Welcome to The Playlist Project, where we’ll be posing musical questions to Paste staff, interns and writers and then compiling their responses into a handy playlist before opening it up for discussion in our comments section.
Memorial Day Weekend is upon us, which means millions of Americans will be firing up the grill, dragging the cooler outside and—perhaps most importantly—cranking up the tunes for a good, old-fashioned cookout. Which brings us to this week’s Playlist Project…
Jeff the Brotherhood, “Sixpack”
Really, this song works for windows-down road trips, or horseshoes on the beach, or cooking out—any situation where it’s sunny, hot, and there’s a chance that people have their shirts off.
Nuclear Honey, Nobody Panic
Nuclear Honey’s album Nobody Panic is what goes on when firing up the grill as well as having a glass of Summer Basil in my hand from Fullsteam. Good vibes, good food, good buzz.
The Hold Steady, “Constructive Summer”
I’m sure no one appreciates the opportunity to drink outside with one’s buddies more than lead singer Craig Finn. When he sings, “We’re gonna build something this summer,” I think he’s really talking about a burger.
Soundgarden, “Black Hole Sun”
I hate daytime barbecues. Summer heat is miserable, and my feeling is you have take an all-or-nothing approach—either you’re inside, in the air conditioning, or you’re subjecting yourself to the extremes by doing some form of exercise. The halfway stuff, which entails actually standing in the sun like an idiot while you pretend not to be very unhappy, is for the birds. Literally—only birds should be allowed to do this. I consider the sun our natural enemy, and I don’t believe the propaganda that it’s responsible for all life on the planet. I feel we shouldn’t be teaching that as “science” in the schools. I hate the beach as well. People who enjoy exposing themselves to sun are insane. When I’m forced to go to the beach, I spend the entire day in the ocean, after which the salt has destroyed my skin. Only the fact that I haven’t been stung by a jellyfish keeps me from hating the ocean on the same level as the sun. Anyway, if I had to go to an outdoor cookout, I’d dress like Lawrence of Arabia and play Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” in protest.
Arab Strap, “The First Big Weekend”
It is stupidly literal to say this, but Arab Strap’s “The First Big Weekend” has been a staple at Memorial Day parties for like 17 years now, a period of time so long and unthinkable that I just want to put my face in my hands and softly cry until quitting time.
Santa Monica beachy trio Cayucas released their self-titled debut on April 30 last year, just in time for those Memorial Day picnics. I wore that record out all summer—and also when I got particularly tired of the cold last winter. Now that spring has finally emerged in uncharacteristic fits and starts, it’s time to let the steak marinade, fire up the grill and put the album back in heavy rotation—or maybe just put track one, “Cayucos,” on repeat.
Dexys Midnight Runners, “Come On Eileen”
Don’t ask me why, but “Come On Eileen” is always on my summer party playlist. Maybe it’s timeless no-shirt-overalls look.
Muddy Waters, “Got My Mojo Workin’”
For some reason—maybe it’s from growing up in Chicago, maybe it’s because I’m a lazy Heat Miser who can’t be bothered to mentally process more than three chords when I’m relaxing outside—the blues and barbecues are inextricably linked for me. I can’t listen to the genre without immediately picturing those little squiggly heat mirages radiating from a grill. Muddy Waters’ version of “Got My Mojo Workin’” is a go-to for any sunny outdoor scene that involves cold brews and sizzlin’ meats.
John Fogerty, “Centerfield”
While the tune may not immediately connect the thread of food, John Fogerty’s “Centerfield” nevertheless conjures the vivid imagery of a summer cookout, even if you live in Portland, Ore. and you’re lucky to get three days in a row of sunshine. Perhaps it’s the correlation between cookouts and baseball commentators babbling on the radio over the sizzle of your asparagus and onions, or the smell of the grass as your Field Roast spits in defiance at its meatier neighbors on the grill, but Fogerty’s timeless baseball longings somehow hold court and make me want to put together a post-meal whiffle ball game.
The Smiths, Meat is Murder
Veggie burgers for all!
The Replacements, “Bastards Of Young”
Paul Westerberg’s vocals positively gallop in nihilistic jubilee. It’s an aural smugshrug from an era before omnipresent assholes hollered “YOLO” out car windows. What really gets me is the guitars on this—I’m convinced they slash open the necks of malty tallboys like a fancy Japanese sword. This song lights the grill and keeps the party grass-staining your jorts.
Bruce Springsteen, The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle
Sun is shining, cold beer in my hand, meat on the grill: isn’t this scenario what Springsteen was invented for? Okay, maybe not the quieter albums, but the high-octane ones are perfect for cookouts, barbecues, soirees or any of the other gatherings Marge forbade Homer from throwing: keggers, hootenannies, mixers, raves, box socials or shindigs. Kick it off with The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle and keep it going through Darkness on the Edge of Town and Born to Run, and by then, you and your guests should be full, possibly potted, and ready for ice cream. And who doesn’t love ice cream?
Sturgill Simpson, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
I usually like to listen to country when I’m throwing down on the grill, but The Kinks’ Muswell Hillbillies was a go-to for me last summer. This year I foresee a lot of action from Sturgill Simpson, and his latest Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. It’s a great record on its own, but add some red meat, grilled veggies and a cold Upright Five, and we’re talking a perfect night.
Beyoncé, “Get Me Bodied”
Depending on your brand of cookout, there’s going to be beaucoup de Queen Bey getting played. It’s hard to pick one song, but “Get Me Bodied” is such a great cookout track, especially because of that last bonus “verse.” Swizz Beatz is in the background and Bey’s shouting out all the old school dances (plus some new school moves—we can all do the “pat yo’ weave” with one hand, while the other grips a chicken bone).