In my mind, playlists are a mystery: I can never pinpoint exactly what makes one good. There’s so many ways you can group songs: by volume, by tone, by lyrics, by artist, by year released, by the thing you think you’ll be doing when you listen to them, by the weather they make you crave, by the food substitute they are. Choosing which songs fit into the categories I have in mind for my playlist is such a long, repetitive and complicatedly subjective process that it often renders the end result so contrived it’s only marginally enjoyable for me to listen to. So I decided to see if taking something objective and arbitrary and using it to smush some music together works better. I went through all the artists I have saved on Spotify that begin with the letter “A” and picked five songs that I think can sort of go together — and it only took me 8 and a half minutes.
“Une Annee Sans Lumiere” by Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire begins with an “A.” “Une Annee Sans Lumiere,” the third track on their 2004 album, Funeral, is a little bit tragically melancholy, a little bit confusing, with poetic lyrics in French about horses and ears, and a little bit summery with a tambourine and snare drum beat. It’s probably the song someone would come up with if you asked them to make the word “lull” tangible. Devoid of any one particular concrete emotion, it’s the perfect song to listen to while you sit in the grass and eat Baby Cheddar Goldfish in 65-degree weather (which is precisely what I’m doing as I write this; yes, they make Baby Cheddar Goldfish, and yes, they’re adorable.)
“Oh, Pretty Woman” by Al Green
“A” is for Al Green. You should listen to his rendition of Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” because it’s the perfect balance of 1960s nostalgia and 1970s album cover art. It has the very flattering quality of being a serenade-like ballad with funk. Unlike Orbison’s original version, which is an overwhelmingly pop-ish, beach boys-esque, white-guy-tries-to-be-romantic-but-comes-off-slightly-naive-and-perverted tune, Green’s cover is sexier, more subtle and just lovelier. There’s the pervasive feeling of soft flattery that comes with being called a pretty woman and having your smile complimented for 3 minutes and 23 seconds: Why wouldn’t you love this song?
“Matilda” by alt-J
This band, alt-J ,begins with a lowercase “A,” which makes it confusing when you want to start a sentence with its name. Its song, “Matilda,” from the album with the rainbow-y fractal patterned cover (An Awesome Wave), is a beautiful syncopated interlude in this playlist. Its fading arpeggio guitar melody and quiet lyricism make it one of alt-J’s less obviously alt-rock songs, and one definitely not to be missed.
“Archie, Marry Me” by Alvvays
Alvvays starts with “A” too. Their song, “Archie, Marry Me” starts with chirping birds and a delicate guitar harmony. It melts into a vaguely echo-y vocal line, sounding reminiscent of times much before 2014, and making this song about a pining romance that’s going nowhere oddly comforting. As it expands into the realm of soft rock and the chorus loops for the second time, you start to think about how much of a dick Archie is being here. And then it loops for what feels like the fifth time, but is really only the third, and you wonder if maybe he’s somewhat justified in not wanting to marry someone so clingy and demanding.
“Fluorescent Adolescent” by Arctic Monkeys
By now I think you know the drill, so I’m not going to say it again (but really it’s because I just ran out of different ways to say the same thing five times). The Arctic Monkeys song “Fluorescent Adolescent” is truly as fun to listen to as it is to say its name out loud. Everything is rhythmic and rhyming and it’ll inarguably make you want to get up and dance idiotically around the room. You should probably get up and do that (unless you’re outside in public eating Goldfish, in which case you should probably stay seated and satisfy yourself with tapping your foot or bobbing your head so you can keep your reputation.)
Contact Olivia Jerram at [email protected].