Mix XXXI — The Poverty of Words

So, for those who DON’T know, I make mix CDs (playlists, I guess?) [physical ones!] about two to three times a year. It’s about 20 or 21 songs that will fit on a CD-R, I write essays/descriptions, and then ship them out to friends (or acquaintances, or internet strangers) and just open up dialogues about music that we love, that we like, that we find, etc. Here’s the playlist and what follows are the descriptions for MIX XXXI — The Poverty of Words.

For those who DO know, hey, if you didn’t get a physical copy, here’s those paragraphs.

Click here to listen along on Spotify.

1. Colossal — Cast Iron Forest The first song in ten years for these guys. Randomly found these dudes at an FYE kiosk when searching for Braid albums I didn’t know about yet. They were recommended to me via algorithm, which is almost as cool as a conversation you picked up sitting side by side with someone who you just picked up a beer with. Great song to hear them come back with, and I’d be stoked to see if they did more than just a split with Kinsella. A lot of people don’t really dig this guy’s blase delivery, but for me it adds to that sadness and that depth that defines the genre.

2. American Football — My Instincts Are the Enemy Another come back from an iconic emo band, this comes off of the 2nd self titled LP from the band after 17 years of their name being passed back and forth forever. Their members stayed fairly active, especially the aforementioned Mike Kinsella who lived on with his project Owen. But boy oh boy, the way that this band’s guitars play off of each other. It’s like these perfectly tuned chimes that dance together in a light wind. There isn’t that fast and incredible math that a lot of the modern kids within this genre perform, but these guys are the ones that heavily influenced all of it. To see that they’re still organically crafting tapestries like this is heartwarming. I don’t want to wait another 17 years for more from them, but if that’s the process they undergo to make earnest and beautiful songs like this, I’ll bear the wait.

3. Aloha — A Hundred Stories Still lingering within a very similar vein here, this album got revitalised for me when I finally found a copy of the vinyl for $10. Blew my mind, as it was one I was searching for a very long time. I love the way this song has almost a surfer vibe to it at parts, but still maintains that really cool vibraphone, loungy cool out sound. The end breaks out into a ton of different styles at once, both a manic indie breakdown and then into some strange almost Euro club vibe just outside of a bossa nova club? Something? Bless this band.

4. Beach Slang — Spin the Dial Got very into this band’s previous record, but the 2016 release was a solid release. This song for me was easily the stand out for me. A default summer track meant for drives with the windows down. Got that really smoky old americana punk vibe floating throughout it. The guitar lead is almost reminiscent of dad’s classic rock radio station always turned down a bit too much as well. I really would love to see this band persevere through a near breakup early last year, but it seems that they’re making more permanent moves to keep the project going. I really love the effort that goes into this band’s physical releases, not only in terms of lyrics, but also notes and messages that clearly come from a very pure place for the band.

5. Modern Baseball — Coding These to Lukens A quick and cool song with some of those really bright and beautiful guitar chords that I just can’t escape. Was going to see them here in Charleston until they cancelled a large chunk of their tour for what seems like simple mental and emotional exhaustion. Sad that I missed them, but happy that they made the proper decision for their well being and to keep themselves sane.

6. Mitski — Your Best American Girl Already was loving this track in its original phase, but when it opened up into this massive orchestral glory, it was an instant choice to put it on this mix. In fact, I think it might be one of the earliest songs I had pegged for this collection. I just think it’s so gorgeous and open. Those sludgy, grungy tracks that haunt the back of the explosion are very reminiscent of the same types of builds that Hum and Hopesfall put together that really made me fall in love with that aggressive spacey sound as well. Somehow the blend here fits perfectly.

7. Crosses — Bermuda Locket For me, ya know, Chino can do no wrong. And this record was yet another rediscovery in the middle of last year with the vinyl purchase (couldn’t find Team Sleep so slipped in this direction, happily) and couldn’t believe how many bangers that I’d forgotten about. A song like this is so chill and smooth, realistically, this is what I almost expected Head Automatica to sound like when I had first heard of its concept. Just some beautiful hooks and choice production. The delivery here is such a perfect photograph of when Chino was at his late 90s coolest.

8. Sporting Life — Court Vision Speaking of choice production… this is the first moment of true beautiful female charge that I’ve felt since the Purity Ring song (Fineshrine) that I had on a mix a couple of years ago. There’s that super powerful emotion that washes over me, like I’m in a Janet Jackson video in the 90s or something like that. It’s big. It’s pretty massive. This is just a great track overall. One of those songs that when I heard it the first time I had to copy links and send it to anyone who I felt might be in the same vibe.

9. Portugal. The Man — Feel It Still LEMME TELL YA. When I first heard the first single from Portugal the Man from whatever album they plan to release this year, I was mad. Angry. It legitimately sounded like a joke rap track for a Saturday Night Live skit. Worst. Worthless. But then they release this cool ass, disco throwback, super retro, bell bottoms, Bee Gees perfection. UNREAL. This is the song I’ve been waiting for them to release for a decade. Straight up. It takes advantage of so many of the high points of their band. The marijuana celebration, the brightness, the upper register falsetto voice of John Gourley, the 60s/70s influence along with the 80s pop hooks? SON. This is it.

10. Jamiroquai — Little L And how do you follow up a retro head bobber? With another one, man. Hell yeah. Jamiroquai has another album coming out this year as well. And while I wasn’t crazy about the single, I know what this guy is capable of. Such futuristic mod sounds. I feel like this guy was doing Pharrell Williams stuff before Pharrell was ready to come forward, had that Bruno Mars confidence before Bruno was in a single studio. Straight up, these songs are old as hell! Still hold up. Dig in. Some of his stuff is perfect.

11. P.O.S. — Infinite Scroll The production on this alone. Word. Finding hip hop or rap or anything within that cut is pretty difficult. It’s hard to figure out which are enjoyable ironically, or enjoyable on the most surface level, or ones that you’re just being tricked into liking by some strange cut and paste illusion. This guy has a tough grind and has been putting out quality stuff for a good minute. I heard a song of his on Soundcloud about 6 months ago that was like a 12 minute rhyme over some weird post-rock digital sleepscape. He experiments a good amount and isn’t afraid of where production is going or what sounds good or how it’ll take a little bit of work to figure out how to rhyme over it. He does the work. He does the damn thing.

12. Badbadnotgood — Times Moves Slowly Great little jazz record by a bunch of hip hop heads. And on this album, they collaborate with some great people, including dope producer Kaytranada. But this song just has a timeless quality about it. Trance like inertia. You can disappear within this track’s fractals forever. There’s a safe contemporary style to all of it as well, something that helps to lull you into that sense of security. Luxury car, leather seats, night city lights.

13. Every Time I Die — Petal A song about the most bleakest experience. Abandoning all hope and stripping himself bare of any limits, Keith Buckley relives his daughter’s birth which occurred before planned, while he was out on tour and was slowly receiving bits of news from miles away. This journey he takes you on is one of introspection and what it feels to dredge the bottom of the lake to find any strength to continue forward, to imagine a future where you failed by simply existing. Musically, it’s fast and punishing and great in every way that ETID has shared with us in the past. The lyrics for this one hit me super heavily, namely because I have a couple of friends who have gone through similar things and the parallels are uncanny.

14. Code Orange — Kill the Creator Album of the year so far for me. There’s not much to say about this song that will tell you anymore about what makes it fantastic for me. It’s a monstrosity. So heavy. There are chambers within it that are meant to be terrifying and weird. Lots of strobe light moments where the black only gets blacker until it matches the red behind your eyelids. It’s so satisfying to me. I first heard this song on my break at a sandwich place, and had it on repeat for 20 minutes. One of those songs that is so heavy it makes me smile at how obscene it is. Thrilled with it.

15. HEALTH — Euphoria Yo. Health is flawless. From Get Color to the Max Payne Soundtrack to Death Magic to now this remix album, Disco3, they just paint the perfect broken picture. There’s something so synthetic about their sound. They’re the soundtrack for all of the Bret Easton Ellis novels of LA that have ever existed, painting a bleak and saccharine and depraved fantasy of what it is to be young and on drugs and painting the illusion of being excited to be alive.

16. MGMT — Electric Feel This one feels a little like a throwaway or an unnecessary throwback. But let me explain. Last year, Beck’s “Dreams” was everywhere. Couldn’t escape it. And no matter what I did, I could only end up with this song in my head instead of that one. The hook on this one, the lead on this one, is THAT song! I really wish that these guys had a better follow up to their debut, because they really did fall off a little bit. This album was such a blast, and came at the perfect time for me. This song is just one of the many parties within. I know it feels a little “Radio Single”y for my mixes, but fuck it. Oo girl, shock me like an electric eel.

17. The Head and the Heart — I Don’t Mind Saw these guys at a festival years ago, and really liked their happy and upbeat sort of modern rock slash country influenced vibe. Heard their album last year and it was really okay! Never sunk into me in any way, though. But as I’ve mentioned in the past, no one comes to Charleston. And when I saw their show announced, had to attend. I’ll see everyone I have a passing interest in around here. For sure. But this show ended up being something really unique. I don’t know many of their songs, so I ended up getting really lost in their playing, in each band member’s little nuances and little tropes. And these guys, end of the day, are a powerhouse. Incredible energy, incredible vocals. Such poise. Really transformed my image of them. And this track right here stood out to me as a celebration of that night. It’s so big, so bright. And really just how I want to remember them.

18. Eisley — Defeatist This album is so far the biggest surprise of the year. I had them on my list simply because I know Equal Vision was dropping it and I hadn’t heard of them doing much in a while. I figured, yeah man. I’ll stream it before work on Friday. That’s cool. But it came to a point where it was all I listened to for a whole weekend. There are some really large Circa Survive moments on here, some great massive moments. But the vocals on the record are clearly what stand out in the biggest way. Gorgeous and powerful, really big and controlled. There are some shades of Maura Davis, the unbelievable powerhouse from Glos/Denali/Ambulette. Love this entire record, and this one was a tough one to choose to share because there were just so many.

19. Minus the Bear — Erase New album of theirs is fantastic as well. This is the one that I had to throw on here, though. These guys keep the really great jams coming. They build these beautiful beds of music and the vocals really just take you through a brilliant exploration of them. I’m never disappointed by the level of detail they throw in. They know how to craft a nice big project and really set it out to sea and let it take on a wake of its own. I always thought of these guys as dream musicians, but they’re more like really large and fun dreams, not the dark nightmares I tend to favor when it comes to the music you’d want to paint them. These are the explosions and the joys, these are the rejoices.

20. The Shins — The Fear These guys have gone through a ton of different skins, from their almost dainty rock from Oh, Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow to the bigger and more stylized rock sounds of Wincing the Night Away… they were really becoming a band I wanted to watch and follow and get into. Wincing the Night Away was my favorite release of 2007 as well. But then their 2012 album dropped and I just didn’t want it. I didn’t like a single song on it, even eventually. They really didn’t get me to a place I wanted to be on that record and it felt, really, like a record that was put out just to be put out. It didn’t feel complete, didn’t feel baked, and didn’t feel committed. But with this new release, it sounds like they finally got it together. They put the necessary time into it, they believe in it, and didn’t worry about the few different directions they had to go in. I mean, this song sounds to me like a Radiohead track that isn’t dreary or dystopian in any way. So I mean, hey, points for that.

21. The Velvet Underground & Nico — Venus In Furs Want weird? This record has a lot of weird to it. Put out by Andy Warhol and almost instantly ignored, this album ended up becoming a huge deal for anyone making music for art or art for music. It became a voice for the fringe. Really great stuff going on throughout it. And this track is absolutely no different. Very trancey, very post-drug. There’s something menacing about all of it, something that beckons you into its fold only to scrape you up a bit. I love the talk of a vibrant thousand year slumber, but only the repetition to awake you to bring you back to the same cycle of strange unfocused vision.