The Karen Mixes, Vol. III: Chill

This is the first of two mixes (so far) that were made for this year’s (postponed) get-together at the Cabin in the Woods. I made this specifically for Saturday morning, as we recover from the night before and plan the next day’s adventure/day drinking. I was sitting on a ton of downbeat songs that I knew Karen would like, but worried that they might kill the vibe, so I thought, “Morning, when this IS the vibe.” Towards the end, I started to ramp things up a little so the next mix wouldn’t be so jarring. Or at least that was the plan.

Artists include Le Flex, Dubstar, Howard Jones, Ellie Goulding, Jagwar Ma, Hatchie, Metric, Bryan Ferry, Duran Duran, Massive Attack, Arcade Fire, Icehouse, Heaven 17, China Crisis, Immaculate Fools, The Bluebells, ABC, Lightning Seeds, Aztec Camera, Franz Ferdinand, Trashcan Sinatras, The Feeling, Prefab Sprout, Romeo Void, Propaganda, Everything but the Girl, White Lies, Tom Bailey, Spandau Ballet, a-ha, Florence + the Machine, and Sheppard.

Thank you as always, for listening. Next up: Vol IV: More Beats.

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The Karen Mixes, Volume II: The Beast

I made this in early 2019. Karen had invited our crew to stay at a cabin she rented, and I wanted to make the music more personal. The previous year, I played a bunch of old Dizzy Heights shows with my talkie bits cut out, and that was fine because most of them covered the time period we shared together, but I wanted there to be something hand tailored to this group of people, particularly Karen, because she pays for this cabin every year, never asks us for a cent, and refuses to take money when we offer. This seemed like a small price to pay in return.

The first Karen mix was a beat mix. This one is a rock mix. I took two other mixes I had made for her (one classic rock, one alt rock) and threw them together, along with some newer stuff that either fit the vibe or appeased my kids for five seconds. There are dozens of songs from those two mixes that will appear on Volume 5. Wait, did you say Volume 5? Yes, I did. I’ve already made two others before compiling the unused tracks from those two mixes.

Artists include Icehouse, Donnie Iris, The Kinks, The Kings, The Tubes, Kim Mitchell, Honeymoon Suite, David + David, Bourgeois Tagg, Crowded House, The Call, Stabilizers, Art in America, Marillion, Rush, Pete Townshend, Robert Palmer, The War on Drugs, Daft Punk, The System, Simple Minds (twice), The Art of Noise, Electronic, Naked Eyes, Gary Myrick, Cheap Trick, ELO, Tears for Fears, Panic! At the Disco, Queen, Muse, The Producers, INXS, Pete Yorn, The Airborne Toxic Event, Ultravox, Gary Numan, David Bowie, Depeche Mode, The Ting Tings, Alphabeat, The Feeling, Attic Lights, The Divine Comedy, The Stranglers, The Damned, The Republic Tigers, a-ha, New Order, Duran Duran, Sinead O’Connor, Julian Cope, The Stone Roses, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, Kirsty MacColl, Twenty One Pilots, and Talk Talk, because Mark Hollis had just passed away when I made this, sigh.

Thank you, as always, for listening. Next Up: Volume III, The Saturday Morning Chill Mix.

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Movie Review: Final Destination 5

After a terribly disappointing fourth installment in the popular teen death series, New Line does the unthinkable by not only making a fifth “Final Destination” but, horrors (see what we did there?), casting old people as the leads. You know, people who are, like, 30, and even some born in the ’70s, ewww. Who wants to see old people die?

As it turns out, it was a very savvy move. “The Final Destination” was in a tough position in that its predecessor ramped up the death scenes’ difficulty factor (Rube Goldberg would have been proud, then probably ashamed) while maintaining self-awareness. “FD4” tried to maintain the planned chaos, but it was undone by bad dialogue, poor acting, and too much foreshadowing. From the very beginning, “Final Destination 5” does two things to separate itself from the previous movie: it casts grown-ups in the lead roles (David Koechner and Courtney B. Vance, holler) and gets serious in a hurry after a premonition on a suspension bridge leads a group of white collar drones to hop off the bus, Gus. Also, there are no bad last lines like “I’ve got my eye on you” (poor, poor Krista Allen), and while a death may be triggered by a chain reaction, the cause of death itself is often something normal (fall, fire). Don’t think they didn’t get creative, though; one of the women suffers a particularly gruesome accident that is impossible not to react to.

They’ve also changed the rules – which is ironic, but for reasons we cannot divulge – when coroner William Blodworth (Tony “Candyman” Todd, returning for a third tour of duty, fourth if you include his voice work in “FD3”) suggests that the survivors can cheat death by killing someone else, a la “The Ring.” It adds an interesting wrinkle, since you get a glimpse of what people are willing to do in order to stay alive. Do not under any circumstances watch the bonus features if you haven’t yet seen the movie, otherwise the big surprise, which is a good one, will be spoiled. Definitely check them out afterwards, though, as you’ll get a glimpse of Koechner adding some of his natural comic flair. A welcome return to form for what was presumed to be a, um, dead franchise.

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)
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The Karen Mixes, Volume I: Beats

Dizzy Heights is still on hiatus – those shows just seem really unimportant right now – but I wanted to post something, so I’m going to share some mixes I made for my friend Karen, because they’re upbeat and fun, and I figured those were both things we need right now.

This was mixed in 2010, when Karen and I first reconnected after not seeing each other for about seven years. Her house was the most centrally located to all of our high school friends, so she hosted all of the parties, and I brought the tunes. This one is admittedly mainstream, and by design; I wanted the songs to trigger memories and start conversations.

The lineup: INXS, Peter Gabriel, Level 42, New Order, Information Society, Depeche Mode, Camouflage, Julian Cope, ABC, Pet Shop Boys, Dead or Alive, Slade (you read that right), Gino Vannelli (see: Slade), The Cars, Real Life, and Duran Duran.

Next Up: Volume II, The Beast. This will make sense when you see it.

Thank you, as always, for listening. Be kind, and be safe.

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Dizzy Heights #71: Hearts, Vol. I

I have a list (actual piece of paper and everything) that currently features over 20 ideas for shows. This was not on the list. It just popped in my head, and had too much potential to do later. No, this must happen now.

The best thing about these themed shows is that I can spread the wealth musically (though a certain band appears for the fourteenth time), and so nine acts make their Dizzy Heights debut this week. Never thought that would happen three years into this experiment. I thought I would have used everything up by now.

I’m taking a small break after this to work on some non-DH mixes for friends, but I should be back in late April or early May. I highly recommend checking out the following shows while I’m away, and even after I return, obviously.

The Show About…: https://www.mixcloud.com/TheShowAbout/

Nutty Bearpaws: https://www.mixcloud.com/nuttybearpaws/

Tangled Tapes (I haven’t listened yet, but the shows seem right in my wheelhouse, and hopefully yours): https://www.mixcloud.com/tangledtapes/

Thank you, as always, for listening. See you soon.

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Movie Review: Onward

In the 14 years between 1995’s “Toy Story” and 2009’s “Up,” exactly four men had sat in a Pixar director’s chair. Starting with 2010’s “Toy Story 3,” there was a concerted effort to spread the wealth, and founding fathers John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Pete Docter, along with unofficial Pixar brother Brad Bird, only directed one film each over the next decade, while seven others helmed the rest.

This is where a rather disturbing pattern emerges. Of those new directors, the only one to make films on par with Pixar’s best work was Lee Unkrich, who directed “Toy Story 3” and “Coco” (and won Oscars for both) after serving as co-director for Lasseter, Stanton, and Docter, and clearly learning a few things along the way. Remove the films made by Unkrich and the founding fathers, and you’re left with “Brave,” “Monsters University,” “The Good Dinosaur,” “Cars 3,” and “Toy Story 4.” That’s the Pixar movie marathon that runs nonstop on TV in the Medium Place.

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Dizzy Heights #70: Alt-Rock Songs About Boys

I apologize up front for all of the extra noise during my talkie bits (hopefully the music beds drowned them out). Between the daughter shooting up the stairs (only to stop dead when she saw me recording) to the cat trying to jump on the chair next to me (and missing), to my phone getting a text message, it was a banner week for live mics in the Medsker house. On any other week, I would have re-recorded all of them, but then again, the sound of the cat scrambling to climb up the chair is pretty funny to me now, so it stays.

It did not surprise me one bit that I was only able to come up with about half as many songs about boys as I was able to come up with songs about girls. We’re just not as fun, or interesting, to write about as women are, and the numbers reflect that. There will certainly be another show about girls, but this will mostly likely stand as the only song about boys, at least by name, anyway. Face it, we’re gross.

Thank you, as always, for listening.

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Dizzy Heights #69: Alt-Rock Songs About Girls

I could put it off no longer.

I’ve been sitting on this as a show idea since I first started doing themed shows. I did a Name That Tune with this theme 10 years or so ago (excuse me while I reach for my cane), and because of that I put it off…until I had over 400 songs from which to choose for a show. So here we are.

How to divvy up 400 songs, though? I thought about doing it by decade, but ultimately chose to do it by genre because it gives me the freedom to jump from decade to decade. Also, had I broken things up by decade, the distribution would be a big bell curve peaking around 1985, and we all know it.

Thank you, as always, for listening.

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Dizzy Heights #68: Kaboom! ‘World’ Songs, Vol. I

I have a sheet of paper that contains all of my show ideas. There are about 20 of them. This, oddly, wasn’t one of them. This just popped into my head one morning two weeks ago. And here we are. ‘World’ songs, ‘Planet’ songs, ‘Globe’ songs, they’re all here, along with one ‘Earth’ song and a song that is none of these things, but totally belongs. 

Thank you, as always, for listening.

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Dizzy Heights #67: Wizards of Oz

The idea for this show came around the same time as the Scotland show. I know that the timing of its release looks gauche, like I’m trying to capitalize on the horrific wildfires that Australia is enduring. I’m not; I’ve had a thing for Australia since I first read “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day.” Then MTV happened, and I wanted to move there. Still do, sometimes.

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