Well, here is a broad collection of moods for you. Join me in what is apparently my early winter vibe. You’ll notice a lot of Sunday music features here, so scroll back through for more notes. We’ve got an eclectic mix of old and new, from Sturgill’s bluegrass to Flo Milli’s bratty sassiness. Here it is on Apple Music and Spotify. Tracklist with notes below. Dig in.
“California (Home Recording)” by Tom Petty. We all need a good state to live in, and a good state of mind. I know it’s a stripped-down and basic song to begin with, but this demo version wrecks me. If California is a metaphor for life, I also hope not to fall into the sea. And if we take away anything at all (how’s this for a sneaky-heavy opener, eh?), “Sometimes you got to save yourself.”
“Starting Over” by Chris Stapleton. Petty made it to Cali and looked back. Here’s Stapleton sitting where’s he is and looking forward. And my god, after you get over his voice and the lyrics, the bass on this song – beautiful.
“Just Let Go” by Sturgill Simpson (Cuttin’ Grass version). Sorry, but the journey metaphors continue – Petty found Cali, Stapleton got out of dodge with the one he loved, and Sturgill… went Buddhist on us. “Woke up today and decided to kill my ego.” I love this version of the song so much.
“Vietnorm” by The Band of Heathens. Because if you’re not in the middle of the fight, “we’ll get high or we’ll get down / we’ll get by or we’ll get out / head in the clouds, in the clouds / while the sky is falling down.” It feels very twenty-twenty.
“Nobody Else Will Believe You” by Low Cut Connie. If the first several songs didn’t get your head straight, here’s Low Cut Connie with a pep talk, “do your shit / do it well / you got to boogie for yourself / because nobody else will believe you… but I do.” Jerry Lee would be proud, they are rocking.
“Hold That Thought” by Local H. Speaking of rocking, when is the last time you heard a mosh pit + pogo anthem like this? “I spy with my little eye some salvation.” This is an ode to delusion.
“What Would Jesus Do” by Jillette Johnson. 90s slacker aesthetic anyone? It’s all about not passing judgment. “I hope whatever way you cope that it eases you / whether you’re foraging for dope under the highway / I hope you never give up hope / what would Jesus do? / I don’t know, but I know he wouldn’t do it my way.”
“You Sad” by Tkay Maidza. In the playlist, we’ve now moved from the metaphorical to the existential to the personal. This is a pop song, but savage at its core. We broke from judging, but now we are full-on wondering what’s up with you anyway? “You sad. So sad.” “So tough in your daydreams / please don’t overdose on colors in your brain / but here we are again…”
“Peppers and Onions” by Tierra Whack. Remember conscious rap? 20-some years later and it’s alive and well. She just throws it out there, but “I’m not perfect just a person” is a bonafide mantra. Also, the clicky-mouth noise you make when you’re a kid that’s in the beat? You can’t listen without making it either can you?
“May I” by Flo Milli. I don’t know how she bratted-up a Snoop line and made it kill, but she did. Sturgill killed his ego, Flo Milli’s got hers turned up to 11. Despite her extra loose talk style, note how much she changes things up on this track. She’s the real deal.
“Ishkabibble’s (feat. Black Thought)” by Westside Gunn. All lyricism, all day. The Patagonia line? Come on man… (you know how I feel about Chilean Sea Bass, and if not, here you go).
“Flux Capacitor” by Jay Electronica. A different type of lyricism, but damn. I love the out of time chorus on this one. And, how about the way the beat blossoms at the beginning from alarms into that soul sample and back again? Such a vibe. I’m fascinated by the production on this track.
“Hate It When You Leave” by Keith Richards. From out of time intensity to deep in the pocket groove, all the way through. Al Green is jealous of this one. Simple as that.
“Strange (Edit)” by Celeste. Kind of a show tune. Kind of a tearjerker. Actually, completely a tear-jerker.
“Monkey 23” by The Kills. That guitar – the Faces style open tuning and swagger of it all, I just can’t handle it. It’s so raw. And there’s something about their two voices blending together on such minimalistic lyrics too. Magic.
“What Has Happened To Me” by Low Cut Connie. Had to put two on this playlist. “It starts to feel like religion / it starts to feel like love.” I’ll be honest, I’m still not exactly sure what he’s talking about, but I’m exactly sure of the feeling he’s describing.
“New Streets” by Benny the Butcher. Benny getting personal, “I was you, not comprehending or understanding it / losses turn into pain, then they become advantages.” Don’t talk struggle without remembering how much struggle sucks. Amen.
“Look Over Your Shoulder (feat. Kendrick Lamar)” by Busta Rhymes. Two generations of rappers who know how to use their voices as instruments. Yes, Kendrick’s lyrics (generally) are next level, but Busta’s rhythm, dynamics, and range – you can see the influence on Kendrick. Together, they both kill, but Busta really shines. See the arc of his verse, peaking with that fast/stutter thing towards the end. Damn. This track has jazz, soul, rap… everything. All the influences rolled up. Look over that shoulder honey. What a place to end it.