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 playlist above!
1. Bumpa Grille- Chalie Boy
There will come a day when Houston will rightly be recognized as the most sonically critical, and trend-setting American city of the late 20th century.
Look, “slowed and reverb?”
That’s been around since the 90s, back when it was called, “chopped and screwed.”
I suppose the former doesn’t have the chops, but still— these 19 and 20 year old kids, whatever, whatever, they need to acknowledge they’d have nothing to stand on, without the work of the mighty DJ Screw.
In any case, Chalie Boy put this song out after Screw’s passing. This is the regular version too, so I’d really recommending going on Youtube, and listening to the chopped and screwed version, if you want to hear it in all its glory.
In any case, this song is flawless– and, when that deep-fried molasses mess of guitar crops up at 3:48?
Name something tougher or more menacing.
2. Lake by the Ocean- Maxwell
I first heard Maxwell sing when I was 8 or 9, and I remember being a bit shocked.
Even at that age, hearing his range, kind of blew my brain apart. Whenever, “Ascension,” came on the radio that summer, I was with it.
As he releases music so sporadically, he kind of fell off my radar, but I was delighted when I came across this, because it showed that he’s still got it.
There’s something effortless about this. The musical accompaniment is gorgeous to boot, and the bridge sounds like it’s submerged in both a lake and an ocean, so I’m all about that.
I feel like this is definitely more of a summertime song than something for March, but whatever season you play it in, I doubt that you’ll be able to feel anything but the warmth of the sun.
3. This is War- Thirty Seconds to Mars
I’m not a Jared Leto fan.
I don’t get it.
That said, I had to put this on here, as it recalled an important memory/milestone.
In 2017, Northwestern made the NCAA March Madness tourney.
I could be wrong, but I don’t think that had happened previously in my life.
While I’m not a religious devotee of NU, I’ve been to a lot of games in my life, and I’m happy when they’re doing well.
For the ceremony in which they announced seeding, my parents, my aunt, her college roommate, and I packed into the old basketball arena, and watched a montage video set to this.
And despite my feelings of antipathy towards Jared Leto, I’ll admit to having this move me.
I’m always going to smile when I hear this song, because it recalls a really happy moment for a lot of people.
4. Sumthin’ Wicked This way Comes- TLC featuring Andre 3000
I’m the dude who’s prepared to die on the hill that TLC’s “CrazySexyCool,” isn’t all that it’s hyped up to be.
It has four WORLD-CLASS songs, and the rest of it is… maybe, just not my cup of tea.
In any case, this is one of those world-class tunes, and probably what I’m going to listen to most often, if I have my way with the aux cord.
First off, we’re blessed with a magnificent Andre 3000 verse, and some top-tier production courtesy of Organized Noise.
T-Boz, Chilli, and Left Eye show up in fine form too, making this an all-around excellent piece of music.
5. Gorilla- Clams Casino
Man… if ever I’m going to sip tea, dark liquor, or red wine, and just watch torrential rain hit the window in a dark room, this is what I’m going to be listening to.
This is about as Clams Casino as Clams Casino is gonna get.
I’m not sure if I can explain things better than that, so I’d just encourage you to listen.
6. You Saved Me (Live)- Gary Clarke Jr.
When Gary Clarke Jr. finds his lane and starts cooking, it can be the most magical thing in the world.
As a soloist, he takes a lot of risks. This means that you’re not guaranteed fireworks every time, but when the magic is flowing through his fingers, I’d argue that there are few more exciting, lyrical, and brutally honest lead guitar players.
Thankfully, he was on fire when recorded this, and some of the lines that he comes with in here are nothing short of mesmerizing.
To be clear, this is a great song too, but he stretches out for over three minutes on his solo, and that’s what it’s really about.
Of particular note is what he starts cheffing around the 7:28 minute mark. It’s one of the greater ascending bits I’ve ever heard in a live context, and he’s aided by his very able-bodied band who’s 100% locked in behind him.
I can’t recommend this highly enough. Please listen.
7. Run to you- Whitney Houston
Growing up, when my mom was in charge of the CD player, we listened to the Bodyguard soundtrack.
That or Bonnie Raitt.
Probably not as much Bonnie, because I remember my siblings and I making fun of that.
We were all in for Whitney though. And this was a well-liked tune.
Listening to this as an adult, it’s so sad thinking about what road she ended up going down, because my goodness— what a powerful, once in a generation voice.
Her performance here is transcendent and flawless.
8. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill- Ms. Lauryn Hill
As many radio hits, and A1 pieces of certified-genius as this album had, I still think this might be my favorite cut.
It’s a sad song— a deeply introspective piece of music, but you can’t help but be mesmerized by it.
It’s kinda hard to tell if the strings in here are the real-deal, or if they come courtesy of a Mellotron, but I kinda hope it’s the latter.
The piano and organ work is flawless in here too: full of lyrical flourishes and coloring.
This is just a wonderful song, and deserves its title-cut status.
9. Godspeed- Frank Ocean
Depending on what day of the week it is, this might be my favorite song from, “Blonde.”
It’s simple, like most of the music found on the album, and it has a vulnerability to it that strikes me as very true.
10. Deja Vu- J. Cole
Though I might not always find J. Cole’s music to be my cup of tea, I have a lot of respect for his craft.
I feel like he’s someone who makes a very concerted effort to push himself. He goes out of his way to make moves that might be out of his comfort zone, or, what’s, “in vogue.”
I got back and forth with regards to whether I prefer Bryson Tiller’s version or this, but I will say, that when I’m in the mood, this song hits pretty hard, and I like it.
11. Trap Trap Trap (featuring Young Thug and Wale)- Rick Ross and Wale
Young Thug is one of the few true originals making popular music right now, and Wale can rap a lot better than he gets credit for, so I really like this song.
This song is something for slow motion, or a sound system, so enjoying accordingly.
12. RiRi- Young Thug
Young Thug is outrageous, he knows it, and his music is made brilliant by him embracing these things.
This song is all over the place, but if there was a better beat made in 2016, I’m not aware of it. I listened to the chopped and screwed version of this A LOT, when this song first came across my radar, and my life is better for it.
13. Good Riddance (Time of You Life)- Green Day
I don’t know why this song made it on here.
I was probably feeling sentimental about something, and this struck me a certain way.
This song gets hated on, but if I’m in the right mood, I really love it.
14. The Ecstatics- Explosions in the sky
This song had me feeling some kind of way.
First of all, I’m not sure music has any business being this pretty.
I think it had me in tears once.
Interestingly enough, I was exposed to this, because of the, “Power Rangers,” reboot movie that came out a few years back?
That’s a fact— no question mark needed, actually.
But yes, one of the benefits of working in after-school programming was getting to see whatever the hot movie was for middle schoolers, even when those movies were kind of bad, because they usually had a little bit of good in the mix, if you didn’t completely check out.
15. Ancient Kingdom- Mastodon
No jokes, this song might have my favorite guitar solo of the 2010s?
I might take that back when I think more about it, but man, Brent Hinds cooks something outrageous in here.
I’ve listened to JUST THE SOLO on loop for hours while drawing, because it’s that hypnotic, pervasive, and wonderful.
Of particular note is what Brann Dailor is laying down on his kit too, because, it’s some nutty polyrhythmic shit, that brings a delicious added texture to the proceedings.
And when the rhythm guitar finally enters the mix at the half-way mark?
Do not resuscitate.
16. The Real Me- The Who
I found out about this song when I was 16 or 17, becuase it was named, “The Greatest Classic Rock Bass Performance Ever,” by some website my brother and I used to visit.
And you know what?
It might be.
For the uninitiated, this song is essentially a three-and-a-half minute bass solo being played by John Entwistle that happens to have a song going on atop it.
Here, Pete Townshend’s guitar is the rhythm instrument, and Entwistle’s bass is the lead.
It’s fully incredible, and if you’ve never heard this before, I need you to drop everything that you’re doing to bask in its brilliance.
You will not be disappointed.