While it may be difficult to conjure up words of comfort during these uncertain times, music can graciously fill this void. It is a language spoken in universal emotions, and its unique ability to heal seems limitless. In that spirit, Modern In Denver is launching the HOMEBODY Series, which features playlists curated for specific rooms in your home.
For our second week, we move into the kitchen with another set of jams— pun intended— curated by DJ Big Styles. Kitchens are unique in that their stated purpose is utility. Your kitchen’s main job is to provide sustenance. In practice however, their purpose is anything from study hall, to studio, to boardroom or bar. We are encouraged to be inspired when it comes to other common areas in our homes, but what of the kitchen? Your kitchen deserves more than rushed cups of coffee, and exasperated glances into the refrigerator. This playlist is all about injecting mindful energy into one of our most important living spaces. Kitchen’s shouldn’t be synonymous with chores, they should remind us of parties. After all, any great house party always ends up in the kitchen. These selections are designed to elevate the mundane and encourage improvisation in one of our more predictable rooms.
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James Murphy, the leader of LCD Soundsystem wants to be Gwyneth Paltrow so bad. Sure, he loves rocking your bluetooth speakers, but he really wants to be in your kitchen. Murphy has created his own blend of espresso in collaboration with NYC’s Blue Bottle Coffee. (https://bluebottlecoffee.com/releases/house-of-good ) He also opened a wine bar and restaurant called The Four Horsemen. He has spoken at length about curating luxury goods, wines and coffee. The percolating tug of LCD Soundsystem’s signature song should provide him ample street cred with the Goop set. Synth sounds are matched perfectly with dirty drums, and Murphy’s own distressed vocals. It’s a perfect way to start your day, with or without the boutique cup of espresso, or vagina candle.
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The NYC band Suicide kind of predates everything. They are the BCE of modern Rock, though Suicide’s sound can’t be categorized. “Dream Baby Dream” would sound like “inside baseball” music, if it weren’t so ethereal and welcoming. It appears as jaunty percussion and dares you to dismiss it as messy rambling pop until it takes you over. No wonder it has been covered by Bruce Springsteen and Arcade Fire. It’s at home on a dance floor, or an indie film soundtrack or just loud enough to drown out the sound of you meal prepping for the week. It is neither a song of hope nor despair, it simply is and that sometimes is enough for the daily grind of kitchen work.
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Why should chopping onions be a chore? Cooking should be all about taking joy in the sometimes mundane act of feeding ourselves and our loved ones. Simple duties can create spaces for spirited exchange. The kitchen is often where we can cut to the chase. Food prep crates space for frank conversations, blunt opinions and open minds. Kitchens are lively common areas and Tove Lo’s ode to altered states encourages our best intentions with a naughty premise.
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The French are undisputed masters of modern cuisine, but the jury is still out on their music. The French seem to easily grasp the utility of kitchens but struggle with the impractical nature of the groove. Much like how kitchens have morphed into so much more over time than places where we cook, the French have started to figure out this whole music thing. Daft Punk are as well known as Le Cordon Bleu as ambassadors of French culture. Their 2013 Album of the Year is full of impractical jams that shouldn’t work but absolutely do. “Give Life Back to Music” is like a cup of clarified butter: impractical and groovy!
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The abundance of 90s rap music blaring out of every professional kitchen (and sometimes in the dining rooms) of some of Denver’s finest restaurants can make even the most adventurous culinary experience feel like a basic “Bro-down.” Why not spend your time at home sweating vegetables to the silky sounds of the woman often referred to as the spiritual successor to Sade? “Spotlight,” Jessie’s newest song sounds like someone handed Jane Austen a drum machine, a Barry White album, and a glass of champagne. Its retro groove interprets austerity as adherence to four on the floor. Ware’s vocal is a typically English approach to the funk that nonetheless feels fully realized, and lush.
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Perth, Australia’s indie electro synth duo Kito and Reija immediately became international underground favorites after hitting the music scene in 2011. They have been sampled and embraced by the likes of DIplo, Mad Decent and Trinidad James. The two friends are obsessed with Thai food, and “Sweet Talk” is redolent with the flavor profile that has made so many Thai dishes famous. Reija’s sweet melodies blend with unexpected hits of spicy electro sounds provided by Kito.
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So much about our time in the kitchen is about prepping, and at times good old improvisation. Jazz music is the purest musical embodiment of preparation meeting improvisation to create inspiration. “Hot Music” by SOHO is and underground classic built off of a :10 second piano improv in Wynton Marsalis’ song “Skain’s Domain.” NYC Record store clerk Joseph Longo who with the blessings of legendary DJ/Producer Larry Levan would become Pal Joey aka SOHO blends Marsalis with House music’s Marshall Jefferson and Aretha Franklin to create the type of seminal groove that injects inspiration into any affair.
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New Orleans, Louisiana and Havana, Cuba share an equally shameful and rich cultural history. Both cities were hubs during the North Atlantic Slave Trade, and both cities are home to world famous cuisine, and music. Latin or Afro-Cuban jazz seems like less of an improbability when one considers that the trade route from New Orleans to Havana dates back to chattel slavery. Ships ferried slaves from island to mainland, and in those terrible conditions a cultural exchange was created that bridged any language or distance barrier. As time moved on the exchange continued, jazz came to Cuba, and the rhythms of Latin music came to New Orleans. Cuban singer Daymé Arocena bears all the gifts of the best of American Jazz, and Cuban music. “Para El Amor: Cantar!” (“For love, Sing!” in English) could be a simple torch song but in her hands it feels like a mantra, an exhalation. “For a little serenity/I will tango with another/I will drink the salt from my tears/Today with a knowing smile/and a song as my reply/for love: sing!” The legacy of two rich cultures.
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American cooking is incredible in its ability to absorb other cuisines. Our melting pot atmosphere tends to homogenize ethnic cuisine and reduce the things that made these dishes so special. Chef David Chang has controversially argued that homogenization is not necessarily a bad thing. Taco Bell is not Mexican food, it’s a homogenized version of those ingredients made uniquely “American.” The Specials are another proof of this concept. Formed in the U.K. in the late 70s, their music is the result of Jamaican immigrants bringing the sound of ska to England. In their hands ska becomes something else. Their revival of the little known Ska sound rightly brought attention to an influential group of musicians.
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One of the most enduring ideas from the Laura Esquivel’s book “Like Water for Chocolate” is the notion of imbuing the food we prepare with our energy be that love, lust or sorrow. Kitchens are not only where we eat to live, we transmit our aspirations and our mood though the dishes we prepare. Toots and The Maytals were already famous when they took a moment to encourage mindfulness with their song “Pressure Drop.” More than just an easy skanking classic, “Pressure Drop” is a cautionary tale of karmic consequences. Do the right thing, in all the things you do, and if not; the pressure is gonna drop on you!
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If all great parties end up in the kitchen, then surely this is the perfect song to end this playlist. A forgotten classic of the 80s, with an unmatched “finale vibe.” Saxophones, acoustic guitars and textbook 80s wails create the denouement that your grandmother’s recipe, meal prep, or dinner deserves.