15 Songs My Dad Hates

That isn’t my dad.  My dad actually looks very little like an angry Asian man, but that’s the first image that popped up when I searched for “Angry Dad,” so let’s just roll with it.

Somewhere between the vast generational gap and the ever-evolving landscape of music is the concept of “good,” as in, “that’s a good song.”  It’s tricky, since both objectivity and subjectivity aren’t without their flaws.  Needless to say, my dad and I disagree about any number of things when it comes to music.  This playlist is full of songs that, for one reason or another, I think have some real value.  They’re also songs I thought he would absolutely hate.  It’s a strange feeling, to really like something yet to be able to put yourself into someone else’s shoes for a moment and think, “he’d hate this.”

Let’s be clear: I’m not saying these are “Great Songs.”  These are songs that I like for one reason or another, but some of them I wouldn’t listen to frequently, some of them (most of them) have their flaws, and I wouldn’t go to the mat for all of them.

That being said; it’s an interesting test.  I was recently home for Christmas, and I played these for my dad, all at once, at a loud volume, all in a row.  Give them a listen.  Do you come down on my side, or my dad’s?


Beating Heart Baby –  Head Automatica

I say: “A surprisingly workable twist on a standard romantic pop song.  It’s creative and dynamic and has a pretty strong dose of love worked into its framework, all of which is surprising from a pop album.  I would want to be able to play this for my girlfriend and have her not only get why I like it, but like it herself.  Also, off the same album, if you’re looking for a song to listen to while you’re running that’s capable of pushing you that last 100 meters at a sprint, give ‘At The Speed of a Yellow Bullet’ a try.”

My dad says:  “Could the beat be a little bit more subtle?  The juxtaposition of the words and music are like a pickle in hot cocoa.  This is not morning music.”

Problems – Arrah and the Ferns

I say: “Good music doesn’t always have to be serious.  The power of art is that it lets us experience strong emotion without consequence, and too often the highest examples of that art focus on the darker emotions.  People love Parks and Recreation and Community, and people love Breaking Bad and The Wire, but it’s those last two that are far more frequently cited for their artistic merit.  That doesn’t always have to be the case.  Point of the point, this album is silly, this song is silly.  It’s a Disney movie and a childhood campfire and a middle school play mixed in an Optimism Bowl.  And that’s okay.  Sometimes, that’s even required.”

My dad says:  “Music to play miniature golf by.”

Shoot Speed/Kill Light – Primal Scream

I say:  “H. L. Mencken said, ‘Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.’  This is the music isn’t quite that black, but it’s in the ballpark.  It’s certainly music for doing something intense and epic.  This song came on randomly during my last run and it legitimately made me run that mile about 45 seconds faster.”

My dad says:  “I’d rather take a hypodermic needle to the eye.”

Hold This – Child Abuse

I say: “OK, this takes a little explaining.  I’m not saying this is a good song or that I even particularly like it.  Mostly I just wanted to see my dad’s reaction.  I just started laughing at his expression at 0:55 when the main part starts.  It’s just perfectly the opposite of what my dad would enjoy in a million, billion years.  And yet some part of me sees the value if I get into the right frame of mind.  This is hardcore revenge music.  This is like, the antagonist in the movie has just crossed the Moral Event Horizon and stabbed my puppy, and I’m looking up with dark intent at a bunch of his lackeys, and then I have a katana in each hand and I’m going so insane with rage that this is the part of the narrative where it’s unclear if I’ll come back from the Dark Side.  This is hateful, hateful music that I will break things to.”

My dad says: (laughing)  “If I can’t find my bottle of Imitrex I’m going to kill myself.”

Intro – M83

I say: “I was a little late to the M83 bandwagon, but that doesn’t stop me from being enthusiastically on board now.  Picking one song off this album was tricky as hell.  Eventually I went with this one because of its intense cinematic quality, which my dad (credit where credit is due) picked up on.  This could easily be the soundtrack for a 2-minute trailer for, say, MirrorMask.  It’s dreamy, slightly narcotic, but upbeat and surprising enough to engage with.”

My dad says: (puzzled expression)  “What movie is this from?  Wake me up when the music starts.”

Bottled In Cork – Ted Leo & the Pharmacists

I say:  “Ted Leo’s latest album is just as good as the stuff we listened to in college.  Living With The Living was mediocre, in my opinion, but this one is right up there with The Tyranny of Distance.  This album is more of the same, which in this case is a great thing.  Same style, same sweaty punk energy, same poppy guitar chords, and a refreshing sense of focus.  This song in particular is just a winner.  Reminds me a little of a more optimistic ‘Ballad of the Sin Eater.’  The ending in particular is golden; the multilayer vocals just melt your heartstrings into putty.  So, so heartfelt.”

My dad says:  “I’m glad I can’t understand the words.”

Blue Eyes – Destroyer

I say:  “Soft rock with a goodly amount of cheese.  But intentionally so.  Hear that wailing sax?  If you weren’t paying attention it would be easy to write this off as some kind of incomprehensible, campy 80’s music.  But there’s some subtly here that makes this music fascinating.  The catchy, layered hooks.  The surprisingly dark and clever lyrics.  It’s like a midnight snack that’s a bunch of healthy food you threw together and melted a bunch of cheese on.”

My dad says: “He reminds me of Tiny Tim.”

Middle – Jamie Woon

I say: “I wonder if this is the birth of a new genre: soulful vocals over electronic beats.  In any case, Jamie Woon’s Mirrorwriting, though it draws inevitable comparisons with James Blake, is really filling its own niche.  The vocals are pure soul, but the structure is very upbeat, almost reminiscent of Miike Snow.  This is just very modern, soulful music that’s great to sit down and chill to when you want something in that genre but less dark than, say, The Weeknd.  If you dig this particular song you should dig the whole album.”

My dad says: (Confused look)  “What are they saying in the background?  Unnum munnum?”

Jam For Jerry – Holy Ghost!

I say: “I try to stay away from comparisons (Artist X = Artist A + Artist B/Genre C), but in this case, it’s just too perfect:  Holy Ghost! = Phoenix + disco.  This album is simply fun; lyrically driven and eminently danceable.  It’s probably not the most complex or compelling music ever, but it certainly hits what it’s aiming for.”

My dad says:  “Where’s John Travolta when we really need him?”

The Morning – The Weeknd

I say: “Dark, tense, soulful, dirty R&B.  Beautiful music about terrible things.  The Weeknd takes debauchery to a sometimes creepy level, stripping the larger-than-life, sometimes whimsical attitude that you frequently find in hip-hop and making it brutally honest.  Not introducing anyone to anything new here (except my dad) because The Weeknd got a ridiculous amount of hype, but so much of it was deserved.”

My dad says: “Is there a loose wire in your speakers?”

Throne of Blood (The Jump Off) – The Dead Science

I say: “I’m not quite sure what to say about this one, only that you have to listen to the whole album – Villainaire – to give it a fair shake.  This is something I ran across almost by accident, turned on track one (the track I included), and was about 2 seconds away from turning it off, and then the drums kicked in.  Along with the vocals.  The guy singing – Sam Mickens – has an almost feminine quality that is, for lack of a better word, bizarre.  The drums are almost jazzy, and the guitar, strangely, wildly technical.  The fact that Mickens is singing and playing the guitar at the same time here is enough to praise this album on purely technical grounds.  The music itself, though, is damn compelling.  Strange, haunting, odd, but very compelling.  The genre is, I guess, experimental rock?  Which is a way of saying who the hell knows.  It’s infectious in its dissonance and beautiful in its lyricism and harmony.  I really don’t know what to say about this one, other than if you give it (the whole album) an undivided hour of your time (a lot to ask, honestly, in this day and age), and you listen to it on good speakers or headphones and really listen, with no distractions, I can just about guarantee you three to five ‘Musical Moments of Amazement’, and you guys know what I’m talking about there.”

My dad says: (horrified expression) “I thought the harp was bad but it was the best part.”

The Rabbit, the Bat, and the Reindeer – Dr. Dog

I say: “I had this one pegged as the one my dad might actually like; it’s very intentional throwback music.  There’s not much depth here, but it’s very soothing.”

My dad says: “The piano player needs more lessons.”

Get Better – Mates of State

I say: “I’m a huge sucker for catchy pop music with male/female harmonies; the fact that this is a husband and wife team just sweetens the deal.  This whole album is pretty good.  The vocals are really what make it work for me; they’re bright and clear, with a clever cadence.”

My dad says: “I like this.”

Kärlekens Alla Färjor – Detektivbyrån

I say: “Whenever I hear about a band that’s described as “transcending genre,” I’m always suspicious.  Usually that’s code for shitty modern rock, but in this case, I challenge anyone to put a label on this album.  Wikipedia says “folk/electronic,” and that’s about as good as you can do.  They play with a glockenspiel, toy piano, accordion and drums, and each song on the album is unique.  This is music for the world’s strangest carnival ride, like a carousel where all the mounts were horses with human legs. “

My dad says: “I like this too.  The little bells in the background are kind of cloying, like a drink that’s too sweet.  But the tune is cool.”

Streetlight – John Maus

I say: “This is art you can dance to.  It could be pretty standard pop except for Maus’ voice booming and echoing in the background.  The whole album has an ethereal vibe to it (I’m just now realizing that ‘ethereal’ is probably an overused word when it comes to music, but damn it, it fits).  The album – We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves – is a wonderful mix of highbrow and lowbrow.  The music feels personal, like Bon Iver’s first album – it feels like one guy trying to do a thing, and so when you listen to it, you’re approaching it and not the other way around.  Despite that, it’s easy to listen to.  Even though I can hardly ever tell what Maus is saying, I find myself singing along with these tracks.”

My dad says: “If you’re already queasy, you’re going to lose your marbles and hurl chunks.”


2 comments on “15 Songs My Dad Hates

  1. This just made my day: “It’s a Disney movie and a childhood campfire and a middle school play mixed in an Optimism Bowl. And that’s okay. Sometimes, that’s even required.”

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