Music has long been one of my passions. For years, I felt like I was leading something of a double life, reporting on politics and policy by day and going to shows in San Francisco, Sacramento, Seattle or Washington D.C. by night.
From time to time, my passion for music will bleed into my politics hobby on this site. I’m not exactly sure how that might work, or if it makes sense, but in the “ready, fire, aim” spirit that drives the Grizzly Bear Project, I’m happy to introduce “The Playlist” as a semi-regular feature on the site.
All of the music included in these lists will have some California connection – either the artist, the lyrics, or something more mythically evocative of California in some way, shape or form.
Another important note: I’m using Spotify for my playlists – a technology that I am deeply ambivalent about. I use Spotify because it is convenient and allows me to access music at the touch of a button and on the go. It’s also a great way to get turned on to new bands and music.
But. The artist compensation system with Spotify needs work. I understand that technology and innovation can disrupt economic systems, but I believe strongly that it should not be the artist that gets written out of the equation. When I hear something I like on Spotify, I also make a point of buying the album from iTunes, Amazon or directly from the artist or label Web site.
So, please, if you hear something you like, go buy an album or a song on iTunes or some other electronic music service. Better yet, go out and see a show, buy some merchandise and support your favorite touring band.
OK, end of rant. Hope you all enjoy the music.
Let’s start with the classics. The lyrics, the sound, the flute solo. The echo like it came out of Laurel Canyon itself. Check.
In the interest of having an open, honest discussion in this space, I offer this for the “point/counterpoint” section.
Growing up in Southern California in the 1980s, LA punk rock and post-punk played a big role in my life. From Black Flag to the Minutemen, and later fIREHOSE (not Firehouse!). This song has the quintessentially Californian lyric, “I was a surfer/I had a skateboard/I was so happy, man, I lived on The Strand” Amen.
Former Woods bassist Kevin Morby now calls Los Angeles home. His first solo record was written from his new home, about the home he left behind. How California is that?
Longtime San Francisco musician John Dwyer sited the tech-boom related changes in the city as his reason for leaving, giving voice to the tensions that the city is wrestling with. The title of this one seems to capture some of that ambiguity and division for me, even though it probably has nothing to do with what the song is actually about.
Can’t have music and politics without hip-hop. Oakland’s Boots Riley writes smart, provocative songs. Not many better than this one.
San Francisco’s Hanni El Khatib was to Filipino-Palestinian immigrants – a nice homage to the California melting pot. This one’s been stuck in my head for weeks. Fans of the Black Keys should like it. Get tickets to catch him in Oakland next month here.
Since I live here, I’ve got to represent Sacramento on the inaugural list – even if the band is no longer around. There was a brief moment in the middle of the last decade when this duo kind of took over the local music scene. Then they were gone. So it goes.
He calls Malibu home, so we get to claim him. Some say this song is about a meeting between Dylan and Elvis. That’s been debunked, but I still want to believe it.
Another major influence on me in late-1980s Los Angeles. Everybody has their own opinion…
This one captures an era when KROQ in Los Angeles was playing music that sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before, and I couldn’t find anywhere else.
Josh Homme is a musical hero of mine. A native of and inspired by Palm Desert, this one brings the geographical diversity to the list.
Have a song that should be included on the playlist? E-mail us