Category Archives: Magical Milk Crate Tour

Everything tastes better on vinyl.

Return to Mixtape Mountain/ Objects, part 1: Game of Phones

In the spirit of self-mythology, I can trace the trajectory of my life back to the moment I got my first mixtape. I didn’t ask for it, it appeared because someone had something they wanted to share. The only thing that beats someone giving you a mixtape is someone else asking you to make one for them. I used to love doing this in high school, but somehow between then and now, I lost the spirit. One of the fortunate byproducts of this quarantine was a friend reaching out and asking me for some music. Like I said, it’s a great feeling.

The mixtape feels like an ancient, lost nerdy art. It’s one of the many fads that saw its prime before the digital age,and lost something in  translation. I treasured my $49.99 Discman and the terrible headband earbuds that came with them, and every 80 minutes I didn’t really mind the effort it took to find the next disc. A finite amount of time on a CD-R meant you had to get down to business.

lloyd dobler
Lloyd Dobler: Patron saint of mixtapes

What separates a playlist from a mixtape is intention. The classic homemade mixtapes are well-planned procedures, like surgery. Think of the cliche of making a mixtape to confess your feelings to someone. You got to strategize and really plan that biz out! I feel like the whole point of mixtapes are to use songs as shortcuts to the feelings and deep thoughts seeded in our mind-hearts, and summarize them in four minutes or less, preferably with a Sam Cooke-type, or maybe Brittany Howard (exceptions notwithstanding).

A playlist is like a collection. I am one of many people I know that uses a playlist to just collect new songs that I like. This is a great feature, and one of the many boons to come from the digital age. I love my Spotify! But, having a bucket of songs to shuffle through is not the same as hearing a mixtape organized with intention, a crafted message from one person to whoever is listening. So, in the wake of the coronavirus and the potential onslaught of monster killer wasps threatening Washington, I’m searching for shortcuts to mind-hearts. Make me a fuckin’ mixtape!

Continue reading Return to Mixtape Mountain/ Objects, part 1: Game of Phones

Even A Stopped Clock Is Right Twice A Day: Songs We Like by Artists We Don’t

There’s a whole lot of stuff out there in the music world that I do not care for…and I’m probably wrong. The widely-revered Sonic Youth, for example, is just not my cup of tea. (No, not even Daydream Nation.) I find Radiohead 20% tolerable background music, 80% powerful irritant. My contemporaries look at me like I’m a criminal when I say I find the Pixies a big fat “meh.” These are my own personal blind spots, and I own them.

Then there’s the artists that I know deep in my bones I’m right about not liking, and their legions of fans are wrong.

And I’ve tried. I’ve given some of these guys dozens of chances and re-listens. But at this point, no one is going to convince me that the spacey noodlings of Pink Floyd, stretched to ungodly lengths and anchored by a second-rate drummer and a third-rate keyboardist, are worth another minute of my time. Similarly, the “poetic” brain-dead bellows of noted jackass Jim Morrison, anchored by a second-rate keyboardist and third-rate drummer, are best left to those who peaked in high school.

But…there’s a couple of songs by those artists that, when they come on the radio, I find myself not reaching for the button. Not choosing a commercial, or static, or silence in their stead. Letting them play on. Maybe even deriving a modicum of pleasure from these aberrations from their usual plodding path of sub-mediocrity. It may not be the joyous surprise felt by those kids in that old cereal commercial (“He likes it!”), but it at least gives me a tiny insight into those misguided souls who think the usual stuff barfed up by the likes of the Grateful Dead is acceptable.

1. “Unchained” – Van Halen
from Fair Warning (1981)

2. “King of Pain” – The Police
from Synchronicity (1983)

3. “Jesus, etc.” – Wilco
from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2001)

4. “Can’t Feel My Face” – The Weeknd
from Beauty Behind the Madness (2015)

5. “Friends in Low Places” – Garth Brooks
from No Fences (1990)

6. “Somebody To Love” – Jefferson Airplane
from Surrealistic Pillow (1967)

7. “Style” – Taylor Swift
from 1989 (2015)

8. “People Are Strange” – The Doors
from Strange Days (1967)

9. “The Scientist” – Coldplay
from A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002)

10. “Friend of the Devil” – The Grateful Dead
from American Beauty (1970)

11. “Wild World” – Cat Stevens
from Tea for the Tillerman (1970)

12. “Comfortably Numb” – Pink Floyd
from The Wall (1979)

13. “Boys of Summer” – Don Henley
from Building the Perfect Beast (1984)

14. “Suspicious Minds” – Elvis Presley
released as a single (1969)

15. “Hold On We’re Going Home” – Drake
from Nothing Was the Same (2013)

Hi-Fi Fifteen is a callback to the “5 in 5” playlist game that MMDG, holybee, and djlazybear used to play on their lunchbreak. They’re all in different professions now, and don’t even live in the same counties, but quickly throwing together playlists on rotating themes is still fun as hell.

The Holy Bee Recommends, #17: The Rolling Stones’ Post-Exile Trilogy

Holy Bee of Ephesus

There is a blindly-accepted mythology that began as soon as the 70s ended. The myth goes like this: The Rolling Stones were a scrappy London R&B band that rode the first wave of the British Invasion, had some monster singles, did a classic mid-60s album (Aftermath), stumbled briefly with a psychedelic Beatles knock-off (Their Satanic Majesties Request), then righted themselves, found an excellent producer in Jimmy Miller, and made the Holy Quadrilogy — Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile On Main Street — each an irrefutable cornerstone of their massive legacy and four of the greatest rock albums ever made.

And after that — Some Girls aside — it all went to shit.

The “Ultimate Classic Rock” website, the internet’s click-bait custodian of lazy rock factoids, perpetuates the well-trodden path, describing the first post-Exile album, Goats Head Soupas“the end of the Stones’…

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Hi-Fi Fifteen: This Land Is Your Land

I have been so disheartened by the election results, and even more so every day since January 20th. I do not have the words to adequately articulate these times, so I turn to Idle Time favorite Joe Henry. He writes:

jhI have not read ‘Art Of The Deal,’ but have heard its synopsis by the “author,” and now witness its bizarre theatre enacted on our national stage: make an extravagant push of extremes –while flash pots deploy, distracting your negotiating advisory and leaving them to feel unmoored, hurried and vulnerable; and as the overreach is walked back, your advisory will believe themselves to have made “progress;” and will in the end gratefully settle for far less than they’d have ever first been willing even to imagine.

Is this what is happening to us now?

If so, we are about to learn whether ours truly is a country rooted by a constitution, or ruled by the whims of an autonomous regime, with its own moving agenda to which we are neither privy nor free to challenge –and of which we will never be beneficiaries.

Volatile as are these waters that toss around our little ship of state today, I assume it shall be revealed very soon whether or not our national craft is sustainable. But this much is clear right now: the storm threatening us is man-made, and means indeed to draw us silently under its loud and cold wave. We are at sea and at siege. Continue reading Hi-Fi Fifteen: This Land Is Your Land

2016: Idle Time’s Favorite Forty

Just in case you were comfortably moving on from a challenging 2016, Idle Time begs your attention one last time as we post our sixteenth annual retrospective, highlighting the albums that meant the most to us over the last twelve months. When we started this little clubhouse of chicanery, it was music that brought us together and, now, more than fifteen years later, as our roster expands and our scope broadens, the unifying power of music seems more important than ever.

In a year muddied by fear, confusion, and destructive ethnocentrism throughout our country and the world, it seems only appropriate that this year’s list of Favorite Albums ended up being our most diverse to date. Nine different countries are featured, and three different languages, with almost half of the albums originating outside of the U.S. Perhaps even more significantly, thirteen of the forty performers are female artists or bands fronted by women. More genres are represented, and we even have our first appearance of an original soundtrack. Take that, twenty-sixteen.

Eight Idlers contributed to this list, including the return of ghostyorb, and the first-time participation of IP, MeanOldPig, and LDG. We don’t always agree on the albums (although this year it came pretty damn close), but we do agree on the fact that, in an outright rejection of the too-many-cooks adage, this might very well be our finest list to date. And the proof is in the playlist. As you browse through the rankings and the blurbs (I use the term “blurb” loosely; since HolyBee’s departure from regular participation, several contributors have been making claims to the King of Verbosity mantle), check out the four Mixcloud mixes for an audio tour through the favorite forty.

Favorites 2016: 40-31 | Accolades Home

Hi-Fi Fifteen: Catalina Wine Mixtape

220px-thebestofnickcaveIt must have been in early 2000. The first non-work related thing djlazybear ever said to me. “Have you heard Johhny Cash’s version of “The Mercy Seat”?

Hell, it was one of the first things he ever said to me, period. I remember, because it caught me completely off-guard. I probably gave him one of those fuck-you-talking-to expressions, like Mac and Dennis defensively reacting to their new neighbor in the burbs. I think I paused and spat back, “What?!”

Turns out, he saw the CD case for The Best of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds on the passenger seat of my car, and was eager to talk music. And talk music we did. That same year djlazybear’s buddy holybee joined our staff, and talking music took on a whole new meaning.

Our way of celebrating songs that we loved took the form of pen & paper lists, incessant arguments, halfass DJ sets, and burned CDs by the caseload. Anyone with musical ability, on the other hand, celebrates songs that he or she loves by covering those tunes. And when bands we love cover songs by other bands that we love… then it just feels like we’re all part of one big celebration. Even if I can’t carry a tune.

A great covers mix needed to be a little more focused. So, in honor of that very first interaction between djlazybear and myself, we set the following parameters for January’s Hi-Fi Fifteen: songs recorded during the Idle Time era (2001 to the present), covering songs originally released during our lifetimes, prior to meeting each other (so, 1972 – 2000). Plus, I’m a big fan of the Catalina Wine Mixer scene from Stepbrothers and was keeping my fingers crossed for some 80’s Joel renditions.

Interestingly enough, however, despite the inspiration from Horatio Sanz’s Uptown Girl, no Billy Joel covers appear on this mix.
Continue reading Hi-Fi Fifteen: Catalina Wine Mixtape

Edamame Makes Beats, Wins Tournaments

Most of us were more than eager to turn the calendar page to January, and bid farewell to a tumultuous 2016. But the past year had its share of high points worthy of celebration, and we still have some accolades to bestow. Idle Time closed out the year with our second annual Tune Tournament, this time bracketing songs in regions honoring four of the many musical icons who passed away over the last twelve months.

Idlers nominated sixty-four favorite songs from recent years, and after six rounds of competition involving sixty-three total matchups and over 10,000 individual votes, we have a winner. Congratulations to Chicago’s Ed Harris, aka Edamame, and Idle Time’s Tune of the Year, “Tree Shadows”!

Edamame may have entered the tourney as a sixteen-seed, but he quickly established that he was not to be taken lightly, besting Chicago’s top seed, Wilco, with a 57% share of the matchup vote. He followed up that victory with solid beatdowns over Jim O’Rourke in round 2, and Whitney in the Sweet 16 round.

“Tree Shadows” was quietly, stealthily, establishing itself as a major competitor not just in the Chicago region, but as a legitimate contender for the Tune Tournament crown. History wasn’t on his side; none of the three instrumental tracks in last year’s tournament even made it past the first round. Then again, none of those songs had a dope ass video like this guy.
Continue reading Edamame Makes Beats, Wins Tournaments

The Holy Bee Recommends, #16: “Beatles ’66: The Revolutionary Year” by Steve Turner

Holy Bee of Ephesus

In these virtual pages, we’ve already discussed why 1966 was a revolutionary year in 41tfo6prkll-_sy344_bo1204203200_general. Now, to continue our celebration of this landmark year’s 50th anniversary, we’ll get specific. What did 1966 mean to The Beatles? According to Steve Turner’s excellent new book, Beatles ‘66: The Revolutionary Year, it was the crux of their existence as a working band — building on past triumphs, peaking with their most remarkable work, and even sowing the seeds of their eventual demise. Turner considers the events of 1966 too important to be condensed and shoehorned into a typical Beatles bio, and the year deserves its own book.

It was first and foremost a transformative year for them. In the space of just a few months, they went from their matching suits and famous pudding-bowl haircuts, bashing out “She’s A Woman” into a wall of deafening screams, to being draped in beads and velvet…

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2016 Tune Tourney: The Championship

It almost had to come to this. San Francisco vs. Chicago for the Championship, and all associated bragging rights that accompany winning Idle Time’s 2016 Tune Tournament. Not for nothing, but Mark Melancon is a legit closer, and Aroldis is back in New York. This could go either way at this point.

In this corner, 2015 winners The Y Axes, defending their title with “Monsters,” from the recently released Umbra LP. Last year they represented the California region, and this year they proudly champion San Francisco, after a resounding 82% Final Four victory over Morly’s “Plucky,” the Minneapolis representative.

And in the other corner, newcomer Edamame brings “Tree Shadows” to the party, from this year’s Ochre release. Edamame has the honor of representing Chicago, after putting an end to Kero Kero Bonito’s Cinderella season with an 84% victory over the London leaders.

And caught smack in the middle, one of our very own Idlers, lebronald. Born and raised in San Francisco, living in and loving Chicago. What’s it going to be, bro? No one is telling you to make your vote public, but… we’re all pretty curious.

Cast your votes and spread the word, as the Championship matchup closes on Thursday, December 29 at noon. May the best triangular logo win.

Continue reading 2016 Tune Tourney: The Championship