WARMER MIXTAPES #56 | by Michael John Hancock and Brian Robertson of Awesome New Republic

SIDE A | by Brian Robertson

Here are 10 milestones in my development as a musical artist and person.
Hopefully I’ll remember everything that has touched me in the last 26 years (or since I first opened my ears).

1. Weather Report | Havona
I was 10 years old, and suffering from an allergic reaction caused by the dust I stirred up sifting through my best friend’s dad’s record collection. We put this record on and were immediately broadsided by Jaco Pastorius’ virtuosic electric bass playing. Cutting edge synthscourtesy of Joe Zawinul (ex- electric Miles Davis band) and the furious Latin drumming of Alex Acuna burned underneath Wayne Shorter’s lyrical soprano sax. For me, this track still stands out against four decades of self-indulgent jazz fusion albums as having a certain energy and excitement to it.

2. Thelonius Monk | Ruby My Dear (solo piano version)
One of the true eccentric geniuses of jazz, Monk has the most instantly recognizable sound of any piano player. Everybody gives him a hard time for his bad technique, but I love his personality and sense of humor. I transcribed this song in high school and still play it on my Rhodes every time I feel like laughing.

3. Wayne Shorter | Night Dreamer
This is classic Wayne Shorter...Melodic and concise. I admit, the first version of this song I heard was a jazz vocal cover by Kurt Elling (on his Live In Chicago album), which led me to dig out the original vinyl from the music library at school. I must have listened to Wayne’s sax solo 100 times that week! Bewildered by the immediate, in-the-moment connection between his mind and his fingers, I realized I needed to stop trying to impress people with my licks and instead focus on creating melodies.

4. Tears For Fears | Shout
My parents owned this record and loved to play it while I danced around the living room at age 3. A dark album, but when played back to back with Raffi’s Baby Beluga it provided a nice little mood swing. Years later I realized why I have such a proclivity toward highly-compressed drum sounds saturated with reverb.

5. Pink Floyd | Us And Them
Another favorite from my parents’ record collection. As a kid growing up in the ‘80s I listened to this song and thought, Why does this sound so much better than anything else on the radio?...It’s a great example of how less is more on the production end. You just need a few of the right elements assembled correctly and the song just plays itself.

6. The Band | The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
My grandmother first introduced me to this song...The Joan Baez cover version. A decade later, I watched The Last Waltz in a college dorm room and realized The Band had always been my favorite group, but I just didn’t know it at the time. These guys had such a tremendous collective personality on stage. Everyone’s strengths complimented each other’s so perfectly and it didn’t hurt that by 1975 they had been playing together non-stop for almost 20 years. Get a few scotch’s in me and I might just pull out an acoustic guitar and serenade y’alls with this lil’ gem about Civil War pride.

7. The Grateful Dead | Box Of Rain
I first heard this album on tour a few years ago, as we were hauling up to a lake house in rural Maine to decompress after a hectic few weeks of shows and sleeping on floors. A great soundtrack to a late afternoon drive through the woods in autumn.

8. Stevie Wonder | Golden Lady
Stevie is the original one-man band. Playing drums, piano, synthesizers, and sometimes even horns on almost all of his output through the 1970s, he always pushed the envelope of what it means to be a musician and songwriter. The outro of this song, complete with its 7 key changes, shows off the fact that he can totally school any other R&B singer without even breaking a sweat. Catch him on tour these days and you’ll see that he hasn’t lost it yet.

9. Nas | The World Is Yours
I used to drive through Nas’ old Queensbridge neighborhood in Long Island City, NY on my way to work back in 2007. I would listen to this track and think, This guy made it out of here because he worked harder than anyone else to perfect his craft and hustle. His father was an avant-garde jazz musician, and that sensibility always comes through in his liquid rhyme schemes and choice of production.

10. Weezer | Buddy Holly
In 7th grade, I was a lanky, awkward blonde kid with theatrical ambitions, but I always felt out of place in drama class. When auditions came around for the 50s musical Ducktails And Bobbysox, I managed to score a bit part as Buddy Holly, playing a brown plywood guitar with yarn for strings in front of a crowd of screaming girls! It came to the point where I would get up, look in the mirror, and say to myself, Damn. I really do look just like Buddy Holly. Rivers Cuomo gave me (and a lot of other nerdy kids) that self-esteem boost I needed to get out there on stage and be myself.

SIDE B | by Michael John Hancock

Here are ten tracks that mean a lot to me as we drive across the country in our beat up old Sprinter, and I have the time to reminisce. Not necessarily songs that represent epic, personal moments, but songs that fill me up with a warm feeling and an equally warm memory when I think of them.

1. Stevie Wonder | I Just Called To Say I Love You
My first record (along with We Are The World, and the 45 that came with a McDonald’s Happy Meal, detailing the menu) that I played non-stop on my Fisher Price record player. Didn’t know it then, but it was the electronic beats and synthesizers, mixed with the soulful singing of this tune that got me started on my way to making music.

2. The Beach Boys | In My Room
This, from my cassette copy of Endless Summer, which was the soundtrack to several childhood trips to the beaches of Delaware and The Carolinas. The first jams I listened to on headphones, where I discovered music as a private and personal experience. I was a little bummed when we went to their concert and it wasn’t a bunch of young surfer dudes on stage, but a couple minutes into it, when the hula girls started running down the aisles, I could care less.

3. Harry Belafonte | Day-O
Another early cassette, purchased out of enthusiasm over Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice, I was pleased to find that there were several versions of the same song within (Star-O, Banana-O). You can never have too much of a good thing.

4. Michael Jackson | Human Nature
My favorite Michael Jackson song, and the rounding out of my worn out four-cassette collection (Belafonte, The Beach Boys, Thriller, and S. Wonder’s Talking Book) that dominated my concept of music throughout childhood. The restraint in how he sings the high notes over the arpeggiated bridge is reason enough for the legend.

5. Talking Heads | Psycho Killer
I first heard this in the television series, The History Of Rock And Roll. It was the punk episode, with a slow single camera shot in black and white entering CBGB’s as the original acoustic trio format were playing this tune live. With all The Clash, Ramones, X, Sex Pistols in the hour of mind-blowing information, this was the band that seemed the most out there and subversive. This was the band that will, for me, forever define punk.

6. The Smashing Pumpkins | Rhinoceros
Oh, how the mighty have fallen…Or maybe I just grew up and realized Billy Corgan isn’t all he was cracked up to be. Still, in the midst of puberty, uneven limbs and all, this band was the perfect music for awkward teenage dissatisfaction. I believe this was also the first video I ever saw on the internet…No MTV in the Hancock household. Thing took about five hours to load.

7. Underworld | Jumbo
Beaucoup Fish was my album of choice upon return from sneaking out the window at night to meet up with girls and/or try pot while running amuck with my friends. The knocking sounds at the end of the track would always freak me out.

8. Radiohead | Kid A
Was this the first leaked album? Whether or not that was the case, I clearly remember being unable to wait for the release date, and burning a copy to bring down to the lake at the University in Miami and listen on headphones. The variety of ducks and birds walking around me while I had my mind blown seemed to already know this track by heart.

9. Liars | They Fenced Other Gardens With The Bones Of Our Own
I drove from Miami to Baltimore in one shot to see these guys play in their fresh trio format. My friend gave me an early copy of They Were Wrong… and upon third straight listen, late at night on I-95, heading back to the magic city, I realized they were singing about witchcraft and the intolerance that ensues. I was equally overjoyed and terrified (probably from lack of sleep). It’s a scary album when you’re alone at 3 in the morning on the great American highway.

10. Animal Collective | Banshee Beat
This is quite the romantic centerpiece of a very moving album. They’ve been an inspiration since Spirit They’ve Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished, particularly when we were first on a quadruple bill with them years ago in Miami for our second or third gig. Upon walking away from their set, I realized we had a whole lot of work to do. They remain a consistent reminder that music can’t just sit around in nostalgia, and needs to move forward, and a raise the bar with a high mark of quality with each release. Also, the track is a personal reminder of sneaking into the swimming pools of Montgomery County, Maryland.