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. (The Infamous Prelude)- Mobb Deep
I know, I know. This song is essentially, the late Prodigy talking a WHOLE lot of shit about anyone who might cross him and Havoc.
Apparently, this led to an altercation with Keith Murray, a year or two later?
In any case, this track is MOSTLY here to act as a COMPLETE and total tonal counterpoint to:
2. Mujer Hermosa- Los Incomparables
My Spanish isn’t good enough to understand what’s being sung about here, BUT, this is a jovial sounding piece of celebratory music with some great horn work.
I really, really love it.
3. I’ll Try Anything Once- Julian Casablancas
I’d bet good money anyone who’s heard the demo of this track can remember exactly HOW shook they were the first time they heard it.
This is a live version, cuz Spotify obviously doesn’t have demos up, but it’s still solid.
The song that this would become is also a great number by The Strokes, but this is a better piece of music (I think).
Pretty naked, and not-quite-perfect, there’s an honesty about it that lets the lyrics shine through. I’m appreciative of that, and there are few tunes that make me feel like I’m 23 again, like this one.
4. Drifter- Wild Nothing
Aw, man. Anyone remember Wild Nothing?
“Gemini,” was incredible, and this was the standout number from it.
Bright enough the begin the thaw of spring, but also kinda icy because… you know— we get snow in March in the midwest.
Fun fact, my buddy J. RESSSSSSSSSSS has a legendary Rickenbacker bass, that was used in recording this album, if I remember correctly.
I’ll have to call him and check.
5. Laura- Girls
My brother and I were jamming HARD to this album when it came out.
Our music tastes were not as in sync as they once were at this point in time, but I recall us having at least one conversation about how this album kicked ass.
The bass is a lot more present than I remember, and it’s just as easy to sing along to as it was all those years ago.
6. Under the Hedge- Ted Leo and The Pharmacists
Man… I went through a BIG Ted Leo phase towards the end of college.
This was probably my second favorite song off of, “The Tyranny of Distance,” and it recalls a lot of optimism and happiness for me.
Pitch perfect as a pop song, this one is best for a mid-afternoon bike cruise on a sunny day.
7. Big Brother- Stevie Wonder
For awhile, this was my favorite Stevie Wonder song.
It’s something that manages to be fairly understated, even though there’s a lot going on, and I respect that.
Lyrically, it’s one of his more biting criticisms, and though blunt, when he sings, “I live in the ghetto, you just come to visit me around election time,” it hits hard.
Further adding to the brilliance of the song is the fact that it’s a really upbeat (almost celebratory) thing from an instrumentation standpoint, in spite of the song’s rather crushing narrative.
8. Sweet Angel- Jimi Hendrix
This is as intimate and slinky as Jimi Hendrix ever got (in my humble opinion).
I first heard this when I was 14 or 15, as my guitar teacher played it for me on a nylon string acoustic.
I knew it was very pretty sounding, but I just didn’t get it.
Thankfully, that changed when I grew up.
9. Runaway- Kanye West
MBDTF came out like 5 months before I made this playlist?
In any case, I couldn’t get over this song.
Maybe I still can’t.
It might be Kanye West’s, “Stairway to Heaven,” for my money.
I don’t think we need another person diving into the brilliance of this piece of music, so I’ll just say that 10+ years after its initial release, it’s still a potent, incredible statement.
10. Heaven or Las Vegas- Cocteau Twins
While this doesn’t get my vote for the best tune from, “Heaven or Las Vegas,” it’s fully deserving of its title cut status.
The chorus is… I don’t know, the best part of every dream that you ever had and were unable to recall, until this made its way into your ear canals.
While I’m not sure I can say I’m, “old,” at 33, this song brings to mind a very vigorous, energized feeling within me, and reminds me of when I used to have more rosy, albeit naive opinions about art.
11. My First Kiss at the Public Execution- Blood Brothers
I know Blood Brothers really aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I had a few friends from college who really, really, loved them, and I would come to as well, the more I listened to their music.
There’s something about this that manages to be catchy, even though the vocals are borderline grating.
This is some prime early-2010s scene shit, to be sure, but it brings to mind some people I haven’t seen in many, many, years who I miss dearly.
12. Ticks & Leeches- Tool
Is there a more simultaneously cathartic, terrifying, and invigorating moment in 21st century metal, than when Mr. Marynard screams “Suck me dry,” at the top of his lungs whilst Tool teeters on the brink of full-on Death Metal?
I’m thinking no.
This is another song that is definitely not for everyone. That said, if you’re in the right mood, this is 100% some of the toughest shit that ever came down the pipe, and you should check it out, if you never have before.
13. Toussaint L’Overture (Live)- Santana
I’ll just say this:
Everything that I love about Santana and his band’s music is dialed up to 11, here, and I’ll always be here for it.
14. California Love- Tupac, Dr. Dre, and Roger Troutman
Look, Dr. Dre and Tupac are good and all that, but let’s talk about Roger Troutman on the talk box, singing about, “Computer-puter-puter-puter,”
There will never be anything better.
15. Snake Pond- Raekwon
Rae’s followup to Cuban Linx II kinda flew under the radar, which is a bit unfortunate, because it’s pretty solid.
This was the album’s standout track by a mile, and it manages to be both creepy and slick.
16. Climbing up the Walls- Radiohead
For awhile, this was probably my favorite Radiohead song.
After listening to it again this past week, maybe it has that distinction, once again.
To be clear, this song is scary as shit and horrifying, but man— do they make both of those things sound awesome.
Pretty sure I read that this song is about home invasion and a serial killer, so again— not the best, but this is like a James Bond song by way of early Bjork, cut with heroin, bleach, and laundry detergent, or whatever scary-ass drugs people were doing in the mid-late 90s.
Probably going on repeat as I work tonight. We’ll see.
17. Cuddle Fuddle- Passion Pit
Something light, so we didn’t end on pure terror, yeah?
This song is kinda silly, but I still like it.
Not as great as, “Sleepyhead,” but what is?