Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Ultimate Playlists 2: Sonic Youth

Have you ever been to a concert and wished the band had played certain songs? I know I have. The reality is, you'll never get exactly what you want. However, you are free to build any playlist you like. I have decided to write a series showcasing the Top 20 songs from some of my favorite bands.

For those of you who are old enough to remember cassette tapes, you'll know the terrible anguish of trying to fit the songs together. How annoying when the last song you picked was still playing as the tape ran out! Those days are over and it's now a simple task to throw together a playlist using your computer, iPod or a USB. I know that having USB capability has enhanced my driving pleasure because it's so easy to update a list of songs.

But there's also more to creating a playlist than simply deciding which songs to include. Like an actual concert, or even a single song, a good playlist features changes in mood and tempo. If a band opens with the three songs that the audience most wants to hear, the rest of the performance might fall flat. My own particular method of creating a playlist has a number of considerations:

  • Mix up the duration of the songs
  • Put space between songs from the same album, unless the two are better when played in sequence
  • Build to a natural high, slow it down again, and finish with a real flourish
  • Put in some newer songs close to the start, assuming there are newer songs worthy of inclusion
  • For bands with more than one vocalist, mix up the sequence depending on who is singing
  • Speed and style matters, so mix it up unless there is a good reason not to
  • Albums often have a great choice of opening and closing song that work best in that particular spot 
  • The final three or four songs might resemble an encore if it was a real concert
  • Leave the listener satisfied and wanting more 

Sonic Youth were around for more than 30 years before splitting up due to the deteriorating relationship between Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon. At this point, it seems unlikely that we will ever see another Sonic Youth tour. However, the band has left us with an enormous catalog of good-to-great songs. Their brand of controlled chaos fits together notes that seem hopelessly out of tune and forges something which ultimately makes sense. Ranaldo blends with Moore to create a layered guitar sound that is unique.

As great as Daydream Nation is, I'm one of the few people who don't rate it as the best Sonic Youth album. I actually prefer Dirty, which is often mentioned as being too commercial. I'm sorry, I just can't agree.

Moore and Gordon share most of the singing duties and both do a great job for the most part. Occasionally, Gordon overreaches and sounds like she is giving birth, but she can be sweet too. Ranaldo is the third vocalist and he brings a mystical quality to the band's sound when he is given the chance. Just listen to Wish Fulfillment and you'll hear what I am referring to.  

If Sonic Youth announced a farewell date, this would be my dream setlist. I guess I'll have to live with it being nothing more than a playlist, although my YouTube playlist has several live tracks: 

Theresa’s Sound-World
Dirty Boots
Teen Age Riot
Sacred Trickster
Silver Rocket
Sugar Kane
Kool Thing
Bull in the Heather
Cotton Crown
Wish Fulfillment
The Sprawl
Pink Steam
Chapel Hill
The Diamond Sea

No comments:

Post a Comment