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the grAy collection

 
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INTRO

This is the twelfth year of the annual favorites. And still, it proves to be a therapeutic process. I've realized that life after 40 is full of introspective in-looks and subsequent out-looks. 

As in previous years, each year a theme-of-sorts (personal or otherwise) starts to surface and this year is no different. To no real surprise to anyone, 2016 has welcomed much social angst and division across the country – we see the world in either/or, black/white, republican/democrat, wealthy/poor, and so on…

Last year I referenced that we (Anna, myself, friends, Rule29) dove into the Enneagram a bit and as we continue to explore its depths, I've started to unravel more and more what it means to be a 9. In short, a 9 prefers the tension, the both/and. We see the world in well... gray. This is the impetus of this year's collection: two distinct playlists that are meant to be experienced together in tandem. My desire is that you are able to experience the tension within the songs/playlists for hope seems to lend itself to a different experience when next to angst.

As far as family updates... we recently moved (down the street from Blackberry actually) and are enjoying having a home ripe for entertaining and, in particular, where kids love to hang out. Anna continues to grow and strengthen Blackberry and manage its 55+ employees, but has also rekindled her love of the outdoors/skiing and is planning on making good use of her season pass. Grace (16) continues to immerse herself into anything she can study (all while avoiding getting her driver's license). Emily (14) didn't waste anytime jumping in the high school social scene as well as trying out (and making) the latest theater play. Phineas (9) is embodying some alien-energy-rich-genes (that obviously doesn't come from myself) – always in full force and begging for the next activity (which as of late is fed by his latest obsession with NFL stats and players). As far as myself, I continue to explore celiac-friendly alternatives, which fortunately includes Whisk(e)y which I have apparently started to collect.

Lastly, as always, it is my hope that you enjoy the music. I have no expectations that you will like all (29) songs included, but it is my hope that you find a new song or two that could welcome additional insight, experience, and (of course) tension.  

Enjoy,
Bob (and fam)

P.S. Like always, the only requirement to download is that you tell me what your favorite song(s) from the album were and/or ones from your own list!

 

Playlist #1: black

 

Prelude

01. 33 God (Bon Iver) - Consider this a prelude to the angst that will come after. 33 God is from my favorite album of the year, 22, A Million. The album is the definition of tension/gray and is an amalgam of memories, connections, and spiritual dichotomies.  Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) also doesn't shy away from biblical references/numbers.. 33 references Christ at the age of death... The single was released 33 days before the album... And the length of the song is 3:33. If you're wanting some context, the video opens with Psalm 22 "Why are you so far from saving me?" A perfect intro to this...

What the...?

Consider the next 6.5 songs an attempt to capture the collective (and personal) angst of 2016. While it's likely outside many of your preference, I welcome you to sit in it.

02. Burn the Witch (Radiohead) - leads this movement for many reasons: 1. It was my first album purchase of the year (which subsequently resulted in months of full rotation). 2. It was one of only a few concerts I attended this year (this one with Grace). 3. The song helps set the tone for this compilation as its impetus was to bring awareness to the refugee crisis and the constant blame cycle our country/world seems to be in. 4. The video was purposefully created to sit in tension (i.e. greyness) of this premise and the hope we need. Watch the video here.

03. Anger (Sleeping at Last) - I love that my friend Ryan set out to write an "angry" song, because a) it's not his default as he's the most loving/kind guy you will ever meet and b) it's the emotion that sits underneath both of our personalities (both being 9s on the Enneagram scale). I've become very aware of this reality over recent years and seems like an appropriate summation of our countries emotion for the year. For the record, he did all 4 primary emotions, which can be found here.

04. Formation (Beyoncé) - Speaking of musicians pissed off... Beyoncé unleashed a tell-it-like-it-is collective that undoubtedly revealed more about her strength, pain, heritage, and sexuality than it did about Jay-Z. Please watch the video to experience middle-finger-up Beyoncé.

05. Your Best American Girl (Mitzki) - If you haven't figured it out yet, there is a tonality that frequented the year. This one not only continues this trend, but also embodies a familiar angst of not meeting (other's) expectations. Listen to it as a cry for "as is" acceptance. 

06. I Don't Wanna Be Funny Anymore (Lucy Dacus) - And here it is again. Let's go humanity. Be yourself.

07. Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales (Car Seat Headrest) + While this is their first studio release, they made last year's favs with "Something Soon" (release via Bandcamp). I think I'm drawn to the subdued aggression that rears its head midst the mundane and the acknowledgement that "it doesn't have to be like this" – an appropriate conclusion to this movement. (And yes, the "killer whales" shoutout comes after watching Blackfish.

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08. As it Is (Ages in Ages) - This crew made their debut on the Favorites a couple of years ago with "Divisionary (Do the Right Thing)" and have followed with another gang-vocal-esque anthem. It's about surrender. 

09. 1000 Times (Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam) + This duo is a combo of the lead vocalist for The Walkmen + instrumentalist/producer of Vampire Weekend (Rostam). I'm no stranger to repetitive dreams either.

10. Old Friends (Pinegrove) - On first glance, I thought this was going to be a cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "Old Friends," but, in fact, this is the counterpart to the album's "New Friends" – which in tandem is simply a look at life's rhythm of old and new relationships. In this (song's) case, it's about our tendency to miss out on the present. 

11. Alaska (Maggie Rogers) - Rogers came to the public thanks to none other than Pharrell Williams, who sat in awe of the song in front of a NYU master's class and offered only praise. I agree.

12. Conrad (SOHN) + I'm cheating a little here as this is a pre-release single as part of the forthcoming album to be released in January. SOHN is making his (Christopher Taylor) second appearance ("The Wheel" in 2014) on the Favorites and will undoubtedly show up again next year with the new album and his commitment to innovative jams. One of the few on my list yet to see live. 

13. Weight in Gold (Gallant) + I owe this pick to my good friend @davidwswanson who gave me the rec. I've been obsessed ever since as it too embodies the tension, the burden, the anxiety, and the call for help.

14. I Can't Give Everything (David Bowie) + This is the first of three tributes to three extremely talented musicians who have passed this year. This is the last track on the album release that came two days before his death. It's full of emotion and presence - much like everything he did.

15. Finish Line / Drown (Chance the Rapper) + It is purposeful that Bon Iver is opening both playlists, while Chance the Rapper is closing each as I could have pulled from any number of songs from their albums. In this case, I caught Chance's performance of this song on SNL and was completely mesmerized. It's poetic and deeply spiritual yet immersed in tension. Please please please listen to the second half... the repetition of "And all that was left was his love" continues to be the reminder that I/we need.

Download Here.

Listen on Spotify Here. (Missing Beyonce's Formation)

Playlist #2: WHITE

 

01. #29 Stratford Apartments (Bon Iver) + As alluded to already, this entire album is worthy of being on this playlist. Seriously... every song. What I appreciate about this release is that Vernon continues to push the boundaries of writing and composition while still maintaining the his familiar tone and style. This song is a perfect example.

02. White Ferrari (Frank Ocean) - A spectacularly patient and rich song that is about much more than a Ferrari. And yes, that is a little Beatles you hear "there (and everywhere)". Get it? Anyone? And yes that is James Blake you also hear present, which is a perfect connection for this 4-song-intro set of Iver/Blake goodness.

03. I Need a Forest Fire (James Blake feat. Bon Iver) + If Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) had a musical doppelganger, it would be James Blake. The two interweave their vocals here for an ambient-falsetto love fest.

04. Friends (Francis and the Lights feat. Bon Iver) - Okay, so apparently Bon Iver was busy this year and also joined forces with Fancis (and the Lights). This one is simple. It's about friends. And apparently Kanye is a friend: Watch the video here.

05. Seven Words (Weyes Blood) + If only seven words would set us free.

06. The Lakefill (i.e. kokoro) + As I mentioned last year, I was fortunate enough to produce Kelly Reed's (i.e. kokoro) latest album, Ephemera, which officially released this year. They are ALL worthy of listening/purchasing (you can (and should) do so here), but this is my favorite... lyrically strong, elevated vocals, accompanying swell, and rooted in location/story – the perfect ingredients for the favorites list.

07. Can't Help Falling in Love (Perfume Genius) + I was so mesmerized by Mike Hadreas' (Perfume Genius) 2014 release, Queen, that I kept checking in hopes of something new in 2016. And well, this is it... a perfect blend of Perfume Genius-esque drive and classic.

08. Trouble with Boys (David Bazan) - For those regular to the list, you know there is rarely a favorites compilation without a Bazan song present. This was an early favorite from the latest Blanco release, but fell in love with it all over after I watched this video. Please watch it... and maybe more importantly, read the preface include in this post (note: the video received a speedy release the day after the election).

09. One Way to Pray (Sam Beam, Jesca Hoop) + Sam Beam has ventured out a bit of his usual Iron and Wine moniker for an experience in vocal harmonies with collaborater Jesca Hoop. This is sit back and have a nice dram of whisky music.

10. Dusty Trails (Lucius) - This duo seems to be having some sort of identity crisis as the rest of the album sounds completely different, but this one seems to be where they are most comfortable.

11. Time after Time (Iron and Wine) + McDonald's became a client of Rule29 this year. Iron and Wine (Sam Beam) covered this for one of their commercials. We had nothing to do with it. Wish we did. I've always though this would be a great cover song. It is.

12. Faith (Sleeping at Last) - Speaking of covers... Ryan release his second volume of Covers (most of which were commissioned by Grey's Anatomy) and this one was in the mix. It felt only appropriate to include as a tribute to George Michael. Here's to making the 80s... well, the 80s. And if you didn't catch SAL's "Make You Feel My Love" cover on the latest Mercedes Benz spot, check it out here.

13. You Want it Darker (Leonard Cohen) - Some of you are going to struggle through Cohen's voice here, but please give it a chance. One of the first CDs I ever owned was a tribute/collection of Leonard Cohen (cover) songs and I couldn't get enough of it. Cohen has to be one of the top 5 lyricist of our time and it is sad to seem him pass. He seemed to know it was coming with this release... wait for the repetitive announcement: "I'm ready my Lord." 

13b. Purple Rain (Bruce Springsteen) - This song is not included as it is a "live" recording that isn't the best mixed, but it is worth watching/listening to as we conclude the 4 tributes in this collection. Watch it here. 

14. Blessings (Chance the Rapper) - I love the juxtaposition of Cohen and Chance the Rapper here – both masters of words and placement. I also wanted to conclude both playlists with Chance the Rapper as a sort of "Blessing" on the year (and the year to come). I need it. We need it. Be blessed.

 

Download here.

Listen on Spotify here.

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Download Playlists (Includes All 29 Songs)

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Playlist #1: Black (Missing Beyonce's Formation)

Playlist #2 : White

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