Coming up this Sunday is Father’s Day, so I put together a little mixtape for my father. However, the normal length playlist seemed insufficient, so I decided to make him a double LP, following in the footsteps of one of our mutual favorite albums, the Beatles’ white album. Each side has a different character to it, but I think they are all tied together rather nicely. As for the prevailing aesthetic, I christen this Dad Rock, which is a half-joking name for a genre for bands like Wilco or the National which release the sort of music your dad would listen to. So here it is, four sides of tracks my dad would listen to.
The first “side” of this mixtape features songs from the last year or two that I haven’t shown my father yet because they’re so new, but instinctively it’s clear he’ll like each of them.
1. “Angel Is Broken” — Atlas Sound:
A playlist should begin with a good riff. This track, by Deerhunter frontman, is off of his most recent album Parallax, which was full of such riffs. Sure, this is a pretty indie track to begin a playlist for my father, but every time the song reverts to that strumming and beat, the genre really stops mattering.
2. “Jesus Fever” — Kurt Vile:
When Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth’s bassist) was recently asked what her guilty pleasure was, she said (to paraphrase) “Kurt Vile… because I listen to [him] too much.” And it’s so easy to listen to, because the upbeat nature of this song makes you want to listen to it over and over.
3. “Meet Me in the Basement” — Broken Social Scene:
With the great beat and recurring guitars, this instrumental grabs the momentum of the side’s start and amps it up a notch. Perhaps the catchiest thing here are the violins which hammer out the same line over and over to great effect.
4. “I Am What I Am” — Spiritualized:
Spiritualized very may well have released the best album of 2012. And as good as all of Sweet Heart Sweet Light is, most of the people who I’ve shown this album to have almost immediately said “sounds a lot like Wilco.” Wilco is the banner-carrier of the dad rock genre, and Spiritualized carry on the torch nicely. But this track isn’t simple rock and roll; this track has a real dirty feel to it under a layer of dissonance. Dad rock doesn’t have to be straightforward or simple.
5. “When I Was Young” — Nada Surf:
This track slows down for the start, with a simple man and his guitar. This simplicity is what Nada Surf does best, and this is the high point of their last album The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy. However, the song really comes alive when it builds back up to the energy it paused, making it one of the best tracks of the year and a great way to end side A.
This side features more upbeat tracks that I’d call dad rocky enough, but these songs are a bit older, so I’ve already mentioned these bands to him a few times, and I’ll keep shameless putting them on any playlist I give him until he realizes he should loot their albums from my collection.
1. “So Far Around the Bend” — The National:
Dark Was the Night was a highlight of 2009, and this is one of the most positive sounding tracks from the National ever. It’s hard to imagine anyone who has ever bobbed their head to drums or guitars not enjoying this song, not just a dad.
2. “Vaporize” — Broken Bells:
Danger Mouse is perhaps the greatest producer of the last ten years. Everything he touches (Gnarls Barkley, Broken Bells, the Grey Album, Rome, Danger Doom, etc) sounds so clean yet all have a prevailing aesthetic of artificial age.
3. “North” — Phoenix:
Phoenix use guitars well. All of their albums feature tight control of their instruments but in ways that sound so clean and beautiful. If there were words in this track, it would take your attention away from how well it builds and falls as their guitars gently weep.
4. “Prizefighter” — Eels:
Woooooooooooohoooooo. E, as he likes to be called, is one of the best singer/songwriters of the last decade. Off of Hombre Lobo, he sounds more like a singing werewolf on this track than any other. Unlike the cleaner tracks preceding it, this song’s strength is its messiness.
5. “Fell In Love With A Girl” — The White Stripes:
Champion of the decade’s garage band rockers, Jack White plays that guitar for all its worth and a bit more as his snappy-fast vocals bear repeating now. This track probably won’t be new to anyone, except my dad, which is why he needs to hear it.
Although most of the music I introduce my father to is from my generation and not his, there are a lot of bands that reach through the ages so that I can at least remind, if not introduce, my dad to things he may have been listening to for years.
1. “Bigmouth Strikes Again” — The Smiths:
This playlist was intended to introduce my dad to some bands he would like. One of my greatest moments of failure was when watching 500 Days of Summer with my family, my father asked “The Smiths, is that a real band?” Even if my father was actually alive for a lot more of the Smiths than I was, it is my duty to ensure he’s heard every inch of The Queen is Dead before he is.
2. “I’m Waiting for the Man” — The Velvet Underground:
Dad rock is dad rock because it hearkens back to the music a father would have listened to when he was in college. The Velvet Underground were not the sort of thing my father listened to in college. The band that did so much for the history of music will forever be known by only the faithful few who get to enjoy the controlled (and uncontrolled) dissonance and clever wordplay of Lou Reed. Oh yeah, and having your album produced by one of the most important men in the history of art is pretty cool too, especially to an art history major.
3. “Custom Concern [BBC Radio Session]” — Modest Mouse:
This version of the already fantastic Modest Mouse song is a The Moon & Antarctica (Remastered) B-side. The faster pace and snapping rhythm keep up dad-worthy energy from this band of which he’s never heard.
4. “Let It Loose” — The Rolling Stones:
Mick Jagger might be able to write a song. So when he’s not writing “Bittersweet Symphony”, he’s writing really amazing songs like this. Even though my dad probably once knew every song on Exile on Main Street, we’ll all certainly enjoy hearing again.
5. “Lake of Fire” — Nirvana, covering the Meat Puppets:
Kurt can sing, but since my father was over seas while Nirvana was transforming America and I wasn’t sentient yet, he missed them entirely. I finally got my dad to put Nevermind on his iPod, but this cover, and really every song on their unplugged MTV set, would be a quality choice to end this older side with a more mellow, but still energetic track that sets the mixtape up for side d.
I end this long mixtape with a side of more laid back tracks. A completely different side of “dad rock,” these tracks share more in common with Dylan than Springsteen. If anyone besides my father has made it this far into the playlist, I appreciate your time and hope you’ve enjoyed these tracks that were only assembled for you as a second thought.
1. “Hast Thou Considered the Tetrapod” — The Mountain Goats:
John Darnielle has been called the best lyricist of the recent years. With a voice that demands to be loved if enjoyed at all (much like Dylan before him), this song has a good smattering of guitar and drums with a smooth production overlay.
2. “The Transfiguration” — Sufjan Stevens:
Every track on this side has a second meaning to my father and I, making it an appropriate way to end the album I’ve made for him. However, regardless of anything else, this is a fantastic song because of the way Sufjan merges lyrical meaning and aesthetic feel.
3. “Double Bass” — Gorillaz:
The fourth and final instrumental (ish) to take the third position on a side in this mixtape, this track’s utter simplicity makes it a great fit on any chill (ish) playlist. And for that brief moment of vulnerability when Murdoc Niccals (ish) reveals his anxiety, the simple lyrics magnify the aesthetic of this simple track.
4. “Kamera” — Wilco:
I hope it was clear from the beginning that a Wilco track was coming. When asked about their classification as dad rock, Jeff Tweedy said in a recent interview “I don’t find anything undignified about being a dad or being rocking.” And that’s what this playlist is about: being a dad and being rocking, for which my father certainly qualifies.
5. “Reckoner Lockdown” — DJ Earworm, mashing up Radiohead and Kanye West:
My dad really dislikes rap, and in particular my great love, Kanye West. The last track on my gift to him had to be this one so he could skip it if he really didn’t enjoy it. As for the song, DJ Earworm’s mashups do a great job at preserving the character of various songs while merging them together. One of his most simple mashups, this feels like a track both Kanye and Thom Yorke could put on an album.