Category Archives: Awkward Playlist

Awkward Playlist — A Path I Fear

The benefit of creating these playlists is that they help me process and cope. The trouble with them is that I’m a perfectionist. Without the absolute perfect song or emotional progression, the feature isn’t ready. With everything that’s going on in the pandemic, I wanted to create a playlist of calming and happy songs. Maybe it’s a list of impressive dance performances. I’ve got a pool of dozens, but the connective tissue isn’t there because I’m not processing feeling calm or happy. I am in places, but that’s not what I need to turn over right now.

I have half lists titled ‘Exorcisms’, ‘Losing People’, ‘break break please don’t break’, and a bunch of others that feel too dark for the moment. I have lists of animated music videos, horror music videos, protest performances – I have maybe two dozen lists of a handful of music videos each that only exist to be plucked from for other lists. None of them is perfect because none of them speak to what I’m coping with this moment.

What am I processing right now? Anger at how badly mismanaged the coronavirus response has been, at the corruption and profiteering that kills patients and healthcare workers alike. Melancholy at the strange middle ground of staying inside and feeling our daily anchors go numb – a placelessness that’s dangerous and the knowledge that it needs to be resisted.

I made something that feels like an emotional progression to me. Melancholy into resolve into anger, and then? It might not come out the way I want it, in that it returns to darkness, that amorphous sinking feeling, but it also gives me a place to put those feelings. I need a place to put them now.

It’s a strange thing that simply choosing pieces of art and putting them into order acts like a kind of canvass for me…but we all need whatever canvasses we have, however personal, however weird they might feel. We have no other places to put the paths we fear, the emotional progressions we worry we might take. Put them to some sort of canvass so that you don’t hold on to them, share them so you can speak about them, and maybe someone else might be willing to do the same.

“Damn Gravity”
Okay Kaya


“Set Fire”
Carina Round


“Hot Pink”
Let’s Eat Grandma


“Low Blind”
Half Waif


Hana Vu


“Cry Wolf”
Adia Victoria


Bat for Lashes


“Doing the Right Thing”


Lorelle Meets the Obsolete

Awkward Playlist: Habits of Dying Nations

One thing that’s difficult to wrap our heads around is the sheer amount of information bombarding us on a daily basis. We can barely understand new pieces of shocking corruption, racist tragedies, and systemic violence before the next new piece comes along. We feel helpless because even if we can figure out how to help one situation, dozens more that we’re too overwhelmed to help in the same way have just piled on.

That makes it so easy to lose track of the things we are helping and changing. We try our hardest, and lose track of even what we’re doing, of the change that we might be making.

One reason I put these songs together is that artists who are tackling particular elements can help to clarify them. We have a lot of the information about what’s happening around us in our heads, but when we get overwhelmed our emotions mix across the bunch of them and we lose sight of any in particular. We don’t process the information, and we just let others make narratives of it for us – often in a harmful way – just to feel a little less overwhelmed.

Art can get shoved to the side in moments like this, but that art can be an incredibly useful way to anchor emotions, to compartmentalize and clarify. A lot of this music contrasts in culture, tone, approach, perspective. The music videos below do share a focus, though. They’re each protest songs, protest videos, and they help me feel clearer because they all look to give a space for getting back to those emotional anchors about the things that rightly anger us.

“Vipers Follow You”
Amon Tobin


“The Seduction of Kansas”


Hurray for the Riff Raff


“They Keep Silence”


El Perro Del Mar




“No Land”
Buke & Gase


“Blood of the Fang”


“When the Fires Come”
Kero Kero Bonito

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Awkward Playlist: Frustration / Depression

One of the major ways that I cope is by making lists. It’s funny because list articles generally aren’t my favorite to write. Sometimes I’ll make a quick list of art that evokes an emotion, or connects things in a way I hadn’t thought of before.

One of the ways this takes more solid form is creating playlists of music videos and performances. It’s not just the song, it’s about what the video and performer evoke, the way all of it together flows into the next or contrasts with it.

Sometimes I’ll go through dozens of music videos putting 10 in the right order. I always feel like what I come up with is imperfect, that there’s something missing I haven’t tripped upon or been introduced to yet. I’m frustrated when a song doesn’t have a video or performance I like, and then I sit on the list for ages wondering if I should put the song itself in. But I also feel like whatever I do come up with is useful for storing an emotion, processing it, seeing it turned over and over in this weird tumble dryer of videos.

As something extra, I thought I’d put together a playlist of videos every two weeks – no discussion like I might put in an article, just an order of videos that helps me to think about something, cope with it. In this one, it felt like I had permission to be sad and frustrated. They’re emotions that I often deny myself – angry and frustrated, sure, but sad I fear de-railing work, I fear getting in the way. I hate the way it makes me doubt myself, second-guess my worth. I fear wasting time when I already have trouble focusing. I hate permitting stress when it feels like I already have enough, as if that doesn’t somehow create more stress.

I think putting these particular videos together helps me create a space where I have permission to be sad, where I can let that be legitimate, where I can feel safe feeling that, and realize how badly I sometimes need to allow that for myself.

“Tap Dancer”
Local Natives


“Rich, White, Straight Men”


“Value Inn”
Laura Stevenson


Little Simz ft. Tilla


Denai Moore


Nils Frahm


Patty Griffin


“Coming Down”
Anais Mitchell


“Just Make it Stop”


Sarah McLachlan


“Helplessness Blues”
Fleet Foxes


“On a Hilltop Sat the Moon”
Amon Tobin


If you enjoy what you read on this site, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.