Hello, friends! Rob here.
In the waning days of my Freshman year
at Tulane- a year which I still remember as one of the greatest and most
pivotal of my life- I had the idea to make a kind of “greatest
hits” from the songs I had kept in heavy rotation throughout my
first year of probationary adulthood. I had been keeping a sort of
informal "musical diary" since the lawless days of Napster,
but this was my first attempt to put an entire year in retrospect.
It wasn't perfect. A lot of the songs were just dorm room favorites
for getting pumped up to go to TJ Quill's and drink my pimply little
underage face off, and the omission of The Killers' breakout hit
“Mister Brightside” was a massive
oversight. But still, it tells a story. After finals, after packing
out of my dorm and saying a few lingering goodbyes, I settled into my
Honda for a seven-hundred-mile drive back to Tulsa. I put that mix
CD in the second I hit the open highway and was overwhelmed reliving all of the moments that made up that magical, transformative, dramatic, stupid, perfect year. Burned CDs
have long since given way to playlists, and I switched from school
years to calendar years sometime after I finished college, but I've
maintained the tradition ever since.
I'm going to share my 2018 playlist and talk a bit about how I put
the thing together. The playlist, like this entry, is named for a
catchphrase from Hello from the Magic Tavern,
a terminally geeky podcast Michael turned me onto. It tells the
story a regular Earth dad who finds himself stranded in a fantastical
parallel world and uploads a podcast about it with the help of a
wizard and a badger. A trio of Chicago improv comics voice the three
leading roles and host a revolving door of special guests. There are
a lot of obtuse pop culture references and jokes about butts. I
chose the phrase “I don't wanna talk about earth stuff” to sum up the year because
A) I probably spent about fifty hours listening to back episodes of
that podcast and working around my new house this fall, B) as a
result, the phrase has started to worm its way into my personal
vernacular, and C) come on. Does anybody
want to talk about Earth stuff these days?
Anyway, there's a
link to the playlist below so you can listen along while reading, for
MAXIMUM IMMERSION. All songs are listed in the One True Format,
which is Artist – Title. Please don't savage my awful taste in the
comments section, even though I deserve it for trying to burst your bubble re: Christmas tunes.
Click here to listen along!
Out Boy – Sugar, We're Going Down:
Like a prizefighter losing and reclaiming a title belt, this song
has become “my jam,” to a varying degree of sincerity or irony,
on approximately four distinct occasions since it debuted in 2005.
The most recent instance was at Music Midtown in Atlanta, where we
played before Fall Out Boy on the main stage. They blasted me in the
face with this song at a distance of no more than thirty meters. I
screamed the words so hard my tonsils exploded.
McCaslin – Club Kidd:
There was a period of a few months right around the beginning of 2016
when every time I heard a saxophonist on some song and thought to
myself, “man, who's that playing tenor?”, it would invariably
turn out to be Donny McCaslin. He showed up on a modern big band
album I was into. I dug his quintet. Oh yeah, and he led the
backing band on freaking Blackstar.
The man was EVERYWHERE. Anyway, he's great. I suspect he's the
kind of jazz musician who doesn't want to be called a “jazz
musician,” and that really shows on his most recent album, Blow.,
which featured this song as its first single.
Lee – Windows Are Rolled Down:
Okay, so here's the thing: the “story” behind how a lot of these
songs ended up here can be boiled down to “it came to me at the
right time.” All this one did was be on the radio while I was
driving home from the airport after some time on the road. It was a
lovely little moment- like a taking a deep breath while standing
ankle-deep in the ocean- but it doesn't make for much of a story. The
same could be said for several of the songs here, so some of these
write-ups will have little or nothing to do with the songs they
accompany, much in the same way that Deadspin stalwart Drew Magary punctuates his
weekly NFL preview with random hot takes. Magary is
one of my favorite writers- I've actually spent the last few years
biting his style pretty hard and hoping no one notices. He has spent
the last few weeks on leave after being hospitalized for an
undisclosed injury, so consider this both an homage and an open
Keys – No One: On
Christmas day, I came down with a stomach bug. It was, in a word,
violent. The first time I threw up, I almost overtopped the toilet
bowl. I had to Google "how to get vomit out of nose," and
then all of the remedies I found involved standing up so I didn't do
any of them. Twenty minutes later I pooped liquid and then
immediately turned around and heaved into the toilet. Half an hour
after that, I was sitting on a toilet holding a trash can up to my
face (a first for me!). After another hour or so, I found myself
leaning over the side of the bed hacking into a trash can in hopes
that it would make me throw up, because that would have granted me
roughly fifteen minutes' relief before the next wave of crippling
nausea set in. I shivered when I was hot and I sweated when I was
cold. My torso ached. By the end of the roughly twenty-hour ordeal,
I was completely empty. I would NOT recommend it.
Wooten, Dennis Chambers & Bob Franceschini – Cupid:
I wish these guys had just thought of a band name. Anyway, I've
been fortunate in that a lot of my really close friends from college
all stayed together after graduating, but I finally saw a few move
away this year. Two of them- both named Jon- have retained more or
less daily contact with the rest of the gang back here in New Orleans
via one of those interminable group text threads which, if leaked,
would obliterate any of our potential political careers in an
instant. Anyway, one of the Jons was really into this song. Also,
it's weird that I put these two...
Brown Band - Chicken Fried:
...back-to-back, because come to think of it, they're both there in
honor of friends who weren't around for some part of the year. This
entry is already turning into my personal War and Peace,
so fuck it, let's take the long way around: In college, we invented
a game called "drink a beer in every room of the house."
The rules should be self-evident, although as we've gotten older, our
homes are bigger and our livers are smaller, so we've dialed it back
from a whole beer per room to half a beer to "whatever, just
drink in this room for a while." Most of the challenge is in
trying to cram anywhere from three to seven adults (or, at least,
people with adult-sized bodies) into places that weren't necessarily
intended to accommodate that much humanity: closets, attics,
basements, powder rooms, walk-in pantries, the occasional shower- it
can get interesting. The game has become something of a christening
ritual among my college friends whenever one of us moves into a new place. Last winter, my
friend Andrew (not Campanelli) deployed with the army (don't worry,
he came back in the fall, he's fine) and spent most of last year in
Kuwait. Shortly after his departure, a few of us were drinking in
every room of the Baton Rouge home of one of the aforementioned Jons.
Late in the game, when we had made it to the attic, sitting on bare
joists with our feet dangling from the entry hatch, we shotgunned a
beer in Andrew's honor. We were listening to a public playlist
called "Redneck Thanksgiving" or something along those
lines, and this song was playing at the time. Gotta support the
Li - Dance, Dance, Dance:
I use the Swype keyboard on my phone, which is awesome most of
the time, but occasionally it produces some really weird results.
For example, I can never type the words “definitely” or
“remember” on the first try. NEVER. A few days ago I was trying
to get a “definitely” out and I whiffed seven times in a row.
Hand on heart, it went: dwindle, falsely, cement, faintly, genuinely,
fairly, faintly AGAIN, definitely. This is absolutely a problem with
the app and has nothing to do with me having weird thumbs.
Maren Morris & Grey - The Middle:
THIS SONG. It is everywhere and I love it. Teenage Contrarian Rob
would have positively blanched
at the thought of naming an inescapable pop song like this one of my
year-end favorites, but working in music and spending time in studios
has given me an appreciation for the craft that goes into these
songs. The studio is an instrument, and I sure as heck don't know
how to play it, but I'm learning to tell when someone else does.
Also, I saw Grey at the BMI Awards and they were dressed like Final
Perfect Circle - So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish:
They played this song at Voodoo Fest, and at the time I was just
like, “huh, that's a neat song. Seems a bit chipper for them.”
When I got the chance to hear it in a setting where I could actually
make out the lyrics, it really struck a chord with me. It's easy for
me to get bummed out sometimes thinking about how the human race is
careening towards oblivion with
the pedal to the metal, but somehow I find this song comforting. I
can't quite explain it- I think it has something to do with the lines
about various deceased luminaries having “moved on.” Like it's a
reminder that all things must pass, and all stories have an end.
Plus, Douglas Adams.
Jake Shears -
Creep City: The other day I
found out that I had NO IDEA how income taxes actually work in this
country. If you're in, for example, the 24% bracket, that doesn't
mean you pay 24% tax on all
of your income- just the amount that crosses the $82,500 threshold.
So if you make $90k a year, only $7500 of it gets taxed at 24%, with
the rest getting taxed at various lower rates according to the
thresholds for lesser brackets. I TOTALLY thought it worked the
other way. Am I just a lone doofus here? Because whenever I hear
people talking about changing the tax code in this country, it always
seems like they're saying forty percent or whatever means forty
percent of everything.
If this is a common misconception, then it seems like the kind of
thing that could be used to sway public opinion in certain
directions- in which case it might be worth examining the motives of
those whose agendas would benefit from or even rely upon a
misinformed public. MAYBE.
Toast: One of the most fun
shows all year wasn't actually a Revivalists show. I'm talking about
our wild late-night Jazzfest throwdown as Boyfriend's
backing band. It's always great to play with new people and step
outside of my comfort zone, both musically and, um wardrobe-ically,
particularly when we get to come back to a classic New Orleans room
like One Eyed Jack's. If you missed it, you missed me in a thong.
R. LUM. R - Be
Honest: One of my favorite things about big music festivals like
Bonnaroo is getting lost and stumbling across something unexpected.
It's kind of like one of those high-concept theater pieces where it's
just a bunch of actors going through a daily routine in an old hotel-
you find things, you miss things, you can't possibly see the whole
picture, but occasionally you discover something you love. I was
blown away by R. LUM. R's set, and this was my favorite song from it.
Metaphors are chill and all, but there's something to be said for a
chorus that just gets to the point. Think of The Beatles belting “I
want to hold your hand,” or Andrew WK triumphantly declaring “when
it's time to party we will always party hard.” Or R. LUM. R asking
a simple/not-so-simple question: “how do you feel tonight? Be
Washington – Truth: You know when somebody has that one album
or song or novel or whatever that people refer to as their “magnum
opus?” I feel like Kamasi Washington's catalogue is like,
eighty-five percent magnum opuses. Solid ratio. I should've thought
Muse - Knights
of Cydonia: USA Today asked us to make a playlist for them in
October, and this was one of the songs I submitted, so I'm going to
plagiarize myself and use the same thing I wrote back then: They
closed their set with this at Bonnaroo so it's been stuck in my head
for four months now. The build/payoff in this song is incredible. I
listen to it and I feel like I'm riding across the ocean on a flaming
horse. I feel like I could punch the moon in half.
Thee Oh Sees -
Last Peace: My wife and I bought a house in October. I'm really
excited and enamored with the place, but I tell you, owning a home is
TERRIFYING. There's just this constant background anxiety: what if
there's a leak I don't know about? Is the floor sagging? Was that
chip in the drywall always there? Will New Orleans' abysmal Sewerageand Water Board ever come and
check our meter? Whenever I hear a faint, indistinct noise at night,
I immediately think to myself, “oh fuck, the dishwasher just
exploded.” It's cool having an excuse to own a drill though. I
use the drill for everything now- hanging paintings, assembling
furniture, making whipped cream, starting my car. I cannot too
highly recommend drill ownership.
Jon Batiste -
What a Wonderful World: We all know that “What a Wonderful
World” is an objectively great song. As with any classic, it takes
a great deal of vision and talent to cover a song like this- one that
has been around for half a century and which was originally recorded
by one of the most important figures in all of Western music- in a
way that brings something fresh to the table and stands up to the
original. Jon Batiste's version does all of those things. It has a
sense of character and emotion all its own. It just plain hits me.
and Jerek Bischoff - Riches and Wonders: My other favorite
podcast, Welcome to Night Vale (a surreal journey
through an existentially creepy desert town as told via its local
talk radio station), featured this cover as a bit of cross-promotion
for its creator's passion project about The Mountain Goats. My first
thought upon hearing it was, "where were you when my wife and I
were brainstorming wedding music?"
Yazoo - Only
You: I was always, on some level, aware that this song existed.
Like, “yeah, there's a song called 'Only You' out there, and it
sort of sounds like this” or whatever. But it wasn't until it
popped up in an episode of The Americans (in a pretty
uncomfortable scene, come to think of it) that I really noticed how
perfect it is. As with the previous song, this one makes me wish I
could have a do-over on the wedding tunes. Oh well. It's still
King Britt &
Sister Gertrude Morgan - Precious Lord Lead Me On: The concept
behind this album is pretty interesting: Philadelphian disc jockey
produces a cross-generational mashup of modern instruments and studio
tricknology with 1970s-era recordings of New Orleans religious folk
artist Gertrude Morgan singing and playing tambourine. My elevator pitch may bring to mind Kenny G's controversial “duet”with the late Louis Armstrong (speaking of “Wonderful World”
covers), but this works. Boy howdy, does it work.
PJ Morton -
Sticking to My Guns: I was about a year late to the party, but
PJ Morton's Gumbo was quite possibly my favorite record of
2018. This was my favorite song on the album, and I thought it
would be a good note on which to end the playlist, but the intro to
the following track is tacked onto the end of the album version, so
it makes for kind of a weird dismount. Still, great song. The end.
MENTION! Lem – Teenage Dirtbag: I
know. I know. I know. But I just could not get away from this song
last year. It followed me everywhere. It even weaseled its way into
a cover band set at a Bourbon Street-esque bar in Sydney
Another fun story from that trip: I got off of the seventeen-hour
flight into Australia and noticed that my leg was partially numb from
the knee down. I promptly spiraled into a low-grade hypochondriacal
panic about Deep Vein Thrombosis and actually went to the damn
emergency room in Melbourne, where the nurse practitioner on duty-
who wouldn't have looked out of place touring with Queens of the
Stone Age but peppered his speech with a reassuring amount of medical
jargon- drew some blood and told me it was just a pinched nerve.
Moral of the story: never Google your symptoms. Anyway, “Teenage
Dirtbag” is not canonically a part of this playlist, but I heard it
a lot this year and secretly relished every instance.
Phew. Thanks for
reading, thanks for listening, and thank you for being you.