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Note: I wrote this series of posts while compiling the CD mix, and have set them to auto-post starting ten days after I put it in the mail, to try to avoid spoiling the surprise.

Dear swap partner (I’m not sure you want your name on the internet, so I’m erring on the side of caution, but if you want it up here, just let me know!),

First of all, I owe you a very public apology for being so extremely tardy about mailing your disc off. I had blocked off time in the week after my viva to put the mix together, which should have had it in the mail well before the 1st May deadline, but there was this volcano, and what was supposed to be the week after my viva turned into the week before my viva and some people who were supposed to be in the country doing things that should have had nothing to do with me ended up stuck outside the country and the things that still needed to be done ended up being my job, and… well, it was just really bad all around. And then I got sick. So, here it is, May 10th, and I spent the weekend putting together a very different mix than the one I thought I’d put together when I first signed up for the swap. I hope you like it.

See, originally, I’d thought that since you left your musical tastes pretty wide open, I’d send you a nice mix of slightly odd party music, probably with a fair amount of accordion music, in the spirit of Accordions and Lace. Some Flogging Molly, some Great Big Sea, Golem’s fantastic Hora, a track or two from Moishe’s Bagel. It might’ve looked something like that, even after the volcano, even in spite of the awful cold I’m still nursing (exacerbated somewhat by the increased amount of stuff–like ash–in the air right now). But then there was an election here in the UK, and I spent the weekend experiencing varying levels of irritation and disappointment. (Hey, I usually vote for tiny leftist parties that stand no chance of actually getting in; I spend just about every election being irritated and disappointed. I should be used to it by now.) I tried to find my happy place before putting your CD together. I really, really did. I think I managed at least a little bit; you didn’t get an entire album full of angry political music hearkening back to the last time we had a Tory government.

What you got, instead, is a bit of a strange amalgamation.

I have a bad habit when I put together mixes. I tend to construct them as travel narratives. That’s… OK, I guess, except it ends up with virtually every mix I make having the same five songs on it, in the same order, and they’re all about going from Point A to Point B, and while you have no way of knowing this, it feels deeply boring to me. So I tried to force myself to be less literal–I find that I still have a really hard time not thinking about movement and displacement, so the songs and the way they’re arranged still construct that kind of narrative, but hopefully in a more complex and less obvious way.

I also discovered after I’d done my first draft that almost every song that I’d decided MUST BE on the CD was by a male artist. And this bothered me, largely because I’ve been reading the LadyPalooza posts on Tiger Beatdown, specifically this post, and getting smacked in the face by the gendering of my own musical tastes–not just what I like to listen to, but what I assume other people will enjoy me sharing with them–was a bit of a shock, since I freaking love female vocalists. I just didn’t assume that someone else would. I realised that I had discounted some of my favourite women because I had wanted to feature artists that might be big in Canada or the UK but less well known where you are (more on this later), and then realised that, really? 75% of what I think of as authentic ‘Canadian music’-the music that expresses where I come from and how that shapes who I am-is by men. So I took that WTF moment and rearranged the playlist; it’s a lot more gender-balanced than it might have been otherwise, and a little bit less nationally focused. Heck, there’s not a single French Canadian folk song on the thing–do you know how long it’s been since I made a mix without at least one?

I have a lot more to say about the music I sent you, because (in case the preceding tl;dr didn’t give you a hint) I got really into reflecting on what I was choosing and why. So, for the next 18 days, I–with occasional help from Mark–have set up posts about most of the songs in the mix. You don’t have to read them, of course, though if you do, I hope they enhance your enjoyment of the music, at least a little bit.

If you haven’t gotten the CD yet, the tracks are:

1. Elegy for Gump Worsley- The Weakerthans
2. I Will Love You For Miles- Danny Michel
3. When I’m Up (I Can’t Get Down)- Great Big Sea
4. Escarpment Blues- Sarah Harmer
5. Silver Dreams- Blackie and the Rodeo Kings
6. Horseshoe Bay- The Skydiggers
7. Warsaw is Khelm- Golem
8. Mrs. O- The Dresden Dolls
9. Jacob’s Ladder (Not In My Name)- Chumbawumba
10. Night Windows- The Weakerthans
11. Fiddler’s Green- The Tragically Hip
12. You And The Candles- Hawksley Workman
13. Dover, Delaware- The Duhks
14. Closer To The Ocean- Tanglefoot
15. Starlight- The Wailin’ Jennys
16. Cracked Hymn- Barbara Lynch
17. Dismissal (Ite Missa Est)- Anonymous 4
18. Filled With Gold- O Susannah