Friday Playlist: Halloween!

Halloween pumpkins by flickr user Loren JavierBoo! It's Wired For Music's favorite time of year - ever since I can remember, I've been a bigger fan of Halloween than any other day on the calendar (possibly even my own birthday). The combination of pumpkin-flavored things, intentionally-induced fear, and candy is a powerful one. Every year I try to find as many ways to celebrate Halloween as I can - decorating the house with all sorts of cheesy decorations, drinking pumpkin beer, eating way too much candy, watching scary movies, and of course, listening to Halloween-themed music.

I've found a few decent Halloween playlists out there - this one from Flavorwire that I linked to last week is pretty good, and I just saw this one from NPR [UPDATE: that link no longer works, so here's some more Halloween goodness from NPR]. thanks to Public Media Girl. But of course, it wouldn't be Wired For Music if I didn't post my own. So I did.

There are too many tracks in this one for me to do a writeup for each one, so jut know that I pared this list down from the much bigger (over 6 hour) playlist I started compiling last week. The tracks range in tone from funny to silly to scary to pretty to rock-and-rolly-y and back again. Some of them are explicitly about Halloween or other spooky themes, some of them just have a nice creepy sound, and some I just picked for the title alone, even though the content of the song isn't entirely relevant. Still, I think collectively they make for a great Halloween playlist, and I hope you feel the same way.

(While you're listening, check out my guest post for Creative DC about movies to put you in the mood for Halloween.)

What do you like to listen to this time of year? Tell me in the comments. And have a happy Halloween!


Friday Playlist: My Top 20 Tracks From Pitchfork's Top 20 Albums

Pitchfork by flickr user apeteA few week ago, Pitchfork posted their list of the top 20 albums of the aughts. Pitchfork hasn't generated this much excitement since they famously gave "Music" a 6.8 back in 2007. I read through the list several times, and finally decided that my readers shouldn't have to take the time to listen to all 20 of these albums 5 times in a row like I did. As a service to you, dear readers (both of you), I did all the heavy lifting so you can just sit back, relax, and enjoy one track from each of their top 20.

I agonized for some time over which track to choose from each album - should I pick my personal favorite, or a track that best represents the album as a whole, or the one that might be considered the "best" track from each album? The good-looking genius over at Creative DC advised me to pick the song that, if the listener were to die tomorrow, they would be happiest having heard today [Editor's note: I'm paraphrasing, the original was more clever]. So that's what I tried to do.


  1. Interpol - NYC
    This was an easy choice for me. I'm not really too enamored of most of this album (or most Interpol songs for that matter) but this song always manages to worm its my into my brain and stay there for days every time I hear it. I know the lyrics aren't all that fancy (are Interpol's lyrics ever all that fancy?), but there's a certain poetical quality to this song that gets me. And of course it's simple and repetive, and I can't get too much of that.

  2. Spoon - Don't Let It Get You Down
    Lots of great options on this album, but I think this is perhaps the most tuneful of them all. This song also has a special place in my heart because a couple years back I wrote a song that was pretty much exactly this song - took me a couple weeks to figure out where I'd unintentionally stolen the melody from. There's nice stereo separation in this one too (the vocals are on one side for the most part, the drums on the other, etc.) so that's an added listening bonus. I also dig the interplay between the piano, guitar and bass during the breaks. It's a good little number.

  3. Kanye West - Gold Digger (featuring Jamie Foxx)
    I almost went with "Mama" from this album (I really love that track) but this is definitely the song you will be sorry for having not heard if you'd never heard it. Solid song all around - clever humorous lyrics, good beat, great fake Ray Charles sample (cleverly altered to reflect the lyrical content of this song) and a super-catchy chorus that you can't go around singing in public. Nice work.

  4. LCD Soundsystem - Someone Great
    This album was on my top 10 of 2008, and it remains great to this day. Like many of the albums on this list, it was hard to pick just one track from this one, but this song wins because of the brilliant mix of the warm emotions of the lyrics with the cold electronic feel of the music. (And of course it's simple and repetitive.)

  5. Sufjan Stevens - CHICAGO
    You know the refrain by now - it was really hard to pick one song from this album. But this one wins for the arrangement (the way the strings rise and fall is just brilliant, the glockenspiel is inspired) and the beautiful simplicity of the lyrics. I'm not 100% sure I chose the right track from this one, but at some point I just had to stop and pick one. So this is it.

  6. The Knife - We Share Our Mother's Health
    I used to be a bigger Knife fan than I am now. I really didn't like the Fever Ray album, and upon repeated listens this Knife album lost much of its lustre for me as well. But the crazy electronic dance-hall-of-mirrors noises that comprise much of the instrumentation of this song combined with the aliens-who-just-want-to-party-but-kind-of-in-a-dangerous-way vocals make this song a real high point for the album.

  7. Animal Collective - My Girls
    While this song can't hold a candle to Peacebone off of Strawberry Jam, it's still pretty damn good. They manage to pull such a catchy chorus out of pretty thin scaffolding, and that's a good feat, even if it doesn't come until after 3 minutes into the song. Catchy, light-hearted, weird, and confusing, if this song represents the new direction for Animal Collective (picture one of their tunes in a Gap ad in 2 years), I would be OK with that.

  8. OutKast - So Fresh, So Clean
    So many wonderful songs on this album - but none are so boastful and playful at the same time while still holding down such a thick juicy beat. This song is Big Boi-heavy, and definitely reflects his retro style, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all.

  9. The White Stripes - We're Going To Be Friends
    Of course I had to pick the song that sounds nothing like the rest of this album. Well, so be it. I defy you not to have a good time listening to this song. Go on, try. See? Told you.

  10. Ghostface Killah - Apollo Kids ft. Raekwon
    Maybe this makes me a loser who's into over-produced hip-hop albums, but I actually prefer Fishscale to this album. Still, Supreme Clientele is a classic, and I think this song represents one of its peaks. Ghostface tears it up in his verses and Raekwon doesn't slouch on his, either. There are tracks with better beats on this album, but I don't think Ghostface sounds as alive anywhere else on that whole disc. And of course he compares rapping to "ziti" and never explains it. Who else could do that?

  11. The Avalanches - Since I Left You
    I actually had never heard this album before I saw it on Pitchfork's playlist, and I wish I had - it's pretty good. This was my favorite track from this album, and I dig the sonic landscape it paints. I have to imagine The Go! Team listened to this album. A lot.

  12. Panda Bear - Bros
    Yes, this song has been overplayed by hipsters from coast to coast, and no, he's not doing anything the Beach Boys didn't do decades ago, but it's still a great song and shows how far you can go with a good hook and a lot of reverb. Somehow it manages not to get (too) boring even at 12:00 minutes. That's impressive.

  13. Sigur Rós - Olsen Olsen
    More hard choices here - but the bass line on this track makes me feel so good it had to win. Then there's the theme introduced by the bass at 4:12, then picked up by the piano and strings at 4:40, then built upon by horns, voices, etc. for the rest of the song - it's so uplifting and wonderful, it lifts up the whole song around it. Beautiful stuff.

  14. The Strokes - Last Nite
    I'm not sure how The Strokes made it into the top 20 albums of the decade, but as long as they're here, we might as well enjoy their catchiest little ditty of all. Commence enjoyment.

  15. Modest Mouse - 3rd Planet
    Great album, full of great, weird songs. This one wins because it's so evocative - even as the narrator talks about his "only art" being that of "fucking people over," and making fun of people for believing in the "eye in the sky," you can hear the self-doubt creeping in and infecting everything. Great existentialist angst without being emo.

  16. Jay-Z - Izzo (H.O.V.A.)
    Q: How can you understand Jigga without hearing this song? A: You cannot. So don't even try. Classic Jay-Z, from the strings to the lyrics to the ridiculous boasting to the crazy good flow. Way to get pretty much half the country singing along to what is essentially nonsense letters strung together.

  17. Wilco - Kamera
    I changed my choice from this album about 6 times, but Kamera finally won because, somewhat ironically, I don't love it. At least, I don't love it when it starts. Every time I hear this song, my immediate instinct is to skip over it in favor of something more tuneful or with a better arrangement or more interesting lyrics...yet every time I actually hang in there and listen to it for the duration, I am reminded that it's really a very well-written song with surprising layers. The vocals are understated (none of that trademark Tweedy scratchy yowl here), there's no impressive guitar solo, and yet by the end I'm always singing along and telling myself I need to give this song more credit. The production actually reminds me of Spoon a bit here - pretty sparse with some good chunky acoustic guitar backing. Anyway, despite all this, I am still questioning my choice, because there are simply too many great songs on this album. Maybe I got it wrong.

  18. Daft Punk - One More Time
    This was another album I didn't know very well until recently. Most of the album has grown on me, but this track caught my attention and held it right off the bat. Auto-tune never sounded so good.

  19. Arcade Fire - Wake Up
    Another album full of great songs! While I'm way more partial to Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels), I have to admit that this is simply a better song, and if you've never heard it, your ears are poorer for it. So do them a favor and listen closely to all the instruments and voices at play here - it's a veritable feast for the ears. And the lyrics are good, too.

  20. Radiohead - The National Anthem
    Yes, yes, another hard choice from this overly analyzed album. There are practically no lyrics in this song, but that's OK because the vocals are basically just another instrument, and they're used to great effect. This is probably the best song on this whole playlist, so make sure you listen hard.
So, what are your favorites from these albums? Tell me in the comments...


Some Tidbits

Hi gang. I'm still working on my Pitchfork playlist, and I'll have it up by Friday, I promise! In the meantime, here's a few things you can do to keep yourself entertained:

Anything else cool happening these days? Tell me in the comments!


Reading (And Listening!) Roundup

Get your ears and eyeballs ready, folks, it's time for the Reading Roundup!

  • Pitchfork continues their year in lists with the final installment of the Top 20 Albums Of The Decade. You can check out all their lists here.

  • NPR's All Songs Considered blog reviews Pitchfork's lists through the lens of a wonky statistics nerd, and concludes that Pitchfork is sometimes inconsistent, and sometimes isn't.

  • As of this writing, Pandora is narrowly beating Last.FM in Mashable's head-to-head poll of the 2 services. Too bad they don't go more in-depth about their differences, but if you're interested, you can always read this if you haven't already.

  • Logitech has released version 7.4 of the Squeezebox Server software (formerly SqueezeCenter, formerly something else before that, I think). You can read the release notes here, but so far the only real difference I've noticed is an inability to customize my menus the way I like. Boo.

  • Add this robot to the list of things and people that will be famous for singing before I am. To be fair, she's using Yamaha's Vocaloid software, so she has the upper hand. I have to use my own lungs like a sucker.
That's all for today, folks. Stay tuned for this Friday's playlist, featuring my favorites from Pitchfork's Top 20 list!


Future Of Music Policy Summit - Happening Now!

The weightily-named Future of Music Policy Summit is happening right now, right here in Washington, DC (sadly, I am not there). They claim there will be a live webcast starting today, but I can't find it anywhere. You can register to view the webcast here, but so far that hasn't helped.

Bob Boilen from NPR's All Songs Considered is speaking, so maybe he'll tell us more about it on his Twitter feed.

Anyway, I thought you guys would want to know. Maybe one day I'll actually attend this thing! Until then, I'll try and watch the webcast if I can and let you all know if I learn anything interesting.


Friday Playlist: Where Have I Been?

Where have I been? Not blogging, that's for sure. But that doesn't mean I haven't had my ear to the ground on your behalf, gentle reader. Despite my pending move to the Big Apple and all the attendant madness that has brought to my life, I'm still making time to find awesome music to share with you all. Enjoy!

  1. "Black Mozart" - Raekwon (featuring RZA & Inspectah Deck)
    Well, you heard it here first (unless you heard it here first): The new Raekwon album is, in a word, dope. He set the bar high by positioning his latest album as a sequel to his best solo effort, but unlike some other Raekwon albums, this one does not disappoint. There are definitely more hard-core tracks on the album, but this one has one of the best hooks.

  2. "Freak Train" - Kurt Vile
    I've been hearing about this guy forever, and I even read recently that he's one of Yo La Tengo's favorite artists. Despite all that, I found most of his upcoming album "Childish Prodigy" pretty repetitive (which I usually like) but there are a few standout tracks. This one and a couple others sound to me like Animal Collective after they listened to a bunch of folk albums. Or something.

  3. "Avalon Or Someone Very Similar" - Yo La Tengo
    "Popular Songs," Yo La Tengo's new album, is fantastic. Even if you count the 3 over-10-minute jams at the end. I had a hard time picking a song from this album, so I picked 2. This one showcases their classic sound - high-pitched vocals, unassuming but pretty guitar work, a gentle rhythm that keeps things moving without getting all stressed out about it. Peaceful, but not a pushover. Like me.

  4. "Periodically Triple Or Double" - Yo La Tengo
    Also like me, this song is a bit of a mystery. Is it jazz? Blues? "Organ-boogie?" Whatever you call it, it's a good time. It reminds me a little bit of some Belle & Sebastian songs, notably the ones with the organ. Only this one's way better.

  5. "TFO" - Harlem Shakes
    When they're not blatantly ripping off TV On The Radio (see "Strictly Game" from their new album), Harlem Shakes have the makings of a decent band. Too bad they just broke up. Oh well. It may be sophomoric, but I love the line "we got time to waste some time."

  6. "Zombie City Shake" - Black Hat Brigade
    Believe it or not, this is actually not a Wolf Parade side project! They get major points for the theremin on this one. And man, that guy sounds like Spencer Krug. Or maybe the other guy from Wolf Parade. Good ol' whatshisname (no offense intended). Either way, this is a fun song.

  7. "Psychic City (Voodoo City)" - YACHT
    I dig electro-pop as much as the next guy, but it's taken many more listens than I expected to get into their latest album. With the exception, of course, of this awesome party song. [Editor's note: 2 songs with "City" in the title in 1 playlist? Far out!]

  8. "This Is Our Lot" - Wild Beasts
    A friend recommended this band to me, and I'm glad he did. Having largely missed the heyday of this sort of music in the 80s, I'm excited to hop on the bandwagon now. If I ever have to keep a girl in a pit in my basement while I hide my junk and tell myself how pretty I am, I'll play this song in the background. (Here's a cartoon version that is much safer for work than the original).

  9. "Dominos" - The Big Pink
    And now we come to the "super catchy" portion of the playlist. If these guys ever learned to write songs with lyrics that A) didn't betray their massive distrust of and apparent dislike for women, and B) actually rhymed, they would be unstoppable. This is the song I would play in the record store when it was time to magically sell five copies of their album, a la John Cusack. [Editor's note: I assume "Dominos" is the British spelling, but I'm too lazy to check on that.]

  10. "We Are Golden" - Mika
    Mika strikes again! Just when I thought I was over this guy, he comes out with a new album which is supposedly some sort of rock opera/concept album about his teenage years. Or something. Whatever it is, it's catchy as hell - if you thought that Big Pink song might get stuck in your head, just listen to this one a couple times and you won't even have room in your head for your own name. [Editor's note: while it might sound like Los Campesinos is doing backing vocals on this track, I think it's just some British teenagers yelling.]
So what are you listening to these days? Let me know in the comments.