Music for Hosting Ol’ Friends

For this week’s playlist, I wanted to continue the trend that Indy started with Week 1 – that is, a functional playlist. Filtering all those musical gems that you’ve unearthed over the last few months into a cohesive playlist that doesn’t just sound like your ‘My Top Rated’-on-shuffle-mode can be a difficult task. For me, it helps to have some activity or setting in mind while building a playlist. This is why I’ve recently been so smitten with music app Songza, as they specifically focus on this aspect of music enjoyment. To that end, you can use the app to build a custom playlist based on your choice of activity – activities that range from coding, to cooking, to baby-making. To my knowledge, Songza does not have a playlist for hosting old friends (and no, this is not a playlist for entertaining the elderly – Keith’s working on that playlist for another week), so this will fill a clear need during the holiday season, when we see folks that we may not have seen in a while. This playlist will tell assure them that you have maintained a healthy appreciation for good tunes, or at least have a friend that made you a dynamite playlist. Hope you enjoy:


Til I Met Thee – Cody Chesnutt

Scene: Your company has arrived, has wine glass(es) in hand and is ready to start helping out in food preparations. This song will get your feet moving; before long you will be chopping onions and mincing garlic to the beat. So this is definitely my jam of late. This is the guitarist from The Roots, famous for his singing on The Seed 2.0. The outro is powerful.

Keep on Pushing – The Impressions

I’m ashamed to admit that I just discovered these guys, although some of their hits like It’s All Right and People Get Ready are familiar. This is the group that gave Curtis Mayfield his start, before he went solo in the early ’70s.  The harmonies on this song will even make those sizzling onions sing along.

Don’t Leave Me – Regina Spektor

This is my favorite track off her new record. This upbeat track will maintain a lively feel in the kitchen as you continue final food preparations.

Valerie – ’68 version – Amy Winehouse

Now that the pasta is boiling, or your projects are otherwise on auto-pilot, the music relaxes a bit. This cover is absolutely beautiful. The laidback strummy sound on the guitar is a perfect complement to Amy’s free, expressive style. This comes off a wildly underappreciated posthumous compilation album, Lioness – Hidden Treasures. I like this stuff way more than her mainstream LP’s.

Heartbreaker – The Walkmen

These guys are one of my recent faves. Singer Walter Martin has a distinctive voice, which I happen to like a lot. Cool story here is that these guys have been playing together since the 5th grade.

Love the Way You Walk Away – Blitzen Trapper

While I’ve not been blown away by their stuff generally, I think this song is just great.

Roscoe – Midlake

I think this is one of a couple songs from this playlist that I Shazam’ed off KEXP’s morning show with John, which is consistently solid. Also, SoundHound > Shazam. It has real-time lyrics, and you can sing/hum the song if you can’t play the real thing! I just couldn’t use SoundHound in verb-form…

Changes – Sandro Perri

Those that know me and my jammy tendencies will understand why I’m in love with this tune, starting at 3:40 (but the whole song is lovely). And not to neglect the whole hosting/cooking dialogue…this track and the next are the transition points – transporting food to table and getting settled down to eat.

Alvear Orilla/Estancia Santa Maria – Chango Spasiuk

Arguably the most talented accordion player in the world, Chango’s style blends obvious technical skill with great songwriting craft.

Midnight in Harlem – Tedeschi Trucks Band

Talented singer (and infamous cougar) Susan Tedeschi teams up with hubby Derek Trucks on the most epic track from their recent record, Revelator (recommended). Classy background music for mastication.

Smoke Ring Halo – The Wood Brothers

I’ve been digging on these guys for a while, but I still can’t get enough of their sound. Listen for the mounting, swelling organ near the end which is effective as a crescendo.

The Good Life – Railroad Earth

You’ll notice by this point that the playlist has taken a country/bluegrass/americana turn. A song celebrating life, appropriately wedged in the space where you’re in the midst of great drink/eats/and guests. The bass line in this song is fun.

Poor Fool –Justin Townes Earle

This song is just downright pleasant. Steve Earle gave his son Townes Van Zandt’s name as a middle name. Justin makes pretty good music in his own right.

What It Is – Mark Knopfler

The opening track off of another under-appreciated album, Sailing to Philadelphia (on which the elegant title track features James Taylor!). This lively gem will help avert food coma, and reinvigorate your company for the next stage of the party, whatever that may be…


One comment on “Music for Hosting Ol’ Friends

  1. Great list, J-Stew! I really like the utility of it. I can totally imagine the scenes you’re proposing. Some notes on the individual songs:

    Till I Met Thee – love this one. Only thing that bothered me was the “first verse” / “second verse” announcement. Aside from that, a perfect start.

    Don’t Leave Me – Interesting. If I was listening right, some Christmas-y lyrics, some lyrics in French, and a marimba background? Interesting combo.

    Valerie – I’ve heard several versions of this song and this by far my favorite.

    Love the Way You Walk Away – I like the beat and the instrumentals, but the vocals are just too country for me. There’s some instinctive, lizard part of my brain that hears vocals with that inflection/accent and starts humming sarcastic banjo music. Definitely a failing on my part, but hard to simply shove aside.

    Changes – Really like the pacing on this song.

    Midnight in Harlem – LOVE this one. I had no idea Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks were married and, more importantly, played music together. Shows how in touch with things I am. That’s awesome; I’m getting that album immediately.

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