PBC #7: Secret Santa

Playlist By Committee is a subdivision of the Institute of Idle Time dedicated to the preservation of the mixtape format. Each month, four governing members and one guest contributor choose a theme and each pick five songs that best correspond to that theme. The songs are then reviewed and ranked by the committee, with the the top songs being added until an 80 minute blank CD is filled. The list is then published via Mixcloud for the listening pleasure of all who seek it. This is our 7th playlist.

As an only child, sharing hasn’t always been my strong suit, but it has always been a cornerstone of the Institute of Idle Time. Even in the early days of IT, when it was just holybeeofephesus, MMDG and djlazybear passing around playlist ideas on e-mails and binder paper, IT has been about the joy of giving and discovering something new. Ironically, I get super protective of the music I like because I feel it says something about me as an individual, but most of the songs I love were (and continue to be) shared with me by my fellow Idlers.

For me, good music only gets better if I hear about it from one of my friends. Yes, songs  can become personal mantras and anthems, but they can just as powerfully connect you to another person and a certain time and place in your life. Arcade Fire’s Funeral is an amazing record in its own right, but I love it because my friends and I would have huge air-instrument jam sessions to “Rebellion” on the way home from high school. I probably wouldn’t like Katy Perry as much as I do if my friend Kim hadn’t dragged me to see Part of Me, in theaters, in 3D (she cried when Katy and Russell Brand split up, and she had already seen it, no joke). There’s a song by Will Johnston called “Nothing But Godzillas,” where Johnson explains that “most the time that [things] ain’t shared, they’re only half as good.” I wouldn’t seek this tune out on my own because I’m not into country, but because it was shown to me by WH, it’s something I recognize as beautiful and inspiring.

In fact, the person who got me into following music was none other than djlazybear, a member of the Old Guard, who fed me mixtapes and compilations when I was an awkward 8th grader and needed means of escaping the trivia of teenage life. That simple act of sharing not only provided entertainment, but it is the catalyst moment that would eventually lead me to joining IT. The power of sharing cannot be denied.

Those lists that djlazybear and the OG-IT crew made predate the mission of Playlist By Committee, and it was our pleasure to finally get him involved in one of our monthly lists. I gave djlazybear the choice on what kind of mix he’d like to make (we have a database full of ideas), but instead of choosing one of our pre-made topics, djlazybear opted for a variant on our little game: he called it “Secret Santa”.

With a playlist about rain released in August, PBC already has a rep for doing things out of season. For Secret Santa, djlazybear suggested we each pick four songs and “gift” them to another member on the committee. Though the songs would eventually be ranked (just for fun) having only 20 songs almost guaranteed that we wouldn’t cut anything off the final playlist.

Some of us went into this with the pure intention of wanting to share something new, some of us nominated songs that remind us of eachother and our shared experiences, and some of us picked songs that we knew would piss off the person to whom it was given (hltchk is that cheeky basterd).

I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that even though me and the regular members of PBC have been friends for around a decade, when it came time to pick individual tunes that reminded me of each of them specifically, I was drawing a blank. A lot of our favorite shared songs ended up on the IT Ultimate Mixtape, and I didn’t want to retread covered ground. Instead, my approach on gifts was to share songs with the crew that were “gifted”to me by none other than djlazybear. All of my picks came from when I was teenager and Mr. Howell was giving me an education in cool music.

Though everyone approached this a different way, the end result is another eclectic, well-curated playlist. Even the excruciatingly shitty “Stop the Rock” by Apollo 440 has found new life in my library thanks to this mix. I highly recommend giving our Secret Santa mix a listen, but if it’s not your bag, I encourage you and your friends to try out this little game and see what you get.

Cheers & Happy Holidays!

  1. “Stop The Rock” – Apollo 440

TO: Tyrannofloresrex – This is easily the worst song on the list. Discovered by myself and tyrannofloresrex while listening to a collection of all the NOW! That’s What I Call Music playlists, we agreed this song is much more tolerable during the sporting events we’d usually here it during, but in any other instance, is pretty insufferable. – FROM: hltchk

2.  “Highly Suspicious” -My Morning Jacket

TO: Tyrannofloresrex – I don’t know why tyrannofloresrex was singing this song one day, but he was. I thought it was one of those songs people make up on the spot, considering the “peanut butter pudding surprise” lyric. I asked who it was by, he said My Morning Jacket. Now, I wasn’t familiar with the band, but I knew enough to know that they don’t usually sound like that. To this day “Highly Suspicious” is the only My Morning Jacket song I know, and will remain that way indefinitely, since I wouldn’t want anything to change that memory of thinking “what the hell is this tyrannofloresrex guy singing?” FROM: IP

3. “DJ” – David Bowie

TO: IP – You are literally a music treasure trove, I don’t know if I would have discovered half the stuff I listen to nowadays without you playing it around me. During the almost 4 years of living with you, I was exposed to more music than I ever had been in my life. Felt like I’d come home and you’d discovered some new genre or musician I’d never heard of. You are the ultimate DJ. Plus I think you’d crush the Bowie style in the video. FROM: Meanoldpig

4. “Taking Tiger Mountain” – Brian Eno

TO: DJlazybear – 2008 was the year I started becoming more involved with IT. I was given the end of the year mix and I remember “Strange Overtones” sticking out to me. I had already loved Bowie/Talking Heads and had always heard Eno’s name thrown around but never dove into his catalogue. Because of that song, I became very invested in discovering Brain Eno and all things tangentially related to him. I started soaking up a lot of new kinds of music and discovered new things about stuff I already had liked. This was all because of djlazybear had put “Strange Overtones” on the mix. He really helped kick start something new in me musically and something I still look for in a lot of music. So thank you for introducing me to wonderful world of Eno. – FROM: Meanoldpig

5. “Yaad-E-Nabi Gulshan Mehka” – Nusrat Fatha Ali Khan

Dearest Meanoldpig, we’ve only just begun.  Having had little time in your presence made choosing a gift for you a difficult prospect.  So, I had to make a lot of assumptions.  What I do know about you is that you love you some cinema.  This led me to believe that you are a very curious fella, and curious folk tend to arrive at places they never imagined.  I picked Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan because he has a connection to Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ.  This is the first film I’d ever seen that was picketed and protested.  This really appealed to my seventeen-year-old sensibilities.  Little did I know that my atheist behind would be so moved by a Jebus flick.  One of the more surprising elements of the film was the score by Peter Gabriel.  As you probably know, he went on to release an album of the music, Passion.  The title track featured Nusrat.  Peter Gabriel formed the Real World label and released a few of Nusrat’s albums along with many other “World Music” albums.  My favorite is Devotion and Love Songs which contains my gift to you.  Love, DJ Lazybear

6. “Kiko and the Lavender Moon” – Los Lobos

Dearest Tyrannofloresrex, I so admire your commitment to pursuing your dream career.  It must be magical and at the same time lonely experience.  My gift to you is a great song from one of the almost forgotten albums, Kiko.  I imagine your LA life to be like Kiko’s, coming out at night to dance and playing make believe.  At the same time Kiko’s world is a little scary as well.  Los Lobos described the experience of making Kiko as a “crazy trip” which makes me think of how your filmmaking experience must be.  They said, “It was like a canoe into the fog, all of us were right there paddling away, and knowing we just have to paddle. We don’t know where we’re going, but we just trusted it. And it was amazing.”  Viva La Raza! Love DJ, Lazybear

7. “I Think I Can” – The Pillows

TO: Tyrannofloresrex – I moved to Los Angeles this year to try to do something new with my life. I’ve struggled a lot and one the most positive and refreshing sources in my life now is having tyrannofloresrex close. He keeps me motivated and is extremely helpful. In a town full of people who have no interest in you unless you can help them, it’s the best feeling to be able to hangout with a friend and shoot the shit about anything. The city is draining but tyrannofloresrex is refreshing as I try to figure out what the fuck I am doing here. He’s like the Pillows song encouraging me along my way. – FROM: Meanoldpig

8. “Swamp Thing” – Hiatus Kaiyote

TO: DJlazybear  Hiatus Kaiyote : Djlazybear‘s hatred for HK is well-known in our little circle, so this was the easiest pick to make, sorry djlazybear. – FROM: hltchk

9. “Can I Kick It?” – A Tribe Called Quest

TO: hltchk– Within the younger generation of IT, hltchk is by far the most level headed out of any of us. He is the calm collected one to reign in our madness. He can bring people together and help them relax while making it seem easy. Literally one of the most chill people I have ever met, dude knows how to hang and entertain. He will make you food or just let you raid his leftovers. He is the glue of the younger generation. To celebrate that I gift him one of the best hangout songs in existence. – FROM: Meanoldpig

10. “Ffunny Ffriends” -Unknown Mortal Orchestra

TO: hltchk – hltchk is always talking about Unknown Mortal Orchestra, or at least it feels like he is. I like the band, their first EP more than their later material. But hltchk‘s enthusiasm for them, and many other bands, is one of his best qualities. I love hearing about the things people love. Even though hltchk gave out a bunch of lumps of coal for this list, I love how excited he was to do it, and how excited he was for us to guess which terrible songs were meant for us. So thanks hltchk, even though Sheryl Crow sucks. Also, hltchk is always laughing, so in a sense he’s one of my Ffunniest Ffriends. – FROM: IP

11. “I am a Scientist” – Guided by Voices

TO: IP – At my most introspective and brooding as a teen, Guided By Voices was my go-to band. Whenever I was having problems in school or fighting with my parents, I’d bury myself in headphones and play a compilation djlazybear had made of GBV’s three great records PropellerAlien Lanes, and Bee Thousand.  “I Am A Scientist” is a soundtrack for soul searching. It’s about curiosity, self-discovery and self-acceptance, which is an important part of our daily experience no matter where you are in life. IP has had a rough year, and I wanted to give him something that makes walking a lonely path maybe a little less lonely. – FROM: Tyrannofloresrex

12. “Last Dinosaur (off-vocal version)” – The Pillows

TO: DJlazybear – When “Mr. Howell” as he was known, started his quarter long anime class in middle school, I was a fan of the medium. I had seen Gundam Wing, Cowboy Bebop, Dragon Ball Z, and a few others, but I wasn’t at the point where I would seek it out. That all changed when we watched FLCL. The screening of that show, and several Studio Ghibli films, led me to seek out new anime, and ultimately I feel as though that was a turning point in not just my interest in animation, but in art in general. “Last Dinosaur” was the most memorable song of the show to me. Even though it’s just a snippet of the full length track, the intro just has that instant nostalgic quality. It reminds me of a turning point in my life. So thanks djlazybear. – FROM: IP

13. “Scream” – Grimes (feat. Aristophanes)

TO: Meanoldpig – I knew MeanOldPig didn’t like Grimes, but I had to pick one that would really get under his skin. Three minutes of Claire Boucher just screaming works perfectly. – FROM: hltchk

14. “Moody (Spaced Out)” – ESG

TO: hltchk– Generation II of IT is currently hard at work on a project involving LCD Soundsystem, mostly at the behest of IP and hltchk. Passion for LCD is shared throughout the group, but maybe no one has the reverence for Murphy and Co. the way hltchk does. I haven’t been a committed LCD fan until this project, but I had been aware of LCD since their inception thanks to the Old Guard. djlazybear showed me ESG as a predecessor to the style and ethos of what would give rise to the DFA label. What these sultry sisters and friends started with analog instruments and a post-punk-dance sensibility would be perfected later on by LCD with synths and Murphy’s own punchy lyrics. I wanted to share this knowledge with hltchk because of his scholarly interest in music history, as well as his love for LCD. – FROM: Tyrannofloresrex

15. “Timebomb” – The Old 97’s

TO: Meanoldpig – The first track off of the very first mix that was ever given to me was this song. The opening riff is bombastic and full of energy, and it sounds like a great song to kick down a door to, which metaphorically is what it did to my brain. It’s not a secret that MeanOldPig and I out of the whole group like to flirt with disaster. More than the others, we tend to be double-downers, and we have more of an affinity for the drink than some of the others. “Timebomb” is a great opener to a night spent in a boozy saloon, or the perfect tune to speed down a long and open road. “I got a landmine in my bloodline, I’m not immune to getting blown apart” is one of my favorite lines ever, and for some reason I think it’s a feeling MeanOldPig understands as well. – FROM: Tyrannofloresrex

16. “We are the Dead” – David Bowie

TO: Meanoldpig – MeanOldPig and I had a nearly instant connection when we first met in 2007. We liked the same things, music, television, and comics mostly. We also hated the same things, namely World War Hulk, which had just debuted. Within a few years we would become fast friends, eventually moving to San Francisco together in 2010, to the “Dungeon” a small in-law apartment snuggled behind the garage of a three story building on a steep cul de sac. While living there MeanOldPig showed me more of the things he loved, and the biggest takeaway from that was David Bowie, an artist I now consider one of my favorites thanks to him. “We Are The Dead” reminds me of those dungeon days, of a time I won’t ever forget. – FROM: IP

17. “Holes” – Mercury Rev

Dearest hltchk, you once said that you primarily listen to music through headphones on public transportation.  I too enjoy listening to music on my headphones in public spaces.  It reveals new cinematic elements as you are connecting the images around you to the music.  A song’s weight can change with each listen as the scenes around you are ever-changing.  My gift to you is the opening track from one of the greatest headphones records of all time, Deserter’s Songs.  Mercury Rev outdid themselves with this one and were never the same.  I hope that you will explore it often if you haven’t already.  Love, DJ Lazybear

18. “Can’t Hardly Wait” – The Replacements

TO: DJlazybear – I have tried to turn on djlazybear on to cool, new music for many years to no success. I remember when I was a freshman in high school, I tried to tell djlazybear to download a song that I really liked at the time, and he said, “No! Take that!” Fair enough, sir. To this day, I can’t seem to nail down what it is djlazybear gravitates towards musically. The last thing I recommended to him was Hiatus Kaiyote, and if you’ve been reading this post, you know how successful that was. So, what do you get for the guy who’s heard everything? I chose “Can’t Hardly Wait” because I know it’s one of DJlazybear’s favorite songs. djlazybear has never been shy about his love for The Replacements, and his enthusiasm for the group is contagious. One time, when Rolling Stone put out their top 500 songs in Rock ‘n’ Roll history, they left this song off. djlazybear took it upon himself to delete some Bob Marley track off his copy of the playlist and replace it with “Can’t Hardly Wait”. I remember him the day he did it, walking out of his classroom, fist pumping triumphantly as it played, confident he knew better than anyone else, and I admire him for it. – FROM: Tyrannofloresrex

19. “Another Girl, Another Planet” – The Only Ones

Dearest Immortal Iron List, all of us need an anthem for various situations and times in our lives.  My gift to you is the perfect anthem for preparing yourself for a night at the club or just dancing in the dark.  Turn it up and look at yourself in the mirror as you perfect that devastating hair flip and devil-may-care grin.  You’re a fetching fella, and the ladies will swoon in your wake. The Only Ones were great and we need to be reminded of them from time to time.  Love, DJ Lazybear

20. “All I Wanna Do” – Sheryl Crow

TO: IP – I actually really enjoy most of her early work, I am not afraid to admit that. IP gave me a ton of shit for this back in the day, little did he know it would come back to bite him in the ass. – FROM: hltchk