Much of my 2020 listening has taken place in the morning. I’ve been waking up way earlier than usual, and often pop in headphones for a calming soundtrack to those opening moments of the day. Unfortunately, this means I’m unwinding and relaxing before the actual workday starts — then doomscrolling and checking swing state polls after dinner when I really should be unwinding and relaxing. But oh well.
If you’re anything like me, and need a nice morning playlist, here are a few faves.
First Light: “Sunrise instrumentals for your morning coffee, stretch, or meditation.” This one is expertly curated by legendary music supervisor Liza Richardson — best known for her needle drops on The Leftovers, Friday Night Lights, Watchmen, and now HBO’s Lovecraft Country.
Ezra Koenig’s Mellow Morning. Vampire Weekend’s frontman put together this sweet selection of tunes ranging from a Belle & Sebastian gem to “Ultralight Beam” to Bill Withers and the Grateful Dead.
Laura Marling’s Sunday Morning mix. A meditative mix — made for iconic music blog Gorilla vs. Bear — featuring Big Thief, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Serge Gainsbourg, Paul Simon, and Roberta Flack alongside a few classical pieces.
Throw it back…to 2008? I’ve previously shared Matthew Perpetua’s “survey mixes,” comprehensive playlists for every year of the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. Now, he’s focusing on shorter, more specific musical timelines: “The New Indie” (TV On The Radio, Animal Collective, Lykke Li, etc.) and “Indietronica” (M83, Purity Ring, Grimes, etc.) are fun nostalgia trips to the recent past.
For more recent throwbacks from another top-notch playlister, here’s an “Older Millennial Instant Party Starter” from Ernest Wilkins, creator of the Office Hours newsletter. It’s a fun mix of hits from the late ‘90s and early aughts — with “No Scrubs,” “Dip It Low,” “Candy Shop,” and plenty of Sean Paul, Usher, and Mariah.
The Killers are back. I’m a noted defender of some maligned Killers albums (Battle Born is good, seriously) but their 2017 record was a real dud. Fortunately, the band is back on track with Imploding The Mirage, a great album full of Brandon Flowers’ trademark ridiculous lyrics (“Can you find heaven in a wildflower?”) but also his soaring-as-ever vocals. The band has clearly been rejuvenated by working with Shawn Everett — producer of A Deeper Understanding, the sweeping, Springsteen-y album from indie rockers The War on Drugs. Standout track “My Own Soul’s Warning” basically sounds like “what if Brandon Flowers was the lead singer of The War on Drugs,” and I’m not complaining.
Culture writer Sam Donsky (@danceremix) ranked his top 50 Brandon Flowers songs, encompassing Killers hits and b-sides, as well as Flowers’ solid solo career. Plenty of hot takes in here for fans to debate (“Read My Mind” isn’t in the top 40? “Dreams Come True” at number 1?) and lots of deep cuts to surprise you as you shuffle around.
3 songs to stream
Follow the Hear Hear playlist for an ongoing list of all songs featured in this newsletter.
This supergroup of jazz, soul, and hip-hop legends released a great EP in July, and this standout track is beautiful and mesmerizing. As Bruce Warren writes for XPN, it “has a distinctly warm 70s soul vibe, and is in the vein of song you’d find on an album by Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions, juxtaposed with lyrics about the Black plight against systemic racism and police brutality.”
This song is a perfect fusion of Disclosure’s slinky, spazzy beats with the smooth vocals of Kehlani and Syd. On repeat right now.
Rising star Amber Mark strips the saxophone from Haim’s Lou Reed homage and adds a driving beat, turning it into a danceable, thrilling end-of-summer bop.
NPR put together a timeline of this year’s protest music, paired with a running Spotify playlist. You’ll recognize a few from past issues (Noname’s “Song 33,” SAULT’s “Wildfires”) and I’ve added a few standouts to the Hear Hear playlist from Leon Bridges and Terrace Martin, Anderson Paak, Beyoncé, and Amber Mark.
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