This list is actually from May of 2018, but it’s not stale. It plays best with the windows down, but ‘it’s the season. There are subtle earworms here (lots of them). They may take more than one listen to work their way in, but trust me, once they’ve got you, you’ll be singing along.
The track list and liner notes are below, and for iTunes users, you can jump straight to the list here. If somebody makes a Spotify version, just let me know and I’ll share it.
1. “Divorce Song” by Liz Phair
2. “Crippling Self-Doubt And a General Lack of Confidence” by Courtney Barnett
3. “Queen of New York” by Tancred
4. “(You’re Better) Than Ever” by Illuminati Hotties
5. “You Can Have Alonetime When You’re Dead” by Remember Sports
6. “1933” by Frank Turner
7. “Dope on a Rope” by The Growlers
8. “The Games We Play” by Pusha T
9. “Gucci Plug (feat. D.R.A.M.)” by Nick Grant
10. “Fourth Dimension (feat. Louis Prima)” by KIDS SEE GHOSTS
11. “All Night” by Big Boi
12. “Split (feat. Sen Morimoto)” by Ric Wilson
13. “Bad Bad News” by Leon Bridges
14. “Mornin’s Gonna Come” by Brent Cobb
15. “Fine Line” by Parker Millsap
16. “The Feeling if Freedom” by River Whyless
17. “Poke” by Frightened Rabbit
Liz Phair sets it off with the timeless way she captured the emotional space between anxiety, burgeoning confidence, and the ability to try to not care anymore. Flash forward 25 years and Courtney Barnett fits the footprint well, carrying Phair’s torch forward today. These are the sounds of frustration from two intense female perspectives.
Tancred had me hooked with the lyric about heading down the street in NYC at night where she sings, “the city breathes like a dragon in waiting / and I’m draggin’ my feet with its heavy sighs.”
Illuminati Hotties and Remember Sports both bring fresh personal angles and a real sense of longing to these post-relationship songs. Contrast the vibe with the lyrics in each, particularly the chorus in Illuminati Hotties and the dynamic arc over the full song for Remember Sports. These worked well as a pair, and not just as modern pop-punk songs. Remember Sports full album, “Slow Buzz,” is one of my top picks for 2018 so far.
Frank Turner can be a bit of a post-punk enigma, but “don’t go mistaking your house burning down for the dawn” remains one of my favorite lyrics of recent memory.
The Growlers were another new discovery for me. Let this one grow on you a little. It’s infectious.
The rap run for this mix that leads off with Pusha (and that guitar sample and pace… so good) takes us from cocaine braggadocio, through Nick Grant’s slow-paced coloring book.
As for Kanye and Cudi, I guess a Louis Prima sample can get me to forgive that “before I finish the ….” line. Ugh. The drums help too, this track grabbed me.
Big Boi should have had a massive hit with this one. What a singalong.
When I first heard “Split,” I proceeded to immediately spend several days listening to Digable Planets. When I finally returned and found out “Split” was still really good, I knew he was onto something.
Leon Bridges is a bad, bad man, and this is a good, good song. He moved forward off of that last album in an impressive way. He is not just a Sam Cooke throwback. If you wrote him off (as I almost did), give this record a shot. Plus, that guitar work is top notch.
Speaking of grooves, Brent Cobb where did you come from? Country-fried funk.
Parker Millsap has some guitar work that just, well, works. I love the tension in this one.
River Whyless are a little cute at times for me, but what they pull of rhythmically with this song makes me real happy. Listen closely to the transition from the intro into that first verse and how the busyness in the drums dropping out creates the space for the lyrics to fit – that’s some special arranging.
And it ends on “Poke.” Think back to where the playlist started, because this is a feeble attempt to bring the playlist full circle. Scott Hutchison’s death was well covered, but for those unfamiliar with his talent, take a moment and really listen to him at one of his best moments on this song. If that falsetto “ooh” chorus (if it can even be called chorus) doesn’t sock you in the gut as you reflect back on the previous verse, you have no soul.