I obsessively compile and curate playlists. Here’s a generous sampling – all are on Spotify (thephilnel).
- 1980s: over 100 covers of songs from the 1980s
- Beatles covers. Over 200 cover versions of songs by the Beatles.
- Bowie covers. Over 50 cover versions of songs by David Bowie.
- Dylan covers. Over 80 cover versions of songs by Bob Dylan. (And, yes, I know there are many more…)
- R.E.M. covers. Nearly 40 cover versions of songs by R.E.M.
- uptempo downtempo. Downtempo covers of uptempo songs
- Xerox. Great pop is not original. It just sounds original. This is a playlist of songs that influence other songs.
- Exercise!!! 41-hour playlist. Many genres, no repeats.
- Exercise! 12” from the 1980s and 1990s.
- Exercise: Meditative Instrumental. Good for yoga or indoor cycling.
- Radical Songs. “Radical” is fairly broadly defined here. Over 300 songs presented roughly in chronological order. When I couldn’t find a version of the song from its original time period, I substituted a later recording.
- RESIST 2017: Sand in the Gears
- RESIST 2018: Uprising
- RESIST 2019: Rise Up
- RESIST 2020: This Mix Kills Fascists.
- Carsie Blanton’s Greatest Hits. An Introduction to Carsie Blanton, a superb singer-songwriter you should know.
- Dessa: The Greatest. An introduction to Dessa, featuring (my) favorite songs – presented in chronological order. She has more critical acclaim than hit singles. But she deserves hits. In a perfect world, these would be her greatest hits. Also recommended: My Own Devices (her memoir), Deeply Human (her podcast).
- early rock ‘n’ roll 1928-1954. The roots of rock ‘n’ roll, in chronological order. This is rock before Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and the rest.
- Heavy Metal Thunder: The Roots of Hard Rock. Pre-Zeppelin hard rock, 1954-1968.
- Hem: Meeting Place (Greatest Hits, 2001-2014). Hem is not a band with “hits” as such. But this is a collection of my favorite Hem songs — and a good introduction to the band for any who may not know their work!
- Ennio Morricone: Favorites. Ennio Morricone’s greatest hits — or, at least, this is my subjective rendering of that idea.
- Cécile McLorin Salvant: An Introduction. One of the greatest contemporary singers. If you don’t know her, you should.
- Staple Singers: Greatest Hits. A dozen songs by the Staple Singers, focusing solely on their hits (1967-1984). Let this serve as an introduction. Their full catalogue is deep and worth exploring. If you’d like to do that exploring, here is a longer playlist of The Staple Singers & Mavis Staples.
- TMBG: Filibuster Vigilantly [Sampler]. A succinct (well, 90-minute) introduction to the genius of They Might Be Giants – presented thematically.
Greatest Hits by Year
- 12” Mixes: 1980s & 1990s
- Pop Music: 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001. After around 1989, the playlists become increasingly less comprehensive and more idiosyncratic.
- 2017: Everything Now. Best of 2017, according to me.
- 2018: Now or Never Now. Best of 2018, according to me.
- 2019: The Future Is Here. Best of 2019, according to me.
- 2020: Can’t Tell the Darkness from the Flame. Best of 2020, according to me.
- 2021: We Cannot Resist. Best of 2021, according to me.
- Affirmation, Mostly. A mix to start your day. Or my day, at any rate.
- Friendship Mix Tape. Songs of friendship and support.
- Mom’s Favorites: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. Songs that my mother used to sing along to.
- Popular Favorites: Uptempo. An upbeat & mostly cheery playlist, featuring many genres of music. One song per artist.
- You Can Do It!: An Encouraging Mix
Instrumental and Classical
- 1980s instrumentals. 5 hours of instrumental tracks from the 1980s (&, yes, a few tracks from 1979). Very rarely, a vocal appears (Steven Tyler on “Walk This Way”), but 97% vocal-less.
- Beethoven: The Late Piano Sonatas performed by Richard Goode Claudio Arrau, Wilhelm Kempff, Alfred Brendel, Igor Levit, and Emil Gilels
- Big Lazy. “Guitar Noir.” “Music to drive back to jail by.” “The bastard son of Link Wray and Jim Thompson.” These are but a few of the ways that Big Lazy’s fans have described the band’s music. This playlist includes all of their releases to date.
- Cinemaphonic: Electro Soul & Soul Punch +. All tracks on Spotify from the compilations Cinemaphonic: Electro Soul & Cinemaphonic: Soul Punch, plus more late-1960s & 1970s film library music.
- Concentrate: Instrumentals. Music for focusing on the task at hand.
- GHIBLI meets JAZZ. Both GHIBLI albums from the Kazumi Tateishi Trio: GHIBLI meets JAZZ: Beautiful Songs & GHIBLI meets JAZZ: Memorable Songs. (Imagine, if you will, the Vince Guaraldi Trio performing selections from Miyazaki film soundtracks. That’s what this sounds like.)
- Haruka Nakamura: Still Life I & II +. Solo piano pieces by Nakamura.
- Overpowered by Funk: (Mostly) Instrumental Grooves, 1967-1975. Over five hours of instrumental funk. The Meters, Parliament, Funkadelic, Commodores, Isaac Hayes, James Brown, Kool & The Gang, Sly & The Family Stone, Earth, Wind & Fire, Kashmere Stage Band, many more. Guaranteed to improve your mood & get you moving.
- Peace Pieces. Music to calm your mind & help you unwind.
- Quiet Piano. Ambient and jazz piano. Sometimes solo piano. Sometimes as part of a duo or trio.
- Sax Solo. Unaccompanied sax solos. Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Rollins, Eric Dolphy, Lee Konitz, Hamiet Bluett & others.
- Fats Waller: Instrumental Favorites. Thomas “Fats” Waller (1904-1943) on piano — and sometimes on organ.
Seasons & Weather
Single Songs. (Each playlist is devoted to many versions of the same song.)
- It’s Only a Paper Moon
- Jitterbug Waltz
- Night and Day
- Run on for a Long Time / God’s Gonna Cut You Down
- St. James Infirmary Blues
- You Go to My Head
- abstract quiet
- Classical: Sleep
- R.E.M. at night: quieter songs
- Sleepiest Mix. Songs that induce slumber.
- Sounds of the Sea: 6 hours.
- Cats: Everybody Wants to Be a Cat. Songs about cats – not cats as metaphor, but actual cats.
- Coffee Break! Over 50 songs about coffee.
- COVID-19: A Coronavirus Pandemic Playlist. 25 hours of music, many varieties, all thematically connected to the corona era. I began this playlist on March 13, 2020.
- Dogs: Everything Reminds Me of My Dog. 25 songs about dogs.
- Eat It: Songs About Food. Over 150 songs of food (usually literally but sometimes figuratively): Nat King Cole, Ramones, Weird Al Yankovic, Mills Brothers, B-52’s, Fats Waller, Barenaked Ladies, Cab Calloway, Parry Gripp, Beatles, Ella Fitzgerald, They Might Be Giants, RUN-D.M.C., Cookie Monster, Weezer, many more!
- Film: Songs About the Movies. Cinema-themed songs, featuring the Beatles, the B-52’s, Anita O’Day, Adam Schlesinger, Public Enemy, Paul Simon, the Kinks, the Muppets, Duran Duran, Dire Straits, Steely Dan, TMBG, John Prine, the Postal Service, Gil Scott-Heron, Laurie Anderson, and many others.
- Guitar Rocktacular. Electric guitar that rocks. 1 song per artist (guitarists appear more often). Jimi Hendrix, Dick Dale, Angus Young, Chuck Berry, John Frusciante, Vicki Peterson, Kurt Cobain, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jack White, Prince, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Pete Townshend, Joe Perry, Wayne Kramer, Eddie Van Halen, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, many others.
- Life’ll Kill Ya; or, This Mortal Playlist. These are songs about reckoning with the inevitability of death. The 1st half is usually more uptempo & funny; the 2nd is more sad & reflective.
- Night. Songs of the night. Police, Paul Simon, David Bowie, Ray Charles, Frankie Valli, Katy Perry, Madeleine Peyroux, Gladys Knight, Sam Cooke, Bob Seger, James Brown, Art Blakey, Rolling Stones, Pretenders, Morphine, Frank Ocean, Postal Service, Roy Orbison, Patsy Cline, R.E.M., Hem, Echo & The Bunnymen, and many others.
- Noir. Songs that evoke the feel of film noir, including but not limited to music actually from film noir.
- Nostalgia Isn’t What It Used to Be. Borrowing its title from Sam Phillips’ “Taking Pictures,” this playlist’s nostalgia is reflective & slightly ambivalent. Graham Parker, Paul Simon, Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder, Aimee Mann, Death Cab for Cutie, David Bowie, Weakerthans, Bruce Springsteen, Bill Withers, B-52s, Kinks, Clash, Beatles, R.E.M., many others.
- Numbers. Nearly 200 songs featuring numbers.
- Paul Simon Sings Songs About Aging and Death. The themed Paul Simon compilation you have been waiting for! (Or possibly not.)
- Radio, Radio. Songs about the radio.
- Title of the Mix. Songs about songs – a meta playlist.
- uptempo melancholic pop
- 1980s Christmas
- Blue Christmas. Melancholic holiday music.
- Cool Yule. Christmas Music: Swing, Big Band Jazz, and Lounge.
- Thank God It Isn’t Christmas Every Day. Off-beat holiday selections named for a Mitch Benn song not on Spotify.
- A Very Jazzy Christmas. Christmas: No vocals. Real jazz. (No Kenny G. or other ersatz jazz.) Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Rashaan Roland Kirk, Terrence Blanchard, Bill Evans, Chet Baker, Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, Earl Hines, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Haden, Hank Jones, Dexter Gordon, Stanley Jordan, MJQ, & more.
- Yule Get Through the Holidays: Xmas Megamix 2020-2021. Over 9 hours of Christmas / Holiday music of many varieties.