The Serpico Mixes: The Incremental 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!)


Mix #17

Theme: Incremental

 Everybody loves charts, right? (image from

Everybody loves charts, right? (image from

“All the Pieces Matters” by Clarke Peters from THE WIRE- Foreshadowing! Or maybe, metaphor!

Here’s to Good Friends (Lowenbrau Beer)- Saint Ide’s jingles have it all over this beer jingle. Don’t bring it unless you can bring it, Lowenbrau.

Running Time: 1:00

Sock Hop by All-Time Quarterback With just a minute and 15 seconds, you have to grab my attention is you want to make a good impression. This song, while pleasant enough, does not do that.

Running Time: 1:15

It’s Time to Party by Andrew W.K.- I have not heard this song in years. It makes me remember when it looked like Andrew W.K. was going to be a big deal in some sort of way. I don’t believe that happened, but it’s possible I just don’t belong to the right community to notice that sort of thing.

Anyway, never a favorite of mine and not nearly as gleefully dumb as I remember everyone claiming it was. Just kind of repetitive.

Running Time: 1:30

Alphabet Pony by The Kills- So…what happened?

I’ve been pretty iffy about The Kills throughout this project, but this entry, a stream of consciousness exercise with little to no discernible plot, is my favorite. Unlike the previous entry, there is a sense of weird glee to it. Plus, musically, it is buoyant in a rock sort of way.

Running Time: 1:45

Pin by Yeah Yeah Yeahs- The use of the slowing building music line, with the steady introduction of more and more instruments and then the vocals, is something I’m on record as being a fan of. I just enjoy that teasing kind of development that leads you into a song.

After that, I confess I vacillated a bit on the song and its use of nonsense words as a chorus. At last listen, I am firmly pro this song though, so I feel comfortable giving it my stamp of approval.

Running Time: 2:00

One Day by Jerju the Damaja- So, I’m not sure Jeru is a particularly skilled rapper, but he is a good storyteller here and, for me, that’s enough to be on board. I like the personification of “Hip Hop” and how he uses it to make it both meta-commentary on what was going on during that era of hip hop (the big excesses of the mid-90’s with the fishbowl lenses, weird vinyl suits, explosives galore, and money flying everywhere) and to create a diss track (against Bad Boy Records). I was a little sad it ended so quickly and “Hip Hop” was retrieved so easily, but sometimes the best stories are the short ones.

Also “Let’s Jet, son, like Elroy”? Yeah, that is probably finding its way into my lexicon.

Running Time: 2:15

Drive Me Wild by J Dilla- It took me to the second listen for it occur to me that J Dilla is talking as himself the whole time and that the “dun-na-na-na-na-na” music break is the woman speaking. Think “Peanuts” adults, with a beat.

Anyway, the song itself is just sort of “eh” for me, but I love that device enough that it becomes a rising tide that lifts all boats.

The surf rock guitar solo just before two minutes is an odd musical choice though. Not bad, but certainly odd.

Running Time: 2:30

Gasoline by The Dead Weather- The Dead Weather continues to be my least favorite Jack White project/band here. There’s aspects of it I like including White’s mean, distorted vocals in the chorus, but the verses are a bit unengaging. The music largely works for me, but then there’s the long, not particularly impressive guitar solo so….I’m ambivalent here.

Running Time: 2:45

Uncut Raw by AZ- Remember what I said about being a sucker for the hip hop trope of including guns being cocked in the music track? This song is sick with it. It’s such an act of obvious musical machismo that I can’t help but smirk at it, despite my problems with America’s love affair with guns. Or maybe because of my concerns with our adoration of the firearm, the sound effect just strikes me as a sort of accidental satire. I don’t know.

Running Time: 3:00

Night of the Living Baseheads by Public Enemy- 25 years old and this song is still damn good. I wonder if I was still was as wildly relevant at 25 as I was when I was born.

I kid. Of course I was. My relevance only grows with each passing moment.

Running Time: 3:15

Ooh Wee by Mark Ronson- I like the disparate musical tracks Ronson piles up to achieve the full sound of the song; it’s an impressive act of layering and pairing. I find the minds of people who can do that sort of thing and achieve such a well-rounded sound to be fascinating.

The rest of the song is…fine to listen to on its own. At a party though, I think it’d be a delight. At 3:30 though, it feels too long.

Running Time: 3:30

Just Another Case by Cru- First off, this is another song that reinforces hip hop’s love of Phil Collins, a love I applaud. If you have an informal list going (and who doesn’t?!) then add this one.

Second, this is good. Strong storytelling hip hop. Except the “Everybody plays the fool” part that finds its way into the song with about 40 seconds left. It grinds the whole song to a halt and does not enhance anything with its inclusion.

Running Time: 3:45

What a Way to Go Out by Souls of Mischief – An ode to getting killed, predominantly in the perpetration of a life of crime or general bad decision making. One of those hip hop fable songs that seemed a lot more prevalent in the early 90’s and now rarely show up outside an Eminem record. I like the subgenre and I liked this addition to it.

Running Time: 4:00

Calm on the Valley by Iron and Wine- After a five block of hip hop and dance music, this Iron and Wine is nice change in pace. Additionally, it is just plain good. So, you know, there’s that.

Running Time: 4:15

The Weight of Lies by The Avett Brothers- Simple strong songwriting done by robust soulful voices set mostly to a modest guitar strum. Sometimes it is all you need.

Running Time: 4:30

Blood Bank by Bon Iver- “Isn’t it always like the present, to be showing up like this,” can be an incredibly cheesy line in the wrong hands.

Thankfully Bon Iver possesses hands that are, in fact, right. Here, it comes across as sweet and sad, just like the rest of this hushed song devoted to either burgeoning or fleeting love depending on how you write the couple’s end.

Unlike the 3:30 song talked of earlier that felt too long, at 4:45, this one felt like it could’ve gone another 2 minutes and held my attention.

Running Time: 4:45

Wild Flowers by Ryan Adams- There are moments when Adams’ voice goes a bit whiny, just for a moment here and there. I’d still recommend the song and do so with little reservation, but, perhaps because of the quality of the tune as a whole, those moments where his voice seems to get away from him stick out like a sore thumb.

Running Time: 5:00

A Child With the Blues by Erykah Badu- A great mood setter that I would love playing over, say, a dinner I’m having with some close friends—the kind that goes long into the night and involves conversation and multiple glasses of wine. To simply listen to though…there’s nothing wrong with it lyrically, vocally, musically; in fact, from those technical standpoints, the song is pretty much excellent. It just doesn’t hold my interest as a song I can enjoy entirely on its own.

Running Time: 5:15

Sleeping Torpor by Anathallo- There is a lot going on here, layered vocal and instrumental tracks, a big, loud sound. The problem is that it does not really add up to anything. I don’t “feel” anything about the song despite all that effort. And at north of five minutes, it’s a long song not to evoke anything in its listener.

Running Time: 5:30

A320 by Foo Fighters- I’m already on the record as someone who’s not as big a fan of Foo Fighters as others are or as one might expect given the other bands enjoy. However, this track is a surprisingly soulful offering from the band that draws me in and holds my attention throughout. When the song crests about three minutes in, it has room to rise which is often not the case in a lot of the Foo’s catalog.

On the other hand, that “cresting” lasts over two minutes, features no vocals, and is just the same musical motifs of the song, but louder. So, it is not all good news.

Running Time: 5:45

Cold Contagious by Bush- I like Bush way more than I care to admit for the loss of cool points it will inevitably lead to. But whatever. I am who I am, right or wrong, cool or…uncool? So take me or leave me. But, by all means, listen to this song. It features a bit longer of a runway than your typical Bush song does, but when it finally kicks in and Rossdale unleashes his snarl…it’s like going back to high school. And I liked high school (mostly) so…yeah. Thumbs up.

That said, even with nostalgia on its side, it is overlong and overstays its welcome.

Running Time: 6:00

Simon Says by Pharoahe Monch- You know how I can be a bit…hard on repetitive looping in hip hop songs. Imagine how I might feel about a song that employs an approximately eight note loop throughout a six minute and 15 second song. If you’re thinking to yourself, “That sounds like something that Tim would find annoying and/or frustrating,” you are on the right track.

Credit where credit is due, though, the use of multiple rappers on the track does make sure that, vocally, no one overstays their welcome in this beyond feature length song. It’s too bad that by about 3:30 I am so fixated on the loop that it became all I could hear.

Running Time: 6:15