The Serpico Mixes: The Geography 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!)

Geography=Earth=Green. Welcome to how my mind works. @scintillating

Geography=Earth=Green. Welcome to how my mind works. @scintillating

Mix #37

Theme: Geography

We find you guilty! The sentence is...Geography...for life! (picture from

We find you guilty! The sentence is...Geography...for life! (picture from

Dialogue from THE WIRE- Anything that cracks on Philadelphia I am in favor of.

Pelican Bay by Jenny Lewis And The Watson Twins – Sometimes a song that, in terms of construction and sound, would usually be described as “not your thing” still manages to click. This is that kind of song. A strangely haunting offering.

L.A. by Elliott Smith- Perhaps a brighter offering than most people would associate with Smith. Brighter in sound, anyway. The lyrics remain nicely dark and pain-inflected. As usual, loving this Smith song.

Hollywood by Nada Surf- Some songs exist to make you feel guilty for forgetting about a band or writing them off as a one-hitter. This is such a song for Nada Surf. Less ironically drenched than “Popular” and less catchy, certainly, but still a strong tune that makes me think I should’ve paid more attention to them back in the day.

Hollywood by Sa-Ra- This song is like a collection of hooks, vocal and musical, just piled on top of each other. I think it is shallow and facile, but damn it if I didn’t love it.

Mexico by Cake- How does Cake make their sound work? If you described to me the elements of their music I’d reply that you can just go ahead and keep it. And yet, here I am trying to get down the exact inflection with which John McCrea says, “I don’t know much about Cinco de Mayo.”

Santa Fe by Beruit- Zach Condon pays homage to his hometown over an electronic beat in the second most popular song ever oriented around the town of Santa Fe, New Mexico. It’s not the most substantial of tunes, but it has a kind of quiet drawing power. A song that eats up four plus minutes without leaving a footprint but also without making you feel the time that has passed.

Arkansas by Damien Jurado- This is not the sound I’d expect to be associated with a song called Arkansas. A deceptively simple sounding (seriously, take the time to count each of the instruments used…there’s a lot more going on than you’d think) that invokes a seventies sound while still feeling very now (and not just in a purposeful flashback sound like The Heavy).

Chicago by Lucy Wainwright Roche – Love, love, love. Love. It made my skin tingle.

Florida by Modest Mouse- I love the way Isaac Brock uses his voice in so many different ways in this song, with the rapid spat lyrics, the background chorus, the more “rock” vocals, and then the light spaced out voice tone. So much complexity from just the vocals.

Washington, DC by The Magnetic Fields- I met my wife in DC so this song already has buy-in for me, what with it arguing that DC is important not because of the Federal government, the monuments, or the cherry blossoms, but because it is where loves then. Then it throws in a cheerleader style shout chorus? Ok, Magnetic Fields, you win.

Manhattan by Kings of Leon- Oddly, this does evoke a New York City feel to me, despite Kings usually, in mind, dripping Southern. I think there’s something to the idea that, as outsiders, they are able to pulls forth a different “version” of NYC that is nonetheless accurate than someone who is free the greatest city on Earth.

Also, I just love Caleb Followill’s growl so it’s easy to get me to like a Kings song.

Harlem by Bill Withers- Weird thought. Withers’ Harlem is like two generations removed from the reality of Harlem now. I like the song well enough but that part of the city just doesn’t fit this song at all anymore.

Metropolis by Janelle Monae- A message of cyborg inclusion that Superman could love. Cynical me, on the other hand, thinks this is one of Monae’s weaker offerings. Monae never really feels “here” with it and the song ends up relatively flat as a result.

Gotham City (Remix) by R. Kelly- I know a great number of people that prefer this Remix to the original, but I just can’t agree with that. I find the original a lot more ludicrous and, thus, superior. This one feels more like he’s singing about “something” whereas the original is literally about Batman’s Gotham City which makes Kelly’s earnestness glorious.

On the other hand, this song has these verses: “If you don't follow me it would be the worst/ Everytime something goes down/ Somebody's crying ghetto tears/ Hope I'm not raining on your parade/ But this is not what keeping it really is” and that’s pretty amazing.

I think this version may also be an hour or so long.

Lowell, MA by Death Cab for Cutie- A sadly anemic effort from Cutie. This feels like it is imitating angst, not living in it.

England by Bloc Party- Bloc Party might be waiting for something cool to happen, but I’m not because this song is plenty cool.

London by She & Him – Snooze. I mean, I think it is supposed to pull for sleepiness because of the whole “overcast” theme it has going, but still, snooze.

Norway by Beach House- Not for me. Not at all.

Calcutta by The Ventures- The longest 2:11 of all time.

Antarctica by The Weepies- I listened to this five times. Not once did it hold my attention to the end. Take that as you will.

Whole Wide World by Wreckless Eric- I remember this song from something else. My memory of it was more positive than my re-experiencing.