Winterlude in a Snowed-in Mood (Christmas music mix, 2016)

December 20, 2016 at 11:14 am (Music Mixes, Uncategorized)

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If it’s holiday week, it  must (finally) be time for a Christmas and winter-themed music mix, right? Sorry for being a bit late again, but I can explain! As crappy a year as 2016 has been in a meta sort of way, personally it’s been pretty dadgum solid. Work has been fun and extremely busy of late, which helps scooch things back a bit when getting into that Christmas spirit. (Things were also notably hampered when I knocked an empty coffee cup off my desk and onto a storage drive that had about 2 terabytes of music I’m still trying to recover all of. That was a good time.)

I couldn’t help but note that this year’s mix had a sort of bleak feel to it the first couple of runs I made at it maybe understandably. Still, who has time for that? It’s the holidays. It’s a time for family, friends, and celebration, even if it feels a little bit like we’re all collectively Slim Pickens riding that missile into the ground in Dr. Strangelove. No matter. We’ll whoop and holler a bit all the way down if that’s the hand that’s been dealt.

This year’s mix is almost all new stuff, not as in “New this year,” but rather “New stuff for this mix.” I really wanted to get a Sharon Jones song in for obvious reasons early on. I’ve known since about March that Trapper Schoepp’s tale of being stranded in a blizzard in western Nebraska was going to be on this mix. Love those songs to death.

Two wonderful recent finds were discovering a secret, hidden Leisure Society version of the late Greg Lake’s “I Believe In Father Christmas”. I’ve credited it to The Leisure Society, although Nick Heming says it’s just him and bandmate Helen Whitaker, but it sure sounds like the whole band.

The other cool song I’m really loving is the one from Sloan. They recorded a couple of holiday themed songs this year, and while both are good, “December 25” is just transcendent. Jay Ferguson has always been Sloan’s secret weapon, a guy who maybe only gets a couple of songs per record, but they’re always ace. With “December 25” he’s outdone himself here.

Let’s see, what else? Oh, the best part of the Gilmore Girls revival on Netflix was seeing Grant Lee Phillips reprise his role as town troubadour, and we’ve got the song he plays in the “Winter” episode, the gorgeous “Winterglow” here. I’ve also brought in a few old favorites. Seemed like this mix really wanted some Vince Guaraldi, for instance, so it got that. It also wanted Vashti Bunyan and Broadcast too. Finally, Jason Ringenberg’s aching “Merry Christmas My Darling” seemed far too appropriate not to bring back…and we needed the twang.

As ever, this mix is one long mp3, with volume normalized and sequenced and whatnot. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I’ve enjoyed making it, and…I’ll let “Father Christmas” sum up the rest:

“I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave new year
All anguish, pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear”

Winterlude in a Snowed-in Mood
(Popnarcotic Christmas Music Mix, 2016)

1. Christmas Letter
2. “Just Another Christmas Song” Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings
3. “Ogallala” Trapper Schoepp
4. “Snow Globe” Charlie’s Hand Movements
5. “Willing and Able” Helene Smith
6. “I Believe In Father Christmas” The Leisure Society
7. “Child’s Christmas in Wales” John Cale
8. “Christmas Eve” Night Flowers
9. “Work Christmas Party” Faye & The Scrooges
10.”December 25″ Sloan
11.”Funky Funky Christmas” Electric Jungle
12.”Hey Santa!” Brian Setzer Orchestra
13.”Mistletoe and Holly” Frank Sinatra
14.”Coldest Night of the Year” Vashti Bunyan
15.”Soul Santa” Funk Machine
16.”Christmas and Everyday” Best Coast
17.”Skating” Vince Guaraldi Trio
18.”Winterglow” Grant Lee Phillips
19.”Merry Christmas My Darling” Jason Ringenberg
20.”Sleigh Ride” Squirrel Nut Zippers
21.”Winter Now” Broadcast
22.”You Bring The Snow” The Crookes
23.”Driving Under Stars” Marika Hackman
24.”Fairytale of New York” The Pogues

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No Sad Songs (2015 Holiday Music Mix!)

December 16, 2015 at 3:30 pm (Music Mixes)

Despite the fact that it feels like mid-May here on the east coast, I can’t help but be in the grip of Christmas spirit. I mean, if new Star Wars movies can’t make you feel like a little kid heading into the holidays, being able to shoot some hoop on an outdoor court two weeks before December 25 sure will do the trick.

This year’s mix finds me in fine fettle, as they say, and I hope it does for you and yours as well. When I was putting it together over the last few weeks, I spent a good deal of time listening to some older mixes and was struck by being able to tell that I’d made them during some rather gloomy times, personal and not-so-personal. And with that in mind, the title of one of the first songs I knew I’d put into this compilation–“No Sad Songs” by The Lilac Time–kept popping into my head, and it ended up being the title and thesis for this year’s collection.

Not that there aren’t a few sad tunes that snuck through. You get a chance to put a song by Joe Pernice and Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub into your mix, you just do it, regardless, and that’s how that New Mendicants tune made the cut. It does mean a late switch on what is hopefully an annual tradition from Aimee Mann and Ted Leo. Those two legends record together as The Both, and I was all set to go with their morose 2014 holiday song when they hit out with a 2015 tune that is anything but sad in “You’re a Gift.”

Another thing I enjoy doing this each year is discovering songs I never knew about. I’d always wanted to find a spot for Harry Nilsson’s rendition of “Snow”, a song that Randy Newman wrote. For whatever reason, I’ve never found the right spot for it. Then I found out that Nilsson wasn’t the first to cover it; a few years before he did it, Claudine Longet had a hit with it and her version is just amazing. You younguns should probably just enjoy the magical sound that song here and not actually look up more info on Ms. Longet because…eeesh. (Though her escapades did result in one of the funniest early SNL found footage sketches ever.)

There’s also a real familiar tune that gets an amazing remake thanks to Mark Kozelek, sometimes known as either “that guy in Red House Painters” or “that guy in Sun Kil Moon” or “that guy in Almost Famous”. Mark can be a bit prickly, but he put out a wonderful Christmas record last year that totally works. (On another song on his record there’s a  great exchange in mid tune that has him being told that of all the Mark Kozeleks at Christmas, he’s the most Mark Kozelek-iest, and if you don’t think I didn’t seriously consider that as a title for this year’s mix, you don’t know me well enough.)

Other highlights for me include a couple of nice jazzy takes from an old master (Sir Duke) and a newer one (if you’d have told 1990 me that John Zorn would have something to do with a really great and winsome remake of a beloved Christmas tune, I’d have been utterly bewildered by that.) I got to use a song by The Bats, which is awesome. Oh, and if our title cut artist sounds familiar to you, The Lilac Time is the band fronted by Stephen Duffy, who was once the original lead singer of Duran Duran. Yes, that Duran Duran. Finally, I can’t imagine that Christmas was a big holiday growing up for Cornershop’s Tjinder Singh, but damned if he doesn’t just nail it with “Every Year So Different.”

At any rate, as per usual, this is all one big file and stuff, a big ol’ sloppy musical holiday present from me to all of y’all. Click the big title below to download it from Dropbox. If you have a Dropbox account and are already signed in, you can also just stream it if that’s your thing.

No Sad Songs

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Track list:

1.  Lisa Mychols, “Lost Winter’s Dream”
2.  The Both (Aimee Mann & Ted Leo) “You’re A Gift”
3.  JD McPherson “Twinkle (Little Christmas Star)”
4.  Cornershop ft. Trwbador “Every Year So Different”
5.  Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings “Funky Little Drummer Boy”
6.  The Dum Dum Girls “On Christmas”
7.  Deidre and the Dark “Ghost of Christmas Past
8.  Billie Holliday “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm (Yesking Remix)”
9.  Duke Ellington “Sugar Rum Cherry”
10. New Mendicants “A Very Sorry Christmas”
11. The Love Me Nots “Santa Bring My Baby Back To Me”
12. Glasvegas “Please Come Back Home”
13. Claudine Longet “Snow”
14. Mark Kozelek “The Christmas Song”
15. Neil Halstead “The Man In The Santa Suit”
16. John Zorn “Christmas Time Is Here”
17. The Boy Least Likely To “A Happy Christmas Baby”
18. The Bats “December Ice”
19. The Orange Peels “Grey Holiday”
20. The Leisure Society “2000 Miles”
21. The Lilac Time “No Sad Songs”
22. Ah Shane, ya never let me down lad.

 

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Peace On Earth (The 2014 Popnarcotic Christmas Music Mix)

December 22, 2014 at 9:46 am (Music Mixes, Uncategorized)

Every year when I do a holiday-themed music mix, I always give it a working title, just for my own mental reference: “Wassail” or “Xmas Cool” or something like that. This year I quickly gave this collection of tunes the working title “Peace On Earth”. Obviously, that’s from the wonderful MattPondPA cover of George Harrison’s immortal “Give Me Love” that kicks off this year’s mix. I’d always eventually meant to change it to something snappier. Funnier. Something goofy.  But then over the past few weeks the news has just been bleak. People keep getting killed for incomprehensible reasons, and even more incomprehensibly, idiotic shouters want to blame every person besides the killers for events that happened.  Much like the moronic inanity of the “War On Christmas”, it’s pseudo-rage meant to push buttons. Media outlets of every stripe and political leaning figured out years ago that ginned up outrage equals ratings and page clicks and money.

And so “Peace On Earth” ended up being a title I kept. It felt sadly appropriate, obviously. I don’t worry about it being “too topical” or too rooted in 2014, either. If we know history well enough, we know that sadly “Peace On Earth” will always be a quixotic wish with applicable currency for any year.

But….not just every year will have this lineup of holiday tunes. It’s not all wistful solemnity! There’s that chiming “Getting Better All The Time” guitar nick that the wonderful Pugwash use on “Tinsel And Marzipan” for instance, that sets my heart a-flutter every time. There’s Dutch indie rockers Clean Pete and Niek from the band Afterpartees doing a take on Kirsty McColl and Shane MacGowan that seems a little too rip-offy…and then the chorus dips into that minor fifth outta nowhere and I swoon. Maybe most improbably, I discovered this year that two bands do songs called “My Beerdrunk Soul Is Sadder Than All The Dead Christmas Trees In The World”.  Turns out its a quote from Charles Bukowski, so that probably explains it. There’s a Joy Formidable B-side with that title, but it sounds icy and distant. A Scottish band called Broken Records also do a completely different song with that title, and theirs sounds like an amazing, drunken raveup. Guess which one I used? I hate that I’ve not even mentioned an awesome Francopop tune from Canada’s Chic Gamine or The Raveonettes or Los Campesinos. Shoot, there’s even some K-Pop, a genre which I figured there’d be no way I’d ever put on a mix, but when you hear a song like “An Eighties Christmas Song”, you just gotta. I mean, c’mon. We got yr cool Yule right here, mac.

This year there’s also more Lisa Mychols (who, you know, get used to seeing in these mixes for a good long while, and if her Christmas album recorded with the Wondermints ever comes back in print, you should but immediately–right now it’ll run you about $100 used) who’ll pluck your heartstrings with “Pure And Simple”. There’s London indieboys Tellison making a good case for telling a few lies over the holidays. There’s some classics too for chilling and grooving.

And of course, there’s me putting this out there to wish you the happiest, most joyful, and hopefully peaceful of holidays and new years. I know that “Peace on earth” is a cliche and a humbug and thoroughly impossible thing, but I don’t think I’m going to stop wishing for it, just the same. Merry Christmas!

 Peace On Earth (Christmas Music, 2014!)

Peace

1. “Humbug”
2. “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)” MattPondPA
3. “You’re Just Like Christmas” The Crookes
4. “Tinsel and Marzipan” Pugwash
5. “Favorite Things” The Supremes
6. “Noel (Au Coin de Portage et Main)” Chic Gamine
7. “Let It Snow” Frank Sinatra
8. “Make It To Christmas” Clean Pete featuring Niek
9. “Snow Song” I Was A King
10.”Don’t Tell The Truth This Christmas” Tellison
11.”Winter Wonderland” Ray Charles
12.”Winter Now” Broadcast
13.”An Eighties Christmas Song” Tramgirl Karaoke Club
14.”Pure and Simple” Lisa Mychols
15.”My Beerdrunk Soul Is Sadder Than All The Dead Christmas Trees In The World” Broken Records
16.”When Christmas Comes” Los Campesinos!
17.”Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer Mambo” Billy May
18.”The Christmas Song” The Raveonettes
19.”Christmas Stars” Dwight Twilley
20.”Taking Down The Tree” Low
21.”I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” Wizzard
22.Fairytales, New York, and the Boys of the NYPD Choir

(click the header or picture and the music should happen.)

 

 

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A True Detective Musical Interlude…

March 3, 2014 at 9:35 pm (Music Mixes)

Like lots of folks, I’m quite smitten with the HBO show True Detective. As a fan of Ellroy, Pelecanos, and Ligotti (the latter I’ve just started reading in the past year, and hoo-boy), I’ve found myself right at home in its swampy, noir charms. As a die-hard Angel Heart fanboy, I can’t help but see True Detective as a 21st Century update of that setting and theme.

I’ve also really dug the music in the show. HBO sometimes just wins me over based on a theme song–like using the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s “Straight Up And Straight Down” for Boardwalk Empire–and they couldn’t have picked better music than the haunting Handsome Family tune that opens every True Detective episode this season. I still maintain that T-Bone Burnett’s signature production sheen spackles on some of the dullest sonic layering and compression you’ll ever hear (I liken it to someone taking sandpaper to smooth out any rough edges which is usually a terrible thing to do with rock and blues and soul; if he’d produced the White Stripes, “Fell In Love With A Girl” would’ve been played through a capo’d guitar turned down to 4, with Jack White’s vocals auto-tuned). Despite that beef I have with him, there’s no disputing the dude has good taste in the music he picks.

Something I forgot about until recently is that I sort of made my own True Detective soundtrack over four years ago. I uploaded it here, too! For Halloween in 2009 I made two music mixes. I did one for a small get-together that involved watching a couple of bayou/backwoods horror films and also drinks and cards. It was a pretty downcast mix, and I think I was going for haunted and rustic and creepy as a feel. I called it Rosedale At Midnight, the title of the mix referring to the crossroads in Mississippi where Robert Johnson is alleged to have sold his soul.

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When I put that mix together, I was reading and influenced by George Pelecanos’ most existential novel, The Night Gardener (about retired homicide detectives haunted by unsolved serial killings…sound familiar?) I remembered it over the weekend and gave it a couple of listens today and as a mix it holds up, and as a nice “Gimme more of that True Detective-sounding music” it really works.

So, in case you missed it back when, I hope you’ll indulge me exhuming it this week, as we await a visit to Lost Carcosa.

Rosedale At Midnight

1. Intro….
2. Cary Hudson, “Haunted House Blues”
3. Syd Barrett, “Late Night”
4. Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians, “Raymond Chandler Evening”
5. Califone, “Funeral Singers”
6. House Of Freaks “Lonesome Graveyard”
7. The Velvet Underground “Ocean”
8. Neko Case “Ghost Writer”
9. Hank Williams Sr. “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”
10. Blitzen Tripper, “Black River Killer”
11. The Clientele, “Graven Wood”
12. Outrageous Cherry, “Out There In The Dark”
13. The Cobbs, “Deathcapades”
14. Matt Murphy D/B/A Guy Terrifico, “Friend Of The Devil”
15. Gene Austin, “Girl Of My Dreams”
16. Sparklehorse, “Spirit Ditch”
17. The Rolling Stones, “Midnight Rambler”
18. Mark Lanegan, “The Winding Sheet”
19. Cat Power, “Werewolf”
20. The Rain Parade, “A Broken Horse”
21. jennyanykind, “Ghostly White”

(Right click the title, or this sentence, to save or stream.)

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Top 50 Music List of 2013, Mixtape 3

January 2, 2014 at 5:54 pm (Best-of lists, Music Mixes)

Tape3

Down the stretch comes the final mixtape of the best music of 2013! Click away.

1. It Hugs Back, “Sa-Sa-Sa-Sails”

The first time I heard this song–which opens IHB’s 2013 album Recommended Record–it felt like a year-old lab puppy had just jumped into my lap and smothered me with affection, totally unaware of its own gloriously clumsy and over-the-top power. This song is a tidal wave of awesome. http://ithugsback.bigcartel.com/

2. The Men “Without A Face”

Obviously wearing a Neil Young influence elsewhere on their album New Moon, this particular song sports that influence a bit while still nicely recalling their noisier previous efforts. http://wearethemen.blogspot.com/

3. Emiliana Torrini, “Speed Of Dark”

This is here because Glenn Boothe tweeted about how good her record was last week, and I’ve been listening in a fairly obsessive endless loop since. Slinky and dark and sleek yet not without some rough edges, this Icelandic singer/songwriter album Tookah would be a for sure entrance in a year end top ten albums list, if I still did such things. http://emilianatorrini.com/

4. Superchunk, “Trees Of Barcelona”

Don’t call it a comeback. Superchunk’s second record after a hiatus continues the standards of excellence they’ve always had. One thing that people who write about Superchunk never seem to play up enough to my mind is just how well-built your typical Superchunk song is. This track, for instance is a genius exemplar of how you put verses, choruses, vocal clusters, bridges, and fadeouts together into a near-perfect whole. http://www.superchunk.com/

5. Temples, “Keep In The Dark”

Here in America we try, we really do. American bands try hard to look like rock stars before they’ve sold a record, try hard to get that 70s feel just right…but we’ve never, not ever done that as well as the Brits. Take Temples, for example, with the Bolan curls and gold lame pants and leather shirts…THESE guys are rock stars. This is a teaser single for a 2014 album that looks like it’ll be an absolute monster. Even better, it deserves to be. This is how you write a fantastic pop single. Dig those harps! http://templestheband.com/music

6. Guided By Voices, “Islands (She Talks In Rainbows)”

Well, WELCOME BACK, TOBIN SPROUT! Holy crap, what a song this is. You know how cool and lush and amazing the song that ends the first GBV album ever–“Captains Dead”–sounds? This is that, again, and it feels like some amazing transmission from an alternate guitar rock universe. I know a lot of folks who were stoked that the old GBV lineup were recording again. This is why.  From the album English Little League, http://rockathonrecords.com/guided_by_voices.html

7. Leisure Society, “All I Have Seen”

Let’s put something to rest: The Leisure Society aren’t a folk band. On their 2013 album, Alone Before The Ark, they both pare down their instrumentation a bit while filling out their sound. It’s a rock record with forays into folk, punk (no really!), and even–like here–a bit of blue-eyed soul. Wanna know why they’re Ray Davies’ favorite band? Give this a listen and then ask yourself if any other band could pull off a song this graceful, soulful, muscular and yet delicate. http://www.theleisuresociety.co.uk/

8. Euros Childs, “Holiday From Myself”

No idea what it is, but something about Euros’s beautiful, winsome voice makes me instantly nostalgic and happy. It conveys a sense of longing and whimsy and sadness somehow all rolled into one. This is music the adjective “lovely” was created to describe. From the 2013 album Situation Comedy, website is here: http://euroschilds.co.uk/

9. Mikal Cronin, “Shout It Out”

We live in wonderful times, times where a beautifully constructed hook like the one here captures the hearts of hipsters and cranky old men like me alike. Mikal Cronin at this point in his career seems to be tapping into a talent without boundaries. This song, from the sort of latin-guitar opening to the handclaps and noise closing, is just amazing. From the album MCII, available here: http://www.mergerecords.com/mcii

10. The Martha’s Vineyard Ferries, “She’s A Fucking Angel (From Fucking Heaven)”

Not sure what’s more amazing, the song title (which is clearly the song title of the year) or that the music actually lives up to it. This has a bit of a 90s indie noise punch married to a postpunk whirr of guitars and bass and a song that totally succeeds at making that title pay off. From the 2013 album Mass. Grave, check it here: http://kiamrecords.bandcamp.com/album/mass-grave

11. Eleanor Friedberger, “Stare At The Sun”

The excellence of her solo album, Personal Record, has me thinking about going back to listen to Fiery Furnaces and seeing if that band retcons. There’s none of the affected preciousness I’ve always associated with FF here, just a meaty, wonderfully executed song and album. Check it here: http://www.eleanorfriedberger.com/

12. Polvo, “Light Raking”

How great is this song? I mean it comes off sounding like the most pop thing Polvo’s ever done…and then after that first chorus they remind us “Hey, you’re listening Polvo, cheese.” Love the way this songs subverts expectations constanstly throughout, with those Don Henley synths on the chorus to the way they deconstruct and rebuild it all again. From the 2013 album Siberia, check it here: http://www.mergerecords.com/polvo

13. Brendan Benson, “Oh My Love”

Benson’s consistency became almost (don’t tell anyone I said this) dull in the past few years. In 2013, he released a single each month, and the unique approach seems to have fueled a new creative spark in his work. This song is like a swaying, swinging Pachelbel’s Canon with clever lyrics and brilliant execution. Benson collected all his 2013 singles onto an album at year’s end called You Were Right. Check it out here: http://www.brendanbenson.com/

14. The Parquet Courts, “Borrowed Time”

Yes, I know. You’ve heard this song dozens of times over the last year. So what? When a group of young NYC area rockers gets together and perfectly distills the things I loved so much 20 years ago in Big Dipper and Hypnolovewheel and this time the whole world notices…well we’re taking that for a victory lap here. http://parquetcourts.wordpress.com/

15. Dragoon, “Be In My Movie”

After waiting for a couple of years for the first Dragoon album, this one just sort of seemed to spontaneously appear last winter. Astonishingly, the album–The Galaxy Is But A Nursery–is better than the debut. This song is emblematic–loud, raucous, hook-filled, and clever. Check it out: http://dragoongalaxy.bandcamp.com/

16. Franz Ferdinand, “Right Action”

We promised you hits, hits you get. Yes, this song is all over cooler radio stations–but with good reason. This is how you write an outstanding, butt-shaking, anthemic post punk anthem…and we’ll ignore that it completely rips off That Petrol Emotions “Big Decision” for now. http://www.franzferdinand.com/

17. My Bloody Valentine, “In Another Way”

Of all the tracks on My Bloody Valentine’s surprising return to the land of the living sort of self-title album MBV, none sounded so much like a continuation of themes from Loveless than this track. Interestingly though, this song also best shows the way to a future MBV sound and future records, if they feel like it. A beautiful, sensual assault. http://www.mybloodyvalentine.org/Catalogue.aspx

18. The Elephant Stone, “The Sacred Sound”

The Elephant Stone’s self-titled 2013 album might be one of the best two or three records that came out in 2013, and what makes it striking is how often it both hews close to a formula before then breaking away from such constraints. For instance, this song is all feedback and noise that gives way to woozy strings and Rishi Dhir’s echoed voice closing out our look at the past year with one of the most gorgeous songs that came out in the last 12 months. http://www.elephantstonemusic.com/

That’s it, we’re done! Thanks for reading or listening or tolerating. Have a lovely 2014, y’all.

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Top 50 Music List of 2013, Mixtape 1!

December 31, 2013 at 1:16 pm (Best-of lists, Music Mixes)

jim_morrison

Grab the mix by clicking this text, and then let’s get to the Devil’s Music.

1. The Future Of the Left, “Singing Of The Bonesaws”

This song made me laugh out loud the first time I heard it. Like early Art Brut, only crankier. Taken from their album How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident. Band webpage here: http://futureoftheleft.net/

2. Mazes, “Hayfever Wristband”

I just discovered Mazes this past year, and all their records are outstanding. I like this song for especially feeling sorta like what you’d get if Michael Quercio of the Three O’Clock was the lead singer of the Volcano Suns. From their album Better Ghosts. Band webpage here: http://www.wearemazes.com/

3. Dutch Barn, “Come Down”

If there’s a trend to 2013 I stand firmly in favor of, it’s a return to the amazing music and style of the 1990’s. Dutch Barn are a UK band who totally nail a sound that feels like late-period Feelies covering Pale Saints. This is a great song to drive/play air drums to as well, just saying. Band website here: http://dutchbarnband.com/

4. Mark Mulcahy, “She Makes The World Turn Backwards”

Mulcahy was the leader of the great 1980s band Miracle Legion. The tragic loss of his wife a few years back seems to have pushed him back to making music, and his 2013 record Dear Mark J. Mulcahy, I Love You might be the best thing he’s ever done, which is saying something. Website here: http://mezzotint.com/markmulcahypreorder.html

5. Youth Lagoon, “Mute”

There are some Youth Lagoon songs that don’t do much for me, but on this track when the that weird synthy fanfare kicks in (is that a mellotron?) it’s so woozy and swoony that it makes my heart catch. From the evocatively titled album Wondrous Bughouse, webpage here: http://www.fatpossum.com/artists/youth-lagoon

6. Sam Phillips, “Pretty Timebomb”

Every few years Sam Phillips makes an album, and since divorcing herself literally and figuratively from the over-blandness of former husband T-Bone Burnett’s production, her records are unfailingly interesting and excellent. From her latest album, Push Any Button. Her web site is here: http://samphillips.com/

7. British Sea Power, “Guillemot Girls”

I’ve always liked the idea of this UK band more than I’ve liked their records, but in 2013 they did the soundtrack to a film called From The Sea To The Land Beyond and it all just clicked perfectly. The album has the same title as the film, the webpage is here: http://www.britishseapower.co.uk/

8. Sweet Apple “I Wish You Could Stay (A Little Longer)”

Sweet Apple is the collaboration of some old school indie vets, notably John Petkovic of Cobra Verde and J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr.  Their previous record was a bit hit or miss, but this single, a preview track from a forthcoming 2014 album, is one of the best songs I heard all year. Just a brilliant job of pop song craftsmanship, where everything is just PERFECT…including the guest duet vocal from Mark Lanegan. Band Website (with the single) is here: http://sweetapplesongs.com/

9. The Resonars “Tomorrow Gears”

God bless Matt Rendon and his band The Resonars. As you can tell by listening, The Resonars live in a world where The Creation, The Action, and The Move still rule and 1967 loops back on itself again and again. From their excellent 2013 album Crummy Desert Sound (one of my favorite album titles in recent memory, that.) Available here: http://burgerrecords.11spot.com/search-by-artist-2/the-resonars/the-resonars-crummy-desert-sound.html

10. The Limiñanas, “La Meloncolie”

A great Francopop cut of sheer Gainsbourg-ian genius, this is the slinky seductive catsuit beat you’ve been looking for. From the album Costa Brava, website here: http://troubleinmindrecs.com/bands/liminanas.html

11. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, “Secret Xtians”

As great as UMO’s debut album was, the follow-up seemed destined to disappoint. It’s actually very solid, and this track rules. The record is called II, and the band’s site is here: http://unknownmortalorchestra.com/

12. Ex Cops “You Are Lion I Am Lamb”

The teaser singles for this NY-area dreampop band in 2012 hinted at great promise, and their January record delivered. This is one of the most gorgeous hooks of the year, period. Don’t trust Spotify’s year date on this, it’s 2013, from the outstanding album True Hallucinations. Trust me on this. Web page is here: http://excopsband.com/index.html

13. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, “Nightwater Girlfriend”

Every year it feels like SSLYBY puts out a great record that deserves to be a hit. These folks from my old home state of Missouri are just amazingly, consistently excellent. Dig the way they sway and swing the beat here halfway through. From the 2013 album Fly By Wire, the band page is here: http://sslyby.com/

14. Minor Alps, “I Don’t Know What To Do With My Hands”

2013’s “Had me at hello” moment was finding out that this band was a collaborative project of Juliana Hatfield and Matthew Caws (of the excellent Nada Surf). All over this record I kept feeling like “They should’ve done this years ago”, so perfectly do their voices and writing styles blend into a glorious whole. From their album Get There, here’s hoping they do this again. Band’s hub is right here: http://minoralps.tumblr.com/

15. David Bowie “Valentine’s Day”

A bittersweet discovery, as I’ve not given many latter-day Bowie projects the time of day. Upon the tragic death of Scott Miller, however, I discovered that his favorite record of the year to that point was this astonishing return to form here. And so here it is:  Bowie’s record, The Next Day, really is terrific and has some of his best songs in decades. Website here: http://www.davidbowie.com/

16. Smith Westerns, “Glossed” and “XIII”

I started out loving these Chicago suburb wiseacres, and then I sort of got tired of them equally quickly. Imagine my surprise at discovering their growth and evolution on their 2013 album Soft Will. This track is absolutely gorgeous with a monstrous melodic hook that should’ve made it a massive hit. Better still, “Glossed” flows seamlessly into “XIII” on the record, giving this mix a delirious two-fer to close out the first tape. Band’s website is here: http://www.smithwesternsmusic.com/

Tomorrow, Mix Tape 2, which is all Arcade Fire songs in a loop.

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The Very Best Music of 2013. Period.

December 31, 2013 at 1:15 pm (Best-of lists, Music Mixes)

2013 best of

In the past whenever I’ve scraped enough time to do a year-end list of the best music from the previous 12 months, I’ve always presented it with a sort of  genial “Aw shucks-ness”, saying that a particular grouping of songs or albums were just my personal choices for my favorites, but that there were other just-as-worthy lists out there.

Every year I’ve done that, I get the feeling that folks who read my list tousle its hair, cluck it on the chin and say “Aw, that’s a nice list.”

Hell with that.

This year’s list is the definitive list of the best songs representing the best albums and/or artists of 2013. Period. End of story. There’s no equivocating here.  You might see other lists out there, polluted by crappy artists who have no business being under such consideration. For instance, if you put Haim on your list, I at least hope the damn check cleared for you. (As radio fodder/vacuous pop crap, Haim are fine. Wonderful in fact. If they’re in the same list as Kurt Vile, though, you’re trying too hard.) Don’t call this a bias against being popular, either. Some of the best songs of 2013 were exceedingly popular, and they’re represented here.  We got your back, in other words, and yeah, I’m aware that this is one of a gajillion lists of best music of 2013 out there. What I’m saying is this: my list is the one that matters, that won’t fail you, that actually really is the best music of 2013.

So there.

What I did last year I’m doing this year. Instead of blathering on and on and boring everyone with a wall of words, I’m instead doing a mix of the best of the year in songs. What I did was select 50 songs from the year. They’re either the best songs, or the songs I think are most representative of what the album they’re on is about, or are the best way for someone unfamiliar to find their way into an artist or album they might not know. That’s the criteria: outstanding song, representative song, and/or easiest access into the rest of the record or artist.  Most of the time, it’s a mix of all three of those things.

Thus, I have for you the Top 50 of 2013. You know why this Top 50 is better than anyone else’s Top 50? Here’s why: THERE ARE 52 SONGS IN MY TOP 50! Rolling Stone or Pitchfork will give you a Top 20 or Top 100 or whatever…but you know how many records or songs will be in their lists? Yeah, exactly. 100 or 20 or however many they say.  Are they unfamiliar with the concept of a lagniappe? A baker’s dozen? I’m promising 50 songs, but delivering 52. That’s clearly better. Empirically, even.

Even better, with 52 songs, I broke them into 3 separate mixes, each about 60 minutes long. The songs are absolutely positively in no order of quality. Instead, I picked songs out that flow together, and put them in an order that makes for a great listen while, say, you walk from the National Gallery Of Art to the Jefferson Memorial and back to the train station…or drive from Virginia to Vermont to ski and back. There’s an ebb and flow and back and forth here.

What I am going to do here though is live blog listening to the tunes here to tell a bit about why they’re here and why I picked ’em. Nothing huge, just a sentence or two. We’ll do Tape Numero Uno today, Tape #2 tomorrow, and Tape #3 on Thursday.  Let this page be the placeholder for all that, with cross links to the other mixes.

First up, Mix Tape #1!

Mix Tape #2!

Mix Tape #3!

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