PLAYLIST: Great Grandpa’s Songs They Wish They Knew When They Were Younger

Al Menne shares nine recent favs from Big Thief, Lucy Dacus, Bill Callahan, and more.

It’s an unfortunate yet widely known fact that in the twenty-first century, you’re utterly incapable of revealing any blindspots in your knowledge of music—a Beatles album you’ve never heard all the way through, maybe, or an unfamiliarity with whichever artist is currently on the verge of penetrating into the mainstream—without immediate repercussions. Once you break the news of your ignorance to someone, there’s no forgiveness, just a whole lot of angry chiding.

Great Grandpa’s Al Menne is open to changing this norm, though, compiling a playlist of their favorite newly discovered tracks that they’d wished a formatively aged Al had been familiar with. From contemporaries like Lucy Dacus and Big Thief to indie forebears like Broken Social Scene and Rilo Kiley, the ebb-and-flow of orchestral emo housed within Great Grandpa’s forthcoming second album feels at least a bit derivative of everything listed below, even if they were mostly unfamiliar with the artists during Four of Arrows’ writing.

Four of Arrows is out October 25 via Double Double Whammy. You can pre-order it here.

Karen Dalton, “Something on Your Mind”

I have just recently become a Spotify user and in doing so asked Twitter what I should listen to. My favorite response was Karen Dalton, someone I had never listened to before but instantly felt a warmth and kinship-like familiarity with. There is a positivity within the lyrics and I love the hopeful call in Karen’s raspy and caring line, “You can’t make it without ever even trying.” To the kind person that lent me this recommendation, thank you! 

Big Thief, “Forgotten Eyes”

“Forgotten Eyes” by Big Thief is one of those songs that I want to put on every time I climb into my car or turn the oven on to bake. This track carries a lot of pained glances at how humans and society as a whole hurt one another through circumstance, as well as indifference. This glance is just one of the many ways that Big Thief and Adrianne Lenker urge empathy and softer edges while forcing you to look at the real shit of the world. 

Joni Mitchell, “Both Sides Now”

I went through a pretty big Joni Mitchell phase recently, and in the midst of it was really caught on the Clouds version of “Both Sides Now.” One day I listened to it a few times on repeat while driving across the city for various things. I pulled off the road to take a break from the bumper-to-bumper traffic and had a teary-eyed moment in a Target parking lot. In that moment my grandma texted me to tell me to listen to “Both Sides Now.” I let her know that I…had been listening. I’ve always felt a special connection to my grandma and it is such a tug at my heart to hear this song now and think of her and my little five-year-old cousin singing along to all the words. A glistening reminder of how connecting music can be despite geographical distance.

Rilo Kiley, “So Long”

Somehow, unlike many of my classmates, I was missed by Rilo Kiley in high school. I love a reminder that it is never too late to get into something. I like to think of the sentiment in this song being applied to the change of relationships within my realm of traveling and touring. This song also knowingly has an Elliott Smith vibe to it, and I was a huge fan as a teen (still am). One of my first experiences listening to Elliott’s full discography was in sophomore or junior year (my memory is bad) when I had mono for nine or more months. I didn’t know I was really sick and depressed or how to really explain what I was feeling, and I just remember the person I was dating at the time letting me come over to his house. He built me a fort on his bed out of blankets stapled to the ceiling with string lights wrapped all around. He let me sleep in the fort as long as I wanted as I listened to Elliott Smith. When I listened to “So Long” for the first time, this memory came rushing back, strong and warm. 

Bill Callahan, “Riding for the Feeling”

I’ve started listening to Bill Callahan in the mornings and it is such a smooth invitation to the day. There is a lot to unpack from “Riding for the Feeling.” Something I take away from this track is to do what you are doing for you, and the reasons that feel right to you. I’m currently resonating with the existentialism of this piece, trying to ride for the feeling. 

Drench Fries, “Texaco”

Drench Fries is a pal of mine, and “Texaco” is one of those songs that has an undeniable melody, the kind you wanna play on repeat on a drive through the night in Seattle. I love the story that develops from a dream Levi had. The line “I know now that true love is selfish / Like parallel mirrors reflecting for infinity / Oh, isn’t it scary” gets me every time. What a true and raw yet eye-opening look at why love is so necessary and terrifying. 

Broken Social Scene, “Hug of Thunder”

“Hug of Thunder” is another one of those songs that after one listen, I had to play it every time I got into my car. There is a tender yet epic contrast to this song that I wish younger me would have been able to experience. It wasn’t until recently that I started to toy with the idea that there are many sides that I own, and sometimes those sides can coexist in my music or expression. 

Lucy Dacus, “Forever Half Mast”

When I was younger, I did not have as many festering thoughts about the state of our country. I wasn’t constantly thinking about whether being an American makes me, or anyone in this country, inherently bad. I know my eyes have opened quite a bit since then, and that things have even taken a more obvious turn for the worse. “Forever Half Mast” by Lucy Dacus is a great conversation about the United States as a whole, and that’s a hard conversation I wish I could have been aware of when I was younger (even if it is a horrifying reality).

Molly Sarlé, “Human”

“Human” by Molly Sarlé brings up ideas of wrongful idealizing in relationships. As someone who has had bad tendencies to build people up like I am talking to God, I wish I could share that sentiment with a younger self. Oftentimes idealizing like that can turn ugly, and although I love where I am at now, a lot of hard-learned lessons could have been spared.

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