In a joint collaboration with my weekday roommate and Bronx ally Skip Serpico, I’ll be discussing a mix CD a week. He makes them, I listen to them and provide my in the moment commentary. You, hopefully, read said commentary and maybe open up your musical horizons. You can come here every week for the Serpico Mixes. And you should also visit Skip’s site, Fission Spaghetti, for his musings on food and Saturday Night Live (and more!)
Nemesis from the movie “Snatch”- A rather threatening note to start the mix on. I wonder if Skip is trying to send me a message.
Are You Ready? By The Beatnuts- I know nothing of or about The Beatnuts beyond the curator of these mixes is a fan. For a 20 year old track, it is still pretty vibrant. It has so marking of its time: blatant scratching, the repetitive sound loops from other media, some casual gangsterisms and misogyny. Still there is a reason we all fell in love with hip hop between the years of 1990 and 1999, right? Well, besides the misogyny I mean. Too bad The Beatnuts never achieved the attention a lot of (judging by this one track and the roommate’s advocacy) the lesser rap groups of the era did.
Best of You by Foo Fighters- I have a confession to make: I respect the Foo Fighters more than I like their music. I don’t know why. It is objectively good. But I’ve yet to encounter a Foo Fighters offering that I’ve felt the need to hear again right away. I think they are good musicians and, by all accounts, great guys, but…they’re just never a “must listen to” group to me.
Break You Off by The Roots- I have a modest proposal: we start to use the expression “break you off” to denote sexual encounters again. I just think it’s a good idea.
As for the track, it is on Phrenology. That’s all that needs to be said. If you don’t get what I mean, ask someone who knows good music about it.
It is the kind of song that makes me sad about Fallon making them the house band of his show. Yes, it is very cool and I’m thrilled that they have such a steady gig and I’m sure it is a nice respite from their formerly hectic touring schedule, but…I just can’t believe they’re ever going to make a Phrenology or something in the neighborhood of it ever again. Under any circumstances, it would be hard, but while being a house band…it just does not look plausible.
EDITOR'S NOTE: See comments below for correction on which version the song was. My points about Phrenology still stand though.
So What You Sayin’ by Jay Electronica– Two important things: 1.) I will never be tired of the hip hop trope in which rappers loudly declare their name.
2.) Not nearly enough rappers compare themselves to gynecologists in their rhymes.
At some point on this track, it take an unexpected left turn into religiosity and…it’s weird. If you can’t handle the juxtaposition between Kanye West’s proclamations of religious faith and his songs that are not about faith well…this one will probably be completely discombobulating. It’s definitely an unexpected turn given what the rest of the song seems to be about. It’s a diss track about…everyone, I guess, that ends by exalting Tupac and dropping the loaded term “soldiers for Christ.” Like I said it’s weird.
Car 54, Where Are You? Theme– I can remember this song from Nick at Night, I think, but I cannot remember ever watching a single episode. It is an undeniable earworm and I kind of hate it for that. It makes me miss the days of real TV themes though.
Do You Mind by The XX- The kind of song that just wraps you up in itself. The thickness of the sound, how it just blankets the track…ladies and gentlemen, it is quite good. The duet over it is nicely underplayed in response, giving the song a kind of light but haunted dimension to it. It, for lack of a better phrasing, sounds like comfortably heart breaking longing.
Does He Love You? By Rilo Kiley- A Mobius strip of a song that maybe revolve around one phone call or years’ worth of a love triangle in which our narrator progresses from being the hopeful other woman to…well, that would be telling. The end, though, is a tragic end for all parties, as freedom, responsibility, love, family, and reality crash into and pile up on one another with Lewis’s voice straining ever so slightly under the weight of it all.
There’s also a moment around 2:15 when the song becomes the second coming of Aimee Mann’s MAGNOLIA soundtrack and that is never a bad thing.
Calm Like You by the Last Shadow Puppets- If you like Kaiser Chiefs and want more groups that sound like them, I give you The Last Shadow Puppets. They’re a bit louder and a bit bigger, but a remarkable facsimile otherwise.
For me, especially at trim 2:26, that’s a good thing. You might feel differently.
Only if You Run by Julian Pienti- I can picture it playing over a montage where things are at their darkest in a movie. I like it but don’t have much to say about it. It does not inspire much of a response in me.
Only to Haunt You by The Von Bondies- Morally, siding with a man who’s telling you to kill for him is a bad idea. Musically, it’s excellent.
What You Do to Me by Blakcroc- There are not enough true love songs in the hip hop so I’m always excited to encounter one. That said, the self-aggrandizing verse that comes in about 2:15 is so disruptive to the tone, it took me right out of the thing. I honestly cannot figure what it is included to accomplish. You cut it and you end up with an under 5 minute long and most, if not all, popular music tracks should run under 5 minutes so it’d be a total win-win.
Wish You Were Here by Ryan Adams- I appreciate that Adams never makes it clear whether his POV character wants whoever he’s singing to to be there because it would make things better or simply because it he’s stuck there, he’d prefer the person he’s singing to be stuck there too in a “misery loves company” kind of way.
The Dress Looks Nice on You by Sufjan Stevens- Can we just say I like it and have you trust me on that?
Can’t Stand Losing You by The Police- Fun fact about The Police. I was absolutely listening to the Police’s Greatest Hits (on tape!) when I was got into the car accident that fractured my hip and kept me away from the Thanksgiving table my Senior year of high school.
I still really like them, which should tell you (although you should already know) that they are quite good.
I remain impressed by how The Police consistently dealt with some super dark themes with a sense of fun. I mean, this is a song all about, essentially, killing yourself if your ex-girlfriend insists on remaining your ex and yet it has some very funny asides like the details about the ex’s brother and the condition of the couple (no longer)’s shared record collection.
Scare You by Harlem- Did not work for me. Just did not like it. Musically it did not do much for me and the lyrics are repetitive and not very interesting.
Thinking of You by Badly Drawn Boy- Badly Drawn Boy is one of the artist’s I often forget about when I think about artist’s I like. That said, I do not appreciate this offering from him. The music is irritating. The singing is muddy and indistinct. It’s all atmosphere, no substance.
I Still Care for You by Ray LaMontagne- Bit of advice: if you like the likes of Joshua Radin, you need to give LaMontagne a shot.
“Life turns to clay in my hands,” as he sings at one point, is such an evocative way to say, in essence, “I ruin everything I touch” that I find it instantly winning. It’s the difference between this song, which I think is great, and another song that might come off as whining given the same subject matter and emotions to portray.
Dance for You by The Dirty Projectors- “I want to feel the breathe of a force I cannot explain,” is a nice turn of phrase but the rest of it feels very same-y. I just couldn’t lose myself in it.
How Long Do I Have to Wait for You by Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings- It feels out of place tonally on this in general and definitely in this slot. A good song, but maybe just too different for this position on the tracklist. Earlier it indicates the variety of the choices, if it comes too late it feels like it is interrupting the disc’s rhythm.
It’s Not Up to You by Bjork- The way the sound fills and layers from just after 1:30 through 1:56 and from 3:30 to 4:10 or so is winning that I’m almost tempted to give the song a pass. Almost. The last 30 seconds of distance riffing certainly did not help her cause.
Everybody Here Wants You by Jeff Buckley: Like the Dap Kings track, this one feels a little ill-placed—although if you move either one up further, I think the issue would be resolved. Unlike the Dap Kings though, I still loved it. In an overproduced kind of way.
End Credits, Breaking Bad- Sigh…