Drops 2016: February Mix

Graham LeBron
02 25, 2016

Floating Action is one of my all time favorite bands. It is the genre spanning musical project of Seth Kauffman from Black Mountain, North Carolina, who writes, performs, and usually records everything on each of his six albums. Since being introduced to the first Floating Action album through Dr. Dog in 2009, I have closely followed his recorded output and have seen Seth and his band play multiple times. His 2014 release, Body Questions, made my Top albums of 2014 list. It blows my mind that he has not seen more success. I suppose he is one of those musician's musicians, like Nilsson, The Beatles' favorite group. He's been championed by a number of prominent musicians and his 2012 album, Fake Blood, was even released on Jim James' (My Morning Jacket) imprint,  Removador. Yet somehow, he seems to still fly under the radar. I, for one, have been doing my part in sharing his music with as many folks as possible over the last 8 years. Many times while spinning his records, someone has asked about the song and I am always happy to oblige. 

Hold Your Fire, his first double album, was released in February on People In A Place To Know Recordings. Here is what he had to say about it. "It's a double-album, and every song ties into the next; the whole album was intended for you to sit down and listen to it as one big, solid piece. In keeping with it's uniqueness, there will be no standard press, no tour, no nothing. Nothing will be beating you over the head- the album will just be out there, existing...pure truth."

Yes, pure truth, indeed. It is a beautiful piece of work and his best to date. I've so enjoyed digging into 66 minutes of goodness. Seth also produces and plays on other folks' albums. He played guitar on the Dan Auerbach produced "Ultraviolence" by Lana Del Rey and Ray Lamontagne's "Supernova." He just played played bass and made a cool guitar noise on Ray Lamontagne's new tune, Hey, No Pressure. Dude is awesome. Then there is this, the bio from the Facebook page:

"We can't tour. Since '06, no booking agent will book us, because we 'don't sound like anything else', so it's not 'marketable', a 'hard sell'. So..that's what we're working with.. We're trying. Same thing with publicity and labels. Floating Action is totally being blacklisted, but you can't really say anything..just stay dignified and keep moving forward, without aid of the machine. Regardless, Seth Kauffman will continue to be a conduit for pure musical truth; produce, record albums, play shows, & continue to push creative music forward. You pay the price when you only do the best stuff."

That's the music industry these days. So, with that said, this mix is bookended with Floating Action tracks. I highly recommend listening to the whole album as Seth advises. It is everything an album should be.

I had a feeling there would eventually be a duet with Spacebomb artists, Matthew E. White and Natalie Prass, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that Cool Out (produced by Matthew and DJ Harrison) turns out to be a dance jam with a groove that is right up my alley. Is that a drum machine I hear on this modern boogie classic?

If it feels like the first the first half of this mix has a steady groove going, which I think it definitely does, that is actually semi-unintentional. It turns out a good number of my favorite artists have recently released tracks that would be right at home in one of my afternoon groove DJ sets. Maybe it is just a current trend, but this kind of organic slow burn/happy hour funk has been my bread and butter for years. I've made mixes before, like this and this.

So enjoy the vibes on new jams by Bibio, Andrew Bird, Ray LaMontagne, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, Woods, and Gallant. Most of these folks have new albums coming out shortly. I'm curious to see if these teases are indicative of the sounds of said new albums. We shall see.

As the mix moves on, we get into some new rock stuff, including a long time favorite of mine, Nada Surf. I've been fortunate enough to tour with them on multiple occasions and even sang harmonies and played keys for a string of shows when bass player, Daniel Lorca, was injured. They are releasing their eighth album, You Know Who You Are, in March on Barsuk Records. Matthew Caws has been a consistently great songwriter for so many years, so I'm not surprised that the quality of these new songs indicates this band shows no signs of fatigue as they enter their 3rd decade together. The arrangements and performances are crisp and clean as ever. There is power in the sweetness. I look forward to seeing them live on their next round of touring, drummer Ira Elliot is one of my favorite players and I love watching him work.

Speaking of consistently great songwriters, I first I fell in love with Fruit Bats back in the day when Rogue Wave first signed to Sub Pop. Since then, Eric D. Johnson has been churning out thoughtful and elegant pop albums at a steady pace. After a brief solo hiatus and the release of EDJ, one of my top records of 2014, he is back under the Fruit Bats moniker with a brand new album entitled Absolute Loser on EasySound Recordings. The record doesn't come out until May, but the first single "From A Soon-to-Be Ghost Town" hints at the greatness to come. If you aren't familiar, I recommend the entire catalog, I've spent some time with Eric on this here blog, like our Mini golf interview (Part 2 coming soon), and this interview too. Speaking of Rogue Wave, they recently signed with EasySound and their new album will be out in April. The first single, What Is Left To Solve, is a pretty bad ass 80s synth pop inspired jam. I'm curious to hear if the rest of this self produced album follows suit. Most of it was done at the studio where Pat showed us some tricks a couple of times last year.

Alright, in true Drops of Gold fashion, the mix eventually turns electronic towards the finish line. Out of the enormous sea full of generic dance music these days, I'm somehow able to fish out a few gems. This month features Prince Rama, Porches, that Smerz track I was going on about, Boulevards, Wild Nothing, Is Tropical, Tirzah, Bay area electro legends kit n c.l.a.w.s., and a clubby Jamie XX remix by Four Tet. There is also a stellar Boards of Canada remix of Sisters by Odd Nosdam from his new album of the same name on Leaving Records. Odd Nosdam is David Madson, an Oakland producer and co-founder of seminal independent label, Anticon. This dude is tops in my book. He also DJs happy hours at Missouri Lounge and I'm always impressed at his eclectic selections. Sisters is out now on vinyl and VHS. Yup, VHS.

Lastly, I was recently turned on to nonkeen, a new project from Nils Frahm, a German producer known for combining classical and electronic music, and his childhood bandmates in Germany. I'm not sure I believe their biography, but it makes for a good story. The resulting instrumental album, The Gamble, is a mix of synth ambience, found sounds, field recordings, delayed keys, prog-like live instrumentation, and murky down tempo beats that flows remarkably well. It is a great listen from start to finish. My favorite track is Chasing God Through Palmyra and the accompanying video of an epic model train trip is pretty amazing. So, there you have it. I actually think this mix has the best flow I've achieved in a while, so I hope you enjoy it.

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