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No Expectations 050: I’ll Take You There
A Thanksgiving playlist that won’t alienate your loved ones. It's a Tuesday newsletter this week. Happy holidays.
No Expectations usually hits inboxes on Thursdays at 9am cst. With Thanksgiving on Thursday and the fact that I am in Montana for the week on vacation, I decided to make this a short, special edition Tuesday newsletter. Back to regular programming next week.
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What To Do if You’re Handed the Aux Cord This Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is a great holiday for food and family when it doesn’t look like that one episode from The Bear. Sometimes you’re with your own family, catching up with loved ones you haven’t seen in a while, or trying to avoid that one uncle who needs a hobby beyond Jameson and consuming news on Facebook. Other times, you’re a guest visiting a significant other’s or a friend’s family for the big meal. Whatever your situation, there’s at least football happening and a good excuse to watch The Last Waltz.
I’m lucky that my girlfriend’s family goes all out for the holiday. They’re all phenomenal cooks and the best possible hosts. We’re celebrating with them in Montana this year and while there’s no measurable snow to ski, it’s still beautiful. One of the first times I met them, they asked about my work as a music journalist and offered to have me be in charge of choosing the music for the family get-together. It was an unbelievably sweet gesture and showed a lot of trust (after all, I was a total stranger with a beard and long hair…plus, I worked for VICE at the time). Still, I panicked: I didn’t know what they liked, hadn’t prepared, and I didn’t want to ruin the vibe as a guest. I knew they all saw a Steely Dan concert recently so I started there. It worked out.
The key to a good playlist for a family get-together is to not go too crazy with it. You’re setting a vibe, not showcasing your eclectic, crate-digging tastes. You shouldn’t pick anything too loud or too weird (If you must pick a Grateful Dead song, don’t make it “Blues For Allah.”) This isn’t about you: You’re with your loved ones so the conversation and good times have to take priority over the songs. Plus, like being a good host, you have to balance a lot of different personalities, tastes, and moods with the people around you. Your Jackson Browne-loving dad is going to want to hear something different than your disco great aunt or the relative who smokes Pall Malls and attends the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Like your cousin’s tree-nut allergy, you should remember how that one relative cannot stand the Eagles. (Not that you’d play them anyway).
This week, I made a 60-song mix for family get-togethers. At just over four hours, there’s a good selection of old favorites ranging from classic rock to jazz, country, and pop to recent songs that won’t irk your parents. One important tip is that if you’re in charge of the music, you should absolutely take requests from family members. You’re not going to be able to appease everyone (say no to your baby cousin who wants to put on 100 Gecs) but you should make an effort to make as many folks as possible happy. If your loved ones enjoy the songs, feel free to say that you made this playlist. If they hate it, you can say, “Yeah, I found it on this random dude from Chicago’s blog. His taste is a bit much and not for everyone.” Win-win. Whatever you’re doing this Thanksgiving, I hope you come out of the day feeling rested and loved. Thanks for reading. Full playlist below.
What I listened to:
Spotify / Apple Music Link
No Expectations 050 Thanksgiving Megamix:
01. The Staples Singers, “I’ll Take You There”
02. Van Morrison, “Did Ye Get Healed”
03. The Band, “The Shape I’m In”
04. Erin Rae, “Candy & Curry”
05. Mapache, “French Kiss”
06. Marvin Gaye, “Where Are We Going”
07. Sonya Spence, “Let Love Flow On”
08. Labi Siffre, “Love Oh Love Oh Love”
09. Nicolette Larson, “Lotta Love”
10. Heron, “Big A”
11. Grateful Dead, “Eyes of the World”
12. Pacific Range, “Rainbow Song”
13. Blur, “Ghost Ship”
14. Fleetwood Mac, “Everywhere”
15. Jess Williamson, “Topanga Two Step”
16. Sam Evian, “Country”
17. Donald Byrd, “(Fallin’ Like) Dominoes”
18. NRBQ, “Magnet”
19. Wings, “Arrow Through Me”
20. Steely Dan, “Time Out of Mind”
21. Mapache, “Light My Fire”
22. Queen, “Cool Cat”
23. Bob Dylan, “Something There Is About You”
24. Katy Kirby, “Cubic Zirconia”
25. Jan Hammer Group, “Don’t You Know”
26. Todd Rundgren, “Hello It’s Me”
27. Bobbi Humphrey, “Blacks and Blues”
28. Sister Sledge, “Thinking of You”
29. Orange Juice, “Rip It Up
30. Emmylou Harris, “Bluebird Wine”
31. Dolly Parton, “Mule Skinner Blues”
32. Grateful Dead, “Althea”
33. Kacy Musgraves, “Golden Hour”
34. Major Murphy, “Mary”
35. Bobbi Humphrey, “Uno Esta”
36. Tyrone Davis, “Can I Change My Mind?”
37. Sandy Denny, “It’ll Take a Long Time”
38. Talking Heads, “The Big Country”
39. Tears For Fears, “Everybody Wants To Rule the World”
40. Mitski, “Nobody”
41. Bruce Springsteen, “Hungry Heart”
42. Foxwarren, “Sunset Canyon”
43. Florry, “ILYILY”
44. V.V. Lightbody, “If It’s Not Me”
45. Jon McKiel, “Mourning Dove”
46. The Flying Burrito Brothers, “Hot Burrito #2”
47. B.W. Stevenson, “My Maria”
48. Aretha Franklin, “Tighten Up Your Tie, Button Up Your Jacket”
49. Merry Clayton, “Gimme Shelter”
50. Linda Rondstadt, “Willin’”
51. Bonny Doon, “Maybe Today”
52. Video Age, “Golden Sun”
53. Allen Toussaint, “Soul Sister”
54. Whitney, “Valleys (My Love)”
55. Karen Dalton, “Something On Your Mind”
56. Guy Clark, “L.A. Freeway”
57. Grateful Dead, “Friend of the Devil”
58. Tyler Childers, “All Your’n”
59. Arthur Russell, “That’s Us/ Wild Combination”
60. The Band, “The Weight”
What I watched:
Classic Albums (Prime Video/Freevee)
Classic Albums is a long-running U.K. TV show that does deep dives on iconic LPs featuring interviews with the artists, session players, and engineers who made them. I loved these growing up and some years could only track down YouTube rips and not solid streams. You’ve probably seen Twitter jokes about the Classic Albums’ Steely Dan Aja doc. Now, most of the Classic Albums episodes are on Prime Video’s Freevee channel. This week, I rewatched docs about The Band, Steely Dan, Grateful Dead, Lou Reed, The Doors, and more. Worth a watch, especially if you didn’t grow up with them.
What I read:
World Within a Song (by Jeff Tweedy)
I finally got around to Jeff Tweedy’s latest book World Within a Song this week. It’s the third book from the longtime Wilco frontman andauthor. I loved his 2018 memoir Let's Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc. but this one might be my favorite. It’s loose and diaristic, taking 50 songs from his life and reflecting on them in bite-sized, personal entries. He’s basically blogging here, diving into specific tracks and how they shaped his tastes, his personality, and his life. These chapters are meant as individual reflections, not as music criticism. That said, he does do a damn good job of explaining how galvanizing and inspiring a good song (The Minutemen’s “History Lesson Part 2”), that tastes can change over time (10cc’s “I’m Not In Love”), how deeper cuts can make the best impression (The Rolling Stones’ “Connection”), and why Bon Jovi sucks. He intersperses revealing moments from his own life in between some of these song-based studies that stand as my favorite things from the book. There’s so much value in explaining why a particular piece of music can have such a profound effect on you. I firmly believe that the best way to get to know someone is through talking about music and this book does a great job of showing how.
The Weekly Chicago Show Calendar:
Friday, Nov. 24: Lydia Loveless, Reese McHenry at Empty Bottle. Tickets.
Friday, Nov. 24: Sydney Sprague, Wheelwright at Schubas. Tickets.
Friday, Nov. 24: femdot. at Thalia Hall. Tickets.
Friday, Nov. 24: Noname at The Vic. Tickets.
Saturday, Nov. 25: Sen Morimoto, Angélica Garcia, Neptune’s Core at Thalia Hall. Tickets.
Saturday, Nov. 25: The Menzingers, Cloud Nothings, Microwave, Rodeo Boys at Salt Shed. Tickets.
Saturday, Nov. 25: The State (Comedy) at Riviera Theatre. Tickets.
Sunday, Nov. 26: Citizen, Narrow Head, Modern Color at Concord Music Hall. Tickets.
Sunday, Nov. 26: Deafheaven, Touche Amore at House of Blues. Tickets.
Wednesday, Nov. 29: Ryan Davis, Whitney Johnson & Lia Kohl at Judson and Moore. Tickets.