Warning, this mix will make you older. Maybe only 80 minutes older, but there is a chance it will prematurely age you with massive doses of retro goodness.
1. Get Down for the Holidays – Jenny O
I know nothing of Jenny O, other than she must be Karen O’s little sister, or possibly her confused little brother. Also, she probably shops at Target, as I found this on their website. It’s a secular little Christmas carol, perhaps befitting Target. The album, The Christmas Gig, is surprisingly good, free, and readily downloadable.
2. Way Down Hadestown – Anais Mitchell
Now that the obligatory Christmas song is out of the way, we plunge into the chronologically themed retro portion of the mix. We start in the 30s with Anais Mitchell. I love this Depression era retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice. It’s definitely the best blues/folk opera I’ve ever heard.
3. Polythene Queen – Miss Li
It’s pretty soon for me to show my lack of knowledge of musical history, because I couldn’t give you a decade for this one. Old. A bit of jazz. A bit of soul. I guess the main thing is good, so it doesn’t matter where it’s from.
4. Winter Winds – Mumford and Sons
I wish every band I picked could be a complete surprise, but if you’re an indie kid, I’m sure you’ve already heard of Mumford and Sons. They burst onto the scene this year, are pretty great, and I wanted to make sure you didn’t miss them. My favorite track is Little Lion Man, but this is my favorite non-profane track.
5. Pack Up – Eliza Doolittle
A friend came back from Europe with this recommendation. I very rarely turn down European recommendations. I kind of suspect that Eliza has a team of executives writing this stuff for her, but I’m going to ignore that fact.
6. Umbrella – The Baseballs
This is the last of the truly retro tracks, this time going back to the 50s. It’s also the first of the mixes covers. Rihanna is fine and all, but this rockabilly remix of the song just feels better than the original.
7. Book of Stories – The Drums
I’m a big fan of contrast. This song has an easy-breezy surf rock cadence, overlapped with the lyrics “I thought my life would get easier, instead it’s getting harder/darker/tougher/colder.” Maybe it’s ironic. Maybe it’s a message that even though life gets harder, you don’t have to be sad about it.
8. Stuck – The Heavy
Generally I’m not a huge guitar guy. Sure, it’s the basis for lots of our rock music, but it’s just not my bag. But The Heavy lay their guitar so thick that it’s hard not to take notice. And in my case, love it.
9. Bloodbuzz Ohio – The National
This is probably a bit of a cheat. I heard The National last year. My roommate kept saying I should listen to them, but every time he played them it just didn’t grab me. Then I heard this song and it grabbed me. Maybe because it’s a little autobiographical. Except for the bee part.
10. Bang Pop – Free Energy
I don’t know how talented Free Energy are. This doesn’t sound like that difficult of a song. But it’s an infectious one. You’ll be humming bang bang pop pop as you do your errands this week.
11. Comprachicos – Pendulum
Now we move from the retro flavored music to the future flavored. Admittedly Pendulum is a bit of both. They sound a bit like Prodigy’s slightly mellower sibling. I’m sure this will be many people’s least favorite song on the mix, but I felt I needed some industrial to balance out all the folk.
12. Under the Sheets – Ellie Goulding
I realize it’s a bit of a crutch, but dang it, I like a bit of autotuner. Ellie, like Eliza, may be a product of British corporate trendsetting, but I still like her. In fact, she may be the same person as Eliza for all I know.
13. Citizen – Broken Bells
My normal process for making this mix involves picking albums I like, then winnowing the albums down to my favorite tracks. I had a really hard time picking which BB track I liked best. But this one is kind of a futuristic folk ballad, which seems like it should be a thing.
14. Untrust Us – Crystal Castles
Crystal Castles are kind of post modern. As hip hop and dance have grown more and more reliant on sampling, CC have bypassed the whole process and just make music from samples. The found-sound result is great.
15. Kolnidur – Jonsi
Here’s some post-futurism for you. If this song doesn’t make you want to climb a mountain, slay some Scandanavian tyrant beast and make out with the damsel previously distressed, I don’t know what will. A friend described this album as life affirming, and I think that apropos. Again the indie kids all love Jonsi now, but if you missed the bandwagon, jump on now.
16. Ta douleur – Camille
If you’ve read my blog carefully, you’ll have heard of about half of this year’s picks, including this one, which appeared on SNL of all places. If you listen to this song carefully you’ll hear Camille blowing rasperberries as her own percussion.
17. White Russian Doll – Lucky Soul
For better or worse, timing plays a significant role in whether or not a song makes it on this list. For instance, I found this song last week. Would it still be one of my top 20 songs of the year if I’d heard it in January? Maybe. It’s certainly my favorite doll song since China Doll.
18. Carolina Cannonball – Kinch
Kinch’s music is all available for free on their website, so that’s cool. I discovered them after seeing them live, so that’s cool. They’re from Phoenix, which is, if not cool, at least convenient. I may go see them again next week.
19. Cannibal Queen – Miniature Tigers
Notice how close Cannonball is to Cannibal? Actually it’s a coincidence that I placed them together. I’m not quite neurotic enough to put that much detail into my mix. Here’s one I’ve liked all year, and I still rock out to.
20. Good Ol’ Fashion Nightmare – Matt & Kim
Now we enter the orchestral section of the mix. Here Matt and Kim provide the piano and handclaps, two important sections in any orchestra.
21. That’s All – Clare & The Reasons
Clare provides the brass section to the orchestra, as well as a bit of strings. And does so with laid back confidence. Her lilting vocals aren’t too shabby either.
22. The End of the Movie – Stornoway
Stornoway provides a killer cello solo. Stornoway is a bit of a cheat because I found him through the BBC’s Sounds of 2010 list. It’s a great little list of artists that they predict are going to get big every year, and seems to be pretty accurate. So while he didn’t blow up this year, maybe next.
23. Oh Death – Jen Titus
Here, ChrisMix 2010 comes to a close. It’s not exactly a subtle way to go out. But for a song that’s a soliloquy to Death, it’s pretty beautiful. I guess hauntingly beautiful.
24. Where Is My Mind – Maxence Cyrin
Life after death. Maxence closes us out with his stellar cover of a stellar Pixies tune. I don’t know what to say other than I thought it was appropriate heavenly music, and that seemed like a good way to end the year.
So that’s ChrisMix 2010. You’ve got a week left until Christmas, so if you have a music lover on your list, pick one of these 24 groups, pick up their album and pretend that you discovered them all on your lonesome.