Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Ultimate Playlists 6: Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks

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 

The first post-Pavement Stephen Malkmus album grabbed my attention from the start, but I lost my way for a while after that. Pig Lib and Face the Truth seemed decent enough, but I set them aside for years. Then came the release of Real Emotional Trash and everything changed. The band toured with Janet Weiss on drums and I found myself seeking out the earlier albums and enjoying the concerts more than ever before. Mirror Traffic and Wig Out at Jagbags contain plenty of great songs too, so I finally realized something that should have been obvious:

Stephen Malkmus writes brilliant songs.

The lyrics are full of humor. His quirky delivery is unmistakable and isn't dramatically different from his days with Pavement. Here's the shocking thing though; as much as I adore Pavement, I listen to the Jicks more often. There isn't a song that I want to skip. So on the rare days that I am not listening to Modest Mouse, it's the Jicks that are most likely to be my fall back option.

Figuring out which songs to include in the final 20 for this playlist was far from easy. I found myself agonizing over which favorites to cut. Just listen to Malkmus play the guitar and you'll hear how distinctive his style is. The vocals may put off some, but I love his delivery. If you like alternative rock and guitar-driven songs, there's plenty to like here. If you're a fan of clever lyrics that make you smile, there's no shortage of those either.

Without further ado, here is my Jicks playlist which can be found here on my YouTube Channel:

Dragonfly Pie
It Kills
Church on White
Cinnamon and Lesbians
Hopscotch Willie
Stick Figures in Love
1% of One
Post Paint Boy
Black Book
Witch Mountain Bridge
Independence Street
Baby C'Mon
Out of Reaches
(Do Not Feed the) Oyster
Discretion Grove
The Janitor Revealed
Real Emotional Trash

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