This Will Keep Their Heads Rocking All Night Long

Two KCRW vets school us on the perfect summer playlist

By Reuben Brody

Here’s How You Make a Crowd-Pleasing Playlist
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06 May 2016

It’s Saturday. You’re in a pool. Up to your nips. Cold bevy in hand.

That’s when the unthinkable happens: the next song comes on and totally harshes everyone’s vibe. Not embarrassingly so (How’d Les Mis get on there?). Just off.

Welcome to the major problem with hitting shuffle on your digital library. You sir, need a playlist. And a good’n.

Enter: KCRW DJs Anthony Valadez and Anne Litt, whom we dialed up for some tips on making a killer soundtrack for every summer occasion. Their advice is on point, and comes with a sample tracklist for appropriation inspiration.

(Ed. note: Consider taking a minute to donate to KCRW — it’s tough to imagine L.A. without its most excellent town crier.)

The Pool Party
As told by Anthony Valadez

Know your audience and be inclusive
“The last thing you want is a full-on machismo playlist that excludes love for the ladies. Your playlist sets the vibe and should be upbeat in terms of tempo with room for peaks and valleys. Peaks are the fun gems. But add a few valleys: mellow tunes that enhance the peaks.”

Consider the sequencing, an element that includes placement of each song
“When on the turntables, I always read the crowd and try to tell a story. I love for the mix to take you somewhere. Think of your mixtape or selections as a passport that is taking your listeners away from their problems and simply enjoying the now.”

Unpredictability is the hallmark of smart selections
“I love jumping from genre to genre. It’s always nice to kick things off with something from Brazil then end up in Compton. You want listeners to keep guessing when it comes to the next song.”

To be authentic, play songs that mean something to you or your friends
“Always sneak in a gem that was once the song of meaning. Maybe it was the song that you all danced to during New Year’s Eve in 2012 while in Paris with friends. Then dare to find selections that you love and may be unknown. Nothing’s worse then being at a pool party and hearing that one same damn song that’s on the radio at least 100 times a day.”

Above all, have fun
“There is no right or wrong. And don’t put too much thought into it.  Once you make that playlist, go enjoy that pool party and have fun!”

Prince - Musicology
Aaliyah - Back And Forth
A Bossa Electrica - Sob A Luz Do Sol
Poolside - Do You Believe
Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros - Home
Kendrick Lamar - Untitled 06
DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince - Summertime
Morrissey - Suedehead

The Backyard Hang
As told by Anne Litt

Consider the time of day
“When do you love to be in your garden? Are you out in the garden on a sunny spring afternoon?  Or at midnight with a full moon? Or is it dawn on a gray misty day? Maybe sunset on the longest day of the year? Whatever time of day gives you peace or makes you happy is your time. I love the end of a long summer day, picking a few vegetables for dinner, after the work of gardening is done.”

Music makes the mood, so consider who’s coming to the party
“Maybe it’s a couple of friends who’ve stopped by after work — not a weekend blowout kind of night, but a week night, an evening that says, ‘I really should get home, but this is too nice to leave.’”

Tell a story
“Since my favorite time is sunset, I always want to tell a story that takes me from day through sunset and into the night. I might start in a more earthy, acoustic way and as it gets darker have it morph into a sound that's more downtempo and electronic. I also love to mix in reggae and world music. Add some new music, then add some old that evokes a time and place. Most importantly, I keep it eclectic. A story doesn’t have to be told through just one genre of music or a singular sound, in fact, to me, it’s way more interesting if it isn’t. It’s all about inspiration.”

Making a good playlist let’s you enjoy the moment
“When the work is done for the day, I love to go to my garden with my friends.  A cocktail (mine’s a martini) or glass of wine is in hand. My garden is always slightly wild — I’m not great at keeping it neat all the time and I always have a couple of chairs in the middle of it all. For some reason, the smells are sweeter and more intense this time of day.  And now the music starts.”

Ray LaMontagne - Part Two - In My Own Way
Sam Beam And Jesca Hoop - Every Songbird Says
Adan & Xavi Y Los Imanes - Fuera El Dolor
Saint Germain - Mary L
The Melodians - Sweet Sensation
Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 - Mundo Hermoso (Pretty World)
Michael White - The Blessing Song
Quantic - A Life Worth Living (feat. U-Roy & Alice Russell)
Bibio - Petals
Hiatus Kaiyote - Nakamarra

This is part of an ongoing series called 37 Things a Man's Gotta Do This Summer, our annual compendium of everything worth seeing, doing, eating, drinking and generally making time for in your neck of the woods between now and September.

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