Thursday, September 6, 2007

MMD Volume II: Needles in a Haystack

Last week I included a mix CD in the package polMom mailed out to CollegeGirl at William and Mary. It was mostly some recent adult top 40 stuff but I thought I could do some more interesting and themed mixes in the coming weeks.

The new Lightscribe drive is super-cool and does a nice job etching a label on the disk that includes a track list but the type is really tiny and hard to see. I'd also like to have an explanation about why certain tracks were included in the mix. So, what follows is my first attempt at a mix CD post.

The inspiration for this disk was the Haystack online music service. It's a social music community whose goal is to help forge stronger ties between music and the people who love it. You can comment on music tracks that artists have offered and see what other "tastemakers" think. It's a great way to find new music and to be introduced to artists you weren't familiar with before. It should show up in CollegeGirl's mail today so let's look at the picks:

  1. Battle Without Honor or Humanity
    Tomoyasu Hotei
    Okay, this song isn't from Haystack but it's the only one in the mix that's not. I just love the song as an opening theme. Plus it was used in the movie Kill Bill that had lots of women with swords so CollegeGirl should enjoy it.

  2. Nervous
    A good rocking Foo Fighters-esque song from the alt-metal trio from New York City. Lots of power-chording but also has a nice acoustic thing going on in the background. Good song to start things off.

  3. The Great Escape
    Boys Like Girls
    Yes, it's all sugary, emo-blasted pop/rock. Yes, the band lacks substance. And yes, it was probably all written to appeal teen-aged girls. However, this song is the best thing the Boston-based band has recorded in their brief existence and it's just flat-out fun to listen to. Plus CollegeGirl is still technically a teenager.

  4. The One
    Stroke 9
    A catchy pop-punk song that's the first single off the band's latest album, the wonderfully glowing The Last of the International Playboys. Everything on the album is good but there's something endearing about a punk love song that makes it hard to not include.

  5. You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb
    I'll bet the execs over at Elektra Records are kicking themselves for dropping these guys back in '98. The latest album from the Austin, TX band, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, is currently one of the most heavily played at colleges across the country. The songs are beautifully crafted and use a wide array of sounds without overwhelming the music. This song has some great hooks and sounds like it came right out of Motown with its horns, tambourines, and bells. One of my favorite songs on the disk.

  6. 18
    Bridges and a Bottle
    Another benefit of Haystack is that you can accidentally discover good music from obscure regional bands. I clicked the wrong button and ended up listening to this song from Harrisburg, PA's own Bridges and a Bottle. Playing primarily in their hometown and smaller NYC clubs, they are releasing their first album called Trojan Horse. I can't understand half the lyrics and have no idea where the song title comes from but I really enjoy it. Plus it's great to share music no one else has probably heard.

  7. Wish Upon a Dog Star
    Satellite Party
    A trippy pseudo-psychadelic song that's the lead, and best, track off the bizarre Ultra Payloaded album. It's apparently a concept album about global warming in which a musician and a night nurse are beamed aboard an intergalactic spaceship party thrown by "Jim" who likes Earth because he uses it to sculpt ice caps. Yeah, I don't understand it either but the song is fun.

  8. See the World
    This is a great song from this British band known for their bluesy rock. Critics have said that this is a song R.E.M. would have written before they started believing they were more than they really were. Bright acoustic guitar, upbeat lyrics, catchy tune, cute backing vocals, plus an exhortation to go out and get more from life ... what more could you want. I said Spoon's Cherry Bomb was one of my favorites songs on the disk but this is the best right here. Listen to it over and over again. It'll make you happy.

  9. Carolina
    Matt Wertz
    Like the band Boys Like Girls, Matt Wertz is over-produced. His voice is too smooth, his song writing's not that great, and Marissa Brown of AMG said he's "just a product of lots of studio time and money rather than an artist with his own ideas and voice." All that's true but he did manage to get one nice song out and it's got a little mandolin thing going on which I know CollegeGirl likes. It probably didn't hurt that I first heard while down at the beach in Carolina.

  10. Know Your Onion!
    The Shins
    I know, I know. New Slang is supposed to be the quintessential Shins song to include ... the best example of the band's talent ... beautiful and ethereal ... blah de blah blah blah. Know Your Onion! is off the same album and is light, fun, and the first Shins song I ever heard so it's on the disk ... so there. Plus if you listen carefully, James Mercer sounds just like a young Brian Wilson.

  11. This Life
    La Rocca
    Seriously ... how many Irish piano rock quartets do you know of? The song off of last year's The Truth album is included because it reminds me of Electric Light Orchestra's stuff from the 70s which I love.

  12. No Radio
    Dirty on Purpose
    Another random selection from Haystack recommendations that I enjoyed. Just great melodies, instantly memorable chorus hooks, great guitar work, and simple, low-key rhythms. A great drive-to-the-beach song.

  13. Anytime
    My Morning Jacket
    This four piece band from Louisville, KY is built around the singing and songwriting of its leader Jim James. James is a more pop version of Neil Young and his talent comes through on Anytime which sounds like pop, blues, and country all rolled into one. A good song to help ease us down the backside of the disk.

  14. What's the New Girl Wonder
    The Sharp Things
    The Sharp Things didn't settle for the neuftet sound ... they pushed on and became an onzetet! This 11-member (!) groups' latest album, A Moveable Feast, was recorded almost completely on a laptop but the recording is clean and smooth. Critics have hailed it as their best album and this song perfectly represents their retro-chic sound. It's probably not the best song off the album but I liked the link to CollegeGirl as the "new girl" at W&M.

  15. Vampires in Blue Dresses
    Margot and the Nuclear So and So's
    Another big band, this one made up of eight members from Indianapolis. Last year the released their first album, The Dust of Retreat, which AMG says is "an album that both the casual music fan and music perfectionist will enjoy." Again, it's not the most acclaimed song off the album but, come on, would you pass up an opportunity to include a song called Vampires in Blue Dresses? No, I didn't think so.

  16. Am I Wry? No
    Had to include this one because I felt that Danish space pop groups were underrepresented on the disk. Actually, this one had to grow on me. I think it was the last song to make the cut. In the end I was swayed by the opinion of the Danish Music Critics Awards who gave Mew Band of the Year and Album of the Year back in 2003 primarily based on the strength of this song. I suppose it's okay.

  17. Love and Memories
    O.A.R. (Of A Revolution) started out as a true local university band at Ohio State before hitting it big with a major label. It's probably how they manage to keep their homespun approach to pop while refining it along the way. Love and Memories is described as being "full of guitar and yearning, like a less self-righteous Switchfoot or a wordier Goo Goo Dolls." Me? I just enjoy listening to it and thought it was a godd song to have as we came up towards the end of the disk.

  18. Hey Now Now
    The Cloud Room
    This song was a huge hit on college radio back in 2005. It sounds like a really cool David Bowie song and has that catchy-as-anything chorus to keep you coming back. If you like the Killers' Mr. Brightside, you'll love this. It grows on you a little more every time you listen to it.

  19. Henrietta
    The Fratellis
    This Dublin band gets major points in my book just for naming themselves after the nemesis from the The Goonies movie. This song, which sounds like a vaudeville routine, was the group's second single and their firat top 20 hit in the UK. A nice high energy song from an Irish band that helps tee up the disc for the last song which is:

  20. One Last Drink
    Enter the Haggis
    A perfect way to end a mix CD for CollegeGirl which pays homage to her love of Richmond Celtic rockers Carbon Leaf. On their website, this Toronto band lays claim to 18 different genres of music including rock, fusion, bluegrass, traditional Celtic fare, agitpop, folk, even Latin flavors. I don't know about all that but the first time I heard One Last Drink I knew it was going to be my disk closer.

    PS: I noticed on their website they've just recently added a tour date in Williamsburg on September 26th to play at Pints and Pipes which is not far from CollegeGirl's dorm!

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