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Bruin Beats: Phi Kappa Tau Vice President Tommy Kessler

The Vision has teamed up with leaders from organizations across campus to bring you Spotify playlists from students and staff.

For this installment, Vice President of Belmont’s Phi Kappa Tau chapter Tommy Kessler shared 10 songs he is listening to right now. Kessler explains his playlist selections below. 

1. “Walk On By” – Isaac Hayes

The production on this song is just so perfect. It’s so intense, so big. I don’t really listen to much Isaac Hayes, but I’ll never forget the first time I heard this song and fell in love immediately. It grooves so well, the strings are so well-utilized, the guitar riffs are so dark for what the song is, and it builds really well at the end without losing any of its intensity. The original album version is like, ten minutes long, but I put the single version since I figured having a song that long at the beginning of my playlist could turn some people off. Also, Beyoncé samples this song on “Six Inch Heels,” so that’s neat.

2. “Springful” – Adult Jazz

It was my first or second week at Belmont, and I had a meeting for a group project that nobody showed up for except for me and one other kid who ended up showing me this band. It’s one of those songs where I have no idea what it’s about, but I’ve projected enough onto it to where it means a lot to me. And I think the production is really interesting. The drums sound very unique, especially at the beginning when they’re so sparse and utilizing such unconventional sounds, and it’s cool how they use that weird, percussive, reverse-d something-or-other throughout the track. And I love the guitar work on this song. It switches from pretty to percussive pretty seamlessly, and his tone is great in both modes.

3. “Here In Spirit” – Jim James

I think a lot of people slept on this album last year. Both of Jim James’ solo releases have been stellar. This is the one I kept coming back to on the new album though. I can’t help but dance to it which is strange considering it isn’t a “dance-y” song by any means, but it’s so rhythmically satisfying; the instrumentation feels amazing. And the line “If you don’t speak out, we can’t hear it” has resonated with me lately. It’s stuck in my head. And I’m a sucker for a good Rhodes.

4. “Generation Landslide” – Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper’s early work is some of the most criminally-underrated music in the rock canon. My dad and I saw him in concert when I was in fifth grade after my uncle gave me a CD of his greatest hits. I fell in love with him pretty quickly, and though I didn’t really get back into him until a year or two ago, I listen to him all the time now. Especially Billion Dollar Babies; I don’t think there’s a bad song on it. “Generation Landslide” just seemed the most urgent to me for some reason. And Glen Buxton’s guitar playing is great on it.

5. “Song For Bob Dylan” – David Bowie

For context: David Bowie is probably my favorite musician of all-time, and I think that this song is one of the most underrated in his catalogue. For starters, I love how it parodies one of Dylan’s songs, “Song to Woody,” while also paying tribute to him. And I always like reminding people to listen to Bowie’s Hunky Dory album. “Changes,” “Life on Mars?,” “Andy Warhol,” and “Queen Bitch” are all incredible too.

6. “Hear Me Lord” – George Harrison

I think this song is gorgeous, and I think George Harrison’s This Too Shall Pass should be required listening for anybody wanting to be a producer. I don’t always feel the Phil Spector “wall of sound” sort of production, but I think this song (along with a few other on the album) is one of the best examples of it working well. It just sounds so massive, dramatic and intense, which is really interesting considering the kind of guy Harrison is painted as being. It’s also a very vulnerable song; the whole album is full of vulnerable songs. I have so much respect for Harrison as a songwriter for that reason, that and the fact that there’s no specific religious connotation to most of his work. He’s appealing to a broader spirituality which I think enters him into a very interesting religious dialogue considering there are so many ways you could take his songs. It’s more universally human in that way.

7. “Simple Twist of Fate” – Bob Dylan

The only reason I first listened to this album was because Quentin Tarantino said it was his favorite of all-time, and it slowly became my favorite Dylan album. I like this song a lot because the instrumentation harkens back to Dylan’s earlier stuff while still showcasing how he grew as a songwriter into the 70s.

8. “Total Entertainment Forever” – Father John Misty

Pure Comedy was dope. I didn’t really have another reason for putting this song in the playlist.

9. “Sky Blue Sky” – Wilco

I saw Wilco at Loufest a couple years back, and it was one of the most fun live experiences I’ve ever been a part of. Nels Cline is one of the most overlooked living guitarists, and Jeff Tweedy is a masterful songwriter. Sky Blue Sky is not only my favorite Wilco album, but one of my favorite albums of all-time. And although “Impossible Germany” is my favorite song off of the album, I’ve been listening to “Sky Blue Sky” a lot lately. The chorus has been haunting me. There’s something so heartbreaking about the lines “I didn’t die/ I should be satisfied/ I survived/ That’s good enough for now.”

10. “Eleanor Rigby” – Rare Earth

In my mind, this is the best Beatles cover ever made. They took a very simple song and turned it into a crazy, jazz-tinged, psychedelic-funk jam session, and it’s one of the most fun songs for me to listen to. The chord changes over the chorus are nuts, and I love a good B3. Pete Rivera is also one of my favorite drummers, and this song showcases a lot of what makes his grooves so unique. Same goes for Rod Richards on guitar; this song captures a lot of what I love about the electric guitar’s role in psychedelic music.

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