It’s the music craze that sweeps the nation every August – Songs to Close Out Your Summer! Order it now for 3 easy installments of $19.95! You’ll get five discs of the “best” music from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and today! Order now, and we’ll throw in this handsome pancake flipper, which will be perfect for that one time a year when you get a bug up your ass to eat pancakes! Operators are standing by!

Or you can just start to bid adieu to patio time with these good jams that E Dagger compiles for his birthday every year. This year I turn 30, and everyone asks me if I’m dreading it like we live inside a sitcom or something. No, I don’t dread it, and why would I?

There’s nothing I can do about it, and more importantly, I’ll finally establish some additional instant professional credibility without having to do anything. That happened when I got married – I’m pretty sure the thinking is “If he was at least smart enough to convince some lady to commit to him, he’s not a total assweasel.” – and it’ll happen again when I turn 30. Being in your 20s and trying to advance in a professional environment is a lot like trying to get laid while having a visible cold sore on your lip; you can do it, but it’s going to take a shitload of legwork.

Anyway, let’s check out this year’s playlist. For reference, here are the playlists from 2009 and 2010 . Enjoy the warm weather while it lasts because winter is right around the corner. What’s hot, DJ Roomba?  

1. Face to Face – All For Nothing

I love to make mixes, and I like to think I’m really good at it. When I took a creative writing class in college, we had to answer this lengthy survey on the first day, and one of the questions was: What are you better at than anyone else? My answers: Saved by the Bell trivia (turns out that one isn’t true – people are freaks about that show), WWF No Mercy for the Nintendo 64 (still haven’t been beaten in over 10 years), and creating music playlists. When I was stuck between majors sometime in the black hole of my sophomore year of college, I wondered if I could either make a living writing about pro wrestling or creating the track order on punk albums. Turns out, both of those skills are highly specific and profoundly useless.

Undettered, I maintained that I had skillz that killz in mix CD construction, and one of my go-to tricks was to put a Track 1 at the beginning of a new mix. “Hey, it already kicks off one CD, why can’t it kick off this one too? Hurrrrrrrrrr…” I realized this practice was idiotic when I would have two CDs in the changer of my car that started with the same track, and no matter which one I wanted to hear, the other would invariably play. Every CD should be unique, so borrowing another one’s leadoff hitter is just bad form.

What’s this got to do with anything? When I originally built this birthday mix, by simple process of elimination, this was the only track that both worked as an opener and didn’t already do so on another album. Ergo, here it is kicking this one off.

On another note, Face to Face finally got back together full time and released a new album, “Laugh Now, Laugh Later.” I am pleased to report that while not mind blowing, it’s a fine entry into Face to Face’s catalog and well worth listening to. Also, their live show still fucking owns it. That is all.

2. Rancid – East Bay Night

Hart adores this song, and why wouldn’t he? He has a major hard-on for Rancid, and this is yet another in a long line of enjoyable punk staples from them. Before I even had a rudimentary grasp on my tastes, I dismissed Rancid as affected poseurs. Their giant mohawks and leather jackets screamed “all adornment, no substance!” at me, which only proves what a shallow idiot I was (and possibly still am). Turns out, they, along with the Bouncing Souls, are probably the most reliable and consistent punk voices still going today. 15 year-old me was wrong, Rancid. You do great work, and after leading off two years ago, you’re back in the two hole this year. Here’s hoping you show up for many more years.

3. The Bouncing Souls – Ghosts On The Boardwalk

Speaking of which, here are the Bouncing Souls. I somehow missed their entire “Ghosts on the Boardwalk” album when they released it one song at a time in 2010, which is ridiculous. These guys are the punk voice of our generation and, defying all logic, get better on every album. So when I finally removed my head from my colon and gave this album a listen, the title track immediately spoke to me.

At first I wondered why, since this is an extremely specific song that reminisces about the Jersey Shore (before it was a show, and by extension, a symbol of the supposed downfall of our culture where meatheads and bimbos become ubiquitous cultural entities). Then I remembered my oft-cited explanation from Roger Ebert of why Brokeback Mountain is such a good movie: “The more specific a film is, the more universal, because the more it understands individual characters, the more it applies to everyone.” The way Greg Attonito describes his love of the New Jersey boardwalk reminds me of the way I think about the places I love: Northern Sweden in the middle of the night where the sun never set, the Maui beach where Lady E and I spent our honeymoon, the Brentwood house with my college roommates, the Mandalay Bay sports book where I inexplicably end up with my friends every Vegas trip. The Souls’ songs have a direct line to my nostalgia bone, and listening to them always puts me back in my favorite spots.

4. The Clash – Janie Jones

This mix was dunzo. Then the goddamn, cottonpickin’ AV Club had to continue their awesome Undercover series with my favorite so far – Against Me! covers The Clash. The power of suggestion is strong in me, so naturally after watching that video a few times in a row at work, I had to have it for this mix. I hate trying to wedge in songs after I think I’m dunzo, but this one slid perfectly between The Bouncing Souls and The Black Keys, so fuckin’ A. Also, any time you can slide yourself perfectly between two awesome entities like the Souls and the Keys, that’s like musically tittyfucking a righteous set of knockers, ain’t it? And how hot is that image? Anyone?

5. The Black Keys – Tighten Up

In a straw poll of my friends, the general majority of them seem to like “Howlin’ For You” more than they like “Tighten Up” among the two singles off “Brothers.” I like “Howlin’ For You” a ton, and while I acknowledge it has a superior hook, I give “Tighten Up” the edge for its better overall construction and use of actual words in its chorus instead of “Da-da-da-DA-da / Da-da-da-DA-da.” Also, I just like the whistle. What can I say, it speaks to me.

Speaking of whistles, who else saw “Talking Funny” on HBO and loved the shit out of it? I want that to become a weekly (or at the very least quarterly) show that features the best comedians in the world talking about their craft. Thanks to that show, I can no longer hear Otis Redding’s most recognizable hit without thinking “Sittin’ on a cock cuz I’m gay” and Ricky Gervais’s near convulsions when Chris Rock asked him if he “did the whistle” too. Awesome show. And an awesome song.

6. Adele – Rumour Has It

I used to suffer badly from the affliction of hating everything that was popular. This is an idiotic mindset since it only isolates you from everyone else and puts you nicely in the position of realizing what a horse’s ass you are later and enjoying things several years past their relevancy date. Thankfully I ditched this persona successfully last year, and few traces have been seen of it since.

It’s with that preamble that I tell you this jazzy, uptempo number from Adele replaces “Rolling in the Deep.” It’s not that I stopped liking “Rolling in the Deep” – quite the contrary, I love that song and it hit me like a ton of bricks the first few times – but it’s merely the latest to hit cultural saturation. You simply can’t go anywhere without hearing it (case in point: I heard it at Red Robin the night I started writing this, and remember that it served as the theme song for this year’s NBA draft). I certainly don’t need to spoonfeed myself additional doses of it for the rest of time.

To bring this full circle, a certain younger brother of a CJS Regular always cracks me up with his music links on Facebook. His taste is unquestionably awful with consistent links to the likes of 30 Seconds to Mars, Alter Bridge (Creed without Scott Stapp), and Lupe Fiasco and fawning endorsements to match. The apex of this came when he linked to this video of Linkin Park covering “Rolling in the Deep” during a live encore. Admittedly, it’s a fitting tribute to Adele and a soulful rendition much better than what I thought this wiener was capable of. But our young friend’s comment that “yes, i do not like adele. yes I like this song haha… linkin park is sick… and they make every song enjoyable” absolutely killed me because it sounds like some dumb shit I would have said in college. In fact, I did say almost exactly that when I claimed shitty pop punk band Gob’s cover of “Paint It Black” was superior to the Rolling Stones original. College students are hilariously and wrongly self-satisfied.

7. Ben Folds – Philosophy

From a structural standpoint, “Rumour Has It” ends with a long piano flourish which necessitated some quality piano work to kick off the subsequent song. Ben Folds plays a mean piano, so after a huge re-shuffle of this mix about two weeks before my birthday I swapped out the funny “One Down” for “Philosophy” a song I just plain old like better that didn’t really fit on the old track listing.

I saw Ben Folds play a club gig a few weeks back, and it was my first club show for a non-punk band. It was weird. Punk shows feature tons of movement from the mosh pit to kids jockeying for prime standing room to people constantly shuffling off to smoke a cigarette outside. Ben Folds fans pretty much just stand there, and that makes sense because while his music is awesome, it doesn’t exactly compel you to bang your head or deliver a forearm shiver to your neighbor and start a circle pit. I stood there, and the lack of movement or anything to lean on meant by the end of the show my screwed up back was on fire, but it was totally worth it because Ben Folds melted everyone’s face with awesomeness.

There were also a lot of people at the show who aren’t concert veterans. I ended up in the bar line behind a guy wearing Dockers and a button down shirt who couldn’t have possibly been more amateurish at ordering in a crowded venue. Instead of fixing his gaze upon a bartender and wait for confirming eye contact, this idiot checked his phone incessantly. He didn’t have his money ready. He looked helpless at a place where confidence wins beers. When he finally flagged down a bartender after the other lines sped along thanks to savvy patrons, he ordered a fucking bottle of water which sent an audible groan through the line behind him. It was annoying and made me happy mostly juveniles attend punk shows rendering the beer line delightfully short for old drunks like me.

One final note about “Philosophy.” There’s a line midway through the song that goes “I pushed you ‘cuz I loved you guys / I didn’t realize / You weren’t having fun” which sometimes makes me think about trying to grow CJS. Take that for what you will, but it always hits close to home.

8. Mumford & Sons – Little Lion Man

Mumford & Sons absolutely blew up after an incredible performance with Bob Dylan and the Avett Brothers at the Grammy Awards for good reason. Their performance was raucous, their songs are from the heart, and they sound different than anything else (mostly auto-tuned and decidedly awful dance music) in the mainstream. Initially I had “The Cave” on here, but like “Rolling in the Deep,” that song has been played to death and exists comfortably far beyond the confines of what will be an oft-repeated mix for the months to come.

So I went with the one that is only slightly less played than that one. I also like the bluntness of the chorus: “It was not your fault but mine / I really fucked it up this time / Didn’t I, my dear?” Dripping with honest contrition and self-awareness, and catchy as hell. Combine that with the story I read in Rolling Stone in July where they hung out jamming all night with Ed Helms in Telluride, and they seem like awesome guys to hang out with too. Lot to love about these guys.

9. Willie Nelson – Whiskey River

I saw Willie at Red Rocks in like 2005, and it easily became one of my favorite shows of all-time. Willie’s an icon, a legend, one of the chief voices behind Outlaw Country, which, coincidentally, is my favorite type of country music. I sometimes go on Willie/Johnny/Merle/Waylon kicks for days at a time, so Whiskey River’s inclusion here shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. But there was no way I was going to let this year’s mix pass without including one of Willie’s gems thanks entirely to this:

Yep, that’s yours truly, Willie fuckin’ Nelson himself, and Senor Limon at the House of Blues in Las Vegas. He wasn’t even playing a show, he was just walking around, hanging out as far as I could tell. Limon and I spotted him, got Willie’s associate to snap that photo with Limon’s iPhone, and we spent the rest of the night gushing about our encounter. We giddily exclaimed “Willie fuckin’ Nelson!” to each other so many times that night, I woke up the next day convinced Willie’s middle name was actually “fuckin.” This quickly became one of my favorite Vegas stories ever, ranking highly along with our buddy mistakenly taking a shit in the women’s room in the Venetian and my catching the dealer’s hole card during swim-up blackjack at the Tropicana.

10. Pete Yorn – Velcro Shoes

When Lady E and I went to New York for our one year anniversary, we got tickets to a taping of “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” To get tickets to an event like this, you have to reserve them way in advance, so we had no way of knowing who the guests would be. Turns out, they were Jane Lynch, Emma Roberts, and Pete Yorn. Not a bad lineup. Jane Lynch has been hilarious in Judd Apatow and Christopher Guest movies, and was guest hosting SNL that week, so she was solid as hell. I had no idea who Emma Roberts was, and given that she was 19 and co-starring in a movie I didn’t give a fuck about, her interview was largely a bust. Plus, and I’ve said this before, why would anyone who hosts a television show bother to interview anyone under the age of 25? Think about yourself at that age. Did you have anything interesting to say? Probably not.

We knew Pete Yorn because we liked his early work which included great tunes like “Life on a Chain” and “Strange Condition,” so when it came time for him to hit the stage, about 50-100 kids come shuffling down the aisles to populate the stage which opens up in a weird way with these gawky risers in the back. Pete Yorn saunters out, drops “Velcro Shoes” on us, and the kids behind him all dance awkwardly. Admittedly, he killed it and we had a great time, but the contrivances of live television never cease to be fascinating.

11. The Black Crowes – Remedy

I have no good explanation for this one, so here’s a ridiculous one: Remember when you were a kid and you couldn’t fucking wait for the Video Music Awards? At the 1992 VMAs, I am 11 years old and I watch the Top 20 Video Countdown every week, so I am jazzed for the performances. Additionally, I manage to work the social game of elementary school by staying up late on Saturdays and can’t wait to see Dana Carvey host.

Anyway, the show features performances by Bobby Brown singing “Humpin’ Around” (whose “Bobby” CD is the first one I ever own), and a setlist that would comprise 11 year-old me’s favorite songs of the year: “Let’s Get Rocked” by Def Leppard, “Give It Away” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Free Your Mind” by En Vogue, and “November Rain” by Guns n’ Roses (which is what I claimed as my favorite song for several years before realizing marrying yourself to a 9 minute song is idiotic).

So, for whatever reason I’m thinking about this VMA show (that I taped, BTW, and watched more than once), and I remember 11 year-old me didn’t care for the Black Crowes and their Southern rock. But ever since watching it the first time, I was never able to get the riff of this song out of my head. 19 years this has been floating around in there. So I give it another listen, and lo and behold, I dig the song. Really dig it. And Bob’s your uncle, here it is.

12. Pixies – Where Is My Mind?

Another product of my New York City trip. A handful of goals for the trip: Get drunk in an NYC dive bar (Check! Milano Bar in SoHo – cans of Rolling Rock and shots of Kentucky Gentleman with our buddy Mackenzie), eat at Peter Luger steakhouse (Check! Perfectly seared porterhouse on our 1st anniversary), visit the Museum of Sex (Check! Titillating! And informative!), and find a genuine old school record shop in Greenwich Village (Check! Bleecker St. Records).

This store was everything I wanted it to be. A vintage collection of vinyl, obscure CDs by my favorite obscure bands, a resident cat that looked just like Buttfor, and a hipster dude who had to temporarily stop smoking a cigarette outside to ring us up. I could have spent four hours here, but sadly only got to spend one and a half because we had reservations at a trendy West Village bistro. So I bought Hart a semi-rare vinyl pressing of Rancid’s “Let’s Go” album and myself a Pixies Greatest Hits CD. What an awesome day.

13. The Airborne Toxic Event – Wishing Well

Simply a matter of righting old wrongs. This belonged on last year’s birthday mix, but I somehow overlooked it. Still love the song. Somehow love this even more.

14. The Roots (w/DJ Jazzy Jeff & Jazzyfatnastees) – The Next Movement

Last New York one, I swear. When we told everyone we were catching a taping of “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” basically everyone responded the same way: “Well, at least you’ll get to see The Roots.” This response is interesting for two reasons. 1) Everyone we know rightfully holds The Roots in extremely high regard. 2) Pretty much everyone had low expectations for Jimmy Fallon’s ability as a talk show host.

I did too, but the show turned out to be highly entertaining filled with absurdist comedy bits and an above average interviewing style. The real highlight, as everyone suspected, was The Roots. Higgins introduces them, and from the word go, they come out and just fucking rock the joint. The entire place is swaying and moving, damn near ready to strip off their clothes and just jam out all night. Their kickass performance at Jimmy Fallon compelled me to buy their albums.

Unrelated note: Look at who else is credited on this track. You’ve got DJ Jazzy Jeff, which is funny enough and probably warrants its own article. However, more interesting to me is “Jazzyfatnastees.” This name unabashedly makes me wish I were black. There’s no way you can get away with that name as a white dude. Jazzy-fat-nastees? Just say it out loud a few times. It gets more bizarre each time. And more satisfying. Jazzyfatnastees. Jazzyfatnastees. What does it mean? Who cares. Jazzyfatnastees.

15. Less Than Jake – City of Gainesville

This song is the first cut off GNV FLA, which Less Than Jake released three years ago. It’s a mellow, reggae-ish jam that I re-discovered while procrastinating one day playing Free Cell with my iTunes on shuffle. By the way, I do this more often than I’d like and to prove it, my winning percentage is up to 64%, an improvement of 17% over the last six months. I hate that I know this. I hate even more that I now consider Free Cell one of my top 5 skills. If I could get away with being a lazy asshole, I so would. And of my recent confessions, I hate that one most because it’s so disgustingly true. It’s a good thing I’m not into pot or I’d really be in trouble.

So yeah, here’s this song. On its original album and right here, it’s immediately followed by…

16. Less Than Jake – The State of Florida

…this song, which is a good uptempo punch in the dick. I have nothing meaningful to add, so let’s talk about Zebrahead.

By and large, I still like the music I liked in high school and college, which was almost entirely punk and ska. Sure, some of the shittier stuff like Gob and Somehow Hollow fell by the wayside, but I still appreciate all the stuff I listened to before. What bothers me is when a band and I grow apart. Rise Against, who we’ll talk about below, continues to evolve in a way that I enjoy, and the Bouncing Souls somehow manage to get better with every album. Bands like Unwritten Law and Alkaline Trio make perfectly acceptable music as the years go by. I consider this a wild success considering how many bands break up, shuffle in and out members ad nauseum, or just up and fucking die.

Yet somehow that’s better than having to outgrow a band. Whereas Rise Against and the Souls have progressed and gotten deeper with each new album, Zebrahead seems to have regressed and gotten shallower. Their newest, Get Nice!, explores the profound depth of disappointment of a girlfriend who doesn’t want to rock anymore and throws away the lead singer’s bong, as well as a can-do anthem of encouragement where the lead singer won’t give up “’Cause I got nothing to lose / Got nothing to prove / I got nothing to lose / I’m not giving up, I’m not giving in, I’ve got no excuse.”

These are fine messages when you’re 22 years old, but the lead singers of Zebrahead are 36 and 38. Maybe it’s time to stop sounding like an ascendant band proving themselves to the naysayers in their families 15 years in to your career and write some real fuckin’ material like you did on last album’s awesome song “The Juggernauts.” Caterwauling about a girlfriend who takes away your bong and doesn’t want to headbang anymore is embarrassing and indicates either a lack of emotional depth or a tragic max out of talent. Either way, it is not without a great degree of sadness that I think I’ve outgrown Zebrahead.

So there you go, that’s why two 2008 Less Than Jake songs are on here and none from Zebrahead’s latest. Not that you asked, but confession is good for the soul.

17. Rise Against – Architects

Keithage and I had a discussion not that long ago about when Rise Against turned from face melting punk band to totally decent hard-edged alternative act. I said it was upon the release of Appeal To Reason in 2008 because that album sounded different than all the other ones and Endgame sounds just like it. Keithage says it was upon the release of The Sufferer and the Witness because that’s when Rise Against changed guitarists and you can make a clear delineation between the first three albums and the second three albums.

After thinking about it for awhile, I realized he’s absolutely right. Bastard.

This is the best cut off of Endgame. Why? Because it sounds most like old Rise Against. But not in a Zebrahead kind of way.

18. The Bouncing Souls – We All Sing Along

Vintage Bouncing Souls. At the rate they’re going, they’ll be on every mix until I’m 50. They’ll still rock, and they’ll still evolve too. For a punk band, that’s damn near impossible. But if anyone can do it, it’s these guys. Can’t get enough of ‘em and can’t wait for the next album.

19. Face to Face – Disconnected (Live)

There was another reason I opened with Face to Face. It was so I could close with Face to Face. On their Shoot the Moon greatest hits album, they kick it off with “Disconnected,” which was Face to Face’s breakthrough. The album ends with a live version of it. Whenever I listen to that whole album of Face to Face songs, the live version of “Disconnected” always makes me think one thing: “Damn, I want to listen to some more Face to Face!” And then I do. I spent about six weeks straight listening to that album to and from work over and over again. Thinking about it now, I can’t even recall why I stopped.

Kicking off and wrapping up this Birthday Mix that same way will hopefully duplicate that feeling. It’s funny, this mix is bookended by Face to Face and The Bouncing Souls, two of the elder statesmen of the punk scene. As I leave my twenties behind, I’m starting to learn how that feels. I don’t dread my 30s, and I don’t mourn for the loss of my 20s. I like who I continue to grow into, and I like the perspective that comes with experience.

In short, I feel good. And it’s nice to have at least a couple of bands who you feel like are fellow travelers on that same road. I turn 30 this year, and I’m in a good place. I know you don’t mark your years on the same clock I do, but here’s wishing you another year of happy returns and appropriate rocking out. Let’s talk music again same time next year.

Until then…

edagger@crujonessociety.com