gentle tunes for soothing times. a chill blend of quiet folk-tinged indie flavors to put on while sitting around with friends. invoke the joys of having best friends who all live within walking distance coming over on sunday night to just sit around and sip some black tea.
Category: Indie Folk
a desire for a frontier space
It’s the promise of the frontier. That feeling of excitement when you see the wide world spread out around you, that desire to escape into it, to live in a space of expansiveness and freedom: this is a desire for the frontier. And the desire to live on the frontier goes hand in hand with a desire to seize a piece of it for yourself—to better your condition (as our nation once “bettered” its own condition) through territorial expansion. Open world games almost always take place in frontier spaces of one kind or another …
In the Western, writes Jane Tompkins, “the desert flatters the human figure by making it seem dominant and unique, dark against light, vertical against horizontal, solid against plane, detail against blankness.” …
The frontier is a potent dream. That’s why we keep dreaming it: in video games, in movies, in political rhetoric, in the collective unconscious of the American mind. … All progression is stasis. All expansion erodes the soul. You can ride out to the edge of the world, but to reach it is to realize that you’re trappedMatt Margini, Red Dead Redemption (Boss Fight Books, 2020)
I barely remember why I highlighted this excerpt from a book I read about a game I’ve never played that so stuck with me that I curated a playlist around a quote from it that, as it turns out, I pulled together from different parts of it. Maybe it’s because I read this book during the early days of the pandemic, in an apartment I had just moved into and instantly could not leave, feeling a variety of displacements and thus drawn towards a disassembling of a fantasy, of the world, of cultural construction, of agency, particularly to a fantasy about going somewhere.
Revisiting my highlights on my Kindle now, I am drawn to 1) what a poorly designed device this thing is, speaking about the stasis of progress, this ubiquitously dominant eReader that I keep hitting the button to bookmark a page instead of the button to pull up my highlights, and 2) another quote that seems somewhat plausibly why “a desire for a frontier space” stuck in my head as a mystery explained but not untangled, that “what makes [the cowboy] desirable is also that he doesn’t seem to desire anything—and seems, in fact, to be actively pursuing pain and discomfort … Yet he doesn’t seem encumbered by it all; just the opposite, he seems purified by it … he seems to have achieved contentment in the conditions of terminal, unending discontent.” I can imagine that, with the fallibility of memory, I conflated this quote with the first, the latter as something of a response to the former’s call.
In this stoicism that appears demanded of a frontier space, there’s something of (brace yourself) Camus’s (I’m sorry) theory of the absurd (hear me out), described in The Myth of Sisyphus (just like two more sentences I’m sorry) by observing that “The world in itself is not reasonable, that is all that can be said. But what is absurd is the confrontation of this irrational and the wild longing for clarity whose call echoes in the human heart.” Timed rather ironically just prior to the pandemic, there was a bit of Western revival culturally that others have unpacked similarly, albeit also without evoking Camus, at least by name:
But “yeehaw” as it’s used was never meant to translate to the real world, or signal anything beyond absurdity. “Yeehaw” exists in a liminal space, bound to and beyond the divisions imagined between blue and red states. Even as cultural and social forces alternately champion plugging all the way into our AI futures or unplugging and going back to a rarefied, more “honest” way of life, most people will never have the means to actually change any aspect of their living situation. Maybe I’ll get that cat cowboy hat; maybe I won’t. But my American dream has borders, and for everyone except a select demographic in America, it always has.Lilian Min, “What we yee about when we yeehaw”. The Outline (2019)
Despite my humblebrag that I’ve read Camus, I don’t have anything smart to say about any of this. This playlist isn’t somehow a deconstruction of the western or the American dream or colonialism. It’s merely a playlist of a specific flavor of alt country/indie folk, not exactly a subgenre of what remains one of the big “I listen to everything but” genres, but some specific sadness with a bit of grunge or blues rock somewhere in its genetics, where a country song is the body and a searing electric guitar the papercut. A desire for a frontier space formed just as much by vaguely being aware that For A Few Dollars More is a spaghetti Western as it is by the rush of rapid fire reflexes and gunshot precision required to see everything on the Valley level from Pokemon Snap (which oddly evokes a lot of moods here at Trash Garbage), the song from which, yeah, I bet a few people my age could plausibly mix up with the theme from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. What a fun nostalgia combo that is, the nostalgia for a childhood video game with this one specific level whose theme of the desert, of the frontier, has always widely, intrinsically asked “a nostalgia for what?”
There’s a lot of Neko Case in this playlist. There’s early Dire Straits. There are specific selections from the catalogues of Big Thief and The Mountain Goats that belong to this particular soundscape depending on what the guitars are up to. There’s one song by Jessica Lea Mayfield that I distinctly remember listening to in college catching a bus from downtown back to my dorm calling it an early night while the people I was with were on their way to another club, feeling somehow like the world was all ahead of me though this was objectively a melodramatic moment in which to think so, not the least of which because the English city of Norwich is decidedly not a frontier space. That said, a frontier space seems to be more so what we believe it has promised us.
There’s a lot of Neko Case in this playlist.
invoking the late-night creative golden hour
A playlist for anyone who gets their best work done around 10:30 pm, but has a day job.
Despite being wildly genre-agnostic, the vibe is pretty consistently mellow, warm, but a little melancholy throughout. All of these songs live in a world that’s mostly gone to bed for the day and has thus gotten pretty quiet. It’s not a late-night playlist that’s going to eventually lull you to sleep, but rather one that’s content to stay up with you for a little while. And if you put it on in the middle of the day, it’ll pretend it’s the nighttime with you.
the cave level from pokemon snap
Some twinkly vibes for taking pictures of bats and plants in a cave. That’s it. I just like this level from this game. Here, I made a one-hour loop of it! Put on the playlist, put this video on in the background, and just feel how cozy and charming this is!
I’m not interested in writing about the concept of nostalgia or its utilization in late-capitalism and/or the collective trauma of a pandemic or whatever vis a vis New Pokémon Snap. So instead here is every Pokémon featured in the cave level from the original N64 Pokémon Snap ranked by what they would sing at karaoke and how good it would be.
14. Zubat would croon “She Will Be Loved” by Maroon 5 off-key and get mad at people who happen to be leaving the bar during their performance.
13. Grimer would be a white guy doing Wiz Khalifa. He will butcher it. Everyone will be uncomfortable.
12. Weepinbell would do a Disney song and it will suck.
11. Jynx would dedicate her song to her boyfriend and then do a very warbly rendition of “Landslide” and it’ll make the crowd confused and uncomfortable for just a whole bunch of different reasons
10. Magikarp would do a very slow, 5-minute song that nobody’s ever heard of. It has a full minute of guitar solo played by a MIDI keyboard that Magikarp just stands on stage nodding along to. There is still a whole chorus to go.
9. Ditto would do a song that somebody else has already done earlier that night, obviously.
8. Jigglypuff would be hella shitfaced and do “Sugar, We’re Going Down” but would only actually scream the choruses and either doesn’t know or is too drunk to pay attention to the verses. Jigglypuff really worked up the crowd first, so it will be a huge disappointment when you realize what’s going on.
7. Articuno will do “Born in the USA” and some people will be extremely into it and some people will be extremely not into it.
6. Koffing will throw everyone for a loop and do a surprisingly touching rendition of a Phoebe Bridgers song, but it will bring the mood down.
5. The Bulbasaur that are actually Ditto would do “Piano Man”. Everyone will roll their eyes, but get really into it. The crowd is all singing along by the end of it.
4. Pikachu is reluctantly dragged on stage by their friend to do Lady Gaga’s parts of “Shallow” with them. It turns out they’re a breathtakingly good singer, but they don’t like to show off. A bunch of men try to buy them a drink at the bar afterward, but Pikachu doesn’t drink. Pikachu leaves the bar to go home at 10pm on the dot.
3. Victreebell would do a terrifyingly metal rendition of Britney Spears’ “Toxic”. It will work astoundingly well.
2. Muk would do Biggie Smalls’ “Big Poppa” and it will slap.
1. Pikachu Riding Articuno would be the equivalent of Carly Rae Jepsen showing up at your local bar for no reason, singing “Cut To The Feeling”, politely waving to the stunned crowd, and leaving. No one will ever believe you when you say this happened.
apple picking ~vibes~
A more subjective, sensory one. The sound of the reprieve from the heat, the melancholy of the impending cold, and the post-irony of renting a car and driving upstate to pick apples and hope that you see the changing colors of the trees but will probably not manage to time correctly.
A blend of garage, blues, and indie rock, folk, with a lil bit of pop and hip-hop that I maintain sound inseparable from trying to remember where you stored your sweaters that were unthinkable just a few days ago.
Did you know that Apple Music has a playlist called “Vibes”. Just “Vibes”. What kind of vibes? What are neutral, pure vibes? This is to say that it is perhaps debatable what music is appropriate for apple picking, but this has not stopped Apple from determining what music is appropriate for VIBES.
update: This playlist is supposed to start with Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie (’68 Version)”, which over the years has endlessly gone on and off of Spotify. Sammie and I have real mixed feelings on using Spotify for Trash Garbage! How feasible is a project like Trash Garbage in 2021’s internet not using the most centralized platform available? What compromises must we make to play in this space?