Continuing on the theme of the last instalment in this series and another recent blog post, this week’s playlist features some great music for working (not to mention working out, I might add).

1.) The Twelves – “The Twelfth Hour”


Dude, I think I reasonably owe you around $5000 in increased productivity from listening to the Twelfth Hour blasting on repeat all day, every day. It’s incredible.

–A friend of mine in an e-mail (I find myself recommending “The Twelfth Hour” to most of my friends.)

I’ve been slaying work left and right in my local cafe all week and, like many weeks over the past year or so, this wonderful mix by the Twelves has been keeping me company.

As an amateur DJ who is fairly “new to the game,” I’m discovering that making a great dance music mixtape is a tricky affair; balancing the familiar with the unknown, matching beats appropriately, speeding up/slowing down songs and choosing which one should follow the other, sampling disparate artists, etc. It’s not easy.

Which is part of what makes this excellent mix by the Twelves so impressive; everything flows so gracefully, so naturally, yet the tension is such that the listener is surprised and delighted by each sample, key change, transition. etc. And after listening to it approximately 4000 times over the past twelve months, every time I spin this one I’m surprised by another little audible “easter egg” I didn’t notice before. (An obscure 80’s funk line here, an old-school hip-hop drum sample there…)

Next time you’re trying to get some work done, give it a spin.

2.) Starcadian – “Dance or Die”


So I’m a huge Starcadian fan. His excellent full length Sunset Blood is one of my most-played records of the past year. I used to listen to it all the time while driving my car at night, pretending I was in space, or some terrible 80’s sci-fi film. (And no, I wasn’t on drugs… listen to the music, and you’ll start to see where I was coming from.) Prediction: Starcadian is going to be very big, very soon. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

He also just-so-happened to release the best music video of the year earlier this month. Remember that kinda-funny “Shake It Off”/80’s aerobic video mash-up? Starcadian’s version is way, way better. I won’t spoil the end for you, so just know this: there will be blood.

(P.S. Sunset Blood is not just for faux-futuristic nighttime driving; it’s also a great record to work to.)

(P.P.S. if I have to listen to “Shake It Off” just one more time…)

3.) Frank Sinatra – “You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me”


And now for something completely different…

I’m currently working my way through James Kaplan’s excellent biography at a rapid clip. And as I’ve been spinning Frank’s 1956 album Songs For Swingin’ Lovers a lot lately, I keep coming back to this track in particular. Something about that understated swing, the cool, gentle lull of the vocal performance… There was nobody cooler than Frank. (Except for Dean, of course.)

I may prefer the albums Frank made with arranger Gordon Jenkins than the ones he made with Nelson Riddle (such as Songs For Swingin’ Lovers) but I’d rank “You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me” among the most-underrated gems in the Sinatra catalogue. My nostalgia may be naive and misguided, but there are moments (such as when I’m listening to this song) when I’d give anything to transport back to the Las Vegas of the late-’50s, and the simpler days of record players as big as freezers, “dames,” “broads,” and men who could wear the hell out of a good hat.

4.) Dean Martin – “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head”


My favourite Dino tune by a large margin.

From Dean’s grinning, scotch-n’-sodafied performance, to the brilliant arrangement (dig the electric guitar and piano at 1:07), there are few songs that make me happier than this one. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun to sing, in the shower or otherwise.

Tell me quick — ooooooohhhhh aiiiiiiiiiin’t love a kick…

(Sidenote: when you have a moment, check out this great/sad Dean Martin story over on Dangerous Minds.)

5.) Margaret Whiting & Johnny Mercer – “Baby It’s Cold Outside”


I’m in Thailand where it is most definitely not cooooold outside. I think this one is in my high rotation this week because there’s a small (emphasis on “small”) part of me that misses the smell of snow in the air, the crackle of ice beneath my feet, and getting to wear scarves, classy winter coats, and leather boots. You can take the boy out of Canada, but…

Written by Frank Loesser in 1944 and covered by a wide selection of artists in the decades since (including a fine recent version by Idina Menzel & Michael Buble), this is my favourite performance of “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” But even more than the performance, it’s just a very fun, flawlessly-written pop tune. Has their been a more clever pop lyric written in the past 70 years? I’m not sure.

If it was released today Mr. Loesser would almost certainly be chastised–unfairly–for certain lines in the song. However, it can’t be denied that Loesser captured something deeply embedded (and often unspoken) in the nature of male-female courtship with this song. She wants to stay, he wants her to stay, he knows she wants to stay, yet still, she has to go through the dance of pretending she should leave. (“But baby, it’s cold outside…”) I love it.