2021 couldn’t arrive soon enough, yet at the same time, 2020 blurred by as if we were intoxicated the whole year. With a series of unfortunate events, one right after another, there’s hardly anyone that could say it was their year to shine. However, hindsight is 2020 (of course we’d use that sooner or later) and although we can’t change the past, we can embrace and recognize our mistakes. As much as we’d love to forget it ever happened — it did. We can’t change that, but we can change how we approach the remaining 361 days. The new year is a time of reflection, appreciation and global rebirth. So in accordance with the theme of rebirth, we’ve asked local artist, Paul Whitacre, to curate a playlist with the said theme in mind. The 15-song playlist features The Bahamas, Rayland Baxter, some familiar locals and of course, a few of Paul Whitacre’s solo project songs.
Check out the playlist below, Whitacre’s commentary and don’t forget to follow 303 Magazine on Spotify:
Bahamas – “All The Time”
Paul Whitacre: I just feel positive every time I hear this song. I got to see Bahamas at a free show in Boulder a few years back and I couldn’t stop myself from moving to his music. He’s such a unique performer and this song is definitely one of my favorites from him.
Paul Whitacre – “heavy”
303 Magazine: Where were you at in your life when you made, “heavy”? How do you think it resonates with the New Year?
PW: Physically, I was in Colorado Springs camping with my wife. It was one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever been in and the opening lyrics, “I can see for miles and miles, I can’t hear a sound,” were written very literally. Emotionally, I was exhausted with how heavy the world was becoming, it felt like every day brought more bad news and I just needed to write something honest about how I was feeling.
COIN – “Let It All Out (10:05)”
PW: The last 46 seconds might be my favorite clip of music ever. I absolutely love this guy sounding so tired and scared asking “Jesus, are you listening?” It’s a line I’ve thought about and resonated with hundreds of times in 2020.
Gregory Alan Isakov – “Second Chances”
PW: I think Gregory’s music as a whole is honest and reassuring. I first discovered his music through a YouTube channel called West Sessions where he performed “Second Chances” live. When I heard the lyrics, “if it weren’t for second chances, we’d all be alone,” I was hooked.
Phoebe Bridgers – “Smoke Signals”
PW: The only way I can describe Phoebe’s voice is haunting. Her voice leaves me curious and longing for more. She can somehow take some of the saddest storytelling and make it feel hopeful. It’s an ability totally unique to her.
Paul Whitacre – “find the light”
PW: Prior to 2020 I considered myself a huge introvert and wanted to be alone as much as possible. When COVID-19 hit and forced everyone to stay at home, I realized how much I rely on my friends and family to stay healthy. I think that was the “light” of 2020 for me — I regained a love of every relationship in my life. This song actually came so naturally and with ease. I wish they all worked that way.
Joel Ansett – “Through”
PW: Joel is my favorite artist in Denver. He has such a unique ability to engage a listener from start to finish with all of his songs. “Through” has one of the dopest drops ever to start the song off. Just the little 3-second drum intro gets me every single time.
Rayland Baxter – “Strange American Dream”
PW: Rayland is one of my all-time favorite songwriters. This song has a pure and vintage sound — like it’s familiar to you the first time you hear it, but you can’t quite figure out why. I also really appreciate the difficult subject matter while the song remains sounding positive.
Wilderado – “Take Some Time”
PW: This track from Wilderado just gives hope moving forward into a new year. It feels sonically like a reawakening.
Nathaniel Rateliff – “Redemption”
PW: I’ll be honest, there are times I’m listening to Nathaniel and have no clue what he’s singing about, but just want to cry. I feel like a listener can hear his life story and all the painful moments he’s faced in his voice alone.
Briston Maroney – “Caroline”
“Caroline” is a track off of Briston’s EP, Indiana, which is where I grew up. Every time I listen to this record, I feel nostalgic about my childhood and living in simpler times.
Fruit Bats – “Today”
I have to say that the original version of “Today” is probably in my top 5 favorite rock songs of all time. I think Fruit Bats did the song justice and think Billy would be proud. The melody in this song sounds a little darker than the original which I think fits the Smashing Pumpkins vibe. I love this cover so much.
Tyson Motsenbocker – “High Line – Acoustic”
As an artist, I feel like I’m constantly chasing perfect production to try and engage listeners the best I can. Tyson’s acoustic album flips that idea around and I think engages listeners really well with a recording setup that sounds like just a guy and his guitar.
Penny and Sparrow – “Brothers”
I found this song in college years ago. I distinctly remember walking down my campus crying while listening to it and not caring at all about what people thought around me. It’s such a beautiful song and can be gut-wrenching to listen to if you catch it at the right moment.
303: What song was your most played from this list and why?
PW: “Let It All Out (10:05)” – this song helped shape the sound of my new solo project. The ambient sound design behind lyrics that are raw and honest brought me back to this song over and over again in 2020.
303: What track got you the most excited for the future of what that artist/musician has to offer and why?
PW: “Smoke Signals” by Phoebe Bridgers. I had heard of Phoebe for so long but did everything I could not to listen. I thought she was a trendy name and I didn’t want to hop on the bandwagon. When I first started listening to her music, I always assumed I knew what she was going to be singing about and quickly realized she has some of the most unpredictable and clever lyrics I’ve ever heard. I’m always eager for new music from her now.