JULY MIXTAPE by Kevin Maloney


While writing the first draft of Cult of Loretta, I listened to Elliott Smith nonstop — on my drive to work, during my lunch break, on my drive home. I wanted to immerse myself in the dark beauty of Portland, Oregon in the late 90s, and Smith’s music is a time capsule of that era. Listening to Either/Or, you can picture him walking down Division St. in a black t-shirt and hoodie, the sky gray and gloomy, the storefronts not hipster coffee shops, but working class bars and strip clubs. That was the Portland of my youth, the Portland I tried to capture in my novella.

But a mixtape featuring nothing but Elliott Smith songs isn’t much of a mix. Instead I’ve put together a collection that taps into the emotional world of Cult of Loretta — a manic-depressive world where teenagers have unprotected sex, get high, hurt themselves and each other in a desperate attempt to find meaning in a meaningless world. Every one of these songs is important to me. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

  1. Everything Means Nothing To Me — Elliott Smith

This song’s title sounds like it was stolen from a depressed teenager’s dream journal, but in the mouth of Elliott Smith it becomes a Buddhist mantra repeated over and over until it swells and explodes with the beauty of the universe.

  1. Tonight — Iggy Pop

A song that begins with “I saw my baby / she was turning blue” shouldn’t make me so happy, but every time I hear this song, I become wildly elated and feel like life isn’t just a horrible random mess ending in death.

  1. Going Inside — John Frusciante

I was really depressed my senior year of high school. Every day after my classes ended, I’d walk to a nearby forest, smoke pot out of an apple, put on my Walkman, and walk around the neighborhood listening to John Frusciante’s Niandra LaDes and Usually Just a T-Shirt. That album is the most fucked up, beautiful piece of music I’ve ever heard in my entire life. Unfortunately it isn’t on Spotify. This song is pretty good.

  1. Venus in Furs — Velvet Underground

Lou Reed is the soul of Velvet Underground, but “Venus in Furs” is all about Maureen Tucker. I’m not even sure she knew how to play the drums. As far as I can tell, all she’s doing on this song is hitting a base drum with a mallet. But the effect is tribal and dark and sounds like your heart when the drugs kick in.

  1. Sugar Mountain — Neil Young

Before my ex-wife and I were married, we spent a day at the beach. Afterwards we lay naked in bed covered in sand and sunburns, listening to Neil Young’s Decade. We were just kids. We barely knew each other. Two years later she was pregnant and our relationship was falling apart, but that day, for a few hours, we were totally in love.

  1. Decades — Joy Division

On May 18, 1980, Ian Curtis watched Werner Herzog’s Stroszek, listened to Iggy Pop’s The Idiot, then hung himself. A few hours later Mt. St. Helens erupted. I was three years old. Our cul-de-sac was covered in ash. A fire engine came and cleared it away with a fire hose. I didn’t find out about Ian Curtis until college.

  1. Too Close — Staple Singers

Between 4:55 and 5:07 of this song I fall on my knees and weep and beg Jesus to rip my pathetic soul from my sternum and shoot it like a bottle rocket to heaven.

  1. Ancestors — Björk

I don’t know what this song is about, but when I listen to it, I imagine Björk giving birth to a goblin named Death.

  1. Goodnight Irene — Lead Belly

When I was 25, my wife gave birth to our baby daughter in a tub of water in our living room. Almost immediately my daughter started crying. She didn’t stop for months. I’d walk her around the neighborhood singing to her. I didn’t know any lullabies, so I sang “Goodnight Irene.” She kept crying and crying. She’s 13 now. I just played this song for her and she said, “Oh man, I love this song.” So who knows? Everything’s a mystery.

  1. The Crystal Ship — The Doors

Speaking of mysteries, I can’t tell if this is the corniest song of all time or the most amazing. I’m going with amazing. There’s a character in Cult of Loretta named Ken who abandons his pregnant wife to pursue his dream of smoking peyote in the desert with a shaman. He doesn’t make it, but I like to think that maybe in some alternative universe he did, and that he flew around in a Crystal Ship with diamonds floating out of his forehead. Ken’s a jackass and a bastard, but even bastards deserve to have their dreams come true.

  1. True Love Will Find You in the End — Daniel Johnston

Cult of Loretta is about a lot of things, but mostly it’s about unrequited love. Nobody loved more unrequitedly than Daniel Johnston. This is probably the saddest song of all time because he genuinely believed this girl named Laurie would love him one day. But she didn’t. She married an undertaker and Johnston became schizophrenic. Years later Laurie divorced her husband and met Johnston at a screening of the movie The Devil and Daniel Johnston. He was still in love with her and she still wasn’t in love with him.

  1. Monster — Y La Bamba

When I moved back to Portland after a decade in Vermont, I walked into a small music venue and heard a six-foot tall Hispanic woman singing the most incredible music. We became friends, and she started a band called Y La Bamba. This song makes the hair stand up on my arms. The first time I heard it I made a painting about it. Later I used it in my book trailer for Cult of Loretta. If the other songs on this mix represent the Portland of my youth, this represents the Portland of today. Despite the massive influx of people from out of state and reckless development of historic neighborhoods, there is still gut-wrenching beauty everywhere.


Kevin Maloney is the author of Cult of Loretta (Lazy Fascist Press, 2015). His stories have appeared in Hobart, PANK, and Monkeybicycle. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his girlfriend and daughter.

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