This is The Mixtape Project. The goal of this project is simple, ask the people responsible for creating, facilitating, or just overall being involved with the music we love to share the music they love. This month, we’re looking at a collection of favorite songs from Dane and Emily Erbach of Jetsam-Flotsam Records.
When we decided to start Jetsam-Flotsam, one of our founding philosophies was that we would only release music that moved the both of us. We assumed this wouldn’t be difficult—after all, having been together for twelve years (and married for more than six), our musical tastes have bled together—and, so far, it hasn’t been a problem. Since we started our fledgling label just over a year ago, though, the width of this spectrum has widened, and we now realize that we each fixate on our own favorites despite also appreciating the whole. That’s what made this Mixtape Project sort of fun; we challenged ourselves to find songs that defined our collective taste, but also included tracks that represent what scratch our individual itches.
For example, the first chunk of this list is heavier—the sort of melodic density that accompanied Dane’s last year in college. Thrice’s stormy chorus in “Stand and Feel Your Worth”—especially that final chorus where Dustin Kensrue bellows beneath the resounding, re guitars—reflects his turbulent student teaching experience, and the droning, 5/8 waltz in Cave In’s “Paranormal” haunted him during his daily forty-five minute commute. Though released more recently, “Screams in Caves” by Polar Bear Club captures the potential of this sort of post-hardcore, an ideal combination of rich chords and singablility that leads inevitably to sore throats and stiff necks. Sometimes, these songs are too much for Emily, who likes her melodies a little lighter, but Dane has a drive for these thicker tracks.
Emily, on the other hand, obsesses on a single record for months—and up to a whole year. Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity is one such record. She discovered it ten years after its original release, but swooned at the ringing guitars and delicate bells and swelling strings on “Table for Glasses” (though more so for Jim Adkins’s vocal dexterity, the fragile confidence in his voice). She also spent a year with Nada Surf’s The Weight Is A Gift, which finds the band at their simplest and most pristine—“Imaginary Friends” is perfect four-chord power-pop, despite slipping into a swirling bridge—and reminds Emily of driving around the boy she nannied for until he fell asleep. And then there’s Two Cow Garage’s Sweet Saint Me, a rougher, raw nerve of a record, but with passionate, narrative vocals and songs like “Sally I’ve Been Shot” whose anxious energy only hints at their perfect live performances.
All of these bands come from a “punk-rock” place, including “Cut It Up” by the Lawrence Arms (one of the songs that best captures the duality of their vocalists) and “I Was On a Mountain” (whose chorus, with its roared harmonies and wall of chords, is among the genre’s best). That’s probably Dane’s fault, since he grew up on the stuff. And some of them are panoramic post-rock songs—by Do Make Say Think and Russian Circles—which are Dane’s fault as well, since it’s the sort of stuff he listens to when he writes. But it was Emily that opened his mind to the folkier side of this playlist—Dane gave Frank Turner a chance because he thought Emily would like him. And, then again, Dane turned Emily on to Samiam, whose fuzzy, lo-fi Whatever’s Got You Down sparkles for Emily above the rest of the band’s discography (Dane, for the record, prefers Astray).
The most recent songs come from Weezer, a band that we both have enjoyed since high school (it could have been from the Blue Album or Pinkerton, or even the others, but we agree that their newest effort is excellent, and that “I’ve Had It Up to Here” seems to capture what we enjoyed about their older releases) and Restorations, whose song “Separate Songs” gives Dane and endorphin high. Both songs represent the median of Jetsam-Flotsam’s musical taste—in the former where pop sensibility finds eccentricity and obtusity, and in the latter where melody rises steam-like from the noise.
A lot of the songs on this playlist come from the ten (or so) years when we grew together as a couple—courting, learning to live with and love one another, stepping together into our adult lives. Some of these songs are linked to specific memories, including “Civil Twilight” by the Weakerthans, which reminds Dane of a trip to rural Michigan in which he had to slap together 5,000 words for a cover story on John K. Samson, one of his idols; and the Gaslight Anthem’s “Handwritten,” which we spun obsessively just as we signed the contract for our first family home. In fact both bands, along with Weezer, Jimmy Eat World, and Samiam remind us of important life moments—after all, Dane did propose to Emily to a Nada Surf song.
But that’s the point, then, isn’t it? These songs, this little record label, is something we share. Even though Dane does a lot of the legwork at this point, even though Emily serves a more advisory role, this is our project—one that we hope to pass along to our two boys (along with our musical taste).