As the academic year draws to a close, it is once more time for the Bwog Staff to discuss the albums that defined their semester! No matter how nostalgia-ridden or longing for New York, we hope you too can find comfort in music. As always, enjoy our selection!
Contact Sports by Squirrel Flower
This semester hit me like a trainwreck. It was messy, painful, full of unexpected twists, and turns. From the sweetness of falling to my chaotic departure from the United States, I felt the full range of human emotions. Through it all, Squirrel Flower’s folky vocals and electric guitar were there for me. Her music is incredibly grounding and contemplative. At times, listening to it felt like hearing my thoughts. My personal favorite, “Not Your Prey”, is a gentle but powerful reminder you are in control of your life, one that came at an incredibly opportune time. “Daylight Savings” is best listened to alone, nostalgia-ridden, yearning for what you can no longer have. Contact Sports is the perfect soundtrack for good crying sessions and lonely dance parties alike. It strikes the delicate balance between empowering and healing, soothing and intense.
All Mirrors by Angel Olsen
In a semester full of loss, confusion, gratefulness, and change, I felt myself coming back to this album time and time again. Angel Olsen’s All Mirrors is an auditory experience of distorted, dramatic, dreaminess yet somehow also feels very realistic. The song “Endgame,” focuses on a fluctuation between stability and chaos which felt very representative of my experience at school: leaving the first semester on a strange note, followed by a tumultuous winter break, yet returning to campus full of hope and excitement only to be faced yet again with another difficult situation to navigate. “Spring” might as well have been written about this semester; the song begins with “Don’t take it for granted / Love when you have it.” The album ends with “Chance,” with a vision of recognizing difficulties and moving forward with resilience, which really struck a chord with me (does psychic Olsen speak of Zoom when she says “all that space in between where we stand / could be our chance”? You tell me.)
Side Pony by Lake Street Dive
I don’t know how one album can be so groovy but also get you into your feels. “Call Off Your Dogs” is genuinely one of my favorite songs of all time: it’s catchy and energetic so I listened to it as a pump-up song before auditions, tests, or even just classes I wasn’t particularly interested in. “How Good It Feels” is a bitter and beautiful ode to being alone, but longing for companionship, which is very fitting for how life is going right now. Also, there are songs called “Spectacular Failure” and “Mistakes” which have been hitting REAL close to home lately. This album just got me. I want to be best friends with Rachael Price, the lead singer.
Twenty Twenty by Djo
This groovy, psychedelic rock-esque album, both lyrically and musically, plays with the idea that nothing seems real anymore, and not being quite sure how you feel about anything. “Chateau (Feel Alright)” became my favorite song of all time, and even though it repeats “I feel alright”, the calmness of the song itself is filled with lyrics about nostalgia, uncertainty about oneself and the future, headaches and more. I listened to this album on repeat because I think it’s a genius concept–all the song flow into one another, and if you don’t keep track of time, you end up cycling through the album at least three times, appreciating a new thing in each listen. I also have a conspiracy that Joe Keery (Djo) knows something the rest of humanity doesn’t. It’s in his facial expressions.
Hemispheres by Jo Blankenburg
This album came out in March which is why I’m more hesitant to write this one up but it was so iconic for me because it’s a sequel to another of Jo’s really great albums (Kaleidoscope) that I have to pay it my respects. It’s a piano and string driven album that has a lot of heroic and uplifting pieces and, as a piano lover, I just can’t go a day without listening to it. “Ephemeris” is my personal favorite and I love to listen to it when I do work to help calm me down.
Color Theory by Soccer Mommy
Pre-online transition, this semester was about being alone—and also making myself not be alone, since I try to be good to myself, maybe, but mainly about being the kind of alone college offers. This album isn’t about being alone, but it feels very alone-adjacent with its themes; it’s divided into three colors and three corresponding emotions: blue for depression, yellow for illness (mental and physical), and gray for mortality. Unsurprisingly, the album is kind of a bummer, but in a way that manages to be just as comforting as it is utterly and sheerly devastating. The predominant senselessness this album faces isn’t the same as the predominant senselessness of being a kind of emo college student or a person in the middle of a pandemic—it’s primarily about grappling with the artist’s mother’s terminal illness—but it never needed to be. This album was perfect for when I needed a solitary and rather somber walk through Riverside, or something familiar and low-key to listen to while I studied at Avery, or a reminder that you should only really wallow in being alone for so long. It also somehow became the soundtrack to the numerous loaves of banana bread I have made while at home. “circle the drain” and “night swimming” are the current favorites.
Angel Youth by Vansire
In February, I was hit by an unexpected wave of homesickness for the Midwest – all I wanted was flat dark earth, endless country roads, and lustrous sunsets. Angel Youth, written by Minnesotan duo Vansire, sounds like the dream-pop house music of bands from my hometown. But after being sent home, Angel Youth acquired new meaning. Despite a Midwestern sound, the themes of the album center around longing to escape to the East Coast. Lyrics like “Your outline against the Atlantic / Well it’s idyllic and highly romantic” and “Sidewalks, brownstones, and street posts / They line my dreams in complete rows” yearn for New York. Now that I’m back in the Midwest, the place I missed so much, I find myself longing alongside Vansire for the romantic, beautiful city I left behind.
To Feel Alive EP by Kali Uchis
On To Feel Alive a short EP Uchis presents four remastered unreleased demos stripped down to their simplest forms. Much as quarantine brings us to our simplest and allows us to think back on the time passed and reminisce on everything prior, Uchis reworks much of the same styles that she is known for – all while the sheer power of her voice guides the narrative forward. To Feel Alive offers a satisfying recap to the journey of the semester so far, allowing us to look back on what may have been viewed as more complicated times – but was in fact much simpler.
Painful by Yo La Tengo
I’ve been doing a LOT of driving since I’ve been home. I don’t go anywhere in particular; after all, everything’s closed. As someone who easily catches cabin fever, though, I’ve found solace in getting in my car late in the evening and just cruising down the highway. Since I can no longer hit the gym, driving time has been my main opportunity to listen to music. I’ve been able to cross off a lot of albums from my to-listen list, and my favorite thus far is Painful by Yo La Tengo, a nearly thirty-year-old gem that shatters genre constraints, moving deftly from shoegaze (a la Slowdive) to noise rock (a la Sonic Youth) to good old indie rock (a la Pavement) from one song to the next. It’s energetic at parts and totally relaxing/soothing at others. In other words, it’s a perfect driving album. I can’t believe I hadn’t given it a full listen before this spring.
Chutes Too Narrow by The Shins
For some reason, I started jiving to The Shins when I was studying in Milstein earlier this semester. I’d just listen to it on loop for hours and hours and hours. The lyrics are really descriptive and intricate, and the music is somehow upbeat. It kept me alive.
Pang by Caroline Polachek
It took a while for this album to click for me; I blame the relatively lackluster first half. However, if you’re in the mood for bops about yearning (and how could you not be), the standout tracks on this album are phenomenal. It’s a lost album from a period in music that hasn’t happened yet, a living anachronism that’s tough to pin down as any particular genre. Polachek’s voice has a robotic, almost autotune-like quality that complements the lush instrumentation of the songs greatly, and the music videos are a sight to behold. Above all else, the songs are just so damn catchy; try getting the hook to this track out of your head after listening to it.
The Life of the World To Come by The Mountain Goats
I listened to The Mountain Goats a handful of times while on campus and while I knew it was the kind of music I’d enjoyed, the sheer volume of everything was overwhelming. Once the world fell apart and time lost the small amount of meaning it previously held, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and see if my instincts were right. With a little help from the Bwog slack (thanks Zack!), I’ve found myself increasingly drawn to this music while in quarantine. Is it peak sad white boy? Yes, but honestly self-isolation has brought out the peak sad white boy in all of us. The lyrics are often mournful, but particularly in this album, I find myself attuned the way they’re also infused with a deep and abiding hope that things will get better. It’s how I’ve felt about life for a long time and it’s comforting to see that I’m not the only one. I also have found myself deeply appreciating the poetry and symbolism of the lyrics. I haven’t written creatively essentially since coming to college but Darnielle’s powerful images are incredibly inspiring.
Shea Butter Baby by Ari Lennox
This year I was blessed with probably the best housing situation I will ever have, but thanks to an accompanying devastating mental health crisis, I struggled to enjoy it to the fullest like I wanted to, making me feel even worse. But blasting this album as the sun set over the Hudson while I waited for my suitemates to come home did more for me than CPS ever could. Ari’s vocals are so easy and smooth, and whether she’s feeling confident, lonely, sincere, or anything else, she sings it with intimacy and satisfied release. I can’t count how many times I danced alone to “BMO” and “New Apartment” while doing laundry or making dinner, feeling full of the simple joy I so desperately needed. Then when I had to move back home, I watched the Tiny Desk Concert featuring songs from this album whenever I needed a funky R&B moment (often) and listened to “Facetime” at least 4x a day (ladies in long-distance situationships rise up!). Now I’m listening to “I Been” and just waiting for this god awful semester to be over. At least I have this (no-skip!) album to keep me company and remind me of the good I managed to find.
soil by serpentwithfeet
I’d listened to exactly 2 songs by serpentwithfeet before the start of this semester; I loved them but was too lazy to listen to his only full-length album and scared that his other music wouldn’t live up to my expectations. I was SO wrong for that. Especially fitting for this specific semester as we all go insane at home or alone on campus, this album has a certain unhinged energy to it that I’m absolutely obsessed with. All of the songs are super slow, which is something that I might normally get tired of, but Josiah Wise’s vocals demand a slow song. It just works. Each song on this album has been my favorite at some point in time–there are truly no skips. The album feels like a really slow/sad/beautiful buildup (I’m not sure to what) and ends with a slightly more hopeful-sounding song, “bless ur heart.” Standout songs include “messy” and “cherubim,” but my favorite song right now is “mourning song,” which includes the lyrics that describe my feelings about the abrupt end to our semester on campus: “I don’t want to be small, small sad. I want to be big, big sad.” Is that an upsetting statement? I’m not sure! The vocals are too beautiful for me to care. (And so are his music videos too)
Daniel Ortega-Venni – Rakasha by Jo Blankenburg
Jake Tibbetts – Yank Crime by Drive Like Jehu
Jenny Zhu – BUBBA by KAYTRANADA and After Hours by The Weeknd
Julia Tolda – Good At Being Young EP by Charli Adams
Zach Fisher – Eternal Atake by Lil Uzi Vert
Olivia Mitchell – The Queen Is Dead by The Smiths
What album defined your semester? Let us know!