Archive for the ‘Mix-Tapes’ Category

I have been listening to a lot of violin lately. One of my current students is an immensely talented violinist and listening to her has piqued my interest in how this instrument is used in pop music. There are two contemporary bands I can think of whose prominent use of the violin significantly shapes the music’s emotional depth. One is Dave Matthews Band. I hardly think I need to discuss or introduce them. The other is Camper Van Beethoven.

They hailed originally from Northern California and performed in the late 80’s and early 90’s. They play everything. Rock, Country, Punk, Eastern European Folk Revival, and some songs that are all of the above at the same time. They opened for the Dead and R.E.M. Someone once described them as talented party animals with music degrees. The main violinist is Johnathan Segel. Technically he was a multi-instrumentalist and was largely responsible for their playful, eclectic sound. However, on their 1989 release Key Lime Pie, Morgan Fichter took over. She has a much warmer tone and the songs became darker. Key Lime Pie was released after the band had already started to splinter. And while the original band reunited in 2004 for an album and tour, they were never able to capture a huge following.  They continue to perform together occasionally.

The mix is made up of the following albums:

Telephone Free Landslide Victory (their first and truest “classic” album)

I and II (their second album, folkier and less cohesive than their first)

Camper Van Beethoven (The tour for this album is when I saw them for the first time. I was a freshman in college. They played at the U of O Ballroom and I can still smell the weed and patchouli)

Our Bloved Revolutionary Sweetheart (The closest they ever came to a perfect album)

Key Lime Pie (Their darkest, most serious album)


DOWNLOAD:  Camper’s Best (a single mp3 file)

Serious Songs (kinda)
1. When I Win The Lottery
2. All Her Favorite Fruit
3. Pictures Of Matchstick Men
4. Borderline
5. Sweethearts
These first five songs are from the Key Lime Pie (mmmmm, pie) album. Pictures of Matchstick Men is a remake of a popular song from the 60’s. Around 3:00 min. into All Her Favorite Fruit, Fichter breaks out and you know this is a song about wanting what you can’t have.

6. O Death
An old folk song made hauntingly contemporary. It was performed acapella on the O’ Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack.

7. She Divines Water
8. One Of These Days
These are my two favorite Camper songs and two of my favorite songs of all time. The violin carries both songs creating an ethereal, transcendent sound. These songs and number 6 and 12 come from Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart.

9. Good Guys & Bad Guys This one always makes me smile.

10. Still Wishing to Course
11. Sad Lovers Waltz

No Singing Songs
No, these are not Romanian Folk songs from 1925. But I do feel like a Gypsy when I listen to them. Except for number 12, they are all off of the first two albums.
12. Waka
13. Vladivostock
14. 9 of Disks
15. Payed Vacation: Greece
16. No Krugerrands for David
17. ZZ Top Goes To Egypt
18. Skinhead Stomp

Silly Songs (All from the first two albums)
19. Wasted
A remake of a 30 sec. punk rock song by Black Flag

20. Take the Skinheads Bowling “I had a dream last night, I forget what it was.”
21. Ambiguity Song
22. Tina
23. I Love Her All the Time
24. Where the Hell Is Bill?
25. Opi Rides Again/Club Med Sucks
(“Club Med sucks, authority sucks, I hate golf, I wanna play lacrosse.”)


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How is it possible that so few Americans have heard of Paul Kelly? He has been called Australia’s Bruce Springsteen. He has also been called the greatest song writer you’ve never heard of. I haven’t coined my own clever moniker, but the breadth and depth of his work is on par with Springsteen. I was first made aware of him by an essay called Deeper Water by Brian Doyle from his book Spirited Men. I scoured the internet for free songs. I downloaded a couple and found myself unimpressed. A year later I had my ipod on shuffle and the following song came on.

If I Could Start Today Again

I was confused. I had never heard this song before. It was beautiful in its simplicity and sincerity. And it spoke deeply of regret without being maudlin. When I looked at the display and saw the name Paul Kelly I had no idea who the hell he was. So I got online and started looking him up. And then I remembered. I re-read Doyle’s essay. I went to Amazon and proceeded to order anything of Kelly’s that was used and cheap. (Much of his work is out of print in the States)

If you want to read more about him a link to Doyle’s essay is below:
Deeper Water

Below is a mix I have put together. Enjoy and consider buying something by Doyle or Kelly. A perfect place for Kelly is his greatest hits collection: Songs From the South Vol. 1 & 2.


Download: Paul Kelly


“Deeper Water”
Deeper Water

‘Where I’m going next, I’m going alone’

“I’ve Been a Fool”
Deeper Water
You could sell a poor man a bottle of air


“If I Could Start Again Today”
….Nothing But a Dream
I know my prayer’s in vain/But for a second I’ll pretend/That I can start today again

“Midnight Rain”
…..Nothing But a Dream
But not too loud ’cause the neighbours complain

“Every Fucking City”
.….Nothing But a Dream
Now I’m in a nightclub in Helsinki/And they’re playing ‘La Vida Loca’ once again/And I can’t believe I’m dancing to this crap but I’m a chance here/Yeah, every fucking city sounds the same


“From St. Kilda to King’s Cross”
And all around me felt like all inside me


“To Her Door”
Under the Sun
She said: ‘I’m not standing by, to watch you slowly die/So watch me walking, out the door’

Under the Sun
Now shadows they grow longer and there’s so much more yet to be told/But we’re not getting any younger, so let the part tell the whole


“From Little Things Big Things Grow”
Vincent said ‘uhuh we’re not talking about wages/We’re sitting right here till we get our land’


“When I First Met Your Ma”
Hidden Things
Then her dad came pounding and kicked me out of there/I walked two miles in Melbourne rain
I could have walked ten more/When I first loved your ma


“How to Make Gravy”
Words and Music
And later in the evening, I can just imagine,/You’ll put on Junior Murvin and push the tables back

“I’ll Be Your Lover”
Words and Music
One day you notice a change/And then nothing’s the same


“You’re 39, You’re Beautiful, & Your Mine”
Stolen Apples
You still take my breath away in the morning light


“Beautiful Feeling”
Ways and Means
You’re the one that breaks me open wide

“King of Fools”
Ways and Means
But a fool always has a song

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There is nearly universal consensus that Christmas is overly-commercialized.  Every year the same complaints surface, decorations are up too early, stores should wait until after Thanksgiving, “You Can’t Have Christmas Without Christ.”  However, the criticisms have become as tiresome to me as the commercialization and secularization of something sacred.  I am no more inspired to keep Christmas holy by shrill,self-righteous lawn signs than I am by the constant pressure to buy and consume in the name of December 25th.  Both miss the mark. Both are rooted in cultural norms far removed from Christ.

With that in mind I invite you to listen to the following Christmas songs that, for me, re-imagine, re-invent, and re-capture something holy, quiet and special.


Download: (Imagine! Christmas)

Aimee Mann

Calling On Mary

Aimee Mann and Christmas would seem, on the surface, to be a toxic mix.  And yet her somber honesty makes her Christmas album one worth owning.  On this song she mourns for something lost that she never had.

The Staple Singers

There Was a Star

I don’t see this album included very often when people talk about the ‘Best Christmas Albums of All Time.”  It should be.  This had to be what the Three wise men were singing.

Dr. John

Il est Ne, Le Divin Enfant

Voodoo for Christmas?  Check your gris gris bag.

Sufjan Stevens

The Friendly Beasts

I am not sure if you have ever listened to Sufjan Stevens before.  I like what he does but many of his songs irritate me…especially in the car.  Some of his songs sound overly manufactured and cheesy in an un-ironic way.  But several of his songs are remarkable and unforgetable.  Much of his work injected with a distinct Christian voice and vision.   Joy and wonder permeate his Christmas album.

The Trail Band

Dancin’ Round the Christmas Tree

Remember Quarterflash?  This is what they are doing now.

Jack White

Christmas Time Will Soon Be Over

As I have said before, Jack White can do no wrong.  He is my vote for Artist of the Decade.  This gem comes from the soundtrack to a decent film adaptation of the “it’s too good to be a first novel” novel Cold Mountain by Charles Fraizer.  Buy the book and crank up the White Stripes as you read it.

Roger Miller

Old Toy Trains

Miller wrote this in 1967 for his son.  A beautiful and simple song.

Elvis Costello and the Chieftans

St. Stephen’s Day Murders

This is my favorite Christmas album.  It is the first one I play as we head out to get our tree and the last one I listen to as we put the decorations away on the Epiphany.

The Pogues w/Kirsty MacColl

Fairytale of New York

Shane MacGowan only made one more album with The Pogues after this masterpiece before he became a parody of himself.  “You scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot, Happy Christmas your arse I pray God it’s our last.” What a great line.

Ryan Adams

Hey Parker, It’s Christmas

I don’t have a link for this song.  It is another Christmas song about absence, about the yearning for what is missing.

Neko Case

Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis

Her voice, his lyrics.  It doesn’t get much better.

Robert Earl Keen

Merry Christmas from the Family

For all of you with less than perfect families, this is a Christmas song for you.

Paul Kelly

Making Gravy

You probably have never heard of Paul Kelly.  It is a damn shame that he has not been able to cultivate an audience here in the states.  Sometimes referred to a the Australian Bruce Springsteen, he is responsible for a stunning number of exquisite songs.  This is one of his best.

Steve Earle

Christmas Time in Washington

I first heard this song ten years ago while listening to the Christmas edition of KFAT’s Chewing the Fat.  I didn’t like Steve Earle before I heard this song.  He is now one of my favorites.

Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds

Christmas Song

It’s pretty simple:  Love.

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I never liked the cassette tape.  I thought it sounded inferior to vinyl, I hated the artwork and tiny liner notes, I hated how the print on the cassette would smear and smudge, I hated how repeated listens would create flat spots in the sound, and I hated the re-winding and fast- forwarding.  However, I loved the ability to make a mix of songs known and unknown for friends.  I can remember spending hours putting together the collection of songs to approximate 45 min. per side and the need to improvise when there was 1 minute and 25 sec. at the end of side one.  (Pigs on the Wing by Pink Floyd was the perfect ending song and ended up on many tapes.)  Receiving a mix tape from someone implied a kind of intimacy, care and concern and is something I cherished.  Seeing the individual’s handwriting or cut and paste artwork each time I listened to the tape reminded me that they had spent time carefully selecting and creating the listening experience just for me.  CD’s eventually replaced cassettes but retained the possibility to create a mix of songs with intent for the listener and thought for the push and pull of songs.

With the rise of the ipod has come the rise of the playlist.  I have begun to adjust to how the ipod shifts my attention to the single.  However, putting together a playlist maintains neither the permanence or the intimacy of the mix tape.  With upwards of 10,000 songs on an ipod I find too often that songs get lost or that I do not listen as carefully as I used to.

Posted in this entry is a 30 minute podcast.  It is a “mix-tape”.  I have chosen a handful of songs to listen to carefully.  My selection process was arbitrary; I liked they way these songs fit together.  I will post other mix tapes in the future and will try to build them around themes and sounds.  They will be short so that you too will be able to listen to them in a single sitting.


Download: Education of the Bored

The Dead Weather

Treat Me Like Your Mother

Jack White can do no wrong.  This is his most recent band and it is another barn burner.  It sounds like the ’70’s hard rock that I first heard from KISW in Seattle and KGON in Portland.

The Frogs

I’ve Got Drugs

Took this off an old mix-tape that a friend gave to me to digitize.  They’re weird.


The National Side

I don’t remember how I stumbled upon these guys, but this is a beautiful song from an unbelievably strong album.  It is cohesive, mysterious, and works its way deep into your consciousness.

The Hold Steady

Massive Nights

Rock-n-Roll still lives.  A couple of guys, some beer, some sweat, and some attitude combine to create something transcendent.

Paul Westerberg

Bored of Edukation

Speaking of rock and roll transcendence, Paul Westerberg and the Replacements were a group of guys that combined beer and attitude in the ’80’s.  Today Westerberg remains one of America’s best songwriters.  He records his songs in a basement in Minneapolis and releases them from time to time on the internet.

The Hold Steady

Stuck Between Stations (Acoustic Version)

She was a real cool kisser and she wasn’t that strict of a Christian/She was a damn good dancer but she wasn’t that great of a Girlfriend

That is one of my favorite lines from a rock song.  I remember her.

Eric Bachmann

Man ‘O War

I have seen this man perform twice.  He was terrible.  Twice.  However, he played several songs that would not leave my head for several days after the show.  This is one of them.  It might make you cry.

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