On the morning of Thursday, July 8th, I arrived via bus into the bustling sector of downtown Chicago. Though this type of trip had become customary, it was still an ever overwhelming moment. However, a quick blue line bus later, I walked into an entirely different piece of Illinois existence.
I’ve spent the last four days staying at my brothers two bedroom apartment, nestled on a suburban side street paces away from a populous neighborhood. Rustic and homey, with hardwood floors and window-lit rooms encompassed within the infrastructure, said apartment has been cast in my mind as a peaceful perch. It has been a weekend of cut off jeans, rambling walks, and aimlessly unplanned moments of perfection. It’s been a weekend of street-lit nights settled upon various porches, indulging in quiet cigarettes and the conversational company of ragtag companions. It has been a weekend of discovery, and a breath of fresh serenity.
As I lay upon my temporary bed, a nostalgic, goodwill couch, night after night, I wondered how I could constructively and accurately capture these last four days. Reflecting back on these seemingly endless moments, the only constant that I could remember was the sweet, sultry music that continuously played throughout the apartment.
In light of this, I decided to make a short playlist of songs that have been best heard echoing through this ethereal niche of Chicago life.
(Click to download)
1.The National – Apartment Story
2.Neil Young – Journey Through the Past
3.Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Carries On
4.Devendra Banhart – Bad Girl
5.Devendra Banhart – Seahorse
6.Devendra Banhart – Freely
7.Devendra Banhart – Shabop Shalom
8.Wolf Parade – yulia
9.Deer Tick – These Old Shoes
10.Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash – Girl from the North Country
To highlight some of my favorites…..
2. Journey Through the Past
This song, as so aptly titled, is a journey within itself upon every listen. It is a journey through past memories that end in a moment of some sort of discovery that can possibly contribute to present moments and future endeavors. The lyrical nostalgia, met with the classic twang of Young’s voice, melded perfectly within the hardwood cast of the apartment I first heard it in.
3. Carries On
Carries on is an often overlooked ingredient to the self-titled masterpiece from Edward Sharpe and his loyal Magnetic Zeros. Overshadowed by the over-played success of “Home”, Carries On is a surprising gem to any who listen to the album in its entirety. Simple and stripped down, “Edward’s” voice serves as the primary instrument in the intro, his baritone swagger reaching every crevice of this wonderful tune. As the syncopated tapping in the background picks up, and the sweet celestial melodies begin to swell in their swooning, the song really hits its groove. As what seems to be the entire band begins to join in, the bass “carrying on” its smooth support, backing vocals fulfilling their duties, this little ditty completes its ride.
I refer to these 4 songs as the “Banhart Intermission.” Though it somehow flows with the rest of the mix, the Devendra’s featured section is a mix of its own. With his smooth voice and experimental habits of instrumentation, Devendra Banhart pushes the listener, surprising them with serenity in his sometimes chaotic approach to music. Take, for example, the track entitled” Seahorse”. This 8 minute track is almost four separate songs in one. Split off into distinct pieces, each part serves almost like a separate movement. Developing from slow and pensive to explosively expressive, the song somehow manages to keep the listener involved and interested throughout. The song truly has a flow of its on, yet flow it has. Every time the man shrieks his deepest wish to be a little Seahorse, our hearts wince with him.
Another personal favorite from this section is “Freely.” Slow, almost to the point of suspenseful, “Freely” does its title justice. Devendra hand picks a melodic formula that stays open-ended and un-tethered, capturing a sense of flighty freedom within each individual note. This song bleeds to be played on long drives and in well-lit, wide-eyed apartments.
10. Girl From The North Country
This song is one of my recently discovered favorites. First heard on a recording of” The Johnny Cash Show”, its a live recording of Bob Dylan playing with The Man in Black himself. Rooted deeply in its own rustic manifesto, Girl from The North Country is a classic of boy leaves north, boy leaves girl. Dripping with longing. it was only a matter of time before Cash got his own hand in on it. Dylan’s raspy alto contrasts effectively with Cash’s darkly deep baritone, creating a dancing duet of a harmony, perfect in its imperfection. Personally resounding, and another nostalgic gem, this song serves as an appropriate tune to “cap off” this playlist.
– contributed by re-occurring guest writer, Zohair Hussain