The challenge: listen to the Unwinnable Best Albums of 2015 playlist for the month of January, on random, without skipping a track. Can you hang?
While standing in my kitchen Mindless Self Indulgence came on and I looked down and realized I was making kale. This is the closest I’ve ever been to a blog post on “stuff white people like.”
I will have to bow out of this challenge, unfortunately. I almost intentionally listen to forgettable pop music (to the point where I forget the radio is on) and this was a jarring listening experience.
– Amanda Hudgins
We’re about a week into this challenge and I already have some clear observations.
1. I have a very difficult time with a lot of hip hop. It actually makes me writhe in my seat and I find myself clenching my teeth to get through most of it.
2. Writing while listening to music with vocals is tremendously difficult for me. I typically listen to ambient/atmospheric instrumentals when I write (which I do a lot of) and it has certainly been an adjustment.
3. This test is murder on my anxiety. When a song comes on that is uncomfortably awful for me I can’t help but start to obsessively think, “When will I hear a song I like?!?” or “I wonder if one of the songs I put on this list is coming soon?” or “THIS SONG HAS HOW MANY MINUTES LEFT?!?!” or “Is this guy really sampling The Wizard of Oz?!”
4. I also wonder how many people want to kill me for being the sole person responsible for landing Coldplay’s new album on this list as I’m pretty sure I’m the only person who voted for them… I’ve come to understand that they’re a pretty polarizing band. You’re welcome.
5. Lastly, this playlist is a very weird gym playlist. There’s nothing like getting a raw boost from say, Lightning Bolt, mid-set when it’s followed by a mellow Milk Carton Kids or Laura Marling song.
I fully intend on getting through the month as I’ve already clicked that little plus icon next to some songs from artists I’ve never heard of… if the hip hop doesn’t kill me first…
– Erik Weinbrecht
I listen to Spotify almost exclusively at work, no headphones. In these our days of open floor plans, I’m lucky enough to work in a building old enough to afford its middle managers their own offices. I’m also in a creative-adjacent position – I’m technically a sales rep but copy writing and web design make up a large part of my job – so the music flows freely in my office, and anyone who comes in gets to hear it.
Before starting this challenge, I had been listening to Halsey’s Badlands on a loop. She’s got no qualms about sexually suggestive, or just downright sexual, lyrics. She’s all about letting a boy climb inside her body, or selling her soul to a three-piece who’s now got her down on her knees, or everybody wanting to know if she and her subject “fucked on the bathroom sink.”
Perhaps that’s why I held steady the gaze of my boss when Kendrick Lamar’s exasperated lyrics “sniffin’ up the ass for Instagram flicks, suckin’ dick, fuck is this?” floated out of my work-issued speakers during a lull in our convo.
(It was cool. My boss gets it, he used to front a rock band. He tells us about it all the time.)
– Sara Clemens
I have been keeping a log what pops up in my random shuffle and at first I thought Spotify had become some kind of War Games AI since it played just about all the metal from the playlist. How did it know I like metal?
Amidst the metal set there were a few interesting gems. The one that has now come up in the rotation a number of times is RP Boo, which makes me think Spotify knows I both love and produce experimental electronic music. It is almost Hip Hop but with a bizarre twist. There are loops of stuff which could range from oddball sounds to voice samples. It is pretty rudimentary at its core, but also appeals to my extreme music mentality.
The second part of my list had a large number of folk based tunes. Most of which I would never listen to unless someone submitted something to one of the Unwinnable mix tapes (I’m looking at you Erik – although I really got into Frank Turner’s “Happy New Year”). I can’t say I was swayed towards love or hate, I just kinda walked the center on these tracks.
I was surprised that I found things to like about Carly Rae Jespen and George Ezra. I have a pretty expansive musical taste, so I don’t want to sound like I hate on pop and other music just to hate, but I like my music to have a certain craft to it that stands out. I want it to be skillful and not easily appeasing. I want it to challenge me.
Lastly, I’m not sure why I haven’t checked out Oneohtrix Point Never before, especially since Mike Edwards voted for them last year as well as this year. It assaults the aural senses from the jump and will appease your mind if you dig Aphex Twin, Squarepusher and their ilk.
– Ken Lucas
I gotta admit, I am having a hard time with this, and I didn’t think I would.
My run started with Obsequiae, a melodic black metal band I’ve never heard before, followed by some electronic tune, followed by a cut off that John Carpenter album (never mind that I loathe that particular track, “Dominion” and its corny synth guitars or whatever the hell is going on in there). Pretty good start.
The Weeknd was next. I have been inoculated against a lot of pop and electronic dance music by frequenting a Portuguese bar. They play that shit loud and I have learned to simply not hear it. The Weeknd mostly sounds like Michael Jackson, I think.
After that, I wound up tuning most of it out. While I’m in it, I think it is fine, but it actually take a surprising amount of mental energy. When a familiar song comes on (thank you, Royal Thunder) it is a physical relief.
There is good stuff. And I like to think I am open. But fuck, some of the glitchy electronic music and hip hop antagonizes me (Sorry Ken, RP Boo drives me up a fucking wall), not because it is bad, but because it doesn’t suit my needs. I use music as a cushion for my work day – in its usual roll, it supports and comforts – and like Erik, I have a hard time working with words when someone is singing. This little experiment has actually turned that on its head. I find myself hoping that the track “Seven Seconds” by Titus Andronicus comes on because it is just seven seconds of silence and that sounds really good right about now.
I am sticking with it. But I guarantee there’s going to be a lot more vinyl played around here this month.
– Stu Horvath
Stu sounds like he can’t hang.
Before I got old and settled into listening, mostly, to metal, I had diverse tastes, too. And this playlist scratches an itch I didn’t realize was bugging me these past ten years. I loved hearing more of the glitchy electronics, fuzzy guitars and quirky singer-songwriters I used to love way back when.
I too found myself surprised by Carly Rae Jepson – her track reminded me of the Latin freestyle that was part of the soundtrack of my middle school days (I grew up near Miami so it was inescapable). I found myself wondering why a girl her age would write a track that sounded like a Lisa Lisa slow jam and came up with no answer. Do kids these days listen to Shannon like we listened to Led Zeppelin. I have no earthly idea.
– Gus Mastrapa