I dedicate this Monday Mixer to fellow writers Julia Antonson and Justin Peters. Happy birthday brosefs.
1. Led Zeppelin – “Gallow’s Pole”
For a band that’s practically synonymous with mammoth-sized rock and roll, Led Zeppelin also had great acoustic songs. This one’s based on an old traditional ballad called “The Maid Freed from the Gallows,” in which the singer is a woman who is going to be executed that night. She hopes all her passing friends and family will pay the fee to release her. This cool tale is sung above a the most bluegrass sound Led Zeppelin ever had with banjos, 12 string guitars, mandolins and even back up vocals.
2. Noah and the Whale – “5 Years Time”
This chipper tune comes to you by way of the ukulele. It’s a controversial instrument amongst the writing staff here. Some don’t even think it’s a real instrument. I’ll let the haters hate because sometimes it’s just the perfect instrument for a song. Unique timbre is not a bad thing to trade for technical prowess.
3. Queen – “Seaside Rendezvous”
Queen was a band that could do it all, and here we see their sillier side. It’s got all the things everybody loves about Disney, fun and well packaged, without the embarrassing High School Musical stuff. The horn section you hear in the middle section is Freddie Mercury and drummer Roger Taylor using nothing but their vocals and some thimble finger-tapping (the tap dancing you hear). That “give us a kiss” line at the end is said with the perfect confidence that made Mercury an icon.
4. Eric Clapton – “My Very Good Friend the Milkman”
Clapton went from guitar god that could play searing solos with the Yardbirds or Cream to an old timer who could sing with the right amount of roughness and pain. He wrote one of the saddest songs in “Tears in Heaven,” but here we see that he can sing New Orleans style jazz. Here he’s just one of the guys, playing an old standard and not even playing a lick of guitar. The bridge is especially cool since we get to hear the different instruments take turns soloing over the chords.
5. Pink Floyd – “The Gnome”
I love the outer-space sound that Pink Floyd became famous for on their later albums, but the childlike music that came out of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn will always be my favorite. Syd Barret had a unique mind, which didn’t sound like it belonged to this earth or even on other planets. This playful tune follow a ballad-like structure describing a gnome and his gnome life. It’s pretty awesome.
6. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – “Sleepwalker”
I know what you’re thinking. You’re mad at this band for having such a great name. You wish you came up with it. You also probably think this good a name is to overcompensate for bad music. But let me tell you, if you haven’t heard their new album (reviewed here on WPGU) or if you just need a reminder of what it is to sound heavy without sounding metal, this song is worth your time.
7. Pusha T – “Untouchable”
Producer Timbaland is one of the best around right now for breathing beats like these. He’s been at it since the 90’s (he’s worked with 2pac) and he takes it back there with a sample of Notorious B.I.G.‘s “Think Big.” The track has an ominous sound, an instrument from outer space and some backwards singing. Pusha T delivers menacing drug allusions, referencing drug cartels in Mexico like he was El Chapo’s best friend.
8. Black Sabbath – “Supernaut”
Guitar virtuoso and artistic wierdo Frank Zappa has sometimes called this his all time favorite Sabbath track (he goes back and forth with “Iron Man”). He told Ozzy that you could really feel the adrenaline in this song. He’s right. The band has a lot of momentum that really gets rolling through sludgy riffs and an experimental bridge.
9. The War on Drugs – “Red Eyes”
I love how much rise and fall is in this song in terms of volume. It never gets too predictable without losing its listenability as a rock song. Sonically it has a multitude of things to listen to. Every time I hear it I try and focus on different part and it always sounds pretty sweet.
10. Blind Pilot – “3 Rounds And A Sound”
This song is so beautifully cathartic and intimate. You can hear the squeak the acoustic guitar makes as the fingers slide up and down, which normally causes some cringing to the listener, but here it’s a human mistake. I always picture the band playing this in a small band for two soulmates who haven’t seen each other in years.
11. Anthony and the Johnsons – “Salt Silver Oxygen”
This song has a classical beauty to it because of its Baroque bells and whistles and the clearness of the whole sound, but there’s a very subtle and undeniable hint of darkness to it. The amount of dissonance is enough to take a nervous and uncomfortable grip on you but you’ll be glad to listen to this track. The lyrics create beautiful images of flying horses and dancing caskets. The whole experience is so strange that the title leaves the exact taste in your mouth that this song gives.
12. Samuel Barber – “Adagio for Strings”
Classical music has never been so universally touching. The way the instruments all feel so hesitant and unsure creates a unique sadness. One of the saddest songs ever written in the USA, it has been played at announcements of the deaths of FDR and JFK and in commemoration of the victims of 9/11. The climax builds and builds to this high pitched chord and then just