Every four months, I put together a Seasonal Playlist full of songs that I got hooked on during that time. In total, there are now 46 of these mixes, representing the last 15 years of my life, from my sophomore year of high school all the way to today. The mix I’m writing about today represents something special in my book – it officially pushes the total amount of songs in these playlists to over 1,000 tracks. You could pick out any of the songs on these playlists at random, and the chances are pretty high that I’ll be able to tell you generally where I was in my life when I included that song on the playlist, or maybe some specific memories about that song or that time in my life. More than a few of those 1,000 are cringeworthy, but these tracks aren’t meant to appease everyone or brag to all of you that I have the best taste in music (I do, that’s besides the point), they’re a time capsule (a soundtrack) to my life. That’s a pretty incredible thing to have in my back pocket. Here’s to 1,000 more!
Here are some of my favorite playlists from the past 15 years, in no particular order –
- September 2006: The playlist that basically started it all for me, and got a lot of positive feedback from my friends at the time. I wrote more about this one on this blog, and I still think it’s one of the strongest mixes I’ve made to date.
- Fall 2012: The first semester of my Senior year of college, this mix resonates with me because it brings me back to smoking a lot of pot with one of my best friends in our incredible 17th floor bathroom, and getting into more chill musical vibes.
- Summer 2015: The two years prior to this mix had been a wild ride in my life – this playlist exudes summer, living in Mission Hill, and being able to fully relax and unwind for the first time in a long time. I still go back to it every summer.
- Fall 2019: Similar to the mix above, this one stands out to me as representing a truly happy time in my life. Or maybe it just feels like a happier time in my life because it was the last one before COVID.
And some of the ones that I wish I had taken some more time on –
- October 2006: Guess I thought I’d be able to put out these mixes every month? I couldn’t even do that now, so the probability of this exercise going well with 300 songs in my iTunes library at that point was pretty small. My logic at that point was probably that September’s went so well and everyone liked it, why not do it again really fast? Basically, the epitome of the dreaded sophomore slump.
- Spring 2010: My personal life was a little scattered at this point, I was clearly focused on other things, like…school and parties and girls? Nothing extraordinarily bad about this time in particular, but there’s just so much generic mainstream rock on here, it just screams “bleh” to me. Was I really *that* into Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” or was this mix just not my top priority at the time?
- Spring 2014: Another case of the mix taking a backseat to life. There are some great songs on here, but it doesn’t stand out to me as a great mix front to back. I don’t have much recollection of the details of this time in my life except that I was dealing with an insanely long commute and a lot of responsibilities. Definitely scattered, much like my life at the time.
For those of you who are new here, I follow two strict guidelines when compiling a seasonal playlist like this:
- In keeping consistent with the fact that I could only fit around 80 minutes onto a CD-R back in the day, the total length of any individual playlist can’t greatly exceed that same mark. I try to keep each playlist to about 20-23 tracks, or about 80 minutes long.
- No distinct artist can appear more than once on any individual playlist. This helps diversify what can appear on a playlist, and helps to provide a different palette of musical sounds and memories for future listening.
This playlist covers the period of time from September through December 2021. Last time around, I did more of a track by track summary of the songs in the playlist, and while it was more time consuming to do, we’re gonna try it again here.
I pride myself on knowing a lot about early 2000s pop punk since it was the baseline of my musical journey, and there’s a lot of pop-punk early in this seasonal playlist. But, even I have my gaps. “The Future Freaks Me Out” from Motion City Soundtrack is just the latest example of me finding a song that I probably would have adored in my teenage years way too late. But that’s okay – I’m here now. Although, some weird part of me thinks that a friend of mine from high school may have given me this song on a mix CD in 2005 (it definitely had “Perfect Teeth”), but I can’t find it after digging through the pure cringe that is my email inbox from that time (do it sometime, it’s pleasantly awful, full of “pass it on” email surveys and extremely awkward conversations. It becomes even better when you can’t find what you’re looking for).
One band I do know front to back is Green Day (they’ve been on 14 seasonal playlists previously since 2006), and oh, would you look at that – here’s some more Green Day. This time around, it’s a BBC Session version of Kerplunk opening track “2000 Light Years Away” – the catch here is that this version was recorded in 1994, so it’s all Dookie-fied, meaning it’s full of that extra oomph that working with producer Rob Cavallo gave them. It’s a wonderful time capsule to a point in time when the band was *ahem* still good….The end of the year means a ton of year end lists from those who supposedly know, and Turnstile’s Glow On was on many of those lists. The album is great, it’s awesome to hear a hardcore band taking chances and touching on so many different sounds and styles on a rock album while still retaining so much energy, like on “T.L.C (TURNSTILE LOVE CONNECTION)” which straight up brings it for 103 furious seconds. Can’t wait to see what they do next.
Like Green Day, the Foo Fighters have been on many playlists in the past (8 times), and “D.O.A.” is another great example of what the Foo Fighters did so well for over a decade – straightforward, anthemic rock. I really love the hi-hat on the chorus of this track, it’s a great way to keep the song moving forward as Dave Grohl hits those high notes. They are unfortunately another band that’s been in a rut for a while now (their last great album was Wasting Light, which was ten years ago, yeesh)…..I will now profess my love for Paramore: this band is fucking awesome. I really didn’t appreciate what they did fully until After Laughter broke my brain in 2017, and since then, my musical diet has had a healthy amount of Hayley Williams and co. killing it over and over again. I’m a sucker for a great key change and the one that Williams pulls off towards the end of “Turn It Off” is up there with the best of the best. I’m really glad that the kids these days also appreciate this band. Guys, please come back soon, multiple generations need you (no pressure).
I drove down to Brooklyn from the Boston area to visit a couple of friends while I was between jobs. I love long drives alone (my back doesn’t) because I basically get to do two of my favorite things: speed and listen to all the music I want nice and loud. The drive very quickly became a 00’s pop-punk throwback session, heavily featuring two Fall Out Boy songs “A Little Less Sixteen Candles” and “Grand Theft Autumn/Where is Your Boy.” Good song, it’s no “Sugar, We’re Going Down” or “Dance Dance” or even “This Ain’t A Scene” – but definitely of a certain time….On my final day in NYC, I went downtown by myself to do some thinking and generally walk around downtown. I love walking in new places listening to music – and walking downtown in Times Square in the times of COVID was a surreal feeling. As I was getting ready to head back to Brooklyn to ultimately drive home, Beach Bunny dropped a new track “Oxygen” and it probably got repeated twenty times before the end of the night.
This officially concludes the pop-punk inspired session of this playlist, thanks for dealing with that.
For whatever reason, there’s been a lot of retrospective love for Red, Taylor Swift’s 4th studio album. At the time, I remember that while it was popular and I certainly enjoyed a lot of the songs, it felt very uneven and unbalanced, going from U2-esque rock to dubstep to ballads and duets. So, it’s been a little strange to me that this record has been so lauded since then, with many claiming it’s Swift’s best album (I think it’s 3rd best, but I’ll give it 2nd when I’m feeling nice). That take reached new heights when the Taylor’s Version of the record was released a couple months ago. I won’t get into my thoughts on that because that’s a whole can of worms, but “Message in a Bottle” is a happy go lucky slice of Max Martin pop that saw the light of day on this re-release, and you can definitely see how it was a direct precursor to where Swift would go on 1989.…Four months ago, I said “You’ll most likely being seeing another song from CHVRCHES’ Screen Violence on the Fall playlist.” Well, here we are. “Final Girl” has this chiming, winding Smithsesque guitar lick in the background of the chorus that’s just delectable and pushed this track above in my book.
If 2021 were a song, it would definitely be Magdalena Bay’s “You Lose!” Much like the year itself, this is something that sounds like a blending of the past and the future, musically channeling Grimes’ gentle cooing on Art Angels during the verses, and then playing with the idea of the hyper-pop concept of “how far can we push this till it turns to static” on the blasting chorus. The rolling, galloping drums are also a great touch here…Speaking of fuzzed out static, Bardo Pond’s long, fuzzy instrumental “The High Frequency” gives me heavy Beta Band vibes, perfect for spacing out and losing track of a bit of time. We finish out the “buzzy” section of the playlist with the Velvet Underground’s “What Goes On,” one of the higher energy songs from their self-titled 1968 album. It’s a nice blend of the more aurally challenging sound from their Cale and Banana era and the more mainstream sound that they would really streamline on their next album, Loaded. Similarly to the previous two tracks on the playlist, I really like the way the organ and guitar push the boundaries of static on the recording, combining melody and rhythm with more interesting textures.
The Beatles’ Get Back album project was all about the band getting back to basics with a stripped down sound – so no big overdubs or technical wizardry like on Revolver or Sgt Pepper. But, the tight deadline for the project, the film crew on site for the majority of it, alongside John Lennon and George Harrison burning out on being in the Beatles really strained the band. A few things: Peter Jackson’s documentary is very cool (but also very long). I think that Paul McCartney was doing the best he could to try and engage Lennon and Harrison, but maybe went about being “the leader” in the wrong way. I’m also not quite sure why they all agreed to doing this project so soon and under such conditions because the double White Album had only been released a little more than a month prior to when they started this project. One of my favorite parts of the documentary is where McCartney is noodling around on the guitar with a simple rhythm and a few mumbles – and right before our eyes, it turns into “Get Back,” which is so cool to see happen. That scene made me appreciate the song so much more than before….Speaking of Paul McCartney, how about a track from his first solo album a few months later? “Hot As Sun/Glasses” may very well have just been filler, surrounded by tracks that he had written as the Beatles were falling apart (“Junk,” “Teddy Boy”), but “Hot As Sun” is so uplifting, and “Glasses” is so….so….the sound of Paul McCartney literally playing glasses. A winning combination.
Parcels are a fun, often funky band to listen to. They first came on my radar a few years ago when one of their songs, “Overnight” featured production from Daft Punk (fun fact: it was the legendary duo’s final production appearance before disbanding earlier this year). Now Parcels are finally back with another funky one; “Somethinggreater” is easily my favorite track from their new (long, scattered, double, totally meh) album. I love the way the bass is front and center on the track, and how the sparse use of that big, meaty guitar on the chorus really pushes the melody of the chorus home….Harry Styles is very talented, and Fine Line is a great album, front to back. It’s awesome to see such a large pop prescence take so much influence from people like Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, and other singer songwriters of the 70s. The things he’s doing on “Golden,” “Sunflower, Vol. 6” and especially “Lights Up” make me really excited to see what’s next for him.
Let’s talk about vinyl collecting as a hobby for a minute. Vinyl is a stupid hobby for a bunch of different reasons, but it’s especially stupid because the concept of supply and demand absolutely and completely drives the market to dumb, stupid places. Records have become in vogue again, and unsurprisingly, this has caused the prices of records to skyrocket. Vinyl that was once commonplace now demand 8-10x of their original asking price. Even damaged copies of specific records will garner ridiculous amounts nowadays (side story: I was in search of Paramore’s self-titled album on vinyl for the longest time, and at one point I was given the offer of $80 + shipping for a beat up used copy, which I refused to pay. It was repressed widely a month later for $30). Collectors are forced to play a game of “will it be repressed?” to add their wanted records to their collections, while continually dealing with scalpers who are trying to take advantage of them.
This supply/demand and scalpers selling for high prices isn’t unusual, but it’s frustrating because the hobby used to be limited to a much more devoted and reasonable set of collectors. What’s even more frustrating than normal scalping is how some artists are acting like scalpers when it comes to their releases. Artists (and record stores, looking at you Newbury Comics) will drip out small batches of new vinyl at ridiculously high prices, purposefully limiting supply even when they know demand is out of control. I can think of two main offenders that I’ve recently come across – Third Eye Blind releasing dribs and drabs of their self-titled album at a high cost, claiming it’s “sold out” and then putting a couple dozen more copies up for sale a few weeks later. The other artist who’s been brutal about vinyl is Rihanna. Her album ANTI was one of the biggest albums that needed a repress, with standard copies that originally sold for $30 going for $350+ secondhand. Some collectors were even buying box-sets of Rihanna’s albums JUST to get ANTI. Finally, a few months ago Rihanna announced a “limited” rih-press of the record….for $100. That’s an insane amount for music that I can already access digitally. So I bought a bootleg of the record for much cheaper, and it’s great. What does any of this have to do with this playlist? Not much. But, “Consideration” is a great song and I enjoy my bootleg ANTI very much. Thanks for nothing, Rih-rih.
I’ve already discussed some tracks on this playlist that are from my favorite albums of the year (Screen Violence, GLOW ON, Mercurial World), and here’s one more. Color me surprised – Lil Nas X is actually really great. I would have never thought that he would have had a career of any sort after “Old Town Road” re-defined the idea of a meme song going mainstream. It had one hit wonder written all over it. But, here he is, not only putting out hit songs, but putting out a full album that’s very much the real deal and very, very hooky. “Sun Goes Down” is one of a few slower moments on MONTERO, but it stands out to me being of its melody and for how genuine it is….Blessed with the worst band name this side of Hoobastank, Rainbow Kitten Surprise (or RKS) is a band I purposely avoided – after all, how good could a band be with a name *that* bad? But after getting into Instagram and the vinyl community, I met a lovely person who recommended that I check them out, and so I did. The song that really stuck out to me was “It’s Called: Freefall,” where a 2 minute chant in the vein of someone like Alt-J turns into a groove and bass heavy breakdown during the last 30 seconds (if only that groove went on longer!) Definitely a song that I’m more in love with for the payoff at the end rather than the chanting, and sets up the rest of playlist nicely.
The Smiths are great, duh. One album I’ve really gotten into is Hatful of Hollow – during the summer, I had a “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” phase, and this time around, it’s the track that follows, “This Night Has Opened My Eyes.” Johnny Marr’s guitar playing is always a highlight, and I really like the way that it meshes and plays around the bass line in this one….This was our first spook season in Spookville USA (also known as Salem), and while COVID and the abundance of tourists made going downtown pretty much a non-starter (seriously, where did all these people come from?!?), watching creepy movies had to do. We rewatched “What We Do In the Shadows,” where Norma Tanega’s “You’re Dead” opens up that film perfectly. This song reminds me a lot of something that could have fit on an album like The Paul Simon Songbook, which is always a plus in my book.
Let’s end the playlist with some melancholy vibes. American Football’s “The One With the Wurlitzer” is a nice instrumental piece that hangs around and really fit well with walking around our new quiet neighborhood as the leaves changed and then fell….My favorite song on the playlist, “Anything Could Happen,” a ragged acoustic strummer from The Clean speaks volumes to me about how so much in my life has changed recently, how motivation and answers are hard to come by, and how there are so many directions my life could go at this point in time. This is just one of those songs that will stick with me for a long, long time, and I’m so glad I found it….Last, but certainly not least, Fugazi’s instrumental “Afterthought” ends things on a very quiet, albeit hopeful note. That sparse melodic lick is so mournful and even a little anxious, like you’re waiting to see what happens next, and yet this piece is also hopeful. I’ve had a tendency to fall into a lot more negativity nowadays (can you blame me? Things kinda suck), not everything has turned out right or for the best for me, but I’m hoping that I can be more positive about things moving forward.
To those of you who made it to the bottom of this wall of text, thank you so much for reading! This post has been a bit longer than I expected. Please let me know your thoughts about any of this – the seasonal mixes, the tracks on this playlist, anything at all. Check out the Fall mix and the collected Seasonal mixes below.