We’re at it again; we’re listening to music. So wouldn’t you know it, Bwog is back with more albums.
the record, boygenius
To say I was excited for “The Record” would be an understatement. The night it dropped, I ran a bath, put on a face mask, lit a candle, then sat in my bed watching “The Film” as it premiered. As the end of my last semester on campus approaches, I am (of course) overtaken by a strange mix of nostalgia and gratefulness. I can’t help but think of my best friends hearing lines like “I just wanna know who broke your nose / figure out where they live” in Revolution 0, “I never thought you’d happen to me” in Leonard Cohen or “was anyone ever so young?” in Satanist. As I look forward to the rest of my life, I know “I wanna be happy, I’m ready.” I might not feel it yet, but like the boys, “I am [eagerly] waiting.”
Bubble Gum, Brigitte Bardot
The 1968 album by French singer (and ICON) Brigitte Bardot, Bubblegum, has become a quintessential piece of music in my life this semester. I am French (not really, it’s very distant) and I speak French (again, not really) and I love to sing along and translate what she’s saying into English, or just sing along in the French I know. Walking to my 1:10 T/Th French class with Brigitte blasting through my dainty girl headphones, I feel so powerful, like Ms. Bombshell Bardot herself. Due to my pure love of the album, I attempted to buy a CD for my collection on discogs.com from Germany. My purchase got refunded. Why? The person selling me the CD was selling the collection of a friend who has recently passed away. Glad they reconsidered, but sad I do not get my Bubble Gum CD. I definitely personify “Moi, Je Joue” energy when I am pulling pranks on my loved ones! I love Brigitte Bardot and please listen to this amazing, wonderful, lovely, beautiful album.
Motherwell, Leith Ross
I, along with the rest of Earth, died while listening to “We’ll Never Have Sex” when it was trending on TikTok. “Oh, you kissed me just to kiss me, not to take me home” fully gutted me. But I truly fell in love with Leith Ross’ music after a deep dive into their 2020 EP, Motherwell. Each song follows the same thematic line of growing up, losing yourself, and working tirelessly to recapture the confident self-identity of childhood. “Oh, what a wonderful feeling to own and operate your life. Oh, what a terrible burden—all my decisions are mine.” Hello? Yeah, it’s very first year of college. Every song on the EP is stripped back, usually just a guitar and Ross’ voice. Motherwell was initially a project for their senior year of college and was recorded in one day. So tell me why I spent the whole semester sobbing to it? Their first full-length album comes out later this month, and I, without listening to it, already have tickets for their Chicago show. Do yourself a favor and listen to the EP from start to finish. It will rip your heart out of your body and then tuck you into bed with a kiss. That’s the best way I can describe it.
Ants From Up There, Black Country, New Road
This album made me feel (in a shocking turn of events) homesick for the Midwest. The whole album has this interesting sort of oaky, umber quality that just feels very homey to me and therefore, as my home for my first 18 years was Ohio, Midwestern—but in a caring, community-centric way, rather than invoking the bareness I sometimes associate with home. For some reason, I expected the band to be from Appalachia and maybe a few years old, and was surprised that this kind of sound came from London, of all places, and only last year. I only found it this semester, (I’m late, I know) and it completely melted me into an indescribable puddle of tenderness. It just felt so intimate, in so many weird ways, like they were inside my head pulling from experiences I had with music as a kid. The bright surges of brass at the beginning and end of “Basketball Shoes” are, to me, the weekend mornings when my dad played Earth, Wind & Fire songs to wake us up. The gentle guitar strums that introduce some of the songs sound just like they did in my friends’ childhood bedrooms when I sat and listened to them learning to play. The piano riffs in “Haldern” bring me back to my very brief piano career in second grade, and the pieces I tried to play sitting in my piano teacher’s stuffy office in the summer. The agonizing scratching violin pulls in “Bread Song” rising into a heartbreakingly beautiful orchestral swell that mimics the few minutes before a symphony where the musicians are tuning their instruments, which broke me a little. Isaac Woods’ deeply and powerfully emotional vocals did the same. His voice seems to sort of just lament existence, but in a compelling way that’s more thought-provoking than pessimistic. I’ve honestly never been a big album person, I tend to listen to playlists that switch between different types of songs, but this is really an album you have to sit down and do some dedicated listening to, in the best way. After each time I finished the album, I felt really nihilistic for a bit, but that bent into a healthy absurdism with time. It just gives you the sense that you’re floating above the earth, and everything is small but simultaneously important. We may be small and our lives fleeting, but we can still let our homes and experiences feel momentous. “Oh, I’m becoming a [very important] worm now” (“Chaos Space Marine”). We all just look like ants from up there, and that’s the best part.
MUNA’s most recent self-titled album is a masterpiece. Not that my semester was actually as amazing as MUNA’s album is, but I feel like it gives the right vibes. It’s a great album to listen to while lounging on the lawns, but also has some great slower songs to listen to while you rot in your room because of rain, snow, cold weather, etc. It truly shows the highs and lows of this semester, and encapsulates my journey in trying to figure out what it is I wanted in college. It’s an album of discovery and learning, which is something I’ve been trying to do this semester. Also, I took my PE requirement this semester and Runner’s High was a great song to listen to on the treadmill. To end off finals season I’m seeing MUNA in concert and they are truly the best and most queer way to end off the semester. If you haven’t listened to this album yet, this summer is a great time to start listening. I’m obsessed with them. Please listen to this album.
Preacher’s Daughter, Ethel Cain
Hayden Silas’ debut album, released under the name of her alter ego, Ethel Chain, was released in 2022 and follows the story of a girl raised in a small religious town, her love life, her complicated relationship with her father, and her escape and subsequent death after leaving town. It explores themes of family trauma, abuse, drugs, and tragedy. The most popular track on the album, “American Teenager,” shows how Ethel is dissatisfied with how she doesn’t get to have the same experiences as the typical American teenager as well as the effects of generational and religious trauma, with the chorus including the lyrics “a long, cold, war with your kids at the front.” Another popular track, “A House IIn Nebraska,” involves Ethel missing her first lover who left town and imagining their life in a small house in Nebraska, far from the troubles of her small town. The final track, “Strangers,” involves Ethel reflecting on her life and choices after being murdered and cannibalized by her last lover. Overall, this album is interesting and intense, with a lot of complicated and often intertwined themes. However, this intensity is often what I needed to either help me get through the semester or lay in bed and put a track on loop. Ethel Cain’s album continues to inspire and every listen will teach you something new.
Honey by Samia is half strut-inducing earworms and half atmospheric devastation. And only Samia could walk this line with such tenderness and specificity, looping the listener into even the most you-had-to-be-there anecdotes. I listened to Honey when I was burrowing in my room and hiding from the freezing spring rain. I listened to Honey on sunny Riverside jaunts, getting ready to go out with my friends, procrastinating homework, and in all the little in-between moments of the semester. It truly is magnificent stuff. Samia deeply understands the will-o’-the-wisp feeling that comes after a good cry, and in songs like “Kill Her Freak Out” and “Nanana,” the melody hovers over wavering instrumentals, creating a wonderful staring-out-a-rainy-window vibe. In “Amelia,” Samia leaves behind the fragility, singing, “I can feel the earth it’s shaking underneath my shoes / Oh my god there’s nothing quite like doing what you came to do.” There’s nothing quite like doing what you came to do! Come on! Name a better line to accompany springtime happiness, figuring out your major, or catching up with an old friend and realizing you’re both new people in the best way. As my first year of college comes to a close, there’s a lot I’m uncertain about, but even more to be hopeful for. Honey helped me bridge the gap between the two. Often, Honey isn’t sure where it lands on the issue–on “Honey” Samia repeats “it’s all honey” like she’s trying to convince herself it’s a good thing. But I’ve realized that uncertainty and hope can exist in tandem, which may be obvious to others, but was kind of a revelation for me. As Samia sings on the final track (“Dream Song”), “you get your dreams for free.” So true! You do! You can have so many dreams at once. No one can stop you. Not all of them will come true, and that’s okay–at the end of the day, they’re still worth having.
Titanic Rising, Weyes Blood
Despite the newest Weyes Blood album release just last year, I found myself returning this semester to her acclaimed 2019 album Titanic Rising, which became a close companion throughout a particularly difficult semester abroad. Her dreamy vocals, inspired lyrics, and powerful instrumentation work together to create a truly unique and special album, resonating especially as I was thrown into a brand new environment, desperately missing all I had left behind. The spunky and deceptively upbeat song “Everyday” carried me through the monotony of the 15-minute walk from my dorm to campus through the not-so-idyllic English countryside, the Harry Potter castles and Jane Austen village I was expecting were instead concrete brutalist structures and a city over-saturated with shopping malls. “Mirror Forever” was the anthem of my isolation: late nights wishing for my high-speed life in New York, restaurants open past 7 pm, and the comfort of people who knew and understood me only a few blocks away, at most. “No one’s ever going to give you a trophy / For all the pain and the things you’ve been through,” Weyes Blood crones, the song a reminder of lost connections and transparent realities. I visited the city for a weekend to see my girlfriend star in KCST’s Antony and Cleopatra; in the production, an instrumental version of “Movies,” my favorite song from the album, played during the haunting closing scene in a moment that felt almost cosmic. Cleopatra stands on a table, arms raised towards the sky in the pouring rain, her white skirts and shawls ripping around her body in the fierce wind, as the string crescendo reverberates around Law Bridge. It was a beautiful scene, and it is a beautiful song that I’ve been listening to on repeat since as I, too, reclaim my own experience, and reflect on the positives of my time abroad and my future in the city I love.
Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You, Big Thief
Rock band Big Thief’s 2022 album Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You has been especially special to me this semester. I hadn’t listened to this album much since the first months of its release in 2022 when I would listen to it every day on the drive to school and back. However, it’s made a comeback for me recently, as I saw Big Thief in concert at Radio City Music Hall in early March. I went with my mom, who still cries every time she hears “Change,” the album’s first song which will forever remind her of my departure from college. Ever since the concert, this album has perfectly resonated with all of my most impactful Spring Semester experiences. The instrumentation and lyrical excerpts of “Simulation Swarm” reflect the agonizing excitement of having a debilitating crush on someone, followed by the mutual recognition and peace of “Dried Roses,” the giddy bliss of “Certainty,” and the wonderful hope of “Blue Lightning,” culminating in “The Only Place,” perhaps the greatest and most naturalistic love song ever written. Ultimately, Big Thief’s lyricist Adrianne Lenker perfectly captures the mundane moments and tender feelings that come with experiencing life’s most beautiful moments. Every single highly specific feeling I’ve experienced, she’s experienced too—it’s scary. If you really want to be seen by music, then please check this album out.
Maxwell Lurken Tvrdik
Le Tigre, Le Tigre
Aside from the simple fact that Kathleen Hanna is a badass and doesn’t know how to produce bad music, Le Tigre’s self-titled debut album is breathtakingly passionate. Always a fan of punk music, I’ve known of Le Tigre for a long time, yet they (and Bikini Kill, shoutout “Outta Me,”) remained in the background of my musical taste. Too occupied with A Tribe Called Quest when I listened to Le Tigre’s three albums over the summer, I continued to overlook their music, only listening here and there. Returning to college for the spring semester, I found myself excited for my classes, finally getting to truly entrench myself within my newfound major. As I ventured into yet another foray with gender, society, and myself, I knew where to turn and was granted 12 backing tracks of pure feminist spirit and attitude, helping me reevaluate and repurpose masculinity within my own life. I discovered hate I never had for Giuliani and Cassavetes, lost myself in the pain of “Les and Ray” and “Eau D’bedroom Dancing,” and realized that parrots and Coloradan hippies are everywhere. Le Tigre thrusts the listener into rage and questioning, confronting them with emotion and craving. Every song of the album echoes in your mind, using master sampling, stellar guitar riffs, and a quick bass drum to move the album along. Le Tigre is an album full of frustration, hope, anger, spite, and affirmation, dragging me through the mud of patriarchal oppression and masculine dominance, screaming at me to take action. Le Tigre’s first album stands as a foundational monolith in Kathleen Hanna’s awesomeness and musical activism as well as for everything I want to work towards in my life.
Kindergarten, Dutch Interior
Dutch Interior’s debut album Kindergarten flows through lullaby melodies, gentle acoustic strumming, and sparse drum lines to create a 24-minute introspection that has served as a place of grounding and solitude this semester. “Intro (The xx)” begins the album with a slow build, beginning with only a hypnotic organ sound and a tuning guitar, before launching into a confident sea of interweaving guitar melodies and ride cymbal, punctuated by a few minutes of yearning lyrics in the midst of the five-minute exploration, serving as a flawless transition from the chaos of the real world into musical serenity. “Double Gloucester” has some of my favorite production on the album, with the repetitive reversed shaker setting the beat, while clinking glasses and deliciously distorted vocals bring interest alongside the simple repeating bass and guitar. “It’s Smokey Outside and I’m Afraid” is probably my favorite song on the album. I especially love the contrast between the dry drums and acoustic guitar and the deliciously underwater-sounding electric guitar accents throughout. The album wraps up with the driving, martial beat of “Three Trips to the Store, One Drunk Yukon,” an ode to work and the end of youth which serves as a fitting reminder at the halfway point of my time in college. This album has reminded me that it’s ok to sit still and feel for a while, to observe the world as it passes by, and not worry so much about where I’m going.
Speak Now, Taylor Swift
Speak Now is the quintessential spring album. No work of music has more spring vibes than it, and none ever will. Swift sings about endings, beginnings, pasts, futures, dreams, and regrets—perfect for the transition from winter to summer, especially in New York City, where spring is a temperamental, daily fluctuation between hot and cold. I listened to this album walking in the rain to my M/W 10:10, getting sunburned on the steps, and laying in the Central Park shade. According to last.fm, I’ve streamed Speak Now tracks 175 times since the beginning of this semester—needless to say, I will forever associate it with Spring 2023.
Harry’s House, Harry Styles
The Recording Academy’s Album of the Year, Harry’s House, has gone triple platinum (honestly, diamond) in my AirPods since it was released last spring. I spent the summer and previous semester listening to the songs and enjoying their novelty, but I took a small break during the fall. I rediscovered the album’s beauty by casually listening to some songs in January, and since then, Harry’s House has perfectly matched the tunes and changes of this semester. The album’s versatile yet familiar nature—fostered by its nods to old-school hits—created a beautiful array of songs that matched different moods and tonalities of everyday happenings. Crying on the plane back to NYC with the hometown blues after winter break warranted “Love of My Life” being on repeat for those first two weeks. I coped with the cold weather and general gloomy winter atmosphere with upbeat records like “Music For a Sushi Restaurant” (shoutout to Professor Sharon Marcus for listening to it and letting me know she enjoyed it—semester highlight!) and “Late Night Talking.” I got ready for social events with songs like “Cinema” and “Daydreaming” to hype myself up before arriving late. Harry’s House also helped me welcome spring. The “Grapejuice” lyrics “Yesterday, it finally came, a sunny afternoon” took on some hyperrealism around mid-March when the seasons changed. The sunny weather was perfect for the more upbeat songs, as well. My usual mid-semester boredom and nostalgia were reflected with “As It Was,” (the song that Spotify says I listened to 355 times last year) “Keep Driving,” and “Satellite”—one of my favorites. The album’s protean sound, combined with its original yet familiar sound makes it an easy listen for complex moods and, in my opinion, Harry’s best.
Abbey Road, The Beatles
I love to be incredibly late to parties—50 years late, indeed. This semester marked the first time that I listened to Abbey Road in full, front to back, and I was filled with profound delight. Several songs off this album have been favorites of mine for years, and yet I’d never realized how deeply these songs all need the context of their album to shine. The repetition and interlinking of melody and theme creates a transcendent listening experience, as I may be one of the last people on earth to discover. “Carry That Weight” and “Her Majesty” have cycled in and out of various playlists for years, and yet it felt like I was listening to them for the first time. Besides the boost this album received from my enlightened discovery of its intentional ordering, Abbey Road simply contains some of the most beautiful songs of all time. “Golden Slumbers,” “Something,” “Here Comes The Sun,” and “Come Together” are almost hauntingly gorgeous. This album is also simply weird in that delightful way only the Beatles have successfully pulled off. I’ve caught myself humming “Octopus’ Garden” so many times recently, and the disturbing horror of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” is jauntily offset by its merry tune that’s a real earworm. As for why it has personally resonated with me this semester, these past few months have been characterized by confusion for me. I have struggled to come to terms with the fact that I’m growing older and further along in my (academic) career—the second half of junior year floated by like a cloud, and I feel as if I’ve only grown less sure of why I’m doing what I’m doing here. In the midst of this dissociated and disconnected feeling, the music of the Beatles is a lifeline for me, connecting me to so many others who were young, like me, 50 years ago, and also distracting themselves from their confusion with the simple joy of a lovable album. The Beatles were my #1 artist on Spotify last year; obscure my music taste is not. Yet I’ve grown to care less about whether I’m unique and interesting and unprecedented, and instead have come to deeply value any instance of connection that makes me feel like I’m part of some universal tradition of love, joy, and emotion. That is what the Beatles represent to me—that is the project most deeply realized by Abbey Road.
151a, Kishi Bashi
I’m a production/instrumentation gal through and through, and Kishi Bashi is a master. Each song is just so wonderful and complex—the full-string orchestration of “Manchester”; the stomp and tambourine punctuating “Bright Whites”; the soaring synths blending with picked violin in “Am I The Antichrist to You.” They are all masterfully arranged and showcase Kishi Bashi’s immense talent as a musician.
But beyond just the sonics and production quality, I really just resonated with 151a. A lot of my time at Columbia has been, quite frankly, very difficult. Most semesters, I’ve struggled to stay afloat, and my album choices of the past have reflected that. This final semester, for the first time ever, I’ve just been…happy. There is no angst, no sadness driving me, just a pure joy at the world around me and a nostalgic appreciation for this chapter of my life coming to a close. 151a is a warm album. It isn’t purely happy obviously, but even the sadder songs are hopeful, or absurdist, or at least in some way joyful. There is so much sad music, so much angry music, and yes much of it is beautiful, but sadness is exhausting, and I’m so thankful to be out of it. I like 151a because it is, in many ways, an ode to being alive.
“Will you be mine? I haven’t felt this alive in a long time. All the streets are warm today. / The sun is up the sun will stay. All for the new day” (“Manchester”).
At the Moonbase, Slaughter Beach, Dog
2023 began with Slaughter Beach, Dog in the most literal of senses. I saw them twice in one month, even traveling across the country to see the lead singer do a solo performance at some tiny, repurposed church. It felt obvious to pick At the Moonbase this semester for two reasons. First, I applied a lot of the album to my everyday life. Every time I left the 30th Street Station to go back to New York, I’d listen to “Do You Understand (What Has Happened To You)?” and wondered if I’d ever move back to Philadelphia and build a new community here. I’d pick songs from the album to send to my boyfriend when they made me think of him, and he would do the same for me. I filled the time on long subway rides looping through the songs, focusing on the lyric-heavy content while train stops passed me by. Second, I picked At the Moonbase because it’s an album of reminiscing—the good old days, the old apartments, the college friends, the times when future careers were just a big question mark when uncertainty made you feel like you could do anything, when you could tell new relationships were blooming (“A Modern Lay” demonstrates this excitement). I’m graduating now, so I’m starting to look back at undergrad, and this album helped me put a lot of the chaotic, silly, and fun moments into perspective. I’m also bursting with excitement for the future because everything I learned from the past has built me up for this, and that’s the feeling “Notes from a Brief Engagement,” which closes the album, captures. I’ve loved my Philly-native band since high school, I love all the memories I’ve made associated with this album, and I’m excited for the new music to come! Also, the cross-country trip to LA designed to see SBD was so iconic of me and the best way to start 2023.
@#%&*! Smilers, Aimee Mann
Maybe it’s because my mother played Lost in Space in the car during my formative childhood years, but Aimee Mann’s music feels true to me in a way no other music does. As I wade through her discography, certain albums hit at different moments, and this was the semester of 2008’s @#%&*! Smilers. This is, dare I say it, a breakup album—or at least, that’s certainly the first way I found myself listening to this album over the semester. In February, I made a gut-wrenching decision that ended one of my closest friendships, and in the windy, cold, murky days immediately after, I found myself playing this album on repeat. All of the songs seemed to capture the pensive, fuzzy mood I was in; Mann’s slightly numb, tragic deliveries of lines like “I know love doesn’t change anything at all” and “For the love of God, you can’t tell me again” stung in a very self-pitying, self-satisfying way. From that, the album emerged as a crutch for any time I needed to vanish from the world. I listened to it while I stomped down Riverside Park; while I cooked dinner; while I stared at the seat in front of me on tiny Delta planes during a two-week rush to visit and choose a graduate school in March. The sadness common to much of Mann’s music is a grounded one, one that doesn’t soothe as much as it does recenter. I love it. There’s no better artist to anchor my final two years of college.
Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd, Lana Del Rey
Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd is a sprawling triumph of songwriting touching on topics as wide-ranging as famous Los Angeles roads, death, love, restlessness and the loss of home, shopping malls, American towns bearing the names of European cities, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, what it means to be responsible for the memory of dead family members, the cost of fame, sexism in the music industry, upstate New York, being the “other woman,” and of course, vaping. Only Lana Del Rey could weave these subjects together in a way that doesn’t feel contrived. Only Lana Del Rey could write an album with lyrics ranging from “Aaron ended up dead and not me / What the fuck’s wrong in your head to send me away, never to come back? / Exotic places and people don’t take the place of being your child / I give myself two seconds to cry” (“Fingertips”) to “Met my boyfriend down at the taco truck / Pass me my vape, I’m feeling sick, I need to take a puff” (“Taco Truck x VB”). This is a huge album, 77 minutes in length, and some of the songs are incredibly emotionally overwhelming (especially the back-to-back “Fingertips” and “Kintsugi,” which dive heavily into family deaths, her broken relationship with her mother, and her history of suicidality). But to balance these moments out, there are genuinely uplifting tracks, such as the touching “Margaret,” with its reminder that true love is out there. And “A&W” is the most adventurous track she’s ever recorded. And “Sweet” is just stunningly beautiful. If I could talk about all the tracks at length, I would. But it would be better for you to just go to Riverside Park, sit on the rocks by the Hudson, and listen to this thing all the way through. And then do it again. And again (this time while reading the lyrics, because it is such a dense listen). It is a perfect album, so stunning in its intimacy, potentially even rivaling her mythic Norman Fucking Rockwell. “Don’t forget me,” she pleads on the title track. I don’t know how I ever could.
No idea at all. There are a whole bunch of songs that come close but none fit, and therefore no album either.
I knew this semester was going to be undefinable about halfway through. This was because this semester was hard, really hard, due to a mix of many things that are near impossible to conceptualize when ascribing an album to 16 fateful weeks. But I’ll try.
Early on I got caught in a series of brutal routines that left me without grounding. Even during periods of time where there was repetition and weekly cycles, those cycles were executed in such ways that seemed to leave me less of a pilot of my life and more of a passenger, unbuckled. So when my life turned, brakes pressed, or accelerator floored, I was sent moving around—flying even—gliding, untethered, fluid.
Living like that is a problem if you want a consistent music taste. Constant movement meant constant changes, and changes in how I was moving throughout the world meant quickly evolving perspectives and, therefore, fleeting tastes in music. I was either making a new playlist too regularly—like, urges to make a new playlist daily—or not wanting to make a new one at all: I’d curate a playlist one night and wake up believing the music didn’t match me in the morning. If I was having issues in making a single, enduring playlist, how could I even find an album—12 tracks—that matched me?
It was just my luck that at the end of April, another Spotify listening data scrubbing software dropped. One of the options was albums, and I thought, naively, “Perfect! math can solve my lack of semester album definition.”
But it didn’t. I saw a bunch of thin stripes that pointed to the same answer I knew since the start: that this semester is untimely and indescribable; that I moved too quickly, moved on too quickly; that there was no album that stood out for long because they too were caught in the undercurrent.
This is not to say that I was one song and done. My semester started with a foray into No Shape by Perfume Genius, but I’ll get into that later. Then I had a week in February with too many listens of Mitski’s “A Pearl” that precipitated into an era of uncommitted musical eclecticism leading up to Spring break. I returned to campus with a triumvirate of songs: “Boss Bitch” by Doja Cat, “Everybody’s Changing” by Keane, and “Black and White” from Wigloose on the latest season of RuPaul’s Drag Race (don’t knock it until you listen). But no song in this trio outcompeted the other two, so I parsed through the discography of an old-time favorite band, Kitten, and listened to one of their songs that went under my radar: “I Did It!”. It got old, though, so I had a brief reconciliation with No Shape. Then I got into Palomino by First Aid Kit, which is my current top Album listening to post-finals. It’s great, but it’s for the semester. I think it’s for what comes after.
No Shape is the closest I’ll get to defining this semester through an album but it’s imperfect and I think I have a song that does it better. But Perfume Genius’s album is beautiful. It has a mix of killer production and orchestration that seems to inherit a classical tradition but then turns that completely on its head with brutalist ornamentation. In January, my first fling with No Shape was with the track “Valley,” and only “Valley.” There is a creeping nature to how the strings grow more complex. The bridge is gorgeous but to tell you the truth, I don’t remember a single lyric except “wa wa wa” and the rhythm of the outro’s lyrics. Reading the song now, the message is certainly applicable but through a relativist lens that feels too heavy-handed.
My return to No Shape was partially motivated by thinking it did define my semester, but I was trying to make the album fit when I had only listened to a single song. Still, I started with “Slip Away” which had been a favorite of mine since 2019. Much like “Valley,” it grows and grows. It’s satisfying to experience. I wish I had listened to it at full volume and laid on the floor of my dorm room with a nice breeze as the bass percussion and production floods the sound and then seemingly dances with what I consider to be the bells of some small village church steeple. It’s messy. It’s also blooming and mature. During my first real listen to the album “Alan” stood out. The title caught my eye because Alan is the name of a very close friend of mine who I actually referenced in my first-semester album. In No Shape, “Alan” is the concluding song. It’s soft and emotional. It’s like a comforting plea to it and this foggy obfuscation of corporeality. It’s misty. I don’t know. Listen to it; let me know if that makes any sense.
While I write this, I realize the irony of defining this semester as undefined and how the album’s title reflects a similar sentiment. It’s a funny coincidence, but not enough to clinch the title, probably tied for second.
“Everybody’s Changing” is the other close second. I have to throw it a bone. It absolutely defined the two-week span after Spring break, but two weeks does not make a semester. The song has such a tangible 2000s feel. And there’s something so lovely about this borderline wailing quality of how the chorus is sung. But “Everybody’s Changing” is clean. This semester wasn’t clean.
Ultimately, “Get Up” by Xiu Xiu feels closest to my semester, but it’s a single song from an album that I haven’t clicked with the other songs yet. Funny enough, there was never a point where this album was my most listened to, meaning this song was never my most listened to. My relationship with “Get Up” has therefore been really chronic and subtle, a song I’d often return to but never on an overwhelming repeat. I’ll listen, if only for how it scratched an itch with its haunting post-chorus before the song explodes at 3:43.
It’s in that explosion, that destruction of what little form the song had that transforms into something so immersive, that I truly feel the song embody my recent history. At that point, the song is without words but still seems to say something through a guitar solo. When I listen to this song, I listen on repeat. And listening to the song on repeat is a cycle of whisper singing leading to sonic flame and then extinguishing back to whisper, whisper with ember. It too is a cycle, but not a brutal one. Maybe it’s brutally comforting, a reprieve from inside the grit. I like that. I like it, and it’s the closest to effing the ineffable, but it’s not perfect. It’s not yet close enough. And that’s the struggle of the undefinable, isn’t it?
Julia Tolda: Rivals EP, Tommy Lefroy; Guts, Leith Ross
Lucia Towne: Midnights, Taylor Swift (duh), and along with the rest of Bwog; the record, boygenius because I am basic like that.
Isa RingswaldEgan: return, Blue Smiley: Telefone, Noname; Zeros, Declan McKenna
Phoebe Mulder: Juno, Remi Wolf: Let it Die, Feist
Frankie DeGiorgio: Surrender, Maggie Rogers; Lush, Mitski; Preacher’s Daughter, Ethel Cain
Emma Burris: Souvlaki, Slowdive; And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow, Weyes Blood; Curtains, John Frusciante; and Grace, Jeff Buckley
Maxwell Lurken Tvrdik: Last Splash, The Breeders; Happy Hearts, Jad Fair and Samuel Locke Ward; Homegrown, Neil Young
Sydney Wells: Cannibal, Kesha; Cage the Elephant, Cage the Elephant.
Sahmaya Busby: SOS, SZA; Grace, Jeff Buckley; lately I feel EVERYTHING, WILLOW; My 21st Century Blues, RAYE
Grace Novarr: Night Time, My Time, Sky Ferreira; Death of a Ladies’ Man, Leonard Cohen; Harumi, Harumi
Solomia Dzhaman: Any Human Friend, Marika Hackman (if only for the banger that is “the one”).
Victoria Borlando: Modern Vampires of the City, Vampire Weekend. It’s about the narrative (aka this would have been my album entry when I graduated middle school and high school…could have been a 3/3…)
Lillian Rountree: SOS, SZA (songstress of our generation everyone else go home)
Elijah Knodell: That! Feels Good!, Jessie Ware; Stratosphere, Duster; The Idler Wheel…, Fiona Apple; Lord of Lords, Alice Coltrane. I’ll stop now.
All the banger albums that Defined Our Semester via Ava Morouse (last time!)