The May 22nd issue of Rolling Stone (#1209) features a “Playlist Special” with artists submitting their top ten tracks for a given theme or band, many surprise included. Metallica’s Lars Ulrich for instance lists ten of his favorite songs by artists he believes should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (but aren’t). In addition to tunes by and Deep Purple, N.W.A., Status Quo, Suicidal Tendencies, Slade and Robin Trower (all semi-predictable), he also includes Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians “Air of December” (“when this came out in 1988, I’d play it at all the time in hotel rooms on tour,” he says), Television’s “Marquee Moon” (“took punk to a more musical, exploratory place“), Pulp “Common People,” and Stone Roses “Fools Gold.”
St. Vincent describes her playlist as songs she would play if she “was invited to a dinner party on the moon. I’m imagining all the artists floating a little bit.” Some of picks are semi-obvious – “Everyone’s Gone to the Moon” (Nina Simone), “Space Oddity” (David Bowie), “Here Come the Warm Jets” (Brian Eno), “Nomus Et Phusis” (Stereolab), “Age of Adz” (Sufjan Stevens) – others not so much. Among the revelations of what’s on Annie Clark’s iPod: “In the Fog (I, II, III)” by Tim Hecker, “Pick Up” by Solex (“she owned a record shop, and she’d take records home and make these sound collages“), “Afro-Harping” by Dorothy Ashby and “Yaylalar” by Selda (“So psychedelic! It’s an old Turkish folk song that this singer made really funky.”)
Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig paid “tribute to the new greatest generation – the kids who were born in the Internet era and came of age after 9/11” with tracks by young artists all released in the past two years: “Neptune Estate” by King Krule, “The Wire” by Haim, “Royals” by Lorde, “Adore You” by Miley Cyrus, “Sunday” by Earl Sweatshirt, “The Worst” by Jaden Smith, “Wikispeaks” by Ratking, “Love Sosa” and “Citgo” by Chief Keef, and “Omanko” by Sky Ferreira. “People judge Miley and analyze her,” Ezra says, “and I don’t want to say she’s laughing all the way to the bank – that sounds like she’s money-hungry – but she’s laughing all the way somewhere. I respect that.”
Other genre lists are contributed by Diplo (Dancehall Reggae), Nas (’80s hip-hop), Aretha Franklin (“songs she loves” though they all fall under the soul/ gospel umbrella) and Gary Clark Jr’s take on the best of the blues’ three kings (B.B., Albert and Freddie).
Tom Petty picks ten George Harrison cuts for his playlist. Predictably it’s heavy on Beatle cuts – “Here Comes the Sun,’ “While My Guitar,” “Something,” “Piggies,” “If I Needed Someone,” “Think For Yourself,” “Within You Without You,” “Don’t Bother Me” – to the exclusion of his other great material. Petty picks just two solo Harrison selection (“Beware of Darkness” and “Give Me Love”) and no Traveling Wilburys.
Lorde and Miley Cyrus are a bit more surprising with their artist playlists. Lorde picks her Arcade Fire favs – representing The Surburbs the most, Neon Bible not at all, and Funeral just for the classics (“Rebellion (Lies),” “Neighborhoods #1 and 3”) – and Miley digs deeper with cuts spanning 23 years of Flaming Lips releases. “This song has a hopelessness that makes me laugh and, oddly, think of my granddad,” Miley says of In a Priest Driven Ambulance’s “There You Are (Jesus Song #7).”
In addition to the playlist published in the magazine, Rolling Stone has posted a few bonus playlists on their website: Dan Auerbach: 10 Records I Wish I’d Produced, Sam Smith Great R&B Voices, Rick Ross Southern Rap and – best of all – Sean Lennon on 10 Lost Psychedelic Classics. Sean expertly runs through classics not likely to be played on classic rock radio (though don’t be surprised if they play out the end credits of an upcoming Mad Men episode) including July’s “Dandelion Seeds,” Kaleidoscope’s “Egyptian Garden,” The Peanut Butter Conspiracy’s “Why Did I Get So High,” Os Mutantes’ “O Relogio,” Sweetwater’s “Motherless Child,” Crabby Appleton’s “Peace By Peace” and West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band’s “Eighteen Is Over The Hill.” If you are not familiar with these nuggets, do yourself a favor and click on those links to hear them on YouTube (you’re welcome). Here’s what Sean has to say about three of the standouts:
The United States Of America’s “The American Metaphysical Circus” – “Completely mind-blowing. They were one of the first synth bands – there was no guitar player – and all the songs on this album are about this American dystopia. They were way ahead of their time, and I really love them.”
Linda Perhacs’ “Parallelograms” – “It’s hard to understand how she was overlooked at a time when Joni Mitchell was ruling the world – her voice is incredibly beautiful. This song is about a parallelogram, and it has parallel harmonies. Very conceptual.”
The Bubble Puppy’s “Hot Smoke and Sasafrass” – “They were from Texas, and they’re one of those bands that just sort of fizzled out. I don’t know how many more great songs they have. All I know is that this song has a super-rocking riff, and I love how that riff corresponds to the vocals.”