The Playlist: No Guitars Go

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone

The Playlist is a weekly column where staff writers and occasional guest musicians will have the opportunity to put together a Spotify playlist of songs which they’ve been listening to recently.

There are times when we’ve heard one power chord or one gently strummed acoustic ballad too many, and we feel the need to shed the confines of the guitar and look toward more unconventional instrumentation.  In that spirit, some of the staff here at Beats Per Minute have chosen songs for The Playlist this week which feature no guitars in any capacity.  You’ll find the mournful organs of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone and Daniel Johnston, as well as the electronic glitches of Radiohead–we’re throwing in some Animal Collective and They Might Be Giants because, yeah, they’re amazing tracks as well, and there’s nary a guitar in sight.  Listen to the No Guitars Go Spotify playlist above and read why we chose these particular tracks below.

01. Casiotone for the Painfully Alone – “Roberta C”

“The worlds bummeriest bummer jam of all time features nothing more than Owen Ashworth’s scratchy, conversational baritone, a cheap drum machine, and a synth organ sound. CFTPA’s brilliance was always in doing a lot with a little. This is the electronic music equivalent of a dude sitting around with an acoustic guitar whispering lines about suicide.” ~Colin Joyce

02. Radiohead – “Idioteque”

“Something from Kid A was bound to show up on a no-guitars mix and so we have “Idioteque,” one of the most recognizable tracks from that record.  At the time of its release, Radiohead fans were appalled and fascinated in equal measure.  Where had their beloved OK Computer Radiohead gone and where were the guitars?  With an answer as definitive as it was resounding, the band showed their fans that guitars were not a prerequisite for music that would come to be viewed as quintessentially Radiohead.” ~Joshua Pickard

03. Cat Power – “Colors and the Kids”

“Chan Marshal and a piano.  That’s all there is to “Colors and the Kids” from her much lauded Moon Pix album.  You would think that a 6+ minute track of just Marshall and a beautifully played piano would lose its ability to hold your attention in about half that time but there is a sadness–a mournful acceptance–that drives this track toward some unforeseen destination.  Marshall herself doesn’t seem to know where she’s heading either.  So this mutual sense of discovery allows us an unfettered glimpse of the person behind the moniker.  And far from trying to keep us at a distance, she beckons us onward, hoping that we’ll keep her company for just a little while longer. Stunning.” ~Joshua Pickard

04. Animal Collective – “Daily Routine”

“After guitarist Deakin decided to take time off from the group, Animal Collective would create an a sample-heavy electronic psychedelia album in Merriweather Post Pavilion. This cut off the album fronted by Panda Bear may be the most under-appreciated on it. Perhaps that’s because synth loop is a bit jarring to some but I love it. I dare you to set it on your alarm clock to wake you up and get you started on your daily routine.” ~Evan Kaloudis

05. Black Moth Super Rainbow – “Drippy Eye”

“Combining a love for 60’s psych-pop and an affinity for the gossamer harmonies of bands like The Beach Boys and Van Dyke Parks, Black Moth Super Rainbow gained notoriety with the release of their Dandelion Gum record.  Weaving together technicolor landscapes and psychedelic instrumentation, the band found that perfect balance on “Drippy Eye,” a song so indebted to its psych influences that it could have passed for one of the songs from which is so thoroughly and superbly borrowed.  Listen and be swept away on the rising melody and deceptively simple pop construction.” ~Joshua Pickard

06. Beirut – “Nantes”

“Greatly inspired by the rhythms and traditional composition of Balkan music, Zach Condon incorporates all of these themes, and his own sense of the music (and no guitars obviously), into “Nantes,” a stand-out track from his 2007 record The Flying Club Cup.  Tribal percussion, deeply reverberating brass, and Condon’s own quivering vocals display an impressive ability to condense his influences into something unique and devoid of mimicry.” ~Joshua Pickard

07. Daniel Johnston – “Walking the Cow”

“When I hear the name “Daniel Johnston,” I imagine a 20-something-year-old, wistful and bug-eyed, feverishly hammering at six strings for faceless crowds and home tape recorders. But for me, the chord organ is a magic prism for Johnston’s manic brilliance. While his hands desperately stammer away on “Walking the Cow”, his voice collapses under the weight of his uncertainty. Broken and beautiful, this song makes the day just a little easier to get through.” ~Malcolm Martin

08. Kraftwerk – “The Robots”

“The forefathers of all things electronic, German innovators Kraftwerk were well into their career by the time they released The Man Machine and has fully embraced the mechanized rhythms and structures that they would still be known for to this day.  “Robots,” with its mechanical voice and sputtering beats seems about as good an entry point into the record as you’re likely to find–and it’s a good introduction to the band as a whole.  Seeming to be pulled from some chromatic dystopian future, “Robots” showed Kraftwerk at their most accesdible but still willing to push themselves into new sonic territories.” ~Joshua Pickard

09. They Might Be Giants – “The Day”

“Marvin Gaye ties the knot with Phil Ochs and world peace is achieved in this multi-layered and multi-faceted accordion ballad. Is it about the absurdity of the hippie movement’s dream? Or is it a wacky story that we’re not meant to read into? They Might Be Giants aren’t telling.” ~Harrison Suits Baer

10. The Cure – “The Funeral Party”

“Robert Smith and Co. may not be the first band you think of when discussing bands without guitars but they often as not dropped the atmospheric strums and clanging chords of their guitars to go solely synthtastic.  And their efforts were never so amazing and honestly emotional as on Faith-cut “The Funeral Party.”  Working within the template that they themselves helped to establish, the band swirled waves of synths against the drive of drummer Lol Tolhurst rhythms, with Smith’s vocals seeming to straddle the surging tide as effortlessly as on anything that we’d heard from them before.  It’s absolutely affecting while being  completely conscious of its own importance.  So, yeah…it’s classic Cure.” ~Joshua Pickard

If you enjoy any of these tracks, please support the artists by purchasing their respective albums.