A Playlist for Friday

I know, I know, I’m consistently inconsistent, but I’m trying to do better mainly because I feel like sharing music is all I have to keep me relatively sane. And if I consider all the pleasure I get from my daily listening and the possibility that I could spread that joy even just a little bit, then I’m basically punking myself when I don’t share posts because it’s something that I know is important to me.

So even though after all this time I feel like you are owed some sort of coherent wrap-up of all the music that has been filling my soul, I have to start here with this ultra-chill playlist that I made a while ago, which perfectly suited the Friday-after-work-vibes-with-a-strong-cocktail I was feeling when I put it on today. It’s got some songs from 2016, which for everything that it was in terms of borderline apocalyptic, has to go down as one of my favorite musical years along with 2013, 2009 and 1998 – and yes, there is a playlist dedicated to 2016: A Shit Year for the World but a Dope One for Music that will come.

The song on this playlist with the coolest background story has to be Ariel Pink’s “Baby”, which is a cover of an original by Donnie and Joe Emerson – two brothers from a tiny town in Washington state who cut a record in their home studio in the ‘70s after their father took out a loan on his farm to support his sons’ talents.

Dreamin’ Wild was pretty much unheard of until a crate-digger found it in a record shop in 2012, and eventually Ariel Pink’s cover of opening track“Baby” blew the lid on the long-forgotten passion project. The album was re-released shortly after the cover was, and the Emerson brothers got acclaim for the amazing album they made when they were just teenagers on a farm. So with that bit of optimism and reminder of good in the world, here’s a sit-back-and-chill playlist with a little old and a little new, which I mainly hope can briefly remove you from the craziness of the world right now, even if it’s just for the amount of time it takes to listen to twelve songs.

Tracklist:
Ariel Pink – Baby
Night Moves – Colored Emotions
The Beatles – Tomorrow Never Knows
Japanese Breakfast – The Woman That Loves You
Bon Iver – For Emma
Dumbo Gets Mad – Indian Food
The Flaming Lips – The Castle
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – So Good At Being in Trouble
Pond – Sweep Me Off My Feet
Soft Hair – Lying Has To Stop
Good Morning – Warned You
Khruangbin – Dern Kala

 

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Band of the Day: Cults

i heart cults

It’s kind of fitting that Cults’ bandcamp top cover page is of worshippers crumbling in front of some alter because since I’ve been listening to their two albums – the 2011 eponymous debut and the fresh release Static, which I’ve been streaming on the God-send that is NPR First Listen – I’ve been ready to drink whatever punch their serving up.

Static is the kind of record that you end up listening to several times a day just because when it ends you don’t know what else you could possibly listen to that will make you feel the same, so you just press play. In real life, it’s also just a pretty short album clocking in at a brief 35 minutes, but I feel like it may be so because it’s just so well put together that there wasn’t a spare second for a single unnecessary dreamy guitar or floaty vocal or drum thump.

Each of the tracks is catchy in a totally not-bad way because it seems like the New York duo, Brian Oblivion and Madelin Follin, have their formula down. They produce music that’s easy listening and interesting sounding, that is fun (I can’t wait to be able to sing it out loud at places where I won’t get fired and/or thrown out for doing so) and deep grey, it’s a balanced feminine and masculine.

‘High Road’, is one of my über highlights of this album (another one is the 60’s-old-school-girl-group-ish ‘Always Forever’) with it’s The xx-esque coolness and sepia summer toned lightness. In short, Cults has replaced that place in my heart reserved for the love for (and secret dream to be part of) girl-fronted bands a lá No Doubt and Garbage. I now picture myself being part of a he-she duo that gets the best dancing and singing out of all undercover front-chicks and their dudes. We already kind of have a name – it’s Dirty Tee and The Boy.

Anyway. Ladies and gentlemen, your Band of the Day – Cults.

Confession: I love Madonna (Sometimes).

SOMETIMES

I love Madonna. I do.

But now that I am comfortable enough to declare this in public I also have to qualify it – to say that I don’t love her now, but to say that you could still call me a fan. I love old school Madonna. Circa “Borderline” all the way up to and including her 2003 album American Life, which recently made the cut (I used to peak at the Grammy wining Ray of Light) after a thorough re-listen and a real love for the sixth track, “Nothing Fails”.

I love eighties Madonna with the black lace and ribbons and fingerless gloves and poofy skirts. The odes to dancing (Get into the Groove) and celebrations (Holiday) and the sweetly controversial love songs (Like a Virgin). And then there was the Madonna I also really got to appreciate. The nineties Madonna of Human Nature and Erotica — unashamed and challenging. The unending question of why her actions are causing controversy when her male counterparts are doing the exact same things (“would it be better if I were a man?”). Her challenges to the status-quo about gender and sexuality–one of my all-time favorite moments in a song is the prologue for “What it Feels Like for a Girl”:

“Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short because it’s ok for a girl to look like a boy. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, because you think that being a girl is degrading…”

So there’s that, her being conscious of being a woman in a man’s world. But also, really, she has made some seriously good music and her voice does have some honey-ish tones to it when she’s intimate and strumming a guitar. She can dance, we all Vogue’d – and did that cowboy dance in the video for “Don’t Tell Me”—and several songs like “Material Girl” stand the pop-cultural test of time.

According to Billboard, the Queen Mother of Pop (as I have maybe just decided to nickname her) had the highest grossing live tour in 2012 for her latest album MDNA, with $228.4 million in ticket sales.

“Who the hell is buying Madonna tickets?” You might find yourself asking out loud.

People like me, that’s who. People who want to see the tear-inducing choral moments of “Like a Prayer” or the different renditions of “Vogue” with modern day stars replacing the Grace Kellys and Harlow Jeans. To experience it live and maybe get drinks and go to the loo during the songs on MDNA. Not to hear her being an (with all due respect) idiot asking the audience if they have seen “her friend” Molly – and such like ridiculous headline evoking nonsense. And she can keep that stuff at home because we liked her when she was a woman, acting her age and putting out a strong and slightly outrageous role model for girls who wanted to do stuff. And dance.

So I’m making this playlist in honor of that Madonna; and as a form of self – defense for the next time I happen to clear a party with Madonna Appreciation Hour. Because when it comes down to it, I would probably (actually definitely, given the funds) pay to see her live. And apparently I’m not the only one.