Listen In: Fort Lean Made You A Playlist

July 10, 2015 | Liam Mathews

“Listen In” is a feature in which we ask musicians to curate a mixtape-length playlist of songs they’re currently digging. Click the big play button above to hear the whole playlist or scroll down to see and hear individual tracks.

Brooklyn indie-pop crew Fort Lean makes hooky songs that are as slick as they are soulful, which is not an easy feat. Check their video for “New Hobbies” for what they do on the rock end of the spectrum (they’re just as comfortable doing atmospheric, shoegazey ballads). Their album Quiet Day is out 10/2 from Ooh La La Records. In the meantime, stream their singles and/or catch them on tour.

Blind Willie McTell- “Dying Crapshooter’s Blues”

“This song is extra good, because it’s proceeded by a succinct, sincere, and profoundly moving explanation of how and why he wrote the song. I won’t ruin the story, but it’s way better than anything I’ve ever told someone in an interview about why I wrote a song. It’s from a recording of 20-something songs he did in a two hour session in a hotel room in Atlanta with John Lomax (which the Library of Congress funded, with a payment in full of $10).”

Queen – “I’m In Love With My Car”

“I love this song, because it’s like the song equivalent of that gross artist that paints pictures with his penis.”

Squeeze – “Take Me I’m Yours”

“This song feels like a real fun time to me. It’s a little goofy, it’s a little romantic, it’s a little sad. But mostly it’s just cool. I often think that Hot Chip based their entire sound around this one song…”

Guided By Voices – “Motor Away”

“These guys really just don’t give a FUCK. They write amazing pop songs sometimes, they write unintelligible garbled punk songs sometimes, and no matter what they just don’t give one fuck. It’s pretty admirable. And this song is one of my favorites, a minimal and straight to the point power pop killer.”

Durutti Column – “Sketch For Summer”

“I used to listen to The Return of the Durutti Column all the time in high school to release tension but forgot all about the record until I heard this song come on in a bar recently. Vini Reilly is like an industrial Nick Drake. He has this mesmerizing lyrical guitar style that feels almost pastoral except he’s from Manchester so everything is over machine beats and soaked in bleak chorus-y reverb. “Sketch For Summer” is the first song on his first album, which was like the second or third LP released on Factory Records. I put it on while we were really stoned and Zach literally got sucked into the speaker.”

Soulja Boy – “Pretty Boy Swag”

“I think Soulja Boy is underrated. He was doing staccato flow over slow minimal beats before that became a ubiquitous style in trap music. I know he gets branded as a bubblegum rapper because of “Crank That” (also a great song) but look back at his catalogue, he’s more than just the guy who made the Superman dance.”

Big Star – “Big Black Car”

“This song is a real downer, but so good. The whole thing glides peacefully along inside Alex Chilton’s car where ‘nothing can go wrong,’ even though it sounds like everything’s pretty much hopeless already. Chilton apparently had a mental breakdown during the making of this record, which is pretty obvious listening to this track, but what’s also clear is that he was an extremely good songwriter.”

Pulp – “Razzamatazz”

“‘Am I talking too fast, or are you just playing dumb? If you want I can write it down.’ Jarvis Cocker at his most patronizing! I don’t really know if Jarvis was a true asshole or not, but he sure seems like one listening to him diss an ex-girlfriend whose life has spiraled into a pathetic mess. Definitely not cool, but I still love this song, and the video is hilariously early ’90s with tons of neon and everyone wearing shiny clothes.”

Yellow Magic Orchestra – “Wild Ambitions”

“I love this song, it’s an ambitious, freewheeling party about going to a great place and not giving an F. These guys had the looks, they had the moves, and they could play their asses off. Holy crap! Such a good groove. And the video is wonderful. Just look at these guys – only Japanese businessmen could make piano counterpoint so unbelievably, fascinatingly cool.”

Brian Eno – “By This River”

“This song made me cry the first time I heard it. It is so beautiful and also SO creepy. Is Brian talking to his lover? A ghost? Or a cat that he is about to drown? In all seriousness, the lyrics are really wonderful, and the production is, as always, flawless. A really good exercise in powerful subtlety.”