Listen Here: Listen While You Work

The Replacements doing a little labor carrying their frontman

The Replacements doing a little labor carrying their frontman.

Listen Here is a monthly playlist picked and curated by members of the Deadshirt staff around a certain theme. This month’s theme is “Songs For Your Workday,” with a playlist selected by several Deadshirt staffers and curated by music editor Julian Ames.

With the Labor Day holiday still fresh in our minds, the Deadshirt staff decided to gather songs that we associate with our workdays. The resulting playlist is embedded below and includes tracks picked by Dylan Roth, Yen Nguyen, Dominic Griffin, Haley Winters, Max Robinson, Mike Duquette, David Lebovitz, Sam Paxton, and Julian Ames. Whether your job is in an office, classroom, field, factory, or anywhere else, we hope this playlist makes your day go a little bit faster:

“Welcome to the Working Week” – Elvis Costello
Is it ever right to subscribe to only one reading of a Costello song? This one, for instance, could be about any of the following things: (1) a working-class man’s sexual frustration over an unattainable idol, (2) a lower-class voice bitter about the upper-class existence, or (3) the ironic supposition that a life of celebrity is just another 9 to 5, all pushed forward in equal measure by some evocative lyrics and some very ambiguous pronouns. Costello’s lunging vocals, his punk guitar, and the antithetically poppy backup vocals concoct an immediacy that highlights each line with not a care to whether any of the stories actually link up. At any rate, the song’s title might tell us all we need to know and the chorus is certainly the bit that sticks best as a dark expression of sympathy to all of us with day jobs, whatever those might be. “Welcome to the workin’ week / Oh, I know it don’t thrill you, I hope it don’t kill you / Welcome to the workin’ week / You gotta do it ‘til you’re through it so you better get to it” – Yen Nguyen

“Takin’ Care of Business” – Bachman-Turner Overdrive
Maybe this is too on the nose, but consider that BTO’s anthem ode to Getting Shit Done is in all those Applebee’s and used car dealership commercials for a reason; it owns. “Takin’ Care of Business” is a song so good that Elvis God Damn Presley thought it was worth writing it on the side of his airplane. – Max Robinson

“Earn Enough For Us” – XTC
As someone who only recently got to taste the sweet nectar of a full-time job with benefits, the specter of having multiple jobs with insane schedules and few days off still looms large in my rearview (and those college loans aren’t going away as fast as I’d like). But that determination to survive and thrive fuels the jangly “Earn Enough For Us” off XTC’s 1986 album Skylarking. Singer-songwriter Andy Partridge weaves a weary but upbeat tale of working like a dog to keep happy and healthy not only himself but the person he loves. The high point is the uncertain, hopeful middle eight, where Partridge sings, “Just because we’re on the bottom of the ladder / we shouldn’t be sadder than others like us / who have goals for the betterment of life.” That’s a real sentiment that fuels a lot of the friendships I’ve made this year (including the fine folks who make this site possible), and no matter how cushy my situation gets, it’s not something I’m going to forget any time soon. – Mike Duquette

“Hey Julie” – Fountains of Wayne
FoW has lots of songs about suburban office job monotony (mostly on the album Welcome Interstate Managers) but “Hey Julie” is a standout, a sweet love song from a miserable desk jockey to the person who makes it all worthwhile. It’s twee as hell, like so many FoW ballads, but it’s snappy and fun and features one of my favorite lines: “They’ve got me running round the office like a gerbil on a wheel / they can tell me what to do but they can’t tell me what to feel.”
– Dylan Roth

“Chain Gang” – Sam Cooke
This song is based on actual “work songs” where prisoners would sing or chant to set a rhythm to the work they were doing. Also, I’m sure if you’re stuck in a repetitive job that you hate, you might feel like you’re part of a chain gang. – Julian Ames

“Fingers to the Bone” – Brown Bird
Here’s a song for the manual laborer, or at least the office worker who wants to feel a little grimy. This two-man (well, man-and-woman) band has a way of tapping directly into the despair of drudgery with a sound like brown sugar mixed with wet concrete. – Haley Winters

“In Tall Buildings” – John Hartford
Ah, the guilt trip induced by this Hartford crooner: “They’ll sell me a suit, they’ll cut off my hair, and send me to work in tall buildings.” Way to sell out, you passé hipster. Maybe if you listen to this song enough times you’ll finally quit your cubicle purgatory and brave the waters of your dreams again. – Haley Winters

“God Damn Job” – The Replacements
My typical workday usually involves me falling asleep on my couch watching Futurama on Netflix; I end up saying the phrase “I need a god damn job” at least once per day. This song has become my unofficial theme after several unsuccessful months on the job search. – Julian Ames

“Retreat” – The Rakes
Nothing captures the horrific repetition of the average day job like the laconic vocal delivery and droning, angular guitar riffs of the mid-00s post-punk revival. The Rakes were one of my favorite acts from that era and I related to this track in particular, before my spirit could really understand the crushing weight of dedicating your life to someone else’s goals in exchange for food, beer, and rent money. – Dominic Griffin

“Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” – Arcade Fire
A supremely dance-y, uplifting song about deferring your dreams and the drudgery of suburban life, elevated by burbling synth lines and Régine Chassagne’s girlish vocals. “They heard me singing and they told me to stop / Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock” fits my life to a tee, as I quietly pursue a living as a musician when I head home from my day job. Considering Arcade Fire escaped the working-class indie life to become one of the biggest arena bands on the planet, it’s hard to not hear the track as a triumphant, encouraging roar. – Sam Paxton

“9 to 5” – Dolly Parton
Some of Dolly Parton’s best songs are about the simple act of surviving day to day life and “9 to 5,” the theme song to the movie of the same name, is one of them. Underneath Parton’s shoofly pie voice are surprisingly pointed lyrics that lament the predatory grind of the working world. But we’re all in the rat race together and Dolly’s here to remind us that it can’t drive you crazy unless you let it. – Max Robinson

“Once In A Lifetime” – Talking Heads
In the words of J. Elvis Weinstein, “there are days when ‘Once In A Lifetime’ is the best song ever written.” Whatever your employment situation, at some point you’re going find yourself wondering “How did I get here?” When you just feel too bewildered to make sense of where you are in life, which often comes either in the middle of a weird workday or sitting at home waiting to hear back from a potential employer, let Crazy Street Preacher David Byrne speak directly to your soul. – David Lebovitz

“Finest Worksong” – R.E.M.
R.E.M.’s Document, their fifth and final album for I.R.S. Records, was the perfect balance between the jangly, quirky college rock of their early 80s salad days and their arena-dominating journey through the 90s. The album’s lead track is a perfect encapsulation of that balance between phases: Michael Stipe hollers nonsense about taking your instinct by the hand, while Peter Buck and Mike Mills buzz through a great guitar/bass riff and Bill Berry smacks the shit out of his drum kit. “Finest Worksong” may have little to do with labor in the long run, but if you want something to get you motivated in your own work, you’ve hit paydirt here. – Mike Duquette

“Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” – The Smiths
This single from the Smiths is the ultimate anthem for world-weary misanthropes. Sure, it’s hard to not roll your eyes when Morrissey, ever the sad-sack, moans “I was looking for a job and then I found a job / and Heaven knows I’m miserable now,” but the track is still a friendly reminder that almost every day I spend filing and answering emails could be better spent “happy in the haze of a drunken hour.” Happy hour after work? Can’t come soon enough. – Sam Paxton

Working For the Weekend – Loverboy
C’mon. Just look at the title. Even if you work weekends, this song is for your workday. – David Lebovitz

That’s Deadshirt’s hand-picked Workday playlist – now, you tell us what work-related songs you like to listen to. Comment below or hit us up on Facebook!

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