 2006 Village Voice book of the year.

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