Private Playlist: Sasami explores the wholesome world of animal songs

Sasami. Photo by Angela Ricciardi

Private Playlist is a listening session with Southern California’s most notable musical figures in their private creative environments.

Sasami may have achieved greater public awareness during her tenure in KCRW faves Cherry Glazerr, but she requires no co-signs as a musician, songwriter, and producer. She’s charted arrangements for Wild Nothing and Curtis Harding, tracked horns for Vagabon and Avi Buffalo, and sat in the producer’s chair for Hand Habits and others. In 2019, after learning how to translate her musical instincts into original songs, she released her self-titled debut album. “Sasami” brought her distinctive voice (vocal and musical) to the fore, abetted by guest turns from Devendra Banhart and Beach Fossils’ Dustin Payseur.

For this edition of Private Playlist, Sasami enlists her voracious musical appetite and wry sense of humor to deliver an appropriately left-of-center set themed entirely around animals.

“In a world that's so plainly capitalist, there's something really special about any art that is accidentally being viewed or heard.” — Sasami

SASAMI: I am really into vinyl, and every morning I listen to at least one record — full A side, full B side — while I'm having my breakfast. I'm very into a long-form collection of songs. So, especially with a playlist, since it's not one artist, it's really fun to pick one random concept that ties all the songs together. Sometimes it's more of an emotional thing, or more of a BPM thing for dancing, but you can pretty much pick any topic and make a playlist about it. So I decided to make a playlist about animals.


"Cow" by Linda McCartney inspired this playlist because it is very wholesome. I mean, she's talking about a cow in the June field, as if that's a normal thing that people talk about. “A June field.” It's very much a snapshot into her life. I'm sure they had some pastoral property, and they're out there with their kids running around, and she's just singing about a cow. It's truly beautiful wholesomeness, and that's enough for me, really. 


The Coasters have a special place in my heart just because they represent so much of my childhood. Speaking of wholesomeness, I grew up in a very religious, conservative household, and other than one Britney Spears CD, I pretty much only was allowed to listen to classical music or K-EARTH 101. So the Coasters represent this oldies station. And they're an LA band. Also: "I'm A Hog For You?" That is the most romantic thing that someone could ever say. If someone said, "I'm a hog for you," I would be like, "Take my eggs. Take my hand in marriage." You know, romantic. Yes please.


My next choice is a relatively new find for me, for a band that I've been a fan of for a super long time. I'm pretty sure "Turtles Have Short Legs" is a riff on "We Can Work It Out," but it's really fun. I'm not entirely sure even what Damo Suzuki is saying. I think there's a line where he says "Want to have a cigarette?" And he either says "I can't decide" or "Just king-size," but either way, he's talking about [how] turtles have short legs, and that the short legs are not for walking. It's just a nonsensical, fun song. Jaki Liebezeit is still ripping on the toms, [and] it still has their classic, cool Can sound, but this song rules.


Next is a not-very-well-known, but very dearly beloved, song by Robert Wyatt. Every once in a while, an album will draw me off the couch into spontaneous movement. There's no logic, no reason, no algorithm. And this was just one of those songs where, all of a sudden, I was just doing some weird dance ritual. And for me, that's the barometer for staying power for a song. And his music ... how could you not love it? It's catchy, but also playful and dreamy. It's everything you'd want from a magical Santa Claus, and more.


This is another one of those songs that, for some reason, I'm obsessed [with], and just keep listening to it. I don't know if you've heard of Ted Hawkins before. He's from Mississippi originally, but he's more known as a Venice street performer. He was a busker. He was in and out of prison a lot when he was in Mississippi and in the states, but [he] was a lot more successful in Europe and the UK. So this record was recorded in the UK. But it truly is one of my favorite songs, maybe of all time at this point. He's basically just talking about a dog, and there's one line where he does three laps in the yard and laughs. Thinking about putting that human character on a dog laughing? I don't know. It's also very wholesome.


Molly Drake was Nick Drake's mother, and she was a poet and a songwriter. Her albums and poetry were both released after her death. The song "Little Weaver Bird" is one for the heartstrings. There's something about the fact that she was just playing in her house on the piano, and her husband was engineering. That's very much not this fabricated studio session kind of world. You can hear room sounds; It really feels like you're looking at a black-and-white photo of someone. It's very rare. In a world that's so plainly capitalist, there's something really special about any art that is accidentally being viewed or heard. It was never intended for a large audience. And in some ways, it feels kind of wrong or creepy, but it also feels really special and wholesome.


Moondog was an interesting character because he's such an outsider, but he was also friends with really famous and successful musicians. So he's kind of a cult outsider, while also being an extremely revered composer. He was a very passionate animal rights activist, so he has a lot of songs that are about frogs and dogs and animals. [In] this one, he lists a lot of animals, so it was a good round-up for the end of the playlist.

Check out KCRW’s other Private Playlists:

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Bob Mould seeks artful inspiration from Janelle Monáe, Elliott Smith, and the Byrds
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Aimee Mann looks past the snark to appreciate Steely Dan’s craft
Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad on finding solace in Gil Scott-Heron
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TOKiMONSTA is rediscovering her love for the guitar
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Dorian Wood is walking a tightrope and trying not to look down
Thundercat on the importance of albums as a journey
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