First and foremost, thanks to those of you who have kicked me with… “so it’s been a minute since you’ve shared a mix/playlist – what gives?”
I consider this a midsummer’s vacation day arc, which starts with morning reflections and appreciations, midday day-drinking (complete with self-loathing and punky snark), a sentimental lull around dinner, a braggadocio-filled party in the evening, and then a peaceful, head on pillow sigh to exhale the day. Know the feelings?
“Winona” (with Jamila Woods & Vagabon)” by Miloe. OK, I have to tell you, there’s a crazy syncopation thing that happens at the beginning of this track where the chopped-up guitar sample locks into the background rhythm and then devolves into a digital shimmer that I could listen to over and over again. The rest of the song is pop-perfection, complete with a gorgeous parade of voices, and some “I just woke up half thinking about Stranger Things and what love is” vibes.
“Lane” by Sampa the Great, Denzel Curry & Powers Pleasant. Sampa is going to show up twice here (sorry mixtape rule makers). Who is going to cry for you, “wah, wah, wah, wah,” and “look at that now / you were saying stay in your lane / you was thinking I had one / thinking you’re Geppetto.” Oh it’s so good to have her back.
“The Highs & the Lows (feat. Joey Bada$$)” by Chance the Rapper. Speaking of back, is the bar just so low on new Chance that I’m excited I like this? Possibly. But I also really dig the “take the highs and the lows” stoicism of this one. Plus, it sounds like they’re having fun.
“Swing and Turn Jubilee” by The A’s. It’s like the Andrews Sisters grabbed guitars, headed to the country, went low-fi + ultra compressed, and got all indie-heartache on us. “Hardest work I ever done / was working on a farm / easiest work I ever done / was rolling in your arms.” Precious.
“Sail Away” by Neil Young & Crazy Horse. Sorry Spotify listeners, you’ll miss this one. I think The A’s made this playlist because as is part of my summer, I am semi-obsessively listening to Rust Never Sleeps. This may not be Neil at his most romantic, but it is the most romantic Neil I need. “You could lose me on the freeway / but I would still make it back alive / as long as we can sail away.”
“Helmet” by Steve Lacy. Man, where did Steve Lacy come from? Bedroom Stevie Wonder with DI-guitar sounds and big-time Cody Chestnutt vibes. Very cool.
“DEPT OF FINANCE (feat. Laura Stevenson)” by Jeff Rosenstock. OK, so stuff got messed up, times got a little tough and you had to eat corn chips for dinner thinking about how terrible of a year it’s been. “But it’s not gonna stop moving forward / even if it feels like nothing’s ever gonna change / the sun’s gonna rise in the morning / and you have to live anyway.”
“Younger Us” by Japandroids. A throwback, I know. But midday day-drinking is for remembering when this wasn’t going to turn into a bad idea tomorrow, right? I love the Aesop Rock “cram all the words into the line, they’ll fit” vibes of this song. I also love the nostalgic for our own passions of lines like, “remember that night you were already in bed / said, “fuck it” got up to drink with me instead / gimme that naked new skin rush / give me younger us / gimme that you and me in a grave trust / give me younger us.”
“Heart Tattoo” by Joyce Manor. Where are these kids getting it (Olivia Rodriguez, Beach Bunny, etc. – I see you)? Not from “old” pop-punk I think, but from the 2nd/3rd generation, after Epitaph really figured out how to sell records beyond Punk-o-Ramas, bands like Joyce Manor. This song is to pop punk what Kill Bill is to kung fu and westerns. It’s a beautiful distillation of the core ethos. It’s a song about wanting a heart tattoo because you really want to be in love and you really want to tell people you’re really in love and it’s going to hurt but you’re going to do it anyway even if it looks bad… ahh, teenage anxieties, you are so fun to not be living through.
“Wage Wars Get Rich Die Handsome” by The Mountain Goats. John Darnielle is doing it again. When pop-punk and indie rock grow up but retain their snark for life, they say things like, “wage wars get rich die handsome.”
“Want Want” by Maggie Rogers. She continues to impress me. The synth swells on this song are so big, and so are the smashed-to-bits drums. I love them so much, especially in my headphones. She’s great for writing folk songs that turn into dance anthems. I really dig the falsetto-ish “want want” and how it contrasts in the dynamics (soft versus loud), especially in the way the bridge drops down and rebuilds through the closing choruses. Somebody definitely mapped out and planned all of those layers.
“Last Last” by Burna Boy. Want want then last last – see what I did there? Burna Boy is back and we’re giving thanks. Nobody aches like him. Raise a glass (et al), “I need igbo and shayo.”
“Never Forget (feat. Chef 187, Tio Nason & Mwanje)” by Sampa the Great. African vibes seem right, right now (Zambia in the house?). This track, the rhythms (!), the sounds… put it on and follow the kick-drum alone. Hypnotic.
“Madda Badda” by Buju Banton. Get out your seat. Buju’s back.
“Terrible 2’s” by DJ Premier & Run The Jewels. Preemo and trash talking are like chocolate and peanut butter. This is the warmup, because…
“Remy Rap” by DJ Premier, Remy Ma & Rapsody. I see the Nas track is getting all the love from this album, but this is THE song right here. Remy says, “Actin’ like I ain’t the reason these bitches can even rap / I’m also the reason y’all know these bitches can’t even rap.”
“Chitty Bang” by Leikeli47. Ladies talking game can continue. She shifts dynamics and styles like she’s the Pixies of modern rap. “Chitty, chiity bang, chitty, chitty bang / oh, them cannons rang, yes, them cannons rang.”
“No Effort” by Princess Nokia. Rhyming words with “err” sounds at the end is hard. Not because there aren’t a lot of words that can be used, but because the shape your mouth has to go in to make the sound doesn’t roll over well into whatever follows. That is, unless you are grinding vocal gears into “no effort” line-ending dust. Princess Nokia drips attitude, I love this track. But we’re not at peak attitude yet…
“SAOKO” by ROSALIA. Oh my god. How did I miss this song when it came out in February? And, why is a fear/embrace of butterflies suddenly showing up all over my life (ROSALIA and Ocean Vuoung both talk about this, oh change metaphors, Kendrick has schooled us all I guess). Never mind the obviously awesome (and aggressive) female Wisin+Daddy Yankee vibes, how about that vocal effect in the “yo soy mui mia, yo me transformo / una mariposa, yo me transformo,” or the drum drop-outs/returns, or the random jazz breakdown, or… awesome.
“Sacude” by Ozomatli. Ozomatli is back with a jam. No surprises here. I still have never seen them live (and that needs to change). Wind it down and make a ridiculous late night snack you’d never eat with a sound mind.
“I Shall Be Released” by The Slackers. A rocksteady version of a Dylan classic. “I see my light come shining / from the west down to the east / any day now, any day now / I shall be released.” Goodnight yous guys.