We all know about interludes. They’re the little songs placed between the “real” songs on an album, the short morsels of sound that bridge the gap from one theme or mood to the next. They’re often around or under two minutes long and serve as “breaks,” making many of them forgettable due to their typical sparse arrangements or lack of substantial lyrics. Taken out of the context of an album’s theme, they can feel underwhelming. Yet in my long history of listening to the same, like, nine artists over the past 21 years of my life, I’ve gathered a few interludes that actually stuck out to me.
10) “Sickfit” – Madvillain
What truly stands out with this song is the shuddering and sustained bass that vibrated all of the windows at half volume in my first car. Its lo-fi sound quality, grimy production and repetitive nature is the perfect blank canvas for a short and sweet freestyle. It’s definitely far from the most remarkable track on the 2004 underground rap classic Madvillainy, but it’s so simple and sparse that it’s just that good.
9) “5D” – Death Grips
If you know who Death Grips is and what they stand for, this track sounds entirely normal. Yet to those unfamiliar with the experimental hip-hop group, this track also sounds equally normal. So what’s the difference between the views of two types of listeners? Death Grips fans know what typically follows such plain songs: chaos. On its own, this song is nothing special. It’s just a repeating retro synth arpeggio that invokes the mood of an arcade game soundtrack. However, linking it in between Exmilitary’s cryptic “Culture Shock” and the absolutely bonkers audio assault of “Thru The Walls” provides a momentary break in the group’s frantic yet iconic debut.
8) “Good Guy” – Frank Ocean
It may be known as just “that song before ‘Nights,’” but it serves as a crucial addition to blonde’s storyline. Ocean plays a brief, lo-fi four-chord melody in the first half of the song, lamenting the decline of a relationship and the self-alienation from his partner. The last 14 seconds are a skit, featuring a conversation between three young men in a car boasting about their romantic prowess with a melancholy and gentle synthesized organ in the background. It bridges the gap between the more romantic musings of Frank in the album’s initial half before tapping into his more cynical and darker guitar ballads of the latter half that start with “Nights.”
7) “For Free? – Interlude” – Kendrick Lamar
Probably the most well known song on this list, Lamar gets chewed out by his materialistic girlfriend in the first half of this frantic jazz instrumental number. Yet Lamar spits retorts back, constantly repeating his comeback of “this d*ck ain’t free” as he fires off some ingenious metaphors, including biblical references, sexual desires, slavery and the general corruption of America. This all occurs as the background music spirals wildly out of control, just like the contents of Lamar’s rant towards his partner. The accompanying music video also builds that anxiety, exacerbated by Lamar acting like a man on wit’s end the entire time, punctuated by striking visual metaphors of the historical struggles of Black people in America.
6) “+44” – Loyle Carner
The third song off of Carner’s 2017 debut album Yesterday’s Gone sounds like a classic cloudy British Tuesday morning, a scene which I continuously love romanticizing. With only the faint sounds of a busy British suburban road behind him, Carner spits bars about a young man pursuing a woman he lusts over by texting her things he really doesn’t mean. He sounds akin to a disappointed big brother in this track, which only lasts 49 seconds and shows off Carner’s trademark split second, classy rhyming skills.
5) “Little Journey” – The Avalanches
An amalgamation of energetic, tropical sound effects with grand string arrangements and a smattering of simple percussion instruments, “Little Journey” is like sipping an ice-cold glass of liquor on a summer afternoon. It just oozes ‘60s Technicolor blockbuster film vibes. And yes, just like the rest of the Australian group’s 2000 debut Since I Left You, the track is entirely sample-based. It sounds like music you’d hear at the beginning of an Indiana Jones film when the title character arrives at some remote island destination.
4) “HEAVEN BELONGS TO YOU” – BROCKHAMPTON
British rapping phenom Slowthai makes a surprising guest appearance on this track from the Californian hip-hop collective’s 2019 album GINGER. The beat chugs along like a train gradually getting up to speed as Slowthai alludes to his troubling mental health and strained relationship with God in some absolutely awesome bars. Tension subtly simmers through all of the song’s one minute and 31 seconds. It’s also one of the two tracks on this list with a music video, which perfectly reflects the song’s vibe: claustrophobic camerawork as Slowthai frantically reads his lines from a small book as BROCKHAMPTON members ominously come to stand behind him one by one.
3) “Dial up” – Childish Gambino
The fourth track on Gambino’s 2013 “existential crisis album,” Because the Internet, brings back oodles of college freshman year nostalgia for me. A clunky windshield wiper beat (I’m serious) is paired with an infectious and glowing retro synth rhythm to create an oddly peaceful and innocent aura in an album defined by themes of being jaded with the internet age. This song oozes vibes of late summer nights driving home from your friend’s house; zen yet cheerful.
2) “Fitter Happier” – Radiohead
This chilling interlude of Radiohead’s 1997 modern classic OK Computer is also one of the band’s most infamous songs. Why? A Macintosh text-to-speech voice provides all of the lyrics. Continually referencing the monotony and mind-numbing aspects of Western middle-class daily life, the computer reads every line, no matter how sinister or bland, with the same flat yet haunting voice inflection. It’s insanely dystopian. Additionally, the backing track of a grand piano is distorted and recorded with a low-quality mic, further disorienting the listener and making the sterile computer-simulated melody all the more creepy.
1) “Parachutes” – Coldplay
Is anyone really surprised that this one takes the crown? I’m definitely biased towards Coldplay, but the sheer charm this 46 second song has cannot be ignored. Chris Martin is all alone in this one from his band’s 2000 debut album, also called Parachutes. It’s so quiet that you can hear Martin’s fingers running up and down the strings of his acoustic guitar and that faint fuzzy sound emanating from his microphone. He croons the most simple yet romantic lines I’ve heard in any Coldplay song: “In a haze, a stormy haze/I’ll be ‘round, I’ll be loving you always, always/Here I am and I took my time/Here I am and I’ll wait in line always, always.” It tugs at my heartstrings. This is the poem of a new relationship or wanting that person you can’t have. I’m looking at you, hopeless romantics. This has to be a new inclusion on your “sad boi hours” playlist.