Badabing first popped onto Wesleyan’s music scene during Halloweekend 2017 with a brand new batch of what they called “chuggy, surfy tunes baked fresh daily.” Their upbeat, ebullient collection of originals and covers grew over the course of the year, as they played more and more house shows across campus (all natives of New York City, the members of Badabing also played a private show in Manhattan over the summer and all contributed to the project Michelle). Back in March of last semester, I sat down with then-freshmen Jamee Lockard, Nick Catrambone, and Charlie Kilgore (Columbia Univ. ‘21) for a wholesome Usdan brunch. We discussed the upcoming release of their self-titled album, which, at long last (like this article) comes out on all platforms.
Aural Wes: You have a new EP coming out…
Nick Catrambone: We do! It’s like -- I don’t know what you’d call it. It’s like, seven songs.
AW: EP! Album? So how would you describe the vibe of the EP?
NC: Well, I think one thing that’s pretty cool about it is there are fast, intense, crazy songs and there are also kinda quieter songs -- a lot of the guitar chords are very jazzy, but it doesn’t really feel jazzy. There’s definitely a chugginess to it. It’s a sweet little album. Honestly, I think because we’re freshmen, there’s that naivete that goes into it.
AW: You’re a sweet little band.
NC: Yeah. Don’t quote me saying “naivete.” (laughs) But, yeah. Especially Jamee and Charlie, they’re just like sweet people. It definitely comes through in the music.
AW: At what point did you decide to make an album?
Charlie Kilgore: None of us [started] out with the intention of “yeah, this is what we’re gonna do.” (to Nick) You had recorded a couple things…
NC: Yeah, I think me, Charlie, and Jamee have all recorded like demo-y stuff, but it’s so different making something with two other people versus making something alone. I had no idea how to write drum parts or bass parts, so… (laughs) it’s helpful when there’s other people.
Jamee Lockard: I feel like we definitely wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t so convenient, having Red Feather on campus.
CK: Yeah, we recorded two songs in my room. One of the first times we all hung out, there was this very twee little song that me and Nick had been screwing around with, and we all decided to just throw together a demo in my room. And it sounded really good -- we were like, oh!
NC: (overlapping) This could be fun and sound really good.
CK: And it was also really nice outside. So we were recording, and there was a beautiful sunset… It was lush.
JL: It was one of those sunsets.
CK: That was the key. But yeah, it’s been really fun. And apart from playing drums and bass and guitar and all singing, we’ve also found other things in the [recording] process that we all enjoy doing.
NC: Yeah, I was never really into engineering or producing at all, and that’s totally something where I’m like, “this is so cool.”
CK: We’ll all hear different things, sometimes Jamee will do some one-off thing and I’ll be like, that’s the whole song. That’s what happened with “Bass Song.”
JL: It’s nice seeing the song grow. Since we’re a three piece set, there’s only so much you can do. But when we layer stuff on, like we can in a recording session, it’s nice hearing the take where you’re like, “that’s the one, that’s the one we’re keeping.”
AW: What’s it like putting together a band after just meeting each other?
JL: I met Nick, and then through Nick I met Charlie.
CK: Yeah, Nick was sorta the arbitrator.
JL: Social butterfly. (laughs)
CK: Yeah, really. In the first three days of school I kept seeing Nick everywhere. I could not seem to avoid him.
NC: I was following Charlie.
CK: I’d be in Usdan, he’d be right there. I’d be wandering around the Butts and he’d be there with a bunch of people. And then… I think one time he just he just heard me playing guitar in my room or something --
NC: Well you hit me up on Facebook, and then I saw your Bandcamp, and I was like, “oh my god, this kid makes really good music,” and then when I heard that Charlie plays drums, I was like, oh my god, like this kid is perfect! He has everything.
AW: You were like looking to recruit?
JL: (laughs) “I found the one.”
NC: And I had never heard Jamee play bass when I asked her to come jam with us, but I was like… well, one thing that Charlie said in the beginning which was smart was just that it’s all about the vibe. The vibe is everything, honestly.
NC: And… I like Jamee’s vibe.
JL: Thanks, Nick.
CK: Really glad we have your approval.
JL: Thanks. We were just chilling during the first week of school in the hallway in Westco. We were talking -- I don’t even remember what we were talking about. (gesturing to Nick) But he mentioned he played guitar, I mentioned I play bass, and you invited me to come jam with you guys, and I remember I was nervous because Katie Prael’s dad hyped [Charlie] up so much to me --
CK: He’s very… he exaggerates a lot.
JL: But then I ended up liking you guys, and like we said it’s all about the vibe, and I was like, yeah, I have the same philosophy about music. And at the end we were like, “Tropicalia?”
CK: No, that’s a fuckin’ terrible band name!
JL: And we were like, okay, but this is a band now. We’ll pick the name later.
NC: And then we picked Badabing.
CK: We didn’t really pick Badabing. We just couldn’t think of anything --
NC: It picked us.
JL: It picked us.
CK: Yeah, it came to us in a dream. No, it was just something -- you know, in your first couple weeks at college, you’re terrified and you don’t really know how to interact with people, and that was something I’d said a couple of times [in conversation]. Like, I had started saying it as a joke before I came to college and then when I came to college it kinda became a catchphrase accidentally.
AW: Like “bazinga”?
CK: Yeah, except less making me hate myself. So we’d been playing for a while and then we had a Red Feather session, and they were like, “okay, what are you guys called?” And we were like, “uhhhhh, yeah, let’s go with Badabing for now, that’s gonna be our placeholder name until we can think of something better.” And we’re still trying to think of something better.
JL: It kinda grew on us. I thought it was “buh-dabbing” at first. For a while. I was like “what’s a buh-dabbing?” (laughs)
AW: What’s it like being a freshman band? You’re kinda the only [all] freshmen band that performs at house shows on campus.
NC: It’s really awesome. One thing is the upperclassmen are so inclusive, and I feel like we’ve been taken under so many wings of various people. There’s all these people I really look up to and are inspirational to look at [and see] what I hope to achieve at Wesleyan in the music community. People who do Red Feather [Studio], WESU, who are in bands, who write the newspaper; [there are] all these people who do everything, and it’s like, ‘whoa. I need to do everything.’ And then -- the bands totally feed off each other in terms of style. There’s influence you can see from Barbara Shop and Flaccid Ashbacks. [They] make us want to rock out at more of our shows. Going into it, I didn’t really see us as a band [that would be] loud and fuckin, just, try to rock, and get people dancing and moving. I think that’s a thing [at Wes] -- you don’t see a lot of bands play quiet songs at shows. I don’t know, recently, it was super cool for us to see Goo open, because they’re a three-piece, and we’re a three-piece, and seeing what this group of seniors -- who are so much more talented -- seeing what they’re doing to make their three-piece more dynamic. We picked up so much from that. And finally, like, we’re competitive! All the bands are a little bit competitive, and when you go to a show and see these other bands fuckin kill it, you’re like, ‘fuck!’ Like fuck, we gotta go practice. I want to be as good as them. Everyone’s taking it so seriously.
JL: Yeah, it’s kinda fun! Our audience is mostly freshmen, so since we’re the only freshman band, people know who we are. It’s nice seeing so many people come. It’s nice having all that hype, I guess.
CK: It’s also nice to -- yeah, I don’t know! I’ve talked to friends of mine from high school who came to Wesleyan last year and none of them ever really mentioned, like, going to shows. So I feel like it’s nice to have the freshman contingent actually going to concerts. That’s really fun. But I don’t know, it’s also nice to feel like -- there have been a couple of bands who’ve referred to us as their baby brother band.
JL: Yeah. It’s really nice having older bands to look up to and being the only freshman band that gets their attention I guess. (all laugh) But I’m also excited to see what other freshmen do.
AW: What do you think is the future of the music scene in the freshman class?
JL: Ooh, I don’t know. There are so many talented musicians, but I honestly wouldn’t be able to guess who would collaborate with each other.
CK: I know there are -- I’ve just heard of like, a couple of people collaborating. I know there were sorta whispers of the whole Westco gang, like Franny [Flackett-Levin ‘21], Keizo [Fish ‘21], Jack [Kraus ‘21] doing stuff together. I don’t know, I’ve been playing a little with Keizo and Charlie Schine [‘20] which has been fun. I dunno.
JL: Are you doing bass on that or guitar?
CK: Bass. But… I don’t know if that’s the thing for me…
CK: I don’t know.
JL: You might not know this about Charlie, but he’s a very talented bassist. And piano player, and guitarist, and I’m probably forgetting an instrument. (laughs)
CK: Yeah, kazoo. I played jazz kazoo for eleven years.
JL: Music prodigy, a virtuoso. (all laugh)
CK: Good Morning Connecticut all had kazoos at their show, that was fucking crazy!
JL: Yeah, because at the program housing fair, Music House was passing out kazoos. So I think because Cal [Mirowitz ‘20] and Will [Jacobson ‘20] live there. Will had them, so they used them.
CK: I just want to be Cal Mirowitz when I grow up. That’d be so fuckin’ cool. He’s really hot as well. Definitely put that in the interview.
JL: Wait, what was the question? (laughs) Oh, freshman bands. It’s fun, yeah!
CK: It is fun. It also feels like… I don’t know.
JL: It’s fun having done so much in such a short period of time, because you can really look back and be like, wow, we just formed a few months ago and we’ve done--
CK: A lot.
JL: A bunch of shows, made an EP…
CK: (overlapping) We’ve recorded like, five songs out of seven and played, like, five shows.
JL: We have a bunch of songs that are written, we just haven’t gotten to recording or even performing. Like “Open A.”
CK: Yeah. We haven’t named any of our songs.
JL: Oh, we don’t name our songs! It’s really a problem. We have “New Original,” “Open A”...
CK: “Bass Song,” “Beach Song”...
JL: I think that might be the name. Or “Drive to the Beach.” “Jamee’s Song,” like, none of our songs have names!
CK: There was “F Song” which we played for a while, but we kinda retired “F Song.”
AW: And F is based on a chord?
CK: Yeah. It was the song that was in F.
JL: Usually we just do the key that it’s in.
AW: (laughs) “Open A”...
CK: Yeah, because that’s the only song that’s in a different tuning for guitar… As well as being a freshman band, I feel like we’re also the -- not in, like, how serious we are about the music, but just in terms of our vibe, I feel like we’re the most lighthearted band.
JL: Yeah, I feel like we’re very loosey-goosey, like chillax, have a good time, mosh if you want to…
CK: Yeah… since we’re also all freshmen it feels like, I dunno -- like, at the Goo show I was like, in awe, but I was like, here are all these cool upperclassmen dancing and I don’t want to get in the way of their shit.
JL: I think our name also reflects our vibe -- “Badabing.”
AW: Rolls off the tongue.
CK: We just make silly, fun music.
JL: Yeah. We’re also collectively silly people, just doing silly things.
If you want more from Badabing, their debut album is out now on all streaming platforms.
Cousin Luke; the project of Meg West (’19), with contributions by Jake Rogers (’19), Sam Dewees (’19), Jack Kraus (’21), Alice Goldberg (’19), and Adam Manson (’19); released a self-titled 4-track EP earlier this month to satisfy the appetite of students hungry for New Wes Sounds. Each track on the EP, which clocks in at a little over 12 minutes total, combines laid-back strumming with memorable hooks and lo-fi charm reminiscent of indie songwriters like (Sandy) Alex G, Snail Mail, and Soccer Mommy.
The first track, “Snooze,” is a melancholy ode to sleeping in that blends an upbeat yet dreamy melody with catchy lyrics like “Wake me so I don’t sleep away / My whole damn life” that are anything but lethargic. Throughout “Snooze,” there is a yearning for change - “Think I’ll pivot now / To diversify” - that is never necessarily acted upon, but the track ends on an uplifting note with a breezy guitar solo.
“Split” continues with the same mid-tempo guitar and the lyrics are vague but evocative, posing questions like “Am I asking for too much?” and “Am I getting greedy?” that contrast the EP’s general quietude. The pleasant melody is strikingly similar to Yo La Tengo’s “My Heart’s Not In It” with its gentle guitar strumming and subtle twang.
Like “Snooze,” “Sick” captures a relatable feeling of grogginess and disillusioned emptiness that becomes increasingly harder to shake off no matter what you do. Cousin Luke really draw on their 90s alt-rock sensibilities in this track, and the song closes with an echoing sound-effect that brings to mind the sound of wind you hear through the window on a cold day when all you want to do is stay inside.
The closing track, “A.D.D.”, copes with these feelings of apathy by instilling a sense of hope. There is an emotional weight and assuredness embedded in the vocals, reflected in firm assertions like “Forget it / I’m off it” and “Shut up / You’re drunk” that add variety to the EP’s hazy vocals. “A.D.D” reminds us that amidst these feelings of malaise, it’s possible to ground yourself and look ahead: “Wherever you go, I won’t follow / Do it on my terms, so why bother?”
The arrangements on Cousin Luke’s self-titled EP are relatively simple, yet each track showcases emotionally eloquent songwriting and a clean tone that is impressive and endearing; the EP is long enough to keep us full, but short enough to keep us wanting more.
Like a season of High Maintenance or that one episode of Master of None, MICHELLE’s debut album HEATWAVE is a love letter to NYC; “more like a collection of stories than one overarching narrative.” MICHELLE is the project of Charlie Kilgore and Julian Kaufman, with vocals and songwriting courtesy of Jamee Lockard, Layla Kuriloff, Isa Reyes, Sofia D’Angelo, Emma Lee, Rix Chan, and Aidan Ludlam. Claiming to be more than just another bedroom pop project, MICHELLE spent two summer weeks crafting the songs on HEATWAVE in Julian’s bedroom, just after finishing their first year at college. Within each track, MICHELLE captures “snapshots of youth in a New York summer, all immediately recognizable to those who’ve lived them.”
The opening track “GET OFF UR PHONE” is a criticism of our generation’s obsession with phones that doesn’t come off as stodgy or distant. The track embodies the frustration of someone whose date won’t get off Snapchat, or the oddness of organizing your social life around group chats. The song addresses our age’s uneasiness with social media, like its creepiness—“don’t show your location, keep it to yourself”—and rejects its artificiality: “tryin’ to get connected, I don’t need no Wi-Fi.” The track’s subtle orchestration fits the song perfectly - a melody like a dial tone repeats throughout the piece; “hello, hello” echoes quietly in the background.
Romance courses through HEATWAVE in songs like “LOVE UR NAME” and “STUCK ON U”, albeit in different forms. “LOVE UR NAME” is sweet and ballad-y, about that moment you admit you like someone and hope they feel the same. “STUCK ON U”, the catchiest song on the album, is a clever ode to summertime in the city, smoothly drawing comparisons between a summer fling and New York: “Wish I could say goodbye but no, I’m stuck on you.” It’s not strictly a love song - more like a love/hate song, with complaints like having “only satellites to wish upon”. The track combines electronic beats with jazzy piano riffs that sound deceptively simple. It could have gone on a minute longer. Be sure to check out the music video for “STUCK ON U”, which was filmed, directed, edited, and animated by Aural Wes’ Manny Unger.
HEATWAVE embodies feelings wrapped up in a time and place, instead of a clear storyline. “IDEAL” feels like a fever dream, opening as wishful thinking about the ‘ideal’ summer fling: “Kissin’ by the fountain in the moonlight”. Sweet, right? Abruptly it shifts to a weirder version of an escapist fantasy, featuring a sound bite of someone rejecting the rat race to join the rats. It’s bizarre and just odd enough to jolt you out of the smooth dreamlike quality of the rest of the album.
Overall, HEATWAVE tracks span a wide stylistic area without losing the overarching feel of the record. “MANGO” has a sexy, bossa nova vibe, while “THE BOTTOM” would fit in as dance pop, and you could find “KIP” playing at a jazz club. In other words, the album defies strict genre categorization, surprising you in each track with an attractive mix of electronic and acoustic instrumentation.
-Irene Westfall and Allison Hsu
Summer is officially over, but before we break out the corduroy and pumpkin-flavored beverages, Aural Wes looks back at our favorite albums from summer 2018: Yes, the pics ARE hyperlinked :)
Mitski - Be the Cowboy
Mitski’s 5th album Be the Cowboy creates a cutting sense of heartbreak embedded with raw musical power. Could we expect anything less? The first single off the album, “Geyser” reminded us immediately of Mitski’s ability to develop a deeply emotional musical experience in just 2 and a half minutes of her haunting voice backed by garage-rocky instrumentals. “Nobody,” showed an unexpectedly poppy side to Mitski with 70’s disco vibes and a hypnotic yet catchy chorus. My favorite song on the album, “Old Friend” was nostalgic and heart-wrenching, a beautiful homage to the solace of diners. Overall, Be the Cowboy was a wonderfully listenable album, perfectly combining her indie-rock sensibilities with her powerful ballad-ready voice.
Parquet Courts - Wide Awaaaaake!
Parquet Courts weren’t always the extra-political, eccentric punk band with soft-rock sensibilities that they are now. Their first record was filled with abrasive Ramones-inspired tunes that made up for a lack of melody with a ferocious intensity and a jangly guitar sound that managed to evoke the arid landscapes of their Texas beginnings. Fast forward 5 years and they’re working with legendary producer Danger Mouse on an album that sounds like the first compelling statement of the contemporary state of punk since…..Jay Reatard?? The tunes sound great, due in large part to the nimble bass-work—at times reminiscent of the glorious dance-punk DFA Records was putting out in the ‘00s—as well as the versatility the band showcases throughout the record. But in interviews leading up to the record’s release, singer Andrew Savage said that the songwriting was informed to a large extent by the harsh and unidealized themes on the album, which I think really sets this apart from the pack this year. Even on tracks like “Before the Water Gets Too High”, the lyrics are portraying a grave state of affairs—namely, the rapid onset of climate change—and chiding the political elite for their complicity. It may sound more like a dub-inspired haze than a punk song, but it carries the torch of punk music far better than most do [Bad Brains would be proud, i think]. The new “punk” is drawing attention to the manifold oppressions in society, while at the same time mocking those who think themselves high-minded for being aware of these social injustices, which the band does hilariously on the album’s title track.
Wide Awake! is truly a contemporary punk album too, an album filled with the existential dread of late capitalism and consequently, a mix of anger and restlessness. The boys of Parquet Courts have read the stats, watched the news, and seen the people around them succumb to the cruel forces of urban life; they know how absolutely screwed we are as a society. The reaction to this somber revelation often amounts to anger (“Almost Had to Start a Fight”), or sometimes a forceful call to action (“Total Football”), but it always leads to songs with something to say, which is why the melodies and riffs are on-point throughout the duration of the record. You certainly can’t write a song like “Total Football” without a subject matter as grandiose as the need for a massive, liberatory revolution against the powers that be (as well as a staunch anti-Tom Brady stance that we can all surely get on board with). Parquet Courts are not singling themselves out when they say “we are conductors of sound, heat, and energy”; this is a characterization of the working class, the everyday person, the power of collective action, and it’s clear that these crucial themes awaken a level of songwriting prowess not seen before from PC.
KIDS SEE GHOSTS - S/t
June saw the release of a seven track self-titled album by Kids See Ghosts, a project from the minds of Kanye West and Kid Cudi. KSG is as easy to listen to as it is deeply emotional. This intensity comes as no surprise to longtime listeners of both Kanye and Cudi—and neither does the clear distinction of stylistic differences. Nonetheless, the product synthesizes their best elements damn near perfectly. It’s impressive how this album balances the artists’ talents. Cudi’s signature sounds and delivery do more than hold up to Kanye’s raw power and sampling; they make it better.
Kids See Ghosts debuted a mere week after the release of ye. This was just the beginning of a Kanye-heavy summer, packed with heavy production and passion running high. KSG is, by design, in conversation with ye—in fact, “Freeee (Ghost Town Pt. 2)” is a direct parallel of “Ghost Town,” off of ye. The two share not only a title, but several production patterns. No surprise, as Cudi is actually featured on “Ghost Town.” A standout track for me is “Reborn,” a brief respite from the general ominous tone of the album. Speaking of movin’ forward, I can’t wait to see what the duo churns out next—I expect to see it sooner than later.
Blood Orange - Negro Swan
On Negro Swan, Blood Orange (Dev Hynes) delves into his own self in a redefined manner. The record ranks as the #1 “riding the bus home in August” set of tracks, perfect for a late night in the summer. Hynes takes an introspective take on this newest album, stressing his own insecurities, hinting towards his depression and childhood turmoil. In its completeness, Hynes’s album is genuine like no other; it makes a statement in veering from the stereotype of how black male musicians are so often portrayed in hip-hop and R&B. Instead, Blood Orange’s newest work is exposed, cohesive, and heartfelt. In addition, Negro Swan marks Hynes’s first use of features on his albums. Hynes’s guests are not exactly “underground”; he impressively features Diddy and A$AP Rocky on “Hope” and “Chewing Gum,” respectively.
Negro Swan does many things right--it can be praised for its rhythmic mastery, variety of instruments and sounds, contemplative thought, and its soft nature (among other things). Most of all, Blood Orange’s lyrical prowess stands out; he traces his album with beautifully-thoughtful verses: “Sixteen-year old boy/To feel so numb it’s deafening,” Hynes sings on “Orlando”. On “Charcoal Baby,” he writes “No one wants to be the odd one out at times/No one wants to be the negro swan/Can you break sometimes,” diving into personal issues with his outward persona. His album is interwoven with the words of Janet Mock, a transgender writer and activist. The track “Family” features Mock responding to the question of ‘what family is,’ responding that she “think[s] of family as community”...“I think of the spaces where you don't have to shrink yourself/Where you don't have to pretend or to perform/You can fully show up and be vulnerable.” Timely, political, and contemplative, Negro Swan tells the story of Blood Orange’s own hardships and the vulnerability inherent to his musical and personal identity.
Snail Mail - Lush
Snail Mail’s debut album Lush was a summer album appropriate for multiple occasions, whether you felt a little somber or were looking for contagious guitar instrumentals appropriate for bopping around with friends. Lindsey Jordan takes her listeners through a painful romance with “green eyes.” In “Pristine,” she expresses anger over parties, weekend after weekend, with her significant other, feeling looked over and asking in her chorus, “Don’t you like me for me?” In “Heat Wave” and “Stick” she continues to express frustration. “Green eyes” cannot commit to Jordan like Jordan commits to her. In “Full Control,” she realizes that love should never be this frustrating. She chooses to love herself instead of waiting for someone to love her back.
On the surface, Lush may sound like another album about teenage love and angst, but Jordan clearly demonstrates that she is a strong-willed, passionate, nineteen year old female indie rocker who can convey profound emotion and supply strong instrumentals. Keep it coming, Lindsey!
Teyana Taylor - K.T.S.E.
“I want my name to be a household product.”
Prior to the release of K.T.S.E. (short for Keep That Same Energy), I had not heard of Teyana Taylor despite her being featured on one of my all-time favorite albums, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. K.T.S.E. sets itself apart from the other albums in Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. summer series with its soulful R&B sounds (reminiscent of Old Kanye).
In many of her songs, Taylor sings about love, sexuality, and vulnerability, and her airy vocals are interspersed with signature Kanye samples. The combination of laser pew pew pew noises and samples from GQ’s “I Do Love You” in “Issues/Hold On” especially stand out, as well as the strings that accompany Taylor’s powerful verses in “Rose in Harlem”. The highlight of K.T.S.E., however, is the closing track “WTP” which hearkens back to the 1980s Harlem ballroom scene, sampling dialogue from the documentary Paris is Burning and Ellis D.’s classic “Work This Pussy”.
While there are some more disappointing moments in the album (“3Way” is easily skippable and Kanye’s verse in “Hurry” is cringeworthy to say the least), Taylor describing her partner’s premature ejaculation in “Hurry” as “rocket-rocket-rocket-rocket ship blast like it’s Jimmy Neutron” makes it all worth it.
Father John Misty - God’s Favorite Customer
Father John Misty’s newest album, God’s Favorite Customer, features the haunting melodies, folky accompaniment, and smooth crooning we’ve come to expect from him. This album, inspired by Tillman’s struggles with depression, often strikes a self-deprecating, brutally honest tone about the tolls that mental illness takes on him and his relationships. A good example of this, “Please Don’t Die” alternates between Tillman’s and his wife’s perspective narrating the lyrics. As he realizes the effect his depression and suicidal ideation has on her, she begs him, “please don’t die.” She doesn’t go easy on him, either (or he doesn’t go easy on himself, considering that he’s really writing this): “Oh my god, you’re so naive / You’ll leave this world in a drunken heave / Who’ll make the arrangements, baby, them or me?” This subtle lyric, referring to Tillman’s own funeral arrangements, is Father John Misty at his most morbid and clever.
If you’re in a lighter mood, try listening to “Disappointing Diamonds Are the Rarest of Them All” for some comically unorthodox metaphors about love (“like a pervert on a crowded bus / this glare of love bears down on me”); or “Mr. Tillman”, which was inspired by the two months Tillman spent in a hotel writing this album and losing his mind. (This one’s pretty dark, too, come to think of it.)
Despite the overall quality of God’s Favorite Customer, it has a few shortcomings. Father John Misty remains stuck in his own head - gone is the political commentary prevalent in Fear Fun (2012), his best album to date (in my humble opinion). In that same vein, the album lacks contrast - each song has, at most, a soft-rock feel, but nothing you could swing your hips to. So if you want to chill out and commiserate about life’s struggles, let Father John Misty’s gorgeous melodies sweep you away.
The Internet - Hive Mind
Hive Mind is like the irresistible, suavé individual you see on the other side of the room at a party. The piece steals the show for the #1 “on the way to the party” album of Summer 2018. The Internet’s fourth studio record marks a progression for the band’s discography towards a new type of sound, one that will serve as a guide for the group’s predecessors. This album is undeniably sexy; it has beats that will make you want to dance in an elevator, lyrics from Syd and Steve Lacy that will make you want sing to a mirror, and guitar solos from Patrick Paige II that will make you want to do nothing else but pick up an air guitar with your friends.
In 2017 and 2018, members of The Internet took some time off to work on their own projects. Syd introduced us to her world with Fin, Steve Lacy made love to our headphones with Steve Lacy’s Demo, Matt Martians got funky on The Drum Chord Theory, Patrick Paige II explored his soulful voice on Letters of Irrelevance, and Christopher Smith did ...something... on LOUD. After the release of these masterful, soul-finding projects, The Internet’s comeback is syncopated and smoother than any record the band had produced prior.
Hive Mind gets rolling with the gentle chords of bass and Syd’s breathtaking voice on “Come Together.” The band displays itself with a newfound confidence from the get-go: the members construct a jazzy beat on “Roll (Burbank Funk),” followed by the seducing pleas of Syd on “Come Over,” and a classic groovy hit on “La Di Da” where Steve Lacy confesses that he “just came to dance/I’m on the move.” The album takes a moody turn with “Stay the Night,” where Syd dips into her gentle self, continuing into the feel of a softly-lit bedroom scene. “Bravo,” “Mood,” and “Next Time/Humble Pie” continue in a melodramatic, post-breakup trend, revealing the more vulnerable side of Hive Mind. “It Gets Better (With Time)” escapes from the mid-album funk and takes on a stronger, powerful persona that segues into the memorable beats on “Look What U Started.” “Wanna Be” acts as a stabilizing interlude before the album finishes on a loud, self-assured note with “Beat Goes On” and “Hold On”. The final songs of the album reiterate the ultimate cohesive and multi-faceted boldness that has become inherent to the sound of The Internet. Hive Mind marks the successful collaboration of five wildly talented individuals reuniting after some time alone. Most importantly, it will make your pregame.
Real Friends - Composure
Composure, the third album from Chicago-based pop-punk band Real Friends, is arguably the band’s most progressive and most musically evolved release. The album comes about a year after lead singer Dan Lambton suddenly took time off from the band to focus on himself as his struggles with bipolar disorder continued to worsen. Composure highlights many of the trials Dan faced, ranging from anxiety, loneliness, and losing loved ones, as well as how his bandmates reacted to Dan’s mental illness. Overall, the lyrics on this album are more mature than previous albums and EPs, and the songs demonstrate the healing process for those struggling with mental illness. Composure also differs from other Real Friends releases as there are no slow songs on the 32 minute album.
For me, the song that sticks out the most is “Get By”. This song in particular highlights the high times of Dan’s life and how he truly felt that writing and getting back into music helped him work through his conflicts. The song is the happiest on the album and a good contrast to many of the other songs. I had the privilege of seeing Real Friends live on the day the album was released. I bought a signed copy of the CD from the guys in the band, and heard many of the new songs performed for the first time. The album is amazing live, and when mixed with songs from older albums, makes for an incredible live performance. Give this album a listen!
Joey Dosik - Inside Voice
You really can’t beat Joey Dosik and a piano. Dosik’s first album Inside Voice is a perfect contemporary take on the full spectrum of soul, with notes of gospel, R&B, and everything in-between. Best known for his collaborations as songwriter and instrumentalist with neo-funk group Vulfpeck (and for being a nice guy), Dosik’s smooth vocals and groovy melodies shine through in his solo work. His music exemplifies the art of minimalist funk arrangements with big nods to the traditional soul of Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding, but still presents a modern twist, all of which will draw in fans old and new.
Title track “Inside Voice” is undoubtedly sultry and dreamy, driven by snapping fingers and a fantastic string section. Dosik draws from more aspects of pop with duet “Don’t Want It to Be Over,” which completely makes you want to get in a cheesy dance battle with your ex in a mid-century modern apartment. The piano riff in “In Heaven” is irresistibly bright and bouncy, whereas ballads “Grandma Song” and “Emergency Landing” slow things down with beautifully stripped down arrangements. No one’s complaining with the album’s conclusion, the fifth version of “Game Winner,” one of Dosik and Vulfpeck’s most popular tracks. Joey Dosik brings innovative and suave musicianship to the field with Inside Voice for a great debut album.
Playboi Carti - Die Lit
On the surface, Playboi Carti may seem to be your run-of-the-mill, mindless trapper. He exudes the same sort of bottomless braggadocio with which his contemporaries have stumbled through the doors of pop culture. Coming up through A$AP Rocky and various other connections following his move to New York City, Jordan Carter made his breakthrough with the hypnotic “Magnolia”, a swerving, trance-inducing ballad of drug-running and self-pronouncements akin to everything else we have heard from the rap world throughout the past 25 years. However, if we abandon judgement just long enough to listen to “Long Time - Intro,” the first track on Die Lit, then we see why Playboi Carti is the enigmatic genius that he is. His flows, his interplay with the woozy beats of Pierre Bourne, the sheer bravery to utter a line like “I fuck yo bitch like a tick”, everything about him, all make for a wildly enjoyable album filled with one-liners, and beats made for jumping off a building, just like the album cover. “Choppa Don’t Miss” with Young Thug is rapid and wistful, “RIP” makes me want to through my self through a burning building, and “Fell in Luv” makes me want to marry myself and then divorce myself. In sum, Die Lit is an album not made to be experienced through an album review.
Aminé - ONEPOINTFIVE
REVIEWFORYOU: Aminé is a GENIUS when it comes to his career, hear me out. He turned his one hit wonder “Caroline” into a legitimate career with savvy song drops culminating in GOODFORYOU, an album filled with equal parts artistry and songs that slap. Despite clearly trending towards songs with meaning, Aminé is very aware that bangers hold an audience. ONEPOINTFIVE, the EPLPMixtapeAlbum, is meant to fulfill that desire. It is a halfway point between GOODFORYOU and whatever well-crafted project comes next (it’s right there in the name). The album is playful, narrated by comedian Rickey Thompson, and relies heavily on sharp trap beats. The introductory track, “DR. WHOEVER,” bares his soul while also spinning a ironic, bouncy hook. “These intros ain’t meant to be bangers,” Aminé says, but the song still bangs. The album continues on the same wave, not faltering, but also not going anywhere. “REEL IT IN,” the album’s high point (and is still charting), comes as the third track and causes all the tracks following to appear low-energy in comparison (they’re not).
None of this is to say that Aminé’s new album is bad. It is certainly not. Full of playlist-perfect songs, it does EXACTLY what it is supposed to do (slap). See it as something to hold you over for whatever Grammy-competitive body of work he is sure to put out. If you only like Aminé for music in the vein of “Caroline,” this is album is for you more than anybody else; savor it.
Aminé is a king. Know how to pronounce his name: AH-MEEN-AY
The National - Boxer Live in brussels
This spring, The National released a live performance of their classic album Boxer in celebration of its tenth anniversary. But while Live in Brussels was nothing new, a front-to-back recording of an album I've listened to dozens of times, it provoked in me a nostalgic, self-reflective joy, one categorically different from the kind of intensely current pleasure you might expect in a list like this. Boxer was one of the first albums I really listened to, and it defined its era in indie-rock. But in a culture of innovation and originality, when indie music has seemingly moved on to more experimental and subgenre-specific sounds, listening to Boxer in 2018 feels almost anachronistic. Like albums of the time by The Shins or Arcade Fire, it is a product of a bygone musical era. However, the value of Live in Brussels lies not in its newness but in its ability to evoke the individual and collective memories that listeners bring to it. The National was among the first bands I really loved, from my initial exploration beyond my dad's library, when I was discovering what music really meant to me. What live or studio re-releases do is resurrect both cultural and personal histories to be relived and reexamined, and for that Live in Brussels doesn't have to be new or different, it just has to be.
Tony Molina - Kill the Lights
“Kill The Lights” is simultaneously a very traditional and an unorthodox album. This is an album that draws influence from a time when melodies reigned supreme, from familiar sources like 60’s power pop and 90’s sad rock (think the Byrds or Elliott Smith) - with songs that already feel, on first listen, like classics you grew up on. Except the 10 track album clocks in at a bare 14 minutes. Tony Molina distinguishes himself through brevity - songs average just over 1 minute, but are so finely, and so delicately crafted that they whiz by in no time. And while some tracks may admittedly read as Byrds rip-offs (extremely faithful ones at that), others are actually quite progressive in their cute little 2 minute runtimes. Because the songs are so short, all parts of each feel essential—tracks somehow hit highs and lows within this mini timeframe, and manage to stay impactful and emotional throughout.
Pusha T - DAYTONA
Compact, succinct, vicious. That is Pusha T’s Daytona. A seven-track track, 21-minute project entirely produced by Kanye West, Daytona proves that Pusha T is one of the most underrated, clever and economical rappers in the game. Despite being his shortest album to date, Daytona is saturated with the most drug references of any album in Pusha T’s career and despite luxury drug rap being Pusha’s domain, songs like “The Games We Play” raise the bar considerably. On this song he raps,
Oven's full of cakes that he bakes, still spreadin' paste // The love just accentuates the hate // This is for my bodybuildin' clients movin' weight // Just add water, stir it like a shake
Not a single word is wasted on Daytona from Pusha’s part and Kanye’s production matches, with its hard and gritty simplicity; from the harsh guitars on “Games We Play,” to the ominous and cinematic piano on “Hard Piano,” to the spare 808 on “Come Back Baby,” Kanye’s production matches Pusha’s focus perfectly.
There are no bad songs on this project, but the highlights include “Games We Play,” “Come Back Baby,” and “Santeria”. Although much of the buzz surrounding this project might have been due to Pusha’s beef with Drake, this album stands by itself in launching Pusha T back into the spotlight as one of the best rappers in the game.
-Nathan Baron Silvern
Drake - Scorpion
It’ll be a while before I forget the night this summer when some NYU kid I barely knew announced to my apartment that Drake’s Scorpion dropped as he swiftly hijacked the aux for a rather forced impromptu listening party. Not that I minded too much at first. I’m done with hating Drake. There’s no point in fighting it. He’s like a force of nature. Accept it. Give into it. Maybe sometimes you’ll love it.
Things heated up when “God’s Plan” came around, a song that had already run its course through most people’s listening cycles at this point. I had almost forgotten about it—at least enough to not expect it on the album. When it came on, I suddenly felt like a kid whose parents took him for a surprise trip to Toys R Us.
In my moment of childlike joy, our nameless NYU Drake elitist decided to air his grievances with the song which he found to be overrated. I’m not one to say people’s music tastes are wrong. But he was definitely not correct. “God’s Plan” is a banger. It hits where it should. It doesn’t go on too long. And it’s got enough variation to keep the listener engaged.
The same cannot be said for the rest of the album. After realizing how long the album was (around when we got to the B-side and our focus began to drift and every song we thought was the last song somehow was not) we promptly gave up. It wasn’t until later that week that I finished it.
Scorpion is a haystack with more than a few needles. Jump in. Find the needles you can. Get out. Some of my favorite Drake songs are on this album, and they provide me with really fun listening even a couple months out. Maybe it’s not the best album, but it doesn’t pretend to be. It’s like a stupidly long diner menu. There’s something there for everyone, but some of it is definitely not safe to eat.
All that being said: Drake will never get better than Houstatlantavegas…
Declan Moy-Bishow’s (‘19) music is straight out of a late 1950s Florida nightclub. With shiny guitar licks, Buddy-Holly-Harmonies, and those funny little intermediary song sections where the singer speaks directly to the listener, this is classic surf-rock, but with a modern, grungey, East-Coast twist. This is Ace & The Gulls latest album, GET IT OUT.
Declan, who is an all-around crazily creative person (he’s an illustrator for Lucid Color, and created the album’s wild cover, and though he plays drums for A&G, can also get on the guitar, keyboard, and air organ,) formed the band in his Freshman year at Beacon High School, Queens.
Declan: Right before a high-school Battle of the Bands we decided to name ourselves Ace & The Gulls. It was between that and The French Guyana, and the Lonely Geisha. My mom wouldn’t let me do that one. We were called ‘The Gulls" for a long time. Over the years there have been 6 members, but now it’s boiled down to 3. Andy on guitar, Declan, me, on drums, and Matt on the bass. Andy and myself do vocals. And sometimes Matt, kinda like Y in the alphabet.
Aural Wes: where’d the Ace come from?
D: Matt had a bass strap with a bunch of playing cards on it, and I said, “you can’t wear that.” So we started calling him Ace. We used to be really strict about performing. We would only wear white button down shirts, jeans, and play fender guitars. I suppose we loosened up. Later on, we’d play with my dad’s old band. He plays the drums, like me, or I like him. They had this reunion in my senior year, and we played a couple shows. It was bizarre.
AW: What’s your dad’s band?
D: They’re called The Mosquitoes. Their sound definitely influenced us. They were into Early Beatles stuff.
You can clearly hear those early rock n’ roll influences in GET IT OUT, but on second listen, there’s also a clear nod to 90s and early-2000s grunge, and A&G’s lyricism strives for more than anything on albums like Twist & Shout. Take the fourth song on GET IT OUT, "Love a Girl". From the title to the jingly upbeat guitar and shaker, as well as the fun dancey lyrics (feels like I’m dancing/I wanna stand still/but I can’t ever with you,) this song could just be 50s esque cover. But halfway through the song (which are all around 2 minutes, in classic early vinyl LP fashion,) the minor power chords get a little heavier, the lead a little more ghostlike, and the lyrics much darker: "kill, me, now/right now/surfing on weeknights/I’m watching their lives/and I can’t figure it out at all." But then it jumps right back into a poppy rhyme: "when I’m in the clouds/you bring me down now." The incongruities between innocence and alienation are starkly juxtaposed, with just one line between “kill, me, now” and “surfing on weeknights,” perhaps in an effort to show how close the two feelings really are, like the inseparable mega-highs and torturous lows of an adolescent crush.
This isn’t to say that GET IT OUT is trying to be all commentary. Songs like Do the Gull and She’s So Cool are fun, bouncy, and consciously not serious. During She’s So Cool’s final repeated choruses, we hear, “she plays laser tag… she’s from Staten Island… she let me hold her pet snake.”
My favorite tune is definitely "Ten O’ Nine," with its folky, Simon & Garfunkel feel and rising harmonies. The lyrics aren’t complicated, and they don’t seem to be about anything in particular, but they excellently convey the feeling of a day idly passing out of your hands, some strange melancholy stuck in your head like a catchy song, just staring out the window. And I love its sad final lines: nice guy/he said goodbye/he messed me up, he messed me up, he messed me up.
AW: Why’s it called GET IT OUT?
D: Because we had to get an album out. Or it might be because of all that kooky stuff in your brain, and you gotta get it out. Isn’t that how it works?
AW: and the album artwork, what’s that all about?
D: It’s influenced by Yuichi Yokoyama. Yuichi taught me everything. The two guys wearing sunglasses are me and Andy, and then the chopstick walking clowns are maybe the ideal Ace & The Gulls. Are we looking over there, or to the future?
AW: does A&G have plans for the future?
D: I have no. Make some more songs. Tour, with our parents.
Declan is playing an acoustic set at Outhouse on Friday February 23rd, 7-8pm. He’ll be playing some songs from GET IT OUT, as well as some other cool tunes too.
- Ezra Kohn '19
Porch | pôrCH | (noun) a covered shelter projecting in front of the entrance of a building
Nat and Allison review the Wesleyan porches you know and love.
- Columns definitely compensating for something
- Still a great porch though (we are biased, we live here)
- There is a swing!
- Spacious and functional
- Might be a deck
- Jake Abraham said this was his favorite porch
- Somewhat questionable furniture
Center for the Americas
- Yellow. Good.
- "Only porch I've ever thrown up on." —Allison
- The best columns at Wesleyan University
- Our favorite porch!
M. Roth's house
- Nice but pretentious
If 2016 was the year of “realizing stuff”, 2017 was certainly the year of transformation. Streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music transformed the music landscape by making new music more readily available than ever. The rise of Bandcamp and Soundcloud have made it possible for up-and-coming artists to release their music to the masses without the need for record labels. 2017 was not an easy year, as the music scene was rocked by an unpredictable political climate and allegations of sexual assault and harassment (a cultural moment that was difficult yet necessary), but some of our favorite artists dropped surprise releases that kept the year interesting, to say the least. Kendrick Lamar got political and took on Fox News and the Trump administration on his fourth LP, DAMN. Lorde made evident her status as pop’s poet laureate on her second album Melodrama. The California-based boyband BROCKHAMPTON dropped not one, not two, but three new albums in one year. The indie rock scene was dominated by female and non-binary performers like Vagabon, Jay Som, Girlpool, and Adult Mom.
Here were our favorite albums of 2017.
Every so often an album comes around that mirrors my emotions and sparks self-reflection—this was Lorde’s Melodrama. A stellar sophomore follow up, it is no surprise Melodrama affected me this way. The honest way in which she describes life after ending a long-term relationship is universal. Songs such as “Writer in the Dark”,” “Supercut,” and “Green Light” speak to adapting to such a dramatic life change and the reality of letting go. Contrastingly, “Sober,” “Homemade Dynamite,” and “Perfect Places” celebrate this rebirth, highlighting and challenging the way in which we move on. My favorite track, however, is “Liability.” With this ballad, Lorde shares a fear many of us have—being “too much” for those in our lives. With “Liabilty,” Lorde gets me. The production on the album is also to be noted. With Lorde, Jack Antonoff masterfully expands upon traditional pop sounds, pushing musical boundaries to reflect deep emotions.
St. Vincent’s MASSEDUCTION challenges pop music in a similar way. A reflection of letting go and being left, with MASSEDUCTION Annie Clark doesn’t try to top previous albums but turns inward, bravely expressing her vulnerabilities. From an emotional perspective, this album feels closer to St. Vincent’s audience than her previous albums, but she achieves this feat without sacrificing the glamorous style for which she is known. Annie Clark is a talented songwriter and guitarist and MASSEDUCTION is a display of her artistic growth.
Tyler, the Creator’s Flower Boy had a lot of hype and it lived up to the hype. A testament to personal and artistic growth, each track on Flower Boy is a banger, but they also explore themes such as isolation, youth, and contemplation. Tyler distorts the boundaries of what we consider rap and hip-hop while showing us another side of himself.
2017 was the year of SZA. Having previously collaborated with artists such as Rihanna, with her debut album CTRL, she steps into the spotlight. The album dazzles, flowing seamlessly and highlighting her uniquely talented way of weaving together poetry and R&B. CTRL showcases SZA’s talent as a songwriter. Over two hundred songs were created during the recording sessions of the album, all recorded freestyle. This method led to a beautiful album, confessional and emotional with stellar production.
What to me is one of the most underrated albums of the year, Julien Baker’s second album, Turn Out the Lights, is an honest meditation on spirituality and internal conflict. Through piano, guitar, and voice, Baker speaks to the challenges faced in relationships: with oneself, with others, with spirituality. On “Sour Breath,” Baker addresses the difficulty of loving someone who is affected by substance abuse. The song ends with her repeatedly singing “the harder I swim, the faster I sink,” an acceptance of the fact that sometimes the effort we give feels like it will never be enough, an expression that resonates with such a universal emotion.
Honorable Mentions: DAMN. - Kendrick Lamar, Big Fish Theory - Vince Staples, Powerplant - Girlpool, SATURATION I-III - BROCKHAMPTON, YOUNG - Overcoats
My New Year’s resolution for 2017 was to listen to more new music which resulted in me regularly checking my Spotify Release Radar, and I’m so glad I did. According to Spotify, I listened to about 40,000 minutes of music this year, and I think that about half of that was just Lorde’s Melodrama on repeat. I was underwhelmed when I first heard “Green Light” as a single, but the album as a whole exceeded all of my expectations. The first time I listened to all of Mount Eerie’s A Crow Looked at Me, I had to pull over on the side of the road because I was crying so hard thinking about how death is so real. It’s truly the saddest and most heartbreaking album, and it’s some of Phil Elverum’s best work. Vagabon released Infinite Worlds at the end of February and I remember immediately texting Manny saying “I know it’s only February but this is The Best Album of the Year.” Most of the songs on Infinite Worlds are songs from her 2014 EP Persian Garden re-recorded and retitled, and you can really see how Lætitia Tamko has mastered her unique sound and evolved as an artist. Jay Som’s Everybody Works is groundbreaking due to the fact that Melina Duterte plays all of the instruments on the album. It’s easy to simply label her music as bedroom pop, but Everybody Works is so much more than that, blending indie pop with shoegaze, folk, and grunge. (Sandy) Alex G’s name change was (Awkward) to say the least, but Rocket was a stunning album that established him as one of the most preeminent songwriters of today, and seeing him perform in a gymnasium was one of the highlights of the year for me. Overall, 2017 was a great year for new music, and I’m looking forward to what 2018 has in store.
Honorable Mentions: Big Fish Theory - Vince Staples, Soft Sounds from Another Planet - Japanese Breakfast, Collection - Soccer Mommy, Phases - Angel Olsen, Need to Feel Your Love - Sheer Mag, Saturation I-III - BROCKHAMPTON, Powerplant - Girlpool, You’re Not as ____ as You Think - Sorority Noise, YOUNG - Overcoats
2017 seems to have been the year of TDE—both Kendrick and SZA delivered memorable favorites. SZA jumped out from behind the scenes and knocked it out of the park on her major label debut. A few tracks stand out in particular: “Doves in the Wind,” “Drew Barrymore,” “The Weekend” and, especially, “Normal Girl.” Also, guitar in R&B is always welcome. The first time I listened to DAMN. I was really pleasantly surprised with the direction Kendrick had taken. Except for the songs that sounded like pop Drake knockoffs, the songs were musically so captivating, so intricate and so mature. Props to Kendrick for getting the best U2 feature (/sample?) of all time. I love the slow burners like YAH., PRIDE., and XXX., as well as the hype stuff, like DNA. and HUMBLE. I’ve had those tracks in particular on repeat ever since the album was released.
With Hang, Foxygen’s eccentricity remains, but that’s about it. They totally ditched their lo-fi, crunchy sound for a slick and unexpectedly grandiose, theatrical style. I like it just as much. Everything feels huge and all the more impactful when backed by a 40-piece orchestra. The album retains their vibe, though—it’s totally frantic, now genre-hopping and as good as ever.
Alien Sunset is so pleasant. It’s the best vintage, throwback little collection of songs that’s not just vintage-sounding for the sake of being vintage-sounding. Max Clarke a.k.a. Cut Worms recorded it all on an eight-track, so it’s got that crusty vintage tape warmth and sounds super old-school. Yes, it really does sound exactly like music from the year 1960 (e.g., Everly Brothers, Peter and Gordon), but earnestly. I believe that he made this album not just as an exercise in retrograde, but because they are just great, timeless songs—and they stand up regardless. Plus, he’s a lowkey shyboy in interviews.
My favorite album of the year, though, has to be a collaboration between two of my favorite artists from the last few years. As soon as I heard that one of King Gizzard’s 5 albums in 2017 would be a collaboration with Mild High Club, the hype was instant and real. Mild High Club is just what King Gizzard needs to chill them out. The album brought about something even more interesting than what I would’ve expected. It’s jazzy, carefully orchestrated, progressive and trippy—but part of the reason it’s so enjoyable to listen to is all the little details tucked within the songs. The way the album keeps returning to the same musical themes at scattered points throughout really gets to me, and kept me listening over and over.
Honorable Mentions: Crack-Up - Fleet Foxes, Flower Boy - Tyler, the Creator, Somersault - Beach Fossils, Star Stuff - Chaz Bundick Meets the Mattson 2, Steve Lacy’s Demo - Steve Lacy, Apricot Princess - Rex Orange County, This Old Dog - Mac Demarco
Not to be a downer/snob, but I found 2017 a little bit disappointing compared to 2016 and its slew of incredible albums (A Seat at the Table; Untitled Unmastered; 22, A Million; A Moon Shaped Pool; Telefone, etc.) Nevertheless, this year delivered some phenomenal records by well-established artists and newcomers alike. The best of these, of course, was DAMN., a minimalist meditation on fame and religion that should cement Kendrick’s status as one of the all-time greatest musical artists, let alone rappers. As for newcomers, I’m cheating and including all of BROCKHAMPTON’s superb SATURATION trilogy, a string of indie-rap records that balance unabashedly fun bangers with surprisingly poignant tracks like “SWIM” and “BLEACH.” (I rarely become enamored of a new artist or group like I did with BROCKHAMPTON—4 of my 5 most-played songs of the year on Spotify were tracks from their first two entries in the trilogy.) Process is the debut LP from British singer Sampha, a record whose intricate production and moving vocal performances met the hype preceding its release. On Big Fish Theory, Vince Staples expertly blurred the lines between electronica and hip hop, finding the perfect instrumental canvas for his razor-sharp lyrics. The third album from Venezuelan producer Arca, and perhaps the most underrated record of the year, is a collection of haunting electronica ballads sung by the producer himself. In 2017, musicians like those in my top five – as well as Tyler, the Creator, Mount Kimbie, King Krule, and plenty of others – managed to defy our expectations of genre by drawing from a range of unexpected sources (see: U2 on “XXX.” by Kendrick). Can we really call Flower Boy rap? Is Process actually R&B? What about The OOZ? I don’t know, but hopefully we will be asking more of these questions in 2018.
Honorable Mentions: Love What Survives - Mount Kimbie; The OOZ - King Krule; Flower Boy - Tyler, the Creator; Take Me Apart - Kelela; Drive It Like It's Stolen - Injury Reserve; Gang Signs & Prayer - Stormzy; World Eater - Blanck Mass; Beautiful Thugger Girls - Young Thug; Harmony of Difference - Kamasi Washington; At What Cost - Goldlink
You’d have thought it would have been the year of revivals, “2009 but better.” Or at least I did. All my favorite bands from when I was entering high school came out with new albums: LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes, Phoenix, Grizzly Bear, Mac DeMarco, The xx. You remember 2009, right? “VCR” on repeat, “Two Weeks,” “1901,” fuck! Merriweather Post Pavilion? Even the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs were good. Yeah, it was Best-New-Music-core but this was pre-Condé Nast Pitchfork. I’d being lying if I didn’t say that every year since then I’ve been waiting for a year that felt that overwhelming, chock full of freshly-discovered bands that I still call my favorites. But, notably, none of the releases from late-00s bands made it to my 2017 list save for LCD Soundsystem, who I feel a deep personal connection to despite the fact that I usually hate when bands rescind their farewells (it didn’t feel like it was for money, it felt like it was for music, that sounds trite, whatever).
For the most part I find the albums in my top 5 to be inseparable from 2017 itself, for better or for worse. I feel that music thrives when its emotional core is oozing at the seams; I like when artists struggle to keep their cool, when the cracks show. This is true for many of my favorite albums this year, including the (I’ll say it) underrated This Old Dog and truly amazing Phases. That being said, I think 2017 will be remembered for its singles (“Boys,” “Mask Off,” “Slide”) rather than its albums, not because we’ve lost the capacity to listen to an artist’s whole project, but because of their quality and staying-power.
Honorable Mentions: Love What Survives - Mount Kimbie, Rocket - (Sandy) Alex G, Slowdive - Slowdive, Phases - Angel Olsen, Pure Comedy - Father John Misty, This Old Dog - Mac Demarco
2017 was one of my favorite years in music in a long, long time. And yeah you’ve probably noticed my top album list isn’t similar to anyone else’s here. But as a freshman at Wesleyan, one thing I’ve grown to love about this place is that everyone and their music tastes are so different that I shouldn’t feel alienated if I don’t listen to the majority of music people like. After all, music is very personal, and no matter what the Grammys or Rolling Stone magazine or your neighbor that hears you playing tunes at 2am say about your favorite albums, they’re still your favorite because they speak to you on a level that no one else can quite understand.
That being said let’s get started on my list. #1 we got a banger. I’m talking every song on the album will get stuck in your head for weeks kind of banger. The 18 year-old Brit finally released his debut album nearly 2.5 years after debuting the lead single of the album. Declan McKenna’s lyrical prowess at such a young age shows major promise as he continues as a musician, while combining beautiful instrumentation and catchy pop hooks with biting social criticisms (such as the government's treatment of trans kids in Paracetamol and the widespread xenophobia in media shown in Isombard) created a beautiful happy/sad thematic album. Coming in after is a groovy, surf-punk band, the Buttertones, with their third album. While every song on the album has its own style, they combine to create a sensational feeling as if you have been transported to the wonderful, nostalgic, cinematic-western world they’ve created. The Canadian indie-rock group Arcade Fire’s latest album comes in at #3 with Everything Now, an '80s nostalgic, feel-good vibes album that still contains the bittersweetness that the band is known for. The dark yet beautiful Sleep Well Beast comes in next, showing how much the band has matured over their 18 years of existence, while newcomer Ron Gallo dazzles with his quirky, head-bangin' album that gives hope to the future of the garage punk genre. In conclusion, 2017 had its ups and downs, but the music that came from it was unforgettable, and I already got a couple albums on the radar for 2018 that will definitely be something to look forward to.
2017 was a fine year for music. More importantly, it was a watershed year for exposing the shameful and harmful effects of male domination in the music industry. I for one realized this year that placing any male musician on a pedestal, past merely admiring their music, is a bad idea that will just make the tearing-down of their lofty status that much more difficult. We, as a society, also learned this year to believe women and to confront patriarchal systems of subordination in the music industry and beyond. But let's get to the tunes.
At my #1 spot, it’s an artist who continues to defy conventions in his genre, while delivering tracks that consistently serve the BASSSSS. I’m of course talking about Sprite spokesperson Vince Staples, an MC who, throughout his latest LP Big Fish Theory, addresses a variety of current issues over a selection of beats that go hard as hell. These beats are sinister but, unlike most chart-topping hip-hop beats, they pack a rhythmic punch that’s urgent and rife with some nasty industrial drum timbres. Second place for me belongs to Lorde, a kickass, BDS-supporting, New Zealander whose new album combines bangers and emotional ballads at a level I haven’t seen from a pop album in years. Shoutout to Jack Antonoff too on the production here; moments like the midpoint of “Supercut” or even the subtlety of the drums in general are master strokes in terms of weaving emotion into a pop record.
Kendrick’s latest is genius as always but it’s a shame that a few languid moments on this project weighed it down somewhat. Girlpool released a criminally underrated album this year that showcased their superb melodic abilities in tandem with a new beefed-up sound that suits them well. Rounding out the top 5 is Arca's self-titled which is just.... you gotta hear it. We still hear his characteristically aggressive, haunting production but now with vocals that are elegiac in the most spine-tingling way possible. Honorable mentions to Remo Drive for putting out a super fun record and for putting on an excellent show in Middletown, BROCKHAMPTON for being the most exciting group around in a year where King Giz released five (5) albums, and I would be remiss in not dedicating a shoutout to all the up-and-coming independent female artists of color who are shaking up the scene in the best possible way. Vagabon, Yaeji, Jay Som, Japanese Breakfast, and Kelela all released projects I thoroughly enjoyed this year and I know they’re all going to continue making waves in years to come.
I feel like every few weeks I look at my music and think to myself that I need to listen to more new music. Going through the albums I liked this year, I realized that’s not true. At this point everyone’s hopped on the “Fuck 2017” train, and this year for sure deserves that. However, fuck most years; at least we got some good music in 2017. First off, I did not expect CTRL to take my number one spot. The first time I heard it, I liked it but it didn’t shatter my world like Blonde did last year. Then, all of a sudden, it was the thing I listened to most. Whenever I had nothing to listen to, I always ended up back on CTRL (or Blonde honestly). It became a fun conversation with friends, talking about our favorite songs from the album and singing along. Beyond it just being an easy album to listen to, CTRL is a goddam incredible album, from the effortlessly catchy compositions to the amazingly vulnerable and strong lyrics. The OOZ is a pretty different album. King Krule was like a true bona fide rockstar when I saw him live over fall break. I thought I was heading out of my King Krule phase, but The OOZ pulled me back in. Flower Boy is far and away Tyler’s best album in my opinion. Unfortunately, people didn’t talk too much about the music and spent more time talking about Tyler’s sexuality, which he didn’t seem to purposefully make the centerpoint. The album is just banger after banger. Kendrick Lamar can’t produce a bad album. DAMN. is no exception. It’s so different from his other projects and yet still masterful in its own right. Green Twins is a deep meditation on sex, love, relationships, having children and everything in between. This fifth spot was the only one I wasn’t sure about, but I just couldn’t leave this album off. For some reason listening to it feels nostalgic to me, and I am such a sucker for that familiarity in music.
Honorable Mentions: Aromanticism - Moses Sumney, No Shape - Perfume Genius, W/ Love - Infinite Bisous, Infinite Worlds - Vagabon, pleasure suck - The Spirit of the Beehive, Rocket - (Sandy) Alex G, I’m Not Your Man - Marika Hackman, Crack-Up - Fleet Foxes, Capacity - Big Thief, American Dream - LCD Soundsystem, Love What Survives - Mount Kimbie, If Blue Could Be Happiness - Florist, RINA - Rina Sawayama, Antisocialites - Alvvays, Visions of a Life - Wolf Alice, Phases - Angel Olsen, Saturation III - Brockhampton, Under the Electric Blanket - Goo
Looking back on what I listened to this year, I was a bit underwhelmed by 2017’s releases compared to 2016 and 2015. I spent most of the year listening to old favorites instead of new albums, but there were still some great albums this year with songs I played on loop for days.
Sheer Mag sounds like a post-apocalyptic version of The Jackson 5, if you shrunk The Jackson 5 really tiny and had them play inside of a tin can. As weird as that sounds, it works—Sheer Mag’s lo-fi, high-energy take on rock is unique and completely addictive. The shouting vocals and incredible riffs on “Just Can’t Get Enough” never fail to put me in a good mood. Sheer Mag was probably my favorite music discovery in 2017.
I was in charge of the music in the store I worked at this summer, and half the times people asked me what song was playing, it was “Dark Red” from Steve Lacy’s Demo. Even though the demo isn’t technically an album, I had to include it since Steve Lacy is one of my favorite young artists right now and the fact that he made his demo almost entirely on his iPhone amazes me. The catchy bass lines and layered vocals that define his sound on this demo are irresistible. I could go on and on about him (and if you’ve ever mentioned him around me, I probably already have), but I’ll just say he’s one year younger than me and about a thousand times cooler. Going by his demo, I can’t wait to hear what he comes out with in the future.
I’m very late to the BROCKHAMPTON party, but I’m glad I finally got around to listening to them before the year ended. I didn’t expect to get hooked as much as I did—all three of the albums from the SATURATION trilogy are packed with amazing quality tracks.
To be completely honest, I was a bit underwhelmed by King Krule’s latest album. It was impressive on first listen, but I only found myself being drawn back to a few of the tracks. However, the range of styles Archy Marshall tackles through his different projects never fails to impress, and this album was no exception. “Half Man Half Shark” and “Dum Surfer” in particular are catchy and addictive yet unlike anything I’d ever heard—jazzy, grimy, and soulful, the two most energetic tracks on the album sound like the music I imagine a band of very talented zombies would come out with.
While I didn’t really care for most of Play the Songs You Like, it was a source of some of my most played songs this year: “Out of Mind,” “Nothing Nice,” and “Dance Number” among others. Short and sweet, these tracks are more on the pop side of what I normally listen to and feel familiar and nostalgic in a way I instantly loved.
Honorable Mentions: Phases - Angel Olsen, Is Everything Okay In Your World? - Yellow Days, Love What Survives - Mount Kimbie
2017 brought a great amount of choice to the music world. Indie, rap, and rock, among other genres, flourished, with tons of new content released alongside demo recordings and re-releases (shouts out to Whitney and Sufjan Stevens). There was an uptick in songs with activist aims, a welcome shift in the entertainment business at large. The fall of formerly-queer punk PWR BTTM reflected a piece of the music industry’s struggle with ethical production and promotion alongside a consumer refusal to literally buy into sexual assault. However, this did not take away from soaring accomplishments in indie releases. Jay Som and Adult Mom both released their sophomore albums (Everybody Works and Soft Spots, respectively), each full of swelling joy and melancholy. Tyler, the Creator continued the rising trend of genre-bending on Flower Boy, mixing rap and R&B with diverse sampling. Meanwhile, Lorde and Kendrick Lamar prove again their prominence in pop and rap -- Lorde delivers exactly what the title suggests and even deeper sorrow on Melodrama, while Kendrick’s DAMN. allows listeners to indulge in his poetry by stripping down formerly heavy production. The influx of releases at the tail end of the year leaves me particularly excited for 2018 -- looking at you, Car Seat Headrest. I can’t wait to see more records released with the same or more vigor than this year.
Honorable Mentions: If Blue Could Be Happiness - Florist, american dream - LCD Soundsystem, Powerplant - Girlpool, Routines - Hoops, James McAllister, Bryce Dessner, Sufjan Stevens, Planetarium - Nico Muhly, Ctrl - SZA, Record Time! - Lexie
Though 2017 was filled with many anticipated albums that disappointed audiences (e.g. Arcade Fire’s Everything Now), the year was just as packed with albums that absolutely exceeded my expectations. It has become quite the trend to scorn the new music of 2017, but I will not succumb to this. I thoroughly struggled to sift through the plethora of new albums I liked in order to assemble my list. Any year of music that requires that effort is a good year, in my opinion. 2017 was especially a great year for hip-hop, with newcomers and veterans alike putting out albums that undoubtedly live up to the excitement preceding them. DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar, Flower Boy by Tyler, The Creator, and Big Fish Theory by Vince Staples are just a few examples of some excellent albums that obliterated my expectations. However, the only hip-hop album that made it to my top 5 is Renaissance by The Underachievers. This album houses what I would consider this East Coast duo’s most lyrically refined work. The album takes a minimalist approach to the instrumentals on most of the album, with the vocals being the main focus. The first track of this album, is certainly an exception. “In My Zone” features a sample-packed intro and a complex beat that do a great job of opening the album. The most anticipated album on my list is certainly The OOZ by King Krule. This album was a masterpiece of lyrics and instrumentals. Every song on this album has such a unique flavor to it that really signals a newfound maturity since 6 Feet Beneath the Moon. With lyrical highlights like “Czech One” and “The Locomotive” as well as instrumental highlights like “Vidual” and “Half Man, Half Shark”, this album certainly did not fail to impress. Phillistines by Pro Teens was a fitting runner up to their last album Accidentally, which made it onto my list for 2016. This album has maturity in the songwriting and youthfulness in the execution. A perfect cocktail of an album. I was also enraptured by Multi-Task by Omni as it is truly one of the funnest albums of the year. Omni probably has one of the most specific sounds of any band I found this year. With chorusy, tape warbling guitars and a matter-of-fact vocal style, Omni is a band to watch out for in 2018. I gave the crowning spot on my list to New World Pregnancy by Boy’s Age. This dreamy alt-pop masterpiece blew me away the first time I heard it. The ethereal and complex instrumentals of the album absolutely sweep you off your feet as you feel yourself melt into the music. Though this album came out in December, it absolutely stole the spotlight for me. In conclusion, I was very pleased with the music of 2017 but I expect even greater and more fantastical things from 2018.
Honorable Mentions: Don't Let It Be - Playboy Manbaby, Sketches of Brunswick East - King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizzard and Mild High Club, Big Fish Theory - Vince Staples, Flower Boy - Tyler, the Creator, Fresh Air - HOMESHAKE, Hang - Oxygen, This Old Dog - Mac Demarco, Stranger in the Alps - Phoebe Bridgers, Love What Survives - Mount Kimbie
2016 had better music, but 2017 had MORE CAPS LOCK.
Honorable Mentions: Infinite Worlds - Vagabon, Gang Signs and Prayer - Stormzy, Pop 2 - Charli XCX, From The Fires - Greta van Fleet
Laszlo Feher ‘20, who performs under the name LAZ, has been rapping and making music for over two years. He started the year off strong with an energetic performance at the MASH, and then opened for LA-based hip hop artist YEEK. Known for his beaming personality and eccentric fashion sense, LAZ has established his place within Wesleyan's music community as a prominent musician and performer.
Allison Hsu '20 interviewed the Belgian-American-Parisian rapper, discussing his newest mixtape, his musical influences, and his plans for the future, while waiting in the Pastabilities line at Usdan.
Laszlo, who never strays from the unconventional, ordered white pasta with a mix of the arrabiata sauce and the cream sauce, to which Tom, the Pastabilities guy, scoffed and responded “No, absolutely not. Why the hell would you want to mix that?”
While some might be critical of his choices, it is Laszlo’s penchant for experimentation and blending sounds (as well as pasta sauces) in unexpected ways that set him apart.
Tell me about your new mixtape - what can we expect?
So there are 7 songs, two of which are already released - “Come on Babe!!” and “WES” - and the songs are arranged in an order that really flows. All of the songs are currently finished and recorded. Some of the songs have actually been done for about a year, but I don’t want to release the entire mixtape at once, so the next song will be released in the next week or so.
And you released a music video for “WES”. What was the process behind that?
Yeah, so all of that video is shot in different places in Paris, and it features all of my close friends. Part of it was filmed at my best friend’s house, and a friend of a friend directed and did the editing. I wanted it to be very fun and goofy, you know? And Parisian.
So the song is called “WES”, but is it about Wes?
No, actually it’s called “WES” because it’s a Wes Montgomery sample, but I guess it’s easy to make it about Wesleyan too.
What’s it like to be a rapper at Wesleyan?
It’s so fun. Amazing. My original plan at the beginning of last year was to get a band together, but everyone is kind of doing their own thing. I’ve been talking to my friends who are in bands (Flaccid Ashbacks, Barbara Shop, Good Morning Connecticut) about potential collabs, so we’ll see. I’ve also been working with producer Sam McCarthy (‘20), and we have really great chemistry.
Who do you want to work with on campus that you haven’t gotten the chance to?
I would love to pull a Chance the Rapper move and collaborate with an a cappella group. That would be really cool.
This is a question we really like to ask at Aural Wes - what are you listening to?
I’ve been listening to a lot of R&B. Berhana has an EP called “Berhana” which is incredible. Daniel Caesar too. And last summer I listened to SZA a lot. Also SiR who’s a TDE artist. I’ve been listening to him a lot, and he’s great.
Who are your biggest influences?
Kendrick Lamar. He’s the best rapper of all time, in my opinion. Also Busta Rhymes. There are a lot of French rappers and artists that have been really influential - L’entourage, S.pri Noir, Nekfeu, and there’s this new guy Krisy who’s amazing. And also Noname, Mick Jenkins, and Smino.
Do you think your musical/songwriting style has changed at all this year?
Yeah, I’m trying to get my shit together, and I want to be more political.