Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Ultimate Playlists 4: Pixies

Have you ever been to a concert and wished the band had played certain songs? I know I have. The reality is, you'll never get exactly what you want. However, you are free to build any playlist you like. I have decided to write a series showcasing the Top 20 songs from some of my favorite bands.

For those of you who are old enough to remember cassette tapes, you'll know the terrible anguish of trying to fit the songs together. How annoying when the last song you picked was still playing as the tape ran out! Those days are over and it's now a simple task to throw together a playlist using your computer, iPod or a USB. I know that having USB capability has enhanced my driving pleasure because it's so easy to update a list of songs.

But there's also more to creating a playlist than simply deciding which songs to include. Like an actual concert, or even a single song, a good playlist features changes in mood and tempo. If a band opens with the three songs that the audience most wants to hear, the rest of the performance might fall flat. My own particular method of creating a playlist has a number of considerations:

  • Mix up the duration of the songs
  • Put space between songs from the same album, unless the two are better when played in sequence
  • Build to a natural high, slow it down again, and finish with a real flourish
  • Put in some newer songs close to the start, assuming there are newer songs worthy of inclusion
  • For bands with more than one vocalist, mix up the sequence depending on who is singing
  • Speed and style matters, so mix it up unless there is a good reason not to
  • Albums often have a great choice of opening and closing song that work best in that particular spot 
  • The final three or four songs might resemble an encore if it was a real concert
  • Leave the listener satisfied and wanting more 

Pixies formed in 1986 and released four full-length albums, an EP and several singles before breaking up in 1993. In 2004, the band reformed with its original lineup, allowing a new generation of fans to hear the music live. Kurt Cobain once remarked that Nirvana were just ripping off the basic Pixies style.

I remember the band announcing a 2004 UK tour and tickets selling out in 8 minutes. Luckily, I secured mine. 2013 saw a new album, but bassist Kim Deal has since left the band.

Not many bands hook me instantly the first time I hear their music, but Pixies did that to me when I first heard Vamos. I bought everything they had ever released within a few days of that initial exposure.

Choosing 20 songs for this playlist was almost impossible. Even being a strict as I possibly could, I was still struggling to cut the final 11 songs until this morning. In truth, a Pixies playlist would probably contain more songs than just 20, but I'll stick to that format for this series for the sake of consistency.

The band's sound ranges from rant, to pop, to rock, but there is something else, almost beyond description in some of the songs. There is an almost mystical quality that suggests searching for something just beyond reach. I might describe it as atmospheric, but that doesn't do it justice. Many of these songs make my hair stand up on end. The basic structure is so simple, but that doesn't make it any less essential.

Here are the final 20 songs in my preferred order and a YouTube playlist which consists mostly of great live versions of the songs:

Where Is My Mind
Is She Weird
Crackity Jones
I've Been Tired
Wave of Mutilation
Broken Face
No. 13 Baby
Nimrod's Son
Bone Machine
Hang Wire
Gouge Away
Monkey Gone to Heaven
The Happening

No comments:

Post a Comment