Saturday, December 27, 2008

Best of 2008

This has been an odd year for me in terms of my relationship to music. I still listened as passionately as I have in the past, but circumstances - a new job, new friends, a young son, different interests - created a situation in which I was less driven to discover and keep track of the next big thing and more intent on tracking down older stuff that worked in combination with other things (new and old) in a mix format.
However, I still found plenty to like this year, some of which I have put together in the attached mix. Most of the songs are from albums I would wholeheartedly recommend. "Jai Ho," the song tha leads off the mix, is from the soundtrack to Slumdog Millionaire. I can't recommend the album because I haven't heard it as an album (go see the film though - it's great). Here are a list of the tracks on the mix which comprise my arbitrary Top 20 of 2008.
1. Jai Ho - Slumdog Millionaire - AR Rahman
2. Halfway Home - Dear Science - TV on the Radio
3. In the New Year - You & Me - The Walkmen
4. Kim and Jessie - Saturdays=Youth - M83
5. The Park - Migration - Sambassadeur
6. Community Tour - Car Alarm - The Sea and Cake
7. Innocent Reprise - Collected Works - A Mountain of One
8. Le Long du Large - ST - Coeur de Pirate
9. Things Are Gonna Get Easier - ST EP - Low Motion Disco
10. Light As Daylight - Coastlines - Windsurf
11. White Winter Hymnal - ST - Fleet Foxes
12. After the Fireworks We Walked to the Rope Swing - What a Great Place to Be - Sumner McKane
13. For Emma - For Emma - Bon Iver
14. Cape Canaveral - ST - Conor Oberst
15. Calvary Scars/Aux. Out - Wierd Era Cont. - Deerhunter
16. Gobbledigook - Me› su› í eyrum vi› spilum end - Sigur Ros
17. One Fine Day - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today - Brian Eno/David Byrne
18. Goodbye Lennon - ST - Vanilla Swingers
19. Ana Mir - ST - The Ghost Orchid
20. Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa - The Very Best Mixtape - Esau Mwamwaya & Radioclit

Best of 2008 - Robin Hall Mix

Friday, November 14, 2008

Softcore #7 - Brooklyn Bridge Mix

Yo motherfuckerfucker. Where you been.
Around. Busy. I moved. Got a new job.
Yippee. Thanks for the postcard.

Continuing my fascination with soft rock in all its possible permutations, may I present to you Softcore 7 - The Brooklyn Bridge Mix:
Softcore #7 - The Brooklyn Bridge Mix
Track List:
1. The Boat - Saraswa
Saraswa is an electronic/computer composer I found on MySpace. When I first discovered him he was living in Turkey. He seems to have relocated to Nepal. He has released two very beautiful albums.
2. Sail On - The Commodores
I don't know when this was released. You can hear quotes from "All Night Long" in the fadeout.
3. Standing Right Next to Me - Karla Bonoff
Bonoff was one of Linda Ronstadt's go-to songwriters, so she was definitely part of the LA softcore elite. But what's interesting about this song is how it anticipates the big showy ballads sung by the likes of Celine Deon and written by songwriters like Diane Warren in the mid-90's.
4. Pacific Rhythm - Quiet Village
A post-modern Balearic group, named after an MOR classic by Martin Denny.
5. You're So Beautiful - Danny Kortchmar
Jame Taylor's guitarist-turned heavy duty LA studio musician. Along with Ned Doheny, he he illustrates how influential soul music was to soft rock.
6. Fool (If You Think It's Over) - Chris Rea
A minor hit from 1978 or 79, I sold a lot of this when I worked at Sam Goody's.
7. Late Arrival - Katy Lied
I don't know anything about this band except that they named themselves after a popular Steely Dan song and are very self consciously softcore.
8. The Show - Lenka
Pretty song.
9. Antique Bull - Broken Social Scene
I'm close to overdosing on BSS, but not just yet.
10. Christo Redentor - Harvey Mandel
This is a great guitar instrumental from 1968. You could say Mandel was the poor man's Michael Bloomfield, but it wouldn't do this song justice.
11. Dove - Cymande
This is the mix's centerpiece. I've been carrying it around in my head and headphones for months, waiting for the chance to drop it. Cymande was one of the few post-Santana jazz/soul rock band that could stretch out on a groove and not get too repetitious or boring.
12. Aeroplane - Aeroplane
They are Belg, I mean Flemish. Part of the nu world order that celebrates the beauty of trans Euro indie pop disco.
13. Nesso - Hatchback
Hatchback is half of the great Windsurf (the other half being Sorcerer) These guy have been responsible for more great music in the last two years than all the indie bands in Brooklyn.
14. Looking Down a Hill - Epic45
An instrumental band from England, maybe a variation on Explosions in the Sky
15. The Sunken Queen - Doveman
He's from New York, apparently a very much in demand session player. He came to my attention last summer when he Internet-released a son by song homage to the film Footloose.
16. The Other Side of This Life - Fred Neil
Blues folk as softcore. I first noticed this song when I was having a Jefferson Airplane moment a few months ago.
17. I'll Be Long Gone - Boz Scaggs
This is a great song from Scaggs' first solo album, recorded in Muscle Shoals just after he left the Steve Miller Blues Band.
18. I Feel Like Going Home - Yo La Tengo
I don't know anything about this song. My Ipod carried me to it. I must have downloaded it at some point. It's beautiful.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Softcore #3 - The Rockford Files Mix

This mix reflects my growing interest in soft rock. In this case, the emphasis is on songs from the '70's that have a definite Los Angeles feel. Whether or not they weere recorded in Los Angeles - some were, some weren't - they all reflect the influence of the Los Angeles country rock community.
I called this mix the Rockford Files mix in honor of the television show that, to mind, has done a better job than any other television show (and most movies, for that matter) in bringing the city of Los Angeles and its environs to life.
The playlist:
1. Let Your Love Flow - The Bellamy Brothers
2. We're All Playin In the Same Band - Bert Sommer
3. Shannon - Henry Gross
4. Never Ending Song of Love - Delaney and Bonnie
5. Prove My Love - Ned Doheny
6. Dean - Terry Reid
7. My Flame - Bobby Caldwell
8. Her Town Too - James Taylor and JD Souther
9. Isn't It Always Love? - Karla Bonoff
10. Thank You for Being a Friend - Andrew Gold
11. Shake It - Ian Matthews
12. Geronimo's Cadillac - Michael Martin Murphey
13. Muscrat Love - Willis Alan Ramsey
14. Let It Flow - Jimmy Spheeris
15. Laughing - David Crosby
16. Albatross - Fleetwood Mac

Softcore #3 - The Rockford Files Mix

I love all the songs in this mix but a few stand out: the Delaney and Bonnie song, which was recorded in a hotel room and was a minor hit several years after the hype about their Eric Clapton/Leon Russell-led super group had died down; the Ned Doheny song, which sounds like a cross between the Eagles and Steely Dan. The doubleheader of Texas singer/songwriters, Michael Murphey and Willis Alan Ramsay. And finally, the sweet, soft "Let It Flow," by Jimmy Spheeris, who was killed in a motorcycle accident in Santa Monica in 1984.

Friday, June 20, 2008

1990's Mix #1

Here is my 1990's mix, #1. There was so much music I wanted to include, I split the mix in half. I'll post #2 soon.
I'm not sure how I feel about this mix. None of the music blows me away, but that may be because it's still so recent. The things that stand out at the moment are the Loose Diamonds' version of Joe Simon's, "(You Keep Me) Hangin' On," Simon Bonney's, "Don't Walk Away from Love" and "Beautiful Struggle," by the Austin-based (at the time) band, the Borrowers. "Windfall," by Son Volt, is off their first album, Trace, probably my favorite album of the '90's. Alejandro Escovedo and Richard Buckner were two of the most interesting artists I discovered in that decade. Both continue to be woefully under-appreciated.
I didn't include a lot of stuff which, based on number of plays, would have definitely qualified. (Patty Griffin, Bue Rodeo, Dixie Chicks, Jon Dee Graham, Grant McClellan) But, as in my other by-the-decade mixes, I was more interested in using material that I loved but either hadn't played that much or hadn't played in a long time.
Here is the tracklist:
1. Windfall - Son Volt
2. Let's Talk About Sex - Salt and Peppa
3. California (All the Way) - Luna
4. Bad Reputation - Freedie Johnston
5. Hey Jealousy - Gin Blossoms
6. The Natural Alarm - Tobin Sprout
7. Oppenheimer - Old 97's
8. Beautiful Struggle - The Borrowers
9. Pissed Off at 2:00 AM - Alejandro Escovedo
10. Fuck and Run - Liz Phair
11. Skin and Teeth - Joe Henry
12. Red Vines - Aimee Mann
13. Rainsquall - Richard Buckner
14. Sweet Old World - Lucinda Williams
15. You Keep Me (Hangin' On) - Loose Diamonds
16. Dressed Up Like Nebraska - Josh Rouse
17. The Saturday Option - Lambchop
18. Don't Walk Away from Love - Simon Bonney
19. Your Swaying Arms - Deacon Blue
20. We Walk the Same Line - Everything But the Girl
21. Five Strng Serenade - Mazzy Star
22. Hymns to the Silence - Van Morrison
23. Road to Ensenada - Lyle Lovett

Mix Tape 1990's #1

Note: The picture at the top of this post is of the Continental Club on South Congress Avenue in Austin, Texas. For 9 months in 1996 and 2997, I lived in an apartment complex behind the club, and it was like a home to me. And even though I was only in Austin for nine months, when I look back on the '90's, the city and its music had an incredible inluence on what I listened to, both before and after I actually lived there.

(Picture is from Google Images)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Sharvey New Wave Mix

I created this mix as a good-bye present for my friend, Sarah Harvey, who, after three years, was leaving her commercial post production job to pursue film editing work of a more independent nature.
She asked for a new wave mix and the first thing I had to ask myself was, what is new wave? At some point in the late '70's, punk music morphed into new wave, probably as a way of making it sound friendlier. By the early '80's new wave meant something vaguely silly - Wham and Duran Duran and Kakajoojoo. That's when I tuned out.
But, as I put this mix together, I found a bunch of songs I hadn't listened to in a while that I really liked. Seems like new wave may not have been so bad. The best of it was a very cool combination of power pop and disco. So go ahead, have fun, dance. I will not disapprove.
Personal PS: My band. W-2, opened for Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark one night at Hurrah. OMD didn't speak to us.
1. Relax - Frankie Goes to Hollywood
2. Red Skies - The Fixx
3. Enola Gay - OMD
4. New Gold Dream - Simple Minds
5. Love Will Tear Us Apart - Joy Division
6. She Bop - Cyndi Lauper
7. Goodbye to You - Scandal
8. Ca Plane Pour Moi - Plastic Bertrand
9. Mind Your Own Business - Delta 5
10. When You Were Mine - Christina
11. I Want Money - Flying Lizards
12. TVOD - The Normal
13. Time (Clock of the Heart) - Culture Club
14. True - Spandau Ballet
15. The Paris Match (Tracy Version)
16. Sugar Hiccup - Cocteau Twins
17. Say Hello, Wave Goodbye - Soft Cell


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

1980's Mix

The 1980's was not a great decade for me when it came to music appreciation, since I was semi-comatose for much of the time. To be truthful, my strongest musical memory is listening to the Cocteau Twins. I liked them so much I (unwittingly) bought several of their albums twice.
However, even though I bottomed out in 1988, and much of the decade leading up to that occasion was a vague blur, several things stand out: the heady early days of MTV, the cheap synthy sound of the new romantic movement (I can't bring myself to capitalize that phrase), one-hit wonders like "99 Luftballoons," a trip to Barbados that was highlighted by discovering the great Calypso pop singer Mighty Gabby.
My own musical aspirations ground to a halt in 1982 after I did a "poetry reading" at the Mudd Club organized by Lydia Lunch and featuring Thurston Moore, Nick Cave and several other downtown performers way better known than I was. The audience was expecting music and was not happy with our recitations. One by one we were booed and heckled.
I personally take great pride in the experience since I backed myself up with prerecorded drum tracks long before anyone I knew was doing that sort of thing. But nevertheless, by that point I had already started my adddiction-fueled descent into lethargy, and I never performed again. Nor did I listen very closely to music, at least for a while.
Chapter Two of my 80's musical experience occurred after I got sober in 1988. The last thing I bought before I went to rehab was John Hiatt's "Bring the Family," and the first time I played it was the day I came back to work. I couldn't have picked a better album to celebrate my sobriety - Hiatt was a newly sober guy singing honestly and with humor about his everyday life - and it set the tone for the kind of music I would listen to not only for the rest of the decade but well into the 90's.
1. I Can Dream About You - Dan Hartman
2. Anything Can Happen - Was (Not Was)
3. On the Roof - The Feelies
4. Nena - 99 Luftballoons
5. Over the Hillside - Blue Nile
6. The Paris Match (Tracy Thorn Version) - Style Council
7. Do You Really Want to Hurt Me? - Culture Club
8. Borderline - Madonna
9. Blue Monday - New Order
10. Do It Again/Billie Jean Medley - Club House
11. Black Coffee in Bed - Squeeze
12. Here Comes Alice - Jesus and Mary Chain
13. She Bangs the Drum - Stone Roses
14. Bastards of Young - The Replacements
15. There Is a Light That Never Goes Out - The Smiths
16. Talk of the Town - Pretenders
17. Fisherman's Blues - The Waterboys
18. If I Had a Boat - Lyle Lovett
19. Anchorage - Michelle Shocked
20. On the Streets of This Town - Steve Forbert
21. Snowin' On Raton - Townes Van Zandt
22. The Way It Always Starts - Gerry Rafferty & Mark Knopfler
23. Slow Turning - John Hiatt

Mixtape 1980's

(This is a long one.)


I predict that Robyn, by Robyn, is going to be a huge hit this summer. This album, released several years ago in Europe, is only now being made availablet in the USA.
Robyn is a Swedish singer who had a cheesy Britney-esque hit several years ago. She has remade herself as a tough (albeit very white) dance princess, with elements of Shakira, Nelly Furtado, Gwen Stefani and even Peaches.

MP3 removed per artist request

Check out Robyn's website.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Barclay James Harvest

Barclay James Harvest was an English art-rock band from the late '60's/early '70's who fell through the cracks. With their sophisticated, classically-tinted arrangements and memorable melodies, they should have been a lot more popular than they were, but, even though they toured with a string section and at times sounded very much like Pink Floyd, they were never pretentious enough to have the success of bands like Gentle Giant, Genesis and the Nice.
They were also way too ironic, going so far as to record a self-referential song called "Poor Man's Moody Blues."
Another problem was that they came along at a time when art rock in England was undergoing a metamorphosis and the paradigm was changing from Pink Floyd to Roxy Music. And as smart and potentially post-modern as they were, at that point they were too set in their ways to conform to the new mold.
Despite all that, their music sounds surprisingly fresh, probably because they brought a pop sensibility to the serious high mindedness of their chosen genre which prevents them from sounding dated.
(It didn't hurt that they recorded their first few albums at Abbey Road, under the production direction of Norman Smith, the Beatles engineer and Pink Floyd producer.)

Barclay James Harvest - Hymn
Barclay James Harvest - Life Is for the Living

Find out more about Barclay James Harvest at
(Among other things, you will discover the BJH did not go quietly into the night, but rather stuck around making records well into the '90's.)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Mister Loveless Update

Every so often I like to check in on my nephew Robby Miller's band, Mister Loveless, and post an update. This time, I asked him to email me his thoughts on the current state of the band and their music. (He wrote this as an EP they had been working on was near completion.):
Dear Uncle Rob,
I feel like this is a strange period of time for the band. We burned
the band down only to rebuild it again within a year. No one has heard
new music from us in two years, with the exception of some demos and
our live shows. We have been eager for people to hear what we've been
working on but simultaneously weary of putting out anything that we
aren't 100% confident in. Now that the EP is within a week of being
complete we are more eager than ever. In fact, we have to resist
temptation to post rough mixes on our website.
It's increasingly hard when you're spending countless hours with
three people in the same room trying to create something great only to
hear "what's going on with the band?" or "what happened to you guys?"
from people you run into on the street. We may not put a record out
every six months but we are secretly prolific. We've written tons of
songs in the last year but we spend lots of time with them before we
record them, or record them several times. I think this makes
promoting ourselves difficult but is ultimately better for our music.
We have had nothing to sell or even give away that is remotely
representative of the way the band sounds now.
I feel as though Two Words, our new EP, is a milestone for the band. We have yet to record anything representative of the band live, till now. Moreover, nothing has been released from us since we added Sean Gaffney on guitar and Rachael Travers on drums. We are essentially a completely different band with the same name.
Here is "Just Thoughts" the third track of the EP. I am extremely excited about this track. I believe people will be shocked to hear it.
Take Care,

Just Thoughts - Mister Loveless

Check out Mister Loveless on MySpace

Monday, April 07, 2008

1960's Mix

As inevitably as day follows night, and as Spring follows Winter, so too does a '60's mix follow a '70's mix.
In putting together this mix I tried to avoid the classic '60's music that everyone discovered in the '70's - the Velvets and the Stooges for instance. Most of the songs were songs I heard and absorbed during the '60's and as such played a big part in creating my rock & roll DNA.
My goal with this mix was to find songs that were true to my '60's experience - in that I actually listened to them in the '60's - but still sounded fresh. It is amazing to me that music I listened to that long ago not only has the ability to sound new, but still has meaning beyond evoking adolescent emotional goosebumps .
The surprises: The Rain, the Park and Other Things," by the Cowsills, is an amazing pop masterpiece, as good as anything by Badfinger, Big Star or the Raspberries. Songs by Love never grow old. it is possible to find a Rolling Stones song that hasn't been overplayed to death. "Polk Salad Annie" sounds as good now as it did when I was 17 and hearing it on a cross country trip at 2:00 in the morning, coming out of the radio like a message from the great beyond.
One more surprise: the music of San Francisco 1966-1969 does not withstand the test of time. Listening to it now, I find a lot of it - even the stuff I liked at the time, like Quicksilver Messenger Service and Country Joe and the Fish, to be sloppily played and creatively uninspiring.
(Of course, having said that, I contradict myself by leading off the mix with "Embryonic Journey" by Jefferson Airplane.)

1960's Mix

The playlist:
1. Embryonic Journey - Jefferson Airplane
2. Without Her - Blood, Sweat and Tears
3. Quicksand - Youngbloods
4. Orange Skies - Love
5. Neon Rainbow - Box Tops
6. Buzzin' Fly - Tim Buckley
7. Gigolo Aunt - Syd Barrett
8. Back in the States Again - Yours Forever More
9. The Rain, the Park and Other Things - The Cowsills
10. Care of Cell 44 - The Zombies
11. Here Comes the Nice - Small Faces
12. Open My Eyes - The Nazz
13. Waiting to Die - Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies
14. Lies - The Knickerbockers
15. Painter Man - The Creation
16. I Can Only Give You Everything - Them
17. Sabre Dance - Love Sculpture
18. Sittin' on a Fence - The Rolling Stones
19. These Are Not My People - Joe South
20. Polk Salad Annie - Tony Joe White
21. Driving Wheel - Tom Rush
22. Big White Cloud - John Cale
23. Forty Thousand Headmen - Traffic
24. Dance in the Smoke - Argent
25. Peaches in Regalia - Frank Zappa
26. Dreams - The Allman Brothers

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

1970's Mix

This is a mix of songs from the '70's. There are several artists I've talked about before - the Beckies, Andy Pratt, Dennis Linde and Philip Rambow, as well as some well-known artists like J Geils, Lou Reed and the MC5. But I'm pretty sure that, with a few exceptions, most of the material is relatively unfamiliar.
The mix opens with "Postcard from Waterloo," by Tom Verlaine, from his first solo allbum (which actually came out in 1981). This song has rattled around in my brain since I first heard it alomost 30 years ago. A couple of other highlights: "Lean On Your Mind," by the Contenders a late '70's Nashville band led by the late Walter Hyatt, a singer and songwriter who has become a legend in Austin. Also, "Spanish Stroll, " by Mink Deville, one of the most underrated of the CBGB bands. (The first time I went to CBGB's, the bill was Mink Deville and the Ramones.) Another highlight: "Sister Anne," by the MC5, from their 1971 album, High Time. "Sister Anne" is one of the most energetic songs I have ever heard, and it holds up remarkably well.
Here is the complete playlist:
1. "Postcard from Waterloo" - Tom Verlaine (1981)
2. "Fool's Gold" - Graham Parker (1976)
3. "Spanish Stroll" - Mink Deville 1977
4. "Love Makes You Feel" - Lou Reed (1971)
5. "Fallen" - Philip Rambow (1978)
6. "Lean on Your Mind" - The Contenders (1979)
7. "Hello, I Am Your Heart" - Dennis Linde (1973)
8. "O Lucky Man" - Alan Price (1973)
9. "If You Could See Yourself Through My Eyes" - Andy Pratt (1976)
10. "So You Win Again" - Hot Chocolate (1979)
11. "The River Song" - The Beckies (1976)
12. "Homework" - J Geils Band (1970)
13. "Where Were You?" - Mekons (1978)
14. "See My Baby Jive" - Roy Wood (1974)15. "Sister Anne" - MC5 (1971)
16. "Cherchez La Femme/Se Si Bon" - Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band (1976)
17. "On Some Faraway Beach" - Eno (1975)
18. "Hallelujah Europa" - Jona Lewie (1977)
19. "Memory Motel" - Rolling Stones (1976)
20 "Ticket to Ride" - Carpenters (1973)
21. "Borderline" - Ry Cooder (1980)

1970's Mix

This mix is dedicated to my old musical comrade-in-arms, Chris Gray, who introduced me to Roy Wood and never stopped singing his praises, even when I told him I thought he sucked.

Andy Pratt's records are available at

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Pacific Ocean Mix

This is a mellow mix, with a definite West Coast feel, inspired by the Oakland deejay/producers Sorcerer and Hatchback (who also work together as Windsurf).
The mix opens with a great Leon Russell song from 1979, (long after he had became a minor star as a result of his work with Joe Cocker, Delaney and Bonnie and George Harrison) called "Back to the Island." This song is not at all like the rhythm and blues based-material that Russell usually wrote and performed. It has a very laid-back, spooky feeling to it, which makes it perfect to lead off a mix called Pacific Ocean Mix. (It has been covered by Jimmy Buffet and Toots and the Maytals, and I actually thought I would use the Toots version, but it but it is jumpy and skittish rather than subversive, mellow and swinging.)
Among the other highlights is "White Lies," by Grin, featuring Nils Lofgrin before he began his long solo career. "White Lies" was a minor hit around the time of "Horse with No Name," and it has some of the same feel, only it's a thousand times better.
Newer bands featured include the Skygreen Leopards, the National Lights, Warm Morning (from Italy) and Stars of Track and Field.
The mix ends with Mark Knopfler's theme from the film Local Hero, probably one of my favorite film scores of all time (and one of my favorite films.)
Here is the complete track list:
"Back to the Island" Leon Russell
"Hawaiian Island" The Sorcerer
"Floating" Nobody and the Mystic Chords of Memory
"White Lies" Grin
"Pacific Standard Time" Pete Krebs
"Outdoor Games" Magic Arm
"Bad Weather" Poco
"The Skies Turn Black" Fireflies
"Gentle On My Mind" Glen Campbell
"Your Rocky Spine" Great Lakes Swimmer
"Riverbed" National Lights
"Sentimental Lady" Fleetwood Mac
"Fantastic" Stars of Track and Field
"White Summer Daydream" Warm Morning
"Sail Around the World" David Gates
"Wildfire" Michael Martin Murphy
"The Horses" Rickie Lee Jones
"The Homeless and the Hummingbird" Alaska In Winter
"Head Over Heels" Blue Rodeo
"Hard to Say" Dan Fogelberg
"Going Home (Theme from 'Local Hero')" Mmark Knopfler

Pacific Ocean Mix

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Instrumental Mix

In the past, I stayed away from rock instrumental music. Partly because I associated it with the pretentious, bloated, drum-solo-filled schlock that bands like Led Zeppelin and Emerson Lake and Palmer used to pad out their albums and shows, and partly because songs never seemed complete without words. (Although, to be fair, my opinion of most rock lyrics is pretty low.)
Recently, however, there seems to have been a huge jump in the amount of great instrumental music forcing its way into my consciousness. It started with Explosions In the Sky, the Texas band who did the soundtrack for the film "Friday Night Lights," but has expanded as my explorations into dance and its associated genres has expanded - a lot of the instrumental music I have been discovering comes from dance music composers, who seem to be increasingly influenced by the music of composers like Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Terry Reilly, Charlemagne Palestine, and Glenn Branca.
25 years ago, I would listen to Steve Reich's "Music for 18 Musicians" as a way of relaxing. Maybe I - and the world - just need more "relaxing" music more often these days.

This mix started as a list of songs I put together for one of the editors with whom I worked, who needed something "big" to cut to. I liked it so much I turned it into a mix.
Instrumental Mix 1

Clear Light - Lanterna
Looking Down a Hill - Epic45
Wishwash - Saraswa
Future Warriors - Windsurf
A Paw in My Face - The Field
Misty's Reflection - All Systems Ghost
Broken Monitors - B. Fleischman
Waltz for a Little Bird - Rainstick Orchestra
Welcome, Ghosts - Explosions in the Sky
Frozen Twilight - God is an Astronaut
The Boat - Saraswa

Friday, February 15, 2008

Sunday Morning Mix

Here's another mix. It's kind of down tempo, what used to be called chillout, with a couple of Swedish Italo disco songs mixed in. Here's the playlist:
1. Kissing - Mandalay
2. Full Circle Song - Gene Clark
3. Reason to Believe - Tim Hardin
4. Irene Wilde - Alejandro Escovedo
5. Where's the Playground, Susie? - Scud Mountain Boys
6. Jesus Walk with Me - Club 8
7. I'll Be by Your Side - Sally Shapiro
8. Karibien - Air France
9. Hold Me Now - Thompson Twins
10. Misty's Reflection - All System's Ghost
11. The Boat - Saraswa
12. Dance Til the Morning Light - Starflower

Sunday Morning Mix

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Soft Rock Mix

I apologise for the scarcity of posts recently. A combination of a heavy workload, a lack of much to post about and an intense education in new technolgy has prevented me from posting as regularly as I would like to.
However my explorations in new (for me) technology has resulted in my obtaining the knowledge to create mixes with crossfades, and I am posting one here. It's soft rock, a term that meant something horrid 25 or 30 years ago and still has some ugly connotations. However, in my opinion, there is a bunch of music from that period that was unfairly dismissed by being classified as such. I have provided a couple of example in this mix, as well as some current music that very proudly calls itself soft rock.
Soft Rock Mix
1. Quicksilver Girl - Steve Miller Band
2. The Sun in California - The Autumn Defense
3. Gauzy Dress in the Sun - Richard Buckner
4. Joe Purdy - Can't Get It Right Today
5. Windsurf - Windsurf
6. Any Major Dude - Steely Dan
7. Popsicle Orange - The Sorcerer
8. Starsong...What Became of Us - Sylvie Lewis
9. Dancing in the Moonlight - King Harvest
10. Begin Again - California Snow Story
11. It' s a Beautiful Day Today - Moby Grape
Notice I don't attempt to define soft rock. You'll know it when you hear it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Disco continued

My fascination with disco continues to grow. Back in the '70's, playing in punk bands, working in record stores, hanging out at Max's and CBGB's, I was never a member of the Disco Sucks crowd. But I never embraced disco either, never went to disco clubs, never even saw Saturday Night Fever. Working in records stores, I was aware of what was going on with mainstream disco. At Sam Goody's, we sold a shitload of Thank God It's Friday soundtracks and the latest disco one-shot hit, from "Ring MyBell" to "Boogie Oogie Oogie."
Listening to both modern disco, like the Sorcerer out of Oakland, and Johan Agebjorn/Sally Shapiro, and classic stuff from the 1970's I love how the rhythm is the engine that propels the gorgeous arrangements and (very often) amazing technical performaces by singer and muicians. The best disco feels very spacious, without every threatning to degenerate into hippy-ish (or even free jazz-ish) jamming. The rythmic underpinning keeps things under control.
Disco Mix

Guilty Pleasure - Mandy Moore

Mandy Moore began her professional life as a Britney Spears/Mouseketeer clone, but in 2003 she released an album called Coverage that pretty definitively separated her from the other teen idols. The album was full of really well-chosen covers (Mandy said they were songs her parents had played for her when she was a kid) sophisticatedly arranged and produced by John Fields and sung confidently and with feeling by Moore. Among the songs she chose were several gems, particularly, in my opinion, XTC's "Senses Working Overtime," and the Waterboys' "Whole of the Moon."
The thing that amazed me when I first heard the album was the sense that Mandy Moore, who was then barely out of her teens, seemed to comprehend what songwriters like John Hiatt, Joe Jackson and Andy Partridge were writing about. Now I'm not so sure - it may be that she had a really good producer and that she is a much better actor then she's had a chance to demonstrate in her movie and television roles.
Whatever the case, I love the album, I love the choice of covers and I love her voice.
Mandy Moore - Senses Working Overtime
XTC - Senses Working Overtime

Mandy Moore - Umbrella (Rihanna cover)

Friday, January 04, 2008

Rainstick Orchestra

I first heard Rainstick Orchestra on KCRW a couple of years ago and immediately fell in love with its clever arrangements, memorable melodies and hints of Steve Reich and Phillip Glass. (Even though the sound sometimes veers dangerously close to what I imagine Spyro Gyra or the Yellow Jackets must have sounded like.)
I played the album (The Floating Glass Key in the Sky) pretty relentlessly for a couple of weeks, and then moved on to something else, and frankly forgot about it. However, this week, as I was sitting with Conner, my six month old son, in my living room listening, to music while everyone else slept, during that space of time just before the sun comes up, when the birds start to sing and the shadows outside resolve themselves into trees and the tops of buildings, this song popped up on my Ipod, and Conner smiled hugely, and awkwardly reached out to hug me, and the music perfectly matched our mood and briefly reflected the brightening sky.
Rainstick Orchestra - Waltz for a Little Bird

Rainstick Orchestra is made up of two Japanese musicians, Baku Tsunoda and Naomichi Tanaka. The album is available from Amazon.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Rolling Stone on the death of high fidelity

Check out this link to a fascinating piece in Rolling Stone by Robert Levine on the ten-year-old philosophical shift in mixing records that is responsible for producing a sound that might, as Levine says, truly mean "the death of high fidelity."
The basic point is that record producers, using dynamic compression, are now mixing records at a very high volume, with little variation between the different instruments, and between the highs and lows. Apparently, this makes the records sound brighter and therefore more likely to sound good on the radio. However, it can also cause the records to sound peculiarly monosonic. If you look at the sine wave of some of these songs (like Arctic Monkeys, "I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor.") it's one thick black line.
The article quotes a bunch of leading producers, split about half and half between those who like the New Loud and those who bemoan it. (Guess which side of the argument Butch Vig comes in on. Now guess what Donald Fagen thinks.
In the extensive list of links at the end of the article, I came across an article from Wikipedia that reported the following:
"In 1997, Iggy Pop assisted in the remix and remaster of the 1973 album Raw Power by his former band The Stooges, creating an album which, to this day, is arguably the loudest rock CD ever recorded[Cite]. It has an RMS of -4 dB in places[11], which is rare even by today's standards[Cite]."
Oddly enough, I had been contemplating the idea of posting the original and the remixed versions of "Search and Destroy" as part of a discussion of the current drama surrounding Raymond Carver and his editor, Gordon Lish, as discussed in a piece in the recent Fiction issue of The New Yorker. But I think posting the two is more appropriate for this:

The Stooges - Search and Destroy (Original version)
The Stooges - Search and Destroy (Remixed/remastered)

I am kind of torn on the issue. I love the original "Search and Destroy," and I remember saying to myself when I first heard it, "this is the loudest, hardest rocking song I have ever heard." It would have been hard to imagine how the song could have gotten more intense. But I gotta say, the remix is kind of cool.
(I would also love to see an analysis of some high volume classics, like Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water, or Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog," or the Clash's "White Riot.")