Pummelling Rock and a few weird transitions.
“Callum, it’s mid-January. Why are you doing an instalment of The Mixtape for songs you listened to last month when it’s already the middle of this month? Also, weren’t you supposed to be doing a Top 50 Songs of 2016 list or something?” 1] SHUT UP, I KNOW! 2] Because I am determined to make this a monthly thing, so I’m not going to skip out a month for the second entry in the series even if I am insanely busy and have to keep pushing it back. 3] I’m working on it, give me a little more time!
Anywho, welcome back to The Mixtape! The monthly series where I put together a playlist of songs that I’ve had on repeat for the past month and share them with you for your listening pleasure(?) My mood’s been considerably less crappy these 31 days – as a result of being generally busy and focussed sos as to avoid being in my head for too long at a time, and thanks to these new anti-depressants that appear to be working some level of wonders on me – which you will find reflected in the tracks on this mix! We have one side of nice, loud, crushing Rock music, and a second side that sort of veers all over the place but still remains more positive than the last instalment’s B-side. Feel free to post thoughts in the comments! Or don’t, you’re your own person.
The Mixtape: January 2017
15 tracks, 1 hour 2 mins
01] Primal Scream – Swastika Eyes (Jagz Kooner Mix)
Primal Scream live were amazing, and not just because I was there with one of my best friends whom I hadn’t seen in ages! The new stuff on Chaosmosis flowed in well with the older stuff, even if they felt the need to play more of their Rolling Stones-wannabe tracks than I think we really needed to hear, but the true highlight was when they spent the final 30-odd minutes blasting through all of the songs you want to hear at a Primal Scream concert one after another with no breaks. That streak was heralded by “Swastika Eyes” which still, 17 years on, cuts like a buzzsaw through all of the noise and just fucking GOES! The place exploded when this kicked in, and with good reason, since it’s a song that works perfectly as something to dance to, something to mosh to at a gig, or something to blare out of the speakers as you storm your way through the streets to kick fascism’s head in. Man, I can’t believe that XTRMNTR is about to become a relevant album again…
02] Jane’s Addiction – Just Because
I know that we’re not supposed to like anything that Jane’s Addiction put out after they reunited, so deem the snobby Alt-Rock gatekeepers and tastemakers, but I’ll adhere to that rule once they tear the riffs for “Just Because,” “Suffer Some,” and, yes, “Superhero” out of my head. This is one that just likes to crop up randomly in my head without warning, rather like “Superhero” did for the entire back-half of 2015 after I was first exposed to Entourage, and then I’m stuck humming the whole song for the rest of the day. Damn you, Dave Navarro!
03] Dead Sara – Weatherman
Remember in last month’s Mixtape where a few entries cropped up due to my having been introduced to them via Rock Band Rivals? Yeah, you’re gonna see that this month for Guitar Hero TV, something I sincerely believe to be the future of rhythm gaming (had anybody actually bought it). One such discovery I had from it was Dead Sara, a Hard Rock quartet from LA whom some of you may know as a result of InFamous: Second Son – they’re the folks who did the “Heart Shaped Box” cover for that. This one’s off their debut album and it’s a super-fun, crunchy, catchy number, one that reminds me more than a little of Nico Vega’s “Beast.”
04] We Are The Ocean – Overtime is a Crime
You ever have a band whom you own one album from, an album that is damn great and you love and still listen to today, but you also have absolutely no interest in exploring anything further from despite genuinely loving that one album? For me, that’s We Are The Ocean, a British Alt-Rock/Post-Hardcore band who briefly broke through in a major way back in 2011 with their sophomore LP, Go Now and Live, before disappearing back into the ether. They’re apparently still going today, but Dan Brown (the screamy voice you hear on this track) left/was kicked out after this one, so I don’t really have much of an interest in trying their other stuff. As much as the name Alexisonfire followed them around like glue during their brief dalliance with semi-mainstream recognition, it is that vocal interplay between Dan’s throaty/scratchy delivery and Liam’s (the other lead vocalist) actual singing that keeps me coming back to that album even today, how they wind and twist and complement each other’s melodies. Maybe I’ll try their other stuff some day, but for now Go Now and Live still rocks and I love belting it out in the car.
05] Soundgarden – Jesus Christ Pose
Why was I not properly informed of just how much Badmotorfinger fucking rocks?! Don’t worry, I was well aware of who Soundgarden were long before last month – I have played videogames almost all my life, was heavily into Kerrang! during my early teenage years, and still enjoy listening to the 90s Alt-Rock boom today; I knew who Soundgarden were – but I never sat down and listened to a record of theirs from beginning to end until last month, when I went diving through my Uncle’s unused vinyl collection for stuff to loot and came across Badmotorfinger. I put it on when I got home that night, only intending to listen to a few tracks to make sure it worked cos I had a load of other vinyls to test, and ended up sat on my bed listening to the whole thing because it was just that good! Sweet lord, I feel like this record might have been one of those ones that I latched onto tightly if I’d heard it back when I was a teenager! Who knows how differently I may have turned out if I spent more time listening to this than I did Arctic Monkeys?
06] Title Fight – Rose of Sharon
Another discovery from Guitar Hero TV. This one’s off of their 2015 album, Hyperview, where they shifted away from Post-Hardcore and Punk into something a little more Shoegaze-y. A lot of fans and critics seem to be torn on whether that’s a good thing or not, but I really dig it, particularly that tempo change in the second half. I rather like Shoegaze in general, that kind of semi-nostalgic swimming feeling that’s wonderful to get lost in, almost like a coming-of-age movie soundtrack, and I think that the song is able to communicate that youthful feel brilliantly. In the opening half as a sort of exhilarating rush, and then in the second half as something more dream-like and relaxing. Gonna have to give the rest of Hyperview a listen when I finally get the time.
07] Nine Inch Nails – March of the Pigs
I am 22 years old and only just now properly attempting to get into Nine Inch Nails. You can scoff all you want, but I also spent the majority of last year finally getting into Jimmy Eat World and that’s a band that brought me great comfort throughout much of that disasterfest of a year. Although a lot of NIN’s stuff can be more experimental, the albums I’m currently taking tentative steps into are, what else, the Industrial stuff, a lot of which are shockingly catchy and hook-filled. For some reason, I always feel a bit wary when getting into Noise-based genres, as there’s a part of me that feels like I’m going to look back on liking them one day with a sort of disdain for some falsely perceived juvenility to much of it? But, then, on the other hand, I’m still a fan of Sleigh Bells and Justice are still on a super-frequent rotation on my music, so what do I know? Let’s see how far down the NIN rabbit hole I go!
01] The Shins – The Rifle’s Spiral
NOW this series is making PROPER Mixtapes! You’re not making a proper mixtape in the 2000s if there’s not a least one Shins song on there somewhere! This one’s the third and final Guitar Hero TV discovery on this month’s mix, and might be more familiar to a lot of readers for its music video, which was bundled with the Nintendo 3DS eShop around the time of its launch. It’s a really good video, too, very Henry Sellick and, despite having absolutely zero visual connection to the themes of the song, surprisingly fitting for the song itself. Allow me to add The Shins to the growing list of “bands I say I need to check out more stuff by,” whilst we’re at it. I don’t know why I’ve yet to make a proper effort with listening to stuff by The Shins, since I’ve really liked (or in this case loved) everything I’ve heard from them – which I’m sure is blowing the mind of the 4 people reading this who don’t know me and hadn’t already figured out my preferred taste in music. They’ve got a new album out soon, so maybe there’s no time like the present!
02] Sonic Youth – Bull in the Heather
Back at the end of November, I re-watched The Punk Singer, as I previously mentioned, which is my explanation as to why “bettin’ on the bull in the heather” kept looping in my head repeatedly throughout December. I have nothing much else to add here beyond a mandatory noting that Kim Gordon is cool-as-shit.
03] The Main Drag – Love During Wartime
So, The Main Drag were a short-lived Indie Pop band whose drummer, John Drake, also worked for Harmonix, which is how a remix of their song “A Jagged Gorgeous Winter” managed to get into Rock Band 2. Particularly on Yours As Fast as Mine, they specialised in moody Wintery music that works equally as well backing a Teen Soap Opera or a melancholy self-care hugging-yourself session, and I mean neither of those as insults. It’s like a softer version of Sleater-Kinney’s The Hot Rock, which is my 2nd favourite Sleater-Kinney record. Even though there was no snow this December, and even though I was mostly happier than normal throughout the month, I still found this a really comforting song to throw on during the month. It’s sort of like Jamie xx’s “Loud Places” in that it can operate as both euphoria, melancholia, or wallowing-experience depending on what mood you bring to the song when you listen to it. I kinda wish this record, and especially this song, got more exposure cos it’s damn great.
04] Midnight Juggernauts – Into the Galaxy
I first stumbled upon “Into the Galaxy” a few years ago as a free download on a New Music blog whose name completely escapes me and I only visited the once anyway. It’s hung around on my iPod in the years since and gets periods where I’ll come across it, remember how great it is and listen to it for a while, before forgetting it exists entirely all over again for about 9 or so months. This instance of its re-discovery, as it were, was actually set in motion back in October, when I saw the absolutely woeful Lion at the London Film Festival. There’s a club scene where this plays after Hercules & Love Affair’s “Blind,” and I recognised it but could not for the life of me remember what it was called or who it was by or anything (this despite my having just listened to the song 2 weeks ago). This proceeded to bug for the next 2 months, particularly after it didn’t show up on soundtrack lists for the film, so I took at punt at scrolling through the Synthpop genre on my iPod to see if I could get answers, and BAM! That story was nowhere near as interesting as I’d hoped it would be, but at least it required more words than “the Radio Edit is being used cos Spotify doesn’t have the album for whatever reason.”
05] Demi Lovato – Confident
The final animated feature released in the UK in 2016 was Ballerina – a French-Canadian piece of utterly generic gruel that’s really not worth your time. It’s supposed to be a period piece about an orphan in pre-Eiffel Tower Paris trying to become a Ballerina, yet the film backs all of its important setpieces not with period-appropriate music, or even just music from The Nutcracker, but a slew of Top 40 chart hits, 80% of which I thought were by Sia, since she’s bloody everywhere at the moment and I’ve never understood what’s so unique about her voice. Most bizarrely of all, there’s a critical Dance-Off at the narrative’s climax where the protagonist and antagonist duel to, of all things, “Confident” by Demi Lovato, a song that wouldn’t exist for another 130 years. Things like this irk me, OK? That said, “Confident” is an absolute barnstormer of a song, so I’m not exactly unhappy about being reminded of it, and now you know why I specifically referenced this song back in my hyper-personal 2016 reminiscence piece!
06] Roots Manuva – Witness (1 Hope)
Speaking of Tunes, this is one of those songs that I’d sort of known for years in one way or another, but never managed to actually find out the name or artist of until last month. Specifically, after I decided to briefly throw on the EU version of Def Jam Rapstar – a game and concept that deserved far, far better than the ignoble death that it received – to scroll throw the track list and, wouldn’t you know it, there was “Witness!” The video for this, by the way, is still a phenomenal gutbuster, and you should go watch it once you’ve finished listening to this.
07] George Michael – Flawless (Go to the City)
2016 really could not resist flipping over one last table on its way out of the door, like an arsehole reality show contestant, and one of its victims ended up being the legendary George Michael. Rather like Bowie – whose one-year anniversary is today, goddammit – I responded to the news by spinning what little of his discography I currently own (and will rectify in the near-future like I did with Bowie) throughout much of my Year-End article writing. Mostly, though, I ended up leaving this track on repeat. From his last studio album, Patience, I’ve always had a real soft-spot for this song since I was actually familiar with the sample the song is based on beforehand, “Flawless” by The Ones, and Michael actually manages to enhance the track’s groove with his vocal delivery and escapism-in-music affirmation lyrics, like the best sample-based songs manage to do. So, in between playing Faith and “Careless Whisper” for the 47th times, why not give the underrated Patience a dust off for once?
08] The Maccabees – Pelican
I really should have ended The Mixtape with George Michael, but I couldn’t bring myself to drop this. I, somehow, despite being a really big fan of the band, had failed to hear that The Maccabees are calling it quits when it was announced back in August – I only found out after Lucy and I were sat eating takeaway after seeing The Julie Ruin and got an email announcing their final shows. I immediately texted a friend of mine, who is also a huge Maccabees fan, “YO DID YOU KNOW THAT THE MACCABEES ARE BREAKING UP WHAT THE SHIT” because I am calm and eloquent in situations like this. Anyways, I grabbed tickets for me and her to their first of two farewell Manchester shows in June a few days later, and I’m hyped to finally see them live on their own (I’ve seen them before as the support act on Kasabian’s 48:13 tour), even if it’ll be through a shared collective grief over their breaking up. As for “Pelican”… I really like “Pelican.” Yeah, its lyrics may be pat and cliché, but there’s an energy and a drive to it that I think fits for taking on a new year, so it makes a fine way to close out! After all, we’re probably not going to get too far into it before Armageddon starts, anyway.
The Mixtape: January 2017, Spotify embed