Hello and welcome!
For those reading my column for the first time, these monthly playlists which 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 a description of the specifics memory associated with it. If you’re not trying to read all of that, just hit play on the link above!
1. Back to Life- Soul II Soul
So, for whatever reason, I got on a huge, “Belly,” kick for about a month or two back in 2012.
I know, I know…
11 years late to the party, right?
It’s a not a good movie, but, boy— does it look sharp.
So yes, you see, it had to kick off the playlist for the month. There was just no two ways about it.
2. Here, Air- John Frusciante
This is a sad song.
It also, has an optimistic ending, (at least to my ears) but it’s highly appropriate for what might be the most brutal of the winter months in Minneapolis.
Frusciante has two to three guitars going in here plus his voice, and while three might sound like a lot, it’s all very complimentary, and the song never feels too busy.
Of particular note here is a bit that starts around 3:23 mark, where Frusciante dials into an ascending trilled figure that brings to mind first light, or, sun cracking through particularly dense winter clouds.
It’s both tender and heartwarming, and because it only happens once in the song, it’s special too.
3. The Greatest- Cat Power
Folks, George in his early 20s was waiting a long, long, time for Cat Power to call.
That never happened of course, but, I was allowed to dream, right?
About everything found in this song is pitch perfect, from her voice, to the instrumental accompaniment, to the production as a whole.
This is something to cook to, I think. I also feel like I never actually cooked to it though, so maybe, that’s what’s on tap for tonight.
4. Brendan’s Death Song- Red Hot Chili Peppers
I really like this song.
The Josh Klinghoffer years of the Red Hot Chili Peppers as a whole don’t strike me in one way or another, but this is just a really wonderful, anthemic, and joyous piece of music.
Perhaps that’s strange, considering this is someone’s “Death Song,” but I take it as a celebration of their life, yeah?
In any case, iTunes says I’ve listened to this song 165 times, and that speaks to the quality of the music.
5. Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis- Tom Waits
I’ve cried listening to this, I think.
Tom Waits’ best song ever?
Yes, yes, and no doubt.
Look, he got GEORGE DUKE to play electric piano on here.
Add in a truly heartbreaking and heartfelt narrative revolving around the city in which I was living in at the time, and you have one of my all-time favorite pieces of music.
6. Catastrophe and The Cure (Four Tet Mix)- Explosions in the sky
Take at face value, this might sound like a recipe for disaster.
A dance-music inclined electronic artist, remixing a post-rock band, who traffics in the epic?
Thankfully, because both parties are independently awesome, this actually succeeds brilliantly.
I’ve actually completely forgotten what the original sounds like, and I think that’s a testament to the greatness of this track.
7. _____ Owe me Some Money- B.G. featuring Soulja Slim, Lil Boosie, and C-Murder
I don’t really remember how I came across this song, but it’s terrifying.
As a very particular kind of hype music, it’s still a great song, and I love drawing to it, but listening to the lyrics, it’s scary.
8. Superstition- Stevie Wonder
The funkiest, actually.
I think I was watching, “The Thing,” one night, and that reminded me of just how incredible this song was.
Matter of fact, I’m gonna watch, “The Thing,” tonight, because it’s in my Top 5 of all time, and the practical effects in there are better than most all of the CGI being used today.
9. This Mortal Soil- Mastodon
Folks, did you notice how the transition between, “Superstition,” and this is absolutely FLAWLESS?
For real, they could sit next to each other on an album and segue effortlessly into each other. I think that’s so, so, cool.
“Blood Mountain,” is my favorite Mastodon album, and this is one of my favorite songs on the album: the soundtrack to the most ferocious, brutal snowstorm known to man.
Also, a song that’s appropriate for, “The Thing,” too, I guess.
Man, really gotta watch that tonight.
10. Light- Periphery
Okay, I don’t know anything about, “djent,” music, or, at least not really, but I think Periphery is pretty cool.
I haven’t kept up with them hardcore over the years, but their debut album is a MONSTER, and this is one hell of a song.
I know the vocals will be a tough sell for some people, but if you give it a couple of listens, you’ll probably come to love them, and think this is awesome, like me.
11. Minnesota, WI- Bon Iver
I think this is a pretty neat track because of the baritone sax that lurks somewhat low in the mix. It’s unobtrusive, but it adds a really wonderful color to the music, fully complimenting the keyboard/synth bits that sound like the aural equivalent of the northern light.
There’s some slide guitar and banjo in here too, which I also dig.
This is probably one of my favorite songs from the album, and I think it has held up.
12. Ode to Billy Joe- Oscar Peterson
Man, Oscar Peterson could REALLY play the piano.
Seriously, listen to how effortless his flight all over the keyboard is here— he maneuvers with such ease and grace, right?
I envy it.
I also love that you can hear him kinda humming or ad-libbing to himself under his breath. It’s a very human touch, and only makes the song more delightful.
13. Toilet Tisha- Outkast
I delayed my, “Stankonia,” deep-dive for YEARS and YEARS, because I just didn’t think it was going to be as good as, “Aquemini.”
For the record, I don’t think it is, but it also has some OUTRAGEOUSLY strong numbers, like this one.
By no means a happy song, this is still one of the most impressive cuts on the album for my money. It achieves a very particular synthesis of early 70s Funkadelic, mid 70s George Duke, and what Outkast had already established what they do very well.
On principle, it’s incredible, and in its execution, it’s brilliant.
14. Lay Your Cards Out- Polica featuring Mike Noyce
You might have had to be there when Polica first blew up in Minneapolis, because it was a very particular moment.
It gave the cities music scene a particular jolt, and I for one was all in on the two earliest singles from the group’s debut album, of which I believe this was the second?
In any case, any band that has two drummers automatically wins in my book. This is to say nothing of Channy Leaneagh’s vocals which bring to mind a young Liz Fraser by way of particularly artful auto-tune inflections.
This song still moves me. I love it.
15. The Last Prom on Earth- Gayngs
Man, what a great tune.
For real, what gets pulled off here is hard…
This music is SUPPOSED to be silly, but it still manages to be kind of incredible despite the fact that it’s goofy, and I love that.
The whole Gayngs album is pretty strong, and well-worth revisiting, but this is the album’s standout tune, and I still love it.
16. Riviere- Deftones
I used to go back and forth on how much I loved this song, but at some point I came to accept that I just love it.
There’s a dream-like quality to the music, even when it finally explodes at the end, and it does bring to mind a particular kind of reverie, which is interesting, because if you re-arrange and replace the letters in the title, that’s the word you get.
In any case, it’s a good closing number, hence its spot on this playlist.