Hello and welcome!
Damn… haven’t missed a post here since last year, but it was SO, SO, NICE yesterday that I had to walk for about 3+ hours, and… well.
In any case, 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. God Moving the Face of the Waters- Moby
Before he blew up, Moby had a few really excellent tunes on the soundtrack for Michael Mann’s magnum opus, “Heat.”
This is one of those tunes.
While the specifics of shootout between Neal and Detective Hanna are subject to perhaps some criticism/plausibility issues, the film’s final shot and overall resolution are both quite powerful. This sets an appropriate tone for the moment, and continues the vibe into the film’s credits.
An arresting, if not sad piece of music, I have nothing but love for it.
2. Province- TV on the Radio
When their first album came out, I was so stuck on, “Wolf Like me,” that I just… I don’t know, I didn’t really give the rest of the tunes on the album a fair shot.
Thankfully, I’d rectify that later in life, and come to appreciate how incredible this song is.
Ethereal, epic, and effortlessly beautiful, it contains just about everything that I love when it comes to pretty and/or space music.
It speaks to an optimism of sorts, and on a day when it’s 60-some-odd degrees by the lake in the Land of Lincoln, I’m with it.
3. Barael’s Blade- The Sword
This made my playlist because I saw The Sword live for the second time in March of 2014.
Like the first show of theirs that I saw, it was highly enjoyable, and certain sections straight-up knocked my teeth out.
This is one of The Sword’s heavier, more pummeling early efforts, and the cymbal work found here borders on pure madness.
I love it though. Play it loud.
4. Comrade- Volcano Choir
I really, really, liked Volcano Choir’s second album.
I feel like they get written off as, “Justin Vernon’s other band,” but that’s not really fair.
There are shades of Bon Iver in here to be sure, but I feel like they also more firmly engage, “alternative rock,” as opposed to Bon Iver’s weirdo folk/glitch hybrid of late.
The chorus in here is a soaring, empowering blast of pure love, and it gets me a bit emotional sometimes.
To be clear, I can’t understand what he’s saying, but it strikes me as earnest and true, and I’m appreciative of that.
5. Pyramid- Photek
For the record, Photek’s, “Ni Ten Ichi Ryu,” is hands down, my favorite piece of drum and bass music ever recorded.
It might be my favorite piece of electronic music ever recorded, to be honest.
I’m not sure if he ever once again climbed to the heights of that tune, but he came damn close here.
Whereas “Ni Ten Ichi Ryu,” is his love letter to ninjas and samurais, this evokes some decidedly more exotic middle eastern flavor, and not in a cheesy way either.
This is probably what Indy and the boys were bumping when they had their marathon dig session for the Well of Lost Souls.
Or, is it the Cave of Lost souls?
In either case, I could watch, “Raiders,” once a week, and never get sick of it.
6. Five Preludes for Solo Guitar, W 419: Prelude No. 3 in A Minor: Andante- Sonja Prunnbauer
I came across this tune when I was suffering from panic disorder, and I used to play it in an attempt to calm myself down.
I got varying mileage there, but at it’s best, this would allow me to kind of push my problems away momentarily, and focus on my breathing instead.
I hadn’t listened to it in many years until today, and now that I no longer suffer from panic disorder, it’s really nice to be able to appreciate it as just a really striking, introspective piece of music, and opposed to musical medicine.
7. Flight- Hans Zimmer
I kind of loved Man of Steel.
Yeah, it had some real problems, but it had some great things going for it too, namely, America’s greatest living actor MISTER Michael Shannon.
Is Shannon ACTUALLY the best?
He really might be.
Obviously, this movie is nowhere close to his career-defining work, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t have a hell of a lot of fun, playing General Zod.
Also, I think that’s Johnny Marr on here, playing that slide guitar?
Anyways, Hans Zimmer did some interesting things, with his Batman and Superman themes.
In both case, they kind of don’t resolve?
The Batman one certainly doesn’t, which I suppose is fitting, because Batman’s job is never done, yeah?
Here though, for Superman’s, there’s a heaviness and weight that I guess kinda… dips out, but then it comes around?
I’m not doing a very good job of explaining myself. Give it a listen though, cuz it’s pretty excellent.
8. Southside- Common featuring Kanye West
Everyone— remember when Kanye West used to make music like THIS?
His line about, “… tear them all up/tear the mall up,” may well be one of my favorite things ever, because it embodies the playful cleverness that used to be such a hallmark of his music.
Common’s contributions here are fine, but this is mostly Kanye’s show, with a filthy fuzz-tone fueled beat, and a vintage verse.
I still love this.
9. Check ’n Me Out- Def Squad
Def Squad only put out one proper album which is a bummer because… man… in 1998, Redman was MOST CERTAINLY at the height of his powers, and Keith Murray and Erick Sermon were still throwing haymakers for sure.
This is basically three REALLY good rappers talking a whole boatload of shit, but, you know what? All three of them can back it up, and the beat’s great too.
10. Uno- Freddie Gibbs and Madlib
I’m one of like, 4 people who didn’t think Piñata was a very good album.
Sorry folks, it just didn’t do it for me.
That said, there are 3 or 4 songs that I love DEARLY, and this is one of them.
I think it’s because it’s an outlier on the album— it almost sounds like it doesn’t belong.
The synths twinkle a little too much for a Madlib beat, and I could see this being on the radio at one point in time, which I don’t think you could say for the rest of what’s on the album.
This is a good song to drive to. It’s a perfect late night highway cruising song.
11. Erotic City- Prince
This is a naughty song, and I think I felt a little scandalous the first time I heard the chorus because I was at work– in a, “family,” restaurant.
I’m pretty sure we hadn’t opened for the day yet, and the cooks were bumping it in the back, but in either instance, yeah– a bit dirty.
When Prince passed away, I believe The Current in Minneapolis played the entirety of his commercial discography, save for this song and a few others because… you kinda just couldn’t.
In any instance, this belongs alongside Prince’s best 80s work. It’s a great tune.
I have conflicting opinions about, “Strawberry Jam,” as an album, though I’m pretty sure my brother loves it.
There are days where I think it’s fully brilliant, and days where I think it’s a mess, masquerading as brilliance.
However I’m feeling, I always find myself in awe of this song.
It almost shouldn’t work because it’s really just… noise? But there’s melody sneaking around in there too, and it kinda sounds like someone losing their minds, which I always find fascinating.
Animal Collective stans, if you want to go at me in the comments, I’ll understand.
13. Heart it Races- Architecture in Helsinki
This is a great cover.
I heard this on a winter road trip to a Wisconsin cabin, and though we had snow, snow, and more snow on our drive, this put some sunshine in the mix.
The bassline here is a strutter, which I always love, but the real star is an ascending guitar figure in here that’s almost King Crimson-esque. Juxtaposed against a groove that brings to mind David Bowie’s, “Fame,” it seems a bit strange, but it also makes sense, because Bowie called up Robert Fripp to play guitar on both, “Heroes,” and “Scary Monsters”?
Okay, I’m done.
14. Mystery Man- Terje Rypdal
Synth-y 90s smooth jazz with blues undertones sounds really, really, bad on paper, but man— young Terje pulls it off here.
Actually, he might have been old when he recorded this, I don’t know.
Like the first song from this playlist, this comes to us courtesy of, “Heat,” When Robert DeNiro is falling madly in love with Judging Amy.
I could Google that, but we’re just gonna go with Judging Amy.
Man, I might have to watch, “Heat,” tonight now… just gotta clear 3+ hours from my schedule.
15. Madre no Llores- Munchi
I’m trying to remember how I came across this, and I’m struggling to do so.
I think it was recommended to me on Spotify, because I was bumping Photek?
It definitely has a similar flavor to it, so that makes sense.
In any case, this is like deep contemplation, or night-time drawing music. It’s best enjoyed with headphones.
16. Lord of Light- Iron Maiden
The riff that kicks in at 1:41 is one of my ALL-TIME FAVORITE things Iron Maiden has ever recorded.
That’s saying something too.
What makes this one special is the immediacy and borderline panic that it exudes. To my ears, Iron Maiden doesn’t necessarily have that anywhere else in their catalogue?
That’s poorly worded– they do, but nothing that’s played like this.
I feel like a riff like that is the kind of thing that kicks off when the power plant is about to blow up, and you only have 30 seconds to get clear.
The rest of the song here is pretty good too, but man, oh, man, that riff— it’s just in a league of its own.
I love it.