Track of the Day

Lana Del Rey – “Norman f*cking Rockwell”

By: Jesse Benitez

Haven’t written much on music this week; could be ’cause I’m going through something I don’t realize, or maybe binging Never Have I Ever has me all in my feels. Either way, the queen of melancholic pop, Lana Del Rey, never fails at helping me construct my yearnful, Southern California dreamscape.

Norman fucking Rockwell,” the first (and title) track off Del Rey’s sixth studio album, Norman Fucking Rockwell! (2019), is a magical and deeply moving anthem. The track itself is cinematically luminous, with lyrics that weigh upon one’s self-awareness on the complexity of love and infatuation. To me, there’s so much graceful lonesomeness expressed within Del Rey’s fragile vocals, and I can’t help but feel her profoundly personal history alongside my own. She is very much so, one of the greatest songwriters of our time. There’s a brave past embedded within the song, with a mix of fluorescent memories and overcast yesteryears. “NFR” is not about repressing feelings, but about disarming one’s consciousness and addressing reality; a difficult undertaking when enamoured in the splendor of allurement. The sincerity within “NFR,” both the track and the album in its entirety, is earnest and isolating, in such a way that provokes massive moments for contemplation and honest heart-searching.

 

 

 

Track of the Day

Yves Tumor – “Kerosene!”

By: Jesse Benitez

I know I slacked a little these past few days by not keeping up with the “Track of the Day” posts, but I guarantee you, this song alone (and quite possibly this entire album), makes up for all of it. Released as a single prior to Yves Tumor’s fourth full-length album, Heaven To A Tortured Mind (2020), “Kerosene!” has been a non-stop, pleasant earworm for me. I was ecstatic for Tumor’s scheduled performance in the nation’s capital, though because of the pandemic, many shows lined up for their North American Tour had to be postponed. Fortunately, their latest album was a blessing during quarantine. Released on April 3rd, just a day after my 21st birthday, I was greeted with a fresh, rhythmic series of sonic abstraction. 

Kerosene!,” the fourth track off Heaven To A Tortured Mind (2020), is a sweetly fantastical duet, featuring potent vocals from Diana Gordon (formerly Wynter Gordon) that tug and embrace with Tumor’s echoing rawness. The track itself is explosively rock powered and vigorous, while at the same time, it maintains a striking delicateness. The dissonant guitars complement the unobtrusive harmonies through jolting sharpness within their riffs. Something about this song feels stadium-sized; so much larger than life. The tune’s amplification racks up into a thundering bang, puncturing every vein of what I thought rock once was. Tumor and Gordon’s possessing vocals have so much confidence, blare, and swagger— and the coalescence of all these elements makes this song authentically grand and unforgettable. 

Yves Tumor is capable of creating some of the most paralyzing sounds in music right now. Once you start listening to them, you’ll never find a reason to stop.

 

 

 

 

Track of the Day

The Wombats – “Let’s Dance To Joy Division”

By: Alexandria McAlpine

Twice a year, I pick a song to represent my semester. Then, every time I hear that song, I’m transported back to taste the bittersweet moments of the past for a couple of minutes. 

This semester, I’ve settled on “Let’s Dance to Joy Division” by The Wombats. Mostly because of the line, “Everything is going wrong, but we’re so happy,” and partly because the lead singer Matthew Murphy, sings about being 22 and I just passed my 22nd birthday. (Taylor Swift’s “22” seemed too obvious). 

The Wombats are an indie-brit-rock band from Liverpool. Many of their songs are characterized by high tempos, clashing guitars, bashing baselines, and eccentric lyrics; “Let’s Dance to Joy Division” is no exception. 

The song itself is full of subtle irony, from the reference of Joy Division who, despite the joyous name of the band, often sang about gloomier subjects. The lyrics, “up to the DJ booth,” highlight Murphy’s request for a song that fuels a sense of escapism from the very commercialism the night club participates in, to the ending echo-ings of sarcastic laughter that send the listener off.  

A month ago, if anyone told me I wouldn’t walk for graduation due to a global pandemic, or I’d have to wear a mask just to buy groceries, I would have laughed – and yet here we are. Now, I’m thankful for the health of my family and friends, but I can’t help feel the irony (and maybe a tad guilty) anytime I laugh at the antics of my roommates and feel genuinely happy, despite the state of the current world. Let’s dance to Joy Division not to escape, but to relax and enjoy a deserved moment to ourselves before facing the obstacles life presents. 

“Let’s Dance to Joy Division” is the eighth track off the Wombats’ platinum-selling 2007 debut album, A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation (2007).

 

 

 

Track of the Day

5 Seconds of Summer – “Wildflower”

By: Alexandria McAlpine

I personally, was counting down the days for the new 5 Seconds of Summer album, CALM (2020) since it was announced in February. One song got stuck in my head for a week after the album release and turned into my favorite track. “Wildflower” glides up through the verses and crashes down with a staccato chorus. The drums beat forcefully making itself known in a way that doesn’t overpower the melody. It is nearly impossible not to bop your head along with the tune. “Wildflower” follows the band’s recent pop trajectory but is reminiscent of the pop-punk sounds of their 2014 hit “She Looks So Perfect.”  

“CALM” is an acronym for the four members: Calum Hood, Ashton Irwin, Luke Hemmings, and Michael Clifford. The first half of the album is full of bright euphoric sounds, and “Wildflower” acts as the midpoint, the climax of the cheeriness before easing into the second half of the album, full of more longing, darker tones. “CALM” is closest in sound to their last album Youngblood (2018), rather than the first two which sported pop-punk sounds.  

“Wildflower’s” music video, created post-quarantine with a green-screen mailed between all the members’ houses, has soft technicolor themes; the bright colors and animated flowers fit the cheerful song well. The video doesn’t take itself too seriously, including a clip of the greenscreen falling behind a confused Michael, and a guest appearance of Luke’s dog Petunia.  I struggle to think of a better video they could have come up with under normal circumstances. 

 

 

 

Track of the Day

Sunni Colón – “Technicolor”

By: Rhema Johnson

Normally, I tend to play music from the playlists I’ve made, or stay at the top of my library, to hear the recent songs I’ve added when I just want to play some music. Although, the other day, I decided to play my library on shuffle and I heard songs that I haven’t heard in a while! That day, I was also in a pretty good mood and sometimes shuffle can be surprisingly spot on with playing tunes that go along with how you’re feeling. One artist came on, and ever since then I’ve been playing his last EP non-stop; that is Sunni Colón. 

Hailing from Los Angeles, Sunni Colón is a genre-bending artist who wears many hats as an emerging singer, songwriter, entrepreneur, and producer. In 2018, Colón released a 7-track album titled, Satin Psicodelic (2018), one that I can play from top to bottom. This EP displays Sunni Colón’s atmospheric sound containing soft, airy vocals and 70’s psychedelic-inspired melodies that will definitely cause you to escape to that happy place in your mind. One of my favorite songs from the album is “Technicolor,” which is a certified mood booster in my book. Serving as the first track, “Technicolor” invites you into the creative, transcendent mind of Sunni Colón with its ethereal synths, a groovy guitar riff and his notable soft vocals. In addition, the song has a constant drum pattern that brings all of the instrumentation together creating a fully hypnotizing experience. If you want a moment to break away from reality for a little while during these trying times, grab your good earphones, relax, and enjoy all that is Satin Psicodelic. 

 

 

 

Track of the Day

Miles Davis – “Petit Machins (Little Stuff)”

By: Gavin Thibodeau

1968 was a supernova, a cosmic explosion that shook the window panes of culture, an eruption of the highest order whose reverberations still waft here and there through the air of today, a phantasmagoric imprint on history: paradoxically here and not here. It was not the one and only year of monumental change in the ‘60s, of course — that could be tagged to pretty much any year that decade, and justifiably so — nor was it a historical closure, as the issues that beleaguered the mind of the globe then remain relevant in more ways than one. But my perennial obsession with 1968 leads me to look at the artifacts surrounding it (and, admittedly, much today) as somehow imbued in the light of the time, maybe a phenomenon of constructed memory but certainly not rote lust for the past. The more I untangle the evental nature of that year, the more well-equipped I feel to live consciously today.

Miles DavisSecond Great Quintet was in a state of radical change in 1968. After a run of five studio albums, Miles’ group — comprised of Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and of course led by Miles — was shedding members and picking up new ones in preparation of albums that would send quakes through the Great House of Jazz and, quite frankly, music at large. The sixth and final album of this period, Filles de Kilimanjaro (1968), recorded in ‘68 and released at the beginning of ‘69 in the States, bookended the Second Great Quintet and laid down a comfortable landing pad for Miles’ electric period. Hancock and Carter were already absent on two tracks, replaced by Chick Corea on keys and Dave Holland on bass. Dead center in the tracklist, “Petit Machins (Little Stuff)” is, to me, the red-hot farewell from this era, the last track of the Second Quintet that would retain its signature interplay and signal some of the changes to come. Like the album at large, it stands between then and now, a remarkable document of transition screamed into the void ambivalently with the anticipation of greatness ahead and mourning for greatness behind.

The track opens with a spasmodic jolt. An elliptical call and response surges between the horns and Hancock & Carter, over Williams’ pounding march on the snare. As it jerks along, the song seems to gradually fall apart, stretching the melodic center incredibly thin after Miles’ and Shorter’s solos. Williams’ cymbal-heavy drumming thrusts ahead with an undeniable propulsion, and Hancock’s fleet-fingered runs fly just about parallel. The hypnotic effect of this headlong loosening is owed in equal part to legendary producer Teo Macero’s exacting control of space: there’s just enough anxious action and just enough sparsity in the arrangement for Macero to coat the whole thing in a cavernous (but not overwhelming) reverb. The mastery of space that Macero had is part and parcel tracks like this and “He Loved Him Madly” from Get Up With It (1974), their moody atmospheres unimaginable without it.

But the track never so fully commits to its spiral downward as to lose control; Shorter’s solo never reaches a peak madness as Steve Grossman does on Black Beauty (1973), and Macero doesn’t totally obliterate spatiality like he does across On the Corner (1972). The melodic center might be stretched, but it snaps back during the outro, as Miles wraps the whole thing up with the refrain from the beginning. There’s a dual cocksureness to the playing and fickleness regarding the boundaries explored, as if they knew they were on the precipice of something really out there that was as-yet unrealizable. But isn’t that the way momentous transitions appear to us in the rearview? So totally dependent on the changes later realized, so totally unable to realize them in the moment.

Maybe it’s this historical insecurity, more than anything else, that gives “Petits Machins” its nervous twitch and dour mood. It’s a deep-seated concern over change and the need to rush into it, to avoid becoming nothing more than a flotsam atop the foggy river of time. That’s why we need to revisit and reassess music like this now, in the age of the greatest global physical, economic, and social insecurity in decades. Escapism serves well to get us through the monotony of quarantine, sure, but we need to understand how to funnel this crisis through art, and we need to be able, or at least attempt, to comprehend the myriad ways it subconsciously manifests in our work. If art can doubly speak for an individual and a collective during a time like now, Miles’ ambiguous dive into his electric period is a worthwhile model.

 

 

 

Album of the Week

Bloodboy – Punk Adjacent

By: Alexandria McAlpine | Top Tracks: Is Now A Good Time To Ruin Your Life?, All My Idiots

Musician Lexie Papillion, the talent behind Bloodboy, has created a slightly-softer-than-punk-rock sound with her debut album released summer 2019. The album has 10 tracks with jazzy grandiose sounds fore-fronted by Papillion’s belting vocals. 

First off, the song titles are incredible. It starts with the first track, “Is Now A Good Time To Ruin Your Life?” and ends with the blunt title, “Die Aunt Mary!” The lyrics across the album are raw, honest and introspective. Her moxie and spunk come through in the lyrics; Papillion puts all of herself in the open for listeners to take or leave. 

Trained in opera when she was younger, the vocals are one of the most noteworthy elements of Bloodboy’s work. The third track, “Can’t Go Home With You Tonight,” is a slower, more ballad-like melody with a chorus that demonstrates the strength and range of her voice. 

My personal favorite, “All My Idiots,” embodies the “punk attitude” of Punk Adjacent (2019), of fighting to never let go of what you love. The eighth track (and fourth single off the album), “Underground Girl,” has a dreamy rock tone about putting aside all responsibility and escaping cabin fever, which is unexpectantly relevant during this pandemic. 

Other songs include “(FKA) Surfer Girl,” which reminisces in Papillion’s past as a competitive surfer, and “Hard To Be Honest,” with a choppy staccato beat that the chorus washes over like an ocean wave. 

Bloodboy is an up-and-coming LA-based singer who deserves a listen, especially when you have nothing else to do during social isolation!

 

 

 

Track of the Day

Deeper – “Esoteric”

By: Jesse Benitez

Being stuck inside during this quarantine has got some of my buried teen angst resurfacing, but this time, in a much more contained form. “Esoteric,” the first track off Deeper’s latest release, Auto-Pain (2020), brings back some of that sad-punk nostalgia I’ve been missing for a long time. The riot-y vocals and head-banging chorus brings me back to the days where I was more carefree; where not much mattered at the time, and where consequences were dealt with after all the fun. This song also brings back memories of the intimate community of indie musicians in my hometown, and how much I miss going to live shows in the city. “Esoteric” is rigid yet contemplative, and that fusion of simplicity and complexity is what makes it numbingly honest. I don’t know what genre closely represents Deeper, whether it be indie rock, post-punk, or something in between. All I can say is that their lo-fi, bedroom record sound has a spirit that really takes me back in a lowkey, introspective way.

 

 

 

Track of the Day

 

Fragile Girls – “失去尼歐”

By: Jesse Benitez

In the summer of 2018, I spent my time learning Mandarin Chinese in Taipei, Taiwan. I found that some of the best ways to learn a new language was to immerse yourself in the art, whether that be with books, movies, or music. Knowing my passion for discovering new music, I made it a point to visit as many local record shops as I could and get into as many live musical performances in a given week. The music scene in Taipei was unbelievable; I found myself surrounded by an extraordinary amount of talented indie singers and songwriters, where everyone had a story tell in the most inventive ways. I’m forever grateful for my roommates, some of which were Taiwanese, who helped me navigate such an amazing world of creatives. 

One particular song that stuck out to me was one I heard during my travels, propelling my journey in acquiring the record, which by the way, I’m still trying to get my hands on! “Lost Neo” (失去尼歐), from Fragile Girls’ (脆弱少女組) 2017 release, Some Pop Songs You Can Listen to When You’re Sad (2017) (一些難過的時候可以聽的流行歌曲) is a mix of dreamy, chill pop with a hint of rock. The song starts off slow and melancholic, but eventually kicks up with a jolting guitar solo. The track has a very sentimental tenderness to it, and it pairs well with the retro synthiness in the melodies. Every time I revisit this track, it prompts within me some wishful thinking, yet the yearning it imposes also reminds me of the closure I need to accept— whether that’s with love, closing a chapter in my life, or leaving a place where I felt at home.

 

 

 

 

Track of the Day

Vundabar – “Chop”

By: Jesse Benitez

Last night, I had plans from a while back to see Vundabar live for the first time in the nation’s capital. Due to the on-going pandemic, however, I resorted to listening to their music in my home instead. I spent most of the night revisiting Gawk (2015), the second full-length album the trio released. The first track off the record titled, “Chop,” features some rambunctious chord progressions paired with squawky vocals. The whole album itself is boisterous, ear-piercing, and husky— all the best things reminiscent of good old garage encapsulated into one album. The guitars in “Chop” feel hoarse but still zippy, and I can’t help but bop to the sludginess within the song. It’s weird, because in some ways the tune is poppy and jaunty, but at the same time gruff and raucous. The juxtaposition of these two colliding sounds within the song is what works for me. Their most recent album may not be as garagey as Gawk (2015), but it’s still worth a good listen. Check out Vundabar’s latest release, Either Light (2020).