UofMixtape: Cold Open
What you have here, folks, is one hour and fourteen minutes of frustration, sadness, and longing (in more or less that order). The finest collection of melancholy this side of the Mississippi, if I do say so myself. These are the songs that soundtrack my late walks in the falling snow — the less visibility, the better. This is the music in which I find comfort during long drives, the snow not only piled high on the sides of the road, but obscuring the street itself, challenging our tax dollars to wake someone up at three or four or five in the morning so that we don’t lose our minds come morning rush hour.
The playlist begins with harsher sounds — the unforgiving guitar riff on “Sister” is a recent favorite, Cloud Nothings’ distorted power-punk album features a cover reminiscent of a ski lodge (a detail that has always had an important bearing on how I hear their music), the bombast of Preoccupations’ “Continental Shelf” features chunky guitars and stark production, and Will Toledo’s work as Car Seat Headrest is pleasantly fuzzy lo-fi.
Songs by Ypsilanti-local Fred Thomas and The National-soundalike Black English provide the transition to acoustic, where Pedro The Lion begin the “sadness” portion of the ‘list. The Microphones’ “I Want Wind To Blow” is an unhurried, cluttered piece, juxtaposed with the quiet urgency of Super City’s “Run The Home.” Next, we introduce quiet urgency to electric guitar (and a full band) with Rainbow Kitten Surprise’s poignant “Cold Love” — just wait for those harmonies in the final minute.
From here, we enter the “longing” portion, beginning with a chamber-pop detour featuring the likes of Stars, Beirut, and San Fermin, as well as a track by Owen Pallett (whose work is appropriate in context, but too experimental for me to comfortably label “chamber-pop”). Net we have an arguably indulgent pair of songs, “Too Much” by Sampha — a piano-and-vocals-only version of the Drake song (which Sampha helped write and produce) — and “Sweet Chin Music” by Milo, a whimsical downbeat rap that casually samples a Bon Iver song.
Rounding out the final fourteen minutes is the glitchy “Murmurs,” the hollow-sounding “Chamakay” with its oddly dark vibe, the excellent, pared-down “Chinatown” from Girlpool’s even more excellent 2015 debut and, finally, “Coldest Night of the Year,” by Vashti Bunyan (probably most well known for her collaboration with Animal Collective), a track which I’ll readily admit I may or may not have tacked on for novelty.