Music for the end of civilization

Needless to say — since we’re all here living our regular lives and all — the Great Mayan Apocalypse did not happen. While on one hand, it seemed everyone on the planet was talking about it, I’d say the masses never felt a sense of impending doom the way we did during the ridiculous Y2K scare. Maybe we learned our lesson? Doubtful. I think we all just realized that a combination of zombies and exploding suns was nothing more than fodder for creating end-of-the-world plans and lists — like the one Ink Magazine did that included the Kansas City Roller Warriors! — and something for the news outlets to talk about.

But I’ll admit — all of this talk got me thinking about end-of-the-year music lists (which I’ll supply tomorrow), which then made me ask myself a very important question. If the world had ended on December 21, what music would I want to carry me through into whatever the Mayans saw for us?

A very important question, indeed. Which is why I decided to compile a top 10 list that I have lovingly called Music for the End of Civilization. Please note, this is not necessarily a list of songs that are about the end of the world. It’s the music I don’t think I could live without — the albums that have inspired me the most through the years.

10. Six Feet Under, Vol. 2: Everything Ends (soundtrack). I have to credit The Owl for mentioning that people often forget soundtracks when they talk about great albums. He’s right. The soundtrack from the box set of the HBO show Six Feet Under has been one of my favorites through the years. Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good,” Sia’s “Breathe Me,” Imogen Heap’s “I’m a Lonely Little Petunia (in an Onion Patch)”, plus songs from Radiohead, Death Cab for Cutie, The Arcade Fire… It’s some good stuff, even if it’s mostly about death. But had most of the world not survived December 21, I’d say this would be the perfect accompaniment to whatever I’d have to face.

9. P.J. Harvey, To Bring You My Love. Ahh, the album that got me through college. If P.J. could get me through those days, she can get me through anything.

8. Portishead, Third. I swear, this album didn’t get a lot of buzz when it first came out, but I fell in love with it — the same way I did with their first two albums. I have to place it in my top 10 for a couple of reasons. 1) This album includes “Machine Gun,” which just happens to be the song that was playing in a dream I had a few years ago where I was killing zombies with a machine gun (fits with the theme, yes?), and 2) it also has a song that keeps me eternally optimistic, “Deep Water.”

7. Johnny Cash, The Essential Johnny Cash. You can blame my father for this one. He was a big Johnny Cash fan, and these days, it’s the favorite thing that my niece, nephews, and I listen to when we’re together in a car. I can’t see that changing any time soon.

6. Scissor Sisters, Scissor Sisters. I haven’t included any upbeat music, which I think I’d quickly want when faced with an end-of-civilization type of scenario, because it could get rather depressing out there. The Scissor Sisters tend to be my go-to music when I need some freaky-deeky disco music to get my spirits lifted. “Filthy/Gorgeous” will do it every time.

5. Radiohead, The Best of Radiohead. I tend to think there are a million people who would agree with me on this one. When having to pick just one Radiohead album, how do you narrow it down? Well, you don’t. Instead, you take the best songs from Pablo Honey, The Bends, OK Computer, Kid A, etc. and call it a day. Or, the end of the world.

4. The Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream. This has to be one of my favorite albums of all time. Not only is it loaded with some of the Pumpkins’ best music (“Disarm,” “Mayonaise,” and “Luna” remain at the top of my list no matter how old this album is), but “Today” pretty much sums up how one might feel during an apocalyptic moment:

Today is the greatest
Day I’ve ever known
Can’t live for tomorrow,
Tomorrow’s much too long
I’ll burn my eyes out
Before I get out

I would happily take Billy Corgan and company into the unknown with me any day.

3. Nick Drake, Pink Moon. Once upon a time, after my friend Todd told me he got an Echo and the Bunnymen tape stuck in his car while driving through Kansas and that he had to listen to it over and over across nothing but flat desolation, I thought it would be funny to give him a CD I made him of Echo and the Bunnymen songs (thinking it would annoy him… get it?). He returned the favor by giving me his copy of Pink Moon. When I found out Nick Drake died well before I was ever born, I punched a hole in the wall and then tried to learn his songs on my guitar. Once I realized he used crazy tuning and capos, I became obsessed with was a genius he was. Truthfully, all of his songs are beautiful, but this is the album that will always have my heart because it was the first one I heard. Thanks, Todd.

2. Jeff Buckley, Grace. I remember when Jeff Buckley died, but it wasn’t until a couple years after his tragic death that I discovered his music. And when I did, it struck me like a ton of bricks. I would never admit to laying in bed for days weeping to this album after a boy quit calling me or to going to Memphis and tearing up over his stupid steel-toe boots. But I would admit that I will always and forever find this to be one of the most incredible records I have ever heard.

1. Over the Rhine, Good Dog Bad Dog. This album is a thing of pure beauty. I constantly share Over the Rhine with people I love, and I beg them to listen to this album non-stop, preferably on repeat, in order to soak up its brilliance. To me, this is a quintessential album for anyone who appreciates … well … music. At all. Had the world ended and I was here with The Owl and my pups, the final song, “Go Down Easy,” would be the song playing as we hopped into the MINI and made our way into the fiery sun/zombie ridden streets/alien spaceship. Instead, I think I’ll let it lull me into the Great Blizzard that kicks off 2013.

Tell me: what would you put on your list?

Until the next version of Y2K, the Mayan Apocalypse, or whatever is coming our way, here’s a little something to tide you over.

2 thoughts on “Music for the end of civilization

  • Totally forgot to comment when this post first came out… but fist bump over Portishead THIRD. Amazing album. I literally waited a decode for it to come out and it was worth it.

    Here’s some flat out sonic craziness to check out: Deerhoof. Have a go at the song called +81
    It will warp you.

  • That’s exactly how I felt about THIRD. I don’t know why more people weren’t talking about it.

    And thanks for the reminder about Deerhoof. I’ve been meaning to check them out. Thank you, Spotify!

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