Rock ‘n’ Roll Photog: Blake Mills

As I was nearly employed in nefarious plans to acquire the object of desire in Jennifer’s post today, I am glad for the happy outcome. Jennifer suggests those seeking to obtain the below-mentioned artifact for themselves contact the Venice Beach location of Mollusk Surf Shop.


Internet, last week I did something I haven’t done since (probably) 1998: I bought music on a cassette tape: Break Mirrors, by Blake Mills, formerly of Simon Dawes, who are now just Dawes. (Trivia: First cassette I bought, in 1986: Bruce Springsteen, Born in the USA and The Hooters, Nervous Night; last cassette I can remember, before this one: Jerry Cantrell, Boggy Depot.) You may, rightfully, be wondering whatever possessed me to do such a thing, especially since I had already acquired the actual music on the cassette in digital format and have been happily listening to it for some time now.


The answer to that question, is, essentially, that this was less about the tunes (though they are very good; more on that in a minute) and more about the artifact. I am not the kind of music nerd that has an opinion about vinyl. That I have three actual records in my apartment right now is more due to the fact that they come as part of special packages then any desire of mine to listen to them in that format. Also, I don’t have a record player.

My first motivation was to see the liner notes and more of the album art – the collage on the cover is only the beginning, but as it turns out, all of that is part of the CD version – but more than that the idea of a cassette tape was weirdly compelling. I suspect because it is the kind of retro I can feel a real connection to, in the sense that I am the kind of music nerd that, in 1989, spent several months carefully combing the aisles at Tower Records to assemble Tom Petty’s entire back catalog, and then spent hours sitting on my bedroom floor with my stereo making three 90 minute mix tapes solely devoted to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Later I would make several driving mixes, one tape on the topic of Heavy Metal I Have Loved, and, finally, six carefully curated identical mix tapes as high school graduation gifts for my friends. I suppose that’s not a lot, all things considered, but my point here is, the prospect of the weight of the tape in my hand made me happy.

And as it turns out, one of the many random objects that has traveled with me through the last nine years, six moves, and three states is my walkman:


As you can see it’s gotten somewhat battered over the years – when and where someone taped the lid on, I have no idea – but I’m pleased to tell you that, after some judicious wiggling of plastic parts, it still works. And the record sounds just as good, if not better, than it does digitally; I was sure I could hear more layers, and definitely a broader, richer drum sound.

Outside of all of that, I am once again and as usual at a loss for fancy music critic language to describe it to you. I can say that, sound-wise, he’s less country/Americana-y than Dawes has become, with much more of an indie-pop sensibility, and that the lyrics are interesting; he tells stories I want to listen to over and over again.

He’ll be on tour with Band of Horses this fall in Iowa, Ohio and Kentucky, but in the meanwhile, here he is performing Hey Lover with some friends, courtesy of YouTube user seizediem :



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