Various Artists: The Best Mashups In The World Ever Are From San Francisco 2

Call me a mash-up snob, but I just don’t have time to listen to freshmen from Arizona State screwing Tapes n’ Tapes together with … with, whoever. Jim Croce. (Actually, that would be great. Bad example.)

Various Artists

The Best Mashups In The World Ever Are From San Francisco 2

Label: No Label
US Release Date: 2006-05-15
UK Release Date: 2006-05-15

Having employed some of the finest physicists and mathematicians I could locate on short notice, and without anything to offer in return other than a place to download "SexyBack", I have scientifically deduced that mashups, as a genre, are roughly six or seven vertical feet away from comprehensively jumping the shark. How can this be, you might wonder, thoughtlessly ignoring my awesome science? The answer is simple: the stupid Internet. Like political commentary, objective news and quality pornography, the Internet has simultaneously birthed and ruined the mashup, which was a hell of a fun idea for a while.

It's that old double-edged sword thing: Yes, the free and simple online exchange of ideas (and by "ideas" I mean "other people's artistic content") has allowed for a heretofore unborn genre to go forth, multiply and shake groove things -- I mean, come on Grey Album. Sweet. (There is also that fan-friggin'-tastic mashup of "Oops I Did It Again" and "The Real Slim Shady" that exposes both for being the gluttonous slabs of tooth-rotting cotton candy they are; it also makes them both way better.)

But often, the worst thing about establishing a medium that anyone can access is that, invariably, they will. And now any Joe Two Turntables And A Microphone in his dorm room, if he's got enough real estate between his Bob Marley bobbleheads and his weed, can staple mashups together with free demo software. That's great and all if you've got a bottle of Malibu and a free night, but it's led to a zany explosion that, because of its size and complexity, is impossible to access, like jazz or the process of registering to vote. Call me a mash-up snob, but I just don't have time to listen to freshmen from Arizona State screwing Tapes n' Tapes together with . . . with, whoever. Jim Croce. (Actually, that would be great. Bad example.)

Anyway, this brings us to The Best Mashups In The World Ever Are From San Francisco 2, a mouthful of a sequel to the often-giddy original from the land where inventive music has occasionally been made. Here's the least surprising sentence you'll read all day: This collection of mashups is inconsistent and uneven. But as such things go, it's fun enough, has maybe four or five truly inspired hybrids, a handful of good ones, and another, a Clarkson / DM mash, that has the title "Since U Been Gahan".

See, that's why I like these things.

Of course, that's a qualified "like". Opener "Beethoven's Fifth Gold Digger", constructed by D (do not try to Google this man) makes that evaluation in three minutes: it's schticky enough, but it doesn't -- how can I put this -- actually match vocal with beat very well. "Super Holla Tricka", a Tripp remix that involves the Beastie Boys, KC and the Sunshine Band and "Hollaback Girl", because apparently there's been some recent Congressional legislation that requires 40% of all mashups to involve "Hollaback Girl", fares better -- it's concerned only with lovingly bringing Gwen and the B-Boys to an extremely sweaty backyard barbecue.

By and large, when that goal -- moving the crowd with the standard unh-tiss thing -- is the DJ's only goal, everybody more or less goes home happy. Jay R's "My Other Car Is A Beatle", which sports Gary Numan, JJ Fad, "Drive My Car", and one of the comp's great titles, does this. It's a little clunky and nonsensical, but that's the point. Motion Potion figures out a way to implant Radiohead's "Just" into the ubiquitous breakbeat from Jurassic 5's "Break". And from the obligatory files of Songs That Don't Belong Together, Fidelski's "Feel Like Makin' La-Di-Da" works way better than it should.

It's when they start to get conceptually itchy that things tend to break down. Poor M.I.A. is underserved by Jay R's "Sri Lanka High", whose hook -- "Rock And Roll High School" -- sounds amateurish in that not-good way, and the Killers / Clash riff "Somebody Rock Me" (as in "The Casbah") never finds its footing. Matching 50 Cent's nap-inducing flow with "Neutron Dance" has the unfortunate and startling effect of making Fitty seem more ass-boring than ever before, and Party Ben's Snoop / Zep behemoth "Drop It Like It's A Whole Lotta Love" doesn't make you miss rap-metal any less.

(One exception to the preceding paragraph is The Evolution Control Committee's "Fock It", which uses notes from Herbie Hancock's "Rockit" to create "Axel F", a blending of two of the early MTV era's best-known synth jams that's, well, something approaching genius, really).

It is at this point in the review that we should mention that reviewing mashups is kind of stupid. These aren't exactly theme albums regarding the emotional disconnect between man and machine in this godless electronic age; they are to make you go boom, like the JJ Fad cars. In that respect, you'll rarely be less than entertained.


In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

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The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Nonetheless, there are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. There are singers tackling deep, universal matters of the heart and mind. Artists continuing to mess around with a genre that can sometimes seem fixed, but never really is. Musicians and singers have been experimenting within the genre forever, and continue to. As Charlie Worsham sings, "let's try something new / for old time's sake." - Dave Heaton

10. Lillie Mae – Forever and Then Some (Third Man)

The first two songs on Lillie Mae's debut album are titled "Over the Hill and Through the Woods" and "Honky Tonks and Taverns". The music splits the difference between those settings, or rather bears the marks of both. Growing up in a musical family, playing fiddle in a sibling bluegrass act that once had a country radio hit, Lillie Mae roots her songs in musical traditions without relying on them as a gimmick or costume. The music feels both in touch with the past and very current. Her voice and perspective shine, carrying a singular sort of deep melancholy. This is sad, beautiful music that captures the points of view of people carrying weighty burdens and trying to find home. - Dave Heaton

9. Sunny Sweeney – Trophy (Aunt Daddy)

Sunny Sweeney is on her fourth album; each one has felt like it didn't get the attention it deserved. She's a careful singer and has a capacity for combining humor and likability with old-fashioned portrayal of deep sadness. Beginning in a bar and ending at a cemetery, Trophy projects deep sorrow more thoroughly than her past releases, as good as they were. In between, there are pills, bad ideas, heartbreak, and a clever, true-tearjerker ballad voicing a woman's longing to have children. -- Dave Heaton

8. Kip Moore – Slowheart (MCA Nashville)

The bro-country label never sat easy with Kip Moore. The man who gave us "Somethin' 'Bout a Truck" has spent the last few years trying to distance himself from the beer and tailgate crowd. Mission accomplished on the outstanding Slowheart, an album stuffed with perfectly produced hooks packaged in smoldering, synthy Risky Business guitars and a rugged vocal rasp that sheds most of the drawl from his delivery. Moore sounds determined to help redefine contemporary country music with hard nods toward both classic rock history and contemporary pop flavors. With its swirling guitar textures, meticulously catchy songcraft, and Moore's career-best performances (see the spare album-closing "Guitar Man"), Slowheart raises the bar for every would-be bro out there. -- Steve Leftridge

7. Chris Stapleton – From a Room: Volume 1 (Mercury Nashville)

If Chris Stapleton didn't really exist, we would have to invent him—a burly country singer with hair down to his nipples and a chainsaw of a soul-slinging voice who writes terrific throwback outlaw-indebted country songs and who wholesale rejects modern country trends. Stapleton's recent rise to festival headliner status is one of the biggest country music surprises in recent years, but his fans were relieved this year that his success didn't find him straying from his traditional wheelhouse. The first installment of From a Room once again finds Stapleton singing the hell out of his sturdy original songs. A Willie Nelson cover is not unwelcome either, as he unearths a semi-obscure one. The rest is made up of first-rate tales of commonality: Whether he's singing about hard-hurtin' breakups or resorting to smoking them stems, we've all been there. -- Steve Leftridge

6. Carly Pearce – Every Little Thing (Big Machine)

Many of the exciting young emerging artists in country music these days are women, yet the industry on the whole is still unwelcoming and unforgiving towards them. Look at who's getting the most radio play, for one. Carly Pearce had a radio hit with "Every Little Thing", a heartbreaking ballad about moments in time that in its pace itself tries to stop time. Every Little Thing the album is the sort of debut that deserves full attention. From start to finish it's a thoroughly riveting, rewarding work by a singer with presence and personality. There's a lot of humor, lust, blues, betrayal, beauty and sentimentality, in proper proportions. One of the best songs is a call for a lover to make her "feel something", even if it's anger or hatred. Indeed, the album doesn't shy away from a variety of emotions. Even when she treads into common tropes of mainstream country love songs, there's room for revelations and surprises. – Dave Heaton

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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