PLAYING DETROIT: WAT’ER YOU THINKING?! A Playlist for Flint

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If you’ve seen the cover of this month’s TIME Magazine or have recently tuned into any national media outlet, you know that Detroit’s sister city, Flint, is in crisis. Due to corrupt government, dangerous mismanagement, and incompetence, thousands of Flint residences have been poisoned by lead through the water system.

Long story short, Flint was getting its water from Detroit until 2011 when Gov. Rick Snyder, due to economic disparity, decided that Flint would begin receiving water from the Flint river, despite the water’s highly corrosive makeup and the cities aging, weathered pipeline. The water itself is not poisoned with lead, but is so corrosive that it is stripping the lead pipes. Last fall, auto manufacturers refused the usage of Flint water as it was corroding the auto parts, yet it continued to pump into every household, poisoning an entire city. Despite the President issuing a state of emergency and the allocation of 80 million dollars in FEMA relief funds to assist Flint in its recovery, the damage is irreversible.

I know what you’re thinking. What does this have to do with music? Well, nothing, really. Other than the fact that I feel that I bear the shared responsibility of social consciousness as an artist and fellow human taking up space on this floating ball in space. I couldn’t help but search for some convoluted way to draw attention to this issue, while also finding personal solace through the only outlet that I knew. I’ve curated a playlist of “water songs” by Michigan artists with the hope of a healthy resolve for the millions of people around the world who do not have access to safe drinking water, which now include the thousands of children and families of Flint, Michigan. Let these tracks wash over you and extinguish any unwanted fires.

  1. BLKSHK: “Arm Floaties (Night Swim)”
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    Eddie Logix and Blair French are BLKSHRK. Released last year, Jellyfish on Cassette is an ocean of temperamental pulsations. The project fuses programmed sampled, live takes and improvisation all of which swell. “Arm Floaties (Night Swim)” gives gives the aural allusion of treading deep water.

  2. 800beloved: “Tidal (Alternate Version)”
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    This alternate take of “Tidal” from 800beloved‘s dreamy sophomore record, Everything Purple, is a trembling and sedated beachside lullaby. Lynch’s breathy vocals paired with the distant and upbeat pop distortions forms the sensation of having a sun stained memory you wish you could return to.

  3. Jamaican Queens: “Water”
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    A standout track off of their 2013 album Wormfood, “Water” is drowsy and pleasantly complacent, much like falling asleep in a filled-to-the-rim bathtub. It’s a smug track about the things we normally don’t have the guts to confess about the disinterest in meaningful love and sex. It’s the type of song that demands hydration; a sonic hangover.

  4. JRJR: “Dark Water”
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    Before they dropped the Nascar kitsch, JRJR released Patterns. “Dark Water” is reminiscent of The Shins with hints of Jon Brion, making it both sugary and brooding. The Beach Boys-esque harmonizing and piano crescendo mask the heaviness of the repeated imagery of drowning which makes this bubbly pop track ironic and bittersweet.

  5. Gosh Pith: “Waves”
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    One of my favorite Detroit duos, Gosh Pith, channel a sleepy Animal Collective/Vampire Weekend vibe with a track off their 2015 EP, Window. “Waves” challenges the listener to let go, internalizing the symbolic properties of water via a gentle, lapping synth pop track.

  6. The Gories: “Goin’ To The River”
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    The Gories formed back in 1986 and were fearless in welding 60’s garage rock with hyper rhythm blues. “Goin’ To The River” from I Know You Fine, but How You Doin’ released in 1990, is defiant and demands rowdiness. This track by The Gories is a perfect example of their lasting and often overlooked influence.

  7. Iggy Pop: “Endless Sea”
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    What I consider to be the most under appreciated album in Iggy Pop’s catalogue and one of the most important contributions to post-punk, New Values is full of songs as jutting as this one. “Endless Sea” is particularly provocative. The synth breakdown along with seductive, temperate vocals are the perfect pairing for giving the drugged sensation of literal endlessness.

  8. The Dead Weather: “Will There Be Enough Water”[/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]

    The Dead Weather may be my favorite collaboration from the diverse repertoire of Detroit’s golden child, Jack White. White along with Alison Mosshart (of The Kills) make for a sexually hypnotic rock experience. “Will There Be Enough Water” is a smokey, blues infused anti-apology that is as thirsty as it is satiated.

  9. Fred Thomas: “Waterfall”
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    The folkiest track on the playlist, “Waterfall” off of Fred Thomas’ Kuma is moody and textured like a messier, sleep deprived Elvis Perkins. The song begs “Come on everyone/it’s time to go see the waterfall” an uplifting chorus partnered with moaning string arrangements keeps “Waterfall” in the heartache category.

  10. Valley Hush: “Black Sea”
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    This track off of Don’t Wait by experimental pop duo Valley Hush could easily be a secret video game level trudging through sparkling, underwater sludge where Lana Del Rey meets St. Vincent. It’s more sensational than literal, but the ominous gurgling noise is animatedly visual.

If you would like to learn how you can help the residents of Flint, Michigan, click here

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