Playlist Time: Sisterly Sophisti-Pop Commutin’

Ridin’ out to the sound of an 80’s saxophone solo…

As I drove back home with my sister a few days ago, I noticed her exhaustion. After an 8-hour day of studying and going to classes, she was particularly burned out. I was playing a mix of some of my favorite songs, “The Loner” by Neil Young was currently playing. Perhaps it was too harsh for her, but she looked bored – I tried my best not to be offended.

Jennifer soon fell asleep, reclining the passenger seat to get a bit of rest before we arrived home. Her slumber made me feel less terrible about my incongruous music selection. As I turned into our building’s garage, the final chorus to “Build” by The Housemartins began to grow in momentum. I turned the volume up, partially to wake my sister up, but mostly because it is such a lovely tune. It’s twinkling synths and layered voices going “buh-buh buh-buh build!” got the best of me and I began to sing along to it.  My sister yawned, and in a voice of sleepy excitement asked: “Is this The Smiths?”

“No,” I replied, telling her what it really was. “They’re not very popular. But they have a similar style.”

“I love music like this. It’s so relaxing,” she shared through another yawn.

“I’ll make you a playlist with stuff like this!” I affirmed – eager for an excuse for making another playlist – to which she warmly responded “cool!”

We headed inside as our long day of work and school came to a close.

As a novice driver who just got her license two months ago, I am slowly learning that my responsibilities on the road involve more than just making sure I don’t kill anyone. I am also a welcoming brand of car godmother/hostess (“I have gum in the glove compartment!” / “Do you like the stuffed lamb I set out in the back seat?”). The most crucial role I hold behind the wheel, though, is that of a mobile DJ.

My sister is a very nervous woman. She always has been.

She gets pretty uneasy around lighters or anything that may cause a fire. Before bed, she gets up and checks that the stove is completely turned off, as is our “dangerous” George Foreman grill.

There is a home movie my mother keeps of her and my two brothers from their first-ever visit to the beach, years before I entered the picture.

My brothers’ reactions to the ocean are rather standard. One of them can be seen calmly playing with the sand, cooing one of the three words in his infant vocabulary; the other, my oldest brother, is just taking in the sight of the waves, eager to get in the water.

Jennifer, however, is standing a few feet away from the shore, terror etched across her doll-like face as she softly whimpers. My dad, who is recording her, asks her why she is so scared, hoping to comfort her with his voice if only from a distance.

She hasn’t said a word, but it is clear just what is bothering her. She does not want to go into the water.

The video then cuts to my mother, ever the brave soul, happily carrying my sister as they approach the shore.

Mom splashes her with some of the pristine water, but Jennifer, whose face is no longer as visible from where my dad is recording, now appears to be full-on sobbing.

Funnily enough, the beach is now Jennifer’s favorite place in the world. One to which she would gladly bike two hours, just to admire its striking beauty and savor its serenity.

With her anxiety in mind, it makes sense why she usually favors the more comforting styles of music: a little bit of Enya, some Julio Iglesias for a bit of drama, and a lot of hypnotizing trance music (she sleeps to the stuff – I really don’t get it.)

Sophisti-pop, so dear to my heart, is a sub-genre of 80’s pop that is pretty much the soft rock equivalent of new wave and synthpop. Never too edgy or punky like the majority of the first batch of new wave from the late 70s, or too futuristic like the synthpop of the early to mid-80s; it is their soulful, jazzier younger sibling, satisfied just lounging to a good saxophone solo with some exotic percussion in the background.

So this playlist goes out to you, Jennifer. The first half is smooth, sweet and sensual, growing peppier toward the middle. So you can play it while you ride your bike in the heat or stare at the waves for two hours too long. Mainly, however – this is for our commute, so you don’t look so uncomfortable when I play the type of music you clearly don’t enjoy me playing in the car. You never were the best at hiding your emotions.

Author: Pat

Patricia Cárdenas is a writer, wannabe garden mom, and 80's enthusiast from Miami. She dreams of eventually moving somewhere colder where she can wear lots of sweaters, adopt a fluffy pet, and just drink lots of rooibos tea.

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