You can find most of the 78 songs unavailable on Spotify (as of this count) on YouTube. I've conviniently added these songs to the following playlist!
I've also included links to these songs in the individual chapter pages. Of the six remaining songs, four can be purchased as a digital download:
Two more songs, “Trộm Nhìn Nhau” from Trang Anh Tho (featuring Le Minh Trung) and “Sharatin” from Ensemble Shavnabada (featuring Davit Tsintsadze), were songs I initially found on Spotify, but have since been pulled from the US service (at least). They can also no longer be found for stream, download, or even physical purchase, anywhere on the US internet. These are two pretty obscure songs that have become personal favorites, and I wish you the best of luck tracking them down. In the meantime, I’ll be keeping an eye out for links to direct you to so I can hopefully get these awesome artists paid!
The Richmond Anthology Of Music is not a traditional scholarly work, and I didn’t keep comprehensive notes of all research and methods, so this is far from a complete bibliography. Nonetheless, I’m including a partial list of sources I relied on for creating the Anthology, because they are terrific, invaluable resources themselves, and I hope anyone inspired to explore this music further checks them out. I also hope anyone wondering how my taste and view of music history has been shaped will find a list of my influences enlightening.
First and foremost: the Anthology is a creative work in itself, but also one that collects and curates the artistry and hard work of the greatest musicians ever. More than anyone else, I have to thank the 2,403 unique artists featured in the Anthology, for enriching my life and so many others with their music. This project owes its existence to them, and you can return the favor by giving them a few Spotify plays.
I also have to acknowledge the many IRL sources who expanded my musical horizons in different ways. My mom giving me $20 to buy an Alice In Chains greatest hits album in middle school. The high-school crush that Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” will always evoke. The college dormmate who gave me a burned CD-R of Lightning Bolt’s Wonderful Rainbow. The radio show I worked on that played Machine Head constantly. The coworker who told me my showtune selection would be incomplete without Spring Awakening. I’m grateful to all of them and thousands more, for helping me build the musical foundations of the Anthology, which I supplemented with the following research:
KROQ: I truly became a music fan the day I got a moderately high-end radio/CD player from Sharper Image when I was 12, complete with a fake wood facade mocked up to look like Charles Lindbergh's radio from The Spirit Of St. Louis. Shortly afterwards, flipping through the FM airwaves, I discovered LA’s alt-rock station, 106.7 KROQ, which I listened to for hours in my bedroom pretty much every single day until I went to college.
KROQ made me a fan, for a time, of some of the bro-iest rock bands ever, and the sheer hours I spent listening to utter dreck like Saliva and Trapt don’t exactly fill me with pride. But KROQ was also my gateway to grunge and classic alternative like Jane’s Addiction, and hip 80s rock like Oingo Boingo during their daily Flashback Lunches. Sometimes I even caught a glimpse of music way out of mainstream rotation; Jed The Fish’s Catch Of The Day segment was the first time I heard what is now one of my favorite bands, Ted Leo & The Pharmacists. Jed and the other lightly sardonic but accessible personalities on KROQ led me to fantasize about becoming a music DJ one day, the spark that led me to college radio that led me to Sirius that led me to podcasting, and blossomed into a lifelong curiosity about music. I don’t listen to KROQ much these days, but I’ll always carry a torch for them.
In terms of directly influencing the Anthology, KROQ has been most helpful for shaping my 90s and early 00s rock picks. I did comb through a number of their yearly top song countdowns, and broader fan-voted lists like their Top Songs Of The 90s, to confirm my selections reflected the rock radio of my youth.
100.3 The Sound: The Sound was not nearly as big an influence on me as KROQ, but during the period in my 20s when I had a car with no CD player or Bluetooth, I was mainlining 100.3’s tastefully chosen classic rock selections. I’d already done a fair amount of classic rock immersion at this point, but it was far from comprehensive; The Sound is what finally got me into Elton John, The Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, The Eagles and way more.
Soulseek: Radio drove my early music fandom, but peer-to-peer MP3 services like Napster and Kazaa revealed a vast world of music beyond that tacky boombox. Soulseek was the best of them, and the one I miss the most; searching for System Of A Down rarities or leaked songs from Kid A might lead me to some stranger’s poorly labeled MP3 library with thousands of songs I’d never heard of, tinder for further exploration. Much love to all the anonymous song-hoarding weirdos who led me down countless cult music rabbit holes.
Hype Machine: Before Spotify and Apple Music’s dominance, but after the P2P networks had faded, music blogs were where you could find the latest cutting edge indie releases. This was in some ways the true heyday of music collectors and amateur musicologists like me, even if it was short lived; never before or since has the average crate-digging vinyl lover with a Wordpress had so much influence on music’s vanguard. Hype Machine was the hub for the latest blog hits, where I learned about many an amazing foreign pressing or forgotten punk singles (but also, like, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah).
DatPiff: Just like indie had a blog scene, for a brief shining period the best hip-hop could be found on mixtapes, free releases that weren’t as carefully produced as real albums, but benefited from directness and casual experimentation. Mixtapes have been around since the 70s, though they peaked in popularity in the 00s; mixtape culture never really died either, it just got absorbed into the hip-hop mainstream and influenced what we think of now as authentic rap. If you wanted to know what mix was blowing up in any given week, you went to Datpiff, where I discovered everyone from Lil B to Big K.R.I.T.
That covers my early music influences, but for the most part, I wasn’t combing Hype Machine and DatPiff to make my Anthology selections. Here we get into the direct resources that proved most useful when constructing the Anthology...
Billboard: Usually, the first question I ask when surveying any given music era is “What was popular then?” Billboard doesn’t offer 100% perfect answers to this question, particularly for retailer-reported sales in the pre Soundscan era, but it’s generally the best source to find out 'what was big at the time.'' The Hot 100 is an exceptional tool, of course, but genre charts like Top Country Songs have also been quite helpful.
Wikipedia: Sure, make fun of Wikipedia, the most basic of research sources, but what it lacks in unimpeachable accuracy it makes up for in comprehensiveness. When I needed answers to simple questions like what year an album came out, Wikipedia nearly always had me covered, and entries like their “X-Year In Music” or “Music of X-Country” series are excellent jumping off points for more specific explorations. I’m not ashamed to say a lot of Wikipedia research went into the Anthology.
Apple: Like the Billboard charts, Apple’s daily song charts and year end charts are useful barometers of popularity in the online marketplace. But digital crate-digging in the enormous iTunes store has also led to occasional revelations, evoking memories of dumpster diving through Soulseek libraries. A random “Top 200 Songs Of The 20s” compilation album, for example, might surface an odd lesser-known single from Waring’s Pennsylvanians that traditional charts wouldn’t capture. (Also worth a mention; my personal MP3 edition of the Anthology lives in iTunes, which still features better playlist tools than the other popular music management apps out there).
Spotify: Spotify is of course my streaming platform of choice; it’s not perfect, but it’s the best out there. Like Apple, Spotify provides some excellent yearly charts, and is an ideal place to try searching for “Brazilian folk” and seeing what surfaces. But it’s been especially valuable for the granularity of the data it provides, from playlist placement and artist recommendation engines, to popularity figures for an artist’s top songs, to some really unique subjective metadata categories like 'Danceability'. That openness not only means that I can devise some interesting curatorial strategies around Spotify data, I can draw on the good work of others who have done the same...
Every Noise At Once: This is just one of many amazing tools online that developers have created to analyze music using Spotify data. Every Noise At Once was particularly valuable for the Anthology, as a map to visualize the vast landscape of genres, and make sure I was representing as many as possible. It also algorithmically generates playlists of popular songs from every genre, a very useful starting point for worlds of music I’m unfamiliar with. Bravo to Glenn McDonald and everyone else who contributed to this extremely cool discovery engine.
Allmusic: The closest thing music has to IMDB, Allmusic was truly invaluable for the Anthology; it’s the most accurate resource available for crucial info like release years, labels and songwriting credits. It’s also just a fun place to browse, having amassed a lot of smart writing and thoughtful lists over the years. Allmusic has some really annoying pop up ads and design issues, but it’s still one of the best and most accessible portals for further music education.
Discogs: What musical info I couldn’t find on Allmusic was often available on Discogs. As a catalog of releases, it’s very helpful for getting data on single releases or import packages, when you just need to know what year an obscure Who B-side was first published.
Metacritic: After popularity, my next most important criteria when evaluating a musical era is; which songs were most critically acclaimed? Sometimes critics catch on to music far ahead of its time, and sometimes they’re hilariously off-base, but I always want to know what the hipsterati of the time were listening to.
For 21st century music, the best compiler of criticism and year-end lists is Metacritic. Metacritic, like a more nuanced Rotten Tomatoes that covers more than film, gives a nice numerical score to every single review it collates. Annoyingly reductive for critics, sure, but extremely helpful for data-minded curators! It’s also a site that’s cleanly designed, comprehensive and easy to use.
Pitchfork: Metacritic scores are necessary to gauge the cumulative critical outlook - but for pretty much my entire life as a music fan, the only outlet whose review I cared about was Pitchfork.
I’ve been a daily Pitchfork reader for over 20 years now. Back in the site’s early days they had a real edgelord reputation and did too many stunt reviews; nowadays they’re much more measured, and if anything are sometimes not mean enough. They certainly have institutional biases, and I read their pieces through something of a Pitchfork filter. But they’re really good at staying on top of an ever-expanding and fracturing musical landscape; I trust them to cover the records that need to be covered. Their coverage of non-indie scenes like metal and hip-hop in particular have become fairly robust. They consistently hire some of the absolute smartest music writers out there. And they’ve turned me on to countless good albums and songs over the years, beating KROQ if not surpassing it on my formative taste map.
Pitchfork has been sneeringly called a sad gang of hipster dorks for the entire time the site has existed. The caricature isn’t totally accurate: they’ve leaned poptimist for the last 10-15 years, and will stand up for blockbuster releases that are critically underappreciated, like Rihanna’s ANTI. But to the extent they are a bunch of hipster mean kids...good! Someone’s got to puncture the hype when it’s warranted. And their taste is a less vanilla than, say, the NYT critics (who I also love). They go out of their way to raise up obscure bands, and appreciate musical novelty and risky records as much as I do. Suffice to say, a lot of Pitchfork faves made their way into the Anthology.
Pitchfork 500: One more note on Pitchfork - in 2008 they published something like an Anthology of their own, the Pitchfork 500, that was itself a huge influence for me. This book collects short thoughts on 500 songs from the mid-70s through 2006, major hits and forgotten cult tracks to sum up the music of the ‘Pitchfork Era.’ I loved this list, downloaded every song and listened to them a ton. Tracks from “Kings Of The Wild Frontier” to “Ice Hockey Hair” are undoubtedly in the Anthology in part because this book introduced them to me, and many others like “Starry Eyes” by The Records were very near misses.
Rolling Stone 500: Can you believe I have always been attracted to music lists of all kinds? Me? Rolling Stone’s top 500 songs list is not nearly as hip as Pitchfork’s, but as a heavily rockist survey of the basic dad consensus, it does the job well. Not for nothing, 9 out of their top 10 songs made it into the Anthology. (I’ll never feel the love prior generations did for John Lennon’s “Imagine.”)
NPR 100: This is even squarer than the Rolling Stone 500, but NPR’s list of the 100 most important musical works of the 20th century is an important supplement to it, a bedrock canon that includes classical and jazz pieces as well.
Rock Lists: Metacritic is an excellent resource for reviews of modern music, but for getting that in-the-moment critical perspective from 20th century reviewers, I have to dig deeper. Rock Lists is an unassuming little site that collects music magazine year end lists from the 50s onward. It’s very UK media focused but also includes Village Voice, Spin, Robert Christgau’s lists...it’s fairly comprehensive! Now if only I could travel back to 1979 to ask the critics why Graham Parker’s Squeezing Out Sparks topped Pazz & Jop that year, over Rust Never Sleeps, The Clash, Fear Of Music, Off The Wall...
Acclaimed Music: If you thought Rock Lists was comprehensive, get a load of Acclaimed Music, which includes not only all those year end lists, but flashback “Best Songs/Albums of the 70s” lists from current publications, canon collections like “1001 Songs To Hear Before You Die,” lists from European and Asian magazines, Allmusic ratings…basically, every list ever, averaged into a single superlist (you can listen to the Acclaimed Music 10,000 on Spotify here). Obviously a website and mission I can get behind!
Acclaimed Music doesn’t store individual lists themselves, it links out to primary sources, so you do run into the occasional broken link when browsing. And the AM 10,000, besides being overly weighted towards megastars like The Beatles and Dylan, is limited in the way most critics’ lists are limited. It’s very rockist, very Anglocentric, and as an uncurated average of the taste of thousands, not very imaginative. (The top five of “Like A Rolling Stone,” “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “A Day In The Life,” “Good Vibrations” and “Satisfaction” attests to this.) The Richmond Anthology is better on all fronts - but I’m a huge fan of this site and found it very valuable. In fact, one of the very last things I did before finalizing my list was cross-reference it with the AM 10,000, to make sure I wasn’t missing any no-brainer canonical picks.
Digital Dream Door: One of the web's many obscure lists too minor to be collated by Acclaimed Music. I don’t know who is behind Digital Dream Door and their many, many lists like “Top 200 Songs Of 1991” or “Greatest Hip-Hop Songs”, but I did read and consider pretty much all of them!
RateYourMusic: Rate Your Music is like a crowdsourced version of Acclaimed Music; it’s full of user-generated lists like “50 Greatest 70s Jazz Albums,” and also tracks which songs and albums pop up in user lists most often. Lists by random music enthusiasts are hit and miss of course, but they’re also much more likely to include picks way off the beaten path, and led me to some incredible cult classics and obscurities. (I believe I discovered Red Snapper’s Prince Blimey on a RateYourMusic list.)
Album Of The Year: Combining elements of Metacritic, Acclaimed Music and RateYourMusic, I don’t have much to say about AOTY except that it’s another cleanly designed home for lists!
TSort: An archive of lists and charts that was especially helpful for my early-to-mid 20th century deep dives. The charts here go all the way back to 1900! Tsort also includes country-specific charts from Brazil to Australia to Japan, Eurovision charts, the AFI’s Top Film Songs, the Library Of Congress’ Most Important Songs...they generally cover a lot of the blindspots of sites like Billboard and Metacritic.
Fact: Now we’re starting to get into more specialized sources. Fact is a really excellent UK-based magazine that quickly became my go-to source for finding top-notch electronic and experimental music I might have overlooked otherwise. (Thanks for turning me on to Untold’s Black Light Spiral, Fact!) Some of their genre based lists, like this one on Industrial and EBM, are especially good.
Mojo’s “Weirdest Albums” lists: There’s no good way to search the internet for “Best songs no one would put on a normal best of list in a million years.” But in my determination to cover literally everything, Mojo’s Weirdest Albums Ever lists have been a real boon, helping me shore up my weird music picks with selections from the likes of Diamanda Galas.
Progarchives: Speaking of weird music, when it comes to progressive and experimental rock, Progarchives is as fantastically in-depth as it gets. I’m not a fan of the color scheme or difficult-to-use search functions, but I do love how powerful their search can be, and how many user ratings and detailed reviews are available. If a prog album matters, it’s here.
The Tennessean’s Top 100 Country Songs: As mentioned up top, I didn’t keep careful track of sources through the curation process, and there are unfortunately hundreds of sources I used and forgot about - but I have a few final links to check out, to get a sense of the types of resources I found helpful. For example, “Best Of X-Genre” lists like The Tennessean’s top country songs were an excellent start for building out my individual genre sections, especially for areas like country where I have less native knowledge.
The Rap Year Book: Lists that blend the thoughts of many writers and critics are nice for gauging musical conventional wisdom; the really juicy lists, though, are written by single writers, where you can follow the logic of one mind making a coherent case for their favorites. Shea Serrano is one of these consistently interesting minds, and in 2015 he gifted us with The Rap Year Book, where he posits which rap song was most important in every year from 1979 on. Of his 36 selections, 22 are in the Anthology, a solid percentage! Just looking back over his list already has me reconsidering whether I should have picked “What’s My Name” over “Ruff Ryder’s Anthem”...
Jody Rosen’s Songs By Year: I love this simple playlist from former Vulture critic Jody Rosen, that is not even meant to be the best of anything, just a collection of awesome songs from every year that might have been overlooked otherwise. When constructing my year by year shortlists, I always threw the Jody pick in last for a little spice; most of them didn’t make it to the final cut, but I am thankful for discovering the lovely Lefty Frizzell song “Mom And Dad’s Waltz.”
Civilization: I can’t skip over a surprisingly crucial inspiration to the early chapters of the list - one of my very favorite computer games, Civilization (specifically Civilization V). If you aren’t familiar, Civilization is a turn-based strategy game based on world history. You begin as a tiny band of ancient people in like 3000 BC, then build your own cities, farms, temples and universities, trade or go to war with other fledgling civilizations, and over thousands of years, try to take over the globe.
There are a hundred reasons I love Civilization, but the game music is most relevant here, and it’s ingeniously designed. Each civilization has a basic melodic theme, usually based on an actual folk song from that real world civilization’s history. If you play as the Chinese empire, for example, your theme is “Jasmine Flower” - and as your civilization progresses, the music does too, from a simple folk rendition, to a full orchestral classical version, to a final form with modern beats and effects.
A version of “Jasmine Flower” did make it into the Anthology, but the bigger inspiration I took from the game is conceptual. The early chapters of this list flow like a Civilization game, starting with spare folk and vocal music, to chorales and increasingly elaborate classical pieces, to songs with verses and choruses, that eventually take us into the 20th century.
Scaruffi: One final source, a proudly homemade site devoted to many disciplines from a guy named Piero Scaruffi. Alongside articles about cognitive science, poetry and thoughts on film history, he’s written extensive histories of different musical scenes from post-war country music to Scandinavian rock, long lists covering the best jazz albums of every decade, and way more.
I don’t know what Scaruffi’s musical credentials are, exactly; he was born in Italy, and his day job appears to be some kind of lecturer in Silicon Valley. Scaruffi’s knowledge is deep, though his tastes are idiosyncratic; I found myself disagreeing with him often, and sometimes he’d praise a song I found bafflingly bad. I don’t think he’s attempting to match any sort of conventional wisdom. It’s not clear this site is for anyone but him. He’s just putting his takes out there in messy, barely organized fashion, and it’s one of the coolest websites on the Internet.
Godspeed Piero, and all the other music-loving weirdos with too much time on their hands I encountered on my Google travels. I see you.
Hello future readers - a very quick update for December 2020! This should not be considered a proper new edition; the Second Edition of the anthology will include some significant revision of the existing list, as well as some major new features. It may not happen until 2030. But this is the shortlist of 50 songs I'm considering from 2020, not only in Spotify playlist form but available as a podcast! First though, the list itself:
|070 Shake - Guilty Conscience|
|24kGoldn - Mood (ft. iann dior)|
|Adrianne Lenker - anything|
|Angel Bat Dawid - Black Family - Live|
|Arlo Parks - Eugene|
|Bad Bunny - Safaera|
|BENEE - Supalonely (ft. Gus Dapperton)|
|BLACKPINK - How You Like That|
|Blake Mills - Vanishing Twin|
|Bruce Springsteen - Ghosts|
|Cardi B - WAP (ft. Megan Thee Stallion)|
|Chloe x Halle - Do It|
|Deftones - Ohms|
|Chernaya Princess - Mi pan su su sum|
|Doja Cat - Say So|
|Drakeo the Ruler - Fights Don't Matter|
|Dua Lipa - Break My Heart|
|Fiona Apple - Shameika|
|Flo Milli - In The Party|
|Fontaines D.C. - A Hero's Death|
|Freddie Gibbs - Something to Rap About (ft. Tyler, The Creator)|
|Gabby Barrett - I Hope|
|glaive - astrid|
|HAIM - The Steps|
|Jay Electronica - The Neverending Story|
|Jay Wheeler - La Curiosidad|
|Jazmine Sullivan - Lost One|
|Jeff Parker - Build a Nest (ft. Ruby Parker)|
|Julianna Barwick - Inspirit|
|Kate NV - Plans|
|Lady Gaga - Rain On Me (ft. Ariana Grande)|
|Lil Mosey - Blueberry Faygo|
|Lyra Pramuk - Tendril|
|Megan Thee Stallion - Savage (Remix ft. Beyoncé)|
|Morgan Wallen - 7 Summers|
|Nubya Garcia - Pace|
|Phoebe Bridgers - I Know The End|
|Rina Sawayama - XS|
|Roddy Ricch - The Box|
|Run The Jewels - goonies vs. E.T.|
|SAINt JHN - Roses (Imanbek Remix)|
|Silver Sphere - football game|
|Tame Impala - Lost In Yesterday|
|Taylor Swift - peace|
|THE BOYZ - Salty|
|The Weeknd - Blinding Lights|
|Thundercat - Dragonball Durag|
|Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - Welcome to Victorville|
|TWICE - I CAN'T STOP ME|
|Waxahatchee - Fire|