Hello folks, welcome back to a brand new year of Art of the Mixtape. To help kick it off I bring you a nice bucolic little mixture of some great songs.
1. Greatest Show On Earth- The Felice Brothers
On their eponymous debut, The Felice Brothers very much earned their label of following in the tradition of Bob Dylan and The Band. Perhaps what is most impressive is their narrative ability, delivering slices of Americana in a world weary mood. However, “Greatest Show On Earth” stands out with its jaunty New Orleans infused melody. Come for the story, stay for the music.
The Dodos burst onto the San Francisco music scene with a unique drumming centric sound, but don’t let that scare you, they’re very much a rootsy rock band with a percussive twist. Many of their other songs showcase a more daring aesthetic but “Fables” is a very endearing acoustic standout with a nice vocal to boot.
Blake Mills came out with a very under-promoted debut and his number “Hiroshima” is delightful ear candy that grows from the likes of worthy predecessors such like the homegrown material of Paul McCartney’s McCartney and Ram, absolutely beautiful melody, before a slide guitar solo comes out of nowhere sounding like Duane Allman coming from the dead.
Detractors would say that they took this directly out of the book of previous acts like Fleet Foxes, they would be right, but they do it so well that its hardly an insult, their harmonies are gorgeous.
Perhaps no man is better qualified to write a finger-picked acoustic piece of Americana than one who went to Oberlin and graduated with a self made major in “American History through Narrative Folk Music”
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 Echopromises 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.