The Serpico Mixes: The Ampersand 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!)

Orange you glad for the ampersand?

Orange you glad for the ampersand?

Mix #34

Theme: Ampersand

This ampersand is letting today's Mix go to its head, getting all fancy and such. (image from

This ampersand is letting today's Mix go to its head, getting all fancy and such. (image from

Tila & I by Harlem- Definitely onboard with the loose jangly sound here, but most of the time I had a hard time really making out the vocals. Would’ve liked if they were given a bit more space to be heard and perceived.

3’2 & 7’s by Queens of the Stone Age- Case in point is this song. It’s just as loud (although its tight and focused unlike Harlem’s aforementioned looser style above) but I have no problem with Homme’s vocals. You truly can have it all.

Much like the song above, I also like this offering musically. There’s a lot going on here but it all works for me, even the discordant parts. Unfortunately, the lyrical content did not do much for me. I suppose that is the risk of being able to understand them.

Dollaz & Sense by Blakroc- First, yes, I noticed the pun of a title. But I’m going to let it go this time.

The production on this one is very good. It keeps a consistent beat throughout with the same piece of music underlining the whole song, but it nicely accessorizing it so the beat never is foreground enough to feel repetitive or annoying.

I also like the anger of the song. This is an offering out to bruise and it realizes that, for the most part. The exception is the chorus from which the song derives its name which never feels as immediate as the verses nor really connected with the emotions of the rest of the song.

Crime & Medicine by Mos Def- For lack a better way to put it, this song bounces. It has this undeniable rhythm and feeling to it. It….just bounces along. Heavy content that never flattens or drowns the musicianship.

The whistling bit at the end though…didn’t add anything to the track.

Milk & Honey by Beck- Beck at his most anarchistic. Rattling (in both senses of the word), all over the place, and filled with production tricks, it is nonetheless arresting.

Ocean & Streams by The Black Keys- I can’t say if this changed my perspective on this or not, but while I was listening to it, I was on a train into the Bronx. There was a delay on the tracks so we had to go slow at this particular stretch and so I was treated to the sight of five or six abandon buildings—homes, business, some kind of warehouse space—passing by out the window. Set to this song, it felt like I was living inside a movie moment with the Black Keys scoring that scene. I can’t not recommend it after that experience.

Wives & Lovers by Jack Jones- Whoa, Jack. Whoa! You’re warning her? Man, I don’t know what you’ve heard about the 21st Century, but you can’t really talk to women like that anymore. You can’t threaten her with her spouse’s infidelity if she fails to keep it high, tight, and well-dressed these days. That’s very much not ok.

The blissfulness with which he delivers his deplorably sexist message, however, is subversive. So light and bright.

Rhythm & Soul by Spoon- Just as you’d expect from Spoon, fun and fast moving. Not sure if I’d call it soulful, per se, but I quite like it.

Vibes & Stuff by A Tribe Called Quest- So smart and quick. Q-Tip (mostly; Phife has a verse too) isn’t spitting, but he is so perfectly on beat throughout. I wouldn’t call the song unrelenting because the connotations of the word don’t really fit what I mean, but that’s the closest I can come up with. It just never stops delivering.

Flutes & Trombones by Tenacious D- Trombones are better than flutes. In case you wanted to know.

Light & Day by The Polyphonic Spree- Not just a song from those commercials and that episode of SCRUBS, honest. One of those impossible to listen to without cracking a smile songs. Its effervescence will not be denied.

Wasted & Ready by Ben Kweller- Love the alternating quieter verses and bigger, louder choruses. Sometimes that can be too much, too whiplash-inducing, but it’s just great here.

Rise & Shine by The Cardigans- A good power pop offering. Lyrical content is feels a little bit of a throwback, especially in the course, but overall, it seems pretty timeless. It wouldn’t seem musically out of place now.

Something about the way Persson sings, “Rise and shine, Rise and shine my sister!” just…fits for me. It clicks.

Skull & Crossbones by Del the Funky Homosapien- While I certainly don’t endorse driving with intoxicated, I found myself bopping along to this grim song that presents a springy and subversive take on the crime. Even at the protagonist is being consumed by the fiery wreck of his car, Del maintains the tone and the characterization.

Ice & Rain by Wale- I know I’ve heard Wale before during this process here, but I can’t recall exactly what I said to him. I seem to remember not being thrilled with the previous offerings. Obviously they failed to make much of an impact.

I don’t know if I was wrong then or this song is an exception, but…damn it’s good. It might be fair to say he’s tearing a play right out of Kanye’s playbook certain Late Registration, with it’s big sound, girl’s choir, and confessional real life pain lyrics but I’m not willing to dock him for it. A strong, strong offering here.

Stork & Owl by TV On the Radio- I must have listened to this song two or three more times just trying to figure out who TV reminded me of here. I’m still not sure. What I am sure of it that I would not have spent all that effort on a song I didn’t like or on a song without some sort of primal pull to it.

Police & Thieves by Junior Murvin- I know this song, but from the Clash version. This version is not bad, but that one is just bonkers better. Better pacing, better music track, better vocals. It is the song’s credit that, even acknowledging that, I like this version too.

Round & Round by Hi-Tek ft. Jonell- There’s nothing wrong with this song. The vocals are good, the production assists the rest of the song….I just find it so boring.

Thistle & Weeds by Mumford & Sons- Do you like other Mumford & Sons songs? Congratulations then, you’ll like this one as I did.

Despite it being lowkey as most Mumford is, it also gets really big. It, in a very weird way, and I swear I mean this as a compliment to them, reminds me of the music in Alanis Morissette’s “Uninvited” which similarly grow thicker and louder coming into its crescendo. And that’s a compliment, honestly. I swear.

Ashes & Fire by Ryan Adams- Adams doing his chameleon bit, wearing the skin of a folk singer. He does It well enough, I suppose, but it is the kind of song that ends without leaving much of an impact.

Flesh & Blood by Johnny Cash- Not much by way of energy or the pain that Cash can sometimes, can often, conjure.