The shuffler: J. Robbins, producer, former frontman for post-punkers Jawbox and Burning Airlines, and current leader of Channels. The band's debut full-length, Waiting For The Next End Of The World, released in August by Dischord, is another in a long line of excellent albums Robbins has helmed.
Red Animal War, "Blaze"
J. Robbins: The first song that comes up is the Red Animal War mix that I did. I put this song's mixes in progress into my iTunes, and I wouldn't bother to label anything, so the title is blank, and I can't remember what the song is called, but it's really cool… [The album's] really moody, and it has great artwork, too.
Burning Airlines, "Everything Here Is Very New"
JR: Oh, holy shit. This sucks. Dude, this fucking song is Burning Airlines! Man, this sucks!
The A.V. Club: Do you have all your own stuff on your iPod?
JR: No, no, no, definitely not. I have favorites, so they're on there, and then also sometimes they're useful. I mean, it's not just sheer narcissism, I swear to God. Because sometimes it's useful to have it for, like—I sound worse when I try making an excuse for it, don't I? I was going to say it's useful to have, because I used to use the first Burning Airlines record as a mix comparison all the time when I was mixing stuff, but really, that just sounds like a shabby excuse. The truth is, I just love to hear my own voice.
Jeff Buckley, "Grace"
JR: I feel a little better. All right. God, I hope that doesn't happen again.
AVC: So why Jeff Buckley?
JR: I don't feel like there's a why for Jeff Buckley. I don't feel like there should ever have to be a why. Grace especially, when I first heard it, I felt like every song was a little world, and every element of every song contributes something to the feeling of it. It's really ethereal, really otherworldly. I mean, if I could explain it, then you wouldn't have to have his music. It's gripping. It's unlike any other—this is what the really great music is. It has that indefinable thing, and it takes you to a place that you couldn't get to any other way. It also speaks to me personally in a way that I just can't really talk about. There really is nothing to me that isn't awesome about those Jeff Buckley records. Even his singing isn't the kind of style that's usually my favorite—it's like real filigree, check-out-my-chops kind of singing. It doesn't really do anything for me. But in his case, I never feel like that's what it's about. It's just that he has this amazing instrument, and it always serves the feeling. I mean, everything about this record rules. This is a really good song too, but it's so creepy.
Mock Orange, "The Free Ride"
JR: Which, once again, is something that I recorded. The thing is, I'm really lucky in the way that a lot of bands I recorded are bands I would love to listen to, if I just heard them someplace and didn't have the experience of working with them. So that's definitely why Mock Orange is on here. I think if I just sort of heard them out of the blue, I would be a massive fan. They've been in this stage for a while where they've really found their voice within the last couple of records they've made, where it's really original. It seems like they're one of those bands who have real dedicated fans who love their first two records, and their first two records were where they were finding their voice, and now it's really not what they're about. They found what they're trying to go for, and it's different from what everybody expects from them. So there's this percentage of fans who write them off and really only want to hear the old stuff. Meanwhile, everything they do now is so refreshing and so smart and sweet that I can't imagine preferring the old stuff. The new stuff is so much richer.
JR: "Orion" was never a real favorite, but I'm sure all of Master Of Puppets is on my iPod. That's one of the all-time greats. Overall, I certainly would not say I'm a Metallica fan—like, I think they're kind of rubbish, and I think they kind of have been since this record. Master Of Puppets, when I think about it, it's the only Metallica record that really does anything for me, but I love it a lot. It's just the tightness of the arrangements. It's one of the same things as Jeff Buckley, in the way the song arrangements happen. When each new thing happens, it ups the ante from the previous thing, and you're kind of satisfied, but it also knocks you for a loop. "Orion" maybe shouldn't be on here, because it's pretty straightforward. This is a case of putting the whole record on your iPod, but I'm sort of into that. My wife, Janet, is into just putting the hits on. I think it's cool to have some weird sort of song 13 come up: "What was that? What record is that on?" But I could probably live without this song, to tell you the truth.