Category Archives: MIX TAPE

Jesse Payne Make MAGNET A Mix Tape

JessePayne

Jesse Payne is commemorating the release of new full-length record Heirloom by making a mix tape for MAGNET. This hard-working singer/songwriter has been so kind as to handpick 12 of his favorite songs that influenced the writing of his latest LP. Check it out below, and don’t forget to give Heirloom a listen.

Sun Kil Moon “Salvador Sanchez”
Mark Kozelek’s voice is one that seems to bring me home every time I hear it. From the Red House Painters to his solo stuff, it all blows my mind. Sun Kil Moon album Ghosts Of The Great Highway has influenced my music heavily through the years. The song “Salvador Sanchez” is one of those that I listen to on repeat. Video

Duquette Johnston “Dancing Song”
Not only is Duq a great songwriter/musician, but he’s a good friend from my hometown. I’ve been a fan of his since before I knew him. His album Rabbit Runs A Destiny is a flawless piece of art. “Dancing Song” takes me to a peaceful place. I think the best way to listen to this album is on vinyl through headphones. Absolutely beautiful! Video

Helvetia “Old New Bicycle”
In 2011, while on tour for the Buffalo EP, Thomas Warren introduced me to Helvetia’s music. Their vibe is like no other. Their sound is chill with sharp teeth. We listened to their album The Acrobats for the entire tour. I’ve since gone back and dug through their catalogue. Really great stuff! “Old New Bicycle” is one of my favorite songs of theirs. Video

Joe Fletcher “Ambulances”
We’ve been fortunate enough through the last few years to play some shows with this amazing wordsmith. The first time I met him, we both opened for great songwriter Leslie Sisson. I fell in love with his sound. I am truly honored to call this man a friend. Whenever I get the opportunity to see him perform, I take it. “Ambulances” is a song that I cannot get enough of. It’s edgy, yet vulnerable. He just recently released his latest album, You’ve Got The Wrong Man. Great songs, great vibe, check it out! Video

The Middle East “The Darkest Side”
I came across their Recordings of The Middle East EP in late 2010. I immediately fell in love with their songs and sound. “The Darkest Side” has some of the most beautiful melodies I have ever heard. Video

Junip “Chickens”
José González is a songwriter who has the ability to transport me to worlds unknown. I first started listening to him when he released In Our Nature. That led me to finding the band he plays with, Junip. Whenever I’m in need of a mental vacation, I escape with the song “Chickens.” Video

Akron/Family “Many Ghosts”
This band has such a range musically. Their lyrics and harmonies are beautiful and their music is absolutely brilliant. The hypnotic nature of “Many Ghosts” keeps me coming back for repeated listening. Video

Jesse Woods “Gold In The Air”
A while back, I read an article on this guy who covered the Neon Indian song “Mind, Drips.” I downloaded the song after finishing the article and ended up buying everything he had released up to that point. He then released his second full-length album, Get Your Burdens Lifted, in 2013. It contains an LP version of one of my favorite songs he does, “Gold In The Air.” Truly fantastic! Video

Nick Drake “Road”
I equate Nick Drake’s album Pink Moon to Leaves Of Grass by Walt Whitman. I return to them both annually for a spiritual cleansing. The song “Road” fills my mind with hopeful anticipation. Video

Megafaun “Where We Belong”
While on tour in 2010, my friends at Team Clermont introduced me to Megafaun’s music. I immediately became a huge fan. The songs on Bury The Square spoke to me. I couldn’t stop listening. The music, lyrics and harmonies are gorgeous. Video

A.A. Bondy “Killed Myself When I Was Young”
I have been a huge Bondy fan ever since I heard him with Verbena. When he released American Hearts, I couldn’t stop listening to it. I had the chance to catch a show while he was touring for this album. To date, it is still the best show I have ever seen. It was to a sold-out crowd at Bottletree in Birmingham, Ala. He was alone onstage with his guitar and harmonica beneath a single spotlight. You could have heard a pin drop. He performed the entire album. Every time I hear “Killed Myself When I Was Young,” it’s like I’m hearing it for the first time. Video

Wilco “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot destroyed every thought that I had ever had. Everything that I thought about music was different. Everything that I thought about love had changed, and every thought that I had about life was wrong. I didn’t know if I hated it or loved it, but I knew, after the first time I heard it, that everything had changed. “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” was the track that began my new journey. It is impossible for me to imagine my life without the music of Wilco. Video

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Stevie B. Wolf Makes MAGNET A Mix Tape

StevieBWolf

Singer/songwriter Stevie B. Wolf is working up to the release of his new EP, Alone+Alive (which features the bombastic “Nothing But A Name”), with a specially curated MAGNET mix tape. Alone+Alive won’t be out until November 6, but Wolf has provided eight song recommendations to help kill the time. Check it out below.

In true Stevie form, I’m making this playlist the night before it’s due. Because I’m bad at planning, and I’m always very self-conscious when it comes to any sort of verbal or typed expression, I tend to procrastinate. But fear not, this playlist is going to be sick. I just finished watching Almost Famous for what must be the 203rd time, so let’s make something that screams with growing up, love of music and broken dreams.

Fun. “I Wanna Be The One”
OK, I know when you think “rock,” fun. doesn’t come up. But I’m a huge fun. fan. Like, insanely huge. And not, like some of you, since The Format. To hell with The Format. I picked up Aim And Ignite back in 2009, and it’s never failed me. It’s been there for me when I was sick of British food in Oxford, when I heard myself say “I love you” over the phone for the first time and when I decided to dye my hair silver (so, like, three days ago). While this entire album is stunning sapphire smile sex, this track never gets any credit. But as a songwriter, I definitely want to be the one to put it in a song. So let’s kick off this playlist with an overly optimistic love song. Video

Butch Walker “Afraid Of Ghosts”
There aren’t many artists who can produce Katy Perry, Bowling For Soup and Taylor Swift, and then put out their own music that still has character. This song has a beautiful lilting honesty that few songwriters know how to serve up. Butch will break you down and build you back up. Video

Simon & Garfunkel “America”
If you don’t love this song, we’re not friends. For some reason, Simon & Garfunkel will always mean isolation to me. I don’t know why, but I just can’t listen to them with friends around me—I need to go hide away in my own space and listen to them in my own stark, beautifully lonely world. So let’s all pack our bags and crawl into our hearts and desperately search for America. Video

Big Star “Feel”
And now that we’ve realized that the American dream is sedated, if not dead, we crawl out of our hideaways and rock the hell out to one of the best bands in history that never got rich or famous. I’ll be honest, I have no idea what this song is about, because I’m too busy rocking the fuck out. Video

Tobias Jesso Jr. “Hollywood”
I desperately want to have musical sex with Tobias Jesso Jr. Come on T, let’s put on some ‘70s jams and slip into something a little more comfortable (maybe a slow blues?), before doing the wacky sort of stuff that most people only hear about in hushed tones over too many glasses of wine. And then we’ll record it and put it on Spotify and get paid absolutely no money for it. But until that happens, I guess I’ll just have to listen to how bummed Tobias was in L.A. Video

Elton John “Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters”
If I ever write lyrics like those in this song, please shoot me, because it will mean I’ve achieved a state of pure nirvana. Bernie Taupin paints a fabulous portrait of the insanity of New York society, the heartless juxtaposition of the uber wealthy alongside the homeless. Apparently, Taupin hated NYC when he visited, and his lyrics critique everything about this “trash can dream” of a city. And goddamn if this song isn’t fun to sing along to. Video

Billy Idol “Mony Mony”
Okay, time to kick it up. The day after Billy Idol covered Tommy James And The Shondells, he climbed to the top of the Empire State Building and shot laser beams with his eyes at Richard Nixon, who had then become an evil lizard creature with wings who was terrorizing the city. In the end, the two reconciled over tea and biscotti, and New York was saved yet again from the brink of destruction. Or at least, that could have happened. I don’t know; I wasn’t alive. Anyway, here’s Billy Idol rocking in a black leotard. Mony mony, indeed. This is the live version, which features the best moment in filmed music history at 2:25. Video

Elton John “Tiny Dancer”
I’m getting sleepy now, and I can only have my heart broken and then put back together so many times. So let’s wrap up this playlist with one of the most beautiful love songs ever, a tune that you and your non-existent kids and your grandma and your mechanic and your mom’s childhood boyfriend’s drug dealer and your president and your crush can all get together and sing. This song makes me feel feelings that can neither be described as joy nor sorrow. It’s a song that’s in me, always with me, dancing in my hand. Now let’s all go lay down in sheets of linen. Video

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Diego Davidenko Makes MAGNET A Mix Tape

DiegoDavidenko

Folk artist Diego Davidenko is gearing up to release his new, Kickstarter-funded record It Isn’t Home on August 28. To celebrate, Davidenko was nice enough to put together a mix tape for MAGNET, which you can check out below.

Kyle Adem “Paint”
This gentle and earnest song from Kyle Adem’s album The Living Room Takes brings a lump to my throat every time I hear it.  This song feels to me like a hug when I’m sad, saying, “Yeah, you’re sad, but it’s OK.” Video

Lisa Germano “Bad Attitude”
I love Lisa’s voice, especially in this song, and the lyrics perfectly describe how I’ve felt many times in my life when the world is a big joke on me. Video

Embrace “Free Ride”
I first heard this song in the movie Permanent Midnight. It’s patient and fluid in a way that traps me in its mood. The lyrics describe a self-indulgence that’s somehow justified by the prettiness of the song. Video

Bright Eyes “A Song To Pass The Time”
Bright Eyes has been an enormous influence on me in many ways. There are too many songs of theirs that I love to choose a favorite. “A Song To Pass The Time” is the first song of theirs I ever heard, and it had an immediate impact on me personally and in my songwriting. Video

Arvo Pärt “Spiegel Im Spiegel”
This is a composition rather than a song, but I put it on here because I think it’s one of the most perfect musical expressions I’ve ever heard. It seems to solidify a particular feeling of calm longing into a soothing crystal. Video

Beck “Hollow Log”
This song was my introduction to Beck back in the mid-’90s, around when I first started writing songs. In the midst of a lot of what I was hearing back then, this track showed me how simple a song can be and still carry the full weight of expressing a experience in a meaningful way. Video

Blonde Redhead “For The Damaged”
This song reminds me of how fragile feelings or life can be. Kazu Makino’s voice rides the fine line between strong, expressive and delicate, conceding. Mixed so smoothly with the guitar and the piano, her singing lulls me into a calmness that the song respects until the end, leaving me sad but satisfied. Video

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The Jet Age Makes MAGNET A Mix Tape

TheJetAge

The Jet Age is about to release new record Destroy. Rebuild., featuring rough, boisterous track “It Cuts Both Ways.” Frontman Eric Tischler was nice enough to put together a summer-driving-themed mix tape for MAGNET, which can be perused below. Destroy. Rebuild. is out August 28.

“It’s summer, and as I chauffeur my kids to and from camps in the sticks, I need me some driving tunes. My choices forthwith.”

The Wedding Present “Sticky”
We’re celebrating the release of Destroy. Rebuild. by performing at the At The Edge Of The Sea festival, which is curated by long-time friends and occasional tour mates the Wedding Present. I don’t know of a band with more great songs in their catalog than TWP, but here’s why I chose this one: Listen to the intro and then tell me what the speed limit is. Video

Joanna Gruesome “Last Year”
When making a record, I tend to avoid listening to new music, so I waited to pick this one up until we finished. Now my kids actually do hear this wonderful, alternately driving and cruising rocker just about every morning. Oh, those riffs, those drums, that accent! Video

Swervedriver “Last Rites”
Remember that thing I said about not listening to new music while making a record? That rule could not possibly apply to Swervedriver, who released their first new record in 18 years as we were finishing ours, and it’s a(nother) masterpiece. Adam Franklin was kind enough to add harmonies to a track on our last record (alongside Ride’s Mark Gardener!), so it’s probably not surprising that, after I heard this record, I was inspired to run back and add a bunch of harmonies to Destroy. Video

Steve Gunn “Way Out Weather”
This CD got a lot of play during soccer season, and this track is an excellent, beautiful come down once you’ve reached cruising speed. It took me a weirdly long time to figure out how to drum along to this on the steering wheel; maybe that’s why I’m the guitar player. Video

The Verlaines “Mission Of Love”
In my record collection, before there was the Wedding Present there was New Zealand’s the Verlaines. Both bands traffic in brilliant, driving guitar pop but, while the Platonic, less-is-more approach of TWP’s melodies ultimately spoke more clearly to my songwriting nature, I’ve never lost my mad respect for—or love of—Graeme Downes’ lyrically and structurally ornate songs, like this rocker, which was made for rolling the windows down. Video

David Kilgour “Lose Myself In Sound”
Speaking of the Platonic idea of guitar pop, and brilliant New Zealand songsmiths, and people who’ve been making great records for many years—crikey, it’s like I planned this!—here’s a great choogler from the brilliant David Kilgour’s most recent record. The Clean (David’s first band) are phenomenal live, but his solo records are usually equally brilliant, as was End Times Undone. Video

Thee Oh Sees “Lupine Ossuary”
This is from another record I had to wait to purchase until we’d finished Destroy, and thank God I waited, because I would’ve ripped this fuzz juggernaut off shamelessly (not to say well) over and over again. “Lupine Ossuary” is usually blaring during pick up or drop off. Other parents, you will thank me when your children grow up to be free-thinking visionaries. Video

The Who “Naked Eye”
One of my favorite songs by The World’s Greatest Rock Band. I know it might upset you to hear that, but that uncomfortable feeling you’re having is called The Truth. Beautiful, moody, atmospheric, gently heavy, and the guitar solo on the outro is just so right on. Perfect for when you slowly roll into the driveway, home, safe and sound. It all looks fine to the Naked Eye, and if it doesn’t, just take this mix tape for another spin. Video

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Digital Leather Makes MAGNET A Mix Tape

DigitalLeather

Digital Leather’s music is as dark and blunt as Joy Division’s, just way more fun to listen to. The recently released All Faded is anchored by earworm synth lines and very forward lyrical refrains (“Drug abuse is good, don’t listen to what they say”). The band has been so kind as to create a mix tape for MAGNET, full of songs that helped inspire the creation of All Faded. Check it out below.

Front 242 “Operating Tracks”
I’ve been on a Front 242 binge all week, and the only way I’m probably going to get over it is to write about it a little bit. Their music seems to be overlooked today (unless you’re a douchey raver Euro-bro), but if it wasn’t for them, synth music might have flat lined after new wave. This is one of Front 242’s first singles, and the video is sweet. It’s basically just a dude doing a freaky EBM dance under some grid lighting. The lyrics don’t make a lot of sense, but the overall sound of the song resonates, unless you just hate this kind of music. I’ve always liked Front 242, and I’m pretty sure I’ve stolen a thing or two from them in the past. The Belgian industrial is movement is over. There are a few groups trying to keep it going. Good for them. The new Digital Leather record sounds nothing like this song. Video

Front 242 “Tragedy For You”
Their love song. It’s bleak and hopeless, and I relate. It’s got a bunch of silly samples and stuff, but that’s what the ‘80s industrial scene was like, I guess: challenging ideas of what music is and can be. In typical Front 242 fashion, the video makes zero sense, but is still great. It’s so cool how into their own music they are in this video. I like how he describes losing his lover as “feeling disemboweled.” Ouch. This is the kind of lyrical plateau I aspire to. Video

Front 242 “Skin”
‘90s Front 242. Not EBM at all. Definitely acid robot, though. There’s a lot of abstraction going on in this song/record (Fuck Up Evil). Creating a shadow world over a four-to-the-floor 909 beat was a pretty brave move in my opinion. Front 242 had always been dark, but here they’re opaque. I really love this stage for the group. If I ever lose the desire to do new, original stuff, I’ll just rip it off completely. Video

Front 242 “Headhunter”
Probably the most-known Front 242 song. It’s from their 1988 record Front By Front. Just before their acid robot phase. It’s about a mercenary who has to hunt down this genius guy for a clandestine corporation. I try to be this disconnected in my writing, but always fail. The music fits the subject, too. It’s just the coolest, coldest thing ever. Video is pretty low budget and even though I don’t get it, I like it. Something to do with a giant egg. Video

S.M. Nurse “Hot Day in Istanbul”
I don’t know a whole lot about this band except it’s old, lo-fi, weird and synthy. Apparently, this is their hit, and I’m liking the hell out of it lately. Video

Black Bug “Push You”
This Swedish project started a few years ago and has been consistently excellent. I played with them a few times in Europe and was blown away. I did vocals for this particular track, and the video is terrific. The single just came out on Avant! Records. Video

The Units “High Pressure Days”
San Francisco band from the ‘70s/‘80s. These guys ushered in new wave as much as Devo. The Moog is so beautiful that you almost forget this album is punk! Video

Grauzone “Eisbar”
This is maybe the perfect cold-wave song, since it’s about a polar bear. It sounds so understated. Video

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Broke Royals Make MAGNET A Mix Tape

BrokeRoyals

D.C.’s synth-rock Broke Royals are composed of Philip Basnight and Colin Cross, who have only been playing music together since 2014 but are already gearing up to release their second EP, The Luxury Of Time Pt. II, on August 7. Give a listen to Basnight’s summer-themed MAGNET Mix Tape.

Duke Dumont “I Got U”
Certain songs seem to vanish during the cold winter months only to reemerge twice as strong again in the summer. This is just that kind of song. From the first hit of those Caribbean-style synth stabs, this song just floats along like a summer breeze. It’s perfect for lying out on the beach or sitting at your desk pretending you were on vacation. Even better, it’s a dance song about monogamy, which makes it quite the rarity. The GoPro video is a fun summer montage. Video

The Very Best “Yoshua Alikuti”
One of my all-time favorite summer jamz. This song comes from the Very Bests’ album MTMTMK, which is an abbreviation for “More To Malawi Than Madonna’s Kids.” These guys are reckless innovators who wanted to show the world their home country, Malawi, was not just the place where Madonna’s children were born. The result is euphoric and proves that the groove is a universal language. Video

Jamie xx “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”
Jamie xx mentioned recently in an interview that he had a number of rappers contribute verses for this song and ended up splicing together his favorite verses from only two rappers: Young Thug and Popcaan. Young Thug is at the epicenter of atonal hip-hop in 2015, while Popcaan is a well-respected, but widely overlooked, dancehall prince. Leave it to Jamie xx to bring the two together in perfect harmony. This song is further proof that Jamie can’t be pinned to a genre but he can combine elements better than any of his peers. Video

LCD Soundsystem “North American Scum”
LCD Soundsystem is one of my favorite bands of all time, so I try to work them into as many playlists as possible. This song perfect for a summer day that has you feeling restless and hot. It’s aggravated and sardonic but, ultimately, goofy and made for dancing—like James Murphy. Video

Paul Simon “You Can Call Me Al”
This song is certified summer BBQ gold. Everyone loves this song and it’s usually been too long since they’ve heard it. The only thing as good as the song is the video, which features a youthful Chevy Chase. Lyrically, I always felt like this song was Paul Simon attempting his best irreverent, Highway 61-era, Bob Dylan impression. Cartoonish lyrics with incredible instrumentation, this one speaks to every generation. Video

Gert Wilden & Orchestra “Blues Party”
I found this song scanning through a blues/jazz comp. Old compilation records are usually a dead end, devoid of much worth unearthing. However, when you do find that lost gem, it’s such a source of joy. In part, because you’ve found a great new song, but also because it’s like discovering buried treasure. This feels like a summer house party, and it’s proof that crate digging pays off. Video

Girls “Lust For Life”
There is so much about this song that had been done before. For starters, Girls cribbed an Iggy Pop song title and played some simple surf rock. Yet, despite all that, “Lust For Life” feels so fresh and new. Lead singer Christopher Owens comes across as such a bizarre, yet enticing, personality—androgynous and melodramatic, almost like a San Francisco version of Prince. What’s not to love? Video

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Thad Kopec Makes MAGNET A Mix Tape

ThadKopec

Thad Kopec just recently released The Ridge EP, a collection of meticulous and understated indie-folk tunes. To celebrate, he has been so kind as to make MAGNET a mix tape, which you can check out below.

Bill Withers “Grandma’s Hands”
Bill Withers might just be the most effortlessly cool person who has ever existed. I mean, the guy wrote a song about how his grandma always knew best. It may not be his most well-known song, but “Grandma’s Hands” is a damn good one. Video

Feist “Inside And Out”
The way this song is produced is, for me, perfect. The closeness and clarity of the mix makes room for the song to sound rich as it travels through simplicity and complexity alike. And those horns in the bridge kill me every time. Video

Neil Young “Down By The River”
Nothing like a good murder ballad. Besides the wonderfully bizarre lyrics of this song, the solo in the middle is one of my favorites ever. It has this lackadaisical quality, but it also has this angry energy and pent-up frustration—like an animal that’s been in a cage so long it’s almost forgot how to walk free, but it’s getting its legs. Video

My Morning Jacket “Librarian”
During my freshman year of college, I read a Joyce Carol Oates short story called “Three Girls” for a literature class. The narrator of the story is constantly buried in a New York bookstore that she loves called The Strand. She says she is “enchanted by books;” she loves everything about them. For her, there is something transcendent about being among stacks of so many thousands of words that reach across time and space to be bound in books. I realized somewhere in that story that this was exactly the kind of woman I would always fall for. Unfortunately for 19-year-old me, this particular girl was both fictional and gay. But I like to think Jim James felt the same way as he peeked through the shelves at “the sexiest librarian,” who never became real to him outside of his own head. Video

Torres “Chains”
This indulgently dark song pulls you down into the subterranean depths of Mackenzie Scott’s subconscious. If you let it take you there, there’s something really beautiful down in that ether that will entrance you and fill you with a weird terror. The final moment of the song is one of my favorite moments in music ever. Video

Pavement “Gold Soundz”
Whenever I hear this song, I think of driving through the Midwest on little weekend tours with Keeps, the band I play bass with. I can feel the vast expanse of cornfields in Indiana stretching out on either side, my stomach beginning to hurt from how long I’ve been laughing way too hard, and the shared giddiness about the show that’s going to happen in some strange new city that night. There are some songs that can capture nostalgia like no others, and it’s not merely because they are good songs, but because there is some magic about them that’s beyond understanding. For me, “Golden Soundz” is chief among these. Video

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Lauryn Peacock Makes MAGNET A Mix Tape

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To celebrate new record Euphonia, Lauryn Peacock has prepared a mix tape for MAGNET. In addition, you can download or stream a new song “Wounds Grow Grass,” an otherworldly, beautifully orchestrated circus waltz. Check it out below. Euphonia is out now.

“Wounds Grow Grass” (download):

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Sharon Van Etten “One Day”  
Everything is just right with this song. Video

Lucius “Turn it Around”
People making good indie-pop music, with great rhythm and melodies. Video

Angel Olsen “Unf**ktheworld”
This entire album—I can’t even count the number of times I’ve listened to it. This song means I’m starting the journey of this album again—something I love to do. Plus, the audacious title. Video

Vashti Bunyan “Just Another Diamond Day”  
The best cloudy-or-sunny, perfect-day kind of song. Vashti is also my mix-tape stand-in for the incredible women artists who came before: Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Stevie Nicks—all the amazing songs I couldn’t fit on this playlist. Video

Natalie Prass “Bird Of Prey”
When I first heard Natalie Prass, I felt a kinship—a female artist with intriguing orchestral arrangements and sensibilities that I (and the music I’ve been making) could relate to. I was immediately sold. Video

Damien Jurado “Museum Of Flight”
One of my all-time favorite songwriters and one of his simplest and most beautiful songs. It’s perfect. Video

Neil Young “Tell Me Why”
Neil Young is always such easy and good, rewarding listening. This song and album (After The Goldrush) frequently rotates on my turntable. I put it on sometimes, just to hear this song. Video

Grizzly Bear “Two Weeks”
I have built one of my favorite Pandora stations around this song. I couldn’t resist adding it here also as an homage to favorite indie-rock band: Phoenix, My Morning Jacket, the Walkmen, everything that came before. Plus, the great piano rhythms, background vocals and vibe. Video

Sigur Rós “Hoppípolla”  
Sigur Rós in general, and this song, do such great, beautiful “epic”—with arrangements and melodies that take off in flight. I love the happy in this track—also a great video. Thanks for listening. Video

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Rahim Quazi Makes MAGNET A Mix Tape

Rahim

Rahim Quazi is a Texas singer/songwriter who crafts spectral, supernaturally interested folk/pop tunes. His new album, Ghost Hunting, is out now. Quazi has put together a mix tape for MAGNET. Check it out below.

Goldenboy “Sleepwalker”
“Sleepwalker” inspired my latest album. I love the way they layer simple parts with lush and upfront vocals. I am captured in this little known song. The lead singer/writer of Goldenboy, Shon Sullivan, played with Elliott Smith and Neil Finn. “Sleepwalker” is his masterpiece—crafted line-by-line, warm keys and piano. Shon takes this song to the stars and back. When I think he has exhausted the melody, he finds a way to take it and me further. Video

ELO “Shangri La”
Again with a heart-wrenching melody and matching guitar line. ELO taught me the art of the outro ending. The song should easily be over, but here comes fresh waves of sound. Video

Sean Lennon “Dead Meat”
Sean created a perfect album. Its theme is tragic, having to do with his girlfriend cheating on him with his best friend. Then his best friend gets killed. It was a true story, and Sean captured it perfectly. “Dead Meat” is a twisting and turning of chords met with his somber vocals. The link is the full Friendly Fire album. Video

Sondre Lerche “On And Off Again”
Sondre Lerche let me know that it was OK to song craft in this day and age. He is a master of creating perfect tunes. Melody is first. This song builds layer by layer. When Feist joins in with her innocent voice, my inner-smile endorphins increase. Video

Beatles “For No One”
Perhaps saving the best for last. “For No One” can’t be more than a handful of tracks, but it speaks volumes and is timeless. That’s what the Beatles did—create timeless pieces of music. Who hasn’t felt the sadness of looking into a past loved one’s eyes and seeing nothing? The French horn is warm and comforting. After hundreds of listens, I still want to cry. Video

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The Legal Immigrants Make MAGNET A Mix Tape

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Detroit garage-rock band the Legal Immigrants will release new album Drugs To Roses on July 3 and have previously shared first single “Fork In The Road.” Their sound is reminiscent of older White Stripes and the Black Keys as they play painfully catchy tunes rooted in blues and hard rock. Now, they have been so kind as to make MAGNET a mix tape. Check it out below.

Vox Vidorra “We’re So Lonely”
I’ll lead off with our studio-mates, Vox Vidorra. We were both recording around the same time at Goon Lagoon Recorders, and our producer, Dick Chiclet, gave us a taste of what was cookin’ in Vox’s kitchen. What I admire about Molly’s vocals is how much command she has over her voice. She makes going from delicate to razor sharp sound easy. It isn’t. Oh, and the vocals were recorded live. Take that, computers. Video

Gunnar & The Grizzly Boys “Standard American”
Another West Michigan band and close friends of ours, this GGB tune has that old country thump I really dig. I’m into story songs and clever lyrics, and this song has both. I’d much rather be a “standard” American than a “basic” one. They avoided some of the most hefty fines in country music by including a pickup truck in the video. Video

Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish “Lonesome”
Keeping with the theme, here’s a cut from our certified homeboys JRCC. “Put on that skirt, girl/Let’s flirt over whiskey” is a perfect line as far as I’m concerned. This song, and many others from JRCC, are hard to not dance to than to dance to. If they captured the energy they have onstage on a record, your stereo would explode. Video

Nicholas James & The Bandwagon “Saturday Nights”
This is a happy song. I picture them playing this outside somewhere in the county and me having a solo cup of beer that I’m occasionally spilling because I’m doing the lock-arms spin dancing move with strangers. Shoes off, of coarse. Video

Devin & The Dead Frets “Cut My Hair”
Last, but certainly not least from the West Michigan scene are our pals from D&TDF. The first thing I noticed from this song is the bass line. Devin’s voice is unique, and this track does a great job of highlighting its power and tone. Video

Johnny Thunder “I’m Alive”
The fuzz tone to start this song is nothing short of splendid and drew me in the first time I heard this rendition of “I’m Alive”. Johnny’s voice is so passionate in this tune, and it sounds like him being alive didn’t come without a fight. If you find a copy of this 45 in a record store, buy it. That, or send it to me; I promise I’ll pay you back. Video

The White Stripes “Party Of Special Things To Do”
This version of this Captain Beefheart classic is crunchy as a mug. It slams. The White Stripes are one of the few bands that sound awesome on blown speakers. This song further proves Lou Reed right with “One chord is fine/Two chords are pushing it/Three chords and you’re into jazz.” Video

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