Happy Holidays and happy early New Year everyone! With 2018 right around the corner (and 2017 mercifully coming to an end), this is the time of year to look back and reminisce about all the things you did this year, and to think about the New Year’s resolutions that you’re going to break on January 4th. This year, I changed jobs and found a place that I actually don’t mind going to on a daily basis, my girlfriend and I adopted a dog, I took my first real vacation to Europe, and I hurt my arm/shoulder for months after playing too much ping pong (it’s still not 100%). Excitement all around.
As a reminder for those who are new to these playlist write-ups, I only have two rules when compiling a seasonal playlist like this:
- In keeping consistent with the fact that I could only fit around 80 minutes onto a CD-R back in the day, the total length of any individual playlist can’t greatly exceed that same mark. I try to keep each playlist to about 20-23 tracks, or about 80-84 minutes long.
- No distinct artist can appear more than once on any individual playlist. This helps diversify what can appear on a playlist, and provide a different palette of musical sounds and memories for future listening.
This playlist covers the period of time from September to December 2017. While reading this, I invite you to think about the songs that you’ve listened to this fall and the memories that they conjure up.
“Some Time Alone, Alone” – Melody’s Echo Chamber
Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker has been on one of the most impressive musical rolls of this decade. He’s constantly striving to do more, retooling and refining his trademark modern psychedelic sound into different shapes, and because of his natural pop abilities, his work is crossing musical boundaries. He’s ended up working with some of the most prominent pop artists and producers of our time like Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, and Rihanna. If Parker’s only musical output had been the three studio albums he’s delivered under the Tame Impala moniker, that would be impressive enough. But, he’s also had a hand in producing a fair number of artists who share a similar musical aesthetic.
2012 will perhaps go down as the banner year for Parker, it would have been a successful year just for fully refining the overdriven guitar sounds of Tame’s debut Innerspeaker into poppy perfection on their second effort Lonerism. But only two weeks before Lonerism, one of Parker’s producing efforts – the debut album from Melody Prochet aka Melody’s Echo Chamber – was released. With Parker behind the boards, its certainly expected that these two albums share many qualities – namely, Parker’s spaced out drums, bouncy bass lines, and reverb-soaked guitar production. Parker’s work, combined with Prochet’s echoing French accented vocals create some breathtaking moments of fuzzed out glory.
It’s a bit unfortunate that this album will probably live on as just a footnote on Parker’s growing resume, because most of the songs on this album are stunningly beautiful. On “Some Time Alone, Alone,” Parker’s chomping, distorted rhythm guitars weave in and out with ringing solo guitar lines in the verses – only for the two parts to work together to build up Prochet’s voice in the chorus. The drums and bass give enough space for this magic to happen, keeping things interesting but deferring most of the attention to the guitars and Prochet’s vocals on this stunning track.
“I Feel It Coming” – The Weeknd
There’s an eight note motif that runs through the spine of “I Feel it Coming.” After its introduced in the beginning of the song, it sticks around – though you might not be aware that you’re still grooving along to it. But as The Weeknd repeats “I Feel it Coming, babe” in the chorus, there it is – that “dun na naaaaa….dun na naaaa na.” It’s one of those musical moments that once you notice it, you’ll never be able to ignore it. Forget the rest of the song, you’ll just be singing that.
While there are a lot of doubters to the real artistic value of pop music, that motif is just another reason why I feel like pop is an underappreciated genre in terms of artistic quality. Of course, a lot of pop music is disposable, but you might be surprised at how much effort it takes to create the perfect storm of instruments, hooks and production. Creating a song is one thing; creating a pop masterpiece is quite another. “I Feel It Coming” is just that – a masterpiece – elegantly marrying the sounds of the past to the present via Daft Punk’s funky-Random Access Memories styled production. It may not have hit #1 on the charts, but it’s undoubtedly one of the best mainstream pop songs of the year.
“Long Summer Days” – Moody Blues
After years of eligibility, the Moody Blues are finally getting their due by being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. Their career has spanned fifty years; they’ve touched everything from 60’s R&B to classical, and they had a major resurgence in the 80’s with some straight up pop music. But their unquestioned peak was their second album, 1967’s Days of Future Passed. Beautifully merging psychedelia with a full symphony providing support (an unheard of idea at the time), the album was one of the first concept albums and is now recognized as one of the foundations of progressive rock. “Long Summer Days” was released as a B-side just prior to the release of that album, and while it doesn’t contain their trademark symphonic bombast, its themes of reminiscing, taking in every moment for what it is are still joyously optimistic and beautiful.
My experiences with the Moody Blues go back – like, way back. Both of my parents were avid Moody Blues fans and saw them live a few times. One of the albums that they put on the most during my childhood was A Night at Red Rocks, especially during car rides. My parents were fans of the Moodies’ entire discography, but they definitely seemed to favor the poppier Moody Blues of the 80’s when I was growing up. Songs like “No More Lies,” “Vintage Wine,” and “Your Wildest Dreams” give me heavy nostalgia for my childhood. But, it’s Days of Future Passed which always bring me back to the Moodies, and it is a must listen for anyone interested in prog rock, psychedelia, or music of the late 60’s.
“Kids” – Current Joys
When I get asked how old I am, I often have to double check the math in my mind, and respond with something like “I’m 26” and then either a swear or just “…Jesus Christ.” I’m nearly four full years removed from graduating college, and it feels like a lifetime ago. Time is only moving faster. Routines are becoming second nature. I’ve been trying my best to savor the good moments because I know that they won’t last forever. My tastes are changing before my eyes, I’ve been going to sleep at a normal time, I’m getting tired more easily and I’m probably getting addicted to coffee. I’m less athletic than I used to be – I mean, I fucked up my shoulder playing ping pong. I’m now solidified in my third full time job and become fully engulfed in the 9-5 way of life, and I guess you could say that I’ve become more cynical, overall.
But getting older isn’t that bad. I’ve learned from a bunch of mistakes I’ve made in years past, but still have many more to fix. I’m learning more about myself and the world around me with every passing day. I do something I don’t absolutely hate, and have enough free time to work on myself and my writing. I hear things in music that I never would have paid attention to before, and more broadly, I make parallels and connections in my mind that my younger self would have completely missed or ignored. I’m thinking more outside the box, trying to be less reactive and more even keeled, taking most everything with a grain of salt.
So getting older is a give and take – learning and understanding how you’re changing and making the proper adjustments. I know that the last four years have been a roller coaster for me, and the next four probably will be as well. That’s life, I guess.
Thanks for reading! Check out my full Fall 2017 playlist below.
Like what you read? Want to see more stuff like this? Make sure to like and comment on Facebook – any and all feedback is greatly appreciated!