One of the lost arts of being a radio DJ is the art of mixing records. Nothing too pre-planned, mind you — just starting with a song, and flipping through the stacks to find the next song that would (hopefully) sound great next to your previous pick.  Back in the ’80s and ’90s when I would make mix tapes, I would pick maybe two songs to start off the mix.  One I had the first two songs set, I would cue them up on the turntables, hit “record” on the cassette tape player, and start mixing away.  The challenge during these mixes was to find the right combination of songs in real time.  I knew that I had roughly four minutes to find the next song while the tape was recording or else I would have the proverbial “dead air” on the tape — and that would suck.  Sometimes the mixes would turn out really great, and other times the mixes had a few “Awww yeah” moments, but were overall uneven efforts.  I would learn from these tapes as to what makes for a good mix by doing what any self-respecting homebrew DJ does:  play them in the car for friends and watch their reactions.

And while it’s not really possible to duplicate the cassette tape mixes from back in the day, I have to say that I really tried to for this mix.  I had two songs that I started with on my music player. And while one was playing,  I hunted for other songs that would round out the mix.  And even though there isn’t a stated theme to this mix other than “random sample,” I think there’s a wistful desire to hear more off the cuff mixes from radio jocks — something that ain’t gonna happen in the age of pre-programed radio.

“Break Up The Concrete (Ted and Eric’s Mix),”  the Pretenders (download)

Last year when this album came out, the Pretenders and Apple had a contest to see who could come up with a cool remix of “Break Up the Concrete.”  If you had Garageband, you could download the individual tracks of the songs (i.e., the stems), and use Garageband to remix it to your heart’s desire.  Once the song was complete, you uploaded your remix to a site where it was judged by some, uh, judges.  The prize pack included the winning remix added to the digital download on iTunes.  Well, I took the challenge.  I was working on the song when my friend Eric came over and wanted to know what I was doing.  I explained “the challenge” and he asked he could help.  I played what I had assembled, and he offered suggestions on what I should add to the mix.  After a few hours playing with the loops and effects, this is what we came up with.  Oh, and we didn’t win the contest (nor does it seem that anyone did, ’cause there isn’t a remix added to the digital download on iTunes).

“Percussion Gun,” White Rabbits (download)

If you’re like me, then you often load random songs on your iPod without knowing much about the band or their music.  This was one of those pleasant surprises from a band I knew very little about.  Sure, I knew White Rabbits were loved by music critics, but I wasn’t sure what all the hubbub was about.  Well, one listen to “Percussion Gun” and I was hooked by the tribal drumming and, of course, the hook in the chorus.

“Quiet Dog,” Mos Def (download)

I’m not a lover of hip hop, but there’s something just so damn appealing about Mos Def that I just can resist.  I bought Black on Both Sides back in 1999 and found it an amazing collage of styles.  It’s still a favorite of mine. This new CD has some really great tracks on it, and what I like about “Quiet Dog”is that the cadence to his rap is clearly right out of the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.”  Sly.

“Crystalised,” The xx (download)

Hey, you heard that New Order broke up, right?  Yeah, I know they’re kinda sorta back together under the moniker “Bad Lieutenant,” but if Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook ever had a baby, I do believe the xx would be their progeny.  I rather like this album for its dark and moody quality that’s tempered with the right amount of pop savvy.

“She Sells Sanctuary,” the Cult (download)

Okay, this is one of the songs that was on my mind last week.  During the summer of 2008, there was a little presidential election in the U.S.  Remember that? Well,  Jon Cummings, Dw Dunphy and yours truly decided to cover the conventions — which was a lot of fun ’cause I, for one, felt like a real journalist working on a hard deadline.  One night it was my turn to put the post to bed, and while waiting on Jon to finish his draft, I was playing “She Sells Sanctuary” on my guitar over and over.  I can’t play the guitar very well, but damn if I didn’t rock that song that night.

“Help I’m Alive,” Metric (download)

I bought Metric’s 2003 release on a whim back when it came out, and was really surprised by the songs.  Well crafted pop songs with an indie/modern rock vibe.  When Fantasies came out this year, I was eager to hear what the band was up to, and from the get go, I wasn’t disappointed. “Help I’m Alive” is clearly the single off this album and it’s doing pretty well on the U.S. rock and alternative charts.  But more importantly, it’s one of those songs where, at least in my little world, people who hear it say “Who’s that?  ‘Cause this song is great!”

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