A playlist curation series. Each playlist includes written commentary on the theme as it relates to each song. If you have any questions/comments, you can email here.
Playlist title lifted from a Rilke poem, "The Rose-Window." The last stanza reads:
"so out of darkness once in times long past/
the great Cathedral's glowing window-rose /
thus seized a heart and drew it unto God."
This is a playlist for laid-back chill hangout time. Pair with some soft blankets and a nice porch or stoop if you have it. These songs make me feel like it’s springtime even though it was literally… 100 degrees yesterday. Maybe it’d be good on a walk, idk let me know if you try it. When I lived in Boston I would walk e v e r y w h e r e and this is the kind of thing I would play if it was like a 30-40 minute walk on a nice day and I’d dawdle and look at flowers or get a cup of coffee or something. I think of these as happy songs, but they're probably not, like, awesome pump-up songs. More like if you're watercoloring or reading a book or something at home in a comfy chair.
1. terminal paradise by Adrianne Lenker
I love love love Big Thief, but the relative instrumental sparseness of Adrienne Lenker’s solo work suits my taste even more. Her vocal performance here gives me the same feeling of quiet wonder I feel walking into an old church, and the same sense of interconnectedness I feel in my closest friendships. This song makes me want to cry in a similar way to how I want to cry when I watch Joe Pera Talks With You.
2. Clean Elvis by Dan Reeder
Dan Reeder’s proximity to John Prine (via record label) is evident in this song. It’s dry, witty, nice, and silly. It reminds me of reading Kurt Vonnegut, or maybe Carl Hiassan. I was quick to qualify the statement to myself when I decided I’d call it Americana, I think I wanted to say it was a satire of Americana or something. But what’s the difference? The song mentions aliens, kung-fu, Coca Cola—I can’t deny these are each images from the American zeitgeist.
3. “…Inside the House Was Getting Darker” by Bedbug
Bedbug songs make me feel hopeful. “heaven is a place/It’s a goal we have to work towards”— what a sentiment for the current political landscape! The samples of anti-capitalist speeches along with the laughing and talking of friends in the background lend me a feeling of community when I'm far away from my friends, and with it the shared responsibility we have to take care of one another. I feel it would be incomplete to talk about Bedbug songs without mentioning their politics, since they've stated it's one of the current purposes of the project. Plus, a lot of the songs explore ideas surrounding liberation from capitalism and building meaningful communities. The genre tags on Bedbug's bandcamp strike me as a succinct summary of the project:
When I listen to this song, I am reminded to find solace and hope in the community around me, and I think that's a really important, grounding idea right now.
4. Come Here by Kath Bloom
I first heard this song in Before Sunrise (1995). Like the movie, the song never feels rushed (Well I’m in no hurry/You don’t have to run away this time). It feels easy and happily aimless—impressionistic of a quiet summer romance, or a personal meditation on vulnerability. Kath Bloom’s new album "Bye Bye These Are The Days" is out August 14th on Dear Life records.
5. Step to My Girl by Souls of Mischief
I learned about this song because it was referenced in Vampire Weekend’s “Step” (“Every time I see you in the world/You always step to my girl”). Souls of Mischief was never able to officially release the track due to clearance issues, but responded positively to the the VW song (though Soul of Mischief’s Tajai pointed out it was “crazy that we were never able to put that song out, so it’s interesting that they’re gonna profit from it,” in an interview with Hip Hop DX in 2013). The samples in the song are also incredible in their own right: a saxophone arrangement of “Aubrey” as performed by Grover Washington Jr., a funky number by Marvin Bliss, a thematically and instrumentally similar song “Who’s That Girl” by YZ, and KRS-One’s “Why is that?” which has the topical line “the government you have elected is inoperative.” All contribute to a warm tonal feeling I associate with the analog (cassette tapes, vinyls, VHS) and an emotional feeling I associate with being a kid in the early 2000’s.
6. Telstar by The Tornados
I just think this is a great song but also I have a reason for putting it on here
On New Year’s Eve 2017, I went to Boston from Syracuse to move to my new apartment, and I brought along my friend from home. The apartment felt bare without my roommates, and my friend and I shared pasta out of the only bowl we had. I was remembering happier (warmer) places as the blizzard raged on outside. I asked him what kind of music his mom liked, since I didn’t know much about her, and he thought for a while then played this song. I was laughing so hard, I don’t know why! I guess it reminded me of, like, Star Trek or something. Not sure. But now every time I hear this song it makes me feel like laughing like that.
7. I’d Like To Walk Around In Your Mind by Vashti Bunyan
This song used to come up on YouTube autoplay for me back when that was how I listened to most music. The speckled audio quality reminds me of some early Karen Dalton recordings, or Elizabeth Cotten, the same lo-fi warmth is there that makes the song feel like an intimate conversation. I should put some Elizabeth Cotten on this playlist, she’s got a lot of great summer songs. Bunyan has a kind of ethereal, breathy vocal vibe going on that I love, calling to mind other memorable vocal performances from Jessica Pratt, Devendra Banhart or Joanna Newsom.
8. Freight Train by Elizabeth Cotten
I’m putting some Elizabeth Cotten on the playlist, she’s so great. Her effortless picking translates the busy melody to something that seems simple and true: it reminds me of a really excellent teacher who can communicate huge, complex, nuanced ideas in a way everyone can understand. I feel like I’m learning when I’m listening to her, that she’s reintroducing me to things I’ve forgotten, like the sublime beauty of the mundane (lol what does that mean). Not that there's anything mundane about Cotten's performance. I think her technical brilliance as a guitar player is one of the most salient takeaways from listening to this song, a product of a lifetime of learning and creating. Listening to this makes me excited to play scales or do stretches or do anything that can make me better at something when I commit to practicing.
9. Clay Pigeons by Michael Cera
This is a cover of a Blaze Foley song, a contemporary and close friend of Townes Van Zandt. I group this with Clean Elvis in that they both conjure imagery from the American imaginary (lol) (like cowboys and road trips and freedom and stuff), but through a veil of quiet critique, or… disappointment. Maybe I’m projecting Cera’s characteristic acting style onto his performance here, but this cover is positioned in my head as an example of the current iteration of the English Major Guy (Kerouac, David Foster Wallace, Thoreau, etc.).
LOL this is an unhelpful review ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I was just thinking about all the Greyhound bus stations I've been at throughout my life. I never got my driver's license plus I lived in Boston where there was plenty of public transport, so that was mainly how I got places in college. One time I was visiting friends in Philly and got my ticket back to Boston on the day of the Superbowl but I didn't realize it.... and it was the Eagles and the Patriots.... big goof
10. Sunny Duet (feat. the Mind) by Noname, the Mind
The sonic landscape of Noname songs is so LUSH and WARM and BEAUTIFUL. She always covers so many things lyrically that I would do injustice to by writing about too much, I think I should leave in-depth analysis to people who know better. Like Noname herself in this recent interview with Desus and Mero. You can join Noname's Book Club here, they focus on reading and discussing works about capitalism, the prison-industrial complex, race, gender, and the interaction between all these things.