Setting aside a few loosely defined origin stories, records indicate that the Idle Time heroes first teamed up in 2001 to save their friends and the community at large from shitty music. Empowered by the wild, wide open wonderland of the Internet, they moved a metric ton in CD-R burns within those first few years, like little prismatic shields against the commercial tyranny of mass-marketed radio pop.
Lots of things have changed over the last fifteen years, including how people listen to and discover new music. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is how passionate we all are about the music that affects us, and the songs we hold dear.
As our roster has changed and grown since ’01, so has our stable of musical interests. To acknowledge that, and to celebrate our little anniversary, nine Idlers started working on a ranked list of our 150 favorite songs from our first fifteen years, 2001-2015. It was a glorious, argumentative pain-in-the-ass, but we did it. And it culminated in a celebratory bonfire this past April. Follow the link below to count down with us, from #150 to our favorite song from the Idle Time era.
Few people have the endurance required for near eleven hours of tunes, so this massive mixtape has been broken down into seven separate countdown jams for your listening pleasure. Enjoy, and happy idling.
The Top 20. The best of the best from the last fifteen years. No matter what you think of the picks, or project as a whole (I can’t believe they picked that song by that band and not..! Where’s this band? That artist? We get it. Believe me, we’ve already argued and complained enough for all of you.) …these favorite twenty tunes make for an unbelievably good mix. This countdown also showcases the power of live roulette. The presumptive number one pick, based on the preliminary ballots, succumbed to in-person enthusiasm and in-the-moment championing, finishing with the bronze medal. And the favorite tune? Hit play, and enjoy the ultimate Ultimate Mixtape.
Nine Idlers contributed to the draft that created the list of 150 favorites, and five of the nine number one picks slot themselves in this installment! Most notably, that Trust song gave birth to the term “shooming,” in which one Idler uses the automatic top-50 entry and a plethora of drunken exuberance to push a song that would have otherwise been relegated to spot #134 all the way up to #39. This jam also features the band that effectively “won” the list. Gorillaz have three tunes in The Ultimate Mixtape, and the first two debut in here in part six.
At one point, we entertained the idea of rouletting the entire list of 150 songs, forgetting that the process employed to order the 400 all-time favorite albums of the Decades project took several months of card-shuffling in locales all over Northern California. None of us are very good at math, but after postulating some variables and discovering that 150 songs would take somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty hours to complete, we opted for a plan B. The bottom hundred tunes would be ranked by silent ballot, while the top 50 would be subjected to the live bonfire frivolity. With one exception: any song that was ranked number one by an individual on his or her list would automatically be bumped up into the roulette. Enter The Killers, making this mix installment the first to feature an Idler’s favorite song. We also get the first taste of Ted Leo, one of the patron saints of The Institute.
The next twenty tunes in The Ultimate Mixtape pay tribute to the enduring power of some back-in-the-day favorites. We’re all a little bit guilty of best-thing-ever fever, but the fact that so many songs from the earliest years of consideration made it this deep into the mix is testament to the fact that, in some cases, that initial enthusiasm was not misplaced. And center stage for this tribute to the formative period of our collective are the Oxford Angels themselves. Do-no-wrong Radiohead remain in heavy rotation with releases from before, during, and after this fifteen-year window.
A significant slice of the decade’s chart-toppers and pop music mainstays populates mix number three. R. Kelly opens for Kanye who opens for Katy Perry opening for Britney Spears. And before the end of this 20-song installment, L.A.’s Chromatics, behind the mesmerizing vocals of Ruth Radelet, provide their encore performance on The Ultimate Mixtape.
The second mix in the series is a geographic tour de force, opening in symphonic Castles and ending up on the fuzzy Beach. Tour the Mediterranean with stops in Mykonos and Italy, and be charmed by Swedish pop, Australian rock, and a Swedish troubadour by way of Australia. And somewhere in the middle is a four-piece from Jersey who, prior to their debut LP and the unavoidable Bon Jovi and Springsteen comparisons, likely hadn’t set foot farther than the north Atlantic seaboard.
Rather than act as responsible DJs, tracklisting these 150 songs in an intelligible, well-conceived playlist, we’re letting the rankings dictate. Like an MTV Video Countdown or American Top 40, our favorite songs of the Idle Time era are being presented in inverse order, counting down to our number one.
We pride ourselves on the genre variety that we bring to a project like this, and it doesn’t surprise us when, as in most cases, the more uniquely personal favorites tend to filter down to the bottom of the list. The result, this first twenty-five-track mix, is probably the most schizophrenic of the lot, bouncing back and forth from one outlier to another. Richard David James, as The Tuss and Aphex Twin, makes two appearances in this first jam.
Last month, on a characteristically can’t-make-up-its-mind Saturday, with spring sunshine jockeying with wind and fog, we assembled on Ocean Beach to celebrate fifteen years of Idle Time nonsense. The original three hadn’t been in the same place since a fantasy baseball draft in 2014, and our core four likely hadn’t been together since those traumatizing rock ‘n roll roulette sessions in the back room of Ink way back in 2012.
This was also the first ever in-person assemblage of both the O.G. Idle Timers and the next-generation of enthusiastic souls, plus friends and wayward, woebegone blog contributors. It’s never easy to get perfect attendance (heretofore impossible, really), and the Doodle calendaring went on for weeks. But, for this particular get-together, having us all together was essential. We were finally going to do it. After three failed attempts dating back to 2009, Idle Time’s Ultimate Mixtape was so close to realization. And we were going to stay on that goddam beach until we had ranked the whole fucking thing.
Looking back over the fifteen-year history of our silly little collective has involved much more than spinning old CD-R mixes, reading photocopied zines, and digging up photos of RF in a skirt. But of course I’ve done all of those things too.
It has also involved opening backup folders in subfolders in mis-labeled directories on flashdrives and SD cards hiding in dusty cardboard boxes all over Northern California. I’m not the most organized of archivists, but I do maintain that everything is somewhere, provided I have the patience to look for it. In this case, I didn’t find what I was initially looking for (a spreadsheet with the first iteration of our Ultimate Mixtape), but I did uncover some random word documents with transcribed content from our old Google group.
One particular narrative (that I composed as a radio play for some reason) is especially interesting. It recounts the car ride in which WH, RF, and I realized that we had slowly come under the spell of Swedish pop music. And it snowballed from there. The accuracy of the transcript is debatable, but it certainly sounds like one of our car ride conversations. Continue reading Fifteen Years of Idle Time: The Swedish Obsession→