Campfire Songs

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.

Greatest Show On Earth- The Felice Brothers

2. Fables-  The Dodos

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.

Fables- The Dodos

3. Jackhammer- The Spinto Band

This song has a bag full of production tricks around every corner, and it’s done very well. I love songs that continue to surprise their listener.

Jackhammer (Slim Version)- The Spinto Band

4.  Oslo Campfire- Port O’Brien

You’ll be hooked from the very beginning of this number by the unfortunately little known Port O’Brien, very much a cousin to The Shins output circa “New Slang”, the guitar/vocal/drum hook is amazing.

Oslo Campfire- Port O’Brien

5. Snake- Frightened Rabbit

A nice little lilting acoustic number.

Snake- Frightened Rabbit

6. Stepping Stones- G. Love and Special Sauce

A delightful little modern blues number with a very catchy chorus

Stepping Stones- G. Love and Special Sauce

7. Ruminant Band- Fruit Bats

Hearing this song, you’d be very surprised to learn that it was not recorded in the 70’s, but in a good way.

The Ruminant Band- Fruit Bats


8. I’ll Be Back- The Beatles

One of the oft-overlooked numbers from a tremendous album,  A Hard Day’s Night

I’ll Be Back- The Beatles


9. The Cave- Mumford & Sons

A very energetic number from an up-and-coming folksy band out of England.

The Cave- Mumford & Sons


10. Hiroshima- Blake Mills

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.

Hiroshima- Blake Mills

11. Mightiest of Guns- A.A. Bondy

One of those perfect songs.

Mightiest Of Guns- A.A. Bondy


12. Steel On Steel- J. Tillman

A very charming and upbeat number, with a great horn melody and diverse instrumentation.

Steel On Steel- J. Tillman


13. I Summon You- Spoon

Spoon has been hard pressed to beat the overall feeling of this song and for good reason, it’s a straight up classic.

I Summon You- Spoon


14. All Day Day Light- The Morning Benders

Great production, arrangement, vocal, on “All Day Day Light” The Morning Benders do everything right.

All Day Day Light- The Morning Benders


15. Timshel- Mumford & Sons

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.

Timshel- Mumford & Sons

16. Let The Distance Keep Us Together- Spoon/ Bright Eyes

Spoon can create a great melody out of anything, but when they write great lyrics to go with it, there’s hardly a modern band that can compete with them.

Let the Distance Keep Us Together- Spoon/Bright Eyes

17. Change of Time- Josh Ritter

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”

Change of Time- Josh Ritter

18. Frankie’s Gun- The Felice Brothers

If you had any doubts about the following in the footsteps of Bob Dylan and The Band label, well here’s your proof.

Frankie’s Gun!- The Felice Brothers

19. Ain’t No Tellin’- Mississippi John Hurt

This beautiful little ending number is reaching your ears all the way back from 1928.

Ain’t No Tellin’- Mississippi John Hurt


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.