May 2020, Artist Playlists
About the Playlist
Sam Falls: Good night and good morning
Listen here: Spotify, Apple Music
I was listening to the new Bob Dylan song “Murder Most Foul” and trying to think of something to write to introduce this playlist and it reminded me of when in 1996 we got our first computer, a Gateway 2000 that came with the Microsoft Encarta encyclopedia. I was twelve years old, in Vermont, and obsessed with the window of MTV and the wide world of music it relentlessly portrayed—a foreign world. The closest record store was half an hour away and we’d go once a month for one album of my choosing—so at this point I think I had twelve CDs in my catalogue: Nirvana, Cypress Hill, Smashing Pumpkins, Faith No More, Sonic Youth, Pixies… and all my friends had the exact same ones. But when we got the computer I distinctly remember sitting down and searching “rock and roll” one evening on the Encarta CD and what came up changed my life—amongst the text was the black and white video clip of Bob Dylan singing “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” to Donovan and friends in a small, crowded hotel room from the documentary Don’t Look Back. I know this isn’t particularly interesting or unique, but as an only child in a rural town in Vermont who had not yet registered Dylan or even the 60s really, it was a paradigm shift and it was, in a way, mine. It was the first time music gave me the chills and complicated my feelings with the universe and the vernacular—the way that he looks at someone in the room and nods as though he understands not only everything about this person but the entire world, as he sings “Yonder stands your orphan with his gun, crying like a fire in sun.” It was the first time poetry truly entered my consciousness. I distinctly remember grappling with Dylan’s metaphors and analogies as I went through puberty—trying to understand myself via these kaleidoscopic lyrics about what I figured was normal adult life. All that to say, I have been chasing inspiring music and musicians since then in a determined way—I also remember making a pact with myself as a teen that whatever occupation I pursued, it would be one where I could listen to music while I worked. Anyway, you didn’t need to hear that, I just haven’t talked much to anyone recently.
When I am beginning a new project or am in the throes of working on a show, I will make a mix and compulsively listen to it over and over again. Sometimes for six months I will listen to the same twenty songs on repeat. The songs fit the mood and essence of the work and the repetition not only helps me stay in the prescribed zone but also helps me concentrate—I know the music so well that I can sing along while writing an essay or reading a book. It becomes part of who I am. I think that this spawns from coming of age before streaming but after vinyl. I would often play CDs on repeat without the need to flip a record, but I also had a very limited catalogue. It also comes in very handy now with children and a somewhat normalized schedule—when I am driving out to the desert or forest or studio I can put on the playlist and switch gears from domestic life to art life immediately with the help of my current musical accompaniment (not that these two lives are so separated and I often burden my loved ones with these playlists, such as the one here I’ve been working on for some time now over the home speakers).
This playlist is a combination of my current working playlist that began a couple months ago with the onset of isolation and selections from recent playlists of the past years that are fitting for the current moment. I believe in the sublime and a certain secular spirituality in art that I find is tied to melancholy, for myself at least, so apologies in advance if the music feels a little dark. (But of course melancholy is different than sadness and requires, like empathy, hope and lightness, the spectral poles of pain and darkness.) This playlist is for the empathetic listener, sharing these days that string together. Good night and good morning!
Sam Falls was born in San Diego in 1984. He lives and works in Los Angeles.