Make Me a Mixtape: Kiwi Jr.'s Top Songs for Your Halftime Blues
Make Me a Mixtape is a segment where we interview artists and have them make a mixtape of seven songs based around a particular scenario, explaining why they chose each song. This week, we chat with the Toronto rockers Kiwi Jr., who give us a seven-song soundtrack for those who shed some tears over their team losing at the local sports bar.
Where Kiwi Jr.'s superb debut album Football Money was a love letter to Toronto with an unabashed earnestness that drew comparisons to Pavement, Jonathan Richman and classic Flying Nun bands, their sophomore effort Cooler Returns solidifies them as masters of their craft in power pop's musical folklore. With their "selfish pursuit" front and center, the recent Sub Pop signees offer some of the best charismatic and ramshackle guitar pop across Cooler Returns that guides you on surreal and comical adventures about the terrible twenties, undecided voters and strangling the jangle pop band.
The sprawling and jangled verses on opener "Tyler" and "Guilty Party" best display frontman Jeremy Gaudet's raspy vocals, which can be quite mistakable for Stephen Malkmus'. The rippling, country-tinged "Only Here for a Haircut" displays intricacy and craftiness, incorporating a slide guitar, wheezing harmonica and honky-tonk piano riff that recalls last year's cover of Galaxie 500's "Tugboat." On "Highlights of 100," Gaudet rapidly spits out hyper-specific references over bouncy rhythms, but like most songs here, they're filled with ambiguity. The scratchy and highly angular title track is already one of the best singles of the year with some seriously funny and senseless lyrics that conjure many ideas — "It's not fair to be strung out on the back of your ATV / Throwing dead birds into the air, singing, 'Howdy, neighbors, how do you like my new ride?' / And now I can see that after spending some time apart." From the incredibly tight hooks ("Domino") to the punchy melodies ("Nashville Wedding"), and charming lyrical wit ("Waiting in Line"), Cooler Returns is jam-packed with sardonic social commentary that's hard to ignore. You'll get used to the familiarity and nuance that is Kiwi Jr.
Kiwi Jr.'s ability to make light of any situation combined with their passion for sports inspired the hypothetical situation for their mixtape. Pretend you're in a sports bar in Toronto watching a Raptors game and they're down eight at halftime. From the Hives to Sandy Denny, the band swear by these tunes to help save the night even if the Raptors lose. So, make sure to break a five and pop some quarters into the jukebox.
Sloan — "Money City Maniacs"
"Alright so you're down eight. That's not bad. It's less than ten. It's nothing. This song means business: LETS GO. This is like our generation's Canadian sports pump up anthem. The siren sorta screams hockey, but that's okay. At this point you think you're still in this thing as much as ever."
The Hives — "Come On"
"So yeah it's true, we didn't have the best start to the game, but there's still lots of time left. You start to get over-involved in cheering because deep down you have a bad feeling about this. We're still in a good mood but maybe being a little too loud and over compensating. Another round. Let's Go!"
The New Pornographers — "Ballad of a Comeback Kid"
"So now the odds are definitely stacked against us and it's not looking good, but let's push for the comeback! Crazier things have happened! BTW I got this CD in high school and it sparked my Destroyer, Neko Case and New Porno fandom for years to come."
The Snitches — "Right Before My Eyes"
"Watching the game collapse before your eyes. What am I even looking at? How do we let this happen game after game? This is mostly an anger phase. Thrash it out. I have no idea who this band is, the Snitches, or what happened to them other than my friend's older brother bought their CD when it came out and played it for us. They're from Quebec though."
Glen Campbell — "Quits"
"That's it... we're done. You accept it. This is where anger starts to turn into indifference. Forget about it, I don't even care anymore. Who cares? Cancel the rest of the season. Doesn't matter! Call it what you want to, I call it quits. Maybe the bench comes on at this point. Danny O'Keefe is a very underrated songwriter."
Sandy Denny — "It'll Take a Long Time"
"This is post game song #1. This is when you're like, this team is gonna keep losing for the rest of my life. And you start to care again, but you're just sad about it. You're going to be watching these games for a long time and any changes being made are gonna be a ways away before you see results."
Mott The Hoople — "Roll Away the Stone"
"This is post game song #2. All of a sudden you're getting over the loss and you're thinking who cares, It's just sports! Don't let it get you down! Roll away the stone! Until the next game and the cycle starts all over again."