Here are liner notes for this year's mix! As usual, the links are to mostly-representative versions of each song, which may not be the exact version in the mix. Be forewarned.
(HS = Horn section. TC = Twin Cities-based band or artist. HC = Hand claps.)
1. Infinity Guitars - Sleigh Bells
Shortly before the end of the year, Huge Theater's doors opened. On the original schedule was a weekly Fingergun show. Nels selected this song to be our run-up music. A college classmate of mine posted something online a while back, praising(?) Sleigh Bells for their dedication to the loudest, dumbest guitar riffs. That's true, but it's also effective: listen to this while you're trying to walk somewhere. You will get there 10% faster. (HC)
2. Omega Dog - The Dears
Upon hearing the chord at 2:38 (3:46 in the video), the Pink Floyd centers of my brain lit up like a Christmas tree in a way they haven't since hearing the coda of My Morning Jacket's "Off the Record." This song made me greatly anticipate the release of Degeneration Street in February. Too bad the rest of the album is nowhere near this good.
3. Love Debt - The Robinson Caruso Organization
(note: link is to a one-man demo version of the song on MySpace)
Yeah, so what? It's rare, the opportunity to put a song by the band you're in on a mix when you're a full-time engineer and have a kid. Anyway, this is a great piece of songwriting from Mr. Caruso / James Rone, and as the penultimate selection of most of our set lists, it's only gotten more anthemic over the few years we've been playing it. You should see us play it live. Also, buy our EP. And request us on the Current, often. I almost put this on last year's Beukemix, but the CD didn't quite make it out until after the first of the year. (HS, TC)
4. Federal Funding - Cake
Cake's latest album hit #1 on the Billboard album chart this winter, and had the distinction of being the lowest-selling number-one album since SoundScan started tracking in 1991. Like the Sleigh Bells cut, this song makes me want to get shit done. If I still had the time to go to the gym, this would be in heavy rotation. (HS)
5. Burn It Down - Sims
Heard this on the Current on the way to work one morning, and made this face. For you non-Twin-Citians, Sims is part of Doomtree, local hip-hop collective. (HS, TC)
6. You Make Me Smile - Aloe Blacc
Memo to James Rone: we should play this. I want to play these horn parts. (Aloe Blacc also made the mix late last year for "Femme Fatale.") (HS)
7. Booty City - Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears
Melissa and I went to Austin, TX to visit her Aunt in January 2008, and saw Black Joe Lewis open for Big Sam's Funky Nation at the Continental Club. I really enjoyed their set, but I don't think they played this song, because I would have remembered it. (HS)
8. Make Some Noise - Beastie Boys
Nothing on the new Beastie record stands out the way "Ch-Check It Out" did on To the Five Burroughs in 2004, but it seems less uneven overall. The video is stupid, stupid fun, as is the full-half-hour version "Fight for Your Right Revisited," though that may be primarily as a spot-the-comic-actor-cameo exercise. By the way: in what universe is Danny McBride the young version of MCA?
9. Dixon's Girl - Dessa
Dessa makes two members of Doomtree on the mix this year. I've seen her perform live twice, though never as a musical act: I saw her win a poetry slam at Kieran's Irish Pub in 2003, and she did a spoken word appearance with Huge Theater back when they were still the Oldest Established Permanent Floating Improv Theater in Minneapolis (Incidentally, it turns out she and I overlapped at SWHS). Anyway, her 2010 album had this on it, and it's good, not least because it's the only hip-hop joint I know with a beat built around a bassoon. The video can best be described as something like The Shining taking a ride in the car from "Karma Police."(TC)
10. The Beautiful Ones - Prince and the Revolution
I've been listening to Purple Rain for years, but I didn't really notice how amazing the climax of this song is until finally watching the movie this Summer. You've got to get through some goofiness to get there, though. The talking part verges on self-parody, and seems like it belongs in a Flight of the Conchords number. But you get to the coda, and it seems like Prince is going to slip in his own guts that he just spilt on the stage. Gross. Awesome. (TC)
11. Queen of Tomorrow - The Twilight Hours
Matt Wilson and (the recently-discussed-on-this-blog) John Munson, both previously of Trip Shakespeare, reunite on an upbeat song about being the loser boyfriend that the successful rock chick left behind in Minneapolis. This almost made the list at the end of last year when it was on heavy rotation on The Current, but I got more into it when I paid more attention to the lyrics this summer. This has to be an exhausting one to sing live. (TC)
12. Big Sky - The Hotrats
One of many reasons I was excited for Dan Hetzel's return to town was that in the past, he'd steered me in the direction of some awesome music. He did not disappoint. Hotrats is a side project by two members of the now-defunct Supergrass, focused on covers. Their album is full of great stuff, exemplified by this cover of The Kinks.
13. Golden Years - David Bowie
Another year, another Bowie cut. I definitely prefer early-70s Bowie to his Thin White Duke period, but Golden Years is a nice disco cut featuring some Bowie vocal acrobatics. Incidentally, in this Soul Train appearance, Bowie looks a bit like Eric Stoltz on Caprica. (HC)
14. Seven Days of the Week (I Never Go to Work) - They Might Be Giants
Now that there's a kidlet about, I felt it was time to finally look into the They Might Be Giants children's albums, and my brother was kind enough to hook me up for my birthday. This song is a standout from the Here Come the 123s! album, one that WILL be stuck in your head when you awaken in the night tonight, and for some days to come. Seriously, Melissa and I walked around singing this for the latter half of the summer. (HS)
15. Ballata Per Un Pistolero - Franco Micalizzi & Roberto Pregadio
I got the chance to work with Ferrari McSpeedy on their Fringe Festival show again this year, and it was "Once Upon a Time in the Suburbs," a timeless and mendacious story told by a grandfather to his grandson about the founding of an all-woman suburb in late-19th-Century Illinois. We used this bit of real spaghetti western score (gleaned from the Red Dead Revovler soundtrack) at the very end of the show. I really like the first half, but the second half becomes suddenly more earnest and optimistic for some reason. (HS)
16. Red Hot - Jurassic 5
Melissa and had a date night one evening in July when my parents took on Max for a few hours, and we spent part of our time having an impromptu dance party in the living room, scored by an old mix CD from our friend Jeanne. This song stood out. Sadly, a couple weeks later, Jeanne passed away in her sleep, apparently due to complications of her childhood-onset diabetes. She is deeply missed, but damn, she had good taste in party music.
17. Pavanne - Morton Gould
(note: video is a different performance from version on mix)
We played this back in Southwest High School wind ensemble my senior year. I loved the trumpet part, and to this day I play it almost every time I warm up on the horn. I've had a recording by Frederick Fennell and the Eastman Wind Ensemble for years, but really prefer this orchestral arrangement played on my mix by the Albany Symphony under David Alan Miller. It takes the piece slower (a minute longer than Fennell/Eastman!), which makes the whole thing seem more bittersweet, in keeping with the melancholy tone of the piece's B section. (HS)
18. Strange Apparition - Beck
I finally got another copy of Beck's The Information after having lost it several years back when I left my iPod on a plane. "Strange Apparition" sounds like a long-lost Rolling Stones cut, circa Exile on Main Street, if it had been re-engineered by Nigel Godrich 35 years later. The opening line and the piano in particular had me looking up the album notes to make sure it wasn't a Stones cover.
19. For 12 - Other Lives
This was a recent musical selection on the Filmspotting podcast (as were two Robinson Caruso songs, actually), to which you all should be listening. Host Adam Kempenaar explained that former co-host/current producer Sam Van Hallgren had submitted this song with the note that if Adam didn't like it, he would be 'dead to him". Sam is right: the song is really pretty.
20. Three More Days - Ray LaMontagne
My coworker Brian, who has been to a few Robinson Caruso Organization shows, recommended this and another Ray LaMontagne song to me as ones that reminded him of our style. I know LaMontagne is primarily known as a folk singer-songwriter type, but the stuff of his that I've really liked, like this song, is heavily influenced by 60s R&B. This one has a great horn part that sounds like a lot of fun to play. (HS)
21. Astronaut - Blitzen Trapper
This came on the radio one day recently while I was feeding Max lunch. So we danced.
22. Snow Days - The New Standards
John Munson strikes again, this time as part of jazz trio The New Standards, covering a Trip Shakespeare song (once again, please reference the previous post). Trip Shakespeare and Twilight Hours frontman Matt Wilson cameos to reprise the talking part. About a year ago, when Minneapolis was socked by Snowmageddon, Melissa's Aunt Tricia was visiting, and as we all looked at the feet of snow out the window that Saturday, we ate our pancakes, happy in the knowledge that we didn't have to go anywhere that day. The Current chose that moment to play the original recording of this song, and it was perfect. Sometime in the last year I watched this live version from last year's New Standards Holiday Show, and loved the addition of horns. (HS, TC)
Horn Sections: 10
Hand Claps: 2
Twin Cities Bands/Artists: 6