In 2011, I was starting to get concerned that I was falling into musical routine. Diminishing returns on shows and releases from the same bands meant the risk of starting to lose interest in music altogether, and that was something I couldn't tolerate. So in early 2011, Emily and I started up The Mixtape Club.
The idea wasn't ours- we heard a similar thing mentioned in a podcast we were listening to and liked the idea. But great ideas are meant to be shared, and so is great music. The general principle- A theme is decided on, and every person in the group contributes a song that fits the theme that they want to share with the crew. A mix is compiled, complete with album artwork, and then distributed to the group members. We had twenty something people included in the Facebook group that we used for official communication. All people whose musical tastes I respected, but with the goal of enough variety that people wouldn't all be hearing songs they already knew.
To be honest, I don't know how many people actually listened to them other than Emily and I, and thats their prerogative. We listened to them a ton and had a great time making them.
The first mix was finished in late April, just as Emily and I were about to go on our honeymoon to Hawaii. Our first real listen to it was in our rental car on the big Island, and fittingly enough, it had a road trip theme. I think it's my favorite one.
FYI- all of the mixes can be found here (art and tracklistings). I'm not a filesharing service, so I don't leave the links up after they pass, but I'll shoot anyone a link who wants one.
I can't jump right into April without mentioning that we went and saw Girl Talk in March. Last year was really our prime Girl Talk listening time, but I didn't fit it in and we went to the show this year. The show was great, the crowd was terrible. I don't know what I expected, but I would have been right to expect a bunch of sweaty bros on ecstacy and me feeling crowded in. That doesn't mean we don't still pop in "Feed The Animals" on a long road trip though. Eagerly awaiting whatever comes next from him.
Around this same time, we FINALLY got a new record player. Our old one didn't make the move from the apartment, and so we'd been vinyl-less for the greater part of 2 years. The first new record I remember getting (though it probably wasn't) was the newest Mountain Goats record "All Eternals Deck". Life of the World to Come was interesting, but super somber and heavy. This really felt like the still somewhat freshly forged "full band" era of the Mountain Goats truly finding their stride.
Also in April, I was introduced to Titus Andronicus through Tom Scharpling of the Best Show on WFMU. (#bestshow2014). All it took was watching his video for No Future Part Three to completely sell me, and The Monitor became maybe my most highly played solo driving album of the modern decade.
The Monitor is kind of a concept album based around the civil war, as the narrator moves from New Jersey to Boston (and back again) trying to tolerate and appreciate his fellow man. It's brutal and honest and self-deprecating and brilliantly written and executed. I love every song on it, but none more than "Four Score and Seven". It takes a long time to build to it's climax, but when it does, it's one of the most unstoppable powerhouses ever put to tape.
That summer we had a lot of bbqs and listened to a lot of mix tapes. My favorite album of the year was released in June:
I didn't talk about Bon Iver yet because what else is there to say? You're either sick of the story and Skinny Love, or you love it to death, or you haven't heard it. To me, that first record is still one of the great rainy day records, but I think it's a lesser record than this here followup. I was actually kind of dissapointed when it didn't win album of the year at the Grammys- it seemed like it had that kind of cultural cachet, but who cares, it's still nice for me to listen to.
I was also getting really into the Proclaimers. I'd always been a fan of I'm Gonna Be (500 miles) and in college "Over and Done With" made it into some mixes, but I'd never gone further into their catalog. I can't tell you every song is a winner, but there are 4 or 5 more that everyone should have in their repetoire.
In the fall, we had the pleasure of witnessing the wedding of Becky and Jason before heading off to what is (to date) our final Strawberry. I cannot remember highlights. I looked at the lineup and don't even have specific memories of any of them. Strawberry is great, and I hope they recover from the devastating fire that cancelled last Fall's event, but I've got a new fall music festival love that you'll hear about in the next post.
This October through the following February was a challenging time for me. It started with kind of a weird headache that wouldn't go away, and culminated months later in essentially a panic attack. Noah took me to see Devo at the Crystal Ballroom for my birthday, and I was feeling weird the whole time and didn't get to really enjoy myself. As it always does, music helped, and a non-insignificant album from this time is Kurt Vile's "Smoke Ring For My Halo". Another Best Show find, Kurt Vile is a super talented kinda hazy guitar folk/rock dude out of Philadelphia. He's like not much else out there, and Smoke Ring is still one of my favorite albums. Probably close to being up there for total living room spins out of my vinyl collection.
By the end of 2011, we had 10 mix tapes completed, which is a pretty significant accomplishment. I found out about a lot of great music that I missed in all of this time listening to the other stuff I was listening to. You can't expect a man to know about every band. Sometimes you just have to decide you're satisfied with what you've got and figure you'll find new stuff when you're good and ready, but around this time, I was good and ready.