Mixtapes, Music

The First 2016 Playlist

I might as well stop arranging playlists by month. I started calling this the January 2016 playlist, but it’s already middle of February – and you will admit that’s kind of dumb.

Chairlift’s Moth is the first album I have fallen in love with this year. ‘Ch-Ching’ is the hallmark of the lot, featuring not one, not two, but three different hooks that latch on to your brain. Add to it the vogue-happy dance video featuring the lovely Caroline Polachek in that orange dress; the sexy brass riffs that sneak in and out of the vocals; the random “ow”s and “whoo”s punctuating the track. Patrick Wimberly’s drum programming – specifically the use of the rimshot and finger-clicks, and that wonderful ratatat drum phrase – also a winner. 27-99-23, y’all.

I saw Father John Misty live at Treasure Island Music Fest last year, and this zany song —accompanied by a video that is filled with Kanye-West-level of self-love — is one of my favorite tracks from his new album I Love You Honeybear. 

Gunship makes tripped-out electropop. This video has He-Man, Hellraiser, and a host of other B-show video tributes in claymation.

Is ‘Kamikaze’ the solo song that makes MØ explode on the mainstream scene? The lady made her name with her 2014 album (‘Pilgrim’ featured on one of my earlier playlists) and collaborations with Ariana Grande and Major Lazer, but the upcoming studio album with Diplo producing sounds like it’s on another level altogether. The tune’s so infectious, and the main instrumental riff (which sounds like a shakuhachi blended with a celtic violin) gets into your head faster than the fumes from a 43-year old bottle of Glendronach. ‘Take me to the party/kami kami kaze’ doesn’t make much sense, but sometimes a song doesn’t have to. Yet another vogue video, and it’s not a coincidence.

If you think Lana Del Rey is vapid and commercial music, you haven’t been paying attention – I don’t care if she is. She has her West Coast gangsta style melded with classic pop/rock  routine down pat (listen to the guitar riff and the tonal shift at 1:18. Isn’t that a Beatles chord from ‘And I Love Her’?), and it works so well. I have heard three different versions of this song, and they all bring different things to the table. The original is classic Lana, and the (mostly) black-and-white video gets bonus points for being shot in Marina del Rey, my hood till a few months ago.

One of the many songs that sample Quantic Soul Orchestra’s track ‘Pushin On’, ‘Triburbia’ is a delectable goblet of funk served chilled. Caution: It will stir and shake you.

Speaking of delectable, Pal William introduced me to the joys of New Jersey-born Melody Gardot. Add to that velvety-chocolate voice some old-school orchestral strings floating in the background, with a jazz brush-drum beat that patters like raindrops on windows, and you have ‘Baby I’m A Fool’. Yum.

If there was a playlist of music videos to get high to, Rone’s ‘Bye Bye Macadam’ would fall squarely under the psychedelia section. Observe how deceptively simple the song is, a miasma of sawtooth waves over a drum and bass track. I am starting to get into Rone’s discography now, and have high hopes.

NEW FALLULAH ALBUM END OF FEBRUARY, BITCHES! She has released 4 singles from the new album so far, and they are oh-so-wonderful.The tremolo in her voice makes my knees go weak every single time, and her use of the female chorus is flawless. Lovely to see an artiste grow so much over the years and still maintain a unique identity. Go check out ‘Perfect Tense’, the titular single from the album, also out on Youtube.

I heard the second part of this schizophrenic song first – ‘Dystopia’. ‘The earth is on fire/We don’t have no daughter/let the motherfucker burn’ was something that got into my head instantly. Found out the first part ‘Utopia’, and it was like Kraftwerk ate mushrooms and had wild monkey sex with a Korg arpeggiator to come up with alien disco music. SO much fun!

Fenech-Soler is an electronic outfit from Northamptonshire in the UK, which puts them in the same geographical location as The Magus of Northampton – consider this a gratuitous way for me to mention my favorite writer, who I haven’t talked about in a while. But their music is great. This song’s from their second album, which came out in 2013, and

Jarryd James’ ‘Do You Remember’ feels me with dread for some reason. Maybe it’s the ominous chords, or the layered voices. Or maybe the earnestness in the voice appeals to me and I am in denial.

I keep getting turned off by the sameness of the Indian live music shows – Coke Studio, MTV Unplugged, Dewarists and so on, but occasionally a song pops out and makes me jump right back in. Ram Sampath’s set, in particular his cover of the traditional Oriya ‘Rangabati’ did that recently. Sona Mahapatra puts heart and soul into her rendition, and watching the video makes me grin at the sheer joy of her performance – obviously her familiarity with the language helps, observe the change in expression when she says “Tuhu tuhu’ at 2:51. Tony & Rajesh’s rap kick your teeth in (not as much as when they sing the other Bharatiyar Love Rap) and Rituraj Mohanty is stellar. What a song!

The Chainsmokers’ ‘Let You Go’ is a perfect LA song. Shout-out to the Last Bookstore – and holy shit, never thought of it as a make-out zone. Runyon Canyon too, ha! The first comment on that video tells you exactly what to expect though, so er, be warned.

Yeah, there’s a band called British India. Yup, they’re pretty damn good. They’re from Australia, and contrary to my aversion to standard guitar bands, they have proved to be a good exception. The video is weird in a nice way.

Toldja I am a Chairlift fan, so had to end the playlist with the other song from their album that’s stuck in my head. This one has a crunchy rock guitar, pumping beats, and Caroline at her awkward best in the video. ‘Hey Romeo/Put on your running shoes, I am ready to go’ makes me want to go start running again. I probably should, right?


Seriously, Off to the Races

Since I have a little time.

I heard Lana Del Rey’s singing in a small factory in Sabadell, Spain. “You must listen, Satya! You will love!”, pal Horacio remarked, as he fired up his Spotify playlist. Horacio always speaks in exclamation marks, and it suits the guy. His English is marginally better than my Spanish, and our conversations, especially over email, sometimes have moments of horror where we both realize we cannot understand each other. Friends with slightly more Anglo-Spanish skills have to intervene. But it always works out. When Horacio gets excited about something, it means something deserves to be checked out.

‘Video Games’ hit me in the gut, almost everything about the song hitting the right pleasure-centers in my body. The voice, the words, the echoey chorus and the harps. But I am 32, and much attuned to the devious ways of first-time musicians, so there was also a note of skepticism in my appreciation. Mostly because it’s easy to evoke that old-timey feel with a voice like her’s, that raspy sensuousness overpowering all critical faculties with its primal appeal. It is also easy to come up with an album that exploits this seductiveness for an album, two at most, and then you realize that you can only take so much of that. (Yes, I am looking at you, Norah Jones)

But then I listened to the song again, that and ‘Blue Jeans’. And realized that her voice had three distinct textures to it. The smoky nightclub voice is the one that’s most obvious. The sex-kitten voice that makes her sound like she’s a teenage pop princess. And something in between, which you hear in ‘Blue Jeans’, when she sings ‘I will love you till the end of time’. She switches between the voices without drawing attention to that action, and that’s where she got to me, with the peculiarity of her vocal abilities.

Of course, this was before I saw what Lana Del Rey née Elizabeth Grant looked like.

I know, I know, I get shallower by the day.

I confess to being completely enamored by ‘Off to the Races’, the first song on her album Born to Die. This track gut-punched me on a drive back from Vegas last weekend, when these lines crystallized into being on the car speakers.

And he grabs me, he has me by my heart
He doesn’t mind I have a Las Vegas past
He doesn’t mind I have a L.A crass way about me
He loves me with every beat of his cocaine heart

This resonated with me on a personal level (don’t ask) and a grin that could, without question, be classified as “stupid” slowly enveloped my face. That widened when the verse slipped in a Lolita reference.  But what checked the song into Earworm Central was the sex-kitten-voice chorus singing “I’m your little scarlet, starlet/Singing in the garden/Kiss me on my open mouth/Ready for you“. The chorus brings to mind imagery that has me worried about listening to it when in office.


If liking this is akin to indulging in musical porn, I don’t care, baby.


Del Rey has gotten a lot of flak in the recent past, especially after a Saturday Night Live performance that did not come out as well it should have. The voice changes that sound so good on the recording came out pretty jarring in the live set. Not only did it sound like she did not have an iota of control on her vocal chords, but the performance was listless, as if she was being made to sing against her will, without any practice. This in turn led to a lot of internet commentary – you know, voices of reason that flock around any momentous event such as this. Lana Del Rey is a fake. Lana Del Rey does not know how to sing. Her music is “manufactured pop”. She is painful to watch. “Worst SNL performer ever”.


Shit hit the fan so bad – especially when people began to remark on her name-change and alleged cosmetic enhancements and her alleged millionaire dad financing her music career – that Kristen Wiig did a parody rebuttal a few days later on SNL.


Recently, Lana Del Rey sang the same song on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and sounded so much better this time. Only goes out of tune in 2 or 3 places, but the adventurous voice and chord variations (especially towards the end) just makes me feel like this woman’s the real deal. Someone who still has some work to put into her live shows, but good all the same.