Teens of Style by Car Seat Headrest
I’m going to start by saying that this album is garbage. Not in a bad way, of course, I genuinely believe it’s brilliant, but nothing about this album sounds good. It’s awfully mic’d, almost every song is a slightly-better re-recording of an older, even more deep-fried version, and the lyrics sound like nothing more than whiny mumbles. But that’s what I love so much about it! I love that nothing sounds clean, that the singer gave what little money he had to make it, and that it’s just some guy screaming in his car. The lyrics might be incomprehensible upon first listen, but there’s just something about them that struck a chord with me. It’s charming in its rawness, and no amount of production could capture the intense, surprisingly beautiful feeling conveyed in each song. And I guess that was my approach to looking at this semester: whenever school/life tried to take more from me than I had, I’d just try to expel whatever feelings were there. It was a rocky semester to put it nicely, but there were still some charming moments! I made some great friends, I saw some of my favorite artists in concert (including CSH, which was a big deal), and I just like…screamed. A lot. That’s what Teens of Style became for me: singing along to “Sunburned Shirts” whenever I step outside for the first time in over 24 hours, grooving to “Maude Gone” whenever I wanted (à la “Nobody” by Mitski in the least cool way possible), screaming “Oh! Starving” to myself while I’m alone in my room one too many times, and completely understanding whatever the fuck is going on in the 2011 “Something Soon” music video. It’s an album that somehow broke through to me and made me feel like a real person, and it’ll always have a peculiar place in the corner of my brain. Also, fuck produced albums: bring back garbage, deep-fried audio quality!
Heathers by Various Artists, the original cast.
“Candy Store” is a bad bitch bop. I listen to it when I am losing energy on an important task: it is the perfect duration for walking from the carrels on Milstein 2 to the water bottle filler and back. “Seventeen” is broody and angsty and makes me feel like a high school theatre kid again, harmonizing in my best friend’s car on the way home from rehearsal. “My Dead Gay Son” is just gay rights. Cast albums in general are a great diversion from real life: their plot makes them more engrossing to listen to than regular music, so you have to commit to the listening experience. You yourself become a plaid-skirt-wearing, croquet-mallet-wielding, 17-year-old with murder on your mind, and you still haven’t even left your seat in the library. What more could you ask for?
Eliza Staples (again!)
In These Silent Days by Brandi Carlile
Brandi does it again! This album came out in October 2021, but I didn’t really get into it until this semester. After I memorized every song off of 2018’s Everytime I Hear That Song, I wondered, “Wow, how can Brandi top this?” But she DID! And a fool I was to doubt her. Highlights include:
“You and Me On The Rock” has a Joni Mitchell-esque guitar riff and is about the simple life Brandi has built with her family, particularly with her wife (lesbians in country music!! yeehaw!!!). The chorus is upbeat, but makes me go weak at the knees: “I’ll build my house up on this rock, baby / Every day with you / There’s nothin’ in that town I need / After everything we’ve been through.” That kind of love is all you can ask for. Also features vocals from Lucius, and if you aren’t on the Lucius train, get on now. This song is just a joy to listen to, and I already know it will be in my top 5 by the end of the year.
“This Time Tomorrow”: I am a simple woman. I love three-part vocal harmony. This is a letter to her children, telling them that she’ll always be with them in spirit, even if she’s “not around this time tomorrow.” I am not a parent and do not plan to be one for some time, but the way Brandi writes about motherhood touches me deep in my soul.
“Broken Horses”: Brandi Carlile is one of the most underrated vocalists of our time: here, she goes full-country-belt, backed by a rocking, rollicking track. I think hearing this song live would electrocute me. The line that sticks with me most is “I’m a tried and weathered woman, but I won’t be tried again.” This semester tried me again and again, but it’s okay because Brandi understands.
“Sinners, Saints, and Fools” is how you know Brandi Carlile is an Elton John fan. The strings are vampy and passionate, and the lyrics are no different: she has a complicated relationship with the church, and here, she condemns the type of self-proclaimed “good Christian” that would turn away immigrants at the border. So if you have church issues to work out or are mad at hypocritical authority figures in general, have a listen!
In conclusion, In These Silent Days is an album to be despondent, in love, domestic, and irate too. What more could you ask for.
Queens of the Summer Hotel by Aimee Mann
Who am I if not a woman in her Aimee Mann era? This is an album of the fall semester that has bled into the spring. It has a complicated origin: it’s a concept album for a (pandemic-derailed) musical adaptation of Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen, which is all to say, the music is vaguely 1960s chamber pop and the lyrics are all about mental illness and the ways it fuzzies and warps your worldview. In the best way, this is an album about never being okay, like the possibility was never even there—and how that is still fine, even if it’s deeply not. “And now you’re split in two / and each side still isn’t you / and you know how that sounds / but it keeps being true,” goes the chorus of the song “Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath”—they’re lyrics that could seem melodramatic, played up, an almost romanticized picture of illness if they weren’t delivered in Mann’s careful, aloof, contained voice.
Cheery stuff! But also beautifully done, and dynamic in its exploration of this particular experience of mental illness. True to its Burt Bacharach, 1960s influences, it’s also just easy to listen to, if you’re not thinking too hard, which is part of why it has become the soundtrack to my studying and Central Park walks (POV: You are me, spaced out and alone on a cold, thinly lit December 2021 day, convinced either finals or Omicron is going to somehow be the death of you). Many wonderful moments of the semester, both quiet and loud, subway rides and April evening concerts, have been underscored by this album; it’s only fitting I give it the “album of the semester” title.
Once Twice Melody by Beach House
I’ve been listening to Beach House for…forever. They are easily one of my favorite bands. Once Twice Melody is special for a few reasons. For one, it came out in four chapters, released monthly. Having an entire month to digest and absorb the new bites of music gave me such a deep understanding of the entire album, and it was really just a cool, unique way to interact with music. When the final installment came out in February, it felt much like the final chapter of a book I’ve been long savoring. But beyond that, it’s simply a beautiful album. Complex, rich, lyrical, with stellar production and arrangement. Songs flow into each other, creating that cohesive sound that Beach House is so well known for. The meditative hum of “Over and Over”, the bittersweet goodbye of “Superstar”, the uncanny chant of “Masquerade.” They work together, but also stand alone.
It was one of those strangely warm days when I actually sat down to listen to it. February 23rd. Everyone was out on Low for the first time since fall, I sat on one of the tall protruding ledges next to the steps, put on my noise canceling headphones, and let my mind be carried by “Finale.” I remember a sense of calm settle down over my body, for the first time in weeks, watching the sun set over all the happy people around me. Thinking, maybe, everything will turn out ok.
“Is it over? / Yeah, it’s over / The best time of all.”
Assume Form by James Blake
I discovered this album somewhat at random when the song “Can’t Believe The Way We Flow” came up on my Spotify Discover Weekly sometime in mid-March and I immediately fell in love. I had been exposed to James Blake before through his work with other artists and the occasional single over the years (and most importantly learning that he is one of Björk’s favorite artists) but had never committed to truly exploring his music. For me, Assume Form spans the soulful seriousness of Blake, with his ethereal sounds that make you feel like you’re listening to someone’s secrets underwater, to a more playful side, collaborating with ROSALÍA, André 3000, Metro Boomin, and others. I swear the entire spectrum of emotions is covered on Assume Form; I think I cried listening to “I’ll Come Too” for the first time immediately after hearing the fun and powerful “Where’s The Catch?”. Each song on this album really feels like its own little story or world, making it fun to listen to both in order and on shuffle (and therefore a great album to listen to while doing any activity). Personal favorites on the album include “Tell Them” and the title track “Assume Form.”
Etiquette by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone
Finding this when at home over winter break, immediately after a COVID scare that made me sure I would be locked in my dorm through Christmas, it fit perfectly into the nostalgia I was feeling at the time. With many songs about lost love, lost past lives, finding new friends and trying to hang on to old ones, the themes of the album were exactly the themes of my life at the moment, and set a mood for my vacation and for the semester after it. I also adore the style, laid-back but cheery melodies, many played on toy instruments—as the “Casiotone” of the name suggests. I connected with Etiquette on many levels, as a consumer and an artist—it is humanly comforting and reinforcing, and aesthetically aspirational for me.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Oga’s Cantina: R3X’s Playlist #1 by Various Artists
Once upon a time, I was looking for a soundtrack to do Calculus I homework to. I wanted it to be major STEM vibes, so, like the silly goofy girl I am, I typed “beep boop bop” into the Spotify search bar. To my delight, the song “Beep Boop Bop” appeared from this album, and the rest is history. This is the music played by the robot DJ in Oga’s Cantina at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Florida, and it is incredible. All alien gibberish and vibes, this album is raw productivity fuel and I can’t do homework without it. I promise I’m not biased, I’ve never been to the IRL cantina or seen most of the Star Wars movies (only the prequels!). Just listen to it, I promise it’s amazing.
Juno by Remi Wolf
I discovered the pure talent that is Remi Wolf on my 18th birthday at the end of 2020 because I came across a TikTok with a slowed-down version of her song “Photo ID.” I went to Spotify to listen to the rest of her discography (two EPs), and they did not disappoint, with songs like “Disco Man,” “Hello Hello Hello,” and “Guy” (some of my personal favorites).
Finally, in October 2021, Remi released an album, Juno, after only having three EPs (one of which was remixes of songs from the other two) and some singles. I was wary about listening to it because I didn’t think she would have the same sound for her first official album as she did for her EPs. However, Remi Wolf never disappoints. Juno is an absolute paragon of an album.
It has the same loud, complex Remi Wolf sound that I was used to–electric guitar, lots of percussion, with a pop-but-rock-but-not-quite-rock sound that only she can create. Remi also has the most astounding vocals, and she uses them to bellow lyrics about the darker topics–like alcoholism, family issues, and toxically dealing with newfound success without even making them sound sad. My favorite part of any Remi Wolf song, though, is the wonky lyrics that make you unsure of the meaning but still understanding of the experience like, “This still feels like a Conor McGregor fight, kickin’ out my front tooth.” I’m not sure what “this” means for Remi, but that’s definitely how I’ve felt the entire semester. My favorite song from Juno right now is called “Volkiano,” which I think derives from the word “volcano.” I’m not sure. I just know the song is an absolute banger. The album has a mix of different sounds and varies in emotional range. Some songs sound fun but have sad lyrics, while others are pure fun. However, all the songs have in common are the stellar Remi Wolf vocals and her unique sound that creates a beautiful cohesive piece of art.
Cowboy Bebop by SEATBELTS
Netflix! I don’t subscribe, but I’m touched that they blew close to $70 million on a very bloated advertising campaign to get me, specifically, to finally watch a moody space western from 1998.
My listening habits are, honestly, terrible for this kind of post. (Sorry, Kyle.) I don’t really listen to albums, I kinda just open Spotify and just hit “shuffle” on my small library of songs. Increasingly, I’ve taken to just starting stations on Pandora. (Of the many small hills I’ll die on, one is that Pandora is much better for music discovery than everything else out there.) So, the reason that I’m choosing the Bebop soundtrack is because it’s really helped expand the breadth of what I listen to over these past few months. Genre-wise/style-wise, this album is jam-packed. I’ve spun up new Pandora stations around “Space Lion,” “Rush,” “Cosmos,” and “Fantaisie Sign” (which is on a different Bebop soundtrack but you get the idea). Of course, I wouldn’t have done this if the songs themselves weren’t incredible to begin with—there’s nothing quite like “Piano Black,” “Rain,” or “Memory.” In closing, please listen to this soundtrack. Oh, and the show’s pretty good, too.
Mama’s Big Ones by Cass Elliot
I turned nineteen between the fall and spring semesters. I view nineteen as a hinge year: at eighteen you’re a legal adult and at twenty you’re no longer a teenager. When you’re nineteen, you’re a teenage adult which is kind of a paradox except people live it so it’s not a paradox. Not at all—it just feels weird. It occupies a place between. So I’m nineteen, I’m in my second semester of college, and I’m clawing at the closing seconds of adolescence and opening scenes of formal adulthood.
It’s kicking my ass and moving fast.
My starting playlists of the semester did not survive past February because they did not help me process my toils about life, happiness, and relationships. I faced a short period of week-long playlist lifespans until I settled on pop music from the sixties—who doesn’t love a little Dusty Springfield and Lesley Gore? I added a handful of songs I enjoyed and let the recommended algorithm do the rest. A song started with a mix of guitars and violins (I think). It was audial marmalade. Before I had time to register the sweetness, Cass Elliot’s “Make Your Own Kind Of Music” bloomed into a powerful chorus. I loved it. The harmonies are sunny and the accompaniments are saccharine. I listened on repeat over the next few days and then listened through the rest of Mama’s Big Ones.
Mama’s Big Ones is hopeful. This semester, it was my musical version of a sunlamp. The lyrics are limitlessly optimistic about the future, both personal and interpersonal. Songs like “The Good Times Are Coming,” “Easy Come, Easy Go,” and “Don’t Let the Good Life Pass You By” relax me. “It’s Getting Better,” the opening track, gives a push during periods of sinking monotony. It’s also just a nice song. I love the ending. “One Way Ticket” and “New World Coming” are similar. I’m reminded of clean slates and to slow my perspective of time—instantaneity is overrated. While the spring semester went fast, I like to think these songs helped me enjoy myself whenever I could. Mama’s Big Ones is smile-inducing. I can remember that good happens and good will happen again, even amidst points of turmoil. So I get excited. I am excited. I’m not letting the good life pass me by.
Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You by Big Thief
This has been the semester of lonely walks, of afternoon waffles, of spiked seltzers, of sitting on benches, of getting pictures developed, of collaging, of reading in the garden, of making mistakes, of missing people, of writing and rewriting. And all of these activities were better with Big Thief. Like me, this album is melancholic and warm (“Sparrow”). It is moody (“Heavy Bend”). It is seriously heartbreaking (“Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You”). It has a surprising sense of humor (“Spud Infinity” and “Wake Me Up To Drive”). Big Thief takes you out of your life and through 20 new stories, each one of them delightfully strange in its own way. The album delivers both quietness and intimacy, with songs like “Dried Roses” or “Promise Is a Pendulum,” but also has darker and more intricately produced songs, like my favorite “Blurred View.” I could name reasons for liking every single track. They are all so special, so varied, so enjoyable. but I wouldn’t want to spoil your fun. This album is an experience, an hour and twenty minutes spent in the company of some amazing musicians. Let this record melt. Let it rest. Let it settle in your bones. Sit outside in the sun and listen to it. Trust me.
Solace by Earl Sweatshirt
I didn’t have as much time to check out new music this semester as I would’ve liked, but this one hit me hard. This quick 10-minute mini-project from Odd Future alum Earl Sweatshirt plays like one continuous song. It’s difficult, perfect for a rainy night walk, but just like the aforementioned, it has a quality of complete mind-wipe, like meditation. I discovered this album after scrolling through hoards of impatient TikTok users commenting “song name???” under videos featuring the piano sample that kicks in at 2:06. (I hope it gets stuck in your head like it did in mine.) I later found that the album was originally released on Earl’s unofficial YouTube channel. His caption reads “music from when i hit the bottom and found something.” When I hit a low point this semester, I found Solace.
Solomia Dzhaman: Mother Earth’s Plantasia by Mort Garrison.
Eli Reville: FTHC by Frank Turner.
Sydney Wells: “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)” by Luke Bryan (not an album, but bangs).
AMAZING MUSIC HEADER! via Ava Morouse