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The Cannabist’s SmokeSongs: A New Leaf

As the first month of 2018 drops into history like the big, glittering ball it rolled in on, optimists may be able to reason that January shaped up to be … decent. We averted nuclear disaster, right? And it’s finally ok to say, “shithole.”

Then again, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions started the new year by throwing a monkey wrench into the legal weed industry, and we already lost Doloros O’Riordan, lead singer of The Cranberries, and “Fast” Eddie Clarke, guitarist of Motörhead.

Oh, yeah, and your resolutions are muffed too, right? Who cares, there’s still time to make a change.

With stench of 2017 lingering, let’s turn over a new leaf and perfume the new year as we puff our way forward and backward in time with our latest lineup of SmokeSongs.

Not enough precious moments for all these LPs? Check out The Cannabist’s SmokeSongs January playlist featuring strong rips from each featured record.

The Times They Are a-Changing,” Bob Dylan

For anyone who has thought of music being stuck in one period, there’s Bob Dylan, whose songs are actually timeless. January 13 marked the 53rd anniversary of his seminal album, “The Times They Are a-Changing.” When the LP turns, say, 55, or even 100 years old, will anything have actually changed for the better? After all, the 1964 release may resonate even more now than it did then (during what’s considered one of the most tumultuous periods of American history). When Dylan tells a tale of racially motivated murder in “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” it brings to mind Black Lives Matter, Charlottesville and a litany of trending hashtags regarding hate, prejudice and violence against minorities. When Dylan declares the times are, in fact, a-changing in the title track, he paints a picture of momentous upheaval, in which America is still embroiled. So, put on your headphones, spark a joint and picture this: One day, soon and far off, someone will listen to this record and still understand the power of its poetry. And maybe they’ll be living in a time that embraces its messages.

Back in Time,” Judith Hill

The time machine is a fun plot device to consider, until the mechanics of ripping through the space-time continuum explodes your brain. While we can’t escape this year, a cure for nostalgia, hindsight and regret would make 2018 look a lot brighter. Turn up Judith Hill’s “Back in Time,” which touches on all these feelings while paying homage to her soulful inspirations. Hill’s mother is a classical pianist, her father is a funk bass player and Prince produced this 15-track debut just before he died. With his magic touch, Hill’s witchy delivery on songs like “As Trains Go By” and “Turn Up” recalls George Clinton’s Funkadelic and early 1970s Stevie Wonder. Check out the behind the scenes footage of her at Prince’s legendary Paisley Park studio and then listen to the album in full. With her strong pop vocals and amazing hooks, Hill shows that she doesn’t need to dwell in the past anymore, she’s the future. Get lit and be hopeful that 2018 will bring more goodness from Ms. Hill.

The Next Day,” David Bowie

For all his calm charisma and sarcastic glee, David Bowie had some dark thoughts in his old age. In March 2013, the pop icon released his penultimate effort, “The Next Day.” Although it was was written some three years before Bowie’s final masterpiece, “Blackstar” (which dropped Jan. 8, 2016, two days before he died at age 69 of liver cancer), the record is just as brooding as that amazing farewell. It’s a stark preamble worth revisiting. To that end, both albums were produced by Tony Visconti and recorded at The Magic Shop, New York City’s famous (now-defunct) studio. While “Blackstar” was informed by the avant-garde jazz stylings of Donny McCaslin (a sax player Bowie hired after he saw him play in a bar), “The Next Day” is glossed in the dissonant rock, twitchy grooves and frenetic release for which Bowie is adored. So, take a hit, and let’s dance 2018 better.

The Golden Age of Apocalypse,” Thundercat

“Open your mind, daylight,” Thundercat (real name Stephen Bruner) croons on “Daylight,” the opening track of his sensuous, adventurous, 2011 debut, “The Golden Age of Apocalypse.” That title is more of a comment on Bruner’s crappy dating life, as heard in several quirky love songs on the record (the only tunes that aren’t fluid, instrumental funk jams). Still, we could all take Bruner’s advice in 2018. Is this year the beginning of the end? Maybe we should open our minds to anything other than division and destruction? Well, as compassion slowly slips away from humanity, just like our ability to navigate via the stars or hunt mammoths, let Bruner’s virtuosic bass riffs and a bong rip or three guide you to the right headspace for thinking on where we all might end up.

Something Else,” The Cranberries

The Cranberries’ “Something Else” is a wonderful toast to old and new. It’s basically a greatest hits compilation, except the most well-known tracks have been reworked into thoughtful acoustic renditions, complete with rousing string arrangements by the Irish Chamber Orchestra. “Linger,” for instance, is more intimate and vulnerable than the original 1993 version 14-year-old you loved. Given that The Cranberries’ singer Dolores O’Riordan died unexpectedly on January 15, it’s easy to get choked up while listening. In her 46 years, O’Riordan went from being one of nine children growing up in a rural Ballybricken, County Limerick, Ireland, to the leader of one of the most popular alt-rock bands of the 1990s. Her lilting voice, wild spirit and pixie haircut defined an era. Going deeper, O’Riordan demonstrated great strength: She was courageous enough to discuss publicly sexual abuse she suffered as a child, her 2012 suicide attempt and her struggles with anorexia and bipolar disorder. Make sure to burn one down for Dolores. She deserves it.


The Cannabist’s New Leaf Playlist