It’s been a while. Summer is finally here and I urge to be outside. Even as I write this, the nearby frogs’ nightly croaking beckons. Yet I am bound by contract to this desk for another quintet of sevennights – but fear ye not! They will soon be over, and I will be free.
A taste of freedom is also one of the diverse and exotic flavors featured in the playlist I arranged for my 25th birthday. It’s not a party playlist though. It’s a little tradition of mine that started when I was 19 and suggested to the girl I was seeing at the time that we trade lists of our twenty top tracks.* We thought it would be a fun way to get to know each other more, and it was. But for me it was something else; a way of taking an album-sized snapshot of my current taste in music, across moods and genres. I decided to revise that list every year and see how it would evolve.
The results are publicly available on my Spotify account, now including the brand-new “24”:
I’m great at titles. Hopefully I’m even better at loose playlist commentary, because that’s what I’m about to write. I’m not gonna strictly go track-by-track, cause I don’t have that much to say, but ya know. I’mma share some thoughts.
So get your headphones ready, for here we go. Or don’t. It’s a long playlist and a short article, it’s not like they’re gonna line up in any sort of meaningful way.
I don’t remember where I found this gem, but it is magnificent in its eeriness and despair.
Since I don’t speak Norwegian, this one is just great D&D music to me. I’ve listened to it tons of times planning sessions, and a few lucky times it came on during field work when it was just about to start raining. Epic.
YAAI DIRIDIRI DAI DAIDADAII~ What a voice! And he’s got a point, you know.
TRACK 04 & 05:
Now that the mood is set, we get to the juicy part. Some twisted sexuality stuff. Most of the time my taste in music is not primarily lyrically driven. Maybe because English is not my first language, who knows. This year, however, I strongly relate to most of the lyrics; even the ones in both these songs, despite the stark contrast between their perspectives.
This is where I need to mention a playlist that I am thankful every day to have stumbled across. There hasn’t been anything in a long time that has hit me where this playlist by Spotify user hex✨ has hit me. I don’t know hex✨, but I’ve entered into this intimate relationship with their playlist where sometimes I don’t even remember whether I discovered a song on there or whether I already knew it and was just pleased to find it represented. Poetically speaking, listening to it kinda feels like being part of a strange metaphysical writer’s room, where minds merge and ideas interlace. Riding on waves of synergy. And stuff. It’s a really decent playlist. It’s even got tape sounds in the beginning and end, which is just… true craftsmanship.
It also has Track 04, which is why I’m bringing it up now. And I could swear it had Track 05 as well at some point, though it doesn’t right now. Maybe I’m imagining things. Either way, shoutout to hex✨. What you’ve arranged in that playlist, that’s art right there.**
I’ve never seen Hadestown, I just found it listening to some random Ani DiFranco stuff. Since then I’ve kept coming back to the album though. It’s great all the way through. My top tracks besides “Why We Build the Wall” are “Wedding Song” and “Our Lady of the Underground”. I especially admire how the lyrics of the first two are constructed along these strict symmetries and repetitions and how that ends up sounding not only crisp and clear but also elegant and – despite what one might expect – organic. And the third one is just Ani DiFranco absolutely killing it.
Notice how we’re contrasting separatism with affection and support? I know, I know. You’re welcome.
TRACK 08 & 10 & 13:
There is a tendency in this playlist towards lengthy tracks with slow burning instrumentals. That was my thing this past year. It’s always been to some degree, but the list at hand is undeniably the longest in its series to date. “The Siren” is not only long but it’s one of those few songs I absolutely have to base a D&D session around some day. Seriously, listen to those lyrics and tell me you’re not inspired.
TRACK 09 & 11:
“Panic Attack” comes directly from hex✨’s list, and “Agoraphobia” (a song that hits differently after recently learning how uncomfortable it can feel to walk the streets after some of the COVID restrictions have been lifted) counts as a second-degree find, since I think I’d never really looked into Autoheart before “Stalker’s Tango”.
And now for something completely different; “Stress” is an exact representation of my work life. Except I don’t drink coffee. The rest is 100% accurate.
TRACK 14 & 15:
The western phase. When I started my selection, 108 tracks had amassed over the year, and there was a whole bunch of folk-adjacent stuff in there. “Gallows Pole” I think I listened to most. I really like this version, and I like that there’s different ones out there with alterations to the plot. “Running” is featured on the soundtrack for The Walking Dead, which is a nice fit since I’ve been rewatching the show, showing it to my sister.***
If this were an actual album, this would be the main track. The first single. It’s pretty much my song of the year.
Afaik, Reignwolf wrote this one specifically about the feeling of being stuck inside during COVID. He captures it pretty well I think.
More long yet energetic songs to close it off. “Be Safe” was one of the last tracks to make the selection, ultimately winning a close battle against “Wisdom” by Mother Mother, “Your Voice, As I Remember It” by AJJ, and “Relax” by Huxlxy. “Be Safe” always brings back that car scene from Never Back Down, maybe that gave it an edge. It also provides a fitting end, with a positive outlook and a sense of calm acceptance of the past.
My own outlook has recently been brightened by my best friend, who you know as Art Science, announcing that he will be focusing on his first name rather than his last for some time from August on as well. This means that we will not only be staying together for a few months as we’d already planned, but will likely undertake some creative projects and/or journeys together. I don’t think I could ask for better fuel.
In case you gave it a listen, I hope you enjoyed the playlist – and I hope you too can come to terms with the unspeakable deeds of your past and look ahead.
* Shoutout to K. You’re awesome, and I hope you’re well.
** I just had a look at some of their other playlists, and they actually mention their tumblr username in one of the descriptions, which lead me to their blog. Which I can’t view or comment on cause I’m not on tumblr. I should find someone with an account who can extend my thanks to them.
*** I’d thrown in the towel mid-season 8 on my first attempt, but thanks to my sister we’ve made it past 8 and I gotta say, season 9 is not bad so far. I’m actually hooked, and I hope we get to catch up with the show before I leave in August.