Monday, September 26, 2011

J. Cole – Cole’s Mined (a misshapedmixtape)

I’m listening to a preview of J. Cole’s debut album, “Cole World: A Sideline Story,” as I write this post up. It will be officially released tomorrow (September 27) through Roc Nation, and I have been looking forward to it for a long time. But now that I’m listening to it, an album that some claimed would be a 2011 “Illmatic” (um… talk about setting someone up for disappointment), it frankly isn’t as great as I was hoping it would be (not that I thought it would touch “Illmatic”… I was thinking maybe “College Dropout”). I need to listen to it more, but my impression at this point is that “A Sideline Story” is a very, very good album… with tracks that range from phenomenal (“Lost Ones”) to excellent (2/4/11/13/14/15) to… ummm… a song with Trey Songz and another with Drake. Like most albums it’s a mixed bag… (I think that someday I really ought to post a list of recent albums that ARE solid the whole way through because there HAVE been some great ones lately).

So yes… before I introduce my “Cole’s Mined” mixtape and laud Cole’s profound skills as a producer and lyricist, I feel a need to place a little asterisk here from the get-go. 


Because, in all honesty, I meant this mixtape to be a promotion for people to go out tomorrow and grab what I anticipated would be the best overground hip-hop album of the year. Coz yeah, people talking about how mainstream hip-hop sucks (ok, most of it does) has been really pissing me off lately, and I wanted to see something that was being marketed AND was smart. Anyway, I’m losing some momentum on this push as we speak... and even as the album is getting much better from track 10 on, I didn’t want to extol something before listening to it first (I may have made that mistake with the Beck-produced Malkmus album that I was so amped up for earlier... I mean, it was A-okay, but did not end up being a great album either… sorry!).

Regardless, I’m thinking that you, my dearly discerning readers, should listen to this ridiculously good mixtape instead of buying the album (for the time being), as it contains what I consider to be the crème de la crème of free music that J. Cole has released online (through mixtapes) for the past four years. Then, once you fall in love with J. Cole’s genius, you can go out and support him and his music by buying his official album (with the realization that it may not live up to the hype). Because shit, listening to kick-ass track after kick-ass track on this svelte misshapedmixtape, you’d be crazy to not get really, really sma’xcited about what this young Fayetteville, North Carolina native will be bringing to the music industry for years to come. (One note: I was tempted to make this mix a double LP but decided to pick the finest -- like I civet who chooses carefully and then poops out only the best coffee beans -- so that we could stay under the 80 minute mark).

Okay now, where to start? First and foremost, I think that it’s important to note that J. Cole is both a rapper and a beatsmith… and that, in my opinion, he’s equally adept at both. For those that have been following this blog from the beginning, J. Cole actually contributed two beats that are on the XV mixtape (“Smallville” and “Watch Me Go”). As an MC, he showed tremendous potential and hunger when he dropped his first mixtape, “The Come Up Mixtape Vol. 1,” back in 2007. And he’s only gotten better since then (and signing with Jay-Z surely helped). I especially love his storytelling ability (check the heartbreaking “Killers”; identity-searching as a teen in “I Got It”; or the self-deprecating love-song “Dreams”).

I don’t want to put up any of his “quotable” lyrics here because I think that when J. Cole is working at his peak, he is able to produce poetry of the highest level. So please, enjoy this latest misshapedmixtape installment. And yeah, then maybe you can even go and grab the album. If you want.

J. Cole – “Cole’s Mined (a misshapedmixtape)" tracklist below (check for download link in “comments”):

01 : Too Deep For The Intro [Friday Night Lights]
02 : Premeditated Murder [Friday Night Lights]
03 : Killers [The Last Stretch]
04 : Losing My Balance [The Warm Up]
05 : Leave Me Alone [Roc Nation 2011]
06 : Blow Up [Friday Night Lights]
07 : Playground [For The Ville]
08 : Before I'm Gone [Friday Night Lights]
09 : World Is Empty [The Warm Up]
10 : Dolla & A Dream [The Come Up]
11 : Shook Ones (Freestyle) [For The Ville]
12 : The Badness (ft Omen) [The Warm Up]
13 : Cost Me A Lot [Friday Night Lights]
14 : Dead Presidents II [The Warm Up]
15 : We On [The Last Stretch]
16 : Dreams [The Warm Up]
17 : Enchanted (ft Omen) [Friday Night Lights]
18 : Show Me Something [For The Ville]
19 : I Got It [For The Ville]
20 : Lil Ghetto Nigga [The Come Up]
21 : The Last Stretch [The Last Stretch]
22 : Farewell [Friday Night Lights]

Monday, September 19, 2011

Belle & Sebastian - Another Sunny Day (a misshapedmixtape)

It’s September. It’s 70 degrees out. Baseball playoffs are coming soon. I’m about to head to the dog beach. I’m feeling pretty happy that “Mad Men” won the Emmy for best drama yet again. In short, in my universe it feels like perfect Belle & Sebastian weather.

I’ve had a soft-spot for B&S for a long time. They are simply oh-so-good. Every time a song of theirs pops up as part of a movie soundtrack, I get chills. And goodness me, they have such a killer catalog of songs. Unless you never pretended to not be a hipster, you probably love Belle & Sebastian as well. Damn hipsters.

But, if I’m perfectly honest, they only have one album that I completely love (“If You’re Feeling Sinister”). The other ones just don’t quite work as ALBUMS for me. But that’s just me. Please convince me of my wrongness and drop a comment. I would like being proven wrong. But I’m wrong about as often as Shanna Zolman misses a free throw (which was 4.3% of the time during her record-setting season at Tennessee).  

So here’s a collection of my personal favorites from the Glasgow chamber-pop dang-it’s-hot rockers. To be honest, I haven’t checked out their latest stuff... so this just spans their big six of albums between 1996-2006.

Here’s the tracklist for "Belle & Sebastian - Another Sunny Day (a misshapedmixtape)" [download link in "comments"]:

01 : Women's Realm [Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant]
02 : She's Losing It [Tigermilk]
03 : Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying [If You're Feeling Sinister]
04 : If You're Feeling Sinister [If You're Feeling Sinister]
05 : I Fought In A War [Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant]
06 : Lord Anthony [Dear Catastrophe Waitress]
07 : Expectations [Tigermilk]
08 : Dress Up In You [The Life Pursuit]
09 : The Stars Of Track And Field [If You're Feeling Sinister]
10 : Sleep The Clock Around [The Boy With The Arab Strap]
11 : Don't Leave The Light On Baby [Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk...]
12 : The State I Am In [Tigermilk]
13 : Like Dylan In The Movies [If You're Feeling Sinister]
14 : It Could Have Been A Brilliant Career [The Boy With The Arab Strap]
15 : You're Just A Baby [Tigermilk]
16 : Another Sunny Day [The Life Pursuit]
17 : Piazza, New York Catcher [Dear Catastrophe Waitress]
18 : The Chalet Lines [Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant]
19 : The Fox In The Snow [If You're Feeling Sinister]
20 : Is It Wicked Not To Care? [The Boy With The Arab Strap]

Monday, September 12, 2011

KiD CuDi - CuDi's UnCommon '08-'09 (a misshapedmixtape)

Sometimes I can be so stupid with music. Exactly two years ago (9/12/09) when Kid Cudi released his debut album, “Man on the Moon: The End of Day,” I completely wrote it off. No, I did more than that. I thought that it sucked and I went out of my way to tell people that they should NOT listen to Kid Cudi... this after casually listening to the album all the way through (once)… and seeing the underwhelming “Make Her Say” video (more than once). 

It didn’t help that “Make Her Say” sampled Lady Gaga, was cutesily degrading towards women (but not Lady Gaga), had lyrics that seemed written for 12-year-olds, and that Cudi’s verse was the worst part of an overall bad song (though Common and Kanye were also lame on it). All of these things together instilled a confident smugness within me that Cudi undoubtedly sucked -- which got me to the point where I shouted out “Man, you guys sure sound a lot better without Kid Cudi overtop your music!” at a rad Ratatat show.

Okay, maybe I only shouted that in my head.

But if I was off my medication it would’ve happened out loud. And that’s beside the point because I DID shout it in my head. So there. Zing! Anyway... did I mention that I can be stupid about music sometimes? Coz yeah, I was wrong about Kid Cudi. Real wrong.

To defend my original snap judgment, Kid Cudi isn’t a great rapper. And he’s a worse singer than rapper (and he sings a lot). And “Make Her Say” was the worst song on the album – not because of the other faults that I mentioned (or because it was mainstream radio fodder) – but more importantly because it does not fit with the theme of the rest of the album (and now I promise not to talk about that song for the rest of this post even though I listened to it the other day for the first time in a long time and it made me chuckle and I thought for a second that it wasn’t half-bad).

However, be that (i.e. all these negative things that I’m blathering on about) as it may, Kid Cudi is a brilliant songwriter. I mean, brilliant. He’s also easily one of the most original artists putting out music (regardless of genre) these days and has the balls to do whatever he wants (supposedly a rock album will be his next release). So yeah, I owe Kid Cudi an apology… Dear Kid Cudi, your debut album was actually (almost) perfect and you were releasing straight fire in 2008 & 2009 and you are a nice guy and it’s pretty cool that you recruited Ratatat to be on your album and I like that you’re from the Midwest and your (other) music videos are freaking cool. In summary, your music is good. I’m sorry.

But back to the now-you-know-it’s-actually-awesome “Man on the Moon: The End of Day” debut album. There is one unfortunately bad thing about it that remains. Alas, motherfucking Common narrates throughout the album (arghhh!) effectively destroying the flow of a masterpiece while contributing completely uninteresting debonair-voiced commentary that has made me hit the >> button on ITunes WAY too often. Why did you have to do that Common? Why?

Actually, allow me to rant (even more), Common had a terrible 2008 & 2009. Not only did he release the ONLY bad album of his career (actually “Universal Mind Control” teeters past bad and into god-awful territory), he also graced the silver screen as an actor in TWO ultra-shit movies: “Street Kings” and “Terminator Salvation.” I am a big Common fan (with an unhealthy affinity for the weirdness on “Electric Circus”), so I am not just being mean. I expect that when Common’s new album comes out later this year, it will be good. I might even go to see him in concert for a third time. But I will NEVER forgive him for ruining such a beautiful album.

But wait, what happens if you cut out ALL of the Common narration from “Man on the Moon: The End of Day” and take out a few other throwaway tracks (including the song that is not to be named again) and ADD some virtuohsick songs off the “A Kid Named Cudi” mixtape from 2008? Here it is: “CuDi's UnCommon '08-'09 (a misshapedmixtape).”

In conclusion, if you’re familiar with Cudi’s debut album you will see that I did NOT tinker much with the track order/flow of it for this mix. He DEFINITELY knew what he was doing when he sequenced that album together in what he classifies as “Five Acts.” However, I put in “Man On The Moon” (off the mixtape) as track one (prelude to Act I) and then took some creative liberties after the end of the third act to (in my opinion) improve the final two acts. I’m really proud of this one, so please share it with your friends and loved ones, and bring some more traffic to the misshapedmixtapes website. We had tons of hits on the launch (granted, that XV mix is tough to top), but this is all good ass shit. 

I’m sadly aware that this music is truly “misshaped” – coz I wish I could give each of you a Maxell 110-minute double-sided cassette instead of a download link – but these mixes take as much time and love to craft as back when I was using the ol’ stop-start on my parents’ stereo. So enjoy it. And I’m sorry, but my tape recorder is broken now (sad face).

Tracklist below (check for download link in "comments):

01 : Man On The Moon
02 : In My Dreams (Cudder Anthem)
03 : Soundtrack 2 My Life
04 : Simple As...
05 : Solo Dolo (Nightmare)
06 : Heart Of A Lion (Kid Cudi Theme Music)
07 : My World (ft Billy Craven)
08 : Day N Nite (Nightmare)
09 : Sky Might Fall
10 : Enter Galactic (Love Connection Part I)
11 : 50 Ways To Make A Record
12 : Alive (Nightmare) (ft Ratatat)
13 : Cudi Zone
14 : Pursuit Of Happiness (Nightmare) (ft MGMT & Ratatat)
15 : The Prayer
16 : Embrace The Martian
17 : Up Up & Away
18 : Heaven At Nite

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sparklehorse (a pair of misshapedmixtapes)

When Mark Linkous died a year-and-a-half ago (taking his own life), a truly great artist was lost -- and he was lost pretty quietly too. I’ve recently talked to a number of people that have “heard of” Sparklehorse but never “heard them,” which is a damn shame. As for me, I probably would’ve been in the same boat except that I saw Linkous open for Tortoise at the Metro about 8 years ago (one of the most unique concert pairings that I’ve experienced). I loved his set from that show and the whole “It’s A Wonderful Life” album (minus the Tom Waits song). But then I lost track of Sparklehorse (probably as a result of listening to 95% hip-hop for a stretch there) and didn’t come back to Linkous until my good friend Ben re-introduced me to his stuff a few years ago. I’m so glad that he did.

I won’t spend too many words attempting to describe his music (achingly delicate?). I have been listening to a lot of it over the past couple of years and it locks perfectly into a particular mindspace of my own. It is what it is. It’s good.

I made two mixes. The first (“Sick Of Goodbyes”) is a short one (38 minutes) that covers more of the rocking ground. It’s a good introduction to Sparklehorse. If you liked alt rock in the 90’s, you’ll like this.

The second one (“It’s A Sad & Beautiful World”) is the one that I prefer. I guess you could call it chill mood music (you can play it while napping!) but I hope that doesn't sell it short. I made this particular mix awhile ago (then tweaked it a bit) and have listened to it more than any other album of the last five years (except for Eluvium’s “Copia”). And yeah, I usually don’t listen to one thing over-and-over-again… unlike certain former roommates that I’ve had.

One note: the songs on these mixes are Sparklehorse songs… so there’s nothing from the collaborations with Fennesz or Danger Mouse/David Lynch. Also, please please go and buy an album if you like this stuff. It’ll be something that sticks with you. I will say that one reason I do like absorbing my Sparklehorse in mixtape form is that the albums sometimes veer into too many sonic territories for my personal liking. And yeah, at least one or two abrasive noise-experiments tend to pop-up on each Sparklehorse album proper… and those are rad for like a listen or two, but then end up being tracks (or ends of songs) that I skip.

This week, September 9th, would have been Linkous' 49th birthday. Listen to his cover of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” (on the second mix). That sums up what I’d most want to say.

Here are the track lists for the two tapes (download link for both together is in "comments"):

Sparklehorse - Sick Of Goodbyes (a mishapedmixtape)

01 : Piano Fire
02 : Sick Of Goodbyes
03 : Hey, Joe
04 : Maria's Little Elbows
05 : Hundreds Of Sparrows
06 : Don't Take My Sunshine Away
07 : Mountains
08 : Knives Of Summertime
09 : Comfort Me
10 : Chest Full Of Dying Hawks
11 : Saturday

Sparklehorse – It’s A Sad & Beautiful World (a mishapedmixtape)

01 : Homecoming Queen
02 : Spirit Ditch
03 : Heart Of Darkness
04 : Sad & Beautiful World
05 : Painbirds
06 : Saint Mary
07 : Sunshine
08 : Come On In
09 : All Night Home
10 : Box Of Stars, Pt. 2
11 : Junebug
12 : It's A Wonderful Life
13 : Gold Day
14 : Sea Of Teeth
15 : Apple Bed
16 : Eyepennies
17 : More Yellow Birds
18 : Little Fat Baby
19 : Morning Hollow
20 : Getting It Wrong
21 : Shade And Honey
22 : See The Light
23 : Return To Me
24 : Some Sweet Day
25 : Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd cover)
26 : Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain (aka Maxine)