Playlists for: Focusing, Dancing, Discovering
+ Jessie Reyez, Diet Cig, The 1975, Del Water Gap
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It’s been interesting to see how everybody listens during quarantine — some need a bedroom dance party, some need to zone out and drift away, some explore classic albums, some lean back on nostalgic favorites. If you’re anything like me, you need different things for different days, so here are a few functional links:
If you need a dance party: The New Yorker’s Rachel Syme curated this crowdsourced “Dance The Pain Away” playlist, asking people for songs that “make you move even if you are feeling like hot garbage.” It has over 600 tracks from ABBA, The Bee Gees, Britney Spears, Cyndi Lauper and many more.
If you need instrumentals for focusing: Phoebe Bridgers put together a “there are no words” playlist with calming tunes from Grouper, Brian Eno, Nils Frahm, Elliott Smith and more. The NYT wrote about why Eno’s brand of ambience is fitting for these uneasy times, with a playlist of his 15 essential tracks. (I’ve been using Eno’s 17-minute “1/1” as my go-to focus song since senior year of college.)
If you need a podcast: Dissect is back with Season 6 analyzing Beyoncé’s masterpiece, Lemonade. If you’re unfamiliar with the pod, host Cole Cuchna takes a modern classic (past seasons covered DAMN, Flower Boy, Blonde, and more) and dissects the album, track-by-track, one episode at a time.
If you need an artist deep-dive: The Ringer’s Sean Fennessey put together this mix of his essential Beastie Boys tracks, just in time for the new Spike Jonze documentary.
If you’re feeling nostalgic: Billboard compiled this list of the Top 50 Minivan Rock songs, defining minivan rock as “turn-of-the-millennium-guitar pop” — think Gavin DeGraw, Sugar Ray, Michelle Branch, Avril Lavigne, you know the drill. They wrote about all 50 songs here.
If you want to listen for a good cause: The Song is Coming from Inside The House is a 24-track compilation album (featuring Ratboys, Kevin Krauter, Lala Lala, Goth Babe and more) with all proceeds going to Groundswell’s Rapid Response Fund, benefitting underserved communities in this critical moment. Buy it on Bandcamp, which recently held another Covid-19 fundraiser for artists.
New Songs to Stream
Jessie Reyez. On album standouts “Coffin” and “Imported,” Reyez, a rising star from Canada, pairs her bubbly voice alongside moody beats with shades of doo-wop for a clever, unique R&B sound. I missed her new album in March, but fortunately, David Byrne featured four of her tracks on his latest playlist. Skip “Coffin” if you have a low tolerance for Eminem guest verses. (Meanwhile, “Imported” features a welcome appearance from the smooth vocals of 6LACK.)
Diet Cig. I’ve been impressed by the playful pop-punk of Diet Cig since their buzzy debut in 2015, but never listened on repeat. That is, until this new album, which is captivating from the opening track, “Thriving.” The full record is worth a front-to-back listen, but I particularly enjoyed the fuzzy ambition of “Broken Body” and the sing-song melody of “Who Are You.” (Ever-so-slightly reminiscent of Fall Out Boy’s “Grand Theft Autumn.”)
The 1975. Everyone and their mother is talking about The 1975 these days, but the hype is warranted for their latest two singles. The unbearably titled “Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America” is a soft strummer, with backup vocals from — who else? — Phoebe Bridgers, apparently loaning the horns from her last single. On the more upbeat side, “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)” is an arena-ready anthem, echoing the beat of Tears For Fears “Everybody Wants to Rule The World.”
Del Water Gap. A nice new single from DWG adds a layer of Bleachers-esque danceability to their catchy folk-rock sound.
Finally, Jordan Peele’s production company slowed down a song (Wilson Pickett’s “Land of 1000 Dances”) for a trailer again. And it’s great again. (Don’t watch if you’re easily spooked.)