Have I ever confessed to watching “Nashville”? “Nashville” is one of those weird shows that combine kind of good acting, great soundtracks and bonkers Daily Soap-storylines and therefore are a guilty pleasure but with more production quality. Well, due to Nashville and some love for earthy country artists, I have realized in the last 5-10 years that there is country out there that is actually pretty good. And Yola Carter’s EP “Orphan Offering” is the best kind of country you can and should listen to. “Fly Away” has this lovely Rock’n’Roll twist that bands like Aerosmith and even Led Zep (with their unplugged set) incorporated in the 80s. Carter’s voice is insane and she has this deep rooted “Banjo duel”-vibe in her songs that I can’t help but get slightly wistful about, staring out of my window in my Berlin tower block apartment and wondering whether I should work on a farm in the midwest. Of course, I shouldn’t. I weigh about 90 pounds, I don’t even lift and I love to sleep in but for these few minutes, I want to fly away and breathe that fresh country air. Lovely.
As one of those horrible SJW, one of those politically correct “Gutmenschen”, I obviously watched John Oliver’s farewell to this year which felt quite amazing. And since I am right now working on the playlist of my last radio show for the year, I decided to – a once in a lifetime occasion – also recreate it on this blog because as of late I am not really doing playlists in my show anymore but concentrate on whole records. You get something out of it because I usually write about one or both of the albums I present in the show.
But a December show should have some feeling of closure to itself and I think the best closure that we can get is being done with this year.
Don’t get me wrong, on a private level, this year was as good as they come. But I am not just a private person who doesn’t care about politics because I know that politics have the unfortunate habit of creeping into your life at some point.
So, here it is. My sad, angry, petty playlist to break up with 2016. Enjoy.
Beyonce – Don’t hurt yourself
I first heard the song at the EMAs (you know, when it was supposed to be all about Rihanna but then Beyoncè was like ‘Nah, not gonna happen’ and slayed EVERYTHING!) The song was written by Jack White which is one of those fun facts that leave no surprise whatsoever when you hear it. That’s one hell of a Jack White-song. But it’s also one hell of a Beyoncè-song. And even if I never know how much of her music is amazing marketing research and how much is the real Beyoncè Knowles, it doesn’t matter with “Lemonade”. It’s an amazing piece of art (including the video).
I also would like to note that the poem at the beginning is by Warsan Shire. The whole concept would carry a lot less impact without her work. The quote at the end is Martin Luther King talking about black women. When I talk about pop being where art comes together for everyone, I am talking about this album.
Beyoncè – Sorry
Ok, I actually won’t post other artists with more than one song. But this album defined serving tea and serving it hot and this song will probably be as often cited as “Single Ladies” because it is all the ‘tude and a hat full.
By the way: one of the reason why Beyoncè reigned over Rihanna this year was the fact how she and her dancers don’t feel like they’re really there for the male gaze. It’s obviously sexy but it’s also powerful and strong. I actually think we can thank Nicki Minaj for this newfound aggressive sexuality because that girl mastered it long before “Lemonade”.
Kelis – Caught out there
Kelis was a real revelation when she appeared at the beginning of the 21st century. Wanderland is so underrated, it’s a crime. Her song “Caught out there” is one of the few mainstream pop songs that are really really angry and loud. No whistled “I miss you” but just an angry woman with a stellar voice speaking out what we feel (about whomever, there’s always someone..).
Sinead O’Connor – Red Football
Fun Fact about me: for a while I was completely obsessed with Sinead O’Connor’s album “Universal Mother”. I love pretty much every song on it. “Red Football” is fantastic because the image of how you can feel in a loveless relationship – a crocodile in a small cage people throw stones at – is so on point and sad that there’s no need any further explanation why the song slowly evolves into an angry hymn for the hurt that no longer accept being hurt.
“I’m not no animal, though I am to you” – no matter what the gossip pages write, never forget how beyond this world O’Connor’s songwriting is.
Pat Benatar – hit me with your best shot
A truly successful playlist needs to have mood shifts (except party songs, get those f***ers up through the roof), otherwise it gets either too sad or too chill and then you loose the listener. So, here’s one of my famous breaks which is actually not such a big break from O’Connor’s song because Pat equally is done with X’s shit and will not get hurt anymore. I actually love this because it’s genderless, so you can sing it for every occasion. The barista is an ass? Sing it. The barista is actually really nice and asks what you want? This song doubles as a coffee order!
That’s an outfit. Wow.
Courtney Barnett – Pedestrian at best
I thought I add some of those kinda songs in there for when you break up and feel like a bad bitch (heck, I started with Beyoncè, so obviously that was my plan all along). Barnett’s song actually sounds more like 2016 being a dick to us but I still allow it because I feel like Courtney looks in the video whenever someone makes a joke about how it’s fun to see what Trump will do now. I really want to punch those people…
Nadine Shah – Fool
Remember, when we all thought all of these lyrics when Farage and Johnson started to talk about Brexit and when Trump said….well…basically anything? But then those things still happened to us, so who’s the fool now? I will still add this song because I feel like we should treat this year like a douche who didn’t know better, so the coming years don’t think that we pull up with this crap.
I’d also like to add that Nadine Shah’s is the one voice that haunted me this year. Look at her, what an “Erscheinung” (we say this in German when we talk about someone who leaves an impression…a good one).
Against Me! – fuckmylife666
Laura Jane Grace is a blessing for the LGBTQ community because she is popular, doesn’t shy away from talking about those probably quite painful experiences before she called herself “Laura Jane” over and over again just to help other trans people with their experience and first and foremost, she gives hope for everyone who thought that Caitlyn Jenner will be THE spokesperson for trans issues for ever. Because…that wouldn’t be good…at all.
Martha Wainwright – Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole
Legend says that this song is about Martha’s father (Loudon Wainwright) who was at times not the best of fathers. However autobiographical this song is, it is still so universal as a feminist theme. I feel like it more than ever is appropriate because this year, so much shit happened that we can all finally be loud and angry without being asked to be quieter, to not attack anyone, to be softer with our pain, to not be aggressive, to be careful that no one’s feelings get hurt. Oh no, never hurt the feelings of the racists and the sexists and the homophobes and the bloody mother fucking assholes of this world.
Angel Olsen – UnfucktheWorld
If you like alternative singer/songwriters, you have to listen to Angel Olsen. She’s a revelation. The song is super sad but also suggests that you can and should be your own person with or without someone else. So I guess with this weird analogy of breaking up with 2016 that I created it would mean that you’re still you after all of this?
Fleetwood Mac – Landslide
I love this song (not as much as “Rihannon” but still) because it’s such a sad and lovely song about change that is necessary even if all of your heart is against it. The great Stevie Nicks wrote this song when she was thinking whether she should go back to school or stay in Fleetwood Mac with her beau (and a rocky relationship).
Laurie Anderson – Slip Away
Ok, people. This will be the saddest song on this playlist, so if you easily cry because of beautiful songs, it will be now or never. “Slip Away” is not just about a breakup but losing someone to death. This song is about Anderson’s father. I think a song about how fast loss will sneak into your life, even when you expect it, is relatable to pretty much everyone.
Kate Bush – watching you without me
As usual with Kate Bush, the lyrics of this song are obvious and just out of your grasp. Personally, I would interpret it as someone realizing that their relationship has turned into two people living next to each other, being strangers, being invisible. It’s an incredibly moving song, the idea of the ghost being unable to see the narrator, the unloved, is…haunting.
Celebration – Heartbreak
Are they really as good live as they are on record? Yes, they are. Celebration are the secret tip that never got as big as it should have gotten. I still wish them to stardom because this band has released one beautiful album after the other without any loss of quality, creativity and drive. The song has this lovely feel of a crooked church hymn, I love it.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Maps
During my endless years of singledom, I felt this song deeply. It’s actually about the already covered topic of a waning relationship but it also felt – for me – like a song for someone you’ll never get to know because they simply don’t see you. Like, 2016, we wanted to love you, but that thing with Alan Rickman was really hard.
Laura Mvula – Make me lovely
I feel like this is one of those song I always try to sneak into everything I do music-wise. But gosh, it’s such a great song. And it’s so emancipated! I already wrote this but whatever, we need this kind of music that is heartbroken but not broken. Laura writes and sings about someone who lost so much and feels the pain but knows that they are no lesser person because of this. THIS is what we need for 2017. We are not lost, yet.
Oh, those pesky apocalypses, they always happen unannounced and whilst fighting zombies, rogue street gangs and mutated monster-animals, you never have the time to pick the right playlist for your iPocalypse. But fret no more because I assembled a nice and atmospheric list of songs that conjure up the doom and dust and weariness that quite possibly soon will be our constant companion.
By the way, most of these songs will lean more towards metal/rock because you need the muscular kicks of a rocksong to gather up your strength for the hordes of alien creatures that have destroyed the earth. Oh, and these choices will be super subjective and sometimes even random, so don’t even bother to complain about lack of congruence both in song choices and text.
Clutch – The Regulator
I still don’t know why rap and metal was such a big deal in the 90s and early 2000s (and I rode that wave as well…) whilst the much more beautiful combination of blues and metal never gained that much momentum. Well, gladly, that didn’t keep awesome bands from keeping true to it and gladly so, because otherwise we wouldn’t have this insanely fitting song by the alt-beasts Clutch who not only provide a good soundtrack but also look like the bunch of people you want in your gang when you face herds of the undead.
Yeah, I am turning 30 today which is awesome because I think that my twenties were a hot mess and probably the main reason why I am not making enough money, am not already famous and haven’t yet moved out of the land (Germany) where “from rags to polyester” is the big dream.
So, to honor this day – which I probably will celebrate with a Disney-movie, a bath and a cake that I will eat on my own – I spent the last two weeks racking my brains over 30 songs that I absolutely adore which also means that the following songs most likely have been featured on this blog before because I like nothing more than redundancy. Yay, redundancy!
Disclaimer: There are some artists missing that I absolutely adore for the simple reason that I picked favourite songs that really stayed with me for a very long time and popped up over and over again throughout my life. Even a great song sometimes doesn’t do that, simply because it’s often a combination of context, song quality and personal associations that can signify a favourite song. And I would have made the list longer but then it wouldn’t fit the theme of this entry anymore and no, I won’t let that happen!
Hey Y’all! So, it’s getting hot out there, hot and sunny which makes my pasty white skin crinkle in terror. But the sunlight is healthy for you, provides vitamins and endorphins and people somehow look more attractive during summer (yes, sure, there are also more crazy people in the streets during summer but nothing’s ever perfect, now, is it?)
To celebrate this, I thought I put my own spin on the obnoxious habit of music journalists to get their own summer-hits-list up and will try to update it whenever I find another song that might fit the golden rules of the summer song:
THE GOLDEN RULES OF THE PERFECT SUMMER SONG:
1.) It shall be upbeat!
It doesn’t have to be one of those dance-monsters that make you sweat through every pore and shake all the booties you’ve got but it should be enough to make you wiggle your tail a little and consider getting up and shaking that thang if only for a bit. It shan’t be dreary, though (sorry Lana del Ray).
2.) It shall be uplifting (lyrics excepted)
Hey, this is summer and we want to feel great! So if this song sounds sad or depressing, it won’t get on this list. However, lyrical sadness in a sea of uplifting melodies is allowed, so if any band plans to put out yet another happy song about a school shooting – you’re welcome to do so!
Let’s do this!
Lucius “Turn it around”
This was one of the first songs to get me out of the winter-slump, so it obviously deserves to be here. And despite the fact that this band is also smashing in a live setting, they are simply amazing songwriters and very worthy of the first spot on this list.
Sylvan Esso “Hey Mami”
Nick and Amelia are the perfect pop-duo because they combine music-nerdom, humor and an open love for pop-music which results in an endearing mixture of 90s dance-music and 40s a cappella-music, AND you can imagine yourself dancing to this kind of music till the early morning hours. Also: these two are absolutely amazeballs live and Amelia’s dancing is awesome.
Kishi Bashi “Philosophize in it! chemicalize with it!
This guy! It’s super difficult to hear this song and not jump up and dance or move in any way because this song is so joyful and full of glee that it makes Spongebob look like a depressed goth writing poems about Edgar Allen Poe.
The War on Drugs “Red Eyes”
In case you like pop but also love swaying with a melancholy swagger and pretend you’re Morrissey, this song is the perfect choice! The War on Drugs keeps being one of the coolest 80s bands that didn’t even exist in the 80s.
Temples “Shelter Song”
For a band that looks like the Noel Fielding-look alike-contest, these guys surprisingly make no weird electro music with outlandish lyrics but instead do very heavy psychedelic pop directly lifted from the 60s. It helps that the intro sounds like every second song from that era (plus the “Friends”-intro) and that the drums are perfect for clapping along (if you are into that kind of thing). So, let’s get naked and dance on a field of flowers!
Against Me! “Unconditional Love”
I think this list totally lacked of a good song for fist-pumping into the air. So here’s this amazing punkrock-band delivering a song that has the Bowie-swagger of “Suffragette City”, an easy to memorize message (very good for any planned demonstrations on marriage rights et al) and just a very fun and energetic song all in all with a melody that will be stuck in your head for weeks. “Is this pop?”, you might ask and I will reply: “It is, because I want it on my playlist!”
Magic Man “Swampy Seconds”
Yes, Rock’n’ Roll to save the day! If you want to shake your ass like it never has been shook before, this is the perfect song to do so, particularly as it has one of those amazing choruses where everyone in the room can go completely bat-shit crazy and just move every limp without any coordination.
Remember 2007/2008, when every cool song was this fuzzy distorted electro-sound that made Nu Rave a new-found religion? Well, Heartsrevolution apparently put this in a mixer together with Stacie Q’s smash hit “Two Hearts” and turned it into a lovely, whimsical love-song that sounds messy but is catchy enough to push you onto the dancefloor.
to be continued…
I really shouldn’t compile this list because there’s been enough stories where the protagonist’s acquaintance gets sucked into a realm of madness after listening to very specific, dark music. But then again, the narrator usually gets out alive to tell the tale in vague “beyond explainable”-descriptions, so why not gorge in the fun that is music about and inspired by sea monsters, otherworldly realms and transcendental weirdness!?
Oh, and just for your information: I try to stay clear of the obvious choices of bands generally dedicated to Lovecraft or all the metal/gothic bands that sing about this stuff. If I like one of those songs, it will be included but I try to stick with the fun indie-choices because that’s how I roll!
Mountain Goats – Lovecraft in Brooklyn
Lovecraft was actually miserable in New York. He moved there with his wife and complained a lot about it in his stories via his narrators. It was all the buzzing Hipster-life that got him down because he probably expected brooding, anachronistic poets that slouched through the street instead of partying creative types. He was the “Amadeus”-Salieri of the artistic scene.
The Vaselines – Lovecraft
You know, given that Lovecraft was a shut-in and that Poe himself also was kind of sickly, I wonder whether the premise of the typical horror-writer is being a total nerd and social outsider, so you can dwell alone at home and conjure up those weird stories. But then again, Stephen King seems kind of open and I am quite sure that Mary Shelley was a hoot, so maybe just some of those horror writers – as with all artists – thought that they totally should be miserable all the time to really FEEL their art, man…
Lovecraft – Royal Jelly
This is a little puzzling because the title actually refers to one of the coolest short stories Roald Dahl ever wrote who was not just the author for many beloved children’s books (seriously, on my ongoing quest to ask musicians about their favourite books as kids, Dahl is the No.1 answer) but also wrote some smashing horror short stories. “Royal Jelly” is one of my earliest memories of his stories because it is terrifying and awesome. I don’t want to spoil, so feel free to look it up yourself.
PS: There is another band called “Lovecraft” (or maybe it’s the same, they do sound very different, though) who released the album “Lovecraft USA” in the year 1999 and it’s a real cool, real 90s-alt-pop-sounding gem.
Charles the Osprey – Lovecraft! Smile!
Seriously, H.P. was a real downer and given his many, many sad-faced narrators you would probably not want to spend time with him too much because he would just go on and on about how everything was better 500 years ago and how the modern world is just horrible and full of Philistines and stupid immigrants…urgh, never invite Lovecraft to your parties, people!
The Beach Monsters – Cthulhu Candy
Oh man, looking for a song about Cthulhu (another clue that Lovecraft was kind of a dick is the way he spelled his monsters – it’s like the old-timey version of spelling a name extra-difficult only to stand out of the crowd), is horrible. First, there’s a lot of Electro stuff (but the one that is kind of boring) and then there’s bands like Cradle of Filth, Sulphur Aeon, Arkham Inmate, Vredehammer, Beastwars and Wormfood and you just know how they sound like by reading their name (and I listened, they sound exactly like that). It was not a pleasure to find something that was a little different. We need more Miley Cyrus and Justin Timberlake-songs about Cthulhu, people!
Blue Oyster Cult – The old gods return
Ok, so here is your hardrock/metal-mania.
I always liked the idea of old, archaic entities slumbering in the depths of this world only to cause havoc when awoken. I think, when it comes to a religious/mythological worldview, the image of a morally ambiguous, maybe even dangerous god always appealed more to me because it strikes me more true when looking at nature and, well, human nature. Only in daydreams, of course, because I am a scientific person by heart and therefore generally don’t think that a godly entity is a possibility.
There is also a nice psychological fear to it, that all the (apparent) civilized life we build up can be destroyed by a very old, natural being within seconds.
Metallica – the thing that should not be
I think for modern horror – whether in comics, books or movies – Lovecraft was a real gem because he was one of the few horror authors who not only created monsters and ghosts but actually a whole conceptualized world therefore giving many artists a fictitious place to draw from. King obviously was heavily inspired (“Mist” and “From a Buick 8” really drew from this world) but also Clive Barker seems to use a different sphere, a parallel world to draw some of his creatures and characters from (and not just “Hellbound”).
It’s just a weird and incredibly scary thought that it only needs a little crack to let things enter this world that no one could possibly imagine. I am actually currently reading “American Elsewhere” by Robert Jackson Bennett (enjoying it very much) which has this sort of notion but in a completely different direction than King or Barker (I actually wish that King would be able to compile some of his parallel-worlds as successfully as Bennett). And the game “Beyond two souls” also plays a little with the concept of parallel worlds that can reach our own realm of existence.
John Zorn – Reanimator
Careful, this is artsy, jazzy stuff aka super exhausting!
Although I am not too keen on living forever in my body, so the whole reanimation/Frankenstein-stuff doesn’t really appeal to me, I do like the notion of my brain living on in a cool, superstrong robot-suit one day. Make it happen!
John is Gone – Love Reanimator
I always wonder whether I would really react as much in horror if I would see the things that Lovecraft’s protagonists see (and who eventually go crazy…although Poe was even more adamant that you would just end up in an asylum – always). I mean, sure, a brain-eating monster is horrifying but very often, the protagonists just see other creatures that don’t seem to be aggressive or dangerous and just look different and the reader has to rely on the (not very dependable) narrator that they are “ugly beyond explanation”. Are human beings really so horrible that they immediately have to reach for their flamethrower (or in Lovecraft’s case: faint) whenever they see something alien?
I remember watching “Cloverfield” for the first time and wondering whether – despite probably being dead within a few seconds – it wouldn’t also be somewhat amazing to see that this world (or this universe if we consider some origin-theories of the Cloverfield-monster) can create something as huge and epic as this monster. I mean, I guess if I could choose between being hit by a car or being eaten by a gigantic lizard-monster, I would probably choose the lizard-monster just to see something cool before I die.
And look at that little fellow…he is adorbs!
Although Horror-movie-wise, I am usually more scared of ghost-stories, I love me a good monster in a movie. Now, the problem is obviously that it’s hard to come up with a good monster that not only is creepy, has an interesting backstory (or at least hints at an interesting backstory) and hasn’t been regurgitated hundreds of times before. There is also the big messy problem of over-exposure that a lot of directors and their monster-specialists do and that hurts the ultimate result. There’s a pretty nifty movie about a mermaid/siren called “She Creature” (yeah, that’s unintentionally tacky) which has – SPOILER ALERT – a beautiful mermaid morphing into her true form at the end of the movie and half-way through she looks really terrifying and then turns into an overly ambitious, fake-looking weirdo-monster that was supposedly the wet-dream of the mask-designer. Less is more with monsters.
Anyways, after this mini-rant (there will probably be more to come), let’s see what kind of monster-songs I picked to scare you out of your minds!
1. Dead Man’s Bones – My body’s a zombie for you
To be clear here, I could have featured a Dead Man’s Bones-song in each list but didn’t want to overdo it, even though I love this apparently one-off project of Zach Shields and Ryan Gosling. This song is one of my favourite love-songs and it’s a lot of fun to sing.