If I lived and worked alone, music would play almost 24 hours a day. (In fact, on the rare occasion when Lucy leaves town, that is exactly what happens.)
Many times it’s the radio (WMOT-FM is a favorite). Or an album or playlist based on my mood.
We play music in the bench room during classes, and several students have asked if I had a playlist I could share. So here is one that I have put on Spotify. (I’m not a fan of the way Spotify pays artists, FYI. I prefer Bandcamp. But this is the best way for me to share this. I buy all my music, and I hope others support the artists they listen to.)
This is my Mid-tempo-so-I-hope-you’ll-like-me Playlist. It’s mostly melodic Americana from the last 30 years with an emphasis on acoustic and electric guitar. Right now it’s 378 songs – more than 24 hours of music. But I’ll add some more songs to it, I’m sure.
I hope you find some new artists here. But in the end, you get what you pay for with free playlists.
Oh, one more thing: This playlist isn’t sequenced (that would take weeks for me to do). So just put the dang thing on shuffle for best results.
Because People Ask
I have other musical moods. At times I go into long periods of listening to the earliest recordings of American hillbilly music. I love it, and it helps me interpret and understand the music I listen to today. I also have an aggressive mood, which is where I play a lot of Husker Du/Bob Mould, Superchunk, Pixies and other post-punk and punk bands. And I have a Growing Up Music mood, where I listen to the bands that were formative of my taste today: R.E.M., the Replacements, Velvet Underground, Violent Femmes, The Police and others (some embarrassing).
Also good to know: I’m not an audiophile. My sound system is nothing special: Some Apple HopePods (you Hope they’ll actually work), plus a stereo with a Thorens turntable and Schitt pre-amp and amp. Mid-range Klipsch speakers.
I’ve always owned vinyl, CDs, cassettes and digital. I’m no purist searching for some religious sonic experience. I like vinyl because of its glorious artwork and lyrics sheets. I like digital because I can take everything anywhere.
— Christopher Schwarz
60 thoughts on “The Anarchist’s Playlist”
After I got just a handful of songs into reading your playlist, I somehow knew that you’d have Neutral Milk Hotel on your playlist. You just seem like that kind of guy. Nice!
You’re certainly up early.
I remember the stuff you played the last time you were in Tampa. I was pleased to find that we had common tastes. John Moreland is excellent and I’ve been spending many hours learning to play (butchering) a few of his songs.
Nice…I’m all over the place with music myself. We have a local radio station here the plays just about everything. It’s private so no playing to analytics…
As someone who also has very eclectic musical tastes, I highly recommend “The Many Moods of Ben Vaughn”, syndicated from Penn’s college station, WXPN. You can listen live at 5pm every Saturday, or the Apple podcast whenever. Anybody who plays a Nina Simone song followed by the The Stooges, or The Velvet Underground and Bill Monroe back-to-back, speaks my language. His program style has that late-night radio vibe from the 70’s, the way radio should be.
Love the playlist, but I will either date myself or embarrass myself by admitting that I had to get to The Carter Family before I saw an artist whose name I knew. So, yes, I will fulfill your wish that your readers found new artists to support!!
Thanks for sharing this! If you already subscribe to Apple Music and want to transfer the playlist over from Spotify, there is a way. I had good luck using the free level of an iOS app called SongShift.
I am not Spotify subscriber and SongShift did not work for me trying to transfer to AppleMusic
For Old Timey country bluegrass a good station is WBRF 98.1FM out of Galax VA. this morning it looks like gospel is the playlist.
Probably my favorite radio station right now is WUIN 98.3 The Penguin out of the Oak Island NC.
Incredibly diverse, all of it is high quality and mostly deeper cuts.
Also my vinyl collection and turntable (Marantz 6300 that I use with a variety of headshells and cartridges) is in my shop. Dust and all. It would make any audiophile cringe, but works out fine really. I clean each side before I play them and I don’t ever recall sawdust being an obvious offender. Records are all poly jacketed, disks in half moon anti-static sleeves, stored on the outside the Album cover top loaded into the poly jacket.
Solid playlist here. Looking forward to the aggressive playlist coming out.
An unsolicited mid-tempo recommendation for you: Fred Eaglesmith.
Chris, I think you would like Martin Sexton. You should check him out.
Having been a musician most of my adult life I can identify with the music all the time thing. My wife is good for an album or maybe 45 minutes then she needs it quiet so the shop is my place to dig in. Love Wilco, got tickets to see them in Orlando in April. I’ve pretty much worn out Kicking Television – Live in Chicago (is that still a thing, can you “wear out” a digital audio file?). Be sure to check out Ashes of American Flags, it’s off of the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album but the live versions after Nels Cline is in the band is what it’s all about. Dang, I could talk about this stuff all day…
Appreciate the playlist. Learned about Bob Mould from you. Looking forward to experiencing some new artists.
Extremely solid list! You might enjoy (if you haven’t heard already) Tyler Childers and Zach Bryan–good cadence for chairmaking!
What’s a radio?
Hey Chris, I tend to live in more of an aggressive Pixies mood, but my tastes wander. Check out Anarchist Gospel by Sunny War. Came out last month, alternative Amaricana/folk. Some real good tunes on there.
Nice playlist. After your post on Substack about Uncle Tupelo I was wondering if you were a fan of Jason Isbell and/or the DBTs and I see I was half right (in that all the DBT songs on the list were written by Isbell). I’ll check out some of the others I’m not familiar with.
You’re clearly not NOT an audiophile. Nobody buys Schitt stuff who doesn’t care about sound. You buy it because you care about sound and don’t have an unlimited audiophile budget.
For my shop, I bought a used Yamaha Natural Sound Receiver, garbage picked a pair of mid-1970s awesome speakers (which I reloaded with cheap drivers), and I use my first iPod (whose battery has been dead for a decade, but I keep it plugged in to USB power). I hung the speakers from the ceiling and added a bit of dust protection above the Receiver. It is, for realz, the best sounding system in my house (which has five small systems), other than my headphone setup.
Life without music is, to me, unbearable. I would honestly rather go blind than deaf.
This post was particularly interesting to me as, besides being a woodworker, I also have a 2hr/week Americana music program on our local, low-power community radio station. Strictly volunteer stuff. We do have to conform to FCC and DMRA rules but other than that, we play what we want to. Here’s the playlist from yesterday’s show: https://spinitron.com/KBRP/pl/17038624/Mule-Mountain-Mash-up
I could never bring myself to sell my vinyl records from the 1980s. I doubt the Thomspon Twins 12″ remix from Europe is worth much to anyone but me, etc, etc, so I kept them all.
Where I really got excited was about three or four years ago, a family member got us an Alex small pod thingy. Six months later we had one in every room. What hooked me was for less than the cost of a new CD per month, I can now listen to every album that has ever been digitized. It is an amazing service and brought a new love of music back in my life.
Oh, where I got nerdily excited about Alex was one day, early on, I had an idea and said “Alexa, more cowbell” and it did it. Put a huge smile on my face and still does. The simple things in life.
Right on! I absolutely agree on all these, especially: paying the artist for their music, Bandcamp is cool, and music is essential in my shop.
“Thorens turntable and Schitt pre-amp and amp. Mid-range Klipsch speakers.” Sorry Chris, but you have stepped in to the AUDIOPHILE territory. Plus a mountain of records… Anyways it’s always nice to find out what other people are listening to. Thanks for the list.
If you saw John Hoffman’s rig, you would retract that comment.
My dad’s audiophile system costs more than my house(not braging here), so nothing in the audiophlile world surprises me. Schitt stuff is an exelent equipment and doesn’t require a mortgage. It’s like Lie-Nielsen handplanes, a little upscale from Stanley but it’s worth it. Everything more than that is like polishing wood with 1000 grit sandpaper.
I really miss KGSR when Jodi Denberg(sp?) was musical director in the 90’s. Their motto was “Format scmormat”
When I’m sickened by the lads’ oppressive mid-90s alt rock, I’ll set them straight with a couple hours of The Boredoms, but Fridays are for country. Check out mess: Lower City Fridays on Spotty
If you haven’t heard them, try LAKE STREET DIVE. Try several different selections, they defy being
Anarchist woodworkers who enjoy music may well enjoy building and listening to these loudspeakers: https://linkwitzlab.com/. The original project fits well with the “anarchist” ethos.
The speakers don’t have much competition on the satisfaction per dollar scale — and their sound compares favorably to the fanciest lad stereo speakers.
The woodworking requirements for building the speakers are modest. But aesthetically appealing builds involve some challenges.
It is also possible to build your own matching amplifiers: https://www.hypex.nl/. But that does not involve much woodworking.
We don’t exactly share musical tastes, I enjoy equal parts classical, classic rock, jazz and blues. But it seems we’re on the same page with regard to equipment. My source starts with a Fluance RT 85 with a Ortofon 2M Blue Stylus for vinyl, an AudioLab CD transport or a Bluesound streamer feeding Qobuz into my Schiit Bifrost or my Musician Pagasus R2R dac for digital music. This all goes through my Schiit Freya pre-amp (love the tubes) into two Schiit Vidar amps run as mono blocks. This all feeds Klipsch RP-280F and a Rel subwoofer. That’s the main set up.
I run a surprisingly good for the money, Chinese tube amp in the basement with a Schiit Saga+ pre and a Modius dac.
In the shop I use an Audiolab M-One (stole this on sale for half price) and a Cambridge Audio CD transport into Q Acoustic 3030i bookshelf speakers. Way too nice for a workshop but I love music.
Lastly, I have a Burson Conductor 3P with Focal headphones on the nightstand.
I know no one asked but I love my stereo equipment as much as my woodworking tools.
Chris – you should check out the “Boot Liquor” channel on SomaFM – your playlist reads like one of theirs..
I’ve listened to Boot Liquor and like it a lot.
Thanks Chris. Best post in awhile.
Is it self-praise when I congratulate you for highlighting John Moreland? His music is always on in my garage shop. This summer at The Newport Folk Festival his was the only act I clawed through the crowd to see. Missed Joni Mitchell but saw Moreland and Rhianna Giddens and I’m fine with that. (Also, I love the video with the hand- made coffin.)
He is a treasure.
My music taste and collection are extremely eclectic, covering most anything except ultra hard rock or punk. I grew up in a household where classical music was played throughout the day, so it is still what I listen to most. We children were allowed to listen to music on radio in our own space, so we knew the entire world of music. My sister was a pipe organ major in college. My brother was a french horn player, but also played 12-string hollow body guitar, electric guitar and piano, and even had his own band that toured the country for some years. I landed in the middle as the middle child.
Although I grew up a hardcore anarcho punk my colection now is quite eclectic, but my absolutely favourite workshop album is Mark Lanegan’s Blues Funeral.
Boy, I love the Pixies. I used to play them when I was a college DJ at KUSF at the end of the ’80s. I had a Pixies day last week while I was working (listening through my Schiit Magni and Modi!). They were the Velvet Underground of their day. Not a lot of commercial success but hugely influential. Brian Eno said “The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band.” In an interview about “Smells Like Teen Spirit” Kurt Cobain said “I was trying to write the ultimate pop song. I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies.”
I hope you’ve seen loudQUIETloud. It’s easily in my top three of band documentaries.
I knew there was a lot of overlap in our musical tastes. Just scrolling through your Spotify list gave me a bunch of endorphin bombs. I can’t wait to listen and get exposed to the artists I don’t know yet.
My artist recommendation for you: Golden Shoulders (https://open.spotify.com/artist/7luoqM5b6E0GkP3y3s2N9G). It’s a project of Adam Kline from here in Nevada City California. They’ve never gotten widespread fame but Adam is one of my favorite songwriters. Impeccable pop songs with great lyrics. Maybe start with their most recent: “Could This Be the End”.
Love that disc by Sun Kil Moon! Saw Mark Kozelek coupla years ago live in D.C. Not quite what I was expecting but will always love his stuff with Red House Painters and SKM.
When I saw Kozelek, he played alternative versions of every one of his songs. New arrangements. Different keys. Sometimes a different melody.
Even though I knew every song, I had to strain to follow at times. Amazing talent. Who does that?
Ha! Dylan comes to mind – you wonder at times if you’re at the right show. I’m guessing after touring several times for one album or playing a particular set of songs, the same way for years it may be a welcome thing to try variations on a tune. I really like how these variations take place before a final recording is made. It’s incredible – the transformations one song might go through.
I should talk. I can’t/won’t/refuse to build the same chair twice.
Howard Levy has that same attitude, I think. Harmonica, many genre.
This is a great list. Thank you for sharing. When it’s late at night and I decide I only have about 45 minutes left at the bench I put on Andrew Bird’s album Pulaski at Night. When it’s done, I’m done. This has become a wind down ritual.
Add Two Rivers by Larry Unger to your playlist. You won’t regret it.
Your playlist is appreciated. My favorite shop audio is “Early Music.” Roy Underhill: early music on early instruments. Yup.
I’ve worked in the coffee industry my whole career, starting at 16. Consequently, music has always been ubiquitous in the background. I used to really care about playlists. Now, I find myself just craving podcasts and audiobooks. Still love music, but the pastime it used to be for me has faded. For better or worse. Still love that you shared your playlist. Will give it a listen.
I hope that somewhere in that vast playlist there’s room for Richie Havens.
I also have Schiit stack and Klipsch speakers. The turntable is a Fluance. I keep a small Schiit stack on my desk at work to power some headphones and then the larger set up at the house. I appreciate they are made in the US, in Texas and CA. They have been relatively recent purchases, I have to save my pennies for a year or so. This year I think I’ll add a subwoofer.
Magn/Modi at work
Magni/Modius/Sage/Vidar at the house driving Klipsch RPM-600 speakers
Fluace RT-82 turntable and an old laptop drives streaming music.
Love seeing John Moreland on there. Hang me in the Tulsa County Stars has been in our van’s cd player for weeks.
“You don’t care for me enough to cry” 💔
That song breaks my heart every time. Beautiful guitar playing. “Try to get high but my hearts too heavy.”
We have around 80% overlap on our music Venn diagram so I feel confident recommending Richard Thompson and Crooked Still to your list.
You’re woodworkers. Build some speakers. I built two pairs, kits from this outfit. Each kit explains the reasoning behind the cabinet design and dimensions so you can get the highest sound quality from your build.
Must be wonderful to live in a place where you have radio, It is not worth turning on in San Diego. My gyro tune weeps.
Nothing better than music! But as a musician, I can’t support Spotify, since they pay the artists less than you could even imagine.
Bandcamp is the only streaming site that really does support the musicians, but uh-oh, instead of a subscription, you pay the musicians directly for their music. Try it! ❤️
Nice playlist Chris. As you are someone who is into early hillbilly music this recommendation is probably a bit like teaching your granny to suck eggs.
However, on the off chance you are possibly not aware of it, this is a great compilation.
Thanks for this playlist, which has tons of overlap with my list of favorites but some unfamiliar artists as well. (FWIW, I also have many of the same Growing Up Music artists on a loop. R.E.M. and Replacements are instantly evocative of very specific moments in time for me). I just got clued in to Watchhouse last week and have had them on heavy rotation ever since, so happy to see them on the scroll here, and the whole list suggests high probable hit rate on the new artists I’ll have to check out from here.
Maybe you’d enjoy the band I played with in central Iowa for a number of years. We put out three CDs in the early oughts, which, after several reissues, are now only on bandcamp: https://thebarnowlband.bandcamp.com
Thanks for the link to WMOT. I’ll add it to my list of web stations. It seems similar to https://wumb.org/ in the Boston area.
I listen to music while at work. I’m still looking for a station that has heavy metal mixed with folk, but I can go to my music collection when I want that mix.