There Are Three Truly Great Christmas Albums. You’ve Only Heard Two Of Them.

December 24, 2014 at 7:05 pm (Uncategorized) ()

With apologies to George Winston and John Fahey and Booker T. & The MGs, there are really three truly great pop, rock, or soul albums ever released in the modern era. One is the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s soundtrack album for the “A Charlie Brown Christmas” TV special. Another is the “A Christmas Gift For You” album from Phil Spector’s stable of stars. You’ve heard both of those records and all the songs off of them dozens of times.

There’s a third record that belongs in that pantheon. Sadly, this record was refused by the label it was recorded for and was available only for a few years on cassette in Japan. That same record got a limited re-release in 2002 on a label that went under shortly after the only CD pressing sold out. Copies of that CD in the shrinkwrap go for $300 on Ebay. (There’s a happy ending Christmas Miracle about its availability coming up, I promise.)

It’s rather stunning, actually, that this record is so criminally unknown. In a just world, it should be blasting from every restaurant speaker and mall PA system from Black Friday onwards through Christmas day. The name of the record is Lost Winter’s Dream. It was originally recorded in 1990 or so by Los Angeles music scenester Lisa Mychols when she was a kid. And, of course, there’s a back story so improbable and wonderful about this record that it deserves to be told again and again. But first, give these two songs a listen if you’re in a festive mood.

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Yeah. The first thing you’ll notice is the amazing production on this. You’d never in a million years guess that it was the debut recording by a bunch of folks making their first record together. There’s all that Spectorian awesomeness sprinkled on it like sugar on a spritz cookie. More than that, though, there’s a wide-eyed, heartbreakingly pure sincerity to it all. There are reasons for all that.

In an interview about ten years ago, Mychols talked a bit about the recording of Lost Winter’s Dream. Apparently a couple of things precipitated this album. For one thing, Mychols had grown up in love with the classic sounds the 1960s and the kind of production flourishes one heard from folks like Phil Spector or on the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. She taught herself to play bass by plunking along on it while watching videos on the recently-launched MTV. One fall, still a teen, she’d struck up a conversation with scene-making SoCal hipster record label Bomp. By now, Mychols had also taught herself how to play guitar and to write songs. Bomp was interested in putting out a single on a 7″ if she’d record something. She was interested…

…and, by her account, was also undergoing the first heartbreak of her life, the end of her first longterm romantic relationship. She’d come up with a few songs, actually, and determined that–given the fall into winter season–she’d write songs in the vein of that classic Phil Spector Christmas album. Eventually, all the songs she was working on ended up being more or less of that theme. Maybe the “single” would be more than just one song.

The soon-to-be-record had one other thing going for it. Mychols had struck up a fast friendship with two like-minded souls, a couple of guys named Darian Sahanaja and Nick Waluska. They loved the same records and sounds she did. They could fill in gaps on instruments she couldn’t. They also had some studio experience themselves. The single that Mychols had promised to Bomp took on a life of its own, at some point becoming a full album.  Mychols–the principal songwriter–poured out her broken heart into every song, filling them not just with heartbreak and longing, but also with hope, nostalgia, joy and desire. Her songs were the kind of things you can’t fake. Real emotions, real young adult first relationship angst.

I’ve kvetched before about bad Christmas songs. It’s so damn easy to just toss off a couple of seasonal words in near non-sequiturs, add some sleigh bells, and call it Christmas music. Too many artists who ought to know better make music aimed at opening holiday wallets without ever seeming to care one whit about what they’re doing, and the end result sounds fake and crass and commercial. There is nothing–not one tiny word–that Lisa Mychols writes or sings on Lost Winter’s Dream that doesn’t feel as if she isn’t singing from the depths of her soul. Lost Winter’s Dream doesn’t sound like a record that someone wanted to make. It sounds like a record Lisa Mychols HAD to make–like some volcanic eruption of emotions and nostalgia and wistfulness that had to come bursting out of her…all tied up in a bow.

Amazingly, Darian Sahanaja and Nick Waluska matched the gorgeous and pure and beautiful songs that Mychols wrote with production chops that belied their limited experience and means. They, too, poured it all out. That they were working under a tight deadline with the holiday season pretty much already arriving only added to how remarkable the end results were. Nothing about what the three ended up with sounds rushed or half-baked.

There was a punchline though. After somehow managing to get everything finished, the weekend that Bomp had set as a deadline for the finished results was a weekend that Mychols found herself grounded. There was no way for her to deliver the master recordings or artwork. Bomp told her maybe next year. Deadlines are deadlines. Talk about teen angst. The next year, Bomp had changed its focus to be strictly aimed at garage rock of the loud and noisy variety. They were no longer interested in Lost Winter’s Dream. Since no one else knew or much cared who Lisa Mychols, Darian Sahanaja, or Nick Waluska were in 1991, Lost Winter’s Dream found no suitors. Finally, a Japanese label picked it up and put it out on cassette in Asia.

Mychols went on to front a string of well-respected Los Angeles guitar pop bands of which The Masticators were probably the most well-known. She still makes great music on her own as the Lisa Mychols 3, or as a member of bands like Nushu.  Sahanaja and Waluska formed a group called the Wondermints. They ended up as Brian Wilson’s (yes, that Brian Wilson) backing band starting in 1999 and have been there ever since as his touring band and studio musicians. It was some amazing happy accident, then, that all three of these incredibly talented folks ended up recording an album together at the start of their respective careers.

Based on the relative prominence of the various members in the intervening years, Lost Winter’s Dream got a proper US release on boutique label Rev-Ola in 2002. Unfortunately, Rev-Ola’s parent group, Cherry Red Records, discontinued the label and put Lost Winter’s Dream out of print after a single pressing.

Now, though, time for that happy ending for music lovers. The pop music goldminers at Futureman records acquired digital distribution rights to Lost Winter’s Dream in 2012. For a measly $7, you can finally own the best Christmas record you’ve never heard. Even better, you can listen to the entire album for free before you buy it. Seriously, that’s an awesome deal. The version that the Futureman folks have up is the “expanded edition”, too. Apparently the original Japanese release appended the seasonal tunes with four cover versions: “To Sir With Love”, “Sign Of The Times”, “The End Of The World”, and “Sixteen Reasons”. They also added some demo versions and a few other oddities from the same period.

Go here. Listen to it. Buy it. Thank me later, and Merry Christmas!

LWD

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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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Really, I Promise. Christmas Tunes are coming!

December 21, 2014 at 3:00 pm (Uncategorized)

Got hepped to something on Saturday morning that sounded funny to use in future years.  Decided Saturday afternoon that it incorporated such a neat part of 2014 that I wanted to stick it into this year’s mix.

Making a few audio adjustments for posterity today.

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Yes, Virginia, There Is a Christmas Mix Coming.

December 19, 2014 at 4:45 pm (Uncategorized)

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Bleah. In my heart of hearts, I’d meant to have a Christmas mix done and posted for general consumption on Monday. However, a couple of regular accounts I work with were desperate to get some things done before the holidays, and were willing to make it worth my while to help them out. So…self-imposed deadlines for Wednesday and Friday have come and gone. Yikes!

I sorta feel like Scrooge a bit, because I’ve been working lots and not doing that whole “keeping Christmas well” thing. At least not as well as I’d have liked to. Let’s go with that.

It isn’t just that, though. I’ve either become extraordinarily picky about what songs I’ll consider for a Christmas mix, or the awful crap to good stuff ratio for the Christmas tunes I’ve been listening to is way out of whack in favor of the former category.

The other thing is, if I wanted to have something done right now, it’d be done. I’ve learned from experience that this is no way to do a holiday music mix, though. Rushing and cutting corners leads to bad stuff. There are at least two mixes from the last 10 years that I just cannot listen to at all, because I know I rushed them, and I know there are gaping errors in content and placement in both of them. A Christmas music mix is kinda forever for me, for each year I do it. No backsies.

At any rate, I’m at the quality-control stage here, and I have to have it done for a little holiday shindig tomorrow. So. I’ll finish it up tonight. Post it tomorrow, and maybe throw a reminder up for those of you who only surf the internet on weekdays at work on Monday. You know who you are.<a

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Horror Movies For Halloween, 2014!

September 2, 2014 at 6:02 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

“Wanna see something really scary?” (Dan Aykroyd, The Twilight Zone)

I know I do, especially at this time of year. In fact, last year I spent October buried in horror films. Over at Quarter To Three, Tom Chick and I dual-blogged our impressions of 30 selected horror movies covering 30 years, from 1957-1987. It was a blast.

This year, I’m going to be doing something similar, but with a modified theme. For 2014’s horror movies in October, we’re going to cover the best 31 horror movies of the last 15 years. The premise–and I don’t want to spoil too much just now–is that the last 15 years for horror film have been a golden age in the genre, covering a wide variety of sub-genres. We’ve got found footage, fake documentaries, creature features, psycho killers, ghost stalkers and even a good ol’ fashioned werewolf or vampire, too. Oh yeah–we also got zombies. Boy howdy, do we have zombies!

I think we’ll be up again at Qt3, and so each day a friend and I will write about a new movie over there, and I’d love for you to show up and offer your own opinions in the frequently lively discussions that ensue. Consider this your invitation to join in!

On the movies chosen: I crowd-sourced it with some of the horror aficionados at Quarter To Three over the last few weeks. We started with nearly 100 films to fill 31 spaces. We wanted to get culturally significant movies in, we wanted a representative cross section of films, we wanted to give a leg up to artistically interesting movies, etc. etc. I can’t tell you how bummed I was to have to leave great flicks like Zombieland or Trollhunter off the list, but that’s just how strong the last 15 years have been. If your favorite movie isn’t covered, well…maybe we’ll get to it some other time? In the meantime, here are the 31 movies we’ll talk about in October, in the order we’ll discuss them.

The Blair Witch Project
Audition
Ginger Snaps
Session 9
Frailty
The Ring (US)
Ju On
May
28 days/Weeks Later (A two-fer!)
A Tale of Two Sisters
Shutter
Shaun Of The Dead
Call Of Cthulhu
The Descent
[rec]
The Orphanage
Lake Mungo
Martyrs
Let The Right One In
Splinter
Paranormal Activity
Triangle
Cabin In The Woods
House Of The Devil
The Pact
Berberian Sound Studio
Resolution
The Last Will and Testament Of Rosalind Leigh
You’re Next
The Banshee Chapter
Trick R Treat

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How To Tell Your Returneds Apart.

March 7, 2014 at 4:26 pm (Uncategorized)

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In the last few days I’ve sort of stumbled upon a recently added Netflix TV series. The show is called “The Returned”. It’s a French show based on a 2004 movie, and I’m finding it absolutely absorbing, almost in the way that True Detective and Twin Peaks once got their respective hooks in to me.

The premise of the show is simple: a small mountain town in Alpine France suddenly has selected dead folks coming back, exactly as they were before they died. They appear healthy, in mostly sound mind…and fairly confused and blanked out on where they’ve been and what happened to them that they died in the first place. If you’re expecting that to be warm and fuzzy, don’t. Living people react to folks who’ve been dead for a decade or more just showing up at the house in unpredictable ways.

Also, apparently one of the returned dead is a serial killer.

And then there’s Victor. Yeesh.

It’s a haunting and beautiful show that I cannot recommend enough.  That being said, if you’re not careful, you’re going to get caught in this weird net of Returned-isms, because apparently every intellectual property publisher and their Uncle Bob wants a version of this premise. Let us fine folk at Popnarcotic help you navigate this nonsense.

1. We begin with Les Revenants, a 2004 French film.

Les-Revenants-01

Les Revenants was directed by Robin Campillo. It received middling reviews. Many critics thought the premise was interesting, but not particularly well-executed. The movie was retitled “They Came Back” for English-speaking audiences.

2. The Returned (the French TV series THAT IS SERIOUSLY GREAT AND TOTALLY WORTH WATCHING!) is an adaptation of that 2004 movie.

LES REVENANTS

The show is called “Les Revenants” in France, but on Channel 4 in the UK and on the Sundance Channel and Netflix in the US it is called “The Returned”. The first 8-episode season aired in 2012. The second season airs later this year. The series is created by (or adapted, or however is the proper way to put it) by a fellow with outstanding taste in music named Fabrice Gobert. In one of Fabrice’s previous movies, he got Sonic Youth to do the score (apparently just by asking); Mogwai does the score for The Returned, and it is outstandingly beautiful and haunting.

3. In 2013 a very bright young filmmaker named Manuel Carballo made a movie called–wait for it–The Returned.

The-Returned-2013-movie-Manuel-Carballo-3

Carballo’s movie is also excellent, and although it’s a zombie movie, as Tom Chick points out in his interview and podcast with Carballo, it’s so much more. This Returned is actually about healthcare issues, rationing, and medical ethics. Other than the title, it has no relationship to the French TV series or movie.

4. August of 2013 saw the release of a book called–come on, you’ve already guessed–“The Returned”.

returnedbook

The book is by a guy named Jason Mott, who as far as I know never saved any games in the 2011 World Series. In Mott’s book, he apparently presents a scenario where he explores how a family copes with having a long-dead child suddenly return to them, alive and exactly the way he was when he died. Stop me if this all sounds familiar to you. I guess in this novel, the rising from the dead thing is also a bit of a global phenomenon. Or something. Frankly, I’m stunned that Jason Mott wasn’t sued to the ends of the earth for what sounds like a blatant bit of plagiarism.

5. ABC here in America optioned Mott’s book for a TV series called Resurrection.

Resurrection-Promo-Pics-resurrection-abc-34830907-620-390

“Hey, but wait,” I can hear you thinking. “This show will be based on the novel, so it won’t be like the awesome French TV series that is suddenly getting ripped off by everyone who brushes up against it. Indeed, in this interview the executive producers of “Resurrection” claim that not only have they totally never EVER seen the French show, but they’ve deliberately avoided watching it for fear of ripping it off. The producers of the ABC show say that, in fact, to try to be totally original, they’re only using Mott’s book as a jumping off point, but that their TV show will go in its own unique direction. In fact, their original vision of Mott’s novel involves them setting Resurrection in a mountain village in Colorado, and making the initial season of the series only 8 episodes. If I am a lawyer for Canal+, I’m on the phone with everyone at ABC at this point, because they’re completely lying here. The show is an obvious ripoff of the French show, and it’s so boldly crass the way they’re doing it that I can’t help but root for this show to fall flat on its face. What, are they waiting until they see the next season of Les Revenants in November before deciding on a second season?

6. But wait, there’s more!

aande

Just when you thought you could tell one Returned from another, it turns out that the A&E Channel has actually secured the rights to the French TV series (which you really should be watching right now instead of reading this). A&E has a show runner attached to the series and is apparently moving full steam ahead on bringing an Enlish-language American adaptation of the show to American cable TV.  Oddly enough, A&E is majority-owned by Disney/ABC. Talk about hedging your bets.

At any rate, there’s one Returned I recommend, and that’s the French TV show. It is beautifully, cinematically shot. The dialogue is painful and real-sounding. The acting is superb. The production values are through the roof. It can be seen on Netflix (which is where I discovered it), the Sundance Channel on cable, or you can buy individual episodes from Amazon and iTunes. If my fanboying over how great the show is hasn’t yet convinced you, let me show you the title sequence, which spoils nothing about the show, but does tell you everything about how beautiful and weird and amazing it is:

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Top 50 Music List of 2013, Mixtape 2

January 1, 2014 at 3:53 pm (Uncategorized)

dali cooper

Time to flip the tape from 2013 to 2014, and then roll another 17 songs into this mix! (As in, click me.)

1. Sean Nelson, “The World Owes Me A Living (And I Intend To Collect)”

If Sean’s name or voice sounds familiar, it’s because he was the frontman of the underrated Harvey Danger, and occasional sideman to his buddy John Roderick in The Long Winters. Here, Sean steps out with a wonderfully pissy, tuneful, and brilliant solo record (that features help from a who’s who of luminaries from around the industry) that plays up his strengths as a songcrafter. From the album Make Good Decisions, check it out here: http://reallyrecords.bigcartel.com/product/sean-nelson-make-good-choices

2. Light Heat “Dance The Cosmos Light”

Light Heat is the new music project of former Mazarin frontman Quentin Stolzfus. While I liked the idea of his previous band, for whatever reason Light Heat’s updated take on dreampop totally rings my bells a whole lot harder. The album is self-titled, and Light Heat’s homes are here: http://www.ribbonmusic.com/label/artists/light-heat/ and here: http://www.light-heat.com/

3. Bottomless Pit, “Incurable Feeling”

Bottomless Pit is Andy and Tim from Silkworm, who wisely decided not to carry on under that moniker after the senseless death of drummer Michael Dahlquist. This is the third full Bottomless Pit album, and I think it’s the most full-sounding longplayer they’ve done under this incarnation. This is taken from the album Shade Perennial, and the band’s website with listens and links to buy is here: http://www.bottomlesspit.us/music.php Also, the excellent documentary about Silkworm, Couldn’t You Wait, is available here: http://buy.couldntyouwait.com/

4. The Go, “Voices Rant On”

The Go are a Detroit band long championed by Jack White his own self. They may have originally been all raw and garage-y, but here and throughout their 2013 album Fiesta they just effortlessly trip through a joyous variety of heavy 60s and 70s awesomeness. Check out more here: http://listentothego.bandcamp.com/album/fiesta

5. Charles Bradley, “Where Do We Go From Here”

Once again ably backed by the Menahan Street Band and other Daptone folks, Bradley continues his career renaissance with the excellent album Victim Of Love. This particular song has a delicious, almost garage-rock feel to it with the dirty guitar sound and beats. Check out more here at Bradley’s site here: http://thecharlesbradley.com/

6. Boogarins, “Lucifernandis”

Leave it to a band of Brazilian kids to take that Os Mutantes sound and update it and make it sound just as interesting and new. I love the way the guitar and drums seem to chase one another around with too many notes and beats all over this. Ingenious. This is from their debut, As Plantas Que Curam. Check out the band’s US/English language label/hub: http://www.othermusicrecordingco.com/collections/boogarins

7. Kurt Vile, “KV Crimes”

While I’ve always liked Kurt Vile well enough, it was on the 2013 album Wakin On A Pretty Daze that his amalgam of indie rock and 70s icon influences coalesced into a completely brilliant whole.  I mean, dig that fat, greasy guitar riff here, and you’re definitely going to want ALL that cowbell. All of it. I don’t do records of the year anymore, but this one would be a strong contender if I did. Kurt’s homepage can be found right here: http://kurtvile.com/

8. Cheap Time, “8:05”

God bless Jeffrey Novak for carving out his own niche in a crowded indie scene in Tennessee years ago, and then sticking with it and growing it. Here on “8:05” and throughout the rest of their 2013 album Exit Smiles, Novak and his cohorts twirl glam and punk through their slamming, collapsing raw rock and it’s one of the most invigorating sounds anyone made on record this past year.  Stream and buy here: http://www.spin.com/articles/cheap-time-exit-smiles-album-stream/

9. The Blakes, “Chernobyl”

It took me a few albums to figure out exactly where The Blakes were headed, but “Chernobyl” wonderfully evokes everything they’re on about. Imagine if you took some of the best 1980s UK postpunk pop songs from folks like New Order or Talk Talk or The Chameleons or Echo & The Bunnymen and played it raw and rippy, and distorted and rocked the hell out of it. That’s what the Blakes do here and all over their 2013 record Junko. The band’s excellent website is here: http://www.theblakesband.com/store/

10. Vampire Weekend, “Step”

Remember how I said there was some great music that moved a lot of units in 2013? That’s absolutely the case with Vampire Weekend, who–doubters be damned–continue to write brilliant songs and offer them up with fascinating arrangements. I know this band has doubters and haters galore, but here’s the thing: when I listen to a song like “Step”, I hear an absolute obvious connection to a group of scruffs like The Blakes and Cheap Time, and I will fight you over that. From the 2013 album Modern Vampires Of The City, the band’s website is here: http://www.vampireweekend.com/

11. Be, “Adventurine”

Be is the band helmed by songwriter/guitarist David Hawkins. They’re a band I’d not heard of until Rob Galgano, the guy who runs All Over The Place Radio mentioned them a month ago. This song is indicative of the gorgeous and evocative melodies and craftsmanship to be found on Be’s self-titled 2013 debut. Reminds me a great deal of what you’d get if Thin White Rope’s Guy Kyser was (plaintively and beautifully) singing for Calexico, and everyone involved was from some northern prairie state. Band’s webpage is here: http://www.beband.net/index.html

12. Bleached, “Dreaming Without You”

Bleached is the Clavin sisters, Jennifer and Jessica, doing a wonderful update of what you might get if the Shangri Las had heard a couple of Throwing Muses records at some point, which isn’t to say they’re not writing brilliant songs of their own (For instance dig the way they toss in a little bridge on this before heading into a massive stomp on the chorus into a final coda.) This is from their debut, Ride Your Heart. The band’s hub is right this way: http://hellobleached.tumblr.com/

13. Yuck, “Lose My Breath”

Ok, if you’re going to shoegaze and then lift verbatim a song title from My Bloody Valentine, the song better be freaking fantastic. That’s absolutely the case here. I figured Yuck’s 90s revivalism was all over when Daniel Blumberg left the band after their debut, but they picked up the pieces, got much more swirly in a Lush or Ride kinda way. Wanna know why this is great? Dig that last time through the chorus, where the vocals sing the same melody, but the guitars and bass and drums do something entirely new in the same key. That’s how you bring something new to the table, folks. Their 2013 record Glow And Behold is absolutely fantastic. Band’s website is here: http://yuckband.com/

14. Lubec, “Local Celebrity”

While I’ve seen Lubec (named, I guess, for the easternmost town in the contiguous United States in Maine) described as also being in the shoegaze camp, to these ears that know they have more in common with the C86 and anorak twee-pop of folks like The Pastels or The Charlottes. Especially love the the way the vocals call and response either to one another, or in the verses to that great guitar riff hook.  This song is a teaser single for the band’s 2014 record, and you can find it and their other releases right here: http://lubec.bandcamp.com/

15.  Joanna Gruesome, “Do You Really Wanna Know Why Yr Still In Love With Me?”

Speaking of C86, these Welsh noise poppers delivered what might be one of my favorite start-to-finish delights of 2013 on their album Weird Sister. Alternating sweet songs and songs about…let’s just say darker themes, this track is a perfect mashup of those themes–it would be too sweet by half, except there’s a swaggering, sexy confidence here. I loved the Flatmates in 1988. This absolutely, massively scratches that same itch. Nice hub for their music right here: http://joannagruesome.bandcamp.com/releases

16. The Bevis Frond, “This One”

I was a fan of Nick Saloman–a/k/a The Bevis Frond–going back over 20 years now, but sort of lost track of him as his releases became more and more oblique to my ears. His 2013 double-lp White Numbers is his first new record in 7 years, and a pretty amazing return to the sounds I once loved from The Frond back when: lovely guitar arpeggios, heavy arrangements, and Saloman’s hangdog-but-wonderful vocals. Webhub here: http://bevisfrond.bandcamp.com/

17. The Ne’er Dowells, “I Won’t”

This song right here–this one. This is why rock and roll is so great. The Ne’er Dowells are teenagers from the NYC area, and the apparent influences on them is pretty clearly music created about the time each band member was being conceived in the early 1990s. Doesn’t matter. They know a great music vibe when they hear it, and on the epic, sprawling, amazing, “I Won’t”, they make a beautiful racket that gives me chills. This is from their excellent 2013 album Are You Still Down. Check them out here: http://youneredowells.bandcamp.com/album/are-you-still-down

Tomorrow’s final mixtape is all my favorite songs from The National.

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