Dear HFAC, Cognoscente, W&S, etc.,
Annual music question time! What should I have listened to since last alumni week?
Hamilton. Oh my goodness Hamilton.
Past annual music reviews:
Last year was a hell of a year for music.
Beach Slang - A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings
I love Beach Slang. I'm still not sure I love their sophomore LP more than the irrepressible The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us, but it's still a terrific record. Listen to "Future Mixtape for the Art Kids."
Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
Radiohead put out a new album this year, so of course it's going to be on my list. AMSP is an interesting place for the band, sort of a summation of everything they've accomplished to this point. Check out the ethereal quality of "Daydreaming."
Drive-By Truckers - American Band
An intensely left-wing political record from a southern rock band. Patterson Hood, a good ol' boy from Alabama, wrote a protest song about Trayvon Martin. He and his band got a bunch of blowback from their fanbase, but it's a beautiful, gut-wrenching song and record. Give it a listen.
White Lung - Paradise
A female-fronted indie punk band with a terrifically melodic guitarist. Check out the hook on "Sister."
Sturgill Simpson - A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
Modern country pop sucks, and has for a long time, but there are a few artists that still carry the torch of authenticity. Sturgill is one of them. I can't recommend him enough. Check out his cover of Nirvana's "In Bloom."
Aesop Rock - The Impossible Kid
Ace Rock is one of the most talented alt-rappers in the industry, and this year's record is just as good as the rest of his work. I recommend checking out "Rings," which is a moving soliloquy on allowing ones talents to atrophy and the value of creating art. It's sad and beautiful.
ANOHNI - Hopelessness
Born Antony Hegarty, Anohni was already well known in indie circles as the lead singer for Antony and the Johnsons. She came out as trans a few years ago and this is her debut solo record–and it is heavy, furiously political, and dark. Listen to the lead single, "4 Degrees," a maximalist dirge that takes the ignorance and apathy about climate change to its logical conclusion - average global temperatures rising by 4°C by the end of the century unless significant changes are made. All the elements–The synth, the orchestral arrangement, the stunning percussion, Anohni's plaintive wail succumbing to hopelessness–can only be described as apocalyptic.
Other than that, If you haven't heard the Regrettes yet, you will soon. They're like if a 60s girl group got fed up with their manager and started a punk band. And they're all still in high school! I've heard soaring praise for Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds' Skeleton Tree but I'm still raw from too much heartbreak in my life, too recently, to be ready for it yet. Maybe in a few years. A Tribe Called Quest and Run The Jewels put out fantastic records. R&B isn't my strong suit, which is a shame, because so many of the best albums of the year have been from that genre. I've been sleeping on Lemonade, A Seat At The Table, ANTI, and Blonde. I need to catch up to all of them.
Cloud Nothing's new record is great but turns out it came out in 2017! Ditto The Menzingers and Japandroids records. Oh well. Next year!
Dear Reader I Think is Great,
- Solange, A Seat at the Table
- Frank Ocean, both Blonde and Endless are fantastic
- Tribe Called Quest, We Got it from Here...Thank You 4 Your Service
- Anderson .Paak, Malibu
- William Bell, This is Where I Live (This wins for most underrated of the year)
- Radiohead, A Moon Shaped Pool
- Rihanna, ANTI
- Beyoncé, Lemonade (though I will say that while I think some of the tracks are perfection and thus this album deserves a place on my list, a select few are horrendous, so I'm mixed on this one)
- Chance the Rapper's Coloring Book I thought was quite good, but I'm still partial to 2015's Surf (Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment)
- Carly Rae Jepsen's EMOTION Side B is phenomenal and speaking of, here is a rant for you:
Carly Rae Jepsen's EMOTION (from 2015) is SO SO SO SO good. I honestly think it may be my favorite pop album of. all. time. A lot of people discount Carly Rae pretty fast because of the whole Call Me Maybe thing, but guess what guys? EMOTION was one of the most critically acclaimed albums of 2015, which is especially impressive when you consider it is a mainstream pop album. It made crazy amounts of year-end best album lists (Pitchfork, People, Spin, Time, Stereogum, Rolling Stone, etc.), often placing in the top ten albums of the year. FOR REAL GUYS, YOU SHOULD ALL GO LISTEN TO EMOTION BECAUSE IT'S AMAZING. Also, I saw CRJ in concert and she was phenomenal.
From 2017 So Far:
- The xx, I See You is really nice
- Sampha has some great tracks on Process
- Mount Eerie, A Crow Looked At Me (prepare yourself, though, because this is probably the most authentically tragic record I've ever heard--like, think Nick Cave's Skeleton Tree tragic)
- The new Kendrick album is good, with some great moments, but it's not as good as To Pimp A Butterfly (of course, will anything ever be as good as To Pimp a Butterfly?)
- Jay Som and Thundercat's albums from this year are pretty good
- Spoon, The Shins and Dirty Projectors all put out albums that I liked this year
- Kehlani's SweetSexySavage is a phenomenal pop album
- Also SACRED PAWS is surprisingly good; their album Strike A Match is quickly becoming one of my favorite albums of the year
Finally, Sufjan just dropped Carrie & Lowell Live last night and it is ALL KINDS OF DOPE. In his text about it to me, my brother said, "I'm listening to the Carrie & Lowell live album. Partway through 'All of Me Wants All of You' my soul left my body."
And, even though none of these people released albums in 2016 or 2017, I have completely fallen for Grimes, Deerhunter, and Daft Punk over the past year. Highly, highly, highly recommend if you haven't gotten into one or more of them. I have had Art Angels on repeat for the past month.
These other cats and kittens are going to tell you about new music, but I say they can take their new music and cram it with walnuts. We're going to look backward.
Over the last month or so, I've been putting together a Spotify playlist that faithfully recreates the musical experience of my junior year of high school. I went to high school in Fairport, NY, and I listened to WBER 90.5 FM, a Rochester radio station that is probably thoroughly mediocre but that nostalgia has convinced me is the greatest radio station on the planet. (You can click on that link and listen to a livestream! This was a very big deal in 1999, I assure you!) I've rediscovered songs like these:
- "Freakin' You," Jungle Brothers
- "Get Myself Arrested," Gomez
- "Weight," Sarah Slean
- "Don't Falter," Mint Royale
- "Cha Cha Cha," Jimmy Luxury and the Tommy Rome Orchestra
- "Ironspy," Splashdown
- "Rabbit in Your Headlights," UNKLE feat. Thom Yorke
- "Would You...?", Touch & Go
- "Stolen Car," Beth Orton
- "Rolling," Soul Coughing
- "Red Alert," Basement Jaxx
- "Gravity of Love," Enigma
- "Hey Boy Hey Girl," The Chemical Brothers
- "Sour Times," Portishead
Your mileage on these songs may vary, but I don't particularly care, because I'm having a great time listening to this music and recalling fond memories from my junior year, like AP American History and running indoor track and various unrequited crushes and having to move that summer and spending my senior year in a new city...
...wait, hold on. Why am I trying to recreate my high school experience? High school was GARBAGE.
Still pleased to get this question every year, but I've been slacking. This year, I think we've only purchased the new New Pornographers and Shins albums. Both are pretty great, but the Shins surprised me: I hear in it influences of Beruit, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., and Mister Heavenly. Other than those, my guilty pleasure this past year has been Post Modern Jukebox. Their cover of Rihanna's "Umbrella" just slays me. And my current song on repeat is Ishi's "Pastel Lights." Can't get enough.
And I still stand by my answer from last year, with another special nod to Neon Indian for our friend Gimgimno.
We'll be better prepared next year.
With love and squalor,
Waldorf (and Sauron)
I am also none of those people, but here are some albums from the past year worth checking out if you haven't:
- Lemonade, Beyoncé
- Coloring Book, Chance the Rapper
- D.A.M.N., Kendrick Lamar
- The Waitress soundtrack
- The Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack
- Hero, Maren Morris
- Un Besito Más, Jesse y Joy
- Big Mess, Grouplove
- Zombies on Broadway, Andrew McMahon
- Dangerous Love, Ariana Grande
- Big Baby D.R.A.M., D.R.A.M
- Darkness and Light, John Legend
- Telefone, Noname
And then some non-2016 stuff I've had on repeat:
- Surf, Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment
- The Voyager, Jenny Lewis
- Mind of Mine, ZAYN
- Baby Caught the Bus, Clairy Browne & The Bangin' Rackettes
- The Weather Below, Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds
- I Cry When I Laugh, Jess Glynne
And if you haven't watched the Tank And The Bangas Tiny Desk Concert, you're missing out on 23 minutes of pure happiness.
Here's a sampling:
- The Hamilton, Waitress, and Dear Evan Hansen soundtracks
- Every song from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
- Lemonade (Bey)
- Joanne (Lady Gaga)
- "Cheap Thrills" and "The Greatest" (Sia)
- Kendrick's new album which I'm not sure if I'm allowed to post the title of on the board
- Courtney Barnett
- Meg Myers
- Oh yeah and I'm super stoked for the new Paramore album