According to an old friend, 4/20 is “marijuana Christmas.” And while it seems the holiday itself is the actual present, there’s still lots of positivity to pass around.
So, in the spirit of giving, here’s something you can utilize during your respective celebrations: a list of the worst albums to play while stoned. Whether sonically or emotionally daunting or just not apropos for the occasion, these records are sure to harsh your mellow.
GAS — Pop
Under the influence, music gains an almost tactile quality, as if the sound waves wrap around your torso and offer an affirming squeeze before tenderly caressing your cheek. With Wolfgang Voigt’s seminal ambient LP, those once-inviting ribbons of sound grab you by the jowls, and jostle you to and fro. The sensation never ceases, and even when the lengthy LP finally fades out, it’s hard to shake the sense that it won’t somehow return, like an overly affectionate aunt on Christmas.
Bad Vibes: 4.75 out of 10.
Death Grips — The Money Store
Rap music in general can be hit or miss while stoned, as the pounding bass and anti-authority vibes on some albums are as likely to empower as overpower listeners. But Death Grips take that inherent sense of confrontation to its extreme conclusion. Between MC Ride’s aggressive raps and haggard barking, Andy “Flatlander” Morin’s jagged, brutalizing production, and Zach Hill’s powerful percussion, Death Grips is fight music. You feel as if you’re engaged in fisticuffs with the music itself, and every note is an uppercut to your sensibilities. Even if you make it through a round, the next track’s ready to rain down more blows.
Bad Vibes: 7 out of 10.
Radiohead — Amnesiac
Other Radiohead albums may get more immediate praise, but Amnesiac is among their most evocative. A magnificent, slow-burning release, their fifth studio album sees Thom Yorke in peak shape as both performer and protagonist, throwing us into a sonic and thematic landscape even darker than the apocalyptic Kid A. It’s such a gripping experience, it’s easy to get lost in a deluge of emotions, traipsing through your own mind, stepping on psychic landmines. Any other time it’d be deeply cleansing, but while stoned, you’ll wind up ugly-crying at a Subway.
Bad Vibes: 6 out of 10.
Nick Drake — Five Leaves Left
Nick Drake is the unofficial king of English folk. Few other records in that rich canon manage to capture the same essential genre pillars so effectively: the rustic twang of the instrumentation; sound quality as crisp as an oak grove; and Drake’s earnest musings on nature, solitude, and love. Only, if you’re five leaves deep yourself, that profound disconnect between sitting in your living room and wanting to wander the countryside will likely bum you out to the nth degree. That, or you’ll mistake your aquarium for a babbling brook.
Bad Vibes: 3.5 out of 10.
Katy Perry — Teenage Dream
You may be thinking, “How can a pop album mess me up? Will it make me swoon so hard I pass out?” Say what you will about Perry — and certainly her recent efforts are lackluster — but Teenage Dream is an intense journey in the cerebellum of modern pop music. Whether it’s the overwhelming schmaltz of the title track, the overt cheese of “Peacock,” or even the blend of accessibility and absurdity within “E.T.,” this is pop music that goes straight to your head, like a six-pack of Surge Cola. Actually, the LP is more akin to running around the county fair, if everyone was a clown and they only sold giant snow cones covered in cotton candy.
Bad Vibes: 5 out of 10.
The National — Alligator
There’s a reason stoners routinely turn to offerings like Dark Side of the Moon for listening sessions. The National are the exact polar opposite of such trippy aural explorations, all heavy sentiments about existentialism and modern American suffering. It’s not that Alligator is just an inherently depressing album (but oh God, it is); there are also semblances of hope and even outright romanticism, and it’s hard to decipher what’s there to celebrate in life and what will inevitably kill us. You’ll sway loosely, you’ll cry, and you’ll inevitably wish for a giant burrito and a copy of Portishead’s Dummy.
Bad Vibes: 4 out of 10.
Joanna Newsom — Ys
Forget all the harsh rapping, trippy soundscapes, and off-kilter noise — there’s little more effective in harshing your vibe like Ys. Arguably Joanna Newsom’s masterpiece, the five-track, 56-minute record is an expansive musical journey, with Newsom’s take on folk bounding between the earnest and the sprawling. The record requires true effort to grasp and appreciate (it is a profound investment that pays off after, like, 20 listens), but it’s likely to either bore you outright or bore through your smoke-filled noggin. Don’t let the soothing harp fool you — this album takes plenty from its listeners, like waiting 40 minutes for Postmates.
Bad Vibes: 7.5 out of 10.
Bruce Springsteen — Darkness on the Edge of Town
Bruce Springsteen is the soundtrack to America — all the triumphant highs (winning a baseball game, running up stairs) and the accompanying lows (Ronald Reagan’s presidency). But Darkness is unlike any other Springsteen record. It’s as much a literary achievement as it is a musical one, with loads of connected storytelling and well-developed characters. Darkness consumed under the influence loses much of the potency of Springsteen’s thoughtful writing and becomes just another rock album. If you just wanna jam out, spin Metallica or Queens of the Stone Age.
Bad Vibes: 5 out of 10.
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