May is for new music

I’ve been in a music slump for the last six-or-so months. Of late, I listen to the news on my commute, the same 4-5 DJ mixes while running or at the gym, and then whatever N puts on at home, which tends to be instrumental/electronic/classical. I tried to Shazam something I really liked the other day, but it didn’t work.

It was confounding to me as a teenager (and after) that my parents seemed to have minimal sense of the music that was popular when they were in their 20s and 30s – coincidentally all of the stuff that I was really into in my early 30s. That impression has turned out to be not entirely accurate, but as I’m hitting my mid-30s full on, I guess I get it? Pop didn’t have much time to listen to music when he was working 10+ hour days, and Mom was home with 3 little kids and wasn’t ever really into music anyway. And there was no Spotify or internet, so it was radio or nothing, and who knows what the local radio stations were playing in the small amounts of time when they might’ve tuned in?

So having acknowledged my ongoing music slump, I resolved to listen to one new-to-me album for every workday in May. I didn’t hit that goal, but I did listen to a bunch of new stuff, and have a Spotify playlist populated with more than a day’s worth of music still to try. Perhaps I’ll try for the same goal in June!

May Playlist
Lykki li – I Never Learn
Hiroshi Watanabe – Genesis
Kina Grannis – Elements
tUnE-yArDs – Nikki Nack
CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe
Seabound – Speak in Storms
Fennesz – Bécs
Parov Stelar Trio – The Invisible Girl
The War On Drugs – Lost in the Dream
Tess Parks – Blood Hot


Nicolas Jaar

Nicolas Jaar

A few weeks ago, I sat down to try to write about Nicolas Jaar’s Essential Mix, a piece of music that has blown my mind like nothing else has done musically in a very long time. The result was a 435 word email, excerpted here and sent just before walking to Pitchfork where, by the spontaneous grace of Carl, I got to experience Nicolas Jaar’s hypnotic set in person.

To quantify the extent to which this mix has transfixed me for the last two months, in late June, I drove from Anaheim to south of San Diego and back twice. 110 miles in each direction times four equals eight hours in the car in three separate days of driving. This two hour mix is all I listened to.

There was a day at work in early July when I listened to this mix three times, the last time spilling over into my drive home and then my 30 minute walk in the rain to meet friends for dinner. And then, after a lot of bourbon and arriving home from the bar at 2:30, I poured a digestif for my two friends, and we lay awake until nearly 5am, listening to the mix again, drifting in and out of sleep.

The Essential Mix is traditionally two hours of electronic dance music, broadcast at 1am on BBC Radio 1. Every DJ who is anyone has had an Essential Mix. This is unlike any that I’ve heard. There’s electronic music, but also classical, jazz, film scores, classical guitar, and Motown. There are weak points in the mix, certainly. There are points where you might be tempted to turn it off – Beyonce? really? – but I’d admonish you to give it a chance, particularly because just moments after the Beyonce bit, it goes to a place where I without fail turn the volume all the way up and put my head down (or back, if I’m driving) and let the music wash over me.

Pour yourself a glass of something and put on your good headphones. Get in the car and drive somewhere an hour out. Load this up on your phone or your iPod and go for a long walk somewhere quiet. Get lost for awhile.

“We continue…”



Nicolas Jaar