Songs and Playlists




Spotify playlists
All under two hours
except Hawkwind

1970s: Sky High
1970s: Thunder Island
1970s: Reminiscing
Prog Rock sampler
Disco sampler
New Wave Shuffle
Crazy Train
Indie Rock 1985-1993
Gordon Lightfoot
Psychedelic Instrumentals
Hawkwind 1970-1984
Classic Rock Deep Tracks Dregs of Spotify

music blog
April 2024. Since I made my Not On Spotify playlist, two of the best songs have appeared on Spotify: Souvenir by Pretty & Twisted, and Summer's Over by Dennis Harte. Both of those are on my newest playlist, Dregs of Spotify. Only one song has over 50k plays, and five of them don't even have enough plays to be counted. Play count turned out to be a valuable constraint for making a playlist, because it forced me to go deeper into the discographies of some of my favorite artists.

March 2024. To my 90s playlist, I've added Grace Cathedral Park by Red House Painters, and removed Song Against Sex by Neutral Milk Hotel. Also, in my 80s playlists, I've swapped Kim Wilde's Kids In America from new wave to rock, because of the transitions, and INXS's Don't Change from rock to new wave, because it's so luminous. Also, now that Neil Young is back on Spotify, I've added Love and Only Love to classic rock deep tracks.

March 2024. I'm really enjoying walking around Seattle with my first early 80s playlist on random order, so I've renamed it New Wave Shuffle, and I'm continuing to add and remove songs. Also I renamed my early 80s rock playlist to just Crazy Train.

January 2024. I've been listening to Hawkwind for 40 years now, and I've just put together a sub-200 minute Hawkwind playlist.

January 2024. Could we have found the best album of 2024 in the first few days of January? It's a review of Letter to Self by Sprints, and after several listens, I think this is the best heavy rock album since the 90s. Favorite song: Up and Comer.

December 2023. My song of the year is by Grian Chatten, the front man of Fontaines DC, an Irish band with some great songs including Liberty Belle from 2018. His first solo album, Chaos For the Fly, is quite good, and contains one masterpiece, All of the People. It's a hymn to introversion, with cynical verses about human relationships, and a transcendent chorus about being alone. The sound recalls old-time crooners, but none of them had lyrics like this.

Top Ten Eleven (obscure)
Big Blood - Song For Baltimore (2007)
In the first YouTube video of this song, a comment described it as a tragedy. The tones are so intense, someone could think that, but this is the happiest song of all time. This is incomprensible hippie Cthulhu levels of happiness. The first time I heard it, I didn't know my ears could do that. You might think it's bad singing, because what notes even are those? It turns out, they're the exact pitch and timbre to split my head.

On the lyrics, from my Big Blood page:
They might be about the ecstasy of ego loss in intense social experiences (some things wash away, so you're one thing) or meditation (the choice, every part of this groove is quiet). But I think they're about a well-lived life (greet more friends, bearing the weight of themselves lightly) and its metaphysical context (the bright is all the more beautiful, the spirit risen in sequence). Life begins when a spark of the divine is fixed in space and time (so you're one thing, right in this vicinity) and it ends with a reopening (windows, curtains) and dissolving of the self. The loudest word in the song is "quiet", and at the end the vocals fade under a riff like a cosmic processional. The final words: "And I'm holy."
Hana Zara - You Burnt the Toast (2013)
Hana Zara is a currently active folk singer who at least three times has knocked a song out of the park. Little Doll (2012), Hooray Hoorah (2017), and this masterpiece about the beauty of small moments. No other song does so much with so little.
Pretty & Twisted - Souvenir (1995)
Concrete Blonde's 1990 hit Joey was written by Johnette Napolitano about Marc Moreland, best known as the guitar player for Wall of Voodoo. Moreland died of liver failure in 2002, probably inspiring Napolitano's 2003 song Suicide Note.

In 1995, they collaborated on a one-shot album called Pretty & Twisted. It's been almost forgotten, but it's quite good, and it contains this incredible song of doomed love, with probably the heaviest vocals ever. It suffers from a hurried fade-out, but that's just what the song is about: "I don't want to see you fade away."
Big Star - Kangaroo (1974)
Like Souvenir, Kangaroo is a love song where the subject of the song participated in the recording. Alex Chilton went into the studio late one night with his girlfriend, Lesa Aldridge, and she recorded while he played a 12-string and sang. The raw recording has a title I like better: Like St Joan, and this page has more details. The rhythm is loose, and being on one track, the sounds could not be separated. Chilton gave it to the producer, Jim Dickinson, and said "produce it".

This is one of the best produced songs of all time. Dickinson played every other instrument: mellotron, guitar feedback, bass and drums; and laid them down meticulously, filling the spaces around Chilton's dissipated strumming. There's no rhythm section! Even the drums are played as a lead instrument, and the cowbell in the final verse is a work of art. Chilton does everything he can to make it sound sad, but the lyrics are completely happy, filthy and triumphant. "We looked very fine as we were leaving."
Life Without Buildings - Let's Get Out (2001)
From my albums page: Four Glasgow artists formed a band on a lark, made one album, and went on with their lives. Sue Tompkins' vocals are from another planet, feral and stuttery, seemingly improvised -- and yet, in live performances the songs are basically the same. And if you listen closely, her vocals are in sync with equally complex math rock. I've never heard anything so chaotic and so ordered. This is as brain-stretching as jazz and as blood-pounding as metal.

This song, on the surface, is about a missed phone connection. But it's also an intensely spiritual song about being alive, and I wonder if it inspired the band name, because who needs buildings? "Look around, information, in the leaves." It's about being flesh in the world with its flaws: "I'm a visitor here" and "I still believe in getting low." It's about the tension between regret and the preciousness of all experience: "Look back and say that I didn't!"
Belle & Sebastian - The Rollercoaster Ride (1998)
The one song guaranteed to make me cry. It reminds me a lot of Nick Drake's Saturday Sun.
Doctopus - Wobbegong (2014)
This garage surf romp ticks all the boxes for greatest of all time: it's raw, it's intense, and it's transcendent. "I want to live under water... I want to live in a spaceship... I want to see all my ages with you." From the same country in the same year:
Wireheads - Holiday (2014)
As raw as Beat Happening and as heavy as Hawkwind, this is the best space rock song of all time. With the whale-like interlude, and the theme of reaching toward the light, it reminds me of Pink Floyd's Echoes.
Hawkwind - Space Is Deep (1972)
From the album that invented space rock, with Lemmy on bass, and the vocals are just a teaser for the jam that follows. This is flat-out the best crescendo in rock. Wait for the change at 3:26 and revel in the keyboards.
Orphans & Vandals - Argyle Square (2009)
A project of singer-songwriter Al Joshua, this band made one great album of Dickensian chamber rock. The other two major songs are about a suicide and a murder, but this one is about the joy of urban life.
Bone Cellar - Dryrot (1994)
Short and sad, and capped with an epic solo.

Top Ten (popular)
Coldplay - Yellow (2000)
Yellow is the color of the sun. It's the color of warm light. In the context of this song, it's a wild card for feeling that good about something. "Skin and bones" could be anything with substance and form, inner and outer. This is the perfect love song, because whoever or whatever you love, it fits. Churches could sing this about God. For me it's about being alive in this world. "So then I took my turn. Oh what a thing to have done."
Starland Vocal Band - Afternoon Delight (1976)
A lot of people hate this song, because if you view music as a cultural signifier, it represents the sappy culture of the 1970s. But when I use my actual ears, these are the tightest and must luminous harmonies I've ever heard. This would be the first song on my "aliens don't kill us" playlist.
Kirsty MacColl - They Don't Know (1979)
Not a hit, as it was relased during a trucker's strike and the records weren't delivered. But it got a ton of airplay in the UK, and later Tracey Ullman had a popular cover that's basically a tribute, with the peak of the song, "Bayyyby", still MacColl singing.
Crystal Gayle - Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue (1977)
Crystal Gayle is my favorite singer of the 70s. Karen Carpenter has more depth, but the vibrato in this song is like the wings of birds. Because the regular keyboardist was sick, they brought in Hargus "Pig" Robbins, who made up this classic riff on the spot. On the first take, live in studio, they laid down a moonshot recording.
Juice Newton - Angel of the Morning (1981)
This is the kind of singing that hardly ever happens.
Mazzy Star - Fade Into You (1994)
Those were good times and this was the song, dreamy and yearning.
A Flock of Seagulls - Space Age Love Song (1982)
The guitar part is revolutionary, and the lyrics are short and perfect. It's the third line, "for a little while", that takes it to the next level.
Neil Diamond - Soolaimon (1970)
Neil Diamond's two best songs, this and Holly Holy, are both epically spiritual.
Altered Images - I Could Be Happy (1970)
I think it's about God: the experience of universal oneness, to which we will eventually return, but for now we're having fun in the physical world.
R.E.M. - Belong (1991)

my slideshow videos
Big Blood - The Rise of Quinnisa Rose (2007)
As with Holiday above, the images are mostly from anime boards.
Ladytron - International Dateline (doom edit) (2005)
One of the best written songs of the decade, slowed to half speed plus distortion. Images are mostly from the Imaginary Colorscapes subreddit.
Wireheads - Sagan (2014)
I love this solo and I don't even know the name of the guitar player. Images are from two books of sci-fi art.

The Not On Spotify Playlist
Songs not described below are described above. Since I made this list, two of the best songs, Summer's Over and Souvenir, have been added to Spotify. Still auditioning replacements.
Silver Summit - Child (2012)
If I had a band I'd try to sound like this.
Suzanne Fellini - Love On The Phone (1980)
How has this absolute banger been forgotten?
10,000 Maniacs - My Mother The War (1985)
Spotify has a different version mislabled as this version that kicks its ass.
Wireheads - Holiday (2014)
John Stewart - Lost Her In The Sun (1979)
The song I wish I wrote.
Bone Cellar - Dryrot (1994)
Hana Zara - You Burnt the Toast (2013)
Joanna Newsom - En Gallop (2004)
See "Back In Flesh" below.
Big Blood - Water (2011)
My favorite singer works out her voice for twelve minutes.

A Listening Autobiography
Box Tops - The Letter (1967)
The number one song when I was born.
Sesame Street - That's About the Size (1971)
This video blew my mind at age four, and it might be my biggest single influence.
Gordon Lightfoot - Don Quixote (1972)
On family trips my dad would play Gordon Lightfoot on the car stereo, and this was my favorite.
Blondie - Heart of Glass (1978)
The first song I really loved. At the time I was drawn to the vocal melody of the chorus, and now I admire the crystalline soundscape of echoey low notes and high vocals.
Men At Work - Down By The Sea (1982)
The first band I really got into, and back then I liked their hits, but now I think this was their one great song.
Blue Oyster Cult - Astronomy (live 1978)
At some point in high school I got into Blue Oyster Cult, and this song stood out, and still does, for its gothic poetry and hammering climax.
Dire Straits - Tunnel of Love (1980)
Their Making Movies album felt like higher quality music than I had previously been listening to, and I got even more into Love Over Gold. This song has an incredible guitar solo at the end.
Rush - No One At The Bridge (1975)
...but this guitar solo is the best, then and forever. I got obsessed with Rush around 1983 and bought all their albums.
Wall Of Voodoo - Back In Flesh (1981)
I listened heavily to their Call of the West album, but now this song from Dark Continent is my favorite, and it's oddly similar to Joanna Newsom's "En Gallop". They have the same theme, the conflict between the world of spirit and the money economy. They use the same uncommon meaning of the word "flesh" for how your body chains you to an unpleasant material world. And the riff near the beginning of "En Gallop" is almost the same riff that starts at 2:09.
Pink Floyd - Two Suns in the Sunset (1983)
It's too melodramatic for me now, but I listened so heavily to The Final Cut that I knew all the lyrics. The only Pink Floyd album I still listen to is Meddle.
Hawkwind - Motorway City (1980/1983)
My perennial second favorite band for 35 years. Now I like their heavier stuff, but this smooth and catchy song from their Zones album was an early favorite. See the Hawkwind section of my albums page.
R.E.M. - Wendell Gee (1985)
My hipper friends were already into R.E.M., but I didn't like them until I heard this, their dreamiest song.
Beat Happening - Indian Summer (1987)
In college in Seattle, I heard this song when Beat Happening opened for Billy Bragg and was hooked. It sounds good in a way that nothing sounded good before.
Camper Van Beethoven - June and All Her Favorite Fruit (1989)
I had been following this band since their first album, and their fifth, Key Lime Pie, blew me away, especially these two overlapping songs. June has the best lyrics and AHFF has the best music.
Big Star - September Gurls (1973)
I discovered Big Star around 1992. The bit starting at 1:25 is like nothing before and not much since. I write more about them on the albums page.
The Muffs - Lucky Guy (1993)
I heard this on college radio, immediately bought their debut album, and became obsessed with the Muffs for years, for their catchy songwriting, tight fuzz guitar, and especially for Kim Shattuck's voice. Her best screaming is on Ethyl My Love, and Upside Down is a great song from their third album.
Neutral Milk Hotel - In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (1998)
For years this was my favorite song, but it faded into the background when I discovered Big Blood. Another great Jeff Mangum song is this informal live version of Little Birds.
The Promise Ring - A Picture Postcard (1996)
I'm not a fan of emo, but a friend stayed with me and introduced me to this concise and luminous breakup song. The lyrics are a subtle gutpunch, from the setup, "Don't forget to kiss me if you're really going to leave," to the climax, "Keep your eyes on the road." I interpret it in more detail here.
Orphans & Vandals - Terra Firma (2009)
My girlfriend has highly developed taste in music, which sometimes overlaps with mine. Here's her top 100 from a few years back.
Big Blood - Destin Rain (2010)
I discovered this band in summer of 2014 and became obsessed for years. Much more on my Big Blood fan page, Ecstasy and Doom.
Big Blood - A Watery Down Pt. II (2014)
The song I've spent the most time listening to.
Automatic - Humanoid (2019)
My theme song for COVID. It's about being more alive.

Top Tier Scraps
Songs that aren't on any playlist yet, in order of release date.
unknown - Misirlu (1927?)
The Beatles - Rain (1966)
My favorite Beatles song and Ringo's best drumming. I write more about the Beatles here.
Donovan - Atlantis (1968)
The second half is one of the best things ever.
The Doors - My Wild Love (1968)
Flying Burrito Brothers - Sin City (1969)
Nick Drake - Saturday Sun (1969)
This must be the saddest song possible, because it also has so much beauty.
Neil Diamond - I Am The Lion (1970)
Weird song about the conflict between sedentary and nomadic culture.
Melanie Safka - Lay Down (1970)
Melanie Safka - Ruby Tuesday (1970)
Johnny Cash - Sunday Morning Coming Down (1970)
The best version of Kris Kristofferson's best song.
The Kinks - Strangers (1970)
Syd Barrett - Dark Globe (1970)
Exuma - Mama Loi, Papa Loi (1970)
Exuma - Baal (1970)
Exuma - 22nd Century (1971)
Loudon Wainwright - New Paint (1972)
Brian Eno - On Some Faraway Beach (1973)
Big Star - What's Going Ahn (1973)
Chris Bell - I Am the Cosmos (1975?)
To my knowledge, the only song with this stunning symmetrical structure: first verse, different verse, chorus, solo, chorus, different verse, first verse.
Ramones - Oh Oh I Love Her So (1977)
Their catchiest song, from their brilliant second album, Leave Home.
Ramones - Questioningly (1978)
Their best written song. Dee Dee wrote it and Johnny hated it.
John Cooper Clarke - Valley Of The Lost Women (1978)
A great lyricist's best lyrics.
Hawkwind - Infinity (1979)
Dire Straits - Portobello Belle (1978)
Dire Straits - Skateaway (1980)
Gary Numan - Down In The Park (live 1980)
Dead Kennedys - Kill The Poor (1980)
The second best classic punk song.
Fear - Let's Have A War (1982)
The best classic punk song.
Wall Of Voodoo - Lost Weekend (1982)
Another gem from that album is Factory, a massive upgrade of Machines by Lothar and the Hand People.
Lora Logic - Martian Man (1982)
Talking Heads - Once In A Lifetime (live 1984)
Not a fan of their sound, but these are great lyrics.
Violent Femmes - Never Tell (1984)
Is this prog rock? A multi-part song where every part is great.
Cocteau Twins - Pandora (1984)
R.E.M. - Wendell Gee (1985)
Timbuk 3 - Just Another Movie (1986)
Forgotten political song about how people are tricked into believing in the system that feeds on them.
Galaxie 500 - Flowers (1988)
This is what reverb was invented for.
Galaxie 500 - Blue Thunder (1989)
The best place for a guitar solo is at the end of the song.
Beat Happening - TV Girl (1989)
Beat Happening - Secret Picnic Spot (1990)
The song I want played at my funeral.
Neil Young - Love And Only Love (1990)
His most underrated song.
Loreena McKennitt - Greensleeves (1991)
Improvised in one take, and its rawness makes it her best song.
Beat Happening - Godsend (1992)
The Garbage and the Flowers - Carousel (1992)
My favorite Velvet Underground song.
Red House Painters - Katy Song (1993)
Sigur Rós - Svefn-g-englar (Sleepwalkers) (1999)
My favorite foreign language song, except for this.
Le Tigre - The The Empty (1999)
This video features an inspiring drum performance by Erin Doubenmier.
Carissa's Wierd - Blessed Arms That Hold You Tight, Freezing Cold and Alone (2001)
Gravenhurst - Black Holes In The Sand (2004)
This is like the definition of psychedelic folk, unless it's Secret Garden.
Orphans & Vandals - Mysterious Skin (2009)
This makes Bohemian Rhapsody sound like children's music.
Withered Hand - Love in the Time of Ecstacy (2009)
Red Fang - Wires (2011)
Best video ever.
The Rutabega - Turn On The Summer (2013)
This sound is like the best parts of Alex Chilton and doom metal. Nothing else this heavy, and this good, is this warm.
Ichi - Go Gabambo (2014)
Esben and the Witch - No Dog (live 2014)
Play it loud.
Wireheads - Sonic Spaces Blues (2014)
Big Blood - Away Pt. III (2014)

Beethoven - Great Fugue (1827)
I need to listen to more classical music, but so far, this is one of the few things I really like. Another is Satie's Vexations.
Miles Davis - Helen Butte (1972)
Like Beethoven's Great Fugue, this whole album was despised by contemporaries. I don't think either musician was trying to be weird or difficult. They were just trying to be good, and they pushed quality so far that almost nobody got it. This song is practically space rock. I can't even understand it sober, but on cannabis it's the most psychedelic thing I've ever heard.
Hawkwind - Wind of Change (1974)
Symphonies of the Planets 1 (1992)
The Voyager space probes recorded electromagnetic signals from around the solar system, and back on Earth these were converted into sound. Collages of these sounds were released as NASA Voyager Space Sounds, separated into ten 30 minute tracks from different places, and also as Symphonies of the Planets, with different planets blended into five 30 minute CD's. All the prettiest and spookiest stuff, mostly from the rings of Uranus, is on CD 1.
Moondog - Torisa (1995)
I named a character after this.
Yo La Tengo - Spec Bebop (1997)
Is it pronounced Space Bebop? This whole thing is actually riffing on a sound near the end of Miles Davis's song Billy Preston.
Godspeed You Black Emperor - Gathering Storm (2000)
GYBE took the slow buildup to a whole new level. My other favorites include East Hastings and Moya.
Holy Fuck - Lovely Allen (2007)
Retro Remix Revue - Gerudo Valley (2009)
Great version of the best video game song.
Rachel Flowers - Piano Phase (2011)
Probably the biggest influence on my own piano playing.
Moon Duo - Love On The Sea (2009)
Sort of a cover of What Goes On.

The Velvet Underground - What Goes On (1969 live)
I could loop the last six minutes forever.
Devo - Gut Feeling (1978)
Incredible crescendo, unusual in that it comes before the vocals.
Toy - Dead & Gone (2012)
This is like the new wave Space Is Deep.

More Scraps
Camper Van Beethoven - Lulu Land (1986)
Note: add to lyrics playlist. Written by David Lowery's otherwise unknown roommate, Paul McKinney.
Killdozer - Sweet Home Alabama (1986)
Note: add to covers playlist. This rocks harder than the original, and the vocals are ridiculous.
Joanna Newsom - Clam Crab Cockle Cowrie (2004)
Note: add to breakup playlist. Check out this interpretation by MisterPuzzles.
Rocketship - I Love You Like The Way That I Used To Do (1996)
Note: add to aliens don't kill us playlist.
The Velvet Underground - Candy Says (1968)
Note: add to best written playlist.
OOIOO - Ina (1999)
Note: add to difficult listening playlist.
Jack Nitzsche - Old Enough To Know (1981)
This song has never been released or even bootlegged -- you can only hear it by watching the movie Cutter's Way, and only the first verse plays clearly. I bought the dvd just so I could extract it for the video.
Warren Zevon - I Was In The House When The House Burned Down (1999)
The second best song title, after Pink Floyd's "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun".
The Old 97's - Valentine (1999)
Note: add to breakup playlist.
Cracker - I'm So Glad She Ain't Never Coming Back (2006)
Bob Geldof - I Don't Like Mondays (1981)
The live version from The Secret Policeman's Other Ball.
Steve Mauldin - The Abominable O Holy Night (199?)
It's easier to unlock genius by trying to be bad than trying to be good, and this masterpiece of badness must be what Song For Baltimore sounds like to other people. Related: Guy Plays A Cat Organ, and a mind-blowing version of Greensleeves on Otamatone.

Appendix: top by letter of the alphabet