Tender – Blur
I’d just carried my grandma Shirley’s pastel pink casket through the church, choked out a eulogy and attempted to publicly say goodbye to a woman who meant so damn much to me. “This is hard,” I managed to spout at the podium in between masked snot bubbles and uncontrollable sobbing. It was true – it had been one of the hardest things I ever had to do in all my 33 years of life.
A few days later, I was on my way out of Arizona to fly home to Berlin, but first I’d stop over a few days in Colorado to get some much-needed respite at my best friend since 4th grade’s house. Having forgotten that I had a weed gummy in my pocket, I decided to pop it before going through TSA. As someone who prefers to have drug experiences in the confines of a safe container, this was a bold move, another lesson in letting go. And away I went.
As the plane took off, the gummy kicked in and then this song came on my headphones. The tears came easy but this time they were happy tears.
Life was beautiful. It was hard at times, a lot of times, but it was worth it. Oh, was it worth it.
GMF – John Grant
Tender’s one of those tracks that felt like a classic the moment it came out – the simplicity of the lyric, its timeless melody – all sitting sweetly atop an acoustic groove that moves you along like a train driver on edibles!
I’ve no idea why John Grant’s epic ode to ego popped into my head – maybe it was the acoustic opening groove or the laconic vocal that had me connecting him with Damon’s often tongue in cheek delivery – but ultimately it’s ‘cos on a 5 second crossfade it sounds so fucking good!
Feel The Darkness – Noun
What good is a relationship if it doesn’t act as a mirror reflecting all of your inner demons? I consider myself a serial monogamist, one who feels most home in a relationship. But that doesn’t mean that my home doesn’t occasionally catch fire propelling me outside into the eternal darkness of the night.
Lucky for me I’ve spent the last few decades cultivating relationships with people who still invite me to dinner or out for walks, folks who hold space for me even when my emo is showing. Find you a crew who will help you put your ghouls to bed.
Statuesque – Sleeper
Again it’s the transition that I’m obsessing on – there’s a sense of finality as Feel The Darkness fades out on a solo organ – replaced by the renewal of electric riffs from one my favorite 90’s “girl bands”.
And what the fuck is a girl band – I remember watching 10 Things I Hate About You (which I secretly love) and thinking that they nailed the misogyny in Heath Ledger’s character when it came to how young men think of female fronted rock bands – add to that Rolling Stone’s recent tone deaf list of the best lead singers of all time with not an ovary in sight and you gotta wonder if we’ll ever get over this gender thing.
But all that aside – I loved this album – the smart harmonies, instrumentation and of course Louise Wener has the sexiest voice around – clearly – as apparently she won NME’s Award for most desirable person in 1997 – if I’d known that was a thing I’d have def voted for her!
Center Of Attention – Guster
My 12-year-old self loved this song. I used to play it on full blast when my mom and rebellious older sister were screaming at each other in the next room.
Funny to think that this primitive version of self fully understood the magic of music to raise her vibration.
Some may call this disassociating. I call it witchcraft.
Seven Ten Split – Lipstick Stains
For all that I was familiar with the pop scene in the late nineties I’d never gotten to know Guster – and yet they’ve appeared on a couple of playlists I’ve made with other people recently and I’m now a fan! I’m reading Nicole’s write up and yes – there’s a defiant energy to the track that had me bouncing all over the place.
Lipstick Stains are another new band to me – again from making lists with strangers – but there’s a similar demanding – defiant – energy that connects the tracks in my mind – plus – I was feeling we needed to get louder :-p
Angst – Die Nerven
Though I’ve lived in Germany for 7 years, I still feel like someone is pulling my pants down every time they talk to me in German. Surprise, shock, panic.
I can speak a bit. I can understand a bit more. But damn this language puts me on edge.
I have angst. I have angst. I have angst.
Precious – 2006 Remaster – Pretenders
I remember grinning while listening to this – it’s the perfect follow up to Lipstick Stains and who cares if you can’t understand the words – you know exactly what they mean! I’m listening back now and the stick clicks have me thinking of Antmusic by Adam and the Ants which might have been a solid segue but I’m still pretty stoked with Precious.
First track off their eponymous 1980 album, it just kicks harder than the more popular tracks later on in their career and if I can find a list where it might work – on it goes!
Lust For Life – Girls
It’s easy to get caught up in the cause-and-effect way of thinking in this song, “if only I had this, everything would turn out fine.” But it’s not going to make you feel good. Not now and not in the long run.
Self-deprecation is so 2009. Now it’s all about making friends with your flaws and finding reasons to be happy right this very moment (I guess.)
So funny that Iggy Pop’s fiery hit carries the same title. While Iggy spouts he’s worth a million dollars in prizes in his song, Girls’ rage that they’re “fucked in the head”. Makes me wonder how much cocaine Iggy must have ingested during the making of the original to give him that kind of confidence.
New New – Club Yoko
I’m really grooving on the Girls track – (it’s already found itself on another list I’m collaborating on) – and yeah I went in with the expectation of an Iggy Pop cover, but man was I stoked to hear something new – and that outro!!
Again I was reaching for a transition – had Big Star’s The Ballad Of El Goodo lined up but it didn’t quite gel and I found myself going in an opposite direction. Having spent last summer in Barcelona avoiding viruses by binge watching spanish language shows, I’d got addicted to Valeria – Sex in the City but set in Madrid with much better sex and a much more agreeable cast. Story aside, the music on the show is outstanding – so much so that I spent a day or so listening to over 100 tracks that had featured across the two seasons – https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1ovqgx1WXW6FQMZ8YRnUIP?si=36caee3055554a2f – so much great stuff – particularly some of the local Madrid indie bands that you’d never hear otherwise – not too sure why this Club Yoko was the one that made the list but yes – the groove change felt good.
Maniac – Moullinex
If I don’t dance for a while, I feel a heaviness start to build up in my chest. While some people can get away with lifting heavy weights or downward dogging their way to clarity – these restless feet need to move!
You can imagine how crazy I felt the last two years when all my usual dancing haunts were shut down. Thanks Corona. I felt slighted, why could the children continue to play on the spielplatz but I was forbidden from flailing my phalanges on the dancefloor? This weekend I plan to meet some friends for a boogie and you can bet your butt that my inner maniac will be making an appearance.
NYC Freaks – RNDM
I just spat out my beer while reading Nicole’s “…downward dogging their way to clarity” – I love Yoga – have been doing it for years – but I’m not very good at it – and I’m still striving for clarity! I tend to side with her that dancing is probably way better for body and soul than just about anything else.
Those of us old enough to have seen the original Flashdance when it came out have this track ingrained in their ears – it’s brilliant and the video that went with it and the whole movie and – wow – just – yes! And to take all that and make it super smooth and chilled and hip – yep – that’s a cover I can get behind.
Where to go from a classic – when I’m stuck in this space I fall back on groove – RNDM have less than 1,000 monthly listeners on Spotify but damn they could have more – I love this track – it’s got such a solid underlying foundation and the musicianship is just dope – also – it’s damn fine to dance to!
Deceptacon (DFA Rmx) By Tim Goldsworthy & James Murphy for the Dfa – Le Tigre
Don’t give this song too much thought. Sometimes you just need to stand up and let your feet do the talking.
Get outta your head and into your body.
Lucky Girl – Fazerdaze
Once upon a time – as a very stoned and “wet behind the ears” band member – I sent an email to Le Tigre letting them know how much I appreciated their music and that I thought they would do very well. Obvs at the time I thought the band I was in was going to be bigger – guess how that turned out?
I wanted to switch up the groove and while I was still remembering the Valeria soundtrack, Fazerdaze’s Lucky Girl kept popping into my head – while there’s a certain innocence to that opening lick and the chorus lyric – once the track gets going there’s that driving groove – complete with spaced out vocals and an almost layer of dirt that feels so at odds with how the track initially presents and it just has me head nodding along…
Tried And True – Ween
That feeling of sinking into a steaming whirlpool of water. Mmm. Every cell in your body agrees – this feels good. Really good.
At the very moment, you don’t think life could get any better, a breeze grazes your face and arms. Goosebumps.
Just then your bedfellow opens the wooden gate to join you in the hot tub. What are you so smiley for? He asks.
Steady – The Staves
Ween are one of those bands I “know” of but don’t really “know” – I’d never heard this track and I’m now fascinated by it – the whole composition – it’s like a mini opera and how the hell do you follow that?
With The Staves – that’s how.
I’ve got this track on a few other lists where I’m looking for a shift in feel but you don’t want the transition to be too rough – the opening guitar fades in beautifully on pretty much any track I’ve tried it with – and then – hello vocal harmonies – hello percussion – genius song!
7ft Tall Post-Suicidal Feel Good Blues – Nancy
I live in my head a lot. It feels safe here but that’s only because I spend so much time there.
That’s why when I hear songs like this I feel seen. Ah, so I’m not the only overthinker who makes up scenarios in her head and then gets anxious when that said scenario doesn’t align with what I actually want to happen? Productive use of brainpower? Probably not. But neither is Googling “the negative impact of overthinking.”
I saw a meme recently that also made me feel seen. It read,
Me: “No worries either way.”
Also me: **Worrying about both ways.
We’re Going to Be Friends – The White Stripes
There’s such a gruncy classic feel to the Nancy track – T-Rex, Marc Bolan – but then there’s this right turn – straight off the Beatles white album to end the track and I’m thinking – where to next – thinking of what would come out if you mixed T-Rex and The Beatles – Jack White is a definite possibility!
I have seen enough – Metronomy
When you have been together with someone for so long, you have enough data stored up to create an AI version of them – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
It can be hard to see them with fresh eyes, especially when you have all the important things about them memorized – like their Thai food takeout order, preferred seat on the plane, and pin number.
Love, I think, is knowing so much about someone, but finding it hard to look away.
People Are Strange – The Doors
I’m kinda wishing I had Nicole’s write ups for each track as I listened to them for the first time as it has a huge impact on how I hear them now – I’m doing a playlist like this with Tracy and it’s great but it does take forever :-p I really dug the Metronomy track and it had me searching for more vocal forward tracks – almost but not quite settling on a Crash Test Dummies classic – but it did lead me to the Doors.
I’ve lived in Venice – walked the same streets as the band did – seen Robbie Krieger play a hometown gig at The Good Hurt, fallen in love with the whole mysticism surrounding Jim Morrison and of course, as any keyboard player will tell you, Ray Manzarek was a god. But it was having to learn the keyboard solo from Light My Fire in order to play my first ever live gig in the school band at the age of 13 that really turned me onto the Doors – I’ve always loved the sentiment of this track.
Another World – Joe Jackson
Arising from slumber, I step out onto my sunny balcony and feel myself being transported to another world. The vegetable market is bustling below, cars are honking, babies are crying. And I – I’m smiling.
True, the highs and lows of being a human can be so — exhausting. But, they can also be so deliciously exciting.
A year ago my then four-year-old niece ran around the house screaming “I CAN’T WAIT to go to school!!” Having been to many schools, I have serious doubts her enthusiasm will last past the age of 7 but I still think about that moment from time to time and smile. How this little person could be SO EXCITED about something she had no idea about and literally be shouting at the top of her lungs because of it, was beyond me. But it’s also the energy I aspire to have when thinking about my own unknowns.
The Luckiest – Ben Folds
Joe Jackson – Britain’s Billy Joel – one of the few people who kept the piano cool through the 80’s. It was a shit time to be a pianist in bands back then ‘cos everyone wanted you to be a keyboard player – a synth wizard with programming chops and sequencing ability and I was all like – but no – there’s 88 keys and infinite possiblites already – what else do you fucking need?! Needless to say, I didn’t play in many bands through the 80’s and 90’s – but my kids know the words to most of the tracks on Look Sharp and think Joe Jackson’s a genius.
So how to end this list – I’m feeling all warm and “musiciany” – I know – that’s not really a word but I’m guessing you know what I mean – Nicole and I have bounced around the decades – grabbing tracks from here and there but following a red thread driven by personal memories and associations that make sense to us and now – having read these paragraphs – maybe they’ll make sense to you too.
I’m going to close with another pianist – an American one – another cat who kept the faith and kept the piano cool – who’s also super smart and writes killer lyrics and – well – this song pretty much sums up how I feel about the people I get to work with on musicto.
It’s just a truth that without Nicole musicto wouldn’t be what it is today. We spent half of 2015 and most of 2016 working together, laying the groundwork for what would eventually become a growing collective of curators. Some of the early cadre came from Nicole’s Berlin network and helped determine the policies and procedures that we would follow for years. She’s one of my favorite people to work with – operates at a high level – does what she says she’s going to do and delivers with minimal fuss or bullshit. Add to that – music runs through her like a river – you can see why she was the perfect person to work with to get a project like this off the ground.
As it morphs and changes over time I’m still amazed at how lucky we have been to attract individuals that believe in and commit themselves to the project. musicto as a global creator community is something I couldn’t have imagined 7 years ago – but it still shares the same DNA that Nicole and I believed in back then – that music is good – is good for you – that there’s so much amazing music out there that the profit motive is not revealing – that if we could create something that lifted music up, for music’s sake rather than financial gain – then we’d be making a difference.
Thank you Nicole – I do indeed feel very lucky 🙂
About the Curators
Nicole Paulus has always been a huge music nerd. When she's not on a dance floor waving her arms like a madwoman, she’s busy running her own digital marketing company: Nicole Paulus - Squarespace Webdesign & Digital Marketing Solutions
The first visual memory I have is that of the white upright piano in Singapore, Hell and the Dark Forces lived at the bottom, Heaven and the Angels at the top, they would play battles through my fingers and I was hooked.
As a psychology graduate I studied how sound affects human performance.
As a musician I compose instrumental music that stimulates your brain but doesn't mess with your language centers, leaving you free to be creative and brilliant without distraction.
As the founder of musicto I’m on a mission to build a global creator community that collaborates through music. You can learn more about our community here.