Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Walking Playlist

The walk from 7 World Trade Center to my apartment takes about 25 minutes. When leaving the building after work at around 6pm every day, I’m faced with a calming sky and an onslaught of hotel-bound tourist funneling out of the 9/11 Memorial. New York, in its colorful and exhausting variety, can sometimes be over-stimulating. Every once in a while, everyone needs to find his or her own way to tune it out.

I’ve been making playlists and CD mixes for as long as I can remember and it has come to define the way I actively engage with various experiences, the compilations of songs acting a a catalogue of my shifting musical interests.

My college apartment is a columbarium of crumpled essay drafts, unfolded heaps of laundry and a rather dignified vertical rod stacked with dozens of CDs titled everything from “January 2013” to “Abroad” to “Punk 101: for Dad”.

About a week into walking to and from work, I began to develop a playlist that would come to best represent both the exhaustion of a long work day and the vague anticipation of not needing to wear pants for the rest of the it. The result: a eight-track mix of songs – old and new –that accompany me back to my apartment most days after work. They are, in no particular order:

      The Border Line by Goldspot

I found Siddhartha Khosla’s four-man, New York-based band early in high school and was immediately drawn to the strange use of classical Indian instruments in otherwise hoppy indie-rock songs. The song uses an instrument called the harmonium—that soft buzzing sound behind the thinning guitar.

     Lusaka By Night by John Wizards

This is a weird one. I don’t know too much about John Wizards except that they’re from Cape Town and have two keyboardists. I first heard this in a friend’s apartment and didn’t really think it to be all that exceptional, but roll with the strangeness and this band will keep on giving.


      Scenic World by Beirut

Where to begin with Beirut...Trumpets? Mandolin? Scenic World demonstrates what they do best—sweeping accordions layered under Zach Condon belting two verses at a time with restrained melancholy. I’ll have two, please.

           Foolin’ by Devendra Banhart

Speaking of sad, shaky men with powerful voices, Devendra Banhart’s brand of rough-edged, woeful beach tunes really gets under the skin. Nobody should be allowed to sing this alone.

      Armistice by Phoenix

Some of my favorite choruses of all time are tucked inside Phoenix songs, and Thomas Mars’s voice makes this stuff twice as special. Not to mention 'Wolfgang Amadeus' was one of the best alt-rock albums of this decade.

      Moth’s Wings by Passion Pit

Passion Pit is such an important band for people our age. There’s something so new to their sound, but also a familiarity. If only I could write sentences half as crisp as Michael Angelakos’s lyrics—or his tweed jackets.

      Cape Cod Kwassa Kwa by Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend is to bad moods what red wine is to white carpets.

      The Obvious Child by Paul Simon

No list is complete without a classic. I know Paul Simon because of Simon and Garfunkel, and because of the clumsy dance my mother does every time this song comes on.

-- Written by Varun Nayar, Grinnell College, Fast Company
-- Edited by Helen Zook, Northwestern University, Travel + Leisure

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