(Harri3t has posted her commentary on the mix here.)
The inimitable Harri3t was good enough to send me a mix CD entitled "Geek Mix" last week. The last ten days have been a bit bumpy here at the Geek household (what with emotional all day interviews, Mrs. Geek not feeling well, and other stuff best not mentioned). This mix continues to be a real lifeline, taking me out the turmoils of the moment, and putting me into a place where I can try to maintain a little perspective. Thank you, Ms. Spy!
Now for the contents of the mix:
Nickel Creek: Smoothie Song. I must confess that my initial, first glance reaction to the track list on the mix was completely wrong. I was confusing Nickel Creek (a name I knew I'd heard) with Nickelback, and I was thinking that this was going to be some kind of noisy alt-rock mix. But no, Nickel Creek is an entirely different creature: acoustic, and newgrass-inspired. I knew their name because I've been hearing this song on the radio off and on for the last few years. A nice start to the mix.
Zach Brock and the Coffee Achievers: In Thoughts and Dreams. This second track takes the mix in a new direction. It's a jazzy mediation with a fiddle and a wordless vocal in the lead. This track would be great movie soundtrack music. Just hearing it makes me think that I'm watching some kind of heist or caper movie: it's the end of the second act, the hero has temporarily lost the faith and confidence of the woman in his life, and he's putting numerous technical details for the big score in motion, all the while hoping that he can get her back.
R.E.M.: Rotary Ten. My collection of R.E.M. discs runs toward the latter days of the Bill Berry era: Life's Rich Pageant, Automatic For The People, and Monster. I have little or no acquaintance with their later work as a trio... and this track couldn't be much more different than I would expect from them. Fusion jazz is the best label I can come up with. A good continuation of the jazzy vibe in the last track, and a good bridge to the next one.
(Well, it seems that Bill Berry plays on this track after all; it is from Dead Letter Office, a collection of EP and B-side material from the band's days on IRS Records. Shows you what I know!)
Neko Case: Look for Me (I'll Be Around). This tune shifts the mix in a dark, luxurious, film noir direction. The closest I can think of is Angelo Badalamenti and the Twin Peaks soundtrack. A beautiful torch song voice.
Tom Waits: Jockey Full Of Bourbon. Tom Waits and I have been dancing around each other for quite a while -- a roommate in the mid-90's was a fan of Waits. I need to break down and buy some of his stuff. I'm most familiar with the version of this tune from Wicked Grin, the John Hammond disc that Waits produced of Waits' songs. I like both versions, now that I've heard the original.
Lucinda Williams: Can't Let Go. This song takes me back to the late 90's when I was in grad school. Back in those days, I listened to a local indie radio station that pioneered the Americana radio format. It was named in a Rolling Stone article as one of the "Top Ten Independent Radio Stations That Don't Suck" in America. I got the disc, but I haven't dug it out in a long time. I think it's time to dust it off.
Lyle Lovett: I've Been To Memphis. This song takes me back even further. It was my first year of grad school, and I was living in an apartment with three other guys. I'd found this record shop downtown, that no longer exists. I got the disc that this song is from (it had just come out), put it in my trusty Sony Discman, and listened to it as I ate some leftover stir-fried chicken for dinner. I spilled a little soy sauce on the liner notes. The disc is an essential in my collection.
The Magnetic Fields: A Chicken with It's Head Cut Off. This track is an interesting juxtaposition of styles and ideas. The basic sound is so very 80's that I keep imagining the final character montage of a John Hughes movie prior to the start of the final credits. The lyrics are so alt-quirky that it cannot help but be a creature of the 90's (it came out in '99). I like it.
Nickel Creek: Robin and Marian. Here we return to the opening newgrass feel of the mix with a banjo and fiddle reel from Nickel Creek. That indie radio station I mentioned a few tunes back used to play this eclectic mix of blues, bluegrass, hawaiian slack key, comedy records, and old-timey white gospel on Sunday nights... they'd have loved this tune. (The promo for that show taught me the joke "Q: What do you call perfect pitch? A: That's when you toss the banjo in the dumpster and it lands on the middle of accordion.")
Great Lakes Myth Society: Summer Bonfire. Part old time call and response work song and power pop, this track has a dense, lovely sound. Some nice, upbeat bounce.
PJ Harvey: Wait. Ms. Harvey is another of those artists that my roomate in the mid-90's really liked. To be honest, I remember seeing him watch a few of her videos on MTV's 120 Minutes and thinking that she probably wasn't my cup of tea. This track may force me to re-assess that feeling. Yes, it's got a four chord punk sensibility... but I like the melody line and the lyric.
XTC: The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul. Oh, if I could just count the times that I've considered getting Oranges and Lemons and Skylarking by XTC, not knowing too much about them, but thinking... they should be good, very good. Oh, if only more of late 80's pop was this good, I might have listened to the radio more.
Django Reinhardt et al.: The Peanut Vendor. The quality of this recording is lousy... but the performance is stellar. I know that Harri3t must have included it because of all the John Jorgensen I've been telling her about. Reinhardt and Grappelli were magic. I listened to this at work and had to get up to go to the printer... I couldn't help whistling the tune as I walked, without even thinking about it.
Jules Shear: Too Much Between Us. This song reminds of two cherished tracks from nearly 20 years ago: I Don't Mind At All by Bourgeois Tagg and Don't Dream It's Over by Crowded House.
Bill Fox: My Baby Crying. This song is an interesting combination of interesting 60's styles: a Dylan-esque lo-fi folk ethic with complex lyrics combined with a lush Beatles-esque melody line. This one bears further investigation.
Nickel Creek: Pastures New. The last of the trio of Nickel Creek songs on the disc, the dark guitar and fiddle combination takes me back to a pair of Indigo Girls tunes: the guitar much like Amy Ray's playing on a track like Fugitive and the fiddle has the dark lonely quality like the opening of The Wood Song (both off of Swamp Ophelia). Guess I've got to get this disc.
Holly Cole: Waters of March. Holly Cole is an artist I've heard of, but never heard before now. This tune is definitely pop in its conception and construction, but is heavily informed by jazz. Again, someone I need to examine more closely.
Mark Eitzel: Stunned and Frozen. The mix finally winds down... or is it winds up? Mark Eitzel turns in an energetic little ditty in waltz time, drawing the singer/songwriter and Americana threads running through the mix together for one last time.
Thank you Harri3t! This was a very interesting mix... containing little music that I already owned or was familiar with. I now have a few artists whose catalogs I must now investigate... and a new mix that was a pleasure from beginning to end.
on 2008-05-03 at 7:01 a.m.
The Wayback Machine - To Infinity And Beyond