Since it’s the summer, and the sun is seldom shining, I figured I’d do something different to try and encourage everyone to get outside; but also to offer a small gift to say thank you for a successful first two months, following constant support. As I write this, it is midday, and it’s pouring down with rain; it’s Saturday, so I imagine I have time on my side.
A mixtape is the best way, I’ve found (ignoring its uses in The Perks of Being a Wall-Flower), to convey emotions and a sense of being; to set a mood; to create a statement that only music can structure – where words alone fail. I myself have only ever created three previously, always at great strain and cost to make it ‘perfect’ and for the songs to flow from one to another, to blend into a fantastic entity.
This attempt proved to be no different. A fortnight into creating this blog, I had the idea of creating a mixtape as a way of getting across unique and undeniably captivating music, potentially exposing my readers to something they are not familiar with, but also to keep each entry different and enjoyable... Like the free Frisbee or whoopee cushion The Beano or Dandy used to give out. This idea, like my past efforts, took two months to complete amidst a lot of digression and frustration.
So, I began with the blueprint: the idea, the theme and the title. With summer anticipation and expectations in mind, I wanted the mixtape to have an American feel to it: a warm hazy summer night, drunk and outside, staring up at the stars – and I loved this concept. I loved the picture it produced in my head; what emotions it conjured up and what longing it left me with to experience this act; and the sensation to accompany. ‘Christ’, I thought, ‘If I am able to even come close to bringing this emotion close to the forefront of anyone’s heart, then they’ll be struck with someone significant and beautiful, and I’d rest easy’, that is, of course, if the heat doesn’t finally hit UK and we’re all left sweating on top of our duvets.
Following this, I came across an interesting photo with the phrase ‘Up all night, got demons to fight’ plastered on a female body, and it rolled off the tongue and rang in my ears for quite some time. It was perfect; fitting just right with the theme and feel of this isolating compilation. Thus, the cover was (stolen, and) born!
Next, the ground work: this involved extensively creating a list of apt artists and songs, pestering friends and generally putting out hairs on my head that stuck out. Trial and error; trial and error; trial and error. Thus leading to this final product. It includes some songs I’ve been mad about for years, and some, only several weeks, but nonetheless they seem to have come together and created a lovely and admirable compilation worthy of such a night imaginable.
Up All Night, Got Demons to Fight
Up All Night, Got Demons to Fight
1. Daughter – Landfill
An absolutely beautiful opener of a track, and sets the mood well; right with the content: isolating confusion matched only by talented strumming (easy now one-track minders) and well thought out chords (I could’ve said ‘finger placement’, but I thought twice). Listening to Daughter is always a pleasure for me and the live videos I’ve came across are really mesmerising – I end up lost in a daze. For an example, follow this link: Landfill.
2. Alcoa – Rilke
Alcoa is the folk side-project of Defeater frontman Derek Archambault, backed up by an army of a house band and strong following. He is yet to release a record under this act, but one is expected later this year – for the meantime, his MySpace demos have sent the music world into a frenzy of awe and I have found myself caught up in it all. ‘Rilke’ is my favourite of his demos, and find it to be so elegant and calming. I’m expecting big things in 2013!
3. The Bear Romantic – Sparrows
I know very, very little about The Bear Romantic, and believe it to be just one man with the musically ability, drive and (of course) talent of ten. This is a captivating piece of music and definitive mood setter.
4. Thrice – As the Crow Flies
Thrice, without a shadow of a doubt, can be considered musical greats, and then some. From strength to strength over the years, their sound and developed from scream angst to such splendid audio that one truly has to take their hat off – or buy a hat, put it on, and then take it off in respect. Their career has spanned over ten years and they’ve been able to showcase their progress from boys to men; ‘As the Crow Flies’ establishes the height (and perfection) they have achieved.
5. William Fitzsimmons – Please Forgive Me (Song of the Crow)
Unintentionally, there is some sort of aviation theme going on here. William Fitzsimmons has a fascinating past and captures it articulately within his records, often depicting heart-break and loss. A man whose voice does not suit his appearance at all (his bread is one of envy) but possess such vocals, they cannot be ignored and bad-mouthed. This song is off the record ‘The Sparrow and the Crow’, where I feel Fitzsimmons finally found his feet with mainstream music, adapting to a more complete and melodic sound: time well spent.
6. Maximilian Hecker – Cold Wind Blowing
A friend of mine posted a tweet about this gentleman, I YouTubed him and was instantly blown away. And this was only a month ago. This track of his stood out, which I found to be gentle and mysterious, and above all, a worthwhile addition. He possess such delicate vocals that it wouldn’t surprise me to see him become ‘bigger’ as the year goes on. Or at least one would hope.
7. Bon Iver – Holocene
Over the past two years, Bon Iver has grabbed the critics by their throats and gained such acclaim and success, that it’s virtually impossible for the act to make a wrong move; whatever they do is thus treated as gold. The self-titled sophomore record is one of wonder that is a marvellous listen time and time again.
8. Bad Books – I Begged You Everything
This is a very peaceful song, created by some of my favourite modern day musicians. Here, Andy Hull takes centre stage and spills his guts over a slow acoustic piece. Quite possibly one of the best music collaborations to date, and with Bad Books II shortly to be realised, I can see Bad Books in hot demand, and featuring endlessly on TV drama soundtracks for when the goodie gets shot or something equally distressing.
9. Ben Howard – Gracious
Ben bloody Howard. Who in the UK has not heard of this man; forever filling the air waves with his infectious music and stealing the hearts of all our women. This is why...
10. James Vincent McMorrow – Follow You Down to the Red Oak Tree
Midway through the mixtape, McMorrow acts as a perfect bridge. Another man that I know very little about, but often find it name cluttering up my social network feeds. A solemn sole that steers clear from the ‘norm’ and creates a unique portrayal of everyday being. McMorrow provides very easy and inspiring music for any given moment: you can rise and you can fall with his voice.
11. Bon Iver – Michicant
I had trouble deciding which Bon Iver song to include for this mixtape, so I ended up, after a long fight and listening bout, doing a Garden State and included both.
12. Girls – Hellhole Ratrace
Melancholy to the bone! Girls truly are phenomenal. The music video alone to this song is captivating and really helps sum up the ideals I am attempting to create with this mixtape – the picturesque summer night, only to be topped off by the haunting “Sometimes you gotta’ change for yourself, but sometimes, darlin’, you just need someone else”, we’re left yet again questioning our current state – now (hopefully) eager to move. To view their fantastic debut music video, click on this link: Hellhole Ratrace.
13. The Republic of Wolves – Calm Down
14. Right Away, Great Captain! – I Wait For You
Andy Hull (John Andrew Hull) of Manchester Orchestra has his hand in just about every pie, and best of all, they all taste exquisite. At such a young age of 26, he already has achieved so much and in such a beautiful way, he is (as many fans like to put it) a God. ‘I Wait For You’ is off his recently released record, The Church of the Good Thief, providing the notion that his work will only get better.
15. Envy on the Coast – Lapse
The mixtape takes a slight turn now here, and progresses to a more constant electric guitar sound; something I am personally more in favour of with soft, emotional songs. There truly is something in the Long Island water that helps their musicians come out with some powerful, heart-warming and beautiful songs (perhaps Jay Gatsby’s blood). Lyrically, this is up there with the greats and I often relate back to this on as inspiration.
16. Keaton Henson – Flesh and Bone
One way sharing his pain through his guitar pick-ups: I easily consider Keaton the most under-rated singer-songwriter to emerge in the last twenty, thirty, or even forty years from the UK. He truly is heart-wrenching in such a solemnly beautiful way. I have been an avid fan of this man for years, from his artwork, now to his music. This song blends perfectly into the end of this mixtape.
17. Brand New – aloC-acoC
"Sometimes you write a song and it doesn't even feel like you wrote it [...] the words are just somehow right in this song", Lacey stated before playing this song at an intimate acoustic gig. It feels as if there is a lexical gap with regards to this song, there simply seems to be no English word to describe it. The lyrics are some of the best I have come by, ripe with subtle references and meaningful images. I consider this my favourite song ever made.
18. Crime in Stereo – Dark Island City
Deep and simple... I first heard this song whilst biking in pitch black one night home from work and it struck me like lightening how moving the music was, how mellow and calming, and yet how the concise lyrics hit you, and created a vivid image to welcome a soft-spot. The siren-esque guitar sound at the end is a fitting finale – if you did drift off whilst searching the stars, this should hopefully wake oneself up, only to enjoy the music once more.
Just remember what George Orwell made Bozo say in Down and Out in Paris and France: “The stars are a free show; it don’t cost anything to use your eyes”.