Sunday, December 22, 2013

2013 Winter Solstice Playlist 

Image by Benoit Courti via This is Colossal

This is actually a sextodecimo plus eight - you know, for the kids… In an effort to play appropriately seasonal music without the treacle or kitsch you might so often hear in our temples of retail and coffee I have assembled the following concoction. How many gluten-free, low-calorie, vegan, shade-grown, dolphin-friendly treats can you enjoy in December? Well, here's one.

Listen at Rdio (subscription required).

Or download from here.

Tracklist is as follows: 

Sound and Vision - David Bowie (2013)
David Bowie is waiting for the gift of Sound and Vision - but this remix is shows some gifts just keep giving.

Wintermezzo - Gonzales
Perhaps like me you use to work to music. Perhaps the music was loud and blaring. My brain is aging and I can no longer concentrate while simultaneously listening to music with vocals. Enter Mr. Gonzales and his instrumental albums of solo piano. My brain thanks you.

Snowflake Music - Mark Mothersbaugh
Wintery music that isn't Vince Guaraldi.

Piranhas are a Very Tricky Species - Mark Mothersbaugh
Also from the Rushmore soundtrack and a natural companion piece to the previous track. Careful not to cut yourself if in the kitchen whilst this plays.

Unsquare Dance - Dave Brubeck
It's funny how often you hear Brubeck during the holidays, as if Jazz were more acceptable in coffee shops in December. This classic is the stand in for “plans in motion” montages in films that are so inclined.

The Secret Marriage - Sting
Sometimes big rock stars need to make an ambitious (pretentious?) double album upon which a brief sparely arranged song hides behind stacks of keyboard racks and drum kits. This is that song.

Faithful Heights - The Night Beds
It's pretty easy to get lost sometimes. Especially at this time of year. Here is a simple directive; if you get lost, I'll be there.

Weather Systems - Andrew Bird
December weather, right? You never know what you're going to get. Weather patterns are so complex that not even a quantum computer could accurately calculate whether or not there will be rain in Brighton next Tuesday. People are like that too, except more so. Keep that in mind.

String Quartet in F major: II. Assez vif. Très rythmé - Maurice Ravel
How do composers name this compositions anyway? Try something catchier sometime? This is another piece of music that shows up in the movies when “things get a brewin' etc.” but usually just the first few seconds are heard and this deserves more than that.

Wally Balou in Times Square - Bob and Ray
Whenever I hear Bob and Ray I think, “oh, people were funny in the 60s?” just like when you see colour photographs from the 1940s, as if the world before then was Dorothy-in-Kansas-Black-&-White. The absurdity of a “cranberry man ” not knowing any uses for cranberries almost hides the comedy of the background sounds.

Someone You'd Admire - Fleet Foxes
Which will you be? Someone admirable or a big jerk?

Symphonia IX (My Wait is U) - Grimes
Oh, Canada has its own magic eccentric electronic music pixie? Her stage name is Grimes. I think this makes Canada the new Iceland.

Wondaland - Janelle Monáe
This song seems such a mash-up of ideas, evoking Alice Through the Looking Glass, summer fairgrounds and winter wonderland magic that it’s surprising others haven’t annexed into their own seasonal interpretations. Think of it as a witty take on all of the above. Word play, well played.

Balikbayan - Ohbijou
Balikbayan is the Filipino term for the shipments back to home to help out family. After the disastrous typhoon that wreaked tragedy on the Philippines this seems more appropriate than ever.

Gobbledigook - Sigur Ros
Not once in my life have I understood a Sigur Rós song, yet I guess you always understand the emotional meaning. I think this one will make doing the dishes happen a little faster. Careful not to break anything in the process.

Ragtime - Neko Case
Ms. Case sings about how the snow in the city always falls sideways, and that it projects from the light posts. I have to stop getting meteorological information from musicians.

Re: Stacks - Bon Iver
It wouldn’t be a wintery playlist without a sad breakup lullaby from Bon Iver’s Emma, Forever Ago, would it?

Rough and Tumble - The Rural Alberta Advantage
For some reason, the spirit of this song reminds of me when I was a teen-ager and of those stolen moments during the holidays with friends, away from family, forming into a person.

Sister Winter - Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens writes a good Christmas song and this is the only explicit seasonal song in this playlist (pats back gently) so suck it up and have a happy Christmas you hopelessly ironic unsentimental hipster.

A Pagan Place - The Waterboys
I suppose a smart ass friend has told you a thousand times that Christmas was a pagan holiday that early Christians appropriated. I suppose you’ve told them a thousand times you don’t really care. But what could be more pagan than the current hedonistic version of this time of year when conspicuous consumption and the idolatry of money are at their zenith. There, was that enough $5 words to justify including a tune from one of my favourite angsty albums I played ad infinitum when I was a teen?

Someone Great - LCD Soundsystem
This year we lost a lot of Great Someones. In fact, I'm willing to call it the Year of Lost Great Someones. I'm thinking of them all at once right now so I'll have to stop typing.

Feels Like We only Go Backwards
I heard this song the night Daylight Savings ended and clocks, mostly controlled by invisible Internet forces, were set back an hour so it really did feel like we were only going backwards.

Sound and Vision (1999 remaster) - David Bowie
This song is so nice, I played it twice.

Rue St. Vincent - Yves Montand
Yes, another song from Rushmore. It's funny but I don't think of it as a “holiday” movie per se. Yet here we are with a sad little song about a woman named Rose who had such a pretty face beneath a fur hat. It sounds better in French. It also sounds better in a quiet house when a busy day that starts with such a ruckus ends with such a murmur.

For the bonus round trivial question, can you name the songs and or artists in this playlist employed in ads for mobile phones this year (hint: there were three and the companies were Sony, Samsung and Blackberry).

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