As an English singer-songwriter in the early ’70s, Nick Drake and his work competed with renowned artists such as Elton John, John Lennon, and David Bowie. Although these artists may have found success as they dominated the early ’70s music scene Nick Drake’s melanch0ly lyrics and acoustic sound would go on to inspire future artists and grasp the listening ear of millions. Drake’s reluctance to hold interviews and perform live stunted his success. This may be attributed to his battle with depression which, sadly, took his life as he was found dead from an overdose of prescribed antidepressants at the age of 26. The manner of his death has never been resolved leading individuals to speculate whether Drake’s untimely death was suicide or merely an accident. During the early ’80s after the release of his three albums “Five leaves left” (1969), “Bryter Layter” (1971), and “Pink Moon” (1972) singers and listeners alike began crediting Drake’s work. His influence spread and by the early ’90s, Drake’s music became a genre of its own somewhat of a “melancholic romanticism” of life. Drake’s career and life exhibited this genre which has now become his staple and while his music transcends generations it continues to hold true to the angst of early adulthood. To listen to his music and learn more about Nick Drake I recommend viewing the documentary of his life, “A Stranger Among Us” and finding his music anywhere you stream.
It’s been a big year for new music. Check out what some of our DJs and writers here at the SOCC consider their favorite albums of 2022.
Sexy by Coco and Clair Clair
Although everyone I know would likely expect to see Crash by Charli XCX as my top album (and I don’t blame them!), I have not been able to get Sexy by Coco and Clair Clair out of my head since its release. This aptly titled album is full of witty disses, hedonism, and most importantly, fun, that makes the pop duo so special. The playful rejection of men and self-centered attitudes play a defining role in these tracks, like in “Bad Lil Vibe“: “I just wanna party baby, I don’t want a man. Don’t want you, want a couple more bands”. Much of this album offers remnants of nostalgia for previous internet eras; “Pop Star”, the closing track, could fit right in on the wall of a celebrity gossiper/sparkle addict’s MySpace page. With lyrics like, “Girl built like a vape pen and think that she compare”, need I say more? As pure confidence exudes from every second of the short half-hour runtime, the listener is reminded that, although this is Coco and Clair Clair’s world, they can be a part of it too. – Lillian Fuglsang
Ants From Up There by Black Country, New Road
Working your way through this album is utterly exhausting, but once you’re done the only thing you want to do is jump back in headfirst. The catharsis provided by stellar almost theatric instrumentals polished by months of performing and improvising these songs in front of crowds for months, and the hauntingly beautiful lyrics written by Isaac Woods littered with little gleaming metaphors that you won’t decipher until your fourth listen, is exhilarating. Those two sentences were a mouthful but I could talk my mouth off about this album any day of the week. While it is disappointing we may never see this band in this form again due to Isaac’s totally understandable absence (he often cried while performing this album), you can’t help but be excited for what’s to come after such a masterpiece. -Issa Nasatir
NO THANK YOU by Little Simz
NO THANK YOU is Little Simz’s timely followup to her monumental Sometimes I Might be Introvert album last year that won her multiple accolades, including a BRIT and a Mercury Prize. I couldn’t stop listening to her last album; it was on repeat wherever I went. Simz, whose given name is Simiatu Ajikawo, grew up in North London to Nigerian parents and has been developing her musical career for a little under a decade. NO THANK YOU promises consistency with her recently developed sound and feels like the mark of an artist detailing and shaping her craft. The inclusion of dramatic orchestral sounds between her flow creates an entirely original and emotional sound. This album deals with themes of racial inequality and Black power, as well as her own personal struggles as an artist. It entirely sucked me in, just like the last one did. Give it a listen and I promise you won’t regret it. -Sadie Fleig
Get On The Otherside by Bobby Oroza & Cold Diamond Mink
Bobby Oroza is a BRAZEN VOCAL GOD with an incredible voice. You can hear the heartbreak and the passion in this man’s timbre on all twelve songs. With the talented, soulful musical stylings of Cold Diamond Mink in the background, this album is sealed as my top album of 2022. -Robby Brooks
Ants From Up There by Black Country, New Road
BCNR’s Opus blends the passion of Bowie, the animal rawness of Conor Oberst, and the behemoth goals of Godspeed You! Black Emperor into an hour of emotional surrender. This monolith has amended itself into the music canon quicker than any record in memory. Repeating themes lodge themselves into your head just to tighten your pull into the album’s space. Agh I just feel like I’ve listened to a band sacrifice themselves to a higher power in order to create something more powerful than the Elephant’s Foot. – Jack Madison
American Heartbreak by Zach Bryan
I know country might not fall to the top of many people’s list, but on the pure fun scale, this album topped my year without any question. This album completely changed my perception of country music- that is showing it is incredibly listenable, and was a perfect summer album. Although it’s a little long of a project, coming in at a whopping 34 songs, most of them are deeply replayable. It’s just easy, fun, and exciting; perfect for summer car rides, backpacking, and really anything in the warm weather. It’s my favorite album of the year for the memories its accompanied, and how it does a great job moving far, far away from hyper-commercialized trucks and republicans mainstream country. I’d recommend a listen. -Theo Tannahill
Time Skiffs by Animal Collective
As a longtime Animal Collective fan, I was so excited to hear some of their initial songs from this album on the radio at the beginning of 2022, with hits such as “Prester John” and “Strung with Everything” that were palatable enough for the avg. indie listener but still had traces of their signature experimental sound. The organic instrumentals throughout are reminiscent of a favorite AnCo album Sung Tongs, but offered even more meaning behind their songs thanks to Josh Dibb’s thoughtful lyrics. Not going to lie, I was not liking the trajectory of their discography before this album… BUT I know Time Skiffs is going to be a classic that I will keep coming back to. Favorite song: “Royal and Desire” -Emily Faulks
Florist by Florist
Florist opens up with June 9th Nightmare that is an eerie ambient tune that sounds like spiderwebs and creaking doors, yet you feel cradled by its cyclical nature. The two duets feel as if a waltzing battle is spiraling in and out your ears. The album pans out in a very beautiful way, much like how a flower blooms. Florist was made on the porch of a rented house in the Hudson Valley where the band focused on collaborative creation nestled into their daily routine and outdoor endeavors. The retreat into nature and intuitive processes make up the album’s dominance of raw elements. Ambient music outnumbers those with lyrics which requires the listener to be patient and invites them to move into a space of retreat, much like the creation of the album. The dominance of ambient sound forces a personal interactive experience that feels like flower petals reaching out like dangling intrusive arms rearranging your brain chemistry. The short abstract wording and ambience allows you to connect with it in just the way you want it to; if you allow it to be, it provides reflection of self. Though the album is about loss, homecoming, grief, and healing, Florist has mastered the art of saying a lot without saying anything at all which forces individualized interpretation. Just when you think the album picks up, it shoots you back down with beautifully nurtured hums, chirps, wind, fingerpicking and crickets. It plays with your mind and places you into pockets of your brain you have never visited before. Florist is an experience. It is spiritual, free, intuitive and alluring. Favorite songs: Spring in Hours and Red Bird Pt. 2 (Morning) -Marina Malin
Reset by Panda Bear and Sonic Boom
As members of Animal Collective and Spacemen 3, respectively, Panda Bear and Sonic Boom’s first album as co-songwriters was a big splash in psychedelia. But the album doesn’t call attention to itself as such: the yipping and screaming of AnCo’s early albums and the drones of Spacemen 3 are relinquished for easygoing melodies and arrangements. But as pleasant as is the spiraling music and its sampled foundations of 50s-60s hits, the lyrics detail a frustration that would be fit for sonic frenzy if its source wasn’t in the stillness of indefinite languishing. Reset is hopeful and bright with its darkness in plain sight. Released in August, I listened to it as this school year approached and found an album suited for beginnings and for staying in place—an encouragement to grow and a comfort in stagnation. -Tate Gibbons
Super Champon by Otoboke Beaver
Super Champon is the band’s third album since forming in 2009, in Kyoto. Its rhythmic and fast, and super exciting they are preserving the same feeling as the 2019 release Itekoma Hits. The album comes in at 20 minutes of super punchy and girly sound. PARDON? is my favorite track. – Isabella Garcia
Dissolution Wave by Cloakroom
It really comes down to the guitar tone. This album rolls through expansive distorted sounds built on simple song structure. It’s slow, heavy, and intentional, more shoegaze than metal. Many songs feel like a guitar-centered symphony, others are more pared down, fringing on indie, but overall the record swims between genres and tempos in an exploration of sound and texture. -Asa Gartrell
Ants From Up There by Black Country, New Road
The dissonant cacophony of sounds that introduces Black Country New Roads’ debut album, Ants From Up There, rightly sets the tone for the next jam-packed 58 minutes. This album, like nothing before and never will be again, brings together the unusually melancholy sounds of the 7 young British band members. The band’s first and last album together brings you on a pilgrimage to a not-so-classic breakup album. It is the breathless emotion throughout each and every one of the unparalleled tracks that made this album stand out as the best album of 2022 for me. -Meleah Silverstein
Bin Reaper 3: Old Testament by Babytron
Bin Reaper 3: Old Testament is Babytron at his best. It’s the third album in Babytron’s Bin Reaper series, but this album shows him in a whole new light. Songs like Silly Me, Wake Tf Up, and Airtron are reminiscent of the sample-heavy beats that gave Babytron his initial claim to fame. Tron doesn’t stay beholden to this style though, as songs like Drake & Josh and 8th Wonder of the World sound unlike anything he’s put out previously. Whatever the beat’s style is and whoever is producing it, his rapping is always fast-paced and entertaining to listen to. -Peter Gottsegen
2022 has seen some incredible verses, both guest features and artist’s verses that stood out on their own song. I’ve compiled a list of 10 verses (and a few honorable mentions) that, in my opinion, were the best of the year. This could include lyrics, flow, effectiveness, and whether the verse makes you rewind it to listen to it again.
(I’ve included time stamps for each verse, but I recommend listening to each song as a whole to fully experience the verses).
Ken can’t miss with his freestyle series.
Lil Gnar one-ups Chief Keef on a song that’s named after one of Sosa’s legendary mixtapes.
“Wockiana turned my cream soda into Hennessy
Pull up from wherever, I got demigod tendencies
Unky fucking up the rope from West V to Tennessee
Hunnid dollar eighthy, heard you smoking shit that’s ten a G”
The verse is originally from 2007, but Seiji remixed it using City Pop-inspired production to do this Dbt’s verse justice.
A stand-out verse on a male-dominated cypher.
“MDMA” – Destroy Lonely
2022 has been a monumental year for Destroy Lonely, Ken Carson, and the rest of Playboi Carti’s Opium label as all of the members (except for Carti) have dropped their own studio albums. Although this verse isn’t from Lonely’s solo album, it makes you question whether this song should’ve been on it. Ken Carson delivers a decent verse but keeps the same flow throughout most of it. Lonely doesn’t do anything new in this verse, but his calm yet enthusiastic delivery matches the production of this song. When Lonely punches in, he builds upon Ken’s flow, but then switches it up in a satisfying way by rapping:
“Big bro still serving rocks, yeah, but please keep that on the low
Yeah, shawty, I’m a rockstar, my guitar got a scope
I’m rockin’ all black and my cross upside down, I’m not the Pope”
This song is one of the best off of X, and it’s made even better with Lonely’s flow switch and passive delivery. This song is a definitive introduction to the Opium-style that has been taking Hip-Hop by storm, and Lonely’s verse solidifies it.
“The Kingdom” – Thaiboy Digital
This year we’ve seen multiple projects from the Swedish collective, Drain Gang, and Thaiboy Digital third solo project Back 2 Life is a part of this. While this project is nothing new for Thaiboy, it’s a welcome addition to his catalog. Thaiboy has generally remained the most consistent of the group, with the other members’ music sounding wildly different with each of their projects. “The Kingdom” opens with a solid verse from Bladee, but Thaiboy’s verse does this video game-like beat justice. If you’re looking for insane wordplay, bars, or storytelling, this verse might disappoint you. But if you know about Thaiboy’s struggles with drugs and the Swedish government deporting him and his family, the opening lines to this verse hit harder:
“Feeling resurrected, man, I can’t go back to hell
I was fucking up the balance, so the darkness tipped the scale
Now I’m going so damn hard, I’m making sure they’re living well
My life is a movie, tell my daughter fairytales”
Thaiboy and the other DG members’ lyrics and production have reflected more positivity, especially when compared to their early work. This verse follows this trend. This verse expresses a level of emotional growth and despite the darkness “tipping the scale”, Thaiboy’s able to overcome it and grow from it.
“aero3” – Seiji Oda
Seiji Oda’s album lofi//HYPHY was an exploration of genre-bending music. This album mixed the well-known Lofi genre, popularized by that one YouTube live stream that had that looping video of the anime girl chilling with the cat, and Hyphy, a genre native to the Bay area, which is characterized by its danceability. Aero3 is more of a Lofi cut off the album, however, the drum patterns and dance track sound effects sprinkled throughout the song add elements of Hyphy to the mix. This song is personal, with Seiji going into detail about his family, friends, and past relations,
“Can’t say her name, but we ain’t talk in a minute
Some people, you gotta love from a distance
You made your choice, I made mine, what’s the difference?
I still hope that you find what you’re missin'”
The production in this section is all over the place, in the best way possible. Seiji’s ability to keep up with the constantly changing beat and switch his flows accordingly makes for a great listen. His vocals stay relatively calm throughout the verse, but he’s able to explore different vocal ranges within his calm delivery if that makes sense. If it doesn’t, just listen to the song, if it does, you should still listen to it. To make things even better, there’s a Hyperpop version of this song, which I talk about in my interview with Seiji (check it out).
“Murdaman! (Remix)” – Chief Keef
2022 was a relatively quiet year for Chief Keef, mostly doing features and focusing on his clothing brand and label, 43B, which saw him signing Lil Gnar. He’s hopped on a few features and delivered every time. This feature is no exception. “Murdaman!” by YungManny originally blew up on TikTok (yeah I know, just bear with me). He then asked fans on the app who he should get as a feature on the remix, Lil Uzi Vert or Chief Keef, and an overwhelming amount said Sosa. Great decision. The Chicago rapper’s bold delivery, flow, and lyrics perfectly fit this chaotic and aggressive beat. Sosa spits:
“Murder man, you ain’t never seen no murder man
If Chief So’ was still up on this block he’d probably serve a fan
*****s always got they damn hand out, that shit don’t hurt your hand?
And I swear to God that God the only ***** I’m worshippin'”
And he keeps going. In this verse, Sosa feels like an unstoppable force, and the beat is an immovable object. His vocal inflections perfectly match the blaring horns and his grizzly delivery forces the listener to be totally immersed in this bloodthirsty verse, both lyrically and sonically.
“Flawlëss” – Lil Uzi Vert
At the beginning of this year, Yeat and Lil Uzi Vert posed for a couple of photos for Yeat’s Instagram, and he shared a snippet of their first song together “Big tonka”. In February, Yeat dropped a solid 12-song project Lyfë, which included Uzi on the opening track, “Flawlëss”. This song is a triumphant opening track, and Uzi helps secure it. Uzi’s energy and cadence is infectious, especially with the animated opening line to this verse:
“Flawless, flawless, flawless, yeah
Buffy the Vampire Slayer with these Cartiers”
This line will send chills down your spine, trust me, just listen to the song. Uzi utilizes the heavy autotune on his voice to the fullest, working around the usually awkward autotune pitch changes whenever he decides to go baritone or falsetto, or whatever. This verse is exciting and energizing, made for Yeat’s mosh pits, despite how cringy his fans make them.
“Type Shit” – Babytron
2022 was definitely Babytron’s year, with the release of Megatron and Bin Reaper 3, Tron always leaves the fans satisfied but also wanting more. “Type Shit” is a two-part song, with the first part being slower than the second part. The theme throughout the entire song is the word “type shit”. If you don’t know what that means, just look it up on Urban Dictionary. The second part is where the Detroit rapper shines, with absurd bars about selling codeine to basketball superstar Giannis Antetukumpo and more:
“You internet thugging, I ain’t finna type shit, bro
Adonis, we’ll pull up with that baby Drac’
Charged up off a yerky, bet not try shit, bro
In Milwaukee charging Giannis for a pint of Quagy, ayy”
This isn’t the end of the hilarious and well-crafted bars that Babytron delivers in this song. He also raps about flying to Europe with an “enhanced fake ID” (whatever that means) and ends the verse claiming that he freestyled the entire thing:
“Freestyle type shit, no, I ain’t write shit”
It’s impressive how Tron’s able to use the phrase “type shit” in creative and innovative ways throughout the verse. This is a great song to introduce any new Babytron listener to his style, and it definitely won’t disappoint long-time fans.
“Tomorrow 2 (Remix)” – Cardi B
Although Cardi B is known for her pop/rap hits and being a brand ambassador for pretty much every major designer, most recently Balenciaga, “Tomorrow 2” shows her skill as an MC, with raw, unapologetic bars that seem to flow naturally. I’ll admit, I’ve had my doubts and criticisms of Cardi B, but this verse proved to me that when she wants to, she can rap. GloRilla and Cardi B have become an unstoppable duo on social media, and Cardi compliments GloRilla’s deep voice and aggressive flow on this song with lyrics like:
“Ridin’ with my twin and ‘nem, and we all look good as fuck
She say she my opp but I don’t know her, had to look her up
I know that I’m rich, but I can’t help it, bitch, I’m hood as fuck
I’ve been on these bitches neck so long, sometimes my foot get stuck”
Cardi’s energetic, assertive voice and flow, which adds a lot to the already aggressive lyrics, make this song an instant classic. This one verse will have you rewinding the song multiple times, it’s that good. With 2022 being a great year for female rap, this song is sure to cement its place as not just one of the best female rap songs of 2022, but one of the best rap songs of 2022.
“Dark Hearted” – Freddie Gibbs
Freddie Gibbs’ album $oul $old $eperately was a victory lap for the rapper after countless personal and legal issues with his label, and Freddie’s as confident and consistent as ever on this project. “Dark Hearted” is a song about betrayal, perhaps the way the executive who signed him to RCA betrayed him, or maybe something more personal. In this song, he reflects on how most of his life, he had to depend on a life of crime to sustain himself and his family. Because of this, he’s constantly paranoid about being betrayed by the people he trusts and loves. While both verses are similar, it’s impressive how he’s able to reutilize lyrics and rhyme schemes from the first verse in his second verse.
In the first verse raps:
Dirty .30 in my hand
DEA and detectives, they got me cuffed on that ambulance
*****, ain’t no solvin’ no murders, welcome to Murderland
Send a hit and scratch off a hit, bitch, I’m the murder man
Pray the Lord put his hands on me
And I know I took a risk with this shit when I put my hands on it
All my enemies watchin’, they plot and plan on me
They gon’ end up one of them dead homies
In the second verse, he raps:
Dirty .30 in my hands
Shoot him, if he ain’t DOA, we shoot up the ambulance
*****, ain’t no solvin’ no murders, welcome to Murderland
Bulletproof my shit, they might hit it, bitch, I’m the murder man
Dead ***** put his hands on me
I’ma pop another bottle and pour one out for your dead homie
Swear my friends turnin’ fed on me
Man, these pussy *****s might take the stand on me
Violent, unapologetic, and dark (hence the name of the song), Freddie leaves little to the listener’s imagination, or does he? Is this a retelling of his life in Gary, Indiana? Or is this a metaphor for the label executives blackballing and betraying him? The reutilization of the first verse in the second verse is impressive, and maybe it was done as a way to drive the message of this song home.
“XXL Freshman Cypher” – Big30
Big30 is one of the main rappers from the new generation of Memphis rap to break through to the mainstream. As an affiliate of the recently incarcerated Pooh Shiesty, and coming off the death of Memphis legend Young Dolph, it’s up to him and the other young Memphis MCs to carry on their city’s legacy of Hip-Hop. Big30 had his moment in the spotlight in the 2022 XXL Freshman Cypher where he was joined by Nardo Wick, BigScarr (another Memphis rapper), and KenTheMan. Big30 punches in right after Nardo Wick’s verse, which, while enjoyable, is monotone and emotionless, a style Nardo has embraced. Big30’s energetic, southern drawl counters Nardo’s sonic numbness and emphasizes the lyrics that reflect his life in Memphis, including,
“***** spin my block incorrect, then somebody gettin’ killed
My young ***** fifteen with four bodies, can’t even buy a fifth
He ain’t even old enough to vote, that lil’ boy bangin’ Crip”
As dark as these lyrics are, it reflects the conditions of many young men living in impoverished communities in America, including the city Big30 is from. He’s able to let these lyrics sink in despite the speed and catchiness of this flow. This verse doesn’t contain insane wordplay, but 30’s able to utilize his heavy Memphis accent to rhyme “killed” and “fifth”, which I find extremely impressive, especially in a setting where most people freestyle their cyphers. In this one-take verse, 30 maintains a consistent flow with bars hitting left and right without missing a single word or going off beat. This is the best XXL cypher verse of the year, and one of the best verses of the year.
“Father Time” – Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick. That’s it.
Alright, I’ll actually explain why this is the best verse of this year. Kendrick dropped one of the best albums of 2022 with Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers. Among the many songs that stood out to me, this song, especially Kendrick’s second verse, is ingrained in my brain. This song breaks down the concept of masculinity, passed down from father to son, and how it’s reflected in modern culture, especially Hip-Hop. In this verse, like many other Kendrick songs, the lyrics and delivery are relatable, whether you’ve been affected by the topic or not. Kendrick dives into nearly every element of modern masculinity, so much so that I could write my senior thesis on this verse. Kendrick opens the verse with:
“I got daddy issues, that’s on me
Lookin’ for, “I love you”, rarely empathizin’ for my relief
A child that grew accustomed, jumping up when I scraped my knee
‘Cause if I cried about it, he’d surely tell me not to be weak
Daddy issues, hid my emotions, never expressed myself
Men should never show feelings, being sensitive never helped”
Despite being a fantastic lyricist, Kendrick doesn’t hide the message of these bars behind metaphors (which is also what makes this verse so special), so I won’t sit here and mansplain this. Kendrick continues:
“His momma died, I asked him why he goin’ back to work so soon?
His first reply was, “Son, that’s life, the bills got no silver spoon”
Daddy issues, fuck everybody, go get your money, son
Protect yourself, trust nobody, only your momma’n’em
This made relationships seem cloudy, never attached to none
So if you took some likings around me, I might reject the love”
This part needs a bit of analysis. Kendrick discusses the individualistic and stoic mindset that many young men are forced to develop. I could even argue that the line “His momma died, I asked him why he goin’ back to work so soon? His first reply was, ‘Son, that’s life, the bills got no silver spoon’” reflects the capitalist and stoic idea of masculinity, where men should ignore emotions and personal obstacles in the pursuit of their goal. While Kendrick delves into the habit of fathers molding their sons into the tough men they want them to be, he ponders the lack of a father figure in some men’s lives, and how it affects their perception of masculinity. Kendrick raps:
My *****s ain’t got no daddy, grow up overcompensatin’
Learn shit ’bout bein’ a man and disguise it as bein’ gangsta
He ends this verse with a stunning conclusion:
“And to my partners that figured it out without a father
I salute you, may your blessings be neutral to your toddlers
It’s crucial, they can’t stop us if we see the mistakes
‘Til then, let’s give the women a break, grown men with daddy issues”
In the final line of the verse, Kendrick critiques the history and future of male misogyny, whether external or internal. The reason I find this final line so important is that many rappers and rap music can display misogynistic tendencies both personally and in the music (not always, there are many exceptions). Hip-Hop is not the only genre where misogyny is present and obvious, unfortunately, most musical genres contain some level of sexism and misogyny (classical music is a prime example). Since Kendrick is a rapper, and one of the best, this verse could be viewed as not only a critique of misogyny in rap music but an analysis of it, where Kendrick tries to explain and identify its roots.
Kendrick starts this verse by angrily delivering and shouting his lyrics. As the verse progresses, we see him mellow out, coming to terms with his internalized masculinity and understanding why it’s made him act in certain ways. This makes this verse feel extremely personal not just to Kendrick, or men, but to everyone, including women who usually experience the effects of toxic masculinity (“Til then, let’s give the women a break”).
Everything about this verse could be analyzed in greater detail, but I’ll let you do that for yourself, and I have a bunch of reading to do for class.
And In the Darkness, Hearts Aglow is Natalie Mering of Weyes Blood’s second album in the trilogy that may well become a generational trinity. Its monumental predecessor, Titanic Rising, saw Mering beg and plead for some stable ground beneath her feet. With her cries answered only by the feedback of despondent tides, Mering swam through shipwrecks and salvaged memories just to look at the corrosion that had spread all over her desires. On In the Darkness, Hearts Aglow, Mering can no longer indulge in the past, and the future is no refuge either. The second act of this apocalyptic trilogy is birthed as Mering clings onto a romantic desperation to guide the way through a moonless night.
String arrangements reminiscent of “A Lot’s Gonna Change” give rise to a stairway of piano notes on the intro track. Mering’s glowing voice shines light as we approach. As if reaching her hand out through the music, she sets the scene for Hearts Aglow with a bittersweet reminder that every one of us gets lost in the current. Her golden chants proclaim “It’s Not Just me, It’s Everybody” repeatedly, celebrating a revelation that she no longer needs to muzzle the voice of her pain. “Children of the Empire” throws the listener into a music hall located in the eye of a hurricane. She taps into the beauty of baroque instrumentation – I can feel the aliveness of each instrument. Pianos, harpsichords, and bells jump around on top of the “oooh’s” and “aaahs” in the background. Even a xylophone comes in to do his always-pleasant dance (Yes I will anthropomorphize an instrument, this is the Weyes Blood baroque effect). She laments the blood on the hands of herself and other “children” of a globalized era: the time when it is near-impossible to avoid burning oil extracted through invasions and single-use plastics that will never decay. Mering acknowledges that we will pay for our sins while gazing into this cosmic clutter. However, she reminds us that we “don’t have time to be afraid.” This party at the end of our heyday is soundtracked with grim coloring: “They say the worst is done, but I think it’s only just begun.” She continues to frolic beneath nihilistic rain on “Hearts Aglow,” crooning lines like “The whole world is crumbling; Oh, baby, let’s dance in the sand.” During these moments of bliss, the apocalypse is merely a blip on Mering’s radar.
The psychedelic folk tale, “Grapevine,” is a post-breakup rumination centered around Southern California’s Interstate 5. The soft hums of her guitar mystify the highway – she mythologizes the landscape as a path where one can curve around curves until they’ve escaped the relentless drone of time. It all leads to the nauseating realization that she and a past lover are now “just two cars passing by on the grapevine.” The song and the memory drive us off to become one with a dark blue horizon. In the Darkness, Hearts Aglow treats earthly forms as a foothill to wander up until we’ve entered the romanticized territory of mythos and fables. Mering’s voice can carry the listener away to these spaces, sweeping them up to fly to a world drenched in moonlit mystique. She’s got vocal prowess dripping with so much beauty that it could compel tears from a thirteen-year-old football player who has been conditioned to think that boys shouldn’t cry.
The escape that Weyes Blood seeks on the “Grapevine” has her sunk to her knees on “God Turn me Into a Flower.” She prays to morph into some embodiment of serenity – to be grounded and rooted. Birds chirp and Mother Nature communicates through synths similar to a language explored in Mort Garson’s Plantasia. Slowly, nature’s sounds take over and what’s human falls away, leaving in its wake buds that bloom to reach for the sun. The flowery ego-death that Mering prays for is a desire that can’t last. Resurrection fueled by blind hope arrives on “Hearts Aglow,” an endearing moment in which Mering shoots through the smog above to reach an unclogged sky. As she drifts in and out of white clouds, her voice is followed by harmonies of the heavens; Phil Spector’s ghostly fingerprints can be seen on the Walls of Sound that come from behind.
Mering uses instrumental segments such as “And in the Darkness” and “In Holy Flux” as globs of gravity to pull the listener even deeper into the tide of the album. Sandwiched – a bit awkwardly – between these two is the carbonated “Twin Flame.” Psychedelic drum patterns flow up beneath to pop like bubbles in your ears. I’d like to hear more of this weird style from Mering, the song makes me feel stranded in the cold and lightless Aphotic zone of the ocean. Hearts Aglow is bookended with “A Given Thing,” slowing things down Tori Amos style. A solid knot on the tracklist, but it doesn’t tie the project up as tight as she did on Titanic’s “Picture Me Better.” Most Hearts Aglow songs are just a bit less strong than their sequential counterparts on Titanic Rising, but this album leaves a golden wake behind regardless of any memory bias.
The most remarkable musical trilogies are often forged in great wildfires, whether those troubles are societal or personal: Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy, The Cure’s “Gothic” Series, Dylan’s 14-Month Trilogy. With a cocktail of microplastics and Teflon in our bodies and half a decade left on the Climate Clock, we continue to walk, even if our legs are fueled only by the foolish passion of our hearts. If earth ever goes gradient, this album and trilogy will be a picturesque elegy of the world as a car going downhill in neutral gear.
Charlie Burg is a singer, songwriter, and producer who released his first mixtape in 2015 when he was in college. After transferring from Denison University to Michigan State, he finally landed on Syracuse University to study music industry. From there, he released a series of extended plays throughout his time in University. Originally from Michigan, he now resides in Brooklyn NY where he dropped his debut album Infinity Tall (2022). Cinematic and youthful, Charlie Burg seamlessly transports listeners from one point to another with his pastel-shaded, storytelling lyrics. The curiosity and exploration that exists in his music is shown on his album art – which he creates himself. His personable whim showed in his performance at Colorado College, students still fan over his amazing show and charming personality a week later.
M: So Charlie Burg from Detroit Michigan, tell me a little bit about yourself, what is there to know about what has led you to where you are today? Tell me about your childhood and hometown and its influence on your music today.
C: Well, I grew up in a suburb about 20 minutes outside of the city. Detroit has a really rich music history that a lot of people don’t think about. Electronic dance music started in Detroit, techno and hip hop too. J Dilla is a producer that really influenced my production style. I grew up listening to Motown soul records that my dad would play: temptations, algorithm and Marvin Gaye, the classics. I think it just kind of seeps into my blood.
M: What is the first piece of art you remember falling in love with and do you believe it takes shape in your music today?
C: I think one of the first records that really impacted me was “Parachutes” by Coldplay. Their first record was really great and solid all the way through. It taught me vulnerability in songwriting. I can’t remember the name of this painting, but another piece is a Spanish painting by Juan Mero. It has this really profound shade of blue that when I saw that blue, I thought to myself, this is the feeling that I’d like to evoke with my music. And then I made Blue Mosaic which was my first record and I have a tattoo of it.
M: Is blue your favorite color?
C: No my favorite color is actually either orange or forest green.
M: No way, mine is that shade of green and orange too…but what type of orange?
C: I like a burnt orange, something warm and passionate and loud.
M: We’re the same!
M: When did you make your first song and can you talk about its creative process?
C: So art history is a favorite subject of mine. I love art history. And I have a song called Art History Part One which I wrote after I took an art history class. And Art History Part Two exists too. *Proceeds to ask to look at an art history book that someone close by is reading*
M: A lot of your online presence highlights Ralph Waldo Emerson as a major influence to you, can you speak on this and how his wisdom has impacted both your art and personal life?
C: Yeah so it’s funny. In the early days of a music career you will reference one thing and then news outlets will fixate on that thing until you give them another thing to fixate on…I was gifted a Ralph Waldo Emerson collection of essays by my father when I was working on some EPs. There was this line that I read that said “a blood of the violet,” I think that was one of the names of the of the poems. And so I named an EP, One, Violet. And it was just kind of this conceptual drive that felt right to me. But yeah, I haven’t read Ralph Waldo Emerson in like five years so I don’t have much to say about him anymore but at that time, he resonated with me.
M: One, Violet, yes that brings me to my next question. You have a three series album that was released over a three year time span: One, Violet; Two, Moonlight; Three, Fever. Can you talk about these albums and why you decided to part them the way you did?
C: I’m obsessed with trilogies for some reason. It just feels like a very perfect way to tell a story. 1. 2. 3. But when I put out One, Violet, and I’ve never mentioned this in an interview before so you are getting some exclusive content, I did not have a name or a concept for it. About a week before it dropped, I said, Okay, I need a name. I need a name. I have more songs that I want to put out, but they’re not ready so I’m just gonna give myself some sort of framework to release more projects; and so I named it One, Violet. A year later, I had enough songs for two. So I didn’t actually know how many I was doing or what the other ones were called. I basically set myself up for long form concepts. I used those three projects as an opportunity to explore my production. I moved away from the guitar, rock and roll, live in Peter’s attic and I dove into my computer. Those are my computer projects.
M: On Spotify you have a playlist that is called “everyone is talented” where you feature music that people send to you — tell me a little bit more about the nature and philosophy of this playlist. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2W0NgEJvPhszTI1oaFDOVq?si=7a84183c82544c0d
C: Yeah, um, gosh. In a span of a few weeks, I got a few songs sent to me by different musicians on Instagram. I realized that a lot of my followers make music themselves so I made a public playlist, where I had people send me their songs over Instagram. I put them in there and just wanted to give people a platform that usually didn’t have a platform. I really enjoy the playlist and listen to all the songs.
M: Your tour is coming to an end at the end of the month, what are your plans for when you get off the road?
C: I am going to hole up in my Brooklyn apartment and not leave New York for months. I was actually thinking of doing a week of silence because I am around people everyday all the time. I heard one of my friends is doing this and I don’t know, I think that’d be really cool. I would just be with my plants that I’m excited to see. My favorite is my monstera that my friend gave me about three years ago.
Rapid Fire Round:
M: Who are some of your inspirations both musically and non musically?
C: Prince, that’s it….non musically Joan Didion.
M: What is a philosophy or quote you live by?
C: Don’t be afraid to say yes to things.
M: What is a new hobby, interest, or skill you have picked up recently?
C: I’d say like… fricken painting. I use acrylics and watercolor.
M: What is your astrological sign?
C: I am a Virgo, I don’t really believe in it but it is a fun thing to talk about.
M: If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
C: Paris, France.
M: What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
C: Mint cookies and cream.
M: What type of sandwich would you be and why?
C: I would be a turkey panini with monster cheese.
M: What is your guilty pleasure?
C: Dark chocolate.
M: If you had to name this chapter of your life what would it be?
C: Margo because that is my old dog.
M: What is something you have been doing that brings you joy?
C: Reading by Joan Didion plays it as it lays. It’s dramatic. I like drama, I like the dichotomies. I like to write in a journal too but I don’t think that brings me joy, it can be painful. I only focus on the bad things and get depressed. I want to do pottery.
November at Red Rocks Amphitheater is sometimes a gamble with the changing seasons, but I had no hesitation when given the opportunity to attend another 3 hour marathon concert from King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s North American Tour. When I went to their first Red Rocks show in early October many of the fans held these tickets since their 2020 tour that was canceled due to COVID. The November date was a surprise, as the final show was tacked onto their tour promising the same feel-good giz energy as the first marathon show at Red Rocks. My friend flew into Denver with some film cameras after hearing the news and we eagerly waited in the longest line I have seen at Red Rocks- undisturbed by the cold in my gizzard-themed crocodile onesie.
Note: I was encountered by multiple “die-hard” Gizzard male fans who had a lot to say about the difference between a crocodile and an alligator, proceeded to mansplain the symbology of King Gizzard and their Giz-verse related to the crocodile, all of which I am aware of. If you are a girl going to a Gizzard concert, avoid this conversation at all costs. But DO wear a crocodile onesie because it is warm and Giz fans are cultish so you’ll get creds. If anyone asks, say: “crocodiles are from Australia… just like them” and leave at once.
First and foremost, I will say that King Gizzard has an absurd amount of albums, with three albums released last month alone! and although I know many of their songs, I do not know all of their songs. But some people there did. When I was chatting in the photo pit with another photographer, she showed me the zoomed-in set list on her camera with the opening song entitled “Digital Black-” I was not sure what albums nor energies King Gizzard was bringing to the night. I was ready for everything reminiscent of their themes in their recent album: Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms, and Lava- with an emphasis on lava.
A funky set from The Murlocs and the ethereal sounds of Leah Senior set the scene of deception for King Gizzard. We went down to the pit to prepare for the show to start. The band was as playful as ever, with Joey trying to banter amongst the crowd while the staff were tweaking Lucas’ guitar settings. After a few minutes everything was ready to go and (surprise, surprise) they started with “Digital Black” in Stu’s satanic cadence and blaring guitar riffs. Everyone instantly went into a frenzy despite being confined to the tiered seats (although some people above did mosh/fall onto our row!). Throughout the night, King Gizzard dedicated a third of their set to playing songs from their 2017 album Murder of the Universe and selected the vast majority of their marathon set to more metal-oriented songs that strayed from their dreamy synthesizer hits. This meant a lot of head banging and an entrance into the Rats’ Nest, arguably the hardest album that they played from. They drew from a variety of albums along the way including “Cutthroat Boogie” from their 2012 album 12 Bar Bruise, one of my favorite songs of the night that featured some amazing harmonica solos and fit comfortably among the Colorado landscape. King Gizzard continued their tasteful guitar thrashing from various albums including some favorites like “Hot Wax” and a jammed up version of “Her and I (Slow Jam 2)” and concluded with a more relaxed outro of “The Fourth Colour.’ The intermission offered a quiet countdown for fifteen minutes until their second set. A marathon indeed!
The second half of the show astonishingly kept up the same energy as the previous, jokingly playing the American National Anthem before jumping straight into “Head On/Pill” while lacing in “Hot Water” and teasing their recent release of “Hypertension” throughout their lengthened song. This was an especially impressive song for their ability to transition between three (basically four) songs in one, and definitely sent the message that they were not planning on slowing down. After about their 10 minute version of that song, they revisited the album I’m In Your Mind, Fuzz, a personal favorite of mine, while still sticking to a high energy set by playing “Am I In Heaven?” The transitions between songs were seamless, usually recognizable motifs across all their albums, causing the crowd to stir with anticipation. Stu returned to Infest the Rats’ Nest to keep the pace up as the wind started to blow up the slope of the amphitheater. It was truly an epic scene: a showdown between King Gizzard and the elements, and they prevailed with hair flying. After a few metal songs, they switched up the vibe to something more lighthearted with Ambrose howling into the mic during “Let Me Mend The Past.” Shortly after Leah Senior came on to do an amazing narration of “Alter Me III” and “Altered Beast IV” also from Murder of the Universe. Leah Senior brought the eerie cadence like the Ronald Dahl-esque introduction of “Dark Fantasy” by Kanye West. King Gizzard slowed down for the final song, “Float Along-Fill Your Lungs,” playing an ensemble of dreamy guitar chords clashing against each other. The ending was drawn out like the studio version, but I’d like to think it was also a moment of savoring the last moments of their long-awaited North American tour.
The stamina and chemistry of the band is something that is rare amongst jam bands, and King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard put everything out in that three hour marathon set. Even if many of the songs were not ones I was familiar with, the songs were sharp and fast- perfect for hypnotic dancing and head banging. Their interaction with the crowd made it even more of a special experience, after spending so much time apart from their American fans it felt more like a reunion. Although their tour is finally over, their music continues. I know I will be trying to play catch-up as they keep cranking out more and more albums this year, and for many years to come.
Seiji Oda is a rapper, singer/songwriter, and producer from Oakland, California. He began producing and creating music in high school. His big break hit when Seiji and his brother Nathaniel, or Lil Ricefield, released their viral hit “Trapanese,” a song that poked fun at asian stereotypes and referenced countless anime and other Japanese pop culture over a Seiji-produced beat. The song was remixed by local Bay Area rappers Daboii and Cash Kidd. But Seiji isn’t only an incredible producer, he can rap, sing, and songwrite just as well. In the past few years, he has worked heavily on his solo work, releasing one of my favorite albums of this year, lofi//HYPHY, an album that combines the two genres, the former being known for it’s chiller production and the latter known for its danceability. I got the opportunity to talk to Seiji about his upcoming album ORA//太陽, which is coming out on November 7th.
What’s your process for making a cohesive body of work, whether that’s a two-piece or an entire album?
I usually approach it by having a theme for whatever the project is. A lot of the time it might be a single song that inspires the full body of work. I think “Ok here’s this song that has this specific feeling that I’ve never done before and I want to keep building on and around that.” It’s really about that feeling. For this next project, I really want to make sure that every song, or at some point around the song I get that feeling from it. When you hear a song and think “that shit has that shit in there”, I can’t really describe it. The reason I listen to music is to get a specific emotion or get in a certain mood, so I try to create bodies of work that represent how I feel and I can go back to that project when I want to feel that way.
It’s just fun too. Music doesn’t have to be serious in order to be impactful. It can be some dumb shit. It doesn’t have to be the most polished thing in the world and it gets the job done.
I saw that you made a Japanese City Pop playlist and your new song City Pop 001 incorporated that genre. Are we going to hear more of that on the album?
Not this album. I just did that as a loosy because that was what I was feeling at the time. That’s what I’m really into right now, but I definitely see myself doing a project based all around that. A fully City Pop-inspired project is gonna happen sometime. This next album is a whole different thing.
What vibe will the album have?
It’s called ORA//太陽, which means the sun in Japanese. The alternative title is A Love Letter to the Sun and I wrote it that way because to me the songs are ordered in a way that represents the phases of the sun throughout the day. The first song feels like the sun rising, it has a peak, and the project ends at the end of the day. I really wanted to capture this feeling I get sometimes when I meditate. It’s very warm, orange, I don’t know where it’s coming from. It’s that warm feeling that I get that I want to capture in the music. That color is why I ended up calling it ORA, the first three letters of orange. But it’s also that glow, expanding light that I was feeling. I think it has a cohesive, overarching sound but each song is totally different in terms of the tempo and the type of music it is. It’s definitely more Balledy than most of my music is. I think that a lot of my music is more rap, just me talking shit, freeform. This is more me writing songs to somebody or for somebody rather than a stream of consciousness. I wanted to come at this project with more intention. That’s not something I necessarily think I have to do, but I wanted to do it for this project, it’s how I wanted it to feel. Then it can be re-interpreted from there.
What do you see in your future working on genre-bending music? Will we hear this on your upcoming album?
This project is different. Each song is inspired by a different era of music. I’m not trying to combine to different things, but there is a theme throughout this project of looking at two different sides. I wanted to recreate the concept of lenticular images with this project where you’re listening from a different perspective. Most music has equal things on each side. I wanted to break that. People have done this in the past. The Beatles were very free about their panning. They would have the drums panned to the left, which is weird as hell, most people have their drums in the middle. I wanted to make lenticular songs, where there’s a song on one side and a whole other song on the other side. Depending on which ear you’re focusing on, you might hear something very different. That’s a theme of this project, especially in the first song. Throughout the project, it switches back and forth between the bright side of the sun and then the more cozy, comfortable side of the song. You’ll see it in the project. Half of the songs are uppercase and half are lowercase to represent these two sides. It switches back and forth between this.
I see that every Sunday you post a new item of music. Since you’re fully independent, is that a way to keep fans engaged, or is it more to keep yourself engaged in making music?
I would say it’s both. It’s definitely for the fans though. As an independent artist, I’m always trying to get new people to listen to my music. What matters to me the most is having the people that always listen to my music or more casual fans feel like they’re part of something. This is why I do early releases of music on my discord or artist page. I do this to create an engaged community. I want to create a space that people can return to every Sunday and build a personal relationship with the people that listen to my music. I can’t just disappear for four months drop an album and not talk to anybody, I’m not Frank Ocean, not yet. It also helps me stay creative, I work best within structure. Having limitations makes me more creative, like here’s something I have to do and how can I go outside this box.
Who’s better at lacrosse, you or Ricefield?
You can ask him *Seiji points the camera at Lil Ricefield*. Probably him not gonna lie.
Do you have a path that you’ve thought out or are you just taking things as they come?
Right now I’m just taking things as they come. In terms of music, I have my releases planned out. I have what projects I want to put out and in what order. In terms of life though, we’re figuring it out.
I really liked your Hyperpop remix of aero3, do you plan on making any more Hyperpop songs in the future?
I do love Hyperpop. I love trying to produce songs like that because it’s so intricate. I have been working on this project with one of my friends KP. He is really interested in it. His project is going to be really Hyperpop-heavy, and it’s mostly produced by me.
Who are your biggest inspirations and influences, both musically and personally?
Lately, I’ve been inspired by Nujabes and his production, especially Lofi. Anyone that’s into that, whether they know it or not, pulls from his shit or from Dilla. I’m not a big Dilla fan, but of course, I listen to a lot of his stuff. Erykah Badu is another one of my favorite artists and inspirations, both musically and personally. Also Souls of Mischief. They were a jazzy hip-hop group from the 90s in the bay. I like that the way that they don’t take themselves too seriously but they also take themselves seriously. They take their craft seriously but they had fun with it. I think being light about stuff helps develop your craft. One of my favorite movies is Everything Everywhere All at Once. That’s definitely inspired me, maybe not in terms of music but more as a creator. They’re hella funny with their shit, but they can get their message across because their not trying to hit you over the head with it. It’s like “how can we make this cool ass thing and throw as many ideas at the wall as possible and not take ourselves too seriously to get our message across.”
-Seiji was disappointed that I hadn’t seen the movie-
Are there any other movies that inspire you?
I wouldn’t say a movie necessarily but one of my aesthetic and sonic inspirations is Samurai Champloo. I love the storytelling. Princess Mononoke also inspires me. I have a two-piece Princess Mononoke-inspired project that I’ll drop on a Seiji Sunday
Who are you listening to right now?
I really like the new Smino album. I’ve been listening to a lot of City Pop. A lot of Cindy. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Pluggnb remixes on SoundCloud. They got a crazy Ariana Grande Pluggnb remix.
How’d you get into producing?
I used to record myself on my old ass computer. That was me making songs over other people’s beats. I got to a point where I wanted to make my own shit and what I wanted to make wasn’t out there. This was before the youtube type beat era, we didn’t have those in 2012. Producing was the only option. I was also heavily inspired by HBK. I was like “these dudes are producing all of their own shit?”. That inspired me to be able to do it all myself, I didn’t have to have a whole team, I could just do it in my bedroom, so that’s where it started. When I was first making beats, I was on Mixcraft 5, and that was something. It was ass.
Who is the next collab for you in the bay? Who’s your dream collab?
I’m working with the homie ClayDough, he’s a producer, me and him are gonna drop a project. I got some music with Franco Dollas dropping, it’s going to be on the album’s cassette tape. I also got some music with Nate Curry, he’s from Sacramento, but me and him are gonna put out some stuff. For dream collab, E-40. I just want to see his process. Just to be in the same room with him and soak up the game.
Why are you dropping on Monday?
The reason I do that is because it technically drops on Sunday night so that way I can drop everything I need to on YouTube first so the people can see it before the album comes out on Sunday. I don’t like dropping on Thursday or Friday, even though it’s the industry standard and that’s when people look for new music because the context for me is more important than the numbers. If more people listen to it on a Friday, they’re going to be out with friends and doing stuff and listening to it. I’m not mad at my music being played in that setting but I’d rather have it be played on a Sunday when you’re having a relaxed day. I want people to listen to my music in the context where they are putting their full attention to it rather than playing it in the background.
Seiji’s doing a bonus track version of the album, which is going to be a virtual cassette tape. He’s going to sell it directly to the fans through emails. It’s going to have a lot of extra stuff, songs, videos, cover art, the tracklist, and more. This is a great opportunity to have ownership of music in a day and age where we’re streaming all of our favorite music.
ORA//太陽 is coming out on November 7th on all streaming platforms.
Follow his Instagram @seijioda
Our first collaborative post of the school year brings new names and faces to the blog! With autumn in Colorado Springs coming to an end, SOCC writers reflect on their favorite fall albums- old and new- as we gather in the amphitheater under snowy Pikes Peak.
This fall I have been listening to Dots and Loops by Stereolab. I really enjoy is relaxing instrumentals and the friendly voices throughout the album. Its a very light album that I love listening to while I drive and appreciate the changing weather!
One of my favorite albums ever, and what you can hear me blasting in the shower is, Steven Miller Bands Greatest hits 1974-78. This album is put together so incredibly well that every song flows in and out of the next. A mixture or rock and roll and psychedelic synth makes it my jam
Negro Swan by Blood Orange (2018): I have been listening to this album since it came out every fall! This album feels very autumnal to me, specifically located in DC: with ambient traffic in the backdrop of a relaxed yet moody atmosphere- something is in the air… other than midterm elections! Blood Orange creates a dysphoric image of change and that’s how I view fall: disorienting and sometimes dreadful while sonically serene. This album always feels new as there’s so much going on thematically and instrumentally, I can dip into new sensations and the old nostalgia of when I first discovered the album.
This fall I’ve been listening to an old album from Ezra Bell titled “Don’t all look up at once”. It’s a short album which makes it a great album to binge listen and the alternative bluegrass style of Ezra Bell fits with well with fall weather. Song highlights from the album include, “Pick a place and read”, “Junk food chimney”, and “Dear old dad”.
Bad Self Portraits by Lake Street Drive captures, nearly perfectly, the essence of the fall season. As fall transitions between the warmth of summer and the coldness of winter, so does Bad Self Portraits. The longing for different types of love throughout the album mimic the ways in which the leaves fall, almost as if each yellow appendage that leaves the tree is an expectation not met coupled with some notion of new beginnings.
Either/Or by Elliott Smith: No matter my mood, the time, or the season, this album is in my rotation. It’s sweet and soft and quiet and effortless. It reminds me of the rain back home and all the things I miss about Portland’s charm.
Feeding Seahorses by Hand by Billie Marten: This 2019 album is the quintessential fall album and the perfect thing to curl up into bed and drink tea to. She’s managed to fill it with soft indie folk that’s loose and dreamy, yet streamlined. From the croony and upbeat Blue Sea, Red Sea to the whimsical and melodious Mice, she does it all.
Demon Days by Gorillaz is THE album of fall. Demon Days is the perfect transition into ski season; it’s a British pop masterpiece perfect for shredding the slopes. The album is a definitely a journey with its harsh beats and hip hop undertones, perfect for this winter’s ski playlist.
For You by Parmalee. I love this album because it tells a love story and all of the songs are so sweet. The songs each talk about something different however each is also unique. They are all sing along songs and just makes me happy.
This fall I’ve been listening to Some Rap Songs by Earl Sweatshirt. For me, his instrumentals really encapsulate a dark brooding feeling that comes with the season. Inspired by the loss of his father, listening to it will make you feel like you’ve lost something as well.
I’ve been listening to Death Cab for Cuties new album “Asphalt Meadows” this fall. the singles released before the album convinced me that the band was unenthused and a bit burnt out. I was pleasantly surprised when the album itself followed the rugged and upbeat indie pop rock/focused and purposefully placed acoustics and light synths that death cab is known for. Although it’s not my favorite album of theirs, it still has the same death cab effect, where after listening, the songs bounce around curiously in your head ready to be played aloud again.
Fleet Foxes’ Helplessness Blues is absolutely stunning and audibly pleasing, I cannot stop replaying it in its entirety. This album is especially undercoated in fall melancholy which is not only telling in its harmony, but the golden fall hues of its album cover. There is so much to be said about what makes this album so special, but it’s better to hear it for yourself then me attempt to tell you!!!
The album I’ve been listening to this fall is Cooking it: Legends of the Sesh by Tricky Mac and Benny T. These 2 Australian rappers explore a bunch of different styles through the album, but always focus on their love of partying, drinking, and doing drugs. The album has great vibes, and you can tell that both Tricky Mac and Benny T are having fun on every track. The album is goofy, it doesn’t take itself too seriously but each track has a couple lines on it that are fun and catchy enough to get stuck in your head. The perfect album to put on and not think too hard about
For just about the whole fall, I’ve had Live At the Shoals Theater on repeat. It’s a live album/concert recording from Jason Isbell, Mike Cooley, and Patterson Hood from 2014. This was the first reunion of the group since Isbell left the Drive-By Truckers, and the collaborative skills are not lost from time. Isbell’s notorious voice and song-writing shines through, and the group performs an amalgamation of the band’s and Isbell’s best songs. The crowd, as well, makes the recording feel like a celebration. The album isn’t really related to fall, but captures an amazing moment in time that fully meets its auditory potential.
Bladee’s 2022 project Spiderr has been dominating my headphones for the past few weeks. This album is a victory lap for Bladee as his last album “Crest”, a collaboration with Ecco2k, received stunning reviews from major music outlets after years of Bladee being neglected by the industry. The album is mostly produced by longtime collaborator Whitearmor and features Bladee’s signature autotune crooning over a variety of psychedelic and playful beats. What’s really exciting about this album is the introduction of drill production, an area that Bladee has just begun to explore. While Bladee’s lyrics are simple, his exploration of spirituality and Taoism is deepened in this project. This is one of Bladee’s best solo projects in years, and can be enjoyed by both newer listeners and the ones that have been there since 2013.
The album I’ve been listening to on repeat this fall has been Melophobia by Cage the Elephant. I really enjoy the album as a whole and have found that the juxtaposition of the more abrasive songs like Spiderhead and Teeth to the softer songs like Cigarette Daydreams and Telescope encapsulates my current college experience and the roller coaster the first few months have been. I also feel that this juxtaposition reflects how fall makes me feel. Going from aggressive windy and cold weather days to cooler, more mellow and colorful days ties in to the overall mood of the album and is a great reflection of how fall has made me feel recently.
The Sugarcube’s 1989 album Regina has always been in my headphones, but especially this fall. Bjork and Einar Orn’s emotive, unpredictable, and sometimes ominous vocals wake you up on the dreariest fall days. The band’s animated sound will throw around the thoughts in your head and make you feel like a tiger is about to rip out of the music and jump at you.
The ghostly voice of Nick Drake tends to reenter my life when the leaves turn from soft to crunchy. His gentle call reminds me of the wooden noise you hear when you tap on an acoustic guitar. His final album, Pink Moon, is almost entirely him and his finger picked guitar filled with delightful autumn colored ivy growing on it. This album is a home base for anyone that needs to be grounded in a time of changing colors and weather, anyone who needs to Indulge with an eternally beautiful soul.
John Vincent III – Songs from the Valley. This is the perfect electric folk album for you to listen to as fall turns to winter. To me, I am reminded of home – as though I’m sitting next to a warm fire or driving down curving country roads in Western Massachusetts. I don’t have a car and it hasn’t quite snowed yet, but this album makes the cold feel a little warmer.
I’ve been listening to Pinback’s 1999 self titled album this fall.This album has a perfect autumn moody sound while still being unpredictably fun. I’ve been on a big nineties kick recently and this has bits of everything I love. It’s a great album to listen in the late afternoon or twilight when walking around, comfortingly nostalgic. My favorite songs are Crutch, Shag, and Tripoli.
My head is a flaming 1998 computer with fans whirring and every time I hear a noise I want to catch those jagged soundwaves and catapult them away to Andromeda. I just got back from the doctor, and I did get a concussion after colliding heads with somebody at the Black Midi concert. This is not me looking for sympathy, but my concussion – as well as the destruction of my friend’s seemingly indestructible Doc Martens – just goes to show what a septic tank the pit at the Black Midi show was.
Black Midi is a chaotic band of many pretentious dashed genres: brutal-prog, jazz-rock, post-punk. My dad would probably call them ‘weird for the sake of being weird,’ and I would’ve agreed a year ago. Over time their arsonist approach to music warmed up to me with its redeeming qualities in mastery of tension and release. I arrive at the concert to see a fandango of “I Love Black Midi” or “Jesus Loves Black Midi” shirts. The most notable conversation I hear around me is also an alarming one: “I’ve heard Black Midi’s shows are louder than a My Bloody Valentine set.” As the lights dim, a WWE commentator’s voice hollers an introduction of the “world’s hardest working band,” hyping up the roaring crowd for the “super colossal heavyweight champion of the world: Black Helllllllfire Midiiiii.” The Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony” starts playing and vocalist Geordie Greep runs out to that cinematic string arrangement in a boxing robe. The crowd goes nuts at the sight of this mischievous looking Englishman. Cameron Picton has a pair of shades on that shield his deadpanned face and a brain that would set music theory books to 451º Fahrenheit. He picks up his bass and the distorted notes overpower The Verve’s prerecorded opener. Geordie Greep grabs his guitar; the end of its strings hang off the headpost like a geriatric cat’s whiskers. The band begins their set and opens with a face-melting “953” at an unholy level of the decibel scale.
I look into the crowd from the photographer’s pit to see about ten or so people clinging to the barricade for dear life. Behind them is a sight I must point to Dante’s fifth level of hell to describe: The Divine Comedy author describes the river Styx as filled with people “in that lagoon… they smote each other not alone with hands, but with the head and with the breast and feet, tearing each other piecemeal with their teeth.” Maybe this is a dramatic analogy, but the pit was true chaos. During “Welcome to Hell,” I joined the pit to find that this was an obscure type of mosh. Because of the ‘stop and go’ nature of many Black Midi songs, members of the audience are given time to stabilize and stop to pant like dogs during the calm moments of many songs. I often see faces of friends during these 5-second pauses, but as soon as the mayhem begins again they are swept away into the storm of band shirts.
Painting violent impressions into the crowd like an evil Jackson Pollack, Greep stands villainous and postured in his buttoned shirt above the chaos. The WWE commentator’s voice returns at the beginning of “Sugar/Tzu,” a song that tells the story of a fight between “Sun Sugar, a simple man, cut from coarse cloth and Sun Tzu, seeking strength from a snakeskin broth.” The fight takes place on the impossible date of “February 31st 2163.” Greep’s storytelling is gilded in an eerie elegance, bolstered by drummer Morgan Simpson’s manic jazz tempo changes. Fans yell out every word to “John L,” the tale of a cult leader being torn to gory pieces by his subjects. The brain-rattling instrumentals and jargon are what I imagine the folks that took Woodstock’s infamous “brown acid” would have heard at a King Crimson show.
Cameron Picton trades his bass for a six-string guitar and steps up to the mic to perform his own Black Midi songs. Fans belt out every word to “Eat Men Eat” along with him. This is the story of two miners (most likely in love) escaping the wrath of their blood-drinking cannibal of a captain. Picton wails the words of the captain like he is possessed.
“You f*****g f*****s ain’t seen the last of me yet
I’ll have the last laugh, you c****, soon you’ll see
Each day you wake, and each night you sleep
I’ll be camped in your chests, burning! Burning!”
Greep looks at his drummer impressed, he flashes a grin and raises his eyebrows as if breaking the fourth wall. By the end of the show, the pit is festering with stench, human and otherwise. A whiplashed crowd bangs around to “Slow,” and the sweaty stew of fans throws their bodies and elbows with what energy they have left. People that were just at war with each other in the pit tenderly introduce themselves to each other as they babble about how wild the concert was.
After the show, I sent a cool teacher of mine a Black Midi song, I was curious if he would call it progressive-rock or not. To copy and paste part of a diplomatic response from the true prog-rock connoisseur, he muses that “Prog wants to draw you into a dreamscape of expanding ideas, but this feels more like a temper tantrum.” I’d agree, Black Midi is the corrupted child of a Yes and Genesis soundtracked Middle-earth, a corrupted child with an urge to commit arson and steal some magic sword from the Shire. As I write this article two weeks later and am still concussed, I can fondly recall that the concert was less a dreamscape and more like a self-aware nightmare in which you bear witness to some talented musicians spilling cathartic oil onto the flaming nooks and crannies of their mind.
I’ve trekked to Chicago this week, and my big toe is sticking out of a hole in my sock. A man yells at me to buy his $10 poncho, but I just want a new sock. That’s okay, I’ve made it to my destination: Pitchfork Music Festival is the record-collecting younger sister to Lollapalooza, her fraternity-rushing older brother. A list on my phone holds the artist lineup, and it is filled with current critical successes along with legends of the past. Looking down, I see the ground swallow rain to spit mud back out. The grey Chicago skies tend to be sporadic. My weather app says the rain will soon clear, but these clouds will linger for a bit to hear some good music.
During a Porta Potty hiatus, the big rectangular urination-box begins to shake. SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE, a band that exists in all-caps on paper and in performance, trembles the park with apocalyptic music that would probably be called “just noise” by any self-respecting person. However, most of us Pitchfork attendees do not have much self-respect, so we pay to see a genre critics have coined “noise pop.” As if the villains in Arkham Asylum formed a band, each member plays their instruments with deranged force. Screeching guitars feel like standing within a 10-foot radius of an acid-dipped chainsaw. BEEHIVE could go from grimy indie rock verses to the loudest, most un-radio-able shoegazy explosions known to man. Each of them pushes their instruments across a lake of fire all the way into the territory of the damned. The glorious nuclear collision of sound hurts my eardrums and itches my brain, I walk away wondering if any of my brain cells jumped ship during that set.
The air surrounding the Parquet Courts fans smells like American Spirits and rain-soaked hair. These New York art punks enter with “Application/Apparatus,” mischievous and soaked in muted color like a gum-covered NYC pole. Bassist Sean Yeason’s head nods in time with the bassline; once the building instrumentals release tension, he starts shaking his hair back and forth like a wet dog. The crowd seems mild at first, but as the band begins to play “Almost Had to Start A Fight,” the audience mirrors the energy on stage by pushing others into the “chaos dimension.” I see many IPA-dipped mustaches snarl with anger as they get pushed around. Of course, this just made us push each other more.
Keyboardist Andrew Bird mentions twice that High Fidelity was filmed in Chicago – on brand for a music enthusiast with such a beautiful mullet and clear circular glasses double the diameter of his eyes. Andrew Savage’s voice sounds as if The Clash’s Joe Strummer is singing through an obtuse traffic cone – his attitude sprinkles far and wide. At the end of the show, the same angry mustached men give in to the joy, joining the muddy push-party for “Stoned and starving,” a delight to hear live. Perhaps the lyrics were especially true for the 7 o’clock crowd.
Jason Spaceman of Spiritualized makes the list of musicians that make you think ‘how did they make it out of the 90’s alive?’ But he’s here behind his tinted sunglasses, he walks up to the stage with aloof coolness. Sitting down in his chair – one he would not get up from the entire performance – he opens the songbook on his stand. ‘Hey Jane’ begins the set, the almost 10-minute song continues like a run-on sentence that even an English teacher would enjoy. He flips his songbook mid-song while his bandmates spaz on their guitar pedals. “Shine a Light” indulges in the early 90’s work of Spiritualized, but the echoing sound is like floating in space without any fuel: invigorating at first, but by the end, I am ready to escape from the icy, reverberating slammer I am trapped in – it doesn’t sound as good live. Speaking of floating in space, it is worth noting that J. Spaceman did not perform a song from the landmark album Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space. It’s nice to evade another 90’s nostalgia tour, but his most quality work rests in that pill-bottle album. The show went in a far more blues-rock direction, and some variety was needed by the end. However, ventures into out-of-tune, guitar pedal chaos serve as fine palate cleansers for us to return to bittersweet moments like “Here it Comes (The Road).”
The National’s black and gray aesthetic paired with increasingly lukewarm album covers previously made me doubt the odds of an entertaining live show. I enter an audience filled with tortured artist types; these INFP’s wait to absorb the baritone bombs of emotion that will soon be handed to them by vocalist, Matt Berginer. Camera work allows for a black and white show on the big screen to serve as the perfect peripheral for Berginer’s theatrics. Colorful sonic and visual ignitions can be seen around the band of veterans when their songs reach a zenith. In “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness,” Aaron Dessner’s guitar weeps behind Berginer’s revelations that seem to have been spawned by a poetry inducing mid-life crisis. Dessner puts down his guitar to play a rainy day’s piano on “Light years.” The dynamic between the two is similar to rain that is sharpened by the thunder: Berginer’s poetry is propelled by Dessner’s instrumentals of equal magnitude. Because of this, The National’s set lives up to its headlining standards. I am walking out of the park with thousands of other satisfied people. That hole in my sock is much bigger than it was when the day began, and I board the train with a liberated big toe that dances around in my shoe.
I get up for Day two of Pitchfork. 55 years ago today, The Monterey International Music festival had a lineup consisting of Jimi Hendrix, Simon and Garfunkel, Janis Joplin, and too many more legends to name. I eat breakfast and wonder if any of the names at Pitchfork Music Festival will hold the same weight in half a century.
Looking around the Yuele audience is its own wonder; I see earrings made out of vats of blood, cached carts, and cat hair: I trust the show is going to impress. Coming from some Artificial Intelligence server behind the stage, Yuele’s robo-person presence is amplified by her cyborg-eye contacts that scan the audience. The thunderous, slow-hitting bass in songs like “Poison Arrow” rattles my brain and makes my nose twingly. Like a cyborg watching the human world wither away, Yuele dances around – safe from any apocalypse in her realm of dark synths.
While Yuele sings as a cold world is taken over by HAL 9000, Magdalena Bay embraces a video game-like world. They throw an 80’s themed party set one hundred years in the future. Vocalist Mica Tennenbaum bounces around on a cloud during “Secrets (Your Fire).” She throws an actual clock into the way wind before saying she “was thinking about how there’s no true end to anything.” Similar existential comments are treated with a cartoonish attitude and a smile, I feel at ease at this retro-futuristic stage.
It is now 7 pm, and after I eat some incredible fried noodles, I can see that anticipation is high for Japanese Breakfast. Michele Zauner’s Blondie-like group of tuxed men come out and pick up their instruments, ready to flash sharp smiles that make the crowd roar. She walks out in gold light, singing the triumphant “Paprika,” a poodle on her shirt and a mallet in her hand. During that explosive chorus, she beats a giant, flowery gong; a rush of sound and serotonin incites smiles across the audience. Zauner once said that this song is about “reveling in the beauty of music,” and that is exactly what we did.
“Be Sweet” and “Road Head” flex the unique abilities of Zauner to extend her voice by seemingly flexing her whole body. It was one of the best vocal performances I’ve heard live. Although Zauner spotted an unfortunate amount of people passed out during this show, she always immediately stops her songs to call for a medic. The care she holds for her fans strengthens comradery in the park.
In the middle of Kokomo, IN, Jeff Tweedy walks out to join Zauner’s twee-inspired vocals with his grainy voice. Calling him her “favorite songwriter of all time,” they duet an anthem that embodies the Chicago coffee shop ethos: “Jesus Etc.” It sounds like the sum of conspiring forces of musical talent. Bookending the set with “Diving Woman,” we smiled in adoration as the best performance of the weekend came to a close.
Making my way to the Low set, I walk over to the blue stage – which has turned into a black hole of indulgence. Low remains the quintessential band of the slowcore universe, doing numbers on its listeners by stripping their songs back so bare that they nearly embody emotion. However, on their recent albums, they have held onto that raw emotion while creating massive atmospheres, as opposed to their earlier depressed ballads. Their Pitchfork set almost entirely consisted of songs from their new album: HEY WHAT. Alan Sparhawk shoots out seizing electricity with his guitar, and “White Horses’” glitchy sensibilities leads the married couple of Sparhawk and Mimi Parker into a chilling duet over their respective styles. In fact, I haven’t heard a drummer’s vocals sound as great as Parker’s in a long time. “Disappearing” builds up as a massive Tower of Babel: usually when a song builds and releases tension, a large amount of noise and energy are let out in catharsis. But Low literally slows down as they build, messing with the audience’s sense of time to create a slow-motion toppling of sound. If I had an analog watch, I’d imagine the minute hand would be stuck in place, since Low are fond of shoveling time into a coal-fired boiler to create some otherworldly energy with it. However, my phone clock says that it is 8:25, which means it is time to go to see one of the most compelling artists of the last ten years: Mitski.
Mitski’s songs are dipped in the liquids of a gunky puddle of feelings that we often drench our favorite pair of shoes in. When my emotions feel invalid and overwhelming, I run to Mitski to take cover. Now, I am running to Mitski in real life, trying not to miss the beginning of her set. A middle-aged man walks up through the crowd to his wife “damn teenagers kept taking videos of me walking through the crowd.”
I see a teardrop fall from someone’s face into the midnight sea of Doc Martins below us when Mitski comes out. The choreography serves as a high-quality music video for every single song. She stabs herself with an air knife three times as she makes confessions at “3 am” in “Francis Forever.” Audience hearts wave a white flag at Mitski when they sing these lyrics in unison. The catharsis does not just come from singing her noisy indie rock songs. Mitski’s drives us to the eighties with “Nobody,” a song that surely would have been a New Wave classic 40 years ago. She dances around and plays a very believable game of tug-of-war with an invisible opponent. Her melodrama thrives under green lights, as her loss of innocence is allotted its own physical outlet.
Nobody expresses emotional frustration like Mitski. When I was a kid, creepy sounds in my old house would set me off. Crying, I’d run to my parents’ room to tell them that there was a ghost. I’d receive the same response “that’s just the house making noises.” I don’t blame them, I’m sure the pipes and vents were making sounds. But if 7-year-old me knew who Mitski was, I would have listened to her music in that scenario. When I feel small, Mitski makes me feel seen. I look around the crowd to see thousands of other people that Mitski has the same effect on. Somebody understands the gunk, and it is nice to see that person standing on a stage in front of us.
The last day of Pitchfork has come, and I am in an Earl Sweatshirt crowd with hundreds of other people that get their vitamin D from the light on a computer screen. You know the performance is going to be good when the DJ – Black Noi$e – has an Aphex Twin hat on. Audience conversations go as expected before Earl makes his entrance: people speak of Earl Sweatshirt’s Myspace lore and make fun of the security man who has cut off the sleeves of his extra-small work shirt to show muscles. As Black Noi$e toys with the crowd, the rain starts pouring, and our feet sink deep into the mud. Grimy weather warrants grimy sounds: “Riot!” comes on. Messy but triumphant in its chaos, the song feels like a Basquiat painting – the perfect walkout song for Earl.
Earl’s banter with the crowd is filled with layers of irony. “You’re all going to jail, I don’t know any songs,” he says. A crowd member yells in response “Play EAST.” Earl says “Okay” and laughs. He plays the 1700 sea shanty beat on “East” and the crowd screamed. A youtube comment on this goofy song once said “this song is like getting ready for a sneeze and nothing happens,” Earl’s beats are beyond comprehension and we embrace the brain-scratching disarray.
After an hour of Earl telling the crowd he “doesn’t know what we’re talking about, I don’t know any songs,” Earl begins to play Meek Mill’s most known song: “Dreams and Nightmares”. Earl is saying every word over the recording, building to the breaking point that this song is known for. The crowd is getting excited for the climax, the piano tempo speeds up and Meek’s voice is gaining more energy… oh, Earl just turned it off and walked off stage. I can’t think of a better way for such an offbeat artist to end his show.
While I saw kids chief entire joints by themselves at Earl Sweatshirt’s show, The Roots’ audience happily pass around the pleasure. This foreshadows a sense of community that the 90’s jazz-rap legends capitalize on as soon as they appear. Questlove’s drumming serves as the heart of the group, pumping out essential nutrients for the rest of the group to bounce off of with their instruments. Backing musicians are all pieces of a complete organism; most of these people have played The Late Night Show and know how to rev the engine of an energetic show. And the Brain of this project, Black Thought, is unmatched in charisma. He taps into the “summertime Chi” love that can be felt under the night sky.
This cohesive show doesn’t hold a second lacking in instrumentals. Even during Black Thought’s profound between-song talk, the playing of a trumpet or piano in the background creates an environment for those words to be heeded Gil Scott-Heron style. Songs blend into each other like oil paint soaked in medium, and the backing band can all spontaneously catch onto a new dance or tempo as they please. Black Thought raps nonstop through the horizon of world-class jazz behind him. It’s like he physically can’t stop. Guitarist, Captain Kirk Douglass, showers in spotlight with Pianist Ray Angry as they reach final form. Near the end, the group slides into the 90’s smasher “You Got Me,” cooling down the auditory fire that has been set in the vicinity. It is one of those shows where you know that they walked off the stage and laughed about how damn well they did. If they gave me the pleasure, I would buy this live album in a second.
I walk out of Union Park, the line for the train spans two blocks and bottlenecks at the stairs. I go into my notes app and cross a good deal of names off of my list of artists that I want to see live. The Parquet Courts keyboardist has convinced me to watch High Fidelity for the fourth time. I catch a vision of Jack Black’s character asking a question like “top five concerts you’ve ever seen,” and I can confirm that this weekend has added a lot more contenders for my answer.