Ken Stringfellow Makes MAGNET A Mix Tape

You probably know Ken Stringfellow as the co-leader of Northwestern power-pop all-timers the Posies or as a sideman for R.E.M. or latter-day Big Star. Danzig In The Moonlight (Spark & Shine) is his fifth solo album. Today, Stringfellow makes MAGNET a mix tape. He says about it, “Yes, I’ve peppered this mix with quite a few artists I’ve worked with in the last few months. Thing is, I’m supposed to write about/share with you music that I have feelings about, and I can tell you, with all I’ve invested, with all I’ve worked with/on/for, with the deep bonds I’ve made with these artists after we pursue excellence together, what deeper feelings could I have than what I feel about these artists and their music? If I were a teacher, I’d be telling you about my best students, not someone else’s. However, I’ve included some tracks from artists with whom I have no skin in the game; I just enjoy what they do.”

“Doesn’t It Remind You Of Something” (download):

Carice Van Houten “You.Me.Bed.Now” 
Carice is a Dutch actress of great renown and great talent. In Carice’s native Holland, you can’t go 42 inches without running into her face on a billboard, kiosk, magazine cover, etc. She’s popular enough to feed an army of detractors, Holland being one of those places that treats success outside the borders with extreme jealousy. In fact, the blogosphere was agitating for her head before this, her debut album of music, was recently released. Boy, were they sorry. A stunning, adventurous LP with broad ambitions and a monumental cast, “See You On The Ice” went straight into the top 10, and I’m sure will top all the music polls this year, as reviews have been stellar. I helped produce the album and play on this track. Video

Oh, Libia “Drugs In Pools”
Fabulous band from Spain, very Apples In Stereo. I mixed this track and changed it from what they sent me—a simple, truancy, fingerpicked-guitar folk song—to something more energized and pumping. I love to turn music I mix on its head. People send me their tracks and get back something that hopefully they didn’t forsee but can’t imagine not being there once they’ve heard it. Usually the artists aren’t there with me, so it’s a real surprise (or, yes, shock) when I transform their music. The best, and most successful, records I’ve worked on where where the artists made me collaborator, and we went where the music wanted to take us, not where they wanted to hold their vision in place. The same goes for my music—I give the people that I trust to mix my albums a lot of leeway and a creative stake in the outcome. Always better for the results. Video

Cilihili “Happy Without The Boy”
I had the pleasure to sing with her in her native Malmo, Sweden. She’s been involved in so many projects, has the entire music scene of Sweden at her fingertips, and she is humble and just a joy to have onstage. When I invite singers to sing a duet with me, they arrive, either knowing the words or not, and we go from there. I’m easy, and it’s always fun, no matter how “pro” or not the other singer’s approach is. Cecilia not only learned the words, but worked out parts, even rhythms, on her Omnichord, and delivered a magnetic, uplifting addition to my show. Video

Maldives “Go Back To Virginia”
Seattle’s Maldives are a sensation on their home turf and, surprisingly, have yet to be discovered by the indie audience globally. They started as indie kids playing what appeared to be pretty straight-up Appalachian/country music, but have morphed now into purveyors of epic, widescreen 21st-century guitar-based music. I hesitate to say rock because the word is naf, but there is a heaviness to what they do. Video

Lowood “Crash”
I’m thrilled that after taking a couple of years off to start a family, and move from her native Stockholm to Goteborg, Therese Johansson, the songwriting genius behind Lowood, is getting back into writing. Her voice has a delightful, uncontrived purity and is always a-quiver with emotion. I could put any song in this mix; they all give me the same feeling: urgent, but sophisticated; intense, but restrained. I could take lessons—she has subtlety that I could only dream of. Video

Evening Hymns “Cabin In The Burn”
In terms of hirsute indie rockers taking to cabins in the woods and writing emotional masterpieces go, I’ll take Canada’s Evening Hymns, who probably actually know how to spell properly in French. I picked up their album Spirit Guides in Clermont-Ferrand, where their French label, KutuFolk, is based. KutuFolk (a mangling of “Couture Folk,” for its bespoke packaging and distribution; each CD cover is made of pieces “hand sewn” together) always has great, dark, acoustic, emotional indie folk, and I bought the album knowing the label without knowing the band. What a discovery. Maybe the best album I heard that year (that I didn’t work on, ha ha). And they are gems on a personal level, as well; we met up when they played Paris last month. Video

Shonen Knife “Pop Tune”
I’ve known the Shonen Knife ladies for 20 years. In a case of innocence trumping gratitude, just after coming off tour with Nirvana, they announced to Seattle’s biggest radio station their favorite band was the Posies. (So did the Boredoms, a year later, inexplicably.) The band has undergone some lineup adjustments, but the vision is still there, personified in the leader and singer, Naoko. There exists still Buzzcocks-like punk sweetness in every song, and an ability to turn mundane topics into fun, brief exercises in four-chord perfection. Check out a great example with “All You Can Eat,” a life lesson in how to approach a buffet, which is, of course, great for bands on the road. However, there’s no video for that, and I was requested to select from YouTube, so here’s “Pop Tune,” the title track from their latest album. Video

Limousine “A Drive”
This band was using production techniques and subtly blending analog and digital realms in a band format way ahead of my game; my hat’s off to them. One of many bands around the world called Limousine, this is the one from Cordoba, and they’re still at it, getting ever more psychedelic with each album. I find it inspiring how they don’t hit you over the head with the electro part of what they do; it’s woven in as it to say, “We use these sounds as instruments, not as advertisements for our genre loyalty.” Video

Avant La Lettre “Jesus Come Back”
Yep, more Dutch music I worked on. Super-inspiring band from Amsterdam. Singer Laurens Radstake is a contemplative, perfection-seeking, ever-evolving artist. I mixed this track. Video

Ian McGlynn “Gold Morning Mend”
One of the best albums I’ve worked on, ever. This was a great collaboration. Between Ian (who writes music and is a highly skilled pianist), Chris Newkirk (his lyricist) and me. It was my job to transfer these songs from their origins, as puny demos played only on Casio, to the majestic walls of futuristic sound that this record became. Just found out the video is on MTV now; this album is the best example of everyone who worked on the album being allowed to express their full input into the total vision. The results are astounding, in my opinion. Such a modern and wide sound. Very Bon Iver, in places, but there’s songs that sound like Teenage Fanclub, too. Video

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