Mixtape Jason's Posts
|I'm Jason, host of the Mixtape on 88.1 KDHX, late Mondays / early Tuesdays at 3 a.m. Central. Follow my blog for news and commentary on all kinds of pop, hip hop, rock, indie and alternative music, and updates on regional bands and national acts appearing in the Saint Louis area.|
Ten Best National Releases
1. The Wombats – “The Wombats Present: This Modern Glitch”
Literate, funny, biting, sincere and maudlin, all the same breath. This collection of indie-pop/electro gems has the wearying problem of being too good too consistently. Every song on this 14-track sorta-concept album is good. And that’s something you don’t hear often.
2. Hail Mary Mallon – “Are You Gonna Eat That?”
Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic team up and wreak havoc on tracks. It boasts big, blustery tracks stacked with verbose rhymes and a dense sorta-mythology, making it the hip-hop equivalent of a Mars Volta album.
3. Kanye West & Jay-Z – “Watch The Throne”
Some would give me hell for including this album on my list, but you can’t deny the sheer gut-punch power of Kanye and Jay-Z’s collaboration. Though it does occasionally misfire (“Lift Off” featuring Jay’s wife Beyonce reeks of nepotism).
4. Wild Flag – “Wild Flag”
Sleater-Kinney is dead. Long live Sleater-Kinney. The synth-heavy debut by an indie-rock supergroup of sorts, this first outing is a doozy, turning what could have been a retread of old ideas into something visceral and youthful and alive.
5. Mister Heavenly – “Out Of Love”
Stomping from New York with a brand of music they’ve affectionately called “Doom Wap” this other supergroup-ish collaboration slinks through styles, never really settling on one, save for power-chord overload.
6. Telekinesis – “12 Desperate Straight Lines”
Indie rock so baroque and perfect, you’d wonder if you had accidentally slipped a Guided by Voices best-of. In fact, Telekinesis cover GBV’s “Game of Pricks” on their EP that came before this album. The comparison, though less lo-fi, is apt. Jangly alterna-pop with a Beach Boys bent and a savvy penchant for lyrics. Short, but never
7. Tom Waits – “Bad As Me”
Once and future king of weirdness returns with a more straight-forward record than even last year’s “Glitter and Doom” tour album. Which says a lot. Mr. Waits’ latest twangs and strums and bangs and does all the other things we’re used to, but somehow it’s more streamlined. And that’s a good thing.
8. Peter Bjorn and John – “Gimme Some”
The story was tailor made as a kind of a Yeah Yeah Yeahs-in-reverse, an electronics-heavy band ditches the electro for guitars. And, unlike the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, it actually delivers on the premise. The Cure-biting “Eyes,” cowbell-banging “Second Chance” are the standouts, though the whole record is top-to-bottom excellent.
9. Amanda Palmer, Ben Folds, Damian Kulash and Neil Gaiman (aka 8in8) – “Nighty Night”
A one-night writing, editing, performing and singing session brought together a British author, his wife the piano-banging punk-cabaret singer, their friend the lead singer of YouTube superstars OK Go and producer to the stars Ben Folds. It’s about as awesome as expected, particularly Neil’s singing debut on “The Problem With Saints” wherein Joan of Arc wreaks havoc in modern times.
10. M83 – “Hurry Up We’re Dreaming”
Electronic and dreamy and synth-heavy, somehow it still stands out because of how human it all sounds. Messy and illogical and purely pop, it takes leaps over other pop albums for its sheer audacity.
Refused – The Shape of Punk to Come
Described in the album’s subtitle as “a chimerical bombination in 12 bursts,” it most certainly stands the test of time for kinetic, bombastic punk/metal of the most intelligent and destructive variety. “New Noise” still sounds brutal and beautiful, even after 10+ years.
The Cure – Disintegration
Goth’s godfathers brought a new creepy vibe on this endlessly gloomy record. The bassline on “Fascination Street” alone is worth the cost of admission, but you’ll stay for the languid takes on “Pictures of You” and “Love Song.”
Rolling Stones – Exile on Main St.
There’s not much more need be said about the Stones’ finest moment, save for the reissue including “Plunder My Soul” a cut that didn’t make the record, but probably should have.
Iggy & the Stooges – Raw Power
Living up to its name even now, the Stooges really defined what was possible in a burgeoning punk scene. Loud, riotous, unpredictable and sometimes heartfelt (see “I Need Somebody”) it was never short on brutal guitar work from James Williamson, some of which was smoothed over the original David Bowie mix, but re-worked when Iggy remixed the album in 97. This year’s reissue included the smoother, groovier Bowie mix and a live CD.
David Bowie – Station To Station
Bowie’s always been associated with Iggy for me, since Pop’s best work came from his time working with Bowie. But Bowie’s always been kind of hit or-miss. Sometimes it’ll be a stark raving masterwork of sound manipulation like “Low” or it’ll be a brittle attempt at making dancehall pop tunes like “Let’s Dance.” “Station to Station” is the former. Melding Kraftwerk’s stomp and beep with members of Springsteen’s E Street Band gets you tunes like “Word on a Wing” which make professional music writers weep for a lack of descriptive adjectives.
Below is my list of 10 favorite albums from St. Louis-based artists released in 2010. For my list of national releases, go here.
Beth Bombara – Wish I Were You
Beth Bombara is a singular talent and a beautiful singer-songwriter in the classic ’70s Joni Mitchell sense of the word. Delicate accents played by band member and husband Kit Harmon add layers of emotion to these already dense, but hummable
Kentucky Knife Fight – We’re All Nameless Here
Alt-country swagger with a Flogging Molly-style drunken rabblerousing was all soaked into their last release The Wolf Crept The Children Slept but here some of the ramblin’ and boozin’ is cut down in favor of tastier grooves and deeper lyrics.
Tilts – Cassingle / Sidepipin’
STL’s Van Halen. If you think I’m joking, peep the VH-biting “Hot For Pizza” from Cassingle, one of their 2 EPs released this year. Wicked guitar action, drums like thunder and a bass line that’s meatheaded, but effective at providing the needed thud for this wacked-out rocker.
Dear Vincent – So Long Winter
Beautiful, elegant, bracing chamber pop performed by some talented folks never fails to amaze.
Via Dove – El Mundo Latino
Pure, unadulterated rock music performed by four dudes who know their musical history — especially their lead singer Andy, whose love of The Rolling Stones is evident in his urgent, pleading delivery on tunes like “(I Can’t) Recognize The
Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid
What. The. Eff. Rap, folk, R & B, disco, Prince-ripping funk, this record has pretty much anything you could ask for. And Monae’s singular talent holding it all together. Unlike anything out this year. Meshell Ndegeocello is likely taking
LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
He’s no longer “Losing [His] Edge” but aging hipsters rarely make good dance records. James Murphy eschews this trend, busting out the lively, giddy jerk-and-stomp of “Drunk Girls” (who, according to his song “wait an hour to pee”) among many many other raw, rollicking jams.
Girl Talk – All Day
Greg Gillis, master of the mish-mashed mixtape, drops Black Sabbath metal under Ludacris swagger, Miley Cyrus pop under M.O.P. mob vocals and many other musical delights on this 72-minute, website-breaking masterwork. Easily the best mash-up mixtape he’s ever made.
The Hold Steady – Heaven Is Whenever
Proving that losing a band member doesn’t always mean losing your sound, Craig Finn and company create another peon to the misguided, the addicted, the “clever kids” – sick to death of modern life, bored with the future, sick of sex, highly literate. It’s smart bar-rock, done well. And then, suddenly, a clarinet solo.
Spoon – Transference
While the previous Spoon outings have been more elaborate than the last (“Ga ga ga ga ga ga ga” being slathered in studio lather), this record takes the necessary step back and simplifies the hooky songwriting we first heard from Britt Daniels 10 years ago on the “LoveWAYS” EP.
Earlier this year, we told you Ultimate Fakebook was back. And we meant it. The band’s album Daydream Radio Is Smiling Static rejuvenated its fan base and got UFB out on the road again.
St. Louis is a very lucky place to be granted a visit from the power poppers from Manhattan, KS — after all, only four cities get to host them on this tour, aptly named the “Four Parties” tour. The band will be appearing at the Firebird on Sunday, December 19.
I had a chance to chat with drummer Eric Melin to talk about the new record, his new band the Dead Girls, his career in movie criticism and work as creator of Scene Stealers, and much more.
Presented to you here is the (nearly) complete interview.
For four years now, Michael Tomko and crew at The Firebird have curated a three-night festival of local St. Louis bands “becoming” other bands – through costumes, wigs and, of course, music. It’s called An Under Cover Weekend.
Why Under Cover? Well, the identities of the bands performing are known at least a month in advance, but their choice of cover sets are kept a tightly-guarded secret until 2 weeks before the show. Then, in a series of “leaks”, the bands’ identities are revealed, cranking up the anticipation and creating a fun game out of guessing who’s going to be next – and who they’re performing as.
This year’s show takes place this coming Friday 9/10, Saturday 9/10 and next Friday 9/17.
Here’s the complete lineup, courtesy of the official page :
For more information about the event, you can visit their homepage or you can follow them on Twitter. In addition to the @AUCW Twitter account, you can follow the conversation as local artists talk about the event by searching for the hashtag #AUCW
Today, R. Stevens of the webcomic DieselSweeties dropped this comic, and I think it’s entirely fitting, since I was gearing up to explain my show – and my overall love of mixtapes in general. But then I realized it’s been pretty much done before.
The show in question is called the Mixtape; it airs at 3 a.m. on Tuesday mornings. I don’t generally get a lot of requests at that hour, but a few folks have been kind of enough to listen online the following morning and some have asked “Why ‘The Mixtape’?
I have a love affair with the medium going back to 2-deck tape players, which the RIAA started cracking down on with the infamous poster – “Home Taping Is Killing Music.”
In fact, there was a period of time in the mid-to-late ’90s when, if asked where I was, chances are good I was sitting in front of my CD boombox, elaborately slaving over a bad-ass mix tape.
These tapes, often 90 minutes, took at least twice that to finish. Since there was no “high-speed dubbing” between CD and tape like there was on the 2-deck tape players, you had to sit and listen to the song all the way through, pausing the tape as you switched between CDs.
And I think that today’s Mp3-laden music scene is missing some of the cohesiveness that mixtapes used to offer. I personally create iTunes playlists as though they were tapes, poring over and carefully arranging songs, like in days of yore. But I’m still just scrolling through my iTunes library, dragging a file to a playlist icon and burning a CD once I’m done. It just doesn’t feel like the work is the same, but at the same time, there’s still the spirit of the thing.
If you believe I’m being nostalgic for antiquated technology, perhaps I am. In a future post, we’ll go through the steps to making your mixtape great. But first, the things you need:
- A CD/Tape Player (available for around $20)
- (1) One 90 minute tape ($5 for a 3-pack)
- CDs as source material
- 180 minutes of free time
For those of you not in the know, here’s a quick history. They formed in ’94 in a little town in Kansas named Manhattan, made 3 great records and faded away.
The first record, Electric Kissing Parties, was a bargain bin find of mine and quickly became a favorite, given its bombastic Cheap Trick aspirations, deceptively clever lyrics and obsession with “Star Wars” – all three best exemplified in the song “Far Far Away,” where head songwriter Bill McShane laments the possibility that “Star Wars Episode I” might just suck.
Their major label follow-up This Will Be Laughing Week was supposed to make them a household name, but no dice, despite the raw rocking power of such hair-metal worshipping tunes like “Soaked in Cinnamon” and the gradeschool confessional of “Brokyn Needle” – which housed the lyric that would become their ethos “Are you ready to rock? It’s not a question, baby”
Their third album, after being summarily dropped from Epic, was on Initial Records and was titled Open Up And Say Awesome which included the “new” UFB sound, a more AM radio-style version of their crunchy pop-rock. Their single “Inside Me, Inside You” did some brisk business at first, appearing in music video form on Canada’s FUSE.
Initial Records helped UFB put out a third recording, this time an EP titled Before We Spark where the boys tried some new approaches, including adding a trance intro to the first track, “Rotting On The Vine”
Seven years passed. The guys all followed solo projects – Dead Girls Ruin Everything (soon to be shortened just to Dead Girls) and Carrier. Then, according to drummer Eric Mellin in their new album’s liner notes, things got interesting.
Our party officially ended in 2003, but five years later, we got together to play a friend’s birthday show and a benefit. That was fun. Then our pals in Motion City Soundtrack asked us on a special three-night run in Chicago and that was fun too. One more show over this past New Year, and we were starting to get a groove on!
Soon enough, Bill was looking into old unreleased UFB recordings. The 10 year anniversary of the release of This Will Be Laughing Week was coming up, so the band decided to release the collected output as a new album Daydream Radio Is Smiling Static and to put it out for free on the Internet. The collection is a great spread of all the albums’ styles and includes some quirky tunes, including a cover of Guided by Voices’ “Echoes Myron” where they turn the lo-fi pop anthem into shiny pop-rock.