The Playlizt (volume 2: st mark's place, nine minutes to one)
If you missed the introductory post: this is the second in a series of posts about playlist I’ve recently created. I’m hoping to maintain it as a weekly endeavour.
st mark’s place, nine minutes to one
or: insufferably cool guitar sounds for when you’re waiting for the next downtown 6
Today’s playlist is a little bit of a grab bag with a loose theme. Back when I lived in New Jersey and found myself in New York City often, especially just around when the sun was setting, I found it impossible to not find myself feeling at least a little bit cool. The city has that effect on people, even if it’s mostly perpetuated at this point by artists who have long since stopped being able to afford living in Greenwich Village. There’s a certain romance1 to the whole affair, and you have to maintain that illusion in your head when you’re waiting for the fucking intolerable headways of late-night or weekend subway service.
So, this playlist – a little bit moody, a little bit funky, a little bit late-night, very New York (despite only having, by my count, four tracks from NYC bands).
There isn’t much that I love more than an overlooked B-side, and Your Cover’s Blown fits the bill. If memory serves me right, this is the longest Belle & Sebastian song there is, and the payoff for six minutes of shifting time signatures is a song that deserved more love than it got.2 Continuing in the vaguely salacious, No You Girls, off of a Franz Ferdinand album that I’m still not entirely sure about. The song itself meets my main critera for this list – that is: does it make me want to walk down a slightly rainy New York City avenue with a bit of a swing in my hips and a saunter in my step. No You Girls ticks all the boxes, but I’m still not sure how I feel about Tonight. It’s not that it was a departure from the usual Franz Ferdinand sort of sound, but more that as an album it occasionally feels a little disjointed. Not always, though – some days, it hits perfectly.
I don’t have to equivocate about 12:51. The Strokes are one of my favourite bands, there’s going to be a playlist later that’s just them, I couldn’t not include any Strokes in tihs one. It would be an insult to the entire concept not to. Going with this particular track might feel a bit obvious, but it honestly won’t matter once you listen to the sublime, almost keyboard-esque guitars here. Including Mr. Ratatatatat is pure self-indulgence on my part. If you’ll forgive the personal digression, this is one of the songs I distinctly remember from back when Jeph Jacques used to live-stream the process of him drawing the next day’s Questionable Content late at night on Justin.tv, and he always had some really great music going in the background. There’s a fair bit of music that I probably wouldn’t otherwise have found out about because of those streams. The drums in the back of this have a fun little thing going on, if you’re paying just a little bit of attention.
My impression, and this could be just me, is that Maxïmo Park never made it as big as they should have on this side of the Atlantic, despite being in a similar genre and vein of music as Franz Ferdinand. That sort of style is Very Much My Shit. Apply Some Pressure is Very Much That Style,3 even if it is another obvious pick. Paul Smith’s vocals really set them apart for me, and it’s a less obvious pick than Bohemian Like You. I know it’s overpalyed, I know it’s the one Dandy Warhols song that everybody knows, but it’s fucking fun and I don’t care. The front half of this playlist is a love letter to the early-2000s alt rock scene for a reason. Truth be told, I think we’re far enough away from that era that we can start listening to the overplayed songs and appreciate them properly now.45
Am I remembering correctly that Combat Baby was in Rock Band, or was it in one of the Guitar Hero games? They’ve blurred together in my mind entirely by now, but one of those games is where I heard this song, and Metric rocks. If you somehow haven’t ever heard Emily Haines’ vocals, you’re missing out on a treat. In keeping with the temporal theme, Combat Baby is off their first studio album, in 2003, and I could have just as easily included Dead Disco in its place. Both are great – Combat Baby is just a bit more my speed lately. While I’m busy dating myself with antiquated pop-culture touchstones, I first heard Je Veux Te Voir on MySpace, and hearing it there sparked a mild off-and-on fascination with French pop music for me. Also, it’s got crunchy dancepop synth sounds, and I love thoes.
Some more self-indulgence for me here – I have a clear memory in my brain of sitting on a bench at Astor Place station waiting for a train one Friday night of listening to Novacane and coming to the conclusion that, as much as I adore Beck, especially bleeps and boops Beck, that I haven’t a damn clue what his lyrics are about a solid 60% of the time. I’m not entirely sure that I’m supposed to have a clue, either. You can just sit back and enjoy the bleeps. Panic Station is only here for the percussion. The rest of Muse’s 6th album fell really flat for me, but this one (and Madness) are catchy as hell. It’s funky, which isn’t normally an adjective I use with muse. There’s a bit of funk in Defalut’s synths, and if you listen really closely you can hear a bit of wobble from some random knob that gets bumped at the start. I’m predisposed to like any band that lists “synth operator” as an official credit in the liner notes.
Phenomena’s chorus is, of course, a Liquid Liquid shoutout, but it’s also the sort of song you hear in your head if you’re heading down the street in a nice sturdy pair of boots. (What, doesn’t everyone romanticise their life by imagining themeslves in a music video?) The Fallen is much in the same mental category for me. L.S.F. (Lost Souls Forever) heads a bit back towards the electronic, like Kasabian tends to do – I love them for it.
Your English is Good is another one I have a specific memory of: it came up on shuffle one night while I was riding the Staten Island Ferry solely to kill some time between one social engagement and another. Their entire first album is laser-targeted at my particular tastes, honestly. The arrangment of Quicksand reminds me of a Divine Comedy song more than I would’ve expected from Miles Kane, but it gets stuck in your head real easy.
DVNO is just absolutely dripping with coolness. If you haven’t seen it already, and you have any opinions at all about typography or the 1980s, the video is an absolute must-see (and has a fun little piano outro that replaces the album release’s slap-bass exit). You may have noticed that the next track up is twelve minutes long. Don’t worry about it.
Freak Out/Starry Eyes would have made this playlist solely on the strengths of the drum solo from 6:44 to 8:15. For reasons of expediency, I’ll otherwise keep my powder dry on LCD Soudnsystem for the moment. This track is worth every minute. Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured is also worth every minute, but it’s only got two and a quarter. It’s about London and not New York, but I adore the mood (it’s almost a concept album, really) of Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not – if ever there was a better album-based representation of a night out on the town that I’m probably too old for at this point, I haven’t heard it. Listening back to the playlist, I don’t entirely enjoy the transition from Starry Eyes into Red Light, but I really wanted to end this list out with that one, so, forgive me.
I’m running on about 3 hours of sleep today, and if I hadn’t already made this playlist earlier, this post wouldn’t have happened today. It is, in fact, the last one I made in the big flurry of inspiration that birthed all the previous playlists up to this point, so next week’s will be completely off the cuff. The chances of it being a disaster are non-zero.
Until next week!
Bit early to reference Arctic Monkeys, no? ↩︎
Wrong genre, but this also now applies to Call Me Maybe. ↩︎
My Coldplay apologia will get its own post. This is a promise and a threat. ↩︎