Good evening and welcome to the second installment of Mixtape Mondays – this week featuring…
In the Red (Medicine) corner – the author of the website you are currently reading and the person typing this; Ben Gallivan. And in the blue corner, Mr Joe O’Connell - a gentleman who I have probably met but neither of us are quite sure where or when.
Sadly, Joe and I went down the Dropbox route, so there are no official playlists for you to click on, but if you see something you fancy, there’s pretty much a guarantee that it’ll be on the internet somewhere in some shape or form.
Let battle commence!
Here’s what Ben thought of Joe’s mix…
‘Bite’ – Tera Melos
I’ve been seeing a lot about Tera Melos of late – mainly due to the fact they’re playing Cardiff this week (editor’s note – I wrote this a week before Tera Melos played Clwb Ifor Bach, which is why it doesn’t make much sense), but I’ve never got around to listening to them. Thank heavens for Mixtape Mondays then, as this is one of the best songs I’ve heard in a long time. It comes with an equally amazing (if not slightly scarily freaky) video. Not sure how to describe either accurately though – all I know is that I am now going to said gig if I can get my hands on a ticket. Wonderfully bass-driven riff, psychedelic chorus – totally my kind of thing.
‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ – Rival Schools
Another band I’ve always meant to check out (yes, the height of laziness given that they’ve been going for 15 years). Even stranger that I haven’t listened given that I’ve always said they’ve got the best band name ever. It turns out – listening to this track – that I have inadvertently checked them out as I’ve definitely heard this before. Nice bit of straightforward poppy hardcore, straight from the 6 Music playlist. Not the best song called ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ though, that accolade belongs to this.
‘Lariat’ – Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
Ah, now I know this one. I know it very well, despite it only being out a few months, mainly because it’s barely been out of my CD player (yes, CD player) since it came out. A bit of a return to form for the boy Malkmus and he’s as lyrically brilliant as ever (“We lived on Tennyson and venison and the Grateful Dead”). I’ve missed that quirky bastard – so much so that once I’ve finished this mixtape, I’m going to plough through my Pavement back catalogue; so that’s the next fortnight sorted out.
‘Melody Has Big Plans’ – Gnarwolves
Gnarwolves – another band about to play a Cardiff show. I notice a pattern. I won’t be going to see this one though. The thing with the Dropbox mixtape is that it’s not certain which order the songs are meant to be in, but having this one following …The Jicks is certainly a wake up call. I have a problem with this sort of stuff – thrashy hardcore is all very well and good but the vocals sound like they could be a million other ‘emo-core’ bands out there. Not very memorable.
‘Middle East 17’ – Axes
Joe and I probably have very similar music collections – this is another one that I have and I actually have Connor Cupples to thank for it as he recommended it to me at a record fair. Great title and the music is right up my street – kind of like the music Minus The Bear were doing at their best and without the sometimes whiny vocals that they produced from time to time.
‘Play Jazz’ – Nice Hooves
See, now this is exactly what I was talking about. I simply can’t tell this apart from the Gnarwolves track in terms of shouty/screamy/song structure. There is one man who can make a song like this his own and that’s Mike Patton – sadly, he’s nowhere to be seen here. I might have put some Death Pedals on Joe’s tape (not 100% sure) but there’s something different about them – melody, I think.
‘The Six Fingered Hand’ – Jamie Lenman
Ah, Jamie Lenman. The name just conjours up a tortured, gentle acoustic genius, roll-up hanging out of his mouth as he mourns the loss of his love over a tear-encrusted tumbler of single malt. Not a fucking bit of it; this is possibly the most violent man called Jamie in music. Never heard anything by him before, but it’s definitely someone I’ll check out more of. By far the heaviest thing on the mixtape so far, and probably not to be outdone. Let’s see shall we?
‘Spinning Thread’ – Into It. Over It.
Definitely not this one anyway. This is US college rock circa 2000 – so I was quite surprised that it only came out around 6 months ago. It is basically a mirror image of a band I used to love back in the day called American Football (Polyvinyl Records specialised in having all of the bands on their roster sounding pretty much the same). But the fact is, I used to love it – I find that it’s dated badly now, so the fact that Into It. Over It. are still churning out stuff like this is a little surprising.
‘You Don’t Turn Down’ – Marnie Stern
The Breeders! Belly! Veruca Salt! What do those names say to you? Well, they’re all great obviously, and Marnie Stern appear to be in much the same vein. Maybe a little bit more quirky and seemingly a little more dance influenced (judged purely on this song, I might be spouting bullshit), but I like what I’m hearing. Definitely another one to add to the list of ‘bands that I should have checked out years ago’. It’s getting to be quite a long list.
‘In The Mire’ – Stallone
Haha, I notice that Joe likes his shouty hardcore. Here’s some more. Somehow managing to take the vocal style of Jamie Lenman and the music of Nice Hooves and melding them together and somehow making them not as good as either. Perhaps it’s just me, but I think this sort of stuff belongs somewhere around the turn of the century because there’s not an awful lot of it that sounds fresh anymore.
A mixed bag then! Some of the stuff I knew, most of it I didn’t – and of the stuff that I didn’t, there’s certainly a few bands there that I’m going to check out more of. The stand-out track was definitely Tera Melos’ – not to say that it was all downhill from there, but just that it was so good that it was going to be difficult to beat it. As far as I know, I don’t know Joe either, but it was never the plan to swap music with your mates – you can do that all day long on Facebook and Twitter.
Definitely a few skippable tracks, but a resounding 7/10 – 5 of those for Tera Melos alone.
Here’s what Joe thought of Ben’s mix…
Thee Faction – ‘Better Than Wages’
I’m currently completing a PhD thesis on political pop in opposition to the Thatcher government, so I could probably write an essay about this song. I’m not going to do that (not here, anyway), but I will propose that it says quite a lot about the potential for political rock in this day and age. In 1984 most music fans at least knew who Crass and Billy Bragg were, but in 2014 I’ve never heard of Thee Faction. While this isn’t really my thing – both musically and in terms of how ‘right on’ it is – I do have huge admiration for their standing up and being counted. Are there more people like this who are flying below the radar? And if so, why are they flying below the radar? Lots of people have political opinions so why are they not reflected in their musical consumption? Big questions which do have answers if we think long and hard about them.
Y Pencadlys – ‘Mae Pawb Yn Haeddu Glaw Yn Waeth Na Fi’
When this list came through I saw Y Pencadlys and thought to myself ‘oh yeah, I’ve never got around to listening to him.’ Then as soon as this song started I realised I have actually listened to it before. As a non-Welsh speaker I have no idea what is being sung (whack the title into Google translate if you’re in the same boat, it’s amazing in English), but I do know that it’s a superb piece of post-punk influenced, depressive synth-pop. Plus it’s on Peski, who have probably never put out a bad record.
The Julie Ruin – ‘Oh Come On’
Yes, yes, yes, this is amazing. Despite an inclination that I would probably quite like them, I’ve never properly listened to Kathleen Hanna’s previous groups (Bikini Kill and Le Tigre), and I probably won’t for a while yet because I’ll be too busy listening to this album. I love its indecipherable lyrics, sugar-sweet backing vocals and the feeling that every member of the band is playing with a curled lip and a scowl. I love the disdainful tone of the title. I love everything about it.
The Wave Pictures – ‘Eskimo Kiss’
As a semi-regular listener to Marc Riley’s BBC 6Music show, I’m vaguely aware of the Wave Pictures (he’s always banging on about them) but, and you may begin to see a theme developing here, I’ve never checked them out. I quite like this song, in particular for the fact that the solo comes after the first chorus, and also for the lyrics, which feel ‘real’ in the sense that I understand them as the recollection of an actual relationship of the singer.
Mates of State – ‘Fraud in the ’80s’
This song is pleasant enough, but I’m afraid it kind of passes me by without provoking an extreme reaction either way. I suppose this is a positive response in a sense: generally, music with even a hint of twee sends me searching for the stop/skip/off button. The squarey synth sound is probably its saving grace in this regard.
Aloha – ‘They See Rocks’
I like this one a lot. It reminds me a bit of Ben Folds (if his chirpiness was replaced with serial killer tendencies), but that’s all I can dredge up in the comparisons department. There’s a creeping sense of unease throughout – I’d imagine that some people would find it unlistenable in this regard – which holds the ear in the hope that it will reach some kind of satisfactory cadence. It does not. Plus, it’s not often enough that one hears jazz marimba taking centre stage in atmospheric post-rock (a frequent complaint of any music fan, I’m sure.)
Kizzy Crawford – ‘Caer O Feddyliau’
This was a great surprise. I must admit that the little I’d heard of this widely-appreciated singer-songwriter had left me feeling rather cold, but this is really exciting. Again, the lyrics are a mystery to me, but musically there is some really interesting stuff going on, particularly in terms of instrumentation. If she were to pair up with a shit-hot producer I think we would have some seriously high quality records on our hands.
El Guapo – ‘Ocean and Sky’
Another cool as fuck song. Clattering percussion, deep and dirty guitar work and hooky vocal phrases. I must admit that I’m surprised to discover it was released on Dischord, but all that does is further cement their status as one of the best record labels, like, ever.
TRAAMS – ‘Head Roll’
I’m not averse to long songs: Deafheaven’s ‘Dream House’ was my favourite track of 2013 and may prove to be one of my favourite songs ever. But where ‘Dream House’ needs its 9+ minutes, ‘Head Roll’ feels like it could have made do with 3 and a half at most, rather than the 7 it uses to reach its conclusion. Which is shame, because the verses and chorus are really cool, but the jam which follows them is, to me, a very wide blank space. In fairness they probably do more with it in the live arena, but on record it’s a bit much.
Death Pedals – ‘Apone’
YEAAAH! I want to join this band! I’ve seen the name around but – guess what folks? – hadn’t checked them out until now. It’s always good to hear a raucous punk band who are unafraid of (and I’m talking musically here because surely no one knows what the guy is shouting about) a positive chorus, but the verses are so god damn pissed off they make you want to down a beer and shout ‘YEAH MAN’ in support of whatever it is he’s all frothy about, even though you don’t have the faintest clue as to what you’re supporting.
This has been a pretty solid soundtrack in my car over the last couple of weeks. Sometimes it soothed my road rage. Others it did not (I blame Death Pedals for that.) Every time it encouraged head bobbing and beard stroking. 8/10
Fave track: ‘Oh Come On’ by The Julie Ruin