The Exotica Project

It's easier for me to define exotica, a lush, atmospheric, sometimes-sappy instrumental pop music of the '50s and '60s, than it is for me to explain why I love it. I think it has something to do with nostalgia for a time I didn't really live through — a late-postwar period in which the world was bigger and stranger, and unfamiliar locales could be described with a straight face as "exotic." (One historical theory holds that the music was initially marketed to ex-GIs home from the Pacific, and trickled down to the populace at large.) There's something emotionally resonant in that idea. It's like we're looking back at a generation that looked forward, and out to a larger world it hadn't yet subsumed. Also: While the music is frequently syrupy, some of it is unironically pretty. And some of it, like the best of genre superstar Les Baxter, bubbles with an unexpected, almost subliminal complexity. Dan Shiman, who's also proprietor of the excellent MP3 blog Office Naps, curates a fantastic introduction to the music at The Exotica Project. (Via the tireless Maria Popova.)