My Musical Use Cases

My recommendations are mostly instrumental because I find vocals often interrupt my train of thought. Every now and then, though, there are words that act as spells in a way, and they help me to focus my mind on the task at hand.

So, my list:

For the Attack:

“Tune Down” by Chris Joss… this is a slow, methodical piece that I first saw on “Better Call Saul” as Mike Ehrmentraut set up surveillance of a target house. This is the kind of music that goes with cracking safes, passing information with sleight of hand, and other devious things. Chris Joss’ catalog has lots of songs in this category that really help me cook up plots and plans. In the same vein, I’d also recommend…

“Danger Musicians at Work” by Syd Dale… it sounds like an action theme from the 60s because it IS an action theme from the 60s! Syd Dale was one of a few composers who worked with the BBC to create stock programme music. You can find his work in compilations, along with other gems that make you sound like a cool spy or cunning criminal. Now, if you want something heavy, might I recommend…

“King of the Road” by Fu Manchu… the lead track from their Hell on Wheels album. It has a great beat, drives forward like a massive engine with very little soloing to distract you from its ultimate delivery. Stoner/desert rock is great in this regard, as it lets a body think as the music plays.

For the Defense:

“Hang Up Your Hang Ups” by Herbie Hancock… this is music for street cops in NYC in 1975. It’s music for tracking down and catching up with hustlers, jive turkeys, and crooks in general. You want the big funky horns to keep up your spirits and the driving guitar and percussion to keep you methodical and meticulous. You’re looking for clues, so you need the right tunes to get your head in the right space. Which reminds me of…

“Strong Arm of the Law” by Saxon… for the headbangers out there. You know you want to shout out to the red team, “STOP! GET OUT! We are the strong arm of the laaaaaaaaaw!” Yeah, bust those punks! Now, if you don’t want to go metal, there’s always…

“Relevee” by Delia Rodriguez and Gavin Russom… Very electronic, very trance, very good for moving through the matrix and busting Mr. Anderson. I swear, this song gives me the ability to connect to the network through my keyboard and I get gigabit speeds to my mind…

For Vendor-Induced Rage:

“Policia” by Sepultura… nothing like Brazilian punk-metal for getting your voice up, ready to tear into the salesweasel that sold you a product that is failing miserably as it falls far short of its marketing-fueled hype. Sepultura’s “Crucificados Pelo Sistema” is another great growler of a tune. Now, if you prefer something more industrial, might I show you to…

“Attak Reload” by KMFDM… yeah, this one’s angry… opens with “We’re gonna make you sorry / For every word you say” and goes from there. You may have to work with that vendor’s product, but it doesn’t mean you have to *like* it. If you need something softer than the above two, perhaps you might try…

“Chale Chalo” by AR Rahman, from the Lagaan soundtrack… this one is about channeling anger into victory. If you’ve ever seen Lagaan, you know exactly what I’m talking about. And if you haven’t seen Lagaan, you should. On the surface, it’s about a British officer that is trying to triple the tax on an Indian village, but it’s really about trying to cancel a contract with a vendor or risk having to break the budget on a professional services contract. Seriously, watch it that way if you can’t get into it with the standard plot.

For Building Systems:

“Master of the Universe” by Hawkwind… get the live version from the Space Ritual album and spin it on constant repeat. Like stoner/desert rock, Hawkwind’s pioneering space rock epic drives the mind forward with the music creating a space where the brain can work magic in summoning up demons to bend to your will. I find this music particularly helpful when creating and troubleshooting VPN issues, along with PKI work. If Lemmy’s bass playing isn’t your thing, then let’s listen to…

Goa Trance (multiple artists, tracks come and go, can’t recommend one track in particular)… Sparse instrumentation, constant beats, phased transitions, this is the dark chocolate of electronic music, and it’s stayed true to its core competency since it first emerged about 20 years ago. It’s also great stuff for taking on mountain roads, just sayin’. But if you want something analogue, there’s…

“Machine Ma Bwindea” by Ekambi Brilliant… You can find this guy along with some other great funk musicians on the Africa Seven page at Bandcamp. If you like this one, be sure to also check out Tala AM and Sookie, two other great African bands. This one’s a lyrical piece, but because I don’t speak a word of Congolese, they don’t distract me. And that chorus is just so fun to sing along with!

For that Plane Trip:

“Gimme a Sign” by Nigel Hall… heck, get the whole album and treat yourself to an authentic musician who knows how to interpret a song, whether or not he wrote it. You want something that has a good beat to it, so you can follow along in case you’re like me and can’t wear headphones for long periods of time and those plane noises get into the mix. If you don’t want funk, then there’s always…

“Jet Airliner” by Steve Miller… a good, familiar song is great on a plane because the mind already knows where to fill in the notes and tones that get blocked by plane sounds. And, hey, this one’s topical! I like it because it’s a song about being on the road and enduring those times when we can’t be exactly where we want to be. But if you want to be more adventurous than classic rock, how about…

“Kerosene Dreams” by Drive by Wire… my hat goes off to this Dutch foursome with a great female vocalist. It’s a band in the stoner/desert vein of music, so it also does well for other tasks. But if you think the bands these days can’t rock like they used to, then you need to head to Bandcamp and check out bands like Drive by Wire and their fellows. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

When You Have to Write Reports or Documentation:

I like to every now and then start off with a random prison work song. In the Southern USA, prisoners were segregated by race and then made to go work at clearing land, breaking up rocks for a road, or other intensive manual labor. The black work groups would make up songs to work to. In the songs, they could vary the speed so as to help out workers that were having trouble keeping up with the initial pace of the song. Look a few up on YouTube and find your favorite for that hard task that you just have to do. I suggest “Hammer Ring” or “Grizzly Bear” as good starting points. Now, for the more conventional tunes…

“Deacon Blues” by Steely Dan… this band always helps my writing flow. I can put on just about any of their albums and get into a writing mood, but Aja and Gaucho do the best job. Writing is a contemplative thing for me, so I need something not so hard or intense as what I may have suggested previously. Which brings me to…

“Spaceman” by Journey… before Steve Perry was brought in, Journey was a great rock band that delivered some beautiful instrumental-heavy tunes on their first three albums. This one is from their third album, Next. If you think they sold out on Escape, you should go back to the albums without Perry for a much less commercial set of truly deep cuts. If you want an even deeper cut, then there’s…

“Joy” by John McLaughlin and Shakti… it’s a fast instrumental with John McLaughlin doing some amazing acoustic guitar work. You’ll have to listen to all 18:12 of it, but it’s an incredible piece that is well off the beaten path, musically speaking.

When You Have to Build a Slide Deck:

“Lost Highway” by Wo Fat… some heavy blues-metal from my home town of Dallas. While I have to think to do documentation, I have to argue with my “productivity suite” when I build a presentation deck. Friggin’ text boxes! Yeah, I need something that shouts and growls along with me as I suffer through marketing-mandated branded color schemes, and this tune is one of the best for it. The whole album is great, in case I slip and just let things keep playing. Speaking of anger management tunes, I also got…

“Fast Love” by Honeymoon Disease… Swedish bands have a way of always finding a pop sensibility to slip into whatever music they’re doing, and I love what Honeymoon Disease can do with 70s-vintage hard rock. Think Heart meets ABBA for a short visit and then heads over to Motorhead for drinks and that’s this band. Great for me against the machine. I’ll complete my trio of rebellion with…

“Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” by Black Sabbath… the riff at the beginning says it all and I’m ready to tackle the stupid image that pasted into my presentation all wrong.

After Dealing with Another Stupid User Trick:

“Fight the Power (Part 1 & 2)” by The Isley Brothers… the first line is, “Time is truly wasted…” and that’s how I feel after I get off a call where we spent hours going in circles because someone lied, didn’t know what they were doing, or simply refused to reboot the system. I had to turn off security protections “just for troubleshooting” and they didn’t do a damn thing to get that root cause… “Time is truly wasted… you got to fight the powers that be…”

“Volver Volver” by Vicente Fernandez… a song of love, lost love, and a burning desire to return, even though you know it only means pain and loss when you get back to your desire. That’s this mariachi epic, and it’s how I feel as I go back over and over to do the same troubleshooting on the same system that can’t be patched because of crappy production code. I know the Spanish, so it works for me. But if you need something in Russian, there’s…

“Вот и Все Дела! (Now That’s All!)” by Валерий Александрович Кипелов (Valery Kipelov)… a song of love, lost love, and good riddance. The chorus ends with lines that translate, “I’ll go the left, you go to the right, that’s the end of it!” Great guitar solo from Сергей Константинович Маврин (Sergei Mavrin), formerly of Aria. Trust me, it’s worth putting the lyrics into Google Translate and singing along with them. By the end of the song, I’ve finished the documentation to close the case and that’s the end of it!

For Relaxation and General Unwinding:

“Every Picture Tells a Story” by Rod Stewart… a great song for exhaling, and the drum break after the first stanza is priceless. After that, it’s time for…

“Ooh La La” by The Faces… this track features Ron Wood on vocals, and even though they’re rough sounds, they’re perfectly suited to the song. You may have heard it in recent commercials or at the end of the Wes Anderson film, Rushmore. It’s another song for sitting back and closing your eyes for a short while. Then, we have…

“Fire and Water” by Free… so sue me, all the tracks from this section come from early 70s British rock, but they all are my go-tos for letting go. Paul Rogers’ vocal and Paul Kossoff’s guitar work take me away and send me sailing, I like it. But, OK, if you want something different, I’ll stay in the same time period and give you something American…

“Post Toastee” by Tommy Bolin… it’s always the right time for this song. I never, ever skip over it when it comes up on my shuffle. It’s so fun and friendly and comfortable, I don’t want it to end, but I understand as it fades away. So, yes, include this one on the mellow playlist. If you need something from this century and *not* a rock song, then I’ll add in…

“Manbai” by Natacha Atlas… Atlas’ vocals are enrapturing on this very chill, liquid drum ‘n’ bass track, masterfully mixed by Nitin Sawhney from Transglobal Underground. So what if it’s in Arabic? It’s great for relaxing, and you said you wanted something different, didn’t you? 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.