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?
Read the first part here.
So we’re into Week 2 of this challenge and I am beginning to – no, strike that – I hate Spotify’s random algorithm. It is nonsense. One minute it gives me a generally good mix of tracks and then the next minute it runs through a session of the same sounding things or it will just repeat an artist every few songs. Thanks Spotify for beating Royal Thunder to death for me. I don’t know if I can hear another song by them.
I want to say that I am not as bothered by the hip hop that has been playing for me although I got a number of Lupe Fiasco tracks that were just too damn long. I really don’t want to hear 10 minutes of inane blabbing. I will admit I dug his track “Mural” but 9 minutes and change seemed a bit excessive. A few of my picks popped up in this second round (Thank you Youth Code!) and then it spun into that folk territory again which I don’t mind if it’s here and there, just not every track for the next ten tracks or so.
My big take aways this round were Zombi, Prurient and La Luz. I’ve seen Zombi before and knew what to expect, plus Don Becker has exceptional taste when it comes to rock of the prog variety. Prurient reminded me of the imperial industrial sounds of bands like Will and brought me back to yesteryear. La Luz really grabbed me though. It reminded me why I love Twin Peaks and that spooky guitar twang made famous in those Badalamenti tracks. Not to mention the ethereal vocals.
Then I caught wind of David Bowie and everything came to a halt. But I’ve kicked the playlist in gear again, re-started my random plays and am currently experiencing the best or maybe most suited to my needs selection of tracks yet.
So who else is left? I know I saw a bunch of you listening on Spotify this week.
– Ken Lucas
Sometimes random doesn’t feel super random. I don’t have beef with that. But I have gotten two literally identical “random” playlists generated by Spotify, running through the exact same songs in the exact same order. That’s a bummer when you’re trying to discover new music.
We took a long trip to the coast (a three hour drive) so we wound up hearing a ton of tracks from this playlist.
The one song that really got on my nerves was “Black Water” by Of Monsters and Men. I guess hearing it once wasn’t so bad, but it popped up a second time as a remix or something and by then it had kind of earwormed into our heads.
I guess there’s nothing really that bad about this kind of music, it just reminds me of the kind of song you’d hear in a commercial or a movie trailer where the announcer goes, “NEXT YEAR YOU WILL BELIEVE. IN UNICORNS.”
My apologies to whomever voted for that band. No hard feelings? Sorry I chose so much noisy black metal.
– Gus Mastrapa
Aside from the break to honor the passing of David Bowie, this week has been much better for me. There are a couple of artists on here (Ghost B.C., Uncle Acid, The Devil Makes Three, Grimes and Julien Baker to name a few) that have been a pleasant surprise; and the pleasant definitely beat out the unpleasant. I didn’t buy into the Ghost hype, both inside and outside of Unwinnable, but damn am I happy I was wrong. I am sorry I’ve been missing out. They were not at all what I was expecting.
While I too have noticed that Spotify’s “random” algorithm tends to lean on certain artists (Best Coast and The Bright Light Social Hour for me) all in all, the playlist was much kinder to me in round two.
I did meet up with an old friend this week and had to pick him up at the train station. Spotify decided that it would be during our trip back to my house that it force me to explain, “Well… I’m sort of doing this thing for Unwinnable… don’t mind the out-of-character music.” I was embarrassed when my friend, who plays organ and harpsichord in Baroque groups, was subjected to a barrage of Fear Factory, Lupe Fiasco and Kendrick Lamar. Thanks Spotify.
On the hip hop front, I did discover that I enjoy most of the Lupe Fiasco that comes up and I actually added L’Orange’s “Dr. Bipolar” to my music! I would also really enjoy a cover of “The Way You Make Me Feel” if The Weeknd did it, because that guy REALLY sounds like Michael Jackson, and I mean that in a complimentary way.
– Erik Weinbrecht
OH NO SORRY GUS. That was 100% me.
I feel you, though. I went through a bit of a metal phase when I was younger, so I’m definitely not predisposed to disliking it, but if I never hear Fear Factory’s Genexus again it will be too soon. I don’t know what it is, but I just cannot get into it. Also, between this week and last, I’m pretty sure I’ve covered the whole album, with some tracks repeating. OK I GET IT SPOTIFY WE’RE DONE HERE. NEXT SONG.
That being said, as far as metal and/or gothic rock goes, I’m stoked I got to discover Uncle Acid, Chelsea Wolfe and the band Ghost through this project. Truthfully, I discovered Ghost last year when both Stu and another unrelated-to-Unwinnable friend went to their concert and subsequently took over my Instagram feed for a night. I checked out a couple of tracks then, but the Spotify algorithm was seriously serving up some Ghost realness this week and I was digging it.
Finally, even though I sort of cheaply used Kendrick Lamar’s lyrics to make a joke about listening to hip hop in the office last week, I’ve heard some more from To Pimp a Butterfly this week and I’m just dying to hear the rest. So good. Well done, Unwinnable, for making that your 2015 Album of the Year! You’ve got taste.
– Sara Clemens
This will make you chuckle.
The other day, I fired up the playlist and this fantastic song, “Far Out,” by Scattle, starts playing. I like most of the acts that are on Hotline Miami vibe (no idea what the genre is – Nostalgo-80s-Electro-Punk?) but they all tend toward hard driven music for chase scenes. Doing balls-out crazy with throbbing electronics seems easy, though. The tracks I really love are the quiet, atmospheric ones, the ones with all that airy headroom and the cold melancholy you can only really get from minimalist synths. Those are the rare ones. That’s exactly what “Far Out” is all about
So, I am sitting here, and man, it is great. It keeps changing up, almost to the point of being an entirely different song. It starts off with these vast phasing sounds, like you imagine a passing space ship might make, overlaid with plaintive bleeps and bloops. Then suddenly these super distorted synthesized guitars wail in and what was just sad and reflective is now tense and full of mystery and danger. Then they’re gone, and something harkening back John Carpenter takes over. But there is still this howling air in the background, tying it to the beginning. And then it changes again, and again, working between the three ideas.
And I am dreading the next track, because whatever it is, even if it is something I like, it isn’t going to measure up to this. I am on the vibe, you know? Except, “Far Out” is long. Like, really, really long. Like, wait a minute, there is no way this is a fifteen, twenty minute song long.
Somehow, I have Spotify set to repeat the song forever. I didn’t even realize Spotify could do that. I must have turned it on by typing in the wrong window, accidentally hit the hotkey. And “Fade Out” is structured to loop so well, it took me an embarrassingly long time to notice. I know Spotify’s got shuffle issues, but man, this one’s on me.
So I toggle off the repeat and I brace myself. The synths wrap up. There’s a moment of silence. And the playlist crashes into the deep dark water of Chelsea Wolfe. I can handle that.
So yea, this week? Way better than last week.
– Stu Horvath
Here are a few excerpts from notes I’ve been taking while doing this stupid challenge that is a terrible idea. I started a few days late and I don’t always get to listen to music when I’m working, so I’ve only heard 104 songs to date. Although, it feels like I’ve listened to them for 40,000 hours.
Fair warning: I decided to be super honest and, at times, brutal about my opinions of these songs. There are some songs I’ve heard that I like. There are a few I heard that I dislike. I’ve also heard songs that left me filled with a mix of anger and sadness. And yet, someone else counted those songs among their favorite music of 2015. And that’s fine. I’m sure the same people that chose some of these offensively horrible songs aren’t big fans of the albums that I selected. People have different tastes and that’s what makes the diaspora of the human species so amazing. No matter how terrible and god awful your taste in music may be in my eyes, I know my taste is no “better” than anyone else’s.
Even though I really feel in my heart like everyone would agree that my taste is clearly way “better,” I know that isn’t necessarily true. So, I’m not trying to be mean below. I’m just making jokes while battling through this god awful exercise in Spotify-assisted-self-flagellation. I blame Stu.
John Williams, “Farewell”
First song out of the gate is a John Williams song from the fucking Force Awakens soundtrack?! This track is a loosely strung together mashup of a bunch of the original Star Wars theme music with some ambient strings in between. This is perfectly suitable as a meaningless background track for a movie, but as stand-alone music, this is nothingness. I liked the movie, but how is this the best music of 2015?
I think the only Drake song I listened to knowingly in 2015 was “Hotline Bling,” which is as catchy and earwormy as a mellow track can be. This track is also mellow, but at the same time it makes me want to bump and grind. I am not sure which voice is Drake in this song.
George Ezra, “Blame It On Me”
This guy has a great voice. This song is catchy and clappy, although it veers perilously close to sounding like a solo project from one of the Sons, recorded while Mumford wasn’t looking.
I am pretty certain that Kode9 is a robot who achieved sentience, heard music and decided to become a musician. If so, I am fully supportive of its creative endeavors. If, however, this is just some human being, I am far less impressed.
Scattle, “Lvl 2”
Not psyched for Scattle to follow Kode9. I am going to picture them as battling music robots going forward. Scattle is far more accessible. Kode9 more experimental. My normal disinterest in this music has been replaced by excitement for the music robot battle happening in my mind.
Drake, “10 Bands”
I am assuming this guy doing most of the rapping is Drake. Still, I’m not sure. The music is interestingly sparse in these songs.
Kode9, “Third Ear Transmission”
Kode9 is back with a vengeance. Its mad at me for thinking Scattle is more accessible. Some guy’s voice is saying something. There is still little to no music in this music. It’s constructed from sound effects recorded inside the room where the internet lives.
Sufjan Stevens, “Carrie & Lowell”
Ah, the infamous Sufjan. I have heard a lot about this guy and this album, but have never heard anything by him. This song is like he’s trying to whisper to me and tell me about a dream he had and also he wants me to keep it a secret and now we’re best friends and he wants to know if I want to sleep over at his house and draw pictures of horses all night. I’m not so sure I want to do that, but I feel like if I say no, he’ll start to cry. So I guess I’m sleeping over.
Eagles of Death Metal, “Complexity”
This song is fun. I can picture the music video with naked women and people riding motorcycles. Maybe a dog on a skateboard wearing sunglasses.
This guy is shouting about something. Maybe he’s yelling to try to get the band to all play the same song at once, instead of the 4 distinct songs the instruments are playing.
Royal Thunder, “Ear on the Fool (Demo)”
I wish there were a way to remove demo tracks like this from Spotify albums so you don’t have to hear rough drafts of songs. Like, hey, you know that fully formed song you know? Would you like to hear it sound like shit?
Vince Staples, “Hang N’ Bang”
I’ve never heard of Vince Staples. Halfway through a dude comes in with a voice like a Muppet. It’s got a nice beat that I can bounce to. I am bouncing right now. I bet I look super cool.
Czarface, “Sgt. Slaughter – Instrumental”
Whoa. What is this? What is happening? This album cover art is insane. I am digging these marching drums and the fuzzed out guitar riff. The wailing background synths give it a Spaghetti Western feel. I need to check this out. Congratulations whoever put this in the mix!
Prurient, “Traditional Snowfall”
I hate this. For some reason, this song prominently features someone playing a dog whistle, or at least the sound that was used in that scene from Teen Wolf where the kid is blowing the dog whistle in the store and Michael J. Fox freaks out and finds the kid and takes it out of his mouth. I bet that kid started this band.
Scattle coming on strong, declaring itself as the best robot making music. Scattle is holding my hand and taking me on a walk down memory lane with these glassy, 80’s synths. I remember these synths, Scattle. But you are still a robot. Stop trying to trick me into thinking you’re a person. It won’t work.
The Milk Carton Kids, “Asheville Skies”
A very nice, sad song. I hope and pray that these forlorn, missing children are eventually found and reunited with their families.
Oneohtrix Point Never, “Sticky Drama”
It sounds like we may have a new robot in the robot battle of the bands. Either that or Spotify is attempting to upload something into my brain. It gets pretty aggressive at one point. I think this was made by those flying tentacle squid robots from the Matrix movies.
Gruesome, “Trapped in Hell”
Based only on the name and the album cover, I knew this band would feature a growler on vocals. Part of the vocals are definitely puking noises. I hate this, despite some decent guitar harmonies and solo in the bridge. I feel like I am “trapped in hell” while listening to this. Hey-oh! Get it? That’s the name of the song!
The Bright Light Social Hour, “Slipstream”
This song has placed me into a drug trance. I feel like I’m on some serious shit right now. The wall is melting… my fingers have slithered free from my hands and are squiggling up towards my office’s fluorescent lights… and now the light is becoming a supernova that consumes me. Eventually the supernova will collapse into a black hole and I will spend the rest of eternity living inside the end of Interstellar with Matthew McConaughey.
I Hate Sex, “I Fucking Hate Sports”
This band has hate in their heart. When this band writes songs, the singer is like, hey do you think you can make your instruments sound as irritating as my voice? And the band is like, yup, that’s not a problem.
Drake, “6PM In New York”
Okay, I think I finally know who Drake is.
– Ed Coleman