Eclectic Playlist Series

At the risk of making a radical statement, I do believe we human beings are rather more interesting, musically, than the internet gives us credit for. Enough with the genre-specific playlists and customized “radio stations” that serve up a steady flow of songs that sound as much as possible like the song previously played. I mean, really? That’s the best we can do?

I for one am tired of it, if only because I grew up musically on playlists—we called them radio shows back then—that thoughtfully mixed music together from different rock’n’roll eras, creating an intriguing and enjoyable flow of songs, whether or not they were all the exact same kind of music. Indeed, the point was that they were not the exact same kind of music. And the larger point, now, many years later, is that we remain just as interesting and unpredictable as human beings as we ever were, and therefore, in theory, just as capable of being entertained and enlightened by eclectic playlists as at least some of us used to be.

This, then, is the kind of playlist I am making an effort to construct here on a monthly basis.

It’s an elusive art, putting something like this together. I aim for a bit of live-radio-like spontaneity (“Ooh, after this, I’ll play this!”), while taking obvious advantage of this not happening in real time after all. Some of the songs work next to each other with purposeful effectiveness, others became neighbors serendipitously, but in all cases each list is constructed with the idea of linking decades together rather than segregating them in playlist ghettoes. I also like the idea of mixing together the perhaps less well-known with the probably more familiar—but this can itself be something of a slippery aim when offering a playlist to such a wide-ranging coterie of music fans as those of you who might in fact be reading and listening.

No eclectic mix, in any case, is perfect; while I do my best each month to keep the music bounding across musical sounds and time periods, I can always see after the fact that I have (obviously) left out any number of genres and/or eras, even with 20 songs, which for no particular reason has become the standard length of this playlist series.

For complete song listings see each link below.

1.01 – December 2013
(featuring Brian Eno, Ben Folds Five, Laura Veirs, New Order, et al.)
1.02 – I think I’m waking up (January 2014)
(featuring The Stone Roses, Arcade Fire, Björk, Randy Newman, et al.)
1.03 – Hidden eyes could see what I was thinking (February 2014)
(featuring Liz Phair, Vampire Weekend, Connie Francis, Stevie Wonder, et al.)
1.04 – I’ll go public in my own time (March 2014)
(featuring Courtney Barnett, the Grateful Dead, the Cars, Portishead, et al.)
1.05 – Someone will come to help you (April 2014)
(featuring Elvis Costello, St. Vincent, Dusty Springfield, The Grays, et al.)
1.06 – I was sure until they asked me (May 2014)
(featuring Arctic Monkeys, Roxy Music, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Al Green, et al.)
1.07 – This is not what I thought (June 2014)
(featuring David Bowie, Sinéad Lohan, the Vaccines, Raphael Saadiq, et al.)
1.08 – Despite what all the studies have shown (July/August 2014)
(featuring Andrew Bird, the Beatles, Neutral Milk Hotel, Elastica, et al.)
1.09 – Somewhere not too far from here (September 2014)
(featuring Prince, Jenny Lewis, Tom Waits, Jethro Tull, et al.)
1.10 – I get mixed signals (November 2014)
(featuring The Sundays, Yo La Tengo, King Crimson, Sinéad O’Connor, et al.)
1.11 – I didn’t really know where to go (December 2014)
(featuring Radiohead, Leo Kottke, Alvvays, The Temptations, et al.)

2.01 – Just when it seemed about hopeless (January 2015)
(featuring Warren Zevon, Guided By Voices, The Flirtations, Screaming Trees, et al.)
2.02 – I wouldn’t want to make anyone nervous (February 2015)
(featuring Utopia, Joan As Police Woman, Matthew Sweet, Annie Lennox, et al.)
2.03 – Everything seems to be up in the air (March 2015)
(featuring Mink DeVille, Blake Babies, Blind Faith, Nina Simone, et al.)
2.04 – I like it here, at least so far (April 2015)
(featuring Broadcast, U2, Laura Marling, Michael Penn, et al.)
2.05 – How did this come to be? (June 2015)
(featuring Neil Finn, London Grammar, Pet Shop Boys, Blonde Redhead et al.)
2.06 – A list of things I didn’t do (July/August 2015)
(featuring Wilco, The Jam, D’Angelo, Waxahatchee, et al.)
2.07 – I’d rather see this on TV (September 2015)
(featuring CHVRCHES, Patricia Barber, Edwin Starr, Rilo Kiley, et al.)
2.08 – As you reach a certain age (November 2015)
(featuring The Bird and the Bee, Traffic, Kate Bush, Big Star, et al.)
2.09 – Close your eyes and hear the call (December 2015)
(featuring Crowded House, Johan Agebjörn, Speedy Ortiz, Marvin Gaye, et al.)

3.01 – The heart that sings before it breaks (January 2016)
(featuring Kirsty MacColl, Arthur Alexander, Donald Fagen, Dawn Landes, et al.)
3.02 – With the moon round his waist (February 2016)
(featuring Erasure, Betty LaVette, Charlie Hilton, Madonna, et al.)
3.03 – I trust I can rely on your vote (March 2016)
(featuring Steve Winwood, Metric, The Mighty Wah!, Cate Le Bon, et al.)
3.04 – A pair of dancing legs (April 2016)
(featuring Elliott Smith, the Ronettes, Bob Marley, The Records, et al.)
3.05 – Every bird that goes by gets me high (May 2016)
(featuring The Soft Boys, Paul Weller, Carly Simon, Captain Beefheart, et al.)
3.06 – How could it come to this (June 2016)
(featuring The Bongos, Jonatha Brooke, Nick Drake, The Bangles, et al.)
3.07 – This thing that we do (July/August 2016)
(featuring Foo Fighters, Nancy Sinatra, Elastica, Pink Floyd, et al.)
3.08 – I’m holding my breath (September 2016)
(featuring Wye Oak, The Stylistics, Mary Margaret O’Hara, Lloyd Cole, et al.)
3.09 – Now we’re alone in this freaky place (October 2016)
(featuring Lydia Loveless, The Cars, The Olivia Tremor Control, Rhiannon Giddens, et al.)
3.10 – Sometimes I can’t believe how dark it can be (November 2016)
(featuring Heather Nova, Nancy Wilson, Rachael Yamagata, The Honey Trees, et al.)
3.11 – Maybe it’s right to be nervous now (December 2016)
(featuring Sad13, The Pretenders, Ennio Morricone, Bon Iver, et al.)

4.01 – This is no place, but here I am (January 2017)
(featuring Pavement, Steeleye Span, The Jezabels, Al Green, et al.)
4.02 – Oh boy. Right again. (February 2017)
(featuring Martha Wainwright, Eurythmics, Fountains of Wayne, The Jesus and Mary Chain, et al.)
4.03 – With incredible mistakes (March 2017)
(featuring George Harrison, The Last Shadow Puppets, John Coltrane, Neko Case, et al.)
4.04 – The part that isn’t thinking (April 2017)
(featuring Roxy Music, Metric, Poliça, Led Zeppelin, et al.)
4.05 – Or was it day? (May 2017)
(featuring Jennifer O’Connor, David Lindley, The Byrds, Don Byron, et al.)
4.06 – Quite clearly I don’t have a clue (June 2017)
(featuring Todd Rundgren, Mice Parade, Arcade Fire, Sade, et al.)
4.07 – Dancing us from darkest night (August 2017)
(featuring Eels, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Kirsty MacColl, Carla Morrison, et al.)
4.08 – An endlessly upward world (September 2017)
(featuring Steely Dan, EMA, Janelle Monáe, The Decemberists, et al.)
4.09 – Don’t be so mean (October 2017)
(featuring Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Julie Doiron, Frank Ocean, CocoRosie, et al.)
4.10 – Try to understand (November 2017)
(featuring Doves, Renaissance, Gordi, Fats Domino, et al.)
4.11 – Strange prayers (December 2017)
(featuring Ultravox, Jill Scott, The Cure, Eddi Reader, et al.)

5.01 – Another one of those dreams (January 2018)
(featuring Japanese Breakfast, Serge Gainsbourg, The Motors, Britta Phillips, et al.)
5.02 – Why wouldn’t you try? (February 2018)
(featuring Kim Wilde, Johnny Cash, John Cale, This Is The Kit, et al.)
5.03 – Another thorn in my side (March 2018)
(featuring Ezra Furman, My Bloody Valentine, Roberta Flack, Fountains of Wayne, et al.)
5.04 – While I still remember it (April 2018)
(featuring The Go-Betweens, Deborah Harry, Harry Nilsson, 10,000 Maniacs, et al.)
5.05 – Finally found the proof (May 2018)
(featuring George Harrison, Mitski, Amy Rigby, Jellyfish, et al.)
5.06 – The foggy web of destiny (Summer 2018)
(featuring Arctic Monkeys, Lyle Lovett, Land of Talk, Ian Hunter, et al.)
5.07 – Who needs a hug? (September 2018)
(featuring CHVRCHES, The Church, Aretha Franklin, Elliott Murphy, et al.)
5.08 – I will fear no evil (October 2018)
(featuring Lens Mozer, Lamont Dozier, British Sea Power, Véronique Sanson, et al.)
5.09 – I think there’s more of them like us (November 2018)
(featuring Bruce Woolley & the Camera Club, Dar Williams, Queen, Midlake, et al.)

6.01 – Useless, like fists (January 2019)
(featuring Middle Kids, Jeff Tweedy, Warpaint, Buzzcocks, et al.)
6.02 – Just say you tried (February 2019)
(featuring Bat For Lashes, Taj Mahal, They Might Be Giants, The Tourists, et al.)
6.03 – Some kind of solitude (March 2019)
(featuring The Beths, Patti Smith Group, Prince, Wayne Shorter, et al.)
6.04 – Look how I remember (April 2019)
(featuring Marvin Gaye, Mitski, Pearl Jam, Lhasa, et al.)
6.05 – Drop the other shoe (May 2019)
(featuring The Smiths, Tulipa Ruiz, Michelle Shocked, Erykah Badu, et al.)
6.06 – Keep your eyes open (June 2019)
(featuring Aztec Camera, Sonny Rollins, Brenda Kahn, Rhiannon Giddens, et al.)
6.07 – Nothing surprises me anymore (July 2019)
(featuring The Ramones, Phoebe Bridgers, Horslips, The Grass Roots, et al.)
6.08 – Not many make it this far (August 2019)
(featuring Stevie Wonder, Gordi, Sandy Denny, The Clash, et al.)
6.09 – We tried but there was nothing we could do (September 2019)
(featuring The Cars, Nellie McKay, The Heptones, The Housemartins, et al.)
6.10 – Every dream has a name (November 2019)
(featuring Christine & the Queens, the Isley Brothers, Bon Iver, Judee Sill, et al.)
6.11 – I’m still over here (December 2019)
(featuring Fountains of Wayne, Mary Wells, The English Beat, Joan Shelley, et al.)

7.01 – Maybe I know that (January 2020)
(featuring Regina Spektor, Old 97s, Buffalo Springfield, Clairo, et al.)
7.02 – I await the day (February 2020)
(featuring The Vaccines, Emiliana Torrini, PJ Harvey, Miles Davis, et al.)
7.03 – Shifted out of place (March 2020)
(featuring Ministry, John Lennon, Dionne Farris, Tito Puente, et al.)
7.04 – The green grass down below (April 2020)
(featuring Middle Kids, Fiona Apple, The Zombies, Betty Wright, et al.)
7.05 – Got any what? (May 2020)
(featuring Waxahatchee, Kraftwerk, John Prine, Hollie Cook, et al.)
7.06 – A chance to talk (June 2020)
(featuring D’Angelo, St. Vincent, The Beatles, Laura Marling, et al.)
7.07 – You wouldn’t believe me if I said (July 2020)
(featuring David Bowie, Nina Simone, Catherine Wheel, The Beths, et al.)
7.08 – I’ve been through enough lately (August 2020)
(featuring Thin Lizzy, XTC, Billie Eilish, Sérgio Mendes, et al.)
7.09 – Between reality and madness (September 2020)
(featuring This Is The Kit, Love, Jeremy Enigk, Betty Everett, et al.)
7.10 – Until you get heard (October 2020)
(featuring The Pogues, Orenda Fink, Cheap Trick, Phoebe Bridgers, et al.)
7.11 – Nothing stays the same (December 2020)
(featuring Hazel English, Uncle Tupelo, Bob Marley & the Wailers, Aimee Mann, et al.)

8.01 – Everyone else has lost interest (January 2021)
(featuring Paul McCartney, Rosehip Teahouse, Massive Attack, The Stylistics, et al.)
8.02 – I can see you’ve had a rough few months (February 2021)
(featuring New Order, Cassandra Jenkins, Dennis Brown, Joni Mitchell, et al.)
8.03 – Refusing to exit (March 2021)
(featuring The Blue Nile, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Rolling Stones, Taylor Swift, et al.)
8.04 – I’ll take suggestions (April 2021)
(featuring Badly Drawn Boy, U2, Adia Victoria, Etta James, et al.)
8.05 – What I have hidden there (May 2021)
(featuring Cream, Amy Cook, the Menahan Street Band, Radiohead, et al.)
8.06 – If I could make sense of it all (June 2021)
(featuring Joan Armatrading, The Easybeats, Stanley Clarke, Kathleen Edwards, et al.)
8.07 – A crack in the door (July 2021)
(featuring Andrew Bird, CAN, Tracey Thorn, Buckingham Nicks, et al.)
8.08 – I just turned around (August 2021)
(featuring Arcade Fire, Adriana Calcanhotto, The 5th Dimension, The Teardrop Explodes, et al.)
8.09 – I stay here just the same (September 2021)
(featuring Weezer, Allen LeRoy Hug, Dave Davies, Nicole Atkins, et al.)
8.10 – Instant special new (October 2021)
(featuring The Velvet Underground, Caro Emerald, The Jayhawks, Darlene Love, et al.)

9.01 – Tell me I’m not alone (January 2022)
(featuring Japanese Breakfast, the Everly Brothers, Prince, Charles Mingus, et al.)
9.02 – Don’t act surprised (February 2022)
(featuring Stereolab, The Jam, Caroline Polachek, Carole King, et al.)
9.03 – This is what we’ve seen (March 2022)
(featuring The Police, Anna Fox Rochinski, Keith Jarrett, Donna Summer, et al.)
9.04 – The lessons of patience (April 2022)
(featuring Allison Russell, Nick Drake, The Pogues, Groove Theory, et al.)
9.05 – No matter who you are (May 2022)
(featuring Alice Russell, The Housemartins, Hot Chocolate, Sharon Van Etten, et al.)
9.06 – Maybe I’m just a fool (June 2022)
(featuring Brian Wilson, The 6ths, beabadobee, Phoenix, et al.)
9.07 – (Even though I might – July 2022)
(featuring Joan Shelley, Chick Corea, Okkervil River, Kate Bush, et al.)
9.08 – (Trouble acting normal – August 2022)
(featuring Lianne La Havas, R.E.M., Soccer Mommy, The Smiths, et al.)
9.09 – (Push off the bottom – September 2022)
(featuring Tears For Fears, Caitlin Cary, The Box Tops, The Internet, et al.)
9.10 – (You can’t escape the way it all shakes out – October 2022)
(featuring Julia Jacklin, the Beach Boys, Sheila E, OMD, et al.)
9.11 – (I don’t mind some slight disorder – December 2022)
(featuring Christine McVie, First Aid Kit, Ray Charles, Talking Heads, et al.)

10.1 – (They can’t read my thoughts – January 2023)
(featuring Beach House, Madison Cunningham, Jeff Beck, Bauhaus, et al.)
10.2 – (Maybe I can make it better – March 2023)
(featuring Camera Obscura, Cowboy Junkies, Tom Verlaine, Carla Morrison, et al.)
10.3 – (But I took my chances – March 2023)
(featuring Weyes Blood, Smokey Robinson, Saint Etienne, Steve Forbert, et al.)
10.3 – (Let the brass bands play – April 2023)
(featuring Jess Williamson, Ultravox, The Four Tops, Sinéad O’Connor, et al.)

Note that I began constructing these playlists on Spotify, which has some advantages (it’s easy to use and widely adopted) and rather a lot of disadvantages (commercials on the free version, no control over precise segues, registration required, inadequate library). Somewhere around Volume 1.04 or 1.05 I began building the same playlists anew on Mixcloud, and I haven’t looked back. Mixcloud has three major advantages (free to use without registration, radio-like segues, access to all songs) and one minor disadvantage (more difficult to skip to hear particular songs). To browse through all the playlists via Mixcloud, and listen without limitation, go here:

Fingertips on Mixcloud

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