Mixtape Monday: Some Strange Rain While Walking in the Park

1. Promises- The Morning Benders

This band out of the Berkeley California area showed alot of promise on their debut with strong hooks and a dynamic singer, however, their latest LP Big Echo promises to be even better, and I promise you’ll be hooked from the start.  Wouldn’t be out of place on a Vampire Weekend or Grizzly Bear album, lovely changes and fantastic dynamic energy.

2.  I Love You Like A Madman- The Wave Pictures

Raw and uncompromising in its hooks, in a way the lyrics don’t make sense, like Jim Morrison on a drunken poem binge, but in a way thats the point. Love the 50’s styled sax solo at the end.

3.  Cloud Pleaser- Harlem

Not as cheeky as the previous but delivered in a cutesy tongue in cheek way, and catchy all the way through.  Like a Paul McCartney demo sung by The Monkees.

4.  Numbers Don’t Lie- The Mynabirds

With a lively hammer-tack piano backing and strong roots in the gospel soul that was Motown’s trademark this song is perfectly done and in their book, old is the new new.

5. Josefin the Writer- Olney Clark

Elegant and beautiful, almost like a musical in its spoken sung vocal delivery and a sublime mix of strings and piano.

6. Dear Friend- Emanuel and the Fear

Great piano hook and melody, as well as a nice voice, the track in terms of arrangement is daring, going from piano romp to Queen-ish bridges, just a song that wants to be repeated over and over.

7. I’m Broke- Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears

Catchy from the start and featuring a piano hook that takes a page out of Miles Davis, This soul-styled band might have the energy of a young band, but they are refined beyond their years.

8. Just A Silhouette- Exlovers

Starting with a simple guitar hook before building into a catchy song supported by a sublime boy-girl harmony.  This is a band out of England I haven’t heard much of, and one I definitely want to hear of more.

9. Nightfall- Robert Francis

I had never intended to find Robert Francis, but thats the beauty of music, there is so much to find out there, his voice comes across like a Johnny Cash/ Neil Young/ Bruce Springsteen love child with strong songwriting to match, and though it be a live recording, it sure don’t sound like one. Don’t miss out on this one.

10.  Walk in the Park- Beach House

More than just sharing the first word of their band name with the Beach Boys, Beach House has taken a page out of their book of melodic songcraft and the organ work on here is pure Brian Wilson, and while they don’t have the full five person harmonies, its hard not to think of the Beach Boys when the singer here reaches up into the higher register.  Just a great song.

11. Be Set Free- Langhorne Slim

A  simple live dynamic and some wonderful lyrics accompany this homey and sweetly familiar melody, and the man’s got soul.

12. She’s So Blonde- Illinois

So gritty and bluesy rootsy, Jack White would be proud.

13. She Needs Me- Fyfe Dangerfield

When those drums start, you almost can hear Billie Jean begin, but not to knock Fyfe, a drum beat is a drum beat and he makes it his own with an equally talented voice.  And in any other hands the strings would seem a little 70’s/bombastic but the fact that he arranged the whole thing gives it a more heartfelt presence and the song is so gosh darn catchy and warm its hard not to listen to.  A great use of melody.

14. Martina and Clive Krantz- Princeton

An eccentric title for sure, but this band is firmly rooted in good old fashioned power pop and this comes off like a wiser cousin of Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark.

15. Try It You’ll Like It- Marvin Gaye

The fact that a song this good was left off Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On just goes to show how strong the album was; the band is on full swing on this one and Marvin is holding it together with a strong vocal performance at the top.

16. Some Strange Rain- Cotton Jones

One of the bands strongest suits is the atmosphere they create and the pitter patter guitar at the beginning sure sounds like rain if it were only more musical, with a cloudy organ backdrop and when the singer comes in, its a blissful moment, transported back to the 60’s you can swear you see San Francisco,and you swear you’re hearing Sonny (from Sonny and Cher) or Bob Dylan, and you’re happy.

17. One Day- Kings Go Forth

Classic old style funk at a breakneck pace, with Curtis Mayfield influenced singing and harmonies, but the highlight here is just the great energy put forth by the band and its a real fun song.

18. Gloria- Robb London

A great cover of the classic done slow soul style with as much vocal intensity as the original.  A fun interpretation for the ears to hear.

19. Don’t Stop Lovin’ Me Now- Juston Stens

It’s a cover, though the original is only a year old and its done in a classic blue eyed soul style, great harmony and upbeat organ in the chorus.

20.  Born Away on a Black Barge- J. Tillman

Sometimes there is no arrangement more powerful than just the voice, and the a capella here is incredible.

21. Ship Made of Stone- The Dutchess and the Duke

Sporting simplistic arrangements and beautiful two-part harmonies, The Dutchess and the Duke ironically (and thankfully) don’t boast arrangements that live up to their name in terms of grandeur, but I’d be hard pressed to find a band that does the simple better.

22. When You Walk In The Room- Fyfe Dangerfield

This song isn’t what it seems when it starts with its electronic beat, it soon fades into a much more organic arrangement, and the vocal delivery and intensity matches the lyrics, he just can’t be tied down, he has to rise up and beat the odds, to say unbridled enthusiasm is one thing, though this is inspiring in a whole new way.

23. Worried Head- Princeton

Nope this isn’t from the 80’s and yes it is just as good.

24.  Making Amends- G. Love

Almost like Sublime and Dispatch came together and wrote a song,  great harmonies, great bass line, great live sound, and great changes.

25. My Love Is Growing- Marvin Gaye

One of the great under-appreciated tracks on Let’s Get It On with a beautiful organic and dynamic arrangement building energy throughout.

26. Kelly Ray- Raphael Saadiq

The arranging stylings of Al Green meet a Stevie Wonder styled vocal performance with lyrics equal to Prince.

Mixtape Monday: Naive Rainbows and Silver Souls

Heart of Glass (Blondie)- Brady Harris

The original was a disco meets new wave stylized single, this cover breathes new life into the melody and arrangement with mandolins banjos upright bass and a sublime guitar solo.  I’d never thought I’d hear a man cover Blondie so well.

Moment in the Sun- Clem Snide

I found this band by way of covers its lead singer (Eef Barzelay) had done.  Yet this original shows they are capable of more than just cover band fare, like a less grating R.E.M. with some vintage Rolling Stones guitar thrown in, this song builds and builds, your enjoyment growing along with it.

I’ve Got A Rock and Roll Heart- Eric Clapton

Most of you might recognize this song as being in the Fender myTouch commercial, and its a sweet song.  Clapton made a career of sunny eyed blues numbers like this, the hook is undeniable and the lyrics are heartfelt.

Silver Soul- Beach House

This song starts like a behemoth, the harmonies and organ and guitar providing an airy landscape, one of those songs meant for headphones, where you can be in your own world.

Regina Holding Hands- White Denim

The guitars draw you in, the vocals keep you, and the arrangement keeps it interesting for multiple listens.  Don’t sleep on this one.

Donna- Clem Snide

It’s a cover of a Ritchie Valens song, but this reading is so beautiful that it goes far beyond the label, the arrangement conveys heartbreak and the lyrics break your heart.

Camera Talk- Local Natives

Theeere Back! I just can’t get enough of this band, with their endlessly endearing vocals, creative and ever changing arrangements and strong hooks.

Rainbow- G. Love (With Jack Johnson)

Both are masters of the laid back acoustic vibe, so its no surprise how the arrangement plays out, whats special is their harmony, tight and organic, you can tell these guys really respect each other and they play off each other really well.

Grace is Gone- Dave Matthews Band

I’m not one to give DMB credit where they’re not due but this song is great.  The melody is classic, its sung beautifully, soft and understated with lyrics to match.

Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands- Phoenix

Phoenix covering one of the greatest songs Bob Dylan ever laid to tape, a late night brood of a song, they stay faithful to the original but its nice to hear someone else take it on.

Rich Girls- The Virgins

Swagger, this band has it,  from the arrangement to the singing down to the lyrics.  Think of an updated version of Some Girls era Rolling Stones, except straight from the heart of NYC.

Naive- The Kooks

The Kooks had so much energy on their debut that it was no surprise success caught on quickly, but the Kooks aren’t a flash in the pan, their melodies are tight their dynamics are perfect and they single-handedly carry guitar rock on their backs with the riffs in this song.

Mighty Mighty (Spade and Whitey)- Curtis Mayfield

Culled from the Curtis/Live album, MM S &W is a lesson in band dynamics with the drummer so deep in the pocket of the groove he makes Mitch Mitchell seem like an amateur, the harmonies are wonderfully placed with the guitar and this whole track just moves.  The beauty of Mayfield isn’t that his melodys go to crazy places, its the movement and inspiration within them, and on those terms theres no one better.

Sun King- The Beatles

Why this one in particular? In terms of its dreamy psychedelics and melodic fluidity, this song was the Holy Grail Pink Floyd chased their entire careers.

Mean Mr. Mustard- The Beatles

Weighing in at a little over a minute, its one of the catchiest songs The Beatles ever wrote.

Keep On Pushing- The Impressions

Why this song? Well Martin Luther King Jr. using it as inspiration for his civil rights goals is a sure good reason, and Curtis Mayfield greatly inspired Jimi Hendrix’s playing style on guitar, if you even needed another one.

Move On Up- Curtis Mayfield

Before Kanye West released Touch The Sky, there was the original song, the horns bright, the rhythm breakneck and the melody unstoppable.  Pure inspiration at its finest.