It was an ugly year, right? That’s the word that keeps resurfacing for me. There was ugliness in the streets, ugliness in the corporate offices, and seemingly nothing but ugliness coming from the Oval Office. The meaning of Christmas is that ugliness doesn’t get the last word, but with each year it seems like it’s a little harder for Christmas songs to work their way into my brain. Does this holiday have to be ruined along with everything else?
Thankfully, no. But this collection of songs may be a little more ambivalent than usual. I loved the junkyard folk, Tom Waits-ish feel of “Our Rest Has Come” and the Argentinian band Queridas’ gorgeous version of Yoko Ono’s “Listen, the Snow is Falling.” I included a reading of G. K. Chesterton poem, one of my long-time favorites. I had more fun with the found audio than the actual songs. But I still love how it came out. So enjoy it in the player below, download it for yourself while it’s here (a few of my other Xmas mixtapes are on Mixcloud as well), and… Merry Christmas.
(the cover is a ripoff – sorry, homage – of a handmade card by Lithuanian-born American printmakers William and Marguerite Zorach that I stumbled on on the interwebs.)
Filed under Christmas, music
I don’t need to recap all of the ways that 2016 was horrible. Forget just a little – we need a lot of Christmas now.
Summoning the holiday spirit was difficult this year. Traditions somehow feel less comforting. I wondered if I should take a radical departure from my typical mix and do something completely different. In the end, I stuck to the same formula, because Christmas doesn’t need a reboot. Christmas is the reboot: God entering the world as an infant.
So business as usual, more or less, with the exception that I tried my very first actual mashup – with admittedly mixed results (but at least it’s short). The great artists that we lost this year are represented here – Bowie, Prince, Sharon Jones, Leonard Cohen. Because we’re a nation of misfits I included the Inflatable Men cover of the familiar song from the classic TV special. There are a few fun new songs, some great takes on classics, and other stuff not represented on the tracklist. So – enjoy!
If you like this one and want more, you can still hear my mix from last year:
Here is a quieter, more reflective mix to soothe your soul, which I did in 2014:
And here’s Xmas in Space, if you like your Christmas music with beeps and boops and sound FX and recordings of alleged UFO eyewitnesses:
Lastly, here is a link to a folder with every mix I’ve made going back to 2007, available for download. Get busy and Merry Christmas!
Is it ever actually going to get legitimately cold out there? It almost feels like the wrong time to be uploading this.
I’m back with another mix of Christmas music, what else? The art for this is an homage to Sister Corita Kent, the pop artist whose work had a breakout year. Corita was a nun, an active member of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Los Angeles, but her work was full of wit and visual inventiveness. I’ll write more about her in my year-end list, but that’s the same kind of thing I’m thinking about when I choose Christmas music. That, and maybe what St. Etienne said here recently about how Elvis fits Christmas (although they are wrong in disliking this classic Pogues Christmas song).
Anyway, here it is. Play or download. Merry Christmas!
I realized as I was uploading this that it’s the 10th one I’ve done. Not the 10th year, because I did two of them in 2014, just the 10th mix. So here they are. If you click on the thumbnails you’ll be able to download each individual one.
I know: I need to add Music to the title of Words, Pictures, Humor. When I started the blog, I wasn’t envisioning posting mixtapes. But, this idea just kind of happened, and it wasn’t difficult to do.
I was fortunate enough to see the Chemical Brothers perform at Electric Zoo this year on Randall’s Island in NYC. I have always liked them, but there’s a dichotomy between their live show and their albums. Their albums are albums in the old-school way – a bunch of individual songs that sound kind of like a singles collection – while their live show is your classic DJ performance with songs gliding in and out of a continuously pounding mix. The twin identity, I assume, has enabled them to both sell recorded music and also keep their placement within the EDM world (something which is more common nowadays with David Guetta and the like than it was when the Brothers started out in the mid-90s). But when I listen to their albums I want them to sound more like the live show.
So here’s what I did: I gathered all the tracks from Surrender, arguably their best record. I swapped out the momentum-killing album tracks for Surrender-era b-sides which are considerably more jacked up, threw in some remixes, resequenced the songs, and spliced them together (slickly, I think, for a mere wannabe DJ) into one continuous banger of a mix. It’s like Surrender, but better. And it’s now at Soundcloud.
I’ve always been a fan of Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 series, where individual authors write a book about a single album. In the volume about My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, Mike McGonigal writes:
Here’s a list of possible antecedents for Loveless: a baker’s dozen, mostly slow and dreamy, “pop”-based musical works which are equal parts raw invention and delightful melody, and that predate Loveless. (It’s a bit wanky, but it was fun to compile – and everyone loves lists, don’t they?)
He then goes on to suggest a playlist of sorts, starting with Eno’s “Needles in the Camel’s Eye,” and on through various songs (and a few full albums) by Faust, Sonic Youth, Hüsker Dü, and even electronic pioneer Delia Derbyshire’s weirdo White Noise project, among others. Well, everyone loves a good playlist, right (as I wrote here recently)? So I decided to take Mike a step further and mix all of these songs together into a single 46-minute playlist. Yes, admittedly also a bit wanky. His original list would have taken well over two hours to listen to, so I only included a few choice minutes of the 12-minute-plus opuses, but it’s all in the spirit of My Bloody Valentine: after all, they were making pop music. I also added into the mix one obvious antecedent, Dinosaur Jr., just because. Does Loveless sound like it could have sprung forth from this stew of droney noise-pop? Judge for yourself over at Mixcloud, where I’ve uploaded it with tracklist, or listen below.
OK, I like Christmas music. I shouldn’t have to apologize for it. Well, some of it.
An author once said that the reason he writes books is because he has questions, not answers. Every year I put together a mix of Christmas-related music here, and it is my own attempt to address the question “where can I find good Christmas music that I’m not going get bludgeoned with everywhere else, but that isn’t just different for different’s sake?” So I’m at it again. As per usual, there’s every type of music on here – cheeky mashups, golden-era chestnuts, juicy soul, pine-scented Americana, gluten-free desserts, firesafe lighting strings, vintage stockings, I don’t even know where this list is going. Just enjoy it. You can listen to it here and/or download it from SoundCloud.
And… just because I was feeling it, I decided to make another mix with all of the songs that I liked, but that were too snoozy, and would have killed the vibe of the previous one. Yeah, another! But its quieter. It’s pretty nice. I have to admit something: I tested this mix on animals. I totally did. Defenseless bunnies and rescue monkeys and a turtle. No worries: they freaking loved it. So I think I’m in good shape, legally. It’s here also. Enjoy!
I went to the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, TX last week. My expert analysis is that it was a blast (you can probably go elsewhere for longer and better writing about the event). I saw a ton of great music, some of which I captured on my now-long-defunct-but-still-working Flip camera. A lot of the good moments never made it to video: Lucius at the Paste day party, St. Vincent’s suddenly electric stage show, two guys somehow colliding and then hugging while crowd surfing at Grackle, an out-of-town after-hours party DJed by Matthew Dear blanketed in dry ice, all the shows that I missed. Still, here’s a little collection of nuggets – 17 nuggets, to be exact – of some of the shows I enjoyed the most. If you don’t know these artists, you should.
There’s nothing really scientific about it, except I put the stuff I liked most of all towards the beginning. So that’s something. Enjoy!
By the way, if you want to see some of the silly thumbs up/thumbs down video reviews I did at a previous SXSW that the New Yorker actually let us post online, it’s here, and here and a special bonus here.
Filed under events, music, SXSW