Whoa what. When I started All Around Sound in the beginning of 2010 (March 10th if we're being particular) at the urging of one of my very best college friends Ryan, I never could have possibly imagined that it would be a thing I would devote huge batches of my time nevermind years to. And yet, here we are. All Around Sound is about to enter it's fifth year in operation. It's a milestone to be sure but every post is a milestone moment - written with near-fathomless love and a just toned down enough sense of urgency that it seemed apt to celebrate this grander moment in very much the same way it has been in the years before - through the customary mix swap of sorts.
While I arrived at Department of Eagles just in time for them to play their last show and head into an indefinite hiatus, there's a lot to be said for their effects on my music tastes. In Ear Park was one of the first "experimental" records I heard where I didn't feel an overwhelming bit of pretension, its arrangements were next level, and the lyricism on a wholly different caliber than I had encountered that I immediately immersed myself into Department of Eagles rather shallow catalog. If you've been unfortunate enough to hazard a conversation with me, I've most likely either made a passing Department of Eagles reference or erupted into a full on rant about how/why Department of Eagles are better than Grizzly Bear.
I'd be lying if any time Daniel Rossen announced an album, tour, or any sort of news at all or when Fred Nicolaus emerged out of years of hiding in plain sight with a newly monikered project that I didn't immediately imagine the Department of Eagles reunion of my dreams. That's yet to happen but the resulting output from the two have been just as good. Fred Nicolaus' new album under his new Golden Suits moniker serves to illuminate just how nimble a performer, agile a lyricist, and earnest a singer the man is for those tragically unfamiliar. It's Nicolaus' stepping out and he does so with such subtlety and grace that it was unsurprising that it wound up being one of my favorite records. Fred is such a deft hand at capturing the subtle nuances in the variances of mood that it seemed like a no-brainer to ask him to put together a mix for All Around Sound's birthday and he doesn't disappoint.
In Fred Nicolaus' own words:
"When you love an artist, there comes a time when you reach saturation point with their "classic" period and start to wade into the dark waters of their "lesser" albums. For Randy Newman, who I deeply love, the darkness roughly coincides with a decade - the 80s. Though 80s pop references are very much a hallmark of the current zeitgeist, Newman's stuff still somehow evades coolness - I have a suspicion that no young Bushwick bands are looking to "Trouble In Paradise" for synth tones. Still, I got tired of listening to "So Hard Living Without You" for the thousandth times a couple years ago, and started to dig in. Some of it is fun bad, like "Pants," which finds Newman yelling in a Dad-in-the-shower voice about taking off his pants on top of some yuppie blues rock. Some of it is just bad bad (pretty much all of "Born Again") and some of it is frighteningly lame - on "Masterman & Baby J," Newman actually raps a couple verses (for real). Still, there are a few gems, my faves are collected below. It's mostly ballads, but I always liked R.N. more as a balladeer than a satirist anyway - when the cranky, smart, sarcastic guy writes a tearjerker, you trust it more.
Thanks so much to Fred Nicolaus for his beautiful unexpected mix of Randy Newman ballads and for low key helping to lay the groundwork for the only Department of Eagles reunion I may be able to achieve (here on this blog). Stay tuned the rest of this week for mixes from some of my favorite bands, blogs, and music friends old and new.