Spoiler: Kraftwerk - Computerliebe: Prophetic pioneers
Music History 101: Kraftwerk, almost always depicted as four guys but actually just two, made programmed pop music possible. That is no exaggeration. Two German dudes made all of techno, all of hip hop, all of chill-out and a fuckton of other genres possible by making music that today sounds almost acoustic, but which was wholly synthetic and synthesized, already in the early seventies, before audio-software was even a word.

The song I chose for the mixtape is about internet dating, and recorded in 1981. Read that last sentence again if you haven't already. Taken off the album Computerwelt ("Computerworld"), it describes, in vague German lyrics, the feeling of sitting alone in the night, at your computer, reaching out through it for companionship. Obviously, there as no such thing as the internet when it was recorded, but in retrospect, Kraftwerk nailed it: The sterile feeling of loneliness, the distant warmth of internet friends, the all-engulfing stillness of hours in from of the screen, it's all in here, musically. And beautifully.

"Computerliebe" is "computer love" in English, if you wondered.

Spoiler: Queen - Killer Queen: The importance of vocal timing
Not many seem to realize the importance of timing in successful vocal delivery. Pitch, range and feeling all get their due credit when people discuss vocals, but timing? Hardly. Let's listen to some Queen and think of this.

Freddy Mercury, as most would agree, was a divine singer. Pitch perfect, huge range, classical training, all the things you usually hear touted about the man: All true. However, his timing was second to none, and on Killer Queen he makes the most of it. Every vocal timing on this track, from when he comes in to where he cuts off, when he goes up and down, and likewise with the back-up singing, is perfect, within a tenth of a second tops. Killer Queen is a masterpiece of surgical precision in singing.

Spoiler: The Beatles - Please Mr. Postman: A word or two about early Beatles
For being the single most talked and written-about band in the history of the universe, The Beatles sure has a lot of ignorance surrounding them. This track is chosen to illustrate two basic facts many people seem not to know, namely that fab four was immensely influenced by Motown and they, or John in this case, where WAY better singers than most people give them credit for.

Please Mr. Postman is one of a great many Motown covers The Beatles did on their early recordings, and one of the most underrated. The Beatles where no stiff-upper lip whiteboy ensemble, they were all about the soul, and if you doubt it, listen to John Lennon singing his throat out in this track. He means it, dude, he's about to break down. People are quick to point out that The Beatles wrote great songs, but not enough mention the fact that they sang better and more heartfelt than anyone else, even when they didn't pen the words themselves.

Spoiler: Belle & Sebastian - I Fought In a War: War explained
Weirdly, B&S's worst album ever opened with one of their best tracks. I Fought In a War is about war, but whether it's a literal war or just some other kind is open to interpretation. It's a song built solely upon the simple, beautiful melody and the brutal lyrics. Formulated as a letter written to a girl, the song perfectly captures the sacrifices of prolonged conflict of any kind, and the words "Well, it won't hurt to think of you as if you're waiting for this letter to arrive, because I'll be here quite a while." is, in all seriousness, about as heartbreaking as it gets.

Spoiler: The Temptations - It's Growing: Just how good David Ruffin was
David Ruffin is famous for being the lead singer of The Temptations at the time they recorded "My Girl", but this track off the same album ("The Temptation Sing Smokey") is a more deserving legacy of this extraordinary talent. Try to find a single flaw in his delivery here, pitch, feeling, timing, soul, it's all a perfect ten. There is no deep explanation of the music here, just a reminder that Marvin, no matter how great he was, was not the only godsend Motown gave us. RIP Mr. Ruffin.

Spoiler: Daft Punk - Ph?nix: There's more to it than the brain
Whenever people deride music for being "brainless", they're either not thinking about what they're saying or severely overrating the brain. Some music are not for thinking, only for letting your more basic nerve impulses take charge and see what rhythm and compulsions lies beneath your self-imposed identity.

"Ph?nix" is not one of Daft Punk's best tracks, far from it. But it is a good one, and more importantly for my purposes, it's one of the dumbest Daft Punk tracks ever. There are no lyrics, no distinctive melody apart from the bass, it's extremely repetitive, even the title makes no sense, and still it's a wonderful song. Any reaction you might have to this track will tend to be purely cerebral, because unless you have some kind of aversion for euro-house CA 1997, one of the friendliest sub genres of techno ever, you'll have very little to hate on, or love on, here. The reactions you feel, and I'm bobbing my head as I'm writing this, have nothing to do with your brain, and everything to do with that preference human beings has for rhythm that scientists can not yet explain. It's a well crafted track, no doubt, but it's made to appeal to sides of you over which you have very little control. Your dumb side. Learn to love it.

Spoiler: Radiohead - True Love Waits: A sap classic
This isn't REALLY a Radiohead track per se, it's just Thom Yorke playing the acoustic guitar and singing about love. For some, his very distinct nasal and high vocals are unbearable, which is part of the reason I put it on here, besides it being a sap classic. Confronting your bias is good for you. As for the bouts of weird lyrics ("I'll dress like your niece"? "True love lives on lollipops and crisps"?) Thom Yorke had this to say: "The difference between young and old when people start to dress sensible and act their age. this person is offering not to do that to keep the other. Alles klarr? I read an article about a child who was between 5-8 yrs old who was left on his/her own for a week in a house when his parents left on hoilday and he lived on lollipops on crisps. True."

Ok... Anyway, True Love Waits does, in it's own, subtle way, make a powerful statement about love in making the chorus lyrics of one of very few Radiohead love songs ever "Just don't leave."

(Includes a "Thank you everybody! Good night!" at the end for anyone who thought he actually talks like that.)


To get the mixtape, quote