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 woud 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. Hexagram- Deftones
I’ll always love this song.
This is… I mean, this is some, “clear the room out,” shit, and every now and again, you need that.
The chorus is probably as close as Deftones got to outright Death Metal until this past fall, and it’s contrasted somewhat wonderfully the verses which, though they feature screaming, also contain some fairly pretty instrumentation.
When I made this playlist a few years back, there were parts of the month where I was really going through it, and this is about as good as I was going to do, regarding an opening number.
2. Past Lives- BORNS
Anyone watch, “Girls,” back in the day?
I lived with a couple of ladies in Minneapolis who were all in, and I’ll admit to developing a begrudging fascination of sorts, even though most all of the characters on that show are terrible people.
In any case, if we’re talking about pop music, I can’t find any real flaws with this. The synthesizers are fully outrageous, but they’re supposed to be. They’re liking spring trying to creep in, when winter isn’t fully over.
They NEED to be forceful.
They have no choice.
The chorus is like some half-remembered Chic song, that you now won’t be able to forget, and I applaud their craftsmanship, in making it.
Yes, this is just a great tune. I’m here for it.
3. Don’t Drag me Down- Social Distortion
Where are my Dave Mirra fans at?
Firstly, rest in power Mr. Mirra, but man— can you think of a greater song for the opening sequence for your debut video game?
How many times did you wipe out on Playstation, listening to this?
Don’t lie— the answer is, “many times.”
The early 2000s were kind of great in that big bands started to get their songs into games, and with every Tony Hawk, Matt Hoffman, etc. there were at least one of two ragers that would become IMMORTAL via your mixtapes, playlists, etc.
In any case, this is an A1 banger. If you’re hating, you can leave.
4. Sylvia (Live)- The Antlers
This is another one of those songs where it’s like— I’m afraid to listen to anything else by The Antlers, because this is SO, SO, GOOD, and if the rest of their work doesn’t live up this, I’ll be sad.
Is this song about Sylvia Path? There are references to heads being in the oven, and she was the one who wrote, “Silent Spring,” right?
Anyways, this song sports a delightfully contrarian drum beat in its chorus, plenty o’ reverb, and some great singing.
Play it loud, play it loud, play it loud.
5. Baby Sucks- Polica
The bassline in here is a RUBBERBAND, and I mean that as a compliment.
Also, the drums manage to come with both that electro flair, and early 70s, Billy Cobham-esque cook magic.
I guess this song shines in all departments, actually. I thought I was going to be underwhelmed when it started up, but thankfully, that was not so.
6. Love Yourself- Justin Bieber
You guys, Mates is gonna fire me for putting a tune by THE BIEBS on one of my playlists, so I just want to say that I appreciate your readership, while I can.
Ok, looks like I didn’t get cancelled (yet), so here we go.
I like this song.
I’m not a Justin Bieber fan.
Ed Sheeran wrote this?
Tangential, but my buddies Josh and Ric used to see him at, “The meetings.”
You know, the ones run by Seamus?
Apologies to any gingers out there, you guys are great.
Anyways, yeah, I like this song, and I’m open(ish) to dying on that hill.
Come see me.
7. a beautiful exit- Miguel
No caps in the title?
Miguel on some SUPREME sadboy shit?
I think so.
I’m usually not for that super-nihilistic, “die young,” shit, but here it sounds really, really, good.
I also think Miguel is in possession of one of the most striking voices in modern popular modern R&B, so I’m probably going to enjoy most all of what he does.
8. No Matter What- T.I.
When it comes to T.I., I check out after, “King,” when it comes to his albums. That said, I’ll admit that he’s had some pretty wonderful singles since then, and this is one of them.
Off the top of your head, I expect T.I. isn’t the first person who comes to mind when you’re thinking, “who’s going to put out a really wonderful, inspirational piece of music for the radio?”
Even though that’s the case, I don’t think this stumbles into the trappings of the more cheesier offerings out there. It’s a strong piece of music, and it’ll make you put your head up.
9. Put Your Hands Where my Eyes Could see- Busta Rhymes
Just turn the lights out, watch the video, and listen.
Perhaps, one of the most important pieces of music that came out in 1997.
10. Two Weeks- FKA Twigs
I think this was the song that made me fall in love with FKA Twigs.
It was this, or, “Water Me,” both of which, of course, feature otherworldly vocals performances by her.
LP1 as a whole is a really strong outing. I might actually prefer it to, “Magdalene,” but I might not be able to say that, because… you know, Mates.
He’s gonna get me you guys— I just know my days are numbered.
11. Disintegration Anxiety- Explosions in the Sky
I was delighted when I first heard this song for one main reason.
It showed growth within a band, whose fanbase wasn’t asking for any.
Explosions by the Sky has a formula that works for them, and they could probably coast on making, “Your Hand in Mine,” style epics for the rest of their career.
Here, they decided to go somewhere else though.
First off, the drums?
They’re a little swaggy— let’s not lie to ourselves.
And the build that abruptly cuts off, as opposed to going into full-on universe-destroyer mode?
That’s a bold decision.
I love it when band’s throw out their playbook in the name of artistic growth, and it really felt like these guys did that here. I applaud them for it.
12. Feenin- Jodeci
Depending on what day of the week it is, this is my favorite Jodeci song.
Mind you, it’s neck-in-neck with, “Love U 4 Life,” but this has everything you could ever want from a mid-90s bedroom jam.
If this song has never made its way into your life, please allow it to do so.
13. Life on Mars- AURORA
IT’S A, “GIRLS,” CONSPIRACY!!!
Not really, but this played over the credits of an episode that aired shortly after David Bowie passed, and that made me feel some kind of way.
This is some sad shit, made sadder by the fact that the man who created it had left this particular plane of existence.
But, when that first octave pop hits on the Rhodes though?
You’ll have chills, believe me, folks.
Next time you have to brood, or, feel some kind of way about them running out of cheese stuffed soft pretzels at the grocery store, let this soothe you.
14. Tonight, Tonight- Smashing Pumpkins
Billy Corgan came into the restaurant I was working at a couple of years ago, and my friend who was serving him, didn’t even know who he was.
It crossed my mind to go up to him, and very humbly thank him for sharing the gift of his music, but I declined to do so.
I’m a firm believe in celebrities being given the courtesy of enjoying their private life without being bothered, and I thought I might ruin his evening, by saying anything when I wasn’t his server.
In any case, this song brings to mind a very specific and beautiful optimism. It reminds me that the 1995-1996 NBA regular season was SOME OF THE MOST CRITICAL SHIT THAT EVER CAME DOWN THE PIPE, and that generally speaking, 1996 saw most everyone and everything put up a, “W.”
I miss those times so much.
15. Killers- Iron Maiden
All hail J. RESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.
You all know about my buddy, J. Ress, right?
He plays bass.
For many years, I was an Iron Maiden snob who wouldn’t listen to non-Bruce Dickinson songs on principle. However, shortly before I left Minneapolis, J. Ress helped set me straight.
This is probably my favorite song off of the album, and it’s fully-deserving of its title-cut status.
16. Legend- Elder
Elder’s, “Lore,” is more of less a perfect album, and this is a legendary piece of stoner/prog/whatever, fully deserving of its title.
Yes, it’s just shy of 13 minutes long, but it’s also, a JOURNEY— a trek through a magical valley surrounded by blue mountains and shapeshifting skies. There’s an omnipresent, devastatingly beautiful gathering of fiery hues and pink-tinted destruction looming in the distance, and the only way to face your destiny is to ride the lightning that is the reverb-drenched fuzz-leads towards Valhalla.
Okay, I was just trying to write something epic to communicate scope up there, which— well, maybe I succeeded, maybe not.
In any case, this is a towering achievement, and a song that truly earns the descriptor of epic.
Bump it, and bump it loud.