Herb Sundays

Case StudyHerb SundaysHerb  /(h)ərb/
1. To be wack. Wo
rthy of being mocked. Weak, chumpish, and generally to be avoided.
2. Mocking term of friends and/ or enemies.

It's origins start in New York City, and were popularized with a national marketing campaign.

“Where's Herb?” was an advertising campaign for the fast food chain Burger King that ran from 1985 to 1986. The television commercials featured a fictional character named Herb, who was described as never having eaten a Whopper in his life. Advertisements called on fans to visit their local Burger King in the hope of finding Herb and winning a prize. The campaign also included an "I'm not Herb" promotion, in which customers could get a discounted Whopper by including the phrase in their order. This confused people who tried to follow the promotion because they did not know what Herb looked like. By the time his appearance was revealed, many people had already lost interest in the campaign. The promotion was poorly received and was the last campaign that the J. Walter Thompson agency designed for Burger King.
Your perfect Sunday mix for "when no one is looking."

Art/Design for a weekly playlist series curated and “eulogized” by Sam Valenti IV (SV4) featuring industry legends, artists, tastemakers, and misfits... aka “world-class music fans.”

What is it?  
“Herb Sundays is a weekly playlist series by different curators each go-round. I love music and especially like the songs that people go to when they need a dose so this is a way to find those songs.

The "Herb" in question is an allusion to NYC slang for an uncool person so I ask world-class music fans, some more famous than others, to make their perfect Sunday mix for "when no one is looking." So it should be a great mix but maybe include some unexpected or uncool moments that work in this context. No posing, no flexing, just the best stuff.

Check out the mixes...

It’s also a chance to give flowers, as it were, I try to write an obituary for the still living. Why wait?” - SV4
     “Herb Sundays came out of creative frustration to some degree, both with distance from people and friends, coming out of lockdown, and as a new father, I felt a real desperation to want to connect with people I admire, whether I knew them or not.

I also like that it's something I can do myself and for fun. The one thing I can't do by myself, and wouldn't want to, is the art aspect. The art needs to feel as special as the playlists people provide and not just stock imagery, so my first choice was to work with Cina which gives us something to ruminate on together and a weekly goal to achieve. He is an incredible creative partner in this way."

- Sam Valenti IV (SV4)

Sam Valenti IV
Ghostly International / Herb Sundays

Photo: Amy Lombard





Plakate Typeface Public Type

I built a structure for Plakate to snugly fit on a three row grid with very little leading. The system was to be open while also using the right bar as a design element, a sort of anchor. 

After using it for a few months, I could start to see the limitations and ended up wiping the slate and opening up the floodgates.
The original system design for Season 1 used Plakate. My original idea was to have three rows of type and for the artist's name to interact. We dropped the names after the second release, but you can see what it could have been in Alt 04 for #4, Lovefingers.
Note: Artist's name links to "episodes." The first 16 were done on Instagram and then moved over to Substack.
S.01 E.01Sam Valenti

S.01 E.02 Michael Cina

S.01 E.03 Jocelyn Brown

S.01 E.04Lovefingers

S.01 E.05Phil Chang

S.01 E.06Lauren Naimola
The name came out of an in-joke of mine on Twitter about being a “herb” (NYC slang for being wack/uncool, which by describing I am a herb) and sort of not caring what people think of your music taste, just enjoying what you like. “Permission to be wack” as my friend Elliott says. It’s not “poptimist” but it’s also not about hiding the real good stuff, even if deeply uncool. I also don’t like Sundays (too many scaries) so this will hopefully give me something to look forward to. The first guest mix is by Michael Cina who is a renowned artist and designer and has set the bar exceedingly high with a mix of jazz and soul, moving through Brasil and beyond. Enjoy. -SV4
S.01 E.07Brandon Sánchez (Simisea)

S.01 E.08Carl Craig

S.01 E.09Claire Rousay

S.01 E.10Alexis  Georgopoulos (Arp)

S.01 E.11
Clemence Poles

S.01 E.12Ethel Cain

S.01 E.13 Hua Hsu

S.01 E.14Sam Valenti IV (SV4)


S.01 “The Civil Hour”Sam Valenti IV (SV4)
End of Season 1

Alt 04

Alt 10

Alt 12

Alt 13

Alt 14

Season 2
We honed in and opened up the system, thus the universe
    "I see the Herb Sundays series as a visual exercise to test new ideas, thoughts, and aesthetics. I try to limit each piece to around 30 minutes to an hour to create and explore multiple ideas. Inspiration comes from anything from the featured guest, to the music, or whatever my muse is for that week."
The first year started as a systematic design inspired by a typeface I was developing then and has become more robust as the years have progressed.” 

- Michael Cina

Michael Cina
Cina Associates / Cina Art / Public Type





S.02 E.15Fred Thomas
Each “color layer” was printed out as three separate black layers and then re-combined and re-colored to make the final piece. 

Ex. 1 shows one of the layers pasted into a sketchbook.

Ex. 2 shows all of the black layers put together before the color was assigned. My favorite combo. ;)

Ex. 1

Ex. 2

S.02 E.16Yasi Salek

Herb 17 was a breakthrough on how I thought and felt about these covers and what they could be. -Cina

S.02 E.17Trevor Jackson

S.02 E.18L'Rain
“The music of L'Rain is like hurtling through time-traveled space. You watch history fly by you, your life, and the lives of others. It has a disorienting effect, but you come out awakened to bigger possibilities. Taja's HS18 playlist is no different. It rides a spiritual plane and often gives way to prismatic gasps of feeling. A weightless but serious mood. It's the NOW sound that seems to have always been here.”-SV4 on L’Rain


S.02 E.19Jace Clayton

“Understanding music through the lens of technology, not just of its making, but of its transmission and its amplification (both sonically and culturally) has led him to some marvelous places. Another aspect of /rupture-ism is an intense interest in regionality and how that has changed with technology. What is “local” now is different than 20 years ago due to globalization but the local sound can’t, and shouldn’t, be washed out.” -SV4 on Jace Clayton (DJ Rupture)

S.02 E.20Toby Feltwell

“An abbreviated bio goes like this. The man behind your favorite brands, some of mine at least. CV includes: Mo'Wax (coming out of the same creative ooze as legends like Ben Drury and Will Bankhead, 1996 - 2003), signing Dizzee Rascal & Wiley to XL, Bathing Ape (including launching the NYC shop and Billionaire Boy's Club) (main 2003-2005 and also 2005-2011) and launching the Cav Empt brand with Sk8thing and Hishiyama (Hishi) Yutaka in 2011 where they "continue to be excited by the process of making whatever we feel like making." It's enough to blind you.” -SV4 on Toby Feltwell of Cav Empt

“First off: there is no irony, no guilty pleasure involved when I talk about cheesy music. It stands for respect and simple fun.”
“A syrupy and ecstatic push from the legendary Tokyo music man (label/booking/promoter/DJ) and bartender.”

S.02 E.22Andy Kellman
"This mix combines recent favorites with a few older obsessions. It's a digital C90 of distinct halves. The first side might be most effective in the a.m., and the other is definitely p.m. material with a fully energized finish. There's a happenstance audiovisual (intimate) connection between the first and last songs. The playlist starts with one of the Girls trying to get ahold of her crush. We see at the end that the evasive party is Starchild so annoyed by the persistence that he has taken his phone off the hook, his mind on the subject of "Black Diamond.” -AK


S.02 E.23Yale Evelev
There’s a quote by David Byrne on Luaka Bop’s site that perfectly encapsulates their M.O.: "Overall, we think of the music we work with as contemporary pop music, and we try to present it as such." The label has had a knack for making the once unheralded seem like an inevitable fact. - SV4 on Yale Evelev of Luaka Bop

S.02 E.24Eothen Alapatt
“At the moment, I look for records that just strike a chord in me, for whatever reason. I think that, after a certain point, an enthusiast starts looking less and less for words to describe what he’s feeling and more starts reflecting on that feeling. The connoisseur does the opposite. I firmly consider myself an enthusiast.” - EA


Photo: Nathan Bajar
S.02 E.25Helado Negro

S.02 E.26Leo Fitzpatrick

Leo’s Kids character, Telly, reminded me of a friend I had met at summer camp who lived uptown named Matt (who luckily lacked Telly’s sinister streak). When I’d go to NYC with my family in my teens, I loved to hang with Matt. It was the mid-late 90s so for a suburban hip-hop fan like me, it was heaven. It also gave a teen a feeling of extreme freedom to mill about NYC. We’d walk around Broadway and Lafayette and check out shops (Supreme, X-Large, Liquid Sky) for sneakers and mixtapes, and I recall everything smelled like incense. I don't know why he hung out with me, maybe he just humored me or liked that I looked up to him. I felt like an acne-ridden Nick Carraway (or a, um, herb) in an oversized tee watching him move through the city, synthesizing plans in the pre-cell phone era was hugely exciting. You'd buzz someone's apartment and never know what would be upstairs, or coming downstairs. -SV4
S.02 E.27Ash Lauryn

Photo by Braylen Dion.


“The bigger story for Ash, apart from her clear talent, is the mission to reconnect dance music to its true origins. In a powerful interview with Billboard last year, Kevin Saunderson shared the unspoken but widely shared concern that dance music’s continued commercialization had failed to keep black artists front and center.” - SV4

S.02 E.28Liz Warner


“This playlist honors those moments when artists look outside of their own body of work to create new, unexpected moments.” -LW

x End of Season 2

You interview “world-class music fans” for this newsletter. What does it mean to be a world-class music fan?
My criteria is that the folks I ask for playlists have dedicated a large portion of their life to the search for music in some capacity. They don’t have to work in music, but music informs their work and is a big part of their inner life or sense of self. -SV4 

Season 3

“For years, I wanted to start a blog of “pre-death obituaries” not because of morbidity, but because we save all the good stuff to say about people until after they’re gone. This is bullshit. I wanted Nathaniel Dwayne Hale aka “Nate Dogg” (August 19, 1969 – March 15, 2011) to know how I felt about him as an artist. There was probably a very low chance of that happening in his life, but now there’s no chance of that happening.

The truth is, obits are fun to write. You can wax poetic without too much embarrassment cause people want to be caught up in the feeling and really get to the heart of someone in an emotional way. There is perhaps a blandness to the modern obit in the social media world, a flood of tropes and screengrabs, and on to the next. Folks like Jeff Weiss strike hot and fast and I have tried my hand on the Ghostly socials. But Herb Sundays gives me a better outlet for such a thing. But back to the living.”





S.03 E.29Dave1
“Side note, Dave was adamant that he did not resonate with my usage of “herb” in this context. To him as a hip-hop kid and adopted NY’er, the word was still verboten but he was a good sport.” -SV4 on Dave 1 (Chromeo)

Alt. 1


S.03 E.30Jonnine Standish

“My favorite Sunday mixes are a bit shambolic in the flow. This Sunday playlist is for specifically the following: you have a close friend who needs an early morning lift to the coast, they have a lot of bags, probably something heavy has gone down, stop for petrol and coffee, a friend is attempting to roll a cigarette but they haven't smoked in years, the weather changes its mind a bit” - JS

S.03 E.31Josh Marcy

“I didn’t last long in LA. I lack a certain something to pull it off. Those long 4pm stretches of sun were melancholy for me. I felt pulverized by them, eviscerated by their stillness. But Midwesterners often do well out West. Freddie Gibbs is as much California as he is Indiana now, and Dilla’s Donuts is as much an LA record as it is a Detroit record. The Stones Throw crew knew how to treat Jay Dee, they understood Dilla before the rest of the world did.“ 


S.03 E.32Simon Reynolds

S.02 E.17

Reynolds has made his way through his own musical archaeology with a specific lens as both a rockist and a raver, but not afraid to incise either persona when needed. Ultimately, for all his love of underground culture, Reynolds is a musical populist: He wants you to have a good time. The work he’s done on aberrant music genres (electronic, shoegaze, post-punk) have been meaningful for me. While others have written these off as antisocial or nihilistic, Reynolds gives them an ecclesiastical light. -SV4

S.03 E.33Trevor McFedries

“Before creating Brud and FWB, Trevor was known professionally as Yung Skeeter and worked as a DJ, producer, and director for acts including Ke$ha, Azealia Banks, and Katy Perry. McFedries has performed at music festivals Lollapalooza and Coachella. He currently serves on the board at the Southern California Institute of Architecture and Rhizome (New Museum, NYC).”

S.03 E.34Matthew Schnipper

“The arc and violence of the heartbreak that we all will face is unknown, but perhaps music prepares us for it and sculpts our capacity. In a world that can show up as very dark, art shows us the human spirit is indelible, and our shared love of it is a strength beyond borders.” 
- SV4

S.03 E.35Vivian Host
I met Vivian early in Ghostly’s development when she was based in San Francisco as editor of the essential XLR8R magazine when it was in print mode. The Bay Area was a very different place musically in the 90’s and early 00’s. It was a major capital for electronic music in the US and globally. The beloved house sound and party culture of the 90’s also helped pave the way for a new generation of labels like Tigerbeat6 and artists like Blectum From Blechdom helped give experimental music (IDM, glitch, etc.) more of an art/punk character which helped it gain precedence in early 00’s indie circles. Under Vivian’s leadership, XLR8R became a global document of this and other global scenes and helped usher in new fans who may have thought electronic music was mainly a European game at the time. -SV4

S.03 E.36Jeremy Deller
As a conceptual artist, Jeremy Deller makes an unlikely, if often conflicted nationalist, proud of Britain and seeking to unpack its history, from Stonehenge to the enduring appeal of Depeche Mode. Deller utilizes Britain’s icons, folklore, and failures, which have become increasingly prophetic in a post-Brexit world.

More than an artist, I see Deller as sort of an unlikely community organizer who kickstarts the machine but can’t seem to turn it off (for the better). Similar in some ways to Eno in setting up a “system” and letting it unfurl, Deller ideates, organizes, and lets it fly, the results often surprise. He shares some space with other mischief artists such as The KLF where the stakes jump from low to high very quickly, depending on the mood of the public. 

S.03 E.37Sasha Frere-Jones

“Like some of his musical subjects, SFJ has also courted controversy over the years and became a celeb of sorts, an Obama-era coastal elite baddie. You could find him haunting Charlie Rose’s table looking like an ENO acolyte or a Billy Zane for the Abel Ferrara set.” 

S.03 E.38Marcus J Moore

“This playlist is meant to celebrate women in experimental music. Though some of the tracks are traditional, the artists in question — from Roberta Flack and Alice Coltrane to KeiyaA and Demae — add subtle creative wrinkles to the mix, giving it a unique flourish.” -MJM

S.03 E.39Michael Cina
As a wise person once told me “you can’t hear what you can’t see” which has informed how we’ve approached design at Ghostly. The visual aspect of what we do has always been of huge importance to being able to help elevate the music we release. Image and type have perhaps defined my relationship to the arts just as much as music. It’s when all these things come together that you approximate ecstacy. Cina has hit this mark in our catalog more than a few times, I believe.-SV4


“The arts exist in a fascinating cross-section of utility vs form because art can provide indefinite functions in divergent contexts. Most of this music was not made under the guise of a ‘gospel/spiritual genre’ and the ones that were, crossed those lines. The best music to me often occurs when people blend ideas and concepts to create something new and unique.” -Cina

S.03 E.40Jeremy Greenspan
The Junior Boys galaxy forms a universe where even a less glamorous guy (and the object of his affection) are made into silver screen heroes. For those of us who weren’t confident in our looks (though looking back I can finally dig myself), there was a relatability to the Junior Boys as Greenspan in his own words relishes that he may “not look the part” of his sonic image. In listening to the JBS, all of our mundane relationship stuff and our personal idiosyncrasies are worthy of dramatic retelling. If you can elevate the mundane into the cinematic, you should be so lucky, and this is why Greenspan is one of the great herbs of the era. A true believer. -SV4

Greenspan in Studio

S.02 E.24Bradley Zero
Zero’s hour-long Herb mix is as inviting as a Zero DJ set, always effortlessly cool but not insincere. Regarding the playlist, Zero states "A bit of heartbreak, summer nostalgia & a continuing and undying love for The Beatles." - SV4


S.03 E.42Barbie Bertisch

S.03 E.43
Paul Raffaele

Barbie Bertisch and Paul Raffaele live “the music life” which I define as a steadfast dedication to the discovery and dissemination of the good stuff. As writers, curators, DJs, party throwers, and archivists, they are exceedingly generous in spirit and reverent of a certain strain of music, namely Disco and Soul adjacent dance music. The code they live by evokes the inclusionary and sacred practices of the Paradise Garage or David Mancuso’s The Loft. Music is serious stuff and should be treated as such, on heavy Klipsch speakers of course. 

S.03 E.44House Shoes

Promo Teaser
I feel grateful to have been up close to this moment and my most cherished cassette tape, amongst thousands, is my original Slum Village (Dilla’s original group) cassette with the Street Corner tag on it sold to me by Shoes. This playlist takes me back to the wonder of the moment, being a kid, and just loving what I was hearing, week after week. -SV4

Season 4

Cool Hunting—

     “Ghostly enthusiasts will know that Valenti has a penchant for thinking holistically about projects, and Herb Sundays is no different. In addition to the extensive Substack stories, each playlist also gets its own cover art created by longtime Ghostly collaborator Michael Cina. The project gives them a “low-stress way to geek out” while oftentimes further highlighting the personality behind each curator. “I never show the curator the cover in advance,” Valenti says, “so it’s sort of a surprise of sorts, but we do our best to make them interesting. There’s def a lot of easter eggs and double meanings in the covers.”





S.04 E.45

Ex. 1

Parris’ Herb Sundays takes this love of pop and indie even further. Instead of a club survey, we get a view of the artist at home, from the adventure-pop of Bat For Lashes, to the low-key charge of The xx, and onto the magisterial Mystery Jets. It's summer fun and yet another unexpected twist from Parris. - SV4

S.04 E.46
MJ Lenderman

The countrified rock of Boat Songs is echoed on this playlist (Crazy Horse, Meat Puppets) and the set feels like a periodic table of the elements that make up the Lenderman universe. There’s the hard-living, semi-remorseful George Jones, the Kranky blasts from New Zealand’s Roy Montgomery, and a few pontoon rockers for good measure. The more recent additions were my fave discoveries here: Nyxy Nyx and Court Passion, far on the other edges of the grid. High and low, left and right, this is how Herbs fight.
- SV4

S.04 E.47Gia Margaret

“I wanted to capture the feeling of a truly strange time in my life, even though I would prefer to forget it altogether. This process helped me understand something about myself, & hopefully it can help others, too.” -GM
The music of Gia Margaret indeed takes me to a place and self that I’d sometimes rather forget but then realize it's impossible. It tugs at the times in youth when your feelings are bigger than anything.

Quiet summers in the city over the past couple of years have brought this feeling back to me, all long shadows stretching by closed newsstands. The pain of summer is not that nothing is good, it's that somewhere, something is great and you aren't a part of it. Your would-be lover is sitting on a striped towel on a creaky dock, taking carefree selfies with someone else. The subway train has left the station, and it’s not coming back any time soon. You're alone and you can't make good on the promise-filled light that seeps into your room. It's these feelings of sweet dread that we have, as a culture, filtered into memes (“I should call her/him..” etc.) but are actually excruciating in practice. Nothing is heavier than the young heart, the rawest nerve. This is the stuff Gia Margaret is made of. 

S.04 E.48Mark Leckey

There's a bridge in my mind I hope to find again. I believe it's an early '80s Martha Cooper or Henry Chalfant photo (or a composite of multiple in my mind) of 2 off-duty graffiti artists on a summer's day entering the darkness of a wide NYC underpass. When I think of this image (or create it in my mind) it fills me with a deep calm. It probably is the confluence of a few things: the heat and relief from the heat on a hot day, an image of a lost place or a city you could spelunk in somewhat freely, and the idea of being untethered, or that without phones, no one knows where these people are.  


Photo of museum goers I took at MomaPS1’s 2016 Leckey show

S.04 E.49Rob Harvilla

This flow only works because Rob is someone whose ego death reaper is already on to the next town. He has abandoned hope of being cool and left it amongst his Ikea on the curb in New York. It is only because of this that he can now truly get to work. As a fellow ego-crushed midwesterner, I can relate of course. The "gunmetal sky" in Ohio is the same one in Michigan and I know for a fact we've meditated over the same lonely bundle of dirty snow while the churn of our Discman cassette adapter whines in the car stereo.  -SV4

S.04 E.50Félicia Atkinson
With a focus on nuance and mood, Atkinson’s work, and this mix, have a similar meditative quality. In an era of push communications and a fixation on the character analysis of artists, sometimes the artists themselves can achieve more by not being a propulsive force of biography. In able hands, art can be a conduit to a deeper and quieter feeling, which is more than personal enough. -SV4


S.04 E.51Sam Valenti IV
If my mix above, which is intended to throw off slight fromage fumes like a double-disc CD compilation purchased at a Fin de Siècle high street HMV, is too much for you, then check Alexis Arp’s gorgeous Herb Sundays 10 mix for a slightly more refined Ibizan voyage that is truly sublime. -SV4

S.04 E.52Hrishikesh Hirway
Good art always reveals more with time. Said differently, good art doesn't give you everything upon first impression. Everything the commercial internet wants from us is about speed. This won't change anytime soon, so personal value systems are essential, even if unpopular. Since to some degree, all art now is about technology and who has access to it, we need to democratize the tools to see its potential, which seems to be happening.

Despite my cynicism, artists always prevail and upend expectations, so I stay interested. Artists using AI are already becoming commonplace, and we need great artists to unlock the explosive potential of the tech and point out the darker truths of the space, in a way no one else can or will.

S.04 E.53David Marx

If every atomic unit of culture (TikTok, Instagram, meme, Tweet) is a vessel of taste, then we’ve become intense readers of the nuance of each moment. The book’s fourth chapter is on “taste” in general which this newsletter/series is about. Herb Sundays (working slogan: “there are no guilty pleasures, only guilty people”) is a study on taste, not necessarily seeking to find the socially accepted Best Taste which usually leads to commonly held ideas, in both academic or “poptimist” zones, both which both feel too surefooted for the current quicksands of culture for me. 

S.04 E.54Piotr Dada

Orlov is a music lifer. When I think I’m a music fan and then think of his story, I move myself down the ladder. He’s also been gracious with his time and thinking back to most of the pivotal ghostly events, he was present, like a proud uncle. I look up to Piotr in many ways, including that he was an early dad in my peer group, and seeing him and Kate on the town, even when they were new parents, gave me hope that it could be done. I also love that he lives emotions out, on his sleeve as it were and that he's all in. No one is more passionate. Let's dive in, shall we… - SV4 


S.04 E.55Oskar Mann
With clothing or any product really, it's all about how you make something simple stand out to the right people. Streetwear, or whatever you want to call it, trades on references. Mann’s love of jazz informs the brand and it ties everything together. You can enjoy it at face value or you can dig deeper, which is what this series is about. His mix carries this passion through and is a great way to kick off Fall. -SV4

S.04 E.56Dan Charnas
“Ultimately it’s really about me saying to everybody who loves Dilla: ‘You were not wrong. Your affection was not misplaced,’” he said. “He is special, more special than many of you all even know.” -Charnas

S.04 E.57Allison P. Davis

“Once you’re done with the emotional cleansing, there’s a reset period before you go on to do the things you have to do (cook, eat, cook, eat) with a new lightness. So, in the middle of the mix, some songs for bursts of energy (songs to make you groove, but still with a touch of dramatic maudlin). And then songs to take you into dinnertime, wine time, TV time, and bedtime where I like to snuggle up with all of my Sunday feelings (except the Sunday scaries.)” - APD

S.04 E.58Reilly Brennan

As kids, we used to play basketball in his driveway with the wonky spray-painted three-point line that curved in suddenly because whoever painted it (Reilly?) cut the arc too wide for the ensuing grass. There was always music playing from a cassette boombox of some sort and on it, he played The Low End Theory (1991) and other tapes while we shot around. 
- SV4

S.04 E.59Galcher Lustwerk

“There is a pure confidence in his taste authority, unperturbed by the signals certain genres might throw off (HS59 includes Sting, Nelly Furtado, Korn, and more), which makes him a true terminator. He’s someone who scans through the noise and sees the tune for what it is, and quickly knows if it’s actually good or not, in a way most can’t even explain. That’s the Herb Experience.” 
- SV4

S.04 E.60Dean Kissick
Across the aisle in music, we’re seeing some reprisal against critics, who fans shame for not lionizing everything they want. Only certain artists win their favor but it can be a huge boon. “A critic,” Tom Wolfe wrote, “can also be an artist’s best publicist.” Music criticism has especially been under fire with the emergence of fan armies/stan culture looking to punish critics of their beloved, via their internet prowess and vigilance. Artists themselves hit back like Lana Del Rey did in 2019 on Ann Powers’ piece. This felt sort of shocking, and maybe a bit close to nationalistic impulses in other forums of life. -SV4

S.04 E.61
Michael Cina

Easy listening is a music genre that was most popular during the 1950s to 1970s. It encompasses instrumental recordings, almost always “with strings” and pulls inspiration from all genres of music, characteristically on music from the 1940s and 1950s. Easy listening eventually snuck its way into every genre possible. It is often considered a sibling of genres like exotica and lounge music.

Growing up in the 70’s, the dying remains of the “easy listening” genre was strewn all around. I can’t remember where I heard it first but you would get tastes in old people’s houses, the dentist office, momentarily while changing the radio station to find something else… 
S.04 E.62Veronica Vasicka

There’s an irony that music is about science that needs science itself to resuscitate itself. There’s also the magical idea of saving something from loss or ruin, or that these “lost tapes” which have gained moisture (and a beautiful patina) over time, are actually deteriorating. The binders/glue in magnetic tapes holding the iron oxide or magnetic coating to the tape are falling apart, which often has rendered this music unlistenable. The label functions as a rescuer of these would-be lost feelings and micro-documents of the home recording boom. 

Promo Teaser

S.04 E.63Chris Black

S.04 E.64Them Jeans

Photo by Lexi Moreland
HLG is aspirational in the sense that it aims to find actual pleasure in a world where it is increasingly politicized or meme’d into submission. In this world, one must find discipline of any sort (in working out, relaxing, or just showing up to zoom) to stay sane. The show actually pairs nicely with the lifehacker pods (Ferriss, Huberman, etc.) which I crawl to, but the guys aren't willing to sacrifice style or their aesthetic ideals in the process of betterment, which is hard to find coming out of the Startup/Hustle era where any sort of taste snobbery is treated with distrust. It is comforting that the world of Glenn O’Brien hasn’t died, it has just gotten sillier/more sardonic. -SV4
S.04 E.65Sam Gendel

“Friendship seems like Gendel’s thing, with repeated collaborations with various musicians, and most commonly with Sam Wilkes, a fellow jazz-not-jazz dude who gets surgical with his Fender precision bass. On playing with others Gendel sez: “I don’t play live very much, I just play with other people. That’s how I prefer it. I dread playing solo shows right up until I get on stage.” -SV4
x End of Season 4
“Herb Sundays is the brainchild of friend of WITI, Sam Valenti. Sam founded Ghostly and cares deeply about music of all kinds. The idea of Herb is simple: Sam asks “world-class music fans, some more famous than others, to make their perfect Sunday mix for ‘when no one is looking.’” While that surely sounds like a familiar idea, this kind of thing is all about execution. Who you ask and how seriously they take the assignment is the difference between something real and some little magazine feature where a famous DJ lists off five songs they listen to on the weekend. There’s a depth and consistency to the series that is worthy of praise. Even the artwork, created by Mike Cina every week, is original and amazing. -Why This Is Interesting
Season 5

More Praise.

I love Sam Valenti’s Herb Sundays newsletter, a tripartite offering. With each edition, there is:
  1. a playlist from some creative eminence;
  2. that eminence’s notes on their playlist; and
  3. Sam’s sparkling, perceptive celebration of that eminence.
I’m going to be honest with you: I don’t listen to the playlists. I do, however, read parts 2 and (especially) 3 with great interest. Sam’s raison dêtre is clear: It’s also a chance to give flowers, as it were, I try to write an obituary for the still living. Why wait? - Robin Sloan





S.05 E.66
Michael Chabon
The Pulitzer Prize winning writer shares a "thematic playlist" for his current book-in-progress, a novel set in the American Southwest.

“This playlist grows out of the music I’ve been listening to while working on my current project, a novel set in the American Southwest. I tend to listen almost exclusively to instrumental music while I’m writing, because sung lyrics interfere with my own flow of words. While working I’ll mostly just let entire albums unspool, but I do also craft “thematic” playlists for particular projects, and one for this latest book, which might be called Highways of Cimmeria, was overdue.” - MC

Ex. 1

S.05 E.67
Michael Mayer
What’s fun about the Herb mixes for me is you can often find trace elements of the curator’s work in the songs they share. A few moments in these cuts share the atomic units of great KOMPAKT songs, even Steve Miller Band’s insanely camp “Abracadabra” has a bridge that feels like the fissure of some of the best Kompakt cuts. Mayer was built for this. - SV4

S.05 E.68Martine SymsSyms spins the ever-present now but seems to be having fun in the process. Why mope when there’s so much to learn, so much to express? Today is already past, the past is present. You think you've outrun yourself and there you are, still a result of your needs, your hopes, your epoch. Or, maybe locked in a heroic embrace. - SV4

S.05 E.69aWill Calcutt

S.05 E.69b
Will Calcutt
“In millennium days, collegiate versions of Sam and I dreamt of a Sincerist Movement as an alternative to the flood of irony we felt we were drowning in culturally, politically, spiritually. The joke was supremely on us as irony only multiplied and metastasized, gained frightful sentience, and consumed all before it like a famished Saturn. We’re lucky that the midwestern saudade we sought to channel into our Greatest Hits remains strong, and while a true Sincerist Movement may not happen for a thousand years, or possibly never, in our imagination it has been a celestial body for us to navigate by through murky and obscured waters. I sincerely love the songs on this playlist and I sincerely hope you have a nearly perfect afternoon listening to the playlist.” -Calcutt

S.05 E.70Amy Dang
We think of social media, and media culture in general, as the ultimate manifestation of “me culture” but Dang actually gets the bull by the horns, that it is in fact the immolation of the self for most users, who serve as spectators or micro-producers in the grip and service of bigger personalities. The din of modern media, though we assume it is about vanity, due to the presumed reality and amateur bent, serves as a surrendering of one’s inner life to the aggregated shout, and the morass that follows the flood, drowning out one’s own identity. - SV4
S.05 E.71Justin Montag
Franchise is a reminder that it’s a great privilege to get to throw yourself into something completely. It’s not a forever stretch, and as they say, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. - SV4

S.05 E.72Cory Arcangel

The technology obsessed artist shares fragments of albums he enjoys + a deeper dive into Cory's work.

S.05 E.73Okay Kaya

You peer at the mixtape in their tiny scrawl and don’t recognize the artist names at first, but by the time you’re annihilated by (her former labelmate) Jenny Hval at track 5, you’re regretting ever making a mix for them, as yours is full of hackneyed stuff from the radio, and theirs is from some imaginary movie you’ve never seen. You’ve been cast into the deep end of a new blue world, forever knowing there’s another layer to this plane. - SV4

S.05 E.74Thomas Fehlmann
“i like the ‘when no one is looking’ approach [editor’s note: I ask for a perfect Sunday mix for ‘when no one is looking’]. picking up from the time 20 years ago when gudrun and I had our weekly oceanclub-radioshow in berlin where we had lots of spots for taboos. still my favorite kind, mixing up and down left and right. having the ocean as an allegory to blend all imaginable currents. you’re swimming and there are waves and drifts and undercurrents. all merging together to produce one big vital flow.” - TF
S.05 E.75Jacques Greene
Greene refers to his younger self as a “very emotional receptacle for culture” and I’m guessing these High School Feelings (HSF) are what still drive his aims. For myself, I recently realized it maybe isn’t the past that I’ve been seeking, but the emotional connection to things. Herb Sundays is a forced effort to “dig in” on artists I admire in some capacity, and by spending a week in their ambient presence, I find my passion for their work increases.

The common goal to dunk on all things is rooted in protectionism and a fear of being duped. High School Feelings give us an open-hearted ability to sniff out what’s good, which we can dissect later. HSFs also remind us to go deep and to enjoy being a fan of things. 
- SV4

S.05 E.76Harruka Hirata

There is no exact English word that translates this Japanese word “Sunao” -but it means honest, direct, innocent, and obedient.

So this mix is very sunao, following my heart, that I would play on Sundays just to uplift, impress and inspire myself. No one else. The order is sunao too; you can see my strange tendencies going back and forth between the major and weird. My dog hates experimental/noise, and I’m not a big fan of headphones, so I try not to listen to them at home. But with this mix, I only cared about myself. Haruka’s classics. Haruka’s essentials. No recent releases! - HH (Big Love Records)

S.05 E.77Jonah Weiner
If the Blackbird newsletter were a person, it would be the tour guide your friend matched you with when traveling to a new, distant city. They are a little overeager, and you’re hoping the exotic bazaar he’s driving you to is indeed there, but then you finally get there in the dusty jeep and you leave with an incredible item, some great local food, plus a story to tell. - SV4

S.05 E.78Avalon Emerson

She’s always an exquisite ear for melody and quality mixdowns, and she’s not afraid to be uncool which is why her Herb entry is so vital and represents a true Herb Sundays powderkeg. My early summer drives to this Saint Etienne cut are a zenith sense memory, then there’s the blistering heat of Suede’s debut album, plus a Deep Forest album cut, a massive gated-snared-Wang Chung hit, and a Vangelis closer which hits Herb schmaltz heights the likes of which we haven’t seen since Michael Mayer’s Herb 67 missive earlier this year. - SV

S.05 E.79Michael Cina

Artist and designer Michael Cina takes us on a "101 journey into a quintessential era of jazz spanning from the ‘50s to the late ‘60s."

“For me, the greatest art form is music and Jazz is my favorite style of music, so hopefully this one connects. This is a 101 journey into a quintessential era of jazz spanning from the ‘50s to the late ‘60s. Anything I write will fall short of what is true about this art form full of emotional depth, creativity, and mastery of a skill few artists will ever touch. - MC

S.05 E.80
Philip Sherburne
Music criticism has been a topic of note in recent years, namely the decreasing space in major outlets for it, but also the anti-intellectualism afoot which dovetails with the rigid demands of stan/fan armies.With musicians biting back at journos for even positive reviews, there’s a sense that the critic’s pen is wobbling, what with Ed Sheeran saying stuff to Rolling Stone like “Why do you need to read a review? Listen to it. It’s freely available!…make up your own mind.” Not sure how Young Ed discovered music as a youth, but without people digging deep and sharing their (dis-)tastes, the musical landscape would be a lot less vital. A good critic is not just a contrarian, but a weathervane of how to accurately consume the popular and a footlight towards the future, and into history. - SV4

S.05 E.81
Kool Keith

Rap's great psychic wanderer, in disco mode.

“People think I listen to rap or write weird rap all day everyday. I zone out to disco jams all the time and especially when I’m on a long plane ride” - Kool Keith

So while the red carpet rolls out for Hip-Hop 50 this year, you’re gonna see a lot of artists getting their flowers that are long overdue. Who you may not see onstage is Keith who was too low key for a Hollywood film career, too weird for the rap mainstream, and carries a CV too vast and inconsistent for your “best MCs of all time” list. But he’ll be there, maybe in the balcony like a crazy Muppet or under the stage Phantom style, talking shit, or maybe already en route to another session. Just outrapping your favorite rapper, like it should be. -SV4
S.05 E.82Malibu

Temporary wonder and the hyperreal music of French artist Barbara Braccini

Malibu’s Herb 82 playlist helps connect the various capitols of her musical map and delivers on the Malibu promise of a tangible patchwork of moods. She’s got a retro-fitted Power Glove on and is moving songs around Minority Report (2002) style from her modernist beachfront compound. We find brooders from Lorn and Oneohtrix and an almost unspeakably good remix of Spooky (the 90s electronic project of Duncan Forbes and Sasha co-producer Charlie May) by Detroit’s Echospace. Then we get the space rock of Loveliescrushing, a spoken-word interlude from Lana into a sky-ripper drone metal cut, eventually settling into a Herbaceous finale of Mazzy Star/Sheryl Crow/Vanessa Carlton, like a Street Fighter II combination finishing move. This strand of 2002 Sheryl Crow sounds like what they pump through the cabin on an imaginary Virgin flight as you board, mood lighting set and the visible A/C mist blasting at your ankles. When the final piano vamp of Carlton’s almost billion streamer rings out, you may get another chance at fresh eyes. - SV4

S.05 E.83The Dare

The NYC Sleaze bellwether shares the morning after goods

S.05 E.84Craig Jenkins

The New York Magazine music writer with a dynamic megamix for both the lost and emerging heroes

The playlist is a 69 song, 4 hour and 20 minute affair (!) and lest you think this is a camera roll dump of tunes from his faves list, I watched Jenkins tweak this more than a few times. The mix has some major themes: The lost ones (Belafonte, Melvin Van Peebles, Mac Miller, Linkin Park, Alice Coltrane, Sakamoto, Tina Turner, De La Soul, Doom as Geedorah), some fin de siècle fizzy electronics (Goldie, Ultramarine, the punchy “Tesko Suicide” from Sneaker Pimps, Stereolab, Mu-ziq x Aphex), and the contemporary up and comers (Liv.e, billy woods, Yachty, Nilüfer Yanya, UMO, Steve Lacy, Arca). - SV4
“on Sundays a lot of time i would be spending hours at airports or on an airplane, which is the beginning of a two-day weekend DJing recovery process. these are some of the songs i would keep going back to mellow myself down, switch my mind back to music making. this music is good for just staring into the distance as well. make sure to listen with some sort of noise canceling headphones.” - YS
S.05 E.85Yu Su

The Vancouver-based musician and DJ in reset mode, somewhere in the world.

S.05 E.86 Dante Ross

The legendary A&R and producer shares an extended New York-centric Sunday afternoon playlist

S.05 E.87Derrick Gee

When I first dipped a toe into frigid TikTok, Derrick was one of the first people I saw and followed. He’s sort of like the affable record store person you can’t tell is flirting with you, but actually just loves music.  -SV4

“Sunday is a sacred listening time for me. I've had my first solid day of rest following the week that was (Friday night sleeps never quite do it for me) - so Sunday I'm feeling fresh and alert. When I'm in that state, I'm looking for music that is familiar. I'm looking for music that welcomes the day in rather than forcing it down my throat. Typically, that means 70's soul, romantic things, things that push a lot of atmosphere through my speakers. Oftentimes that means songs that have more space between the notes” -DG

Like a herb
“I went to high school in NYC circa 1990, so being a herb was a serious offense. So like a herb, I took this part of the assignment way too seriously. What’s the herbiest mix possible? In the end, my final conclusion was half Beatles - half Drake, but I don’t quite have the skills to pull that one off. The operative phrase of this whole series is “like a herb” so a true herb mix by definition can not be good but the herb knows where the action is, they just don’t know how to get down, a mix that gets close to the herb gets you dangerously close to something good.” 

S.05 E.88Abe Baumeister

A deep exploration of Herb by the Outlier clothing brand founder.

S.05 E.89Josh Kline

The prophetic artist working "Sunday night, channeling that clandestine, turbulent story from another time."

When you take in Kline’s work in person, which reveals the now and future truths we are heading toward in terms of climate change and labor, you are simultaneously drawn in amidst it all. Kline’s work is righteous and moral, but it is also incredibly seductive. Lest you forget he was a film student, not an art school grad, he uses the language of marketing and of Hollywood, to get his message across but does so on fair terms. It is both sublimely sincere and also widely accessible, which would be dangerous for lesser talents. -SV4

S.05 E.90Ari Marcopoulos
“When I grew up, in the early evening we would watch the highlights of the football games played that day. My favorite team was Ajax Amsterdam. It was also a day to go to church for some families. Next door to us lived a strict Protestant family. The kids weren’t allowed outside on Sunday. We’d see them behind their home’s windows watching us heathens play outside. This is dedicated to them.” - AM

S.05 E.91Geoff Rickly
Any city you’ve been in long enough offers a series of other lives, previous and potential, that roar and lap at your heels. It's not so much that it hurts to face these, it's that it shocks you how near all of these are, both geographically and emotionally. My former home of Greenpoint, like Rickly’s, is a grid of meaningful places and feelings and the long walks taken on the industrial borders were probably where Rickly often scored. The city changes and you change, not always in that order. - SV4 

S.05 E.92Margeaux Labat
Margeaux has a real knack for the textural side of soft tunes, which is on display here and she worked up an incredible mix from her past and personal life. Her range of tastes, which carries a strong international component, means she can give very powerful recommendations that won’t scare away newcomers either. I loved some of the lesser-known cuts/versions from major names (Marley, Simon, Pumpkins), and some herbal delights from all-timers like Sam Prekop made into a complete whole. I couldn’t ask for a better way to close this season, which started from a snowy Colorado pizza shop parking lot back in January. Herb 92 also has that great happysad thing going for it which pairs well with um, August and such. - SV4

Season 6

More on the Herb Campaign.

The Burger King Herb promotion met with some positive reviews. Time called it "clever", and a columnist for the Chicago Tribune stated that Herb was "one of the most famous men in America". However, the Herb promotion was a flop. The advertising campaign lasted three months before it was discontinued. One Burger King franchise owner stated that the problem was that "there was absolutely no relevant message". The mystique was lost after Herb's appearance was revealed during the Super Bowl. Burger King's profits fell 40% in 1986. As a result of the poorly received campaign, Burger King dropped J. Walter Thompson from their future advertising.





"I originally tried to make a playlist that was entirely Happy Mondays; I got up to 90% before it morphed into a collection of songs I had, at one point or another, listened to 10 times in a row. Then I arranged them in a roughly palatable way.”  - Sami Reiss"I originally tried to make a playlist that was entirely Happy Mondays; I got up to 90% before it morphed into a collection of songs I had, at one point or another, listened to 10 times in a row. Then I arranged them in a roughly palatable way.”  - SR

Alt. 1
“I’ve talked a fair bit about taste leadership in these pages, from music (Derrick Gee) to clothes (Blackbird Spyplane) and how it is one of the hot topics for art and culture in general, plus how it is changing the canon. The work Reiss does falls into this lane as it serves as a rare bit of sanity in a world gone mad as well as teaching us How To See for ourselves. In an ocean of things, there is beauty to be had, if only you can step through the door.” - SV4

S.06 E.94
Nelson George

The Brooklyn-born author, culture critic, journalist, and filmmaker with a mix of reflection and love. 

"The themes here are reflection and love, and how satisfying it can be to find harmony amid the chaos of life through an embrace of romance and introspection. - Nelson George

S.06 E.95Amedeo Pace, Blonde Redhead

The album soundtracked the dissolution of an on-again/off-again relationship for me, traced intermittently from high school to college and then beyond, trying to keep up when they were in New York but, never ever catching up. On one such trip, I took to the city to visit. I arrived at her apartment while she was out with friends, and I dropped my bag. I remember sitting in her apartment in a jealous haze, listening to this (on Discman I’m sure), when my eyes seized on a paperback of Sartre’s Nausea on the shelf, the black and white cover, which I quickly fell into. As cliché as it was, it felt like a wholly complete sadness in my mind. A melodramatic but hugely formative chapter in one's aesthetic sharpening. Such is the music of Blonde Redhead, harder than your heart can stand.- SV4 

Olof Dreijer is a Swedish DJ and producer, and one half of the defunct electronic music duo The Knife, formed with his sibling Karin Dreijer (Fever Ray).

“It’s easy to forget that The Knife almost always had a techno heart. For those who weren't fully sentient when they emerged, it was a big damn deal when they arrived stateside. I heard “Heartbeats” for the first time in the apartment as mentioned earlier in Herb 95. It’s one of those tunes where you remember where you were.”- SV4

S.06 E.96Olof Dreijer

Wild Nothing (Jack Tatum) shares his "coffee shop" sophisti-pop selection mixed with new discoveries. Plus some thoughts on the '80s and indie music reaching middle age. - SV4
S.06 E.97Wild Nothing, Jack Tatum
"As a teenager in the early/mid 2000s I had an affinity for a lot of this kind of "jazz-lite" downtempo and electronic music. I started building this playlist based loosely around those memories but it ended up morphing quite a bit to incorporate some more recent discoveries and other tangents. It's coffee shop music basically, but cuts that I think are really timeless and memorable. I love being able to make deep dives and big name pop tracks sit together in the same room in such a way where you don't really question it." -WN 

“I'm so old and I've been listening to music my whole life. I started my playlist years ago and whenever I hear a song that I like I just add it. I think it's over 6 hours now. It's kind of perfect for a photoshoot. I usually listen when shooting.  And sometimes when I'm editing, that way I won't get sick of it. I do not listen to it unless I'm working." - MM

S.06 E.98Marilyn Minter

S.06 E.99Anthony Naples
It’s unsurprising that Naples has a basic understanding of this stuff. When tagging his music, the words don’t mean anything to us, but they are all we have to go on. Songs are merely signposts, their complete value isn’t inside of them at the time of their making. Great songs are experiences with the listener, invisible markers of time swirling in the whirlpool. - SV4

S.06 E.100Jam City 
"A collection of tracks to listen to on a rainy Sunday. I tried to pick stuff that fits the mood of a peaceful Sunday morning, but also the looming storm clouds of dread that Monday is just around the corner. I've spent a lot of recent Sunday's travelling back from shows so this mix definitely works well for staring out of plane or train windows, feeling wistful and defiant (Eagles - Find A Love Again), reflective (Randy Crawford - Rainy Night In Georgia, Genesis - In Too Deep) or just pleasantly tired and vibed out (Cruza - Hypnotherapy). Had a hard time making the case that any of these were guilty pleasures, but settled on closing out with The Stones, because this song just makes me well up inside." - JC

Notes on 100Sam Valenti IV
Herb Sundays is 100 playlists deep. “100” is arbitrary but it signals some degree of commitment. A lot of people with regular practices do more, never miss a week, and produce multiple times a week, this is great for them. For me, I just wanted to see that I could do something apart from email with some consistency.

It started about 10 years ago when I was with friends and the conversation turned to goals and resolutions for the new year. I have always been hopeless with this stuff. It doesn’t match my motivation style and usually leads to self-loathing. My friend told me he wanted to run a marathon (he’s done a few now I think), and I said I wanted to write more. A pause hung over the room. “What would you write about?” they asked. I had sort of a half-formed answer.: “My experiences so far, or like advice for up-and-comers.” That sort of worked to shift the mood. I shut back up.

I see success in doing something consistently because presumes there is no arrival, that everything is just a form of practice and discovery with occasional moments of brilliance or acceptance. When I found the weird Rollins quote above, it helped because it reminded me that in a stats-driven landscape, to maintain any degree of commitment, I shouldn’t worry about followers and likes for a long while, if ever.

S.01 E.001Sam Valenti IV
Herb 001 is sort of a petri dish of music I found comforting at the time, some obvious, and some less so. It never made it to Substack, as it was just an IG thing for the moment. I was tempted to augment/edit it but thought better of it, so it remains unchanged. Some songs hit hard still, and some have faded from view. It’s funny how music works. 001 a thought bubble of songs, some obvious and some less so, each with at least a morsel of truth.