Dear reader, it is the end of the year, and you know what that means! Snow is falling, finals are ending, and Bwog is ready to share the albums that defined our semester… for the TENTH time! Enjoy!!!

Julia Tolda

Salt Circle by Eliza McLamb

This semester felt like waking up from a nap I didn’t know I was taking. When I fell asleep the sun was up, but now it is dark. I’m in bed with my jeans on and my head hurts in all the familiar places. Eliza McLamb’s second EP, Salt Circle, couldn’t have come at a better time. Each of the five songs offers an intimate look into the singer’s (and podcastress’) thoughts and feelings. They are little gifts, delightful reflections on life from someone eager to learn and grow. “Pulp” is a soft rock song about the ephemerality of life, of time, of beauty. It’s carpe diem, it’s honoring the desire to suck life to the pulp, to try and hold every beautiful thing in your hands. “Salt Circle” is a ballad about accepting your own vulnerability, and sentimentality. Being unafraid to love and to feel truly. And lastly, “Older” is a love letter to a younger self, acknowledging the pain of the past and looking forwards to the future. These are all messages I gladly accept, no matter how much I struggle to learn them.

Charlotte Slovin

No Rules Sandy by Sylvan Esso

“No rules lately / no rules Sandy!” After establishing a significant career in the indie-pop world with incredible album after incredible album, Sylvan Esso’s No Rules Sandy does what every stellar music group does once they’ve gained notoriety: break the rules. Seamlessly mixing what feels like hundreds of different sounds and ideas, No Rules Sandy is Sylvan Esso’s cannonball into the pool of electronic music with their classic serious-yet-whimsical twist. Lyrics span the mundane (“Sunburn”) to the self-reflexive and philosophical (“Alarm,” “Your Reality”), and take on questions of internal turmoil (“Cloud Walker,” “Look At Me”). “Echo Party,” my personal favorite on the album and an extreme departure from Sylvan Esso’s traditional sound, can only be described as an anti-gravity alien rave—a song spinning with layers of sound (best listened to with headphones) that makes one compulsively dance. In a semester with graduation looming on the horizon, forcing the future upon me, No Rules Sandy functions as a good reminder that nothing about the future is set: “are we learning how to be / surreal but free / your reality.”

Solomia Dzhaman

My Finest Work Yet by Andrew Bird

This semester has been, for me, both long and complicated. So many things have happened, both decisively good and also horribly bad. For many reasons, it’s been my favorite semester at Columbia yet, but for many other reasons, it’s also been incredibly difficult. This strange, uncertain mix is why I’ve been reaching for Andrew Bird’s My Finest Work Yet nearly every time I put in my earbuds. There is something about the swelling, orchestral interludes that can pick you up and carry you away, letting you feel whatever emotion it is you’re feeling, and there is something about the elusive poetic lyrics that both draw you in as a listener, but also let you layer your own interpretive meaning onto the songs. It just has so much texture, variety, and shifting energy to fit just about any mood or situation. It’s been my study music, but it’s also been what I blast as I take long walks through the park. I’ve sung along, but also cried to it. I’ve listened to it everywhere, from my morning rush to class, to craft nights on the floor of my room with my friends, to my hospital bed. It’s been the soundtrack to my life, fitting every moment as it comes. Andrew Bird is, without a doubt, one of the most talented musicians out there, and true to its name, this album is his finest work. 

Victoria Borlando

Being Funny in a Foreign Language by The 1975

What does it mean to be “at my very best?” This statement, also The 1975’s mantra for this album cycle, framed my semester. For me, a long-time (and passionate) fan of The 1975, BFIAFL excited me to no end. The introduction changed both lyrically and sonically, the iconic rectangle has long disappeared, the boys are out of their experimental phase and in their boppy boy band era, and kindness and sympathy to their younger selves resonated throughout the album. “At their very best” meant returning to their roots: dance music with somewhat pretentious somewhat dark lyrics, melodramatic love songs, catchy bangers (“I’m In Love With You” is my song of the year), and a tasteful deal of self-deprecation. The rushing piano at the beginning of a new chapter of The 1975—a departure from anything we’ve heard before—invigorated me as I experienced the semester. Being “at my very best” meant trying out new clubs, tapping into my own roots as a dancer, working on my passion projects and thesis, thinking hard about my future, all while recognizing that excitement and anxiety often go hand-in-hand. It’s also about growing up, which, comparing my experience listening to the second album for the first time back in my sophomore year of high school to this one, puts into perspective how much I’ve changed alongside the band. Since the members of The 1975 are now in their 30s—writing about 30-year-old people things like buying apartments, organizing Christmas gatherings, and life commitments—it’s a not-so-subtle reminder that life can’t be the world of “Girls” and “Chocolate” or “Menswear” anymore. However, it’s time to embrace that; it’s time to be at our very best!

Lillian Rountree

The Forgotten Arm by Aimee Mann

I try not to think about Pitchfork reviews (with all due respect to the people of Pitchfork). Even so, however, the last part of their review of The Forgotten Arm, Aimee Mann’s 2005 concept album, seems glued into my brain. After a wholly positive review, the article concludes: “So yeah, here’s yet another exemplary Aimee Mann album to add to the pile. Ho-hum.” It cracks me up: both the weird decision to close such praise with a seeming sense of disinterest and the fact that it’s totally true. The Forgotten Arm is another exemplary Aimee Mann album to add to the pile of exemplary Aimee Mann albums, and all the more power to her! In comparison to some of her more genre-crossing works, The Forgotten Arm is solidly a rock album, and every song hits like a sucker punch. The concept tying the album together is the semi-doomed romance of a depressed boxer and a photographer in Richmond, Virginia, and the slight distance afforded by having these characters serves to make Mann’s lyrics all the more cutting. (I have spent lectures distracted by the lyricism of “Little Bombs,” and how “life just kind of empties out / less a deluge than a drought.”) In terms of all the Aimee Mann albums that could be and have been my album of the semester, honestly, The Forgotten Arm portends largely good things about my mental health because, despite the severe downs the boxer experiences (“Video,” “I Was Thinking I Could Clean Up For Christmas”), the ending is more or less a happy one. In the closer “Beautiful,” the boxer and the photographer have come back together, and they’re both in a better place than they were before. “Sometimes it hurts me / to feel so much tenderness,” the photographer muses. “I looked through the zoom lens / and thought you were beautiful.” 

Isa RingswaldEgan

Souvlaki by Slowdive

This is an album I’ve always loved, but that’s been on repeat for my first semester of college. Every song feels like preemptive nostalgia, appropriate for my current absurdist and sentimental mindset every time I cross the walk. The emotions are big and the lyrics are hard hitting, but also simultaneously kind of meaningless, which seems incredibly poignant to my life right now. “Souvlaki Space Station” scrapes out all the gunk in the crevices of my brain, “Altogether” reflects the lethargy of late nights in Avery, “Melon Yellow” sounds like a memory, and “40 Days” is a song I know will always bring me agonizingly back to the fervor and defeat of high school depression. “When the Sun Hits” is on a completely different level. The striking guitar chords literally feel like watching a sunset, like Luke Skywalker staring out at two setting suns, or Nausicaa walking on fields of gold. These days, so many moments feel bright to me, which is why “When the Sun Hits” ended up third on my Spotify wrapped this year. More than ever before, I feel “it matters where I am”. The album is simultaneously manically blissful and heartbreakingly sad, and every re-listen, I find another facet of meaning in it. When life feels big, this album will make it feel even more substantial.

Talia Bloom

Midnights by Taylor Swift

This album, released October 21 by (mother) Taylor Alison Swift, not only marked a masterpiece and her tenth studio album, but also one of the best nights of my first semester. The hour leading up to its release, hundreds of Swifties gathered on Low steps, scream-singing all our favorite Taylor songs and counting down to the album release as if it were New Year’s Eve. Experiencing the drop of this album surrounded by my friends was a melancholy moment by itself—a shift from the past four Taylor releases where I was half awake and alone in my bedroom. The album followed through, with a collection of songs with sounds spanning Taylor’s eras, from the Reputation-esque “Vigilante Shit” to the Folklore adjacent “Snow on the Beach.” “You’re On Your Own Kid” has to be my favorite song on the album, with simple yet stunning instrumentation framing Taylor’s advice, seemingly written to us college students: “I search the party of better bodies / Just to learn that my dreams aren’t rare / You’re on your own, kid / You always have been.” So raw, simple, and powerful, this song will always bring me back to this point in my life: a semester of “taking the moment and tasting” the excitement of the beginning of college “livin’ in a big old city,” yet getting closer to being comfortable in my own sense of self and aloneness. Other notable mentions include “Bejeweled,” objectively the best song for strutting, “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve,” with one of Taylor’s best bridges (“Give me back my girlhood / it was mine first” !!!!!!!!!), and “Bigger Than The Whole Sky,” another song that is SO beautiful and will never fail to make me cry. This album spans our deepest insecurities and excitements, and will always bring me back to this scary and beautiful semester of college. Also, I got concert tickets!!!!! (Shoutout Spanish 3300 for the emotional support and assistance through that endeavor. <3)

Emma Burris

Richard D. James Album by Aphex Twin

This album used to terrify me. I don’t mean that in a sarcastic or metaphorical way—I mean it literally. The cover image shows Richard D. James (better known as Aphex Twin) grinning nightmarishly at the viewer, evoking memories of Jack Nicholson in The Shining. This unsettling use of his face is his modus operandi, which has undoubtedly been effective in making his presence so well-known. I myself had known about this album for a while, but never listened to it out of sheer terror. (I don’t do scary things!) One day this semester, I was casually listening to my Spotify Recommended when I was captivated by James’s “Fingerbib,” a beautiful electronic arrangement that I couldn’t help but listen to on repeat. I had had a relatively close-minded outlook on electronic music before, and never thought it could conjure up such indescribable emotion. Throughout this semester, I’ve found that the Richard D. James Album provides a perfect soundtrack when walking to classes, making my surroundings seem crisper, inspiring appreciation in the minutiae of my daily routine. James’ music is also perfect for studying, as it’s complex enough to provide stimulation but without the distraction of lyrics. Every single one of this album’s pieces are intricately composed and flexible to fit the context of any personal experience. What other music could you both dance or cry to depending on the situation? Even if you think to yourself Oh, I don’t listen to electronic music, you must listen to the Richard D. James Album—it truly is a rare, perspective-altering gem of music. (Not to mention how ahead of his time James is—this album came out in 1996!)

Sofia Fontaine

The 1975’s whole discography

This semester, musically, was a lot about finding what resonated with me. I’d constantly find myself skipping every song that came up, making Spotify radios for the most random songs/albums, trying to dive into the albums that songs I liked came from—I was searching for something to scratch a very specific itch in my brain. And then Being Funny In A Foreign Language came out. (I’ve like always listened to The 1975, but I didn’t ever know who they were; I’m sure I knew Matty Healy from Halsey’s Tumblr poems and “Colors,” but had probably only seen one singular photo of him in like seven years. My relationship with them was this: I’d listen to each new album, find new favorites and re-discover my old ones, but lose interest after a month or so. Therefore, I’ve had many 1975 “eras”: “Sex” was one of the first songs I downloaded on Spotify, the chiller songs from I like it when you sleep were basically my sleep soundtrack for all of 2016, “Love It If We Made It” was on endless repeat over the pandemic, “Nana” made me cry in a hotel room after my family moved to LA, but in 2020, I didn‘t love, love Notes On A Conditional Form, so I had stopped really having them in my rotation after that.) Being Funny genuinely hit on something inside me that exploded. But, this paragraph isn’t about BFIAFL, it’s about literally everything else. After listening to Being Funny every day for ages, I bought a ticket to see them at Madison Square like three hours before the show. I spent all day listening back to “TOOTIME” and “Girls” and “Love Me” and then, that night, I literally had the most fun I’ve ever had at a concert, I think. There’s something so special about hearing a song that you SCREAMED in your room when you were 13 live for the first time. (There’s also something crazy about realizing you never actually knew any of the lyrics.) After that night, I had only one thing on my mind: The 1975. Genuinely, for the last two months, it’s been only them. I host mini, private dance parties to my favorites from A Brief Inquiry and Notes every night. (They’re “If You’re Too Shy,” “Roadkill,” “Me & You Together Song,” “It’s Not Living If It’s Not With You,” and “People,” “I Like America.”) I’ve hit shuffle on the deluxe version of The 1975 (carefully skipping all the remixes) and their live album more times than I can count. Their music is the perfect soundtrack for cooking, walking, writing a 12-page essay on Romantic poetry, sending emails, ridding the subway, buying Christmas gifts, searching for a library seat, getting rained on, waiting in line at the dining hall, grocery shopping, brushing my teeth, getting annoyed at a printer, scrolling through Pinterest—they’re truly the perfect band. They don’t sound like anyone or anything (mostly—I did discover that the opening to LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends” was interpolated in BFIAFL’s “The 1975”) and it’s VERY entertaining to follow what they’re doing every night. That’s a perfect segue to: I’m also just, like, in love with Matty. I hate him so much, but I love him just a smidgen more. I’ve always been a Harry Styles girlie, but, truly, no one makes me giggle more than Matty Healy these days. And, personally, I’m so incredibly glad that I actually found the band now and not when I was depressed and sitting in the dark and very, very mean to myself. A (somewhat) well-adjusted Matty Healy is the one for me. Twelve-year-old, Directioner Sofia would’ve loved him as much as I do, but would’ve also idolized his wild lifestyle. So, thank you, Matty for being better and hotter now—it’s literally all for me, guys, shut up.

(Also, I’m currently listening to The 1975 on repeat and it’s totally distracting me, BTW.)

Grace Novarr

The Queen Is Dead by The Smiths

The Queen (yes, the same queen that was queen when the Smiths were still a band) died right at the beginning of this semester. I started listening to this album right after then, rediscovering some favorites that had had a different meaning to me back in high school. To be honest, I really love the Smiths, and I know there’s a lot of stereotypes about Smiths listeners (many of which I conform to), but I’m trying to enjoy what I enjoy without worrying too much about cultural baggage. The Queen is Dead is funny, sad, overwhelming and sleek. “I Know It’s Over,” a heartbreaking track about reckoning with the end of a relationship, is such a cathartic anthem for misery. “If you’re so clever, then why are you on your own tonight?” is a question I’ve asked myself many a time. There’s something so fun about even the Smiths’ deepest sadnesses—their exaggeration elevates their sorrow to the level of campiness without losing its edge. “Cemetry Gates,” an ode to pretentious self-isolation, validates me in my sense that it’s entertaining to be an English major, as the lyrics reference Keats, Yeats, and Wilde. There’s something so jaunty about the way Morrissey sings “It seems so unfair / I want to cry.” And in a semester that was in many ways for me the first semester that college felt the way college is supposed to feel, the words in the title track have never seemed more apt: “Has the world changed or have I changed?” Why not both?

Sophie Conrad

How To Be A Human Being by Glass Animals 

The summer before my sophomore year of high school, I worked on a boat in Maine, and my mentor on the ship introduced me to two things: Gorillaz (band) and Cane Shuga by Glass Animals. I had never heard such a weird song, it was about coke and Kim Jung Un, I literally had no idea what it was about. Flash forward to about two years ago, I fell in love with the entire album. I love concept albums that take you from one point to another, or albums that describe a journey. How To Be A Human Being imagines different characters for each song, and each one is included on the album cover. Yes, “Take A Slice” was used in cosplay TikTok edits two years ago. Has it been my top song for the past two years? Also yes. The entire album has such a unique sound, incredibly catchy, and also conveys a sense of nostalgia. I have never wanted to be a kid more than when I am listening to this album. If you want to feel like main character, listen to “Take A Slice,” “Pork Soda,” and “The Other Side of Paradise.” If you want to be sad and regret everything/ tune everything out for a while, listen to “Life Itself,” “Youth,” “Agnes,” “Poplar Street,” and “Mama’s Gun.”

Phoebe Mulder

Guard Dog by Searows

If I begin my day with creator of indie-folk project Searows Alec Duckart’s seminal (and only) album, Guard Dog, I enter a state of melancholia for the next twenty-four hours. Stream Guard Dog because it’s the most heavenly thing you’ll ever hear, but be warned. It’s not for the faint of heart—it WILL make you gaze deeply out a train window. Guard Dog was released on September 30 this year, during my I-can’t-do-college-I-must-move-to-the-seashore era. In the depths of this unfortunate period, the Spotify algorithm blessed me with the penultimate song on Guard Dog: “North Star.” As harmonies unfurled over gently picked guitar, I was struck by the quiet confessions and snippets of intimate mundanity. Guard Dog made my overdramatic teenage angst seem oddly beautiful, as Duckart spun stories from borrowed coats (“Coming Clean”) and late nights (“Walk Me Home”). It felt like my favorite poem and a big hug all at once. It became the backdrop to my Riverside walks, essay-writing nights, early mornings, and Thanksgiving train rides. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time analyzing the lyrics on Genius, praying that Alec Duckart will leave comments because I do, in fact, want to crawl inside his brain. (NB: “Dragon” and “Used To Be Friends.”) While I’ve now realized that I’m not destined for decades of solitude on an English coastline, I’ll always return to Guard Dog for Duckart’s lyricism and masterfully stacked vocals (listen to the album with headphones on, I dare you.)

Viviana Pereyo

five seconds flat by Lizzy McAlpine

This year, Lizzy McAlpine dropped yet another incredible album that resonated with me so deeply that I felt she had written it for me specifically. Sorry to other fans. This album was my top one for the year and it is something I am very proud of. “called you again” caused enough emotional damage for me to schedule various (free?) therapy sessions through the Furman Counseling program. (Sorry to the administration. Midterms were rough.) “ceilings” was another great song that gave me an intense need to go through heartbreak in liminal spaces. When she says “But it’s not real. And you don’t exist” you may be able to hear the sounds of my sobs. It’s been a rough semester but this album has helped me get through it, and seeing her perform it live on her tour this year has become a core memory. 

Elijah Knodell

And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow by Weyes Blood

The wait for a follow-up to Weyes Blood’s 2019 masterpiece Titanic Rising was long but so worth it. This release saw Weyes Blood double down on the ’70s baroque pop sound that made Titanic Rising so magical, but this time the songs are so much more subtle, taking longer to unfold. Tracks like “Hearts Aglow” and “The Worst Is Done” follow pretty close in style to the catchy, sunshine-y hooks on her prior album, but others like the lead single “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody” see Weyes Blood step outside formulaic song structures to do something totally new. “God Turn Me Into a Flower” is without a doubt the most compelling song on the album and perhaps the best vocal performance of Weyes Blood’s career. This is an album that took time and patience to fully immerse myself in, but I think And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow goes above and beyond anything Weyes Blood has recorded.

Kyle Murray

Blue Rev by Alvvays

My semester opened at the point when “Benevolent Collegiate rolled his eyes and walked away” (“Pressed”). 

But it wasn’t benevolent, not to me. It was damning. Things did not hold. I was “thrashing likе a great white” (“After The Earthquake”), “I [felt] the northern tide”(“After The Earthquake”), and I was “wild out of the place” (“Many Mirrors”). No matter how much I could control, I was “swimming in the wrong direction” (“Tile By Tile”) captured “in a whirlwind spin around” (“Pressed”). 

Things fell away, in a way. I was conflicted, tired, and unhappy. I looked into other universities—the sum of my “old regrets piled in a stack/out in the back of my brain” (“Tom Verlaine”). I questioned Columbia and my place there, late nights spent switching between Spectator bombshells and Yale web pages. At that time, Columbia was a “glass slipper never fit” (“Pomeranian Spinster”). It never “glow[ed] like the first night” (“Tom Verlaine”) and “fade[d] like the scent of a brand new car” (“After The Earthquake”). 

But “the truth is I’m afraid to turn away” (“Very Online Guy”). I don’t want to change and I don’t want to leave. I want to stop “waver[ing] in the night, toss, turn eleven times” (“Pressed”). 

And after all the nights of fighting myself, I made my “life disintegrate” (“Very Online Guy”). I threw out the mold because, really, “what was it supposed to be?” (“Very Online Guy”).  

A second wind this semester, time now defined by tossing “caution to the breeze” (“After The Earthquake”) and the knowledge that “you can’t recreate all the things that are read” (“Pomeranian Spinster”). It’s silly that I’m at my “paradise and I find myself paralyzed/knowing all too well, terrified” (“Belinda Says”). So with college pamphlets and photos burned, I’ve settled on “college education’s a dull knife” (“Easy On Your Own?”). And I’m changing, “I’ll find my way” (“Belinda Says”). 

“And if you could believe it/[my] stride is lengthened by [my] sense of wonder” (“Pressed”). I questioned everything that I had written off. So “have [I] found Christ again?” (“Velveteen”) and “does it get easier on your own?” (“Easy On Your Own?”). Who knows, but I’m thinking about it. I’m testing the waters. Get back to me next semester. 

“It’s abundantly clear/that no-one’s been coming for me” (“Lottery Noises”) so I have to come for myself. Does it make sense to toil over the fact “I know I never crossed your mind” (“Pharmacist”)? No. So let’s move on. I “took the lessons that I’ve learned/once shy, twice burned” (“Pomeranian Spinster”) and started to grow up but very slowly.

I’ve stopped facing that unreality that hurt me. I had to stop “gazing out the window” (“Bored In Bristol”) and thinking “we could do it all” (“Bored In Bristol”) because when I do so I’m “Always waiting” (“Bored In Bristol”). And to grow is the opposite of waiting. 

But for the good life, “know that I still wait for you” (“Fourth Figure”) but in a way that is no longer physical. I’m not fermenting in my Wallach dorm expecting you to knock. You can join but I’m not going to “match the steps we took/to merely recreate it, lie to myself” (“Pressed”). That’s not healthy. I know that now.

Instead “we’ll start another life” (“Belinda Says”). And that it’ll be enough, moderated thinking—loving—and nearing happiness.

Honorable Mentions

Julia Tolda: Slugeye by Gretel Hänlyn. 

Charlotte Slovin: Better Strange by James Supercave, Forgiveness Rock Record by Broken Social Scene.

Solomia Dzhaman: Dandelion by The Greeting Committee.

Victoria Borlando: DECIDE by Djo.

Isa RingswaldEgan: I Hate Myself by P.H.F., Born This Way by Lady Gaga, Heaven or Las Vegas by the Cocteau Twins.

Talia Bloom: Woman on the Internet by Orla Gartland, Lines on the Freeway by Sophia James, Hozier by Hozier.

Emma Burris: Blue Rev by Alvvays, loveless by my bloody valentine, Extraordinary Machine by Fiona Apple.

Grace Novarr: Liz Phair by Liz Phair, Hounds of Love by Kate Bush, Melophobia by Cage the Elephant, If This Isn’t Nice, I Don’t Know What Is by Still Woozy.

Phoebe Mulder: This Empty Northern Hemisphere by Gregory Alan Isakov, Wincing the Night Away by the Shins, Asha’s Awakening by Raveena. 

Viviana Pereyo: Preacher’s Daughter by Ethel Cain, The ReVe Festival 2022 – Birthday by Red Velvet.

Elijah Knodell: Ys by Joanna Newsom, Cobra And Phases Group Play Voltage In The Milky Night by Stereolabf. 

Kyle Murray: Surrender by Maggie Rogers, This Is Really Going To Hurt by Flyte.

Hannah Revels: The Car by Arctic Monkeys.

Fall 2022 Albums via Ava Morouse