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THE RIGHT TRACK: A peek inside the playlists of Phoenix’s most influential people | Jason P. Woodbury


Jason P. Woodbury is a musician, writer and podcast host living and working in Phoenix. He handles social media for independent record store chain Zia Records and has written about music and pop culture for publications like Pitchfork, Phoenix New Times, Relix, Comic Book Resources and Aquarium Drunkard. You can also catch him DJing around town or playing guitar in his band, Counsel Bluffs. Read on to get his take on the best music to put you in a meditative state and why no one should feel ashamed about singing along to Sarah McLachlan.


“You might get an entirely different five from me if you ask me next week, but here are five songs that mean a lot to me.”

“Coney Island Baby,” Lou Reed
“When I was in high school, my civics teacher Mr. Dobbins got word I was beginning to collect vinyl. One day, I show up for class and he took me out to his car and his trunk was loaded with albums by Neil Young, Pink Floyd, Bowie and Lou Reed for me to borrow. Neil Young’s ‘Cortez the Killer’ hit me hardest, but Mr. Dobbins insisted I keep Lou Reed’s Coney Island Baby when I returned the haul. I didn’t get it at the time, but all these years later I think I do. It’s heartbreaking and funny doo-wop laced sidewise Americana. Thanks, Mr. Dobbins. You were right about this and a lot of other things, too.”

“Nuclear War,” Sun Ra
“I first heard this via Yo La Tengo’s cover. I love the contrast. In a catalog full of wild stuff, Sun Ra’s song about an impending apocalypse is gentle and soulful. And it’s funny! ‘What you gonna do without your ass?’ kept bouncing around my brain in January when the president was tweeting about how much ‘bigger’ his nuclear button is than Kim Jong-un’s.”

“Hejira,” Joni Mitchell
“YouTube comment sections are mostly hellscapes, but someone named StonyRC left a note on this perfect song that feels as mysterious and evocative as the song itself: ‘I always have to be careful listening to Joni – it’s too easy to spiral into melancholy and think of earlier years. But the music is so beautiful.’ Stony gets it.”

“Promises Kept,” Sonny Sharrock
“When I was in my early 20s, I worked at the dearly missed Zia location on University in Tempe and I’d spend all my available money on records there, and sometimes spend my lunch money on even more records over at Eastside Records off Ash. (Occasionally, I’d grab a slice from Otto’s as well if I was living large). Anyway, Michael at Eastside sold me a record by guitarist Sonny Sharrock and it rang me out pretty good. He also clued me in on all the Herbie Mann records that Sharrock plays wild, feverish stuff on too, which could be easily found in the dollar bin. I didn’t find Ask the Ages until much later, but that laid the foundation for my ‘getting it.’”

“Listen to the Lion,” Van Morrison
“Long before I got into drone, meditation music or raga, Van introduced me to the idea of music as an incantatory tool. I first heard it living in a house with a bunch of dudes behind an abandoned doctor’s office in Coolidge, Arizona and I’d get through all 11-plus minutes of it and start it over again.”


“Obviously there are some really cool things about streaming, but nothing beats listening to music on tape, CD or vinyl. I love an active experience. Algorithms often dictate what we hear and when we hear it, so it remains important to keep the experience of music from becoming a completely passive one.”


“Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians because I’ve been listening to it for more than a decade and I hear new things in it each time I put it on.”


“William Tyler, and if he’s too busy we can just use his record Modern Country.”


“Why Not Patterns? (For Jeff Parker),” from Boxhead Ensemble’s Electric Guitar album. It’s the kind of music I hear in my head when it’s clear enough.”


“Sweet Surrender” by Sarah McLachlan. I don’t feel any guilt about liking it, as it’s a brilliant song by an amazing songwriter, but I do feel guilty that masculine projection BS sometimes keeps me from proclaiming stuff I love as loudly as I should.”


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