Friday, November 16

CDP Mix-Tape Trade Wrap Party (Part 4).

Mix-Tape Wrap Party, Yo.

Ever since the CDP Nationwide Mix-Tape Trade ended a couple months ago, people have been harping on me about reviewing their mix. Time constraints were getting in the way at the time, but while I'm waiting for my book to go to publication, I have a week or two to really sit down and pick apart these works that CDP readers were kind enough to mail to me.

I set the rules for listening to and reviewing the assorted mixes as follows: I would write in complete stream-of-consciousness mode while each song played (hence the poor grammar and possible spelling errors), and stop writing as soon as the song was over. Any pausing, replaying or skipping tracks was not allowed. I was listening for songs that I liked, along with the general flow and mood you'd expect from a decent mix-tape. I listened to every mix through headphones and without outside distraction.

My fourth reviewed mix belongs to the mastermind behind Madison's most popular and informative news blog, Dane 101. The man, the myth, the mystery; Jesse Russell. Let's go.

1. September - The Secret Stars

The crisp, late Autumn, downtown Madison theme of this mix starts off right proper with this somber, Secret Stars landscape. More of an introduction than an actual song, the monotone singing and repetitive strumming sets the mood and gets us good and depressed for the duration.

2. Tug Of War Match - The Bracelets

Not a lot of people understand the 1-2 punch of intro/opening track, but this is a perfect example. The flow is seamless, the swelling buildup is charming and the song keeps you attentive. Bare bones with lyrics, the song sucks you in and ends before you know it.

3. Haiti - Arcade Fire

Oh man, Jesse hits us with an Arcade Fire track at just the right time. I just watched them perform this song on Austin City Limits, and it was incredible as always. The surreal layering of Regine's broken English, mixed with the choral 'woah-woah's' and simple piano riff make this song more enjoyable each and every time I hear it. Awesome start.

4. Treehouse - I'm From Barcelona

Everyone's favorite 26-piece band, I'm From Barcelona take the twee stylings from Architecture In Helsinki's first album, tosses in some early Of Montreal and a dash of Arcade Fire, and comes up with something beautiful, catchy and intensely listenable. Sure, the last minute of this song is a little overkill, but you'll be too busy swaying to notice.

So far, the tempo of the mix has increased ever so slightly with each track. I don't know if Jesse did this on purpose or not, but it's totally working.

5. Green Lane - Mazarin

This is a quick, 90-second acoustic number; nostalgic and reflective in tone. Not life-changing, but a good spot in the mix to strip things down and stay on task.

6. Color In Your Cheeks - The Mountain Goats

I like The Mountain Goats, mainly because I'm amazed that the lead singer hasn't committed suicide yet. Their latest album is one of the most depressing break-up albums I have ever heard. This particular, grainy-sounding recording is more upbeat and story-driven, albeit ultimately leaving you a little sadder than when it started. Great lyricism and intimate songwriting are a constant with The Mountain Goats.

7. Volcanoes - Islands

Another mix, another Islands track. Return To The Sea is one of those albums that just about everyone should own. Every song is fantastic, and Volcanoes is no exception. Bouncy, jangly and containing more hooks than one song should really have, this best sums up every effort Islands have undertook since they started playing. This song has an amazing ending; I was just reminded of that.

Great flow and mood to this mix. I want to walk around the Capitol Square this weekend with this mix blasting in my earbuds. Maybe I should be drunk, too.

8. Let's Get Out Of This Country - Camera Obscura

I've been meaning to buy this album for awhile now, and this track pretty much seals it for me. Anywhere you are when you hear this track instantly transforms itself into a foreign country, where you can't understand what anyone is saying, your 35mm camera is constantly snapping, it's always 55 degrees and everything is beautiful.

9. I Wish I Could See You Again - Herman Dune

This one caught me by surprise. The most upbeat track thus far, the acoustic bounce and calypso backbeat perked me up and breathed some positive light into this otherwise dreary mix. Bonus points to Herman Dune for mentioning 'spooning' in a track.

10. The Equalizer - Clinic

This reminds me of a mid 90's band like The Stereo MC's, busting out a very old-school beat, monotonous, distorted vocals and the occasional piano tinkling. Not the best Clinic track at all, and more than a little out of place in the mix. I suppose I'd dig it more if I heard it at a party.

11. Chelsea Hotel - Regina Spektor

Spektor has one of those timeless voices that forces you to shut the hell up and take notice, and that's exactly what I'm doing. She could sing me the lunch menu at the Wok-N-Roll, and I'd still give her a standing ovation. Piano and vocals is all you need when you're amazing.

12. Pollen - Micah

A cute, female-fronted twee track, it would have held a lot more weight had it not been placed right after Regina Spektor's amazing offering. It's still decent, though, a simple little ditty that makes you smile and bounce around for the quick two minutes it's on.

13. Be Good To Each Other - The Conversation

I'm not going to lie to you; I got up and went to the bathroom while listening to this song. Maybe it was the plodding bass and shimmering cymbals that messed up my intestines, but whatever the case, it got the job done.

14. Yeah, Oh Yeah - The Magnetic Fields

I knew right away that I was going to like this song. Lo-fi as hell, layering vocals and dreamy melodies, The Magnetic Fields do their thing about as well as anyone.

Seventeen tracks is about the ideal length for a mix. Anything longer than that is a test of the listener's patience.

15. Temporarily Blind - Built To Spill

According to the Missus, Built To Spill can do no wrong. One of the longer songs on the album, it goes by quickly with rapidly escalating drums, a slick guitar part and the always-fantastic lyrics of BTS (Not to be confused with BTO). Sorry, I'm running a fever today.

16. Concerning The End Of The World - Prayers And Tears

A good callback to the start of the album, I feel as if I'm back alone on the streets, pondering where my life went so very, very wrong. For as positive and charming a guy as Jesse is, he sure listens to a lot of depressing music.

17. October - Jay Sad

Starting the album with September, the album ends with October, and we're left to realize that the entire mix was the sound of the heart of Autumn passing us by. This is what a mix-tape is all about, kids.

Creating a perfect mix is to balance that line between a great theme, a great personal voice and some truly great songs. Too much of one aspect will weaken the rest in general. While the theme and landscape of this mix was absolutely top-notch, I'm left with only a few tracks I can instantly remember now that it's over. Not a harsh criticism, just an observation. In fact, for folks like me that prefer the overall experience of an album to the instant gratification of a single, this mix was about as good as you can hope for. Great job, Jesse.

Time for some stats.

Total Number Of Tracks - 17
Number Of Above Average Tracks - 6
Number Of Average Tracks - 9
Number Of Below Average Tracks - 2
Number Of Tracks That I Own - 5
Best Track - Haiti (come on, it's Arcade Fire)
Worst Track - The Equalizer (just a little too out of place in the mix)
Total Score - 8.5/10

Next week, I'll have another handful of mixes on the chopping block. Will it be yours?

Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your weekend.

Amusing side notes (and by amusing, I mean amusing only to me):

-Jesse's mix was for me, and I made a mix for Will.

-Jesse and I both put Leonard Cohen covers on our mixes. Jesse chose Regina Spektor's version of "Chelsea Hotel", while I opted for Jeff Buckley's go at "Hallelujah."

-Jesse and I both put tracks from Built to Spill's "Keep It Like a Secret" on our mixes, though we chose different tracks.
Without question, Jesse's taste in music is the most on-par with myself and the Missus, as far as the mixes we received were concerned.
When I get home I'll have to search out these songs. I don't know anything about them, but from your review it sounds like something I'd enjoy. Domsar's website was a great way to hear what you were talking about.

side note Maybe for the next mixtape trade there could be another tier of participation. Ten of us sent you copies anyway, I wouldn't mind sending you ten copies and five bucks for postage if it meant we could listen to the same stuff. I don't mean to put the distribution burden on you alone, you could delegate it to a trustworthy volunteer in Feb if you like.
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...and I start my morning all a-blushing. Thanks Ryan! I always find the late-mid tracks the hardest to place on the mix CD. You have the first four intro songs out of the way and know what your theme is going to be. The next four can play with that theme. But then for the next four the mix has been around for awhile and you need to start thinking about a few things - are you building a crescendo? If not, do you need to start slowing things down for a little while? Is there too much of one sound, possibly boring the listener, and how can you change that without off setting the balance of the entire mix?

If I could change anything it would definitely be the Mirah and Clinic tracks. I was trying to dig back a few years because I'm not a fan of mixes where all of the tracks are pulled from recent albums.

Anyway, thanks for the review. We should start moving forward with that mix exchange idea.
BLUSTACON - This is interesting, because me and Jesse have been brainstorming on the very same 'round robin' idea. The basic jist would be to have participants (local and national) make another mix and burn a set number of copies (5 or 10, for example). Then, almost everyone gets a copy of every mix. Sort of like a pyramid scheme that actually works.

In short, that's what I (we) want to do next time, and we're working on it; especially if people are down with the idea. Dane 101 wants to do it on a local level where we would throw a party, meet new people and trade mixes (like a Key Party without all that pesky anonymous sex). Doing it nationwide and through the mail should work just as well, if people are willing to give a little to get a lot in return.

JESSE - If I misquoted you in any of the above banter, feel free to correct me or elaborate.

Thanks for participating in the mix-tape trade. Ahh, the muddled middle section of a mix CD. It really makes or breaks the album, but it's hard to make it work perfectly. Again, I loved your mix, and a few tracks have become regular fixtures in my morning drive to work.

One thing I've really enjoyed about this trade is how many people stress over a perfect mix as much as I do. That shows a love for music, and a love to share it, which is why people come out of the woodwork to get on board.
while I opted for Jeff Buckley's go at "Hallelujah."

Fan-f'ing-tastic track, although I prefer Cohen's.

I love the round-robin idea, although I will still lobby for a dedicated web space where we can download tracks and cover art instead of mailing/distribution/handling charges.
That's a good idea, all though there is still something magical about receiving an actual, physical CD in the mail that someone put time and effort into creating.
I'm totally on board with this. Your reviews (especially this one) make me really want to find these songs that I don't know yet.

I'm willing to rip and host the next mixtape trade on the web if everyone wants to send me a copy of their mixes. (Though, I'm assuming we'll be at the same size of participants. If it gets monstrously huge, maybe I'd host like 10 of them.) Just brainstorming.
I'm down for the next one, too. My next mix will be called "Osamaa Bonds Laden: A Tribute to Flaxseed Oil".
Probably depends if the CDP is a best-selling author by then :) hehe.
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These are all good suggestions. I'll figure out something awesome once this whirlwind book release tour is over and done with.


1. The Office/30 Rock = Awesome.
2. Barry Bonds = PWN3D.
3. 65 Poor Life Decisions = Soon.
30 Rock = Tina Fey is brilliant
30 Rock was really really funny last night. Actually, all the NBC shows really stepped up their game last night...even Earl was surprisingly good. I always like Earl, but it's been pretty weird lately.
Enjoy them while you can. I think The Office is out of new episodes. In fact, I think the only show that completed their episode quota for the season is The Simpsons.
Downloading? It's called BitTorrent people!

We don't even had to use Pirate's Bay or anything. We just make the .torrent file, upload them somewhere, and then make sure you (or someone) always has a connection to it. Then, when someone downloads the .torrent file, they will download it from you. If someone else gets into the frey, the download will actually be faster.

Be easier, cheaper, and a tad bit more legal that way.

On another note, today I learned that Leonard Cohen first did "Hallelujah". I thought Buckley's was the original. But as I thought about it, I decided, "Duh! It's in classic Cohen style!"

Thanks for educating me . . .
I'm not familiar with this torrent you speak of. Does it work with a Mac?

No problemo on the Cohen education.

Quote from Neil on The Young Ones: "I feel like a Leonard Cohen one ever listens to me."
Yes, I like the idea of using torrents even better. But probably most people wont be familiar with downloading via bittorrent, much less creating their own torrents.

ps. Buckley's "Hallelujah" pwns all other versions, including the orignal and those by some of my favorite artists like Imogen Heap. Buckley was amazing.
I had "Grace" on my mix for Will as well (I'm a weirdola and put 2 songs by each artist on...less artists, but a more accurate representation of their work). That song is absolutely ridiculous...
These torrents scare me. Our friend Ben of Sandbox Films and Play In the Sand (check the sidebar for to download that schtuff before he got his Mac and I was fairly certain he was going to need an eyepatch before long if he didn't watch out.
Are torrents the quickest and most reliable way to send a lot of music to a lot of people at once? Absolutely.

However, does that go against the old-school, physical object nostalgia of receiving a mix-tape? Without question.

For me, the magic of the mix (and the trade itself) lies in the physical mix and labor itself. For trading music, however, digital is the way to go, no doubt.

The question lies in what we're trying to accomplish, here. Are we just trying to trade free music that we like? Or are we making more of an artistic statement?
I should mention that when I say 'we,' I'm referring to the CDP Mix-Tape Trade. I'm didn't mean to put words in anyone's mouth.
Yep, that's the big question really. If it's just about amassing the most music, then gotta go with the torrent philosophy...but it's about meeting people and putting effort into making an actual, physical disc for someone, then you've gotta go the mail route.
Meh. Up to you, it's your trade. But just because you offer the mix online doesn't mean it didn't take any work to craft the mix, theme, song choices, placement, art, etc. It's just about delivery methods of the mix (which is crafted electronically the same either way). But do I want to end up with a cd in the mail (which will probably go straight to pcs/mp3 players anyway), or do I want to skip that middle step and receive it electronically? Or should there be a combination? Everyone sends one person their mix cd in the normal manner, plus one copy to the hoster who makes them available online for all those mixes you didn't get to hear. Just ideas. The way we did it is awesome already.
Unrelated : some viewing assignments for the weekend:
Who quoted The Young Ones?!
I quoted the Young Ones!

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