WHAT: Intrepid concert blogger and pal Indie Maven Sean's Fall '07 Mix.
WHY: Because 9 is a nice number, and it's exactly 9 months since I last reviewed one of Sean's mixes. The last time this happened it triggered a flurry of heated debate betwixt myself and my loyal indie rock following (Sean and our friend Victoria). But in order to prepare for the 2007 Music Wrap Up, where I will once again take up the gauntlet against the Rolling Stone Top 50 Albums of 2007 (as well as the Pitchfork Top 50), I decided this would provide some good sparring practice.
Just like last time, I'm over a month late listening to his mix, so please recall my pearl of wisdom from the last review (graciously hyper-linked here): "...if you plead ignorance to knowing a song that Sean sent you, then Sean gets mad. Sean getting mad = Sean no longer sending you free music = Chris unhappy."
Without further ado:
1. Does This Mean You're Moving On - The Airborne Toxic Event: Kinda harmless, kinda sweet, but not the bang! opening number to the mix I was expecting. Nice, especially the little solo section, the sudden "stops" in the riffs, and the vocals. It's short, too, so the sweetness doesn't overstay its welcome. "Thumbs up" but it doesn't grab me and make me hop.
2. Back on My Feet - Dreamdate: Something sounds vaguely out of tune. It's got that garage feel to it, and the harmony vocals in the chorus are fun. I think this needs to be played loud, because at the volume I have it on, it's getting lost. Seems okay, but it also seems like your run of the mill band. Man, short song again! Hard to write a lot when it's already over.
3. Nobody but Me - The Laundrettes: Similar to what Dreamdate was shooting for, but executed much better. Very good - 50's vibe a la Detroit Cobras but with some bite and gristle to chew on. I may also like this more since I turned up the volume in my headphones since the last song.
4. Dead Kid Kicks - The Muggabears: Preemptive "thumbs up" for the great band name. Does the music hold up? So far, yes. The song undulates (5 cent word), never really rising up and screaming, instead settling for a sleazy low end menace. Definitely groovin' on this, although I wouldn't have thought based on the name that the music would sound like this. At the 3:00 mark the songs kick in an extra bit of the nasty...sweet.
5. When I Say Go - The 1900's: I think these guys are in the Rolling Stone Top 50 (UPDATE: They're not - the 1990's are). It's good - piano driven pop that doesn't sound like it's trying to follow a fad. During the first 10 seconds I was skeptical, but the vocals and violin have won me over, inviting me for drinks and perhaps some chocolates. The female version of Ben Folds Five? Dunno, but that's what came to mind (the piano isn't as expressive as what you usually find in BFF). Not only do I like the song, but I like the sequencing of 3-5.
6. Blue and Gold - Clint, Michigan: I'm a sucker for this folkie acoustic stuff. Sounds a bit like Sufjan Stevens minus the distinctive voice and plus a bit more home-grown country. Right now I'm undecided but I can see this growing on me a lot over time. See? 1:57 in and I'm liking it more. By the end of the day this will be playing on repeat in my car and I'll know all the words.
7. These Things Move in Threes - Mumm-Ra: Pop/Rock that sounds like 100 other things I've heard, like, but never follow up on. It's really bright, and I love when the sound, while thick, gets a lot of separation in the production. This is getting better and better. It's always a struggle for me to compare these bands, since I'm no modern rock expert, but this reminds of Maximo Park, who I really like. Maybe Mumm-Ra will be the one I follow up on?
8. Belle Isle - Grand Ole Party: Smooth like port or the smoke from a blue cigar in a neon lit back room where the fat man in the corner tells you the job's only gonna take 3 men but your Bag Man's lying in the corner with a needle in his arm and you're beginning to think this might be the last job you ever...uh, you know what I mean.
9. Dirty Town - Mother Mother: Interesting...a little disjointed and clashing, but by no means horrible. In fact, I think "interesting" is the perfect way to describe this. I'm glad I heard it, don't think it's bad at all, but will probably never listen to it again.
10. Identity Theft- Nellie McKay: What is this? Reggae? Ska? Grows quickly on you. I don't know if I could stomach a whole album, but this song is playful. Did she just mention Ray Bolger? Now I'm intrigued. Feels a little long. It's less than 4 minutes, but feels like 6. There's a theatrical quality to it, like it should be featured in a Disney movie. Whoops, strike that - mention of the F word and Nazis have probably ensured that "Identity Theft" won't be in the sequel to THE LITTLE MERMAID...but wouldn't it be nice?
11. Rag and Bones - White Stripes: Is there really a need for me to talk about this? Of COURSE it's great. Jack and Meg have perfected the sleazy indie rock/blues/swagger that a thousand other bands try to emulate every year. I'm definitely behind the placement of Icky Thump in the Top 50 of both Rolling Stone and Pitchfork. The words "one trick pony" were bandied about soon after the release of White Blood Cells. Three albums later they're still putting out quality. "Rag and Bones" is a bluesy swing with a dirty guitar sound, lyrics drawled and dripping with bite, and a humming undercurrent of sex that makes me leer in an unsightly manner.
12. See You Again - Miley Cyrus: I may not be the hippest guy in the world, but Hannah Montana? Is that who this is? Did I suddenly time warp into Tiger Beat? "I feel like I'm buzzin' on you, in another life?" This is a joke, right? For some reason a 14 girl saying "I have a crazy feeling deep inside" disturbs me. In her defense, this is better than her father's "Achy Breaky Heart." But I am deeply disturbed, both by the general banal pop rock sound and the fact that it's in Sean's mix. Maybe having him over for the holidays should be re-thought...
13. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun - The Hood Internet: Crazy beats and hollering over the original music. The best part of this song is when Lauper actually comes on for the chorus. I can do without the rest.
14. Fancy Footwork - Chromeo: Not sure, but I think listening to the White Stripes must have hurled me into another dimension where everything on this mix is swallows my soul. I'm 100% sure there's an audience out there for this disco-inspired techno pop, but that audience isn't me. Does Sean work out to this? Jazz-er-size? Am I really this insulated from what's going on in music - this is big right now? It's short anyway.
15. DVNO - Justice: More electronic music, but this feels this feels a little more substantial. My brain refuses to figure out what exactly"DVNO" stands for, so I'm going to say it stands for "Disco Violates the Natural Order." Play this loud with the windows rolled down and you will drive birds to dance and possibly make love. You will also possibly get a brick thrown at your car. Electro Bass Solo!
16. Medavac - Siobhan Donaghy: The Electro onslaught continues. These last couple of songs make me nostalgic for the mediocrity of the first two songs! The vocals make this more palatable than the preceding songs, but I'm not converted. If you like this kind of techno/pop/independent music, this will probably hit you square in your sweet spot. I readily admit that I am not the person to give you a qualified review on this.
17. Sunset Beach - The Teenagers: Leave it to a bunch of teenagers to finally break out of the uniformity of the 120bpm techno thunder! It's not really all that rockin' but it's also not glow sticks and sweaty kids! I am weirded out by the spoken stuff, which sounds like someone from Michael Myer's old Sprockets sketches from SNL. Still, if you can move past the perv factor, this is good stuff.
18. By the Time I Get Home There Won't Be Much of a Place for Me - Grand National: That title is entirely too long (although not as long as the new Public Enemy album). This veers dangerously close to being too smug and bored for me, but since that's how I am described by many people, I'm not as put off as I would normally be. But this could all be a result of my immense gratitude that it's not Miley Cyrus. If A Charlie Brown Christmas was animated now, this might be the music playing while they dance. Maybe.
19. 4am - Cherry Ghost: Alt-country that shuffles along, content to merely "be." You can't stop the electronics from creeping into the mix, but this is basically harmless stuff.
20. When Your Mind's Made Up - Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova: What else can be said about the greatness of ONCE? This is the other big song from the film (besides the amazing "Falling Slowly") . I unabashedly love this song, this movie, both Hansard and Irglova's voices, the arrangements, everything. There's been some ONCE bashing lately due to the amount of press the film's received. To those haters I bless you with a great big raspberry - the heart and sincerity in both song and film stack up to my second favorite movie experience in 2007 (of which I'll write more later).
21. It's True - New Buffalo: Fragile and tentative. Very spare arrangement that slowly builds but never takes the emphasis off the vocals. I'll be honest - I took a phone call and missed the middle, but I enjoyed the beginning and the end. It'll stay on the iPod for further listening.
22. Small Planet - Ferraby Lionheart: Wow! How'd you like to be stuck with that name at birth? I have no idea if this guy was, or if it's more of a "Jethro Tull" kind of thing. Soft, jazzy pop with pianos and mellow orchestrations. My Sunday afternoon side likes it. My Hate and Anger side doesn't but he's losing out.
23. Life Without a Brain - The Rentals: The Rentals are one of those bands everyone tells me about, yet I never hear anything from them. Decent - not the first or even the seventh thing I'd pull out on a whim, but it's got a smooth sincere sound, and the mix of male/female vocals works great on the chorus. I guess this is what you call having a good "hook." See? I'm becoming more hip by the minute!
24. You're Not Alone - The Enemy: Last song! Last song! The last song has to grab you by the gonads and pull you back - when you're dealing with 24 tracks anyone (even people who love Miley Cyrus) starts to wilt towards the end. So the last song has to be a "snap-bang" track that reminds you of where you were when you started and where you eventually wound up. This works in that capacity, but you really need to turn the volume up for it to be effective.
BOTTOM LINE: B- Too many points taken off for 12-16. Get rid of those songs and I think you have a much more manageable, Voss-friendly music mix, though of course this mix wasn't made with me specifically in mind (if it was it would have 3 songs 20 minutes long each and would make old people cry). I'll always say this for Sean: he's usually way more adventurous than I am when it comes to making these things, and I'll be the first to admit that a lot of the choices I make when making a mix tape tends to fall for many people on the "safe" side. On the other side of the coin I got to become familiar with some tracks that will definitely become mainstays on my player.
As always, you can click on Sean's link and download the tracks to see for yourself if I'm "Fair and Balanced" or if I'm just a jerk.
And to soften Sean up so he's not too brutal in the comments, here's another picture of Jenny Lewis, who I'll definitely be giving a good review to in the Music Wrap Up next week: