What’s On My Playlist: Indie Rock

I know finals are just around the corner, so if you’re stressed out here are a couple of my favorite songs to help calm you down and get ready to bullshit your way through some final project. If the playlist doesn’t help, you can always cry to the same songs on your way back to campus this summer.

“The Glow, Pt. 2”, The Microphones (2001)

“The Glow, Pt. 2” is the second song off the album of the same name and the continuation of “The Glow” from It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water (2000). Phil Elverum’s boyish voice sings of opening himself up to love and it blowing up in his face. He is now left to deal with his own mortality when he would rather curl up and die. The Microphones have a way of making me feel so small and insignificant, but they do so in the most beautiful way. The “my blood flows harshly” part is so haunting and intense and gives me chills every time.

“Oh Comely”, Neutral Milk Hotel (1998)

The longest track off the album In An Aeroplane Over the Sea, “Oh Comely” is a stirring ballad that is dark and slow. Most of the song is a single acoustic guitar and Jeff Mangum’s unpolished voice. The melody slowly rises multiple times before dropping back to the sullen guitar barely staying alive. The horns appearing near the end add an exquisite touch. Lyrically this song is so elegant, but its the non-lexical singing during the bridge and outro that leave me in tears as the song slows to a halt.

“Wasp Nest”, The National (2004)

The National begins their EP Cherry Tree with this simplistic beauty. Soft shaken bells jingle in the background giving the song an almost holiday feel, as if you’re riding in an open-sleigh. The graceful guitar riffs and deep lazy vocals create the most peaceful sound sculpture. This song just makes me want to cuddle up next to someone under a blanket sipping wine.

“Bad Diary Days”, Pedro The Lion (1998)

This track is so heartbreaking and gorgeous. The lyrics tell the story of a man figuring out his girlfriend has been cheating on him. Pedro The Lion creates a feel that is like “this sucks and hurts a lot… what do I do now?” Musically this song is not overly complex but the opening guitar note and intermediate riff are moody and alluring. The song slightly picks up in the last minute but retains its overall calm feel.

“Staring at the Sun (Demo)”, TV On The Radio (2004)

This is a bonus track from the album Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes with the full song appearing earlier on the record. Being just a demo, it is super lo-fi using little more than looped vocals. The song begins and is sung through the first verse. The loop suddenly stops, a couple words are muttered and they start the song over, using beatboxing to give it a stronger feel. Lead singer Tunde Adebimpe showcases his range with beautiful falsetto throughout the track. The simplicity and originality of this demo are excellent and leave me electrified.

“Still”, Volcano Choir (2009)

Volcano Choir formed in Wisconsin in 2005 as a collaborative project between the members of Collections of Colonies of Bees and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. “Still” is the re-recording of “Woods” from Bon Iver’s Blood Bank that was released earlier in 2009. This version features a full band as opposed to the Bon Iver’s version which is sung acapella. Long drawn out synths are accompanied by tiny glitches and little dings as Vernon sings the repeated moving phrase “I’m up in the woods, I’m down on my mind, I’m building a still, to slow down the time.” I’m can’t say this version is better than the original, but it is definitely worth a listen.

 

 

 

 

What’s On My Playlist? #3

There are certain songs that you can never get enough of. We listen to them over and over till we have every minor detail memorized. These are a couple of my favorite songs that I have been listening to recently.

“I Need A Forest Fire” by James Blake, Bon Iver

“I Need A Forest Fire” was released in May of last year on James Blake’s album The Colour in Anything. Blake teams up with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver on this heart-wrencher. Their similar music styles yet distinct voices mix perfectly providing an interesting texture. A loop-pedal, electric drums, and a synth are all these musicians need as they plead for a forest fire, a restart.

“Tap Water Drinking” by Lewis Del Mar

Lewis Del Mar is an experimental rock duo from NYC. They combine simple, often single note, acoustic guitar melodies with heavy distortion, electronic beats, and Danny Miller’s spoken word style lyrics. “Tap Water Drinking” is about a sexual relationship between two people. The song starts off innocent and simple but soon grows darker, heavier, and more distorted. This symbolizes how relationships sometimes get out of hand and become destructive.

“Rattlesnake” by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

“Rattlesnake” is the psychedelic rock band’s 8-minute opening song to their album Flying Microtonal Banana. This song and album use modded guitars as they explore the world of microtonal tuning. “Rattlesnake” takes you into the desert where the familiar rattle is lurking around every corner. Don’t get lost because the serpent is always there waiting to strike.

“Carin at the Liquor Store” by The National

Released earlier this year, “Carin at the Liquor Store” is another National song that hits you deep down. The namesake of the song is lead singer Matt Berninger‘s wife, Carin. An elegant piano melody accompanies Berninger singing in his unmistakable baritone, “blame it on me.” By the time the guitar solo comes you’re already in tears. What more can you ask for from music?

“Oceans” by Seafret

It’s been said that all you need is a guitar, 3 chords, and the truth. This indie-folk duo from the U.K. doesn’t use much more than that on their 2016 track “Oceans”. Sounds of crashing waves and dripping water fill the background. Vocalist Jack Sedman sings, “I want you… but it feels like there’s oceans between you and me.” This song tells us that love is complicated and sometimes it doesn’t work how we imagine.

“Dissolve” by Private Island

The indie-rock band from Southern California delivers wonders on this jam. A fantastic guitar melody reals you in, and the passionate vocals seal the deal. The lyrics tell the story of an ending relationship. They sing, “take me back now,” and “when they say your name, they can watch me, watch them, watch me dissolve.”

“Sun in Your Eyes” by Grizzly Bear

“Sun in Your Eyes” is the last song on the psychedelic folk album Shields (2012). The song slowly builds 3 different times with subtle repetition and slight variance. Each time it gets bigger and better. The lyrics, “I’m never coming back”, are repeated multiple times. By the end of the song, you’ll be asking yourself if you can ever go back to who you were before it began.

 

Bon Iver – 22, A Million

Love and self-discovery are common themes in Justin Vernon’s songs. Bon Iver’s music has the amazing ability to make the listener feel both calm and shaken at the same time. The beautiful sounds and often haunting lyrics and vocals give the sense that one is lost inside their own home, which is a feeling that the vast majority of people are able to relate to at some point in their lives.

22, A Million, Bon Iver’s first album in five years, takes a different approach to these concepts. With far less acoustic guitar and far more synthesizer, these new songs put a twist on Bon Iver’s usual sound. It reminds me a little of a more sad, introspective Kanye West, which may sound odd given that the two come from different genres and backgrounds. Music is just the interpretation of emotion, though, so it makes sense to me that the art could sound similar.

While 22, A Million is undoubtedly musically and creatively beautiful, I must admit that I do prefer Bon Iver’s older music. Though, when I listened to this new album for the first time, one song really stood out to me. When I heard “715 – CR∑∑KS,” the third track on the album, I was first captivated by the sound. It is similar to the last song, “Woods,” on the Blood Bank EP, but it is also incredibly unique. I then listened to it again to hear the lyrics and fell in love with the song. “Honey, understand that I have been left here in the reeds / But all I’m trying to do is get my feet out from the crease.” These lyrics in particular really struck me. Filled with a mixture of abandonment, longing, and futility, they penetrate all the way down into the depths of emotion and bring a variety of memories back up to the surface. These lyrics made me feel something very strong, which is what music should do.

Another song on 22, A Million that I find to be very interesting is the last track, “00000 Million.” This song off the new album sounds the most like Vernon’s older music, which I am very fond of. However, like with “715 – CR∑∑KS,” the thing I like most about it is the lyrics. Vernon repeats the phrase, “the days have no numbers,” which, in the context of the song, I interpret as “the days are all the same; there is nothing to distinguish one from the other.” Another lyric he repeats is, “if it’s harmed, it’s harmed me, it’ll harm, I’ll let it in.” This is particularly interesting, because Vernon is saying that though he knows this thing is bad for him, he won’t try to stop it. Both of these emotions are ones that hit very close to home for me and many others. Like so many of his other songs, this haunting track is able to make the listener calm while also feeling a swarm of strong emotions.

In all honesty, I am not too fond of any of the other songs on this new album. However, that does not mean that I think the album as a whole is anything less than a work of important and exquisite art. There is no denying 22, A Million’s beauty. Justin Vernon produced yet another stunning album that will resonate with and change the lives of many people.