Quentin Arispe The Spiritual Waiting Room
February 10, 2021
The Spiritual Waiting Room by Quentin Arispe takes you on a journey through EDM, R&B, and Soul to a yearning feeling that seems eternal. With bright guitar riffs and shimmering keys cutting through raw vocals, this labor of love captures something unique. The lyrics are pleading to get through to an absent listener. With a heavy build-up that ends in a false satisfaction, the album ends in a gasp for air. Everything about this album is heartbreaking in the best way and I find something new to love every time I listen.
Pale Waves Who Am I?
February 12, 2021
Pale Wave’s February 2021 release Who Am I? can be described as liberating, emotive, and slightly heartbreaking. It encompasses the liberation of lead singer Heather Baron-Gracie and the band’s drummer, Ciara Doran who both recently came out--Doran as nonbinary and Baron-Gracie as queer. This album could very well be a lengthy love letter to Kelsi, Heather’s girlfriend, and she exudes proudness in being out as a queer woman. She is no longer afraid to speak, or sing, about being a woman who loves women. She shows this in the numerous songs about her love life, such as in "She’s My Religion" and "Easy". These tracks focus on the happier aspects of relationships, but Baron-Gracie doesn’t shy away from the darker sides of the powerful drug called love. In "Change" and "Fall to Pieces", she channels the emotions of heartbreak and frustration that also come with being in a relationship. The band also shows their growth musically. In their previous album, My Mind Makes Noises, many of the tracks flowed together in similar sounds, making it hard to distinct one song from the other. With this release they prove their capability in creating unique sounds to each track, giving the songs a separateness in sound, but cohesiveness in the lyrical storyline about romantic and platonic love. The closing track, which the album is named after, highlights the overall themes of the album as it touches on mental health and the hardships Baron-Gracie and her bandmates have faced over their life and musical career. It reiterates the darker aspects of life and love after the heartwarming songs about growth that precede the track.
February 12, 2021
This is my favorite album of 2021. Admittedly, I listen to the softer second half of this album far more often than the more aggressive first half. The first half is still incredibly dynamic, with unique song structures and vocal experimentation. Although the louder songs are catchy and feature some wonderfully creative production, the quieter songs are just beautiful and keep me coming back. They’re introspective and vulnerable, showing us a side of Slowthai we haven’t really seen thus far. The production on them is suitably low-key and muted, letting Slowthai’s inner musings and self-reflection shine through beautifully. Some of my favorite songs are "push", "nhs", "feel away", "focus", "I tried", "VEX", "MAZZA", and "CANCELLED".
1 Trait Danger 1 Trait Bangers
March 5, 2021
1 Trait Danger creates a new genre of music that no one asked for! Andrew Katz makes white boy rapping funny and good instead of cringey and rhyming banana with orange (bornana). Their third album continues the story of making fun of themselves as well as the whole industry of music reviews, so I guess I am contributing to the problems that they face by reviewing this. I’m not going to dwell on that much longer. TikTok took “Timmis” out of context and ran with it, and rightly so, that chorus is perfect and provides perfect backstory to Tim Schenectady of Pitchfork News. “Rocket Ship” makes fun of now-ex-power couple Elon Musk and Grimes, especially the absurdity of their relationship. “TOO FAMOUS” ends the album exactly where it started, with Andrew Katz waking up after falling asleep due to blackout curtains. Notable lyrics include: “Kurt loves 2% for his vocals, he said it gives him a little extra tang” “Blah blah blah, yeah but it takes YOU years of training but I’M a woman of space" “Who’s mowing my lawn? Uh oh, it’s Elon!” It’s perfect dumb dance music that has perfectly hilarious lyrics if you decide to take the time to listen to it.
Lake Street Drive Obviously
March 12, 2021
After not releasing music for three years, Lake Street Dive’s new album, Obviously, did not disappoint. Keeping their classic jazzy-soulful feel throughout their album, the band delves into several different genres, taking listeners on a journey all across the music spectrum. Consistently writing lyrics and arrangements of perfection, Lake Street Drive showcased they are anything but a one-trick pony. Lead singer Rachael Price’s voice of honey enthralls listeners, dancing from one song to the next. The first track on the album, and their lead single, “Hypotheticals,” perfectly encapsulates the band’s groovy feel that fans know and love. Reminiscent of their past hits, such as “Good Kisser” or “You Go Down Smooth,” the song has an upbeat, 70s vibe. “Know that I Know,” a personal favorite, continues this same sweet soul-pop. The band of 14 years also touches on social issues, with their progressive songs like “Being a Woman,” explaining the struggles of women in the patriarchal 21st century, or “Making Due,” an apologetic ode to younger generations for the climate crisis. Lake Street Drive even includes an a capella song, “Sarah” to end the album with a lush, emotional ballad. If you are looking for an album with retro-soul, R&B, alternative, rock, indie-pop, folk, jazz, and everything in between, then this is the album for you. Obviously has become one of my favorite albums of all time, and after listening, it could be one of yours too.
March 16, 2021
In the current world of the underground where trap music is ruled by certain synths (such as high-pitched sin patches) and Pi’erre Bourne inspired 808’s, 454 creates a completely different path for himself to craft his own sound and stand out amongst the crowd on his debut album that released earlier this year, 4 REAL. One of the first things that anyone will notice while listening to 4 REAL for the first time is how most of the songs are split into two parts: The first half of the song is played at a high tempo and pitch, a signature to Florida DJs, while the second half repeats the song but in a slower bpm and pitch, signature to Southern DJs like DJ Screw. This structure is used throughout a majority of 4 REAL’s catalog of 12 songs. In writing, this production tactic can have one think that songs can become repetitive and redundant since the listener is essentially hearing almost every song twice. However, the change in tempo and pitch, usually complimented by a well-crafted transition, brings an incredible amount of depth, giving 454 a unique style that no other artist has. 4 REAL is at its finest with highlights like the intro “LATE NIGHT,” along with other tracks such as “FACETIME,” “PISCES,” “ANDRETTI,” and “CAPRICE.” These songs in particular bring out the best in how 454 intertwines his melodic and auto-tuned rapping with dreamy beats layered by transformed soul samples, smooth pads and melodies, and trap drums. The album has a great structure over its 43 minutes of listening time, with the pacing never seeming off in between songs while keeping a cohesive and focused sound. What is most exciting about 4 REAL is how obvious it is that this is merely just the beginning of 454’s potential. 4 REAL feels like a blueprint or foundation for what is possible for 454’s career. If he continues to grow as an artist and use his unique style of production and melodies to his advantage, he is bound to have a bright future for his career. With cosigns from today’s biggest stars like Frank Ocean (4 REAL is featured on the website for Ocean’s jewelry company Homer), 454 is an artist that should be under any music listener’s current radar if he is not already.
Briston Maroney Sunflower
April 9, 2021
Briston Maroney has released several singles and EPs over the past few years and Sunflower is his debut album. With just ten tracks, the album is just 34 mins long, but manages to tell a complex story about finding who you are through love and disappointment. The lyrics of Sunflower focus on the confusion and uncertainty of navigating relationships and figuring out who you are through that process.
Maroney makes this album feel very personal and crafts his lyrics in a way that takes the listener on a journey of feeling lost and the resulting self-discovery process. This creates an emotional connection with the music and listeners relate to his struggles. The album is mostly upbeat, and I would consider the style to be alternative or indie-rock. This upbeat tone represents his optimistic realization that self-discovery is a process, and we are all constantly learning and improving. One of my favorite details in Briston Maroney’s music is the way his voice seems to strain at perfect moments in songs that emphasize the emotion in the lyrics.
One of the best tracks on the album is “It’s Still Cool If You Don’t.” The third song on the album focuses on uncertainty and fear of vulnerability within relationships. The track also incorporates unique musical elements in place of a bridge which could reflect the theme of being afraid of saying too much. Another great track from Sunflower is the sixth song “Why.” This is one of the most vulnerable songs including lyrics like “But why can’t I be someone else tonight? / I’d give anything to make this right.” These lyrics truly convey feeling lost after losing love and the confusion of one’s own emotions. Combined with the accompanying guitar and drums it communicates the intense waves of emotion felt in these words.
Greta Van Fleet Battle at Garden’s Gate
April 16, 2021
Greta Van Fleet’s second studio album Battle at Garden’s Gate is a world within itself. The band members set out to tell a cohesive story with this album, each song pushing the plot right along. The album is full of imagery drawn from mythology, philosophy, and religion. There are twelve songs on the album along with twelve symbols, representing empowerment, freedom, community, and love for Mother Nature. One of the symbols, the ‘Tau", is believed to be the Mark of Cain. The lead singer Josh Kiszka revealed that he pulled inspiration from literature as well, such as Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Their goal was to tell the story of mankind destroying the natural world. Although this applies to our current reality, the band members made it clear that this was set in an almost alternate universe, which permitted them to take creative liberties with their story-telling. The album is reminiscent of the age of classic rock, where writers did not necessarily follow a three-minute format for their songs. This allowed the band members to be as organic with each song as possible. They followed no guidelines and instead allowed the album to unfold with no creative restrictions. Their longest song, “Weight of Dreams,” clocks in at nearly nine minutes—an impressive feat especially by today’s standards. This is a drastic change from their previous albums. In the past, the band wrote shorter songs with the predictable format of “verse, hook, verse, hook, bridge, hook.” However, with a few years under their belt, the band has evolved creatively. Their formats are unpredictable, their solos are much longer (allowing each band member to showcase their incredible talent), their lyrics are deeper and tell a much larger story. They have truly found their sound. The only thing to do now is wait for what is next.
Bladee The Fool
May 28, 2021
For years now I’ve struggled to understand the appeal of Swedish rapper Bladee. It’s not that his music is necessarily unpleasant. The production is enjoyable if you enjoy the sounds of trap and cloud rap. The icy autotune, the mumbling delivery of the bars, these qualities serve to build a musical atmosphere that, while polarizing, isn’t unprecedented in the rap world. Still, clearly there is something seriously compelling about Bladee and his contemporaries, considering the existence of the drainer/sadboy subculture that sprung from their music. With the release of The Fool, however, I’ve realized that the ultimate appeal of Bladee is that it's really not that serious. Yes, a close reading of the lyrics and motifs reveal a deeply spiritual core, with references to mysticism and gnosticism. The title itself, The Fool, is likely a reference to the tarot card meaning new beginnings. There’s even a little bit of Freudian psychoanalytic theory, with a track referencing the idea of the ego. Despite the Gen Z internet meme associations with Bladee’s music, there’s obviously a lot of thought put into the construction of his musical universe. At the same time, though, this album is genuinely hilarious. My favorite bar comes from the third track, “Hotel Breakfast.” As Bladee dispassionately relates, “I'm a good boy on the track, no cussing / Please do not give me any more flak, I am struggling / I'm about to start crying in my bed.” Therein lies the ultimate strength of The Fool, and ultimately Bladee’s musical project as a whole. The vast, sprawling, areligious spirituality of The Fool reminds me of philosopher Alain Badiou’s Fifteen Theses on Contemporary Art, where he writes that “art is the impersonal production of a truth that is addressed to everyone.” But, accompanied by this search for universal truth is a dry humor that reminds the listener to laugh, to not take things too seriously. Bladee’s artistic project is ambitious in its spiritual depth, but searching for life’s meaning doesn’t entail never being able to have fun. Now it’s no wonder to me that such a passionate fanbase has coalesced around Bladee and his collaborators. But Bladee has no desire to play any sort of spiritual guide-type role to his listeners. As he reminds fans on the eleventh track, “Trendy,” “I'm not holier-than-thou / But we're trendier than them.” Or on the first track, “The Fool Intro”: “I'm just the fool, I don't know anything.” This is only his beginning.
Japanese Breakfast Jubilee
June 4, 2021
Jubilee, Japanese Breakfast’s first album in 4 years, instills a feeling of joy that feels much needed as 2021 draws to an end. While lead singer Michelle Zauner conserves much of the sound that Japanese Breakfast is known for, this album still feels very fresh. Since 2017’s Soft Sounds From Another Planet, the band has expanded into a much richer sound, with orchestral flourishes and new instruments, most notably the saxophone solo on "Slide Tackle". The first half of the album builds in excitement, starting with the marching, hopeful drive of “Paprika” and the 80’s-pop-inspired “Be Sweet to Me”. The album rides a high wave of energy for most of its 37 minutes, but has a bit of a slow and anticlimactic ending with “Tactics” and “Posing for Cars.” Each song seems to deal with a theme of intimacy, whether it be positive or negative, so anyone can find a song to relate to on this album. Standout tracks are “Slide Tackle”, “In Hell”, and “Paprika”.
Lucy Dacus Home Video
June 25, 2021
I chose to review the album Home Video by Lucy Dacus because of Lucy’s ability to convey stories through her songwriting that depict the feeling of being in two stages of your life or remembering a past one and all the emotions that come with that. Because of the album’s general tone and my general stage of life, the experience of listening to it for the first time stood out to me over any other this year. Dacus is not new to diving into her childhood and reliving her experience as she abandons Christianity and experiences heartbreak. Dacus opens the album with a pre-released song, "Hot and Heavy", that gives a glimpse of what the content of the rest of the album will be without revealing the entire tone. As the title "Hot and Heavy" goes, the whole album feels heavy like a long day at summer camp and the air is heavy with Southern humidity. Though this weight that the songs have and "Hot and Heavy" opens with sets up for the uncomfortable-ness of the stories she is telling, unique to remembering the embarrassing things you did in your youth.
Throughout the album we are taken back to Lucy’s experiences with unknown people in her life, somehow Lucy is able to put the listener into the exact experience and feel her emotions so vividly. She takes common experiences like watching your friend in an unhealthy relationship but then makes it so personal, “He can be nice, sometimes / other times, you admit he is not what you had in mind.” and the heart wrenching visual of “But if you get married, I’d object / throw my shoe at the altar and lose your respect”. It paints a picture in your brain that is telling you your own worst nightmare. In the song "Brando", Lucy depicts being in a relationship as a teenager she sings “You called me cerebral / I didn’t know what you meant / but now I do, would have it killed you / to call me pretty instead?” which is one of my favorite lines in the entire album because I think it perfectly describes the experience of being a young girl and looking back on a relationship that wasn’t necessarily bad but the whole thing was a show, as simple as the line may be. With this album coming out the summer before I went to college I have been able to have a special connection to the way that the songs depict remembering the uncomfortable, embarrassing, and sensitive parts of growing up. While I have not had much of a religious childhood the aspect of feeling out of place and wrong for your feelings are very relatable. All in all, the album is perfect for the hot summer nights spent with your childhood best friend who has grown apart from you but still feels like home.
Ginger Root City Slicker
August 20, 2021
Ginger Root’s City Slicker is a laid-back drive through the neon streets of the big city’s downtown. Full of groovy bass, harmonic synth, and some great saxophone riffs, the various songs each help to create an atmosphere of nighttime splendor and fun. Notable songs from this short but sweet album are “Loretta” which carries a beautiful air to it with the synth and saxophone playing off each other, and “Juban District” which is the perfect song to stroll down the market alleys and bar-hop to in your best shades and suit. If you like city pop or if you just want a nice night of chill, neon vibes, then City Slicker is the album for you.
Westside Gunn HWH8
August 27, 2021
The eighth and final installment of one of hip hop’s most legendary series receives the glorious ending it deserves. On this double album, hip hop’s king of curation Westside Gunn takes coke rap to grand new heights. Gunn, the Griselda crew, and a plenteous cast of A1 features fill this project to the brim with lyrical grandeur layered upon the label’s iconically opulent instrumentals. “Mariota”, “Spoonz” and “Free Kutter” are Gunn’s newest jewels to line his gem-embellished crown as he undoubtedly sits atop the throne of contemporary boom bap.
Blu The Color Blu(e)
September 24, 2021
In a world of near infinite colors, the color blue is the most interesting of them all to me. Blue takes on so many forms and dimensions: it is both serene and somber, the ocean and the sky, water and ice. Rapper Johnson Barnes III, better known by his stage name Blu, explores the range of meanings that makes the color blue so compelling in his 2021 album The Color Blu(e). Barnes passionately characterizes blue as the state of being marginalized on the politically charged “You Ain’t Never Been Blu(e).” He adopts blue as the color of booming self-confidence on the song “Everyday Blu(e)s.” He embraces blue as the color of Black pride, heritage, and excellence on the song “We Are Darker Than Blu(e).” If listeners had never realized that the color blue could be so meaningful, they’ll realize as soon as the first verse of the album is finished. All of this heartfelt content is packaged in a jazzy and groovy medium that is refreshing from front to back.
The Color Blu(e) is a truly special album. It conveys the richness of the human condition in a captivating yet sonically pleasing way. In short, this album reminds you just how meaningful the color blue, and all of humanity, really is.
James Blake Friends That Break Your Heart (Deluxe)
October 8, 2021
James Blake’s 2021 album Friends that Break Your Heart (Deluxe) has a nostalgic sadness that is perfect for when you’re in a moody mood. While the sound is similar to Blake’s past albums, there is a marked softness that is unique to the 2021 release. Personally, “Coming Back” with SZA is my favorite song on the album. The intro has notable similarities to that of “Pursuit of Happiness” by Kid Cudi, which I thought was interesting because the artists are so different. SZA adds a depth to the song that brings together R&B and Indie aspects of their music. This album is perfect in my eyes and can be listened to on repeat for hours.
PinkPantheress to hell with it
October 15, 2021
Internet sensation PinkPantheress crafts a world of teenage fantasy through raw expressions of passion and pain on her short-but-poignant debut album. to hell with it boasts a sort of pixelated and ethereal feeling that the digital-age thrives on. Despite gaining fame through social media gimmicks and TikTok superficialities, the 20-year-old singer is rather absent online. She prefers to let the music speak for her. It is within songs like “Pain” and “All my friends know” where PinkPantheress confesses intimate feelings over melancholic, catchy melodies. While drifting in and out of alt-pop, liquid drum & amp, bass, and jungle music, the singer is a master in her ability to push beyond singular genres. to hell with it is like a dive into the depths of a young woman’s personal diary. The revelations might break your heart, but you’ll come out the other side feeling euphoric and inspired.
Young Thug Punk
October 15, 2021
Punk offers a perfect glimpse into the career and style that Young Thug brings to the table as an artist. Upon my initial viewing, the first aspect that struck me was the album cover itself. It depicts two side profiles of Young Thug, however upon further inspection it is seen that these faces are composed of two or more pictures of Young Thug. Each version of himself is different on the cover, with different hair and outfits. To me, this represents the different version of himself as a person and an artist. It also emphasizes his vast musical abilities, with his songs branching into many different genres which is on full display in this album. The album cover is based off the famous painting “Forever Always” by Octavio Ocampo, which depicts a pair of elderly lovers. Their faces are made of pictures of themselves as young adults, signifying how they have changed as people over time, but their love has persisted. Young Thug’s sound has changed significantly over the years, and he acknowledges this through the album cover and song choice of “Punk”.
Listening to the album in full and in order does not add any value to the listening experience in my opinion. Each song is disconnected from the others, and I believe this is intentional. Young Thug has had an influence on many artists throughout his career, who all have their own unique style. Songs on the album such as “Icy Hot” and “Bubbly” are upbeat trap songs which have similar sounds to the music produced by Gunna and Lil Baby, two artists Young Thug helped thrust into the spotlight. Other songs like “Love You More” show a softer and more melodic side of Young Thug’s music, similar to the style of music made by Unfoonk, a new artist signed to Young Thug’s label. My favorite song on the album was “Scoliosis” where Young Thug shows once again that he is one of the juggernauts of the Trap genre. The album itself is a testament to his career and offers a plethora of songs that fans of many different genres could come to enjoy.
Lana Del Rey Blue Banisters
October 22, 2021
When speaking of influential songwriters of this past decade, it is hard not to mention Lana del Rey. Not only did she arguably bring alternative-pop to the mainstream, throughout del Rey’s discography she has made a point to paint mental images in the listener’s brain of a glittery and glamorous California lifestyle set in the 60s, abusive relationships littered with mascara tears and comparisons to cult leaders, and young lovers living the glorified “American Dream” in an often drug-fueled haze. On Blue Banisters, del Rey erases that narrative (for the most part). She speaks of quarantine blues and Black Lives Matter protests, and it is refreshing and welcomed (as is the folk-pop and jazz-influenced production). It is almost as if she is speaking off the top of her head, stating her wishes for a boyfriend to “to eat ice cream with and watch television”. But, this does not mean that the album lacks imagery and description. In “Arcadia”, she compares her connection to her lover simultaneously as California roads and her very own arteries, singing that they “get the blood flowing straight to the heart of me”. This connection could also be likened as her connection to a dark time in her life, and she is trying to “escape to Arcadia”. These sorts of metaphors and open-ended interpretation are not lost on this album, and it continues the complexity and overall melancholic atmosphere from her other works (because hey- it is still Lana del Rey). Except this Lana is living in the present, continuing her story-telling legacy.
Babytron Bin Reaper 2
October 29, 2021
Bin Reaper 2 is Babytron’s second solo project of 2021, following the excellent Luka Troncic, and is also the sequel to 2019’s Bin Reaper, an album I consider to be Babytron’s magnum opus thus far in his young career. For those familiar with Babytron, this album is another slice in the life of the Scampire himself, and for those who aren’t familiar with the rapper that calls himself Sleeve Nash, I will attempt to convey the experience.
Babytron is a member of the Detroit rap scene, the most famous export being Tee Grizzley, with other rappers from the area such as Teejayx6, Sada Baby, Kasher Quon, and Baby Smoove also enjoying some degree of success nationwide. Their music shares elements like fast paced beats steeped in 80s pop and the techno and house scenes from the city’s history, and rapid flows to match these tempos (“Whole Lotta Choppas”, the Sada Baby song that was pretty popular on TikTok around this time last year is a very good example of this).
Babytron meets the template of Detroit rap and goes beyond it with his ridiculous and unique swag. He has confessed himself on a song that people say he looks like Drake Bell (he kinda does), and his flow, which remains effortless sounding even at a breakneck pace, taken with his looks, only enhances his uniqueness. He is also extremely funny, with every song he makes having at least one bar that makes you want to pause and go back to make sure he said what he said.
Bin Reaper 2 is another excursion into his world, and at 24 songs gives one a lot of material to work with. Not every song is perfect, unlike the original Bin Reaper, but if you like Babytron’s unique approach to rap, you will not hate a single song. The best starting places include “Half Blood Prince”, with its Harry Potter sampling beat and lyrics, and “LaVar Ball”, a song especially unique for its feature from Michigan native RTB MB, better known as NBA player Miles Bridges. The braver will enjoy the entire hour-plus long trip to Tron’s world, but the uninitiated may be better out trying the shorter masterpiece that is the original Bin Reaper, or Luka Troncic, a project I find to be slightly more consistent. Babytron may not be for everyone, but if he’s for you then he is your next favorite rapper.
Courtney Barnett Things Take Time, Take Time
November 12, 2021
Courtney Barnett’s 3rd studio album, Things Take Time, Take Time, presents a slightly more structured approach to the singer/songwriter’s signature style. While she mostly retains her laidback speak-singing approach, it’s clear that these songs are more polished than what we’ve heard from her in the past. Not only is there a noticeable change in production value, but this set of songs has a melancholic feel that I wasn’t expecting when I first listened to the album. Possibly my favorite song is “Take It Day by Day”, the most upbeat and humorous song on the album with lyrics like, “Don’t stick that knife in the toaster/Baby, life is like a roller coaster”. Another great one is the opening song “Rae Street”, in which Barnett describes the activities happening on the street outside her window. With a loose strumming guitar sound and catchy chorus it perfectly sets the stage for the rest of the album.
Overall I think Things Take Time, Take Time is a mellow and endearing listen that gets better with each play. Even with a more refined sound, fans of Barnett will be happy to hear that her music maintains every bit of its charm.
Honest Men Field of Vision
November 12, 2021
There is no difference between cardinal and mental direction on this record. Physical senses and spiritual viewpoints are treated as one and the same. What drives you and gives you motivation in your mind moves you forward in reality. Hailing from Austin, TX, Honest Men are built on observation of the psyche and how it impacts what we do everyday. Writers Seth Findley and Brooks Whitehurst (vocalists and guitarists) explore their mental journeys in life through physical locations and states, going beyond classic metaphor to nearly create a concept album with recurring themes and phrases. While Findley and Whitehurst describe their individual songwriting processes as completely independent of one another, they mesh perfectly into a creative spectacle. The songs (two of the strongest in production) “Pullstring Jacket” and “Blurry Eyes,” which appear consecutively in the album, seem so lyrically and sonically intertwined while being born out of two completely different situations. Matrimony and uncertainty in relationships are two of Field of Vision’s main focuses, with Findley going through divorce and Whitehurst being married to his wife both happening over the course of the album’s conception. Findley’s feelings find themselves perfectly encapsulated on “The Ropes,” the most isolated track of the featured 12, with nothing but a drifting and somber piano, reverbed vocals on the verge of tears, and a strong connection to Honest Men’s most popular song to date, "Rose". The song embodies falling out of love and opening up about negative emotions, having your life not just feel, but truly be on the ropes. In contrast, the opening track “On My Own” is entirely about allowing oneself to receive help from others, especially in marriage. The track also seemingly foreshadows “The Ropes,” in the lyrics “The rope seems worn, I can see that the last man fell.”
Sonically, the album is a synth-guitar-drum extravaganza that focuses on grandeur in minimalism to assure the listener feels physically moved in regard to the lyrical content. In “Weight of The World,” Whitehurst’s vocals, a mellow guitar and bass combo, and drummer Zach Solomon’s exceptional performance make for a ballad that asserts the same emotions onto the listener with impressively simple lyrics. “How lonely and sad, can’t get this feeling off of my mind / The weight of the world is hanging on my shoulders.” Solomon’s drumming also drives home the band’s magnum opus “Facade,” with a showcase of technical mastery on the drums along with the band’s engineer Michael Guillot demonstrating his skills perfectly. These matched with an astounding vocal performance from Findley, gorgeous synth choices, transcending harmonies, and intelligently imaginative lyrics such as “Pulse flat in the mezzanine, when you dared to hold my hand, cold sweat when you're listening, what's it take to be a man?” this song is certainly one of the best works to come out of indie-rock in recent times. Understanding yourself, your emotions, and your opinions while being gaslit and misled in a relationship is an unfathomably difficult task and far too prevalent in modernity, and “Facade” is a poetic and musical gift to anyone who has had to experience such a terrible thing.
While the album occasionally suffers from attempts to have a bit more flare and wisdom than it’s due, such as on “Helpless,” and can seem gimmicky on a song like “Stuck!,” Field of Vision is a phenomenal feat of musical ability and talent in the indie-rock and indie-pop scene and deserves far more attention than it currently has. Neither is their commitment to the craft anything to scoff at, with the song “What If We’re Wrong?” affirmatively showing Findley’s, Whitehurst’s, and Solomon’s acceptance and acknowledgement of the worth in following a passion regardless of the practical outcome. “The line is drawn, we’re stepping over.” Materialistic gain is not at the forefront of their minds, and it fully shows. Honest Men are a diamond in the rough, and it is a great thing that they’ve stepped over this line.
Taylor Swift Red (Taylor’s Version)
November 12, 2021
Taylor Swift’s Red (Taylor’s Version) is her second re-recorded album furthering her quest to gain control over her music. With the addition of new material including the highly anticipated and gut-wrenching “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)”, it is clear that Swift has become a master of her craft. The updated production alongside Taylor’s more mature sound transformed the 2012 album into an expressive display of her tales of love and loss. As someone who grew up with the album, an overwhelming sense of nostalgia hit as soon as the drums started playing in “State of Grace.” Taylor’s ability to connect with her audience after all of these years proves that she is a musical genius. “Nothing New '' featuring Phoebe Bridgers shines with its relatable lyrics that pair with the comforting combination of the duo's harmonies and a simple guitar. The album feels like a warm hug and is the perfect addition to the polished Fearless (Taylor’s Version).
Here are some other albums from previous years that we discovered and loved in 2021:
Jamie xx In Colour
May 29, 2015
After driving the xx to the forefront of the indie-pop scene and remixing renowned poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron’s album I’m New Here, London-based producer Jamie Smith (Jamie XX) offers the world an eclectic, ethereal, and entrancing debut album. He never sings in his tracks but nevertheless his personality shines through, reflecting a mixing pot of influences ranging from the UK underground to Detroit soul. A frequent solo visitor to famous nightclubs around the world, Smith takes the enveloping and immersive feelings of a dark dance floor and translates them into different emotions, offering a sadness in one track and then a joyful relief in another. Compiled over the course of five years in his downtime, its background music that demands and deserves to be listened to in the foreground.
The album feels like a rollercoaster and admittedly it wasn’t one that I enjoyed on my first ride. “Gosh” felt too harsh and “Just Saying” felt too unorthodox but when combined with the other tracks, including an impressive Young Thug feature in “I Know There’s Gonna be Good Times”, In Colour is a masterpiece. It’s layered and compelling and even though I think you have to listen to it more than once to really appreciate it, I can’t get enough of it.
Porridge Radio Every Bad
March 13, 2020
With an opening line as strong as “I’m bored to death, let’s argue,” Porridge Radio sets the bar high for their sophomore album. Showcasing their effectively repetitive lyricism and driving drums, this somber indie rock band creates a very sway-inducing ambiance that is unique to them.
The album kicks off with a churning chorus of “thank you for leaving me, thank you for making me happy,” which perfectly sets the tone for the album. The band creates this melancholy mental space that entirely adds to the experience. As “Nephew” comes around at track five, the beautiful and heart-wrenching vocals pull the listener back in to the slight monotony of the songs before it.
“Pop Song” is the second of the stellar mid-album three song run and is not even remotely close to what is considered a pop song. The vocals whine and grind and evoke raw emotion that showcases the band’s strengths in harmonies and lilting backing guitar. This run is concluded by “Give/Take,” the easiest song to listen to off the album. It is definitely a much more jammable song than the rest of the album, creating a much-needed happy dance break in the midst of a gut wrenchingly beautiful bout of sadness. It perfectly captures the feeling of wanting to love someone despite knowing it will destroy you in the process, utilizing those all-too-perfect begging vocals.
“Lilac” marks the beginning of the end of the album with the trademark repetition of screamed wishes for the world, in this case “I don’t want to get bitter, I want us to get better.” The rising desperation in her voice is perfectly paired with an increasingly heavy drumbeat. “Circling” continues the theme of desperation, and that is well pulled through the rest of the album. It almost seems like the band is losing their minds while trying to finish this project which is incredibly fun to listen to. “Homecoming Song” ends the album perfectly, cutting off at the last possible second.
I love this album very much. It is perfect for reconciling with emotions as well as just needing to sit and take a break from dealing with frustrating people all week.
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