How Sad, How Lovely: Ballads to ease the post-summer blues
Autumn may have have arrived, and many of us feel stuck in a post-summer malaise. Temperatures have dropped, plant life has withered, moods have grown solemn; overall there’s a sense of uneasy transition.
But what better vehicle than the ballad to accompany this seasonal shift? (Ballads of the most wayward persuasion, mind.)
These tunes are scorch-the-earth serenades led astray by tonal trickery. Whether incanting ghosts of the long departed (as heard in Shirley Collins’ ‘Cruel Lincoln’), or making bizarre allusions to mystical unicorns (like in Peter Grudzien’s ‘The Unicorn’), the tracks that make up this week’s playlist speak to disorientation and longing for times past.
Like the seasonal hinterland we find ourselves in, such songs also reside at the latter end of a high, when sobriety is in the not too distant future, but the world around you is still yet to adjust.
This playlist is solemn but unworldly — imagination is allowed free reign. It’s the ideal soundtrack for your autumnal blues.
There are probably thousands of different kinds of weed smokers out there. You have your casuals, your metalhead stoners, cannabis science nerds – the list goes on. But easily one of the best-known, and perhaps most-shamed, is the white-guy spiritualist. Nothing is more annoying than a fresh-out of university guy who is “really in touch with the 31 planes of Buddhism.”
But, I digress. What fun is there in hating on other fellow cannabis consumers? This week, we’ve compiled a list of spiritual jazz. You’ll recognize some sounds, such as those from the cosmic Sun Ra and John Coltrane, and maybe also those of underappreciated geniuses like Alice Coltrane and Joe Henderson. So, sit back, roll your zoot and enjoy an astral projection.
Smoking weed can take us to places we’ve never been before. Leading us by the hand, it walks us willingly into the unknown. This week, I’ve selected a playlist that accompanies those times most sinister, when the doobies lead us into darkness. That’s not to say that this is for when marijuana makes us depressed; it’s more suitable for times for when it leads our thoughts down dark paths — when colors becomes darker, and time seems to creep even slower.
The songs all fall under the ‘dark psychedelia’ umbrella. From the brown acid rock of Spacemen 3 and Loop, to the earthen power of Electric Wizard and Brain Donor, guitars will guide you on your journey to the netherworld. Lie back and light up, we’ve got it from here.
The Inmost Night: Gloomy, doomy goth sounds to color your high
Following on from last week’s blaze through a film noir lens, this weeks’ playlist paints a dark landscape to accompany getting high. Goth is the theme, and this aesthetic runs through these toking tunes: They create a world of gloomy detours and horror mise en scenes. The Inmost Night features the originals, like The Cure, Bauhaus, and Siouxsie and The Banshees, as well as more contemporary figures like Kælan Mikla and Chelsea Wolfe.
The word goth is a flexible one easily applicable to artists like Current 93 and Einstürzende Neubauten, who are typically described as neo-folk and industrial, respectively. But is it a movement? A genre? An aesthetic? A scene? This playlist won’t tell you, but might send you on a rabbit hole down its darkest back alleys.
Incidental Boogie: Dramatic film noir soundtracks to whisk you away
Smoking weed can often be a bright, yet mellow experience. For me, it’s mostly a cue to kick back, binge-watch a series, and eat ice cream in a state of utter comfort. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes you have to go out into the open world and perform simple errands while high, and that’s when some of the most surreal and paranoia-inducing experiences can unfurl. All of a sudden, a trip to the supermarket can become a million times more dramatic. You’re not just walking down the high street; you’re Kim Novak, knowingly tailed by Jimmy Stewart in Act 1 of Vertigo. You’re Harrison Ford in pursuit of a sexy reptilian android. Or you’re a down-on-your-luck screenwriter being lured into a mansion on Sunset Boulevard.
Being high in public can lead to film noir experiences, where the mundane becomes dramatic and everyday innocence becomes shady. For this playlist, I’ve curated the soundtrack to these times, whisking the listener into what might be the most dramatic stoned adventure you could ever hope for. Hear Bernard Hermann’s heady overture to Vertigo, the endless drama of Barry Adamson’s Moss Side Story – a score for an imaginary detective film – or the swirling contagion of 2010s artists like Ezra Furman and US Girls as they continue the lineage. We welcome you to the Tokin’ Tunes Film Noir spectacular.
Pissed and Passed Out: Sonic adventures through trippy films
The tedious conventions of the ‘stoner film’ can be detestable. There’s almost nothing worse than the mugs of James Franco and Seth Rogan chuckling away to each other about utter rubbish. In a slight turn away from the usual, this week’s Toking Tunes playlist features a bunch of film recommendations masquerading as a playlist. Yes, you could view something like Mysterious Skin as a stoner film, but it features deep and, at times, harrowing themes that elevate it above the genre.
For the most part, the movies on this list are beautiful, strange, and full of visual allure. ‘Undertow’ by Lush is featured in The Doom Generation, while ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ by Little Richard is in Pink Flamingos – films that feature challenging yet easily engaging narratives. The likes of Akira, When The Wind Blows, Le Mepris, and The Holy Mountain are here not solely to entertain, but also to bolster one’s own cinematic vernacular – not to mention the fact that they’re weird as fuck while high.
The easiest route to curating a successful party or night-out playlist would be to fill it exclusively with post-2013 Charli XCX songs. Resisting temptation, this week’s pop playlist includes only one.
This playlist marks a shift from some of the more introspective compilations we’ve published in recent weeks. It’s a fun playlist for a post-party joint, but not one to conclude a night. It could also easily suffice as a pre-drinks playlist before a Girl’s Night Out.
To me, these artists represent a sort of modern elite of vibrant pop music. They all offer to counter the tiresome hoard of laddy indie, authentic singer-songwriters, and EDM bros that annoyingly infest parties these days. All of this music is, to some extent, infectious — and more importantly immeasurably innovative.
Dawn: Ambient sounds transport you to altered states
In the liner notes of his seminal 1978 work Music for Airports, Brian Eno said his ambient music would “accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.”
This has become somewhat of a blueprint for ambient artists: Craft sounds that are as unobtrusive as you want them to be. Music that fades into the background while smoking weed is essential — especially in a social context. Repetitive rhythms and minimal soundscapes can be great stimuli for mood and conversation. But listening to this music solo can be just as enriching of an experience, as densely layered and beautiful textures envelop you.
The music on this week’s playlist goes beyond the genre, but carries Eno’s ideas down strange and enchanting paths.
Northern Lites: A playlist to ease the oppressive heat of summer
Although the season is usually associated with fun and happiness, summer can be fucking horrible. At times, it feels like an eternally bleak sauna — the greatest suppressor of the mind and enjoyment. Finding the ideal album to ease the relentless heat will by no means fix the issue, but personally I find it a big help. This week’s playlist encompasses all ends of pop’s broad spectrum.
Madonna’s ‘Ray Of Light’ and Dean Blunt’s ‘100’ aren’t two tracks you’d expect the feature on a playlist together, but they’re both summery and psychedelic in an obtuse fashion. Madonna’s ’97 album is kind of a pop mirror of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon – and much fun to smoke weed to. The rest of the tracks on the playlist aren’t linked by much else other than a sunny vibe filtered through a slightly off-kilter pop lens.
Disgrace: Appreciating inscrutable sounds with the help of cannabis
Power electronics and noise music can often seem like an impenetrable art form, but reveal themselves to be accessible and, often times, beautiful. This is most true of the fringes of the genre, reflected in the works of musicians like Pharmakon and AJA.
Appreciating the human side of noise is the first step in enjoying it as a musical style, but recognizing its alien qualities is just as important. The idea might seem contradictory, but maybe weed helps with this. I find the idea enticing, like a bizarre test of endurance and character.
So next time you roll up, play some Merzbow. Although it may be best to make sure you’re not at a gathering or event of any kind. Noise music is a lot of things, but not really social – for the most part anyway.