Kevin Recommends: “Don’t You Want Me” by The Human League

If you’ve ever been made to feel guilty about trying to leave a manipulative, abusive relationship, give today’s recommendation a listen and fortify yourself — you don’t need to take that shit from an abusive partner. If they only uplifted you to try to control you, they can go fuck themselves; a gift with strings attached is no gift, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for spurning it.

“Don’t You Want Me” by The Human League is one of my very favorite songs. It’s gloomy, it’s brooding, it’s pulsating, it’s relentless — it’s my vibe. And it’s real fun to duet with someone at karaoke; though I confess I love taking both parts for myself.

Give it a listen with me today, friends.

(Song recommendation by Kevin D. Woodall)

Steve Recommends: “Middle Brother” by Middle Brother

When winter first arrives, I embrace it with music. I listen to “White Winter Hymnal” by Fleet Foxes about twenty times every mid-November, looking forward to the first snowfall. Then Thanksgiving passes and Christmas radio ruins winter. Then January and February roll around and everything gets so “Welcome to the Black Parade” depressing. In March, I start listening to summer songs in the hope that they will kick winter in the ass like the dirty vagrant it is.

I love this video of Middle Brother at the Newport Folk Festival in 2011. Middle Brother is a supergroup of lead men from bands that I love, consisting of Matt Vasquez of Delta Spirit, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, and John McCauley of Deer Tick. John McCauley is one of my favorite songwriters, occupying a space next to Shane MacGowan of The Pogues. He is at his best when he writes gritty, poignant songs of regret. “Middle Brother” is of the other McCauley variety, the party song.

There are better versions of this song, but none are more fun. McCauley looks like he just swam ashore from a white-trash Love Boat. Goldsmith’s melodica solo makes me laugh every time. The whole performance feels like a bunch of friends getting together to jam on a breezy summer day.

(Song recommendation by Steven McCarty)

Hawa Recommends: “Halah” by Mazzy Star

A relationship dirge. To be looped when, with head bowed, you peek through the netting of the veil draped under your black pillbox hat to glimpse your dreams, fantasies and expectations roll slowly past in the back of a hearse. That is the song “Halah,” by Mazzy Star. When lead singer Hope Sandoval incants that her dearly departed should “surely” not be long because “I’m missing you now,” she does so with intoxicating lethargy — a Winehouse-esque wail from the depths of deadly depression.

Before I close the door
I need to hear you say goodbye . . .
Baby won’t you change your mind?

Denial, alas, is the first stage of grief.

(Song recommendation by Hawa Allan)

Kevin Recommends: “Not In Love” by Crystal Castles feat. Robert Smith

How do you deal when you’ve invested years of your life with someone and it no longer works out?

Chances are you go through a process similar to the one Mark Holmes of Platinum Blonde was thinking about when he wrote this song.

You’re trying to remind yourself that it’s done, it’s over, you’re not in love anymore — but it’s not easy to just turn your back on something that you spent so much of your life on. The idea of finding something new, no matter how beneficial, is terrifying. It’s easy to stick to the familiar, no matter how destructive. It’s cold outside, after all, and it’s hot inside — isn’t that enough?

But you can’t even be friends anymore, because you’ve loved too deeply and been burned by that heat too badly. It’s done. All you can do is remind yourself that it’s done, you’re not in love, over and over until someday the pain gets numbed and you can move on.

Now me, I find that, while the lyrics of this track truly are those of pure confusion and frustration, the original version of “Not In Love” doesn’t get it right. There’s something missing there. It’s fine and all, but it’s not quite what Crystal Castles managed when they got the Feelings Master Robert Smith on-board to cover this song. Ain’t nobody in the game can pine and anguish over the death of a relationship like him.

Have a listen of this song and feel some feelings.

(Song recommendation by Kevin D. Woodall)

Sam Recommends: “Think About Your Troubles” by Harry Nilsson

I had a hell of a time trying to decide which Harry Nilsson track to share with you lovely people. In the end, I chose “Think About Your Troubles” because of the beautiful video that accompanies it, which is an excerpt from The Point, an amazing animated film that Harry Nilsson (who wrote/performed the entire score) and Ringo Starr (narrator) worked on together in 1971.

In my mind, Nilsson is the fifth, more eccentric (and more American) Beatle who was more than content to get a little (or a lot) weird making music on his own.

As one of my dad’s favorite artists, Harry Nilsson’s music was a staple of my childhood. We listened to Harry Nilsson on nearly every road trip we ever took as a family, and while my sister and I complained the first few times, we eventually were happy to sing along.

Harry Nilsson’s music makes me feel calm, imaginative, and happy. And I hope it will have the same effect on you.

If you enjoy the video, I recommend renting The Point and watching the entire movie. It’s a trip, with or without the help of hallucinogens. And if you’re in the market for some more Nilsson after that, here are just a few of my favorite tracks:
“Me and My Arrow”
“Don’t Leave Me, Baby”
“Open Your Window”
“Wasting My Time”
“Miss Butter’s Lament”
“I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City”

(Song recommendation by Samantha Lamph/Len)

Jon Recommends: “Fast Blood” by Frightened Rabbits

I’ll let you in on a little secret.

I keep some artists to myself. I keep them hidden away, under a red light to keep them warm, only opening their box to listen. To let them breathe. In these little moments they are mine. They play music for my memories alone.

But when I share them, they take on a different form. They lose the shimmer in their tiny wings. They stand on their own two legs. They outgrow me.

You don’t cherish them like I do, and it shows. We sit in my room and I say “I want to show you a band you may like.” Two minutes into the song and you are on your phone and I’m alone, watching the fire in my little secret’s eyes start to dim. So I stopped showing you. Stopped showing anyone.

But someone came over today, and something came over me. I opened the box and poked the little band awake. And we sat and we listened.

 And the fast blood hurricanes through me…

And instead of embering out, the fire flared up. My little one now burned for two, spread its wings and danced across the sky, challenging the stars to stay in focus. And for once I saw the same fire burning in someone else’s eyes.

Nothing was hidden, and yet nothing was lost.

Maybe I’ll try letting them out more often.

(Song recommendation by Jon Johnson)

Kevin Recommends: “Youth” by ALEX feat. Rachel McAlpine

This song is simple and relentless, and I think that’s why it’s one of my favorite songs to listen to when doing stuff.

If I’m working out the beat keeps me moving at a perfect speed without getting me too amped up.

If I’m doing mind-flaying editing work on technical reports all day, it’s great to throw on in the background because I can hear it without hearing it.

If I’m driving and this song rolls up on random, I suddenly feel less rushed and road-ragey at the morons of Calgary who don’t know how to drive (seriously they are so fucking bad here).

Give it a listen, see what you think.

(Song recommendation by Kevin D. Woodall)

Ben Recommends: “Immunity” by Jon Hopkins and King Creosote

If you put a weapon in front of my face and force me to shout out an absolute truth, I’ll tell you that the world needs more sleep-driven music. Songs that act as bedtime lullabies. Songs to make our eyelids as heavy as boulders. Playlists and albums and compilations of songs that beckon Mr. Sandman. Tunes that transition us into slumbertime.

Producer/musician Jon Hopkins released an album called Immunity back in 2013. While the album dances with elements of house and electronica, the final song is a self-titled, 9:56 ambient journey, one full of sweeping soundscapes and intricate textures. If you play it while I’m at a party, sweating, sipping Bacardi, I’ll stop dancing, I’ll shed a tear, and I’ll find the nearest pillow.

Seventeen months after the release of the Immunity LP, Hopkins released the Asleep Versions EP, making for an even sleepier experience. The opening track is also called “Immunity” and picks up right where the LP finishes. You can loop them into a sleepy infinity and never get out of bed. This time around, vocalist/musician King Creosote assists with the track (the two released a collaborative album in 2011 that demands Kleenex), creating a truly emotional and calming 6:23 ride to the moon, where every canyon is a pillow, where every valley is a blanket, and where every spacesuit is lined with memory foam.

(Song recommendation by Ben Niespodziany)

Kevin Recommends: “Cut Your Ribbon” by Sparta

The first time I heard “Cut Your Ribbon” was when I had MTV2 on in the background while I was writing some dumb AP US History essay.

That voice. That scream.

That was Jim Ward from At the Drive-In. I knew it. But they were broken up, so it couldn’t be.

I looked up and stared, transfixed, as I had done a little less than two years prior when I first saw the video for “One Armed Scissor” by At the Drive-In.

Sure as hell, there he was, along with Tony Hajjar and Paul Hinojos, but Cedric Bixler and Omar Rodriguez were nowhere in sight. I waited until the end of the video and saw that this was a song called “Cut Your Ribbon” by a new band called Sparta. I diligently hit up the internet and found out that two new bands had arisen from the ashes of ATDI— Sparta and The Mars Volta. People get caught up arguing over which one of the two is better, but I love all three bands for different reasons.

Sparta will forever hold a spot in my heart for helping me work through some serious issues in one of the darkest times in my life. “Cut Your Ribbon” is about a murderer’s guilty conscience (I think, anyway), but for me it took on a different meaning. I heard it on the heels of suicide attempt no.2, and in my mind it became a tale of being haunted by depression. Lyrics like “Face it, can you hear it?/Violation, you’ll remember/It’s all harmless/Incidental, disengaging/These thoughts break you” took on a different meaning when looking at how my own mind was driving me toward alternatives to living, like not living.

The anger and the rage in “Cut Your Ribbon” gave me a kick in the ass and kept me going for a while, and for that I will always be grateful.

(Song recommendation by Kevin D. Woodall)