Seeing as my birthday’s rapidly approaching, and this is usually the time of year when I reflect back on the past 365 days (January 1st ain’t got nothin’ on my birfday), I thought I would share a Sarah-specific playlist to honor the occasion. I’m always making birthday playlists for my loved ones, so why not make one for myself, eh?

Because I have a fairly extensive music library and my “favorites” are always changing, I’ll use my star system (yes, I’m one of the dorks that uses that iTunes feature) to pick a list of my faves–current and from the past year. Enjoy, and happy birthday to me!

1.  Heartbeats — Jose Gonzalez

2.  Could’ve Had Me — Lex Land

3.  Fistful of Love — Antony & The Johnsons

4.  Dead & Lovely — Tom Waits

5.  Sea Song — Lisa Hannigan (her whole album is freaking awesome…I had a hard time choosing just one)

6.  If It Be Your Will — written by Leonard Cohen, performed by the Webb Sisters on his album, “Live in London” (holy god, can these gals sing…also, I’ve just always loved this song, sung by pretty much anyone)

7.  Almost Lover — A Fine Frenzy

8.  Use Somebody — Kings of Leon

9.  Please Do Not Let Me Go — Ryan Adams

10.  The Mariner’s Revenge Song — The Decemberists

11.  The Fear You Won’t Fall — Joshua Radin

12.  Grapevine Fires — Death Cab For Cutie


I LOVE Latin music–flamenco, salsa, rumba–you name it, the stuff gets me wigglin’. I was a well-versed flamenco dancer during my high school years (and have sadly, over time, lost most of my best foot stompin’, skirt swirlin’ moves), and have learned the basics of salsa dancing (but would still embarrass myself on a dance floor with native salsa dancers), and my recent trip to Mexico inspired me to compile a playlist of some of my favorite south-of-the-border dance inspiring tunes. I know, the first two are by no means “Latin,” but they get my hips going, hence their inclusion.

I’m suddenly craving humidity and tequila. Weird…

1.  I’m Yours – Jason Mraz

2.  Heart’s A Mess – Gotye (a damn sexy song…just sayin’)

3.  Ventilaor Rumba – Ojos de Brujo

4.  Tive Razao – Seu Jorge

5.  Joven para la Rumba – Willi Gimenez

6.  Pa’Huele – Eddie Palmieri

7.  Pancha Remolino – Peru Negro

8.  Tamacun – Rodrigo y Gabriela

9.  Si Senor – Control Machete

10.  Son Fo – Africando

11.  Malo – Bebe

A few nights ago, I had a dream that I actually remembered when I woke up the next morning. In the dream I was seated in the first row at a Dave Matthews Band concert.  It wasn’t a large venue–more like a high school gym setup, complete with bleachers.  Anyhoo, at some point, Mr. Matthews himself came right up to me and said into the microphone, “Sarah, come sing with me.” Even in my dream I was afflicted by stage fright, but I couldn’t pass up such an opportunity. I joined Dave and the other players on stage, and they all waited patiently as I decided which song we would sing. I settled on a duet of “9 Crimes,” which isn’t even a DMB song, but that’s besides the point… When I woke up in the morning, I was filled with warm feelings for Dave and his band–a group of musicians I hadn’t actively thought about for a long, long time…

As a youngster, my musical tastes were flailing and questionable, at best.  I came of age without the benefit of ex-hippie parents–many of my friends knew the songs of Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, etc., before we were even weaned off Sesame Street. But no, my parents were Yuppies, and if any music played over the rarely used stereo in our home, it was of the trendy-tip end of disco-pop variety: Donna Summers, Supertramp, Olivia Newton-John, Whitney Houston, etc. Clearly, my parents weren’t the best role models in the music department.

And I was dangerously close to falling prey to a complacent, pop music-fueled life. The New Kids on the Block were the center of my life as a first grader, and I LOVED Color Me Badd (that’s right, two d’s)–“I Wanna Sex You Up” was my 9-year-old anthem…I had no idea what the lyrics meant, and I think that’s why my parents put up with my coordinating, self-choreographed dances and ardent desires to grow up and become a Fly Girl. But looking back, it was certainly cause for concern. So it was other influences–specifically, my grade school chums–who introduced me to “higher” forms of musical expression, most notably of which was the Dave Matthews Band.

I used to LOVE me some Dave. I started listening to DMB in the fifth grade, and I was a loyal fan through high school–I bought every album, memorized the words to every song (including the different vocal intonations in the many live album versions), knew the name, instrument, and abilities of each band member, and in so doing, I unwittingly nurtured my first, official, Big Crush.

10031070Oh, Dave. You’re so talented. I’m not entirely sure what “five-fret-finger-span” means, but you have it, and therefore it must be special. Also, it sounds mildly sexual.  I don’t really have anyone to compare you to, but I KNOW you are an excellent guitar player. You write songs about love and life and war and politics–MAJOR stuff. I want to be the girl you’re talking about in your songs: Jane, little thing, the girl you have a wild, romantic night with and then go back to just being friends, the one you’re bare boned and crazy for, imploring to lift up her skirt a little more…

Oh, did I love him. I don’t necessarily have a “type,” but ever since my introduction to Dave and his band, I’ve had a weakness for men with dark hair and subtly receding hairlines. I even got a charge out of his slightly odd, unabashed mid-guitar solo face.


Dave Matthews was my sexual fantasty before I even knew what sex was. And as if that wasn’t enough reason to count myself as an adoring fan, I loved his music–loved his guitar work, his songwriting, and the skilled accompaniment each of his band members provided.  During high school, when the band would tour each summer, I would make sure to attend at least ONE concert as they made their way through Texas. Dave Matthews Band saved me from my parents’ influences–the path of Yup.  Of course, this isn’t to say that DMB didn’t end up catering to the masses, but my love of their music opened me up to new musical avenues, different genres that I wouldn’t have stumbled upon had I stuck with Whitney Houston and Genesis.

My musical tastes grew and changed, and eventually I outgrew my love of DMB (their sudden turn toward catering to the MTV “Total Request” crowd was the final nail in the coffin). But I retain a nostalgic fondness for Dave and his band, and will be forever grateful for their helpful influence in shedding light on my inborn love of music.

When I was in Las Vegas a couple months ago, I encountered a poster advertising DMB’s upcoming show.  The poster’s picture staged the usual band pose, but the image of Dave’s face shocked me and stopped me in my tracks.


Dude. You’re lookin’ worn out. Please tell me that’s not coke bloat. I know you’re married and have kids now, but Jesus Christ…take a nap or something. I love you. I’m concerned.

My initial horror at Dave’s older, well-used visage slowly gave way to a gentle nostalgia. I may have stopped listening to him and his band several years back, but it’s good to know he keeps keepin’ on; he’s still out there, making music for the confused, wayward children of yuppies and other music-squelchers, opening up a world of live instruments and bonafide musicians, teaching the teenagers that sex appeal has more to do with talent and depth than six pack abs.

My “singing on stage with Dave” dream was the best dream I’ve had in ages. Sad, I know… But it reminded me of a time in my life when my love for music was first ignited, when I picked up a guitar with a “Hey, why not?” attitude instead of the “Yeah, I’ll probably suck at this too” mentality that I’ve acquired over the years. And so later that evening, I played an old, familiar album I haven’t listened to in years, and bobbed along in my living room as Dave and the band rocked out through my stereo speakers.

Oh, Dave. I loved you so.

As a mentioned in an earlier post, several years ago I unknowingly started the tradition of making my mom a mix CD every Mother’s Day. She demands a new one every May, and sometimes in January–feigning forgetfulness to the fact that the CD corresponds to Mother’s Day, not Mother’s Birthday.

My musical selection for each album is not adherent to any particular theme. Aside from trying to steer clear of the death metal and whatnot, I basically just comb my music library for some new (to Mama, anyway) songs and artists she might fancy, with the philosophy of: “if it’s good enough for Mama, it’s good enough for the rest of us.”

1.  “Your Shining Eyes” — Biel Ballester Trio
2.  “Eli, The Barrow Boy” — The Decemberists
3.  “As Much as You Lead” — Lex Land
4.  “I Could Be Nothing” — Great Lake Swimmers
5.  “You Found Me” — The Fray
6.  “Wolf Like Me” — TV on the Radio
7.  “Bottle It Up” — Sara Bareilles
8.  “An Ocean and a Rock” — Lisa Hannigan
9.  “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” — Iron & Wine
10.  “Sweet Pea” — Amos Lee
11.  “Granada” — Emilio de Benito

Mama with her beloved, misbehaving dogs

Mama with her beloved, misbehaving dogs

Susie is my friend Maxine’s older sister. I used to nanny for her son, “Bubs,” and she’s just one of my favorite people in the world. When she mentioned how much she liked the CD I made for Maxine, I knew I had to create a special one for her upcoming birthday. She told me she listens to it over and over in her car, until her two year old son demands, “More Beethoven!” What can I say? The kid’s a musical prodigy.

1. “Your Protector” – Fleet Foxes
2. “Closer” – Kings of Leon
3. “Electric Feel” – MGMT
4. “You Really Got a Hold on Me” – She & Him
5. “M79” – Vampire Weekend
6. “Passing the Hat” – Cold War Kids
7. “Boy with a Coin” – Iron & Wine
8. “Oxford Comma” – Vampire Weekend
9. “Needles” – Lisa Hannigan
10. “Gone to the Dogs” – KT Tunstall
11. “Close Your Eyes” – Jump Little Children
12. “Flume” – Bon Iver
13. “The Great Escape” – Patrick Watson
14. “Falling Awake” – Gary Jules

Among other birthday goodies, I typically create a CD for each friend on his or her birthday. This playlist was created for Maxine, one of my beloved Scorpios, on her last birthday. She liked it so much that she has taken up the habit of demanding MORE, NEW CDs for no good reason.

1. “Bloodstream” – Stateless
2. “Universal Blues” – The Redwalls
3. “We Used To Vacation” – Cold War Kids
4. “Stop” – Joe Henry
5. “Red Morning Light” – Kings of Leon
6. “Somedays” – Regina Spektor
7. “Pachad” – Yael Naim
8. “Somebody Loved” – The Weepies
9. “My Same” – Adele
10. “Chelsea Hotel No. 2” – Rufus Wainwright

I’m not trying to toot my own horn or anything, but it’s been pointed out by more than a couple of my friends that I make a mean mix CD. I have a fairly ecclectic collection of music, and when I make a CD for a friend, I try and tailor it specifically to what I think he or she would like, and I arrange the playlists in very specific ways. What can I say? It’s just another one of my unique, useless (at least in terms of money-making) talents.

So among other things, I’m going to use this space to share the occasional Sarah-generated playlist for those of you who feel like making your OWN CDs. Happy listening!

(And don’t forget to download/share your music responsibly!)