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08 May 2010 12:31


About, Music: Sad news: The Saturday Mixtape’s taking a break

  • why? Blame it partly on Lala’s closing,
    but we also think it’s  a good
    chance to reconsider our
    short-form musical approach.
  • next We plan on trying different music features in the future. Our first was “Non-Expert Opinion.” We’ll keep you posted, guys. source
  • » Will the mixtape return eventually? Probably, but its form might change. We might also move it to Monday. Who knows? We might get lucky and iTunes will have a similar embed feature that uses HTML5 (hint, hint).

10 Apr 2010 17:17


Music: Saturday Mixtape: Why isn’t Sharon Jones famous yet, anyway?

  • 1. Harlem’s modus operandi is the same kind of garage rock we’ve been hearing for the last 40 years, but you have to admit that it’s so catchy that you may not care about that. We certainly don’t. We’re gonna throw this song into our Nuggets box set.
  • 2. Speaking of retro revivals, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings are in the market for a mainstream breakthrough already. After Jones showed up with Michael Buble on “SNL” back in January, it’s clear that her band’s pitch-perfect ’60s soul-pop could succeed well beyond the old-school funk collectors that made up her early audience.
  • 3. Back around ’79 or ’80, before R.E.M. became massive stars, Peter Buck was big into fellow Athens, Ga. band The Method Actors, who he says he saw play 100 times in their short history. The post-punk band, which never got famous but were lynchpins for their scene, just had much of their nervy material re-released on compilation “This is Still it.” We can understand why Buck saw them so much.
  • 4. A couple of years ago, High Places sounded nothing like this. There was no undercurrent of darkness in their sound. In fact, one could claim it had almost a twee sensibility. But not here. “On Giving Up” instead relies heavily on dark tones and somber lyrics to propel itself. We’ll let you decide if the change was a good one.
  • 5. Laura Marling is more talented than we are already, and she’s only 20. We want to know why the world thinks that’s fair. “Goodbye England (Covered in Snow)” feels delicate, like she’s in the same room as you trying to cheer you up. It worked for us.

03 Apr 2010 21:50


Music: Saturday Mixtape: What comes next after the split?

  • OK, they aren’t exactly hip. Doesn’t matter. The Barenaked Ladies are a fascinating band to watch right now. After lead singer Steven Page (who sang, among other hits, “Brian Wilson”) was arrested on drug possession charges in 2008, the band quickly started falling apart, which led to Page’s departure last year. The band continued on as a four-piece and just released a new album, “All in Good Time.” So what comes next for them, and other bands in their spot? We examine.

  • 1. Well, this doesn’t sound like the cheeky band that did rapid-fire hit “One Week” 12 years ago. The Barenaked Ladies sound like weary warriors, trying to get past the one truly controversial moment of their career. It’s traditional pop-rock, but not without bite.
  • 2. The Pixies: Greatest band of the last 25 years probably, right? Well, yeah, but one thing evaded them while they were together – an inescapable hit. Fortunately for Kim Deal, she had another highly-regarded band with her sister Kelley Deal, The Breeders, and they had a major hit right away with “Cannonball.” Frank Black probably wished he had a hit of this caliber after the break-up.
  • 3. Maybe Gorillaz is a better fit for Damon Albarn. After a falling out with Graham Coxon, Blur’s lead singer had to take the lead on the band’s “Think Tank,” an album which notably got a 9.0 on Pitchfork, a C+ in Entertainment Weekly and 2 stars on Allmusic. Albarn hasn’t made another Blur album since, with or without Coxon.
  • 4. At the Drive-in were looking like the great punk heroes of the last decade when, all of a sudden, they split. The love child from this divorce? The Mars Volta, a band which took the crazy, interesting parts of the band’s sound and held on tight. Oh, and Sparta. But nobody remembers Sparta.
  • 5. Jay Farrar’s career didn’t exactly live up to that of Jeff Tweedy’s, but the breakup of Uncle Tupelo sixteen years ago was a huge blow to the alt-country scene. Wilco’s first album, “A.M.,” was a lot of going through the motions, but Farrar’s band Son Volt hit it out of the park with “Trace,” a true classic which they never replicated. Wilco is now a stadium act.

13 Mar 2010 14:00


Music: Saturday Mixtape: Is Titus Andronicus the best of 2010 so far?

  • 1. It’s big, it’s messy, and it’s not really about the Civil War. But man, is it a lot of fun. “Four Score and Seven,” an eight minute track off Titus Andronicus‘ excellent second album, “The Monitor,” has a lot of everything, but doesn’t feel like a dirge. That says a lot.
  • 2. It’s pretty awesome to see Lou Reed used this well this late in his career. This Gorillaz tune, “Some Kind of Nature,” is one of the Velvet Underground singer’s best performances – guest or otherwise – in years. It’s a credit to Damon Albarn that he fits in so well.
  • 3. Man, we missed Ted Leo. Leo isn’t at the height of his “Ballad of the Sin Eater” powers, but he feels a lot closer to that point on “Even Heroes Have to Die” than he has in a while.
  • 4. And now for something different. We stumbled upon German pianist Nils Frahm earlier this week, and while his neo-classical solo piano improvisations aren’t exactly the kind of thing that will burn up the charts, they’re always interesting.
  • 5. Both James Mercer and Danger Mouse sounded like they were in dire need of a side project, and Broken Bells has proven to be the exact tone both were looking for. “The Mall & Misery” has a little of everything in modest servings – pretty pensive synths, calming strings, a little slide guitar, a little more surf guitar, and a few riffs that cut through the middle like a New Order song. It’s full of ideas, but none that scream at you.

20 Feb 2010 17:16


Music: Saturday Mixtape: Adam Green makes a pretty good Lou Reed

  • 1. Expect Local Natives to become like catnip like blogs like ours for the next twelve months or so. They have all the elements of every big indie act here – the multi-voice harmonies of Fleet Foxes, the scale and trauma of The Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend’s ability to ride a groove, and the garage swagger of just about everybody else. And that’s all in one song, “Camera Talk.”
  • 2. Adam Green has a lot to atone for, what with the calling card of the Moldy Peaches (and all the good and bad that entails) on his resume. But “What Makes Him Act So Bad?,” along with the Velvet Underground sparkle of new album “Minor Love,” goes a long way.
  • 3. Speaking of Fleet Foxes, Mumford and Sons may be the first band to be directly inspired by them, if “Sigh No More” is any indication. That’s a lot of vocal harmony.
  • 4. Phantogram has more than a little trip-hop influence in their sound, as the big fat beat at the beginning of “Running From the Cops” emphasizes. The calm female “Ooh…” in the mix has the effect of making the blunt effect of the rough beat seem a lot less blunt.
  • 5. A pretty awesome compilation that came out this week, “The Minimal Wave Tapes: Vol. 1,” focuses on very minimal electronic from post-punk movement, as curated by Minimal Wave label-runner Veronica Vasicka and released on Stone’s Throw records. From the comp, Crash Course in Science’s “Flying Turns” has a lot of edge, a lot of simplicity and a dark groove.

23 Jan 2010 23:57


Music: Saturday Mixtape: Are the sad-sap Eels not made for these times?

  • 1. Most bands who aren’t Spoon would take a mainstream-rock-touching victory lap like 2007’s “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga” and push even further towards success. But Spoon is Spoon, and Spoon makes songs like “The Mystery Zone” (and albums like the freaking awesome “Transference“) which are challenging (and avoid verse/chorus/verse boredom) but by no means inaccessible. And that’s why Spoon rules.
  • 2. Pitchfork hated the latest Eels album, and we think we know why. The level of directness Mark Oliver Everett touches upon in the songs on “End Times,” especially “In My Younger Days,” is super-high. It ditches the wry humor and straight up goes for the sad sap music. And at 46, the dude’s quickly looking like an elder statesman of the sad sap set. Throughout the late ’90s, music this direct dominated indie rock (see Elliott Smith, Sparklehorse, and well, Eels). And nowadays, it feels out of place. In our opinion, though, that’s why we like it. Even if Pitchfork hates it.
  • 3. Speaking of sad sap music, alt-country guy Ryan Bingham is gunning for Ryan Adams’ mantle and might just win it, thanks to “Crazy Heart.” Bingham – who’s halfway between Adams and Bruce Springsteen – wrote the movie’s theme song, “The Weary Kind,” which is destined to get nominated for an Oscar thanks to the longstanding buzz the movie has.
  • 4. With a frenetic attack reminiscent of Dan Deacon (with way more guitars thrown in for good measure), Fang Island’s “Daisy” is the kind of everywhere-at-once tune we can get behind on its good looks alone. It makes us look forward to their full album, out next month.
  • 5. Are The Avett Brothers as powerful when it’s just Avett Brother? Seth Avett released a handful of albums as Timothy Seth Avett As Darling back in the day, and the band’s old label, Ramseur, re-released them late last year. “Some Bad Dream” shows where The Avett Brothers were headed even if it wasn’t all the way there.

09 Jan 2010 18:04


Music: Who knew Sade was still around? Our Saturday Mixtape did

  • 1. It’s strange to listen to this and realize that Sade, the band (led by Sade, the singer) has been around three decades, and their lack of output in two of those decades hasn’t significantly hurt their popularity or their quality. Their last studio album – from 2000 – sold 3 million copies, as did the album before that – which hit in 1992. But the downtempo “Soldier of Love” is pretty much timeless, built from elements that sound modern.
  • 2. Banjos and video game blips have never fit together so well as they do in the uniquely dense world of the Freelance Whales (who have the best name, ever). The lyrics on “Hannah” carry a sort of cleverness that pokes, but doesn’t prod.
  • 3. Lucero (one of our recent one-word album reviews) mines a territory midway between The Hold Steady, the Drive-By Truckers (more Mike Cooley than Patterson Hood) and The Gaslight Anthem, but – having been around since 1998 – already has a long history already behind them. On “Hey Darlin’ Do You Gamble,” they earn their Springsteen chops.
  • 4. “What We Do Matters” is a pretty bold name for any song by any band releasing their debut album, but lo-fi rock rattlers The Mantles at least make a good argument for it in under three minutes. It’s no Girls, but that’s OK, because it’s not trying to be.
  • 5. Speaking of Girls, the band’s “Album” is certainly proving its value beyond 4th quarter ’09 into 1st quarter ’10. Beyond the well-loved “Hellhole Ratrace,” “Laura” has one of the most piercing Roy Orbison-esque choruses this side of … well, Roy Orbison.

26 Dec 2009 17:02


Music: Saturday Mixtape: The best singles of 2009, in no particular order

  • Lots of great singles came out this year – pieces of memorable mind candy worthy of (more than) a few minutes of your time. Here are a few of our faves.
  • one Instant euphoria, in just a few words. What else could you want?
  • two Crocodiles hit our Jesus & Mary Chain soft spot; they get in easily.

12 Dec 2009 17:14


Music: Near the end: Our Saturday Mixtape decade roundup hits 2008

  • 1. “What’s gonna happen to you?” As we noted in last week’s mixtape, Plants and Animals was going to be a part of our 2008 list, too. And “Bye Bye Bye” may only be the second best song with that title, it’s certainly a  close second.
  • 2. Cut Copy’s attempt to synthesize New Order into something fresh and new worked surprisingly well for 2008. The record, “In Ghost Colours,” got a little beat heavy, but when they mixed the beats with pure pop, like on “Feel The Love,” it worked better than good.
  • 3. It’s funny how different you feel about an album after a year. A year ago, we felt like Titus Andronicus’ “The Airing of Grievances” was a great album, sure, but not one of the best of the year. But we kept finding ourselves coming back to it – repeatedly. Ragged but by no means dull, these Jerseyites bring passion to every chord they touch, especially on “Titus Andronicus” (the song).
  • 4. Fellow Jerseyites The Gaslight Anthem also brought pathos with them on “The 59 Sound,” but they brought it with a little more punk and a lot more Bruce. The Killers’ attempts at Bruceisms were misguided, but they also paved the way for Gaslight’s success, so we’ll give them a break.
  • 5. We were really torn about putting Atlas Sound over Deerhunter in this spot. Ultimately, Deerhunter won. It’s because Bradford Cox’s full band has amazing singles even if their full records don’t hold together as well as his side project. At least that’s our take on the world of Bradford Cox. Anyway, “Nothing Ever Happened” is simply sick.

05 Dec 2009 20:54


Music: Our Saturday Mixtape wants to live in Montreal or something

  • 1. This song has been embedded in our brains for approximately two weeks. Montreal’s Think About Life, who come out on paper as a combination of TV on the Radio and Chromeo, is somewhat hit-and-miss, but when they hit, as on “Havin’ My Baby,” it’s a sugar rush you can’t ignore.
  • 2. Land of Talk – a fellow Montreal band fronted by Elizabeth Powell who comes off as a guitar superhero live – mixes the low-key and the guitar-smashers deftly. The centerpiece of their new “Fun and Laughter” EP, “May You Never” mixes calm and chaos (and the gift of hazy atmosphere) into a tasty stew.
  • 3. Disclosure: Plants and Animals will be in the mixtape two weeks in a row, because their 2008 album “Parc Avenue” is that good. “A L’Oree Des Bois” has this way of starting out loose and then expanding slowly.
  • 4. There’s a few obvious picks that can go on this list: Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, Wolf Parade, and so on. Handsome Furs are sort of on the cusp of that, but we admittedly like Dan Boeckner’s non-Wolf Parade band a little more than the main act, especially on “All We Want, Baby, Is Everything,” which manages to come across as unpretentious dance-rock. At least it’s less pretentious than Toronto’s Crystal Castles.
  • 5. The Lovely Feathers have a little of the Arcade Fire rising hugeness going on with “Lowiza,” but what’s really interesting is that the chorus sort of breaks into a group oy-style endeavor. It’s like they’re the Dropkick Murphys doing “Neighborhood #1.” (Well, kinda.) It’s pretty awesome to hear, actually.