OK, so we’re a little biased when it comes to our hometown, but you’d be to if you lived in a place with as much to offer as Philly does. Now that the Eagles are finally Super Bowl champs for the first time, we can get back to appreciating all the diversity the City Of Brotherly Love has to offer musically. Which brings us to Ashok Kailath (a.k.a. producer ash.ØK), who just dropped an indietronica gem called The Unraveled. On it, Kailath touches on more genres than you’ll find at your favorite record store. Listening to The Unraveled got us thinking about what our homie listens to when he’s not holed up in his studio creating. So we asked him to make MAGNET a mix tape. Check out his killer jawn below.
Sonny Bonoho “Concubine Juicy”
From the first listen of this track, you know it’s on some other wave. First time I was introduced to Sonny Bonoho was at a live performance in L.A. Dude absolutely killed it onstage, and the energy he brought with this track was memorable. The video is just as striking and has a distinctiveness that most rap videos don’t typically bring. Try not getting this track stuck in your head.
Björk “Bachelorette (RZA Remix)”
Probably one of my favorite remixes of all time. You take the mastermind production of the RZA and pair it with Bjork’s piercing, rollercoaster-like vocals. The instrumental carries all the signature Wu elements laid over a really thick orchestral bed.
Neil Diamond “Solitary Man”
I truly regret never having had a chance to see him perform, especially after the recent news of his retiring due to Parkinson’s disease. This is music I grew up on, and it’s tough picking any single track as a favorite from this legend. The guitars, the pure indignation and hurt in his voice, along with the sweeping strings over that kit. It’s one of the few songs I consider perfect.
Keith Ape “It G Ma”
None of the rappers on this track speaks the same language, very little of it is in English, but it’s still level up from the get-go. The homage to OG Maco both lyrically and with the sparse instrumental, though, draws ire from some, but just proves the influential, borderless power of good music.
Robyn Cage “Fallout”
Beautifully shot video from one of my favorite indie artists. Her voice channels something ultra-classic with a vibe of Lana Del Rey, only more fluid and emotional. This track really carries strong, a running synth bass over a eerie set of pads, and fits perfect alongside Robyn’s vocals.
The Weeknd “Dirty Diana”
I think I first heard this track way, way, way late at night coming home from a studio session, and it blew my mind. It could have been the lack of sleep or something close to it, but when I woke up the next morning, this was the first song I tried to find online. It just stuck with me that strongly. Just like most of the world, I grew up listening to Michael Jackson, and “Dirty Diana” was always a favorite of that ’90s-era MJ. To hear it re-envisioned like this, not as a straight cover or over some kind of typical remix fare, really opened up my own creativity on how vocals and ethereal tracks could interplay.
The Gipsy Kings And Alabina “Habibi Ya Nour Elein”
Sung in both Spanish and Arabic and I can’t understand a word of it. But try listening to her voice at 2:57, and very few could put this song down without getting that lump-in-your-throat feeling. You can literally feel the emotion in her voice as it soars to some of these notes, especially against the gruff nature of the Spanish vocals. Like “It G Ma,” the passion in the music transcends language.
Flight Of The Conchords “Carol Brown”
This, without a doubt, is probably my favorite go-to song of all time. It doesn’t matter what mood I’m in, what the situation is, this track never gets tired, never gets old, and I can keep it on repeat indefinitely. Lyrically, it’s clever, and the simplicity of the instrumental, even after this many years, keeps me listening. Fun fact, which made me fall in love with this track even more: Sia was one of the writers and singers in the chorus of ex-girlfriends.
Jedi Mind Tricks Feat. Sean Price “Blood Runs Cold”
Pure, raw energy and power at its finest. This pick is a throwback to that classic era of hip hop: the samples, the lyricism—everything comes together perfectly over this one.
West Philadelphia Orchestra “Zla S’dba”
The only way to close out my mix tape is with something authentically from home. I was about to head down the route of pulling in a fave track from the Roots, Tunji Ige or Meek Mills, but on a mix with this far of a reach in genre, gritty Balkan-brass energy seems to be more appropriate. This track, in particular, is fire, but watch any one of their videos and you’ll just want to be front and center in that crowd. Closing out on that kind of energy. That’s how I’d call my mix tape complete.
The Incredible Vickers Brothers will release Torch Songs For Swingers later this month. What better way to get a feel for musicians’ styles than to find out what music they love themselves? Besides, like, actually listening to their songs, which you should totally do. Check out the mix tape the “brothers” Rob and Bob made for MAGNET, and look out for Torch Songs on January 21. Says Rob (or is it Bob? … not even their mother can tell them apart), “Most of the artists we love tend to write their own material. But some are great in the way they interpret songs from other writers. Over the course of recording Torch Songs For Swingers, listening focus was placed on performers who put their own, unique stamp on great songs dealing with loss, separation, sadness and struggle.”
Bob Dylan, “The Night We Called It A Day” (Dennis/Adair) Rob: Like many Dylan fans, I was skeptical at first when I first heard that Bob would be doing an entire album of songs better known in their versions by Frank Sinatra. But the album Shadows In The Night is one of his recent best. Much of its success, in my opinion, is down to the fantastic pedal steel playing of Donny Herron. There’s some very tasteful horn playing going on here, but Herron’s work is really what provides the “orchestra” under Bob’s vocals.
Joe Cocker, “Do I Still Figure In Your Life” (Dello) Bob: Originally recorded by a great, underrated English band called Honeybus, this song was given a wonderfully soulful treatment by Joe on his With A Little Help From My Friends album. The Honeybus version, written by leader Pete Dello, is well worth checking out, but Cocker really managed to make it his own.
The Everly Brothers, “Like Strangers” (Bryant) Rob: The mournful harmonies of Phil and Don can take a simple, beautiful song like this and make it one of the most heartbreaking things you’ll ever hear.
Madeleine Peyroux, “Keep Me In Your Heart For Awhile” (Zevon/Calderon) Bob: I love how she interprets old standards but also more modern writers in a way that you could imagine Billie Holiday doing if she were still around. This is a very simple, lovely song by Warren Zevon and Joe Calderon.
Chet Baker, “My Funny Valentine“ (Rogers/Hart) Rob: Though it’s been done to death by many artists over the years, this is the one that gives Chet Baker a true claim to greatness. He did a good vocal version of it, but I think the song works best as an instrumental. It contains a nice blend of light and dark.
Freddie Scott, “Hey Girl” (Goffin/King) Bob: He never had much of a career, but Freddie Scott made an indelible mark with this great song from the brilliant Goffin/King songwriting partnership. Every time I hear it, I can’t help but think that a young Brian Wilson must have been paying close attention to it. It’s nothing like the Beach Boys, but the arrangement, to my ears at least, predates what Brian would do later with Pet Sounds. I’ve got to think that some of the Wrecking Crew are possibly playing on this track, but I can’t say for sure. Either way, it’s one of the stand out tracks from the early ’60s, pre-Beatles era.
Peggy Lee, “The Folks Who Live On The Hill” (Hammerstein/Kern) Rob: If you love the Beatles and Sinatra, it will eventually lead you to Peggy Lee. The Beatles version of “Till There Was You” was taken from her arrangement, and Sinatra actually conducted the orchestra on this Oscar Hammerstein/Jerome Kern masterpiece. It was released as a single in England and has a haunting Nelson Riddle arrangement. This song gets me every time and is one of the best things she ever recorded.
Grant Green, “Idle Moments” (Pearson) Rob: Green, during his Blue Note years, was a brilliant jazz guitarist who had great tone and feeling. This lengthy instrumental, written by Duke Pearson, who also plays piano, is the perfect Sunday-morning come-down tune after a late, troubled Saturday night.
Frank Sinatra, “A Cottage For Sale” (Robinson/Conley) Bob: From No One Cares, an LP that is sometimes jokingly referred to as “the suicide album.” It’s easy to see why with this stark song, which is taken at a funeral pace. Gordon Jenkins was the perfect go-to arranger when Sinatra was in a somber mood.
My Little Hum, “Ever Fallen In Love” (Shelley) Rob: I love how these guys take this frantic, furious song from the oh-so English Buzzcocks, slow it down, soften it a bit and turn it into a poignant oh-so California pop song! Love the dreamy guitars, and the vocal is really beautiful. I could also point out that the overall production is stellar, but I’m going to declare a conflict of interest since the band and I share the same producer. (But nice work, Allen.)
Felsen‘s new Blood Orange Moon won’t grace your ears until later this month, but we’re getting you amped up about it anyway. We’ve already shared “Vultures On Your Bones,” but that’s not all Felsen’s got for you. Frontman Andrew Griffin has been nice enough to craft a mix tape of songs for MAGNET readers. Says Griffin, “My specially curated mix tape for you dear, dear music lovers: These are some of the songs that inspired me while working on the new Felsen LP. We wanted to write and record songs that were a bit more expansive, perhaps even cinematic in scope. We also wanted songs that were slower in tempo and took more time to unfold. In a frantic, hyper-paced world, it’s good to remind ourselves to slow down a bit and just go back to the music.” Check it out below, and read along while you listen.
Sun Kil Moon, “Duk Koo Kim”
Talk about taking your time … Mark Kozelek is the master. He’s also my spirit animal. I love how this song unfolds and really takes you on a long journey. At about the nine-minute mark (yup), there’s a real mood change in the vibe of the tune, yet he manages to keep it all sewn together. (I assure you, not an easy thing to do.) Tons of acoustic and electric guitars all woven together—very dreamy, woozy, intoxicating and kinda mesmerizing. It takes courage to put out a tune this long. We salute you sir.
Red House Painters, “Long Distance Runaround”
Also a rather lengthy piece of music, from Kozelek’s ’90s band. I bought the CD and was listening in my car while driving around the East Bay. It took a few listens to the album before I realized that this was a cover of a Yes tune. He has a knack for covering tunes, owning and reinventing it so that you barely hear the original tune anymore. There’s a pretty drastic mood change when they break into the instrumental extended outro. (It’s almost like another song.) That section is in the oft-neglected 7/8 time signature, thankyouverymuch. Our buddy Michael Urbano played drums on this album, and his drumming in particular was a huge influence on our new record. Beautiful stuff.
Serge Gainsbourg, “Cargo Culte”
I heard a song I really liked in an episode of Mad Men, and after trolling around online I found that it was by Serge Gainsbourg. I’d only heard about him but had no real previous exposure. That eventually lead me to this album, which I truly love. I think you can pretty much find most of the DNA code in the band Air (another favorite). Beck’s tune “Paper Tigers” owes much to this tune as well—I’m sure he’d admit it. I love the looseness, simplicity and space in the rhythm section: one electric guitar, bass and some funky boogaloo drums. On top of that, they put a really inventive string arrangement, tympani and a choir. It’s got that hypnotic vibe, too—it’s essentially one chord progression over and over again. I, for one, never get tired of it. It builds to a really beautiful triumphant crescendo that keeps you listening all the way to very end. Brilliant.
Beck, “The Golden Age”
Beck is a true musical chameleon with so many different phases to his long career, but I keep coming back to this album in particular. The mood is so perfect on this song. The simplicity of the composition, the tempo and vibe of the band are really very beautiful to my ears. It feels like he’s in no hurry to impress, making it all that much more impressive. (If that makes any sense.) The song form is so simple, too: intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, outro. The overall sound of the recording really draws me in. It’s very, very rich in reverb. Too much ’verb can be kinda dangerous … well, too much of the wrong reverb, that is. But as usual, Beck gets it right. That reverb-y idea was a big inspiration for our new album.
George Harrison, “Ballad Of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)”
I read an old review of this album, and the reviewer described it as “music for mountaintops.” I liked that and that idea kinda became a mantra for us. This album is a great marriage of producer and artist: Phil Spector’s wall of sound meets George’s beautiful and spiritual music. We listened to this album a bunch touring through the rainy Pacific Northwest. We highly recommend that experience.
The Orange Peels, “The Words Don’t Work”
I’ve known the Orange Peels for a few years now and have always loved their songs and production. I loved it so much that we connected with their mainman, Allen Clapp, to mix Felsen’s new album. This is a such a charming short song—too short perhaps? Hopefully, it’ll make you want to listen to the rest of the album. The Peels are like a modern-day Big Star: simple, catchy, and they wear their musical hearts on their sleeve with zero apologies.
The Eels, “That Look You Give That Guy”
This one really hits me. E writes a very honest, very heartfelt tune. It’s so simple and direct. The recording is like that, too. It sounds like a trio of bass, drums, one electric guitar and not much else. I particularly love the sound of the drums on this one. (What … I’m a recovering drummer.) This one is so good it hurts—perfect for nursing a broken heart.
We previously introduced you to VanWyck with her haunting song “An Average Woman.” Her album of the same name isn’t out until later this month, but there’s no reason to sit in the silence until then. VanWyck pulled together some of her favorite songs for your immediate consumption—throw them in a playlist, add in “An Average Woman,” and put that thing on repeat until the LP comes. You’re welcome. Check out VanWyck’s MAGNET mix tape below.
Harry Belafonte, “Jamaica Farewell”
There wasn’t a lot of music in our house when I grew up. I think my parents had two records, maybe three. But my mother was always singing songs. And often those were Harry Belafonte songs. She had always been a phenomenal dancer, and I remember her dancing alone in the kitchen, singing these songs, swaying her hips. I think that was how I first enjoyed rhythms—together with these melodies filled with unrequited longing for different lands, forgotten islands, lost loves. We often moved when I was small, between different countries and different continents, so this feeling of having to leave things behind was always close by. Though I now realize it’s a song about loss, for me it was always the song that represented home.
Prince, “The Ladder”
I learned to play music through Prince—I trained as a classical pianist, but started figuring out his songs on the piano. I think “The Ladder” was the first song I could play. I spent a lot of time thinking about what that song meant, what is was about. And looked up the word “salvation” in the dictionary, I remember. The whole album Around The World In A Day was very inspirational to me. There’s such a richness in everything: the themes, the lyrics, the variety in songs. It had lust and sex and God and politics and colourful people whose hair on one side was swept back. It was a place that seemed so different from everything I knew, and I desperately wanted to get there.
Gillian Welch, “Tennessee”
I remember the time this album came out and all of my guitar friends were sharing stories about how they listened to it. One said he was housesitting an apartment in Rotterdam, a penthouse on the top floor of a high building overlooking the river and the harbour with a phenomenal sound system. He waited all day to for the sun to set and the city lights to come up, and then put on the album. Alone, with a glass of bourbon. And he still shone as he said, “Me and Gillian, alone, looking out over the river, one of the best moments in my life.” I understood then that I needed to find myself a good place to listen to this album. I kept putting it off, like something that’s too good to consume. Finally on a long drive to France, I let myself submerge into it. The monotony of the French autoroute, the kids sleeping in the back, and Gillian singing about going back to Tennessee—it was one of the happiest moments in my life. These are songs that latch onto your soul forever. Where you keep them safe, like precious gems.
Nick Drake, “River Man” Sometimes you find songs that immediately spur you into writing something. It’s like you have to respond to it, you have to answer to them somehow. I had it strongly with this song. I was discussing string arrangements with someone who let me listen to this one as an example, and I was transcended in a way. It’s like the strings move on their own rhythm through the song, becoming the river itself, bending and twisting and slowly flowing along. I wrote “Red River Girl” partly as a response to it. It’s one of the songs on my upcoming album that I am happiest about. Especially because Reyer Zwart wrote such a wonderful string arrangement for it, which also bends and flows and twists, but in a darker way.
Laura Marling, “Made By Maid”
“How come the papers aren’t filled with articles about this amazing talent?” I wondered when I first heard Laura Marling. I think she’s singlehandedly surpassing the legacies of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell put together. I am really confident that 20 years from now she will have built up an amazing body of work. We were here to witness its fruition. It feels like a privilege.
Jara, “Lost Your Number”
It’s not often that you walk into a tiny bar and are completely blown away by the artist performing on the small dark stage in the back, but with Jara I totally was. There’s this cafe in Amsterdam called De Koe (Yes, that’s “The Cow”), where there are open-mic nights and I happened to walk in once and heard her sing this song. It felt like an instant classic to me. This video is of her performing it at a house concert with Sofar Sounds in Amsterdam, also showing some great footage of the Amsterdam canals, which is where I live. The song has not been put out yet; up to now she has only put out an EP, but I hope she gets the chance to soon.
Leonard Cohen, “Treaty”
For me, a lot of things start and end with Leonard Cohen. Days, for instance, funerals sometimes, a few love affairs, learning how to write songs, finding out more about the meaning of existence. He’s an endless source of inspiration in so many ways—his harmonies, his humor, his humbleness and gentleness, and the way he kept at it. I think that would be my ultimate goal to release a record at 82. In an article in The New York Times Magazine, Wyatt Mason wrote this beautiful interpretation of the last interview with Cohen. It has come to mean a lot to me: “At critical moments, from our depths, out of an impulse not for glory, not for wealth, not for fame, not for power, but out of an appetite to serve—serve something larger than ourselves, however one might define it—the emergency inside us finally speaks.”
Three For Silver makes very interesting music. We have a theory that people who make interesting music probably listen to interesting music. We wanted to get to the bottom of this, so we asked the trio to send us a list of their favorite songs—and it turns out that they’ve confirmed our theory. Ranging from classical to avant garde to theatrical, the members of Three For Silver—Lucas Warford, Willo Sertain and Greg Allison—have provided for your enjoyment a mix tape of the highest quality. But there’s more! They’ve also written some beautiful words about these songs, so read along while you listen, and check out their The Way We Burn when you’re finished.
Colin Stetson, “To See More Light” Lucas: At this moment in my life, Stetson is my primary inspiration as an instrumentalist. I picked this track because I think it is thus far his greatest achievement, a magnum opus in the classic sense. I connect with Stetson’s music like I might with a great love of my life, and it is similarly difficult to speak about logically or coherently. As a lifelong performer and general stage addict, I tend to be very analytical toward the performances and art of others. How are they doing what they’re doing? How is it succeeding? How is it failing? But Stetson’s music always bypasses my conscious mind. It’s as raw and visceral to me as a natural phenomenon. You may as well ask me how I feel about watching a thunderstorm. He has made recordings that are more heavy, more rhythmic, more delicate, more melodic and more beautiful—but “To See More Light” balances all of these forces while sacrificing none of them. Most importantly, it isn’t over-produced, it all sounds like its one person in a room with a saxophone. His approach to the saxophone, the physical demands on his body and his “more is more” aesthetic all resonate deeply with my own journey of radical self-expression through instruments, though the final product is totally different. If the instrument is truly an extension of yourself, then you will inherently discover a style that seems impossible to others, as you are the only one can speak with your own voice. Sidenote: I first became obsessed with this song (and the attendant album) while reading Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, and I forever imagine this as the trilogy’s soundtrack. I worry that Alex Garland isn’t going to get the memo.
The Caretaker, “Misplaced In Time” Lucas: I wouldn’t describe this song or the Caretaker as music, but rather as a serotonin pump indirectly connected to my pineal gland. It’s well documented that when the Caretaker comes on, I smile like an idiot for the duration. I often don’t like to have music on, but I am always glad to hear the Caretaker. It is a disturbingly intimate experience, having this stranger give form to the imaginary soundtrack inside of my head. The Caretaker—who has always been the Caretaker (watch that scene from The Shining)—distresses, slows, twists and delays old swing recordings till they sound the way they should have had the good sense to sound from the get-go. In other words, seeping through the halls of an abandoned hotel from a New Year’s Eve party that never ends. The Caretaker is a masterclass in how you say something being much more important than what you are saying. The raw musical notes are never enough. The Caretaker’s renditions become a story that you can get lost in. This particular tune is a warped rendition of George Olsen’s take on “Lullaby Of The Leaves,” which is one of my all-time favorite standards. However, I recommend Roy Smeck’s rendition if you want to hear it in its non-Caretaker form.
Meredith Willson, “Ya Got Trouble” Lucas: I definitely needed to include some form of show tune, or movie musical number, maybe something from an old Disney movie. I went with this because I’ve been obsessed with it since I recently rewatched The Music Man. I’ve always loved certain types of musical numbers, the way the characters leap out of the songs and drag you into a world that seems much bigger than the confines of a four-minute tune. Most of my tunes are written from a character’s perspective working through some (typically difficult) moment, and I think a lot of that comes directly from my early love for this kind of music. I find a real wealth of inspiration in old musicals and Disney films. This song creates such a ridiculously vivid portrait of a time and place that probably never even existed. Antiquated words and mannerisms and weird vocal rhythms charge my mind like a magnetic field. It’s a summertime, ragtime, boater-hatted monologue delivered by the devil himself, and every goddamn word of it is a lie, which doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
Enya, “Na Laitha Gael M’oige” Willo: Enya was always a big influence to my music, primarily due to the dreamlike qualities of her compositions and polyglottal lyricism. I chose “Na Laetha Gael M’oige” because it’s often stuck in my head. It’s a song that has been with me since childhood, and I still feel affected by it.
Clara Rockmore, Tchaikovsky’s “Berceuse” Willo: I became aware of Clara Rockmore’s pioneering work with the theremin in my 20s. I have always enjoyed learning more about obscure instruments, and although the theremin was known to me, it was before only in the context of noise and sci-fi soundscapes. Rockmore’s inventive techniques allowed for the passion of such emotive pieces as Tchaikovsky’s “Berceuse” to be fully realized on what was before simply a new and novel instrument, not worthy of respect from the world of classical music.
The Ex And Tom Cora, “Hidegen Fui Nak a Szelek” Willo: This song is an old, traditional Hungarian tune that I first heard performed by Hungarian folk band Muzikas. I love the original version to no end, but I chose this version because I really appreciate the way in which an old song was taken and conveyed through a more modern medium. I believe that the absorption and re-expression of traditions is key to cultural preservation and the maintaining of relevancy. I’ve endeavored to do this through my music, both by studying and learning traditional folk songs from many cultures and through using that knowledge and influence in the composition of original material.
Philip Glass, Einstein On The Beach Greg: I first was introduced to Philip Glass through the movie Koyannisqatsi and was hooked immediately. As a composition major in college, I was strongly discouraged by my professors to write in a minimalist style. I felt rebellious at the time, but I can now empathize with their sentiment. It is really really easy when writing “minimalism” to revert to sounding like Philip Glass. His music is all over the place and is so influential that it is has seeped into our collective musical unconscious. There are a million film composers who go for that sound and totally miss the point, composing “Philip Glass-ian” music that is just awful. Really, really awful. His music has strongly impacted my playing, writing and my thoughts about simplicity, repetition and personal style in music. This opera can hardly be described as “minimalist.” It is opera in the grandest and most complex form. The piece “Spaceship” tears through the depths of outer space at an unforgiving pace (the speed of light?), refusing to yield to anything that is put in front of it. “Knee Play 5” is the emotional climax of the opera. It brings together themes that have been developing through the course of the narrative in a way that hits me so hard every time I hear it.
Glenn Gould, Bach: The Goldberg Variations (1981) Greg: Classical music is generated through a curious collaboration between composers, who create with ink and paper an intellectual road map of their vision, and artists, who must interpret the notes and become the medium through which the composers’ vision takes form. Lots of ambiguities arise in this type of collaboration. What did the composer actually desire? How much artistic interpretation is too much? Should the artist stay true to the time period in which the piece was composed—or modernize it to help it be digested by an audience today? For me, this recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations is the ultimate and timeless synthesis of composer’s and performer’s visions. Bach’s melodies, rhythms, counterpoint and polyphony soothe the desires of my active intellectual mind enough to allow me to feel sweeping energetic waves of raw and primal emotion emerge from every cell in my body. Gould knows that Bach is creating dance music and perfectly executes and emotes the multiple layers that are going on in the written music. There are characters in this music who come in and out of focus, who dance with each other, who push off of each other, who twist and morph and change with the times. This story runs in parallel with Gould’s personal story: He made two recordings of the piece, one in 1955 as a young, fiery virtuoso and one in 1981 as a seasoned performer and recording artist. I have often found myself going to this recording first thing in the morning as a way for me to acquaint myself in a visceral way with the emotions and characters within me.
Tin Hat, “Old World” Greg: This is my perfect music for a wet and overcast Portland day: I’m sitting in my studio, looking out the window into the grayness and listening to the rain on the sidewalk accompany the melancholic and nostalgic tones of the violin and clarinet weave in and out of the subtle and steady fingerpicking of the guitar. This is the first song from the album that, for me, flows as one complete gesture. The group that started as a trio has been a huge inspiration in understanding how wide a sonic pallet can be created with just three acoustic instruments. My violin playing would not be the same without the hours I spent trying to sound like Carla Kihlstedt. Her tone is soft and delicate, and she plays with sounds and effects that are playful, whimsical and seem effortless.
*Repeat Repeat released Floral Canyon last year, and it’s our duty to make sure you’re aware before you put the finishing touches on your album-of-the-year list for 2017. When you’re done checking out the LP, we went ahead and picked the duo’s brains to create a mix tape of their favorite songs for you. Listen while you read along below.
Broncho, ”I Know You”
Broncho is the type of rarity band that puts out consistently great records. Their sound has evolved a bit from early punk garage to a more dreamy space garage. This song just feels like a long drive with the windows down. It’s equal parts grunge and chill at the same time.
Now, Now, ”SGL”
This song, in our minds, is the perfect pop song. There’s a kinetic energy throughout the track that’s so cool and groovy and isn’t trying too hard. When the bass kicks in at the chorus, it hits us right in the chest. Also Cacie’s vocals are so in-the-pocket and push just above the instruments with a subtly that lacks in so many pop songs right now.
Andy Shauf, ”Alexander All Alone”
This was the song that turned us on to Andy Shauf. We have a special place in our hearts for any song that has a spooky element to it, and the continuous piano/shaker combo turns the track into some ghost in the attic. We immediately fell in love with it. His record The Party is in Jared’s top 100 records of all time, and every track on it is absolutely perfect. Also he’s Canadian, which we can really get behind.
Mother Mother, ”Monkey Tree”
More Canadians! This is the only band Kristyn has ever literally fan-girled over. Mother Mother was a big inspiration in the beginnings of our band. And their older albums mix a level of intricate melodies and theatrics. On “Monkey Tree,” the band went straight down the middle and added an electro aspect to this single. We love it so much. The guy/girl vocals are so unique.
Dante Elephante, ”Never Trust A Junkie”
This band is out of California. There are a lot of bands doing the jangly lo-fi indie thing right now. These guys do it the right way. This song is just a ’50s-style chord progression played over and over again, and it’s just so fucking catchy.
Blake Mills, ”Hey Lover”
Jared’s parents did this thing where every girl in the family had a “K” name and every boy had a “J” name. I thought it was ridiculous. Until Jared met and fell in love with Kristyn and continued the tradition. When he heard the lyric “I want to raise with you, and watch our younglings hatch/Fuckin’ make the first letters of their first names match,” he was sold.
Charlotte Gainsbourg, ”Trick Pony”
We are obsessed with French pop and the Ye Ye Girls. Charlotte Gainsbourg is basically like the new wave of French pop. This album was produced by Beck, and this track specifically is so haunting and simple.
Cage The Elephant, ”Mess Around”
Sweetest humans. What a banger of a song.
The Raveonettes, ”Summer Ends”
The Raveonettes capture a dynamic that we try to emulate of often as possible. They add an element of film-noir style drama to every track on this record, and “Summer Ends” finds them creating a huge noise wall juxtaposed against incredibly washed-out vocals. It feels like you could listen to this song and literally watch the seasons change.
Jordan Klassen‘s Big Intruder (Nevado) is out now, and you should probably give it a listen before you finalize your best-albums-of-2017 list. When you’re done doing that, check out Klassen’s shiny new MAGNET mix tape, a playlist of songs selected for your listening pleasure, giving a little bit of insight into his favorite music. Check it out below.
Harry Nilsson, “Without Her”
When I was writing Big Intruder, I was really reflecting on the idea of the heritage of the “singer/songwriter.” Nilsson was a guy I had to keep coming back to during this process. He is a legend of a storyteller and a master of doing more with less. This song is a perfect example—just a bass carrying the rhythm, a cello playfully weaving around the melody, clear and concise lyrics that never feel stale.
Sufjan Stevens, “John My Beloved”
My life has been pretty happy lately—I get to write songs for a job, I’m a newlywed, and I love where I live and the community I have. For some reason, these are the times when I find myself drawn to sad songs. I think maybe when life is dark there’s just something too on the nose about them or something. “John My Beloved” is one of my favorite sad songs, and it’s in heavy rotation for me. It’s so honest and unsentimental and perfectly metaphorical. Stevens has this wonderful quality where he can be extremely specific and insider, but there always arises a supernatural ability for the listener to feel like they know exactly what he’s talking about.
Husky, “History’s Door”
I’m about to head out on a Europe tour with these guys, and it’s one of those occasions where I’m genuinely looking forward to getting to hear them every night. This summer, my wife and I went to Italy for a belated honeymoon, and I think this tune ended up being the anthem of our trip.
The Tourist Company, “Pedestals”
Full disclosure: This song may be cheating a bit because I actually produced this record and am pretty close pals with these guys. Regardless, this is an excellent pop tune, and the whole record gets regular play at my apartment. Taylor knows how to combine hooky sensibilities with weirdness, and he does it with ease. One of my favourite Vancouver bands for sure.
Kate Bush, “Wuthering Heights”
Another big inspiration behind Big Intruder, Kate Bush is a great example of a singer/songwriter who turns the genre a bit on its head—her songs are personal and honest but also really odd and jarring at times. Whenever I listen to “Wuthering Heights,” I never doubt its sincerity despite its weirdness. This is, I think, at the heart of what successful experimental art achieves. “Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy/I’ve come home, I’m so cold/Let me in through your window.” The story feels true but also other-worldly. Also, this is really perfect dance-alone-in-your-living-room music.
Gregory Alan Isakov, “Second Chances”
Of all the records I’ve dug into the past few years, this one has probably been played the most. The songwriting is really so wonderful. Isakov’s lyrics are convincing enough to punch you in the gut, and abstract enough to avoid ever feeling preachy. This track is a great example of this. “If it weren’t for second chances, we’d all be alone.” He’s the antagonist in the story, he’s the one expressing his need, and you want to come along and repent with him.
Low Roar, “Nobody Loves Me Like You”
These guys are on my label, and I’ve just been loving everything they’ve been doing. The songs are at the same time cozy and creepy, uneasy and seamless. At first glance, this track seems like a sweet love song, but when you dig into the story a little more, shit gets dark.
The Shades put out the Miles Made Of Inches EP earlier this year, and if you’re doing your MAGNET homework every night, you’d remember that we featured their sunny tune “Only For A Moment” a while back. Today, we’re bringing you a mix tape made by the band that gives some insight into the music that influenced the creation of their EP. So listen and read along below, and check out Miles Made Of Inches when you’re through.
Bernhoft, “Come Around” Phil: Bernhoft doesn’t travel to Chicago often, but when he does, you can nearly guarantee we’ll be in the audience singing along (in full harmony) throughout his set. He is without question one of the most gifted and creative artists of this generation. This tune’s feel-good vibe and catchy hook make it an excellent opening track for this mix tape. We were listening to a lot of Bernhoft at the time we recorded, and his influence on our overall sound is significant.
Lake Street Dive, “Seventeen” Andrew: If the crunchy opening guitar line doesn’t hook you, the first lyric definitely will: “Look at those eyes behind the trees,” Rachael Price sings, “don’t the highway sound like an ocean?” This is one of our favorite Lake Street Dive tunes because it’s so manic—featuring completely different tempos, as well as a male-and-female lead vocal throughout—it almost sounds like two songs in one. But that’s who Lake Street Dive is as a songwriting team: They force you to pay attention, by any means necessary.
Brandi Carlile, “The Eye” Mark: The three of us were heavy into Brandi Carlile at different points while writing and recording this record. What we love about this song, aside from the heart-achingly beautiful lyrics, is that it’s sung almost entirely in three-part harmony, start to finish.
Allen Stone, “Say So” Mark: This love song is as insanely catchy as it is simple. It’s the type of song that exudes joy and will leave you involuntarily grinning and tapping your feet (but, like, not in a creepy way). It’s a reminder to us, as songwriters, that not every lyric we write needs to carry some deeper meaning.
John Mayer, “Born And Raised” Phil: This record was definitely in rotation throughout the creation of our EP. “Born And Raised” is a song about growing older and coming to terms with where you are in life—with the hope that there’s still time to save face and become who you see yourself becoming. We love the way the verses are crafted, and supporting harmonies by David Crosby and Graham Nash are right up our alley in terms of vocal blend. It may have also inspired the Dylan-esqe harmonica featured on our album.
Johnnyswim, “Diamonds” Phil: Johnnyswim is another group we were inspired by while writing and recording our EP. The title track to the 2014 album Diamonds is an incredible arrangement. There may be no stronger vocal blend than that of husband and wife (well, except maybe for brother and brother), and we love the lyrical quality and instrumentation choices on this record.
Blind Faith, “Can’t Find My Way Home” Andrew: The truth is, a ton of classic music influenced our writing on Miles Made Of Inches, but it’s songs like this one—the not-quite-rock, not-quite-pop, not-quite-folk-or-country sound—that made us feel excited to put “Take You Home,” “Some & Others” and “The Path Without” on the same record. The deliberate, contemplative acoustic sound is really where the Shades started, and where we hope to continue to grow from.
Gabe Dixon Band, “Sirens” Mark: Really, any Gabe Dixon song could have made our mix tape. We’ve always been in awe of Gabe’s songwriting and piano virtuosity. And the mythological reference in this song to sirens—something so mesmerizing that you can’t help but return to again and again—really encapsulates our relationship to Gabe’s music. He has, and always will be, a huge influence to the Shades, lyrically and melodically. As a bonus, there’s some masterful harmony work happening here—particularly in the last chorus.
Chance The Rapper, “Blessings (Reprise)” Andrew: There are a million reasons to highlight who Chance The Rapper is as an artist, humanitarian and Chicagoan, but mainly, we felt strongly that the closing track for our mix tape should come from, well, an actual mix tape. A beautiful, poetic reminder to stay humble, hungry and ready. Because your blessing is coming.
We previously brought Wes Youssi to your attention with “Down Low.” Today we’re bringing the singer/songwriter back into your orbit with his specially curated new MAGNET mix tape. Listen and read along below, and be sure to check out Down Low in January.
George Jones & Tammy Wynette, “Livin’ On Easy Street”
Country is so many things, but it often comes back to similar subject matter. Love, loss and hitting the bottle too hard. One of the things I’ve always loved about this particular tune is that the focus is on a relatively new topic—“welfare”—and though I’m sure the songwriter was in a tough spot, the song makes you look at all the bright spots and humor of having to sacrifice for your art. “Living’ On Easy Street” always brightens my day, and I like that it’s a song that addresses circumstances in the present time and with symbology every listener is familiar with.
The Kinks, “Strange Effect”
Everybody has energy, but some people trigger a powerful, almost primitive attraction for us that can be hard to control. While it happens instantly, the feeling is very slow, almost like a drug. I have always loved the way this song conceptually ties that emotional attraction into such a simple tune.
Marty Stuart, “Paint The Town”
The thing I love about country music is that it’s deceptively simple. Often times our human emotions feel complex, but the circumstances are relatively simple when taking a step back to analyze. “Paint The Town” is a term from an older generation, but Marty lets us know how it feels today and why it will always be relevant to a man’s heart. The significance to Marty’s artistry lies in a firm foundation of the history of country music, and at the same time bringing new artistry, emotion and skill to people today. That makes his music extremely important to me. It’s like a lighthouse for those making new music today.
Doug Sahm, “Anybody Going To San Antone”
I have always loved lo-fi music because it feels more “raw.” By no means is Doug’s music considered lo-fi, but for whatever reason, his expression, vocal and presentation always brings the energy of a real honky-tonk bar to the stage. This song was made popular by Charlie Pride, and that version is amazing. What I love is that Doug was able to bring something different and carve out a fresh perspective within the same storyline. As a songwriter and performer, I love examples like this to remind me what is possible with a tune when it connects with an artist. I can feel the Texas air blowing when he describes the “wind whipping down the neck of my shirt.”
KORT, “She Came Around Last Night”
For me, this duo is the modern version of a what I believe the music industry used to produce. A combination of artistry, matched with thoughtful songs, and the experience and street time to earn their stripes. There is no pretense on this album, no nudie suits, just heartfelt stories sung by artists I can believe in. I keep this near at all times.
Harry Nilsson, “Let The Good Times Roll” Nilsson Schmilsson is an album everyone should own. The songs are great, the production level is best of class, and you get warm feelings after you finish listening. “Let The Good Times Roll” is just pure fun, and when Harry is singing you get a sense by his expression that he is long overdue for some. Simple songs can be undone, when the artist isn’t present in the emotion, so I love this song as an example of how great it can be when someone is in perfect synergy with the music.
Mississippi Fred McDowell, “White Lighting”
Mississippi Fred McDowell is country blues for me. His songs are straight from the heart. His playing is rhythmic, alive and expressive. But to the ear it seems simple (and gives your mind space). I feel like we’re given the real story about why one washes their troubled heart with “White Lighting.” No cute tales of making whiskey in the woods here, or quick hooks. This is the dark side of a heavy mind, and it’s both chilling and beautiful.
John Trudell, “Devil And Me”
I like artists who begin with the words and say what they truly feel. When they get backed into a corner in life, it’s powerful to feel with them through their words. John Trudell is an example how much power words can have. “Devil And Me” gets me lost, wandering and in and out of consciousness much like I feel the songwriter is. I like being in the same place or sharing the same mind for four minutes. This song is where mainstream music cannot go. I find the words to be a genuinely refreshing expression of one’s life in this country.
Reigning Sound, “As Long”
I first heard about Greg Cartwright from a double-disc album called Root Damage. It’s one of those “everyone must own this” albums. Before it was trendy, these guys were down in Memphis writing and singing genuine country and roots songs that feel like something Alan Lomax would have captured. I look for the heart in things, and there’s no shortage of it in this song. It’s raw, it’s straightforward, and for me it’s our country music.
Soledad Brothers, “Mysterious Ways”
When I lived in Detroit I went to see this band every time they played locally. To be in the same room with them was so good that it was practically spiritual. When I bought the album I quickly fell under the influence of “Mysterious Ways” for its tempo, blazing slide guitar and restless vocals. It captures those days where modern industrial life goes into slow motion, and you fall out of time, aware of both past and present histories at the same time. You get the feeling that you might get stuck forever, but the song rocks you back into cognition.
This Way To The Egress just released Onward! Up A Frightening Creek. While you’re getting acquainted with that record, it might behoove you to check out this mix tape, curated by Sarah Shown and Taylor Galassi, to get to know the band on an even deeper level. Read and listen/watch below.
Jain, “Makeba” Sarah: I love the fact that this really fresh, new, young artist has found a way to pay homage to such a monumental figure in music and civil rights. I like when I see an artist play a role in social consciousness, honoring musicians that have paved the way before us. Miriam Makeba has always been a woman I look up to and admire, and I think this was a great homage piece. I hope it introduces her to some folks who aren’t familiar. It is also a really great dance song.
The Dead Brothers, “St Dympha” Sarah: This song is a bit of a deliverance from the Dead Brothers’ typical haunting, death country vibe. Although I love their typical stuff, this song strikes a nerve. The harmonies and guitar parts are, at times, reminiscent of Paul Simon—whom I love. It is a spiritual song done by a band who usually embraces the dark side of humanity. It’s super pretty.
Honus Honus, “Heavy Jesus” Sarah: This song is super fun. Honus, in whatever incarnation he is releasing music under, always seems to blur the lines between completely bizarre and super catchy, poppy earworms. This song is a complete earworm, but I felt like I could totally relate. The only religion I have ever known is rock ‘n’ roll.
Duke Ellington, “Creole Love Call” Sarah: If I only had one song I could listen to the rest of my life, this would be it. It encompasses the absolute longing for life, love and tranquility that was present during that time. Musicianship of this era was seriously epic; there has been nothing like it since. Adelaide Hall’s vocals are everything, and the screaming clarinets and sopranos pull the last of my heart strings.
Tom Waits “Way Down In A Hole” Sarah: Tom Waits is by far my favorite artist and storyteller of my time. A friend of mine said to me once, “There are two people in this world Sarah: people who get Tom Waits and people who don’t.” Tom does such a good job in this song of reflecting intentions of the church—the fear of the devil with which many religions oppress folks—but in a completely sexy way. This song is like a whiskey on the rocks in a dank, smoking bar. It is neon lights and seedy underbellies.
Spike Jones & His City Slickers, “You Always Hurt The One You Love” Taylor: When I was growing up, my grandfather used to play old Spike Jones records on his stereo. Spike Jones was a jazz musician who decided he wanted to start doing renditions of old classics with car horns, gun shots, whistles, anvils, cow bells and the like. That morphed into Spike Jones & His City Slickers. They toured the world spreading their satirical arrangements of popular songs and classical music. They also composed songs based on the current events at the time, which was in the 1940s.
Vitas, “Opera #2” Taylor: Vitas is a Latvian singer who sings in Russian and Ukrainian. He is known for his unique head voice and boasts a five-octave vocal range. His live show consists of props, lavish costumes and dancers. I really enjoy this artist’s music. It’s completely different than any of the mainstream music you might hear, even in other countries. His popularity continues to grow. He has not yet toured in the U.S., but I’m sure that will change in the future. Give a listen to his other works, and check out his other videos. You won’t be sorry!
Ford Theatre Reunion, “Road Dogs” Taylor: Love this band and love this song. The chord progression, lyrics and musical changes just grab me. We know this band personally, and they’re out there doing it DIY style. Their live show is insanely energetic, complete with witty stage banter and unexpected musical time signatures. They’ve got a growing fan base in the Lexington, K.Y., music scene, and their sludgefunk circuspunk music is something you need to hear.
Death, “Scavenger Of Human Sorrow” Taylor: Whenever people ask me about my favorite music, I have to mention my death-metal roots from when I was younger. I was a drummer for many death-metal bands in my teens and early 20s, so I’ve still got that soft spot for that style. Death was a band that was lead by the late Chuck Schuldiner, “The Godfather Of Deathmetal.” His music changed the way people looked at death metal. These were not your run-of-the-mill guitar riffs. He utilized music theory and polyrhythmic styles that just weren’t being done as much at the time. I still listen to Death, and I continue to be impressed with the onslaught of guitar riffs, drumming skills and overall orchestrations of all the musicians involved.
Squirrel Nut Zippers, “Ghost Of Stephen Foster” Taylor: I’m pretty much in love with this band. They have been going on and off since 1993. A swing revival band formed by Jimbo Mathus. This song is filled with contagious melodies and gets you up out of your chair. You’re robbing yourself if you don’t go out and catch their live show!