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: Slightly Melancholy
firefly was always bad
spicy hot jams for working on your spicy hot takes
imo this is a good one for the last hour of a workday when you’ve emotionally hit a wall and need to rally and by rally i mean reflect on the relationship between the frictions of life and the value of life
sometimes we were wrong about things
[June 27, 2022] the live version on spotify has swapped in some currently available instrumental pillows tunes to try to match the OG’s energy, added a few other songs throughout to address the gap created by how that goal is not, in fact, possible. it feels fucked to act like a tv show is the bad thing in June 2022 in, say, america, but here we are. rage against the dying of the light for ~63 minutes.
[Nov 24, 2021] the OG version of this playlist with a buncha good good pillows instrumentals from FLCL, which are in a constant state of on/off spotify. can be temporarily enjoyed via youtube, until something inevitably goes wrong there too.
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.
a sunday morning where you wake up and it’s raining
gentle jazz and jazz-like things. jazz like [you know what jazz is] [insofar as anyone knows what jazz is]. jazz-like things like trip hop, lo-fi hip-hop beats to relax/study to, the last david bowie album, and whatever the hell pyramid song is.
honestly this one is pretty self-explanatory however you can listen to it when it’s not raining if you would like
Animal Crackers and Bodega Coffee
Ottessa Moshfegh’s novel My Year of Rest and Relaxation depicts a character who decides what she really needs, at the deepest levels in her soul of souls, is to just take a nap for a year. Her early attempts at the medication experiments required to do so leave her in intermittent and disorienting states of consciousness, begrudgingly awake, waiting for sleep to return in an emotional cocoon of old movies, animal crackers, and, paradoxically, shitty coffee from the bodega downstairs. It’s a hell of a mood. I truly can’t decide if I’ve had afternoons that felt more like this in the office before the pandemic or working from home during it. (It is not after the pandemic. It is still a pandemic.) (I sort of assume that sentence will always be accurate. It will never not be the pandemic now.)
A hazy playlist blend of work music, sometimes instrumental, sometimes incomprehensible. Ranges from the experimental free jazz of Harriet Tubman to the experimental noise pop of Sleigh Bells. Ranges from the soothing wisps of Grizzly Bear to soothing shoegaze of Broken Social Scene. There are two Grimes songs, and I’m sorry.
A playlist for this vibe:
I Hide Down In My Corner Because I Like My Corner
songs for staring at your computer in deep focus on something you can sink your teeth into but aren’t exactly enthusiastic about and you know it’s gonna take all afternoon so you need to put your headphones on and sink in
songs for maybe you’re also kinda angry or bummed out or hell even fired up you do you babe
songs to serve as a conduit for your wallowing into productivity shit yeah it’s time for the hustle grind
songs for deep dark white noise
not a mountain goats playlist, although the lyrics of “Amy AKA Spent Gladiator 1” could basically have been copy/pasted here and it would have evoked the same mood that i’m trying to capture here for this 3-hour, post-metal, dub techno, noise pop work playlist
or i guess it’s just this gif as a playlist
so if you want to listen to that
Every so often, I get to publish a playlist that was a part of the conception of this blog, which basically means talking with Matthew resulted in a “oh, you want something specifically for the mood you’re in? Lemme throw together a quick playlist” kind of thing. This one was the result of a conversation in which I was bemoaning the lack of appropriate ~Halloween vibes~ after moving to a city where the weather is the exact same all year. Matthew provided a lot of the initial suggestions, and then we spun this out into what it is now, which is a weird playlist hopefully suitable for your Halloween evening.
It also contains the song from the Salad Fingers flash cartoons. So there’s that.
inventing an extradimensional portal
There’s something really striking in a sci fi moment in which a scientist works very hard to create something that’s just slightly unnatural. Something that toys with the very laws of reality as we know it. Setting aside the moral consequences of these scenes (which is par for the course tbh), it is the music in these moments that seems to inspire creativity and fascination in me. This playlist aims to invoke similar feelings of that precipice where the natural laws of the world as we know it are about to change. Jeff Goldblum gif goes here. You know the one.
i can’t really get into twitch streams
sounds like: chill work vibes, a lightly chatty friend you can just put in the corner of your screen and not really pay attention to, a parasocial relationship
my romantic notion of a twitch stream may be more simply just a virtual approximation of a coffee shop (remember those? oh, covid), of working or reading while surrounded by the light conversation and arbitrary behavior of strangers. it doesn’t appear that this is what twitch actually is (since in practice lots of streamers do talk “with” you, reading and reacting to the chat), but this playlist is a musical adaptation of the atmosphere i was hoping for. one of the more literal playlists, the thesis here is slower/chiller work music characterized by the presence of human voices throughout. not vocals (with one or two exceptions), but exploring other ways that voices are used as instruments and woven into music.
pairs well with work that’s going to take a minute, watching someone not totally know where they’re going in dark souls, tuesdays