AUGUST MIXTAPE by Sarah Gerard

They Don’t Love You Like I Love You

My new chapbook “BFF” dissects my 17-year best friendship with someone who has since slipped into another life. Each of the songs in this playlist holds some significance in that context — these are not songs I was listening to while writing the book, but songs we listened to together or, importantly, didn’t. “BFF” is written as a direct-address to its subject, so this playlist is written in the same style. I hope you enjoy it.

1. No Doubt — Don’t Speak

“Tragic Kingdom” came out when we were in middle school and Gwen Stefani was the coolest woman in the world. She possessed all the confidence and style we wished we had. You came over to my house in the afternoons and we made music videos for every song on this album with my dad’s Sony camcorder.

2. Thee Oh Sees — Carrion Crawler

Time has passed. This is a song I’ve heard you like but we’ve never listened to it together. It’s a really good song — you’ve always had good taste in music. We used to share recommendations all the time. I spent entire nights making you mix CD’s with the cases and sleeves collaged. We drove around aimlessly for hours introducing each other to new bands. I miss it.

3. Johnny Cash — Ring of Fire

On the day I lied to you about being a fan of Johnny Cash when I had only just begun to familiarize myself with his work, you asked if I liked this song and I didn’t know which song you were talking about. You tried to sing it to me but you’re kind of a bad singer — sorry, it’s true. I didn’t recognize it.

4. Yeah Yeah Yeahs — Maps

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs were your favorite band for maybe too long. Maybe they still are. You would talk about Karen O like she was a personal friend of yours. I think you met her backstage at a show or two. You loved saying, “They don’t love you like I love you.” You started collecting maps.

5. Get Up Kids — Don’t Hate Me

We were the perfect age for emo when it was a thing. I bought the Get Up Kids’ “Something to Write Home About” and you got “Four Minute Mile” and we debated about which was better. I still think mine was better. But yours is grittier, and I think that’s appropriate.


6. Bob Marley — No Woman No Cry

You always loved Bob Marley, had a totally Jamaican-themed mind (you also loved Bad Brains), and not just because of the weed, but because Bob Marley sings about hardship, and you identified with hardship. In Bob Marley, you saw that despite your hardship, you could also live chill. Like “Your blues ain’t like my blues” — your tattoo, which you’ve since covered up — which contains the relaxation of the contraction in the midst of its strife. You told me you dated a Marley.

7. Car Bomb Driver — Brookwood Girls

Car Bomb Driver was our town’s punk band so you befriended Car Bomb Dave and talked about him whenever you saw the chance. This song was special to you, like he’d been thinking about you as a Brookwood girl, which you were. The chorus made you feel cool because you, too, were a rebellious teenage girl who couldn’t be controlled.

8. Gogol Bordello — Wonderlust King

This was the last show we went to together, at the Emerald. My hair was still short and I wore a cardigan and pants, and was so hot I was sweating. You took a picture of me from above, touching noses with our other friend, who didn’t speak to me for a year after you and I stopped speaking. You said, “I’d like to do a series of photos like these. I think it’d be swell.”

9. Joni Mitchell — A Case of You

I never knew Joni Mitchell meant anything to you. You liked this song somewhere on the Internet and I noticed and felt tricked. This was the song I played for my ex right before we broke up, and you and I stopped talking a few months later. It’s like you knew and were sending me a secret message, or a secret slap in the face.

10. MGMT — Kids

This was the era when you lived in the little gypsy boat apartment on the south side of downtown. You wore a long, grey, empire-cut cardigan with most everything, and you and your daughter shared a bed — you’d shared a bed for some time already. Once, you guilted me into coming to Ladies’ Craft Nite and I didn’t want to come. I was mad at you and pouted the whole time, and you said I’d disappointed you.

11. Blink 182 — Lemmings

When I bought “Enema of the State”, you’d already been listening to Blink 182 for two years. You told me “Dude Ranch” was better and it is, undeniably. It’s hard to choose which song on this album reminds me most of you, but I seem to remember this being the first song from it that you played for me, and I can imagine what it sounds like when you say the word lemming.

12. Goo Goo Dolls — Black Balloon

You fell in love with the Goo Goo Dolls the year we lost our virginity. I’m back in your bedroom listening to this song: the window overlooking the kitchen, your walk-in closet, your vanity mirror. You telling me you’d done whip-its with a group of kids whose names I’d never heard. By the end of that year, you were put in the girls’ home.

13. Beach House — Zebra

You’ve always been on the edge of cool. It’s scared me at times; I could never keep up with you, but never knew it until after the fact. Your taste was better than I gave you credit for. Better than mine. You knew hip, but I didn’t know you knew hip because you never made it work for you; you were always sabotaging yourself, always failing. To me it all sounded like bullshit. I should have listened better.


— Sarah Gerard is the author of the novel Binary Star (Two Dollar Radio), which NPR calls “a hard, harrowing look into inner space,” and two chapbooks, most recently BFF (Guillotine). Her short fiction, essays, interviews and criticism have appeared in the New York Times, New York Magazine’s “The Cut”, Joyland, the Paris Review Daily, BOMB Magazine, and elsewhere. She teaches writing and writes a monthly column on artists’ notebooks for Hazlitt.

More Like This

A Soundtrack for City People Who Grew Up in Small Towns

Julie Buntin, author of Marlena, makes a Literary Mixtape for every urban-dweller who remembers what it was like to be young and bored and driving down country roads dreaming of another life

May 3 - Electric Literature

A Literary Mixtape for The Art of the Affair

Catherine Lacey creates a sountrack for all those liberated, love-mad artists, from Josephine Baker to Lou Reed to Karen Dalton.

Jan 3 - Catherine Lacey

13 Literary Songs for the Halloween Season

Your Spooky Yet Bookish Soundtrack for October

Oct 20 - Adrian Van Young
Thank You!