20 Songs You Can Find Bad Bad Hats Walking To
With her band’s latest LP Walkman dropping this week, Kerry Alexander shares a playlist fit for your portable music player.
There’s a specific nostalgia tied to the term “Walkman,” one which—extremely old man voice—recalls the intentionality of selecting physical media over the infinite options of the cloud, as well as the simplicity of that media in a pre-gecs era. The technology was so primitive that you couldn’t cleanly skip a track, making a focused listen to a full cassette (whether purchased or recorded yourself from the radio) the best way to consume it, while its portability lent itself to being the perfect walking (or roller skating) companion.
It feels intentional that Minneapolis’ Bad Bad Hats invoked the technology for their forthcoming album—simply called Walkman—which arrives this Friday via their new label home of Don Giovanni. The trio’s brand of indie rock feels stripped to the necessary core established within the genre during the tail end of the Walkman’s reign in the ’90s, with catchy choruses on the record’s lead singles—the acoustic-powered title track and an indirectly anti-Pistons anthem fit for a moment when the franchise is being scrutinized—being aided by little more than breezy guitars, tight percussion, and Kerry Alexander’s swooping vocals.
While the new LP thus far presents itself as an ideal album for a late-summer stroll (it helps that there appear to be no skips), Alexander took the time to compile a playlist of songs more explicitly about walking, many of which were pulled from another technological relic from the immediate post-Walkman era: mix CDs. Stream her picks below, and read on for what she had to say about each track.
Nancy Sinatra, “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’”
This is the sauciest little number. That post-chorus descending guitar line and the hyped horn outro never lose their luster. A perfect start to our musical journey today. Ready, playlist? Start walking!
Isaac Hayes, “Walk on By”
I’m a big Burt Bacharach fan. He writes the bounciest melodies. They’ve all got a pep in their step. And I love Dionne Warwick singing this song. But I can’t resist the drama of this version. The strings! And the background singers going, “Walk! Walk!” A few tours ago, I was on a mission to find Hot Buttered Soul on vinyl. Finally found it at Vertigo in Grand Rapids. Thank you local record shops!
Tegan and Sara, “Walking with a Ghost”
We learned this song for our cover series, “Islands in the Livestream.” And we were surprised at how simple the song really is, because the recording does such a good job of building energy and creating little dynamic moments that keep you jamming. An indie rock classic.
Annie Lennox, “Walking on Broken Glass”
This is the cheeriest delivery of the line “Feels like I’m walking on broken glass” you could possibly find. People often tell us that they notice our songs pair lyrics of heartbreak with sunny melodies. So I guess I relate!
Everly Brothers, “Walk Right Back”
Chris [Hoge] got on a real Everly Brothers kick last winter. The harmonies are just so beautiful. We’ve been very inspired by the use of spring reverb on these recordings, too. It gives everything that perfect soft glow. We’ve just barely avoided purchasing a giant spring tank for ourselves. Don’t push us, we’ll do it!
Lou Reed, “Walk on the Wild Side”
Would a “walking” playlist really be complete without a walk on the wild side?
Comet Gain, “If You Ever Walk Out of My Life”
I got this song on a mix CD from my friend in college and have always liked it. Laptops don’t have CD drives anymore, so I don’t get many mixes these days (I get none actually), and I miss that precious musical exchange. The self-conscious selection (will they like this one? Is this one cool?), the thrill of a new discovery, the strengthening of bonds between fellow music lovers. Very special!
Everything But the Girl, “Walking to You”
There was a time in my life when I was determined to have the largest iTunes library I could possibly have. I would buy up used CDs at music stores and rip any album in my immediate vicinity. But I often wouldn’t listen to all the albums I was amassing because I was just so focused on quantity (dumb). So the only time I would hear those songs was when I was listening to my whole library on shuffle. I remember this song coming up one day and I was like, “Well, I have no memory of acquiring this CD.” But I loved the song! I guess I was meant to hear it.
The Hives, “Walk Idiot Walk”
This era of rock music continues to be one of my favorites. The Vines, The Strokes, The Hives, Kaiser Chiefs—all those groups. We tried to channel some of that energy for our new album, Walkman. I love the wiry guitars and the bad attitudes. But all those bands are anchored by such solid guitar and vocal melodies. So many unexpected hooks!
Patsy Cline, “Walkin’ After Midnight”
Another “walking” playlist must-have! I started listening to Patsy Cline a lot when I first started college. I think I found her on some country music compilation my mom probably bought from the television (she was always buying those—Pure Funk was the best one). I just fell in love with her voice, and the songwriting of that era of country music is just unbeatable. So when I got my first electric guitar, a maroon red Epiphone Olympic, I named it Patsy Cline. Patsy was a great companion at all those early Bad Bad Hats shows.
Empire of the Sun, “Walking on a Dream”
Ah, yes. College. This song did not quit on the Macalester College campus in the late-’00s/early-’10s. It was, like this song, the beams of light emanating from Robyn, “Sleepyhead,” and the MGMT hits. That was it. That’s all you heard. This song reminds me of the school-organized, on-campus dances. Which I attended. And at which I was usually the first person to arrive.
Marc Cohn, “Walking in Memphis”
No introduction needed.
Santo & Johnny, “Sleep Walk”
This is a song I rediscovered making this playlist. I’m slow-dancing on the moon right now to this song.
The Dodos, “Walking”
Another song I got on a mix CD. Though this one I got from Chris when we first started dating. We were actually apart that first year because we studied abroad at different times, so we exchanged mix CDs every month to keep in touch and get to know each other better. Now all the songs on those mixes sound like being young and in love to me.
Fleetwood Mac, “Walk a Thin Line”
When we were making our second album, Lightning Round, we were listening to Tusk incessantly in the studio. Though it didn’t get quite as many spins as “That’s All for Everyone” or “Angel,” I’ve always enjoyed this Lindsey Buckingham B-side.
The Prisonaires, “Just Walkin’ in the Rain”
Such a beautiful song. This is one I want in my headphones when I need to do some thinking.
Franz Ferdinand, “Walk Away”
One of my favorite bands! They’ve always had a rather theatrical lean that I enjoy. “I love the sound of you walking away” is a line that has stuck with me over the years.
Gerry & the Pacemakers, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”
Show tune! There were many great versions of this song to choose from, but I like this version. It’s got a good balance of understated delivery but still with appropriate levels of pomp.
Neil Young, “Walk On”
I love making playlists and do it for fun all the time. And I especially love making themed playlists because I always discover new tunes that I love. And here we are! I had never heard this Neil Young track before, but it is so great! Love the loose swagger and the ratty little guitar riff at the end.
Ben Harper, “Walk Away”
OK, woah, hearing this song sent me spiraling through a portal straight to my past. This is putting me in my high school bedroom, with UltimateGuitar.com pulled up on the Dell desktop, slowly learning guitar chords. I don’t think I’ve heard this song in 15 years, but music never ceases to amaze in its ability to transport me. Magic!