1. Neil Young | Old Man
The amount of times this has been playing during a solo car trip while my life is undergoing an incredible shift; I have lost count. When the banjo rolls kicks in, there’s a rush of movement, as well as a flood of stillness, both at the same time. I know I’m not alone when I say this, but I will always feel older than my years. This song makes me think of my father, and how his actions have been such a bold compass (note: a compass, not a guide) for me in my journey through maturation.
2. Bruce Springsteen | Darkness On The Edge Of Town
There’s desperation in this song that has been captured in a way only Springsteen is capable of. If she wants to see me, you can tell her that I’m easily found. Like he’s waiting, but he’ll keep doing what he’s doing whether he hears from her or not. Lyrically, Springsteen always delivers. He uses simple language and delivers with conviction. Everybody understands when you communicate like that, and it’s been an important lesson for me in my development both as a songwriter and as a human being.
3. Elvis Costello | Alison
It all boils down to one night out. When you see someone you used to love in a place where they don’t belong. But who are you to judge? Perhaps they’ve changed. You’ve changed even if you don’t think you have. As long as you keep your eyes on a target, and carry yourself with pride, right? As much as I hate to admit it, my consciousness is easily flooded by nostalgia. Chasing an old flame never made any old dreams come true, but I often cannot help myself. Wrap it up in a prom-night slow jam, and maybe the gentle back and forth with her in your arms and slowly revolving disco-ball could change everything.
4. Blake Mills | It’ll All Work Out
This song was the gatekeeper to the rest of Blake’s wonderful world. It captures all the uncertainty of leaving youth. Production again stands out – keep an ear out for the voice of his sister Alison who appears in one chorus on backing vocals. I didn’t hear it until the hundredth play. Blake is an inspiration. He can write lyrics that describe me better than I could myself, craft sounds that are infinitely interesting and, in my opinion, he is currently the best guitarist in the World. This song explains what it is like when everyone around you wants you to be something that you are not. We know that feel.
5. Icehouse | Electric Blue
This song embodies all that was pleasurable in its Musical era. With a hook that is Electricity itself. Excitement in uncertainty is the message here. What makes this song so killer is the vibe. It takes me to sunsets, balmy nights, neon signs and night drives. Although it’s a blast from the past, this song makes me feel young. I think it’s probably because of the saxophone solo. Despite the international co-writing credits on this track, I’m proud to be considered an Australian when I hear this.
6. Jai Paul | Jasmine (Demo)
When I first heard this song, it took awhile to comprehend its understated nature. It’s an R&B guitar song, deftly obscured with clever production. Muffled falsetto vocals are the vehicle for Jai’s yearning, which drips with sexuality that most of us conservative folk don’t really know how to project. It’s really awkward when I try anything like that. That whole less-is-more thing really stands out here, and this track accelerated my desire to play with bass frequencies so people really feel your Music when it’s played loud.
7. The Pharcyde | Runnin’
Dilla’s production shines so bright in this track. Every kick is just fat enough, and the hi-hat pulls everything along to assist the incredible flow, broken down only with tasteful samples. Look out for the saxophone. Fatlip’s verse is up early, and really stands out to me. I remember the scene he describes about his School days, dodging bullies like it was yesterday. We all went through it, right? And now look at us. Upstanding, caring, strong adults… Maybe.
8. Breezy Lovejoy | P.Y.P. (Mr. Carmack Edit)
This song goes for like a minute and a half! What the hell? That drop is insanely good and shows the cookie-cut-production world that Hip Hop can still be pulled off effectively in a Musical way. Although it’s a remix of what sounds like a Bilal track, the arrangement is so strong you almost forget. There’s no mindless booty wobble or nonsensical synth screaming - just good old-fashioned beatnerdery.
9. A Tribe Called Quest | Keeping It Moving
Q-Tip tells it straight and the attitude he preaches in this song is one I hold dearly. When I hear that syncopated guitar sample, everything about Hip Hop makes sense. When Life gets tough, you need to get stuff done. And you’ve got to be willing to do it whether everyone is with you or not. This kind of mettle separates the weak from the strong. I’m tested every day by my chosen craft. The Music Industry has had its way with me for a very long time, and I am still somewhat under the ridiculous structure that it imposes on me. I just care less now, thanks to this song.
10. N*E*R*D | Breakout
It’s no secret I take a lot of my education from Pharrell. I never got into Funk Rock, which is surprising since I love this song so much. Perhaps it’s the message, or maybe it’s the energy. I always think of Tony Montana replacing my balls/word with my bones/wheels. Turn it up loud and push some people. No one cares. Whenever I’m in a repetitive rut with my life, this song is a reminder to change it up before the staleness seeps into your bones. Like Arthritis.