Friday, September 2, 2011

ALOTT5MA FRIDAY PLAYLIST:  This idea hit me while listening to "Hazy Shade of Winter" on my iPod on the way home from work yesterday: songs which sound that much better while listening with headphones (or otherwise stereo-enhanced).


  1. Just about anything by New Order  (But for Watts' purposes, I'll highlight Shell Shock and Bizarre Love Triangle.)

  2. "Here to Go" by Devo (although it might just be the one remix)
    "Edge of the Ocean" by Ivy

    I looked up what song Mitch listens to when he puts his headphones on at the end of "Dazed & Confused" - alas, it was Foghat's "Slow Ride" so I'm not going to suggest it.

  3. Fine, I'll say it: "God Only Knows"

  4. isaac_spaceman10:49 AM

    The first 20 seconds or so of "Hey Ladies" off of Paul's Boutique by the Beastie Boys is the greatest stereo headphone moment in history.  Perhaps I'm going overboard by saying SPOILER ALERT for a piece of music, but SPOILER ALERT for "Hey Ladies":  the song starts with a funky double-rhythm guitar/drum thing in both ears, and after repeating it once, the two rhythm guitars split into separate ears.  It makes you hear them entirely differently.  For 20 years I have been using that as my #1 headphone example. 

    "Theologians" by Wilco, on A Ghost is Born, is a great headphone song too.  It builds up so many layers of instrumentation, some separated in the stero mix, that you really can't pick all of it up unless you are listening in a car or on headphones.  Not great with earbuds, though.  You have to have something that picks up the warmth of the low end, preferably something noise-cancelling. 

    Basically everything sounds better on noise-cancelling wraparound headphones, though. 

    One stereo mix pet peeve:  I hate it when artists put whistles or sirens in the background of their songs, especially when they mix it into one ear.  Beck does this a lot.  I have Apples in Stereo's "Beautiful Machine #1 and 2" in a gym mix, and there is a whistle way in the background of the right ear in that one that never fails to make me look over my right ear in surprise.   

  5. isaac_spaceman10:49 AM

    look over my right shoulder, not my right ear.

  6. Pink Floyd, "Interstellar Overdrive."

    Gang of Four, "Anthrax." (too obvious?)

  7. Moving in Stereo - The Cars - Bonus, if you're of a certain age you'll automatically get to think of Phoebe Cates in a bikini.

    Abigail, Belle of Kilronan - The Magnetic Fields - You might want to be sitting; it makes me dizzy.

    Subterranean Homesick Alien - Radiohead (Although pretty much any track off OK Computer would work. "Fitter Happier" is really weird with this barely audible voice that sounds like it's coming from just behind your right shoulder.)

  8. isaac_spaceman11:16 AM

    Oh, I have another one:  "Yellow Submarine," by the Beatles.  It's great because Ringo only sings in one ear, so if you want to get rid of him in his entirety, you can switch to the other ear and it's just guitar and drums.  No Ringo!  The perfect Beatles.

  9. Benner11:28 AM

    I got some noise canceling headphones to listen to classical music on the subway, but in terms of pop or rock songs not heard on the subway that sounded better -- Allman Brothers whipping post -- I love the descending guitar riff when they hit the chorus, and the chords, not just the melody notes, come through more clearly. A lot of yo la tengo also sounds better on headphones. This might actually be an indictment of the mixing.

  10. Anonymous11:29 AM

    Basically, anything by Andrew Bird, who really does layer on the sounds.  For these purposes, I'll name The Privateers and his new Bein' Green, which is (in my opinion) the highlight on the new Muppet tribute album.

    Galileo by the Indigo Girls---the drums alternate sides, making you really feel like you're surrounded by the musicians.

    The Nicest Thing by Kate Nash---the cello acting as another voice really comes out via headphone.  (On that note, I should just add that I adore the use of the cello in pop music.)

    Landslide by the Backbeats (from the Sing-Off)---as y'all may recall, I wasn't crazy about this group on the show.  But this cover is just stellar, and on headphones, the various vocal tricks that they were pulling off seem to pop all around you.

    On the flip side:  there are certain voices that are just so damn rich that I have trouble listening to them for very long through headphones.  Ella Fitzgerald in particular comes to mind.  I can also run into that with Adele.  It's not a question of vocal quality---I listen to many excellent singers through headphones with pleasure.  It's the richness, for lack of another term.

  11. Christy in Philly11:55 AM

    California Dreamin' by the Mamas and the Papas

  12. They Done Wrong/We Done Wrong by White Rabbits. It's a great song, but there are so many layers that it just plays beautifully in headphones. 

  13. Goghaway12:29 PM

    Bon Iver's "For Emma, Forever Ago", although my sister and I have argued about this. She thinks that it sounds better in wide open spaces, and I feel like it's even more intimate with headphones.  

  14. victoria1:00 PM

    Seconding enthusiastically the Andrew Bird recommendation (I'd add "Oh No" as a song with really neat layering) and also adding "Staralfur" by Sigur Ros.

  15. Dan Pohlig1:20 PM

    Theme song to Mad Men. We've been watching it streaming on Netflix on the laptop and it is AWESOME when we have the laptop hooked up to the AV system so we can watch on the tv. That music and opening title sequence gives me the same chills and good feeling I used to get when the Sopranos would come on every Sunday night. And it's made that much better by the good speakers.

  16. Adam C.1:35 PM

    I don't have anything to add, mostly because I tend to listen to podcasts rather than music on my headphone-wearing-commuting time, but I'm really looking forward to the outcome of this playlist.

  17. Jenn.2:15 PM

    I wonder if my sister knew that was me when she liked the comment....

    I should get used to blogger eating my login on this site....

  18. Jenn.2:31 PM

    A few others I can't believe I forgot:

    Fleet Foxes, White Winter Hymnal
    Avett Bros., Laundry Room
    The Bird and the Bee, Love Letter to Japan
    Hem, Lucky

    Also:  Damn near anything by Kathryn Calder.  I'll throw Castor & Pollux out there.  Her music is delicate---far more than the New Pornographers, in which she is a member---but it's got a lot of power lurking within it.  I'm very happy she's putting out another CD.

    I don't know that I'd say that it's better through headphones, but Arcade Fire's Wake Up is pretty awesome through headphones.

  19. The Pathetic Earthling2:45 PM

    All of "Tubular Bells" is really designed for headphones (also, marijuana).

  20. Watts3:56 PM

    The same could be said for most Pink Floyd albums, notably Animals and Dark Side of the Moon.  (I assume - I've never tried a "jazz cigarette.")

  21. You know it has words, right?  Draper, Draper, falling, falling, Draper, Draper, falling to the ground ...

  22. Maddy5:58 PM

    "Casimir Pulaski Day" - Sufjan Stevens
    "Between the Bars" - Elliott Smith
    "Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl" - Broken Social Scene
    "Storm" - José González


  23. Big Joe6:18 PM

    Led Zepplin - Whole Lotta Love

    The vocal is on both channels, but they have some fun playing with the instrument fades that doesn't have the same impact filling a room as when you hear it through the headphones.

  24. victoria6:46 PM

    In point of fact I did not but I could smack myself for not guessing.

  25. Jim Bell6:48 PM

    I wonder if Adam C. has given any thought to which Bruce songs are better on the headphones....

  26. Since you're still getting drums, aren't you still getting Ringo?  (At least on that track--there are some later tracks on which Ringo doesn't play at all.)

  27. Adam, I've been wondering:  Which version of Hazy Shade of Winter were you listening to?

  28. Adam C.12:45 PM

    I have, but the one that comes to mind first is "State Trooper," and that mostly for its starkness.  Most of the remastered Born to Run sounds lovely, but there's nothing that really makes it stand out on headphones vs. stereo speakers.

  29. Watts2:06 PM

    But it's noticeable enough that I hear it in my car.  It really is like the song is chasing itself around the inside of the car.

  30. Watts2:06 PM

    I wondered the same thing.

  31. isaac_spaceman2:29 PM

    You're missing the point.  George/John fans, and some Paul fans, know what I'm talking about.

  32. Simon and Garfunkel.

  33. Adam C.6:04 PM

    Thin Lizzy, "The Boys Are Back in Town" does that fade from side to side-y thing.

  34. J. Bowman12:25 PM

    Mr. Roboto has a firework-y bit after the solo which is excellent in stereo. It increases my enjoyment of the song 50%, from squat to squat-and-a-half.

  35. Watts2:53 PM

    Adam - in a perfect marriage of a previous alott5ma post and this one, I'll recommend the most recent RadioLab podcast "Games" there's a segment about chess and part of it is the sound of a speed chess match - they've mixed it so that you hear the turns being taken back and forth in the left and right channels.

  36. Jordan4:23 PM

    Because I'm listening to it now and just thought of this post, Wish You Were Here, from the end of "Have a Cigar" through the title track

  37. Watts4:56 PM

    I was really intrigued by this playlist theme, so I did some homework over the weekend.  So I'm adding:

    Ms. Jackson - Outkast
    My Favorite Things - John Coltrane
    I'm in Love with My Car - Queen
    Space Oddity - David Bowie
    New Mistake - Jellyfish
    Such Great Heights - The Postal Service
    Else - Built to Spill
    Headphones - Bjork
    It's Not Up to You - ""
    Latryx - Latryx
    Senses Working Overtime - XTC (just for this one tiny split second. You'll hear it)
    Good Morning, Good Morning - The Beatles
    Sugar Free Jaz - Soul Coughing
    Jane Says - Jane's Addiction
    Baba O’Riley - The Who (I can't believe we collectively forgot this one.)
    The Gash - The Flaming Lips
    Love and Some Verses - Iron & Wine
    Love - Smashing Pumpkins
    Manic Depression - The Jimi Hendrix Experience
    Crosstown Traffic - ""
    Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) - ""
    (Although, really.  If you have access to the Electric Ladyland album, just listen to the whole dang thing.)