Finding the appropriate transition, between two songs, is the watermark of a great playlist. A twangy, viscid 2005 Clap Your Hands Say Yeah song may not work next to the shrill baying of a Sunset Rubdown track — even if the two cuts are independently wonderful. But talking about music like that is social seppuku. Dudes, you have to stop filibustering about albums. Oblivious monologues about Father John Misty make everyone want to swandive into hot springs. There’s a distinct possibility that Brian and Rachel don’t want to hear about the lyrical puissance of Bright Eyes’ Digital Ash in a Digital Urn at their baby shower. Scruffy dudes in their 40s and 50s smack into this mossy wall most often. Eager to share a lost Townes Van Zandt song or, God help me, Brian Eno’s Music for Airports, elder guys are always ready to overshare some unheralded classic. Millennials are less obtrusive, but it’s only because they realize their peers all have access to the same materials (songs, albums, commentaries are readily available — you don’t have to be DJ Shadow shuffling through a damp record store when you have a resilient WiFi connection). Most sentient people in my age group — 24 to 35 — aren’t necessarily braggarts when it comes to music, and so we can make playlists with affectionate abandon and unpretentious enthusiasm. We aren’t trailblazers, we’re merely settlers. Millennials are happy to tend to a fire without fanning it. We know about Daniel Johnston but we’re not going to roll our eyes into a corner pocket if you do not. Comforting, right? Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but those kids get booted to Elba pretty quickly.
So how do you share music without being an alpha-bro or a reminiscing dad in a Tommy Bahama shirt? Bring up songs with fondness, curiosity, and humor. Always ask questions. Are you into the deliberate discord of Panda Bear or the sanguine melodies of Lady Gaga? Cool, let’s talk about it. Don’t be an asshole. Everyone likes different bands and artists, and it isn’t an indictment against their personality. Whatever you do, please don’t be the guy mansplaining the merits of an aughts Kasabian record. It’s cool to like a band, but you don’t need to cradle their vinyl in your hands as if you’re giving a lecture at a museum of photographic arts. Stop making paper airplanes out of your hubris and throwing them at people. Here’s another thing: Women can be in bands without you making snide, acrimonious, or flat-out creepy comments about women being in bands. They are, y’know, people — complete with functioning immune systems, brains, and vocabularies. Saying “hot hot hot” or “is this a marketing scheme?” makes you a terrible, awful person. I don’t know what else to say.
Basically, remember these things: ask questions, listen, be sincere, speak without agenda, and, most important of all, BE A GOOD PERSON. Dudes, you have to sheath your arrogance. Please. You’re not doing a commentary track for a Criterion documentary about Otis Redding. Calm down. Try these human methods out and get back to me on how your next music-related conversation goes. Good luck.