Making a music playlist for the culture section of a political website populated by wonky nerds (no disrespect — I’m one of them) poses its challenges, but this most of all: how to divert those skimming, partisan eyes from the politics section of the site to my home base of culture? Last month, I tempted ya’ll with Carly Rae Jepsen. Easy enough. But this month, I have a presidential election to compete with and nary a Bieber protégé to tout. After a lot of soul searching (and internet searching), I’ve come up with a mélange of options, including some indie giants playing their first new track in three while looking fairly ridiculous, the latest from an emerging hip hop superstar with a silly name, and the weirdest song Jack White has ever released.
1. “Unbelievers” by Vampire Weekend:
It’s been almost three years since Vampire Weekend released their sophomore album, Contra. “Unbelievers” is the first taste we’ve gotten of what’s next for the band (there’s still no official release date for their next record), and it doesn’t disappoint. Even though Ezra Koenig and the gang are dressed for Halloween, this track will whet your appetite for the coming months in between album number three.
2. “Love At First Sight” by Kylie Minogue:
I’m an unabashed fan of pure pop, so Kylie Minogue holds a special place in my heart. I obsessed briefly over “Get Outta My Way” a couple of years ago, and who can doubt the power of the infinity famous first single, “The Locomotion”? But her strongest has to be “Love At First Sight.” I can’t wait to get my hands on the re-worked The Abbey Road Sessions, which features re-worked versions of her best tunes, comes out on Election Day. For now, revel in the beauty of this live version of “Love At First Sight.”
3. “Ain’t Messin ‘Round” by Gary Clark, Jr.:
Gary Clark, Jr. has been touted as “The New Jimi Hendrix” so often that he’s even addressed the issue head on. Well, he’s black and he plays blues-rock guitar, so the comparisons were always going go to be there, but his style is way more country and funky than Hendrix. But don’t take my naysaying as a token of Clark’s lack of talent. The dude can shred and put together a mean song. No track better shows off his abilities than this live version of “Ain’t Messin ‘Round,” the lead single off his brand new album, Blak and Blu.
4. “Who Knew” by You Won’t:
Boston’s "You Won’t" garnered tons of press from their run at CMJ in October (including props from The New York Times and NPR). “Who Knew” is their latest music video — a sardonic, slideshow-inspired exploration of failed love off of their debut album, Skeptic Goodbye, released earlier this year. Best look out for this duo—as you should with any band that inspires a fan to tattoo their lyrics onto her back.
5. “Chum” by Earl Sweatshirt:
Frank Ocean and Tyler, the Creator are the two most celebrated members of Odd Future, but only because Earl Sweatshirt was sent to a boys school in Samoa by his mother in 2010 to keep him out of trouble. Now eighteen, Sweatshirt (he has a real name, but it’s not as fun) releases “Chum,” his first single since he returned home. It’s classic Odd Future — mellow, dense, and slightly off—and Earl kills it lyrically.
6. “Breakers” by Local Natives:
It’ll be a couple of months before Local Natives release Hummingbird, their follow-up to 2009’s Gorilla Manner, but the band dropped their first single in mid-October to help sate us during that wait. This chill, layered jam will help keep you toasty as the weather changes outside.
7. “Forever” by HAIM:
This track is far from new and shiny, but the sisters HAIM are on a world tour in November, and I’ll take any excuse to put them on a playlist. “Forever” is what I would listen to if
8. “Die Young” by Ke$ha:
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. “Die Young” seems predestined to hit #1 on the Billboard Charts this month by following the same four-on-the-floor, rap-singy danceability that catapulted Ke$ha to prominence originally. If Ke$ha wants to survive past this album, though, she needs to grow stylistically.
9. “Blues On Two Trees” by Jack White
This song confuses me to no end. It’s not groundbreaking to claim that Jack White is strange, but this takes his quirks to a whole ‘nother level. There’s rapping, discordant feedback, and not a very well framed song. But it’s like a puzzle — I can’t stop listening to it until I figure out how all the pieces fit together. Click “play” at your own risk.