With the coronavirus outbreak causing many people to stay at home as often as possible, we've been asking musicians what music they're listening to in isolation, and this playlist comes from Brian Cook, currently of Russian Circles and Sumac, and formerly of Botch and other bands. Brian picked songs by John Cale, Belle & Sebastian, George Harrison, Lungfish, Miles Davis, and more, and he wrote intriguing (and often topical) commentary on each of his 10 picks. Check out his list below.
Also, tune in to Brooklyn venue Saint Vitus Bar's Instagram tonight (3/23) at 8 PM ET to listen to their new livestreaming interview series with Brian Cook as their first guest.
WHAT BRIAN COOK IS LISTENING TO
John Cale – "Child’s Christmas in Wales"
John Cale’s Paris 1919 is one of my favorite pop albums. It’s one of those records where every song has a distinct flavor, but they all contribute to this overall glammy, baroque vibe with an underlying theme of surviving through tumultuous times. It’s one of those albums I associate with summer, but I’ve been enjoying it recently because it reminds me of sunny days while also addressing some harsh realities. All in all, it’s a celebratory album without any sort of saccharine anodyne.
Belle & Sebastian – "You Made Me Forget My Dreams"
I saw Belle & Sebastian play in Olympia, WA a few days after 9/11 and it was easily the most cathartic concert I’ve ever attended. Everyone was looking for some solace, some reminder that there was beauty and joy in the world. I’ve seen the Scottish ensemble play live a number of times, but that particular night it felt like they weren’t just entertainers, they were healers. That was nearly two decades ago and most of their performance is a blur now, but I remember them playing this b-side from one of their early EPs and having what I guess you could call a “spiritual moment,” where you can feel the collective energy of everyone in the room. It’s a comfort song.
George Harrison – "Wah Wah"
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like every record I’ve pulled off the shelf has had some weird subconscious motivation behind the selection. Like, I just kinda wanted to listen to some George Harrison the other night, so I pulled out his 3xLP without thinking much of it, and then there was that title that just smacks you in the face—All Things Must Pass. It’s a calming notion in these times. But I’m not gonna say much about “Wah Wah” other than that I think it’s a fuckin’ ripper of a song. You can’t feel down while listening to it.
Lungfish – "Friend to Friend in Endtime"
A friend of mine has been working on the frontlines of “viral triage” in Billing, MT and he texted me the other morning saying he couldn’t shake this song out of his head. And now I can’t shake it out of mine.
The Pupils – "It’s Good To Have Met You"
Speaking of Lungfish, this one-off project between their vocalist Daniel Higgs and guitarist Asa Osborne really hammered home their ongoing principle of meditative minimalism. And this particular track has always transmitted a simple, life-affirming beauty that feels even more poignant in our current situation.
Willie Dunn – "I Pity the Country"
If society collapses, I hope this song survives to serve as a lesson for where we went wrong. Willie Dunn was a First Nation songwriter whose work highlighted the plights of his people, and this particular track manages to call out just about every injustice in three short minutes. It’s a beautiful song with a heavy message.
Popol Vuh – "Letzte tage – "letzte nächte"
Every Popol Vuh album has an innate spiritual quality so you could probably pick any song from their extensive library and feel some relief, but they literally have a song with the chorus “last days, last nights,” so you might as well bask in the beauty of this triumphant “end of all things” jam.
Aphrodite’s Child – "The Four Horsemen"
Well, since we’ve been talking about the end of the world, we might as well throw this one into the mix. I mean, shouldn’t everyone be listening to this Greek prog album based on the Book of Revelations right about now?
Harmonia – "Deluxe (Immer Wieder)"
I’ve spent the last few years writing about every LP in my record collection on my Tumblr blog, and I spent a couple days last week writing about the Harmonia studio albums. The opening track off their sophomore album Deluxe has always been one of those tracks that feels lighter than air, irrepressibly upbeat, and, like all the best stuff out of the German experimental rock scene of the early ‘70s—totally cosmic and transcendental. Throw this on and float away from Earth.
Miles Davis Quintent – "It Never Entered My Mind"
This is one of my favorite songs. And for some reason it always makes me think of someone at a bar putting chairs up on the tables at the end of the night, mopping the floor while a cigarette dangles out of their mouth. It’s an end-of-the-night song. A song for winding down. Maybe a little bittersweet because things are closing, but with the knowledge that things will be open again. And we’ll all go on doing our little mundane things, but even the most trivial chore can have some sort of beauty and some sort of wonder in it.
Before you go, watch this live video of Russian Circles: