Hello and welcome!
This is it— our first brand new playlist of 2021!!!
For those who are reading my column for the first time, these monthly playlists that I’m re-visiting (and continuing to create) came about as a result of an idea I had back in January of 2010: an idea that would see me create one 80 minute playlist a month.
The reason for doing this was two-fold: I wanted to create and re-enforce very specific lived experiences and memories tied to music, and I wanted a rather consistent set of songs to propel me each month as I created my art.
In creating these playlists, I tried to make things flow— I wanted songs to segue very effortlessly (or abrasively) creating a sense of narrative.
Going forward, once a week, I’m going to update the Spotify playlist that you can find below.
I’d recommend not shuffling the songs, as they were sequenced the way that they were for a reason. To get the full experience, listen to them in the way in which I’ve arranged things.
Included below is a short description of the tune I’ve included, and/or additional insight I have into the song. If you’re not trying to read all of that, just hit play on the link above!
1. Maura- Wednesday
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again.
I slept on this.
Now that I’ve fully realized the error of my ways though, this has been getting some heavy rotation, to make up for that lost time.
If The Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, The Beths, and My Bloody Valentine were to fuse into one highly functioning, sentient being, I think they’d sound something like Wednesday, and that’s a beautiful thing.
2. Lonely- Sofiá Valdés
Did you read Karl’s article about this yet?
Do that first!
So, outside of having an arrestingly beautiful voice, Ms. Valdés seems as though she’s determined to bring back the whole cooing while singing thing that Joni Mitchell had a monopoly on as a younger woman.
As great as Joni was/is, I prefer Ms. Valdés’ voice, as it comes across as more effortless. Here, she sings with a natural feel that I’d guess she was born with.
That’s a rare thing, and the production here allows her voice ample room to float above the rich instrumentation that’s perfectly mic’d.
3. One Last Breath- Creed
Alright, maybe I have to get defensive here, because this is a Creed song, but Daw gave this a shout-out last week, and there’s strength in numbers, right?
Look, if you didn’t grow up with this, chances are, it might not hit quite the same.
That said, if you did, I bet you dollars to donuts you recall some sort of happy or empowering memory from the summer of your childhood that this song was ALL over the radio.
Early 2000s guitar production is a THING, much like Alex Van Halen’s 1980s drum sound was a THING, and while it dates the song, I also wouldn’t have it any other way.
The compression makes it hit HARDER, right?
Anyways, yeah, I still love this song.
4. God Smack- Alice in Chains
You know you made a good song, if another metal band named themselves after you, right?
Cuz you know… there was that band Godsmack?
The Rock was The Scorpion King, and, “I… Stand Alone?”
The early 2000s were a WILD time, y’all.
In any case, Jerry Cantrell gives his wah-wah pedal a super cool workout in the chorus here, and ALSO burns a pretty damn swaggy (albeit short) guitar solo: one that manages to shine solely off pinch harmonics and feel, as opposed to fancy finger work.
That’s some craft shit, and I respect it.
5. Coeur- Baroness
I’d heard tell of Baroness’ earliest records for awhile, but they were unavailable for purchase when last I really went looking.
Naturally, I was pleasantly surprised to see that that had changed this past December on iTunes.
I’m not sure if they’d be called a, “metal,” band anymore, (and that’s just fine, because their more psych-tinged output has been exceptional) but back when they recorded this, they most certainly were.
The production here is a little rough, but it adds dimension and immediacy to music that contains both of those things compositionally.
This is a rollicking tune.
6. Tempting- Chang
It’s a short but sweet song— a somewhat bizarre concoction that recalls early No Doubt by way of The Mars Volta.
Starting out as a pretty solid groove-based thing, when it hits the halfway mark, the song shifts gears into a more aggressive, borderline metal jam. To be clear, this works, and is full-on awesome, particularly, the delightful fleet-fingered Octavia-effected(?) guitar lines bubbling under the mix in the left channel.
This was one of my standbys for drawing last week. I’m super into it.
7. Pigs (Three Different Ones)- Pink Floyd
Yes, this song is 11 minutes long, but please believe that if you make it to the end, you will be rewarded by perhaps, THE NUMBER ONE INTERSTELLAR GUITAR EXPLORATION that Mr. David Gilmour ever recorded.
Truly, it’s his best guitar solo, and he rides it clean through to the fade out.
8. King’s Dead- Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future, and James Blake
You’ve not truly heard this song until you’ve heard it at an outdoor summer street festival where the bassline is more or less taking a 2×4 to your head.
To be clear, if you can’t listen to it that way, that’s cool too, but man… Play this with a system and really piss off your neighbor, if they deserve it.
9. Come Clean (E New Y Radio)- Jeru The Damaja
I first heard this when I was sixteen or seventeen, but then I probably didn’t hear it again till I was 30 or 31?
It was kind of cool, having those 15 years in between, and I think it only grew my appreciation of the music— both DJ Premier’s production, and Jeru’s approach to rapping.
It’s a bleak piece of music to be sure, but it’s equally hypnotic– pretty damn cool.
10. Digital Bath (DJ Shadow Remix)
As per lyricist Chino Moreno, this song came about as a result of drugs. It’s about luring a woman into a bathtub and electrocuting her– drying her off, afterwards.
Horrifying, I know.
Despite the lyrics, the original version features production and musical accompaniments that are nothing short of gorgeous, despite how sinister, and creepy the lyrics are.
With the freedom to remix the song as he sees fit, here, DJ Shadow leans FULLY into the menace and horror of the song’s lyrics, crafting something that would fit just fine into a slasher movie.
Any of the beauty found in the song’s original instrumentation has essentially been relegated to nothing, save for a few well-placed synth swells. As a result, the song stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the original, making it one of those very rare remixes that adds considerable depth and dimension to the original proceedings.
11. X- Biceps (featuring Clara La San)
I wrote about this AT LENGTH yesterday, so I’m just going to send you there.
12. Dirtknock- Madlib and Four Tet
Anddddd I wrote at length about this last week, so I’m going to send you here.
13. Magic Mirror- Pearl Charles
Mates went nuts about this album, and for good reason.
Pearl Charles’ voice is a gift from on high.
Truly, I’m not sure how she does what she does.
Tumbling around within her vocal chords is the perfect synthesis of perhaps, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Nicks, and Ms. Joni, who we mentioned earlier.
The song’s production is immaculate. There’s great warmth in the instrumentation, despite how sad the song is, and I think that contrast only adds to the success of the song.
14. Bark at the Moon- Ozzy Osbourne
Alright, this is one from the formative years of the The Brothers Folz— also, a staple of Chicago’s WLUP 97.9, “The Loop,” circa 2004-2005ish.
I was reminded of it, because Sir Daw reminded me about the brilliance of, “Mr. Crowley,” last week. That’s a knockout track too, but I think this is my favorite 80s Ozzy tune.
I know, I know— Randy Rhoads isn’t on here.
Also, Zakk Wylde was soon follow Mr. Jake E. Lee, (who shreds SO WELL on this) but y’all– tell me that the DOG-WHISTLE pinch harmonics found in the solo here are anything but top-tier?
Certainly influenced by Randy Rhoads work from a year or two earlier, Mr. Lee still manages to find his own lane, and also (I expect) heavily influence the stylings of Zakk Wylde when he finally did end up joining Ozzy a few years later.
Anyways, enough of that— just listen to it, and think about how shit was REALLY moving in the 80s, because, man…