Whatever, Whatever

Category: Music

Summer/Fall 2017 has been good for music so far

I often find myself in music ruts where I listen to the same things over and over. My taste is also pretty specific, so when I try to find new bands (usually using Spotify’s Related Artists feature) it’s very hit or miss. Sometimes it works to go back to older albums from bands I like or used to like that I don’t listen to much, or revisit old favorites and see what their newest stuff is. For a lot of 2017, however, my bands weren’t releasing new music. Until now. So far, summer and early fall have been excellent for new releases in my taste profile. Here are my faves.

Royal Blood – How Did We Get So Dark?

Royal Blood is one of the few bands that upon first listen I knew they’d be a new favorite. With only two albums (as far as I know), maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that the bass and drum duo have a 10/10 record with me as far as making good music. This new album as a whole is outstanding. “Sleep” is my favorite and gets stuck in my head constantly (in a good way). I love the groove of the bass line so much. “How Did We Get So Dark?” and “Lights Out” are two other fantastic tracks that I’ve added to some of my playlists, but the entirety of the album is good. I can listen to it end to end without skipping a song, which is rare for me. Joe and I blast it while cleaning our house. We’re seeing them in October with QOTSA in Milwaukee – very excited to see what they’re like live.

Queens of the Stone Age – Villains
I was thrilled to hear that QOTSA were releasing an album this year. I had all the hype. And the product, thankfully, met my expectations. I liked but didn’t love their last release, Like Clockwork, so I was a little worried there would be fewer favorites on this album, however, that wasn’t the case. “The Evil Has Landed”, “Fortress”, “Domesticated Animals”, and “Feet Don’t Fail Me” (once it gets going) are all fantastic. I even like “The Way You Used to Do,” which faced a lot of criticism from fans because it’s dancier than their other stuff (and usually I’d be in the same boat) but I think it’s groovy and I like the hook. I think some of that initial backlash had to do with the fact that Mark Ronson produced it (by the way, “Uptown Funk” makes me wanna rip out my ear canals – what an atrocious monstrosity of an earworm), so fans were weary that the QOTSA that we know and love would be wound through the top 40 conveyor belt, auto-tuned and synthesized until there were no guts left and spat out onto local alternative stations across the country. Luckily, a lot of what makes QOTSA special remains and Homme sounds as devious as ever. And as much as I’d love to have the gritty, squawking pulp of Era Vulgarus and Rated R back, I know from interviews that creatively they want to evolve rather than look back. I get it. They did a good job balancing expectations and creative freedom without going fully off the walls or out of the genre. Villains is delicious and sits well in playlists with older tracks too.

Death From Above – Outrage! Is Now
This album came out today! It is standard Death From Above (by the way, they dropped the 1979), but feels a little cleaner and tighter than 2014’s The Physical World. It’s big and bold; groovy and shouty. Standouts include “Holy Books”, “Nomad”, “Caught Up”, and “Freeze Me” (which I can totally see having radio play – or whatever the equivalent is now) but the album as a whole has a nice flow (with the exception of “Never Swim Alone” which isn’t my favorite). I think “Holy Books” takes the cake, but I added several tracks to my most recent playlist rotation. I love that they’re able to keep their sound consistent without being boring or repetitive. The same chuggy, crashy rawness that I’ve loved since You’re A Woman I’m A Machine, but cleared up a bit (especially the vocals!). Side note: I was pleasantly surprised to hear “Always On” in an episode of Jessica Jones, along with another ones of my faves “Demons” by Sleigh Bells. I also appreciate how heavy -both emotionally and musically- Death From Above are. According to some past interviews (and confirmed in this Reddit AMA from 2014) some of their songs have been influenced by major world events (9/11 and the 2013 Boston Marathon, specifically). If I hadn’t missed their most recent AMA by a day (one. day.) I would’ve asked about what influenced this one (Paris? Charlottesville? The US Election? Brexit? Everything?). Death From Above aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I love them. Overall, exceptionally pleased with Outrage! Is Now despite one or two so-so tracks.

BOOTS – “Soon to be Gone”
I’m also really excited by this new BOOTS single, which I’m hoping is a teaser to a full album. Even though his other releases have been either amazing or so-so for me, this track is in the same vein as the ones I like from AQUARIA. If you’re not familiar with BOOTS – he’s a pretty well-known producer (Beyonce, Run The Jewels) and this is his solo side-project.




Songs that make me feel feelings

One of my favorite quotes about music is from Jim DeRogatis

“How do those of us who love music interact with it in real life? We sit on the couch and blast the stuff on the stereo, trying to convince each other that the music we love is something that our friends need in their lives too.”

Sometimes when you love a song and you show it to someone else they’ll think it’s OK but they won’t get it in the way that you do. Music is personal. Sharing music with others puts you in a vulnerable position – especially when you’re judgmental and you’ve disliked songs others have shared with you before. But there are also times when you hear something that a friend shows you and you end up liking it too and you form a bond because of it.

And that’s why we share music – because the risk is worth the reward.

So here I am sharing music, as I’ve done a million times before. This time it’s a collection of songs that make me feel feelings. They’re not necessarily my favorite songs, but they evoke emotion. Most songs make me feel, but these make me feel feelings. You know those songs that give you goose bumps or take you somewhere else? These are mine.

Links are direct to Spotify and Youtube. Enjoy my TV references and overuse of the word honestly.

“Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” The White Stripes [Spotify / Youtube]

One of my most vivid music-related memories was when this song came out. I think I heard it on the radio (WKQX/Q101 in its prime) and I remember I was standing in my room, my speakers turned almost all the way up and I heard the feedback screech and the first chord and it just hit me like a ton of bricks. Something about the sound and how loud it is and how raw the recording is struck me deep in my soul. I had never loved a song as much as I loved this one. It was the first time in my life that I had an immediate and powerful emotional reaction to a song. It caught me by surprise – I got to listen to it for the first time without any expectations. To this day I get that same elation from my gut to the top of my head – a blissful swelling in my heart. This is also why I chose to walk down the aisle to this song. Everyone thought I was crazy, but on my wedding day, as I was walking towards the love of my life, I got to hear my favorite song and feel every possible positive feeling. To me it’s what love feels like.

“Do You Feel It?” Chaos Chaos [Spotify / YouTube]

This is a more recent discovery for me and it’s all because of a cartoon. I’m not kidding. One of the most emotional moments I’ve experienced in a TV show is when this song is playing at the end of season 2 episode 3 of Rick & Morty. It gets me every time. Do yourself a favor and watch that episode. Actually watch the whole series – it’s fantastic. There’s something special about the simplicity of the piano and the beat and how it builds. Maybe it’s only good after seeing that episode, but I really like this song. It makes me feel sad and happy all at once.

“Needle in the Hay”  [Spotify / YouTubeand “Between the Bars”  [Spotify / YouTubeElliot Smith

I’ll be honest – I was not into Elliot Smith when I first heard him. I think I was just in the wrong time in my life to appreciate him, but later, after watching The Royal Tenenbaums a bunch (that scene with Luke Wilson in the bathroom, ugh) I started to get it. After I started to like Needle in the Hay, I sought out more of Elliot Smith’s music. Of course he was already dead by then. But both of these songs are treasures. When you need a good cry, these songs on some headphones are the best thing. Also another Rick and Morty reference: this song is a perfect part of a joke in one of my favorite moments from the Tiny Rick episode. For those who don’t know: Rick is Summer and Morty’s grandpa and he’s a scientist and in this episode he has transmitted his consciousness into a younger version of his body and they call him Tiny Rick. He has a blast connecting with his grandkids but his teenager brain doesn’t think about consequences, so he doesn’t want to leave the younger body, but Morty and Summer know that he has to go back to his old man body, otherwise he’ll die. Summer uses Between the Bars to get Tiny Rick to stop wanting to be a teenager – it’s a perfect scene (watch it here!).

“Modern World” Wolf Parade [Spotify / YouTube]

This whole album by Wolf Parade was on repeat on my iPod Micro (light blue chrome – hell yeah) when I was in late high school. Specifically, I think it was the summer between junior and senior year that I listened to it a lot. I can pinpoint exactly what I love so much about this song: the bridge. It makes the hairs on my arms stand up (it’s around 1:23). I always turn it up at that point and can’t help singing along. It reminds me of carefree summers, driving around downtown Wheaton with my friends, going to get coffee and loiter around in the sunshine. A short and sweet little nugget of a song.

“My Last Hostage”  [Spotify / YouTubeand “Muscle Cars”  [Spotify / YouTubeThe Life and Times 

Whenever I’ve written about The Life and Times, I always reference My Last Hostage as being the track that got me hooked on them. It’s true. The crashy symbols, the dreamy vocals, the overall shoegaze-y feel. I love it. It’s catchy and unique. It took me longer to get into Muscle Cars, because honestly, I don’t like slow songs very much (ha! what is this playlist?). Once I saw it live though, it took on a whole other place in my world. If you get the chance to see The Life and Times live, do it. These songs will shake you down to your bones.

“Trailer Trash” Modest Mouse [Spotify / YouTube]

Listening to Modest Mouse takes me back to a specific point in time – when I was around 17 years old. A lot happened that year. I was starting to figure out who I thought I was. I began defecting from a lot of my past tastes. Discovering Modest Mouse through my friends and my job at the time was a turning point in my teenage identity phase (lol that was short lived). Even though they’re not on my day-to-day rotation anymore I still have a lot of nostalgia for Modest Mouse. It was hard to pick just one Modest Mouse song, but this one was usually at the top of my track order. It’s long, but worth every minute.

“Welcome Home, Son” Radical Face [Spotify / YouTube]

This is a song that I feel like would be on most people’s version of this list. I remember when it came out thinking that it was really special. I remember what the MySpace page looked like and everything. It didn’t take long for it to get old and the sound to become common, but I remember the first time I heard it build and fall – I was completely swept up in it. If I close my eyes when I listen to this song, I imagine myself riding in a car with the windows down on a sunny day passing by a forested area on a windy road. Today, Radical Face falls in the realm of “hipster nonsense” (thanks, Liz Lemon) but back then it was fresh and I was into it.

“Unaccompanied Cello Suite” Bach (performed by Yo-Yo Ma) [Spotify / YouTube]

The unaccompanied cello suite is one of the best Bach pieces ever. That’s my opinion, but it’s also in a lot of commercials and TV shows and movies, so I think it’s a safe bet to say that with confidence. Anyway, I played the cello for a few years, so I love cello-forward pieces. There’s no way I could’ve ever played this song unless I took on a different personality and was able to concentrate long enough to put in the hours to master it, but it’s definitely one of my favorite pieces of music. It also corresponds to a pivotal scene in The West Wing (another one of my favorite TV shows) so that just adds to the feelings. I like to close my eyes when I listen to it to really get wrapped up in how beautiful it is.

“Where Is My Mind?” Pixies [Spotify / YouTube]

Another song that’s probably on everyone’s list. Overplayed by anyone who has seen Fight Club and covered by every band ever. But I can’t deny that it still makes me feel feelings, even after all the exposure. Makes me want to get out my flannel and converse and hang out in a garage. I imagine everyone has a specific memory tied to this song too.

“All They Ever Do is Talk” Earlimart [Spotify / YouTube]

This song was also a TV discovery for me (you’re seeing a theme here), this time from Veronica Mars. I’ve watched the series at least five times all the way through, but I didn’t vibe on this song until the one of the last times I went through it. It’s a short scene and the music makes it much more powerful and it reminds me of other shoegaze songs that I like. As soon as I found out what it was, I listened to it over and over and it grew to be one of my go-tos for this type of playlist. It goes into my “rainy day drone-y stuff” playlist too, but it’s certainly a feelings-heavy song.

“Audience No. 2” Autolux [Spotify / YouTube]

Usually I’d say my favorite Autolux song is Turnstyle Blues or Blanket, but this isn’t a list of my favorite Autolux songs, this is a list of songs that make me feel feelings. When I first heard this song, it was the single from their first album in eight years. Fantastic Planet changed my life in its own way, and Transit Transit as an album is good, but Audience No. 2 on its own affected me more than both combined. It was the end of the summer before my first year of college. As soon as I heard it I was overcome. I had just moved to Chicago and it was the first time in my life I was living on my own. I had two roommates from high school who -it shortly became apparent- did not have anywhere near the mindset I did in the real world. Pretty soon it was like we were on different planets. I hadn’t felt that alone before, and this song felt like what the inside of my head sounded like. Dark and dreary, reality sinking in. But along with the deep drums and solemn chords, “suddenly I’m alright” became my own little anthem. It was there for me through my independence-developing, non-fake emotional stage — and thank god that only lasted a few months. I was on my feet eventually and moved on, but this song reminds me of the times that I wasn’t.

“If I Could Write”  [Spotify / YouTubeand “Reflecting Light”  [Spotify / YouTubeSam Phillips

These two songs are only important to me because of my favorite show of all time: Gilmore Girls. Two key scenes happen during these songs. Technically three now, since the Netflix revival. In case you didn’t know, Sam Phillips is the creator of the famous “la la la la la” bits throughout Gilmore Girls. I’ve liked If I Could Write for a while, it’s a beautiful song, but the scene where Rory is leaving for Europe is just perfect for it. Female acoustic acts can get a little boring, but I love a good subtle revenge anthem and this borders on that. Reflecting Light is special — it’s the first song Lorelai and Luke dance to, but since seeing the revival it nearly makes me burst into tears. It’s silly to feel so strongly for a fictional world but Gilmore Girls got me through so much and it holds a special place in my heart. Both of these songs are big emotional gets for me, even if they’re not usually the kind of music I listen to.

“Bradenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major” Bach [Spotify / YouTube]

My favorite Brandenburg Concerto: mainly for its cello part and how jaunty it is! When I was learning to play the cello this was one of the pieces we played in the school orchestra, and I had a really hard time with a certain measure of it. My (very very patient) cello tutor tried her best to get me to be able to play it, but I struggled, so she took my printed sheet music and wrote “section fudge pie” across the top of that measure to make it less scary. She told me to practice it over and over until I got section fudge pie right. So I went home and played that measure over and over and over until my arms and head hurt, but eventually, I got it. I had never worked on anything that hard in my life. To this day that measure symbolizes determination to me — even though I ended up messing it up when we played it in the school concert (but I’m pretty sure no one noticed since I was like last chair) I knew I had mastered it on my own and that was enough. I’d like to get it tattooed on me some day.

“I Can’t Wait” Star and Micey [Spotify / YouTube]

There’s something about stomps and claps that make a song feel more alive. This one has both, and the chorus is super catchy. Disclaimer: I know this band personally, but they’re so fantastic, I can’t not include them. I know enough bands IRL to make another post about them – but this is the only one I’ll add here because they’re the only ones on Spotify and I don’t want to discredit myself by stacking my blog with endorsements 🙂  but honestly, this song is so full of life and all of the reasons people like music. It makes us happy. It’s fun. This song is pure fun.

“Birdhouse in Your Soul” They Might Be Giants [Spotify / YouTube]

This song is important to me because I was almost born to it! The album Flood had just come out and as my mom was preparing for my due date, she picked it to bring with her to the hospital. I don’t know if they actually did bring it but didn’t listen to it or if they forgot it, but I still feel very connected to it. Knowing this about Birdhouse in Your Soul makes me feel like it was written for me — which is impossible, but this list is about how things *feel*. Plus it’s an upper and that’s important in a playlist full of emotional tracks. It felt appropriate to end on a high note.