Thursday, December 29, 2005

Piece of Cake: Choice Cuts Vol. 4

Now that 2005's up, for the fourth year in a row I've compiled some of my favorite tracks of the year under the "Choice Cuts" banner. As usual, Maria handled the design duties (even while juggling several other projects).

This year's edition, "Piece of Cake," contains the usual round of remixes, slightly obscure tracks, a few you've heard (hopefully not too much), and a few that technically weren't released in 2005 (but since I stumbled across them this year, I've included them anyway). I tried to avoid songs that got too overplayed (Death Cab for Cutie's "Soul Meets Body," for example), and I'm sure there are several picks that will make you question my taste.

But hey, that's the fun of making a mix. Like last year, I'll likely have a few copies left over -- if you're interested in making a mix swap, drop me a line at the

This year’s track list:

1. One of Us Is Going to Die Young-- The Ark: This is pure pop pleasure. A hooky chorus that'll have you singing along by the second verse. A breezy ode to being young and carefree, I thought this was the perfect track to kick off the mix.

2. Catch My Disease-- Ben Lee: I gotta hand it to Ben Lee; he seems to disappear for a few years, and then comes back with song worth putting on "repeat." His classic track "Cigarettes Will Kill You" remains my favorite, but "Catch My Disease" rivals it. How can you not love a song that name checks "Beyonce on the radio"? (Although, I don't get the love for Good Charlotte.)

3. Hip Teens Don't Wear Blue Jeans-- Frank Popp Ensemble: This mod-pop collective from Germany hasn't quite made it to the States, although I first caught this song on Indie 103.1's imports show. By far the catchiest song I've heard all year, it manages to avoid novelty status despite its title. I still haven't tired of this 60s-inspired track.

4. Goodnight and Go-- Imogen Heap: Ahh, Imogen. "The OC" and Zach Braff may have co-opted you, but we still love you. Imogen keeps a spot in our hearts because it was Frou Frou that we listened to on the portable CD player as Maria went into labor last year. That's why we think Evan has taken a particular liking to her; this song remains my fave off her new CD.

5. Leap Year-- Maria Taylor: What a haunting, beautiful voice. Maria Taylor was on our Choice Cuts mix last year through Azure Ray; this year she returns for an encore as a solo performer.

6. Hate It or Love It (Official Remix)-- Mary J. Blige feat. The Game: The Game's original version was good, but the Soul/Hip-Hop Queen takes it to a whole new level. Mary J. recounts her career up until now, and proclaims that she "ain't going nowhere -- but you already know me."

7. Slow Hands (Britt Daniel Remix)-- Interpol: Stripped down to the core, this Interpol remix could have wound up on 2004's Choice Cuts edition, "Baby Food." But it just missed the cut then; it was still a song I listened to enough in the early part of 2005 to make this year's recap.

8. We Might as Well Be Strangers (DJ Shadow Remix)-- Keane: It's official: No one can remix like DJ Shadow. This reworking of Keane is so powerful, you'll forget what the original sounded like. You'll want to listen to this one a few times.

9. Mirrorball (DJ Jazzy Jeff Sole Full Remix)-- Everything But the Girl: Yes, you read that right: DJ Jazzy Jeff. This parent understands: (Yes, that was so cheesy, but I had to say it)Everything But the Girl better put out a new CD soon. In a mean time, this year's remix CD -- including a beautifully done reinterpretation of "Mirrorball" by Jazzy Jeff (love the subtle piano) was a nice substitute. Now, if only we could get new parents Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt to release a new original CD...

10. Dance Music-- The Mountain Goats: Less than 2 minutes long, this song gives out a quiet but powerful punch more potent than tracks twice as long. Bonus points for location checking San Luis Obispo, which doesn't get the kind of song love that most other California cities get.

11. In the Morning-- The Coral: A tad cheesy, yes. But I bet you can't get that steel drum line out of your head. Big in the U.K., this song didn't make the same kind of splash here.

12. Twilight Creeps-- Crooked Fingers: Erich Bachman, who makes up Crooked Fingers, has a gritty voice that's paired rather nicely here with the sweet voice of Lara Meyerattken.

13. 16 Military Wives-- The Decemberists: Either you love 'em or hate 'em: The Portland-based Decemberists (who also appeared on last year's Choice Cuts mix) came out with one of my favorite CDs of the year, "Picaresque," their most accessible one yet. With "16 Military Wives," they also stepped into anti-war territory, although the song is equally hard on newsanchors and mindless celebs. Plus, the chorus is catchy.

14. I Drive Alone-- Esthero: Esthero's back! Finally. As a big fan of her 1998 release "Breath from Another," I waited for the follow-up... and waited... and waited. Finally, she released the EP "We R In Need Of A Musical Revolution," followed by the full-length "Wicked Little Grrrls." I didn't like the new CDs quite as much as "Breath," but I still dug on most songs -- including "I Drive Alone," reminds me of 1998 Esthero. For some reason, this track only appears on the EP.

15. Six Days (remix)-- DJ Shadow feat. Mos Def Another DJ Shadow appearance. I loved this song as a solo project, but also like what Mos Def has added to the remix. That's what you'll hear here.

16. I Can't Believe Its Over-- Bent: Sian Evans, from the group Kosheen, adds a seductive voice to this smooth track. From the Bent CD "Ariels," which was actually released at the end of 2004.

17. I See You, You See Me-- The Magic Numbers: "Love Me Like You" would have been the obvious pick from this group, who released their debut CD this year and immediately took Europe by storm (and are about to do the same here). Comprised of two sets of siblings, the Magic Numbers are clearly inspired by the folk traditions of the 1960s -- yet sound super fresh. I heard them perform "I See You, You See Me" live on KCRW, and immediately fell in love with this track.

18. Worn Me Down-- Rachael Yamagata: Actually released in 2004, I didn't catch up with Rachael Yamagata's "Worn Me Down" until this year. Better late than never; it's a stellar track. Bonus points: I didn't know her at the time -- actually, still don't -- but Rachael lived in the dorm across the street from me at Northwestern.

19. Mary Jane (DJ Green Lantern Evil Genius Remix)-- Rick James: It's Rick James, bitch! The late Superfreak comes to us courtesy this year's "Motown Remixed" project. One of the better CDs to come along recently and reinterpret classic songs (in this case, well-known Motown entries), "Motown Remixed" ends with "Mary Jane" as a bonus track.

20. Brighter Than Sunshine-- Aqualung: One of the more overplayed songs on this year's Choice Cuts mix, there were more sentimental reasons to keep it on here anyway. "Brighter Than Sunshine" became our unofficial song for Evan; we even used it as the accompaniment to a home movie of Blogger Baby.

(For a complete list of Mike's playlists, going back to 2001, visit

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