The Needle Drop

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Playlist: Valentine's Day 2016 (Soul & Kink)

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Making a Valentine's Day playlist is a regular thing here at The Needle Drop. Last year's featured just about everything from Run the Jewels to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, but this year Anthony pretty much had his heart stuck on one genre — soul. So what you're getting this time is a set of 20 soul songs that you can share with that special someone in your life, or enjoy by yourself if that's how you roll. Really, there's so much soul in this thing that it's practically obscene...


In an attempt to curb the syrupy romanticism of Anthony's playlist (and to some extent chase the meme), I've compiled 14 tracks that might appeal to a sense of twisted passion in you. There are some people who like to live dangerously when it comes to their sex lives and they deserve some V-Day tunes as well. Just keep it consensual, alright?

[Pretend the Burial Hex track is #14; it's great and I didn't wanna leave it out just because it's not on Spotify.]

Happy Birthday, Björk! (Starter Pack Playlist)

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Today Icelandic singer-songwriter, composer, and pop innovator Björk celebrates her 50th birthday. In honor of this occasion, we've compiled the above career-spanning playlist for newcomers or those who just would like an overview of her catalog. This set was probably the hardest one yet to sequence, as over the course of the past three or so decades Björk has dabbled in such disparate genres as post-punk, vocal jazz, alternative dance, chamber music, glitch pop - the list goes on. But this is simply emblematic of the adventurous spirit that has made her work so fun and captivating over the years.

We hope you enjoy the tunes; let us know what your faves are. And to Björk, we wish a very happy birthday.

Golden Age Hip Hop Vol. 1

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It's high time that we devote one of these playlist features to perhaps the most important era in hip hop's history, its Golden Age. Centered on the East Coast and spanning the mid-80s to the early-90s, the golden age of hip hop was a time of creative innovation, intensifying social consciousness, and stylistic legitimization thanks in large part to a predominantly unbridled, "Wild West" attitude toward sampling. Certainly by the early '90s, when recording artists began being taken to court over uncleared samples, hip hop was seen all across the US as a legitimate institution and form of artistic expression.

This set that runs nearly two hours is a journey through the diverse hip hop landscape of the time, remaining exciting and fun to this day. Enjoy! And don't despair if we left out anything — as the title suggests, we'll probably be down to make another one somewhere down the line.

Merzbow Starter Pack

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We've been in a pretty noisy mood lately. Last week we brought you a sprawling noise rock playlist and now you're getting a 2.5-hour-long set of tracks from the master of harsh noise, Masami Akita (b.k.a. Merzbow). In a sense he is the perfect subject for one of these starter packs, as his career spans nearly 300 studio albums over the course of four decades and features a wider array of textures and recording techniques than just about any other harsh noise musician's. However, some of his great works (for instance Rainbow Electronics) are comprised of one very long track, thereby not lending themselves to playlist listening. And many interesting releases, like much of his 80's sound collage output and his masterpiece 1930, aren't on Spotify. Nor are his collaborations with Boris (with the exception of the too-long Sun Baked Snow Cave), which is a potential disappointment for those looking forward to next year's double-album Gensho.

With all that being said, hopefully you will find this set to be as varied and comprehensive as possible. We understand that harsh noise isn't the easiest genre to get into and we can't really help you "get it" if it's not your thing, but if you're looking for some insight into how this type of music can be enjoyable, check out Anthony's talk with Mike Rugnetta about noise, among other styles of experimental music. Whatever y'all get out of it, enjoy!

Further listening - the lighter side of Merzbow:

A Noise Rock Odyssey

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For this month's genre playlist, we've put together a little something for those of you who prefer your rock music dissonant and in shambles. Here's a sprawling set of 21 noise rock tracks we dig, lasting an hour-and-3/4. That's just a case of tinnitus waiting to happen, so we wanna take the opportunity to remind you to protect your ears! (Honestly this playlist isn't extremely abrasive throughout, but it's a message that can't be stated enough.)

As always, you'll probably come up with things we omitted. In particular, there are some intriguing noise rock artists on Tzadik, whose catalog isn't on Spotify; nor is Dope Body's. They would have been fun additions, but we hope you enjoy what made the cut!

Mark Kozelek Starter Pack

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2015 has been a very busy year for singer-songwriter Mark Kozelek - since the release of Universal Themes (his seventh album with Sun Kil Moon), he has announced a new EP and spoken word project due out in October via his Caldo Verde label, as well as a full-length collaboration with post-metal act Jesu slated for February. Kozelek formed his first band, Red House Painters, in 1989 and hasn't seen much use in taking a break; his output has only picked up over the years. How he has managed to put out an emotionally resonant album almost every year of the past couple decades is beyond me. It's clear he loves and lives for music-making, but when you're writing songs that are sentimental and empathetic to the devastating degree he is, you've gotta figure it'd be exhausting. Yet it's hard to tire of it as a listener when Kozelek does well to complement the sentimentality and melodrama with a new approach to composition each time, marrying his lyrics with everything from elegant acoustic fingerpicking to lumbering hard rock grooves. He aims for an emotional reaction and I'll be damned if he doesn't get one from me every time. Hopefully this playlist brings you a few good cries and laughs, too.

-Austen

The one glaring omission this time is something from Sun Kil Moon's debut, Ghosts of the Great Highway. It isn't on Spotify, so this song will have to stand on its own (which shouldn't be a problem):