I’ve been making quarterly playlists for about two years now, and find that each one is always a sort of reflection of—or a net for catching—the ups and downs of each season of life. It’s always interesting to look back and see how much my tastes have changed, or how replaying a certain song conjures up memories of a certain dinner at home, driving somewhere, or a feeling felt. I often don’t take time to actually reflect on these things or mark them, so I thought this would be a good place to start. Here are some songs I’ve had on repeat so far this year.
Please Won't Please by Helado Negro
“Lifelong history shows/That brown won’t go/Brown just glows.”
Helado Negro is the project of Robert Carlos Lange, the son of Ecuadorian immigrants who often explores issues of family, identity, and personal history in an intimate and powerful way. The album title itself draws on Jamaica Kincaid's story ”Girl,” a series of instructions and ideals from an immigrant mother to her daughter. Lange's previous albums are much more electronic and eclectic, but This is How You Smile is much more soft and personal. One of my favorite things about Lange's live performances are the Tinsel Mammals created by his wife Kristi Sword.
Don't Look Back by Jackson C. Frank
“You can read all about justice / In a million books and more / But there aren’t words to bring back Evers / Nor pay the price that he stood for”
This song by Jackson C Frank is a politically charged piece recounting the civil rights movement and the murder of Medgar Evers, and American Civil Rights Activist who was shot in front of his own home after returning from an NAACP meeting.
This week we've watched as protests unfold over injustice, police brutality, and the continued fight for civil rights for black and brown people in America. My heart aches for the entire situation. I've been reflecting recently on how much political turmoil was going on during the 1960s, and how this moment in time feels so similarly in upheaval—like returning boomerang—even though it's not quite the same.
Nihilist Kite Flyer by Loving
“Asking myself / When I just might / When I just might be found / When I just might see clearly”
Loving is a Canadian folk-pop trio who released their debut LP If I am Only My Thoughts this year. I love the honest song-writing here, and how they highlight this desire to have meaning, to be able to see clearly. The lyrics feel almost psalmic or biblical in thought—the thoughts of someone who is lost and desires to be found.
Sacred Sands by Allah-Lahs
My guilty pleasure is listening to surf-rock inspired music like The Ventures, The Beach Boys, or Dick Dale. Allah-Lahs is a garage-rock, surf-rock inspired quartet from LA who released this instrumental track back in 2012. I've really enjoyed some of their newer tracks on Mexican Summer as well, but this song in particular just feels like it's supposed to be in a Bruce Brown film—and this makes sense, since ”three of the four members met while working at one of the country's great record stores, Amoeba on Sunset Boulevard, where they spent countless hours studying up on the vintage sounds that compose their affectingly melancholy self-titled debut,” as noted in a Pitchfork review.
Breeze by Jefre Cantu-Ledesma and Var Har Du Varit by Dungen
Picking up off of the surf theme, these are my two favorite tracks from the recently released soundtrack to Self Discovery for Social Survial, a collaborative film between Pilgrim Surf Supply and Mexican Summer. To create the film, both musicians and surfers traveled together and the music was created in response to the surfing–a sort of homage to the birth of the surf-film genre in the 1950s.
San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) by Emile Mosseri, Daniel Herskedal, Joe Talbot, and Michael Marshall
I recently watched The Last Black Man in San Francisco directed by Joe Talbot. It's a really beautiful movie about home, belonging, and place. The score to the film is composed by Emile Mosseri, and is beautiful on its own, but fits the cinematography perfectly. This is a cover of the original 1967 song by Scott McKenzie.