pointless shenanigans & quasi-poetic musings

The Playlizt (volume 0: the late night list)

Here I go with another bullshit writing experiment… this one might be weekly, but it’s more likely to be fortnightly. I don’t really want it to become monthly, at that point I’m not sure it can be called a regular feature at that point. We’ll see. (If you want to skip the tedious backstory and just get to what the hell I’m doing, click here.)

I listen to a lot of music. In fact, there’s an entire system set up to deliver a constant feed of pleasant yet unobtrusive background music that I can listen to from basically anywhere in the house.1 When I don’t have the BGM running, I’ll either pick an album or two to queue up or turn to a Spotify mix, because they’re usually pretty good. The main reason I’ve just been streaming music for a while, though, is that all my playlists suck. To a fault, each one of them has grown to be about six hours long, are completely disjointed, and are full of tracks that I skip every time.

To be honest, I was perfectly happy to keep living like this. That is, up until a friend of mine asked me to make a playlist after I’d queued a bunch of tracks up in Discord one night. It was entirely off-the-cuff, but I think it turned out pretty decent, in retrospect. While I was compiling it into an actual playlist on a streaming service, I started adding some similar tracks, but feared that it would quickly swell like so many other lists have. With that in mind, I decided to arbitrarily limit myself to 80 minutes per playlist – the maximum length of a standard MiniDisc, before ATRAC3 let you wedge double the music on a disc.2 With that constraint in mind, and working from the songs I’d thrown into that music bot, I ended up with two pretty dang good playlists. Since my friend mentioned liking my musical taste, I used those as jumping-off points for what turned into 5 ~80-minute compilations.

I’m going to try and post a new playlist weekly from here on out. Hopefully, it’ll be an interesting way to help me sort through my disaster of a music library and share some of the songs that I truly adore. Before I start in on the playlists that started this all, I’d be remiss without also mentioning another inspiration for this project. My friend Emily puts out a newsletter and playlist every week of brand new music. You should subscribe to it – I find something I never would’ve otherwise heard every time.

With the tedious backstory out of the way, here’s Volume Zero of what I’m calling The Playlizt:3 the late night list.

The first two playlists were made directly from the tracks I queued up in a voice chat – I split them in 2 to meet my arbitrary and self-imposed 80-minute duration limit, and I tried to sort them by mood. Volume 1 is definitely a little moodier than Volume 2, but I was (and am) in a fairly depressed state so they’re honestly all a bit moody. Links to the playlists on Spotify and Apple Music are available after my commentary for each one.

Volume 1

  • Ask Me Anything is the very first song I heard from The Strokes, and shortly after this they became one of my absolute favourite bands. This song doesn’t really sound much like their other work, but it’s heavy on the Mellotron and I love a good Mellotron feature.
  • This playlist actually has a few songs that were my introduction to a given band – a late-night Wikipedia rabbit hole about London Underground stations and their architecture led me to Mornington Crescent, a track off of what I consider to be Belle & Sebastian’s best album.
  • Listening to Lucy Dacus convinced me that Dancing in the Dark is actually a trans anthem with this cover. I will not be taking further questions at this time.

Listen: Apple MusicSpotify

Volume 2

  • You Are A Tourist is my favourite Death Cab song, but I do insist that you listen to the demo verson if you like it.4
  • Another introduction, another cover: I Can Change is how I discovered Ezra Furman. (Your eyes do not decieve you – this playlist has two different LCD Soundsystem covers.)
  • California Stars might be the best song off of Billy Bragg and Wilco’s project writing music for unrecorded Woody Guthrie songs. I became obsessed with it when an ex of mine moved to San Francisco, and it’s stayed in my head ever since.

Listen: Apple MusicSpotify

Volume 3

  • I’ve always liked Beck – the thing about his music is that he covers a lot of wildly different ground. The first two songs here are a bit quiet and downtempo, but it picks up after Guess I’m Doing Fine with Heroin. (I’m a sucker for a good crescendo, a song that builds up into something – Never as Tired as When I’m Waking Up from vol. 1 is another favourite example.) Honestly, I only just noticed that I started and ended this one with two wildly different Becks.
  • If you liked Magma, you’ll like the singer’s new band, Nova One. I’m also duty-bound to point out that, like me, they’re from Rhode Island.
  • Another soft spot of mine is long and meandering songs. 23 Minutes in Brussels meanders something fierce. Up with People doesn’t wander quite as much, but it’s certainly taking its time in a way really speaks to me.

Listen: Apple MusicSpotify

Volumes 4 and 5 are probably the least bleak and moody of the whole set. They also have the highest density of songs I was really into during high school.

Volume 4

  • I can’t even begin to tell you how many times Map of Your Head got stuck in my head between roughly 2010 and 2013.
  • Umphree’s McGee’s cover of Weird Fishes/Arpeggi scratches an odd jam band shaped itch for me.
  • One of the only playlists I have with any meaningful focus is the one with every member of The Strokes’ solo work – Albert Hammond Jr’s first solo album is my favourite off that particular collection.

Volume 5

Some of the tracks on vol. 5 were originally on a playlist I’ll talk about in the next post – my main theme here was rhythmic drum beats or constantly-driving music.

  • Whirring starts off going somewhere fun and ends in an explosion of guitars. It’s breathtaking.
  • Hallogallo is the song that I built this playlist around. Neu! was started by two former members of Kraftwerk in 1971 and is one of those bands that not many people listened to, but that inspired innumerable acts afterwards.
  • Going from Blur to The Strokes to Yeah Yeah Yeahs to The Rakes really sums up a notable phase in my life. (That phase isn’t over, for the record.)
  • I also had a serious Kings of Leon phase that tapered off pretty quickly after Come Around Sundown. I first heard Molly’s Chambers in a Jetta commercial, and I distinctly remember going to find it on iTunes after seeing that commercial. I’m a little hazy on this part, but it might have been one of the ones I downloaded using a code from a Pepsi cap.

I hope you enjoy this jaunt through my music library – I promise you, the next edition won’t have five separate playlists in it. If you like it (or even if you don’t), let me know!

  1. This is another one of those things that I should write up. Also, it’s usually playing Phish live recordings. ↩︎

  2. If you’re wondering whether or not I currently own a MiniDisc player, the answer is no. I’m seriously thinking about it, though. ↩︎

  3. Yes, it’s spelled like that on purpose. If you know who to blame… you know who to blame. ↩︎

  4. It samples Orchestral Manoevures in the Dark. If that excites you, go listen. Right now. ↩︎