2007: Tiny Mix Tape 2007
Individual songs stuck on repeat

The following mix tape should be enjoyed with discretion. Certain mix tapes can aggravate your heartburn symptoms, and it's best to limit or avoid completely those mix tapes that result in acid reflux. Consult your doctor about your diet and decide on any change in mix tape habits you may need. Constipation is normal.

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SIDE A:

01. Mika Miko - "Wild Bore" (666 [EP])

Everyone always talks about how Mika Miko is this cool new band comprised of a bunch of young girls from LA County. Forgive me, then, for pointing out that this is some serious lip-sync-with-a-hairbrush-as-microphone shit. You don't even need to know the words, just wait for the "Oh no oh no oh!" to come around. It's so hard to act jaded while listening to songs like this. 2007, it seemed to me, was the year when some saintly artists (Times New Viking, No Age, more or less everyone in Baltimore) reminded us to get over ourselves and remember what music sounded and felt like, regardless of discovering 50 new bands a week. For me, at least, that feeling was a lot like the swell of feedback at the beginning of this song. –Joe B.

02. Applied Communications - "Echo Boom" (Heavenly Gospel)

As the simple keyboard intro of "Echo Boom" segues into a head-nodding beat that's repeatedly interrupted by distorted bass thuds going "BUNUNUNUNUnunun," the only thing clear about this song -- and nearly every track on Heavenly Gospel -- is that clarity wasn't the point. This became even more apparent as disinterested vocals sang in tandem with what sounds like a collage of sampled clips from dusty religious and self-help audio tapes. Did he just say, "mixing my sight with holy soap"? The fuck? Sure, there's no chorus, no repeated verses, no obvious structure to tie the loose ends, but this wasn't about aimless floundering, it was about pushing endorphins and looking forward. Weird, confusing, messy, unfocused, disconnected -- all of these attributes made "Echo Boom" (and Heavenly Gospel) such a pleasure to listen to. –Mr P

03. Times New Viking - "Teenage Lust!" (Present the Paisley Reich)

On their album Red State, Gowns spun rural angst into musical gold. But existential dread isn't limited to the mountains of North Dakota, as Columbus's Times New Viking made abundantly clear on the explosive "Teenage Lust!" The song is a monument to urban fear and loathing, and its mantra is, "I don't want to die in the city alone." Though it is neither a complex nor a poetic sentiment, any twenty-something urbanite can relate to it viscerally. The desolation creeps in slowly at first, with Beth Murphy's lonely voice quivering a bit on the initial plea, "I don't want to die." But when the drums and guitar quicken their pace, everyone in the band starts singing like they're being chased. Suddenly, bright, flat keyboards kick in a dose of canned sunshine, and we realize that there's nothing to do but revel in these moments where our brains malfunction and our lives don't make sense anymore. The rest is pure, self-destructive escapism in its most potent and seductive form. For all their lo-fi recording methods, amplifier fuzz, and frantic vocals, Times New Viking have created one of the year's best pop songs. —Judy Ain't No Punk

04. Jens Lekman – “A Postcard to Nina” (Night Falls Over Kortedala)

Anyone who's ever heard a Jens Lekman album knew they were in for some extreme cuteness when Jens dropped Night Falls Over Kortedala this year. "A Postcard to Nina" might be the most extreme example, not just of our man's lovable awkwardness but of his underappreciated attention to detail. The way Lekman pronounces "father" ("fodder") and "with your" ("wichur") is incredibly endearing. The most memorable parts of the song, however, are the narrative details, including a dinner with the titular Nina and her father at which Jens is forced to pretend to be his lesbian friend's boyfriend. Particularly resonant: "Your father's mailing me all the time/ He says he just wants to say hi/ I send back Out of Office autoreplies." I'm a big Jonathan Richman fan, and although the old boy's certainly still kicking, it's great to hear the same sort of wide-eyed lyricism from a new voice. Lekman's gifts for melody and sample choices combine to make "A Postcard to Nina" the equal of much of Richman's material and an easy mixtape staple. –Tamec

05. Low - “Always Fade” (Drums and Guns)

I have a thing for husband-wife bands. There's something sexy about rock-star families, and I'm not talking a Spears/K-Fed duet. I mean two clear-headed, highly talented individuals uniting in holy matrimony to rock together. (I know, I know, Sparhawk and Parker aren't the only two people in the band, but they're the part that matters.) Anyway, these guys are devoted. You can hear it through the complex stereo mixing of otherwise simplistic melodies, the way the album manifests itself as a product of their love for one another — like an album baby. But it's a pretty violent baby: each song involves death, murder, or blood. “Always Fade,” though brighter-sounding than other tracks on the album, deals principally with accepting our insignificance in the grand scheme of things, following our inevitable death: “Come clean and off with your head/ The streams of bright rosy red/… You'll always fade.” You can take this as either the massively discouraging words of a pessimist or as the inoffensive lyrics of a matter-of-fact absurdist (yeah, I just finished reading Camus, what of it?). –Hanky Panky

06. Big Blood – “Adversaries & Enemies” (Sew Your Wild Days, Vol. 1)

How better to open an album or start a day? A blossoming picked guitar, joined by the mellifluous humming of a good-natured woman and the joyful shrieks of an infant. Honky-tonking along after that warm-wash kick start, the guitar traipses about on a sunny weekend morning in a country glade. The intensity of blissed-out pleasure mounts until a mainline shot of unadulterated joy mutates the woman's coos into yelps, -- a pure release of emotion. Physically alone, I can't help but feel my spirit pry loose from my chest to join into these merry moseyings, and the jolt of pleasure is zapped back into its cavity.— Leveer

07. Okkervil River - “Unless It's Kicks” (The Stage Names)

Every year I need a good fist-pumping anthem, and this year "Unless It's Kicks" fit that bill nicely. The driving guitars, Will Sheff's passionate vocals, the fact that you can actually hear the spit flying from his mouth as he forces the words out... it's the song I've listened to most in 2007, and I don't anticipate getting sick of it anytime soon. In fact, I've had to cut myself off from listening to it in public places because I completely lose track of what I'm doing and where I'm going when I hear it — it's just that engaging. Hearing this song reminds me I'm alive. But you don't need me to tell you this, just listen to Sheff himself: "That heavenly song/ Punches right through my mind/ And pumps through my blood." Yeah, that sounds about right. —NicoleMC99

08. Beirut – “Elephant Gun” (Lon Gisland [EP])

This track was a perfect transition between two albums just different enough to potentially create an awkward change in direction, and fortunately the song is so good that no one cared about its functional value. This is Zach Condon & co. in top form – a swooning melody, rousing “ooohhh, aaahhh”s, bombastic cymbals, and more horns than you can shake a ukulele at. The instruments build, peak, and crash without ever losing steam; before you know it the song fades out, leaving the impression of a woozy marching band stomping off into the distance. It's not as cathartic as, say, “The Gulag Orkestar,” but what it lacks in weight it more than makes up for by being downright epic. You can often measure the quality of a Beirut song by how much it makes you want to sing along at the top of your lungs, swaying around drunk with a bottle of red wine in your hand. “Elephant Gun” does more than that: it makes you want to sway out the door, grab your friends, and have yourselves a reckless adventure. –Elzee

09. Wynton Marsalis - "Where Y'All At?" (From the Plantation to the Penitentiary)

A myriad of artists are threatening us with scare tactics, angry politics, and revolution, but how many of them take the time to incorporate these elements into a song? Sean Combs can tell me every four years to vote or die, but I have yet to hear Diddy lay down a track giving me (or his supposed brethren in the ghettos and on the streets) the reasons that voting is worth the time and effort. Where have you gone, Bruce Springsteen? Bob Dylan? USA in Africa? Somehow the diligent duty of talking to a nation apathetic to its own peril has fallen to Wynton Marsalis, known more for being an adult jazz pioneer than a historian and muckraker. Thankfully, he picks up the torch throughout From the Plantation to the Penitentiary. Never is he more effective and in-your-face as on closing salvo "Where Y'All At?" Marsalis takes on all political, racial, and social jargon, leaving no one safe as he spouts vitriol like Cab Calloway. He bebops and scats a message that few will heed and even fewer will hear. Hopefully that will all change before it's really too late. –Jspicer

10. Richard Swift - “The Songs of National Freedom” (Dressed Up for the Letdown)

With all the pathos of the theme from Cheers, Swift lays down his aesthetic manifesto: tone lifted from McCartney's Ram, smoky voice on loan from Nilsson, and lyrics cribbed from Randy Newman's cocktail coasters. It's not that Swift is shamelessly lifting anything — criticizing this tune's vibe would be like getting angry at Jason Bonham for drumming like his daddy. There's a lineage here, a West Coast tradition, and the sunny vibe is tempered only by Swift's lovelorn lyrics, subtle, sly and tired, a sad-song gospel for faith-weary ears. And then there's what the bass starts doing at 2:34: poetry in its own right. --Jason P. Woodbury

11. The Focus Group - "The Green Station Haunt" (We Are All Pan's People)

Graphic designer Julian House is the mastermind behind the elusive and mysterious entity known as The Focus Group, a profoundly artistic individual who also happens to do album artwork for Broadcast and run the outrageously consistent Ghost Box label on the side. The Focus Group's most recent album, We Are All Pan's People, is a brilliant sound collage of unsettling mid-tempo jazz samples and weird rock licks sandwiched between feedback loops and mixed into disembodied string and horn sections, all strung together with a strong ritualistic element -- very Nurse With Wound. Needless to say, "The Green Station Haunt" is one of the highlights on this album. But it shouldn't be enjoyed alone, as the visual element is key to this music . Thankfully, a sampling of the images and themes found on a variety of Ghost Box recordings can be found at their website here. --John Jolley

12. Tunng - "Bullets" (Good Arrows)

A wise man once said: "The lengthy “Bullets” is the most adventurous song the band has written. It has many elements familiar to Tunng fans, but it takes on a maudlin, cabaret style that is welcome for those possibly fearing the group has mined the same sonic well too many times. It ends with regaling sing-song vocals that would not be out of place on, gulp, a Supertramp album." Alright, it wasn't a wise man; it was me on this very site. Forget for a moment that I myself am "mining the same well" by quoting my own review, and hear me when I say that although there are countless good bits on the latest Tunng album Good Arrows, “Bullets” stands out. Not only a jumping-off point for the band to show unexplored, unreleased talent in song, “Bullets” is so universally appealing that older fans will knowingly nod their heads while new ones trample over themselves in frenzied attempts to board the increasingly cramped bandwagon. --David Nadelle

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SIDE B:

01. Omar Souleyman - "Arabic Dabke" (Highway to Hassake: Folk and Pop Sounds of Syria)

Often, the releases in the Sublime Frequencies catalog originating from Axis of Evil states and primary targets in the War on Terror seem to hold an exceptional level of contextual power, as if just playing music from these countries would cause a red-level National Threat Advisory: severe risk of hypno-psycho music-induced dementia and paralyzing wonder. One of the finest releases in 2007 showcased the powerful street-level synthesized mayhem of Syrian folk-pop Dabke, a hyper-powered phase-shifted version of folkloric party and dance music perpetrated by a man dressed in a Shumaq and Ogal - Omar Souleyman, Syrian pop staple since 1994. "Arabic Dabke" combines a looping haunt of gyration reed refrain and the mawal-style Arabic vocals that Souleyman delivers in a stoic style, hidden by his sunglasses and massive moustache. Even though the keyboard destruction on this track is highly suggestive of kinetic body wiggles and sprung hips and limbs, videos of Souleyman on stage reveal that he is barely affected by the rhythms in his songs, an inconceivable feat of concentration. But you'll be helpless as Souleyman's ingenuity and fearless energy pulsate through your body, “Arabic Dabke” havoc wrought for naught but the invigoration of your spinal snap zone. —Chizzy St. Claw

02. Men's Needs – “The Cribs” (Man's Needs, Woman's Needs, Whatever)

Oh the British, is there anything they can't do... except hold onto 13 little colonies? Ouch, I'm not quite sure if that's too soon or not. “Men's Needs” is a great little pop song. Energy pulses throughout the entire track. A catchy hook that can get stuck in my head all day without becoming bothersome helps me prevent work-related stabbings. The track is essentially something men are typically not: honest, chanting, “A man's needs are found on greed.. a girls needs don't agree with a man's needs.” I run into this dilemma all the time: I want the last slice of pizza and my girlfriend wants it, too, so to compromise I call her fat and eat the slice while she runs away crying. Point: Men 1 – Women 0. If The Cribs are following in the brit-pop footsteps already laid down by Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand, their MTV time will come. In my opinion, the song would make great background music to a knife fight on The Hills... Take THAT Heidi! --Alaska Nick

03. Jon-Rae and The River – “Track 5” (Maria EP)

Culled from a ludicrously limited edition CD-R with no tracklisting (only 50 copies were made), the fifth track on Jon-Rae's Maria EP is a stark, creepy country dirge of the best kind. Think "Phantom 309" meets Kranky-era Low and you're just about there. The sound mix is rough and hollow as though the master tapes were sent through the washing machine, which compliments the bleak content perfectly. Not only is this track from Maria my favorite diamond cut of the year, it's quite possibly my favorite wife-murdering song of all time. –Chris Gliddon

04. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - “Underwater (You and Me)” (Some Loud Thunder)

As CYHSY's sophomore release neatly displays, nothing kills a good band like the indie rock hype machine. Instead of sticking to the perfect pop songs that made their debut irresistible, the band must have felt the pressure to experiment, lest they be accused of dishing out more of the same thing. Well, they simply weren't very good at it. But at least Ounsworth threw in an old song that he recorded with his previous band, Flashy Python. The jangly guitars and weirdo romantic lyrics are out in full force, as the singer narrates a dreamlike, aquatic escape. "Some songs see us sailing away," Ounsworth begins, lacing his fairytale exodus with sibilants that recall the sounds of the ocean. "Navigating foreign borders and climbing the waves." With lyrics like that, I'll resist the urge to float the entire album out to sea. –Judy Ain't No Punk

05. French Quarter - “For Andy” (French Quarter)

I can't quite decide if it's the Neil Young-with-a-sinus-infection vocals, the muffled drums, the finger-picked, just barely overdriven guitar, or the way Stephen Steinbrink pronounces “absorb” (as something between “usurp” and “up sword”) that reduces me to emotional rubble when I listen to this song, but the combination of those elements certainly does. And while my living room's tile floor -- wrecked from the feet of too many Friday night house guests -- might be too gross to walk across barefoot, this damaged room serves as the perfect place to ruminate on the songs lyrics, carefully chronicling “Our year of desperation, our year of desperate days” but reminding us that “All hope is not gone,” it's just hidden deep in our pockets and songs. “Auld Lang Syne” for morose hipsters? Sure, if you wanna be cynical. But devastatingly beautiful pop music, for sure. --James P. Woodbury

06. Vampire Weekend - "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" (Blue CD-R)

Four Columbia grads hit a storm of popularity this year with their brilliantly-titled band, Vampire Weekend. I'd like to say I'm not one for hype bands, but I totally ate their shit up. The unique, splooge-worthy sound of the Brooklyn outfit is distinct on "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa," a gem off of their Blue CD-R. This definitive track mixes danceable African soukous sounds with a preppy, light-hearted Western touch that shows the goofy but talented side of the group. Speaking of the African influences, Ezra, the lead man in the trio, adores African guitarist Orchestra Baobab, and in case you need another unnecessary fun fact about the boys, the gentlemen claim that their cryptic name merely references a movie they were filming about a country being taken over by vampires. Cute. "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" has been spinning on my daily playlist for quite some time, and it's one of my favorite pop tunes of 2007 by far. --Scout Leader Kyle

07. Rivers Cuomo – “Blast Off!” (Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo)

Maybe “Blast Off!” isn't the best choice for a 2007 mix tape. It was, after all, recorded in 1995. The most pathetic of Weezer fans (myself included) have had a low-quality MP3 version for years. It started just a second too late, leaving Rivers' pronunciation of first half of “--AST OFF!” to the imagination. The track was supposed to be part of Weezer's aborted space-rock opera album, Songs From The Black Hole, which eventually morphed into Pinkerton. While I wouldn't trade the masterpiece that is Pinkerton for anything, it's not a stretch to say that “Blast Off!” is one of the best songs Rivers has ever written. Listen carefully and you might hear another Weezer song tucked neatly inside during the breakdown. The selfish part of me wishes this song was never officially released, just so I could amaze every new, elitist friend with this awesome, unreleased track from a band everyone and their grandma knows. –8bit

08. Panda Bear - "Search For Delicious" (Person Pitch)

Sorry, haters, but it's safe to say that ANY track off Panda Bear's spiritual, strongly emotional Person Pitch would be a perfect choice for any mix tape that you'd give to anybody. What makes "Search For Delicious" so special, then? Six months later, and I still can't put my finger on it. Maybe it's the subtle tonal shift present throughout the composition; maybe it's how the track forms a perfect segue out of the intense tabla of "Good Girl/Carrots" and into the meditative folk of "Ponytail." Or maybe it's just Noah Lennox's voice itself -- the way it moves in and out of the track, sighing melodically, becoming distorted by sound, seeming farther and farther away, as though he's invoking some sort of sad spirit in an infinite chasm. It sounds as if he's running through purgatory, colors swirling around him and his feet moving at inconsistent speeds. It's not exactly a search for delicious, but more like a mournful elegy for the loved and the lost. –LarryFitzmaurice

09. Crystal Castles vs. HEALTH – "Crimewave" (Crimewave 7'')

Crystal Castles sure have made a name for themselves by remixing everyone from the Klaxons to Uffie to Liars. “Crimewave” was that one hot remix that burned my hands, ears, and retinas in one spin of the popular 7-inch. This isn't about being groundbreaking. It's essential pop mating with noise against the nostalgic background of an Atari 5200. Upon first listen, it's a delightful, ecstasy-driven thrill ride through an electronic jungle leading to She-Ra's castle. The poignancy really takes hold after multiple listens when you realize you're still excited to hear the song. You don't even need to go to that coke and sex party this weekend, because you get the same experience through “Crimewave”. It's the kind of single you hear at a record store and demand that the asshole behind the counter tells you who it is. MTV used to call this sort of thing “buzzworthy.” –Emceegreg

10. Bodies of Water - "Our Friends Appear Like the Dawn" (Bodies of Water)

It really shouldn't work. Taking their cues from bands like The Arcade Fire and Architecture in Helsinki, Bodies of Water released their debut album on their own appropriately-named Thousand Tongues label before signing with Secretly Canadian last month. “Our Friends Appear Like the Dawn” welcomes the album like what the audience picture on the inner sleeve depicts: an unexpected punch in the face. At first blush, I thought ALL THE SHOUTING TO BE A BIT TOO MUCH, but with repeated listens, I found myself strangely drawn to the coed quartet's indie-pop gospel, mostly because of the dramatic, unabashed singing. Couched in quasi-religious themes, the thing just blares confidence right from the get-go, propelled by sharp horn bursts, bombastic choruses, and yes, the strong-as-oxen vocals. Pop music gets rightfully maligned for rehashing the same ideas over and over, but I had and have still not heard many pop songs as unique as “Our Friends Appear Like the Dawn.” It has an inner spirit so distanced from the outer shitty world that you just know that Bodies of Water are going to be truly special one day. No, it really shouldn't work, but it does (thank God). --David Nadelle

11. LCD Soundsystem – “Someone Great” (The Sound of Silver)

I got into LCD Soundsystem late in the game. I'd heard good things about them – er, him? Whatever – but “dance” music was never for me. Not enough hooks, not enough melody, not enough emotion. So I took a chance on Sound Of Silver, and I'm glad I did. The highlight track for me wasn't the much-hyped (and admittedly good) “North American Scum,” but the bittersweet “Someone Great.” That beat, that glockenspiel, that synth line – it's all just perfect. And the fact that its gorgeous chorus of “It keeps coming ‘til the day it stops” doesn't enter (and doesn't need to enter) until two-thirds of the way through is to James Murphy's great credit. Who knew this guy was such an amazing songwriter? –Buckner

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