Save The Music You Like
2:17 PM EDT on March 21, 2023
I think I can trace how "Felicia" by The Cannanes got back into my head. It started because people on the internet were yelling about The White Stripes, and I decided to go back through their records. I guess I was at the very tail end of the "I burned CDs for people in high school" generation, and one of the tropes of the compilations we'd give each other was that they'd often contain a relatively deep White Stripes cut: "St. James Infirmary Blues" and "Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine" were favorites of mine.
One of my other go-tos to signal my coolness was "Felicia." I was friends with a couple of punkish guys, and we were really into the Our Band Could Be Your Life book. The Cannanes are an Australian group with Guided By Voices-level longevity and lineup changes, and they get an extremely brief mention in the Beat Happening chapter. I think because of this, one of those guys loaned me a burned copy of Witchetty Pole, a compilation of their early work put out in 1993. I don't know how or why he had access to it in the first place, because the Cannanes' own delightfully early 2000s website writes of it, "release of our 1st album with a ton of bonus tracks now rare and so far as we know unobtainable we certainly don't have any!"
I don't recall, nor did I save, anything else from that record—except I think there was a loud and fast cover of Beat Happening's "Cat Walk"—but "Felicia" was an instant love for me. Even a week ago, when I hadn't listened to it in at least three years, I could have easily told you all about it. It's a meandering tune with straightforward rhymes about a letter the band got from a woman (presumably Felicia) in Seattle, "where in winter one can skate." It's catchy, it's got a mournfully pretty horn outro, and it's talk-sung in a way I always find relatable. But I think I mostly latched on to it because the lyrics, which seem to be mostly taken from questions in the letter, hinted at all this fun lore about the Cannanes that I had no way of knowing. "Is it hard being in three bands at once? / Oh and tell me what you eat for lunch" is one line. "Where is Redfern on the map? / And does Stephen O'Neil wear a cap?" goes another. The letter was so entertaining, the singer informs us, that "all of this qualified her for a free single."
I wanted to listen to this song on Sunday. Naturally, the first place I went was Spotify. I've been a customer since 2020, when its seeming exhaustivity beckoned to me from lockdown, but it lacked what I needed. The streaming service has several Cannanes albums, but not Witchetty Pole.
I went next to Youtube, the de facto free music streaming service for millions of people around the world. Here, too, I was met with the shocking discovery that nobody had uploaded "Felicia." I started bopping around Google. The internet radio service Pandora had a listing for "Felicia" and claimed it was part of their rotation. I started a Cannanes station and tried to get it to play, but I quickly realized this task would be like navigating to the end of an invisible maze. I scrolled through other search results, looking perhaps for the less-than-legal link that might have supplied my punk friend over a decade ago. I didn't find my treasure there. Late inspiration struck: the iTunes store. But after downloading the app, I learned that they just have the same records as Spotify. My only option, it seemed, would be to buy a used CD from a third-party site and wait for it to ship.
Except I had a miraculous last resort! Sitting in the drawer next to my bed, hidden in a mess of old USB accessories and sentimental letters and a CD that that same punk friend played on maybe five years back, were two iPod Classics. One I'd had for a long time. The other I received from a very kind reader in 2019 when I tweeted that the battery on mine basically lasted 15 minutes. I'd kept those iPods in use longer than anyone I knew, cherishing the internet indifference that granted me access to 10,000 songs even when I was deep underground on the subway. I carried both my phone and my iPod everywhere I went until, of course, I stopped riding the subway for a little while and broke my habit permanently.
I plugged my older iPod into my computer, waited an eternity (maybe like 10 minutes) for it to charge into consciousness, and then saw ... it had no songs on it. That seems bad. Don't know how that happened. But thankfully I could repeat the process with another. This time I let it charge and found the entirety of my old collection, frozen in time three years ago. There were Alex Turner acoustic performances ripped from YouTube, debut albums from old Pitchfork darlings like Tobias Jesso Jr., mostly faded rap hits like "Classic Man," and the entire discographies of Elliott Smith and Lifter Puller.
It was as intimate as looking into the diaries that still sit in the closet of my old bedroom at my parents' house. My own music "collection," if I could even call it that, had shrunk so much since I used this device. Instead of 10,000 tracks constantly shuffling, with only the "Recently Added" playlist really guiding me toward anything I was presently loving, I had been duped by the promise of Spotify and been left, really, with six repetitive daily algorithms of 50 songs each, plus whatever I could come up with from memory. I felt shallow looking at how I used to save the songs I cared about.
Anyway, here's "Felicia." It's better than I remember it, even, and it's cool to be able to share it with you.
Since I can't directly pay the band for "Felicia" anymore—and, um, I never did in the first place—I bought this remix EP from the Cannanes' Bandcamp as a makegood. If Stephen O'Neil or anyone else there wants me to take this song down, though, they can reach me at email@example.com. But first please tell me if he wears a cap.