The sun sets on yet another glorious summer. 

Since several people (Okay, one) have asked me about my birthday playlist that I mentioned in Happy Friday last week, I thought I’d give you a rundown of the songs I chose to celebrate my birthday. Plus, it’s been a while since we’ve had a playlist article, so it just feels about time. As we approach Labor Day, that means summer’s coming to an end, but that also means there’s time for one last chance to hang out on the patio with a beer, some good friends, the setting summer sun, and a handful of good time summer music. I just so happen to have a list of songs you should play prepared, so come on in… or out, as the case may be.

As I stated Friday, I’ve created a song mix for my birthday the last three years. Two years ago, I was living in my first apartment alone, had recently bid adieu to a shitty job I hated, and began to fully appreciate life in the city. That mix was filled with nothing but happy, upbeat tunes that I put together one night during the week before my birthday drunk in my home office smoking cigarettes, lord of the manor. Fuckin’ fantastic.

Last year, the mix sucked big ol’ fat dick as I hadn’t come across any new music in forever and tried to shoehorn songs from my past into just a terribly awkward mix that I discarded a week after making it. As the kids these days say, epic fail.

This year is without a doubt the biggest year in my young life, and I’m oddly introspective about it. As I type this, I’m sitting in my new home that I actually purchased. I’m less than 6 weeks away from marrying Lady E, and CJS recently passed 5,000 unique readers a week (Thanks, everyone!). And yet, with all the intense joy I feel as a result of these accomplishments, this mix doesn’t have the ebullient energy of the one two years ago. Why? Because planning a wedding, buying a home (along with all the exhausting moving), and maintaining daily updates on a growing website is fucking tiring. I’m a little more measured in my joy simply because I need to conserve my energy. Mix in a tinge of frustration with a day job that continues to lose its once brilliant luster, and you’ve got an undeniably upbeat mix that’s just a bit reserved.

That’s enough background. Grab yourself a beer, prepare the stereo, and let’s crank some fucking jams. Summer’s almost over, but the weather is still incredible. Life on the patio exists for us only a couple more weeks, and then it retires to its winter slumber. Let’s make the most of it.

1. Rancid – Maxwell Murder

Dial 999 if you really want the truth

When I first made the mix, I actually made it in reverse of the way you see it here. As a veteran of more than 30 or so mixes, this has never happened and I had no idea I could make one Memento-style. The reason that happened was because of this song. Ever since seeing Rancid at Red Rocks, this song has been like crack and I wanted to put it on here somewhere, but it just didn’t fit aesthetically anywhere except the end. So I decided to flip the order, and it fits even better at the beginning. Go figure.

Anyway, I said to Hart the other day that Rancid songs give punk bassists a reason to live, and this song demonstrates that beautifully. The whole bridge section features awesome bass work sandwiched by trademark Rancid vocals and furious energy. When you kick off a record, let ‘em know you’re there. This song doesn’t open the door, it kicks the sumbitch in.

2. Rise Against – Like the Angel

This is actually Lady E’s ringtone on my phone and I was shocked to discover it didn’t appear on any of my other mixes. Even though this song is about five years old (possibly more), it fits one of my favorite genres and thus, needed to be included. “Like the Angel” is a love song that doesn’t behave like a love song. Love isn’t always mushy pillow talk, sometimes it’s an anthemic chorus backed by thunderous drums and a squealing guitars. Love often gets a bad rap as a pussy emotion, but this song kicks that notion to the curb and basically belts out “I fucking love you!” with a passion all love songs could aspire to attain.

3. Tom Petty – American Girl

When I was 16, I spent my entire summer listening to Tom Petty and not much else. And why not? It’s perfect summer music, and this song (with the possible exception of “Free Fallin”) is the best one to roll down the windows of your car to, and cruise with the wind in your hair and a smile on your face. If you dislike this song, you may not be American. Check your legal documents.

4. Jace Everett – Bad Things

Some of you may recognize this as the theme song to “True Blood” on HBO. Two points for you. What this song captures with its bluesy riff, sultry lyrics, and Southern ambience is the incredible heat and pervasive hang in the air of sex that punctuates every hot summer night. Faces glisten under the moonlight, sweat may drip into cleavage, and all that’s on your mind is taking the person across from you and doing bad things with them. I find myself imagining people watching me make an entrance while this song plays and being both impressed and a bit leery of what they see. Any song that gives you an instant ego boost like that is cool by me. Listen to this song and picture people watching you, and tell me you don’t get a little rush from it.

5. Paramore – Crushcrushcrush

Nothing compares to a quiet evening alone

Similar to “Like the Angel” I love Paramore because their music largely rocks but it’s offset by the hot female voice of its lead singer. She has an undeniably feminine voice, but she somehow exerts a shitload of power from it bringing together music that’s like the best parts of a tank and a Porsche. Smooth and seductive, but able to kick a lot of ass too.

6. Zebrahead – The Juggernauts

Zebrahead’s latest album fell sort of flat for me. It feels like they’re trying too hard to remain juvenile when they’d be best served going the Bouncing Souls route and taking their past and incorporating it into their present. “The Juggernauts” does this as it captures youth frustration from a more informed perspective. We’re all still the pissed off high school kids we’ve always been, but time has allowed us more introspection and a better articulated voice with which to proclaim it. On so many levels, I just “get” this song.

7. Rise Against – Audience of One

Growing up is fucking weird. And while we never have to fully do it, there comes a time when we might have simply “outgrown all the things that we once loved.” Run away from it, you might try, but ultimately you won’t escape the inevitable. All that remains is the memories, and while that may not always seem good enough, there always there and you’re always the audience of one in the theater of times remembered.

8. Michael Jackson – Beat It

And one of my favorite times remembered: Playing Beirut in the sun room on our newly made epoxy-covered table. Hart had a hi-fi we listened to in college (I know, it sounds like 19 fucking 78 or something), and one of our favorite records to play Beirut by was Thriller. Drinking beer on weeknights, hosting impromptu parties and building that stupid table. Yep, that was grad school.

Also, when I first compiled this mix I was swept up in Michael Jackson sentiment just like everyone else and went on a big kick. Sue me.

9. The Donnas – Take It Off

I’m tryin hard to think, and I think I want you on the floor

Senor Limon is likely flipping off his monitor right now since he hates The Donnas for some reason I’ve never bothered to ask him about. But that’s part of the fun of this selection anyway. Anytime you can annoy one of your friends a few states away with something as pointless as this, it’s a good time.

Besides, this song is basically a bunch of foxy chicks singing about wanting to get down on your love pole sung in the key of punk rock. What the fuck is not to like here? The lead singer implores the listener to “fill me up” and “bring me off” at various points. When you put that on top of a dandy punk song, how is that not enough to make your head explode?

10. Riddlin’ Kids – Pick Up the Pieces

Since I work in the communications field (advertising, marketing, research, PR, etc.) I’m well aware of the power of suggestion. Based on yesterday’s Confessional, it appears Lady E, CassieB, and F-U-Natalie get it too. That’s why it should come as no surprise that when I heard this song in some Warren Miller video I watched recently, I got a huge boner for it. Simple as that. I interviewed these guys in college, and they’re extremely cool. They’re not the Rolling Stones, but they know how to make semi-decent pop punk music, so that’s what they do. Hard not to like them.

11. Face to Face – Disappointed

One of the only Face to Face songs I love that hasn’t found its way onto a mix yet. I played a rough cut of this mix to Hart a couple weeks ago and it struck him as a little femmy (i.e. for girls), so I added this on there. Like bacon, everything is better with Face to Face.

12. Bouncing Souls – Late Bloomer

While planning this wedding, Lady E and I have realized how different we are from our parents in some ways. They often look at us like we have two heads when we tell them our plans, and while this can be frustrating, we mostly just wear it as a badge of honor and take it as reassurance that we’re just that much more right for each other. So, that’s mostly what I think during this somewhat low-key Bouncing Souls offering with the chorus, “I’m no good / You’re no better / Wouldn’t we work together?”

The answer so far: Hell yes.

13. Kelly Clarkson – My Life Would Suck Without You

Guess this means you’re sorry…

Fuck off, I still like this song. Read my reasons here.

14. Michael Jackson – P.Y.T (Pretty Young Thing)

This is basically just more leftover Michael Jackson sentiment. His birthday was the day after mine so I felt even more compelled to include a couple of his tunes to commemorate his last year on earth. My one knock against this song is that of all the songs on this mix, for some reason this one is most apt to get stuck in my head and not leave for at least four fucking hours. After five days of this, I’m close to digging up Michael Jackson and killing him again just to see if I can exorcise this goddamn song demon.

15. Justin Timberlake – Sexyback

Again, fuck off. I make no attempt to justify this selection, but I will say that if you listen closely to the beat, it’s basically a stripped down, popped-up version of a Rob Zombie song, which itself is just ripped off Michael Jackson beats anyway.

16. The Cat Empire – Hello

On every mix you need at least one song that you don’t have to think about that’s just plain fun. Hence, you have this jazzy little number from The Cat Empire about a guy picking up chicks at a club.

17. Cake – Short Skirt/Long Jacket

My sophomore year of college, this song was fucking everywhere. Using Jim Cornette’s rule about recycling wrestling gimmicks every seven years and applying it to music, it makes sense that I’d come back around on this good time song. Cake’s songs all sound basically the same, so you could have just as easily inserted “Love You Madly” or “Rock ‘n Roll Lifestyle” here too and gotten the same effect.

18. Crazy – Riddlin’ Kids

After hearing “Pick Up the Pieces” on that Warren Miller video, I went on a big Riddlin’ Kids kick and had another crush on this song. Another one I don’t think about too critically. If you like pop punk at all, “Crazy” is a good ‘un.

19. Rob Zombie – Never Gonna Stop

Scream if you want it…

Always important to go out on a high note, and since this mix was woefully under-metalled, I wanted to wish this birthday farewell with a good ass kicker. Life is tough, but moving ever forward is the only to survive and progress. So as we march on another year, I thought it important to go out on a high note and with optimism in my blood.

We’re never gonna stop here at CJS, and we hope you continue to enjoy the ride as much as we do. To another year!

Until next time…