This Christmas I had the brilliant idea to make a mix tape for my oldest friend instead of giving her another bottle of bubble bath or that scented candle I’ve had in the closet for over a year. I spent days listening to my Ipod and organizing the songs just right so the mix started strong to pull her in but also ended on a serious high note. At the end of the day, will she love every single song on the mix? Probably not, but I bet she’ll walk away a fan of at least a couple new bands and for me that’s as close to a Christmas miracle as I’m going to get.
Here is a selection of the songs I picked, feel free to pass along to an old friend.
Coconut Records – Wires – Davy
My favorite funnyman (and ex drummer for Phantom Planet), Jason Swartzman plays every instrument in this very fun and quirky band. I specifically chose to place this song first because I consider it an “everyone song;” meaning everyone will love it. I’ve set the pace of the mix and hopefully I’ve already hooked my listener; now I can build on that.
Death Cab for Cutie – My Mirror Speaks – The Open Door EP
Death Cab is finally starting to branch out from the slow melodic music they have been making for years with their new EP, and not a moment too soon in my opinion. I would love to hear more uptempo catchy tunes like this in their future.
Brendan Benson – Don’t Wanna Talk – My Old, Familiar Friend
The first 15 seconds of this song says it all; a drumbeat that won’t quit, lyrics that make no apologies and a darn catchy chorus. This one is off his new album, which is full of songs like this. Mr Benson, “you’ve proven to be a hard habit to kick.”
Dr Dog – The Rabbit The Bat and the Reindeer – Fate
I can’t say enough about this band and this song showcases what they do best, good music that is like nothing you have ever heard before. If you don’t dance around to this one then all hope is lost.
Ray LaMontagne – You are the Best Thing – Gossip in the Grain
When I heard critics compare Ray’s sound to such greats as The Band, Van Morrison and Nick Drake I thought, sign me up. This song is a great example of why people love him, it’s got those raspy vocals he is known for mixed with a big band style all it’s own.
Paul McCartney/The Firemen – Sing the Changes – Electric Arguements
You may of heard of this singer, he was in a little band called “The Beatles?” His new project The Fireman takes some interesting twists and turns, but some of the risks (like this one) pay off. Listen to this song through headphones and the sound feels like it is surrounding you.
Josh Ritter – Good Man - The Animal Years
I fell in love with this song the first time I heard it and haven’t looked back since. The grainy sound of the maraca, the piano in the background, the soft harmonies and of course Josh Ritter’s smooth voice, which I think was made to sing alongside an acoustic guitar. Lovely.
Tegan and Sara – Dancing in the Dark – N/A
I found this song on a website where lesser known artists performed Bruce Springsteen covers and it instantly caught my attention. I just loved how the two female voices harmonized together and turned this classic 80’s pop hit into something fresh and slightly heartbreaking.
Spoon – You Got Your Cherry Bomb – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
If you listen to a lot of Spoon their sound can start to feel repetitive but this one always gets me, maybe it’s the tambourine?
Guster – One Man Wrecking Machine – One Man Wrecking Machine (Single)
What can I say, you can’t go wrong with a song about “adolescent dreams” that include trying to get into the homecoming queen’s pants, passing skinny joints and rolling up to look out point. Long live high school.
Ryan Adams – The Hardest Part – Jacksonville City Nights
What a great build up, what a great song, what a great songwriter. Ryan Adams is the man, now if he would only get out from under Mandy Moore and start writing music again.
The Kooks – Mr Maker – Konk
These Brits know how to write a great pop tune and this one seems built for a playlist. Plus, I’ve always been a sucker for group claps, which are employed perfectly here.
Kings of Leon – The Bucket – Day Old Belgian Blues
For someone who has never heard Kings of Leon, this song should whet their appetite nicely. A great uptempo song that showcases the KOL sound while still remaining mainstream enough for most listeners to get hooked.
Phoenix – Lasso – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
I can’t think of a better way to end a mix on a high note then with a song from this French band. I have been hopelessly addicted to Phoenix ever since I heard the fast paced infectious sound off their new album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, which is packed with songs just like this one.