Welcome to THE PLAYLIST, where we pick a theme and, er, make a playlist around it. Sometimes you might get an essay, other times you might get just one sentence as a precursor to the laser-focused audio delights that await below. Mark Conroy returns with some songs for lazing about…
As proven by this meticulously crafted playlist, life in stasis can be as much a positive experience as it is a traditionally negative one. These are songs about times in life, for better and for worse, when any sense of direction just seems to be found wanting. For some, it can help crystallise and elongate a moment of fleeting joy into a seemingly endless period of contentment. It’s those inconsequential moments that allow us, at least briefly, to repress the knowledge that we live in turbulent, troublesome and terrifying times. It might be those lazily languorous days spent with lovers when time itself seems an irrelevant concept, like in the never ending coital-fuelled morning of Miguel’s ‘Coffee’ a.k.a the sexiest song this side of ‘Sexual Healing’. Or if you’re The National, you could find forgetting about the ills of the world as you lie “half-awake in a fake empire” with the one you love.
Other entries on this playlist prove that just because you’ve had an unproductive day, it doesn’t mean you’ve wasted one. Taking time to yourself to appreciate the joy of doing absolutely nothing appears to be one of the most lucrative wells to draw from when it comes to uninvited inspiration. Otis Redding’s ode to the waterfront break ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay’ is perhaps the greatest of all the songs about taking a load off, and hushing the hustle and bustle around you.
More than any time of the day, it’s surely that hazy stretch of the late morning when being rooted to the bed seems like an unavoidable consequence that’s most synonymous with enjoyably passive living. Kurt Vile can find the simple pleasures of just ‘Wakin on a Pretty Day’ in the kind of breezy, laid back guitar driven outing that he’s known for while The Velvet Underground are able to revel in the hungover daze of a weekend rising on ‘Sunday Morning’. Even The Beatles are getting in on the act with ‘I’m Only Sleeping’ (a shout out to the editor’s favourite band – ED NOTE: Leave it out, mate). Sitting back and the watching the world go by around you seem to be an equally profitable source of song writing material. Frankie Cosmos charmingly disengages with the outside world in her music as she makes wry observations about the mundane. On ‘On The Lips’ she finds herself people watching and fantasising about what could have been with a handsome stranger she saw on public transport.
For many on the above playlist, however, this sense of inertia only appears to result in debilitating anxiety and existential dread. Stuck in a rut and caught in the malaise of twenty-something uncertainty, these are the artists who either lack ambition or aren’t sure where to direct it. Some bands fear the very idea of maturing into a responsible adulthood, with Cloud Nothings wanting a bit more time to ‘Stay Useless’ and Parquet Courts being fully aware they are already on ‘Borrowed Time’. Will Toledo, of Car Seat Headrest, meanwhile, is eager to find ‘Something Soon’ that but precisely what that something is, he’s not sure. All he knows is that he’s “binging on the latest sitcom feeling guilty every second it’s on” while he feels the urge to put his foot “through a window”. Do not fear, because look out for the rather silly but somehow quite comforting advice that Animal Collective offer in a song with only one line.
All in all, it’s clear from these tracks that going through life in a listless state results in some diverse experiences. There are two things we can gather from this. The first is that there is some great music that comes out of it and the second is a bit more revelatory – in those times in our lives when it seems nothing is happening, everything else seems to matter that much more to us.