In search of the perfect ski tune
Highlights from Andrew’s 2014-15 ski playlist
Busdriver, “Ego Death”
Danny Brown and Purity Ring, “25 Bucks”
Death Grips, “Black Quarterback”
Mac DeMarco, “Passing Out the Pieces”
EPMD, “Da Joint”
Jay Electronica, “Exhibit A”
Kanye West, “I Am a God”
Lil Wayne, “S on My Chest”
The Meters, “Sissy Strut”
Odesza, “Memories That You Call”
Parquet Courts, “Borrowed Time”
Rick Ross, “No Games”
Run the Jewels, “Close Your Eyes…”
Son Lux, “Change is Everything”
Tobacco, “Street Trash”
Tyler, the Creator, “Domo 23”
Five ski seasons ago, when I bought a new helmet, I sprang for a model with the fancy Skull Candy headphone hookup. I made a special playlist for skiing that year — a mix mostly of high-energy hip-hop and punk and blues metal — and a personal tradition was born for this music-nerd snowboader.
Each fall, as opening day approaches, I curate a new playlist for the season. Over the winter, I drop tracks that I tire of and add fresh ones. Each spring, right about this time, I retire the season’s 50-odd songs.
I’ve found I need to drop the playlist annually, for one, because I snowboard a lot and — no matter how much I love these songs — I play them out after dozens of spins. But also because it turns the summer and fall into a fun scouting period as I listen for new mountain playtime anthems.
If you broke it down into Pandora-like elements, I don’t know, my essential ski song would probably include something about head-bobbing beats, occasional synths and orchestral strings and brash lyrics about being better than everyone else at everything there is to do. To wit: “Real sick, raw nights/I perform like Mike/Any one: Tyson, Jordan, Jackson …”
Some of the songs in heaviest rotation on this year’s playlist were brag-rap entries, such as Lil Wayne’s “S On My Chest,” Kanye West’s “I Am a God,” Red Cafe’s “I’m Ill” and — from the old school — Eric B and Rakim’s “Don’t Sweat the Technique.”
These kinds of over-the-top ego bombs bring an essential go-big swagger to your ski day.
In that same vein, DMX’s “Intro (One Two)” and Public Enemy’s “Welcome to the Terrordome” and pretty much anything Mike Tyson used as his ring-walk music serves me well on the mountain.
Some New Orleans funk has a similar effect — this year I kept The Meters’ “Cissy Strut” in the rotation all season. And, I’m embarrassed to admit, I keep some objectively awful club rap (of the Lil Jon, Ludacris, “All I Do is Win” variety) in the queue.
A handful of songs by Tobacco, the DJ, were my enduring season-long favorites: “Hairy Candy,” “Street Trash” (my iTunes player tells me I’ve listened to this 83 times since November) and his collaboration with Aesop Rock, “Dirt.” The sort of relaxed intensity of Tobacco fit this season well. Aphex Twin has a handful of compositions that hit that same sweet spot — “Fingerbib” and “PAPAT4” among them.
One key element of the ideal ski playlist song: no long pauses, skits or interstitial dialogue. For example, the Wu-Tang Clan’s “36 Chambers” might be the best rap album of all time, but the lengthy segments of kung-fu movie scenes and studio clowning attached to every song makes it tough to ski with. You don’t need lulls like that lurking in the season’s soundtrack. Nobody wants to be the schmuck dropping into Last Dollar or G-6 and stopping to skip a song on his playlist.
And I’ve found one of the best shortcuts to crafting a seasonal ski playlist is going to The Meeting — SkiCo’s annual autumn ski porn film festival — and listening to the movie soundtracks (Teton Gravity Research and Matchstick Productions movies tend to have the best, I’ve found, and led me to discover some great bands that have made repeat appearances on my ski playlists: The Album Leaf, The Black Angels and The Naked and Famous).
During Friday’s surprise end-of-season powder day, as I straight-lined Siebert’s, propelled by Mash Out Posse’s “Ante Up,” I mused briefly on how sad I’ll be to see this playlist, and this winter, come to an end.
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