Monday, December 3, 2012

Quick Music Jerk: Johnny Jewel's Black & White Mixtape, End of Year List-o-Mania and more

1.  Press the play button above and start reading.

Johnny Jewel--the melodic mastermind/instrumental heartbeat of Chromatics, Glass Candy, and Symmetry (and no relation to "Who Will Save Your Soul?" Jewel)--endears himself to me more and more with each passing day.  In addition to owning my new favorite record label Italians Do It Better (GREAT name, distinct, signature sound), Jewel has a penchant for distributing his musical output quite liberally.  In addition to cheaply selling his records, CDs and digital downloads on his label's website (seriously, 2xLP, colored versions of Chromatics' last two records are only $13 each!), Jewel is an old school lover of the mix-tape craft.

Via SoundCloud, his mixtapes are regularly posted for free download.  Many of them essentially operate as samplers for his label, while others are single band EPs.  But some--like the posted yesterday BLACK & WHITE/A MIX FOR AUTUMN (available above) act as hybrids.  A few entries from his label, a few remixes, a few covers, a few originals he loves from other artists--for Jewel, this was simply about making a mix appropriate for the season he loves.  Posting the mixtape from his home in Montreal, Jewel opines:

Everything is buried by the snow...Perfect weather for locking yourself in the studio with a synthesizer & your favorite records...I put together a collage of songs that, for one reason or another...always remind me of Autumn. 

The output of Jewel's bands have distinct variations, but share a common dark electronic signature.  Some of the music is for dancing, some for driving, some for brooding, yet all of it remains oddly and endlessly magnetic to me.  As a guy who loves his red meat rock music, my growing affinity for a more electronic take on the post-punk genre I'm so fond of is beginning to take up more and more space on my record shelves these days.  The best example on this mixtape comes at the 21.11s mark with Chromatics covering Joy Division/New Order's "Ceremony" quite faithfully, yet in uniquely their own style.  This is some strong, frosty weather (which may eventually make its way here), nocturnal audio sorcery for the soul.  That's FREE.

If you like this, try these other free Johnny Jewel downloads I've enjoyed recently:

"Cherry", the new, unreleased single from Chromatics

"AFTER DARK", a compilation featuring Chromatics, Glass Candy, Mirage and more)

"LET'S KISS/SUNDAY MORNING MIX", (various artists)

2.  'Tis the season for year-end music lists!  From song and album rankings, to endlessly pretentious features on artists who in a single year changed the face of music (!!!/slight vomit), this is the time of year that I both dread and long for.  Of course, I've got my own entries into this arena that aren't particularly paradigm-breaking, but ARE particularly mine and a source of joy to create.  Some of these (favorite dozen songs/favorite albums of the year) are coming soon and others (such as my ever-growing Spotify top tracks of 2012 found below) are already here.

Either way, I challenge those of you I KNOW who rely on these end of year lists as guides to finding new music to look beyond your typical, go-to resources (Except the go-to that is me and this blog. You NEED me and you could stop relying on me about as easily as you could stop breathing!).  So while the Pitchforks and NPRs, Spins and AV Clubs will most likely copy each other's Top 100 and shuffle a few along the way so that you think they're original, there are other great websites/blogs that will offer a bit more variety.  While it appears there's been congressional legislation mandating that Frank Ocean and Purity Ring are required to be on every web-based year-end list, there are some lists out there that dare to deviate a bit from the norm.  This is not to say they won't have Frank Ocean inlcluded (I mean, these are generally law-abiding citizens who run these sites), but it means simply that you may have a chance to discover some artists you may have missed up to this point.  A few of my favorite, lesser-known sites with generally impeccable year-end lists you should check out so hard include:

Gorilla vs Bear (another great name)

Old Waver

Salad Days Music

Alright kids, your homework is right there in front of you.  You've got new music to check out, my 2012 playlist to warm your hands by, and some new sites to get you to think outside the damn box!  I'm already so proud of you.  Enjoy the journey.

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