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:

materia system

Full disclosure I know nothing about Final Fantasy.

Materia System: The Trash Garbage Playlist, serves a multifaceted, possibly contradictory purpose of grounding you (it is gentle, and all songs prominently feature strings) while enabling dissociation (it weaves in songs from video game or movie soundtracks, indulging an escapist mood in a work playlist that knows you’d rather not think about work).

Materia System: The Character Growth System Featured in Final Fantasy VII in Which Skills and Abilities Are Tied to Items Rather Than Characters, serves a multifaceted, possibly contradictory purpose of providing structure (progression is simple, you feel like a genius when you figure out complementary combinations) while enabling flexibility (materia can be swapped between characters at any point, ironically establishing that the characters in the character growth system are only of secondary importance).

This suggests the name “Materia System” is a carefully chosen name enigmatically serving as a concise, metaphorical explanation for its purpose as a playlist, but honestly I was just mildly hungover and wished I were playing Final Fantasy VII or watching a movie I’d seen a dozen times instead of working. I swear Tim Rogers wrote or uttered the phrase “the elegance of the materia system” at some point in time, but I cannot find it now that I am sharing this playlist that I arbitrarily named based on that phrase which may or may not exist lodged in my brain.

Anyway, leave a comment about how you’re mad that One-Winged Angel isn’t in this playlist or whatever.

Alternate Reality SimCity 3000 Soundtrack

So, my all-time favorite album is the soundtrack to SimCity 3000.

This sounds like a joke and I have no way to assure you it is not. So instead, I’m going to talk about what I like about it and what I tried to do with this playlist. Also, I think I might talk about Trash Garbage a little, because it’s my blog and I get to put whatever I want here until Matthew removes it during copyediting.

The reason I want to talk about Trash Garbage a bit is that when I sat down to earnestly talk about why I had picked songs out for this playlist I had a fleeting thought of “wow, how unlike this blog this is”. Which is true, but it doesn’t mean that this is out of place. What I liked about Trash Garbage from the inception is that Matthew and I really never had any intention of what this should be. The bulk of our conversations about this blog essentially boil down to one of us saying “this feels pretty Trash Garbage” and the other going “I agree, post it”. It’s that sort of creative freedom that’s actually enabled me to try doing some of this, which I would not have considered otherwise.

Bringing us back to the soundtrack to SimCity 3000, AKA my favorite album. Last year, I went through some personal hardships and needed something that didn’t sound like anything else I was already listening to. I discovered this soundtrack. I’m not really sure how; I think I had listened to other game soundtracks and this came up as related. (ed note but still fuck algorithms don’t forget this.) I didn’t know anything about SimCity (a thing that came up today, when I mentioned that I would post this, was Matthew saying “the description should be like an in-game SimCity notification or something!” to which I responded “I’ve never actually played SimCity”), but somehow found myself charmed by a very optimistic and charming album full of music that I think perfectly matches the idea of what some people endeavor to achieve with ambient music, creating songs that are fundamentally interesting to focus on, but completely capable of blending into the background. I became fascinated with this album, and it started to score every workday, and then eventually started to become the soundtrack to the time I was spending at home.

But obviously at some point you just listen to an album enough that you crave a little variety, and I found myself in the strange position of wanting to listen not to the SimCity 3000 soundtrack, but to music that sounded like the SimCity 3000soundtrack. Upset I couldn’t find those albums readily existing, I started to pull tracks that reminded me of it into a small playlist. Not only does this playlist contain music that simply sounds like SimCity’s soundtrack (“The Sheriff”, “The Mirage”) it also contains works that simply remind me of the plastic utopia of the Sims universe (all the James Ferraro that made it on here) and, finally, songs that the original composer, Jerry Martin, mentioned inspired him when he was composing this soundtrack (“Zombie”, “A Remark You Made”)

It’s obvious that I recommend listening to the original soundtrack as well, but I also feel obligated to point out that Jerry Martin runs his own website where he occasionally makes high-quality downloads of this music available for free. So maybe check that out, if this is your kinda thing.

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

Theoretical DJ Set

Matthew and I probably first seriously discussed music in the context of a series of extremely small house parties I DJed in high school. At the time I was full of adolescent rage and so mostly I played Drum and Bass, but it was an extremely cool experience that I think about recreating a lot.

I put together a fun theoretical little DJ set of the house type music from 100% Silk and Not Not Fun I’ve been listening to lately, as well as artists from the last couple of years like Anthony Naples and Octo Octa. Pretend you’re in a suburban basement rave attended in the single digits and enjoy.

The sky was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

This is Dark Alley Jazz, if Dark Alley Jazz were set 50 years in the future. This playlist is here to encapsulate the feelings going through the mind of some console cowboy as they wait at the light in a rainy megatropolis while out shopping for cigarettes.

Who is selling the cigarettes?

An older lady. She’ll tell you something about the way things used to be, and you’ll smile kind of sadly.

When did you first come to this hole in the wall selling cigarettes?

It doesn’t matter. They’re everywhere.

Are there any megacorporations?

Oh, there are several. But no more. Not enough room in the market for that.

Downloading GBA ROMs at 1AM on a Thursday

A playlist for when you’re in high school, it’s way after you should have already gone to sleep in the middle of the week, but you just got news that the Mother 3 fan translation patch is out. You know you don’t have time to start it, but you can make time to at least take off the shrink wrap, in a sense. You can boot it up for like thirty seconds after all this anticipation and rest in the warm welcome of its cute family sprites and reassuring, looping soundtrack.

This one is loop-heavy electronic music that gradually fades into ambient, suitable for relaxing work music or for gently nudging you to maybe just go to sleep already.

Dark Alley Jazz

For when you’ve spent a lot of time wishing you were a private eye in a 1940s spy movie. Not in a “ah, the good old days when men were men and women were probably trying to kill you” way, but more in a sneak around and solve mysteries and fight off your adversaries, the greatest of whom is yourself, way.

This playlist is for Jazz to listen to while chain smoking in a speakeasy somewhere. Smooth but unforgiving, like the scotch you’re drinking or the memories of a former love you try not to think about.