Welcome to the first installment of the 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.
This past winter was a brutal one all across the country, but if this week’s forecast is any indication (80 degrees here at Paste HQ in Atlanta!), we seem to finally have made it to spring. Let’s celebrate with this week’s Playlist Project question…
Eels, “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues”
There are lots for me, but one of my favorites has to be “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues” by Eels. Both the lyrics and the music perfectly fit the mood, and you automatically feel 83 percent cooler singing (even under your breath) “Goddamn right, it’s a beautiful day, uh-huh” over and over. Swaggeriffic.
The Shins, Chutes Too Narrow
My pick comes from the band who changed Zach Braff’s life: The Shins. Not Oh, Inverted World, though, which is great but reminds me more of fall. For the first warm day, I’m all about Chutes Too Narrow, and especially the song “Mine’s Not a High Horse.” The subject matter of the song is essentially about a dude saying “I told you so” to another dude, but the sound is pure spring. It even has a lyric about ice cubes melting. I know I’ll be listening to this song with nostalgia for many years as the Earth enters its sixth major ice age and the concept of a “warm day” is nothing more than a myth we tell our children. (Seriously, why is it still so cold in North Carolina???)
The Ventures, Ventures In Space
I picked this album up used for $1 but have played it more than just about any other piece of vinyl I own. Something about surf rock just shouts warm weather for me—for obvious reasons—but the Ventures had ambitions well beyond just being an instrumental genre band. In Space sounds like Jack Nitzsche and Aaron Copeland collaborating on the soundtrack to an old sci-fi teensploitation flick, something like Juvenile Delinquents from Beyond the Galaxy. It’s music made for hot rods and drive-ins, except the arrangements on “Fear” and “Penetration” are too vivid for black-and-white and the saxophone is far too lewd for the PG crowd.
Discovery, “Swing Tree”
Mine would have to be “Swing Tree” by Discovery. It’s my favorite song to listen to in the car with the windows down and sun beaming, plus it’s incredibly fun to sing along to (an important standard by which I judge my music). It’s effortlessly bright and happy, and I figure if I play it loudly enough, Mother Nature will get the dang message and give us a little taste of spring!
Oliver, “Good Morning Starshine”
I’ve always had a weakness for the songs from Hair, and although this one totally exemplifies hippy-dippy nonsense, it is also secretly awesome. Makes you wanna take at least some of your clothes off and roll around in the grass.
Son Volt, “Windfall”
At the first chance to drive with the windows rolled down each spring, I like to crank Son Volt’s “Windfall” and let the wind take my troubles away. It’s been 19 years since the song was released, but each year it still does the trick. “It sounds like 1963, but for now, it sounds like heaven.”
Killer Mike, R.A.P. Music
Ever since the album was released in May 2013, Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music takes me back to hot Atlanta nights and (veggie) grill-outs. Oh boy. Yep, I’m gonna stick with that sentence.
Cereus Bright, Happier Than Me
I heard this band called Cereus Bright when they were in North Carolina with the Dirty Guv’nahs recently and have been addicted to their EPs. The song “Stella” from this one is pretty good. We experienced a rather warm day this past Saturday, and that’s what I had playing, windows down and all.
Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, “Straight to Hell”
I like to kick it old-school with Drivin’ N’ Cryin’s “Straight to Hell,” which probably makes me the last person on earth to listen to Drivin’ N’ Cryin’. Either that or MIA’s “Paper Planes.”
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Let It Sway
As someone stranded in the frozen tundra known as Michigan, where we’re elated it might squeak above 25 this week, I think I’ve long forgotten what spring even is. It may never come to the Mitten, so please be kind and remind me what warmth feels like whenever you get to experience it. When the temperatures do rise to a roll-down-your-windows level, I like to crank “My Terrible Personality” or “Cardinal Rules,” or really anything from Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin’s Let It Sway.
Love, “Alone Again Or”
My go-to “warmth song” is “Summer in the City” by The Lovin’ Spoonful because it takes me back to my childhood (Die Hard with a Vengeance opening credits) and the heyday of urban heat waves (1966-1976) at the same time. This might not be appropriate for a few months, though, so I’ll go with “Alone Again Or” by Love, which is the closest music will ever come to recreating the blossoming of a flower.
Pavement, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
Pavement’s Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain fits every season, but I bought it in the spring and that’s what I’ve always associated it with. It was the spring-break soundtrack of 1994 and almost every year since.
ELO, “Mr. Blue Sky”
I still remember swinging on the playground during recess in seventh grade on a just incredibly beautiful spring day with that song playing in my head. An indeterminate number of years later, the song triggers the memory and any particularly beautiful day triggers the song. And “Mr. Blue Sky, please tell us why you had to hide away for sooo long” seems pretty perfect for this last winter.
of Montreal, Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
As soon as there is a glimmer of warmth in the air, my go-to album is definitely of Montreal’s Hissing Fauna Are You The Destroyer? It’s the perfect mix of upbeat, warm songs that I can blast with the windows down. Anytime I hear a cut from that record, I think of the warm days ahead.
Fleetwood Mac, Rumours
For the record, mine’s Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. I could lie and say it’s because the cheery harmonies on “Second Hand News” could melt even the most frigid of hearts, or that the album’s break-up theme fits with the whole springlike “new beginnings” motif, but the real reason is because when I was a camp counselor in high school, we used to take the kids to the public pool, and “Don’t Stop” would play over the PA there at least once a day for some reason. I now have this weird sensory memory attached to that song where every time I hear it, I smell chlorine and flash back to being a lazy teen lounging poolside when I was supposed to be making sure children didn’t drown.
Thievery Corporation, The Mirror Conspiracy
For me, Thievery Corporation’s The Mirror Conspiracy opens a gateway to road-tripping summer oblivion. I exhausted the album on a tour throughout Southeast Asia in undergrad, and its cornucopia of reggae, chill wave and trip hop has forever seeped into the humid sunsets and sun-burnt nights of June. I automatically break a sweat whenever the synths of “Treasures” start up.
Kendrick Lamar, “The Recipe”
When I moved from LA to New York, I’d never really seen snow, let alone been subjected to a polar vortex. I was obviously in for a shock. I’ve learned to cope with freezing temperatures over the years, but it’s become a personal tradition to play Kendrick’s dreamy ode to California as soon as weather permits abandoning my giant puffer jacket. There is something about the discussion of palm trees and sunshine that always soothes my longing for home. Plus, Dr. Dre says he’s such a boss that he could buy the entire Pacific Ocean, and I find that inexplicably delightful.
Oasis, “She’s Electric”
Temperatures go up, windows roll down and the mixtape with Oasis’ “She’s Electric” from (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? goes on. There’s something about the mixture of the repetitive electric guitar riffs, Liam Gallagher’s talking vocals and that janglin’ tambourine that just screams spring—not to mention the nostalgia that comes when my twin sister and I sing it at the top of our lungs, accompanied with pointing and hand motions. ”’Cause I’ll be you and you’ll be me, there’s lots and lots for us to see, there’s lots and lots for us to do, she is electric, can I be electric too?” It’s one of those songs that just feels good.
The Beatles, “Good Day Sunshine”
Having lived in the land of eternal summer on and off for the past six years, this is almost a non-existent feeling for me. However, I distinctly remember the first not-painfully-cold day in Liverpool—when I could legitimize putting sunglasses on my face and actually remember what the sun felt like on my then-Anglofied skin. I put my earbuds in and walked around City Centre with the hometown boys singing “Good Day Sunshine” to me and everything was then magically right in my world.
When the sun finally decides to creep out from behind the rain clouds here in Portland, you need a lift of the musical spirit to go with it. And for these ears, there’s no better soul leavening force than the brilliant first LP by UK/US rockers Pretenders. There’s not a false note on it, with each song finding that perfect connection between punk’s strain, new wave’s glisten and pop’s mixture of joy and agony. But if it is a quick fix I need, I point my iTunes library toward one of Belle & Sebastian’s most ebullient moments, “Another Sunny Day” from their 2006 album The Life Pursuit. Its buoyant tempo and charm are enough, but it also reminds me of the start of baseball season, hearkening back to hearing it blaring over the sound system at Safeco Field before a Mariners game, f-bomb and all.
Alright, dear readers, now we open it up to you. Tell us your picks in the comments section below.