Five-Star Xmas

When I whipped up a Xmas mix three years ago, I had to engage in some serious scraping to round it out. Times have changed, and my collection has expanded. I can now present a collection of seventeen tracks with zero compromises. This is everything I consider necessary for a Five Star Xmas.

Enjoy! I guess I should add a few caveats. This is probably not safe for work. Parental guidance is strongly advised. There are dirty words, a measure of irreverence, and some loud raucous parts. If that’s not your idea of a good time, you may want to look elsewhere for your holiday cheer.

Bela Lives

Hallowe’en is just around the corner, so here’s a mix for the occasion. It’s eight different versions of my favorite song of all time, by eight different artists.

These are my favorites from the notorious collection of a hundred-odd versions which is floating around the torrents somewhere.

The original is not included, but surely everyone’s heard that before.

My Absolute Favorite Albums of the Aughts

Here are my favorite albums released from 2000 to 2009. I tried to narrow this down to a top ten, but I just couldn’t make the final cuts, so it’s a baker’s dozen.

Who Needs Electricity? by Operation: Cliff Clavin [2000] — Acoustic anarcho-primitivist folkpunk from Bloomington, Indiana. O:CC was one of my favorite punk bands of all time, and this is sort of an “unplugged” version of their own previously released originals — but framed as the future of rock after the collapse of civilization and attendant loss of ubiquitous electrical power. And in fact the sound of this album was indicative of the future direction Chris and Hannah would take with Ghost Mice. I think you can still get this for five bucks from Plan-It-X. Remember, if it ain’t cheap it ain’t punk.

Blazing Arrow by Blackalicious [2002] — Just the coolest hip-hop album ever. I’m really not sure how I first heard this music, but as soon as I heard it, I had to buy the album. Pitchfork calls it “unstoppably joyous” and it truly is.

Black Earth by Bohren & der Club of Gore [2002] — Mellow, instrumental, dark, dark, dark, depressive, almost ambient jazz. There’s a good review on PopMatters.

The Ghastly Grimey Orchestra of New Orleans by The Ghastly Grimey Orchestra of New Orleans [2002] — A freaky folky experimental project from New Orleans, inspired by Edward Gorey. I had to special order this from Dublin, strangely enough. I discovered this one through random googling and became fascinated by the story behind the album. It seems a bunch of freaks hanging out in (pre-Katrina) New Orleans decided to record one song for each letter in the Gashlycrumb Tinies. They recorded each track with a different roster of musicians in different locations around town. One track was recorded in a moving elevator at Nowe Miasto, passing by musicians on different floors. Bizarre, obscure, dark, and awesome. Learn more, see a video, and get this album from Stitchy Press.

1 by Popchor Berlin [2002] — Poppy cover songs done by a choir in Berlin. There are only five songs on this EP but they range from damn good to transcendentally brilliant. Thanks to Liza for turning me on to them.

IAO (Music in Sacred Light) by John Zorn [2002] — Avant-garde ritualistic experimentalism that pushes all the right buttons for me. A more thoughtful review can be found on All About Jazz.

e.p. by Liquid Crystal Display [2002] — Psychedelic pop/rock from Bloomington, Indiana. You can get all their albums free through

Wölfl Piano Sonatas by Jon Nakamatsu [2003] — What’s an album of classical piano pieces doing here? Thanks to Brian Denzer for turning me on to this. He played some of this on WTUL one morning many years ago. For what it’s worth, Fanfare gives this “absolutely the highest recommendation.”

Lords of the Green Grass by Xenis Emputae Travelling Band [2003] — Mellow ambient experimental droning psychedelic British freefolk with a psychogeographical twist. This album has been re-released under a Creative Commons license, so you can download the entire album (in MP3 format) from Larkfall.

Here Comes the Troublemakers by The Troublemakers [2004] — Superb, ska-inflected pop-rock that combines anarchy, romance and fun. Includes such fabulous anthems as “International Flag-Burning Day” and “Emma Goldman,” zany fun songs like “Opposite Machine,” and sweet ballads such as “Never Be Alone.” Buy this one from Louisiana Music Factory before they run out. Trust me on this one.

Super Heavy Organ by Robert Walter [2005] — Funky jazzy instrumental organ recorded live in New Orleans. Walter was playing in Bloomington, Indiana, just days after Katrina. I’d evacuated there, so I talked my way into the concert, which is where I picked up this album.

Satanische Vrede by Silvester Anfang [2006] — Dark droning experimental psychedelic Belgian free-folk. I find their sound absolutely mind-blowing in a subtle, insidious way. They self-describe as “post-satanic krautfolk,” and that seems pretty accurate. This album is out of print, but you can get a sample MP3 from Kraak.

Seraphim by Irfan [2008] — Dark mystical Bulgarian neofolk. Ethereal female vocals over a male choir with that distinctive Balkan sound. I believe I stumbled onto this album via Too beautiful. There’s a review on Heathen Harvest.

Finally, I should note this list was inspired by a post Jeb made at Musical Family Tree and also by J’s list. Thanks, guys, for suckering me in. This list took way longer to compile than I anticipated.

Now can we get on with this next decade please?


Radio Daze

I’ve made a few changes to the streaming audio station as I continue the constant pursuit of perfection. Finally came up with a name: radio.rox — blindingly obvious but thanks to Charlotte for prodding me in the right direction. The name suggests the new web address:

…which is where you’ll find it.

It now features a listing of the last ten tracks played, which updates every four minutes and links to the appropriate pages on So if you hear something you like, you can follow the link and learn more about that artist.

Technical ruminations: There are still only two options for listening: a link that should launch the stream in your media player, and a Quicktime player embedded in the web page. I’d like to add another option, like maybe a Flash player, because not everyone has Quicktime. If anyone knows of a Flash player that can accept audio streams I’d appreciate suggestions.

More technical ruminations: The audio is still streaming over port 8000 which may run afoul of strict firewalls. I’d like to stream it over port 80 which is usually open to allow plain old web traffic, but I haven’t manged to figure that out yet. I have discovered that the embedded player seems to function even when a firewall is blocking the stream in a media player — I don’t know why. Maybe Quicktime somehow converts the stream to port 80? Is that even possible?

Oh, but what about the content? You’ll hear some stuff you absolutely can’t hear elsewhere — audio from my personal collection, some of which I was involved in creating myself, some of which is not commercially available, and of course there’s a wealth of ROX-related stuff in there. But that’s interlarded with a massively aggressively perhaps even obnoxiously eclectic mix of music and other audio from diverse sources. If you don’t like what you hear, wait a bit and you’ll probably hear something very different. You may still not like it, but at least it will be different.

Right now there’s also a lot of Xmas music in the mix. Not necessarily good music… but Xmas nonetheless.

As always, I’m interested to know what you think.


Awrite — I’m taking the plunge and starting my own net radio station. This will be going 24/7 or as long as I can keep it up.

Want to listen? Please be my guest. If you know my “taste” in music (and I do use the word “taste” advisedly) you’ll know what to expect. If not I guess you’ll just have to listen.

Let me know what you think and help me figure out a name for the station. To celebrate this inaugural broadcast day I’ll be taking requests but keep in mind my library is not infinite so general requests are more realistic than specific tracks.

Auto Motive

Oops, I meant to post this mix to go along with the previous post about the burned-out car.

This one’s almost an hour long with tracks by Dizzy Gillespie, Blue Öyster Cult, and of course Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Matt Sweeney. As I always I welcome your comments.

Note also that 8tracks has just added a new feature which allows you to “like” a mix, so if you have an account and deem my mix worthy, by all means let your views be known.


For no particular reason except the sheer fun of it, here’s a mix of whistling songs.

Perhaps you can use this to make your transition to the weekend.

Halloween 2009 Premix

Here at work we had our Hallowe’en social hour yesterday afternoon. I supplied the music; unfortunately we didn’t have the bandwidth to play this over the internet. Hopefully you do. So here’s a halloweenish mix of thirteen tracks including music by Andy Forray, Bauhaus and Body Odor.

Warning: This mix contains three covers of a certain classic vampire song, plus the original. Yup, four versions of the same song. It’s my favorite song in the whole world, and I personally can’t get enough of it. All four versions are pretty awesome, and somewhat different, but consider yourself warned.

Unfortunately people noted the Halloween decor in our office wasn’t quite up to the level of years past.

Olivia and the Disembodied Head

That’s because our ever-attentive administrative assistant is back in the hospital. I don’t know whether to call it a relapse or complication or what, besides which I don’t really want to air someone’s private medical details in this venue. All I want to say is that everybody here misses her, and we all hope she makes a speedy recovery.

Personally, even though I miss O—, I wouldn’t miss the ostentatious, over-the-top, faux-creepy decorations. That sort of conspicuous consumption is really not my style. Halloween is the number two biggest holiday after Xmas in terms of spending, mostly on candy and plastic junk manufactured on the other side of the planet. Meanwhile, it seems to me the essence of what make Halloween cool gets more obscure with every passing year.

When I trotted out my old essay on this subject last year, I garnered the following comment:

The crapification of holidays and perversion of the origins, sadly, is not limited to Halloween. Not even close.

The permanent adolescence of the American adult may have something to do with it. When we were kids, this was a kids’ holiday. Now it’s adult.

But that’s not quite my point. I never thought of Hallowe’en as a kids’ holiday. If anything, I was objecting to how it’s been turned into kiddie fare. Don’t get me wrong, I think kids and everybody should be able to groove on the spooky vibes emanating from All Hallow’s Eve. But that very spookiness is increasingly attenuated by the drive to sanitize the holiday and capitalize upon it.

Yeah, Christmas too. Bah. Boo. Boo hoo.

Underground Study

I found and scanned an old photo from my files. Here’s Brian Jones and I getting into a serious subterranean study session.

Study Pit

I’m not sure who took this photo. Possibly Shelley Richmond aka Michelle Richmond Vallejo. Circa 1988? Anyway it’s at Greene Hall, Collins Living Learning Center, Indiana University, Bloomington.

Naturally there is some music for underground study: Eight low-key instrumentals, including Jay Sanders, Halo Manash and Hellvete. A two hour study session. This one’s dedicated to and inspired by my friend David, who said he liked some of my more mellow laid-back mixes as good music for studying. Dig in, and by all means let me know what you think.

Speaking of studying, Xy got buried under a mountain of schoolwork. She found out yesterday that her grades were due, well, that day. Oops. She’d thought she had ’til Wednesday. Not sure where the screw-up occurred, but she was up ’til 3:00 AM tallying and computing and entering data. Then to top it off, overnight the temperature dipped down to 48ºF, triggering the no-start bug in our car’s anti-theft system. (I’ve written about this extensively.) It’s amazing Xy wasn’t in a worse mood this morning. Perhaps it was our daughter’s smiling face that restored her sense of proportion.

And further on the underground school tip, yesterday I got to tag along with Howie to Our School at Blair Grocery. This is a radical education project in the Lower Nine that looks mighty interesting. Check out their blog.


I was curious as to how Obama’s visit to New Orleans might be covered in the national media. Would it serve to re-focus attention, however briefly, on our recovery efforts? Perhaps the national economic situation trumps concerns about rebuilding one particular city?

As it turns out, though, there just wasn’t much media coverage at all. (Despite a surprisingly harsh write-up by Eugene Robinson.) The media was distracted because a kid hid in an attic for a few hours while a balloon floated around.

The whole thing is now revealed to be a hoax, but of course that doesn’t stop the coverage; it merely multiplies it. Now the hoax is the story. The real joke is on us, of course — all of us. We seem to have lost our grip. It’s almost like we, as a society, are helplessly riding on a runaway balloon, and all anyone with half a brain can do is relax and try to enjoy the scenery as it rushes past below us.

So in honor of Balloon Boy, here’s a mix to accompany your ride.

Of course there is the possibility that we, as a society, are not hostage to a runaway balloon at all. Perhaps we are hiding. In a box. In the attic. Don’t you think it’s time we came down?


Dad with Cognac

Holy frijoles, my dad is 75 years old today. What kind of gift could I possibly give the man who gave me half his genes? It will come as no surprise that I decided to make him a mix.

This is a bunch of music that was either recorded in 1934, composed or published in that year, or has some sort of connection. For example, there’s the classic “Stars Fell on Alabama” as performed here by the inimitable Sun Ra. The song was written in 1934 by Frank Perkins and Mitchell Parish; Sun Ra’s version came out in 1989, I think, but his musical career began in 1934, so it all fits together.

It may seem silly to focus on the year of birth, since the person in question doesn’t tend to remember too many details of that time. For my part, I was born in 1967. Do I feel any deep resonance with the events of that year, the spirit of that time? Well… Actually, to tell the truth, heck yeah, I sure do. That was the Summer of Love, and even though I was technically born in the winter, still I’ve always considered myself an honorary member of the Age of Aquarius. (In fact I was born on the cusp of Aquarius, but I digress.) Numerous authenticated hippie-boomers have verified this for me.

So I think it’s entirely possible that understanding of ’34 might give me a little insight into the mysterious man who is my father. Let’s see… the rise of the Nazi Party… the Night of the Long Knives… John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Bonnie and Clyde had their famous cross-country rampages and were all killed that year.

OK, so maybe I’m not learning much about Dad here after all.

But it was also the year that brought us Flash Gordon, the Apollo Theater, the Three Stooges, Lil’ Abner, the Soap Box Derby, and — of course — my father. That’s pretty impressive.

Happy birthday, Dad. Glad you’re in good health, and I hope you enjoy the mix. Oh, and that very last track? You may be wondering about the connection, but actually it’s the most germane of all. It features Rico Rodriguez on trumpet, and it’s his 75th birthday today as well. Hooray!

Best of 2007 (Musical Redux)

On the last day of 2007 I posted some of my favorite music. I quickly removed the link because I realized it was not, in the strictest sense, um, legal. I am nothing if not law-abiding.

It recently occurred to me that I now have a legal alternative, so here’s the mix.

29 songs and audio oddities that helped me make it through a dark and difficult year. Lots of painful memories — but also some sweetness. We lost a friend, but our daughter was conceived that summer. This mix reflects that range of emotions.

Hats off to 8tracks for figuring out how to do this legally. I don’t know of any other site or service that has accomplished this.

Added Bonus: Here’s one of my favorite photos from 2007.

Wormy Thing

OK, enough nostalgia for one day. Tomorrow I hope to reach back even further, all the way to 1934. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Presidential Visitation

President Obama is visiting New Orleans today, so here’s a mix (warning: some dirty lyrics).

This is a silly thematic mix. The associations are simple and obvious and not necessarily germane to today’s visit. Some of the tracks are about Bush. And just to avoid any confusion (and, hopefully, any visits from the Secret Service) I do not advocate any acts of violence, despite a couple of those song titles.

I suppose presidential visits of this nature are largely symbolic affairs, but symbols have power too. Many New Orleanians are anxious over the brevity of Obama’s visit, as he will be here less than four hours. It’s his first visit here as president, and we feel we deserve more attention. Things are tough all over, and we know that, but New Orleans was the site of the biggest disaster in the history of our nation, and that story isn’t over by a long shot. We’ve still got a lot of recovery work ahead of us. And like it or not, some of our key recovery issues are inextricably federal in nature.

I wonder how this visit plays to the rest of the country. I wonder which symbolism is more important, the local or the national.

I wanted to go to this rally for “Category 5 Levees and Coastal Wetland Restoration” this morning. I contemplated taking Persephone with me. But for various reasons I decided not to deviate from our regular schedule, so I just took her to daycare and went to work as usual. Ah well.

If I had a moment of the president’s time, I’d probably say something about the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act. And I’d definitely say something about the need for reforming the US Army Corps of Engineers.

One Day Later: Eugene Robinson is calling this visit the biggest disappointment of Obama’s presidency.

Raucous ≠ Rock

Here’s a frenzied mix of raucous rockin’ music — but there’s a catch, of course: There’s no actual rock music here. No punk, no metal. Some folk, world, jazz, electronic, hip-hop. Some of the R&B, country, gospel and industrial arguably verges into the rock idiom. And there’s a heavy metal cover in here too. But it’s a piano trio! Almost an hour of music by Art Ensemble of Chicago, Wilson Pickett, Benga and others. NSFW.

This is offered as a counterpoint to yesterday’s exercise. please let me know if you enjoy.

Avant Mellow

Avant-garde music has a bad rap for being screeching and unpleasant. Here’s a mix that proves otherwise.

Some of it is still weird, thankfully. And all of it is beautiful, to me. Sometimes it helps to know a bit about what you’re hearing. That track by Katie Peterson? That’s the sound of a glacier melting. “Starry Night” is a duet of sorts with Mazen Kerbaj improvising on trumpet while the Israeli air force drops bombs around his apartment in Beirut. The long electronic piece by Pôle was part of a project from the mid-1970s, in which albums “were sold door-to-door by students and other young people in the poor neighbourhoods of Paris.” Strange but apparently true.

And then there’s Zero Kama. According to the liner notes, “All instruments to be heard on this album were exclusively made from human bones and skulls by the hand of Zero Kama.” I’m really not sure if I believe that, but I can’t argue with the music. A great album from 25 years ago.

Of course it’s always possible to take issue with my choices, especially when it involves a term as nebulous as “avant-garde.” Some people will say that, for example, a Beatles cover would be automatically disqualified. But when the artist is Marc Ribot? You can make up your own mind.

I’m all alone at the office today, so it’s a good time to crank this stuff.

In other news:

  • We got a buyer for our house. They completed their inspections, requested a few repairs (all very reasonable) which we will be making. They just need to get the house appraised and then this deal should be a lock.
  • I’m a little concerned about the repairs being made to the house we’re buying. Rather I’m concerned because they haven’t begun work yet. If they don’t get on the stick soon it will be difficult to close the deal in time.
  • So it looks like this move may actually happen after all — though it could still be derailed. I’m predicting though that we will celebrate Thanksgiving in the new place.
  • Surprise, Monday (yesterday) was Columbus Day, which meant the daycare was closed. I only figured this out Friday evening. No problem, I was able to stay home and take care of Persephone. We had a fine day together, and as it turns out this is “fall break” at the University; classes aren’t in session and campus is very quiet. So I don’t think I was missed.
  • Bought a new bike. No, the “old” one wasn’t stolen, but it was having problems, despite not being old at all. I took it in last week for some work. The rear wheel was out of true and turned out to have several broken spokes. They repaired it but warned me the wheel looked to have issues. Sure ’nuff, it went out of true again over the weekend, so I was back at the shop Monday. They are sending the wheel in to have it rebuilt. In the meantime though I’ve got to have a ride, so I decided to buy the cheapest thing I could find, a $250 Elektra cruiser. It’s heavy with no gear shift and pedal brakes. And you know what? It’s great.
  • Speaking of bikes, I got a front-mounting child seat for the girl. Plus a toddler-sized helmet. It’s just about the cutest thing, and she loves riding so much that she now throws a fit when I use some other method of transportation. I’m still very cautious about riding around with her, but it seems to be working out OK, and I think this can provide a safe transit between home and daycare.
  • We went to see the Big Easy Rollergirls vs. the Southern Misfits Saturday night. We left at the half because it was getting to be someone’s bedtime, but the score was something like 82-5! Always a fun time.

Also, I’m presenting for FOLC tonight at the PRC. Here’s a sneak peek at the slideshow I’ll be using.

This was developed by our former secretary, who put a lot of work into it. After nine months it needs an update; the information is no longer entirely current. Still, right now it’s the best we’ve got, and it’s what I’ll be using.


Here is a mix we listen to in our house when someone passes on.

We listened to this last night after getting news that Xy’s grandmother Pauline had finally slipped away after a protracted struggle.

My notes indicate Pauline appeared only in a single episode of our TV show, namely “A Day in the Life,” ROX #63.

Pauline made a brief appearance in ROX #63

Unfortunately this show isn’t on-line yet, but faithful viewers may recall Pauline was not very impressed with her granddaughter’s salsa.

Pauline’s presence loomed large in other parts of the series and my life. She designed the achingly hip jacket Xy wore in ROX #29. And of course it should never be forgotten that she footed the bill for our puppet-show wedding as seen in ROX #41.

It struck me that as Xy no longer has any living grandparents, so too Persephone now has no living great-grandparents. Since two of our friends and contemporaries also lost grandparents over the last couple weeks, it’s feels like the end of a generation.

I understand there will be no funeral. She didn’t want one.

So long, Pauline. You will be missed.

Song My Parents Taught Me

Apropos of nothing at all, here’s a mix of songs my parents taught me.

Mostly these are songs I remember hearing my father sing while he did dishes or what have you. I think of my parents as pre-rock’n’roll but that’s not exactly true. You’ll hear some early rock hits here as well as the old vocal groups from back in the day. These songs stuck with me for years and I still sing some of these myself. Maybe some day my daughter will learn them too.

I burned this mix to a CD and sent it to my parents a few years ago before a visit. They listened to the disc on the drive down and attempted to fill out a little form I’d devised, “Name That Artist.” A fun game, and they scored impressively well.

I said these were mostly songs my father sang, but there are a couple glorious exceptions. See if you can catch them.