December 21, 2013

Hang A String Of Lights: The Fuel/Friends 2013 Christmas Mix


Coming in juuust under the wire with mere days left to go before Christmas (hey, I haven’t done any shopping yet either!), the holiday spirit finally bit me the other night in earnest, sitting by the tree with eggnog and delving through the songs I was considering assembling into this year’s mix. I wasn’t sure I would get a mix done this year, but I started marveling over the really solid crop of songs to choose from this year and it quickly became a no-brainer of wonderfulness.

I’m so thankful for so many things this year, including all of you, and I love being part of your holiday celebrations. Here’s to all the non-annoying seasonal tunes out there — the ones that light up the darkness on this, the longest night of the year. Hang a string of lights, strike a candle, and let’s banish some of this darkness together. Merry Christmas.


(download the whole thing as a zip)

It’s Christmas So We’ll Stop (choir version) – Frightened Rabbit
The original version of this song appeared on my Christmas mix in 2008, when I was listening to a lot of Frightened Rabbit and being very sad about things. I’m just hearing this celestial b-side rendition, and is almost 100% just simple choral magnificence. Wayy better psychological ramifications.

Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – Sleeping At Last
Ryan O’Neal puts out an entire Christmas song collection every year (“Snow” was last year’s terrific contribution to this mix), and his Lennon cover is a standout of 2013′s. With every passing year, I am more strongly drawn to the simplicity in this song, especially the way Ryan sings it. Two songs into the mix and I already have something in my eye.

Mvmt IV, Every Bell On Earth Will Ring – The Oh Hellos
Stop reading this right now and go download the new Oh Hellos Family Christmas EP right now. It is the best thing out there this season, free or otherwise. They’re playing a few Colorado shows around the holidays, guys. I want them to come to my house because — listen to this.

I Believe In Santa Claus – Dr Dog
From their marvelous little new EP of original Christmas songs that you must get right away. Quirky, melodic goodness, as one would expect from these gents.

Hang A String Of Lights – Great Lake Swimmers
This is kind of what Christmas in California used to sound like. From Nettwerk’s Christmas 2012 collection.

Angels We Have Heard On High – Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan is the reigning king of all Christmas songs now and forevermore (but hey, I can’t put “That Was The Worst Christmas Ever” on every year’s mix, so I am branching out). This is from his Silver & Gold EPs, a sampling of which is now free over on Noisetrade.

Tennessee Christmas – Drew Grow & The Pastors’ Wives
Dude, Drew — circa 1983 Amy Grant covers? Bold. Drew Grow & The Pastors’ Wives are now reincarnated as Modern Kin (with an excellent album this year), but this is an old recording from a few years ago. When Drew sings those lyrics about Colo-raaaa-do and our deep snows, I have to swoon.

O Little Town Of Bethlehem – Folk Angel
This Dallas band offers up their stomping take on this traditional carol, from a free sampler on Noisetrade. Noisetrade is killin’ it this Christmas.

Silver Bells – Edmund Wayne
Curt (frontman of Edmund Wayne) is one of my favorite souls I’ve hosted for a house show – a pure and piercing presence, with gorgeously-crafted songs. This quiet lo-fi Christmas EP fell in my lap yesterday, and not only includes this song, but you must must must check out “1616” (it made me cry at my house show last weekend / a perfect song).

Maybe This Christmas (Ron Sexsmith) – Paul Jacobsen & The Madison Arm
I feel lucky to have a wonderful community of folk musician friends in Salt Lake City (backstory/mix), and some of them got together to do up a richly sweet cover of Ron Sexsmith. Sarah Sample also joins in here on vocals – she’s got a lullaby album in the making, too.

You Never Come Home For Christmas – Caitlin Rose & Keegan DeWitt
Caitlin’s not yet a friend, but we have a lot of folks in common, so I took a special listen to her playful duet here with her neighbor Keegan, which delivers a zing of a lyrical punch: “You never come home for Christmas — and maybe it’s better that way.”

In The Bleak Midwinter – Andrew Greer
The thoughtful and wonderful Cover Lay Down blog described Andrew Greer as “heavenly folk tenor reminiscent of an early Paul Simon,” and so yep, I’m on board.

Are You Coming Over for Christmas? – Belle & Sebastian
The feyest of all fey Christmas songs, in such an endearing way. Yes Stuart, I am coming over. Keep the fire in the kitchen going.

O Holy Night – Kalai
I have listened a hundred times or more to the only other Kalai song I have, a James-Taylor doppelganger ballad that exudes a simple grace. So I was excited to see him on the free MetCom Studios Eggnog Sampler this year with a cover of my favorite Christmas carol.

Still, Still, Still – The Lower Lights
The Lower Lights are a folk collective of those aforementioned good folks in Salt Lake City, and this year again they got roughly 463 musicians together and just released their second Christmas album, with marvelous album art from Hatch Show Print. The ladies of The Souvenirs sing here.

Merry Christmas, I’m Yours – Prairie Empire
This time last year Brittain Ashford of Prairie Empire came through Denver and treated a small lucky group to a special subterranean show that I remember well. This breathy song is from last year’s free Auld Lang Syne EP.

Blue Christmas – Vandaveer
This year I got to welcome Rose & Mark into my home for a concert and into the chapel to record their (almost-next-up) chapel session, and it was a thorough joy. I love how Mark’s voice here sounds like a sultry jazz lady. From 2010′s free 3-song Christmas EP.

Christmas Must Be Tonight – The Band
There are a lot of covers of this song floating around out there, but somehow I’ve never posted the original and it is still my favorite.

Xmas Eve – The Damnwells
I used this song on my mix way back in 2007, but I have been revisiting it on the regular in the last few weeks, since Alex Dezen of The Damnwells graced us with a tremendous house show. This is just a really good song, Christmastime or no, and I always appreciate those contributions to this mix. I am glad the original lineup is making a new album.

I’ll Be Home For Christmas – Elvis Presley
You can’t not feel a pang in your chest when you hear this one, especially the way Elvis croons it.

Carol of the Banjos – Beta Radio
From their free Christmas EP this year; 2011′s “The Song The Season Brings” still sounds so very good too.

Our World (Emmett Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas) – Kyle Zantos & Bryan John Appleby
Several of my favorite Seattle musicians take on this song from the 1977 Jim Henson classic, and it is so humble and just perfect. From the new, free Santa’s Slay EP.


[the mix cover art, as usual, by the wonderful and generous Ryan Hollingsworth, from a photo I took last Christmas under lights at the Broadmoor Hotel with Megan from the Music vs Misery blog, Winston from Night Beds, Adam from Songsfortheday, and my good friend Andrew. Here’s to warm twinkly nights and another beauty-filled year.]

October 11, 2013

(amen.) – the Fuel/Friends Autumn Mix 2013


The “amen” title of this year’s seasonal autumn mix is not a reverential reference to the mix itself, but a word that rose up on its own in two different songs, unplanned as I made the playlist. In the same way that 2011′s (super sad; sorry about that, guys) mix congealed into its own theme of rivers, bones, empty beds, and gospel backing vocals, this year’s mix took on a theme of richly robust strings and the word “amen” popping up all over.

First, there is the amen at the end of Volcano Choir’s “Alaskans” — a sampling of Charles Bukowski reading his poem The Shower, and struggling over the final lines, ending with “amen.” Then a few songs later, Tyler Lyle wends his way to another kind of amen — a blessing of sorts, as he sings about youth and aging and wanting to live forever.

Of all the words I could have lifted out of a song to name this mix, that one word “amen” seems to fit the most. Fall always feels like a bit of a benediction to me; a closing thank you and fiery brilliant last gasp to what the summer was, a preparing for the thick silence and the warm wool blankets of winter.

(amen.) – The Fuel/Friends Autumn Mix 2013

While You’re Carrying The Weight – Patrick Dethlefs
Patrick is one of Colorado’s best gems, and this song is the title track off his new EP. There is a weighty, elegant compassion radiating through it, and it makes me somehow grateful – and breathless.

The Shining – Badly Drawn Boy
While the amens were accidental, when I started listening for this mix to coalesce, I wanted all of the songs with the strings, and that bluish-purple shine that could look like either gathering twilight or a healing bruise.

Alaskans – Volcano Choir
This album, all of it: flawless soundtrack of this season. I picked this track narrowly over “Byegone,” but it was suuuuper close. Ultimately it was the heartbreaking Bukowski sample that did it for me, because: CHRIST.

Amsterdam – Gregory Alan Isakov
Perhaps it is because Colorado totally wins autumn-time, what with all our yellow aspens and such, but this mix this year is especially dense with Colorado songwriters. Greg is obviously one of our finest; everything he makes, for me, is redolent of this season. From his stunning new “rambler’s folky manifesto” album, The Weatherman.

Barside – PHOX
All the time, still cannot get enough of Monica’s honeyed voice. Their chapel session is in the pipeline, and I can’t wait to have more music from them to listen to. This song feels like falling asleep sitting up.

Small Plane (NPR garden version) – Bill Callahan
There is a simple, stark straightforwardness in this song from Bill’s new album Dream River, a view of relationships with others that I find real and appealing. “I always went wrong in the same place / where the river splits towards the sea,” he confides, but then the lyrics delve into a mutual wresting of control from each other. All those different paths our lives could follow; “I really am a lucky man.”

My Search Party – Covenhoven
Joel Van Horne of Colorado named his new musical project after his family cabin, Covenhoven, in rural Wyoming, and created an independent symphony of a record around the concept of that place for him. This song stopped me in everything I was doing when I first heard it. I still draw in my breath sharply and hold it for the whole first verse.

Salt Year – Chris Bathgate
I’m just choking on a salt year, when sugar’s all I’ve longed for. I should live in salt for leaving you behind. Mixed metaphors, same ideas, terrific song.

Silent Passage – Bob Carpenter
This is a song from the early Seventies that I’d never heard until recently, and I think I hear Emmylou Harris on backing vocals? Golden sun, long roads, and a restless spirit, this song.

Young Men (demo) – Tyler Lyle
For my money, this young man is writing some of the very very best songs right now: wry and clever and believing and wide open, all at once. We just want to live forever, we are sorry we will never, amen.

Come On, Illinois – Houndmouth
A calescent, fast-rising band from Kentucky that makes me want to watch Last Waltz a few more times. I saw these guys in Boulder this summer and, man, for some fresh-faced kids, they can joyfully wail with the best of ‘em.

Rules Of The Game (b-side) – Typhoon
I still want to wrestle out what the new Typhoon record means to me (hint: a lot), and how seeing them live recently was one of the most jaw-dropping shows I have seen in years. But for now — we will sit quietly and soak in the loveliness of this song which could totally be an a-side but is a b-side because Typhoon has more talent than they know what to do with. This song fits seamlessly in to White Lighter, even repeating melodies and certain turns of phrase.

The Drugs Don’t Work – The Verve
This classic came on shuffle recently and those STRINGS. I have it on repeat so many days lately. I will always love the lyric, “and I hope you’re thinking of me / as you lay down on your side.” So …simple. A heartbreaker, this song.

The Orchids (Psychic TV cover) – Califone
I saw Califone the other night in a little coffee shop near the railroad tracks in Colorado Springs. I had never heard much of their music before, just knowing them by reputation mostly. I sat there with an awed half-smile on my face the whole time, hand touched to my lips, an unsettled and deeply-pleased feeling on me all at once, in the best possible way.

Mine – Spirits of the Red City
Spirits of the Red City has been haunting me pleasantly for a few months now. Originally a loose collective from Minneapolis, but now sort of related to Denver by blood (since Denver’s Collectible Records just released their new record Jula), we welcome them.

Dying Now – Noah & Abby Gundersen
One of the finest, truest duos together, this brother and sister detonate the emotional heavy artillery, but make it so smooth that you almost don’t notice until you look down and a chunk is missing.

To Place Me On A Stone – Will Johnson
Kinda in a Will Johnson phase these days, fittingly, obviously. Solo vocal evening worksong; closing hymn for the summer having its way with us.

Ghost, Again – Rayland Baxter
My friend Jon recommended I listen to this artist, and whoaa I am so glad I did. Close your eyes for this one, and just let it pierce through. “I nearly made it to the end of the road.”

3 Rounds and a Sound (iTunes session) – Blind Pilot
I recently reminded myself how this is a perfect album, and this is an exquisite version of a perfect song. “I hope we dance tonight before we get it wrong / and the seasons will change us new, but you’re the best I’ve known, and you know me.”

Can I Sleep In Your Arms Tonight (Willie Nelson) – Phosphorescent
I’ve been laced-in with fast, tight stitches in a Phosphorescent cocoon lately.
This song is on here rather than the completely, abso-fucking-lutely ridiculous version of “Wolves” from St. Pancras Church that is coming out on the bonus live disc for Muchacho (Oct 29) for two reasons. One, all of us can agree that autumn is the best time to start up that snuggly sleeping-in-someone’s-arms business, aside from the sticky summer heat. Two, I am so not able to write about Wolves right now. So many thoughts. Preorder that bonus disc and we will talk later.

In the meantime, snuggle with Matthew Houck and Willie under that quilt. It feels good.


[cover art design, as usual, by the tremendous Ryan Hollingsworth, from my picture last weekend at Mueller State Park, aspen-gazing.]

June 19, 2013

Sunburns Turning Into Tanlines :: The Fuel/Friends Summer 2013 Mix


Summer is a rarefied season that (more than any other time of year) summons up all sorts of vintage ghosts from other generations’ musical realms — namely, the ’50s and ’60s in American & British music, for me. There’s something in those old AM radio songs and staticky car stereo anthems that instantly dig up all my best summer memories and leave me ready to go make some more.

As the June heat reaches full capacity these days, for this year’s summer mix I mostly swore off the stuff that feels all shimmery-new, in favor of the new that feels old and well-steeped. These twenty songs all could have maybe come out on a vinyl single, and soundtracked a sock hop or a sweaty, soulful city nightclub in 1964. But almost all of them (with a couple exceptions) were made in the last few years by people not old enough to remember any of that first-hand.

Here’s to music that perennially sounds good on a hot summer night.


Ganges A GoGo – Bombay The Hard Way
A kitschy funk-Bollywood explosion from Dan The Automator features drums from DJ Shadow — and you can practically see the technicolor masses dancing to this one. Count me as one of them.

Summer Girls – Mike Clark & The Sugar Sounds
This playful, slurry jam has been a no-brainer for inclusion since I first heard it in the middle of winter, on Mike’s delectable Round & Round album (one that should be on your stereos, in its entirety, all summer). Mike opened (and oh hey, named) last year’s summer mix as well, with “Smooth Sailin’.” Perhaps something in his joyful musical laments just suit the season. ALSO: Mike’s Daytrotter session that we stopped in Iowa to record a few months ago just went live this morning as well, with some really beautiful writing from Sean to match the songs. Bonanza!

Lady, You Shot Me – Har Mar Superstar
I had somehow stupidly pegged this band as some sort of J-pop collective. Why? Why did I miss out on this for so long? This new record, Bye Bye 17, is now #2 (after Mike’s) on my list of albums that you need for this summer. Pretty fly for a white guy (from Minnesota who looks like Ron Jeremy), as they say.

Can I Change My Mind – Tyrone Davis
One of the few authentic older songs on this mix, I just cannot ever ever get enough of how delicately sexy and perfect that febrile, bendy guitar lick is. Bad. Ass. All summer long.

Trying So Hard Not To Know – Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
This song is one side of the hard-to-find Night Sweats 7″ that is floating around all the best Colorado record players. I have listened to this song roughly 86 times in the last month or so, after seeing them live and having my socks completely knocked off. Sweltering.

Better Days – Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes
“I’ve seen better days drippin’ down your face / we don’t have to talk, just dance.” Yes. This new song from Edward Sharpe is from their forthcoming S/T July record, which is already promising to be a much-anticipated soundtrack to my late summer months.

Plan Of The Man – The Ms
I swooned and fell for this band when they released Future Women way back in the 2006 early-days of this blog, crowned by this tightly wound power-pop gem of a song. As one reviewer wrote, “The M’s have found a canny chemistry out of seemingly simple parts (three-part harmonies plus a powerhouse drummer), and now, they’ve got swagger to spare.”

High School Lover – Cayucas
The bassline here makes my shoulders go up and down like this. Another wonnnnnnderful summery album, newly out on Secretly Canadian Records.

Handle With Care (Traveling Wilburys) – Slang
Drew Grow and Janet Weiss cover a terrific assortment of songs in their joyous, airtight collaboration project Slang, mostly in and around the Pacific Northwest. These two are completely irresistible. Be sure to check out Drew Grow’s renamed band, Modern Kin, and Janet Weiss’s astounding new Drumgasm record.

You Put The Flame On It – Charles Bradley
This one’s a new song by an older dude who could have been part of the first wave of originals but instead worked as a cook and a James Brown impersonator called (you can’t make up a better backstory than this) “Black Velvet,” before being signed to Daptone Records. Everything about his newly-released sophomore record with Daptone –which my friend Andrew has on vinyl and it sounds just superb, spinning lazily– is fantastic.

That Old Black Hole – Dr. Dog
Even after listening to this song a lot for over a year, I still always see this guy in my mental movie, strutting down the street during the opening credits.

Brand New Key (Melanie cover) – Thao Nguyen & The Get Down Stay Down
In her perfectly strong singsong delivery, the rocking Thao aces this 1971 rollerskating jam, all loaded with vintage innuendo about his key fitting into her brand new roller skates, and how they should “get together and try it out to see.” God bless the Seventies.

Country Girl – Primal Scream
A prime Rolling Stones song that isn’t a Rolling Stones song, this one is all swagger from a 2006 record by Scottish rockers Primal Scream, with lines like “crazy women, mess your hair / wake up drunk and bleeding in some strange bed but yeah – what can a poor boy do?” A common complaint. Put this one on when you need to get pumped up to go out and be superawesome some night.

I Like To Move In The Night – Eagles of Death Metal
Gahhh another one that so very clearly rips off the Stones, and yet does it with such unabashed glee that you can’t help but enjoy it. Plus, you can’t take a band called Eagles Of Death Metal too seriously, now can you? This reminds me of the watertower/pool hall/gas station scenes from Dazed & Confused. Like that.

Say So – Allen Stone
This 26 year-old bespectacled white kid from Seattle keeps wowing me with his smooth Stevie-Wonder-like range and delight in the music he’s making. A superb piece about him on Grantland described him as sort of looking like a Fraggle Rock character, “but (he) has a better voice than pretty much anyone I’ve ever heard in my life.” So there’s that. Listen up for this fella.

Please Forgive My Heart (Bobby Womack) – Bahamas
Afie Jurvanen can do no wrong, in my opinion, and this Bobby Womack cover with his wonderful backup-singer ladies is no exception. I love/hate the ability of sweet soul songs like this to woo me, wherein our protagonist begs some woman to forgive his heart, because the problem doesn’t lie “anywhere in there,” but the fact is, “I’m a liar.” So we’re clear. Ooooh ooooh ooooh.

Saturday – Josh Rouse
Such sweet, sweet bluesy topnotes here, floating across the air on a slow Saturday — this is one of the more romantic songs I know, and I’ve been wanting to put it on a summer mix for years. From Rouse’s 2005 masterpiece album Nashville, this song also has one of my favorite opening lyrics: “I would swim across the ocean, I would lay down on a bed of nails / but I’ll spare you all the bullshit, I will spare you all the desperate details.” Whew.

Dry Land – Planes (Inaiah & Desi)
Inaiah Lujan and Desirae Garcia are core members of The Haunted Windchimes here in Southern Colorado, but their side project Planes finds them charmingly exploring tunes that would have sounded right at home on tour with Buddy Holly. This melody is a serious earworm, and they agreed to record it last week in their living room, just for me and you and this mix, after I absolutely could not stop whistling it for an entire week.

Post-War – M. Ward
This song has always sounded radiantly humid to me, like drowsily-buzzing bees and backporch cicadas and air that clings to your skin, with a slow dance shuffle across a worn-smooth wooden floor somewhere.

Not Dark Yet – Bob Dylan
One of the greatest summer night songs ever recorded. You can see the ceiling fan spinning lazily, ineffectually, overhead. It’s too hot to sleep; the heat is still rising off the sidewalk and the soft, tarry asphalt. Behind every beautiful thing, Dylan croaks, there’s been some kind of pain.

It’s not dark yet but it’s getting there.


[thanks, as always, to the wonderful artistic partnership with Ryan Hollingsworth for that cover design artwork, and to Mike Clark for the perfect lyrics to name the mix. Go forth and summer, y’all.]

May 3, 2013

Undress All The World :: The Fuel/Friends Springtime 2013 Mix


Late spring is such a raw and wet time of digging out from under the ice and (maybe) melting snow (not this week though, in Colorado). There is something about the world that seems undressed, on the verge of new, and full of promise. It is as if all of nature around me is living that wonderful Ryan Adams lyric “precious little thing / with eyes that dance around without their clothes.”

I know this is late-ish, but I’m gonna call April a wash and declare it not too late to salvage this spring. Some of these songs are borderline summery too, so if you live somewhere that’s already green and warm, then you’ll find fodder to soundtrack for whatever goodness this season brings.


Love Like This – Kodaline
With a whistle stretching cleanly over the horizon and a melody that explodes in technicolor bursts, this carnival of a song dives right in head first – not even caring if love like this won’t last forever. Bold move.

Needle – Born Ruffians
I belong to no one, like the watermelon / rolling with momentum / spitting out its seeds. Buried under snow and waiting just to show us how it grows…” This song dovetails in with the last one, I find, all about the deliciousness of sometimes being “a song without an album.” And after that warmly layered fleet-foxy intro, it breaks into a full-on shiny indie dance anthem.

Undress The World – The Milk Carton Kids
The simple purity and Paul-Simon-ness of this song feels effervescent and wide-eyed believing — in spite of the fact that nothing around the heroine of the song is whole. I also realized, in a holy crap moment, that I wrote about Milk Carton Kid Joey Ryan way back in 2008, after a musical scavenger hunt to discover who did the soundtrack for the indie film Bella. Good then, good now.

Jumper Cables – Widower
A hugely wide-open song to start the terrific Fool Moon record from Seattle’s Widower. I’ve had all of these semi-woeful lyrics running a bare path through my head lately, because they are so perfectly surgical, all “ferris wheels of feelings” and such (and, you know, that’s what I do). You should really come see Widower at my Fuel/Friends BBQ House Concert on May 23, to kick off Memorial Day Weekend and summer and all those good things, and since Kevin is coming all that way.

Pompeii (house show version) – Bastille
This is my favorite recording lately, just listening to it over and over on repeat (especially in my car), and basking in all that joy. The best tiny moment comes at 1:29, after that avalanche of a drum cascade and you hear a guy laugh out loud of sheer happiness, almost disbelief. I’ve been trying to be that appreciative. That laugh made me sure that he and I could be friends.

Jericho – John Fullbright
This song, from 24-year-old Oklahoman Fullbright, is just one sonofabitch of a marvelous song, one you feel like you know as an old friend from the first time you hear it, as he struggles with waiting for something –the right thing– to unfurl.

To The Bugs On My Ceiling (with River Giant) – Edmund Wayne
I love this sundrenched, golden EP from Seattle band Edmund Wayne (joined here by River Giant, who I will see at Timber! Fest in July). There’s a slinky, inebriated feel to this song that enchants me as it winds its way through the speakers, all falsetto and rueful regrets. Maybe it reminds me a lot of the way Jeff Buckley’s “Everybody Here Wants You” also made me feel, and there is not a thing wrong with that.

Little Numbers – BOY
Two Swiss/German gals in a band called BOY; tricky — and goddamn catchy. There is no way to listen to this song without tapping something, even if it is a mental airdrum solo in your head. Spring is making promises outside.

Just To Know What You’ve Been Dreaming – Will Johnson
Centro-matic / South San Gabriel frontman Will Johnson came and stunned us all in a house show and a chapel session last week, and since then I have been listening to even more of his music than usual. This song is from his 2004 record Vultures Await, which is heavy on the piano and also helps restore some hope in me about the good things that are out there waiting. Life is wide, as Will told me with simple confidence, over my kitchen table.

Joe DiMaggio Done It Again – Houndmouth
I nestled this one up next to Will’s song because he loves baseball as much as I do, and this is the season, the most blessed season of them all. With lyrics written by Woody Guthrie, originally sung by Wilco and Billy Bragg, covered here by the fiery Houndmouth: you cannot go wrong with a song like this. I already have plans this year to see two Giants games in Denver, a Twins game in MPLS, a Mariners game in Seattle, and I couldn’t be happier.

I’ll Slip Away – Rodriguez
I love how the music of long-overlooked Seventies folk musician Rodriguez is all over the place these days after the release of the fantastic documentary about him, Searching For Sugar Man. “And I’ll forget about the girl who said “no” / then I’ll tell who I want where to go … Maybe today, I’ll slip away.” This song and this season both make me want to explore and take advantage of every sunny day and unfrozen road.

Hardly Are You Lonely – Desirae Garcia
Hazel-eyed Colorado luminaria Desirae Garcia (from the Haunted Windchimes) has devastated me in the best possible way with this little vinyl EP Ill Fitting she recently put out, just four songs recorded at home to tape. They navigate dark waters with fearlessness, a flower on the ocean floor. She plays an early show tonight at the Bridge Gallery in Colorado Springs for First Fridays.

Specks – Matt Pond PA
An older tune from 2010′s The Dark Leaves, this song bravely professes, “I believe in energies that no one has to see for us to prove,” which sums up some of the faithfulness required to completely enjoy spring, doesn’t it? Currents are rising in the specks of silver in the sky, and gold in the river running.

Time To Run – Lord Huron
On the recommendation of my friend Joe Pug, I have recently discovered that this is a terrific album to (not only name one of your favorites of 2012 but also) run to. The warmly calescent percussion and themes of appreciating this world and not wanting to leave it, even when sometimes you have to escape to the desert, make my daily runs quite a bit more enjoyable. Of course Joe gets to run in Texas and I am still fighting off ice storms, but I’ll make up for it come July.

Don’t Watch Me Dancing – Little Joy
Perhaps you remember this wonderful gem of an album, a side project from Fabrizio Moretti (The Strokes), Binki Shapiro, and Rodrigo Amarante (Los Hermanos) that feels like you wandered off in 1960s Cuba and found yourself slow-dancing on a porch somewhere after a few too many rum and cokes.

Malibu Rum – The Wooden Sky
…which is also where this wistful, redolent song comes in. From their second Daytrotter.

I Will Not Die in Springtime – Chris Porterfield of Field Report
For a dude who died in 1864, Stephen Foster is just absolutely tearing it up on the Fuel/Friends seasonal mixes lately — He also penned “Hard Times Come Again No More” which opened my fall mix. But to hear Field Report‘s Chris Porterfield give such heartfelt treatment to this lovely elegiac hymm about music on the breeze and soft, delicious murmurs, well….how can anyone resist?

Muchacho’s Tune – Phosphorescent
This is a song for rolling away the stone, for realizing that the river is running bigger and faster than you are, even as you lag in the dirty city snow for a while. Between the shadow and the storm lays this amazing record, one of the best of the year so far, hands down.

We’ll See The Sun – Houses
I already put this song from Denver band Houses on a summer mix in 2009, but fuck it, this season needs it all over again. I heard this song reverberating through my internal brain-speakers the other day when I was lying flat and worn out after a yoga class, and all of a sudden the sun split through the heavy grey clouds that had been blanketing Pikes Peak, right before it set, and shone directly into my eyes through the huge windows. Yes.


[I took the cover photo yesterday, as a heavy wet snow melted off the little pink buds, and Ryan Hollingsworth made a wonderful cover of it – his Spring mix is up over here, now]

December 12, 2012

All is calm / All is bright :: The Fuel/Friends 2012 Holiday Mix

It finally snowed full-force in Colorado this weekend, enough to divert me off the highway in a flurry of white, and to a roadside La Quinta on Saturday night coming home from the Patty Griffin concert. The temps hovered consistently at a lush 19º Sunday, and is currently at 7º. All is calm and bright because no one wants to move outside their electric blankets, so it’s been a good weekend for me to road-test these songs. I am very pleased to report that this is my favorite December mix I’ve yet made.

When it comes to music I can handle in December, I have a suuuper low threshold for annoying. We talk about this every year, you and me (and anyone who has the bad luck of walking into a retail establishment with me). No chipmunks, no Spanish cantantes with clacky castanets, no cloying duets, and we shall not speak of synthesizers.

I have subjected myself to some of these unpalatable things in my quest to screen out the perfect holiday mix to soundtrack your season, but the good news is that sites like Bandcamp are making is very easy for musicians to release quality originals to their fans for the holidays. This year I had the bonus-really-good idea to ask some musician friends of mine who have been loved by Fuel/Friends over the years if they had anything lying around that they’d like to contribute. A surprising number of them said yes (!!). Ben Kyle of Romantica sent me an original song of his, and Eef Barzelay (of Clem Snide) replied with his pensive version of a Christmas classic. Denison Witmer had lost his copy of “The Gift of Grace” (one of my favorite original Christmas songs in a long time) so I dug it up to put on this mix and sent him a copy.

I’ve been raving to friends all week about the high proportion of just really good SONGS in this year’s mix — holidays, or no. Some of these I might sneak a listen to all year ’round. At the very minimum, I have some new artists in my stable now. This mix also fits on a CD, with gorgeous album art by Ryan Hollingsworth (can we give him a round of applause for donating his design skills for all of my mixes for the last couple/many seasons?) and a photograph taken by my friend Jewel in Portland. Burn copies for all your friends, for the best kind of gift you can give them.

Christmas hugs to all of you, from me. That sweater looks really nice on you.


Christmas Song – Yarn
This song is what would happen if “The Weight” was a holiday carol, and is just so perfectly bittersweet. You know, in a really sentimental good way though. Yarn from Brooklyn released this last year.

Carry Me Home – Hey Rosetta!
This was written in the summer in Australia, but it was after the band had been on tour for a while, and so the sentiments of wanting to be close to family ring true this time of year. This also reminds me of a terrific Graceland outtake or something. I love this band so much x1000. From their new Christmas EP.

Do You Hear What I Hear – Tyler Heath (of The Oh Hellos)
Finding this Christmas EP from Tyler Heath was kind of like hitting the jackpot, since I am extremely fond of the new Oh Hellos record (get it here; they were also on my Fall mix)

Let The Snow Fall – Andrew and the North American Grizzly
This song just walked into my holiday party and won me over with a wink. “These songs are red and green / so let’s sing ‘em.” I swear it wasn’t just the eggnog. From Bandcamp.

Snow – Sleeping at Last
Okay. SO. This Wheaton, Illinois band is just one guy, Ryan O’Neal, and he is two-for-two at totally knocking me for a loop with the unassuming splendor and insight of his songs. I first featured him on my springtime mix (and pulled the mix title itself from one of his lyrics). He spent last year releasing regular EPs all year on a subscription model through his “Yearbook” project, with a whole free album of Christmas music out now. I don’t usually post entire lyrics in the dead-center of a mix, but this is pretty much the best wish any of us can hope for this holiday season. When I burn this mix for friends, I am going to print these lyrics out as a benediction for each one of them.

The branches have traded their leaves for white sleeves
all warm-blooded creatures make ghosts as they breathe
scarves are wrapped tightly like gifts under trees
christmas lights tangle in knots annually

Our families huddled closely, betting warmth against the cold
and our bruises seem to surface like mud beneath the snow
so we sing carols softly, as sweet as we know
and pray that our burdens will lift as we go
like young love still waiting under mistletoe
welcome December, with tireless hope

Let our bells keep on ringing, making angels in the snow
and may the melody disarm us when the cracks begin to show
like the petals in our pockets, may we remember who we are:
unconditionally cared for by those who share our broken hearts

The table is set and all glasses are full
no pieces go missing, may we still a feel a hole
we’ll build new traditions in place of the old
’cause life without revision will silence our souls

Let the bells keep on ringing, making angels in the snow
and may the melody surround us when the cracks begin to show
like the petals in our pockets, may we remember who we are:
unconditionally cared for by those who share our broken hearts

As gentle as feathers the snow piles high
our world gets rewritten, and retraced every time
like fresh paints and clean slates, our future is white
new year’s resolutions will reset tonight.

Come – Oh, Starling
A Christmas original that weaves together a lot of carols you know, and filters them through a warm haze like falling asleep on the backseat of your parents’ car on the way home from church services when you were seven. Oh, Starling is one of Denver’s finest pairings, of Jessica Sonner and Dan Craig, who both make wonderful music also on their own, and have two holiday EPs.

Rebel Jesus (Jackson Browne) – The Wood Brothers
Also from these Colorado mountains, the Wood Brothers (as in Medeski, Martin, and Wood) offer up their slightly broken, roadworn take on Jackson Browne’s classic hymn to the pagan heathens and the true rebellion inherent in the Jesus that some of us celebrate this season.

Joy To The World – Eef Barzelay
Since Eef (of Clem Snide) does such magical things with his music, both his originals and his reinvented covers, I asked him what he had for the season and he replied with this. There is no triumphant majesty here, but there is a quiet peace.

Brightly Above – The Prairie Empire
The seasonal EP from this Brooklyn band is so lovely that I broke form and put them on here twice. Their full-length debut record has also been on Fuel/Friends rotation.

O Holy Night – Branches
Everyone probably has their favorite Christmas song and this is mine. I especially favor ones I can sing along with at the top of my lungs, so the prominent alto harmonies here are my jam. Branches are doing this cool California mini-tour next week of singing along to Christmas songs. If I still lived there, I would go and belt it. From their Christmas EP on Bandcamp.

Christmas Night – Justin Jones
This is a love song camouflaged as a Christmas song, kind of like how my favorite Jason Anderson song is only peripherally-related to the 4th of July. Justin Jones is from Washington D.C. and he has an Americana record out called Fading Light.

In The Bleak Midwinter – The Weather Station
Good job on making this song actually feel a bit bleak and midwintery, in the quiet delivery that feels a little like a Nico song (they also make records that look like it). This song came from 2010′s Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada Deux free mix from some neighbs to the north.

Christmas Eve Can Kill You (The Everly Brothers) – Bonnie “Prince” Billy & Dawn McCarthy
I’m not sure anyone, ever, done better harmonies than the Everly Brothers, and Will Oldham nails it here with Dawn McCarthy, also his collaborator on The Letting Go. They make being stuck in the snow trying to hitchhike home almost sound good. And ooh, you can buy this song (and another) on 7″ vinyl now; I think it would sound real nice on the turntable this time of year.

Winter Eclipse – Beta Radio
These guys contributed “The Song The Season Brings” on last year’s December mix, and it was probably one of my most listened-to of the bunch. They’ve released another seasonal EP for free on Bandcamp this year.

The Gift of Grace – Denison Witmer
Denison remembers this song as one of his first experiments with home recording, and I remember it as one of my favorite original Christmas songs ever written; so pure, so clear. So humanizing. You might have recently seen this bit of majesty from Denison last week, alongside his longtime bud Sufjan Stevens (promoting Suf’s Friendship Slay Ride), and I think he should make me more holiday songs. Maybe in white spandex.

Winter’s Night – Joshua Hyslop
If it’s cold in Colorado, I hear it’s even colder in Canada, where Joshua Hyslop hails from, and his voice sounds like the way a warm sweater feels. I want to snuggle into it. Joshua’s debut record Where The Mountain Meets the Valley came out this year.

Bring A Little Light – Ben Kyle
I met Ben in 2007, along with his Minneapolis band Romantica, after a recording surfaced online of a duet he did with Ryan Adams, which wormed his music deeply into my ear. Ben is from Belfast with his lovely lilt, and has a solo record out now (featured on my MPLS mix). He sent me this haunting original for this mix.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel – The Gundersen Family
I want to be around Noah and Abby and the rest of the Gundersens all the damn time. This is from their holiday party last year at the Fremont Abbey in Seattle. [watch]

Silent Night – Prairie Empire
And this one — this song is the sound of the deepest peace to me, in all of its forms.


October 16, 2012

Hard Times (come again no more): The Fuel/Friends Autumn 2012 Mix

When all the green slides out of the leaves, and the fiery yellows light up the skies overhead on my walk to work, there’s always the temptation for that Seasonal Affective kick-in-the-ass to creep in also. The chill in the air of October gets my attention and makes me introspect in a way that I do not do in the lazy indulgence of summer.

Last year, a good friend of mine commented that my autumn mix was almost too sad to listen to, and yeah – there is something about this season that has, in the past, made me quite somber. Last year’s theme coalesced completely on its own from songs I was listening to, and turned out to be about: bones, rivers, and too much space in empty beds. There was a lot of cello, which seems fitting in these days, but sad nonetheless.

But then –it turns out– you can also think about it in the way that I’m doing this season.

Autumn is also a time when all the externals dry up and fall away so that you can see the shape of the branches underneath, clearly defining us against those ice blue skies. The rich summer scaffolding is gone, and the graceful arc underneath can be seen and examined. I’m feeling like my bare branches right now are enjoying the freedom.

These are songs for that.


Hard Times – eastmountainsouth
I can’t tell if this song is a marker in the sand of celebration, a fervent wish made under our breaths, or (most likely) both. Eastmountainsouth is defunct now, with each of the pair making their own music, but I saw them live in San Francisco in 2005 and their powerfully-wending voices were part of the first surge of re-realizing that I needed music in my life that made me feel something. The way they sing this song from 1854 also makes me realize that we’ve collectively been wishing the hard times away for a long while now.

So It Goes – Portage
When I was in Minneapolis last weekend, I arrived at a random house show and descended to the basement to watch these guys play to a packed crowd, and was mightily impressed. I think Trent’s voice reminds me some of Local Natives, in that youthful urgency, and even joy. This is the lead-off track of their 2011 album The Unsalted Sea, and they have a new one coming next month.

Yer Fall – Hey Rosetta!
I wrote all about these guys on my birthday, and what they give and what they demand with their music. This song is a seasonal elegy to top all seasonal elegies, a song of love that has died and is buried in the autumn leaves, better hid.

I Feel Better – Frightened Rabbit
Sometimes even when you’re feeling better, and better, you feel worse and then better. This is a personal kickass anthem, an empowering gem off a record that I love but where all the other songs are wallowers. This track is not a wallower, this is a fist to the air and a vow that this is the last one I’ll do.

Hello My Old Heart – The Oh Hellos
A warmly enveloping, slowly-building typhoon welcoming a heart back out of hibernation. The voices here are a brother/sister duo from Texas.

Letter in Icelandic from the Ninette San – John K. Samson
I love The Weakerthans a great deal, and the new solo record from their frontman is as quirky and poignant and terrific as I would have hoped. Our protagonist here is an Icelandic immigrant sent to a Manitoba sanatorium for tuberculosis, and these are his letters home. Over the sweetly sad, meandering violin, he writes to a loved one of the burns on his back from the xrays, that make him never want to show anyone anything ever again.

Lay Low (live at Pickathon) – Shovels & Rope
Gahhh. This song wrecks me from the opening lines: “Well I probably should be / swept out to sea / where I can’t hurt no one, and no one can hurt me.” How can such sonic goodness be so grippingly sad? This is a song of waiting, and waiting.

Miss Sunflower – Ryan Adams
The collection of Ryan’s songs dubbed The Suicide Handbook is pretty much what the title implies, a collection of acoustic songs that will effortlessly gut you. This one is such a perfect song. I don’t know how Ryan does it; I wasn’t missing anyone and then I listen to this and I’m suddenly wondering who I miss making smile. Damn you, Adams.

Princess On The Porch – Josh Rouse
A b-side from Josh Rouse that is one of my hands-down favorites of anything he’s ever recorded. That’s when I realized how you are, and how we’ll never be / ah, ’cause baby, it’s not you I was searching for — it’s only me.

Hollywood, Forever – Tyler Lyle
I’ll be happy with Tyler in every season y’all. Everything he records, I ingest as if it has life-giving elixir properties (and often it does). This is a demo he just strung together in his spare time because he does that. “Would it frighten or free us to think the world doesn’t need us – at all?” A song for a the most temporal-feeling of all seasons.

I Am Not Waiting Anymore – Field Report
A smoky song, off what is easily one of my favorite records this year, there’s one line here that just completely blasts down my anthropologist defenses, and I can’t explain why, other than to say I get it: “I’ve been a keen-eyed observer of the movements of concentric parts / of the bodies, and bones, and breasts, and unmapped chambers of hearts.” I am not waiting anymore.

Borrowed Tune – Neil Young
This one comes right after the Field Report song because they just covered it in the chapel for me, and I can’t extricate the melody from my head ever since (which is actually the melody from a Rolling Stones song, but nevermind). “I’m climbing this ladder, my head in the clouds, I hope that it matters…” Also – that piercing harmonica blending with the piano? This mix is laced with harmonica because it is the season for such things.

On Not Smoking Anymore – Isaac Pierce
I heard Isaac sing a version of this on a beach on Orcas Island, then I woke up on my birthday a week later in a tent at the Lyons Folks Fest, singing it under my breath. I went and waded in the cold river and sang it to myself as a reminder and an anthem for this year that there is indeed nothing missing. Sing joy.

Yulia (Wolf Parade) – Dan Griffin
Wolf Parade’s angular song of a Russian cosmonaut drifting lost in space is reinvented by Ontario musician Dan Griffin as something aching and simple — like a Springsteen Nebraska outtake. The effect of the lines about waking from a fever dream and floating in a salty sea takes on a whole new tinge.

October’s Road – Balto
From their autumnal album of the same name, Portland’s Balto is a band that a few readers wrote to me independently about, encouraging me to listen. There’s a loose freedom and joy in this song that builds to remind us that life ain’t that bad.

That Sea, The Gambler – Gregory Alan Isakov
I am pretty sure that if I ever wind up lost in the fog at sea, there will be no musician I would rather singing to me than Colorado treasure Isakov. There is something wooly and warm (but unsettling) in his voice that always feels right this time of year. The ocean is holding all the keys.

You Are The Everything (R.E.M.) – Redbird
A flawless R.E.M. song becomes something even warmer and stronger with the campfirey, flannel-voiced strength of Jeffrey Foucault. I have listened to this cover hundreds of times.

Flames and Ashes – Matt Ruddy
Ruddy is a Portland musician who I met one January night over many old-fashioneds in an Albina district neighborhood bar. He has a new EP out with this beautiful interlude that makes me think of leaves falling, and pushes back some space for me to take a deep breath. See previous notation about the harmonica, both on that Neil Young song and here; harmonicas remind me of train whistles and this season makes me want to take trips to the horizon and then keep going.

Rest (live on Daytrotter) – Michael Kiwanuka
This is the closest we as adults may get to lullabies and reassurances. And you know, I will totally take it.

Hard Times – Gillian Welch
Come on my sweet old girl
I’d bet the whole damn world
that we’re gonna make it yet
to the end of the road


[original image snapped by my friend Shawnté, and saved by me for months for this occasion; cover design by the always-terrific Ryan Hollingsworth, whose own fall mix is totally worth checking out]

October 3, 2012

These Twin City kisses :: A Minneapolis Mixtape

Maybe everybody else who wasn’t raised in far coast oblivion already knows this but: HEY YOU GUYS. MINNEAPOLIS HAS A LOT OF REALLY GREAT MUSIC. Tomorrow afternoon when I board a plane to Minneapolis, I’ll be streaming the sounds of the Twin Cities in through my earbuds, and enjoying myself immensely. Minneapolis is a city that I’ve tremendously liked on the handful of occasions that work has taken me to its shores in the last few years. In addition to a vibrant arts scene, I’ve always stayed in places right along the Mississippi River, borrowing bikes from the citywide program and exploring across the Stone Arch Bridge, seeing shows at notable venues like First Avenue.

On a run the other afternoon I started thinking about Minneapolis music after listening to The Hold Steady, and then that spiraled out of control and, well, here we are. There are other folks who are more informed on the music of the Twin Cities than I am, and this is not supposed to be any sort of definitive mix of Minneapolis bands, and I have indeed left off some major players, but this is the way I will be soundtracking my visit. All of these bands and musicians have some connection with the Twin Cities, either living and making music there now, formed the band there, wrote music there, or just love it enough to sing about it.

I’ve done this same thing with New York and San Francisco on a city level, and Utah and the wide-wide ocean on a grander scale, and there is a deeply geeky pleasure in this. I should note that I am indebted to a reader named Jim in the Twin Cities, whose five-page long list and commentary about the Twin Cities scene that I dug out of my gmail helped guide me to a few of these artists.

Let’s move to Minneapolis.

Stuck Between Stations – The Hold Steady
My first time in Minneapolis last year, I had just discovered this terrific map my friend Kyle made of Twin Cities locations referenced in Hold Steady songs, and I got frissons of delight every time I did something like walking over the Washington Bridge and talking to the river. Any mix I make about Minneapolis starts with this band.

Mpls – Grandpaboy
Paul Westerberg is second on my list (and on this mix, and in my heart) of great musical things to come out of Minneapolis, whether with The Replacements, or solo under his own name, or as Grandpaboy. This song is just a jubilant celebration of the city, with all the geographical references laced throughout from the first lines. M-P-L-S.

Your Favorite Thing – Sugar
I can’t tell through googling (BECAUSE YOU TRY TO GOOGLE “SUGAR”) if Bob Mould (of the tres-famous and tres-influential Minneapolis band Hüsker Dü) and his ’90s band Sugar ever counted as “A Minneapolis Band” but Bob Mould sure is as a human, so this band counts in my book. I first heard this song late, I think in reading Love Is A Mix Tape and making the corresponding playlist. Since then I’ve worn it out.

Singing In My Sleep – Semisonic
Ahhh, Semisonic. For the record, I have never liked the song “Closing Time.” And I have ALWAYS liked this song, about making a mixtape and “falling in love too fast with you or the songs you chose,” since the very first time I heard it (on a mixtape someone made for me!). It makes me feel like I am seventeen forever. I love that Semisonic is from Minneapolis so that I can find more reasons to play it.

Settling It Off – Peter Wolf Crier
Switching gears to a currently-creating Minneapolis musician, Peter Wolf Crier is putting out taut songs like these on the Jagjaguwar label, and when I saw him this spring opening for Damien Jurado, I was completely blown away by all the dense layers here. It feels like a struggle, like one of those dreams that you fight to untangle yourself from all night long, but keeps looping and pressing into your head with images of birds and old family home movies and the gravitational pull of the shoreline.

Shooting Star (Bad Company) – Golden Smog
Golden Smog is sort of an uber-group of Twin Cities musical royalty, made up of members of other bands on this same mix – Jayhawks, Soul Asylum, The Replacements. Here they are having some fun covering the 1975 Bad Company song which they’d contribute to the Clerks soundtrack.

Columns – Portage
I featured Portage on my “Nothing Gold Can Stay” Autumn 2011 mix, and am pretty thrilled to find that not only are they continuing to make elegant music in the Twin Cities, they are playing a house show Thursday night right after my flight lands. I’ll let you know how it is.

Badaboom – Tapes ‘n Tapes
This band’s clattery, danceable sound put Minneapolis back in the indie spotlight in the last few years, and their songs sound fresh to these ears. The band was formed at Carleton College, which goes to show that your mother was right when she insisted on a solid liberal arts education for you.

Misery – Soul Asylum
A few years back, a friend of mine made me a mix and we listened to it together blind, with no song intros or tracklist, the first time through. I was surprised after I heard the opening countoff how the whole song came flooding back for those opening notes. Say what you will about how well this band has held up, but I still think this song feels good (Frustraaaaated! Incorporated!)

Organ Donor – Jeremy Messersmith
A fresh-faced, bespectacled kid with a rabid musical following, lots of you guys have written to me over the last couple of years encouraging me to check out Messersmith’s beguiling pop, and more recently, to have him in for a house show, which he pairs with potlucks and participates in widely. I should probably listen to you.

Positively 4th Street – Bob Dylan
You could argue with me that this song is about the 4th Street in NYC’s Greenwich Village, but Dylan also lived above a drugstore on 4th Street in the Dinkytown neighborhood of Minneapolis (I’ve been there!), so let’s just say it is a metaphor for both, and it celebrates the fact that Minneapolis is where Robert Zimmerman became Bob Dylan.

Haywire – Jayhawks
I just love this song SO DAMN MUCH. Thanks to something my friend J. Tom Hnatow once wrote, this song always reminds me of sunsets and old regrets and nascent joy. Another redolent, country-inflected song I never would have pegged as coming from Minneapolis.

The Turf Club – Ben Kyle
I’m going to the Turf Club Friday night, to see The Features (not from MPLS), and was thrilled to find a soundtrack for my jaunt on the terrific new album from Ben Kyle. Frontman of Romantica, Ben is a Minneapolis musician by way of Belfast, and I first heard his music when his lilt blended with Ryan Adams in a live recording of his song “The Dark.” So much melancholy goodness on this song; I can see the city lights reflecting off the river.

Drinking Again – Haley Bonar
Gahhh I love the indulgent, slowly-intoxicating sadness of this song, with those round red-wine chords throughout just vibrating with what it feels like to get drunk alone (“and it don’t help that much / but I don’t care”). Haley Bonar is one of my favorite women making music in the Twin Cities.

Drown – Son Volt
The third in the Twin-Cities trifecta of alt-country awesomeness (along with Jayhawks and Golden Smog), this blistering song could be played regularly throughout Minneapolis’ drawn-out winters to bring a little heat.

When Water Comes To Life – Cloud Cult
This band has been making complex and lovely music out of Minneapolis for over ten years. Their ephemeral string-laced anthems lend themselves extremely well to their live show where they have painters on-stage and they combine two distinct artistic disciplines into one color-streaked supernova. I saw it once, and it was just so very cool.

When It Sinks In – Farewell Milwaukee
Sheesh, listen to the harmonies on this one. I saw a video of them doing this acoustic on Jones Street in NYC’s West Village (freeewheelin!) and fell for it effortlessly. Please note: the Milwaukee thing is just a front.

Be Bad For Me – Paul Westerberg
Another favorite little Westerberg track, because you can never have too much of him.

Starfish and Coffee – Prince
Any Minneapolis mix, especially one that talks about visiting First Avenue in the intro, is contractually obligated to include a Prince song. I feel like everyone that comes to town or plays at First Ave is thinking of him when they do: as one of my friends in The Head and the Heart tweeted last week when they were in town, “Really hope Prince shows up to solo over Rivers and Roads.”

Don’t Call Them Twinkies – The Baseball Project (feat. Craig Finn)
J’adore baseball, and Craig Finn (of the Hold Steady), and this song which references a million things about the Twin Cities, and which I first heard on a car stereo while in Minneapolis for the first time. It’s just all around perfect (although, hey: sorry about those Twins this year).



OMG! Edits are messy but I HAVE TO DO THIS BECAUSE I FORGOT MASON JENNINGS. And I love Mason Jennings so much, and this is a travesty. And then two other additions: a friend sent me this charming addition by That Dog about the city, and I totally meant to include Caroline Smith & The Goodnight Sleeps and forgot. So you can figure out where all three of these songs go on the mix. They’re not in the zip file above:

Sorry Signs On Cash Machines – Mason Jennings
Minneapolis – That Dog
Eagle’s Nest – Caroline Smith & The Goodnight Sleeps

June 20, 2012

Smooth Sailing From Here: The Fuel/Friends Summer 2012 Mix

Just to make sure that we get the point that summer starts today, the air along Colorado’s Front Range has been hovering around 100 degrees this week and every time I ride my bike to work or downtown to see a friend, I show up looking red-flushed and sweaty. It’s pretty glorious. Makes me feel like P.E. in the fifth grade all over again (also: remember what tanbark smells like when it gets really hot outside?).

I’ve had so much fun stringing together this mix of songs that are soundtracking the heat thus far. I am driving solo out to Portland (via Rock Springs and Nampa) at the beginning of July, and then roundabout home, close to the ocean out the passenger-window side, all through San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Yosemite, and then some other places we haven’t figured out yet. These are the incandescently sunny tunes that will go with me.


Smooth Sailin’ – Mike Clark
One quiet night in May, my friend Conor played me this demo that local treasure Mike Clark had just recorded earlier in the week. There in the darkness, I completely fell in love with this song and everything about it and what I want my summer to sound like. Lazy, appreciative, and unhurried. I turned to Conor as we laid there, and said “Um, I know how my summer mix is starting this year.”

Sebastian – Reptar
Then once you drift off relaxed and smiling, trailing your fingers into the water with that opening Mike Clark song, let’s dig into all the bright, dancey parts of summer. You’ll be humming/whistling/singing the chorus to this one, with that squiggly guitar line that sounds engagingly mischievous.

This Summer – Superchunk
Yep, Superchunk has written the song of the summer. Ocean views, sweaty seats, clear paths, and sleeping bags on the floor. This is your anthem. Go forth; drive fast. “Oh, your shoulders look good to me.”

Who Knew – You Won’t
Effervescently-strummed mandolins should be the official instrument of summer. Every song on this record is delicious.

Nashville – Tyler Lyle
I’ve been spending a whole lot of time lately listening to Tyler Lyle’s wonderfully evocative songwriting, and this one is no exception. In addition to just being tailor-made for backporch listening, I picked this song for the lovely line, “I have only known two teachers in my life, one is summer and one is fall.” Tyler also gives a shout-out to taking his time with paperbacks and boxes of wine, which incidentally are two of my favorite summer activities.

Broadway (feat. No BS! Brass Band) – Black Girls
Black Girls are neither black nor girls, but they are friends of friends in Virginia, and they opened some shows for The Head and the Heart earlier this year. This song is swaggery and impudent like a nineteen-year-old, and a ton of fun with that brass band and ragtimey piano.

For You (Travelin’ Bags) – WolfRider
Hailing from the oft-foggy Sebastopol, just north of San Francisco, this band has nonetheless a whistly sunny jam that makes me feel all Foster-The-Peopley, without having to go see that Beach Boys tour.

May This Be Love (Waterfall) (Jimi Hendrix) – Michael Kiwanuka
I knew I wanted to put Michael Kiwanuka on this summer mix because his voice is all warm and redolent, and every time I listen to his record it feels like a still July Sunday afternoon, no matter where the clock and the calendar point. Finding this cover was like a double win.

Swim Club – Cave Singers
I’ll be gettin’ to see these guys on Orcas Island in the San Juans come August, and this song of theirs feels like you are heading out on a dusty road, specifically and precisely: in an old truck, to go fishing.

Late July – Shakey Graves
The way this song starts from squawky, slow blues electric guitar to full-on midnight werewolf yowls seems to perfectly fit in with late July. The word-picture person in me also loves the death-penalty line “to fry like bacon, hang like lace” (if not supporting the general sentiment).

Welfare – Tom Eddy
Another artist I’ll see this summer at Doe Bay Fest – he’s playing the stage on the bluff that overlooks the water under pine trees and I think this sounds just about right.

50 Lashes – Floating Action
The opening beat here makes me do this exceedingly lame little “push-it-down, push-it-back” move with my hands and my hips. You’re so sorry you’re not here to see it.

Stay At Home – Yellow Ostrich
I loved The Format and I miss The Format and this song makes me feel pleasantly awkward and heart-pounding, maybe sophomore-year summer all over again, and like The Format never broke up. I saw Yellow Ostrich opening for Of Monsters & Men recently and whoa, they were a furious explosion.

Anthem – King Tuff
Sub Pop artists King Tuff have a bright orange album cover that makes my head hurt when the sun hits it, and the whole damn album, from these opening notes, is a flawlessly pugilistic summer soundtrack that evokes all the best smartasses like the Dandy Warhols and here, the Stones Roses. Also very good for air-drumming.

Blame It On The Tetons – Modest Mouse
Oldie but a goody, this one feels late-August summery at its essential core, especially once those indulgent strings kick in — like we’re reminiscent for things that haven’t happened yet. I also gravitate strongly towards the lyric, “language is the liquid that we’re all dissolved in.” Summer should be for dissolving.

Must Be In A Good Place Now (Bobby Charles) – Vetiver & Fruit Bats
I’ve been waiting to post this since last September when these two fantastic bands played an in-store together at our rad Twist & Shout Records in Denver, and covered this song. It is perfectly blissful — wild apple trees blooming all around, and catching the sunset in the hills, with those harmonies. So, so good.

Silent Way – Milo Greene
When, when, when we’re older / can I still come over?

Everybody Needs Love – Drive-By Truckers
This expansive, golden song feels rough-hewn and right at that point of acquiescence, unclenching the fists and recognizing all those simple messy feelings. Ah, summer. You siren.

Beacon Hill (Damien Jurado) – The Head and The Heart
One of the best songs from Damien’s Saint Bartlett gets the deluxe three-part harmony singing-on-a-rooftop treatment from one of my favorite bands. I listen to this one a lot; feels spontaneous and full of real joy.

Fatal Shore – Andrew Bird
Y’all: THE NEW ANDREW BIRD RECORD IS FANTASTIC. I have it on constant repeat and will probably tell you more about it at a later point but just go get it now. This luminescent song ends the mix and the evening and the summer by floating off on our backs, eyes upwards towards all those stars.


[cover art, as always, by the wonderful Ryan Hollingsworth – check out his stellar Southern Heat, Summer Hearts mix]

April 18, 2012

Rearrange the Old / Call It New :: the Fuel/Friends Spring 2012 Mix

Spring has its own special brand of fidgetiness. I start to feel slowly like there are little invisible crawly things on my skin, in a picnic sort of way, and I get all these ideas about exploring and adventures. Combine that with the calescent glow of things warming up all around us, and I spend a noticeably increased amount of time staring out the window lost in daydreams.

As with any other season for the last few years, I’ve stitched up a soundtrack of twenty songs that are compelling me in these days, wafting out my opened windows and across the lawn that is slowly turning green. We’ve all been beaten back a bit this winter, haven’t we?

Let’s come on back to life.


The Scientist (Coldplay) – Willie Nelson
With birds chirping and a slow-build of the world waking up & all of us going back to the start, this Willie Nelson cover is one of the most perfect April songs ever. It’s also a Chipotle commercial so, you know, now you want burritos. Sorry.

January White – Sleeping at Last
This is where the title of the mix comes from, and even though it’s technically a song for the new year, it also works effervescently well for the rebirth of springtime, exceedingly so. Every word of this song is just exactly where I am in life right now. The future is brighter than any flashback.

Spring Forward – Baobab
This North Carolina band fuses febrile African rhythms with sweet electronica bleepy-boops to make one of the most infectiously catchy songs I’ve heard in a while.

Don’t Stop (Loving Me Now) – Floating Action
Like Andrew said, reggae for the indie rock kids. Tis the season for a little ungainly dancing, with your pale white limbs.

Best Thing For Me – Release the Sunbird
Zach Rogue from Rogue Wave has a new endeavor, a shimmery gorgeous album full of songs that feel like sunrises. He really is one of my favorite musicians for this particular time of year, in all his incarnations.

Hallways – Islands
Cue more ungainly dancing. Pounding piano, handclaps, and strong multi-part vocal harmonies: SOLD.

Ten Years Old – You Won’t
One of the most charming songs on an album jam-packed with damn charming songs. After wooing me at SXSW, You Won’t is on tour with Alcoholic Faith Mission, and coming to Denver on May 8.

Broken Minds – Northern Youth
Northern Youth is the musical endeavor of one Luke Messimer who all by himself has crafted songs of clattery delight and uber-melodic underpinnings. He’s just finished a stint working on the railroads of Arizona (no, really) and is finishing an album — Kickstart him!

Seer – Motopony
There’s so much swagger and animalistic growl to this song that it reminds me of feral skinny bears waking up from hibernation and coming out of their caves ready to rip something apart with their teeth. And yes, that is a metaphor.

Old Pine – Ben Howard
My friend Craig played this for me in my car recently, as we rode through the neighboring hamlet of Manitou Springs with all the car windows down, and wow what a gem of a tune. Ben is part of the Mumford-Communion Records family, and I love how this song starts about a thousand sonic miles from where it ends. Also, all this talk about cold sand in sleeping bags is giving me ideas.

Danse Carribe – Andrew Bird
Here we go mistaking clouds for mountains again / here’s the thing that brings the sparrows to the fountains.” It’s kind of like bringing all the boys to the yard, but with more whistling.

Flowers In Your Hair (EP version) – The Lumineers
And then we grew a little, and romanticized. The Lumineers’ new album is one of my soundtracks to this season – and here’s an early version of a song off their first self-released little EP, which I think I got at a house concert in Denver. They entered the Billboard charts at #43 last week, after selling 10,000+ copies of their record on debut. That blows my mind. They are on to terrific things.

No Nostalgia – Agesandages
I could listen to the 1:51 mark in this song just over and over and over. No hesitation, no nostalgia. Even before Barry added this to his campaign playlist, I was in love.

Your Own Kite – Isaac Pierce
From that same humble wonderful waking-up EP that gave us “Warm Bruise,” Isaac Pierce sings here about kites and I can see them dipping and nosing through the April winds.

Always Spring – I’m From Barcelona
There’s a sort of childlike joy in this song, those remembered twitches you’d get in your legs from sitting behind a desk in grade school towards the end of the school year and wanting to just go out and ride your bike hard.

Lakehouse – Of Monsters and Men
Every single song off this entire marvelous debut record could soundtrack spring because it is an explosion of color and jubilance. I just picked this one because I want to go to a lakehouse right now. You try out the other ones on the album and let me know if you come up with something different.

Little Spring – Rocky Votolato
This song is how I found out that Seattle’s wonderful Rocky Votolato has a new record that just came out a few weeks ago, and he’s coming on tour in the coming months all over god’s green earth. He continues to be so gooood.

The Road – Bryan John Appleby
Listening carefully and intentionally to this song with headphones on is closely akin to a resurrection.

Unto the Resplendent – The Mermen
From a compilation of surf music that I have, this song makes you see all sort of wavery watery patterns reflecting off the sand and up under your umbrella in shades of green and blue. It’s like floating.

What Am I Living For – Van Morrison
…and this is the slow shuffle back and across the deck, making me think of slow-dancing in the porchlight. Ending the perfect springtime day with some Van Morrison on the record player is just about the finest there is.


[album art, as always, by the fabulous Ryan Hollingsworth, who somehow interprets my vague requests (“ummm….like blue? and….spriiinginess?”) and nails it every time]

February 13, 2012

Freshly Hatched :: A Fuel/Friends Mix For New People

In January, the marvelous website brought us a terrific set of houseguests: a couple from the beaches of California asked to stay in my home while they came to Colorado to pick up the due-any-day baby that they had just been chosen to be the adoptive parents of. For two weeks we got to host them and their brand new little guy, all wide eyes and stretching fingers. It was, in a word, magnificent. We forget that they make people that little, that new. Light as air and just about perfect.

As I am wont to do, I made up a mix to send to them back in California (I take seriously my obligation to set the kiddo on the right musical path, since I was the first home he came back to), and thought that you probably know someone in your life who could appreciate it as well. It’s music that little kiddos can love, but also will not drive adults crazy in any way. I tried to throw in some foreign languages for the ole’ neuron connections, and (of course) paid special attention to the lyrics. You could even put it on with no kids around, if you wanted, and I wouldn’t tell. The last half is good for falling asleep to, whatever your age.

I also found myself gravitating towards a lot of self-reflective songs that celebrate and delve into the metamorphosis of welcoming new life into our communities – the breaking up of the earthen crust that hardens over our lives, not even realizing how dry we were until the new green shoot comes pushing up through the cracks. This is a mix about falling in love.

*the mix fits on one CD, meaning you now have the awesomest (no-cost) present to bring to the next baby shower you get invited to, or for your coworker/cousin/pal. You’re welcome.

The Littlest Birds – The Be Good Tanyas
Iwoya – Angélique Kidjo & Dave Matthews
Nothing I Can Do – Ben Taylor
Wrapped Up In You – Garth Brooks
Mushaboom – Feist
Mahna Mahna (Muppets) – Cake
Like A Star – Corinne Bailey Rae
Dream A Little Dream of Me – Mama Cass
The Rainbow Connection (Muppets) – Sarah McLachlan
When You Are Still (Live on WNRN) – David Wax Museum
This Moment (Victoria Williams) – Matthew Sweet
La Noyee – Carla Bruni
Out Of The Woods – Nickel Creek
Goodnight Moon – Will Kimbrough
Per Te – Jovanotti
*my translation here
Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Baby – Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, & Gillian Welch
Godspeed (Sweet Dreams) – Dixie Chicks
Common Thread – Bobby McFerrin
The Sea & The Rhythm – Iron & Wine
Can’t Help Falling In Love (Elvis) – Eels


[wonderful artwork from Ryan Hollingsworth, who also has a great new February mix up on his site]

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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