Mix-Tape Project due 11/1
Posted by Mr. Earhart on October 8, 2012
For your 2nd Six Weeks Project, your tasked with creating a mix-tape, an art that is quickly dissipating in the modern era. For those unfamiliar, us old fogies used to own dual cassette, tape decks. One would spend countless hours cuing the correct song – in the correct sequence – to impress a friend or potential romantic entity with a tasteful flow of tunes. Today y’all can skip endlessly from song to song – but back n’ the day one had to listen to a mix-tape all the way through. So as you attempt to create your playlist, be sure to pay attention to track flow. Hopefully your audience will have the decency to listen to your jams continuously, avoiding unnecessary skip-age. To the assignment:
You must create a mix-tape with a theme. The theme is up to ye’, but there must be a theme! A perfectly acceptable cop-out can be your favorite songs of all-time, but Brother Earhart would prefer something a bit more interesting: top singer-songwriters of the 1990s; top female artists of the 2000s; top songs to get the party started; intro to reggae for the novice listener; tearjerkers of the century; etc.. You name it. Just make it interesting and have some fun in the process of sharing with your peers. For assessment purposes…
- You must have a theme.
- You must have at least 10 songs by at least 9 artists. That’s right! You may double-dip once, but only once – so choose wisely. Meeting these first two requirements accounts for 50% of your project grade.
- You must provide a brief synopsis as to why each song was chosen. This synopsis is worth 25% of the project grade, and must be printed and included with the packaging of your album (make sure it fits inside!). Be sure to include the song title, album name, band name, record label, and year of release – we need full-on music geekdom!
- Your album must have artwork. We’re doing a mix-tape in form of a compact disk, so you should create CD packaging to accompany your album. You don’t have to be an amazing artist, just demonstrate that you took some time to package your tunes. Album artwork is a casualty of the modern, music era – let’s take some time to contribute to this lost art form. Album art is worth the last 25% of your project grade.
- You must bring two copies of your CD and packaging (including artwork) to class on April 3rd and 4th for the AVID CD Exchange Party! One for Attendance Records and one for a random classmate in a CD exchange game. Props must be given to former CI student Rachel for the idea of a Music Library! Once you’re done listening to the album you acquire in the CD exchange, you can return it to the library so that others may enjoy. Brilliant! (Sorry for all of the excessive exclamation marks.)
- The purpose if the project is to get some conversation simulators!
To kick start this project, I offer unto thee my autobiographical mix-tape. Having turned 31 a month ago, this project was an enjoyable reflection on my musical development. I can’t begin to mention my foray into independent tuneage without thanking my my elder brother, Jeremy, for his informed guidance. I often compare Jeremy to John Cusack’s character in High Fidelity, as I was recently prohibited from playing any of Jeremy’s records on his current record player due the his frustration with a needle that is “destroying” records. I await for Jeremy’s purchase of a $300 record player, so that I can once again take advantage of his ridiculous collection of vinyl (which he just reorganized in an effort similar to this).
That said, the majority of my ear was developed between the ages of 13 and 25, so I’ll focus on those years. When I arrived in Austin I had my own ear, ready to embrace a variety of sounds. But prior to 2006, I was consistently expanding my musical comfort zone (and largely at the behest of Earhart the Elder). I’m only selecting bands that presented significant expansions of my musical interests. I’m still fond of all of the bands presented, but their inclusion is more based in “opening the door” to new sounds – therefore many of my favorite bands/albums are not included in this mix. Additionally, I was most influenced by the entire albums of the included bands, so choosing a particular song has been difficult. In many circumstances, the album I have chosen is not necessarily my favorite of a particular band, the album was merely the first one of each band that I encountered, leading me in a different direction. In most circumstances I tried to select the song off of each album that I listened to the most when I first encountered the band. Enough blabbering… we shall start in the junior high years…
“Kick The Can” Giants Chair Red and Clear Caufield Records (1995)
My introduction to music came in the 7th grade. At the time I was listening to what most kids were listening to: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and a bit of Metallica. Not that any of these bands were horrible to be listening to, but I did find myself feeling as though the only reason I was listening to these bands was because Heath Shuey was doing such (Heath was a hang-out buddy for me in junior high, though he was vastly more interested in the White Zombie, Korn, and Rage Against the Machine movements of the time period). In fact, Heath sold me my first CD, Nirvana’s Nevermind for the outrageous price of $7. Nirvana has stood the test of time, with Unplugged being a staple of my listening group; the rest have withered. My involvement with Giant’s Chair (and the majority of my musical interests) can be attributed to the influence of my brother, Jeremy. The frontman of Giant’s Chair, Scott Hobart, was from our hometown, St. James, MO, and Jeremy and Scott have been lifelong friends. I remember watching Jeremy and a host of other St. James misfits help Scott construct a half-pipe in his backyard. As a young tike, I would watch these outcasts spend hours wiping-out via their best Tony Hawk impressions. And, whilst impersonating my brother in the spring of 1987, I lost my two front teeth in a skateboarding accident – you should see my 1st grade picture – no two front teeth, a flattop and a bright, yellow polo! I digress. In the summer of 1995, Jeremy spent his summer as a roadie for Giant’s Chair and another Kansas City Band called Boy’s Life. Being as how I thought Jeremy was the coolest thing since sliced bread, I devoured the albums out of a connectivity to a brother who had gone away to attend the Memphis College of Art, whilst I suffered in rural Missourah for the next 7 years. These two KC bands did more for my musical development than any other on this list. They exposed me to the seen of mid-90s Math Rock and showed me that there was more to music than what was being played on the radio (i.e. a ridiculous amount of Stone Temple Pilots). These bands also allowed me to have something that was mine, and, as a rather conformist young lad, it was nice to have something that interested virtually none of my peers (except Brant Bruner – and a big thanks to Brother Bruner for our limited journey down the highway of independent music and polyester clothing hunting at a variety of Salvation Army-esque stores). But, by the time I became captain of the football team and a dorky-leader of the John F. Hodge High School Character Education Team (don’t ask), all I had left in independence was music. And… so… if you’ve managed to read this far… thanks. Giant’s Chair is the most sentimental of the bands on this list, so I offer a lukewarm promise of more musicality-driven writing in the remaining albums that influenced my ear.
I probably discovered this album in the 8th grade (many years after its 1989 release), and 13 Songs showed me that music could be much more than the 3-chord, 4:4 rhythms that dominated the radio waves. Fugazi was chalk-full of funky aggression, and it felt damn good to listen to 13 Songs and Repeater over, and over, and over. It wasn’t until years later that I realized the amazing-ness of Fugazi’s mantra: $5 @ the door, no merchandise, and a ton of benefit shows. I was more drawn to the energy of Minor Threat’s Ian Mackaye and the funk of Guy Picciotto. It sounded, and still sounds, “right”. Enjoy. And then, watch Instrument, and be inspired by the the example Fugazi set for other bands..
Diary and LP2 dominated my Walkman playlist on the way to and from freshman basketball games. Jeremy Enigk’s voice seemed to offer-up a transcendent musical experience. Sunny Day Real Estate was the first band with which I became obsessed, as SDRE’s sound seemed to bridge the aggressiveness of mid-90s tuneage with beauty. I had always rejected pop (and, to this day, largely continue to do such), but Enigk made “pretty” acceptable. I had Sunny Day Real Estate cassette-tape bootlegs, knew the words to every song, and was pretty pissed-off that they had already broken-up by the time I started listening to them. My senior year of high school I was fortunate enough to see a reunion performance with high school classmates, Brant and Twinx, in the Lou. For more info, see a previous Music Monday geek-out about this band.
My favorite question to ask grown lads is, “What are the 3 most influential albums of your musical development?” Modest Mouse completes my triumvirate. If memory serves correct I first heard the The Lonesome Crowed West. I remember cranking-it as Brant and I cruised in my 1990 Mitsubishi Mirage. I then bought This is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About and became obsessed with Issac Brock’s music. Modest Mouse “possessed their own sound” – one of the highest compliments a band can receive. When I was 17, Jeremy took me to a show in Columbia, MO at the Down Under Bar. Modest Mouse played an amazing set (that looked similar to this), with a highlight being Brock’s vocals on “Tundra/Desert” – the sound achieved via screaming into the guitar and playing it with his teeth. “Talking Shit About a Pretty Sunset” is my favorite MM song off of my favorite MM album, as it’s emblematic of the beautifully seamless transitions that occur throughout MM songs. Not to mention some timeless lyrics: “Change my mind so much I can’t even trust it; my mind changed me some much I can’t even trust myself.” Hell yeah.
The last stage of my high schoolish development occurred as a freshman. Sometimes it takes the side project of a band to turn one on to different sounds, and so was the case with Jeremy Enigk’s Return of the Frog Queen. As previously mentioned, SDRE was one of my holy trinity bands, the foundation of my faith; so Enighk’s solo effort with the accompaniment of a 21 piece orchestra showed me that I didn’t just have to listen to aggressive math rock. Not that June of 44, Shellac, Table, Chavez, or Seam were bad things for which to be listening – it’s just that Enigk helped me to open-up to more varied sounds. It was extremely important to my development, and this album remains the most frequent of the top four to resurface in my collection.
When I was 20 I embarked on a study abroad experience in the Netherlands. Before I flew into Brussels to take my first train ride, I stopped to see Brother Earhart in Brooklyn. If memory serves correct, we went to see the Promise Ring, a band that tended to dominate my late-teens playlist (along with similar bands like Texas is the Reason and Hum). Nothing was really revolutionary about these bands: they exuded a rather clean, indie-pop sound that is common amongst this age group. Many readers of this post fit this bill, so I’d suggest checking out some of these bands of the late 90s. The next day-ish, Jeremy took me to the HUGE Virgin Records store in Manhattan. He said that I was “ready” for two albums, and he forced me to purchase them. Sometimes we have to be pushed in a new direction, and I’m glad J-dawg gave me a shove. I listened to Loveless and Point over and over and over on my way to Maastricht and throughout my 4 month European excursion. Both albums form the core of my European soundtrack, as I often fell asleep, sprawled-out across the seats of a train cabin, to the full, atmospheric haze of My Bloody Valentine. Cornelius is a stark contrast to My Bloody Valentine, an electro-rock group from Japan that is known for dynamic live performances. Cornelius was the first band to whom I listened that had non-English lyrics, but my ear became much more developed and open as a result of their musical style. And I was fortunate enough to see them at the Paradiso in Amsterdam; it was, and remains, my favorite show of all time. With, coincidentally enough, my second favorite show being My Bloody Valentine in Austin just a few years ago.
I returned from Europe with a more questions about myself than actual answers, and due to a fairly traumatic break-up with my then girlfriend Debbie, I became obsessed with the melancholy, alt-rock-country of a band called Canyon. Canyon was composed of the remnants of Boy’s Life, and frontman Brandon Butler’s songs gave me a nice, immature and naive release to end a relationship that was destined to fail. That said, I started to become interested in rock for the first time in my life. The starting place for so many music connoisseurs was a genre that I avoided for quite some time. I was young – I thought that if everybody listened to Lynyrd Skynyrd,that Lynyrd Skynyrd must suck. I was distrustful of mass approval. I had a personal connection to Canyon, Brandon Butler and guitarist Joe Winkle were part of my roots – my brother still has vintage VHS footage of his Boy’s Life/Giant’s Chair roadie days. But when I encountered It Still Moves by My Morning Jacket an entire world opened-up to me. I listened to It Still Moves over and over and over and over and over… I think you get the point. Never in my life had I played the air guitar as much as I did listening to “One Big Holiday” and “Run Thru.” The record still holds strong as beautiful, genuine southern rock. It Still Moves was the record that allowed me to open the door to Neil Young, the Rolling Stones, and Big Star. I began to appreciate sounds that I had previously discounted. I was so excited by My Morning Jacket that I drove the 4 hours from my college town to see them play in St. Louis at Mississippi Nights – and I drove by myself to do such. I was awarded with a special treat when a little-known, talented fellow named Andrew Bird picked his violin as the opening act. The bands raw energy in a live format was unparalleled, and I’d throw the show in my top 10 of all time. Though their latest album is a pretentious piece o’ crap, I must give MMJ props for turning me on to rock, not to mention the folky sound of their previous record, At Dawn. Just listen to this song from said album! Beautiful. Thank you Jim James.
It’s amazing how much of my foray into different sounds is a direct result of side-projects. We again turn to Giant’s Chair and Scott Hobart. My hometown brethren must have been a bit exhausted from unleashing the aggressive energy of Giant’s Chair and Quitter’s Club, so he started writing honky-tonk songs. I had always loathed “country” music, but I took a gamble of confidence when I started listening to Rex and the Boys. And, I fell in love with the simple, yet beautiful, sound of honky-tonk. The lyrics of Rex are over-the-top comical – “Don’t you go leavin’; just go get even. I’ll wait right here; you’ve got some cheatin’ to do.” And Rex allowed me entry into the world of Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Johnny Paycheck, etc. If you’re ever in KC, be sure to check out Rex for his weekly gig at the Record Bar – I assure you that you won’t leave disappointed. You country haters need to get over it; ’cause hatin’ on country is just a phase.
I’ve already written a Music Monday geek-out post about my obsession with Chan Marshall. There are no words to describe the raw authenticity of her early work. Cat Power gave me more confidence in approaching “pretty” music. I would not be able to unabashedly crank Feist or Zola Jesus of Chan hadn’t set the table back in 2004.
My Morning Jacket got me excited about rock (and interested in folk), but no other singer-songwriter has captured my attention like Richard Buckner. The list of subsequent musicians is my collection is virtually endless: Elliott Smith, Iron and Wine, Jason Molina, J Tillman, Jose Gonzales, Josh Rouse. But Buckner started it all – and he deserves props for doing such. “Blue and Wonder” is as pretty as the come.
I’ve always thought of Sweden as cool (I mean I spent a whole 3 hours in Malmo), but I had no idea that it rocked! I’ve previously geeked-out on Dungen via Music Monday, so I’ll mostly offer the link. I’ll add that no other band has had me singing along in Swedish as much as Dungen. I remember listening to Ta Det Lungt as I simultaneously discovered the Black Keys. Yet my foray into rock went into another gear after Dungen – Pentagram, Captain Beyond, The Sword – lion, tigers, bears, oh my!
The above list was not easy to construct. I had discovered all of these bands about 7 years ago, a few years prior to my Austin arrival. That said, my arrival was music overload. I was overwhelmed with the amount of bands on my iPod that were consistently swinging through town. I went to shows nearly every night, aided tremendously by a teaching load at Murchison Middle School of 7th and 8th grade Study Skills. So I’ll leave you with some bonus tracks of my highlights from SXSW for the last 4 years – my favorite festival. Thanks for reading!
“Words” Cyann and Ben Sweet Beliefs Ever Records (2006)
Great band outta’ France. Very shoegazy, and somehow I remeber that the drummer was wearing an M83 t-shirt,
“The Wolves (Acts I and II)” Bon Iver For Emma, Forever Ago Jagjaguwar (2008)
“For Emma” is my favorite song, but “The Wolves” is the top live experience. I’m not a crowd participator – no clappin’ from Brother Earhart, but I distinctly remember belting “What might have been lost” along with another few hundred folks at Emos @ a day-show in ’08. I had chills from the beauty of the experience.
“Took a Turn and Old Skin” Young Widows Old Wounds Temporary Residence (2008)
Ahhhh yeah. Enough with the pretty stuff; let’s get serious! Young Widows is like Tar reborn. Heavy bass that be in yo’ face. Thanks Young Widows. I still need to release aggression; I mean, I’m around teenagers 24/7.
“Deafening Love” Bear in Heaven Beast Rest Forth Moth Hometapes (2009)
This album continues to get better with age.
She’s the next Cat Power. Unbelievable beauty in a sea of darkness. (Did I really just write that? Vomit.)