Summer Jamz 09: Andrew Casillas & Dan Weiss–Manischewitz and Margaritas

As I've stated before, I was a writer for glorious-but-defunct Stylus Magazine. One of the more popular re-occuring bits on the site was a feature that we called "Summer Jamz," which were customized mixtapes curated by the individual writers. The purpose was for each writer to compile a playlist to celebrate a mood, theme, or meditation based on the season. And even though Stylus lies in the internet graveyard, many of its writers still continue the "Summer Jamz" tradition through the website The Passion of the Weiss, which is run by the world's greatest hip-hop writer (and former Stylus alum) Jeff Weiss. This year's other Summer Jamz are running on that site through the next few weeks, and I'd highly recommend checking some of these out.

However, I'm here to post the entry compiled by me and Dan Weiss, another Stylus ex-pat who contributes to The Village Voice and Pitchfork. He's also responsible for that awful (and hilarious) cover art. Be warned that this mixtape sounds better with sugar around the rim of your glass. Now please, enjoy!

Premise: The year is 2109. Accordions are banned. This is because 100 years ago, two rogue, outlaw music critics made a mixtape so important, so inspiring, so…fucking amazing that all bandwidth worldwide swallowed itself and left all civilization in darkness for over 5 years. After President Obama restored electricity to the northeastern states, the newly formed Republi-Whig party, which controlled both houses of Congress, the British Parliament, and 3/4 of the Legion of Doom, passed the accordion ban of 2016, to prevent such awesomeness from ever coalescing and concentrating this violently ever again. As for the two music writers who created the mixtape, after the passage of the accordion ban, they were sent to an undisclosed location somewhere north of Helsinki, where they were placed in a highly experimental procedure conducted by Greg Gillis and Kanye West to see if the very essence of a human being could be sampled on record and auto-tuned (turns out, yes it could). The following is the notation of their original mixtape…


1. Los Lobos – “Kiko and the Lavender Moon”

Pro accordion-to-rock transfigurationist David Hidalgo’s smokier, cinematic tendencies got the best of him in the early 90s, resulting in the Tom Waits-ish Latin Playboys project, and bleeding over quite a few Lobos tunes, like this slow-burning candle. (Dan)

2. The Pogues – “London Girl”

Rapid-fire accordion riff? Horn accents? Bitchin’ rhythm section? If anything, there’s too much to love here. Personally, I’m struck by how a blistering fusion of punk and Irish folk like this could also be such a heartfelt love song. The sense of optimism and passion makes it the ideal choice for a summer romance. In a way, this song does for London lasses what “The Girl from Ipanema” did for Brazilian beach babes. (Andrew)

3. The Klezmatics – “Man in a Hat”

A decade before Gogol Bordello and Golem it’s truly surprising after hearing neo-trad klezmer that fits and wiggles like this (straitjacketed bassline, speed-metal tempo) that the Klezmatics are still one of the only acts to do this sort of thing. (Dan)

4. Bowerbirds – “In Our Talons”

I have a weakness for creepy-erotic, predator-prey songs, like the spider “come to wrap you up tight until it’s time to bite down” in Cursive’s “The Recluse.” Read into this what you will. (Dan)

5. Calle 13 – “La Jirafa”

Sometimes I like to lie in the grass and let the Dada in me wander. Then I get bored and start looking around for pretty girls. Luckily, this song proves a viable soundtrack for each situation. Seriously, try telling the next pretty girl you see that you want to wrap her in a tortilla. If she laughs, she’s yours. If she’s puzzled, she’s probably the type that brings an umbrella to the beach. You don’t want to be with that girl. (Andrew)

6. Los Inquietos del Norte – “La Gripa”

Forget everything you ever liked about cocaine songs. “La Gripa” out-balls every single one of them. Without providing a line-by-line translation, here’s what you need to know about this track: The narrator loves coke, his buddies love coke, they particularly love snorting coke while drinking tequila and…well, everything after that is kind of disturbing and offensive. But good Lord is it fun! Hell, you would have to be on coke yourself to move to this—it’s played that fast. Oh, and those snorting noises that bookend the track? They’re not faking. Take THAT, Clipse… (Andrew)

7. Clipse – “Momma I’m Sorry”

With all respect to Eminem’s “Square Dance” and MF Doom’s “Accordion,” it’s hard to spit bars over accordion without sounding gimmicky or tacked-on. The Neptunes make it sound stark and menacing. Pusha T and Malice ignore it altogether; they’re so obsessively single-minded they could be manufacturing coke-talk over an accordion for all they care. So they did. (Dan)

8. Gogol Bordello – “Think Locally, Fuck Globally”

As improbable, bracing and out-of-nowhere as the White Stripes or Nirvana, I could’ve picked almost anything from the planet’s best onstage bet. So I picked the one that yells “Party!” after claiming to invent the country. (Dan)

9. Celso Piña – “Cumbia Poder”

Cumbia, for those who aren’t aware, is a centuries-old fusion of African and South American sounds whose origins as a courtship dance ritual. Modern Latinos have continued this tradition—mostly by dedicating long sections of our wedding reception playlists to this music. This track, a mix of traditional cumbia and hip-hop music, is a celebration of the power of cumbia as party-starter, booty-shaker, and baby-maker. (Andrew)

10. Nortec Collective – “Tijuana Sound Machine”

Mexican folk music (norteño, banda, etc.) gets a bad rap from American audiences for being too rigid. This wordless techno track from members of Mexico’s renowned Nortec Collective is a virtual bitch-slap to that round of thinking. And if the song’s video teaches us anything, this will make attractive people break dance right in front of you. And who doesn’t love that? (Andrew)

11. Jordan Knight – “Give It to You”

Probably not the only Billboard smash in many a year to feature accordion—not with all that experimental Timbaland and Nashville crossover. But this has-been (never-was?) came back from one of the least-retained fames of all time to deliver this sweet little telegram about his dick. (Dan)

12. Paul Simon – “Boy in the Bubble”

A few years ago, VH-1 Classic began airing a series called “Classic Albums,” and this was one of the first episodes. During one pivotal scene, Paul Simon shows the production techniques that went into mastering this song. After complementing himself on how surreal his lyrical technique was, he revealed that the accordion track was actually mixed in reverse. That may be common knowledge to some people, but this was quite the revelation for me, considering I had been fascinated by what I thought was expert accordion playing. Instead, it’s all lies. Yet I still love this song. Damn, that Paul Simon has got some balls on him… (Dan)

13. Ramon Ayala – “La Rama de Mezquite”

Ramon Ayala’s music epitomizes the perfect summer night. Locating a bar where the $1 drink specials flow like wine. Where a bartender can serve you a “four horsemen” shot followed by a double shot of Grey Goose and not lose his liquor license. Where the DJ plays what you want him to play. When the dance floor is so packed that you can’t even find the exit. Where the prettiest girl in the world dances with you all night and doesn’t even tell you her name. Why do I say all of this about “La Rama de Mezquite”? Because that night once happened to me. And it was perfect. (Andrew)

14. Beirut – “Scenic World” (Lon Gisland version)

Not really a fan in the first place, I considered Zach Condon over after he dusted the Balkan Brass for less interesting Euro-pursuits. This is his bon voyage. You know it’s one of the catchier death rattles when your then-girlfriend agrees to sing it at the open mic if you’ll kazoo the horn part. (Dan)

15. Lila Downs – “Skeleton”

I hate the term “world music,” mostly because it doesn’t mean ANYTHING. Yet, if anyone is ever going to fit that label, it’s Lila Downs. Specializing in traditional Mexican folk, American blues, rock and roll, South American cumbia, vocal jazz, etc., she can play any style of music she wants and do it convincingly. This track, a zydeco-influenced romper, may be about death and spiritual rebirth, but it swings like the best that NOLA has to offer. Sounds great with a hurricane cocktail and orange peel. (Andrew)

16. Dead Milkmen – “Punk Rock Girl”

I discovered this song as a kid and even then it was easy to see past their shit. With the accordion arrangement and big Broadway send-off (“Eat fudge banana swirl/ We’ll travel ’round the world”), this wanted to be a parody but these boneheads just didn’t have the heart to sabotage this lovely melody they stumbled upon. Bonus sentiment for stuff from my youth like Zipperhead. (Dan)

17. The Hold Steady – “You Can Make Him Like You” (Live)

I’m not a big Hold Steady fan, mostly cause we’ve got our own “bar band made good” down here in Texas (Los Lonely Boys anyone? Anyone? *chirp*), but this song is just fantastic. This was by far my favorite track on Boys & Girls in America, but the juxtaposition of acoustic guitar and accordion on this version accentuates the tension between friendly advice and romantic yearning that seems to be at the center of this song. There are very few songs that can balance these without making their protagonist sound like a complete loser, but this, this is just perfect. (Andrew)

18. Bumnandi Utshwala Bakho – “Kati Elimnyama”

The mix was finished except for some sequencing scruples when I finally acquired the elusive Heartbeat of Soweto compilation on Soulseek, something I’ve been too cheap to just order since I fell in love with The Indestructible Beat of Soweto years ago. Predictably, mind-blowingly beautiful mbaqanga, but this one I had to play over and over. Then I sent it to Andrew. There weren’t many qualms about squeezing it in. (Dan)

19. Barenaked Ladies – “Straw Hat and Old Dirty Hank” (Live)

What, never heard “Barenaked Ladies” and “intense” in the same sentence? “I know your address!” Also “I bring you flowers and a .22 with shells”—this is about Anne Murray’s stalker. I’d only known the excellent live version on Rock Spectacle, so I played the tepid studio take just to be sure; doesn’t do it justice at all. Doesn’t even have accordion. (Dan)

20. Julieta Venegas – “De Mis Pasos”

Julieta Venegas is the undisputed Queen of Mexican alternative rock and, for my money, the greatest female musician of the past decade (no, I’m not kidding). This track, from her debut album, is pretty straightforward lyrically (by her high standards), but it’s as musically rich as left-field pop/rock can get. Her accordion doesn’t lead the song, but rather guides it through subtle note changes and varying tempos. The track builds, and builds, and builds, until the final rush of the chorus gives way to exasperation and finality. And if it weren’t so enthralling, you’d be hard-pressed to catch your breath too. (Andrew)

21. Lily Allen – “Never Gonna Happen”

To the six people aside from me who still think Alright, Still is a masterpiece: Yes, it still is. But let’s stop pretending that It’s Not Me, It’s You is anything more than serviceable. Instead, let us focus our attentions on this little nugget buried in the middle of that record. The lite-tango beat (with handclaps!), the conversational delivery, the down-to-earth bitter smirk of every verse—it’d be deplorable if it wasn’t so damn effective. So rejoice, and even if my words don’t convince you, that sweet accordion will. (Andrew)

22. Charles Mann – “The Walk of Life”

There’s a long list of songs I could-have-sworn had accordion that I wanted to sneak onto this and the wretched Dire Straits’ not-wretched “Walk of Life” would be at the top. So I did a little research and dug up this Cajun guy. Yeah, this is cheating. But it’s every bit as good and you’ve never heard it and hey, bonus Mark Knopfler exorcism. Loophole of the year. (Dan)

23. Shakira – “Objection (Tango)”

Andrew—whose Spanish is better than mine let’s say—understandably bristled. But there’s something to be said for her strange command of English; I think during our argument I called the use of the word “unfixable” Stephin Merritt-esque. But this is a great tune and a thematically sound closer: America and non-America clashing culturally, discomforts and misunderstandings intact, raging, lying and stealing. Plus we needed a tango and with respect to like, Astor Piazzolla, this one rocks. (Dan)