#0097 – IRON DJ Graduation edition: 1988

It’s IRON DJ time again! Which means that a bunch of people are going to upload themed mixes and try to compete with me! Unfortunately for them, not only do I have unbeatable taste in music, but this time around I even have the IRON DJ theme going for me: GRADUATION YEAR.

The idea is to put together a mix where the theme is the year you graduated high school.  I graduated in 1988, and there was so much good music made that year that I could have made 3 mixes that would blow your mind.

But instead I made this one.  It’s semi-autobiographical, in that for the most part, the songs are played in the order in which I discovered them.  Not all of this is music I’d have listened to back in 1988, but it’s all great.  I hope you dig the mix, and whether you do or not, leave me some feedback in the comments please!

1. Danzig – Mother
2. INXS – Devil Inside
3. Living Colour – Desperate People
4. The Church – Reptile
5. Dead Milkmen – Stuart
6. They Might Be Giants – Ana Ng
7. The Pursuit Of Happiness – I’m An Adult Now
8. Bad Religion – What Can You Do?
9. Fishbone – Bonin’ In The Boneyard
10. Jane’s Addiction – Mountain Song
11. Pixies – Gigantic
12. Fugazi – Give Me The Cure
13. Cowboy Junkies – Sweet Jane
14. The Pogues – Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six
15. The Waterboys – World Party
16. Dinosaur Jr. – Freak Scene
17. Sonic Youth – Teen Age Riot
18. Galaxie 500 – Temperature’s Rising

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#0096 – with MMX technology!

Jim2010 was a milestone year–among other things, personally, it was the year my 13 year old son grew to be taller than me, which is a reminder of mortality if anything is (I mean I have to crane my neck to yell at the boy now! crazy!)–and it was a great year for music too.  It’s January now, and 2010 is in the bag, which must mean it’s time for my annual year-end best albums mix!

Hooray! Let’s get right to it!

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Justin Townes Earle - Harlem River Blues20. Justin Townes EarleHarlem River Blues
Song: Move Over Mama 

This guy puts out an album every year, and you’ve heard me talk about him before since it seems like they always end up on my year-end lists. This album represents a further maturation of his sound, marrying disparate elements–country but urban, sad but upbeat.  Move Over Mama is a rollicking honky-tonking good time of a song about a woman who takes up too damn much of the bed.

Lair of the Minotaur - Evil Power19. Lair of the MinotaurEvil Power
Song: Riders of Skullhammer, We Ride the Night 

A crushing sludgy Chicago thrash band and a perennial favorite of mine, Lair of the Minotaur has tightened up their sound from the epic bloody thrashfests of their album The Ultimate Destroyer, which I loved, through the (to me) less-focused and inferior War Metal Battle Master, and now here, they’ve distilled their brand of brutal Greek Mythology influenced fantasy metal into sharp chugging 2 minute bursts that say everything they have to say and are done.

Gil Scott-Heron - I'm New Here18. Gil Scott HeronI’m New Here
Song: I’ll Take Care of You 

Soul poetry? Immediate, revealing, intimate even, the man who told us the revolution would not be televised lays himself bare, with bleak songs and poems about growing up in a broken home, about disease and self-destruction, all very minimalistic but made raw by the power of Scott-Heron’s voice and words.  This song is a cover of an old soul song, originally recorded by Roy Hamilton but covered by everyone from Elvis Costello to Mark Lanegan of the Screaming Trees.  After this, I’ll never think of it as anything but a Gil Scott-Heron song.

Flaming Tusk - Old, Blackened Century17. Flaming TuskOld, Blackened Century
Song: Ichor 

First full-length from NYC metal quintet is a grab-bag of extreme metal influences. I expect even better things from this band in the future but this album hits almost every note I want to hear out of my metal.  Ichor is a song about the Vietnam war, which isn’t a terribly common subject for metal but why shouldn’t it be?

Jesuslesfilles - Une Belle Table16. JesuslesfillesUne Belle Table
Song: Mercredi 

Just some joyful, upbeat, jangly and noisy pop that brings to mind early Pixies.  As their lyrics and most of the information about the band are all in French I can’t really tell you much about them, but it’s all terribly catchy stuff.

Dear Astronaut - Escape from Rainbow Mountain15. Dear AstronautEscape from Rainbow Mountain
Song: That Thing Which Could Not Be Put Back 

Jeb, the singer/guitarist/driving force of Dear Astronaut is a friend of mine. This, their final album, was years in the making due to production issues, and by the time they had the album release party they had to relearn the songs since they hadn’t been playing them in so long. But this album marks their full transition into the heavy-hitting sludge sound that takes better advantage of their talents than the earlier mad circus folk had. So while it’s sad to see them go, at least they went out on top.

Black Breath - Heavy Breathing14. Black BreathHeavy Breathing
Song: Escape From Death 

Black Breath is a Seattle band playing heavy and loud as hell sludgy crossover thrash/death metal with plenty of hardcore influence as well.  Escape from Death is a death metal song, appropriately enough, about the undead, craving human flesh, from their own point of view.

The Lights - Failed Graves13. The LightsFailed Graves
Song: Gingerella 

This is a compelling piece of garagey punk/post-punk from a band that’s been kicking around Seattle for a while.

Arsis - Starve for the Devil12. ArsisStarve for the Devil
Song: Beyond Forlorn 

A thrashier sound than their previous strict technical death metal, with speed metal and cock rock leanings.  The album is a group of songs revolving around the guitarist/singer James Malone’s battles with an eating disorder, and “Beyond Forlorn” is about the depression and loneliness that come with it.

Titus Andronicus - The Monitor11. Titus AndronicusThe Monitor
Song: Richard II 

This is a sprawling civil-war-themed concept album featuring exotic instrumentation, repeated themes, and some extended jams. It’s also a punk rock record. Somehow it manages both.

Enslaved - Axioma Ethica Odini10. EnslavedAxioma Ethica Odini
Song: Ethica Odini 

This newest release from the longterm Norwegian Viking/Black metal greats features driving thrashy black metal punctuated by melodic clean-vocalled segments.  Less meandering and progressive than previous efforts, the songwriting is perhaps simplified, but also more focused.  This song, Ethica Odini, which leads off the album, is a prime example.  It opens with a wintry but razor sharp riff that drives through the harsh-vocaled verse until the clean vocals of the chorus hit and tumble it apart into something beautiful but forbidding.

Leatherface - The Stormy Petrel09. LeatherfaceThe Stormy Petrel
Song: Another Dance 

Arty punk that at times brings to mind Husker Du, with melodic guitars and raspy vocals that still manage to belt out singalongy choruses.  If I were to make one complaint about the album it’s that there are a few songs in which the singalongy choruses take on a kind of sameness, but this song avoids that, and all are well worth hearing.

Les Savy Fav - Root For Ruin08. Les Savy FavRoot for Ruin
Song: Excess Energies 

A new album from this fiery NYC indie band, which I consider to be every bit as good as their previous efforts.  The main criticism people seem to be levelling against it is that it’s very much like those previous albums, but when “more of the same” from these guys involves more of their edgy, angular rock, aggressive and antic, well I can live with it.

Trampled By Turtles - Palomino07. Trampled by TurtlesPalomino
Song: Wait So Long 

Trampled by Turtles are a “progressive” bluegrass band from Minnesota and, put simply, they shred. The high points of this album feature musical instruments that seem on the verge of spontaneously combusting.  This song leads off the album with a great fiddle melody exploding into a bloody-fingered ripper of breakneck… is bluegrass punk a genre? It is now I guess.

Woods - At Echo Lake06. WoodsAt Echo Lake
Song: Death Rattles 

Murky low-fi falsetto pop that is really well done, its sound at once barebones and lush, owing as much to fuzzy psychedelia as it does to country and folk music . The songwriting is what shines though it also hints at depths that the band doesn’t fully plumb here, perhaps teasing us with the potential, but that is also part of the appeal.  Death Rattles is a atmospheric mood piece full of eery sound effects and high-pitched minor key crooning, with an unsettling result.

Glossary - Feral Fire05. GlossaryFeral Fire
Song: Save Your Money for the Weekend 

Soulful workingman’s southern rock, just the kind of thing for a beer and a shot and maybe even some troublemaking, ’cause as they say in this song (which brings to mind Billy Joel’s Only The Good Die Young but in a good way I swear), “Honey there’s gotta be some hell somewhere waiting to be raised”

Superchunk - Majesty Shredding04. SuperchunkMajesty Shredding
Song: Learned to Surf 

Superchunk are indie giants who’ve been around for decades but hadn’t released an album since 2001. Then this album dropped and reminded everyone why this band was the best thing anyone had ever heard 20 years ago. Non-stop infectious power pop perfection.

High On Fire - Snakes for the Divine03. High On FireSnakes for the Divine
Song: How Dark We Pray 

I know some people had some issues with the production of this album–it’s less murky and bottom heavy than previous albums, but the high end comes out cleaner and you can hear the lead guitar better so I think it shreds regardless.  The songwriting continues to be excellent, with urgent pummeling drums driving a blistering guitar assault and Matt Pike’s throat-destroying roar coming through more clearly than before.  With a few songs though, including this one, they slow their usual gallop down a bit and if anything are even heavier and more menacing as a result.

The Besnard Lakes - ...Are The Roaring Night02. The Besnard LakesAre the Roaring Night
Song: Like The Ocean, Like the Innocent Pt II: Like the Innocent 

This album of dreamy shoegazy irresistable space rock came out early in the year, and was one of my most-listened albums all year long.  Expect falsetto vocals with Beach Boys style harmonies, elements of 70s era prog and power pop, all blended into a package so smooth you could slide on it in your stockinged feet.

J. Roddy Walston and the Business - J. Roddy Walston and the Business01. J Roddy Walston and the BusinessJ Roddy Walston and the Business
Song: Used to Did 

JRW&tB plays anthemic fist-pumping piano-driven rock and F@&%ING roll, born in the south but schooled in Baltimore.  With choruses that won’t leave  your head for weeks and an energetic delivery in the best tradition of Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard, it will make you want to jump on top of something, anything, and start stomping.

#0095 As We Enter

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It’s only been since, like, April since I did one of these things. I’m frankly amazed I remembered the password after all this time.
What follows is a non-stop mix of some of my favorite tracks that came out in 2010. It’s kinda dance-y. I figured you all might like to party. It sobers up a bit toward the end, but I leave you wanting another sip.
My resolution for 2011: Execution. If I stick to that, it means more time with friends and family, and taking care of my peeps — giving you good music that gets you through a hard day of keeping it real.
Stay thirsty my friends. I have some thoughts brewing on a playlist around Design Thinking. I’m hoping to at least post one mix a month. I think that’s a reasonable goal, don’t you?
  1. The Chemical Brothers – “Dissolve” 06:15
  2. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – “In Motion” 04:31
  3. Daft Punk – “TRON Legacy (End Titles)” 03:08
  4. Janelle Monáe – “Dance Or Die (Feat. Saul Williams)” 03:03
  5. M.I.A. – “Xxxo” 02:48
  6. Nas & Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley – “As We Enter” 02:49
  7. OK Go – “End Love” 03:53
  8. Metric – “Black Sheep” 04:53
  9. Goldfrapp – “Rocket” 03:42
  10. Ladytron – “Ace of Hz” 03:14
  11. Groove Armada – “Paper Romance (White Light Version)” 06:21
  12. Flo Rida – “Club Can’t Handle Me (feat. David Guetta)” 03:38
  13. Kanye West – “Lost In The World [Explicit]” 04:07
  14. Pharrell – “Fun, Fun, Fun” 03:32
  15. Crowded House – “Saturday Sun” 03:16
  16. Vampire Weekend – “Run” 03:43
  17. Arcade Fire – “Ready To Start” 04:07
  18. Crowded House – “Turn It Around” 03:55
  19. The National – “Bloodbuzz Ohio” 04:26
  20. Broken Bells – “The High Road” 03:45
  21. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” 04:04
  22. J Roddy Walston and the Business – “Don’t Break the Needle” 03:30

#0094 – The Eratosthenes Mix

A mostly 2010 wintery mix named in honor of the ancient Greek scholar from the 3rd century BC who correctly determined the circumference of the Earth using his brain, eyes, feet, and a few sticks. As Carl Sagan asked…why are there no monuments to people like this?

Who the hell was Eratosthenes? You may or may not know it, but Eratosthenes was a guy that lived 2,200 years ago that correctly estimated the circumference of the Earth without leaving Egypt using nothing but sticks, his eyes to observe the sun’s shadows, feet for walking measured distances, and his brain. He was the first person to measure the size of a planet, before people even thought it was round. He argued that India could be reached by sailing westward from Spain. He invented geography. He invented a system of latitude and longitude. He correctly estimated the distance from the Earth to the Sun. Let me say that again. He correctly estimated the distance from the Earth to the sun! Long before they even had telescopes. I think about that and just think, “Holy crap.” I can barely pay my bills on time or figure out an Excel sheet.

What do the songs on this mix have to do with this ancient Greek scholar from the third century BC? Not a damn thing. Except that when’s the last time you saw a statue of Eratosthenes? Or flew into Eratosthenes Airport? Or went to go see your favorite football team beat the crap out of another team at Eratosthenes Memorial Stadium? Instead we go see an event in the Viagra Dome or suffer some other indignity. We have buildings named after every jackweed you can think of, mainly politicians and the wealthy people that built the buildings — which is okay, but do we need 15 buildings named after the same person? Maybe name the first one after yourself, then search around to find an opportunity to honor someone else, eh? Why not? We can see when something has some meaning, and when we do we usually stop and read it. Maybe you get your kid to read it, and maybe s/he’s inspired by what they learn. Maybe you take the time to look the person up and think, “Wow, this person really did some great things.”

I don’t have enough monetary value built up yet to build my own giant office building, or airport, or sports stadium and put Eratosthenes’ name on there with a big descriptive plaque. But I do have the feeble and insignificant power of naming my own mix tapes. So blammo — I dub thee “The Eratosthenes Mix” in your honor, Sir, and pledge that if I’m ever in a position to build something, I’ll consider putting the name Eratosthenes on there.

Most of these are from 2010. As usual, lots of songs on here I heard first on Seattle KEXP. Several bands from an Iceland podcast — Iceland has some great bands. I had no idea. They also have a big annual music festival up there, I think it was last month. They have a thing in Iceland where the bands have to sound unique, or people won’t go see them…pretty good standard.

Anyway, hope you enjoy.  If you like a band, please download their songs and support them on tour. And if you check out KEXP podcasts, consider making a donation to support them as well.

  1. Long Time, No See – Massy Ferguson
  2. I Know You Sleep – Bang Gang
  3. Dear Moses – Turbo Fruits
  4. Lawless Lands – The Sword
  5. Gold Guns Girls – Metric
  6. Western Haunts – silOHs
  7. I Don’t Love You No More – Kings Go Forth
  8. Swim (To Reach the End) – Surfer Blood
  9. Musow – Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba
  10. Hot Topic Woman – The Company Band
  11. 1977 – Ana Tijoux
  12. Forevermore – Luna Mortis
  13. War Again – Balkan Beat Box
  14. Western Hospitality – Club 8
  15. Made Belief – Who Knew
  16. Namania – Habib Koite
  17. Halleluja! – [ingenting]
  18. Wolfboy – Seabear

#0093 – Anthropological Series – Summers 1986-7

Music from my summers of 1986-7 while living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

The idea behind the Anthropological Series is to capture what the DJ and those around her/him were listening to at the time, perhaps in a particular location or phase in life. RG had posted something about summer music on Facebook, and it reminded me that I had this mix in the works, so I put it together all formal-like. This mix includes some songs that I listened to during the summers of 1986 and 1987, when I lived on the Eastern Shore in Maryland. I worked at a local restaurant/bar/pool/marina complex there as a poolside cook, expediter, barback, dining room oyster shucker, and boat takeout delivery guy. Once a month or so all the restaurant, marina, and bar staff would have a cookout/kegger at night at the pool and play music and water volleyball.  I’d work 12-18 hour shifts Wed-Sat with a shorter Sunday, and hang out with bar staff Fridays and Saturdays after 2AM close. I drove my new used Subaru 4X4 hatchback to work, met lots of fun people, and wound up dating a fabulous lifeguard, much to my surprise. It was a great damn couple of summers! When I put this mix together I was surprised how strongly the music worm-holed me back to those days that I’d mostly put on the memory shelf.

Naturally, the music will not do that for you. However, the other thing is that, as much as we all love new music, old music is still good. Sometimes I forget this. Then I find an old cassette or LP that I forgot about and play it and I’m blown away all over again. However, I’ve also made this “anthropological,” so it’s not scrubbed for just the cool songs I heard then. It also includes a few that just remind me of the time period that symbolize stuff you’d hear at parties or on the radio, things like “I Wanna Be a Cowboy” or “Lean on Me.” So when I first made this mix it was just for me, but then I thought about the music on it, and figured at least one other person would like it, so am posting it.

Plus, with it being anthropological, I’m doing science a huge favor by capturing what a 19-year old was listening to in 1986. Musicologists living in their underground bunkers in 3056 will thank me. I don’t talk on it but threw in some movie and TV samples from the time.

  1. *On the Hunt – Lynyrd Skynyrd – There was a lot of Skynyrd around the Eastern Shore then, and I was listening a good bit to Nuthin’ Fancy and Skynyrd’s First and Last at the time as well. This reminds me of a dive bar called the Silver Dollar (I think), a place that, if you’d harnessed the misery there at the time, you could have powered a small town or maybe an amusement park.
  2. Planet of Women – ZZ Top – I know the old ZZ is the best and Fandango was one of my first cassettes, but I really dug Afterburner. I still love the whole release.  I had picked up the cassette for whatever reason and ended up playing it till it broke by the end of the summer of ’87.
  3. The Boy in the Bubble – Paul Simon – Of course the video for Call Me Al was hilarious, and I think I got this LP as one of my Columbia House 9 LPs for a penny thing. I ended up really liking this song.
  4. I Believe – REM – I was hooked on REM when I first heard Chronic Town, and didn’t slow down until Green. Back then they were underground alternative, and those early 5 or 6 releases were just insane.
  5. I Wanna Be a Cowboy – Boys Don’t Cry –  I first heard it at some party I went to. I picked it up on 45 an it’s just sort of stuck with me.
  6. **Light of Day – Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – Don’t remember much from the movie, but hell, Michael J. Fox and Joan Jett, I mean, c’mon! I picked up this 45 back then and it’s not a bad little song.
  7. Nice Boys – Rose Tattoo – I bought this cassette used at college in North Carolina in spring of 1985, and played the hell out of it. It busted too.
  8. ***Secret Agent Man – Johnny Rivers – I barbacked at Redeye’s lounge when it was part of the restaurant, before it was a huge outside dock bar. The bar was packed three deep in this tiny room, where, nearly every weekend, the same band played. This was the only song I could remember that they played because I always thought the guitar part was the highlight of their set.
  9. Red Rain – Peter Gabriel – Another Columbia House selection that really had some great songs on it.
  10. Stand By Me – Ben E. King – Stephen King’s story The Body was summer reading in his book Different Seasons, and this story was made into Stand By Me, a film for which this original song was re-released in 1986, so it was on the radio a lot. One of the all-time greats.
  11. Welcome to the Boomtown – David & David – Anyone alive with ears in 1987 remembers this song, just because it was always on the radio and was pretty different from everything else you heard. One hit wonders, but not a bad tune.
  12. Like a Song… – U2 – Had heard it before but acquired the War cassette and listened to it much more during this time period, along with insanely good Wide Awake in America live EP.
  13. Lean on Me – Club Nouveau – This is one of those mid-80s songs that you just couldn’t escape as that dance mix craze was ramping up. Somehow, I can tolerate it and actually enjoy it.
  14. It’s Tricky – Run DMC – What can you say? Sure, we’ve all heard it, but it’s still a blockbuster.
  15. ****I’m Goin’ Down – Bruce Springsteen – Born in the USA is a great album, and though I’d been hearing it for years, there were a few songs that I really liked, as they applied to my life in one way or another at the time. This is one of those.
  16. Learn How to Live – Billy Squire – I like Billy Squire dammit. Emotions in Motion is an excellent LP, and this is one of my favorites off that one that you don’t hear much.
  17. Don’t Care / Live Fast Die Young – Circle Jerks – I got turned on to the Circle Jerks and other punk in college, and this is one of the few punk cassettes I owned that I could listen to when away from college.
  18. Fire Still Burns – Twisted Sister – Ah, the death of early phase metal. The only band that stayed true through the 80s was Motorhead, and perhaps Maiden and Accept. The rest of my metal icons got lost along the way, and Twisted Sister was one of the brightest burnouts of all them. Come out and Play was a horrifically bad release. I bought it thinking it would be good, and it was just a huge let down. This was the only song of any merit on the whole thing. Metallica had been on my radar since Kill ‘Em All in ’84, and Accept’s Metal Heart had come out and was good along with Motorhead’s Orgasmatron, but really, for me, I was about to take a metal break for a few years.

Samples:

  1. *Evil Dead 2
  2. **Light of Day
  3. ***Jay Leno on David Letterman. This is when Letterman was new and good and everyone watched it. Leno was funny in the mid 80s, regardless of his status today.
  4. ****Raising Arizona
  5. Michelob Light Genesis commercial that was all over late night TV back then…

Music Talk: 22 March

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Yes, it’s over a month old. It’s been a busy month.  It’s not Jim’s fault — it’s definitely Aaron’s.  That said, before everything got busy, we did try to get another show in before job change chaos ensued.  We did it on William Shatner Day. We were set up to include our first guest on the show, Brian — who couldn’t make it at the last minute.  We also did it while imbibing. Listen to the silly ramblings at your peril.

Shanter
William Shatner Day

This show features..

New Music

  • Jim’s pick — “Glass Printer” by The Besnard Lakes — 3:55
  • Aaron’s pick — “Bang Pop” by Free Energy — 3:41

Resurrected Tracks

  • Brian’s pick — “California’s Dark” by The Nightwatchman — 4:00
  • Aaron’s pick — “Carpet Crawlers” by Genesis — 5:01
  • Jim’s pick — “(I Hope U) Don’t Survive” by Silkworm — 3:25

Closet Track

  • Aaron’s pick — “Midnight Blue” by Lou Gramm — 3:56

Shatner Track

  • “I Can’t Get Behind That” by William Shatner & Ben Folds

Ska Talk – 08 Mar

We are talking and playing a lot of Ska today, with recent shows on our minds by Fishbone, The English Beat and The Aquabats (with Mustard Plug).

Fishbone at the House of Blues - Chicago
Fishbone at House of Blues
We are talking and playing a lot of Ska today, with recent shows on our minds by Fishbone, The English Beat and The Aquabats (with Mustard Plug).
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  • Desmond Dekker — Get Up Edina — 2:40
  • Bob Marley — Simmer Down — 2:50
  • The Ethiopians — Train to Skaville — 2:42
  • The Specials — Little Bitch — 2:34
  • Madness — One Step Beyond — 3:35
  • The English Beat — Mirror in the Bathroom — 3:10
  • The Clash — Wrong’em Boyo — 3:11
  • Fishbone — Lyin’ Ass Bitch — 4:16
  • The Toasters — Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down — 2:51
  • The Slackers — Dave’s Friend — 4:55
  • Mighty Mighty Bosstones — Someday I Suppose — 3:27
  • Operation Ivy (ska-core) — Sound system — 2:14
  • Hepcat — Goodbye Street (3:37)
  • MU330 – La (3:02)
  • The Pietasteres- Out All Night — 3:17
  • Mustard Plug — Mr. Smiley — 2:45
  • The Aquabats — Ska Robot Army — 2:12

Music Talk 22 Feb

Our first discussion format show includes tracks by High on Fire, Gil Scott-Heron, The Editors, OK Go, Motorpsycho, Notorious B.I.G. and The Urge. You’ll like it!

Jim

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We’ve started a new format on Radio Gen1us.  We’re not ditching our mixtapes — but we’re trying to be a bit more regular about podcasting.  Quite frankly, doing a discussion format is a lot easier to do, and it’s a bit more timely.  So if you’re jonesing for some nerd-out over music, then you’ll like this.

We’ve also consolidated our categories on the blog to channels.  Mixtapes is one, Music Discussion another (this means there may be other channels to come, eventually).

In the meantime, Jim and I had a lot of fun doing this show. We’re definitely going to do this more often (likely every other week) and still, sporadically put out playlists.  So if you like this, please give us some comment love and let us know what you think.  We’re always interested in having others participate and with this format, it’s really really easy to Skype in and rock out.

Music featured on our show today includes:

  1. High on Fire – Fire, Flood & Plague
  2. Gil Scott-Heron – New York is Killing Me
  3. The Editors – Papillon
  4. OK Go – End Love
  5. Motorpsycho – Mr. Victim
  6. Notorious B.I.G. – Juicy
  7. The Urge – Closer

#0092 – 2009

This is my best of 2009 mix, containing samples from my 20 favorite albums of the last year.  I’m not a professional music critic and I don’t listen to every album ever released by any means, so I’m sure there are plenty of holes, and if you’d like to tell me an album I missed, please leave a comment and I’ll check it out.

As usual, my listening has been dominated by country/southern rock and metal, but there are a few digressions in there as well. Some pretty strange transitions but as a whole I think it flows pretty well. So give it a listen and let me know what you think! Below is a list of the artists, albums, and sample tracks along with a blurb giving my take on each album. I’m not announcing tracks during the mix (it’s already over 90 minutes) so you may want to follow along below.

But now, to the tunes!

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20
Artist: Those Darlins
Album: Those Darlins
Track: Snaggle Tooth Mama
Those Darlins are a 3-piece all-girl band from Murfreesboro, TN (4-piece with the drummer) who, like so many of the bands I really like, bring punk rock energy and attitude to country music. They’re raucous, boozy and fun.

19
Artist: The Protomen
Album: Act II: The Father of Death
Track: The Hounds
The Protomen are a band that creates Megaman-themed rock operas. This makes them a novelty act superficially, but they treat their subject very seriously. I’ve read that they even refuse to break character for interviews. Their second album, Act II: The Father of Death, is far more epic and technically accomplished than the first, leaving behind the 8-bit sounds they used sparingly on their debut in favor of further exploring their straight-up Meatloaf-style bombast and early 80s arena rock sound. To give you an idea, one of their B-sides (not on either album) was an excellent cover of Robert Tepper’s “No Easy Way Out,” among the cheesiest of 80s rock anthems, theme from the movie Rocky IV.

18
Artist: The Mountain Goats
Album: The Life of the World to Come
Track: Genesis 3:23
Historically, the Mountain Goats is mostly just John Darnielle, writing great songs and recording them on a boombox. The last several albums have been professionally recorded with regular enough collaborators that they can be truly said to be a “band” now, but Darnielle’s songwriting ability hasn’t suffered. He may be the best songwriter working in music today. The latest album is 12 songs named after Bible verses but I wouldn’t call it overtly religious. In JD’s words, it’s “twelve hard lessons the Bible taught me, kind of,” so take that as you will.

17
Artist: Nahemah
Album: A New Constellation
Track: Follow Me
Nahemah is a progressive death metal band from Spain. I liked their last album quite a bit, and was excited to hear this one as well. It didn’t disappoint. When you hear “progressive death metal” you probably think of Opeth, and some comparison may be inevitable. These guys use a similar combination of harsh and clean vocals to Opeth, but they are less repetitive. Also less aggressive, leaning more toward the post-metal style of early Isis with progressive flourishes.

16
Artist: Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy
Album: Beware
Track: Beware Your Only Friend
What can I say? If Will Oldham (the man behind the ‘Prince’) releases an album, 9 times out of 10 it’ll end up on my list. Musically, the album is more lush than previous BPB albums, mostly a richly produced country and western sound. Lyrically, it veers from the disturbing to the tongue in cheek.

15
Artist: Portugal. The Man
Album: The Satanic Satanist
Track: People Say
I guess these guys are from Alaska, I don’t really know much about them. This album is indie rock/pop that’s a little bit spazzy, a little bit folky, a little bit soulful, and kind of all over the place. This song is the first track on the album and it’s a strong opener.

14
Artist: Russian Circles
Album: Geneva
Track: Malko
Russian Circles is a Chicago band and one of those bands that falls inbetween post rock and metal, sprawling instrumental music that ranges from quiet reflective passages to thunderous chugging metal riffs. After loving their first album (one of my great albums for staring out of train windows), I didn’t care too much for their second, but they’ve more than made up for it with this release.

13
Artist: Rimfrost
Album: Veraldar Nagli
Track: Mountains of Mana
I won’t beat about the bush; Rimfrost is straight-up Immortal worship. Which I can get behind.

12
Artist: Mumford & Sons
Album: Sigh No More
Track: Little Lion Man
Brits with banjos, these guys took the place in my heart this year that two years ago was firmly occupied by the Avett Brothers. Folk and bluegrass with fantastic harmonies.

11
Artist: Mantic Ritual
Album: Executioner
Track: Murdered to Death
Like the band Rimfrost in this countdown, this band exists largely as homage, in this case to “Kill ‘Em All” era Metallica. I’m a sucker for thrashy metal and this is a throwback that caught me at the right time and in the right mood. If you like 80s thrash, it’s definitely worth checking out.

10
Artist: Lucero
Album: 1372 Overton Park
Track: What are You Willing to Lose?
Lucero is a perennial favorite of mine. They started life as a country band started by a bunch of punk rock kids, but their music has moved over the years from country firmly into the rock genre. 2007’s Rebels, Rogues and Sworn Brothers added some piano to their basic drums/bass/guitars setup for a classic rock sound that pretty strongly brought the Boss to mind. This time around, they’ve added horns and evolved their sound further, bringing in a bluesy soulful sound that compliments the stomping rock they do best. But the elevator still goes all the way to the ground floor, as there are songs that wouldn’t feel out of place on some of their previous albums either.

9
Artist: Converge
Album: Axe to Fall
Track: Dark Horse
I saw these guys at the Dethklok/Mastodon show earlier this year and thought at the time they were a weird fit. After hearing the album, I don’t feel like they were as out of place as I initially thought. They’ve added some very thrashy elements to their hardcore sound (which, I realize, isn’t a stretch by any means) and their energy is undeniable.

8
Artist: Justin Townes Earle
Album: Midnight at the Movies
Track: Black Eyed Suzy
JTE made my list last year and though I personally like that album better than this year’s, he’s still one of the better artists working this corner of Americana. This time around he relies more on solid songwriting than mining the past of country/western music (and I think that’s what I liked so much about the previous album, the old-timey feel) but he still falls more comfortably within the old school of country music than anywhere else.

7
Artist: Propaghandi
Album: Supporting Caste
Track: Supporting Caste
My friend Jeb is a huge Propaghandi fan, and I’d never listened to them. He hyped this record so much though that I checked it out and I’m glad I did. Propaghandi’s a Canadian punk band, but this album ventures beyond punk: fast, angular, yes, melodic, thrashy in parts, some songs complex bordering on progressive.

6
Artist: Skeletonwitch
Album: Breathing the Fire
Track: Longing for Domination
Skeletonwitch is one of my favorite new bands. Their previous album, Beyond the Permafrost, was one of my favorites of 2007, and this one is a worthy followup. The sound is a little cleaner, more focused, but composed of the same basic parts: blistering thrash riffage, complimented by aspects of death metal and black metal, and with a melodic dual lead that brings to mind Iron Maiden and other greats of the NWOBHM.

5
Artist: Immortal
Album: All Shall Fall
Track: Norden on Fire
Immortal’s follow-up to one of the best metal albums of the decade, and an essential metal album by any measure, Sons of Northern Darkness, was going to face an uphill battle. How do you follow up a classic like SoND? if you expect a better album you’re sure to be disappointed, but All Shall Fall delivers on being another great record from Immortal, and that’s all I really wanted.

4
Artist: Scale the Summit
Album: Carving Desert Canyons
Track: The Great Plains
I’m not going to lie to you, this album is all about guitar wankery. That doesn’t float everyone’s boat, but this is some impressive progressive instrumental metal by some guys who know what they’re doing.

3
Artist: Crippled Black Phoenix
Album: 200 Tons of Bad Luck
Track: 444
Crippled Black Phoenix is a sort of post rock/doom metal supergroup, with members from Mogwai, Electric Wizard, and other bands. They weave a gloomy series of epic-length songs combining the expected doom and post-rock genres with some laid back dreamier Floydesque passages and more aggressive hardcore sounds as well.

2
Artist: Blut Aus Nord
Album: Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue with the Stars
Track: The Alcove of Angels (Vipassana)
All year, I expected this to be my #1 album of the year. In this release, Blut Aus Nord combines some of the melodic shoegazy aspect of the current crop of French black metal with a basis in the harshness that is elemental to classic black metal, in an amazing way. Then, somewhere in the course of the album, some soaring soloing somberly swoops in and out like whalesong and you’re hooked.

1
Artist: Baroness
Album: Blue Record
Track: War, Wisdom and Rhyme
Baroness is a band I’m still exploring, after having been introduced to them late in the year by a friend, but I was impressed enough by this album for it to shoot to the top of my list after only a few weeks of listening. It combines a sludgy metal with southern rock and acid/stoner rock in an engulfing wall of sound.

bonus
Artist: Ben Nichols
Album: The Last Pale Light in the West
Track: The Kid
This is a bonus song from an album that deserved a place somewhere in my best-of lists, but I couldn’t quite fit into either my 2008 or 2009 list. Ben Nichols is the lead singer of Lucero, and this, his first solo album, had an official release date in January of 2009, but because of a download available with preorders was all over the internet by September or October of 2008. I had considered it a 2009 release so left it off the 2008 list, but it seems like everyone else veered the other way. So here it is, belatedly, a great short concept album based on Cormac McCarthy’s novel Blood Meridian, combining Ben’s excellent songwriting with a more stripped-down country sound than what his band Lucero is playing these days.

#0091 – The Mossback Mix

[Kevin] A mix of insanely good northwest bands, spanning Washington and Oregon. Nothing heavy.

[Kevin] Winter’s a great time for a mix of northwest bands. These mostly span Washington and Oregon. Not all songs are what they seem, so before you write something off, give it a listen.

I started off just trying to round up enough Pacific Northwest bands to make a mix, but I ended up with way too many original, insanely good songs and got turned on to a bunch of new bands in the process.  Hope you do too.

We Sing in Time The Lonely Forest
Good Friend, Yr HungerCastanets
911Man Plus
BananasBlue Scholars
I Say FeverRamona Falls
I’m a F*cking GeniusSupersuckers
Black River KillerBlitzen Trapper
Two MinutesThe Blows
Beep BeepBig World Breaks (featuring Godspeed, Jerm, Lia Brown & Toni Hill)
You Only Believe Me When I’m LyingZoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers
Little SlickersThe Globes
Better Than LiesBeehive
Now We Can SeeThe Thermals
Wall of a SongThe Whore Moans
WardVisqueen
Clear as DayNorth Twin
OthersideMacklemore and Ryan Lewis
The Wanting Comes in Waves/RepaidThe Decemberists

If you like any of these bands be sure to support them by downloading their music or picking up a CD, and check them out when they tour near you.  Special thanks to KEXP in Seattle for great podcasts…check them out and support KEXP, their releases,  and/or the music you love.