1. Dizzy Gillespie – “Fire Dance”
Let’s start this off with what I consider one of jazz’s most exciting tracks. Dizzy joins his trumpet with Schiffrin’s composing and arranging skills. Dizzy is iconic not only for his neck (you should really watch a video of him playing) but also for his bombastic style. Schiffrin is the mastermind behind the scores of Enter the Dragon and Dirty Harry. Put them together, and you get this thrilling urban song.
2. Zutons – “Valerie”
The Zutons only recently came under my radar and their album Tired of Hanging Around is a tight package of well-done pop-rock music. This track is easily the catchiest, and the chorus is only one word. I also really dig the intro acoustic guitar arpeggios. Oh and if you’re an Amy Winehouse fan, this is the original recording of the song “Valerie.”
3. DOROTHY – “Wicked Ones”
Seeing the success of not one but two female garage rock stompers (“Exes and Ohs” and “Heaven Knows,” both great songs that deserve their popularity), I thought I’d remind everyone of this badass song. It sticks out to because of the cool use of varying distortion on vocals, the strong energy that is prominent from beginning to end, and because of that wild layered guitar solo.
4. Pink Martini – “Song of the Black Lizard”
This song alone made me think that Pink Martini is a group of geniuses. Everything in this song is totally smooth. The a capella intro gives me chills. Each instrument then essentially takes turns playing the same melody, but it doesn’t matter to me since it sounds like each one is pouring caramel into my ears. The chord structure creates this mysteriously exotic melody that is jazzy without being uncomfortably dissonant.
5. Eric Satie – “Gymnopédie”
This is another song that heavily relies on the player to put great focus on tone. Most of this song remains on one chord, creating a sense of stagnation in a really depressing melancholic way. I can almost sink into every note the piano hits and not move until I die.
6. Ben Folds – “Phone in a Pool”
I put this song here because it lies somewhere between melancholy and cherry pop. It’s the type of song you’d expect from McCartney and Lennon. Folds even has a bridge that is very distinct from the verses in chorus, both melodically and instrumentally. In fact, no two verses/choruses sound exactly alike given all the fills that vary in instrumental timbre.
7. St. Vincent – “Psychopath”
St. Vincent will always be a shining example of the balance between electronic and musical ingenuity. The drum patterns aren’t boring. Her voice uses various effects throughout the song, but it’s so subtle it doesn’t muddy her vocal talent. Her guitar talent is also apparent, using an original style both playing-wise and tone-wise. The song as a whole is just great pop music too.
8. Blood Orange – “Forget It”
I’ve got to be honest: 80% of why I love this song so much is because of that guitar solo. It’s my favorite guitar solo outside of blues and heavy metal. It has unusual timing, even from the first note, that isn’t immediately intuitive. The subtle delay combined with the trills and hammer-ons make a really colorful sound that I can almost taste as juicy and sweet. The rest of the song is also fun, but that guitar solo is one of our generation’s greatest.
9. Nico & Vinz ft. Kid Ink & Bebe Rexha – “That’s How You Know”
When I first heard this song, I imagined it being the summer hit that would inevitably be used in at least two mega-huge summer comedies. It didn’t, so I’m assuming I’m slowly becoming out of touch with what the kids like these days. Either way, it’s a really fun pop song with an island vacation vibe to it. The lyrics are supposed to be tongue-in-cheek but just come off as lame, but at least there are different artists to give it vocal variety.
10. Rebecca Rego & the Trainmen – “Bury My Body”
I’ve listened to Rebecca Rego almost only live and I love how their bass player is almost always front and center. It’s not the usual band setup. That aside, this recording really captures how intimate their shows can be. Rego’s voice is front and center, but the background sounds like it could easily be the audience. The space even sounds like it was recorded in a small pub. It’s a nice quiet song to end this playlist.