Before you begin, click play on the above playlist.
Twice this week I’ve attracted a worried, sympathetic gaze from a stranger, once while getting my mail and once while sitting at a traffic light. The cause was the same both times: Landon. Dude, I look like a dummy these days, and it’s all your fault. I can’t get “Brave” out of my head, and I can’t stop myself from dancing like the people in that video.
Landon and I are featuring one another’s favorite music of the year. We’ve swapped curated playlists of our favorite songs and the names of our top albums, and we’re taking turns this week presenting those in this space with comment. Hence my repeated listening to “Brave” (and “Settle Down” and “6AM”) and the inevitable public dancing, which, as you may have guessed, is the cause of my public humiliation.
I’m less capable as a cultural critic, so I won’t suggest a worldview. I will, though, suggest a World Experience–that is, what listening to Landon’s 2013 music picks will do to your life. Once you get comfortable in your own skin, you’re gonna like it. I’ve been doing it for a week now. It’s nice.
In the past seven days Last.fm tells me that I’ve listened to “Brave” 22 times, “Royals” 27 times, and “Get Lucky” 19 times (not counted are the views of the videos for these songs, which have been multiple). It’s a good life. The key is major. It’s rhythmic. There’s harmony. It won’t make you want to dance outright (excepting “Get Lucky,” of course), but you will be moving: head bobbing, feet gliding, shoulders twitching.
There was a time when I would heap scorn on that kind of indulgence. But I’m older now. November was a rough month. The songs on this playlist are a tonic from the gods.
This list isn’t without heft, though. “Two Sides of Lonely” is a throaty lament, and “Epic” has this haunting rhythm guitar part that’ll make you want do don a black turtleneck and horn-rimmed glasses. And, yeah, “Royals” is nobody’s Bibbidy-Bobbidy-Boo. Landon’s songs will hook your head and your gut at the same time.
The best word for the whole list is “anthemic.” These are big songs for big places (“City Electric”). They’re reaching in their lyrics and arrangements to be the voice of a public (notably “Most People” and “Brave”), which kind of makes the whole list feel like a life statement: we the people of this music are coming after the world with confidence, ready to think and move at the same time. Stare at us if you want.
I synced this playlist to my phone last week so I could listen to it wherever I went and just swim in it. Now we’ll see how long it takes me to get out and dry off.
Landon claims disappointment in 2013’s crop of albums, so he’s only highlighting three. We have kind of established a three-skip rule for albums in the past, which simply states that an album can’t be all that great if there are more than three songs on it that you regularly skip. I have to believe that the three skip rule kept lots of albums on the bench here.
Here are Landon’s top three:
“Random Access Memories,” by Daft Punk
This one kind of threw me, because I never took Landon for a Daft Punk fan. I’ll only say this: if you listen to this album from beginning to end you’re getting a smorgasbord of disco guitar arrangements and electronic vocalizations (including a long stretch of spoken word) that will challenge your attention span. If you can stick with it and not just hit the fun stuff (“Lucky,” “Lose Yourself To Dance”), you have a more disciplined ear than I.
“Stories Don’t End” by Dawes
Landon could sing the songs on this album, and I’m certain that’s why he loves it. This album is super simple flannel-clad rock that veers country at times. But the soul of the album is a bearded dude with a guitar writing nuanced lyrics (“Just My Luck”) crooning to a minimal backing band. No doubt Landon listens to “Stories Don’t End” and fantasizes about playing gritty bars with the boys from Jesusfish.
“Fellow Travelers,” by Shearwater
This comes out of nowhere, and I don’t quite know what to do with it. Jonathan Meiberg’s is Shearwater’s lead singer, and he has a voice like tar. It’s heavy and engrossing, but I can only take it in short doses. Those doses hit hard, though. Like, cinder block on your windshield hard. “Fellow Travelers” is snarlin’ music. That Landon loves this suggest to me that, after 2013, he could name you five people he’d kick in the chest given the chance. Go get ’em, cowboy.
So there you have it. Landon’s favorite songs and albums of the year. What does this collection suggest to you?
And does anybody know where I can get a good deal on a space helmet? I haven’t got Landon’s Christmas present yet.