Jeff Gordinier has the enviable job of crisscrossing the globe in search of the best meals and libations as Esquire Magazine’s Food & Drinks editor. Besides being a talented scribe and always curious gustatory explorer, he’s also a dude with a deep knowledge and love for music. We asked Jeff if he could share some of the favorite songs he listens to while on the road and when he’s writing at his desk...and boy, did he deliver!
In his own words:
“Music is important to me and I can't seem to do anything without it. Before I go out on the road for Esquire, I put a weird amount of thought into what I intend to listen to for hours in the car. (In fact I am so weird that I still buy CDs. I don't stream anything—I listen to individual discs. Really.) In the car I prefer albums that are immersive, albums I can get lost in from start to finish, albums that are like movies or novels in that way—Kamasi Washington's Heaven and Earth, Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation, Prince's Sign O' the Times, Cat Power's The Greatest, Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville, Van Morrison's Astral Weeks. I also like to sing, when there are lyrics, and I sing loudly and foolishly when I am alone. The Day of the Dead box, five discs full of performers like Courtney Barnett and Phosphorescent and the National and This is the Kit and Orchestra Baobab covering songs by the Grateful Dead—that's a perfect example of something I can sing along to and swim around in for days and days on the road.
“Over the past summer, in California, I started loving the Grateful Dead for the first time in my life, at 51, because of Day of the Dead. Sometimes I become haunted by a single song, sort of overcome by it, and I find myself playing it over and over obsessively in the car as if I'm trying to absorb it and/or unlock its mysteries. This happened in recent months with "Hammond Song" by the Roches and The National's magnificent version of "Morning Dew" from Day of the Dead, and Meshell Ndegeocello's spectral version of Prince's "Sometimes It Snows in April," which is of course itself haunted by Prince's passing.
“When I'm writing, it's different—I usually want something without words, because deft wordsmiths (whether we're talking about Elvis Costello or A Tribe Called Quest or Father John Misty) tend to interfere with my own pathetic attempts to string words together. So on deadline I'm hunting around for Brian Eno, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Robert Fripp, Roy Ayers, Ben Webster, as well as Oscar Peterson, Thelonious Monk, Keith Jarrett, Glenn Gould, Mitsuko Uchida, Alessio Bax. Vladimir Horowitz, Martha Argerich, Sviatoslav Richter—I'm a piano player so I'm drawn to piano players.”