Sunday, March 17, 2013

February 2013 Backtracks

We're already a little passed the midpoint of another month which, around here, means it's time for our Monthly Backtracks mixtape. February proved to be a good month for music. We got the return of a goth troubadour, a guitar hero, a soon-to-be goth/pop diva, electro-pop godfathers, and some pleasantly dark surprises. Not meaning to get ahead of ourselves, but March is looking to be even better as already there has been new music from the likes of Bowie, How To Destroy Angels, and a brand new full-length from Depeche Mode. And to think, in May there's a brand new Skinny Puppy album due out. This is shaping to be the "Year Of Brian L." Now onto the mixtape.


February 2013 Backtracks
1. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, "We No Who U R": I first saw Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds at Lollapalooza '94. It was the summer after my senior year of high school. And it was under a blazing hot sun. Not the ideal situation to see Mr. Cave yet somehow it left a lasting impression. Now almost two decades after that first impression and I've been a fan of his work both with the Bad Seeds and with his garage rock project, Grinderman. The latest offering from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Push The Sky Away is more of a slow scorcher of a an album and its lead single simmers rather than boils, almost as if there's an evil lurking beneath it all.

2. Frightened Rabbit, "Backyard Skulls": It's a little surprising how Frightened Rabbit's music has aged so well with me. At a time when I've been exorcising most anything described as "folky" from my life, these Scottish indie rockers have managed to endure. It's probably because they've embraced bigger sounds on their latest album and major label-debut, Pedestrian Verse. On "Backyard Skulls," the band forgoes the temptation of turning their music into fragile campfire tales and instead they've plugged in and turned things up which really does go a long way with me.

3. Haunted Hearts, "Something That Feels Bad Is Something That Feels Good":  I love Dee Dee of the Dum Dum Girls. She might very well be the biggest of my rockstar crushes. That being said, I want to hate her husband, Brandon Welchez but I can't. Mainly because he heads up Crocodiles, another band I love. With Haunted Hearts, the happily married couple join forces and the result is just as good as you'd expect; a good medium between Dum Dum Girls and Crocodiles that leans closer to the latter. Their debut single, "Something That Feels Bad Is Something That Feels Good" is a sexy fuzz bomb whose chorus boasts the none-too-subtle come-on "It's alright, you can tie me up, if I can tie you down."

4. Johnny Marr, "Upstarts": What can be said about Johnny Marr? His guitar heroics with The Smiths has had an immeasurable influence on indie rock. The biggest surprise on his first solo album, The Messenger is how straightforward it is. Just a batch of good songs with no real trickery needed. Yet on tracks like "Upstarts" he manages to turn simple Nick Lowe-indebted power pop into infectious earworms.

5. Shout Out Louds, "14th Of July": I have a soft spot for Shout Out Louds. I can't help but love their band name. Not only that but the first song I ever fell for from them was "Tonight I Have To Leave It" which was mainly due to two things: 1) sounding a little like The Cure and 2) it has a cowbell solo. Their new album, Optica continues what has now become their familiar New Wave inflected indie shuffle. The upbeat and sunny "14th Of July" wouldn't be out of place filling a dancefloor on a Friday night.

6. Depeche Mode, "All That's Mine": These dark electro-pop godfathers are set to put out their 13th album entitled Delta Machine on March 26th. That album's first single was the scorching synth ballad, "Heaven." And while that song may have been a bit of a letdown, its b-side, "All That's Mine" gave die hard fans a shimmer of hope. It's still not a dancefloor smash, but its smoldering electronics are a perfect compliment to Dave Gahan's always seductive vocals.

7. Charli XCX, "You (Ha Ha Ha)": If Dee Dee is the biggest of my rockstar crushes, then Charli XCX is my full-blown UK pop star crush. This might honestly be her 10th or 11th appearance on Random Ramblings & Mixtapes but honestly, it's well-deserved. Based on the song's title, I was a little apprehensive, but I shouldn't have doubted Charli XCX as she apparently has the Midas Touch that even a seemingly jokey title can turn into an addictive pop song. Her very long-awaited full-length debut, True Romance, is due out in April continuing the "Year Of Brian L." My only question is: Do I want it on vinyl? Of course I do.

8. Panda Riot, "Serious Radical Girls": This is band whose name didn't exactly win me over. It's cute in the way that The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart is cute. And just like that band, Panda Riot's music overcomes their name. Dreampop that falls somewhere between School Of Seven Bells and Curve. "Serious Radical Girls" finds the right balance between fuzzy guitars, hazy synth washes, and heavenly vocals. It's the kind of song that requires repeated listens.

9. Deathday, "After Dark": A friend posted this song on my Facebook page with the simple recommendation that went "You might dig this." That's putting it mildly. "After Dark" blew me away almost instantly. Dark, danceable synth-goth. Next thing I know I was listening to this song obsessively and trying to find out more info on Deathday, who happen to be a post-punk/goth band from LA. I've tried to fit this song in at just about every DJ gig I've had since I first heard it. "After Dark" appears on a post-punk/synthwave compilation put out by Italy's Mannequin Records.

10. KMFDM, "I (Heart) Not": I've been a KMFDM fan since high school. And unlike, say, Ministry, they've been consistent with their output. It's been a while since they put out an album that blew me away but they do always manage to have 2 or 3 songs on every release that rank pretty high on their career output. "I (Heart) Not" is one of those songs. Their latest album, Kunst (the German word for "art") is like most KMFDM albums continuing in the band's brand of guitar-heavy industrial fitting both dancefloors and mosh-pits alike. It's the Ultra Heavy Beat the way it should sound. Now if only Ministry could take note.

So there you have it, our February Backtracks mixtape. As always, listen loud and become immersed. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Mixtape Revisited: Another Really Bad Mix [1994]

Another week and another mixtape revisited. This time out, we recreate a mixtape I put together in 1994. One look at this one and it's clear that I wasn't exactly comfortable coming up with clever nicknames for my mixes. I was still about a year away before I began using jokey punchlines as mixtape titles, so for now we're still sticking to names that were almost deterrents. This one was called Another Really Bad Mix and its separated into two sides. Side A being the "Good Side" and Side B, naturally being the "Evil Side."

ANOTHER Really Bad Mix [1994]

Side A: Good Side [11/18/94]
Classic Girl- Jane's Addiction
Feed The Tree- Belly
Touch Me- The Doors
Don't Follow- Alice In Chains
Blew Away- Smashing Pumpkins
Pictures Of You (Live from Show)- The Cure
Here Comes Your Man- Pixies
Everybody Loves Me- Juliana Hatfield
Angel Of Harlem- U2
Interstate Love Song- Stone Temple Pilots
Tell Me When- The Human League

Side B: Evil Side [11/29/94]
So What'Cha Want- Beastie Boys
2,000 Light Years Away- Green Day
Seether- Veruca Salt
A Girl Like You- Tom Jones
Nite Flights- The Fatima Mansions
Heresy (Blind)- Nine Inch Nails
Butterfly Wings- Machines Of Loving Grace
Light (Fat Back Dub)- KMFDM
Get Your Gunn- Marilyn Manson
Custard Pie- Helmet w/ David Yow
Rock & Roll N*****- Patti Smith

Some interesting things of note going on here. First, each side of the tape is actually dated revealing that the mix wasn't completed in one sitting. Oddly, none of my other mixtapes were dated. Thinking back, this was actually compiled during my first semester of college. Aside from Alice In Chains, there are almost no hints of my high school metalhead years on here. Instead, it's been replaced by what can be considered a playlist of MTV's Alternative Nation. Side A still shows evidence of my love of Stone Temple Pilots. I said it before and I'll say it again, their first two albums were great. It also reveals another dirty secret which is that I like The Doors. At least for a short while. It is, however, good to see some Human League on here as they're still one of my all-time favorite bands. What can I say, Phil Oakey's voice is gold.

Not to be outdone, Side B also does its share of revealing dirty secrets. Here it's Green Day. Dookie won me over so much that I somehow ended up picking up their first two albums and truth be told, I favored Kerplunk over Dookie. Also, I was a few years away from getting involved in college radio so at this point I didn't know that the The Fatima Mansions track was actually a Walker Brothers cover. Even more telling is the inclusion of Tom Jones. No, he's not on this mix ironically; hell, I openly admit to LOVING "It's Not Unusual" and "What's New Pussycat?" It's something I can't explain. At the time, the reason behind my love of his version of "A Girl Like You" was because it sounded like Tom Jones Gone Industrial thanks to producer, Flood (Depeche Mode, NIN, et al.) Again, I was a few years away from college radio and wasn't aware that "A Girl Like You" was, in fact, a Wolfgang Press cover. The most telling detail from the "Evil Side" of this tape is the beginning stages of my industrial music obsession (NIN, Machines Of Loving Grace, and KMFDM.) Soon enough, industrial would be all I listened to.


Mixtape Revisited: Selections from Another Really Bad Mix
1. Classic Girl- Jane's Addiction
2. Feed The Tree- Belly
3. Pictures Of You (Live from Show)- The Cure
4. Here Comes Your Man- Pixies
5. Tell Me When- The Human League
6. So What'Cha Want- Beastie Boys
7. Seether- Veruca Salt
8. A Girl Like You- Tom Jones
9. Nite Flights- The Fatima Mansions **
10. Heresy (Blind)- Nine Inch Nails
11. Butterfly Wings- Machines Of Loving Grace
12. Light (Fat Back Dub)- KMFDM

** not included on the Spotify playlist.

There you have it. Another glimpse into my personal mixtape collection. Our February 2013 Backtracks will be up soon. In the meantime, listen loud and become immersed.