The Serpico Mixes: Names- Awesome

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!)

 Can't wait to teach my child he's better dead than red.

Can't wait to teach my child he's better dead than red.


Mix #9

Theme: Names- Awesome

For those not in the know, my wife and I are expecting are next child and Skip, as my weekday Bronx ally, offered this mix to help us get started on naming the soon to be scion. Last week was sensible, this week's are AWESOME! Do feel free to use them to name your child (or new pet!) as well.

 These are my going out clothes. (image from

These are my going out clothes. (image from


Kojak Theme- This is a very 70’s TV theme. Like, it just drips 70’s.

Possibility of being chosen: I will not subject the son of a father with a shaved pate to the name Kojak. Now, Kolchak? Maybe…

Trouble by Ray LaMontagne- God I love this song. It is just a great song, straight through. LaMontagne is a singer more people need to talk about and those that do should talk about him more often, louder, and in speeches marked by tremendous hand motions to signify their enthusiasm.

Possibility of being chosen: I…I just don’t think so.

Diddy by P. Diddy- Is there really a woman out there whose criteria includes “six figures and camcorders.” Don’t get me wrong, six figures is something I am sure someone might be after (although, Diddy, probably runs 7 or 8, so, it is an odd thing to fixate when you are burying said lady’s “requirements”) but camcorders? “I am very impressed with your tax returns, sir, but I can’t help but notice a complete lack of home video cameras on the premises, so, sorry but I think I’m going to take my talents elsewhere.”

As Diddy goes, this is not as much fun as I would. Pharrell saying, “Hold up!” in the midst of the chorus is pretty great but the rest of it is…mildly inert. I guess I just prefer Diddy when I can picture Mase throwing money to the camera to the beat.

Possibility of being chosen:  There is only one Diddy.

Jazz by A Tribe Called Quest- As Q-Tip sings in the first verse, this song is “so low key that you probably missed it.” The flow is slow and kind of quiet for the most part so it does not announce itself. Even taking in the pseudo-Jamaican accent deployed at one point, though, I like it. It just has the feel of a group of musician enjoying playing with language and rhymes.

Plus, where else are you going to hear someone namecheck Shabba Ranks. Besides a Shabba Ranks song, of course.

Possibility of being chosen: “Jazz Stevens”? Hmm…there might be something there.

Styles by Styles P- The nearly calypso beat that runs under this song is so incongruous to the rest of it, I have a hard time figuring out why it would’ve been chosen. It’s difficult to take people fronting hard when they are doing it to a basic steel drum beat.

Possibility of being chosen: Styles unfortunately starts with “s” and ends in “s” just like my last name to it might be a bit too matchy. But I give full backing others using Styles. That’s a hot name.

Avon by Queens of the Stone Age- I feel like Queens of the Stone Age should be a bigger deal. I’m nowhere near a super fan, but it seems like the kind of band that would have super fans, a metal group with smarts. If they were around in the 80’s do you think they would’ve ruled MTV or would they have been too smart for that era’s metal to be praised and enjoyed.

This is a kind of bland offering from them. The music is pretty second gear and there’s no sense of urgency or excitement to the singing.

Possibility of being chosen:  Avon makes me think of the door-to-door saleswomen and is thus not a good choice for this.

Cannon by The White Stripes- This feels even more Rock of the Deep-ified than most of Jack White’s offerings and that is saying something.

Possibility of being chosen: I kind of love it.

Jodye by A$AP Rocky- For a fairly big fan of gun control, I have an unusual enjoyable of songs that drop the sound of a gun being ratcheted. It’s not everything, but it makes me sit up and take notice, for certain. I can be an easy mark.

The rest of the song is, well, kind of ugly to be honest. It’s not even the lyrical content. It just sounds ugly and grim as a total package to me.

Until the name of the track listing, I had serious concerns about what name Skip was asking me to consider. Without perpetuating a negative term, let me just say that my first guess was a term no white person should drop in a non-scholarly context.

Possibility of being chosen: Eh…don’t really like it.

I Grover by Grover- Oh, Grover, man…I’m so sorry. Like every aging star, you got upended by someone younger, hotter, and more willing to embarrass themselves for the spotlight (yeah, we’re talking Elmo here). I don’t remember this song from my Sesame Street days, but it pretty clearly demonstrates an actor at the height of diva phase. “So tall and smart and sort of cute and wonderful, too”? Man, get over yourself.

Possibility of being chosen: Growing up in the shadow of Great Cleve just isn’t fair, you know?

August by Rilo Kiley- Bright and poppy with a jangly guitar, this is a musically strong offering. As it went though, I enjoyed the lyrics less and less.

Possibility of being chosen: I think we’d have to Augustus. And it would be a middle name. Emperor would be the first name. Emperor Augustus Stevens. Perfect.

Schroeder by Vine Guaraldi- It’s weird how, divorced from context, how little a song can mean to you. I mean, this is Peanuts country but while it was running, before I knew that, all I could think was, “Good as these things go, but not something that captures or keeps my attention. Thanks, almost three minute piano solo.”

Possibility of being chosen: No, I don’t think we’ll be doing this.

Trouble by Coldplay- Remember when we all agreed to hate Coldplay? Well, I never signed that paperwork so, I still like them. And this era, too, the era when they really bothered people.

Anyway, that’s just by way of setting the table to let you know that I am a bit taken by this song but you can feel free to take my opinion with a grain of salt. Even if I am right. Which I am.

For some reason, this also reminds me of a girl I dated in high school. For months she had No Doubt’s spider web song as her answering machine (yes, answering machine, not voicemail) message. I hated that song for years afterwards. Not her. I pretty much always liked her, but I fantasized about destroying that messageif only to be rid of that song.

Anyway, neither here nor there. Coldplay’s song is good stuff.

Possibility of being chosen: Hmm….I’m starting to get it, Skip…

Mantis by RZA- Why more songs don’t use old commercials as their intros, I’m sure I don’t know. I’d probably buy an album of just old commercials, truth be told.

This song has a fatal flaw that unfortunately killed it for me. The shrill phone-esque tone that plays several times in the midst of the music? I hate it. A lot. I couldn’t get past it. Anyone wanna throw me an edit with that taken out, you and me will be great friends.

On the other hand, this song is about the greatest super hero ever eaten by an invisible T-Rex, so…

Possibility of being chosen: Mantis Stevens? Through Lumbly in as the middle name and you’ve got yourself a deal!

Desperado by Johnny Cash-Having Johnny Cash sing it doesn’t make Desperado a better song but it makes me  laugh a bit. Actually, scratch that. That does make it better. Not musically, but easier to tolerate and that’ll do for me.

Possibility of being chosen: I feel like Desperado is a name earned, not given.

Sanchez by Calexico- “As I tear into the skin of innocence” sounds dirty to me. Am I alone here? It sounds dirty, right?

Can we talk about why Joey or John (not sure who’s lead on this one) is doing a Dylan pastiche here? Especially since Dylan is almost always better when done by someone else? Doesn’t that suggest that imitating his voice is to be avoided? Imitate his songwriting? Yes! Copy the voice? No, no, no. You’re not getting this whole making music that is enjoyable to listen to.

(Take that Dylan fans! He puts on a lousy show and now he and I are enemies for life!)

(Not really, but come on, we can all agree that more often than not Dylan done by someone not Dylan is a better listening experience, right?)

Possibility of being chosen: Never.

Encore by Jay-Z- Jay-Z’s right. I am far too kind.

It has been so long since I’ve heard this version of the song, not the mashup version. I don’t dislike the mashup, but this? This is better. Although I do think I might prefer the harsher, “What the hell are you waiting for?”’s from the mashup.

The hype man at 2:00? He’s awesome. Yet another reason RC Smith and I are done. You hear me, RC? We’re done!

Possibility of being chose: Not bad…not bad.

Napoleon by Blossom Dearie- I first thought of “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” when I heard this. You know, “My dear old uncle Herman says that French Toast should be German” and all that? Maybe it was the food thing. And the pacing of the singing, I think.

Anyway, this is song about dying and everyone eventually forgetting about you or using your legacy to sell stuff. Either way. So, you know, keep that in mind. It’s easier to take with Dearie’s voice, I suppose, but don’t doubt that that is the message here.

Possibility of being chosen: I refuse to honor that horrible little man!

Walcott by Vampire Weekend- When I was four or five years old, I went to Cape Cod for the first time (or the first time I can recall anyway). My parents had been divorced just a little while and my Dad was taking me on what was definitely his first trip with his son as a single father. We shared a room in his aunt and uncle’s house. We ate lobster one night. I drank sparkling apple cider while everyone else had cocktails. I did so well that I got to go to “the restaurant” the next night. The restaurant was Christian’s, named for my Dad’s cousin, the chef, and owned by the family. That trip remains one of my earliest, happiest memories. I think that was also the trip where I watched Batman on a VCR in my uncle’s study and fell asleep in the large leather recliner, so that didn’t hurt.

The point of this interlude, if you are gracious enough to grant me the possibility that there might be one, is that I love the Cape so much and associate it so much with happiness that it rarely occurs that it might not be the same kind of magical place for those that grew up there. I never thought a Cape Codder (the drink, not the person) would need a “running away from it all story. Especially one where they end up in Jersey. But if they do, (and they must, right?) this is a great choice. Because even while I wish I could go back to being that kid who was so well behaved, he got to go to the “adult” restaurant, I know there must have been a few (at least) kids who walked by that night and rued all those tourists making noise and eating pricey food. The irony being, of course, that Vampire Weekend’s members probably grew up at least as privileged as me, if not more so.

This song is also a-okay with me as it drops a Connecticut reference and yeah, I like that.

Possibility of being chosen: I…okay, honestly? I like Walcott. But man that would be harsh, right?

Myth by Beach House- This is one of those songs that I listen to multiple times and keep drifting away or getting distracted before I can really “hear” it. It has a beautiful almost ethereal quality to its music but I just could not seem to commit to it.

Possibility of being chosen: Myth is a hard one to live up to. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t give my future son a goal though.

Biko by Block Party- A Biko song not sung by Peter Gabriel? What’s all this then?!

It has to be about the Biko though, right? I mean…who else?

But if that’s the case…what the heck is going on here?

Despite those two sentences above, I actually really like this song. I’m just not sure “Toughen up” and Biko belong together.

Possibility of being chosen: I think this one’s been retired. Raise it to the rafters, say I.

Wahid by Mos Def- This song is...fine. I don't know what's going on with me, but it just didn't move me at all.

Possibility of being chosen: I’m just not feeling it. Sorry.

Trouble by Jessica Lea Mayfield- There seems to be some victim blaming going on her, but I honestly don’t know if I am properly following the action. Regardless, “I know you’re mom’s dead but it’s no excuse…get strong, get strong, get strong,” is just harsh.

Possibility of being chosen: Nope. Third time is not the charm. You go too far, Skip!