Just wanted to say a quick happy birthday to one of the most soul-touching, delicately constructed albums of all time –– Elliott Smith’s Either/Or turns 20 today. Speaking (with no authority whatsoever) on behalf of thousands of angsty teenagers and disappointed adults, I want to say thank you to Elliott Smith on this album (as well as some others) for being able to evoke such a wide range of emotions, most stemming from melancholia, in slightly over (or under) three minutes. The expectations for the power that music can have on emotions have shifted a lot in the last twenty years, and we definitely owe some of that shift to Either/Or. If you have a spare three minutes today, pick any song from the album below, hit play and dissolve a little bit.
When I was about 11 years old, I heard my sister playing a Yeah Yeah Yeahs song (I think it was Runaway) and instantly felt shivers rush down my spine –– the vocals were so haunting, so beautiful; they struck me right to my core. I spent the rest of the day downloading their music off LimeWire (those were the good old days of torrenting). To my disappointment, when I listened to the rest of their music, I found myself at an odds; I felt addicted to the vocals, but could not quite get down with the slightly too aggressive lyrics and drum beats in most of their songs. Thus, with a void in my heart, I put the Yeah Yeah Yeahs away to never be revisited again… Until a faithful day in 2014, when my then-boyfriend and I went to see Her at the cinema. Once again, I heard that captivating voice, except this time it wasn’t screaming at me to dance till I’m dead; it was almost whispering to me, in tones that, for me, matched the singer’s voice perfectly, about love. Later that day, my void was finally able to be filled with Karen O’s solo tracks; here is a beautiful example of the kind of enchantment her voice holds.
A recent favourite of the internet’s music critics, Sampha has previously featured on songs from Kanye’s The Life of Pablo, Drake’s Nothing Was The Same, and one of my favourite electronic albums, SBTRKT’s SBTRKT. The song below, off his new album Process, sounds reminiscent of James Blake in Sampha’s more soulful voice, and of Joni Mitchell in the melancholy evocativeness of the lyrics.
If this song is up your alley, I encourage you to check out the whole album –– while Sampha is very versatile, his stunning voice weaves a thread from beginning to end.
I am definitely late in terms of boarding the Mitski train, which is surprising –– she’s toured with Frankie Cosmos, whom I’m a huge fan of, and is generally considered an integral part of the DIY indie scene (or whatever the “correct” name for this kind of music is). I’d tried listening to her in the past, and was, I guess, a little put off by what I thought was a much more aggressive, rocky sound than I was expecting. All I can say is that I must have listened to the wrong songs, or had gone temporarily deaf, because dang! This girl can sing! (and write).
Sometimes she seems to look into the soul of the classic American sadboy (or girl); other times, she writes from her own perspective –– that of a triculture disillusioned outsider. Either way, her music is almost always very emotionally evocative. The song below, for example, instantly transported me back into the days of all-encompassing, identity-dissolving and unhealthy first love. It’s off her third album that came out in 2014: “Bury Me at Makeout Creek.” Have a listen!
Over Thanksgiving break, I was at home (in England) visiting a friend at her university in Sheffield. The classic way to spend your Saturday night in England if you’re college-aged, is to go to a club; and so we did. I was ready to be disappointed –– personally, I don’t really find much enjoyment in being in the middle of a crowded dark sweaty room of wasted strangers and subpar house music –– but then this song came on. Immediately, there was a sense of unity in the room; everyone stopped trying to impress the other drunk messes on either sides of themselves and started dancing, in whatever way they could. The club turned into a poorly-lit karaoke. I believe, with 97% certainty, that this song will make you want to sing with it.
I can’t quite remember the first time I heard a ‘Kinks’ song, but it was definitely before ninth grade, when this song became my weekend anthem: almost every Saturday evening, I would catch the train back from Waterloo Station in London back to my house, looking for the fabled sunset that, unfortunately, rarely appeared; England is really submerged in clouds most of the time.This song has a lovely, Beatles-ey rhythm, that so far I’ve found perfect for people-watching, driving back from DIA at three a.m., and, of course, watching the sunset. I have no doubt that the list of places and times that this song fits impeccably goes on and on.
One joyful week this summer, two albums that I have since grown to love, and which I consider creative summits for both artists, came out : “Freetown Sound” by Blood Orange and “Wildflower” by The Avalanches. I’ve seen Blood Orange pop up quite often this year on the SoCC blog, and (in my humble opinion) with good reason. Still, I didn’t want the Avalanches’ album to be overlooked. While its lyrics may not be as emotionally/socially charged, the production value of the album is outstanding –– for proof, just listen to how intricately tens of seconds of samples are woven through most of the songs. For the Song of the Day, I chose “Subways”, the fourth song off of “Wildflower”; listen below and find out why.
I’ve been listening to a bunch of cover albums lately, and quite often covers of this song come up (this one’s a good one –– https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qWJPglDkB0), and I usually love them. Today, though, the original came on the radio and I remembered how fucking fantastic this song is. “Home is where I want to be/but I guess I’m already there” is weirdly resonant.
Hopefully I’m not alone in thinking that David Byrne is a genius, but even if you’re not a big fan of Talking Heads, I’ve found that even those (foolish) people who aren’t usually into Talking Heads still love this song, so definitely worth a listen.
The summer of sophomore year in high school in England is known as festival season –– girls put on tonnes of make-up and flower headbands, boys buy condoms in futile dreams of losing their virginity to a “festival fling”, twenty-or-so of them get together, buy a bunch of cheap shitty beer (or Strongbow cider, if you’re feeling really classy), and head off for weekends of music, mud and mindlessness.
While most of my memories of those weekends consist of wishing it’d stopped raining for at least one of the four festival days, some of them are bright, beautiful memories of shows –– Phoenix at Reading Festival in 2013, for example.
Most of the festival crowd had gone off to see either Green Day (I’m sorry, Billie Joe Armstrong, but in 2013 you were already much past your prime) or Knife Party, so the Phoenix set brought along only a modest crowd of about 1000 people (Reading’s general festival population is around 300,000). Being 5’, I got passed around from shoulders to shoulders until I got to the front of the crowd, high-fived Thomas Mars and crowd-surfed my way to the back, where my friends were performing some sort of an interpretive dance routine.
Since then, I’ve gone to a few festivals and had similar, lovely experiences, mostly because I realised that Reading (the British amalgamation of Coachella and Bonnaroo) was not what I was looking for. If anything I’ve described above rings true for you, or if you’re just sick of seeing Native American headdresses on drunk white girls, look no further.
Here are some of this summer’s festivals I’d love to go to:
Where: Austin, TX
When: April 29 – May 1
Who’s playing: Brian Wilson performing Pet Sounds, Animal Collective, Courtney Barnett, Flying Lotus, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Allah-Las, Parquet Courts and a bunch of other cool people
How much: $185 + $86 if you wanna camp on site
Where: Louisville, KY
When: July 15 – 17
Who’s playing: Avett Brothers, Death Cab for Cutie, Alabama Shakes, Glass Animals, Dr. Dog, Shakey Graves, Femi Kuti, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Alex G, etc.
How much: $170 (no camping though)
Shaky Knees Festival
Where: Atlanta, GA
When: May 13 – 15
Who’s playing: Jane’s Addiction, The Kills, Savages, Wolf Alice, Alex G, My Morning Jacket, Shakey Graves, The Head and the Heart, Atlas Genius, Parquet Courts, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, etc.
How much: $215 for 3 days and no camping
Nelsonville Music Festival
Where: Nelsonville, OH
When: June 2 – 5
Who’s playing: Courtney Barnett, Gary Clark Jr, The Tallest Man On Earth, Mac Demarco, Angel Olsen, Badbadnotgood, Twin Peaks
How much: $125 + $30 camping
and an across-the-pond shoutout to a festival with just a fucking fantastic lineup
Where: Barcelona, Spain
When: June 1 – 5
Who’s playing: Alex G, Animal Collective, Beach House, Beirut, Brian Wilson performing Pet Sounds, Cass McCombs, Chairlift, Deerhunter, Destroyer, Dinosaur Jr., Freddie Gibbs, Hudson Mohawke, The Last Shadow Puppets, LCD Soundsystem (!), Neon Indian, Parquet Courts, Radiohead (!!!), Sheer Mag, Sigur Ros, Tame Impala, Ty Segall, Vince Staples, Wild Nothing
How much: Weekend tickets are reselling at about $400, plus hostels, plus flights… a girl can dream
I was driving today, looking at the fog blanket on the mountains. It started snowing, and this song came on. My whole drive home suddenly took on a really lovely quality –– honestly, play this song on your walk/cycle/drive home and the next five or so minutes will become a tiny bit more wonderful.
This is an extended version of the original song, and has a much longer beautiful instrumental part with a lot of brass, which is dope –– brass is always pretty great. Personally, I associate Van a bit more with the summer, but this version of ‘Moondance’ is perfect for this meteorogically–bipolar beginning of the week.