Ted Leo Mixes a Playlist That’ll Make You Dance and Think

Listen as the musician picks songs by Michel Pagliaro, Steel Pulse, and more, for the soundtrack to your next politically aware party.

(Photo Credit: Mindy Tucker)

Punk rock darling Ted Leo has been churning out anthemic, politically conscious music since the ’80s, including six LP’s with his acclaimed band Ted Leo and the Pharmacists.

He paired up with Aimee Mann a few years back with a band called The Both. And this month, he releases his first solo album in 10 years called, “The Hanged Man.”

“This party that I’m throwing is going to be in my new kitchen,” Ted explained when he visited our the studios. “Just been through eight months of hellish renovation and I’m eager to show it off and cook for people and talk about things.”

Check out his playlist picks below.

Michel Pagliaro – “Lovin’ You Ain’t Easy”

Ted Leo: “Just be bright in your way” is a phrase that I wouldn’t necessarily think to say, but I really love it. It’s like, “I’m not trying to own you. I’m not trying to tell you what to do. I just want to be in your sphere,” you know? “I just want to be in your circle.”

So whether he actually says that or not — he may say, “Just keep riding your way,” or, “Just be right in your way.” I’m choosing to believe he says, “Just be bright in your way.”

Håkan Hellström – “Kom igen Lena”

I don’t know much of what it [the song] actually says, but I know the chorus essentially says, “Come on, Lena. What else would we be doing?”

Håkan sings with a yelpy voice… it’s a quality that I think I sometimes had in my own younger days. With him, it’s a yelp that cracks with emotion and it kind of gets me, you know, it hits me in the chest, in a way.

Steel Pulse – “Babylon Makes the Rules”

A really important thing that I’ll spend a lifetime getting my head around — because I am white — is the idea of what we gently call implicit bias, what I think we can more explicitly call institution racism, institutional oppression.

And, I thought about this song because, the specter of “Babylon,” in particular, in reggae music, is this metaphor for… just call it white society. Call it anything that exerts oppression on people of color. And just the simple idea, you know, “Babylon makes the rules,” the chorus is, “Babylon makes the rules while my people suffer.”

You know, I would hope that at some point in this party that I’m having, it wouldn’t bum people out too much to begin discussing this.”

Ted Leo – “William Weld in the 21st Century”

The song is ultimately about a privileged class of men not willing to risk anything to actually listen to people who are actually less privileged than they.

I understand that some of these topics are verboten for good company and conversation, but these are topics that make good company and conversation, to me. If I’m hosting the party, this is what we’re talking about.