The Absolute Best in Music 2022 (Albums)

By: Campbell Petschke

Currently Listening to: No Thank You by Little Simz

Here We Are Again

2022 was one of those rare years where music came out and we listened. Not like other years. It felt like this year above all so many new artists were discovered, ones that had blown up from TikTok, random side projects (The Smile), different collabs, and one off singles leaving people wanting more after being gone for years (LCD Soundsystem, Death Grips, etc.). In the case of the artists on this list, they really put out some of their best work to date, tried something new, broke genre barriers, and spoke out. Music in 2022 had something to say. This felt like a year that had something to prove. I hate bringing up the ‘c’ word, but with COVID restrictions lessening this year and more artists feeling more confident in taking off on the road, I felt like they had been cooking this whole pandemic and a boy was hungry.

I loved a shit-ton of music this year and it was honestly really hard to limit these selections to just 50 albums and 35 songs. Some of these I’ve loved as early as January and some from a few weeks ago. I didn’t want to have a recency bias so albums like the Little Simz album that dropped the day as I’m writing this will not appear, even though it sounds incredible so far. So with that being said, I will not be ranking every album that I listened to, new and old, like I did in 2020. That list took so long it came out in March. SO! I’m optimistic, maybe this will come out by at least February this time. Anyhow, here is my 2022 in music. The best year of music that I have lived through so far.

Album Time!

50. Fred Again.. – Actual Life 3 (January 1- September 9 2022)

Genre: House, Electronic

I had never heard of Fred until this past summer when I saw members of the Festiverse Discord server discuss his music. Unaware of what to expect, I dove in without even knowing what genre he represented. As someone who has come to really appreciate house music these past few years, Actual Life 3 was a nice surprise. He chops up different soundbites he finds online and through FaceTime calls he shares with his buddies and makes them into these chill, lofi, reflective tunes. It’s something I can honestly turn on whenever and not have to think too deeply into it. I enjoyed this album so much I immediately put on Actual Life 2 once this one was done.

Bump This: Delilah (pull me out of this), Berwyn (all i got is you)

49. Father John Misty – Chloe and the Next 20th Century

Genre: Chamber Pop, Rock

In 2013, I stood on the muddy hills of Grant Park. It was my second ever Lollapalooza. As I wait for Crystal Castles to melt my face off, I watch Father John Misty croon to the people watching from Lakeshore stage as he whips out a pony head on a stick and proceeds to passionately make out with it. I did not touch his music until 2016, but despite the pony incident, I forgave him because of his poetic, heartfelt tunes. The tunes that would make you want to fall in love with someone you accidentally bumped into while exiting a public bus (or whatever simps do).

Needless to say after a nearly flawless streak of releases, Chloe and the Next 20th Century drops and it’s a sophisticated, jazzy, bossa nova album with some typical FJM sounds we’re familiar with. Half this album is a total trance. The orchestral aspects are to die for and make for a perfect Sunday spin on a turntable accompanied with dreary, simmering rain hitting the windows. This is honestly what I wanted the past two Arctic Monkeys albums to sound like if they wanted to continue to head that direction. I would say he should stick to this because it sounds great, but I’d love to see FJM try more directions. He seems to really have an enhanced amount of self awareness.

Bump This: Funny Girl, Chloe, Goodbye Mr. Blue

48. Freddie Gibbs – $oul $old $eparately

Genre: Rap, Trap

There are very few artists that are as entertaining as Freddie Gibbs on social media. Leading up to this project, his Instagram stories and Twitter stories (when they were around) were the most out of pocket, bizarre videos you’ve ever seen. Most of them accompanied with his now meme-able catchphrase, “duh fuck?”

With Freddie dropping some of the best collab albums of the last decade, Pinata, Alfredo and Bandana, I had nothing but high expectations for $$$. Is it as good as the three I just listed? No. It’s still a very high quality project with many highlights. Rick Ross, Pusha T, and Scarface have some of the best features of the year. I mean how can Ross fail on a track called Lobster Omelette?

While the front half is still quality, the back half really is the highlight. The emotional highs of Grandma’s Stove and the phenomenal beat selections on tracks like Decoded and Gold Rings helped Freddie’s delivery hit just as hard. Living proof that if you have the right beats dealt to you, you can do some serious damage and that’s exactly what Freddie does here. Contender for best album of the year about doing coke and selling dope.

Bump This (Instead of Coke): Gold Rings, Grandma’s Stove, Lobster Omelette

47. Oliver Sim – Hideous Bastard

Genre: Art-pop

I thought for sure The XX were going to drop something this year, or maybe I’m just delusional. At least I thought I was until I heard Oliver’s heavenly vocals slide across the lead single to Hideous Bastard, Romance With a Memory. Then the DJ said, “that was the new track from The XX bandmate Oliver Sim from his upcoming solo album.” Um… NOT WHAT I WANTED!

All jokes aside this is basically The XX minus Romy. Jamie XX, per usual, does a great job producing this album and knows how to play to Oliver’s strengths. While a handful of the albums on this list will involve heartbreak and anguish, this might be the most heart-wrenching. Take the song Saccharine and hear how much he is devastated by having his heart broken. His vulnerability oozes out of him by comparing his efforts to dip his toes into falling in love as the addictive taste of sugar, to then saying he’s “right back to sugar-free with [his] heart under lock and key.”

He also reaches vocal high points I did not expect from him. His performance on the intro track, Hideous wasn’t talked about enough this year. The heavy strings with an impassioned Jimmy Sommerville feature made this an emotional listen. One that will definitely give you the sad sighs and then write on Tumblr about how he ‘gets you’.

Bump This: Hideous, Romance With a Memory, GMT, Saccharine

46. Los Bitchos – Let the Festivities Begin!

Genre: Cumbia

This year I wanted to break out of my shell that I was stuck in last year. I mainly listened to alternative, barely any rap, and pop music. My goal was to explore more genres I typically don’t align with. Los Bitchos really struck me by the eye-catching album cover. It really reflects the bright, bombastic, colorful tunes that are on the album.

Let the Festivities Begin is an all-instrumental album that’ll make you want to dance with your Airpods in. Listening to this at the gym will raise some eyebrows, but to be fair are they listening to Los Bitchos? Probably not, so how could they understand? Despite the lack of lyrics I can somehow hear lyrics. I would love to hear what words could be put to such exciting instrumentals. This album is also produced by Alex from Franz Ferdinand, so it’s a very beat driven album as well. Give this a try if you want some lively tunes to brighten your day and dance wherever you find yourself placed while listening.

Bump This: Change of Heart, I Enjoy It, Lindsay Goes to Mykonos

45. Phoenix – Alpha Zulu

Genre: Alt-pop, Rock

A Phoenix drop is always exciting. Like Peter Bjorn and John and Beach Bunny, Phoenix can nearly effortlessly make a catchy pop tune. The title track, Alpha Zulu was a good tease for the record because it honestly doesn’t sound like anything else on the rest of it. It’s like the band’s attempt at a club track. I wasn’t blown away by the track, but it will get stuck in your head easily. It wasn’t until Tonight dropped where I was really invested in what was to come. As a kid, Vampire Weekend and Phoenix were my two bands. I knew nearly every track if you were to play a one second snippet. So to hear Ezra collab with the band on Tonight had my youthful heart soaring. It’s easily one of the best written and performed songs of the year (one that you may see on my song list, but don’t tell anyone).

The rest of the record is a pretty standard Phoenix one. That’s far from a bad thing though, they know what they’re doing and they’re good at it. Artefact actually reminds me of Room on Fire era The Strokes. It’s a sick power-pop ballad that has a riff that’ll stick with you throughout the week. After Midnight sounds like a long-lost Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix cut and Winter Solstice for Bankrupt. It’s a culmination of all the things that has made this nearly 25 year old act such a force for many in the early 2000’s onward.

Bump This: After Midnight, Tonight, Artefact

44. Steve Lacy – Gemini Rights

Genre: Bedroom Pop, Neo-Soul

You can argue Steve Lacy to be the breakout artist of the year and I wouldn’t disagree. He’s been at it for years producing tracks for J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and even Vampire Weekend. Within the short amount of time that he has been active he has created a sound that is pretty recognizable at this point.

While I really enjoyed his production style and online presence, I didn’t know a whole lot else about the guy. Gemini Rights came along though and really stuck with me. His sound fits within the state of music currently, one that will probably stand the test of time the best out of the constant stream of artists trying to fit into this “vibey”, stoner era of pop music. Steve’s vocals are really strong on tracks like Mercury and Sunshine. I’m glad that Foushee makes an appearance here too. She deserves a lot more attention than her TikTok sounds, very unique voice that doesn’t sound like a try hard.

What I enjoy the most out of Gemini Rights is how fluid it feels. This is an adventurous album that goes through many styles and manages to juggle a lot of different ideas such as toxicity, prolonged love, and learning from mistakes without a resolution. This came out at the perfect time in mid-July. I hope nothing but the best for Steve’s future in music, its’ bound to be bright.

Bump This: Mercury, Sunshine, Helmet, Bad Habits

43. Horsegirl – Versions of Modern Performance

Genre: Rock, Post Punk

Horsegirl were the dark horse of my 2022. Ballroom Dance Scene existed in the background ever since it dropped nearly two years ago now. I was really intrigued by how melancholy and hopeless it sounded, but also the fact that they were from Chicago. Anti-Glory dropped earlier this year and really caught my attention with how unpredictable it was with how surprisingly punk it was at times. They also put on a very solid Lollapalooza performance. Horsegirl did everything right, except for choosing their band name.

This record is a post punk journey through misguided expectations. It’s never a rough one, but wow is it all over the place. Sometimes the tracks feel abrupt, sometimes they feel like radio hits, some feel like long-lost grunge era tunes, and other times they’re having soft piano driven interludes. I loved the transition of Option 8 into World of Pots and Pans. Those two work as a really nice companion piece. There’s a lot to commend here, I just hope they continue to grow more and more by year.

Bump This: Option 8, Anti-glory, Billy

42. Drake & 21 Savage – Her Loss

Genre: Rap, Trap

I’ll preface by saying this, I haven’t liked a Drake album since 2016’s Views. Everything else has either been boring or way too bloated. There have been some great singles since, but as an album hell no. With Honestly, Nevermind being the first of his two releases in 2022, I was mildly disappointed not because it was bad, but also because he tried something new and it really didn’t work. What DID work on that album was Jimmy Cooks, the final track of the album featuring a 21 Savage collab. So that is really what had me looking forward to Her Loss.

Not only is this the best Drake album in years, it is the hungriest he has sounded too. Some of his fans will disagree I’m sure, but this felt like Drake had some shit talking to do and brought 21 out with him. There are so many quotable lines from this project like “she a ten tryna rap, it’s good on mute” or “yeah I got the stripes, but fuck Adidas”, which is something I missed from him. Sure he had “say that you a lesbian girl, me too” but is that really what you want people to quote from your album? The lyrics may be toxic at times, but that’s what Drake is good at doing, talking his shit. A man can only watch from the sidelines.

21 and Drake have very good chemistry and rarely miss a beat on this hour long, 16 track album. Let’s hope that 21 is more open to doing a collab album with J. Cole now. That one would break me like Action Bronson on a kids stool.

Bump This: BackOutsideBoyz, Rich Flex, Broke Boys, 3AM on Glenwood

41. Rosalia – MOTOMAMI

Genre: Reggaeton, Art-Pop

Rosalia is one of the biggest forces in reggaeton and arguably the most popular artist not named Bad Bunny. As I said before, my mission this year was to venture further into genres I’m not entirely familiar with and reggaeton was definitely one I needed work on. I’ve dug Rosalia in the past, I don’t remember a lot from El Mar Querer, but I did remember liking it. MOTOMAMI is a very special release with how much it experiments and all the risks that it takes sonically. The production on tracks like BIZCOCHITO and BULERIAS is so crisp and smooth.

There are a handful of moments where she’s able to show off her pipes aside from her powerful delivery when she raps. SAKURA and DELIRIO DE GRANDEZA being the most beautiful pieces I’ve heard from most singers of any genre this year. Having an artist like Rosalia is very exciting for the future of music. She has the opportunity to inspire so many artists the way she has captivated the globe already.

Bump This: SAKURA, BIZCOCHITO, DELIRIO DE GRANDEZA

40. Death Cab for Cutie – Asphalt Meadows

Genre: Alternative

This is the best that Death Cab has sounded since Kintsugi. What I really respect about DCFC and Ben Gibbard in general is that he pays attention. Asphalt Meadows sounds like a more polished, modern Death Cab album. One that still sounds like their signature sound, but suits this modern alternative sound. The title track nails this atmospheric, speedy ballad that you can only imagining what that sounds echoing throughout a crowded venue full of dedicated fans. Leading into my next point, this feels like the album that if you didn’t like Kintsugi or Thank You for Today, this will more than likely win you back.

Ben knows how to tell a story really well. That’s no secret, but hearing a song like Rand McNally is a nice reminder of what he’s capable. I wouldn’t put it on the same level of something like their classic Cath.. but it definitely pulls an emotional punch similar. Here to Forever also feels like classic DCFC. Ben plays with our emotions once again with this confessional track that shows he is willing to do anything for love Meatloaf style.

Can you tell I’m glad this band is back to doing what they’re so good at? Asphalt Meadows took a few listens, but it’s totally worth the first shot to appreciate how well written these atmospheric, heartfelt tunes will carry you through the day.

Bump This: Asphalt Meadows, I Miss Strangers, Fragments from the Decade

39. Beyonce – RENAISSANCE

Genre: Dance- Pop, House

I gave RENAISSANCE a try back when it first dropped and bailed a few tracks in. Must’ve not been in the right mood because months later I returned and thought it was dope! I don’t know what the fascination was with artists giving house music a try, but I’m glad it worked out for Beyonce.

It had been six years since Beyonce had released Lemonade, an album I did not expect to enjoy as much as I did. Despite me being mildly allergic to bees, the Be-Hive had reeled me in. She has such ferocity in her delivery. The kind that’ll make men whimper to their knees and say “anything for you Mrs. Carter!” She really knows how to let the audience know she is in command and that’s definitely apparent here.

I appreciate how Beyonce didn’t just go out on a whim and just dabble in this new genre. There’s a lot of love put into the style and vocal delivery that makes it feel sort of timeless. Songs like Cuff It and especially the dazzling closer Summer Renaissance, which interpolates Donna Summer’s classic, I Feel Love, show that she is dedicated to putting on this show for us.

As much as I want to not like these big name pop stars at times, RENAISSANCE makes the crave for more material like this. It’s bright, bumpin, impactful, and a good time all around.

Bump This: CUFF IT, SUMMER RENAISSANC, VIRGO’S GROOVE

38. Flipturn – Shadowglow

Genre: Indie-Pop

In an interview with the band talking about their record purchases, one of the members stated that he loved John Coltrane’s classic A Love Supreme because it’s how it made him feel what words sometimes can’t do. Well, sonically Shadowglow makes you feel like you’re taking flight. A flight with your best friends on a journey of who knows where.

Bands like Flipturn give me a lot of hope for the future of mainstream indie. The writing in a lot of these songs feel like they’re singing to their family and friends. They speak and sing with passion that’s impossible to ignore on any given track. The guy’s vocals remind me a bit of the lead singer of Chicago band Whitney. They have a sort of willowy whine to their voice that I’m really into. The only difference is that the singer of Flipturn really could crank it up at any given moment. Part of what makes them so exciting is you don’t know where they’ll go next on the following track, but they all transition VERY well into the next.

This is an album that was made with a lot of love. One that I would appreciate just as much ten years ago as I would now. Flipturn is definitely one to look out for in the coming years.

Bump This: Burn, Playground, Sad Disco

37. Pusha T – It’s Almost Dry

Genre: Rap

Getting the obvious out of the way, no it is not as good as Daytona… but that’s a high bar to set. It’s Almost Dry is easily one of the highest quality rap albums of the year. Half the tracks are produced by Kanye (sigh) and the other half are by Pharrell. Both sides definitely have high highs. The Kanye beats sample more classic sounds from the 60s and 70s, the most iconic being the John Lennon sample on Dreamin of the Past. That sample is utilized so well and Push does a kickass job flowing through it all (even if the Kanye feature is kinda garbage).

The Pharrell side isn’t as strong as the Kanye side, but still has a lot to appreciate. Labrinth’s contribution following his success on Euphoria was exciting and easily the best song on the back half. Nigo’s involvement is a fun time as well, I’m glad that he was able to make this presence worthwhile here too. Overall, it’s pretty much what you expect lyrically from Push, strong wordplay, really unique adlibs and punchlines. Cocaine’s Dr Seuss continues to kick ass with song writing and deciding who he wants involved in his work.

Bump This: Let the Smokers Shine the Coupes, Dreamin of the Past, Diet Coke, I Pray For You

36. Rina Sawayama – Hold the Girl

Genre: Dance-Pop, Pop

Rina Sawayama was one of the most exciting names to come out of 2020. Her blend of 2000s pop and alt-rock was unlike anything that was out at the time. It still is a great album, but now with Hold the Girl, this proves she is more than just her debut.

Rina really knows how to play to her strengths. She has a powerhouse of a voice, one that was meant for these booming, echoey choruses that feel like they’re being sent into outer space. This Hell has this 2000s power ballad essence with a really unexpectedly great guitar solo towards the end. Then there’s songs like one of my personal favorites, Holy (Till You Let Me Go), which sounds like a lost 90’s club anthem with one of my favorite vocal performances of the year.

I really appreciate the heartfelt, slower moments on Hold the Girl too. Send My Love to John being a love letter to her friend that had struggled with coming out to his family. It’s a nice moment towards the end of the record that stuck with me every time I revisited. I hope that I can catch Rina on the road sometime soon because these past albums sound sensational through headphones.

Bump This: This Hell, Frankenstein, Holy (Til You Let Me Go)

35. Jack White – Fear of the Dawn

Genre: Blues Rock, Experimental Rock

It could’ve gone either way with which Jack White release to put here, but I find myself returning to Fear of the Dawn more. This is the most fun I’ve had listening to a Jack White record in a while. While Boarding House Reach is a great album in its’ own respects, this one just feels like Jack is saying, “fuck it, let’s just get weird!”

This album couldn’t have started any better than with the roaring, abrasive Taking Me Back. A track that feels like a classic jam from him, but also refreshingly new. The sounds you here all across this record caught me by surprise, which is the best part about it. A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip is featured on Hi-De-Ho, a fast paced, groovy tune that still manages to feel normal within this album’s zaniness.

Upon first listen, the transition from Taking Me Back Into the title track snuck in very seamlessly. Relistening to it now I feel as though the whole project functions the same way. The way these tracks flow into each other and offer up their own unique sounds and personalities makes this feel like a more complete record than it proves. It’s a blast from beginning to end.

Bump This: Taking Me Back (also try the gentle version!), This Was Then, This is Now, Hi-De-Ho

34. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Cool it Down

Genre: Rock

The first time I heard Spitting Off the Edge of the World, I was invested. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have been off the map for years now so I clung onto my steering wheel desperately as the song premiered globally on the indie station. Nearly a whole decade has passed since Mosquito was first purchased on my iPod Touch. Karen O did a cool album with Danger Mouse, but still… I WANT THE YEAH YEAH YEAHS!

This album was a really interesting first listen and an even better second. This is unlike anything the group has done thus far in their nearing 20 year career. Instead of an all out rager of a dance-rock album like Fever to Tell or a rhythmic alternative album like Show Your Bones, Cool it Down does exactly what the title speaks for about half the record. This is a slow burning, apocalyptic, melodramatic force. Songs like Burning and Wolf come off pretty corny at times as they feel like final boss video game music during their highest altitudes, but it really works.

Fleez is probably the closest you’ll get to a “quintessential” YYYs track. As a long time, loving fan of Fever to Tell that track really stuck with me with how distorted the guitars were and how sassy Karen’s vocals are too. For people who thought Mosquito was a step backwards and wanna whine about how their best days are behind them, go choke on Karen’s spit, this is great shit.

Bump This: Spitting Off the Edge of the World, Fleez, Blacktop, Lovebomb

33. Metro Boomin – HEROES AND VILLAINS

Genre: Trap

I’ll spare you the “you can trust Metro” puns, this was quite delightful.

Metro continues to show why you should respect his craft, especially when put aside other producer albums like DJ Khaled’s God Did. There was a lot of love put into this project and the features he had elected to spotlight this were near perfect. 21 Savage and Future THAT good behind a Metro beat should be no surprise at this point. 21 needed some redemption anyway after his awkward performance on that Calvin Harris track. Travis also steals the spotlight whenever he shows too, which really builds up more anticipation for Utopia next year. This is also narrated by Morgan Freeman just like Savage Mode II was in 2020. He didn’t spit any bars, but maybe on the next in the series.

I don’t have much else to say other than it’s hard to come across a producer’s album FULL of guest features that nearly all hit. HEROES AND VILLAINS is a rare case. Are some songs better than others? Of course, but this has endless replay value. He also found a way to include the recently deceased Migos member, Takeoff in a very honorable way. Great way to end the mixtape.

Bump This: Umbrella, Raindrops (Insane), Metro Spider

32. brakence – hypochondriac

Genre: Glitch-pop, emo rap

There was a 100 Gecs sized hole in my hyper-pop heart this year. There were new discoveries like The Underscores and Glaive that I enjoyed quite a bit, but nothing stuck. Then I see come upon this brakence record and now that hole is cemented. Locked tight.

What an experience this was, man. If you thought 100 Gecs were genre pushers, give brakence his flowers. All the daffodils, roses, although he’d probably prefer cannabis if we’re talking plants am I right? This is a very downward spiral of an album. In a mind-warping way, he raps, rocks, sings and dances to his own sad horn in the best way. Deepfake will go down as one of the best alt/hyper-pop meshed tracks of all time. The theme of being obsessed with being your inauthentic self to cope with mental pain is hard to hear since he really pours it out on this track in particular.

Hypochondriac deals with many hard handed discussions. Suicide, addiction, mental struggles… and you may think that sounds cringe because topics like that are usually mistreated in modern music for popularity. This is different. brakence has crafted the messiest, polished album this year (that I’ve heard) and it’s not even close. I appreciate what he does for this genre if you can limit him to one. He also kills the trope that glitch/hyper-pop needs a shitload of autotune and vocoding to sound good, which typically turns me away from the genre. This is nice. brakence… yeah he’s nice.

Bump This: cbd, deepfake, caffeine

31. Spoon – Lucifer on the Sofa

Genre: Rock, Post-Punk

Spoon can easily be a contender for having the best album covers. Look how bold and striking it is! Enough playing art critic, let’s play Spoon enjoyer.

I had this conversation with my dad about how Spoon can drop an album and won’t get excited no matter how good it sounds. It’s weird though because every time I hear a song or album by them I really enjoy myself. This was no different, The Hardest Cut, great track! Wild? Also great! So why did I put it off? I have no excuse other than I was probably listening to something in the top ten for the hundredth time.

Lucifer on the Sofa is a great time. This could honestly be labeled a blues rock record if not for maybe one or two tracks. Spoon didn’t need to switch up their sound, but this definitely sticks out to me more than their last project, Hot Thoughts in 2017. The blues comes full force as the band slaps me in the face with Held, this slightly ferocious (by Spoon standards) tune that only teases other bluesy tracks like The Devil and Mister Jones, which feels more blues than it sounds. The storytelling and conveying of emotion on this feels a lot like that style. Almost like a Gary Clark Jr. on his latest album.

You’ll get classic sounds you’d expect from the group too like The Hardest Cut and My Babe, but Spoon is so good at doing what they do at this point. They can make twenty more records that sound like this, I’ll put it off for three months and then finally love it because I remember how much I dig this group.

Bump This: Satellite, The Devil and Mister Jones, The Hardest Cut, Wild

30. Wet Leg – Wet Leg

Genre: Indie rock, Post-Punk

Wet Leg might be the coolest duo out there. These two have so much chemistry on and offstage and it really reflects in their musicality. This really just feels like an album of two friends exchanging stories. Stories that range from awkward as hell to relatable in some respects.

I love how crude or blatantly absurd some of this project is at times. There’s “is your muffin buttered, would you like us to assign someone to butter your muffin?” or the part in Ur Mom where the lyrics are, “okay, I’ve been practicing my longest and loudest scream” and then screams for an admittedly long time. There’s a lot of charm that comes from them for that reason.

I also kind of hate this album because half the songs get stuck in my head at least once a week. Most times it’s Chaise Longue, which I like so much because of how much it reminds me of early 2000s post-punk revival. Angelica has this sort of la di da delivery that annoys me constantly, but in a way that I’d still forgive them.

Wet Leg has my full attention after dropping something as awesome as this.

Bump This: Wet Dream, Ur Mom, Chaise Longue, Angelica

29. Weyes Blood – And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow

Genre: Art-pop

My expectations were completely unreasonable for this album. So much so that I was disappointed the first time listening. Thankfully, I sat with it a little longer and thought a bit more rationally. Not every album can be Titanic Rising and that’s okay.

Even though it isn’t as good as Titanic Rising, And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow is still one of the best pop albums of the year. The best part of the project is how deep you can sink into Natalie’s vocals. She really hits the right emotional strokes. Any of the instrumentals on these songs could standalone and be called a classic record. The emotional impact of something like God Turn Me Into a Flower or The Worst is Done will stick with you. The Worst is Done is also one of the year’s most intoxicating pop tracks. This feels like the radio hit that’ll never be. I love the part where she sings, “In the world’s loneliest city, we’re not meant to be our own angels all the time.” Lyrical content of that quality and cleverness is something to expect from her songwriting at this point.

If you want your feelings to be hurt alongside a very passionate, soothing voice and lose yourself into a spiral of euphoria mixed with devastation… you’ll love this the way I do.

Bump This: The Worst is Done, God Turn Me Into a Flower, It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody

28. The Backseat Lovers – Waiting to Spill

Genre: Alternative, Folk Rock

Who would’ve guessed that Kilby Girl could launch The Backseat Lovers to make an album as spectacular as this. I caught this album at the tail-end of the year and it really just blew me away with how much of departure this is from their sound that made them break so big. When We Were Friends is a solid album with a lot of really strong singles and an established sound that kind of stuck with the popular alternative of that time. Waiting to Spill feels like The Backseat Lovers spent a year of only listening to Radiohead’s In Rainbows and Hail to the Thief. The singer sounds like he’s channeling his inner Thom Yorke on a handful of tracks.

What I love about Waiting to Spill the most is the simplicity of the lyrics. They aren’t easy or basic, but they really reflect the tone and the style of the record. One of the few albums this year that really has an album artwork that matches the tone of the record really well (yes, that makes the album better). Silhouette is one of the best openers of the year. It’s a six minute autumnal wet dream. There’s only 23 words spoken in this mostly instrumental track that doesn’t overstay its’ welcome at all.

I think what really makes me fall for this album is how much spirit was put into it. Not all these tracks sound alike. One song sounds like classic Backseat Lovers, while another track like Follow the Sound resembles a Belle and Sebastian track from The Boy with the Arab Strap era. It’s a wonderful album that gives life to mainstream folk-rock, which has not garnered any attention of mine for years.

Bump This: Silhouette, Follow the Sound, Know Your Name

27. Ari Lennox – age/sex/location

Genre: R&B, Neo-Soul

Dreamville had an amazing year in 2022. J. Cole had some great features, JID consistently proved why he’s the hottest rapper this decade so far, and Ari Lennox shattered expectations with an instant, soulful, classy, dirty record.

age/sex/location sometimes puts a song like WAP to shame. This is a very honest and upfront record that has Ari really explaining in detail what this love and attraction has her feeling. It is seriously the horniest album of the year by a mile. Of course that’s not why I placed it at this position. Ari also shows why she is to be in discussion for best powerhouse voices of this generation.

For every time Ari is saying she wants to be worn like a hoodie (Hoodie) or having her back blown out and waste her time (Waste My Time), there’s a beautiful vocal performance to back it up. It’s one of those voices where it has so much demeanor and strength that you believe every word of what she’s saying. Her conviction carries this record a long way.

This is a very soft, sultry, and tasteful album. An album that has many amazing memorable moments whether it be Ari’s bubbly, confident persona beaming or the often intoxicating instrumentals/beats. One that I hope will have a lot more people hop on the Ari Lennox train.

Bump (and grind) This: POF, Pressure, Waste My Time, Boy Bye

26. redveil – learn 2 swim

Genre: Jazz Rap

redveil has had a pretty big past few years. For someone who has barely become of age, he has blown up in the underground hip-hop scene. I first found out about him during quarantine when he dropped his debut, which was solid. Nothing that really gripped me, not like learn 2 swim did this year.

L2S is an album that hit an emotional chord for me. This feels like the type of music the late, great Mac Miller would’ve made back in his GO:OD AM era. It’s very jazzy, redveil’s flow and cadence are very chill and reserved, the production he did on this too is well beyond what anyone would expect of him this early in his career. I’m pretty sure he’s aware of it too. Morphine and Diving Board both cover what stage he’s at in his career and what seems to be expected of him. It’s also advice that he has been given, but feels like he’s sort of reminding himself to stay true to his ways too. Speaking what he’s been told and embodying it.

I’ve heard this album a bunch of times this year and it impresses me every time. An artist like redveil will make you want to pick up a pen and paper and start writing your own material. His lyrics and style have paid off big time, this is the jazzy rap album that a post Mac world deserves.

Bump This: pg baby, diving board, morphine, mars

25. Cheekface – Too Much to Ask

Genre: Dance-Punk, Power Pop

Thanks TikTok! You put me onto this weird ass album and I love it (please don’t steal my info).

I have no clue where Cheekface came from. They’re a band that is like if Ariel Pink and LCD Soundsystem had a child that ate dirt. This is mosh pit music for the weird kids. I know it sounds like I’m insulting this project, but I promise it’s more charming than I’m making it seem. For example, the opening track of this album has a part where the singer yelps, “life hands you problems, make problemade”. If goofiness like that turns you off, you probably won’t love the track where he shouts “A BIG CUP OF NOODLES!” for 56 seconds.

This album is very quirky and off the walls, but it’s a really creative and pretty fun dance party. One of my favorite tracks of the year falls on this album, You Always Want to Bomb the Middle East. It’s this indie pop banger that is pretty much least serious anti-war ballad of all time. It’s a total earworm and the lyrics are once again really clever and bizarre as anything from this year. There’s also a somewhat parody (if you can call it that) of LCD Soundsystem’s Losing My Edge, which essentially covers the same concept, but instead the singer proclaims he wants to be the singer on an EDM song. It’s a clever moment that shows the self-awareness Cheekface has on this entire record.

Trust me, this is some of the smartest satire you’ll hear all year.

Bump This: You Always Want to Bomb the Middle East, We Need a Bigger Dumpster, Featured Singer

24. JER – Bothered/Unbothered

Genre: Ska

It feels almost purposeful to put JER’s album next to Cheekface’s. Both of them have their own unique way of addressing the political state of the world (better than Jaden Smith did this year).

JER is part of the YouTube channel Skatune Network, a channel that specializes and highlights modern ska. While I had never really knew about him before, Bothered/Unbothered makes you want to know more. The album is like the embodiment of Hey Ya! syndrome. You can easily throw some ass or start a mosh pit to any of these tracks and it’d make sense, but the lyrics go a little deeper than just a party song.

There’s You Got Yr Card Revoked! where JER sings about not wishing he had to prove himself to be something more than just his race and being instantly profiled. The opener, Bothered, has a pop-punk friendly intro that poses the question that equality won’t mean fairness until it’s accurately demonstrated. We still live with these stereotypes and prejudices that stick into many people’s minds. To JER, this would still not be living free since “to agree to disagree is to live in complacency”. As stated earlier, as heavy handed as the lyrical content is on this album, the instrumentals are still a total blast. It’ll make you feel like ska never went anywhere.

JER makes a lot of great points and demonstrates that this genre still has air to breathe yet, as this album I believe will inspire a lot of people to take on the genre again if it blows up the way it deserves to.

Bump This: You Got Yr Card Revoked!, Cold Truth, Decolonize Yr Mind, You Can Get it if You Really Want

23. Carly Rae Jepsen – The Loneliest Time

Genre: Dance-Pop

For years I’ve felt I’m one of the few people that doesn’t get EMOTION. I’ve tried to enjoy that album, but for some reason something does not click. Not to say there weren’t good singles, but something Dedicated or The Loneliest Time are more my speed.

Carly Rae Jepsen did what Dua Lipa had done in 2020 with Future Nostalgia, a groovy, modern take on 80s pop. This couldn’t be more visible than on Sideways, which feels like a slow jam at the classiest prom you can imagine. This 80s energy continues on Shooting Star, a cheesy, but cute bop about love, astrology, and dancing your life away. Plus I really like her “I’d like to let your bed get to know me” line. I’ve never heard that before and it got a laugh out of me.

As every CRJ album has, there’s a lot of memorable radio friendly hits like Surrender My Heart and Talking to Yourself that BEG to be blasted through speakers. Her voice hits those high notes really well at certain moments on those songs in particular. Beach House can also fall under that category if not for the stupid part towards the end where multiple voices come in saying they have beach houses in Malibu.

Believe the hype around this one. This is CRJ’s best album to date and will be blasting through my speakers shamelessly next summer.

Bump This: The Loneliest Time, Sideways, Western Wind, Surrender My Heart

22. The Weeknd – Dawn FM

Genre: Synth-Pop

It’s a shame that Abel’s performance of I’m a Virgin from American Dad couldn’t make it on Dawn FM.

Dawn FM feels like the perfect companion piece to After Hours. Abel really finds a lot of success when it comes to synth pop, so to see him come up with this multi-layered conceptual album was really cool. This album gets bonus points for having it narrated by Jim Carrey, who seems to have become this trendy figure to have around again all a sudden. His narration is suave like a late night radio DJ giving the most sinister and creepy vibe to this somewhat colder record.

This album is very reminiscent of how scattered Starboy was in 2016. There’s so many different styles that Abel covers. The performance on Gasoline feels like a confident, yet antagonistic delivery. The concept is pretty dark how he says he wants to be put in a sheet and set on fire if he dies from OD’ing. Abel’s desperation is a recurring theme throughout the record. He’s a toxic lover that you don’t really want to relate to, but you find some habits of his behavior in. It’s to the point where the tracks reflect this idea, How Do I Make You Love Me and Is There Someone Else.

Dawn FM has a lot of very epic moments too. The transition of How Do I Make You Love Me into the night drive, synth banger, Take My Breath really kicks it off. This is a BIG song. One that has a lot of atmosphere the way that Starboy and Blinding Lights did too. This however has nothing on what is arguably the pop song of the year, Less Than Zero, which has the best instrumental and emotional downpour of the entire record. It fits very snuggly at the end of the record, which provided the little boost it needed.

It’s another great The Weeknd album that feels like a worthy second helping of After Hours greatness.

Bump This: Take My Breath, Less Than Zero, Best Friends, Gasoline

21. Ethel Cain – Preacher’s Daughter

Genre: Dream-Pop

I came across Ethel Cain by mistake. I was listening to Lorem Life, the podcast hosted by Dev Lemons on Spotify thinking it was the Beach Bunny interview and instead came upon the Ethel Cain interview instead. They had some very nice things to say about Preacher’s Daughter and Ethel seemed pretty down to earth, so why not give it a go?

I figured since this was on Lorem Life that it would be an upbeat record. Nope. Not even close. This is one of the darkest albums I’ve heard in recent years. It’s a concept album about Ethel running away from her family and falls in love with a cannibal she meets along the way… I’m sure you can guess what happens there. This isn’t a Bones and All record.

There’s too many moments on Preacher’s Daughter to list that just wowed me. The explosiveness in drowned out, shoogazey instrumentals really make some parts of this story hit harder than it should. I realize that some of the albums on this list are pretty melodramatic, but this feels properly dramatic. Running away from home is not meant to sound pleasant. She sings about the reasons as to why she ran away and the effects that left her feeling traumatized in ways that will make you think about your own relationship with your parents.

I won’t spoil the ending of the record if you’re interested, but if you’re in for a hauntingly, miraculous pop record I implore you to check Ethel’s masterpiece out. There’s near ten minute tracks that will rip your heart out and shorter tracks that highlight how talented of a vocalist she is too. It often times gets drowned out by the guitars and apocalyptic drums, but it’s almost melodic. Can’t recommend this one more.

Bump This: *This one should be listened to in full, but the first track will hook you*

20. The Smile – A Light For Attracting Attention

Genre: Rock

From day one there’s no way this was going to fail. When you have a song like You Will Never Work in Television Again as your lead single, you’re gonna get the Radiohead fans excited. Not just any Radiohead fans though… OLD SCHOOL Radiohead fans.

Thom Yorke has been pretty active doing solo work these years following Radiohead’s last album in 2016. Same goes for Johnny Greenwood, who has been a part of a lot of great film scores in recent years too. Pair those two with the drummer of Sons of Kemet and some magic happens. This is a beautiful nightmare of an album. A Light For Attracting Attention isn’t a dominating, breakthrough, album… It’s just really really high quality.

Take the second single The Smoke, which has probably the catchiest bassline this year. It’s a total earworm that will slip into your brain and make you wanna practice it on your own bass guitar. Like many tracks, this one also has a soothing sax that seeps through Thom’s very subtle vocal performance. Pana-Vision illustrates a similar vibe where instead of the sax playing backup it is the core aspect. The underlying themes of classism on this one hit especially hard. Seeing people for who they are without their metaphorical clothing.

This album succeeds of saying a lot with a little. The Opposite is carried by these cool, borderline breakdown level of guitars and again, a really awesome bassline. It’s also very hypnotic the way Thom’s vocals get distorted and weepy during the “bridge”. It plays to this paranoid and hopeless atmosphere you hear throughout the record. For it being sort of a downer, A Light for Attracting Attention still has a good replay value.

Bump This: Speech Bubbles, You Will Never Work in Television Again, Thin Thing, The Smoke

19. Orville Peck – Bronco

Genre: Country

On the very rare occasion a country album will totally wow me the way that Chris Stapleton did with Traveler, Kacey Musgraves with Same Trailer Different Park, and Orville Peck with Bronco.

Orville is an interesting dude. He stands out in the country scene for the reason of not wanting to be like any of his peers in his genre. He plays up the gay cowboy persona to the max as I’ve seen him perform live as well. He’s got a powerful voice that really has an emotional pull. A fair amount of times he discusses his narrow glimpses he’s had with death and suicide. The way he croons and even bellows on The Curse of the Blackened Eye about these feelings is heartbreaking. It’s a slow burn that really pays off big time.

It’s no secret that he knows how to nail a soft, acoustic track with very minimal, showy instrumentals, but there’s a lot of bangers here too! The lead single Daytona Sand has a boot stomping beat and feels especially hype when the tempo speeds up during the chorus. Lafayette, while a somber track about heartache, is a tonally upbeat track that strikes as a true and traditional country song.

Hexie Mountains is a definitive track here as well. It’s all you could ask for with sad cowboy music. It’s a defeat of mental anguish that instead of there being a happy ending, just leaves you feeling his pain and doubt. Orville will play your heart the way he plucks and strums his guitar so well on Bronco. One of the brightest voices in country.

Bump This: Daytona Sand, The Curse of the Blackened Eye, Hexie Mountains, C’mon Baby, Cry

18. Djo – Decide

Genre: Psychedelic Pop

Joe Keery has been everywhere in 2022. When he’s not playing Steve Harrington on Stranger Things, he can be found playing for his project Djo. A psychedelic pop trip that feels like Blade Runner put into an album.

This dystopian album made me feel many things. Joy above all, as this is a very synth heavy album with many grooves and sways. The opener Runner painted the best picture possible. It’s a chaotic, blippy bloopy, jam that feeds perfectly into Gloom. While Joe chants “and now I’m ready to go” so am I. This album kicks off reaching the highest of highs I could’ve expected. Tracks like Half Life show that Decide isn’t as predictable as you may think. There’s explosiveness and a guitar breakdown in between these Tame Impala like keyboards. Even if the drumming is a little one note, the instrumentals still are all over the wall and exciting.

End of Beginning may be a cheat code for my heart since he’s singing about how much he feels like himself when he’s back home in Chicago. The song feels like a gust of wind blowing in from the windows going down Michigan Ave.

Decide is a total blast from start to end. It almost feels too short even at 13 songs. There’s a lot of creativity and inspiration put behind the instrumental arrangements. A handful of times Djo just happens to say the right thing at the right time. Whether he’s talking about changing his persona and name or critiquing the seemingly empty world he builds on this record, he does it well.

Bump This: End of Beginning, Gloom, Change, Figure it Out, Runner

17. Kenny Beats – Louie

Genre: Instrumental Hip-Hop

Kenny Beats seems like the coolest hip-hop producer out there. His show Don’t Overthink Shit is really impressive. He knows how to craft beats to match the artist’s style. On Louie though he ditches working with any artist to craft an album full of instrumentals. Ones that range to lo/fi YouTube beats, to ones that feel like they were made for someone like Vince Staples or Denzel Curry on a hype track.

There are a few small artist appearances on Louie like JPEGMAFIA on Still, who shouts his instantly recognizable “Double Up” adlib or Slowthai’s vocals on Family Tree. It’s not at the forefront of the songs though, it’s mainly meant to act as maybe a pause in between a rapper’s bars (if one chose to rap over it).

There’s not a ton I can say other than I’ve probably listened to this album more than probably any other album this year with maybe one or two exceptions. I can pop this on while I’m working, driving, or just talking to people and it creates this fresh, chill environment with beats ranging from 70’s influenced (Drop 10) to bedroom pop inspired (Family Tree). It’s a nice moment in hip-hop I didn’t know I needed this year.

Bump This: Still, Hold My Head, Family Tree, Drop 10

16. Viagra Boys – Cave World

Genre: Post-Punk

Cave World feels like a joke. It pokes fun at us, calls people apes, and have songs called Baby Criminal and Creepy Crawlers. The type of album that makes it feel like you’re being bullied by big hulking Swedish man.

I love when a band like Viagra Boys comes around. It’s no secret that politics seep their way into a lot of modern music, but I like the way they go about it on Cave World. The delivery of the singer’s lyrics feels like a high school government teacher who doesn’t get paid enough to deal with shitty kids and is just on their last leg. Even if its sometimes a bit over the top, their attack on COVID deniers, flat earthers, and conspiracy theorists is brutal. As is said before, they’re often times comparing these people as monkeys and that if they want to act like monkeys, then they can leave society and throw shit at each other. Their words not mine.

Point is, Viagra Boys are the perfect group for gen z and meme culture. It’s not dumbed down for that demographic in particular, but their sense of humor is more on the nose and in tune with this internet culture and meme centered humor that you can find on Twitter (spelling monkey like monke or addressing absurd COVID theories). This is an aggressive, in-your-face album that will make you mentally stand up and cheer. It’s like the politically active band kid’s voices in their head spoke up and made a record… but it actually sounds great.

Bump This: Troglodyte, Creepy Crawlers, Return to Monke

15. Joey Bada$$ – 2000

Genre: Rap, Boom-Bap

There’s very few artists that can pull off a sequel/series of albums, let alone having the second one coming out over a decade after the original. Joey’s 1999 is held in a very high regard. One that a handful consider to be one of the best mixtapes of all time and I would agree. I loved how his narration felt like a guide into his adolescence and how he came to be who he is today. It didn’t feel traditional. It felt like a good kid, m.a.a.d. city arrangement. Might be a hot take buuuuuuuuut… 2000 is even better than 1999.

Joey did everything right. His projects that have followed since 1999 had dropped have had a wide array of sound and ideas, not disbanding the sound he created on that mixtape but more-so evolving it. The fact that he was able to recreate the essence of that original tape and modernize it was spectacular.

The emotional high points on this mixtape like Eulogy and the heartbreak of Survivor’s Guilt was something I did not expect. Joey talks about how much he grieves the deaths of those he has held close over the years. To the point where he says he won’t be forgiven for the death of his childhood friend from his friend’s family, nor himself. Songs with that much vulnerability on a tape that has equal amounts of bangers isn’t easy to balance. It’s not a problem here in the slightest, since after the somber energy coming off of Eulogy we get treated to the catchiest track, Zipcodes. I mean this in the best way possible, but the sample horns that are littered in between verses make it sound like something you’d hear on a NBA 2K soundtrack. Again, not a bad thing, if anything it helps relay this nostalgic feeling that I can only imagine Joey meant to do here anyway.

In any other year in recent history, I’d probably say this would be the best rap project that came out, but there’s more that somehow beat this. 2000 is a must if you enjoy jazzy, lyrical, boom-bap hip-hop. Joey Bada$$ has been doing great shit like this for years, but here I think is where he mastered it.

Bump This: Zipcodes, Survivor’s Guilt, Show Me, Wanna Be Loved, Eulogy

14. Beach House – Once Twice Melody

Genre: Dream Pop

The rollout for Beach House’s eighth album was my favorite of the whole year. It extended back as far back as November 2021 where the first four songs dropped. Those four songs were all BANGERS to no ones surprise. According to my Last.fm, I had streamed that EP over a dozen times and was shocked that it was not on my Spotify Wrapped. In case you aren’t familiar with how BH rolled this out, they dropped three EPs each with about four or five songs in the months leading up to the album. There weren’t a lot of surprises when it came out as a collective package in February, but hearing it all together with an additional five songs upon release was a transcendental listening experience.

Each of these four different EPs were wonderful in their own respects, but there were definitely moments that stuck out most. Pink Funeral and Masquerade have these haunting beats that I’ve never heard from them before. Victoria’s vocals soar on both as the beat carries you into this feeling that reminds me of when you close your eyelids really sharply and you see the streaky colors glide across your vision.

I don’t think you could’ve asked for a better lead single for this record either. Once Twice Melody felt like Beach House on crack. This was a groovy, mesmerizing, emotional ride. One I did not think would be topped until the next EPs started dropping and we got songs like Sunset and Over and Over. Ever get mad at how good an album sounds? That’s me typing about this album as I’m revisiting this wonderful time.

Beach House have slowly become one of my favorite bands ever these past few years. College really turned me onto them again, so having Once Twice Melody drop a semester after I graduated felt like my parting gift. In this four chapter ride, this solidified them as legends in dream pop and indie as a whole. Nobody is doing what these guys do.

Bump This: Once Twice Melody, Hurts to Love, Sunset, Superstar, Runaway

13. Alvvays – Blue Rev

Genre: Indie Pop, Shoegaze

YES! Yes, yes, yes. After five long years they’re finally back and arguably better than ever. Alvvays had a lot to live up to, at least by my standards. Their self titled and Antisocialites were the soundtrack to my early college years and if it didn’t sound good, well… I would… I would just explode. My heart would go pop as if it was Dollar Tree party popper and if you knew anything about Dollar Tree party poppers you’d know that they’re mostly defective and leave you and your fellow partygoers disappointed because they didn’t pop. Oh yeah, I’m still talking about an album.

Blue Rev is indie pop album of the year. While Antisocialites was a more bubbly and brighter shoegaze listen, Blue Rev feels like the grungier cousin. There’s like twice the amount of distortion and fuzz and vocals that I did not expect from Molly. She did not have to go THAT hard on Easy On Your Own. Molly’s vocals feel big here. The chorus elevates this burst of indie wonder as she exudes this final verse that has a fantastic build-up. One that is almost as good as the following track, After the Earthquake. This was the song that I’ve always wanted from the group. A jangle-pop sensation with a surprise second breath that makes me feel like Max from Stranger Things as she levitates listening to Kate Bush.

Alvvays is not without their smart lyrics and social commentary either. Very Online Guy follows this man who craves relevancy and validation from strangers online instead of those around him. Belinda Says is supposed to be a hint at what the afterlife is like and even credits Belinda Carlisle’s classic, Heaven is a Place on Earth as inspiration. Pomeranian Spinster is a fuck you ballad that almost begs a mosh pit. It might be the most aggressive song that Alvvays have ever made as it has layers of guitar fuzz, distorted vocals, and some punchiness that once again provide a second breath to an already great album.

Alvvays came at the right time. I can’t predict the future, but in my eyes this will be a classic in the coming years. One that I plan spinning on my turntable for time to come.

Bump This: Belinda Says, After the Earthquake, Very Online Guy, Pomeranian Spinster, Pressed, Pharmacist

12. Soul Glo – Diaspora Problems

Genre: Hardcore

Say what you want about Anthony Fantano, but I got to give credit to him for putting me onto Diaspora Problems. What the hell is this, man? I love when surprises like Soul Glo come around. This is the most exciting album I’ve heard in 2022.

Diaspora Problems is a culmination of many things. It’s a hardcore act that stands out very much from others in the genre and they know it. They own it in fact. I love their many different genre inclusions like hip-hop and hardcore, but also a little bit of electronic elements as well like on Driponomics. This track felt like Soul Glo’s answer to Death Grips as this beat and lyrical delivery melt my face off with how insane it sounds. A track that asks the question of how much you’re willing to pay for stupid name brand shit. I had also never heard of Mother Maryrose before this track, but her feature was sick enough for me to check out some of her material too.

My favorite aspects of this album is when the group meshes all their powers together. Gold Chain Punk has this beautifully skull crushing finale that highlights that the group has more than just one talented vocalist. Thumbsucker has this awesome, unexpected horns section in between the verses. Verses that cover how disguising your emotions will end up giving more pain than it would in the moment had you just faced it head on.

The album has my favorite closer of the entire year with Spiritual Level of Gang Shit. This song fucking rips. It starts off with a rap intro which then translates into this uproar of hardcore with a massive horn buildup mixed with some of the most passionate screams I’ve heard in any album this decade. Diaspora Problems is nothing less than a future classic. The themes and sounds on this already feel timeless and are totally worth every minute of its’ 40 minute runtime.

Bump This: Gold Chain Punk (whogonbeatmyass?), Thumbsucker, Driponomics, Spiritual Level of Gang Shit

11. The 1975 – Being Funny in a Foreign Language

Genre: Alt-pop

The 1975 are like a box of chocolates, you really never know what you’re gonna get. The album before this had a handful of their typical indie pop love songs, but also some house music and even a pretty hard rock song for their standards at least. That album seemed to divide a lot of the fanbase, but this one really felt like it was for everyone.

LCD Soundsystem’s All My Friends is interpolated in the opening track and is instantly recognizable. It’s Matt Healy’s favorite song, but the way that he pulled it off to illustrate what the album was going to be like was impressive. It alludes to how Matt is going to push his interesting mind onto you and tell you that you’re stupid, while also telling you how much he loves you. Happiness is probably the closest you’ll get to a really solid, self-titled album song anytime soon. Give the saxophonist his flowers here too by the way, I heard this song live a few weeks ago and he puts his all into that performance.

Being Funny in a Foreign Language never runs thin on ideas either. I really respect how Jack Antonoff’s production ideas on this album feel very balanced with the band’s sound, but also help them venture off into different genres too. Part of the Band was the lead single to this project, which sounds like the cutest Bon Iver song for douchebags you’ll ever hear. I know that sounds like an insult, but Matty’s cynical persona oozes on this track. This track, however, had the unfortunate task of following Looking for Somebody to Love which is easily my favorite song the band has done in years.

LFSTL this extremely Antonoff influenced pop banger with the catchiest little quirky riff. Of course in typical The 1975 fashion though there’s something a little deeper and darker than just a catchy song. It’s about how gun violence and toxic masculinity draw parallels in ways that are inhumane and ridiculous. I’m underselling this description, but trust me it’s an amazing track. About You is the sweetest post-breakup song the band has written. Saying that no matter how it ended, I still will always remember you. You can’t always recollect the specific memory, but you might remember how it made you feel. The 1975 is very good at pointing out these little things that we don’t think to think about.

The tour for this album cycle was “The 1975 at Their Very Best” and I agree. This might be the band at their very best. It’s a short, sweet, yet concise record that I really have not been able to stop listening to since it dropped in October.

Bump This: About You, The 1975, Oh Caroline, Looking for Somebody to Love, Wintering

TOP TEN TIME!

10. Denzel Curry – Melt My Eyez See Your Future

Genre: Rap, Boom Bap, Jazz Rap

Every time Denzel Curry drops an album I never think that he’ll top it. Every time I am proven wrong. Melt My Eyez See Your Future is Denzel’s best project to date (even he thinks so too!)

Denzel is one of very few rappers that really knows how to consistently and creatively rap about mental health. The song Mental delves into Zel’s experience with suicide and how much he tells himself that there’s more than meets the eye and less that should exist in your mind. Simultaneously giving some really memorable wordplay before the first verse is over. I love how effortless it feels coming out of him.

Walkin’ was one of the first songs I’ve seen from Zel that pretty much had everyone in agreement with how much this song fucking rules. This western-like beat starts with him preaching that it’s him against the world and how he walks with his back of the sun and his head to the sky. A moment that really preludes the concept of Denzel’s struggles and strife whether it be related to race, pressured by capitalistic society, or how he has felt spending his time in the industry.

MMESYF has a great balance of jazzy tunes, radio friendly hits, and journalistic raps. This is one of the few albums, if any, that really is worth listening to the deluxe too. A handful of the tracks on it are done without a beat and subbed out with the Cold Blooded Soul version. A jazz collective who really elevate these already great tracks. If you love lyrical hip-hop and haven’t checked out Denzel before, please do. He only gets better.

Bump This: Walkin, Worst Comes to Worst, Mental, Zaitoichi, X-Wing

9. Black Thought & Danger Mouse – Cheat Codes

Genre: Rap

I’ll start by saying a few things that have nothing to pertain to the sound. Firstly, this album art is fantastic. It’s bold, it’s memorable, and it really suits the style of the album. Danger Mouse really is one of the best cheat code with modern rap. Aside from this and the obvious, legendary Danger Doom (MF DOOM) collab, he’s collaborated with A$AP Rocky (Sundress) and Jemini too. Needless to say, I’m a big fan of his production. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that this is easily the best produced rap album of the year.

So many different sounds, vibes, and features keep Cheat Codes at the highest echelon. Black Thought was a perfect choice to work with Mr. Mouse. His style with The Roots really translates to this alternative, citylike atmosphere. The Darkest Part feels like a train ride I’ve taken into Chicago. You see the cityscape in the distance through the fogged, tinted windows as your feet are perched on the chair in front of you. Same applies to the booming Strangers. It feels like a walk through a city neighborhood with some good friends. The good friends in this case are none other than Run the Jewels and a surprising A$AP Rocky feature too. It’s an attack on the distractions that conquer our minds as the true struggles run frantically in front of you.

Speaking of features, there’s an all star cast to jam with Black Thought. Conway the Machine, Raekwon, MF DOOM, Michael Kiwanuka, and a shockingly great Russ feature. The way that all these collabs work so well really begs the question why doesn’t Danger Mouse drop a mixtape of features? He knows how to bring out the best in a lot of these people.

Cheat Codes keep you hooked by the stories and metaphors Black Thought is naturally talented at producing. Pair that with what is now my favorite Danger Mouse project to date and you’ve got a very addictive east coast hip-hop experience. I’ve listened to this while working out, driving, and writing and get something new from it every time.

Bump This: Strangers, Because, The Darkest Part, Belize, Aquamarine

8. Beach Bunny – Emotional Creature

Genre: Power Pop

Chicagoan Lili Trifilio’s project Beach Bunny hits me hard for some reason. I feel very inspired by her musicianship and the songs she makes are simple, but really intoxicating. She has done this multiple times in the past, but many times on Emotional Creature too.

Entropy, Oxygen, and Deadweight can be argued as one of the better three track runs this year. Entropy is one of those inescapable songs that pops in at the most random times. It’s also a very good shower song the way she sweetly sings “somebody’s gonna fiiiiiiiigure us out and I hope they do”. To be fair many of these songs have that quality. Oxygen was my most streamed song this year at about 32 times I believe? Honestly a rare quality in a song, at least for me, where I can listen to it many times even within a day.

On first listen I was stunned at how confessional Lili is about how much love is in her. Honeymoon was all about being hopelessly in love and making sadgirl bedroom pop. I listened to this album the first time in the car with my girlfriend and just the feelings we shared while listening to Emotional Creature felt similar to a lot of the themes of her lyrics. Sure there’s songs like Deadweight and Gone that have a touch of heartache, but at the core there’s no love without a little ache.

This is the cutest album of the whole year. There’s so many moments where I started getting goosebumps because Lili’s vocals and really catchy instrumentals on tracks like Karaoke and Gone tug on my heart just that much harder than the average love song. This is a special album that unlike a few entries higher than this one, I will be playing many of times.

Bump This: Entropy, Oxygen, Karaoke, Deadweight, Scream

7. Black Midi – Hellfire

Genre: Experimental Rock, Avant-Prog

Black Midi is a fucking force. Them and another band you’ll see later on this list put out albums in 2021 and then dropped an even better one THIS year. Cavalcade could easily be any group’s best record, but Hellfire is the bigger, bolder art piece. It has a lot to say without outright saying it. Welcome to Hell is an anti-war track about how the casualties of war for your country isn’t what wins the war, but rather killing for your country is what will win it. This album has lots of macabre themes and lines like that.

Sugar/Tzu is the most batshit rock song you’ll probably hear all year. It opens with an announcer of what sounds like a wrestling match. When he shouts “let’s see some thunder!” as it drones out into the melody, you know shit is going down. It wastes no time as this quick, tight instrumental that resembles a chase scene in a video game plays out into a roar of sax and drums that sound like Animal from the Muppets is letting completely loose.

The political motives and relatively unbiased views really make for an interesting concept. They split this album and give us a breather in between separating the ideas they had with Still. A song that gives the other vocalist a time to shine. The main vocalist returns pretty much next song with his kinda villainous delivery. I’m pretty sure I said this about Cavalcade last year, but his off-kilter performance on so many of their tracks is nothing less than admirable. Even if you absolutely hate his style, you can’t deny how impressive this group’s musicianship comes across. 27 Questions and The Race is About to Begin are tracks that couldn’t exist if the group didn’t have a high level of chemistry. One that you don’t come across often.

This is a modern nightmare of an album with a lot to say if you’re willing to buy into the insanity.

Bump This: The Race is About to Begin, Welcome to Hell, Sugar/Tzu, Still, Eat Men Eat

6. Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers

Genre: Rap

Kendrick announced his album dropping this year by quoting a tweet from a fan that said he was ready to just accept his career was over. He then dropped The Heart Part V, which is one of the most powerful pieces of not only music, but visual media as well. That music video with the deepfakes was done immaculately well. I had no idea what to expect from this album since the last we heard of Kendrick was the Black Panther soundtrack from 2018. Man, did I miss his artistry.

I’m not going to pretend like I’m an expert regurgitating what Kendrick meant by certain things or describe the album’s meaning in excruciating detail in like 70% accuracy. You can go to Twitter for that. I am going to tell you why I think it’s the most important piece of rap music since To Pimp a Butterfly though. This is an album I feel only Kendrick could make and have it have the impact it possesses. A two disc album that separates his past self as an ignorant, toxic man with fragile masculinity into the “Mr. Morale” side where he sought out therapy and discusses how he is trying to conquer some deeply rooted trauma.

The first disc has some very artistic choices. We Cry Together was a total meme which proved the point of it being on here. It’s simply just a couple fighting and throwing old shit in each other’s faces. Two people that should not be a couple whatsoever, but seem to thrive off that toxic energy. People saw it as a joke, but it’s really showing the irony of it all. Father Time has this beautiful beat with a Sampha beat that blends in perfectly. Kendrick covers how his father is to blame for how he is today and how men having daddy issues is something that was hard for him to accept and that it affects more people than they’d like to admit. This isn’t the first time this topic comes up either.

On the Mr. Morale side we are gifted with some great features, very healing lyrics, but most notably two of the most therapeutics and shocking pieces I may have ever heard in rap. Auntie Diaries is the story of his aunt having a sex change into a male and how as a kid that was hard for him to understand. The usage of the ‘f’ slur is done in a powerful way that doesn’t come off as insensitive, but honorable. I say honorable because he goes on afterwards saying how ignorant him and his peers were when it came to that concept when he was younger.

Mother I Sober broke me. This piece of music was therapeutic for me and I can only imagine how many others. Kendrick covers generational trauma and all the impactful events that shaped him negatively when he was just a child. His mother had faced sexual abuse growing up and in turn had invoked this fear into him or pain that something bad would happen to her. What follows are lyrics that feel as though Kendrick is sitting on the therapy couch as we sit down and nod our heads as we paper through these thoughts he has to share. The ending is really what makes this work. What is a very deeply affecting tune thanks to this miraculously somber beat and Beth Gibbons ‘chorus’ if you can call it that, shifts into a positive note on how we can break these generational curses as this is something bigger than just a song.

Many people took issue to Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers not being as replayable as his past works. Why would you want it to be like that? This felt like an album that took everything inside of him to make and show how someone held at such a high regard in the music industry has changed his ways. He is a role model that I feel touched a lot of hearts as well as my own. I won’t listen to this one as much as good kid, m.a.a.d. city, but I will always be grateful that an album as confessional and real as this one exists.

Bump This: N95, Rich Spirit, Father Time, Auntie Diaries, Mother I Sober

5. SZA – SOS

Genre: R&B, Pop, Rap

I am in just as much awe that a SZA album came out this year than Kendrick’s did. CTRL celebrated its’ five year anniversary this year and it would mark two years since her best song at the time, Good Days had dropped. It was a long wait, but damn is S.O.S. more than worth it.

SZA could’ve taken another three years and I would still say how worth it was to wait. Her voice is as booming and bodacious as ever. She feels like someone I’ve met from college or from hometown. Her personality is really beaming and honestly really cool. She is an artist that is free from being caged into one genre and isn’t afraid to try out new styles either. With a 23 song album, you’d almost hope that it would. Usually in this modern era of R&B or rap when I see over 20 songs I groan or roll my eyes (Chris Brown, Gucci Mane), but here I get mad with how well this works. I get mad because all of a sudden there’s an exception to this 20+ song unwritten rule.

As much as I love CTRL, SOS shits on it when it comes to the production. There’s typical SZA bangers like Gone Girl, Nobody Gets Me, and Shirt where her voice is really what steers the song to greatness, but there’s tracks like Kill Bill, Good Days, and I Hate U where the beat really will not leave your head. Sometimes you can be recognized for having memorable lines for the wrong reason, but SZA doesn’t believe in that. Again, this is a 20+ song album that has quotable lines littered through nearly every song. Shirt and and I Hate U being ones begging to be screamed in the car. F2F will polarize some people with how jarring if a shift tonally it is, but it really is the closest we’ll get to that rumored SZA and Hayley Williams collab.

SOS is an album I never thought we’d get. It’s an album that far exceeded any expectation I could fathom. There are wonderous moments like Open Arms and Forgiveless that I never knew I needed this year, but more than scratch any itch. It’s a consistently great project that whenever it feels like it might lose steam gets a second breath of life. If SZA and Kendrick can drop in 2022… Frank Ocean better drop in 2023.

Bump This: Forgiveless, Good Days, Nobody Gets Me, Kill Bill, Seek and Destroy, Open Arms

4. Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You

Genre: Folk, Indie

Confession time, I never have really struck a chord with Big Thief. Something about Adrianne Lenker’s vocals just didn’t work for me all these years. I really don’t know what the hell happened, but I fell so hard for this album when it came out. I really couldn’t be more thankful for DNWMIBIY to drop when it did. I was grieving a loss that was very sudden and recent at the time and something about this album just made me feel better.

Even if I didn’t care as much for Big Thief before this album, there were still singles I enjoyed. The common theme of the ones I did like was that they were pretty viciously sad. Well this album more than delivered as this is the only album that evoked tears out of me this year. Sparrow is the culprit here. What the hell are they trying to do to me? Adrianne’s vocal performance is devastating alongside that slow strumming and light snares. It’s a deep exhale of a breather after the previous songs also try to politely bum you out.

The beautiful thing about DNWMIBIY is that beyond the somber and grim aspects about mourning and recovery is that it remains hopeful and that’s what is so freeing about it. There’s passionate love proclamations like the title track and the obvious Love Love Love. Whether these proclamations are healthy is left to imagination, but point is this is an album that nails the different struggles of modern life and love. The more folksy songs are really creative and unique, while the more alt-radio friendly tracks have some edge that make them a little tougher to digest.

This isn’t an easy album to listen to all the way through, but the payoff is very much worth the 20 track runtime. I can’t promise that if you didn’t care for Big Thief before that this’ll win you over, but it sure as hell did for me. I bought the vinyl almost immediately after streaming it the first time.

Bump This: Simulation Swarm, Sparrow, Certainty, Title Track, Spud Infinity, Dried Roses

3. JID – The Forever Story

Genre: Rap

I’ve been a JID fan for years now. This is the album he was born to put out.

Rap needs a hero like JID around to remind everyone why rap is the most important genre of this generation. Denzel Curry tweeted the day this album dropped that The Forever Story inspired him to get back into the studio after believing he had dropped album of the year.

God this album is a victory lap that keeps taking victory laps. Once Raydar kicks in you’re sucked in immediately. The lyricism is insane. Just for taste, I’ll leave this sample here: “In the danger, boys been endangered, been indentured, now my boys got business ventures, with my .9, I’m like ten avengers, snap a finger I can end avengers.” This is only in the second track too. This album starts off strong and never slows down. Dance Now is a song that highlights him coming back to his city and how he approaches the criticism that he receives in spite of his successes. It also demands to be blasted on the loudest setting of your speakers. And while you’re at it keep it on for the next three songs because they’re all flawless hype tracks that still have incredible lyricism and storytelling.

JID has the power to get an audience on board with is slower material too in between the hype. Kody Blu 31 has a very soulful vocal performance that I wasn’t expecting. It’s a heartbreaking moment about one of JID’s friend who bore the number 31 playing football and how JID is motivating the family to keep their heads high. I’m underselling the levity here, but it stands out as the first of few times JID slows things down to talk about the importance of family bonds and keeping strong.

Bruddanem and Sistanem follow Kody Blu 31 staying consistent with the theme of familial value. Bruddanem is about the brotherly bond that him and his friends share as he reminisces about how harder times strengthened the tightness of the group, while Sistanem is JID’s confession/apology to his sister for sacrificing their relationship when he began to take off. It’s a highlight that even with successes there come drawbacks and remaining faithful to those who helped get you to where you are. This could easily be a ‘fuck you’ track, but opts for the more meaningful.

The Forever Story dropped right at the end of summer and has stayed in rotations ever since. I love this album and the effect that it had on the rap community this past year too. JID flexes his writing and singing abilities as well as how good of a lyricist he has become too. He has eased his way into my top 10 with this one no doubt.

Bump This: 2007, Dance Now, Sistanem, Kody Blu 31, Crack Sandwich, Just in Time

2. Black Country, New Road – Ants From Up There

Genre: Art-Rock

It’s a heartbreaking, yet fulfilling year to be a Black Country, New Road fan. Days before this album dropped, the lead singer Isaac announced he would not be continuing on with the band. The project will live on, but it’s a massive loss to miss out on such an amazing singer/songwriter as an asset here. Just hear his performances on the heart-wrenching Concorde or the nostalgic kick of The Place Where He Inserted the Blade. The dude desperately pleads the last chorus of Concorde as if it’s his final breath. Whatever he decides to do in the future, I hope it’s something more relieving for his mental health, which is why he left the band.

Last year I wrote about how Opus was one of my favorite tracks of 2021 for how off the wall, batshit insane it was to close out their near flawless debut, For the First Time. The instrumentals and musicianship on that track blew my mind. The same can be said for the entirety of Ants From Up There. BC,NR just seem to get high off of making music that is instrumentally unlike anything you’ll hear in indie while also actively tearing you apart. I’ve never been so moved by a song about waking up with toast crumbs in a bed or cleaning out a soup maker.

This is lyrically dense too. I already mentioned the bread and soup maker metaphors, but like SZA’s album, AFUT has a lot of memorable quotes too. Having Billie Eilish style is mentioned in a few tracks (still don’t know what it means) and the shouts of “GOOD MORNING!” on The Place Where He Inserted the Blade. Let’s talk about that track above all these because it’s an achievement. The tune is a slow dance into madness as Isaac is unable to decipher the euphoria of his love life being a dream or reality. There’s a clip of the recording of this song in the studio and it’s exactly how you think it would look. All these talented musicians performing a ballad for the modern era with smiles and beaming energy across all four walls.

Ants From Up There is a celebration in modern indie rock. Any band that has THIS tight of chemistry and THIS high of a level in songwriting and musicianship needs to be protected at all costs. I have no clue what is in store for BC, NR’s future but all I know is I’ll be front row.

1. Quadeca – I Didn’t Mean to Haunt You

Genre: Art-Pop, Experimental Hip-Hop

I went all the way into October thinking Black Country, New Road would be my album of the year. After all the nice things I said about it a paragraph before and it’s not the top? Nope. I went back and forth between these two many times and after a relisten this week, Quadeca’s I Didn’t Mean to Haunt You is my album of the year.

A handful of you probably have never heard of Ben Laskey before or if you did maybe you knew him from YouTube off of one or two viral videos. I couldn’t think of a better introduction to his music than this masterpiece. This album is about a ghost. The ghost of a man who just ended his life and is now facing the emotional turmoil of what he has gone through in his lifetime and what he has caused as well.

Tell Me a Joke starts off the album after the death has occurred in sorry4dying. Quadeca sees himself as a joke in the life he left behind. It’s a joke that his death was something that no one saw coming, but he firmly believed it to be clearly present. The explosivity of the last minute and a half can’t be put to words. It’s a distortion heavy tearjerker that captivated me instantly. From here on into the next few tracks, Ben is going through the afterlife seeing how it has affected those around him and how he’s starting to see the damage he has done.

There’s a variety of instrumentals and experiments through here too as coming off of Tell Me a Joke. There’s a bright twinkling beat that reminds me of Radiohead’s Daydreaming without the piano on Don’t Mind Me. The production was done entirely by Quadeca too, which shows how solidified this idea was before initial recording. I love how he was able to make his vocals sound as if they were ghostly and ominous as they narrate the struggles they didn’t foresee in the afterlife.

I don’t want to spoil the concept of this album any further because my hope is that everyone who has never listened before can be impacted the way I was. I knew nothing about Quadeca other than his appearances on the Hivemind YouTube channel before I Didn’t Mean to Haunt You. The sonics of this album range from experimental pop, to emo-rap, to singer/songwriter-like, to even noise compared to Death Grips. This album has so many great features where I had no clue how they would fit in. Danny Brown’s feature had me nervous because as much as I love his music I had no clue where his style would mix in with the overall aesthetic, but somehow I was proven wrong to worry.

I Didn’t Mean to Haunt You is my album of the year for taking on a challenging task of discussing such a pressing issue in the world like suicide and depression and making it something unique like this. I see a lot of myself in Quadeca’s lyrics and I know many other people will identify with his style and words too. This is a masterpiece in every sense of my definition.

Why Can’t You be Like Them?

By: Campbell Petschke

Currently Listening to: God Save the Animals by Alex G

Intro

We spend a lot of our days comparing. Living our life by measuring how our day will be based on yesterday, what our friends are doing to spend their free time… the list goes on. I feel like we spend a lot of our time expecting things to go one way because we feel they should live up to a certain standard that you or someone else may have.

Say you found a boba tea place a few towns over through a travel guide on TikTok. They’re claiming that this place has THE best taro blend in the whole state. You’re really into boba and naturally are curious if this really is THE best in the state. So you check it out, order it from the man sulking behind the counter because for some reason people who work at boba places are seemingly never happy, then right as the sip slides into your mouth up the fat, neon yellow straw… PLEGH! You spit it out as if you just saw a sumo wrestler bend down to pick up a penny. What the hell did you just put in your mouth? While you stare in disgust you realize there’s ten other people in this place that are enjoying “the best blended taro boba in the state”. Confusion strikes as you take another sip and let it sit with you, hoping that it’ll be better the second time. Like the movie Don’t Worry Darling, you hope that the sour beginning will get better over time. Trying to point out the merit in the situation instead of only seeing the negatives.

Why do we feel the need to try and fit in and convince ourselves that what we are doing is enjoyable? I’ve wondered this for years, not just for boba, but for many other things as well. I’ll get excited to go to this great bar that my friends will say is ‘amazing’ or ‘has the best atmosphere’. Then I’ll go and just miss that vibe completely. Also like the film Don’t Worry Darling, I try to find something that will make me feel fulfilled while engulfing this experience and it just doesn’t happen. Years ago if I would be asked if I enjoyed something like that and I would lie through my teeth and say yes. I would say yes because I enjoyed spending time with my people. To me, comparing whether or not you liked something your friends enjoyed meant that if you didn’t like it then you were outcast. Even though it isn’t the case and that my friends wouldn’t mind at all, I still felt the pressure to have this fun. Comparison isn’t always showing the difference with how you do feel and what you ‘should’ feel.

This entry is meant to demonstrate why many people use other people’s lives and experiences as a measure of what is to be fun or successful. We all have different interests and hobbies that make us unique and are fulfilling in our everyday life. The problem is there’s ideas in the world that have somehow crept into our everyday behavior to make us feel that certain things make us fulfilled and/or successful.

Are You Really Living?

As an adult in the social media age, I feel like comparison of how we should live our lives is higher than ever. We are three days into autumn now. Every year you’ll see families and couples going to pumpkin patches. Same goes for going to haunted houses with the homies. I mean if you don’t see a bum dressed as Pennywise the dancing clown make your friend shit their pants are you really fulfilling your fall potential? There’s a pressure during the month of October that if you are someone who celebrates the Halloween holiday, that you must do these things in order to having an exciting month. I love doing these things as much as anyone. If I don’t go to the pumpkin farm that I’ve been going to every year since I was born, I would be pretty bummed. The thing I don’t get is that we kinda feel obligated to share the same personality during this month or else you feel unfulfilled.

It’s not your fault, it’s not most people who actually DO these festivities fault either. It’s just if everyone is talking about it, more often than not you feel somewhat left out if you haven’t. Not because you want to be like everyone else, but who doesn’t want to have all this fun everyone is raving about? I mean if everyone started being obsessed with playing rock paper scissors and a rock paper scissors league started in your apartment complex, I feel like more than a few people would want in on this action if people are talking.

Not everyone takes these activities as MUSTS though. A lot of people don’t find enjoyment in pumpkin farms or being around that many families trying everything in their power to get that pic of their four kids all in a row by age looking like they’re pantsing the scarecrow that they stand by every year. No hate to any of those families at all, but if you make it everyone’s problem to get this picture with no regard for anyone else’s feeling in attendance that day that’s kind of shitty. I digress.

Couples probably argue about how the other couples they’re friends with have gone to the pumpkin patch and picked a pumpkin together, but they haven’t gone yet. The boyfriend comes to his girl and says it’s embarrassing that they haven’t gone yet and that they’re lazy for not doing this. It doesn’t matter that she took you to work for a week while your car was being fixed or that they took you out to a really nice dinner the week before, if you miss going to the patch and pick out an unnaturally grown pumpkin then they might as well sleep on the couch and think about how not festive you are. The way that people feel the need to mimic the activities of others in order to measure their level of happiness is silly.

Those activities in most cases are really worthwhile, but being resentful for not doing the things others are doing makes life so boring. I think of the neighborhood in Edward Scissorhands. All their houses are laid out the same, all the men leave their neighborhoods in unison to go to work, and the women all talk on the phone to gossip. It all feels so routine until Edward pops in with his steampunk Freddy Krueger cosplay.

This is in no way an attack on anyone who does gain influence or inspiration from other people’s actions. Everyone does that. When you force someone to be the same way as you because you’re afraid of being outcast or boring then you might as well start dressing like them, calling your friend’s parents ‘mom and dad’, and working the same job since you wanna live that life instead of your own.

Media’s Influence

Go to any Walgreens or endcap of any checkout line and there’s a Cosmo magazine with “wild sex tips that will blow your mind” or “signs that your relationship needs some spice”. For every person that walks past it mentally rolling their eyes there’s someone picking it up and taking those ‘tips’ to heart. These tips or signs that are often shown in these Cosmo type magazines are like taking your pet to a vet that cheated their way through their exams to get the job. Sure, they mean well and might even succeed in doing what they intend to do, but it also may cause more harm than help.

If we want to divide this sample of people who pick up the magazine even further, we can also see how many of these select few will read it and think that this applies to them. Not because their relationship or lifestyle is bad, but I think a handful of people will think to themselves that doing these things suggested will make those things THAT much better. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. I think everyone should take every opportunity possible to better themselves if it means they’re seeking happiness. Sometimes information Sometimes information or opinion pieces that are heavily advertised to the masses fall into the wrong hands. This is where comparison comes in.

There’s this trust that comes from whatever is written in this massively successful magazine. I mean after all if it’s been popular for this long it must be doing something right, right? A lot of people will believe that their lives are boring by comparing it to the experiences of the writer. I’ll pose this example. Say you go out to the movies every Tuesday night because Tuesdays are lackluster without finding a hobby. You and your partner have done this for years and years and always enjoy the conversation on the car ride home whether it sucked or ruled. It’s something that you bond over. You open up this article that says, “Give your Relationship the Second Wind it Deserves.” You’re enjoying the read and get real invested on how you can make this already great relationship even better. Your eyes glide across the pages and get to a paragraph of text that says, “Stop going on the same boring movie dates every week, instead go to a wine tasting downtown or to the new club that opened off main street!” At that point you can’t help but question if your boring movie dates are killing your relationship. That seeing the next Alvin and the Chipmunks film might not be good for your sex life.

Now you might brush this off and think that won’t be you, but then you find yourself driving home from the movies and instead of discussing how you felt watching the film there’s a palpable silence. You’re thinking is this really the life you’re supposed to be living? The next few movie nights turn into Tuesday evenings with crossed arms and dwindling patience as you sit in the theater filling with resentment as you start to believe that this isn’t really worth your time.

This narrative that what you see in publications and what people with platforms are telling us is more reliable advice is interesting. Why do we trust them or feel inclined to follow this lead? Is it because we see the status they have? Is it because we crave change and look to those people to help improve our well-being? We can’t let the actions or words of others invoke resentment for how we live our lives. We need to live our lives and not our life. It’s not our life, it’s the individuality we need to thrive.

This is for the Best, Trust Me

On a drive the other day I was listening to Kanye West’s classic debut album, The College Dropout. There’s a series of skits that follow a father illustrating to his son that getting his degrees will be the vital part of your success, even if you’re broke and can’t find a job. The skit that follows is the son saying that his dad died, but at least he left him his degrees to keep him warm while sleeping on the street. Why? Because he had an obsession with getting degrees and instead of being left with currency as inheritance he has his degrees.

The one thing that I’ve really enjoyed about these past few years post-graduation is that this generation can do really well without college. That may have always been the case, but that hasn’t been the consistent motive

According to a recent NBC article, there are reportedly 4 million less students attending college than there were 10 years ago. Whether that be due to COVID or just more opportunity for money is up to interpretation. I feel as though there’s a lot more shame for both sides as of recently. I’ve seen tweets that say, “imagine paying thousands of dollars for college just to end up working at a Walgreens.” There’s also popular forms of media where they deride those that attend community college versus going to a four year or a university… Why? If anything, those that do the community college route have the right to make the insult to other college kids that DID pay more for those first two years getting that same education. To a select group of people though, you’re less than them because community college is for the lesser being. You might as well be scraping the astroturf off their Doc Martins. Again, why? Education is education, shouldn’t matter how you intake it.

Better Call Saul has a whole plotline where Bob Odenkirk’s brother in the show, Chuck, resents him for being a lawyer and thinks he doesn’t deserve a job at his firm because he didn’t go to a prestigious law school. He took what he considered the easy route, despite Saul Goodman being a fantastic, yet unethical lawyer.

Closing

We compare more than we should. We can’t live our lives painting the same picture as different artists. We have to make our own art and let life overtake us in the way it was meant to happen. Just because our lives don’t see the cue cards or hit the same notes of someone that you may see as successful, doesn’t mean your life is going to be a failure. You just have to believe that where you are heading is the right direction. Don’t have a meltdown at the mall Santa because your Christmas card is ruined since it doesn’t look like the fancy one your sister’s family took. We all have a right to have expectations for ourselves, but that shouldn’t be someone else’s problem.

Taylor Swift Discography *RANKED*

By: Campbell Petschke

Photo by: Beth Garrabrant (AV Club)

Intro (Campbell’s Version)

I never thought I’d be making a ranking on an artist that I’ve had such an up and down relationship with over the span of her career. Taylor Swift started making music when I was pretty young. I can’t say I really knew her until Fearless, but the songs from her debut definitely caught up to me eventually, which I think speaks for a lot of people. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a fan of Ms. Swift, chances are you know more songs than you give yourself credit for. Even during this deep dive there were songs where I questioned how I knew them.

This was the most fun I’ve had during an artist ranking so far because of how much Taylor’s sound has changed over the years. What started off as country turned into pop, then more beat driven (Reputation), then to more bubblegum (Lover), then to folk (folklore/evermore). What’s funny is that I would’ve never done this ranking if not for giving Taylor’s version of Red a listen during Fall 2021, which *spoiler alert* I really ended up liking quite a bit.

A heads up before reading is that I am using Taylor’s versions of both Fearless and Red because I think the vault songs and alt versions should definitely be included as the full package. Even if it were on their own they’d still rank about the same. Enjoy my subjective opinion on an artist that has millions of dedicated (and scary) fans!

*Worth noting too that I have listened to Midnights, but have not lived with it long enough yet to rank*

9. Reputation (2017)

This is the one I was least looking forward to listening to because I really had a negative reaction to the lead single, Look What You Made Me Do. The moment the beat “dropped” in that song and heard her say “the old Taylor is dead”, I was lost and actually what made me stop listening to Taylor’s music until Folklore dropped three years later.

So after giving it a try, do I like Reputation…I guess so? There’s a handful of songs that I just do not care for like End Game (Future blends in here like oil and water) and I Did Something Bad. This album comes off to a pretty shaky start as it starts to live up to my expectations and not really in the best way. The sound hasn’t really aged amazingly well as that sort of booming EDM pop has faded away with times. At the halfway point I only really thought Delicate and the opener, Ready for It? were worth replaying again. Luckily, this album really turns around in the second half.

Reputation is as backloaded as me on leg day (just kidding, but it sure as hell feels like it). The moment I got to Getaway Car I began to levitate. It was like that Spongebob episode where he learns to flip patties again and the customers say, “that’s what we’ve been waiting for!” Getaway Car is one of Taylor’s best songs for many reasons. Reputation is meant to be a more angsty, “take no shit” version of her and this song nails that. It’s a solid pop anthem about toxicity and running through the red flags as if they’re the last lap. King of My Heart has this nice breakdown, in your face delivery that leads into the dancy, Vine-compilation type beat from Dancing with Our Hands Tied. That track would’ve been my favorite, if not for the closing song New Year’s Day. WOW. Something about this track just has this somber, reflective vibe with a soft piano backing. The lyric “I’ll be cleaning up bottles with you on New Year’s Day”, made me melt with how sweet it made me feel.

Reputation might be my least favorite of Taylor’s discography, but it’s not a bad album like I feared it’d be. There’s a lot of people I know that really dig it for the more spicy lyrics and throbbing beats that are littered throughout. Just not really my thing.

Fave Tracks: Getaway Car, King of My Heart, Dress, New Year’s Day*

8. Self Titled (2006)

The one that started it all. Taylor Swift’s debut made a big splash initially when it dropped. I had no connection to this project whatsoever until I realized I did. This is an all-out country album that is full of ear worms. Taylor’s twang she has in her voice works really well. What’s really cool about her voice is that it had country AND pop appeal even when it was centrally a country record. A true testament to how her career would pan out in future records.

This is one of those examples of knowing a lot more tracks than I thought I did. I knew at least half of these songs just from, you know, being alive and having ears in the summertime. Should’ve Said No was the one that shocked me the most. I was driving when listening to this album and I got a major nostalgia trip from how long ago I had last heard this banger. Probably like a decade at least. Should’ve Said No is one of many tracks off this album that has a punky, teenage attitude that was vibrant throughout the 2000s. A sound that has aged wonderfully over the years.

Something that really surprised me was strong this album is lyrically. It’s kinda cool to see that Taylor wrote most of the lyrics on this one too (I don’t know if there were ghostwriters, but she is credited as sole writer for most). I feel very comfortable listening too. This is a warm childhood hug, even if you didn’t grow up with this album. Taylor’s perspective is childish in the best way possible. It’s mature and yet kind of innocent at the same time. Picture to Burn and Cold as You being prime examples of tonally being mature for her age and yet sort of naïve lyrically. Think of how you felt during a high school heartbreak or crush.

My controversial take on this album is that I do not like the song Tim McGraw. It’s the song that arguably brought her to fame, but I just find it kind of boring by comparison and just doesn’t age that well. The biggest gripe that I have with this record though is the male backing vocals. I understand it’s the producer that is providing a lot of this, but dude… we came to hear Taylor not you. I found it very distracting and made the country tone that felt genuine, lose its’ flare.

Self-titled is a good album. It doesn’t have a ton that sticks out, which is fine because I’m literally a male in his mid-20s, it’s not meant for me. This is a fun, summery country album that put Taylor on the radar.

Fave Tracks: Should’ve Said No, A Perfectly Good Heart, Our Song, Pictures to Burn*

7. Lover (2019)

As stated in my feelings about Reputation, Taylor’s music fell off big time after hearing the singles from that project. Then ME! came out and that was really the last nail in the coffin (or so I thought) for her and Brendon Urie, who I had no problem giving up since he had zero flare anymore and having weird allegations and video proof showing his true colors. You Need to Calm Down also put a bad taste in my mouth. So much so that whenever I saw the vinyl at Target I’d flip it over and groan.

The difference between Lover and Reputation is that Lover is a really well made pop album with a few slip ups. I was very pleasantly surprised of how bubbly and quirky the opening tracks were. I Forgot that You Existed was a fun tease of a track that seeps well into what is one of the best tracks on the album, Cruel Summer.

Cruel Summer, alongside tracks like Lover, The Archer, and Cornelia Street highlight something I really love about Taylor Swift’s delivery. During the chorus of Lover and The Archer her delivery sounds so desperate and prolonging. Like a dying last breath of a relationship that is seeping through the cracks of floorboards. Whenever this passion flares up, so does my opinion of the album.

The soft pop aesthetic really makes this album stick out in her discography. My favorite example of this is Death by a Thousand Cuts. Again, her pining, passionate delivery here pays off as it is backed a really awesome, soaring instrumental. I love the lyrics halfway through where she says, “our country, guess it was a lawless land. Quiet my fears with the touch of your hand. Paper cut stings from our paper thin plans.” The analogy doesn’t feel like a throwaway like it is used in other songs (Demi Lovato’s Skyscraper for example).

I feel as though the back half of the album is really what keeps me from loving this project more. Not only does it have the unbearable ME! and You Need to Calm Down, but it just gets kind of boring. Sure, there’s exceptions like Daylight and False God (the sax here is immaculately placed), but Afterglow and It’s Nice to Have a Friend just drowned into the recycled pop songs that I try to avoid on top 40 stations.

Lover is a return to form after Reputation, but it still isn’t without its’ problems. Some of those I am willing to forgive since the front half of this one is so damn good, but you won’t catch many of the tracks on the back half that will find a way into my playlists.

Fave Tracks: Lover, Cruel Summer, Death By a Thousand Cuts, Lover*, Cornelia Street

6. Speak Now (2010)

I went back and forth a few times with this one and the number five spot. Ultimately what puts Speak Now at this position is that the Taylor angst was coming in gradually as it would reflect in later coming albums. Driving off the massive success of Fearless, which won album of the year at the 2010 Grammy’s and garnered over 3 million copies in its’ first year, Speak Now had a lot to live up to. Did it live up to that expectation? Well… sure?

Speak Now is arguably Taylor’s most confessional album. Most of the songs on the album discuss past relationships and sort of pinpointing where they went wrong and sort of fantasizing what could have been. Mine is the best way to kick off this album as it is a story told in three parts, in a particularly popular pop/country structure that focuses on how the love she had received from this person made her believe that she was on top of the world and ended up coming off as a toxic tug of war. This isn’t the first time something like this comes up as you can find it again on the following track Sparks Fly.

The self awareness in a lot of these songs make you feel as though there’s something more than comes to the judgmental eye. Many will listen to this album and pick it apart for it’s thematic sameness, which is a valid critique. One that I would actually agree with. There’s a little more to these in retrospect, given I grew up hearing a lot of these songs float around the radio and MP3s of others. Sparks Fly seems to be playing to her naivety in a “la di da” dancing around in her infatuation with this guy. It’s also insanely catchy. That one has NOTHING on The Story of Us though, as this song kicks off with a fast drum beat and aches the listener to anticipate the buildup to that epic chorus. Who cares if some of it is corny, like when she says, “next chapter” at the end of the chorus, it encapsulates a really angsty version of Taylor that hasn’t been fully explored yet.

My favorite moments on Speak Now though are when she reflects on her youth being exploited by older influences. The infamous Dear John highlights how she fell for an older guy, who we all know is John Mayer at this point, and questioning why she fell for him in the first place since the gap was so large. The first time I heard the lyrics, “don’t you think I was too young to be messed with”, I thought it was pretty blunt in a bad way. Now after listening again years later it feels right at home thematically.

I like to believe the whole “Taylor Swift only sings about all the guys she has dated” narrative sparked from Speak Now. Mean is easily a top ten song of hers and is the best example of this. I can’t tell you how many summers I heard this effortlessly catchy chorus seep through waterpark speakers and drives on the way to little league. One of many choruses to get stuck in my head years later as I’m revisiting this album. On the other side of this though, I find Better Than Revenge to be a boring example of this. It really just feels like a watered down version of Paramore’s Misery Business.

Speak Now has a lot of really well crafted pop country songs that mostly stick the landing and provided a lot of nice surprises… BUT! The whole fairytale theme doesn’t feel as home on here as it did with Fearless and somehow comes off more corny though. This isn’t to say that it’s bad, but like some of the sounds here it just doesn’t age all that well. Haunted is the most dated song on this project, but somehow escapes it being a bad song by how over the top it is instrumentally and lyrically. Nathan Chapman’s backing vocals are 50/50 this time, I found it worked really well on Back to December and on pivotal emotional points during Dear John too.

Overall, it’s a 80% good and 20% just fine record. I have a lot of good memories with some of these songs, but it’s far from her best work.

Fave Tracks: Mean*, Innocent, Dear John, Sparks Fly, Speak Now

5. 1989 (2014)

This is the album I had to do the least research on because of how inescapable it was when it dropped. If you were on Twitter or Instagram at any point of 2014/15 you heard about drama with her, saw an ad with her face on it… she was everywhere. This is around the time where she took all her music off of streaming services because she wanted artists to get the pay that they deserve (although arguably didn’t do much). IT was a few years lived, but it just added to all the promotion that went into this insanely big album.

Enough background though, how is the music? It’s pretty fun!

1989 is a landmark album in pop music. Even if you didn’t like the sound of what she was putting out, you can’t really argue that whatever was on the radio at the time sounded nothing like this. I used to really dislike this album for that reason and how many artists tried to replicate this sound too. Years later though my critiques have lessened and I don’t hate it at all (mostly).

I say mostly because as much of a hit it was I still really cannot stand Shake it Off. Good for her she had the confidence to put out a song about how she doesn’t care about those trying to bring her down, but there’s a problem that exists with songs like that. If you are addressing said haters and saying they don’t matter AND writing a whole song about it… then it really seems like you care. It’s totally fine if you do because we’re all human here, but for that along with how embarrassing I find the cheerleader chant bridge I just find it to be insufferable.

Okay, but the good stuff on here is really fucking good. Blank Space has an atmospheric beat and dramatic chorus that I’ve yet to hear replicated. Something about this song really is special. I don’t have much else to say about it because I can’t put to words how much I enjoy the delivery and how big it feels. It also sparked the conversation of is she saying “a long list of ex-lovers” or “lonely Starbucks lovers”, which if it really was the Starbucks line it would’ve honestly made it better.

The production is absolutely stellar here too and I still standby saying this is still her best produced record. Ryan Tedder, Jack Antonoff, Imogen Heap, Max Martin just to name a few. They really created this in your face, bright future of pop music that would carry over in years to come. Think of how you feel during songs like Style or Out of the Woods. They feel like they echo off your ear drums as if you are in the biggest arena in the world and it resonates off the walls almost like you’re in a planetarium.

Bad Blood was another song that I used to really hate, except for when Anthony Rizzo used it as his walk-up music for when he played for the Chicago Cubs. Hearing it through good headphones ups the experience. The bass beats kick ass and honestly sound better than most songs that attempted to sound like this on the album to follow, Reputation. Another song that I really dig that could’ve easily been on Reputation is All You Had to Do was Stay. This is a total “fuck you for missing what you had” type song. One that brings the attitude alongside one of my favorite instrumentals on the project. I love the shiny chorus and when the higher pitched “stays” flash at the end of the verses.

The album doesn’t slow down from here (in terms of enjoyment). You still have the slow burn Wildest Dreams, the runaway lover anthem of I Know Places (how about those bass licks?), and the fantastic closer Clean.

In all honesty, writing about 1989 has made me appreciate this project a lot more than I already do. It’s a landmark pop album that will hopefully get more recognition for how much impact it had on popular music in the coming years. An album that truthfully only has two skips and the rest is a whole lot of pop magic.

Fave Tracks: Blank Space*, Clean, Style, Wildest Dreams, All You Had to Do was Stay

4. Fearless *Taylor’s Version (2021)

As if the original Fearless wasn’t already a big enough landmark in music history, this is one of the first albums to be re-released so that she has rightful ownership of her discography. If there’s any reason at all to thank Scooter Braun, it’s due to these re-releases.

Fearless is an album that I already held in very high regard. It is everything from her self-titled and then some. Sure, there’s classics like You Belong with Me, 15, and Love Story on here, but don’t skip out on the other great material. The opener sucks you right in with this very autumn-like essence that easily has one of the best choruses on the project. This vibe continues on Tell Me Why and The Way I Loved You where it feels like for every flavorful, upbeat track there’s one that feels like a slower, reflective one. For every You Belong with Me, there’s a Hey Stephen or White Horse. It’s nice having those slower moments because it shows how good her songwriting was even at an earlier age.

Fearless also has the best singles out of any Taylor project. You Belong with Me is one of my favorite pop songs of all time. The instrumentals make you feel very hopeful and pining for this love story to work out. One that I think many listeners can relate to. Sort of a “fuck her, what about me?” moment, which pops up a few times on this project. But honestly you don’t need me to tell you how irresistible this track is because if you’re reading this article, you more than likely already know this song. Love Story thematically I’m not huge on because the Romeo and Juliet I feel is really overused, but it’s still nice here. In the essence of her storytelling here though it works well with how much heart is put into the vocals. I also feel Taylor’s version gives the track another breath of life that it had back in the 2000s.

What I love the most about Fearless is how well it ages too. This doesn’t feel super outdated in the slightest. Even returning to the normal version of this album it still has so much life. The timelessness of these tracks really show how strong this project is and really reminds you of why it was so big in the first place.

The bonus tracks, while I don’t feel are as good as Red’s, are still a good time. I think Maren Morris has a very nice feature on You All Over Me and so does Keith Urban on That’s When. Side note, why is having Keith Urban on pop country songs such a cheat code? Anyway. Mr. Perfectly Fine and Other Side of the Door are the strongest on the bonus tracks. Both fit seamlessly with the bulk of the project and are just high quality pop country tracks.

There’s very little I don’t like about Fearless. It’s an album that still slaps to this day and shows why it deserved to go on to be a multi-platinum album. It does overstay it’s welcome a little too long at times, but it’s a case of if you pick any song off the project out of context it’ll still sound good. It’s a spectacular follow up to her debut and the rest is history.

Fave Tracks: You Belong with Me*, Hey Stephen, The Way I Loved You, The Best Day, Come in With the Rain

3. Evermore (2020)

The companion piece to Folklore is no fluke. Evermore I expected to be a collection of B-sides to that album, but it’s not at all. While this still is a folk-pop album like Folklore, this is a bit of a brighter album. One that has more pop influenced folk tracks. This one also feels very cozy. I really enjoy the softer moments on the record which I feel Aaron Dessner’s production is most to blame. His work with The National really does wonders for an album like this.

This album screams November, even with the cover artwork it just feels like a crisp autumn hug. The biggest single from the project, Willow, is a brighter moment on a somewhat comparatively somber remainder of the tracklist. I love her higher vocals on this song too during the chorus. The “foooooooooolllloooow” gets stuck in my head every time. This leading into Champagne Problems is interesting because following a lovey song like Willow it’s a total switch as this song is very depressing. Taylor sings about how a failed marriage proposal brought a downfall of heavy emotion on the proposer and how he aches after. It’s lyrically one of my favorites too, like “Your Midas touch on the Chevy door. November flush and your flannel cure” rolls off very nicely.

Speaking of dark, I’ll never forget the first time I heard No Body, No Crime in which Taylor fantasizes killing someone who is being unfaithful to one of her good friends. Sort of like a more intense Before He Cheats by Carrie Underwood. The storytelling here is the first of many examples of really stellar storytelling. Tis the Damn Season follows that lead and shows off Taylor wanting to make you as sad as possible. Not really, but this track in particular feels very devastating while she recollects all the activities and times the two subjects of this song shared together and how much she wants that back. Anyone reading this who doesn’t listen to her music might read this and say, well okay that’s a lot of what she sings about anyway. Listen to the track and experience it for yourself. It’s a standout moment on Evermore.

Like Folklore, I really appreciate the more reflective moments offered on this sister album. Dorothea continues the streak of Taylor putting in every effort to make you sad sigh in tracks with names in them. The vocals here have a little country tease when she says Dorothea and really enunciates the “uh” at the end of her name. This is a very soft moment that has a lot of nostalgia, pining for what I gather as a lost friend along the way.

The album closes out very strong with Closure and the title track. Pairing those two tracks back to back works really well. Closure follows a break-up that she wants no part of despite the other recipient’s advances and efforts to try and be friends out of convenience. Basically he realizes he screwed up and wants to be in her life still while she is still grieving “in her tears, beers, and candles”. The title track closes out the record with a prolonging ‘where did things go wrong’. The pairing of Taylor and Justin Vernon is a match made in heaven as both have very good vocal chemistry. They create a very intense vibe of what feels like a borderline descent into a depressive episode. It’s a song that I initially compared too much to Exile, but as a standalone it’s an amazing piece on a very high quality album.

Overall, this is a fantastic way to close out a two album year for Taylor. If there’s any reason to be grateful for the pandemic, it’s that we had plenty of time to digest this great work of art.

Fave Tracks: No Body, No Crime, Dorothea, Closure, Tis the Damn Season*, Champagne Problems, Evermore

2. Red *Taylor’s Version (2021)

One of my favorite moments in music of 2021 was the release of this project. This reignited so many old Taylor fans as well as myself, who loved this album originally when it dropped back in 2012. I’ll admit I was still coming back from my time where I was kind of annoyed by her social media presence and the two albums that came before Folklore. As much as I grew up enjoying a majority of the record, I still had my reservations.

What’s funny about Red is that I think the singles that were released for this project are the weaker parts. Nothing against them, it’s just there’s so much REALLY good material that I find to be more enjoyable. Begin Again is the biggest standout of those singles with how upbeat and powerful it is coming off the end of the record. A lot of media and Twitter fingers made it seem like Taylor only sung about breakups, but this one is the opposite. This is about how she learned to love again after eight months of feeling as though love wasn’t attainable. Begin Again is one of the few mainstream pop songs that actually nail what it feels like falling in love.

Even if the other singles from this project aren’t as strong as Begin Again, they still aren’t bad. I Knew You Were Trouble was a landmark moment in top 40 just for how unusual a song like that was for Taylor to put out. One of her first outright pop songs before “changing to pop”, which Red sort of felt like anyway? We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together I feel was a big enough hint that she was aiming towards a different direction than her country pop roots. I wish Red were the lead single in the case of this just because WANEGBT (I’m not writing it out every time) was a very average moment. The title track is a perfect branch between old and ‘new’ Taylor. Still had a lot of country elements, but had some more techy attributes during the chorus with the “re-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-ed”.

I’ll get out of the way what I don’t like about Red because it’s pretty minimal. Stay Stay Stay feels like an unwarranted Dunkin commercial following WANEGBT, which already lowered my opinion. It’s just recyclable pop junk that I hover my finger over the skip button while streaming half the time. 22 isn’t a bad song at all, it just feels like Pinterest-core at this point and has aged like opened Greek yogurt in Death Valley. The fact that it was severely overplayed didn’t help either, but even after not hearing this song since 2014 I still found it to be kind of annoying.

That’s it. Everything else on this record I find to be absolutely wonderful. I could write a whole separate blog entry on why All Too Well is a top ten pop song of the 2010’s and why the 10 minute version is a revolutionary piece of music that showed, again, how great of a storyteller Taylor has become. I’m repeating this as if Damon Albarn is going to read this and remind him that Taylor writes her own music. State of Grace is my favorite opener on any of her projects and has one of my favorite choruses she has ever put to record too. I love the line, “we fall in love ’til it hurts or bleeds or fades in time”. It’s a nice preface for her describing how weak at the knees she feels at this point in her relationship.

Taylor’s version of Red has a few features added onto the others that came on the original. Ed Sheeran returns with another fine feature on Run, one that I find to be slightly better than his performance on Everything Has Changed. Everyone else puts on very memorable features. Chris Stapleton, Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol, and best of all Phoebe Bridgers. Nothing New is the strongest of the vault tracks. It has the most clever lyrics, catchiest hook, and most relaxing sound. Phoebe’s vocals feel similarly gentle to compliment Taylor’s nostalgic delivery. It also has that line I love, “how can a person know everything at 18 and nothing at 22?” All of the vault tracks are great, but Nothing New and Forever Winter are at the top of the podium.

Red is a moment in pop history that I’m very happy I got to live through twice. There’s a lot of Taylor’s best work here vocally and lyrically, even if there are a few groans here and there. The reason that it ranks higher than Evermore, an album I feel has zero skips, is because the other 95% of Red I do like is just so incredibly entertaining. An album that I can honestly say that over the past decade of its’ existence I have learned to love with this re-recording.

Fave Tracks: State of Grace, All Too Well (both version)*, Nothing New, Holy Ground, Begin Again, I Bet You Think About Me, Red, Treacherous

#1. Folklore (2020)

This was a very easy choice for the best. Folklore is the album that I find myself most emotionally invested in. I find myself very attracted to music that provide a specific atmosphere and this one does just that. I first listened to this while working at my residence hall over Thanksgiving break walking to get hot dogs. Taylor Swift is the perfect hot dog trip weather. Not really, but she does nail the crisp, autumn afternoon weather soundtrack.

Just within the first few songs I’m instantly hooked. Cardigan and The Last Great American Dynasty reflect on the sonics and the lyrical content that you can expect for the rest of this 16 song journey. The Last Great American Dynasty sticks out to me because it feels like an old school Taylor track done softly. It tells a story of the previous owner of her current estate and how she was the town gossip and had her “bitch-pack” of friends that ruined the name of her deceased husband by being extremely reckless with her inheritance. She uses this as a comparison of her public persona and how she feels the public sees her as a predominant pop culture figure. It’s an upbeat track instrumentally, but wears this as a disguise for a pretty bleak anthem.

Taylor’s lyrics and songwriting are at their height here too. Exile is one of her most devastating tracks and also my favorite out of her entire discography. The keys are so pretty alongside her and Justin Vernon’s vocals. It’s the moment on the record where I mentally solidified this was something truly remarkable. This leading into another wonderful track, My Tears Ricochet is perfect. Maybe the best song she has ever written lyrically. I can pull any set of lyrics out of this and find beauty in it. One of my favorites being, “we gather stones, never knowing what they mean. Some to throw, some to make a diamond ring”. It’s a strong back and forth of despair, disappointment, and resentment. Fun tidbit too that this track was inspired by Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story.

Mirrorball feels like it was giftwrapped for longtime Swifties. It feels like a more adult song that sounds like it could belong on Speak Now. The instrumentals feel very melodramatic and big almost a sad anthem for preppy emo kids. The same can be said about This is Me Trying. A string heavy, echoey track that gave off the same atmospheric vibe that a track like Out of the Woods provided on 1989. It also feels like a lost early 2010’s radio hit that never was.

Going off of the Exile train pulling into the devastation, there are some other notable bangers worth mentioning like Betty and the crowd favorite August. What can be said about August that hasn’t been said already? It’s a beautiful standout that deserves all its’ flowers. It feels like a more modern All Too Well. This feels more desperate than that track, but tonally it rings very reminiscent of that track, which just for that comparison is high praise. Betty, as I said before with tracks with names as the title, isn’t afraid to make you feel like a hopeless romantic. Given this song is about asking for forgiveness for cheating, but the way that it goes about the topic narratively is mostly sweet. If Sour Patch Kids were a song, it’d be Betty. I also love the harmonica presence here too, it makes the song’s story feel very authentic and low effort (by low effort I mean simple).

Folklore is a near flawless record that I have no problem returning to every autumn since it’s release two years ago. This is a height in modern mainstream songwriting in this century that makes it feel effortless to make you go through a whole range of emotions that feel like a weight off your shoulders once the last seconds of Hoax come around. Vocally, instrumentally, and lyrically it’s impeccable and I’m very glad an album like this exists. A future modern classic if there ever was one.

Fave Tracks: August, Cardigan, My Tears Ricochet, Illicit Affairs, Exile*, Betty, Mirrorball, The Last Great American Dynasty

Lollapalooza 2022: A Decade of Live Music, Love, and Sweat + Superlatives

By: Campbell Petschke

Currently Bumping: Renaissance by Beyonce

Lolla-versary

It’s weird to think that the first time I was at Lolla I was still in middle school. While the other chumps were wearing Silly Bandz on their wrists, I was wearing a one-day Saturday pass to Lollapalooza in hopes to see Calvin Harris, fun., and Franz Ferdinand.

The first act I saw was JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound at the Sony stage (now the Coinbase stage). I had to walk into a tented area because it was hard out there for a pasty, white boy. Hours later there were severe thunderstorm warnings creeping up on us and soon had the festival evacuated into the streets of the windy city. Michigan Ave was more flooded with people than rainwater and local eateries locked their doors so us hooligans couldn’t take cover.

The sun eventually shone again and we were able to re-enter. We immediately walked/dodged drunk frat guys over to see the band fun. which if you don’t know who fun. is you either don’t know how to have fun. or just forgot who they were. Anyway, Nate Ruess strutted on stage, set down his jacket and belted out the beginning of One Foot. He then shouted, “what the fuck is up Chicago?!”, and as someone who never really heard that word much yet, thought he was the coolest motherfucker at that festival. The show continued, song after song I just fell more for this band I already really enjoyed. Their set ended with Some Nights, which had people shaking the fresh rain off the leaves above us from jumping around like maniacs. It was in that moment I knew I wanted to go to this festival every year if it meant more moments like this.

New Year, New Me, New Perry

Rapper Midwxst performing Thursday afternoon

Throughout the years, the festival has gone through many changes big and small. While the F.Y.E. autograph tent and “farmers market” section of Chow Town bit the dust, we have seen a dance area, skatepark, and even a roller rink. The fest has also found many new sponsors over the years. The one that impacted me the most this year was definitely the Discord addition. I had only ever used Discord with my friends to shout my frustrations of how bad I am at Call of Duty, so I thought this would be a good way to be more acquainted with it. Holy hell did I get what I wanted out of it.

In Lollapaloozas past there has never really been a way to communicate with other festival goers unless you either knew other people going, tweeted about it, or existed on their popular Reddit page. With this Discord, I felt united with all these other people. People who loved live music and the festival as much as I did. I felt uneasy talking on there at first since I had never really talked with these many strangers all at once virtually. I had used dating apps and Among Us prior to this so it wasn’t foreign, but still took some practice. Plus both of those apps are mainly lying about who you are so…

Within a week, I felt like I didn’t have to think too carefully about what to say in these chats. I felt as though if a guy can shout “Tove Lo” in the chat every single time he enters then I think I can be myself a little more. Becoming so vocal in this chat had its rewards as the people running the server were granting people access to the “Discord Lounge” for frequently utilizing the chat. An area that sat next to one of the stages at the festival that offered many amenities including private restrooms, life-size Jenga, and complimentary beverages. I felt like Buddy the Elf the way I would go into the bathrooms and snag a Starburst from these jars along the sinks every time I would exit.

This lounge helped me put names to faces as most people were just going by their usernames and not actual ones. I shot myself in the foot because my username included the first part of my last name, which nobody can pronounce anyway. Just ask my elementary school librarian who knew me for five years. Not only that, but I used the actor David Cross as my profile pic since, again, I thought being on the internet meant your identity was hidden. So a handful of the people I met would shake my hand and then say, “Oh! I thought you were bald.” Whoops.

The morning conversations between us all of who we were going to see felt like Love Actually. Where we would all have separate stories, but essentially end up in the same place overlapping with each other (minus the uncomfortable Laura Linney brother story). It felt like the most Midwest version of Jersey Shore the way there were free drinks at times too. Regardless, this lead me to a path of people I never thought I’d need in my life and honestly helped conquer my hesitations towards those on the internet. Though I still don’t trust those aunts on Facebook.

Wait… is that a Dude Dressed as a Wombat?

This was by far the most eccentric I’ve ever seen performers at the festival. While the Green Day bunny was nothing new, there were people dressed as bananas, wombats, and many men in dresses (which is far from a bad thing). That energy was reflected in what I initially found to be a weaker lineup. Eventually I warmed up to it, I mean how could I hate a lineup that has 100 Gecs and Billy Strings the same day? This will be a landmark year in the future of the festival.

Lolla the past few years, whether it be due to the pandemic or other factors, has suffered with selling out. It could be that artists can sell better if they do venues/arena tours or if they’re looking to appeal to a more specific demographic, but I’ve noticed the FOMO has definitely been the biggest draw for these past few years. They see all these people on Twitter and Snapchat flashing their wristbands and outfits and want in on the four days or at the very least ONE day. I had a friend that bought tickets last minute to see J. Cole on Saturday because he thought he would bring out guests (which he did). It’s little things like this that make the festival environment different than before. People are more like in an “ah fuck it” mindset instead of “I must go to this.”

As stated earlier, this fest was a lot more out there and I think that brought in a nicer crowd. All the people I was surrounded by were drunkenly very nice, very dedicated to their artist they were seeing, or just thrilled to be there. After all these years of media outlets and angry no-life Twitter users saying that these “young Naperville kids” are ruining the festival and passing out from doing drugs, I found the old people to be the worst part of this festival. During Metallica’s set, a very sweaty, probable Harley Davidson cover athlete, was very persistent on offering up his doobie. Not that I wouldn’t love wet lipping the poorly rolled devil’s lettuce this total stranger had to offer. I’m sure I would’ve grown a black leather vest from my arm hairs and distaste towards my girlfriend.

Another older dude socked me in the face on the manic walk out of the Green Day crowd. What for I have no idea, but I learned that day that I can take a punch very well, so thank you random Green Day fan. I’m sure you’ll make your kids very proud when it’s your weekend with them. Point is that the younger crowd was typically more likely to start a conversation with you or just be more polite when it came to navigating through the pandemonium of Chow Town or a large act. For where the acts lacked in attendance, there was at least two groups of very dedicated fans there who were very excited for the show ahead of them.

Running Up That Road, Running Up that Hettfield

There was a video that went viral on the first day of the festival of a man, nicknamed ‘Metallica Man’, that was waiting first in line at the gates Thursday morning. Once 11am hit, he was patted down, scanned his wristband, had his bag checked, and immediately booked it half a mile down Grant Park to get to the barricade of the main stage. The stage that Metallica would grace nine hours later.

Metallica wasn’t the only act that people camped out for. I met people that had waited patiently for acts like J. Cole and J-Hope for the entire day. They had only left to grab water or to use the restroom. There’s some people who don’t leave that spot at all the entire day though, which I never understood. The reason I was able to have those conversations with the people that camped out was because at some point in the day I had made it up there with them after seeing multiple other acts before one at that stage.

The draw for some headliners in past years has had a lot of people excited, but this year it seemed like there was more dedication to other artists too. Ones that would have people camping at smaller stages as well. The crowd for The Regrettes, a popular alt-rock band, had a massive crowd on Friday afternoon. Other acts like Coin, Charli XCX, and even Idles had a lot of fans eagerly awaiting them to do their thing on stage. The science behind why more people camped for these smaller acts fascinates me. Are they camping because they dedicate this day to this artist only? Is it because the headliners lack and they want to get a headliner-like experience because they don’t find these bigger acts appealing? My theory is that Lolla recruited a lot of artists of a specific demographic with loads of streams earlier in the day to get people excited and maybe stay for the end of day.

This to me is the future of the fest. Wherever the lineup may lack, those who already bought the four-day pass have time to explore the smaller artists and those who have the FOMO will rapidly search for those newbies. So Lollapalooza is definitely turning into a great place for the smaller acts to get some attention and love. That’s something that was rarer in the earlier years, but I’m very glad is the case now.

Future Nostalgia?

Lollapalooza has had a lot of change in this ‘post’ Astroworld Fest world. Of course with some exceptions, there has been more space in the crowds where in the past you would be cheek to cheek. There’s this weird action of moving forward in a crowd once the artist before the main act is over and shoving those leaving to get a better spot. People get squished, irritation is high, and the sweat is gliding from person to person.

Before J. Cole graced the T-Mobile stage on Saturday, Big Sean garnered a humongous crowd. One of the biggest for the weekend. A big chunk of his fans tried leaving the area once his set was over and the Cole fans rushed it like Karens at a HomeGoods Black Friday sale. This lasted for about five minutes until loud bass blares emitted from the stage and a flashing red sign popped up on screen. The sign read “Safety Warning. Take five steps back” as a man over the speakers shouted “We need everyone to be safe and have a good time. On the count of three, we need everyone to take steps back.”

Even someone behind me whispered to their friend “uh oh Astroworld part two.” The way that event has still remained relevant is great. People are more cognizant of the dangers of the festival scene nowadays. It shows. Nobody complained when asked to take steps back.

I also want to commend the medical staff at the stages. Every one of them I met or saw was very kind and were passing out waters to crowds in between sets and even during some as well. That was something I had never seen a lot in the past and I was elated to see them taking actions like this. One of the many reasons Lollapalooza has always reigned superior to other festivals in my eyes. If a massive, worldwide attraction like Lolla can show they care about safety and take the necessary steps to prevent potential danger, it makes you wonder why the smaller ones are not able to do it.

Lolla Superlatives

Best Crowd: Dua Lipa/Glass Animals

The reason I listed two acts is because it was pretty much the same group of people I stuck near for both sets. After Cordae’s set, we all took a few steps forward and awaited for Glass Animals, an act that no doubt was going to attract a massive crowd as Heat Waves is one of the biggest songs to ever hit the charts. Some people were dedicated fans, some only knew Heat Waves. This taller kid and his friends near me said he was only here for that song. Totally fine. The show is what you make of it, which is exactly what he did. Every song he started to slowly get more into the band, to the point where when the bass of Other Side of Paradise began, he yelled back to his friends “This is fucking lit!”

Dua Lipa had a very kind crowd as well. The people around me were never annoying and knew the words to every song. When the energy and excitement is tangible, you know you’re at a good show.

Hon Mentions: IDLES, Beach Bunny, J. Cole

Worst Crowd: Green Day

I’m sure this comes as no surprise if you read earlier, but this crowd was horrendous. There’s a difference between moshing with good intent and looking for ways to take your anger out on others. The crowd around me had a bunch of older millenials that found issue with most of what was around them instead of finding issue with the air they were polluting with their circle of cigarette smoke. Any little bump into them lead to a shove or dirty look, which if you’ve ever listened to Green Day wouldn’t you expect this?

The definition of rock as a genre doesn’t mean to be kicking the shit out of each other and being rude to anyone within eyesight that is doing something other than standing still. Everyone paid for the same ticket. Your perception of the experience should not include how you treat others and how annoyed you are by them.

Best Food: Budlong Hot Chicken’s Chicken Sandwich

Chicken sandwiches have been on the rise in fast food restaurants and recipe sites ever since Popeyes’ caught traction back in Summer 2019. Ever since then, I have also been converted to this following of finding the best chicken sandwich around. Budlong might hold the crown as of now. The chicken was seasoned wonderfully. Had a great kick that was complimented beautifully by their comeback sauce. I mean any place that makes coleslaw tolerable is a winner in my eyes and that sat perfectly underneath two fluffy brioche buns. It was the last meal I consumed at the fest and man was it the best sendoff.

Hon Mentions: Rainbow Cone, Brisket Tacos from Beat Kitchen

Best Stage: Discord

Discord stage has always been a great place to get a full Lolla experience. There’s mosh pits, there’s trees for people to cool off, there’s a nice hill to sit on, Chow Town is right behind you, and there’s restrooms next to the stage as well.

The artists that performed on that stage utilized the space well too as there were many shows where the artists acknowledged the beauty of the trees and the still massive crowd capacity that can be held despite it technically not being a headlining stage. It’s the best Lolla experience that might be held by Tito’s as well if not for there being hard granite in case people fall while jumping around.

Hon Mentions: T-Mobile, BMI, Tito’s

Biggest Fest Improvement: More rock artists and variety of vendors

Rock/alternative acts were on the decline, especially when these ‘alternative acts’ were just pop acts with guitars. This year there were a LOT more actual alt artists. Those who complained about the lack of rock clearly didn’t look hard enough. Inhaler, Crawlers, IDLES, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, and Meet Me @ the Altar all were rock acts that drew somewhat of a big crowd (except Rolling Blackouts who deserved a bigger turnout). The “there’s no rock” excuse isn’t valid. Go look up other acts.

Whoever is in charge of choosing vendors did a great job this year. The Liquid Death Club, Hulu Motel, and Dunkin lounge were all very well organized and actually improved my experience at the festival. Discord above all I raved about already, but this definitely was a big hit too and I hope that all the ones I listed come back next year.

Needs Improvement: Image

More than anything, Lollapalooza needs to get their image back under control. Back in the day there used to be a kooky carnival character theme with lots of mascots that gave off a similar vibe as the three eyed fish from The Simpsons. This gave the fest a personality that was pretty recognizable.

There was a Legend of Lolla game that revealed some of the acts before the lineup drop that had a design that reminded me of that old festival vibe. Surprisingly they didn’t stick with it for the rest of the weekend as the same design existed as the past five years. If there was a mascot of some sort or at least fun design, Lolla would be a step above the rest in terms of marketing. Look at how popular Benny the Bull is for the Chicago Bulls. People immediately recognize him as associated with the team.

Top Ten Sets of the Weekend

10. Tove Lo

Before the festival, I hadn’t thought about Tove Lo in years. Probably since she was last at the festival back in 2017. I enjoy her style and personality, but I just never felt the need to return to her tunes. I did a little research prior to fest time and came across a new single, True Romance, which might be the best song she has ever dropped. Her vocals behind that minimal beat worked so great. Hearing it live felt like something special. She is a great performer that still has a dedicated following after all these years.

9. Goth Babe

Goth Babe had to drop out of the 2021 lineup. I was pretty disappointed since he was an act I didn’t know until I found him on the lineup last year. I was very pleased to find him back this year and man did he put on a show.

Even without a full album yet, he was able to captivate the crowd with his very summery tunes that have crept their way into my life multiple these past few years. Hearing Encinitas live was one of my favorite Lolla moments ever. The way I envisioned his set in my mind is exactly how it played out on stage. It was the quickest set of the weekend as the energy and presence carried the whole crowd early in the afternoon Sunday.

8. Cordae

Cordae has slowly become one of my favorite artists in hip-hop the past few years. He was the best act in the 2019 XXL Freshman list and put out one of the best albums of last decade, The Lost Boy. While I wasn’t crazy about his drop this year, I was still stoked to see how he was as a performer since I last saw him VERY far away in 2019.

I don’t think Cordae had a lot of fans before his set started since most seemed to be waiting for Dua Lipa, but I think he had a lot more after leaving the stage. He came out on stage, destined to be drenched in sweat as he bore a fake beard and windbreaker/jeans combo. Clearly perspiration was not in his list of fears as he captivated the crowd with ease. He played all his hits and wasn’t afraid to slow it down either. He’s only going to grow larger in these coming years.

7. 100 Gecs

If you know anything about 100 Gecs, you know you’re going to get an interesting experience. The pioneers of hyper-pop knew their audience and gave them a treat. They came out dressed as wizards and left as Lolla legends. Their set was an equal blend of meme hits like Money Machine and Doritos & Fritos, as well as unreleased tracks presumably on their new project.

It didn’t matter what they played because the crowd was eating that shit up. They put on an insanely fun set.

6. Glass Animals

After How to Be a Human Being, Glass Animals fell off for a little bit. A little too long. I LIKE Dreamland, but it’s not nearly as good as the first two albums they put out mid-2010s. That being said, Dreamland songs sound amazing live. I last saw the group back at 2017 Lolla and they put on a good show, nothing grand, but a fun one. This time around they really perfected their stage presence and setup as well. From wall to wall there was retro neon signs, tv sets, and really dope visuals.

Davey is a really humble performer as he graces the stage and owns the catwalk that would be used by Dua Lipa a few hours later. He knows the vibe and how to work this crowd. As I said earlier, the crowd for Dua Lipa only really knew Heat Waves prior to the show and were groaning while waiting. Song after song though, those people were dancing their asses off and had smiles on their faces the whole time.

5. Metallica

Back in 2015, the only songs I knew by Metallica were For Whom the Bell Tolls (because of Zombieland) and Enter Sandman. Seeing them at Lolla that year was cool, but I didn’t appreciate it the way I would’ve now. Good thing I got a little redemption at this year’s fest. I know Metallica’s core discography pretty well now and it paid off big time. I can’t help but feel that if you are a big fan of the band this was one of their best shows. They played over two hours of classics, introduced a whole new audience of Stranger Things fans to some amazing tunes and even flashed the Master of Puppets scene from the show.

James and co’s presence was immense, as big as their sound echoing throughout Grant Park. The crowd was also very kind to the younger fans and the older fans were acting like excited kids that age too. Metallica brought out the best of all ages that weekend. James poking fun about St Anger being not as bad as people say was a good laugh too.

4. IDLES

IDLES has had a massive impact on me these past few years. Their passion and anger towards the political bullshit they’ve shown their distaste for on all their records bleeds into their performance so well. Joe would shout “fuck the queen” and naturally as ignorant Americans we screamed too. They know how to put on a damn good show too. The guitarist hopped in WITH his guitar and started moshing with us during Colossus. Joe looked out at the audience as if he was absorbing all the energy from thousands of sweaty chicagoans and visitors. They wasted no time and put on an anger fueled set that was full of dedicated fans who were as equally as excited to see the band as they were to perform for us.

3. Dua Lipa

Oh man. Camping out for four hours unintentionally for Dua Lipa was one of my best Lolla decisions ever. Physical is one of my favorites from her and she opened with it… It could only get better and better. She brought the heat with her background dancers, parodying her viral hip twist dance from a few years back, and even fought a giant lobster. Yes, a giant lobster.

Dua put on a professional show that didn’t feel too corporate or that she treated it as just another performance either. Given I was only about 25 feet away from her I saw a lot of genuine smiles and the choreography was really neat that close too. Her band played well, her vocals sounded nice, and the visuals meshed with the dancers and props made it one of the prettiest shows of the weekend (partially thanks to her too of course).

2. J. Cole

If you asked who was in my top five must see artists in college, J. Cole would’ve definitely been seen in big black print. As someone who has been through a handful of tough shit since I first heard 2014 Forest Hills Drive as a sophomore in high school, this concert meant a lot to me. J. Cole always has a winning spirit. It reflects in his music and in his personality as well. Between the songs he would make sure the audience knew how much he appreciated everyone being here. He would preach to the audience that they gotta work hard for what they love. Love was a very central theme of the show.

Love Yourz was one of the most beautiful, unreal moments I’ve had at a show before. Cole knows how to pull on the heartstrings, but also how to hype up a crowd of dedicated Dreamville fans. He brought out JID and Bas for support too. HELL YES. They all gave it their best and it more than paid off. The entire crowd knew all the words to all the songs and begged for an encore after he went over for time anyway. One of those shows where you walk out instantly wanting to see them again.

1. Beach Bunny

I feel so inspired by Beach Bunny. Not just because Lili and all the bandmates are from around Chicagoland, but because of their sound. It’s very homey feeling. Her new album, Emotional Creature is about love and all of its beauty and struggle as well. The fact that she started off at high school/college level of putting out music gives me a lot of hope to continue writing for the blog and even writing songs of my own too.

By pure coincidence, I actually ran into Lili and her partner on the way to one of the other shows. Both were exceedingly nice and I of course geeked to her how much her music meant to me too. It was a favorite moment of the weekend no doubt.

How was the show though? It was one of those rare perfect sets that you don’t always see. Usually there’s maybe one or two key songs they should’ve played or maybe they didn’t have a good stage presence… Not the case here. Beach Bunny played to a massive crowd at 5 on Sunday afternoon and I was so happy to be at barricade for it. She played a little bit of everything from her discography. Promises and April live were my favorite songs that weekend no question. I adored this set and I very eagerly shouted through every single track. I hope to see them again very soon.

Are ‘Perfect Moments’ Overrated?

By: Campbell Petschke

Pondering the What Ifs. Life and the desire to see what's next | by Blake  Gossard, ELS, MWC | Medium

Currently listening to: Blue Weekend by Wolf Alice

Introduction

As a kid a lot of things just fell seamlessly into place. You see your friends, stay up late on weekends, hide your DS under your pillow when you couldn’t sleep… Any news that you heard would mostly conjure up either happiness or dismay. The anticipation of doing all your homework through the week just so that you can celebrate Fun Friday. It’s not like the anticipation withered away when it came to the day itself, you were just as excited during the 40 minutes of free time. Then when you got picked up and got asked how today was you’d be shaking at the knees waiting to talk about your day as you strap yourself in the back of the car.

Little moments like that meant a lot as a kid. Even the bigger moments felt like victories and definitely shaped my character. For example, the fourth grade field trip to Springfield was everything I could’ve asked for and went perfectly according to plan. I woke up at five in the morning just to ride the super comfortable travel bus while eating snacks and watching movies with my friends and then have the next day off? How could this go wrong? For a long time it was probably the best day of my life.

Going to the movies was something that I adored doing when I was younger and still do. Something about at home viewing doesn’t do much for me for new films. If I’m gonna be on my ass for two hours it’s definitely not gonna be in the comfort of my home. No. It has to be in a semi-new leather seat that creaks just from grabbing your heavily buttered popcorn, sitting at the spot where sound comes in more from the walls to your left than the right, and with a butt-load of people that are either equally as excited or want to cough, fart, or be a crying child from trailers to credits. Damn, I miss the theater…

Where am I going with this? Basically the more you reflect on the past the more you realize how good it was, even when it wasn’t. Regardless, I feel like the more that we waste time expecting things to be good or bad, the more we come to find out how good it actually was during that time. I always tell my friends that 2016 was one of the worst years of my life, but looking back on it now I think of how much simpler things were. That’s the thing though too. You never really realize how hard or easy something was in retrospect until you’re faced with something current. Those perfect moments that we all seem to crave don’t exactly calculate to what we expect until those days have passed. At least for me.

The Days to Follow

Back on Christmas Day 2020, Pixar dropped the movie Soul on their streaming service Disney+. Soul is a film that I heavily anticipated for years. It was teased by the company ever since I was in early high school. Trailers dropped the summer prior and my excitement only grew. The animation looked REAL, the concept was finally put to screen, and the ambiguity only raised more questions. Sign of a good trailer. The day finally came about and after watching the film I ended up just LIKING it. I was disappointed from the direction that it took halfway in. If you’ve seen the film before I’m pretty sure you know what I’m referring to.

*SMALL SPOILER FOR SOUL AHEAD* If you haven’t seen the movie, just skip this following paragraph.

The irony of this situation is that well… that’s kind of what the film is about. The lead character, Joe, waited his whole life to play piano in a professional jazz band. It finally comes about where he gets this opportunity to play with a legit jazz band. Not only that, but he gets to play alongside one of the greats, Dorothea Williams (fictional character). The whole film stresses how important it is for Joe to get to this destination because it very well may change his life and can finally live out his dream.

After overcoming certain obstacles, Joe performs perfectly. The crowd cheered, he felt great while performing, and was even told how he did great by his hero herself. Once everything wraps up, the band says their goodbyes and Joe is left outside staring with a smile on his face. Moments later though his smile fades. He explains that now that this moment is over… what happens next? He lived out his dream, so why isn’t he happy?

It’s What You Take from What’s Given

So why bring Soul into this entry? As someone who loves film and a script that is more obscure than the average Hollywood blockbuster, I thoroughly love perspective. Analyzing film and interpreting it in your own vision is so cool. Very grateful for the existence of video essays on YouTube. Only problem is the YouTube algorithm thinks you want conspiracy theory videos after watching these essays for some reason. There’s only so much to gain after watching a whole series of videos on why Paul McCartney is actually a clone and not the same one from the 60s.

ANYHOW, there was one that I saw for Soul where the man narrating the essay said to let the film sink in before you come to a solid conclusion about it. So that’s what I did. I thought about Soul for about a week. Talking to multiple friends and family about it really helped gain more perspective too. I realized that after many conversations about the film that maybe I was too quick to judge it. There’s so many great moments and many times where I expected something else. The greatness passed me by and I didn’t even know it.

One show I’ve adored these past few years is Ted Lasso. If you’ve seen the show before you know it’s very heartfelt, but human too. After the finale of the second season, I saw Jason Sudeikis was interviewed by GQ. In this article about him, Sudeikis says a quote he heard from Michael J. Fox that I wish I could staple to my forehead.  “ ‘Don’t assume the worst thing’s going to happen, because on the off chance it does, you’ll have lived through it twice.’ So…why not do the inverse?”

Man. I fucking love that. Why waste your time thinking whatever happens is going to be the worst? If whatever you’re doing ends up being good it’s a nice surprise, but wouldn’t you rather go into it feeling optimistic? Instead, if it’s the opposite and you go in looking forward to this activity only to be let down, at least you had hope. Hope is what carries you throughout the day, week, month, or even year (ugh sorry… I don’t even like Friends). It poses a good question of being realistic too. I’ve shared this quote with a few people and most of them have said the same thing…

Shouldn’t You Be Realistic?

Yes. Of course you should. We’ve grown up so far into our own lives that we should know how to go about MOST situations we come across or at the very least how we can cope with it. I would argue in return though that if you are able to use your better judgement and/or moral compass that you have the power to figure how to overcome the potential disappointment.

I had a very hard time standing up for myself as a younger kid. I was concerned that if I disagreed with someone that they wouldn’t be my friend. In middle school I wouldn’t say I was bullied, but as a skinny, sort of nerdy, white kid I was definitely a target for some. There was a kid on the bus that for a few weeks would do the junior high prank and tap my shoulder over the seat and then when I looked back pretended like nothing happened. Enough was enough. The next day on the bus ride home, this kid did the poking shit again. I immediately turned around, put on my best ‘really dude’ face and uttered the worst thing you could say to middle schooler in the early 2010s. “You gotta stop touching me man. That’s pretty gay.” A collective “OHHHHHHH” surrounded the front half of the bus. The kid was embarrassed and put up the hood of his neon green hoodie for the rest of the ride. Ever since then I never had a problem with standing up for myself.

This was so overdramatic I can’t stop laughing while writing this. Before moving on, I also want to say there’s nothing wrong with being gay or LGBTQ+, I’m an ally. Being associated with the word gay at that age though was enough for an ignorant kid to weep.

I bring up this story because obviously I didn’t expect things to change if I expected the best going onto the bus the next day. Things are only going to change if you do something about it. In turn, this is how I learned to be more optimistic. The more you learn from bad, the more you figure out how to make it into something good.

Being realistic is definitely an important aspect of life and carrying yourself throughout your days, but you can be realistically pessimistic or optimistic. If you’ve ever heard of the Law of Attraction or even the golden rule, essentially both teachings are similar. You attract what energy you put out to the world.

What Happened to the Perfect Moment?

To all of you who have read this far, thank you. This will all make sense in a few paragraphs.

Being realistic and optimistic go hand in hand for looking for that perfect moment in life. I’m nearing my mid-twenties. There’s been so many times where the “remember when” game comes up in conversation nowadays. Especially with friends I’ve had for years and years. Times where we all reminisce about the ‘good times’ back in high school or even college. Not all of the times brought up are positive ones. Sometimes they’re funny or even traumatic for some of us. I refuse to live down the time I confused Steph Curry for convicted murderer Steven Avery in class for example.

A handful of these stories bring back a lot of great memories and a lot of really bad ones too. High school was a seriously confusing time. I had a lot of really awful moments my junior year of high school, but I had a very tight knit group of friends that started coming about that year. Even through all the bullshit of teachers who really didn’t care about their kids’ academic successes, relationship dramas, balancing out work and social life… it was truly great. That’s the thing though, we hear so often that we never realize how great our lives are or what we had until it’s no longer in front of us. That is why I never lose hope.

Disappointment is a part of life. It’s something that you remember just as much as the brighter times. I hated my two years at community college. I constantly felt tired and lonely. Here I am almost five years later reminiscing about how I liked being able to go out after school and try new foods from restaurants I had never tried before. I also liked listening to new albums on the way to school since it was a twenty minute drive. That’s something I didn’t have at my university, a place that I adored.

So while life isn’t always perfect in the moment, I like to think that disappointments and shitty moments make for good stories. Things become more vivid once they’re gone. My dad has said before that he’s afraid to visit some specific movies from the past that he loved in fear that the feeling he associated with it once will not feel the same. That’s what’s great about life. You can revisit memories in your mind all you want, but you can’t ever physically be there again. That good feeling is with you for as long as you want it to remain. Bittersweet as that may be, you’ll always feel for the times of the past and even hope for the future. That perfect moment isn’t going to just appear. If you expect something to be precisely what it is and nothing more, then where is that excitement for the next thing going to come from?

I know as a kid I really struggled in elementary school to be motivated for the next day, but man what I wouldn’t give to be that small again and have the friends that I did. I can constantly wish to relive those moments, but like the movies from the 80s for my dad, are they really going to be that special if it happens twice? What makes the ‘perfect’ day or moment is the fact that it was something new or that things didn’t go according to plan. I know that one day I’ll look back and hope for another day like this one.

“Life is what happens while we’re making other plans”. – Allen Saunders

Top 30 Tracks of 2021

By: Campbell Petschke

Ted Lasso on Apple TV+ Fails Upward, Cheerfully

Currently Listening to: LIVE LIFE FAST by Roddy Ricch

The Year of the Single

Every media publication always starts off their year-end lists with some corny opener like ‘2021 was a hell of a year for better or for worse’ or the constant complaint that somewhat resembles ‘we’ve had better years for music’. It’s the same thing every year. So I’m here to throw you a curveball. Ready? This was one of the best years for indie in many many years. Rap/Hip-hop ruled 2020, indie was passed the flaming baton set afire by the garbage pop music wrapped around the staff. Although it wasn’t all bad, this is the first year in a long while where I really enjoyed some mainstream artists. Some you’ll definitely see on this list. Without delay, this is what I felt were the 30 best songs that came out of this spectacular year in this ‘hell of a year’. Because 2020 is so last year.

*PLAYLIST OF ALL SONGS AT END OF LIST*

30. Parquet Courts – Walking at a Downtown Pace

Walking at a Downtown Pace - Single by Parquet Courts | Spotify

Sympathy for Life was not the follow up I expected to Wide Awake. They had a lot to say on the record, but lacked in the instrumentals. The lead single would’ve had you thinking it would be the opposite.

Walking at a Downtown Pace has the catchiest riff of the year by a longshot. The hook gets stuck in my head for hours on end, which suits the lyrics. The track seems to follow the COVID era issue of waiting for life to return to what we saw as normal. It kind of feels like a hopeless issue as the repetition of the riff drones. It feels almost hypnotic and before you know it the song is over. Even though I wasn’t big on the LP, I’ll return to this track again and again.

29. How Dare You Want More – Bleachers

Bleachers – How Dare You Want More Lyrics | Genius Lyrics

Bleachers have been unstoppable since 2014. Three pretty big, fairly well received projects, a two massive radio hits (I Wanna Get Better & Don’t Take the Money), and a dedicated fanbase along with it. Not to mention the incredible amount of producing that Jack Antonoff has done this year alone producing for St. Vincent, Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey among others.

How Dare You Want More is the most Bruce Springsteen-like song I’ve ever heard. Antonoff heavily credits this project to be Springsteen influenced as he has said in the past he aims to nail the sounds of the late 70’s and “John Hughes nostalgia of the 80s.” As he bellows that chorus in the best Boss-like tone, there’s soaring horns, saxophone, and in typical Bleachers fashion, a very chantable chorus.

28. Solar Power – Lorde

Solar Power (album) - Wikipedia

Lorde last dropped an album when I graduated high school. It was very nice of her to wait until I graduated college to put out her latest. Good shit homie. When I first heard Solar Power (the song) I was fairly underwhelmed. Following her masterpiece, Melodrama, I expected a new take on this wonderful anti-pop sound that she introduced on that project. While it’s not Lorde’s best song by any means, there’s still a lot to gush about. Sonically, this is a beautiful track and probably the most atmospheric song she has ever turned out. The drop at the two minute mark is pretty damn beautiful too.

Also “I’m kinda like a prettier Jesus” has stuck in my head all year. That’s an awesome line.

27. Liberty Bell – DARKSIDE

Liberty Bell | DARKSIDE

I’ve probably replayed this track more than any other this year alone. It never gets old. The two members of the act have once stated in the past they wanted this project to be where the two can jam out together and make songs from there. This is a prime example of this idea. Instrumentally, DARKSIDE always has some abstract vibe that can screams suburban-urban rock to me. It sounds like it was made in someone’s basement, but in the best way possible. That all out jam at the end is especially grand. A small song that feels ginormous. Thanks SiriusXMU for introducing me to this bop.

26. Let Go My Hand – J. Cole ft. 6LACK & Bas

J. Cole: The Off-Season Album Review | Pitchfork

I haven’t LOVED a J. Cole track since 4 Your Eyez Only. My girlfriend will definitely disagree with me, but his feature work the past few years has impressed me more than his actual material. Let Go My Hand highlights everything that I DO love about J. Cole and is his best track since Change.

Cole’s best tracks tell a great story and are paired with a jazzy, sophisticated beat. Lyrically, he discusses how the state of today has affected him and how it will affect his son in the future. His delivery is relaxed, defined, reminiscent. He touches on how one day his son is going to have to be his own man. He has to be the one that raises him and teaches him, but his parenting will only take him so far. It’s a beautiful track that has a great Bas feature and Diddy on the outro.

25. Encinitas – Goth Babe ft. Louis the Child

Goth Babe – Encinitas Lyrics | Genius Lyrics

I typically stray away from EDM, but with Goth Babe being an artist at this year’s Lollapalooza, I wanted to know what to expect. I didn’t expect this. Louis the Child is probably my favorite EDM artist this decade. Something about the carefree and summer vibe makes me smile. Goth Babe has a similar vibe so I guess this collab makes a lot of sense, I just never thought to pair them together.

The beat drop in this track is phenomenal. If you’ve ever been to an outdoor festival then just picture the loud ‘wubbs’ of the bass from the speakers pounding into stomach giving you that butterfly feeling. Thousands of people are bouncing in unison, so much so that you can see dirt tornados form and the ground below shakes as if you were on San Andreas. Not like the dangerous San Andreas fault though, a fun one like San Andreas starring The Rock. A summer playlist staple.

24. You Stayed/To Live – For Those I Love

For Those I Love: For Those I Love review – an exorcism of grief on the  dancefloor | Music | The Guardian

If you look on Album of the Year’s website, this is one of the most polarizing drops of the year. Some people call it the best album this decade so far, some say it’s just bullshit. I’m among those that adore it. You Stayed/To Live traces this story that seems to be about a childhood love that has stuck with him into his latter years. Nothing about the song is especially linear, I actually had to follow along with the Genius lyrics a few times since his Scottish accent is so thick and the storytelling gets tricky. That shouldn’t be held against the end product though.

For Those I Love (the album) is a beautiful work of poetry and spoken word. You Stayed/To Live is utterly heartbreaking. Even if the story doesn’t follow a typical format, just the way his words make you feel is enough to carry me over. The accompanied house beats too contract this curious emotion. I haven’t had a song all year make me feel and think as much as this song does. Check it out.

23. Band of Horses – Crutch

Crutch by Band of Horses (Single, Indie Rock): Reviews, Ratings, Credits,  Song list - Rate Your Music

The best summer song that was released in October. Listening to Crutch gives me the feeling that these soaring guitars are going to send me straight to an open field filled with opportunity and summer haze. I feel comfortable listening to Band of Horses in general, but this is the best single they’ve dropped in a while. I can’t wait to see what the album is gonna be like next year.

22. Industry Baby – Lil Nas X ft. Jack Harlow

Industry Baby - Wikipedia

Man I could’ve easily said Montero (Call Me by Your Name) too. Both songs played a part in the best music marketing campaign that I’ve seen in a long time. Lil Nas X offended so many people this year, so many people showed their true colors when it came to how provocative his music videos were. Especially Montero, where he infamously slides down on a stripper pole to hell, twerks on the devil, and then beheads him. When this angered people what’d he do? He made a music video of a bunch of naked dudes dancing in prison showers together to accompany his third single, Industry Baby.

Industry Baby was the song that solidified Lil Nas X as a solid mainstream pop artist. The production by Daytrip and Kanye just elevates it insanely high. It feels epic and bombastic. It’s such an in your face song lyrically too. The song is him flexing his place in rap and pop in general and that being himself got him into trouble and not everyone agreed, but hey look at where he is now. Jack Harlow gives the feature of his career. Memorable one-liners like ‘sending girls back to their boyfriends with his handprint on her ass-cheek’ and about being a late bloomer but he still out here getting cuter.

Anyone who has heard this song on the radio probably has it stuck in their heads for a few days, maybe even weeks whether you dig the song or not.

21. Amoeba – Clairo

Clairo – Amoeba Lyrics | Genius Lyrics

Clairo did not impress me outside of a few singles. I thought she represented an aesthetic of bedroom pop and TikTok indie that just bored me. Things changed once hero of the year Jack Antonoff swooped in and helped produce her latest project. Amoeba is a fantastic track that has that same atmospheric, groovy energy that Solar Power has, but it more raw lyrically. Clairo discusses self-doubt and prioritizing the wrong things in life while being away from home at a young age.

There’s this really awesome little riff that plays the song out to be kind of a daze. There’s a sense of innocence that really hits home for me. I heard this track while driving to work on a breezy summer evening. About the same time that you would think the way the song asks you to do. Clairo has the ability to make a great track, I would love to see her go down this route if it means more confessional shit like this.

20. Off the Grid – Kanye West ft. Playboi Carti & Fivio Foreign

Kanye West: Donda Album Review | Pitchfork

In typical Kanye fashion, Donda dropped when nobody expected it. Kanye himself didn’t even expect it. Universal dropped the album without his permission… on a Sunday of all days. As polarizing as the album was, there were some undeniable bangers. Off the Grid being the standout.

While Moon, Praise God, and Jail all could’ve made it on my list, Off the Grid is one of the best produced tracks and has the best features too. Playboi Carti first teamed up with Ye last year on his equally controversial Whole Lotta Red LP, which like Donda also was delayed for years. I never expected him to be on a beat like this and he killed it, but Fivio murdered it. His energy is palpable, his flow and delivery just bring aggression to the track. Kanye himself even brings along an energy that I haven’t heard since Kids See Ghosts in 2018. Yeah, this track kicks a lot of butt cheeks.

19. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Weekend Run

Weekend Run | Unknown Mortal Orchestra

UMO have never really done much for me. They have a few good singles here and there, but I never gravitate towards them. Weekend Run came on while I was driving to the city to work for my summer job. It was the Fourth of July, 90 degrees, and stuck in traffic for at least 20 minutes. The escalating tempo of the teasing guitar plucks made me feel like I was in a hypnotic, sort of oasis staring directly into the misty sun. It was a summer feeling that I haven’t felt since I was still in high school.

Weekend Run has fairly simple lyrics, but address the message with enough subtlety and charm to hit home. At its’ core they’re saying we need to see the beauty in what we do, otherwise you’ll be stuck chasing the weekend. At the time, that was something I really needed to hear and glad I did.

18. Turnstile – BLACKOUT

Turnstile: Glow On Album Review | Pitchfork

What an unexpected gem Glow On was in 2021. It’s rare that you find an album this great, so consistent, so unique. While I can pick a song from this album out of a hat and call it my favorite, BLACKOUT stands out most.

Ever hear those songs and just think wow, this song gets me? That’s what BLACKOUT was to me in early Fall. This track is a blast from start to finish. I’ve only recently become a fan of the band when Glow On first dropped thanks to a good friend of mine who really digs this album too. BLACKOUT seems like the perfect introduction to a new Turnstile fan like myself. It combines their hardcore roots, with some soaring guitars, and a kickass breakdown at the end. I love this track and have played it many times since it first came out in December.

17. KALI – I Just Wanna

KALI (USA) – I Just Wanna Lyrics | Genius Lyrics

I love coming across singles like this. I Just Wanna is easily the brightest song I’ve heard all year. The way it introduces itself as a very dreamy alt-pop track and slowly evolves into an explosive dance party breakdown caught me off guard. It feels like two different songs in one both celebrating/longing for the feeling of being with the one that she loves. KALI is a pretty new artist, so I hope she continues down this path to greatness because this is a hit.

16. CHVRCHES – How Not to Drown ft. Robert Smith

Screen Violence - Wikipedia

CHVRCHES remains one of my all time favorite bands. They have nailed a distinct sound that is instantly recognizable. This was played almost to a fault back in 2018 when they put out the very safe album Love is Dead. It’s 2021 though and the band have recovered their spark in their latest LP, Screen Violence. While I didn’t care much for He Said, She Said, How Not to Drown was an exciting change of pace. It’s also the only CHVRCHES track (that isn’t a bonus) that carries a feature. One from the legendary Robert Smith of The Cure! The band mentioned in an interview that they wanted to support The Cure on tour so they reached out to them and as it turns out Smith is a really big fan of the band. So much so he wanted to join forces for a song. Here we are now.

What makes How Not to Drown so great is that it focuses on the dark side of the band’s history. There was a period where the lead singer, Lauren, felt a lot of pressure from music execs and the public’s opinions of their music. She felt as though she was having the joy sucked out of her while the higher ups demanded more music. Desperately trying to escape from the bullshit surrounding how they make their music and at what pace. CHVRCHES typically makes songs about heartache and battling with mental health, so upon hearing this for the first time it felt like a standalone hit.

The lyrics are great, the sound suits the eerie aesthetic of the LP, and has Robert fuckin Smith, what more could you want?

15. Doja Cat & SZA – Kiss Me More

Kiss Me More - Wikipedia

This song was inescapable throughout the entire year and I really didn’t mind. I really wish Doja stuck to this sound versus whatever was stuck on Planet Her. Her bubble-gummy, retro beats really give her a unique presence in mainstream pop/rap. The best Doja Cat songs possess this boastfulness and charm and Kiss Me More grips that spark.

Her music is also boundary pushing in the same sense that Lil Nas X is doing with his. She really is not afraid to be herself as demonstrated in her lyrics and her online presence. Kiss Me More captures the same glittery pop sound that made Say So such a hit last year and is accompanied by my favorite woman in R&B, SZA who absolutely nails her feature. SZA and Doja just make sense together. The chorus is catchy as hell too and probably gets stuck in my head twice a week on average and it’s been out since April.

14. Sleigh Bells – Locust Laced

Stream Locust Laced by Sleigh Bells | Listen online for free on SoundCloud

My love for the duo Sleigh Bells is something I have to be reminded of every time they drop new material. It’s not that I forget about them, I go through phases where I’m so into their music for a month or two that I get fatigued from there. Locust Laced blew my mind. This song barely makes the two and a half minute mark, but accomplishes a lot in that little amount of time.

As per usual, the guitars are thrashing, the vocals are soaring, and the tempo is fast and punchy. They also bring back the cheerleader-like chants from their debut, Treats. This track is what the kids say “has crack in it”. It never gets old and I could listen to it back to back five times in a row with no hesitation.

13. Brent Faiyaz ft. DJ Dahi & Tyler, The Creator – Gravity

Gravity (Brent Faiyaz and DJ Dahi song) - Wikipedia

I had never heard of Brent Faiyaz until this year. I’m not blown away by his music, but he does have a very nice voice. If you attach a Tyler feature to one of your songs though best believe I’m tapping play ASAP.

Gravity has a pretty typical premise. Him and Tyler go back and forth sharing how their new lives and fame put a strain on their love with their significant others and how gravity brings them back to them. It’s not new territory for Tyler to do a song like this, but for Brent this sort of flips what he’s been putting out the past few years. I think that might be why I like this track the best out of his entire catalogue so far. It also has Steve Lacy on production and guitar/bass, which speaks for itself. I’ve enjoyed his production since I first heard him off Flower Boy back in 2017 and on Vampire Weekend’s Father of the Bride LP.

I didn’t return to this track a lot this year, but whenever it was on I was vibing out.

12. Sharon Van Etten & Angel Olson – Like I Used To

Like I Used To” by Sharon Van Etten / Angel Olsen Review | Pitchfork

Where did this collab come from? Before the excitement of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak joining forces for Silk Sonic really grew, this was my favorite pairing of the year. Man, this song sounds devastating. Angel and Sharon both have nailed their storytelling abilities and have mastered the art of the sad song for a few years now. Them joining forces, like Silk Sonic, was unexpected but does make a lot of sense.

I love the chemistry these two have when they sing in unison. Angel’s voice really gives this track a timeless feel. It felt like I was sort of listening to a modern, long lost, Stevie Nicks song. I don’t know if this was just a one off song, but I really would love to see this pair make an EP or album together.

11. Black Country, New Road – Opus

Opus | Black Country, New Road

By far my favorite discovery this year was Black Country, New Road. I love their chaotic, post punk and their heavy use of dramatic, almost theatrical saxophone and drumming. There’s something so innocent yet so mesmerizing to this band. The album reaches such high highs that you couldn’t believe it can get any better. Then you get to Opus which closes out the record. What. The. Hell.

These past few years I’ve really been digging the band Black Midi, who are equally as insane. Opus might be the most ear pleasing insanity that I’ve heard since Black Midi’s Ducter back in 2019. The singer has unusual vocals that make sense with this kooky aesthetic and only makes the band stand out more. Opus teases chaos the moment that it has the slowly ascending opening and only gets more unpredictable as the nearly eight minute progresses. If you are into some sax heavy, melodramatic instrumentation with very non-traditional lyrics and vocal delivery, check this song and the whole album out!

10. Tyler, The Creator – MANIFESTO ft. Domo Genesis

Call Me If You Get Lost - Wikipedia

Call Me If You Get Lost is a modern masterpiece and maybe Tyler’s best album to date. So many hits and career high points filtered throughout the near hour run time. There’s old school grimy production like on LUMBERJACK and JUGGERNAUT, sweet love songs like WUSYANAME and SWEET/I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE, and then there’s all out bangers like HOT WIND BLOWS and my personal favorite, MANIFESTO.

MANIFESTO is an ode to the cancel culture and how people expect him to speak because he has a platform. To this he throws up two middle fingers as he refuses to conform to what is expected of him. Former Odd Future alum, Domo Genesis gives his best feature ever too. His flow is as fast as it is thought-provoking. I love his rhyming scheme at the opening too, “Crackin’ like broke porcelain, bitch, we ocean deep if you just pour us in a portion of shit, them people try to twist my view on some contortionist shit.” It just sounds like it glides off his tongue.

This was a very daring track to make given Tyler’s lyrics prior to 2015 and outspokenness on the internet. He has proved in the past five years though he has shed that skin and therefore a song like this worked out really well for him. It more than paid off.

9. Olivia Rodrigo – good 4 u

Good 4 U - Wikipedia

If you told me back in February that I would put an Olivia Rodrigo song on my list I’d probably laugh. I still don’t like Drivers License. I think it’s super bland and gave off the impression that she was just an industry plant. Deja Vu dropped a while after, okay, pretty decent. Nothing amazing, but still more creative than the song before. Then came good 4 u. What the hell man.

It’s almost embarrassing how much I love this song. Hell, I would sing this on karaoke with zero hesitation and with confidence. Why? Because I know all the words. How? I can’t stop listening to it. The day it dropped I think I played it almost ten times. I played it while getting ready, brushing my teeth, on the way to work twice, a handful of times while at the store, and on the way home.

This song isn’t reinventing the wheel or anything, lyrically it’s nothing stellar, but it hits the right notes and gives the mainstream world a small revival of pop-punk. More so than Machine Gun Kelly could dream of anyway. Maybe it’s because it sounds so much like Paramore’s Misery Business that I like it so much. Who knows, who cares, I’m gonna listen to it a thousand more times before I get bored of it.

8. Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever

Billie Eilish - Happier Than Ever - Amazon.com Music

Billie Eilish had a bit of a sleeper 2020. She had a TikTok hit, but it didn’t reach the heights of anything from When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go the year before. Turns out she was mastering her pyrotechnics because this new album was absolute FIRE. Happier Than Ever (the song) is Billie’s Rolling in the Deep. We all knew that she had the ability to write a classic sad song (see When the Party’s Over and I Love You), but this is a whole other level.

I first heard this track coming back from this year’s Lollapalooza. I was tired, hungry, and at the point where all the sweat you’ve accustomed throughout the day has made your shirt feel heavy and wrinkly. The album had dropped that night, so I was just cruising back from the train station with a friend who also happened to be a massive Billie fan. When Happier Than Ever came on it was in the Taco Bell drive-thru so naturally I was already in the zone. That unexpected drop halfway through is where FINNEAS’s production really shines. Billie has one of the best voices in music and she was destined to make a song this heartbreaking and powerful.

I already loved her music before, but this was the track that solidified Billie Eilish is so much more than just her debut to me. Thanks for making my Taco Bell experience even more special Ms. Eilish.

7. Black Midi – John L

Cavalcade | black midi

Schlagenheim was the surprise hit for me in 2019. One of the few times where everyone raved about it and was legitimately fantastic. Cavalcade is everything that Schlagenheim did, but two times better. When you have an opener like John L what’re you gonna assume? That it’s gonna kick ass of course.

John L feels like the beginning of a boss battle in a video game. I love the use of violin and how it’s just so over the top dramatic. It illustrates how much of a threat that this ‘John L’ character proves to be. Like the song itself, he’s raging and resorts to violence to extort his power. Every crash and sudden pause just feels like a slap to the face.

6. Wolf Alice – Delicious Things

Wolf Alice: Blue Weekend Album Review | Pitchfork

Very few artists I choose to fanboy over, but Wolf Alice… Wolf Alice I have no shame in doing so. The moment that Delicious Things starts I knew I would love it. The band has a sound they can really call their own. They can extend themselves as far as a sweet pop song, to punk, and in this case a dream pop slow burn.

Ellie Rowsell is one of my favorite voices in rock and this track only proves she gets better and better every album. This story of feeling like this newfound fame is intimidating yet curious is interesting. We often see artists say how grateful and/or brag about how they got famous, but it’s uncommon to see one where they take a step back and put out something that’s this confessional.

This is such a beautiful track of a stellar album. Wolf Alice is easily my favorite act of this year and it’s thanks to tracks like this dreamy, soothing alt-rock wonder.

5. BROCKHAMPTON – The Light

BROCKHAMPTON: ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE Album Review | Pitchfork

BROCKHAMPTON did practically nothing in 2020, which was disappointing. Maybe I’m just greedy, but we got new material from the boy-band every year since 2016 and even a Kevin Abstract solo record. Like Billie Eilish, they took that year off to crank out a spectacular record, one that easily is their most fun, honest, and devastating.

The Light is easily the most straining track on the record and maybe the most emotional they’ve ever dropped. In interviews, the boy-band has stated how Roadrunner is a Joba centric album and The Light really gives him time to show off his strong storytelling abilities. The song documents his mental health since his father’s suicide in the first two verses and Kevin’s fractured relationship with his family in the final.

The two share an unrivaled chemistry within the band and this performance is among the most powerful I’ve heard from either. I never like to play this song around other people because of its intensity, but that’s okay. It’s a highlight for BROCKHAMPTON’s career and I am very glad that they made something as special as this.

4. Beach House – Once Twice Melody

Once Twice Melody” by Beach House Review | Pitchfork

Man, why’d they have to do this so late in the year? Beach House waited till November and said ‘let’s drop the best songs of this year’. No, really. They’ve put out eight tracks so far from their album next year and I loved every single one of them. It was very difficult to just pick one, but the title track just makes me feel something that very few songs can. Make me feel heartbreak when I don’t feel heartache in the slightest.

Just the way Once Twice Melody sounds really puts strain on my emotions. I was lucky enough to hear the world debut of this song on the radio and fell in love immediately. The bass is booming, the twinkles are cute and dreamy, and the guitar in the first two verses… oh man. I can’t say enough about how excited I am for this album to drop. According to my app that tracks my listening habits, I’ve played this song nearly 20 times since it dropped a little over a month ago. If you love Beach House, this is one to get excited for.

3. Silk Sonic – Smokin Out the Window

Smokin Out The Window

Leave the Door Open garnered massive amounts of excitement and questions. Would this be a one-off single or would there be an album to follow? Thankfully, it wasn’t and we were treated to an album full of sensational singles. While the first track may be most people’s picks, I can’t get enough of Smokin Out the Window. It’s far and away the most playful and quotable track on the record. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard or said “THIS. BITCH. Got me paying her rent!” or “not to be dramatic, but I want to die!”

Bruno and Anderson have impeccable chemistry. It almost feels like they’re trying to one-up each other with the most absurd one-liners. On one hand you got Bruno saying he has “kids running around his crib like it’s Chuck E. Cheese” and then Anderson saying, “I hope your trifling ass is walking barefoot in these streets!”

The chorus replays over and over in my noggin daily and I like it that way.

2. Baby Keem ft. Kendrick Lamar – Family Ties

Family Ties” by Baby Keem / Kendrick Lamar Review | Pitchfork

I had no clue who Baby Keem was before this single dropped, nor did I know he was a cousin of the almighty King Kendrick. Just by seeing Kendrick attached to a song is enough to gain my interest (unless it’s Bad Blood by Taylor Swift). Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars might’ve had the best collab album of this year, but I think Keem and Kendrick have the strongest chemistry out of any duo this year. Range Brothers was a pretty solid single, especially with the whole “top of the mornin, top of the mornin” line. Family Ties though is hip-hop heaven.

This track has the most recognizable beat and with no contest the best feature of 2021. Baby Keem and Kendrick go back and forth as if they’ve shared the spotlight together for years. Keem kicks off the track with lyrical gold. Every bar just flies off his tongue with confidence. I love the bars right before the first beat switch where he flexes his worth, it just really shows how much he is like his cousin. Dope wordplay must be in the genes.

Once Kendrick comes in though is what really made this song my favorite rap track of 2021. So many quotable lines, so much aggression, so many different flows. I still can’t stop saying “amazing brother, pop off only on occasion brother”. It got to the point where I wasn’t even trying to repeat it, it became my default line when I had nothing else to say.

The track wraps up after nearly minutes and your hunger feels satiated. It’s one of those songs where once it’s done you pause and say “…damn”.

1. Japanese Breakfast – Paprika

Jubilee (Japanese Breakfast album) - Wikipedia

This was a very easy pick for my favorite this year. I’ve enjoyed Michelle Zauner’s music for while now and with every album, Japanese Breakfast gets better and better. Jubilee is a phenomenal achievement, but so is the opening track, Paprika.

I have a certain checklist of what I call ‘Campbell Classics’. There’s certain aspects of a song that tickle my brain the right way and this song does it in more than one. Phoebe Bridgers’ Kyoto was one of my favorites last year because of how much of a passionate vocal performance she gave and those HORNS. Those horns soared and so did my heart. Paprika is the same way. Zauner gives it her all vocally and man are the instrumentals a treat. I’ve never been so hyped by a simple tapping of a tambourine. The layers of stringed instruments too provide a sense of hopefulness and joy. This can be said about the aesthetic of the entire record to follow. That’s the best compliment you can give an opener.

The themes of Paprika are pretty similar to Wolf Alice’s Delicious Things. The biggest difference though is that Paprika is more about the influence that she has on her fanbase. She promises to stay faithful to herself and her craft, but is uneasy over if this will stick with the fans. She uses the metaphor of opening the floodgates and fearing that nothing will be left, sort of symbolizing the rush of interest. At the same time though, she belts out how it feels to be at the height of her power and have her fans linger on her lyrics. Sort of being cognizant of what she says can be taken to heart whether she wants it to or not. It’s a self-awareness that I haven’t really seen on a song before, unless you count Eminem’s Stan but that’s pretty different lyrically.

Paprika is my song of the year because it’s a breath of fresh air. It’s a song that is so positive, so well written, extravagantly organized instrumentally, and shows Michelle Zauner at her best vocal performance to date. I’ll play with the stereotype I mocked at the beginning just to say… In a year that was pretty grim and hard to navigate at times, I always found home and comfort in this lovely song by Japanese Breakfast.

Who is the Real Villain? Pointing Fingers in the Wrong Direction

The Office" Murder (TV Episode 2009) - IMDb

Currently Listening to: Sympathy for Life by Parquet Courts

Introduction

No, this is not an article about the Marvel or DC movies. Nor is it about the stylish, reality defying, action films that we eat up every summer at the theaters where the villain, usually with skin deficiency of some kind, causes terror among the common people. This is clearly fiction to most people. We like to use the cinemas (or home theaters in the COVID age) to escape from the reality that stresses us and immerse ourselves in the stories the screenwriters and actors have to tell. Other smaller platforms like YouTube and TikTok have also assisted in the avoidance of such goofiness.

TikTok, while definitely a time suck, was definitely my biggest escape this past year or so. However long we’ve been stuck in this pandemic. What is this the third season of Lost? Where the hell is the smoke monster? A smoke monster can’t be politicized, I’d prefer that over a disease. Anyhow, TikTok has slowly become harder and harder to open nowadays. Same goes for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google News… Why is this? I cannot stand these fucking public freak-out videos anymore.

I’ve discussed “Karens” and “Bobs” on this platform before. It wasn’t to shine light on the evil, but to highlight the great ones. Just writing that entry made me really appreciate the benevolence that so many people possess, we just don’t always give them the appreciation they deserve. Positivity is present, but it’s the influences that media presents to us that like to misconstrue our vision. It’s like if a toddler picked up your glasses that you dropped and handed it to you with slobbery, greasy fingers. The intention is good, the algorithm and the toddler mean well and want to give you what you want, but it’s not always gonna be what’s best for you.

So why write about this topic again? Times have changed. The phone has become more of a tool, but also more of a weapon, like a Nerf gun with actual bullets. Just because you have the license or right to carry said weapon does not mean you’re on the correct side of the conflict.

Misjudging the Book by Its’ Head Cover

In 2019, a video went viral with a group of Catholic high school students approached a group of black, Hebrew Israelites who were all shouting at and with the Indigenous people who were protesting at the Lincoln Memorial for Native American rights. Tensions began to grow between either party as many of these students had “Make America Great Again” hats, apparel that was created by Donald Trump to promote his political campaign. This red cap tends to upset certain groups of people who do not side with the former president’s beliefs. In the middle of the conflict, Nathan Phillips, a Native American activist, and high school junior Nick Sandmann (clad with the red MAGA hat) stand face to face as Phillips beats his drum in an attempt to create peace between the warring white Trump supporters and the Hebrew Israelites.

Nick Sandmann, RNC 2020 speaker and Covington Catholic video star,  explained - Vox

This scene happened to be photographed and shared to Twitter where many people criticized and insulted high schooler Sandmann due to the way the picture portrayed him. In 2019, where Trump is still president and many people are triggered by the sight of the red MAGA cap, naturally people interpreted this image as the white man attacking this Indigenous peoples rally. News stations and websites all over villainized Sandmann and dozens called for his expulsion from his school. Jim Carrey, yes that Jim Carrey, even doodled a picture of the scenario entitled “Baby Snakes” and posted it to Twitter where the antagonizing worsened. Normally people would just get upset for a few weeks and then continue to pick on the ‘villain’ casually every time his name would come into conversation. This was different.

Not only did Nick Sandmann not approach the crowds in an attempt to pick a fight, he entered the middle of it to ease tensions. After the picture had caught fire, Nathan Phillips came to the defense of Sandmann saying that he spoke no words and didn’t come to create friction. Sandmann put out a statement bouncing off this news and announcing that he was raised to love and respect despite what many would like to believe. Many celebrities such as Jamie Lee Curtis took to Twitter again to admit that she was wrong and hoped that those two could have a conversation following up that interaction.

Admitting the Truth

When this picture first became viral in early 2019 I was very quick to jump to the hate train. I saw a white guy in a MAGA hat and jumped to the conclusion that everyone else did. When I read Sandmann’s statement I was very much pleased with how well it was worded and what his intentions were. Given he did come from an anti-abortion rally just moments before that scene was documented, which I don’t exactly identify with, but if that is what you believe I respect your beliefs.

I contribute the events that occurred at the Lincoln Monument as the beginning of becoming more skeptical of the ‘woke’ crowds of the internet. When I say woke I don’t mean the ones that retweet a Rupi Kaur poem on Twitter and wear flower crowns to Lana Del Rey concerts. I am referring to the ones who use a headline as the whole story or refuse to refute their own beliefs because giving up what you believe in may be interpreted as weak. I was definitely that person in late high school years. I’m ashamed. but still learning.

Villainizing does not stop at just politics. It happens in every conceivable environment. We’ve all worked with someone that just treats everyone with little to no respect in order to achieve what they want. We have all seen sporting events where someone has played dirty in order to win. People like Manny Machado, for example, is arguably baseball’s biggest villain for the way that he will risk others and their physical health to get on base.

The Clock App Strikes

This woke crowd of people thrive on social medias. TikTok is definitely the biggest hub for people to be blown away by prejudice and judgement. I usually spend at least 30 minutes of my day on TikTok. What can I say I’m a sucker for satire and cooking vids. My algorithm is one that I very much enjoy and is MOSTLY positive. Every once in a while though there is a video of someone being filmed in public freaking out or saying something that may be considered polarizing. Not like the fucking white and gold dress of 2015.

Every day I log in to the former Musical.ly app, someone is being attacked. Sometimes a celebrity and sometimes a random dude. Hell, sometimes it’s even a comedy skit where a fake character is the subject of ridicule and insult. Most of the times one could argue that it is well deserved. The amount of ‘Karen’ video footage that I have seen are nearly all deserved for shame and dismay. Really makes you see how many people put on plus-sized little boy jeans and not big boy pants. Phones have really been a savior for many people when it comes to proving someone or something was a threat to them. It also assists in identifying the racists and sexists of the world. Many people come to the defense of those behind the camera in the comment sections poking fun at these people or saying equally terrible things about the horrible person being filmed.

The big problem with comment sections though is that they are not always right. Groupthink thrives on TikTok. The app has become so toxic that many people get shunned or bullied for thinking differently than the majority. It really is a matter of who is on what side of the phone and who has the most popularity.

A man with nearly a million followers on TikTok put out a vid of a girl getting upset with him because she had rear-ended him. The man behind the camera mocked her and laughed saying “how is a rear-ending my fault?” He even showed footage of her colliding with the back of his car from a nearby gas station security camera after the footage was released. The girl in the video had a more ‘rough’ dialect and was driving a very nice car, so naturally the comment section went bonkers. People made fun of her teeth, her mannerisms, even called her privileged and entitled.

A week later a random user on TikTok took to the platform and posted the same video the man with nearly a million followers had released. This time around saying that we owe the girl an apology. As it turned out the man behind the camera was completely in the wrong. Believe it or not the girl was in front of the famous guy in a turning lane. He didn’t feel like waiting so he went around her into the opposite lane to get ahead side-swiped her car, and braked immediately after getting in front of her when he realized the lane he was attempting to enter was full. So the girl had zero time to react and ended up hitting him. The TikTok user ended up getting his account banned from the app and the girl is suing for defamation after the video garnered 40 million views.

This video was just another reminder to not fully point blame without hearing the full side of the story. A theme that is recurring year after year, but no one seems to take to heart for very long. I have tried very hard to distance myself from these videos and stories for the sole purpose of avoiding this toxicity. It’s very bizarre that we like to create heroes and villains in every scenario just because there’s a disagreement. One doesn’t have to be all right and one doesn’t need to be wrong. No. There’s a reason that we have trials and there’s a reason there are debate teams, to hear both sides of the story out without pre-determined critiques.

‘Super’ Villains

As stated before, phones are a great addition to humanity in a handful of ways. I’ve kept up with news, people, and other information at ease thanks to my iPhone. Like a power drill, it can make life a whole lot easier or it can be the biggest present danger. Just because we film someone getting angry on film does not make us the hero of the story and the person filmed the villain.

In the show ‘How I Met Your Mother’, Barney (played by Neil Patrick Harris), points out that in the film The Karate Kid that Billy Zapka is actually the hero of the story and Ralph Macchio is the villain. For those unfamiliar with the movie, the roles of protagonist and antagonist are reversed respectively. It wasn’t until the popular Cobra Kai show came out nearly 30 years later that the unpopular opinion was explored in more depth. I found myself realizing that maybe he was the misunderstood hero the whole time. Funny how from age nine to twenty-two I thought he was the villain until I saw where he came from and what he intended to do all along.

I feel as though we like to hate on the villains in film and the people seemingly acting up on camera because we aren’t often given detail on what they mean to achieve and why. Look at Joker a few years back. Joker is arguably the most popular villain of all time. We never saw good in him and just viewed him as an irrational psychopath, even prior to his dismay he still had some dislikable qualities. The Joker film that dropped two years ago shed light onto the supervillain and where he came from. He was a mental patient that struggled to fit in with the rest of the world. Many people shit on him because he was ‘weird’ in their eyes and as a result lashed out on people out of anger and misunderstanding. I am in no way justifying his violent acts because that isn’t right no matter how you paint it, however, we are very quick to make villains out of each other because we don’t know where they come from. I came out of that film feeling bad for Joker to an extent. Maybe Arthur Fleck would’ve been a regular Tom Hanks if he was treated with respect. Who knows.

Damn… That’s Me

I recently watched Edward Scissorhands and that case is no different. Everyone in that neighborhood loved to gossip. They had no problem pointing out the problems about each other in order to make their lives more interesting and to create conversation. Every dialogue that the neighbors had with each other is in one way or another putting someone else down or putting themselves above one another.

Edward was a helpful asset to a lot of people in town despite his unique look. People used him as a tool to help themselves out thinking that they were doing good for him. This didn’t mean they feared him any less, but that just that they could use him. Edward barely ever spoke any words either, which means he rarely had time to explain his motives.

There were a few times in the film too where Ed would lash out due to anger, something we all process differently. He tore apart the curtains and broke down the neighboring bushes he had helped shape because people wouldn’t hear him out despite all he had done for them. Edward had accidentally scratched both kids he was living with in an attempt to help them. People didn’t care to hear him out or give him a second chance. The moment he ‘fucked up’ was the last chance he got to live among each other. As a result he gets banished from the town.

How this relates to real life is that so often we think that we are the heroes of our story and like to point out the flaws of others because we don’t like to think that we possess those same traits. Therefore it is bad and should be looked down upon. We all get angry. It’s part of being human. This doesn’t mean we all handle it the same way. Some people remain silent and think things through and some lash out and cry. It varies. You can tell that everyone in that town from Edward Scissorhands thought they were doing good things for Edward, but in reality they were the villains, or at least I thought they were. At least the main antagonist actively voiced how he felt. I’d rather someone be an outright asshole than be two-faced.

I think we live in a very flawed world that has a lot to talk about and to solve. The best way that we can do this is to listen. Instead of someone only being right and someone only being wrong we can try to listen to each other. As someone who majored in communication and minored in journalism, I really see the importance in knowing the full story and all sides. After all that’s why letter to the editor exists. If they miss a side then it’s important to address all fronts. There’s definitely a sense of irony to being a journalist though. People expect them to form an article or spotlight that covers all spectrums or one spectrum that caters to their taste. Then there’s some that act as though they care about being open to both sides but only read the headline and the slug (the print usually following the headline).

In Campbell’s perfect world, we would have healthy debate. Disagreements can be satisfied simply by hearing out each other and even if we disagree, can at least respect someone being different. We would definitely pick out less villains the more that we can fully understand and hear each other out. If you’ve ever read a “Where’s Waldo” book as a kid (or adult) you open the book with the intention of finding the titular character. The most difficult page of the books is the scene where everyone looks similar to Waldo. There’s only one correct one, but it’s hard to find him when he’s surrounded by those that resemble his features.

Picture the perfect world as a ‘Where’s Waldo’ book. With healthy conversation and debate along with respecting each other’s differences it’s easier to pick out the bad apples who don’t wish to cooperate and better the world. This is a page where you can find Waldo easily because nobody looks like him (Waldo being the bad apple). In a world where we don’t care to know the full story, make villains out of each other without context, and continue sticking to hate because people believe different than us it becomes harder to tell who are the heroes and who are the villains. This is the page where everyone resembles Waldo.

I’m not perfect when it comes to to this concept either. I point blame at the ‘bad’ people of the internet, but how could I say someone is bad without knowing them? I’ve been wrong before. Sure, there’s people that say horrible things that speak more about them than explaining themselves ever could. Racist gestures and violence for example. I mean how many movies or TV shows do you see where two people that hate each other at the beginning end up liking each other? They have time to know them better as time goes by. I think the true villains of the world are the ones that can’t admit the flaws of themselves, but are more than willing to point out the flaws of others. We don’t live in the film world of hero and villain where there has to be a bad guy and a good guy, we can just be human.

Man vs Nature: Animals

By: Campbell Petschke

The Sandlot Stars: Where Are They Now? - The Delite

Currently Listening to: You’re Gonna Miss it All by Modern Baseball

Introduction

When I was in first grade I had an assignment where I basically had to break it to my class that I was awesome through icebreakers that are fun to little kids, but stressful to high schoolers. Questions like what are your favorite subjects, favorite TV show, and of course what we want to be when I grow up. First two were easy, I loved social studies and what kid in the 2000s isn’t gonna say Spongebob? As a kid I struggled with the career question because I didn’t want to be the typical firefighter or policeman kid.

“Why not be a vet? You love animals.” My dad suggested this while I was playing around with my childhood collie Demi so I was naturally coaxed into it. This career choice though was appealing for the same reason that I would dislike it. One kid pointed out to me during my presentation that despite me getting to hang out with cats and dogs that I would have to deal with blood and putting dogs down in front of other kids. Fuck…

My relationship with animals has always been very scattered. Most animals are dope and clearly serve their purpose in their respective ecosystems, although I’m still trying to figure out why geese and flies exist. Growing up though it seemed like every time I had a nice relationship with an animal, something would happen that would give me a reason to not be homies with them anymore. Robins are the perfect example of this. I had zero opinion on them until one day I was playing hide and seek in my great-grandma’s backyard and one flew out of a birdhouse that I knocked and whizzed right past my face. My disgust for them still exists to this day (something about their eyes, don’t ask).

My least favorite animal as a kid though had to be either mice or opossums. Something about long-pink tails really disturbed me. I took my dog out one time during a cold winter night once and we heard rustling in the bushes. Thinking it was a skunk I quickly rushed over to pull her away, but it was the dirtiest opossum I’ve ever seen and it HISSED at us. Disgusted, I ran away but my dog chased it away. Yeah, yeah I know I’m a wimp whatever.

In recent months I’ve really gravitated towards this one YouTube channel where this guy runs this farm/rescue near Austin, Texas and has a wide variety of animals that he takes care of, some I’ve never even seen before. He has chickens, pigeons, rabbits, and even a baby kangaroo named Doorknob. Through these videos though, the main guy has such an interesting personality and explains the purpose of every single animal on his farm and even the ones that wander into his small yard like the tiny field mice and even a little opossum named Poppy that he rescued. He explains the vitality of having animals like Poppy around and he’ll even put her on his shoulder while he does farm chores.

These videos have really opened up my feelings about the animals that I see around the mid-west, even the ones that grossed me out previously. So I thought it’d be fun to share all my animal horror stories growing up and even ones that are recent.

Opossums

Ugh… Let’s get these little assholes out of the way. I doubt that he reads these, but my buddy Jake, who is a very interesting spirit and very much an animal person, called me over one day during last summer. He claimed he had something to show me. When I arrived at his place, he walks to his garage and tells me to wait. He comes back with four baby opossums thinking that this would tickle my fancy. I nearly screamed “JAKE WHY??” This lead to so many questions, but the most predominant being why he would think I would like this? He jokingly kept trying to put one of them on me, even dangling one by it’s dinky, pink tail. Nah dude keep your marsupials to yourself.

It’s pretty easy to hate opossums. Their beady eyes and seemingly greasy whitish gray fur make me feel like I’m looking at the animal version of John Waters. Their whiskers are the worst though, looking like skinny, black, uncooked ramen noodles. Not to mention they’re pretty fucking stupid. There’s this road on the way to my friend’s place that I call ‘roadkill road’ because there’s always a copious amount of dead opossums and raccoons no matter what time of day it is. Even if the city comes to clean it up it hardly matters because on will die in its’ place in a matter of minutes.

Have My Feelings Changed About Them?

Short answer, yes. Through watching the rescue guy on YouTube he explains the importance of them in the ecosystem and how they help in keeping pests like cockroaches and rats out of his area and can even help in keeping insects out of your garden. Opossums are also the only marsupials in North America, which doesn’t exactly make them any less ugly, but still a pretty cool fact nonetheless. An attack from an opossum is rare, despite them being omnivores. They are very timid animals so they’re more likely going to faint or run away than try and bite you. The relationship that the farmer and Poppy have together has sort of loosened me up. I actually saw one in the forest with my girlfriend recently and wasn’t COMPLETELY disgusted. However, it’s not an invitation to be friends just yet.

Birds

A little fact about me is that I’ve been hit by a bird three times in my life. Once by a morning dove, a robin, and the other by a cardinal. While I love cardinals, morning doves just kind of weird me out. If you get anywhere near one it’s almost a game to them of ‘how close can I get this human to walk towards me before I freakishly flap my wings’. The answer is: close enough to hit me in the forehead. I’ll give the cardinal a break since it hit me on the way to the bus stop in middle school and gave me more personality since I was shy.

The robin one is pretty vile though. I was riding my bike to help build the sets for our school’s drama production and while riding there a robin decided it would be totally cool to try and fly in between the spokes and smack into my leg. Nice one asshole, now you’re dead and I got trauma for the rest of my life.

Geese are probably the bird I’ve had the most issue with by far. They like to hiss at me when I ride along the bike trail by my house and do that weird motion with their necks that can only be described as noodley. My university has a whole Facebook page dedicated to how annoying the geese on campus are and how they literally shit EVERYWHERE. One girl came up to me at the desk the other day and showed me a pic of a goose standing on top of her car while she was moving out. I told her “well I hope you enjoyed that car because you’ll never get anywhere near it again.” One of my first ever posts on this site was actually about geese so if you want to see me amateurly rant about geese I’ll link it.

I also got pecked by a chicken when I was younger too so I definitely felt no mercy during every future KFC visit.

Have My Feelings Changed?

Eh, kind of? Some of my favorite animals are birds like penguins, hawks, and ducks. I even like geese a little more nowadays. I got pretty close to one the other day while I was on a walk and the closer I observed it the more cute and innocent it looked. Plus the way they dedicate themselves to one other goose for the rest of their life and travel with them is cool as heck. What a bunch of simps!

I have no ill-will towards most birds. I would totally love to own a bird one day actually. Whenever we would go to the pet store as kids, my brother and I would always run to the parrots and the one that could mimic you (the name escapes me). Ducks are easily my second favorite animal of all time. Like geese, they travel with their mate and are loyal as heck too (ladies find yourself a duck and not an owl). Male ducks have the coolest head of any animal with their shade of dark forest green and their bright yellow bills. If I could have one as a pet I’d totally have one by now.

Robins are still kind of busted to me and pretty dumb. There was one robin that kept flying into our front window one day and eventually killed itself, so I can’t respect an animal that can’t even tell the difference between the world and a window. Seagulls kind of rub me the wrong way too, but they get a pass for being associated with summer.

Also fuck ostriches and rheas. I was recently introduced to rheas and my god they’re evil. Same thing with peacocks. I guess it really depends on the bird, but I’d say 4 out of 5 times I’ll enjoy a bird.

Nocturnal Animals

I figured it’d be easy to generalize since nighttime creatures deserve a category all together. Only reason opossums aren’t in this is because we have a more memorable past.

Raccoons (aka trash pandas) are a very mixed bag. Their patterns are so cool and they’re very cute, but they’re also very menacing and kind of jerks. It seems like for every merit of these guys there’s a drawback. Ever since I saw that scene from Elf when he gets attacked by the raccoon my perception just hasn’t been the same. What I strongly dislike about the internet is that they will make an animal look so damn cute as a pet, but they’re super dangerous if they aren’t tamed. There’s a raccoon on TikTok that is a house pet and acts like a dog, but I’m sure secretly hates orphans or something else terrible.

I was never really afraid of foxes or coyotes growing up. It wasn’t until one coyote was in my neighborhood that I got kind of geeked and scared for my dog’s life. They’re very sweet in appearance, but are one of the most dangerous wild animals in the mid-west. Foxes are more mild versions of coyotes, but better in every single way. Not only are they friendly and unharmful to most humans and medium sized animals (unless rabid, but that’s extremely rare), but they can also be domesticated! They’re very beautiful animals that sadly only live around 2-5 years.

Skunks are OKAY I guess. Despite the obvious reason that most people hate them, they’re pretty cute, harmless animals. They’re kind of the nerds of nightlife. They stink and they can’t see for the life of them. I’ve been told they make very good house pets too. If you’ve never seen a skunk groomed before do yourself a favor and Google that man.

Have My Feelings Changed?

With foxes and skunks, yes. When it comes to raccoons and coyotes though, not so much. Foxes have slowly crept their way into becoming my favorite animal. Like the Urban Rescue Ranch YouTube channel, there’s a fox sanctuary YouTube channel that really got me fascinated with foxes and how they are taken care of if domesticated. I also realize that I have never had a bad experience with a fox either. I remember one time driving into my neighborhood I saw this little red fox running around with a cup on its’ nose. My man just wanted a bite I guess.

With skunks I realized that the only reason I found them to be kind of gross before is due to the impending threat they present. They’re actually very good for the environment, but the only drawback is that a lot of wild skunks have rabies so if you’re scratched by one you might be in a stinky situation (sorry, I’ll leave). With raccoons I think they are very cool animals, but the more I learn about them the more I kind of dislike them. They’re like koalas, they eat shit and look cute but don’t really do anything to help you or the environment. Seriously, Google ‘what are raccoons good for’ and the only answer is that they help keep other animal populations under control. Wow, congrats you eat food.

Coyotes are very smart and for that I have nothing but respect for my canine kings. The only issue is that they are a massive hazard if one sneaks into your neighborhood. Coyotes are probably the most accurately depicted creatures in media. They show very little mercy, especially to roadrunners (okay NOW I’ll stop SORRY). While they may seem cute, they will literally tear you up.

Mice/Rats

I hesitate to write about this, but truthfully I really have never liked/appreciated/welcomed these rodents. I blame the 2004 election for my distaste for mice and no I’m not talking about Dick Cheney. I remember during election day 2004 we had a few mice sneak into our house. This for whatever reason really disturbed me because they were getting into our food, more specifically the cereal. Nobody fucks with my Frosted Flakes unless your name is Tony the gosh-dang Tiger and even then I’d be like ‘dude just give it back’. They did eventually all get killed like within a week or so, but I was kind of paranoid for a few weeks.

Flash forward to the 2012 election and guess what? A mouse slipped into our house. The same way that a rat slipped into the senate (no subtlety here zodiac killer). I love how I’ll make a joke like that and some nut-job will probably DM me again over a tiny joke (again). ANYHOW back to mice. The difference between this time and the first time with the mice is this time I actually saw it in motion and in person. I just saw the signs the first time, hence the Frosted frustration. This really messed with me, I would have nightmares about rats and mice crawling up my legs for months.

As of recent, I’ve been able to separate my feelings about rats and mice though. Rats are like 10X worse than mice. Though I’d rather just not have either, mice have less mal-intent. Mice are just G’s trying to survive while simultaneously being ugly as fuck. I’m sure some can relate. Rats are vicious. They’re like the geese of the rodent world. The only time I’ve ever seen rats have really just been in Chicago or in pet stores. I have never held one of them before nor do I care to ever do so. The only good thing that rats have done through their time on earth is be in a Pixar movie.

Have My Feelings Changed?

No. Maybe a bit with mice, especially white mice. White mice are cool and I wouldn’t have one as a pet, but let’s just say that if I’m feeding a mouse to a snake I’d feel more guilty sacrificing one of those. Field mice are the worst in the mice bunch though, they’re so small and can squeeze through just about the smallest of spaces. They’re also one of the animals that reproduce the most. If a rat approached me on the street and asked me what time it was I’d probably be hesitant, but give it to them. We could kick it as mutuals, but probably not friends.

Wrap-Up

At the end of the day I’ve definitely had my fair share of animals related encounters and even dreams. I had a dream that opossums were crawling up my pantlegs the other day… strangely I didn’t mind until they started to grow human teeth and begin to smile. I think that the phrase “the only thing to fear is fear itself” speaks a lot of truth when it comes to animals. As a kid I was kind of freaked out by cows and sheep. Petting zoos might as well have been haunted houses for me. Being around them helped me get a better idea of what they’re about though you can also say the same about my experiences with frat guys. In a negative sense of course. Regardless, one of my 2021 goals was to be better acquainted with birds and mice so I guess we’ll see what zany scenarios will be brought forth by that.

Daft Punk Albums Ranked

Daft Punk may have split up, but at least we have DJ Hero - Polygon

Currently Listening to: Saturation by Brockhampton

Introduction

A little over a month ago Daft Punk announced their retirement from music. At least one can assume that by the somewhat goofy snippet of Guy Manuel’s robot exploding in the middle of the desert. This was followed by Thomas Bangalter walking into the sunset alone. It’d be a lie to say this wasn’t expected. The duo hadn’t released anything since 2013’s Random Access Memories, unless you count their work on The Weeknd’s album, Starboy, or their production on Kanye West’s Yeezus and Arcade Fire’s Everything Now. Their influence and style influenced a lot of artists that we hear on the radios nowadays too. Artists like Disclosure and Mark Ronson both credited them as massive influences to the electronic and rock genres. It seemed like when they initially broke up on February 21st of this year, everyone had something to say.

It is very rare that an act like Daft Punk comes around and has an influence carry into three separate decades the way theirs did. They did so much for the house scene, modern electronic music, and even rock. Daft Punk was an act that it seemed like everyone wanted to work with. From Nile Rodgers of Chic, The Weeknd, Julian Casablancas, Paul Williams, to even Kanye West. They also can be credited to having one of the first ‘viral’ videos on YouTube. Their song Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger was accompanied by two hands that had all the lyrics written on various fingers and the palms. They also released an anime to play in part with their album Discovery called “Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem”.

As you can probably tell, I really enjoyed their music over the years. I didn’t always talk about them, but they were always that one group that had a nearly flawless discography. I thought in honor of their retirement I would rank their albums (including Daft Club and the live albums) by my personal enjoyment. Also as much as I liked the Tron Legacy Soundtrack I didn’t feel the need to rank it in the mix. Hope you enjoy!

7. Daft Club (2003)

Daft Club - Wikipedia

Daft Club is sort of a remix album for Discovery. I felt the need to include this album because I feel as though it puts a unique spin on some of the tracks from that record and also it just slaps. I love a handful of the remixes like the Basement Jaxx remix of Phoenix to make it sound more grimy and aggressive or the Demon remix of Face to Face. What makes a remix album sort of easy to pick on though is that sometimes there is just a singular bass drop added or a different beat strung throughout the original song to make it danceable. This doesn’t happen AS much as a normal remix album, but there’s still a few. The Aerodynamic remixes don’t really add anything new or fresh to the original version.

What makes this album really worthy of being included on this list other than a handful of really solid remixes is the few B-Sides in the mix. Aerodynamite and Ouverture could replace two songs from Discovery and fit right in. The one standalone track though, Something About Us, is a perfect single. I know that it’s also on Discovery, but in the context of this project I think it fits in better. I love this song so much. I get a lot of nostalgia from this song not only because of the anime it is from, but also because this used to play at a job I had a number of years ago. It seemed like every time I went to use the bathroom this song would come on. Thanks to Daft Punk for making the perfect soundtrack to poop to.

6. Alive 1997

Alive 1997 - Wikipedia

Daft Punk is infamous for putting on spectacular live shows. This was the one that started them all or at least gained the most traction first. There’s not a whole lot to be said about this one except that this album definitely stands out against most live albums. Even with just one album under their belt, Daft Punk was able to make a Birmingham crowd very excited. The transitions from song to song were mostly smooth and the crowd energy made the album more enjoyable too.

While it’s impressive that the energy and vibe created on this record was very fun and enjoyable since Homework is a very solid album, the amount of material sort of wares thin after a while. The music is still above average, but after a while the energy fades away until the very end when it goes crazy again. Alive 1997 also plays very well with car speakers, so if you have a car and your car has somewhat good bass then this album is perfect for that. Nothing too special, just an easy listen.

5. Human After All (2005)

Human After All - Wikipedia

My first exposure to anything from Human After All is one day coming home from the movies I heard this song coming from my older brother’s room. As I walked past on the way to my room I stopped and listened because sometimes I would hear something I liked. This was not the case this time. I was like “damn this song is repetitive.” That song was The Prime Time of Your Life.

A few years later I gave this album a chance just because I liked Daft Punk’s other material and this was the last one I hadn’t heard all the way through. Prime Time of Your Life has slowly become one of my favorite tracks. I love the slow build-up and the layering that comes about every passing minute. The fast buildup towards the end leading to insanity gives me goosebumps.

Human After All has a lot of grimy songs, more than any Daft Punk album in the past. There’s a lot of distortion and fuzz put into the beats creating this almost dystopian atmosphere. The opener and self-titled track is prime example. It’s very a very rock inspired house track that sort of leads you to believe the rest of the album will be like that too. Sadly, it’s not and that’s one of the biggest issues with Human After All. It’s a pretty spotty record with really high highs and some semi-forgettable others. This album also has the only Daft Punk song I feel tempted to skip, Steam Machine. It sounds very cool and chilling, but that’s it. It keeps the same speed throughout the entire track and that breathy ‘steeeeeeeeaaaaaam machiiiiiiiiiine’ that gets looped is borderline irritating.

To this album’s merit, some of their most iconic singles are on here too. Robot Rock is a jam for the ages. It serves as the perfect bridge of sound from Discovery to this one. It meshes the smooth production with some pretty glossy, yet heavy guitar and aggressive electronic beats. There’s a reason that this song has lasted into decades after in meme culture, but also in concerts. I’ve seen a few live shows where this song has been teased or sampled.

Overall, this album is still a good listen. I don’t return to it as quick as I would other albums of theirs, but I have at least half this album sprinkled into a few playlists of mine.

Best Tracks: Robot Rock, The Prime Time of Your Life, Television Rules the Nation, Technologic

4. Homework (1997)

Homework (Daft Punk album) - Wikipedia

I’ll never forget the first time I heard Homework. It was in the middle of study hall and I had ran through all my downloaded music. So I looked to Daft Punk, since I heard Da Funk in a video during history class (I don’t know why it was history). I didn’t expect the material I heard. Around the World and Da Funk were definitely ones I was familiar with, but wow… I didn’t love this when I first heard it. It took a few listens for it to click. Homework’s repetitiveness had to grow on me and also I became more patient and open-minded with music in the years to follow.

All publications and critics say how revolutionary this album was and what it did for the house scene. Yeah, I totally see it. Even if there’s a lot of material that sounds like this today, there’s something kinda special about Homework. It’s like a disco infused club party. Sure, you can argue that this album is 10x more repetitive than Human After All, especially since the songs tend to run longer on here too. The only difference is these house beats make sense to be played over and over. The lyrics and vocal samples on Human After All made the songs feel all the more longer. With Homework, there’s very little lyrical content at all and when there is like in Around the World it is blended into the rhythm. These make sense to be played longer.

I easily get lost in the shimmery guitars and EXTREMELY 90’s club beats. I have always loved Da Funk ever since the first time I heard it on Just Dance 3 when I was in middle school. It’s such a unique song that only gets more and more intriguing. It also sounds phenomenal on Alive 1997. Rollin’ and Scratchin’ is the second longest track on the album, but the progression makes you invested. One of the few Daft Punk songs that makes you feel something insane and maniacal.

Homework has its’ place in history for good reason. There’s a lot to love on here and it’s very much a product of its’ time. It’s not hard to see what influence this would serve to a fat chunk of electronic and EDM artists working today.

Best Tracks: Da Funk, Rollin’ and Scratchin’, Fresh, Burnin’, Revolution 909

3. Alive 2007

Daft Punk - Daft Punk - Alive 2007 [LP] (Vinyl/LP) - Amazon.com Music

My number one complaint about Alive 1997 is the familiarity and the sort of distant energy. Even though by Homework they had established a pretty healthy fanbase they still had much more to do and grow. Alive 2007 is everything you could’ve wanted from a live album. Daft Punk waste no time pulling out punches and bangers starting off with Robot Rock, probably their most aggressive, yet accessible song they’d ever put out. From then on it just doesn’t slow down.

The energy that lacked from Alive 1997 is 10x more than what I could’ve asked for on 2007. At this point they had three VERY solid albums under their belt so of course the hits are gonna hit harder than ever. The amount of cheers on tracks like Around the World and Aerodynamic… MMPH it makes me miss concerts more than ever. The way that they sort of tease these well-loved tracks in other songs just shows they know their worth. This teasing only makes the payoff more special. Crescendolls is probably my second favorite track off of Discovery and the way that gets teased into Television Rules the Nation is perfect.

Somehow Daft Punk managed to pair the right songs together to make an unforgettable listening experience. Some feel destined to be put next to each other like Touch It and Technologic. Yeee-UCK what a grimy beat that one has, I love it. They even made Steam Machine sound pretty good. This is easily a perfect live album and it only makes their breakup sadder knowing we will never be treated to something like this ever again. This album confirmed that I indeed love this duo.

Best Tracks: Robot Rock/Oh Yeah, Around the World/Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger, One More Time/Aerodynamic, Prime Time of Your Life/Brainwasher/Rollin’ and Scratchin’/Alive

2. Discovery (2001)

Discovery (Daft Punk album) - Wikipedia

My favorite albums by Daft Punk really are interchangeable. I think that Random Access Memories sounds better on a hot, summer day. Discovery is definitely a winter album for me. There’s something very cold, yet mystical about it especially when paired up to Interstella 5555. Discovery is very hard to hate if you’re already a Daft Punk fan. To be completely frank I don’t think it’ll even be the album to win over those who don’t gravitate to their tunes in the first place (with a few exceptions). I think that comes more in their later work. As someone who loves their music though, this is nothing short of a masterpiece.

I could go on and on about how much this album’s legacy affected electronic/house music and even hip-hop, but that’s almost undermining what it did for music in general. This saw their most commercially successful songs at the time including One More Time and Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger. Two tracks that have been sampled to eternity, but their influence remains constant to this day. I personally prefer Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger since I think there’s more layers and progression than One More Time. Plus the beat for whatever reason scared me as a kid. I thought the beat had something sinister and creepy underneath and in the context of the anime… well I guess I was right.

Daft Punk consistently pull all these punches that really progressed their image. They put out two pretty amazing pop songs with Something About Us and Digital Love. Something About Us even got a radio edit later on to promote Daft Club. I talked earlier about how Crescendolls was my second favorite track off Discovery. I love the circulating crescendos and chants, it makes it sound like an arena anthem of madness. It’s a good segue to the tracks that follow, which tend to be a bit more groovy than the tracks that proceeded it.

So what is my favorite song off Discovery? That would be Digital Love. Digital Love is without a doubt Daft Punk’s best song. It services as an introduction to the type of music they would be making moving forward and the sound that we have come to love since Homework. This is also their most poppy song at the time. There’s very few songs in their early discography that have that basis of a first and second verse, bridge, and chorus. Digital Love has all of these and through every verse that follows there’s a new layer added to it. I love how punchy the synths are in the chorus and how they function as the vocals with no words. The grooves are beautiful and soothing too and it all gets brought home with that kick-ass guitar solo. What a perfect single.

I never felt bored at any point on this record. From beginning to end there’s just a story told through these wonderful instrumentals and talk-box lyrics that even out of context of the anime take you on a journey through different genres and elevations of mood. I feel very happy with One More Time, lovey with Something About Us, emotional with Veridis Quo, amped up with Aerodynamic, and complete with Too Long.

There’s very few albums I’ve heard in my life that make me feel as many emotions as Discovery does. Their main focus and mission was to create an homage to the sounds of their childhood. Daft Punk definitely wears their influences on their sleeve, especially on what I consider to be their best album. If you haven’t heard Discovery before what’re you doing bro? Get on it!

Best Tracks: Veridis Quo, Crescendolls, Digital Love, Something About Us, Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

1. Random Access Memories (2013)

Daft Punk - Random Access Memories - Amazon.com Music

I’m sure plenty of Daft Punk fans would disagree with me, but Random Access Memories was the album that they were destined to make. Their fourth and final studio album is easily their magnum opus.

It could just be me wearing my nostalgia goggles, but the rollout and promotion was flawless. They promoted the SHIT out of Get Lucky and was the teaser track for their somewhat mysterious album ads on TV. I distinctly remember them airing these promotions during Saturday Night Live and every week for I believe three weeks there’d be a new element added to the commercial. This was until it said “Daft Punk” in flashy gold letters and the merging of the two helmets to make the album cover. I can’t remember the last time I had seen an album commercial since then. Sad.

Discovery was the culmination of all their childhood influences and putting their spin on it. The soundtrack of their youth. Random Access Memories is the utilizing and partnering of their influences. This includes Paul Williams, Nile Rodgers, and of course Giorgio Moroder. It’s almost as if Discovery was the preface to their career and RAM is the wrap-up or the narration to their career. The obvious hint is Giorgio By Moroder where Giorgio tells the story of how he found inspiration and made his way into the world of music. He said with his music he wanted to combine the sounds of the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and the future. Sound familiar? This nine minute track is one of their longest, but it’s such an infectious beat that pays homage to their hero and tells a great story too. If you haven’t seen it before, watch the interview of Giorgio telling the story of how Daft Punk recorded that song, it’s awesome.

Speaking of storytelling, Touch is another track that will inspire you. Paul Williams’ feature starts off distorted and fuzzed with this sort of grimy, almost Time to Pretend by MGMT type beat. Then this somewhat dirty distortion turns into a clear, soft spoken “Touch”. A story then follows of questioning where your place in life is and what you can do to find it. The solution. Love. The best and most memorable lyric falls on this track, one that resonated with me the moment I heard it. “If love is the answer, you’re home”. This is accompanied by some phenomenal keyboarding and trumpeting. It’s an instrumentally wonderful moment.

I had said earlier that Discovery might not win over all listeners, but Random Access Memories has a better chance of gripping a new listener. Tracks like Get Lucky, Lose Yourself to Dance, and Instant Crush have the draw of multiple genres coming together to make one humongous hit and two pretty sizeable others. Instant Crush was the sleeper hit that I didn’t see coming. Features on a Daft Punk album already seemed like a foreign concept, but they truly came out on top with their choices. Julian Casablancas would later put out his least interesting Strokes album after this, but at least his feature here was pretty dope. I love how disco inspired these three tracks are too. It doesn’t come off as kitschy or cheesy, but more so a testament to how much they love the music they grew up on.

RAM comes off as a victory lap in a way. Even without knowing that this would be their final album at the time they definitely had a lot to say. The duo’s message since the very beginning has always been to spread love and to show your passion. Give Life Back to Music isn’t meant to come off as an insult to modern music, but more of a ‘take back your sound’ and to make it your own. In a time where most mainstream music was kind of bland and dull (with exceptions) Get Lucky served as a breath of fresh air. I still don’t know why this song was such a hit outside of Pharrell being attached to it. The top songs that year were Thrift Shop by Macklemore, We Can’t Stop by Miley Cyrus, and Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke. These all in some way fall under the mainstream criteria in some form. Not to say that Get Lucky is this genre defying anthem, but it totally stands out among these other three.

The last two songs hit hard. Doin’ It Right is all about getting lost in the moment, a euphoric state of mind that needs to be possessed. Drowning in the sound and letting the music guide you is their definition of ‘doin it right’ and it’s totally convincing coming from a spectacular Panda Bear feature. This was actually my introduction to Animal Collective, I thought ‘man this Panda dude has a great voice’.

I could write a whole entry on how perfect Contact is as a closer. It’s not only the perfect finale to a disco and electro-pop rollercoaster, but also to their career as we know it. I revisited this album after news of their breakup and nearly cried. This song instrumentally drives me insane in the best way. The way that the synth-organ steers into these insane drums and bass plays out like a spaceship accident. Like two rockets smashing into each other and this is what it would sound like if you could hear in space. The movie Interstellar hadn’t come out yet, but I always thought that it would fit perfectly in the Hans Zimmer score.

Random Access Memories is a one of a kind album. It broke off from the traditional Daft Punk sound and went in a new direction that I didn’t expect to love as much as I do. Discovery is probably the better album at the end of the day, but the highs on RAM are so high. Some of my all-time favorite songs were introduced here and play to the soundtrack of my early high school years and memorable summer vacations to come. I’ll always remember and cherish the first time I ever heard it. As a kid who only listened to Top 40 and popular alternative, Daft Punk was my introduction to electronic and house music. RAM is an album that really reminds me of my family. We all really enjoy this record and it’s impossible to not think of riding backseat to the waterpark on hot summer days while listening.

Best Tracks: Within, Touch, Giorgio By Moroder, Get Lucky, Instant Crush, Doin’ It Right, Contact

Should I be Laughing?

By: Campbell Petschke

Nervous Laughter GIFs | Tenor

Currently Listening to: Discovery by Daft Punk

Can I Say That?

A sense of humor is one of the most subjective aspects of being human. There’s so many different types of humor out there like deadpan, dark, slapstick, dirty… the list goes on. Some of us might fall into multiple categories or maybe you’re someone that laughs at everything. Personally, I think I fall under the type of humor that’s part deadpan, sarcastic, or smart-dumb. Smart-dumb in the sense that it’s dumb humor that isn’t a cheap laugh. The jokes you’d find in Anchorman or Dumb and Dumber. One of my all-time favorite jokes in a comedic film is in Step Brothers when John C. Reilly approaches Will Ferrell on the couch and asks him why he’s so sweaty. To this he responds “Oh, uh… I was watching Cops.” Stupid, but smart.

On TikTok there’s been this growing trend of listing ‘what comedic moment in a tv show or film wouldn’t fly today’ and it got me thinking and questioning a few things. For one thing, we definitely don’t live in the same world of comedy that we did in the 2000s and that’s no secret. I remember watching Mean Girls for the first time in middle school and being shocked when Regina George says “I know that, I’m not retarded”, which is one of those unwritten rule words where you just don’t say it anymore. Sure, I heard that world all the time growing up in elementary school, but it quickly got phased out in the early 2010’s.

As a whole, society’s sense of humor is always evolving and going through phases. I remember growing up every kids movie trailer that I would see on Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network would highlight all the moments in the film where a character would get hurt or smack into something. More often than not too this would be paired with some older orchestral piece like Tchaikovsky or other high energy classical music. Kids movies are a whole other discussion though. What really made me want to write this entry was because of a little show called The Office. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s every middle schooler-college kid’s favorite TV program… apparently.

There’s no doubting The Office’s place in TV history or even the sense of humor it has, but some jokes are VERY dated in the show. Or at least some would consider it dated in terms of political correctness. If some of the jokes in the early seasons of that show came out today, it would most certainly offend a handful of people. This is why it’s intriguing to see that fine line of what’s too far and what’s acceptable enough for viewer eyes and ears.

These upcoming sections are totally my opinion, you might not agree with it but this is just based on my experience. Especially from these past five years.

The Popular Man Child

In the 2010’s there’s this rise of controversial humor all over social media. It seems that a lot of laughs generated or highlighted in TV and film has to do with shock value or making an ‘out of the box’ statement. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched some random recommended clip from Family Guy where there’ll be a cutaway gag, sort of their signature brand of humor, and the joke or reference in question will more often than not be something kind of racist or extremely violent. Don’t get me wrong I love Family Guy, despite it having horrible story writing 99% of the time, the jokes are more often than not have me on my ass laughing. It’s the ones that are racist that make me confused.

For example, there’s an episode where Lois and Peter have one of Lois’s exes, Jerome, over who for context is black. When Stewie wakes up and sees the sight of Jerome he asks “are we being robbed?” I laugh at the joke just because of how appalling it is that someone would still think this and so would many others for the same reason. Maybe it’s satire or even just part of Stewie’s character since he’s no stranger to saying controversial things, but more often than not there’ll be a joke like this and people will defend it saying something like “oh that’s just Family Guy” or “that’s such a Family Guy joke” and everything is okay. Really?

Just last year there was a revolution in the animated TV realm where people who voiced characters that were of a different ethnicity stepped down from their roles for it coming off as insensitive. Characters like Apu and Carl in The Simpsons, who are Indian American and black respectively, were played by Hank Azaria who is white. Azaria stepped down from both roles last year out of respect. Family Guy did the same thing with Mike Henry, a white guy who voiced Cleveland Brown who was black. The somewhat racist jokes still live on and persist on the show however and it doesn’t seem to publicly bother anyone.

I’m not here to really call out Family Guy because there are some really great jokes in the show. Peter Griffin is one of the funniest characters ever made and has a place in pop culture history no doubt. What gets me though is this legacy factor that some shows have.

Take The Office for example. In the second episode of the series, Diversity Day, Michael Scott does a cartoonishly offensive impression of Chris Rock. Even when I first saw that I was like WOAH man. Even if Michael is supposed to be an ignorant slimeball in the first season if anyone said this joke nowadays it would most likely be cancelled, context of not. What’s funny about this situation is that there’s an episode of Community where they play Dungeons and Dragons together and one character paints himself black to fit the role of a character in the game that is supposed to be an elf. They even address it in the episode that it comes off as offensive and he defends himself saying “I’m an elf idiot!” This episode was banned from syndication and not on any streaming services. Maybe it’s just my view, but the Chris Rock impression seems a lot more offensive than trying to dress as an elf in a clip that’s self aware of what it’s doing.

Despite all these factors, we (‘we’ as in most) give them a pass. Why? Because they’re old. However, if anyone were to repeat these jokes in real life nowadays they would most definitely be cancelled for it. There seems to be some sort of bias defending Hollywood where a show’s message or joke, offensive or not, seems to get let off the hook a lot. Not saying that I want things cancelled or anything, but there just seems to be selectivity. I mean think about it, these jokes, serious in nature and delivery or not were written by someone who thought this up. They go off of stereotypes more often than not, but aren’t we trying to stray away from that in society?

The Fine Line

I would be a hypocrite if I said that I haven’t told jokes that could be considered questionable. Not in a way that attacks race or gender in any way, but maybe on the more darker side. Dark humor is something that invades the internet in different capacities every day. I’m going to check Twitter right now and I bet anything that I’ll find something dark. Be right back! *checks Twitter* Alright ladies and gents I’m back and it is with great honor I report… a joke about gender pronouns was one of the first things that pop up. Did it make me laugh? Yes BUT it was over the top and meant to make light of the whole ‘there’s at least ten genders’ narrative. Which if you believe in that I’m not going to knock you for it, you do you man. There seems to be a fine line that we ride on a daily basis of what is cool to joke about and what is untouchable.

Comedians are the prime example of riding this fine line. Take Bill Burr for example. I personally think he is the best working comedian today next to Dave Chappelle. He’s not afraid to dance on this line of controversy. One of his most infamous stand-ups he has this one segment where he talks about how his wife was watching some talk show that resembled The View and how they had a discussion on domestic abuse. One of the quotes from this show said that there is no reason to hit a woman. Burr replies to this and says “really I can give you thirty off the top of my head, but you just don’t do it” implying that you shouldn’t do such a thing, but to say there’s no reason to do so is by his mindset incorrect.

I laughed at this segment. Not for the fact that he says there’s a reason to hit women, I don’t believe in that whatsoever. It’s the absurdity of his delivery and the over-exaggerated gestures he brings up. It’s dark humor, but it’s definitely not for everyone. He narrowly avoids cancel culture by saying first and foremost that he does not believe in it. Comedians in general seem to get away with this stuff a lot. Why is it when they say their thoughts they get laughs, but when someone else says it it’s wrong? Could it be that people automatically think they’re joking because they associate them with humor? Or maybe it’s the fact that some people don’t know how to deliver a joke? This is just devil’s advocate of course, I don’t believe that a certain party DESERVES to joke about domestic abuse or that it’s unfair. Just posing a question.

Did They Really Just…?

Going off of making controversial jokes, a majority of popular TV shows rely on shock humor or even gross out humor to an extent. The way I see it, controversial humor has two entities where one is more making light of a bad situation or teasing the idea of something morbid or dark happening. Controversial humor is like the bad boy at a party. He’ll make fun of the host or make a comment on the way someone dresses to impress a girl. The girl attracted to him naturally either feels uncomfortable so she laughs or genuinely thinks it’s funny. More often than not we feel like we need to laugh at a controversial joke because someone on TV made it. Or maybe we just feel uncomfortable, who knows?

The best examples of this would probably be really any adult animated show. Something like South Park is more of a satire than anything and pokes fun at how comical life is around us. Poking fun more at the people involved than trying to turn heads (of course with some exceptions). Then there’s a show like Mr. Pickles. Man, what an awful show. It’s literally a show about a murderous dog that kills people in very horrific ways. It’s mostly torture porn in the form of crudely drawn animation. This cartoon has had its’ backlash yet it has a 7.4/10 rating on IMDB…

Do people actually enjoy this shit like Mr. Pickles or do people just wanna like it because other people get offended by it and want to be edgy? In the age of cancel culture and audiences calling out shows and writing for their mistakes many may gravitate to shows like this that can get away with doing controversial jokes and gags. The same can be said about Happy Tree Friends, but that’s a whole other article for another day.

Personally, I don’t get offended by much content I see on TV or in standup. I’m very much a ‘find humor in anything kind of guy’, basically if you’re creative about your delivery and isn’t just flat out tasteless, you’ll probably win me over (again, with exceptions). I do know that the media is no stranger to making people upset though and that not all jokes are gonna land well with audiences.

Where Does It End?

A question that I ask myself a lot whenever I come across a questionable joke is what makes this okay to joke about now? Rick and Morty recently had an episode where a 9/11 joke was teased, but not executed and instead went for a joke about Pearl Harbor. It made me wonder what made this tragedy more open for jokes than the other. Often we’ll say that a joke is ‘too soon’ to make, but does that make the offense taken any less? I see a TON of 9/11 jokes on TikTok. It gets to the point where I really just have to turn off the app sometimes because I get disgusted by it. Most of these kids on the app didn’t have to live through that event or don’t remember it at all. Does this make it okay?

Think of it this way. If a man, we’ll call him Ted, lived a great life and had many friends and family members that adored him. Nothing short of a decent human being. Say out of nowhere one day he just dies. Friends and family alike are heartbroken, groups are broken up because of the loss of him. Flash forward five years after Ted’s death and one of the Ted’s friends tells a joke about the way that he passed away to another one of his friends. Are they gonna take that well? We joke about things and laugh at these things since they haven’t happened to us.

It doesn’t stop at jokes, this happens with oppression too. Someone who lost a loved one in 9/11 isn’t going to be the first in the room to make a quick joke about it. The same can be said about someone who has been exposed to racially charged police brutality. I can’t believe I have to write that, but it’s true. I’ve seen jokes online about the horrific murder of George Floyd. Nobody in that community is gonna be seen making a joke any time soon.

So when we make jokes about these tragedies that we come across is it to just to be insensitive for the sake of being crude or is it because others have no other way to cope with the discomfort? What is the duration of time where a joke isn’t ‘too soon’ anymore? There’s a lot of good discussion and can honestly be dissected till the end of days. Doesn’t mean it’s gonna stop any time soon. I guess the only thing I have to say is read the room before you make a jab at something controversial. Your tone and intent are clearly visible and more impactful than you think.