Category Archives: Tiny Mix Tapes

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Essay: Excitable Boy by Warren Zevon

For reasons that now seem ridiculous, I wrote off Warren Zevon for a long time. Like They Might Be Giants — who I’ve also wised up about — I assumed for years that Zevon, despite his long career, was a wacky classic rock one-off: in his case, a guy who wrote a dumb song about […]

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Essay: El Oso by Soul Coughing

I’ve been putting off writing this one. There’s just something unruly about the final Soul Coughing album, something rough-edged and unmanageable. Though it has some concise pop gems — “Circles” is one of most radio-friendly songs of the ’90s — much of the record is rambling and relentlessly dark. [ Click here for more ]

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Essay: The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads by Talking Heads

This isn’t what I thought would happen. I thought I would listen to this 27-year-old live album and compare different eras of Talking Heads: the 1977-1979 version (disc one), the 1980-1981 version (disc two), and, based on their later material, what the band eventually became. To their credit, Talking Heads sound equally energetic, smart, and […]

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Essay: Reckoning by R.E.M.

Yeah, I know: either you (1) love R.E.M. and think Reckoning is awesome; (2) hate R.E.M. and no stupid review is going to convince you otherwise; or (3) feel ambivalent about R.E.M. and probably won’t finish reading this review. Regardless, hasn’t enough been written about Murmur, Reckoning, and the whole lot? Isn’t it time to […]

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Interview: Free Energy

Philadelphia’s Free Energy are sitting on a tiny landmine of potential buzz. A couple of their members were in the late, great Minneapolis band Hockey Night, and Free Energy’s debut record – Stuck On Nothing, due January 12, 2010 – will be released on DFA with James “LCD Soundsystem” Murphy producing. The band recently released […]

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Essay: Stakes Is High by De La Soul

3 Feet High and Rising remains an indisputable classic, and there’s something charming about De La Soul’s efforts to match its heights. You can hear this awkward scrambling in the dark humor of De La Soul Is Dead or in the funky experimentation of 1993’s Buhloone Mindstate. By 1996, De La Soul were not only […]

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Concert review: Yeah Yeah Yeahs

There are rock bands, and then there are Rock Bands. It’s like the difference between an actor and a Movie Star: there are people who do their job, and then there are people who completely entrance while doing it. When Karen O. slinked onstage at First Avenue, with her face lit up by a pink […]

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Essay: The Simpsons Sing The Blues

Within its first season in 1989, The Simpsons was a massive hit; America ate it up. So did you, as your parents surely remember — they’re the ones who threw away your “Don’t have a cow, man” t-shirt in 1996. They also probably tossed The Simpsons Sing The Blues while they were at it, unless […]

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Essay: Here They Come! by Paul Revere & The Raiders

Full disclosure: my dad, who died five years ago, loved this record, a fact that will likely cloud my judgment. In fact, I’m counting on it: I decided to check out Here They Come! as an exercise, a way to understand his tastes. He was a guy who knew what he liked and knew when […]

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Essay: Improvisations to Music by Mike Nichols & Elaine May

Every culture, subculture, genre, and category has its wonks. Improvisational comedy is no exception; its biggest snobs scoff at Robin Williams’ zany talk show antics, and they eschew the hackery of television shows like Whose Line Is It Anyway? by decrying the lack of characters and scenework. I am one of those snobs. [Click here […]

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Essay: Either/Or by Elliott Smith

Much has been made of Elliott Smith’s performance at the 1997 Oscar ceremony, and rightly so. Not only is it an inherently bizarre moment in pop culture, it’s a nervous but typically brilliant performance, with a surprisingly understated Academy orchestra in the background. It marked the beginning of a new chapter for Smith, who had […]

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Essay: Wolf Songs For Lambs by Jonathan Fire*Eater

Jonathan Fire*Eater’s story is unfortunately all too common in the music business: band releases strong EP, band signs to major label, band releases major label debut, band is never heard from again. DreamWorks released Wolf Songs For Lambs on the heels of mountains of buzz, only to see the record fizzle despite critical acclaim. Yet […]

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