Hey, so remember that mixtape party
I went to a few months ago? One of the mixes I took at the end of the night came in a thin, blue circular case, unmarked except for a sticker made to resemble a Mexican loteria
card, with the label EL ALACRAN. (Here's
a similar version.) So I had no idea what the tracklist was, and I didn't even bother listening to the CD for a while, and then at some point it struck me that it might be fun to sit down and record my first reactions in real time (as I've done before
). Here we go.
1. Ha, okay, so I cheated with this one: I accidentally listened the first few seconds of the mix a few weeks ago, and I was like, oh it's "Venus in Furs"
, I suppose that bodes well. Last time I heard this song, probably, was in Last Days
, although I don't totally remember the context. When you first read about the Velvet Underground
being all avant-garde, full of cello scrapes and drones, you probably imagine it's all like this -- but truth be told, I find it to be darker and more perverse than most of their work.
2. Nice. PJ Harvey, "Down by the Water."
I mean, it's a nice follow-up: stays moody and droney (both songs are pretty much just one chord), but picks up the tempo with that constant shaker. I should probably listen to To Bring You My Love
more -- it seems to have become the canonical best-of-catalogue, but ever since Kelsey told me it wasn't her favorite, I listen to other albums of hers much more.
3. Grinning here: I wonder if I'll know the entire mix. Okay, except I don't remember the exact song here, but it's Sonic Youth.
Something from Dirty
? Man, I can't wait until Rather Ripped
comes out: I really love this band. Even in their weirdest, noisiest moments, there's this epic warmth to them. ... Sorry I had to Google this, and it's "Titanium Expose,
" the last track on Goo
. Not unlike "The Sprawl" on Daydream Nation
, it starts out with an extended instrumental intro before the vocals (in this case, Thurston) come in, and it ends with a return to that section, almost like the head on a jazz chart. It also ends with about a minute of feedback patterns, which is sort of ballsy for the third track on a mix.
4. All right, I definitely don't know this, but it keeps with the same minor-key feel that's pervaded so far. There's both male and female vocals, which are pretty quiet in the mix, an organ, and scuzzy indie-rock guitar. Not bad. Occasional screaming. Whoa: drum solo. And now bass solo, haha. "But they're here and it's now / There's a door breaking down / Your hands in the air, and you're pushed to the ground." That's the chorus, and the Internet is turning up nothing. A nice moment when the vocals are a capella (after the other solos) and then the guitar comes crashing in again.
5. Pixies, "Where is My Mind."
Man, this is actually sequenced pretty well: there are definite sonic similarities between this and the last track, from the coed vox to the simple rocks-back-and-forth guitar line. I always have an argument with Matt P. about what the most popular Pixies song is, and I think he usually says this one, owing partially to its appearance in Fight Club
-- but I don't even know what I usually say. "Gigantic"? Or does he say "Here Comes Your Man"?
6. Interpol, "Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down."
Again, well played. That fake-live intro always cracks me up: "This one's called 'Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down,'" says Paul Banks as if his mouth is full of cotton. For sure a highlight from Turn on the Bright Lights
, although I can't figure out exactly why I prefer that album to their follow-up: the template hasn't changed that
much, has it? So word has it that this song's about blowjobs, yeah? I don't really care, although I do think that Banks's lyrics being so terrible is what makes them awesome. I feel like Nitsuh Abebe said something about this recently, about how they're great lyrics to just sing along to, as fragments -- which is what I'd say (and have said) about the Smiths, too. (The other day, Jesse was correcting me as I sang along to, what, "Sheila Takes a Bow"? In the car. And I was like, you know, I don't really care what the actual lyrics are: you're lucky I remember as many as I do, and that's because Morrissey is just hilarious to do impressions of.) The "anatomic sex toy" coda here is really nice.
7. Don't know this one: it's electro-clash. "We never took the art test." Okay, so this is ... Mu? Adult.? Fischerspooner? I like a lot of the elements here -- squiggling synths, drum machine, treated vox -- but it all hangs together so loosely, parts clanging against each other, that I'm not entirely sure it works. Oh shit, I just looked it up: it's Tracey and the Plastics, "Art Test."
8. Not recognizing this, either: it has a folkish feel, but carousing, like Billy Bragg maybe? Guitar hit on the 2 and the 4 -- like reggae, then, too. Heh. It's The Mekons, "Work All Week"
: I don't even know the Mekons that well, but that totally makes sense.
9. Cat Power, "Cross-Bones Style."
Fantastic. You know, I don't straight-up hate the new Cat Power record, but most of my favorite Cat Power songs have been more uptempo, and sort of rhythmically hypnotic, like, say, "Nude as the News" or "He War" or this one. I also kind of love how the almost primitively simple guitar line seems to create these eerie close harmonies, either with itself or with Chan's haunting multi-tracked voice. Could this be considered an example of hauntology? I mean, there's something ghostly about it: knowing that the doubled voice means that at least one of her isn't there
. And so my point being that there's nothing on the new album that sounds anything like this.
10. Oh sweet, Dolly Parton, "Jolene."
This is a good segue, too, as both Dolly and Chan have such pure, clear voices, and there's a similar dolorous yet rhythmic (picked guitar) feel. In fact, the chords here almost seem to hark back to traditional melancholy ballads like "Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair."
11. Al Green, "I'm So Tired."
This is a song that's so iconic -- the one that they'll play as a tribute to the good reverend when he dies -- it's hard to really listen to it anymore. I don't mean that it's grating -- more that it's difficult to appreciate on its own terms. I guess that's true of, like, the Beatles, too.
12. I'm really digging the slow echoey guitar on this one, but I can't tell who it is yet. Oh man, it sounds familiar, though. I don't even know if I want to guess ... oh wait, it's Smog, isn't it? Yeah, it's gotta be. This is really pretty, some gently brushed cymbals, a single plinking piano line -- not quite as trancelike as, like, Talk Talk's "New Grass" -- but it's a great place to dwell, a gradual build as his words extend over more of the space, a woman's voice ooohs, he sings "you are not helpless, I'll help you try." ... Oh no, foiled! It's not Smog at all. Okay, yeah, his voice isn't as low as Callahan's. You know who it is? It's Songs: Ohia
, and it's called "Blue Chicago Moon."
So yeah, funny: I have no idea who's responsible for this mix, but I definitely approve. I mean, I knew most of the songs already, but it's well-sequenced, and of the four unfamiliar tunes, none are bad, and the Songs: Ohia one is actually pretty great. Cheers, anonymous mix-maker.