My history with music has almost everything to do with my brother, Dane. He has two years on me, which is just about the perfect amount of time to create a sort of hybrid mentor-peer relationship. From my first awareness of radio onward, my perception and exploration of music has been filtered through the lens of, “What does Dane think?” At times, this has dismayed me. Like other aspects of life, it has left me wondering how much of my destiny (and personality) lives outside my own control. How much of who I am is just a poor facsimile of my brother? Of course, as we both matured, and Dane went off to college, and I moved out West, my individuality blossomed and my distinct tastes and traits came into focus. So, now in our mid-thirties, I look upon my music relationship (well, my relationship as a whole, actually) with my brother with great fondness. I have cherished the glimpses I have gotten into his musical journey through his 2014 quarterly mixes, his own recordings, and his lion’s den tumblr. And the chances we get to discuss music and collaborate are energizing and very special to me. His seemingly boundless creativity and thirst for new music is an inspiration, no longer weighed down by the sort of shaming, “you can never be as good as me,” quality that I used to impose on them. So, today I’m proud to share with my brother and the world a mix I made for him. Last weekend, we talked and decided to each make a mix for the other. A sort of summary of the last year in our personal listening experiences. We came up with a set of prompts, or instructions, to frame up the mixes and create a collaborative theme to the collection. Read on to learn about the selection criteria and the choices I’ve made for Dane’s mix. So, brother, is this OK?
We established a set of instructions to guide our song selections and ground our mixes in a shared theme. We required that the mixes be 8 songs long so as to allow them to qualify for posting to 8tracks, but I ended up throwing on some extra picks just because. Below are the official rules, so to speak.
- (thinking of you) — Select one song that makes me think about you.
- (expected) — Select three songs expected to be found in your quarterlies last year but weren’t.
- (current surprise) — Select one song released in 2014 that I think you might not yet know.
- (past surprise) — Select one song released prior to 2014 that I think you might not yet know.
- (favorite of yours) — Select my favorite song from your 2014 quarterly mixes.
- (2014 song) — Select my song of the year for 2014. The song need not have been released in 2014, nor need it have been new to me in 2014. It should, however, tell the story of the year for me.
- Goshen ’97 | Strand of Oaks (thinking of you)
HEAL | 2014
You come to mind when I listen to this guitar driven pop rocker. High school all over again.
- Strange Dreams | Alex Calder (current surprise)
Strange Dreams | 2015 (promoted in 2014)
So, you say you’ve warmed up to Macky D? How about Al-Cal, here? I’m hearing Women and a little Chris Cohen. I thought maybe this guy might have slipped under your radar.
- Paradise Girls | Deerhoof (expected)
La Isla Bonita | 2014
Did you give Deerhoof a shot last year? I know you checked out tUnE-yArDs’s latest. If the data were collected, I bet (or at least hope) it would show a marked uptick in the number of Rock Camp for Girls students who became inspired by Deerhoof because of this song last year.
- Delorean Dynamite | Todd Terje (expected)
It’s Album Time | 2014
Gonna hop in with Mr. Terje here to take a turn down the nu disco road. What with all of the buzz about this album and your interest in Bohannon, I figured this or that Palmer cover with Ferry would have surfaced on one of your mixes last year.
- In my dreams we’re almost touching | Ricky Eat Acid (expected)
Three Love Songs | 2014
I featured another mostly straight-forward song from this curious beauty of an album in my Q4 mix, but I’m putting this one on here because I thought for sure you would have picked up on it. My appreciation for Three Love Songs is rooted in the weirder, bedroom-tape sound pieces that occupy the lion’s share of its running time. They map out an idiosyncratic world made up of more than just sounds, but also places and, well, love, as the album title would suggest. I love “In my dreams…” so much because it lives in that world. And that squiggly little hook introduced at 2:03 calls to my mind Decent Lovers and makes me think you, too, might find something special in the sort of amateur quality of this composition. I suppose I just really want to have a dialog about this album with you. What do think?
- Two Weeks | FKA Twigs (expected)
LP1 | 2014
OK, I know you listened to this song last year. You couldn’t escape it. It didn’t really wow me at first blush. Even the video that folks went ape-bananas over was sort of, like, alright. However, upon repeat listens I do like it very much, and I definitely thought you would, too.
- Rongwrong | 801 (past surprise)
801 Live | 1976
A nod to your well-documented deep dive into prog last year, and a sort of reprise of my own exploration of some of Phil M’s works. As luck would have it, Phil, Eno, and the Matching Mole dudes have tons of shared history. Our separate journeys converge again. “I can always go back home. If the wind will blow me there.” I really like that line and its relationship with Phil’s guitar virtuosity.
- Song For Five & Six | Owen Pallette (expected)
In Conflict | 2014
Really, where was this guy for you in 2014? What with your Arthur Russell deep dive and all, I thought for sure it would have surfaced in your quarterlies.
- Zen Archer | Todd Rundgren (favorite of yours)
A Wizard, A True Star | 1973
THANK YOU for this song. Screw the shame of not having already come to know it. “Starting In The Middle Of The Day…” was a close contender for my favorite pick of your quarterlies. I also was particularly taken by your other digs from past decades, including Gene Clark, Walker Brothers, Manfred Mann, Bohannon, Aphrodite’s Child, and Arthur Russell. Really, though, your quarterlies never failed to inspire and intrigue me. Back to “Zen Archer”, besides the overall genius of the songwriting and composition, we even have humor here. There’s the radio theater comedy of the flying arrows as well as the maybe-unfortunate relationship between the lyric, “pretty bird” and that blind kid in “Dumb & Dumber” back when we were just coming up.
- Ruby | Woo (past surprise)
When The Past Arrives
Consider this a palette-cleansing interlude to create some space between my favorite from your year and my pick to sum up 2014. Wait, are those pretty birds I hear?
- Never Catch Me (feat. Kendrick Lamar) | Flying Lotus (2014 song)
You’re Dead | 2014
“Never Catch Me” is my song of 2014 for so many reasons. Firstly, and most simply, it reactivated my curious ear after a summer lull in listening appetite. Secondly, its metaphysical aura and lyrics resonate with my personal philosophical musings. It’s a hopeful and awakened message that acknowledges the ISSUES in this world and species and then says, “But there’s more to existence than this, dummies.” So much more that only Thundercat can explain it when Kendrick peaces out. Or am I reading into it too much? Lastly, it also serves as an amalgamation of many of the musical sounds that really got my juicing flowing last year — hip hop (Run the Jewels), beats (Moodymann), R&B (D’Angelo), spacey-jazzy-artsy whatchamacallit (Shabazz Palaces, Hosono, Laraaji, Laurie Anderson, etc.).
- Be In Yo Self (feat. Ideeyah & Duminie Deporres) | Theo Parrish (thinking of you)
American Intelligence | 2014
Let Theo’s long-playing, meditation on self be your exit music. That is, if you can pull yourself away from it.
Footnote: Notably missing from your quarterlies, and this mix, are representatives from the Spoon and New Pornographers releases from last year. The new adult-contemporary has been light-weight indie for a decade now. And I just can’t look past a certain “adult” quality (or is that commercial, particularly with Spoon?) to what I heard of these albums.