Private Playlist is a listening session with Southern California’s most notable musical figures in their private creative environments.
LA native Rosie Tucker exploded into popular consciousness with their 2019 sophomore album, "Never Not Never Not Never Not." Widespread acclaim for their smart and empathetic songwriting quickly led to shared stages with Phoebe Bridgers, Soccer Mommy, and Vagabon, among others. Newly signed to Epitaph Records, Tucker is set to release their third album, "Sucker Supreme," on April 30. As befits a label that hosts artists from Tom Waits to the Descendents, Tucker's new album ramps up the energy while retaining their keen intellect and searching humanity.
For this edition of Private Playlist, Rosie Tucker recommends their favorite songs of hope, humor, and resiliency, from Buffy Sainte-Marie to the Replacements.
“[It] helps me locate myself when I find people where there have been attempts to erase them. It reminds me that my own existence is substantial and important and can be powerful, regardless of whether or not I feel like a person like me can be recognized.” — Rosie Tucker
Rosie Tucker: I feel like I'm in a really good place. I'm fully vaccinated, and I'm starting to feel hopeful about the world again, which of course also comes with this kind of precarious feeling. But I'm getting really excited about the future. And I feel like I have not been excited about the future in a long time, so that's cool.
I was trying to think about what tied [these songs] together for me, because they're definitely sort of disparate in genre and vibe. But I think there's a kind of resiliency through all of them. And I think that's a reflection of how I'm feeling and where I've been. Each of these is a song that I've spent so much time with in my life, because they've given me something that I needed. So I guess that's what ties everything together.
I learned of Buffy Sainte-Marie from a Newport Folk Festival documentary [I saw] in my second year of college, where she's performing the song "Codeine." I thought she was so powerful as a performer. This song is a poem written by Leonard Cohen, but her performance creates the poem as she's singing it. I think she has such authority when she performs, and it's so dynamic. She'll drop a beat here and there, or she'll bring in a time signature and take it away. And it doesn't exactly feel improvised. It feels highly intentional [but] at the same time it's kind of drifting.
I'm always intrigued by anybody who gets blacklisted for doing the right thing. I think there's something sort of stupid and glamorous about it. And so I think she's just a really interesting figure as a Native person who has always talked about those experiences in her music and onstage. She was blacklisted for, I think, the song "Universal Soldier," which is an anti-Vietnam War song. I'm so delighted whenever I learn of a figure I didn't know about, where part of why I didn't know about them is that they were too good to make it to the mainstream. She was too authentic and too talented to thrive on the level that she deserved.
And I think there's something exciting when you find a substance that exists outside of what’s marketable that’s still really good. It makes me think about the legacies of the artists that are passed down in an overt and mainstream way. You might think that the whole anti-war movement or anti-imperialist movement was being led by well-meaning white guy poets, when this is simply not the case. That helps me locate myself when I find people where there have been attempts to erase them. It reminds me that my own existence is substantial and important and can be powerful, regardless of whether or not I feel like a person like me can be recognized.
I came into contact with Jeffrey Lewis’ "Don't Let The Record Label Take You Out To Lunch" before I ever came into contact with any record label ever. But I think it’s a manifesto of artistic integrity or artistic purity. This song came out in 2003, so this is before we were throwing [terms] like "attention economy" around. I feel like this song speaks so much to a more modern predicament. Media people and artists have been reckoning with the business of receiving attention and what it does to you as long as there have been performers, I'm sure. But I feel like this song touches on the importance of the internal life.
And it had me thinking about intimacy, because I saw a TikTok, and it was like a girl telling another girl that she had a crush on her, but they were filming it in a car. And it made me think about how so much of what’s appealing about social media is the marketing of intimacy that you can participate in. But there's something inherent to the medium that actually destroys intimacy. It takes moments that were supposed to be intimate, and [to] have something holy and site-based about them, and it destroys that.
Whereas so much of Jeffrey Lewis' music brings you into the sacredness of the internal monologue, and the desire to make something pure, and all the tensions around that. And that's also what's powerful about music: You can record a really intimate moment and it can retain its intimacy, even as the art object departs from the performer.
FIRST EVER BOYS
First Ever Boys is my friend Ollie's band. He's kind of my fraternal songwriting twin, so he's the family that I'm including in this list. We lived together in college [and] he's been a really important relationship to me. The refrain of the song is: "I'm afraid of pain, but I'm resigned to death. Sometimes I can't see why I should wait for it." And I think the song is a really, really sharp and humorous rumination about suicide. And what's powerful for me about it is the humor that comes with experiencing that darkness and recognizing it, and using that humor as a coping mechanism within depression. I think that allowing ourselves to recognize when life is crap, and to maybe even feel humorous about it, is a survival mechanism that works for me.
The Replacements’ "Androgynous" makes me cry every time I listen to it. I think it's a masterful non-binary trans love ballad. I think there's humor in it. It's played really loose, it sounds like it was recorded in a room with kind of a sloppy vocal double. It's very joyful. I'm a person who is very hungry for depictions of trans joy, and I think this is one of them. Regardless of how the people involved identify, there's this imagination of the future. There are some amazing lines like, "And she don't need advice that'll center her. She's happy with the way she looks, she's happy with her gender." They’re painting a picture of a joyous contentment that exists outside of existing gender norms.
There's even … "Someday we're going to laugh at these segregated bathroom stalls." We're going to ridicule these arbitrary separations of people the way that currently gender non-conforming people are ridiculed. And I think it's so casual, but simultaneously it's imagining a world that, 40 years on from the song coming out, we're not living in yet.
Music can create these spaces where the world is as it should be, where things are safe and contented, and we can talk about freedom of gender expression without paying homage to the violence that marks so many people's experiences of being trans. So yeah, I love that song.
For the past month or so, I've only been listening to Pharoah Sanders’ "Love is Everywhere." What I find so intriguing and powerful about it is that there's this masterful musical ambiguity that's a hallmark of jazz music. You know, the chords with all the tones that are not in the scale. So the music itself is not simple, not trying to express a simple emotion. There's a lot going on emotionally within the music. And then the lyric, "Love is everywhere," is delivered with this rasping conviction. What's so powerful about the way those two things are juxtaposed is [that] the phrase "Love is everywhere" could easily be a pop song. It could be so simple. It could just be, you know, "Turn off your mind and feel good, recognize the good feeling and hanging out in it." [But] because of the music and Sanders's vocal delivery, instead it's five minutes of the kind of joy that can only be accessed if you are also able to access and acknowledge and bear suffering. And I think that's really important.
This is a song of resilience to drive around Los Angeles, a city that is increasingly marked by public displays of poverty. This is the city that I'm from, and it's the place that I love the most in the world. And there's so much suffering [as] a result of this pandemic, but also many, many years of greed and neglect. And so I think there's something important about driving around the city lately, playing the song on loop and looking at the city as a place that I love, even though it's so difficult sometimes.
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