The Serpico Mixes: The 5 W's Disc

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!)

This is kind of thanksgiving-y, right?

This is kind of thanksgiving-y, right?

Mix #12

Theme: The 5 W’s

Fun fact: apparently there is a whole photoshop W Magazine covers into (exploitative) pornographic images. So, just in case you were worried the internet wasn't misogynistic enough, take heart. (image from

Fun fact: apparently there is a whole photoshop W Magazine covers into (exploitative) pornographic images. So, just in case you were worried the internet wasn't misogynistic enough, take heart. (image from

Who? Wu?! From Deadwood- The Who’s on First of our time.

Who Got the Props? by Black Moon- An old school hip hop offering, complete with record scratching and everything. Too bad I found the whole affair a bit boring. Even with a Crooklyn reference.

Who You Wit by Jay-Z- Jay-Z sounds so damn lazy at the start of this song. He picks up a little bit vocally as the song goes, but the song never shakes that lazy feel. Maybe it is how many times he uses “bitch” and “sprung” or the quiet, bland beat.

Also, what’s a frozen wrist?

Who’s Johnny? by El Debarge- This is as bubblegum late 80’s/early 90’s as it gets. I’m picturing clothes in neon and dancing through a mall food court. Not for me, of course, I’m far too classic and demure for that. But I’m sure this song inspired others to dress and behave in that way.

Not my genre of music in the least, but it seems to do what it does with some ability. It is pretty ebullient.

I revisited this song a few days after I wrote this entry and I have to say… it sticks with you. It is a serious earworm of a tune.

Who is He? (And What Is He to You?) by Bill Withers- Wow! This couldn’t be a better choice for an exploitation film soundtrack. Beautifully funkified.

It makes sense. Regardless of how one feels about Tarantino, it is pretty undeniable that the man can build a soundtrack.

I also appreciate the thematic relationship to the previous track, men asking the women who another man is, the women denying they even know said man. It is interesting to compare how two different tracks treat the same basic theme.

What Makes a Good Man? by The Heavy- This also has the feel of a throwback to the same era as the track above but it was released in 2012. I think it is just awesome. I love the guitar lick, the call and response, the choir, the stripped breakdown at 2:24…there’s not a false note in the whole thing. I’m stunned I haven’t heard it in about a dozen trailers all ready. It just feels….cinematic and epic.

What Can I Do? by Talib Kweli & Madlib- I like the purposeful throwback sound the song opens with and how the track pulls that throughout the rest of it even as the vocals become more hi-fi and more technically sound. It is pretty slight in content but a well-produced track.

What? by A Tribe Called Quest- Damn fun. Could not be more musically simple, but who cares when Tribe is here to entertain.

What Am I To You? By Norah Jones- Another song that just pulls for cinematic imagery from me (although in a far different way) the moment I hear it. It is just so evocative from the moment the piano comes in.

While I understand that music is its own medium and that “soundtrack song” is not much of a compliment, for me what’s key is not that it would be on a soundtrack but rather that the song delivers such a strong message, one can’t help but “see” it in their mind’s eye. And this song absolutely achieves that level.

And thus, it is yet another Norah Jones I have to confess to liking. I swear though, in general, she’s stone boring to me. Just not with this one (or that earlier one).

What’s The Matter? by Milo Greene- Like others that have come before it, this is another offering that takes its foot off the gas with more than a minute and a half left. No one sings, no new musical motifs explored. What a disappointing way to end.

When Will You Come Back Home? by Ryan Adams & The Cardinals- Ladies, be honest, does, “Rock me like a baby doll” work as a pickup line. It would seem to have the opposite effect, in my estimation, but I’m open to being told I’m wrong on this one. And, what the heck, Gentlemen, you let me know too.

Once more, Adams goes as country as he can here and I’m reluctantly along for the ride. It is, as covered earlier, not my favorite flavor of Ryan Adams, but I cannot pretend that it isn’t good. I just prefer him rocking as opposed to country and/or westerning it.

When It’s Springtime in Alaska by Johnny Cash- Songs like this always makes me wonder: if I had been born in a different era, say the 50’s or 40’s, would I like this kind of music? I’m fascinated by the idea that what we like is crafted, in part, simply by a trick of birth. If my grandfather was a teen during the grunge era would he loved it? If I saw Elvis on Ed Sullivan that first time when I was 15 would I have been an instant fan? And what of the older music I do enjoy? Is that just a “mistake” or are those songs transcendent in some way? These are the things that keep me up at night.

Oh, but in reference to this song…not my thing. I do like the “the song she kept singing would make a man’s blood run cold” (at about :50) though. It leaves one to contemplate if their coupling was a romantic as the narrator seems to be presenting it. Perhaps a darker fate awaits him than the tone of the song would imply.

When Cash sings of doing their dance on a bearskin rug, he’s talking sex, right? We’re not dealing with literal dancing by that point, are we?

When We Sippin’ on Tha Brew by 213- All hail St. Ides commercials! This one is only a mild hit as, between some of the lyrics and the beat, it sounds more like Snoop doing a parody/commercial conversion of one of his hits as opposed to a whole new beast.

Where Are You Now? by Mumford & Sons- I know this probably fills all kinds of stereotypes about me based on my demographics but here it is: I like Mumford and Sons sound. From vocals on down, the package has a kind of sparse beauty to it (as applied here) and it can still be loud and propulsive. They are not my favorite band or anything but I don’t think I’ve heard a track from them yet that did not work for me.

Where Would I Be? by Cake – Everything here is just this side of working. Musically, vocally, lyrically…it is all close but no cigar. I just can’t recommend it.

Where Does the Good Go? by Tegan & Sara- As already substantiated, breakup songs are a subgenre that connect with me a very high percent of the time. Even with that though, my love of this song should not be underestimated. I appreciate the alternating between the musically simple and the lush sections of the song and how Tegan and Sara’s voices seem to match both with equal fit. It is almost as if the song is reflecting their emotionality as they confronts the ex(es?) and the voice is rising in an attempt to hold out against their growing ever stronger emotional reaction to this ex.

Where is Home? by Bloc Party- The first minute of the song had me fully on-board. I “knew” the intro was going to fall away to a bigger, more aggressive sound. Which it kind of did, I guess. This is another song that felt like it got stuck in second gear and never quite popped.

Where Y’all At by Nas- Nas has fun with language as he indulges in hip hop clichés about drug dealers as the richest, toughest, smartest people on the block. The beat is pretty minimal and the repeated requests for where the gangstas and/or dimes are a bit much, but Nas is big enough that be stands over all of that and the song is listenable and a bit fun (from a language use standpoint).

why by Jadakiss- I have an odd relationship to this song. There are certain tunes that I encounter and think, “I want that, I have to remember to get it,” and then forget about them until I hear them again and the process begins anew. “why” is such a tune. Often, as with now, I do finally remember to get them or find them on an album and mix and end up a little disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong, I still quite like this, but it is a song with great verses and a lousy chorus. I’m glad to finally have it, but I wish the chorus was half as strong as the verses or at least provocative in the same way.

Why Can’t I Forget Him? by Blakcroc- I like this has an aggressive energy to both the vocals (for the most part) and the music and yet it is unabashedly a breakup song where the protagonist is  the “weak” one struggling to get beyond her past love. It nicely illustrates the anger that being sad about a breakup can provoke. There is a sadness in relationships ending but rarely do song touch the co-mingling of anger and sadness, especially when the singer is unabashedly honest that he or she is not ready or able to move on.

Why Do I Lie? by Luscious Jackson- As I write this, Luscious Jackson is on the comeback hunt (maybe) including a lap around the late night shows. I don’t remember much about them when they had arrived, to be honest, so while I know the name I do not have many associations to them.

The song is probably not all that technically strong but the I like that it is an almost three and a half showcase for a fabulist to wrestle with her own dishonesty. It’s a naked tackling of the subject that I think gets a good grip on compulsive lying and does not make it into a joke.

Why Won’t You Make Your Mind? by Tame Impala- Here’s a rare one from me: I really like the music here. Although not typically a fan of protracted intros, I was perfectly happy with the first pure instrumental minute of this track. On the other hand, I did not enjoy the lyrics or the way they were song. Well, you win some, you lose some.