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A Rhythmic Mixtape

As a drummer, I thought it would be fitting to approach a mixtape from a rhythmic perspective. I’ve chosen the following thirteen songs out of the hundreds (thousands? gazillions?) that have influenced the way I think about rhythm, and in turn inform the way I play the songs that we write. I’ve been wearing out the virtual record grooves of these songs in my laptop and my iPod recently, and I’ve elected to focus more on some of my current influences and likes than those of my earlier years. Maybe I’ll let all you in on some of my past favorites in a future mixtape!

You can stream this mixtape (legally!) at 8tracks.com while you read this…

1. Radiohead– “15 Step” (In Rainbows)

If I had to choose a favorite Radiohead song, this is it. If I had to choose a favorite recorded beat from any album ever, it might get that nod, too. It’s one of those rare odd-time grooves (it has five beats per measure instead of the four you’ll find in most popular music) that makes you want to move, and the sounds and production are exquisite to top it off.   I love the claps that play back and forth with the leading drum groove, and the bass line that comes in at the bridge is perfect.

2. Florence & The Machine– “Blinding” (Lungs)

I’ve been listening to this record more or less on repeat since I got it for my dad for Christmas, and in a semi-legitimate oversight, neglected to give it to him. This track shows off lots of floor toms and lots of densely-layered syncopated rhythms, but keeps the underlying pulse completely intact. Start with a live take.

3. Death Cab for Cutie– “Grapevine Fires” (Narrow Stairs)

Death Cab has been on my short list of favorite bands since high school, when I’d play along to album after album for hours. This modern take on a 12/8 shuffle manages to walk the fine line between interest and intricacy on the one hand, and unobtrusive and supportive groove on the other.

4. TV On the Radio– “Dancing Choose” (Dear Science)

Listen carefully to the dynamic vocal lines playing off the static drum beat. At times the whole things threatens to come apart, but the parts always lock back together just when you think they’re going to lose the plot completely. First, you can check out a live fire escape version.

5. Passion Pit– “Little Secrets” (Manners)

Don brought this song to the band nearly a year ago as a potential cover, and I was in love immediately. Don’t miss those agogo bells on the right side of the mix, or the crazy added beat heading into the second verse.  Here’s a very cool take live in the studio, and here’s the band recording the children’s choir.

6. Ra Ra Riot– “Boy” (The Orchard)

The bass is the real star here, while the drums hold down the fort with a super-simple, driving four-on-the-floor feel that supports the song nicely. I was pleasantly surprised and very impressed when Auyon and I checked them out live, and the bass player nailed the part on stage with all the precision and groove of the album version.

7. Robert Plant– “Even This Shall Pass Away” (Band Of Joy)

Mr. Plant still has it, as he proves unequivocally on this new record. The simplicity of the interpretation definitely makes this last track on the album, with the drums and percussion taking the front and center alongside the outstanding vocal performance.

8. The National– “Bloodbuzz Ohio” (High Violet)

On an album of rich sounds and driving drum parts, this track stands out as perhaps the richest and driving-est. The drums and feel at once at odds with and a perfect complement to Matt Berninger’s melancholy baritone.  Check out a live take here.

9. Elbow– “Grounds For Divorce” (The Seldom Seen Kid)

In contrast to the previous track, there’s nothing intricate or syncopated about this song’s instrumentals, and that’s exactly what makes it groove so hard.  Plus, they can nail it in a single take in the studio.  Talent.

10. ADELE– “Rolling In the Deep” (21)

ADELE’s vocal deserves the spotlight here, and it’s those driving instrumentals playing in rhythmic unison that provide the focus. The choruses are huge, the verses are tense, the bridge is a foot-stomping breakdown… I can’t get over what an expertly-crafted pop song this is, and yet it feels completely original. Watch her crush it live, then buy this one right now.

11. Jónsi– “Boy Lilikoi” (Go)

This track stands out to me for its intricately-programmed beat, which somehow manages to be simultaneously pulsing and frenetic, and is constantly ebbing and flowing between the sparse verses and the celebratory choruses.

12. Katy Perry– “Teenage Dream” (Teenage Dream)

In my humble opinion, the real stars of this track are Dr. Luke and Serban Ghenea. As an aspiring mixer and engineer myself, I can’t help but be awed by the programming and mixing on many of the tracks that these two work on. Maybe you look down your nose at top-40 pop, and maybe you don’t particularly like the lyrics, but this song has a couple of the catchiest melodies I’ve ever heard, and the drums, synths, and mix to support them.

13. Imogen Heap– “Canvas” (Ellipse)

I knew I’d have to include an Imogen Heap song on this mix, but choosing one wasn’t an easy task. I love this one’s 6/8 feel, and dropping the pitched bass drum hit back an 8th every other cycle in the song’s outro is tasty touch.


I have chosen to link to each album on the iTunes music store rather than simply finding YouTube versions of the songs in an effort to encourage you to purchase the songs for your own enjoyment, if you do enjoy them!

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One Comment

  1. Posted February 7, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Good call adding a link to the mix. I encourage such choices for all future mixtapes. Namely so I can stream them at work effortlessly.