Breaking Down Taste

Very recently I decided to put together a playlist of 100 songs as a sort of representation of my taste in music (you can find it here, if you’re interested). While that seems like a lot, I listen to a ton of music — last.fm tells me I’ve listened to nearly 900 artists, and that’s just based off of Spotify. I’m sure it easily passes 1,000 if you count YouTube, vinyl, etc.

Yet, at the same time I don’t treat listening to music as some sort of gamified collect ’em all thing. I’m a big proponent of the importance of the album, and I tend to sit with some songs for a pretty long time before moving on. Likewise, I have a stable of probably 5 – 10 bands that make up a relatively large percentage of my listening time.

And yet, when someone asks me what I listen to, answer with my favorite bands just doesn’t really seem to paint a full picture.

Here’s the thing: while it might seem a little wanky to have a 100-song playlist ready to go just in case someone asks me that question (or one like it), I’ve been in this predicament at least ten times this past year — and each time I said to myself, “Man, if only I could just share a playlist…”

Well, now I can!

Additionally, I think that this playlist says a lot about who I am — all of these songs mean something to me, and while I’m almost tempted to write something about all of them, I figured for a quick blog post I could break down the major categories that many of the songs fall in (along with a few specific examples).

So yeah. Here we go!

The Markers

A meta-meta category! These are tracks that signal something’s about to shift. Here’s what to look for:

Cabinets of Curiosity – The Chemist & The Engineer: This is the “Cabinets” line. Everything before this is stuff I think “normal” folks would enjoy. After it, things tend to get stranger, heavier, and just less listener-friendly.

Strapping Young Lad – Detox: Starting with Detox, the last ten songs are intense — with Detox being the “softest.” This is sort of my challenge to folks that have listened this far — the last ten songs are punishing, and I expect very few people to actually enjoy them.

Kamelot – Forever: While there are a few “heavy” songs before Forever, this is the first genuine no-arguments metal song on the list. From this point on, the playlist starts to ramp up toward stuff that’s heavier and more progressive.

Muse – Map of the Problematique: This is the reverse Detox — the first ten songs of the playlist are made to be super welcoming. If I wanted to look not like the kinda guy that would basically do a deep dive into his own musical taste, these are ten songs I’d show people to give them an idea of what I’m into.

Formative Tunes

These are tracks that I don’t necessarily listen to a lot these days, but they are so important to who I am that I can’t leave them out. These tracks also tended to be my “gateway drug” into specific genres.

Robert Miles – Children

Goldfrapp – Strict Machine

Massive Attack – Mezzanine

Static X – The Only

Must-Haves

These are the obvious tracks — the ones that likely get the most play, and the ones that my friends would immediately recognize.

Opeth – Ghost of Perdition

Opeth – Blackwater Park

Black Sun Empire – Arrakis

Katatonia – My Twin

Meaningful Tracks

These are tracks that I’m fond of not only because of them, well, sounding good — but also because of what they represent for me, personally. I can’t listen to these without being brought back to a very specific place.

Conjure One – Center of the Sun

VAST – Touched

Porcupine Tree – Blackest Eyes

Machinae Supremacy – Player One

Genre Posts

These tracks might not be my favorite — but they do represent their respective genres thoroughly. While these all get a lot of play, it’s more about what they represent than the individual tracks themselves.

S.P.Y – By Your Side (Liquid Drum & Bass)

Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet – inter-are (Jazz)

Soilwork – Arrival (Melodic Death Metal)

Earth – Engine of Ruin (Drone Metal)

The Extreme

I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that knows me that I like a lot of extreme, weird, almost unlistenable music. I’ve stuck most of these at the bottom of the playlist, as it ramps up to “harder” and less listener-friendly tracks.

Blut Aus Nord – Epitome XVIII

Sunn O))) – Big Church

Wolves in the Throne Room – The Old Ones Are With Us

Herod – Silent Truth

Oddities

These are tracks that I included explicitly because I know that they’re unexpected. These are tracks I love that folks might not expect.

Janelle Monae – 57821

Karma Fields – For Me

Big K.R.I.T. – Keep the Devil Off

Popol Vuh – Through Pain to Heaven

… and that’s it!

I could go on and on and on, but yeah. Someone will find this post useful one day. :p

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