So here’s the deal: I get tons of new music all the time—“new” meaning anything new to my ears. At any given week, I could be simultaneously (and viciously) into the seventeen-minute long “Djohariah” from Sufjan Stevens’ new All Delighted People EP and “Disco Inferno,” a major 70s disco hit by Earth, Wind and Fire. As far and wide apart a lot of my music is, I began turning to the playlist as a means of archiving what I loved at any specific amount of time. RadioFelicity—Felicity, simply just because it’s a word synonymous with “happiness”—was created as a musical scrapbook to catalog what I was listening to at any specific time in my life.
This is by far not an original concept—in fact, I can safely say that there are probably tons of music geeks out there in America who are scrolling through their iTunes right now, incessantly copying and pasting. But the playlist, though essentially a random compilation, is something special. With every playlist I’ve made in the past ten years, I can tell you who my friends were at the time I made this, the things I was worried about, and the things I was trying to look forward to. So I present to you the first in the of RadioFelicity series—which won’t be given out in chronological order—which features what I was listening to at the end of this past July.
1. Tightrope by Janelle Monae, featuring Big Boi, The ArchAndroid
This song is crack for people who genuinely love to dance. Full of thrilling, diversifying styles, Janelle’s crisp vocal attitudes, it’s hard not to enjoy a song with so much passion.
2. Round and Round by Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Before Today
I’ll reiterate what I said in my review of Before Today: Ariel Pink is weird. The first ten seconds of this song are incredibly engaging, locking you in a chorus pulsed by pumping synth riffs before dropping you down to a cool, diffusive atmosphere. And then the best part and critical pivot point of the song occurs as the phone rings and the chorus bursts again, with “Hold on, I’m calling back…”
3. All I Want by LCD Soundsystem, This Is Happening
I apologize, I am a fan of ridiculously lengthy confessional pieces and among my favorites are those by James Murphy, particularly “All My Friends,” off of Sound of Silver and now, “All I Want,” the latter of which is more or less the sequel to the former. There’s something quite beautiful about how the sliding guitar riffs just continue blazing through the song, as James Murphy drawls his emotions, barely able to surface the all the noise happening around it.
4. Afraid of Everyone by The National, High Violet
As soon as I heard that this album had Sufjan collaboration, of course I jumped on it. Not that it was totally news to me, since I knew Sufjan had also worked on Boxer as well, but nonetheless “Afraid of Everyone” is the dark, contemplative declarations of a man struggling to get by, with the pressures of family and strangers. Repeatedly, throughout the song, is the mantra: “I don’t have the drugs / I don’t have the drugs to sort this out / sort it out.” Dramatic and melancholy, Berninger’s vocals complement well with Stevens’ water-treading, softly howling additons.
5. Meet Me In the Basement by Broken Social Scene, Forgiveness Rock Record
Upon receiving Forgiveness, I sadly knew deep inside that Broken Social Scene would never make something like You Forgot It In People ever again, having made “Stars and Sons” my personal theme song for quite a while. But listening to “Meet Me In the Basement” was like having a four minute long “holy shit” trip. There is such a feeling of crisis and overwhelming emotion that resides in a way that restored my hope in Broken Social Scene and in my opinion, it’s what really makes Forgiveness the album that it stands for.
6. You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Me by Lou Rawls, All Things In All Time
I promise you, I do not listen to this song as a joke. Having reviewed this song in an earlier article, I’ll only reiterate this: the song is a tale of emotional tragedy with groovy beats. Also, try your best not to turn it on when you’ve got your indie hipster friends over to play Mafia. It doesn’t work. They’ll try to beat your iPod to pieces. I say this from experience.
7. All Along the Watchtower by Bob Dylan, John Wesley Harding
This song is perfect for when one needs a dose of Dylan’s exquisite songwriting: “There must be some way out of here / said the joker to the thief / There’s too much confusion / I can’t get no relief.” Against it all, wails the relentless harmonica. For a different taste, you might also be into the Jimi Hendrix cover of this song.
9. Silver by Echo and the Bunnymen, Ocean Rain
Ian McCulloch is literally the shit. For those of you who got into Echo and the Bunnymen because of the “Killing Moon,” which was featured on Donnie Darko, this song, is in many ways, just as great for McCulloch’s flawlessly dynamic vocals and fluttering orchestral components that build the momentum of the song.
10. Me and Mrs. Jones by Billy Paul, 360 Degrees of Billy Paul
Ah yes, the perils of the extramarital affair. The song is precious, always seeming to threaten to fall into the abyss, with the deceivingly delicate instrumentation and Paul’s emotional narration. He really loses it in the end though; it can’t be emphasized enough the difficulty of a situation that has little future.
11. Rise Above by The Dirty Projectors, Rise Above
It’s a song about exhaustion, a real “world-dragging-at–your-knees” type of deal. It’s a fairly quiet song, except at moments when Dave Longstreth’s vocals rise, demanding your attention. It’s a song you listen to when you don’t quite know what to do, given everything that’s happened.