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  • Writer's pictureAndy Ross

Winter Lounge 



We’re going to take a little bit of a walk to get to the main topic of discussion this week but bear with me. Last Fall I started thinking about how it might not be a bad idea to re-rip the many CDs I still own as lossless files. Now, I have no intention of getting rid of the CDs, but I did upgrade my speakers in my music room and thought it might not be bad to replace the very old rips I made in my 20s with some higher quality ones to play off my music server. 


But, knowing that this would be a lengthy project, and frankly a pain, I’ve gone back and forth about doing so. Then I finally decided I should just start with the ones I’d like to have available in lossless quality the most and work my way around from there. What did I begin with? The mid-1990s Capitol Records, multi-volume collection of lounge, exotic, and space-age pop music known as “Ultra Lounge.” 


This made me realize something. That every January, as those winter doldrums hit when we realize the holidays are over, life is returning to “normal,” and there is nothing to look forward to, I tend to always break out the lounge, exotica, and space-age pop. What are these genres, you may ask? Music from the 1950s and 1960s, usually ending right around the start of the British Invasion, that have certain vibes to them. 


Kitsch can play a part, but some of this music is like going on a mental vacation to a destination that perhaps never really existed. Think of it as something you’d imagine playing forgettably in the background of a club The Rat Pack are hanging out at. This music had a huge resurgence in the 1990s, popular with Gen-Xers as a way to “unwind” from the grunge sounds. Yet, it’s a music that I love to play quite often. 


Why? For the reasons I’ve said above, the vibes, and how they send you to a sort of “mental vacation.” Though I may be trapped in the office working away on my next project, when I put on “Ultra Lounge, Vol. 3: Space Capades,” I am actually on a rocket ship out of a 1959 dime-store novel that has a cocktail lounge on it. What’s that? It’s time for a conference call? Sorry, I can’t. I’m currently orbiting Venus while on my third Manhattan. 


Sure, I’m about a generation too old to have enjoyed this music when the revival was happening in the ‘90s, but a lot of this music turned up in so many things I watched during my formative years, that is why I have something of a deep-seated foundational love for it. When the iPod and the MP3 player in general began to rise in the mid-2000s, (my first one was the somewhat off-brand iRiver, anyone remember them?) parties would held in which we’d just hook up our iPods and the like and hit shuffle. 


I remember many a party temporarily grinding to a halt when my iPod would be the one playing in shuffle mode. We’d go from The White Stripes to Devo, and then suddenly we’d get a Sinatra tune followed by the most cheesed-out, cocktail/elevator, Hammond B3 organ solo on something like “Ebb Tide” and people would just stare at the stereo, and then all eyes would slowly turn and stare at me while I was in the kitchen trying to get myself another drink. 


Maybe because so much of this music, especially the Exotica genre, conjures up images of tropical locations, hammocks, and drinks served in coconut shells, is the reason I tend to turn to it in the cold, bleakest days of Winter. To provide warmth and an escape to a place where one can lounge without a care in the world. Something that I think so many of us are longing for, now more than ever. 


So join me, won’t you? Dial-up “The Exotic Moods of Les Baxter” on the device of your voice, stretch out on that lounge chair in your living room, put a Hawaiian shirt on, and fix yourself a tropical beverage. Let’s all go on this mental vacation together. See you next week. 


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