I totally believe that a good playlist improves an album's accessibility immensely. For example, when I first listened to Sarah Bareilles's album "Little Voice", I didn't like most of the songs on it. But after listening to it a few times, I figured out a completely different order to listen to the tracks in, which made every song nice to listen to. My reaction to Vienna's Inland Territory album was much more initially positive, but yet, I still thought it could use some re-ordering. So for about the last month, I've been going through a trial-and-error process trying to figure out my perfect playlist for Inland Territory. (Yours may be different.) I may edit this as time goes by, but here's what I have so far:
1. The Last Snowfall
2. White Light
9. No Gringo
5. In Another Life
6. Grandmother Song
7. Stray Italian Greyhound
12. St. Stephen's Cross
I did experiment with starting the album with Kansas (as in her european EPK), but ultimately found this to be less satisfactory than leaving The Last Snowfall in its place as the opener. St. Stephen's Cross is so transcendent, it almost has to be the last song, so it also stayed in place. For the rest of the album, I paid attention to such factors as the transitions between the closing chord of a song and the opening chord of the next and their places in the circle of 5ths, the style and instrumentation of each song, and the emotional place that each song leaves you in and whether you're ready for the beginning of the next:
- Augustine is the real wildcard. I'm honestly not sure what the best place to put it is, so I may yet move it, and if so, a lot of other things sometimes have to move in order to compensate. I've tried it almost everywhere, and not yet been able to soothe that opening drum beat and get a nice chord transition into it at the same time. So for the moment I'm deferring to Vienna's placement right after Stray Italian Greyhound. We'll see.
- Putting Stray Italian Greyhound in the right spot also proved to be remarkably difficult. It can work fairly well right after Augustine or another high-strung song, but I rather like it following Kansas, where the subdued ending gives way to an anticipatory, hopeful piano intro with omitted bass notes, crescendoing gradually to a satisfying bass punch as the chorus delivers us gleeful excitement, then a lilting, joyful second verse, etc.
- Grandmother Song, Watershed, and Kansas are all in the key of D (although Grandmother Song and Watershed both end on A chords and Kansas starts on a B minor), and I think that bracketing Watershed with its spacey beginning and soaring ending with other songs in the same key works out almost perfectly.
- The key signature progression of first 5 songs I've listed is rather nice in my arrangement. D (The Last Snowfall), G minor (White Light), C minor (No Gringo), F minor (In Another Life), E major (Antebellum). The first four roughly following the circle of 5ths and then just dropping a half step to Antebellum. At the same time, I've led from processed, electric sounds (The Last Snowfall and White Light) towards orchestral (Antebellum) gradually, so the stylistic shift is not shocking at any point.
- Lastly, the transition from Radio to St. Stephen's Cross was just too good to be messed with. They're both in the key of A, and Radio is a hard-driving song, ending on an abrupt D chord, so the sudden airy opening of St. Stephen's Cross makes for a perfect resolution to the angst that Radio leaves us with, which then goes on to last 5 minutes and go through its own emotions.