Sitting here late on a Friday night torn between two worlds. Only a wall separates me from a half dozen enthusiastic 10-year-old girls who are simultaneously celebrating my daughter’s birthday and destroying my living room. I’m in my den seeking solitude the only way I know how: With a bottle of scotch. Just kidding. If you’re a parent of one of these children I can assure you the only beverage I’ve consumed tonight is water. The way I’m chilling tonight is with a stack of vinyl, my U-Turn Orbit Plus turntable, and my Bose QC-15 headphones. I can’t get these girls to calm down, but I can noise cancel the hell out of them.
It takes the right music to counteract this insanity. I introduce to you my Ultimate Vinyl Chill Playlist. As always, let me lay out the ground rules first:
- I have to own it on vinyl. That limits me to 298 records. This is not Apple Music, Tidal, Spotify, Pandora, or some other streaming service I’m not aware of.
- I will limit this to one track per artist. I could fill this list with D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, and Digable Planets. Or I could just say, “Drop the needle on the NxWorries album,” but that would be too easy.
- I’m not including jazz on this list. This is the non-jazz chill list. I will come up with a jazz list in the future. It will be mostly Grant Green.
With that, here’s the playlist that’s keeping me from losing my mind tonight in no particular order:
Spotless Mind – From the album “Souled Out” by Jhene Aiko
This is a nice start to my mission to find tranquility. This whole album is chill. Jhene Aiko isn’t exactly trying to rock a party or scream at anyone. Kind of a depressing vibe on this track as she’s singing about breaking a guy’s heart. No matter. Her soft vocals and the mellow aura around this song make this a good one to start with. Plus, her last name starts with “A”, so she was kind of at the front of the stack.
Elevators (Me & You) – From the album “ATLiens” by Outkast
Once upon a time this ignorant, foolish blogger dismissed ATLiens. Too weird. I was not ready for it. I was looking for more Player’s Ball. More Southernplayalistic. More shit I could bang out of the Mothership. Instead this track came out and my initial reaction was, “What are they thinking?” What was I thinking? I wasn’t ready for this futuristic, game changing shit. Now ATLiens is easily my favorite Outkast album and Elevators is part of why. Andre 3000’s flow on this track was like nothing we’d ever heard before. This is almost enough to make me forget about the girls in the living room screaming about Henry Danger. Also, bonus points because I’ve got this track on limited edition glow-in-the-dark 10″ vinyl.
Ms. Philadelphia – From the album “Luvanmusiq” by Musiq Soulchild
One of the girls just claimed the dog peed on her sleeping bag. Nobody saw it happen, and the dog was in the bedroom making this impossible, but she’s worried about it nonetheless. I checked thoroughly. Someone spilled water. It is not urine. Belle would not do that. I need some music to bring me back. Here’s why I like Musiq Soulchild. He’s not going to blow you away with powerhouse vocals. What he does is surprise you with melodies and rhythms that you don’t expect. He can paint a picture with his lyrics in a way that reminds me of Stevie Wonder. This is a nice little track about being far away from home and finding a girl from his hometown Always a favorite chill track of mine. I’ve almost completely forgotten about sleeping bags and false accusations of dog urine.
The Blast – From the album “Train of Thought” by Talib Kweli and Hi Tek a.k.a. Reflection Eternal
I couldn’t make a list without including my man Kweli. This has been a favorite of mine for almost 20 years. With a name like “The Blast” you’d think this would be…exactly that? A blast. A big bang. Quite the opposite. This song always brings a smile to my face because the background vocals repeatedly sing his name “Kweli” in the background. It’s pronounced like KWAH-lee. My wife continues to believe that they’re actually singing my name “CHARlie” throughout. Every time she hears it she sings along. Works for me. Bonus points on this track because I love the video in the pouring rain. Adds to the cool vibe.
Black Ego – From the album “Blowout Comb” by Digable Planets
This might be my all-time favorite chill track. For starters, it opens with a looped sample from a Grant Green track. If you don’t know Grant Green, get to know him. Next you can hear a police officer reading Butterfly his Miranda Rights for reasons unbeknownst to me (or anyone?). “Do you wish to give up your right to remain silent?” “Hell yeah!” Enter Ladybug with some of the dopest lyrics you’ve ever heard:
So now lets let into, in my pocket pack
Pummel and I epic, black ethic lack
I walk again, you were shade gray, come display
Mazes in black, fire in the west
In comes the greatest breakbeat I’ve ever heard courtesy of The Meters. Ladybug continues:
Shit is shakin’, it’s fly
I’m in lookies when I’m pushing vinyl time
Up the fort, where I’m caught
And my thought to shakin’ up a few loose
Now I let my cause shoot, KRS One
Cause we fade in and out, are you swinging or coming?
I’m solid on this thought, this ain’t living
It’s heavy every setback, even when I was a shorty
Now we catch you in your four, thrice
Check me in another place, space, and joy
Nothing you could serve could ever
Ace me boy
Fat laces, I’m out, fat and no babies“That’s right baby”
That’s songwriting on another level. I cannot comprehend ability like that, but I love it. DP’s have officially wiped out the chaos in the living room. For what it’s worth, it seems to be calming down out there…finally. The problem is, this track is so good it kind of has me hyped up. It’s having the opposite effect on me. Let’s see what I can come up with next…
L$D – From the album “AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP” by A$AP Rocky
I have no idea how to interpret this song. Despite my inexperience with recreational drugs I believe I understand what LSD is. I do know that Rocky repeatedly refers to it as Love Sex Dream on this track. I’m not naive enough to think he’s just talking about sex here. Whatever. I don’t need to understand it to dig it. If I close my eyes while I’m listening to this I feel like what I imagine it’s like to float through space. I’m sure that was his point. There are few things I enjoy more than sitting in the dark on a Friday night listening to music like this on my turntable.
Fingerprints – From the album “Choose Your Weapon” by Hiatus Kaiyote
If you’re not familiar with Hiatus Kaiyote, look them up. This is a great band. On their website they describe themselves as “multi-dimensional, polyrhythmic gangster shit.” I’ve heard them referred to as “future soul.” Whatever they are, they are definitely a real band, if that’s what you’re in to. I love a good sample as much as anyone, but this is a group of people playing real instruments. It’s also one of the best vocalists I’ve ever heard. Lead singer Nai Palm has the voice of an angel. This track is a great example. Unfortunately it’s nearing midnight and after a period of calm, the girls have stated to act up. Time to get the scary dad voice out.
Sara Smile – From the album “The Very Best of” by Daryl Hall & John Oates
I’m aware that this track is from the album “Daryl Hall & John Oates”. That album cover is so upsetting I don’t like to acknowledge its existence. Plus, if I’m referring to my personal record collection, the only way I can hear Sara Smile is to put on the greatest hits collection. I love this song. I love Daryl Hall. I love John Oates. I can’t say I love every one of their songs, but I can drop the needle on this “Very Best of” collection and enjoy the hell out of it. Daryl Hall sounded amazing in his day, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better backup vocalist than Oates. When they were singing soul music like Sara Smile they were at their best. Unfortunately, my son’s alarm clock just went off. He has a tendency to play with his alarm clock and the default time for his alarm is midnight. This has riled up the girls again. I wish I was kidding.
Electric Relaxation – From the album “Midnight Marauders” by A Tribe Called Quest
This song literally has the word “relaxation” in the title. How can this not work? Q-Tip opens this track with the line:
Honey check it out you got me mesmerized
With your black hair and your fat ass thighs
That’s setting the bar high, lyrically. I love the New York City vibe in this video. Now someone is crying in the living room. I’d be a shitty dad/chaperone if I didn’t go make sure nobody is injured. Time to go find out what’s up now. Damn it.
Room in Here – from the album “Malibu” by Anderson .Paak feat. The Game and Sonyae Elise
You know why there’s crying in that room? Because they’re 10-year-old girls, that’s why. They sure aren’t telling me. I just wanted to make sure there were no broken bones or blood. Things are quiet for the moment. Maybe .Paak will help. I love Anderson .Paak like he’s my own son. I already put him among my favorites and I’ve only known of him for about a year. I love the slightly off-tune piano loop and the drums on this track. Paak does his usual “is he singing or is he rapping?” routine, but much of this is somehow done in a floating falsetto. I’ve never been a fan of The Game, but he absolutely kills it during his verse on this one. This is more like it.
I haven’t even scratched the surface with this list, but it finally seems quiet in the room next door and I’m tired as hell. I wasn’t able to get to Prince, D’Angelo, NxWorries, Badu, Sade, The Roots, Jose James, and so many others. Let’s just call this Part 1. I’ll continue this some other Friday night. The chill music and the writing did its job.