Archive for the ‘soundtracking’ Category


soundtracking with Robert Szkolnicki: The Mix Tape

April 11, 2014

Now, the making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art. Many do’s and don’ts. First of all you’re using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing.”

Rob (John Cusack) from High Fidelity

Even though mixtapes do not physically exist anymore, the internet is doing its best to keep this form of expression alive. Or rather. It’s trying.

Sites like The Line of Best Fit, Portals Music, and The Maroon Cafe post many mixes. The results are however not always satisfying as the playlists are more of a music feature rather than an “expression of how you feel”. Even the new term “curated playlist” seems to have been invented to have mixtapes taken more seriously.

The current mixtapes that I enjoy are by other musicians. Not only is it music that they like but perhaps music that inspires them.
Here are three recent good ones.

Julianna Barwick on Fact Magazine …

Titled See You, it’s a lilting collection of soupy new age, rolling Americana, Arthur Russell, and the odd canonical classic too – it’s certainly been a while since we heard Dylan in a FACT mix.

And keep browsing the mixes on Fact and you’ll also find something by Damon Albarn

Titled Waves in Suyian and made in collaboration with Remi Kabaka and Suzi Winstanley, it spans US­-Cambodian psych-­rockers Dengue Fever to West Indian soul group The Guinness Casanovas, with Mulatu Astatke, Erykah Badu and Holly Golightly in between, plus a pair of unreleased tracks from Albarn himself.

Carmen Villain via Self­-Titled has a nice mix of tracks called Winter Ease.


soundtracking with Robert Szkolnicki: keeping your ears warm with 3 + a bonus

February 12, 2014

Here’s the latest from Winnipeg-based Robert Szkolnicki.

How’s your winter going? I bet you are not having much fun. Too cold, too dark, and too long. To cheer you up I have three musical treats to keep you warm..

Jonathan Wilson appeared on KEXP with a long set of psychedelic folk rock. The KEXP live performance recordings usually have interviews in­between songs. Not so here. Just a long burn of music. I imagine hearing this in a loud, hot, sticky club.

Going further out into the psychedelic province wilderness is Wax Fang with The Astronaut.

THE ASTRONAUT is a grandiose sonic odyssey flowing seamlessly from each of its three movements to the next like a space shuttle through a psychedelic intergalactic landscape.”

At sixteen minutes for just Part 1, this should keep you warm for quite a while.

The Line of Best Fit has released their latest compilation of new music from Canada with Oh! Canada 23 (for download or stream below)

Oh I cannot wait for Canada to be 23 again. Plus not minus.

(Bonus treat: Stream the tracks selected for Sweetheart 2014 right here or embedded below).


soundtracking with Robert Szkolnicki: The Weekly Music Fix

December 11, 2013

Ed note: Special thanks to Robert, for casually sending this along, when I probably would have slumped into another month of “hiatus” for 11th ave.  Even more thanks for more music tips. My bookmarks and music library are a little more crammed over the past couple of years, thanks to Robert’s suggestions here and there.
Music sites on the internet tend to come and go. There are a few good sites that are quite reliable. Since it is the season for gifts, here are some music links that fill my ears with new music every week.


Sound Opinions

Take two nationally respected rock critics, the latest music news, personal commentary, and exclusive interviews and performances, add a huge pile of records old and new, and the result is Sound Opinions — the world’s only rock and roll talk show.

Sound Opinions is hosted by Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot. These guys know music. This is more talk show, topic based, instead of a dive into new music. The episodes where I feel I may not enjoy usually turn out to be quite enjoyable. Each podcast is one hour which is a good length.


All Songs Considered

All Songs Considered is home to the best new music and a community of fans always ready to share their opinions on the current music scene.

All Songs Considered is hosted by Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton. This show is about new music however the content is sometimes pre­releases which means they will feature music that is not actually available for purchase possibly for a few months. The podcast has recently stretched out to include different categories of music which is a great idea.

KEXP Out This Week

Seattle radio station KEXP has a great internet presence. One of my favourite blog categories on is the weekly feature of new music called Out This Week. This is not a podcast but rather a collection of new music releases from YouTube, Soundcloud, and MP3. The downside is that you have to be internet connected.


KEXP Music That Matters

A KEXP DJ records a podcast of their favourite new music from independent artists. Like a radio station, the categories vary between DJs so this one can be hit or miss.


… a bonus link … sort of on a weekly schedule … Headphone Commute

Headphone Commute is an independent resource of candid words on electronic, experimental and instrumental music.

In 2009 we launched our somewhat weekly Podcast, featuring free mixes by our favorite artists and DJs created exclusively for Headphone Commute!

Since there are different DJs creating each podcast, the enjoyment can vary depending on what you like. The episodes that I do enjoy I will listen to repeatedly.


Finally, do not forget to buy music from the artists you might have discovered with one of these links. It is better to give than receive.


Soundtracking with Robert Szkolnicki: Reader discretion advised — Neko Case, John Grant and Nina Simone on profanity in music

September 12, 2013

Using profanity in music lyrics is one way to get noticed. When CDs were the primary music media, the message was flagged with a sticker that read “Parental Advisory Warning ­ Explicit Lyrics”.

Ask a songwriter what a specific lyric means and you will likely get the response, “Whatever it means to you”. Drop and F­bomb into a chorus and the listener says this song needs an explanation.

Why would an “obscene” word be used in lyrics? Especially when radio will not play the song. Is it because no other word works?

Three musicians offer some insight into profanity and music: Neko Case, John Grant, and Nina Simone.

Neko Case discussed her new album with NPR and a song meaning question was asked about “Nearly Midnight, Honolulu”. My guess is that song will be the one that people will want to know about. Her answer was simple. It is a story of a scene she witnessed. Quite a simple answer until she later suggests that the story will not end there. The damage will linger. Powerful stuff. If you are going to tell that story then there is no other way to present it. You can read a little bit more on Sound & Vision.

John Grant of the late band The Czars has a voice of a warm embrace. A single from his latest album “Pale Green Ghosts” called “GMF”, as in “Greatest Mother F…..”, has a radio-friendly B­side, “GMF (Greatest Living Creature)”.

Why the cussing? Simple answer really. As he says in a recent live set on KEXP, Grant says that people use profanity in ordinary conversation. It is ordinary speech.

With radio and CDs becoming less of a factor in getting your music heard, the business rules for avoiding profanity are not as relevant today.

The word “goddamn” might not be an obscenity in 2013, however, imagine hearing it in 1964, during a time of social unrest in the United States. Now imagine hearing it in a live performance by Nina Simone at Carnegie Hall.

Jim and Greg on Sound Opinions 404 look at the music around the time of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech and the struggle for civil rights in the United States. The stories from that time find their way into song and Nina Simone lets her feelings known loud and clear with her performance of “Mississippi Goddamn”.

Would there have been another word that could have been used? Not this time.


soundtracking with Robert Szkolnicki: Nick’s Mom

May 11, 2013

The question of where musicians get their inspiration could be answered by getting to know what they were listening to when they wrote or recorded a song. For a musician who has died, the answer for their inspiration may only be determined by who they sound like.

A recent episode of Sound Opinions featuring the music of late Nick Drake revealed an inspiration that surprised me. In a conversation with Nick Drake’s producer Joe Boyd, he says that the young musician was influenced by his mother, Molly Drake.

The thought that musicians are influenced by their parents surprises me only because I do not have many examples that I can reference. Unless a famous musician comes from a famous musical family (McGarrigle/Wainwright) then we have no comparison to listen to.

The music of Molly Drake has recently been released. Even though these are home recordings, fans of Nick Drake will find something familiar to appreciate. Squirrel Thing Recordings has released the album which you can hear on Bandcamp (or embedded below)

WNYC’s Spinning On Air plays the music of both mother and son.

David Garland presents selections from “Molly Drake,” the new limited edition album of those old home recordings, alongside songs from Nick Drake’s three albums, giving listeners the chance to hear the many connections between mother and son. Both were sensitive, talented, insightful people who wrote subtly devastating songs.


soundtracking with Robert Szkolnicki: The artist formerly known as David Bowie

April 11, 2013

2012 looked at David Bowie with some nostalgia as The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars celebrated a 40th birthday. Forty!

Music critics Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot looked at David Bowie’s concept album in episode 347 of Sound Opinions.

The major bone of contention: was Bowie simply an assimilator of others’ musical styles or an innovator in his own right? While Greg touts Bowie as a rock legend, Jim stops short at “master assimilator.” But even Jim has to admit Ziggy Stardust is among the best records in Bowie’s career, if only because of all of his guises, it’s the most unabashedly over­the­top.

Music label Paper Bag Records celebrated Ziggy with their artists covering the album.

Here is the tracklist:

  • Born Ruffians ‘Five Years’
  • Austra & CFCF ‘Soul Love ‘
  • PS I Love You ‘Moonage Daydream ‘
  • The Rural Alberta Advantage ‘Starman ‘
  • Slim Twig ‘It Ain’t Easy ‘
  • The Luyas ‘Lady Stardust ‘
  • Cuff The Duke ‘Star ‘
  • Young Galaxy ‘Hang On To Yourself ‘
  • Elliott BROOD ‘Ziggy Stardust ‘
  • The Acorn ‘Suffragette City ‘
  • Woodhands ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide ‘
  • Yamantaka//Sonic Titan ‘John, I’m Only Dancing [Bonus Track]‘

You can download the Paper Bag Records tribute album (in exchange for your email address). Or you can click here or below to stream it on Soundcloud.

The artist currently known as David Bowie

Cruising into 2013 and quite unexpectedly, David Bowie released The Next Day. Critically well received (according to Metacritic) and bookie favourites for The Mercury Prize (FACTMAG), it is also clear that the album is not entirely admired.

Dave Bidini in The National Post likes the album but opens with this …

Whenever a legendary figure like David Bowie releases a new album, the genuflecting throng collapses in worship no matter the quality of the work, willing it to be something more than the puffings of a tired genius.

The guys at Sound Opinions take the new album for a spin in episode 381 and come up with different conclusions. It is quite refreshing to hear critics talk about music without being snarky.

Before the music review, there is an interview with music producer Tony Visconti that is worth the time regardless of what you think about the album.


Soundtracking with Robert Szkolnicki: Mixed messages

February 11, 2013

Feburary’s music column is a mix of music messages.

Somewhere in February is Valentine’s Day. Songs about love are more interesting when twisted around a bit. Two recent live performances demonstrate this.

Kat Edmonson appeared on Austin City Limits to show off her singing and songwriting. It starts off slow and quirky but if you stick around for the whole set then you might have been won over, like me. How did she ever get through song four, “Nobody Knows That”? The live performance is available on demand until February 16.

Lavender Diamond disappeared for a few years before releasing an album in 2012. “Incorruptible Heart” is over-produced, for my liking, however I am going to give it another go after hearing their recent appearance on KEXP (or download). The interview asks “how is it that sad songs sound so good?”

If you skipped the last two paragraphs then KEXP Music That Matters podcast 340 might be what you are looking for. Eleven (whoa!) songs for your attitude including Alabama Shakes and Father John Misty.

Changing topics again. The Sound Opinions guys had good back-to-back episodes about satire and humour in music. Episode 373 is a look at satirical songs. Episode 374 features Trey Parkern and Matt Stone.

Audiophile magazine Tone Audio might not be on your list to hear about music releases, however their first issue of 2013 is their recap of the previous year in music. Good variety. Great photographs. Download the PDF.

Bonus track:

Canada is on the list of countries for new users to try out rdio. From the rdio blog

If you’re a new Rdio listener, you can now sign up at, and enjoy up to six months of free music, depending on how many songs you stream. Free streaming is available through the Web or Rdio’s desktop apps for Mac and Windows and no credit card is needed to start listening.

If you do try it out, I recommend The Bombay Royale.

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