BEST TRACKS: “That Girl,” “Superheroes,” “Country Livin’ (The World I Know)” and “Lounge”
“Breath From Another” by Esthero is an album that grew on me slowly but surely. It took me at least a month after discovering it to sit down and listen all the way through. However, even before I gave it a chance, it is an album I would visit at least once a day. My love for this record began with “That Girl,” then spread to “Superheroes,” then to “Country Livin’ (The World I Know),” and eventually the whole album.
As I mentioned in my previous blog post “All I Listen To Are Lady Voices,” I am captivated by the classically 90s sound of feminine voices layered over electronic tracks. I am not exactly sure what to call the genre but “Breath From Another” encapsulates the sound perfectly.
The album as a whole fits into the downtempo electronic category while still incorporating elements of jazz and pop making it enjoyable for a wide range of music enthusiasts. If you enjoy artists like Opus III and Morcheeba, then this album is for you.
BEST TRACKS: “Funeral” “Smoke Signals” “Scott Street”
Released in 2017, “Stranger in the Alps” is Phoebe Bridgers’ debut album. This record was a remarkable launching point for Bridgers, and is everything a debut album should be. With themes ranging from loss, loneliness and depression, the album is sad, honest, but not overly cynical. The album’s title is in reference to “The Big Lebowski,” and the way a line of the movie was edited for the TV (clean) version of the film; irony is clearly never lost on Bridgers and her humor peeks its way through her lyricism throughout the album.
On tracks “Georgia” and “Motion Sickness” she lets her vocals shine, although they stand out on every track. As I said on my “Best of Phoebe Bridgers” blog post, Bridgers’ “diary-like storytelling, sorrowful disposition, smooth vocals, and folky melodies combine to make top-tier indie music.”
Bridgers, no stranger to collaboration, worked with Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes on this album. Track 9, titled “Would You Rather,” contains vocals from Oberst, whom she later would collaborate with on Better Oblivion Community Center. She keeps her inspirations and predecessors tangible in her work, with references to the deaths of David Bowie and Lemmy Kilmister in the record’s first track, “Smoke Signals.” The penultimate track of the album “You Missed My Heart” is a cover of a song by the same title originally by Mark Kozelek, released in 2013 on “Live at Phoenix Public House Melbourne.”
“Stranger in the Alps” is sonically and thematically cohesive, although sometimes it does fall victim to repetitiveness. Totaling 11 tracks and clocking in at 44 minutes, the album feels like a good length and tends to be more refreshing than it is redundant. The final track of the album, “Smoke Signals (Reprise)” ties the album together with a callback to the first track.
Although I definitely prefer her sophomore album “Punisher,” which was released in 2020 (be sure to check out Lise Nox’s review of it), “Stranger in the Alps” certainly gives that album a run for its money.
Long ago, my main interest in music heavily focused on pop music. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, (stuff is usually popular for a reason) my music taste has really strayed away from that as I’ve gotten older. I recently found a picture of an old journal entry from when I was 16 that chronicled my favorite albums from the time, and I wanted to reminisce on them and share how I feel about them nowadays.
I still deeply love this album, and revisit it annually, but it’s no longer in constant rotation like it used to be. Bleachers was a gateway into more of the “indie” music that I am into nowadays. This album will forever be my favorite thing that Jack Antonoff has put his magic touch on.
This journal entry is from June of 2018, and that album came out in late May 2018. I most likely last listened to that album in August of 2018. It was definitely a temporary love, but I remember it being good pop music.
This album definitely is a product of its time. It just feels very 2016. It was one of the first albums I ever deeply fell in love with, and eventually even went on to see Jon Bellion in concert. It’s definitely not something I would still listen to nowadays, but it meant a lot to me back then.
This is an extremely underrated pop album. While I rarely ever revisit nowadays, I still love it dearly. Maybe the nostalgia I have associated with this album makes me see it through rose-colored glasses, but it was the first album I properly listened to from beginning to end all on my own.
This is another underrated pop album, and I don’t think nostalgia is fueling my views this time. Broods’ 2019 release “Don’t Feed The Pop Monster” is an album I revisit more often than this one, but both are amazing and in my opinion, stand the test of time.
I remember wanting to make both sides of the list even, so I kind of added this one as a last-ditch effort. I loved this album in 2013, but I seldom revisited it when I wrote this entry 3 years ago and don’t now.
What I said about “+” applies here, except I do revisit this one nowadays.
There isn’t anything wrong with the albums I don’t listen to anymore, they just belong in that period of my life. I can’t help but wonder what I’ll think of my current favorite albums three years from now. Only time will tell.
BEST TRACKS: “Pop Punk Travesty,” “Kung Fu on the Internet” and “Butt Sister”
“This ain’t pop, it’s punk rock!”
The main vocalist of the 1994 riot grrrl band, Lung Leg, screams this lyric during the first track, “Pop Punk Travesty”. Jane McKeown (“Jane Egypt”) on bass and vocals, Annie Spandex and Maureen Quinn (“Mo Mo”) on guitar and vocals, and Amanda Doorbar (“Jade Green”) on drums, make up this punk powerhouse. The quartet formed in Glasgow, Scotland and took influence from dance rock, art punk, new wave and other riot grrrl bands.
Although they never reached the levels of fame most bands aspire to, Lung Leg was a feature of the 90s Scottish punk scene. They toured and made their mark on a male-dominated industry. To this day, they are revered for the punk spirit they embodied in their music and stage presence. They disbanded in 1999 with the members finding or creating new musical projects.
“Hello Sir” is a compilation of two of Lung Leg’s underground EP’s. The album is 12 songs, each of which is less than 2 minutes long. All of the tracks are witty, fast-paced, and will have you scouring the internet for more.
My favorite tracks on the album are “Pop Punk Travesty”, “Kung Fu on the Internet” and “Butt Sister”. However, every song has its quirks and is endlessly listenable. I don’t think I will ever get tired of this album. Throw this on the queue and blast it through your car’s speakers. “Hello Sir” is the perfect album to pair with road rage.
BEST TRACKS: “Duvet,” “Twilight,” “Fool” and “Deeply”
“Twilight” by bôa first entered my music realm after watching Serial Experiments Lain, a psychological mystery anime. Within the first few seconds of starting the anime, “Duvet” came on as the opening track and I was instantly hooked. Jasmine Rogers mesmerized me with her haunting vocals and ever since then, I have been bôa’s biggest fan.
The album itself is melodic, emotional, and perfectly captures the human struggles of identity and belongingness. The lyrics of every song are as deep as they are beautiful and each track makes for a meaningful listen.
“Duvet,” the first track on the album and also the most popular, has gained most of its attention from the anime, “Serial Experiments Lain.” It is about falling out of love with someone you once trusted. The lyrics are raw and the melody is entrancing. This song is hands down what made me fall in love with not only the album but the band.
“Twilight,” their second most popular song has an overall more upbeat sound to it. However, the lyrics are about unrequited love which makes for an interesting contrast. The vocals on this track are truly captivating and will have you coming back for more.
“Fool,” unlike the two tracks listed above, has a more aggressive sound to it. The lyrics are about feeling like you don’t belong which is an experience many people can relate to. This is one of my go-to songs for an evening drive.
“Deeply” was a track I didn’t give much attention to until about my third listen through. However, it has slowly but surely become one of my favorites. It has a more abrasive “rock” sound to it like “Fool” but it is equally as sensitive as “Duvet” and “Twilight.”
To summarize, this is an epic album that everyone should listen to at least once in their life.
“The Parent Trap” (1998) is unequivocally my favorite movie of all time, and I don’t see that ever changing. With iconic casting ranging from Dennis Quaid to Lindsay Lohan, there are a lot of factors that contribute to unending my love for this movie, but one of my favorite aspects of the movie is the soundtrack.
First, if you haven’t seen either iteration of the movie, let me catch you up on the plot. A Californian vineyard owner, Nicholas Parker (portrayed by Dennis Quaid) and a British wedding-dress designer, Elizabeth James (portrayed by Natasha Richardson) meet on a transatlantic boat trip and spontaneously elope. A picture of them is taken the night of their wedding, and when they separate, they rip the photo in half and both keep a half of the photo that contains the other. Fast forward twelve years later, two girls (portrayed by Lindsay Lohan) meet at a summer camp and eventually discover that they’re identical twins separated during infancy (with the help of that photo that was ripped in half). In their pre-teen naivety, they embark on a mission to get their parents back together, with a series of obstacles and shenanigans along the way. The core tenet of their plan involves them switching places once leaving the summer camp, going back to the other’s respective home, knowing their parents would eventually have to switch them back. (Spoiler Alert: it has a happy ending).
Perhaps my favorite aspect of the soundtrack is the start and end of it. The very first scene where the parents are eloping on the boat is a montage of them dancing, signing paperwork, drinking wine and having a good time. This montage is backed with the ever-so-romantic “L-O-V-E”. The ending scene, where Nicholas Parker and Hallie fly to England to surprise Elizabeth James and Annie, and ultimately confess that he does want a future with her, is immediately followed by the end-credits song: “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)” by Natalie Cole (who, if you didn’t know, is Nat King Cole’s daughter). The film starting with a love song by a father and ending with a love song by a daughter encapsulates the core themes of romantic and familial love in a beautiful and unforgettable way.
Peggy Gou is a legendary house DJ and producer. Her music was one of my first forays into electronica. Her new single “Nabi” came out on June 7. While listening and grooving along, I remembered the mix she made in collaboration with MixMag. This hour-long set is available in album form on Apple Music and Spotify.
Gou is a master of mixing, revamping all the songs she comes into contact with. This set showcases her DJ abilities. The mix starts out with a sample from Charles Bukowski’s “Style” layered over a mesmerizing beat. From there Gou seamlessly transitions to Henrik Bergqvist & Abdulla Rashim “Tales Of Ordinary Madness (Trouble In Paradise)”. This dark dance track blends in well with Gou’s other picks.
Favorites from the Mix
“Shero” by Peggy Gou
This unreleased treasure is a part of the U.N’s #heforshe campaign, this track was on a limited edition vinyl for charity. The repetitive beat and quick melodies make this song one of the most danceable on the compilation.
“Moving” by Suzanne Kraft
The sizzling percussion and hardhat beat of this track works perfectly with the melodic synths. This lush deep house track flows well, with faster upbeat portions and calm interludes. I would love to hear this song in the middle of a club.
“Aqua Warrior” by Aubrey
This techno tune by British artist Allen Saei, also known as Aubrey, is another favorite of mine. The basic looping piano synths and wavy baseline land the track somewhat in the acid house genre. This song is amazing for running, dancing or even studying.
“Han Jan” by Peggy Gou
This track is one of the only mixes with vocals. Gou raps in Korean, referencing 90’s electro and club/drinking culture. “Han Jan” means one shot (of alcohol) but Jan is also the name of Gou’s friend who she dedicated the song to. This sweet jam is bubbly and a perfect dance track.
Hope you all check out this special mix and dance along.
Gillian Welch is the fake cover persona of a 300-year-old ghost who makes music. Okay, that’s probably an exaggeration, but Welch’s music truly feels like it has existed for centuries. She writes Appalachian folk music, with every song amounting to one woman and a guitar, but what she does with these sparse tools is truly enchanting.
Welch, in her one words, is “possessed with a dark turn of mind.” Her music reflects the cultural and economic devastation of Appalachia in the present moment but does so without ever resorting to topical songs or sociopolitical statements. She rarely references modern items, technology, allowing her music to exist in a temporal dead zone.
The album in question today, “Harrow and the Harvest,” is without question Welch’s best album. The guitar work is courtesy of long-time collaborator David Rawlings, a man described as a “guitar god,” in multiple different reviews. However, it is the songwriting, extraordinary even by Welch’s standards, that make this album stand out above her back catalogue. The songs are desolate, wistful, and preoccupied with death. This is a common feature of Appalachian music, but Welch blends it with a narrative skill not usually found in traditional music. Songs like “The Way it Goes,” tells the story of an ill-fated group of friends as they meet various unfortunate fates. Other songs chip away at the temporal barrier by telling stories from Welch’s early performing days.
However, the centerpiece of the album is without a doubt “Tennessee,” a song about lust and temptation that depicts the internal struggle between remaining in a happy community and following your own desires. The album strikes the hard balance between emotional detail and minimalism. The chorus has no narrative function, consisting of little more than a few mumbled vocalizations and a single stanza “It’s beefsteak when I’m working/ Whiskey when I’m dry/ Sweet heaven when I die.” However, through Welch’s subtle performance, she fills the song with innuendo, making it unclear whether the song is entirely metaphorical, about a mysterious and forbidden man or simply about a woman.
I’m not quite sure what the target audience is for an album like this, but I encourage anyone and everyone to listen to it. Welch is a criminally underrated artist. Too rootsy and traditional for Pitchfork but to raw and unfiltered for the Grand Ole Opry. Gillian Welch is keeping the culture alive.
As the British-blues-flower-child era came to a close, new sounds filled its place: heavy rock, funk, soul, metal. The music that arose in the early ’70s was filled with a raunchier sort of angst that left the doo-woppers of the ’60s to cower in their flower crowns. Psychedelia would still reign supreme, but it became twinged with a glamorous grit.
Funkadelic’s debut album encapsulates this transition perfectly.
Having been a part of the Parliaments, a Motown group, George Clinton found himself at a crossroads. His talent still lay in classic Motown, but psychedelics and hard rock were calling to his spirit. After breaking from the Parliaments, (which would later become Parliament, Funkadelic’s sister band) Clinton brought together a new group of musicians. Thus, Funkadelic was born.
Their first album is an incredible mishmash of soul, funk, classic country blues and acid trips. The opening track, “Mommy, What’s A Funkadelic?” is an ode to the sultry nature of funk itself. Clinton’s voice, as well as several other “funkadelics”, can be heard crooning over a slow, bluesy track, whispering sermons and shouting in a true Motown spirit. “I’ll Bet You” is more upbeat, a perfect example of the “true funk” that would come to be in the mid to late ’70s.
The entire album is both an ode to traditional Black country music and the changing, drug-fueled culture of the late ’60s. “Music for my Mother” demonstrates this exquisitely. Listening to Clinton murmur the words “Sit down by old beat-up railroad train/ And get me, get myself a little of that old funky thang/ Can you all feel what I mean?/ This is what you call way back younger funk” over harmonicas and steel string guitar shows how perfectly they infuse both psychedelia and soul.
It is truly one of the greatest albums to come out of the early ’70s. Gloriously unapologetic, terrifyingly experimental and filled with soul, “Funkadelic” is worth taking a listen to.
BEST TRACKS: “Seventeen” and “Small Foreign Faction”
Haley Blais is a force to be reckoned with in the indie music world, and her 2018 release “Let Yourself Go” is definitive proof of that. This timeless five-song EP encapsulates young adulthood, with songs about growing out of adolescence and growing into yourself.
Blais, a Canadian YouTuber with over 170,000 subscribers, certainly knows how to relate to an audience. And while her lyrics and songs are relatable, they aren’t cheap. This EP walks the line of good lyricism and relatability while still managing to be authentic, a merit that many fail to achieve. Tracks “Seventeen” and “Remove Tag” are the only ones based on her real life experiences, which she stated in the description of the “Remove Tag” music video. The music video along with the lyrics tell a tale of her a friend tagging her in a really unflattering picture of herself on Instagram. “Seventeen,” my personal favorite on the EP, has lyrics about growing into adulthood when you feel like your teen years were somewhat unfulfilling.
Blais’ voice floats easily from track to track, making the EP a cohesive sounding unit, while the instrumentals make each song unique. The heavy use of ukulele makes the songs feel springy and bright, perfect for summer listening. Although it is somewhat a “feel good” EP, it still has substance and doesn’t feel kitschy or lacking at any point.
Blais released this EP and her previous work without the help of a label, but has since been signed to Tiny Kingdom Music Inc.