Posted in Music, Sunday Songs

Sunday Songs: 2/5/23

Happy Sunday, everyone!

It’s February now, and what better way to start the month off than with an excess of Super Furry Animals? I hereby claim no responsibility for any damages caused by any bipedal, masked, bear-like demon-creatures that may cross your path. They’re best deterred by repeated screaming, if you want my advice. And look out for the chupacabras while you’re at it.

Enjoy this week’s songs!

SUNDAY SONGS: 2/5/23

“The International Language of Screaming” – Super Furry Animals

I finally listened to all of Radiator (which I seriously think boasts one of my favorite album covers…ever, really. You really won with this one, Pete Fowler.) earlier in the week, and it just felt like pure fun all the way through. I know how vague of a description that is, but listening to almost every track (save for the downer “Download”) gives me the sense that Gruff Rhys and company had a blast recording every single song. Knowing that this comes an album or two before the masterpiece that is Rings Around the World, Radiator feels like the band keeping the cheerful, carefree spirit that they’ve always maintained, but just starting to get weird with it—they haven’t quite gotten into the flat-out experimental territory of Rings just yet, but you can see it peering through the cracks just as well. My only criticism that I can think of for Radiator is that some of the songs blend together a bit, but it’s not a complaint if they all sound almost as good as this one. “The International Language of Screaming” is a clear standout—it’s a concentrated shot of Britpop fun straight to the heart, pure and simple. Maybe it isn’t as weird as some of my other SFA favorites, but I can’t help but nodding my head to every “la la la la” and ecstatic “WOO!” every time it comes around on shuffle. It’s joy with a side of popping colors and punchy guitars.

“By the Sea” – Wendy & Bonnie

Apologies for the whiplash from going straight from “The International Language of Screaming” to this eeriness. But, as with far too much with this post, there’s an inevitable Super Furry Animals connection.

I first found out that this song existed because of “Hello Sunshine”; I distinctly remembered a part at the beginning that creeped me out as a kid, so, naturally, I set out to find it. Sure enough, it was a sample of this song (0:00-0:47 in the video), and the rest of the song is…just as creepy. Recorded when Wendy and Bonnie Flowers were 17 and 13, respectively, it’s a chilling, atmospheric song that feels just as gray as a cold, churning sea crashing against a rocky shore. Punctuated by seemingly random fills of soft drums and out-of-sync guitar strums, there’s a strange discordance about it. It’s clear that the vocals were intended to be the main attraction here, their lilting harmonies shining through the cloudy fog of the rest of the song. It’s a great listen, but at the same time, it’s strangely comforting to think that I’m still creeped out now by the same thing that I was creeped out at when I was 5. I still don’t get why I was freaked out by some random clip from Baby Einstein, but this is understandable. There’s really something about Wendy & Bonnie, huh?

“Everyday Sunshine” – Fishbone

“Everyday Sunshine” takes on a whole new meaning when you wake up on Monday morning and see that it’s -6° outside. Anybody else sick of winter? No? Just me?

Aaaaaaaand another whiplash-inducing left turn, but we’re back to happy songs, don’t worry! We’re back to what’s close to the epitome of happy songs, as a matter of fact. I found this one courtesy of my amazing mom, and I haven’t stopped nodding my head ever since. If Super Furry Animals tried to embody joy, this is inches away from the pinnacle of the feeling itself. Just like the colorful murals and fields of blue and orange wildflowers in the music video, “Everyday Sunshine” is a sunburst (no pun intended) of carefree ska happiness. Every note from the brass section and every drumbeat brings armfuls of hope, and you can’t help but look out at the cloudy skies and try and find that tiny sliver of sunshine poking through. It’s the perfect bandaid for every mood: happy? Play this song. Neutral? Play this song. Sad? Play it and dance by yourself until your troubles are but motes of pollen drifting away from the aforementioned field of wildflowers. Again, a big thank you to my mom for this one. ☀️

“True Blue” – boygenius

With that, we’re…back on the sadgirl train, but…this one’s at least not nearly as heartbreaking as “Emily I’m Sorry,” so…

The harmonies of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus obviously fit together like it was written in the stars, but even so, you can see whose songs are whose—and this is Lucy’s song, without question, even if the handwritten in the lyric video didn’t give it away. It has their signature melancholy written all over it, but somehow, it feels more on the tender side, like learning to love somebody after you’ve only just started to heal yourself. Dacus’ voice is a soft but pushing force, gently letting the song form itself around her as it swirls into the night sky, while the higher harmonies of Baker and Bridgers seamlessly flow through to the chorus and the bridge—I particularly love how Baker’s high notes come through on the bridge—”Because it doesn’t matter anymore/Who won the fight?/I’m not keeping score.” Songs like this really display the two sides of boygenius—it’s a song where one member takes the lead, but they still come together as a single, cohesive force of nature.

“The Man Don’t Give a Fuck” – Super Furry Animals

“Out of focus ideology/Keep the masses from majority/Head space brainwashed, tumble dried/Left to bleed whilst vultures glide…”

…oh, so they just went and gave the GOP their own theme song, huh? On second thought…no. The GOP doesn’t deserve such a monumental banger.

I hate to double up here, but the Super Furry Animals train has left the station, and it’ll be an eternity before it reaches its destination. This song has quickly risen to become one of my favorites of theirs; it may not be as weird or experimental as some of my other favorites, but it’s a tight, four-minute burst of head-banging. From the deceptively slow build of the first minute, the music cascades into pure fuzz and drumbeats, and though the music drops out for short intervals, it never once loses its unstoppable momentum. It’s easy to see why this was one of their most popular songs: even though the chorus dominates almost the entire song, you can’t help but get up on your feet the minute the drums kick in. The slow creep of the vocals and jingle bells that starts at around the 2:30 mark builds suspense with a gradual layering of harmonies, building to a raucous screams that pushes right back into the ecstasy of the chorus. Almost 5 minutes of the same line (“you know they don’t give a fuck about anybody else”), and it never gets tiring—on the contrary, it’s already my second-most played song of the year, according to Apple Music. That’s an earworm for you.

Since this post consists entirely of songs, consider all of them to be today’s song.

That’s it for this week’s Sunday Songs! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

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Posted in Music, Sunday Songs

Sunday Songs: 1/29/23

Happy Sunday, bibliophiles! I hope this week has treated you well.

We’re reaching the end of the month now, and it’s shaping up to be another great year for music already! Also, we’re not even a month into this year and I’m already on another relentless Super Furry Animals kick, so…do with that what you will. It’s fine. Bring on the (Welsh) Britpop craziness.

Enjoy this week’s songs!

SUNDAY SONGS: 1/29/23

“$20” – boygenius

Just to check in…gays, are we all okay after this? Are you okay? Are you sure? Take a deep breath.

Breathe in…

…breathe out. This is really happening. Finally.

the glorious Rolling Stone cover, an homage to an older cover featuring Nirvana
PINS PINS PINS!!

To the elation of the girls and the gays (and to the dismay of a bunch of butthurt boomers in the comments of Rolling Stone’s instagram account, apparently), boygenius are back, and they’re already coming out swinging with three fantastic singles. Although all three showcase the joint talents of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus, “$20” is the true powerhouse of the trio. Baker’s vocals, from most of her solo work, tend to be restrained at worst, but she lets loose on this single, filled with punchy guitars and equally punchy lyrics. It never slows down, feeling more like riding a wave, thinking that you’re safe in the current, and then getting hit with a powerful mouthful of saltwater with what may be the best Phoebe Bridgers scream yet. More than ever, the harmonies of Baker, Bridgers, and Dacus fit each other like chiseled puzzle pieces, as though they were always destined to work together in near-perfect unison. Needless to say, I doubt I’ll come down from the boygenius high for a while here. I KNOW YOU’VE GOT $20.

“Ice Hockey Hair” – Super Furry Animals

If you described the bare elements of “Ice Hockey Hair” to me—nearly 7 minutes long, heavy on autotune, a minute-long outro with almost nothing but random beep-boops strung together—I doubt I’d be immediately sold. But that’s the magic of Super Furry Animals; they can take any number of weird, outlandish elements and string them into something that’s not only cohesive, but an instant earworm at that. Laden with heavy guitars and drums and backed by a consistent fuzz and an effortless vocal harmony, “Ice Hockey Hair” never makes me lose interest through all 7 minutes, going above just keeping a steady pace and making for the perfect, prolonged Britpop song. I barely ever like autotune, but what sells me about the way that Super Furry Animals use it is that they just embrace the weirdness of it—it’s not to make their voices sound better, it’s just to make it sound weirder, to make it blend into all the screeching static and beeping faintly humming in the background. They’re masters of making their voices into instruments, and not just that, but making them into something just as weird as what’s going on in the rest of the song.

“Laughing With A Mouth Of Blood” – St. Vincent

Added bonus: the gloriously awkward Portlandia music video (“I could stick around for another song if you guys want” “no ❤️”)

Along with Super Furry Animals, I’ve stumbled into another St. Vincent kick as of late, and although I’ve always loved her work, I’m reminded of how rarely she misses (we don’t talk about MASSEDUCTION) in any aspect of her artistry. Actor is only her second album, and already, she’s showcasing her clear virtuosity—lyrically and musically. Even before her rightfully famous electric guitar shredding became an essential part of her music, Annie Clark’s complex, acoustic guitar pickings create an atmosphere that always feels alive, and with the added brass and driving drums, “Laughing With A Mouth of Blood” is a poignant landscape of a song that you can’t help but lose yourself in. St. Vincent’s music never loses its quality with the passage of time, and every listen feels like the wonder and joy of listening to it for the first time.

“Burning Airlines Give You So Much More” – Brian Eno

I was so used to seeing the album cover of Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy (now that’s a title) from really far away, so…am I the only one who thought that Brian Eno was wearing a beret, and it wasn’t just his hand patting him on the head? Is the hand about to give him the Gary Oldman cheek stroke, or is it just to cover up the pseudo-Riff Raff haircut?

…okay, I really shouldn’t be roasting the guy. He’s just doing his wonderful art-pop thing, and I love him for it. So much. Songs like “Cindy Tells Me” have further convinced me that I should listen to more Brian Eno, and this one I like almost as much (though it’s hard, considering how long I had the former on repeat back in October). For a song loosely written about one of the deadliest plane crashes of all time, it’s strangely laid-back, meandering along with bright, jangly guitars and synths in the similar tone. It’s a song to gently sway your head to, one to revel in the multi-layered composition of it as the guitars slowly climb up and down the scale. Brian Eno’s just doing his Brian Eno thing, and I’m so glad he’s doing it.

“Purple Haze” (Jimi Hendrix cover) – The Cure

It’s hard to take a cover and put a spin on it that feels completely new—especially if it’s Jimi Hendrix that you’re covering. But Robert Smith and company make it look easy, putting their signature goth touch on a rock n’ roll classic. Smith pulls the meaning of “haze” to an entirely different direction, layering the song with an eerie, synth-laden atmosphere and distorted vocals. It really does give the song the feel of a haze, like some kind of cloud or curtain that you’re walking through to try and find the heart of the song.Different pieces of instrumentation fade in and out, as though you’re losing consciousness. The guitars are understated, but I think it’s rightfully so—you really can’t touch Jimi Hendrix in that regard, for one, but it’s the fog of distortion and synths that make this cover so memorable. It’s a cover that wouldn’t be out of place at some kind of shady Halloween party (as most of the Cure fits anyway), a musical fog machine that transports you to another realm where you can’t seem to differentiate which way is up or down.

Since this post is all songs, consider this post to be today’s song.

That’s it for this week’s Sunday Songs! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Music, Sunday Songs

Sunday Songs: 1/8/23

Happy Sunday, bibliophiles!

I probably should’ve said something before tweaking my blogging schedule without warning, but I’ve decided to do a little something new instead of my weekly updates. I figured that I ended up saying most of the stuff I said in my weekly updates in my monthly wrap-ups, so this seemed like a more fun and creative use of my time.

Since last summer, I’ve been making graphics of songs that I’d been listening to during the week and shared them every Sunday, inspired by my brother. I’ve wanted to write about music more on this blog for a while, so I figured that I’d move my Sunday Songs to this blog as well to get the chance. As I said, these will probably replace my weekly updates, but you’ll be able to see everything that I’ve been reading in my wrap-ups at the end of each month. I know I’m going to enjoy writing about music more, and I hope you all enjoy the results!

the background format for this & all further Sunday Songs comes from a close up picture I took of the massive section of David Bowie CDs at Amoeba Records in San Francisco!

SUNDAY SONGS: 1/8/23

Gorillaz – “Left Hand Suzuki Method”

I can’t say anything about the whole album, but you know a band has endless talent when even the B-Sides (or G-Sides, in this case) sound just as good—if not better—than the original album material. I’ve been a huge fan of Gorillaz for years, but I didn’t hear about this one until it showed up in my YouTube recommendations out of the blue. And of all the things I expected to get from a Gorillaz song, Suzuki flashbacks was not one of them. I feel like I got whiplash the second I heard the sample of “Long Long Ago”, and suddenly, I was experiencing every piano lesson that I had from ages 5-7 (or something) as well as every recital that I ever attended at my old music school all at once. Whew.

But the way Damon Albarn utilizes this sample in “Left Hand Suzuki Method” is a testament to his creativity as a musician; building off a creaky sample that’s meant to teach kids how to play music, he creates a collage of funky keyboards and thick, punchy guitar intervals that transform a simple song into a collage of instantly catchy sound. Genius. Again, how was this a B-Side? (Sorry, G-Side…)

David Bowie – “All the Madmen”

I forgot up until a few days ago that this Sunday also happens to be what would have been David Bowie’s 76th birthday, so I’m glad I’m writing about him today. Happy birthday, sir. ⚡️

This one’s a bit lesser known than most of his (extensive) catalogue, but it’s crept up to become one of my favorite, underrated songs of his. Taken from The Man Who Sold the World, it’s loosely based on his schizophrenic half-brother, who was in and out of the institutions that the song fictionalizes. As you’d imagine, it’s appropriately chilling in that sense, but it has a lighter, almost nursery rhyme feel to certain parts of it—flutes and light drums that almost sound tinkling—before launching into epic, sweeping electric guitars that have come to define much of his early 70’s material. It all culminates into one of the most simultaneously creepy and catchy outros that I can think of in any song—as the guitars blend into synths as the song closes, Bowie begins a clapping chant of “Zane, zane, zane/ouvre le chien” (open the dog), a line which he later confirmed to be nonsense, seemingly the final nail in the protagonist’s loss of sanity. “All the Madmen” makes me appreciate Bowie so much more a songwriter—with his combination of sharp lyricism and musical craft, every song is a story.

Missy Elliott – “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”

At last…I finally know what my mom was referencing every time she said “Beep beep!/Who got the keys to the Jeep?”…

And my mom is also the reason why I found this song, after I told her about how I rediscovered “Get Ur Freak On”, and I’ve been listening to it nonstop ever since. Hip-hop isn’t usually my go-to, but even from the two songs I know her from, Missy Elliott is masterful at making a song so smooth and seamless that you miss the samples within—I just found out that the main structure of the song was sampled from Ann Peebles’ “I Can’t Stand the Rain.” Like “Left Hand Suzuki Method,” “The Rain” creates a collage of smooth, instantly catchy sound out of a single, looped sample, creating a wider soundscape that keeps my head nodding through all 4+ minutes of the song. This phrase is definitely going to come up constantly in these posts, but…yeah, I need to listen to more Missy Elliott. So good.

Fontaines D.C. – “I Love You”

I know shamefully little about this band—before hearing this one on a friend’s Instagram story, the extent of my knowledge of Fontaines D.C. came from their glowing Pitchfork reviews (I think this album that this song is from came out on the same day as Everything Was Beautiful and got best new music instead of it? Come on, Spiritualized deserved it…I digress…why am I so fixated on these things?) and some guy’s hoodie that I saw in passing at the Smile show (“oh, the album with the elk on it?” – my internal monologue). I’m liking this song enough to explore more, though; through my first and only exposure so far, I love how “I Love You” slowly builds tension and breaks it just as quickly. With the faint bass and twinkling guitar notes in the quite first few minutes, the drums build to a slow, tight crescendo as the vocals intensify and then return to the peaceful, strangely sinister place where the song came from just as quickly, fading to nothing but a few strained strums in the very end.

So thanks, anonymous friend, for the new song and possibly new band to listen to! Maybe another album to add to my hydra-like list of albums that I have yet to listen to?

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Despair (Acoustic Version)”

Going back to a mainstay favorite of mine for several years, here’s a beautifully uplifting song to take us into the rest of the new year. I know, look at the title, but stay with me: the song is more about overcoming despair than the despair itself, don’t worry. We’ll save my sadgirl songs for later. Although the original makes the uplifting message all the more prominent (because how else would Karen O. dancing on top of the Empire State Building in a rhinestone-studded jacket make you feel? Really?), there’s a certain intimacy that I glean from the acoustic version; whereas the original is a rallying cry for optimism and hope in spite of the darkness that life brings, this feels like a gentle comfort, a reassuring word whispered as you’re tucked into bed, promising that the monsters under your bed won’t hurt you after all. “Through the darkness and the light/Some sun has gotta rise.” Leave it to Karen O. and company to keep the light going in these uncertain times.

Oh, and I just realized that the original is almost 10 years old now, OW…

Since this post consists of all songs, consider all of them to be today’s song.

I hope you all enjoyed my first time doing Sunday Songs! I love writing about music almost as much as I like writing about books, so hopefully you can enjoy it too. I look forward to writing more about music in the future outside of just album reviews (although I’m VERY excited to review Cracker Island when the day comes). Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Music

A (Possibly Mutable) List of my Top 10 Favorite Albums

Happy Thursday, bibliophiles!

I’ve been meaning to semi-solidify this list (for now) for quite a while, but I think it was looking back through Hundreds & Thousands of Books’ post about her top 10 albums that sparked the idea in me to make a post about it, so thank you!

Even though this blog is primarily about books, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that music has had an equally profound effect on my life. Raised by two music nerds, I grew up listening to tons of Beatles and Bowie, and as I grew older, I began to mark periods of my life by the music I listened to. But there are always certain albums that leave an unmistakable mark on our lives. Some of mine have been steadfast favorites, and others I’ve only discovered in the past few months. All of them, however, have had a profound effect on me, whether it’s just been the experiencing something that’s just so, so good or marking a specific period in my life. So here are, right now, my 10 favorite albums.

Let’s begin, shall we?

🎵THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S TOP 10 FAVORITE ALBUMS🎵

10. Snail Mail – Lush (2018)

The summer of 2018 was a strange one for me—the summer before high school, and the summer I started seriously questioning my sexuality. I have Lush to thank for getting me through a lot of it, with Lindsey Jordan’s soaring guitar riffs and searingly vulnerable lyrics shining through in a debut like no other. Snail Mail is partially what inspired me to pick up the guitar—and I definitely think meeting her at a show that summer when I was a wee bisexual did something to my pubescent brain that I wouldn’t recover from…💀

Favorite Track: “Heat Wave”

9. Super Furry Animals – Rings Around the World (2001)

I remember hearing tracks like “Sidewalk Serfer Girl” and “(Drawing) Rings Around the World” from when I was about 5, but it wasn’t until this March that I appreciated this masterpiece of an album in its entirety. Something that makes me love a piece of media—be it a book, a movie, an album, or anything else—that much more is that if there’s clear evidence of how much love and care was put into it. And it’s blatantly evident here—Rings Around the World is brimming with creativity, and through all of the genres of music they explore, there isn’t a single miss. There’s something so fully-formed about it, like it just came into the world like Athena bursting forth from the skull of Zeus.

Favorite track: “No Sympathy”

8. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2001)

This album’s one that’s been a constant in my life; Wilco is one of my dad’s favorite bands, and I’ve been hearing them for so long that they’ve become inextricably linked to my personal history. (Wilco was my first concert, at the age of 8!) But this album in particular is the most special of theirs to me; like Rings Around the World, I’ve been listening to isolated songs from it for years, but the whole album is a true work of art, sonically and lyrically immersive and always emotionally moving and potent.

Favorite track(s): oh, man, this is hard…

I’ve settled on a three-way tie between “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” “Ashes of American Flags,” and “Reservations.”

7. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial (2016)

Another gem from the summer of 2018, this one always brings to mind dozens of fond memories—seeing Car Seat Headrest live (and subsequently tainting all of my concert videos from my off-key scream-singing), repainting my room, going on vacation in Chicago. Car Seat Headrest have been a favorite of mine since around 8th grade, but the more I think about it, the more Teens of Denial in particular stands out as my favorite album—clever, vulnerable, raw, and perfect for 14-year-old me to scream along to.

Favorite track: “Cosmic Hero”

6. The Beatles – The White Album (1968)

I guess I’ve got a theme going with the red and white album covers? I don’t think it holds up later in the list…

As I said earlier, I was undoubtably raised on the Beatles; some of my earliest memories are of hearing songs like “Good Day Sunshine” and “Yellow Submarine” in the car, and I’ve adored them ever since. I’ve flip-flopped between albums for a favorite Beatles album for years, and it feels like it changes with my mood; some days, it was Revolver, other times it was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. But between having some of my favorite Beatles songs of all time and the solace it gave me in the early days of quarantine, The White Album takes the top spot for me—I think “I’m So Tired” is my most played song on my whole iTunes library. (somehow I’ve played it over 2,500 times?? didn’t even know I was capable of such a thing 💀)

Favorite track(s): tie between “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “I’m So Tired”

5. Spiritualized – Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space (1997)

I fell in love with Spiritualized, as a lot of people seemed to do, after hearing the title track, “Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space.” Ever since then, they’ve held a truly special place in my heart; I rediscovered them in quarantine, and this album in particular has held a top spot for me ever since. Despite all the abject heartbreak, addiction, and general melancholy present through this album (and all of J. Spaceman’s music), there’s a cosmic, immersive quality to his music that swallows me like a wave with every song. Listening to Spiritualized is more than just music—it’s an experience in and of itself.

Favorite track: “Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space”

4. Blur – 13 (1999)

another heartbreak album comin’ atcha…

Like Super Furry Animals, I’ve been hearing scattered Blur songs throughout my childhood, “Song 2,” “Coffee & TV,” and “Charmless Man” being standouts. But it wasn’t until last summer that I got back into Blur—really into Blur. (You all witnessed the Blurification of this blog last year…) There’s something instantly hooking about their songs—the clever lyrics, the punchy guitars that seem to burst out of your headphones. But 13 is uniquely special to me; it was my musical companion in a strange, transitionary period of my life (the beginning of senior year and being a legal adult…somehow?). Beyond that, it’s so clear that so much time and love went into this record—through every high and low, there’s a consistent resonance that you can feel in your chest. It’s a masterpiece. It’s an album that I’ve come back to ever since when I’ve felt low—there’s a healing quality to it.

Favorite track: “Tender”—also my favorite song of all time, at the moment

3. St. Vincent – St. Vincent (2014)

adding another white album cover to the mix, I guess?

St. Vincent, without a doubt, is responsible for shaping some of my most formative years. Middle school was a weird time for me—I was struggling with friendships, forming my identity, and getting teased for the things I loved so passionately. And here was St. Vincent, this confident, ridiculously talented musician who wielded her guitar like a sword into battle. So you can imagine how I got attached to her. Even if MASSEDUCTION made me lose a little faith in her for a few years, she’ll always remain as a hero of mine, and St. Vincent in particular will always be a daring, fierce masterpiece that sweeps me off my feet every time—and the album that got me through 6th grade.

Favorite track: “Bad Believer” (on the deluxe edition), “Severed Crossed Fingers” (on the original edition)

2. Radiohead – OK Computer (1997)

and another white album cover? sort of?

Yeah, okay. I fully admit that my toxic trait is genuinely enjoying certain kinds of male manipulator music. But Radiohead will always be an immensely special band to me. “The Daily Mail” was my first exposure to them (thanks, Legion!), but OK Computer opened my eyes to something I’d never experienced before—or, something that I’d overlooked before, but now fully appreciate. Like Spiritualized, every Radiohead song is a fleshed-out landscape, an experience that lifts you off your feet, even when the lyrics are unbearably heartbreaking. OK Computer is an album that I wish I could listen to for the first time again—it’s an unforgettable, dystopian masterpiece, and it’s proved itself to stand the test of time.

Favorite track: “Paranoid Android”

  1. David Bowie – Hunky Dory (1971)
I guess there’s a slight pattern on here with tan album covers too?

And here it is: my favorite album of all time.

David Bowie has been a constant companion in my life; one of my earliest memories that I can think of is hearing “Kooks” in the car. He’s been another hero of mine for years—again, he came to me in middle school, at a time when I was an outsider and unsure of myself, and stood as a glaring reminder to be myself—no matter what. This album in particular is, in my opinion, a perfect album; there isn’t a single bad song, and each one is a world of its own, spinning lyrical tales that span from the cosmic to the tender and everything in between. It’s an album I always come back to, and one that I’ll always hold close. Some of the other albums lower on the list may change or switch orders over the course of my life, but I doubt I’ll ever come across something quite as stellar as this.

Favorite track(s): Tie between “Quicksand” and “Life On Mars?”

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Have you listened to any of these albums, and if so, did you like them? What are some of your favorite albums? Let me know in the comments!

Today’s song:

That’s it for this post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Music

Sometimes, Forever – Soccer Mommy album review

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

In a continuation of my assertion that 2022 is the year that the music gods have blessed us, here’s a review of one of my most anticipated albums of the year!

I’ve been a fan of Soccer Mommy since hearing her on the radio years ago, listening to all of her albums and even seeing her live a few times (once opening for Vampire Weekend, the next time headlining—the crowd SUCKED for that one but she was great). So when I heard that she had a new album coming out this June, I was ECSTATIC. Unfortunately, the album ended up coming out on the same day that they announced that Roe v. Wade was overturned, so…yeah, that soured my mood for the whole weekend. But when I was able to get back out of the muck, I listened to this album, and it solidified itself as my favorite album of hers—each one just keeps getting better and better, and Sometimes, Forever was particularly adventurous!

(for my review of the album before last, color theory, click here!)

Enjoy this album review!

SOMETIMES, FOREVER – SOCCER MOMMY ALBUM REVIEW

TRACK 1: “Bones” – 8.5/10

You make me feel like I am whole again,

But I think your heart could use a tourniquet…

Soccer Mommy, “Bones”

Especially with the rest of the album to contextualize it, “Bones” is the perfect opening track for Sometimes, Forever. It feels just enough like classic Soccer Mommy that it feels timeless, but it’s a catchy, familiar-feeling song that eases you into the different direction that the rest of the album goes. On its own, it’s the perfect little indie-pop song: hooky, lyrically witty, and filled with bright guitars.

TRACK 2: “With U” – 9/10

This is where the album starts getting adventurous, and I’m 100% here for it! Lyrically, Allison is sharper than ever, but the addition of the more electronic instrumentals combined with her classic guitar work makes an immersive soundscape that swept me off my feet on the first listen. LOVE IT.

TRACK 3: “Unholy Affliction” – 10/10

This. THIS.

“Unholy Affliction” was the second single to be released from this album, and after “Shotgun,” this is what made me certain that I was going to love the album. My family and I agreed that it sounded like a Chelsea Wolfe song, something completely unexpected—and highly successful—for Soccer Mommy! Dark, immersive, and pulsating, “Unholy Affliction” was an instant favorite on the album, and one of her most daring songs to date.

TRACK 4: “Shotgun” – 8/10

Look at your blue eyes like the stars,

Stuck in the headlights of a car…

Soccer Mommy, “Shotgun”

This was the first single to be released for the album, and while it’s not the best on the album, like “Bones,” it’s an instantly catchy indie-pop song. In comparison to the rest of the album, it almost seems like Allison is playing it safe, but it’s also proof that even when she’s holding back, she can produce something as fun and memorable as this.

TRACK 5: “newdemo” – 7.5/10

Hear the city roar,

A creature that feeds behind closed doors…

Soccer Mommy, “newdemo”

Dizzy and strangely sweeping, “newdemo” strays into new territory like “Unholy Affliction” did. It’s clear that Soccer Mommy and company had fun messing around with different synths and distortions while producing this song; it feels like it’s actively being warped around as you listen to it, veering slightly off-key but bringing itself back together just as swiftly. Not quite as successful as some of its counterparts, but still a success in and of itself.

TRACK 6: “Darkness Forever” – 9/10

Again with the Chelsea Wolfe sounds!! “Darkness Forever” edges close to metal on several occasions, with a creeping bassline and heavy, distorted guitars. Just like “Unholy Affliction,” Soccer Mommy’s experimentations with darker sounds lead to nothing but success—definitely one of her best songs in recent years!

TRACK 7: “Don’t Ask Me” – 8.5/10

With its fast, punchy guitars and Soccer Mommy’s airy, alluring voice, “Don’t Ask Me” has an easy time of cementing itself as one of the highlights on Sometimes, Forever. While it doesn’t delve completely into darkness like “Darkness Forever” or “Unholy Affliction,” it’s unafraid to get heavier, which works completely in its favor. An instant earworm and one of my favorites off this album!

TRACK 8: “Fire In The Driveway” – 9.5/10

Saw it in your blue eyes

When you were just a small child,

Now you’re only ashes of a man…

Soccer Mommy, “Fire In The Driveway”

“Fire In The Driveway” grounds Sometimes, Forever after the fast-paced “Don’t Ask Me,” delving into the nostalgic melancholy that makes Soccer Mommy so memorable. With its instantly memorable lyrics and bright, echoing guitars, this one is an easy standout on an already fantastic album.

TRACK 9: “Following Eyes” – 7.5/10

The lyrics are as potent as the rest of the album, but there’s something about this that puts it lower on the list for me. It’s still a fantastic song, no question, but it’s almost as though it tries to mesh older Soccer Mommy with her newer, darker sound. It’s very close to making it, but there’s some tiny bit missing, something that doesn’t quite piece the whole thing together. Nonetheless, still a great song.

TRACK 10: “Feel It All The Time” – 8/10

Like “Bones” and “Shotgun,” this feels like a timeless Soccer Mommy song—if you had told me that it had been from color theory or even Clean, I would’ve believed you. Yet still, it easily finds its place on this album, deftly adding to the mix of borderline-playing it safe to exploring new territory.

TRACK 11: “Still” – 9/10

I don’t how how to feel things small,

It’s a tidal wave or nothing at all…

Soccer Mommy, “Still”

For the closing track, Soccer Mommy brings it home with a somber acoustic piece laced with ghosts of the strange synths that adorned a good portion of the album. Unlike “Following Eyes,” the blend feels natural, and Allison’s knack for bringing genuine emotion to the forefront creates a beautiful end to the album, and a beautiful song that can stand by itself.

I averaged out my ratings for this album, and it came out to about an 8.6! I’d say that’s right on the mark; with every album, Soccer Mommy gets better and better, and Sometimes, Forever is her best work yet—dark and bold, but unafraid to return to her candid, emotional roots. Love it!

Since this is an album review, consider the whole album today’s song.

That’s it for this album review! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Music

WE – Arcade Fire album review

Happy Thursday, bibliophiles!

Welcome to another installment of “2022 is the year that the music gods have blessed us”…

Arcade Fire has been a fairly constant presence in my life for as long as I can remember; for years, I’ve been hearing and loving songs from Funeral and The Suburbs in my car, and I nearly got to see them live on their last tour (the concert was on the same day as a school trip I had 😭). So I was so excited to hear that they had another album on the way a few months ago—and now that I’ve listened to it, I love it!

Enjoy this album review!

(note: I will be excluding track 3, “Prelude,” from my review, as it’s only 30 seconds long of vague bonking noises and static.)

WE – ARCADE FIRE ALBUM REVIEW

Track 1: “Age of Anxiety I” – 8.5/10

Right off the bat, I was so impressed by this song! One of my favorite songs on the album, and the perfect opener too. With its steady beat and timely lyricism, it perfectly sets up the landscape of the rest of the album—love it!

Track 2: “Age of Anxiety II (Rabbit Hole)” – 7.5/10

Continuing the momentum from “Age of Anxiety I,” “Rabbit Hole” keeps its steady pace. As long as it is, it manages to keep itself afloat for the full seven minutes and still be consistently listenable throughout. Not as good as I, but still a wonderful continuation.

Track 4: “End of the Empire I-III” – 8/10

“End of the Empire I-III” takes a turn into slower, more introspective territory. Its lulling and waving melodies feel immersive and welcoming, and it demonstrates the extent of Win Butler’s lyricism, the intense introspection and reflection that makes Arcade Fire stand the test of time.

Track 5: “End of the Empire IV (Sagittarius A*)” – 8/10

Most of the songs on WE have at twin of some sort, and I’ve noticed a pattern—they’re never interchangeable, but they’re nevertheless inextricably connected. In the instance of “Sagittarius A*,” it’s a continuation of the slow, measured reflection of the strange mess of the world in the last two years. The lyrics are far more on the nose here (repetition of “I/we/she/etc. unsubscribe[s]), but they’re nevertheless timely. I love the little electronic strains at the end as well.

Track 6: “The Lightning I” – 8.5/10

The two “Lightning” songs were the first singles to come out of WE, and this one reminded me of why I love Arcade Fire so much. So many people, so many instruments, all in exuberant harmony—just the kind of energy that we need in these unpredictable times. Ties into the general theme of the album, from what I can discern—clinging onto hope and togetherness in a time bent on tearing us apart.

Track 7: “The Lightning II” – 8.5/10

It makes sense that the music video for the two “Lightning”s is all in one; unlike the other twin songs, this one is has the smoothest transition from one song to the other. And it continues its contagious, exuberant joy, bringing the album to a hopeful, explosive crescendo.

Track 8: “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)” – 7/10

This is my least favorite song on the album, but it’s nonetheless sweet, especially considering that Win Butler wrote it for his kid. The lyrics are more than a little on the nose, but they’re lyrics that everybody needs to hear growing up, which is what makes them so lasting. Sweet stuff.

Track 9: “Unconditional II (Race and Religion) (feat. Peter Gabriel)” – 10/10

MORE REGINE CHASSAGNE PLEASE AND THANK YOU

I’ve had this on repeat for a solid week—my favorite song on the album! Régine Chassagne’s vocals have an infectious joy and excitement to them, and combined with the harmonious music and message, it makes for the best song on the whole album. It’s already the highlight of the album, but having PETER GABRIEL, FOR GOD’S SAKES—that makes it even better!

Track 10: “WE” – 7.5/10

A gentle, slow ease out of a fantastic album. Even though Arcade Fire’s strength is in their numbers and varied instruments, sometimes their acoustic pieces are almost just as good. That’s the case of “WE”—not the best song on the album, but a perfect segway out of an adventurous album and a softer comedown from “Race and Religion.”

I averaged out all my ratings from each track, and it came out to a solid 8.2! I feel like that’s an accurate portrayal of my thoughts; WE is, without a doubt, high in the ranks of my favorite albums of 2022 so far—timely, but still rife with the infectious joy that makes me love Arcade Fire as much as I do.

Since this is an album review, consider the entire album to be today’s song.

That’s it for this album review! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Music

Everything Was Beautiful – Spiritualized album review

Happy Saturday, bibliophiles, and happy world book day as well!! You’d think I’d have a book-related post today, but…nope. No thoughts, only Spiritualized for the next 3-5 business weeks.

Normally, I wait for a few days to a week after an album’s release to review it, but…well, between my listening to it yesterday and my dad playing it the whole way through in the car yesterday evening, I’ve probably listened to it three or four times in its entirety already, so…

Spiritualized has been one of my favorite bands for around two years—even longer, if you count when I first heard “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space” for the first time and listened to it on repeat to fall asleep on vacation. Their music, if I had to describe it in one word, is all-consuming; J Spaceman has built a stunning career out of making a song into a vast cosmos of sound, making themes of heartbreak, addiction, and new love into the dictionary definition of larger-than-life. That’s what I’ve always loved about his music—his songs never feel like just songs, but experiences.

By the time I’d really gotten into Spiritualized, I’d accepted that I wouldn’t be able to see him live or experience a new album of his; he’d said in several interviews that And Nothing Hurt would likely be his last album. But in late 2021, we were gifted with the best kind of surprise: we would be getting more Spiritualized after all!! Now that it’s here, I can say with certainty that there isn’t a single bad song on this album. It’s probably impossible to re-achieve the genius of Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space or Sweet Heart Sweet Light, but Everything Was Beautiful comes very close, even at just seven songs.

Enjoy this album review!

EVERYTHING WAS BEAUTIFUL – SPIRITUALIZED ALBUM REVIEW

TRACK 1: “Always Together With You” – 10/10

This was the first single to come out of this album, and it singlehandedly provided all of the serotonin that I needed to get through the rest of 2021, so there’s that.

It’s not hard for me to say that this is easily one of Spiritualized’s best songs. Expansive and cosmic, I feel as though I’ve been lifted into the air and through the clouds every time I listen to it. I was texting my family about it when it first came out, and I jokingly called it “‘Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space’ but happy,” and as much of a joke it was, it feels true; “Always Together With You” feels like a more matured, more hopeful version of its predecessor, down to the morse code sounds and J Spaceman’s daughter (😭) saying the album’s title at the very beginning. Absolute masterpiece.

TRACK 2: “Best Thing You Never Had (The D Song)” – 8.5/10

Smoothly transitioning from “Always Together With You,” “Best Thing You Never Had” keeps up the momentum set up by the first track with classic Spiritualized elements—catchy guitars, a backing choir, and what sounds like a good-sized brass section. Just as spacey as ever, it’s the perfect song for rolling the windows down in your car, and it’s sure to cement this album as one of Spiritualized’s best.

TRACK 3: “Let It Bleed (For Iggy)” – 9.5/10

When I saw Spiritualized back at the beginning of the month, this was one of my favorites of the new songs they played. Now that I’m hearing it through my headphones, it’s one of my favorites off the album! Here’s where the momentum sustained by “Best Thing You Never Had” picks up once more, with another sweeping, all-consuming thing of pure beauty.

TRACK 4: “Crazy” (cover of Nikki Lane’s “Out of My Mind”) – 8.5/10

(so apparently this is a cover?? took me a while to find out…I guess because the original has a different title)

“Crazy” is one of my least favorites on the album, but it’s beautiful nonetheless. Even as a cover (I’ve only listened to the original once, so…), it’s indicative of the quiet, genuine tenderness that J Spaceman is capable of amidst all of the heartbreak and darkness that’s prevalent in so many of his other songs. Lovely.

TRACK 5: “The Mainline Song” – 9.5/10

This is another Spiritualized piece that seems more like a journey than a song—all of the train sounds layered in only adds to that effect. With J Spaceman’s airy vocals and rushing instrumentals, it’s another song that seems to physically carry you somewhere else, watching the clouds rushing by. It doesn’t even matter that it’s chiefly instrumental—it’s an unmistakable highlight of the album.

TRACK 6: “The A Song (Laid In Your Arms)” – 9.5/10

Like “Best Thing You Never Had,” “The A Song” is a persistent, powerful march reminiscent of Spiritualized’s harder side. For Spiritualized, longer songs are a common sight, but at over seven minutes long, this song never loses its impact or momentum, delivering guitars and brass that crash against you like waves on the shore. Nothing short of a masterpiece—and another song that was phenomenal live!

TRACK 7: “I’m Coming Home Again” – 10/10

For a lot of Spiritualized albums, the final song is either a sweeping ballad or a mournful, soft ending. “I’m Coming Home Again” is neither of those—and it’s almost more powerful than some examples of both. It’s the longest song on the album at almost 10 minutes long, and like “The A Song,” never loses its momentum all that time. But unlike the former, it achieves its affect more in its consistent feeling of foreboding. It’s a haunting song—I have an oddly specific feeling that it would mesh perfectly in the second-to-last episode of a TV show, in a scene where the main character gets their revenge, walking away from lighting something on fire. From the first notes to the final strains of the choir, “I’m Coming Home Again” is a looming masterpiece, and an unexpected but perfect ending to a near-flawless album.

I averaged out all my ratings for each track, and it came to about a 9.4! Absolutely accurate to how I feel about Everything Was Beautiful—it’s hard to touch some of Spiritualized’s other albums, but this album establishes itself as one of J Spaceman’s masterpieces. It’s the perfect melding of the sound of 90’s Spiritualized with the hope of 10’s Spiritualized, and it makes for an album with a lasting, haunting, and eternally memorable effect. Thank you, J Spaceman, for another religious experience. 💗

“Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

Since this is an album review, consider the entire album today’s song.

That’s it for this album review! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Music

Lucifer on the Sofa – Spoon album review

Happy Saturday, everyone!

Sorry that I went M.I.A. for a bit there. I was visiting family in Florida over President’s Day weekend, and I just had zero energy once I got back. But now I’m here, writing a post that I’ve been excited to write for a few weeks!

You know what I think about a lot? The time my old English teacher though my Spoon shirt was a Morrissey shirt 😭

Spoon is one of those bands that have been a consistent presence in my life. I heard their songs on car rides, and car rides turned to concerts, and concerts turned to albums. For me, they’re one of the few bands I know who are better live than listening remotely—they bring such an exuberance and energy onstage, and their talents as musicians is apparent with every song they play.

So I was so excited to hear that they’d be releasing a new album in 2022! Prior to this, I’d never listened to a full album of theirs (although Gimme Fiction has been on my list for quite some time), but listening to Lucifer on the Sofa was such a bright, energizing experience. It’s only February, but this is already on my list of favorite albums of the year. (Though it’ll have some competition when Everything Was Beautiful comes out…am I getting too hasty?)

Let’s begin this review, shall we?

LUCIFER ON THE SOFA – SPOON ALBUM REVIEW

TRACK 1: “Held” (Smog cover) – 8.5/10

Starting an album off with a cover is a bold move, but at this point, Spoon can do no wrong. And this is a fantastic cover—if I didn’t know that it was a cover, I 100% would’ve thought that this was fully their song. I might even like it better than the original! The steady drumbeat and the melody that feels like it rolls over you create an atmosphere that sets up the whole album for instant success. Needless to say, I have not been able to stop listening to this!

(here’s the original by Smog, if you’re interested.)

TRACK 2: “The Hardest Cut” – 8/10

They’re sayin’ you need a little protection,

But following the leader gonna turn you off the religion…

Spoon, “The Hardest Cut”

This was the first single to come out of this album, and it reminded me of why I love Spoon. The guitars are what shine the most—”The Hardest Cut” doesn’t hesitate to dive into Spoon’s heavier side, and the guitars are the main driving force behind it. At the same time, it’s a relentlessly steady and catchy song, making this song proof of Spoon’s versatility.

TRACK 3: “The Devil and Mister Jones” – 8.5/10

For any album, there are some songs that you know will grab you way before you listen to them, just because of how hooking the title is. I don’t know what it is about the name “The Devil and Mister Jones” that caught my eye, but either way, it’s an undoubted highlight of this album. Catchy and bright-sounding, it has a timeless feel to it, like it could have just as easily come out of the 2010’s or even the 2000’s. LOVE it.

TRACK 4: “Wild” – 8.5/10

I was reminded every measure

Of riding trade winds, buried treasure…

Spoon, “Wild”

This one was the second single that was released, and another absolute earworm! The instrumentation is phenomenal, Britt Daniel’s voice stands out in the best way possible, and the beat makes it impossible for you not to nod your head. Instant classic.

TRACK 5: “My Babe” – 7.5/10

“My Babe” was the final single to be released from Lucifer on the Sofa, and although it’s my least favorite of the three, it’s still a perfect head-nodding, shoulder-swaying kind of song. However, there’s something about the lyrics that feels off-kilter. Not so much the message, but the way they sound, if that makes sense? I’m not sure. Not as strong as the others, but that’s a high bar—”My Babe” is still a good one.

TRACK 6: “Feels Alright” – 8/10

Standing here by myself,

A photograph with no correction

From me or anybody else…

Spoon, “Feels Alright”

Here’s another one that feels distinctly timeless. There’s an a quality to it that makes it feel ageless. For all we know, it could be from today, from the 2010’s, the 2000’s…even the future, who knows what Spoon will be doing five or ten years from now? That aside, it’s such a strong song! I especially love the piano/keyboard work on this one.

TRACK 7: “On the Radio” – 8.5/10

(I just realized that the animation for the official audios just zooms in on the album cover’s face…IT’S SO CURSED)

(WHY IS IT LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT)

“On the Radio” distinctly feels like the last few singles pre-Lucifer—something about the key, the fast tempo, the overall tightness of the whole song that makes me remember hearing “No Bullets Spent” for the first time. The guitars feel so full and rich, and the effects layered over them only adds to the effect. Another winner!

TRACK 8: “Astral Jacket” – 8.5/10

“Astral Jacket” is where Lucifer slows down—just in tempo, certainly not in quality. This song, along with “Satellite,” remind me of how well Spoon can convey tenderness through music; there’s an atmosphere around it that feels like a tired hug on a warm night. Simply lovely.

TRACK 9: “Satellite” – 8.5/10

Continuing the soft, tender atmosphere that “Astral Jacket” started, “Satellite” creates a floating-in-space atmosphere that fills up my heart. It reminds me most of “The Delicate Place,” my favorite Spoon song; the melody goes up and down, but it’s consistent in its warmth.

TRACK 10: “Lucifer on the Sofa” – 8/10

And I’m chasing every thought

And I’m walking over water,

Thinking about what I lost…

Spoon, “Lucifer on the Sofa”

For Spoon, my focus is usually the music over the lyrics, but for “Lucifer on the Sofa,” it’s both. I love all the descriptions in this one, from ash on lips to winter skies. There’s a consistency to the music as well—the saxophones are a strange addition, but it works perfectly for the smoky feel of this song. Not my favorite of this album, but a great little closer.

I averaged out the scores for each track, and it came out to a solid 8.3! Feels just right for the album; I haven’t listened to enough full Spoon albums to say where it ranks on the list, but it’s a success regardless. I remember periods of my life in terms of albums, and Lucifer on the Sofa will surely be among the ranks of albums I remember this year by. Can’t wait to see them again this May!

Since this is an album review post, consider the entire album today’s song.

That’s it for this album review! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Music

Laurel Hell – Mitski album review

Happy Wednesday, bibliophiles!

2022 is shaping up to be a year full of highly anticipated albums—Spiritualized, girlpool, Spoon (THIS FRIDAY AAAH), and so many others. Mitski’s Laurel Hell was the first of these; I’ve been a fan of Mitski since around 2019 after hearing “Washing Machine Heart” on the radio. Since then, I’ve delved more into her catalogue, but I’d say that 75% of what I’ve heard of hers, I’ve liked—hit or miss, but mostly hits. Bury Me at Makeout Creek was a near perfect album for me, but I haven’t listened to any of her other albums in their entirety.

So when I heard that Mitski was coming out with a new album, I was excited to take another dive into her catalogue. What I got, however, was an album that simultaneously stayed true to her past and branched out in new directions—with varying degrees of success.

Let’s begin, shall we?

Mitski: Laurel Hell Album Review | Pitchfork

LAUREL HELL – MITSKI ALBUM REVIEW

TRACK 1: “Valentine, Texas” – 7/10

“Valentine, Texas” is a sparse and eerie album opener. It slowly creeps along with only faint synths and Mitski’s breathy vocals, but eventually sprawls out into bright piano chords and a steady drumbeat. For me, it’s the musical equivalent of wading through pitch-black water—a beautifully atmospheric song and a great start to this album!

TRACK 2: “Working for the Knife” – 8/10

The fact that “Working for the Knife” was the first single released for Laurel Hell is a blessing and a curse—a blessing that it’s such a fantastic song, and a curse in that…well, it’s the highlight of the album for me, and it got released before everything else and raised my expectations. Nevertheless, this is classic Mitski at her best, with steady instrumentals and raw, biting lyricism aplenty.

TRACK 3: “Stay Soft” – 6/10

Open up your heart

Like the gates of Hell…

Mitski, “Stay Soft”

What Laurel Hell has revealed to me is that Mitski has begun to lean in the direction of poppier material. After the success of songs like “Washing Machine Heart” and “Nobody,” her songs have become more synth-dominated and upbeat (…well, musically upbeat) while still retaining their signature lyrical vulnerability. “Stay Soft” is just that, but for me, it didn’t reach the level of the latter two songs; the lyrics are some of Mitski’s best, but musically, it feels…strangely weak. Restrained, almost. Mixed feelings.

TRACK 4: “Everyone” – 8/10

And I left my door open to the dark,

I said, ‘Come in, come in, whatever you are,’

But it didn’t want me yet…

Mitski, “Everyone”

Although this isn’t *quite* as strong as “Working for the Knife,” it’s doubtlessly one of my favorites from this album. Like “Valentine, Texas,” its instrumentals are sparse, but it’s just as powerful and moving a ballad as any of her previous works. The imagery the lyrics evoke are especially strong, almost like dark fairytales in their sensibilities.

TRACK 5: “Heat Lightning” – 7.5/10

Sleeping eyelid of the sky

Flutters in a dream…

Mitski, “Heat Lightning”

By now, everyone’s made this comparison, but “Heat Lightning” REEKS of The Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs”—and it’s great. There’s a feeling of quiet helplessness to it, a reluctant lament accented by pianos and synths. It adds to the feeling I’m getting from most of the album—a distinctly nighttime atmosphere, nighttime in a forest clearing with a lake.

TRACK 6: “The Only Heartbreaker” – 6/10

Out of the four pre-released singles for Laurel Hell, “The Only Heartbreaker” was my least favorite. It was still enjoyable and catchy, but the synths felt bland to me. The fact that it was only co-written by Mitski detracted from it as well; Mitski is her best when the lyrics are all hers, and for a Mitski song, these lyrics bordered on simplistic. Not that simplistic lyricism is all bad, but for an artist like Mitski, it’s uncharacteristic. Still a decent pop song, though.

TRACK 7: “Love Me More” – 8/10

Out of all of the more pop-oriented songs on Laurel Hell, “Love Me More” is my favorite. Unlike with songs like “Stay Soft” or “Should’ve Been Me,” Mitski throws off all restraints on her vocals, letting her beautiful voice soar along with the synth notes that seem to climb with the lyrics. It’s the happy medium between what Mitski once was and what she seems to be aiming to be—vulnerable, but infectiously catchy.

TRACK 8: “There’s Nothing Left For You” – 6.5/10

Like “Valentine, Texas” and “Everyone,” “There’s Nothing Left For You” shows the quieter, somber side of Laurel Hell with soft vocals and bare-bones instrumentals. Although I still like it, it doesn’t pack the same punch as the latter two songs I mentioned—it does have a “kicking in” moment, but it’s in the middle of the song, and fades away to the same as the first third once the song ends. It’s still good, make no mistake, but not quite as powerful.

TRACK 9: “Should’ve Been Me” – 5/10

“Should’ve Been Me” is where Mitski’s pop direion steers into mixed-feelings territory for me. Strangely, although songs like “Nobody” worked with upbeat music and not-so-upbeat lyricism, the musical pep of “Should’ve Been Me” seems far too peppy for the message it attempts to put out. Part of why it doesn’t succeed is where it sits in the album—right next to one of its quietest moments. The transition from “There’s Nothing Left For You” to this makes for a jarring listening experience—and not in a good way.

TRACK 10: “I Guess” – 7/10

“I Guess” should have been the album’s closer. A haunting refrain soundtracked by strains of muffled pianos, Mitski’s vocals reach their fullest potential in this second-to-last track. The production only adds to the “swimming in a lake at night” atmosphere—it’s a beautiful song.

TRACK 11: “That’s Our Lamp” – 5/10

It’s a shame that this is what closes off this album—the worst song, in my opinion. “That’s Our Lamp” is a strange attempt to create an 80’s-esque pop song, but although the music reaches some crescendos, it’s another instance where it feels as though Mitski is restraining herself vocally. The combination makes for a jarring song and a disappointing album closer.

Mitski's 'Laurel Hell' confronts the wild complexity of feeling : NPR

I averaged out all of the song ratings, and it came out to about a 6.7. That feels accurate for the album—I would still consider it an alright album, but there were songs that dragged it down too much. However, there were some hidden gems in the mix, and those are ones I’ll be sure to treasure. I don’t regret listening to the album, but it wasn’t Mitski’s best.

Review: Mitski - Laurel Hell | RANGE

Since this post is an album review, consider this whole post today’s song.

That’s it for this album review! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Music

Valentine – Snail Mail album review

Happy Thursday, bibliophiles! Probably just gonna dispose of the “this isn’t a bookish post, but screw it, I’m still gonna use the bibliophile greeting” joke at this point. It won’t be missed.

Those of you who’ve followed this blog for a while know how much Snail Mail means to me. Her music soundtracked the strange transition from middle to high school, filled with raw, genuine emotion and unforgettable guitar riffs. Especially during the summer of 2018, her music meant so much to me. I even got to meet Lindsey Jordan at a show that year; she was such a sweet human being, and she even gave me her guitar pick at the end of the show! She’s one of the reasons why I play electric guitar now.

Fast forward to the past few years. We hadn’t gotten anything besides a cover single since 2019, and from the jokes she made at the last show about her manager overbooking her on the last tour, I started to get worried. I distinctly remember several conversations with my mom that ended with “well, hopefully she’ll feel better soon, and then she’ll make an album about it.”

And, surprise, surprise, an album she made! Valentine made me remember all over again how much I love Snail Mail while marking a natural evolution into a newer sound.

So let’s begin this review, shall we?

Snail Mail: Valentine Album Review | Pitchfork

VALENTINE – SNAIL MAIL (album review)

TRACK 1: “Valentine” – 9/10

Getting this unexpected news on a cold September morning instantly brightened my day. It was what made me remember how much I loved Snail Mail. Even though Jordan’s voice has shifted to a deeper, raspier tone, this could have easily come off of Lush, with its soaring guitars and angsty declarations. And yet, it provides the perfect, most natural bridge from Lush to Valentine. It was the perfect first single, and it’s the perfect album opener.

TRACK 2: “Ben Franklin” – 8.5/10

Knowing that “Ben Franklin” got its name from the “presidential-type beat” memes adds a whole new layer to the song. It’s a good layer, for sure. Brings back memories of the night before taking my APUSH exam.

After the wondrous familiarity and “Snail Mail’s back!”ness of “Valentine,” “Ben Franklin” provided an organic segue into a newer, synth-dominated sound. Sultry and smooth, it’s the perfect blend of guitar, piano, and synth, all set to an instantly catchy beat. It’s a new direction for a musician who normally dominates her sound with guitars, but it feels just as genuine as anything from Lush or Habit.

TRACK 3: “Headlock” – 7.5/10

Though “Headlock” doesn’t wow me as much as some of the other tracks on this album, it’s solid proof that after all this time, Lindsey Jordan is just as much herself as she was in 2018. The evolution of Jordan’s voice shines in this song; her voice is just as raw and beautiful, but now it’s deeper, fuller. Combined with catchy guitars and pianos, this makes for a solid Snail Mail song.

TRACK 4: “Light Blue” – 9/10

Wanna wake up early every day

Just to be awake in the same world as you…

Snail Mail, “Light Blue”

In an album consisting almost entirely of songs about the ugly side of romance and breaking up, “Light Blue” provides a single spark of hope and pure love. Acoustic guitars and soft strings make for a heartwarming declaration of love, enough to make even the coldest heart melt. Leave it to Snail Mail to deliver genuine emotion in all its forms.

TRACK 5: “Forever (Sailing)” – 8.5/10

Whatever you decide,

I’ll chase you from the city to the sky,

And lose myself for you a thousand times…

Snail Mail, “Forever (Sailing)”

Like “Ben Franklin,” “Forever (Sailing)” contains so few of the guitars that became a hallmark of Snail Mail’s music. But even without them, it provides a glimpse into the evolution of her sound, making a steady, catchy beat out of a story of a relationship doomed to fall apart.

TRACK 6: “Madonna” – 9.5/10

Without question, my favorite of the three pre-released singles, and one of my favorite tracks of the album! The thrumming bass-line introduces a one-of-a-kind song, cleverly telling a story while seamlessly transitioning between heavy guitars and smoother, synth-driven slow points. I truly adore this song, everything about it just makes me so happy that Lindsey Jordan is back to making music?

(Also, the bass-line immediately made me think of this song…if I knew how, I’d try and make a mashup…)

TRACK 7: “c. et. al.” – 9.5/10

I went into this album hoping that I’d find the song that Snail Mail played live at the show I went to in 2019, one that she said “wouldn’t be out for a while.” After a few listens (the key change threw me off the trail), I found the famed “Baby Blue” song!

And it’s just as beautiful and raw as it was when I saw it love. Like with Lush, it segways into the sadder, more hopeless side of Snail Mail’s discography, providing a worthy companion to songs like “Deep Sea” and “Anytime.” The acoustic guitar accents Jordan’s voice perfectly, making for the perfect recipe for tugging at my heartstrings.

TRACK 8: “Glory” – 10/10

You owe me,

You own me,

Couldn’t even look at you straight on,

Shining in your glory…”

Snail Mail, “Glory”

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! Without a doubt, my FAVORITE song on the whole album. Everything about this song makes me so giddy, and it’s so wonderfully Snail Mail…GAH. The driving beat that ticks along in the chorus, Jordan’s soaring voice and clever lyrics, and the strong guitar throughout. Everything, down to the way that Jordan’s voice rings out on the final “glory,” makes for a perfect song. And can we appreciate the subtle “you owe me/you own me” turn of phrase? Golden.

TRACK 9: “Automate” – 8/10

I wouldn’t say this one quite matches how good the rest of the album is, but that in no way means it’s a bad song. At this point, the concept of a bad Snail Mail song is about as likely as the sun not rising tomorrow.

Oddly, my first thought upon hearing the intro was “SPOON.” It particularly reminded me of something like “The Beast and Dragon, Adored” or “The Way We Get By.” I don’t even know if Spoon is an influence of hers, but that’s what immediately came to mind. Either way, “Automate” is a song where you can almost see the beat pushing forward in front of your eyes. Compared to the rest of the album, there’s something that’s missing from it that I can’t place, but it still holds up in the grand scheme of it. Plus, guitars.

TRACK 10: “Mia” – 9/10

Mia, don’t cry,

I love you forever,

But I’ve gotta grow up now

No, I can’t keep holding on to you anymore,

Mia, I’m still yours…

Snail Mail, “Mia”

“Mia, don’t cry…” no, I’m crying. And there’s nothing you can do to stop me.

Sad cat meme

Like “Anytime,” “Mia” serves as the perfect melancholy closer for a near-perfect album. The solitude of Jordan’s voice, an acoustic guitar, and a string section brings out the somber tone of the song, making the lost love within it all the more heartbreaking. It’s hard to surpass “Anytime,” but I believe that “Mia” barely does just that.

Shoot, now I’m getting all sad…lemme just go back to “Glory” for a minute…

Snail Mail shares new track "Madonna" - 91.9 WFPK Independent Louisville

I averaged out all my ratings for each track, and it came out to an 8.9, which I’ll round up to a 9. Valentine, though rife with stories of love gone wrong, lifted my spirits and restored my hope in Snail Mail. There’s nothing that Lindsey Jordan can’t do, both as a songwriter and a musician, and this album is a beautiful, emotional testament to the fact. I’m so excited to see her live again in April!

Since this is an album review, consider this whole album today’s song.

That’s it for this album review! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!