We are trying something different this week. Here are two playlists – one to get you fired up and the other one to keep you focused. We approached two men who are deeply involved in the music world. Andy McGrath is the general manager of White Iris Records which launched last year. It’s the label counterpart to commercial music collective Black Iris – and Rob Lowry is the assistant producer at Black Iris. They recently renovated their offices and studio in Los Angeles’ Echo Park with the help of interior designer Wendi Weger (watch out for an interview with Wendi next week).
Above and below: Wendi Weger “We needed to transform a pretty gray and drab office space. One requirement was that the design be functional in terms of soundproofing certain areas, so we made a curtain out of accordioned industrial felt, covered one wall entirely in cork, wrapped sound-absorbing panels in burlap, and incorporated lots of rugs and other textiles.”
Above: Wendi “With this part of the office we started to skew west coast beach rather than midwestern lake because Daron has his surf boards hanging up, so we gave him a 10 foot marlin over his desk and at that point each room took on a unique identity.”
Andy McGrath’s Inspiration Playlist
1. Chad VanGaalen ‘Phantom Anthills‘ - for me, this is productivity and inspiration embodied in a song!
2. FIDLAR ‘Wake Bake Skate‘- this one puts a hop in my step every time I hear it.
3. Computer Magic ‘Grand Junction‘- this track is super fun.
4. Dawes ‘Love Is All I Am‘- these dudes have a super classic, bright, SoCal sound. This is the first Dawes song in a line of many that that would encapsulate so many emotions for me. Probably my favorite music video of the past 10 years, too. These guys inspire me everyday. Yes. Every. Day.
5. Guards ‘Sail It Slow‘- this song is huge.
6. Averkiou ‘Holland & Headaches‘ - This band rips so hard. It’s Jesus and Mary Chain meets Ride meets My Bloody Valentine. They get extra points for the inspiring Boyd Shropshire created album art.
7. Other Lives ‘Landforms‘ - there’s a calm and focused aspect to this song. It’s like a cool breeze or a cool wave rushing overhead. Refreshing.
8. Waylon Jennings ‘Lonesome, On’ry and Mean‘ - Waylon looking real rough in this video but absolutely crushing this MEGA JAM is inspiring in and of itself. Taken from Cowboy Jack Clements old ’70s show.
9. Unknown Mortal Orchestra ‘Ffunny Ffriends‘- another breezy jam.
10. King Tuff ‘So Desperate‘- feel’s like a road song. Makes me wanna get outside, explore and interact..
Rob Lowry’s Thinking Person’s Playlist
1. Superhumanoids ‘Mikelah‘ - There’s nothing like a great opening track; it sets the mood for the entire album. Unfortunately, this track is a single, so you have to build your own soundtrack around it (and they set the bar pretty high). Superhumanoids have a subtle and beautiful romanticism about them that puts them stories above the sudden resurgence in 80’s-influenced music. “Mikelah” is a sweeping, gorgeous accomplishment.
2. Julianna Barwick “The Magic Place” - One would think layered harmonies and strings of oohs-and-ahhs would become tired and redundant over the course of a four-minute song, but Julianna defies logic. This song feels like you’re flying blindly through the clouds only to come out on the other side to find everything you were ever looking for.
3. Bill Callahan “Jim Cain” - Bill has a voice that centers you upon impact. His spoken/sung vocal delivery, paired with the beautiful strings and finger-picking backing the track, brings to mind a walk in an enchanted forest at dawn. If your mind’s not clear by song’s end, there are deeper seeds planted.
4. Sade “Your Side” - No one does it better than Sade. The track is so smooth, it sounds like the entire thing has been auto-tuned. Her voice brings a peace of mind that few others can. Completely organic, completely intuitive.
5. Explosions in the Sky “Postcard from 1952” - Equal parts understated and epic, “Postcard” brings you from calm to chaos and back to peace in a way no vocal melody could have ever justified. This song’s able to heighten emotions within you without being overbearing or forcing you to feel a certain way. The soundscapes on this track are so wide open but immediately intimate, like you’re wrapped in a sleeping bag on an open field. Explosions gives so much and asks so little in return.
6. Josh T. Pearson – “Honeymoon’s Great! Wish You Were Her” It’s a powerful and strange feeling when you already know what the lyrics to a song will be before the vocals kick in. Josh T. Pearson has a Masters’ in this. And because you know what he’s going to say, it allows more time to spend focusing on the intricacies of his instrumentation and the feeling he’s emoting, which is a key to being able to concentrate on other various endeavors.
7. Twin Shadow – “Tyrant Destroyed” Sometimes, a song feels so familiar and comfortable it’s as if you were lying in a bed made of its arrangement. George Lewis Jr. has had this affect on me, and “Tyrant” is the perfect example of something that completely occupies and embodies your being while allowing you to focus your mind elsewhere. It’s the song in the background of your day-in and day-outs, complimenting but not overbearing.
Above: Wendi “My friend and frequent collaborator Matt Sams had that wallpaper in his house and I became obsessed. You can find it here: www.cavernhome.com. It’s called Blackbird.”