WEB PICKS: Quarantine Releases

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CONTRIBUTIONS BY: Vince Barreras, Rae Burach, Jessica Gambino, Tyler Gittelman, Ruby Lee, Lainey Macken, Blake Nutis, Melissa Resurreccion, Lily Sanders, Regina Schliep, Dylan Stevens, Samantha Sullivan, Benji Taylor

Although the past year has been incredibly hectic to say the very least, it has definitely allowed for creativity and artistic expression to flourish. Within the first couple months of quarantine, we’ve been supplied with what will be timeless classics to come out of a global pandemic. Compiled is the Web Department’s favorite releases from the past several months that have kept spirits high or alternatively, soundtracks to swim in dread. Enjoy!

FETCH THE BOLT CUTTERS – FIONA APPLE (APRIL 17, 2020)

Fiona Apple’s most recent album defies genre categorization. It’s pop-experimentation, rustic production and primal chant all tied together in a package – postmarked for a patriarchal system at which she’d sooner sneer than grant any credibility. The reclusive 43-year old artist has a history of defying expectations that compromise her expression, and so she meets the anticipation of her first release since 2012’s The Idler Wheel… with outcries of personal and societal liberation. Across 13 wildly inventive songs, she turns her lyrical interrogations outward to the people and systems that aim to characterize the ways she dares to think and act as flights of fancy. A product of transforming her house into a makeshift studio and seizing the means of musical production (working from home before it was in vogue), her voice is unpolished, improvisational, and free by design. At times it’s captivatingly erratic against the similarly unpredictable texture of jaunty piano lines and jittery percussion. Elsewhere, as in the opening lines of “Under the Table,” it’s deceptively soft and carefully measured to meet the occasion of the song: “I would beg to disagree/But begging disagrees with me.” This mantra in particular transforms over the course of the song as Apple ferociously refuses to relent, reflecting the conceit at this album’s core. Ranging from quietly humorous to unabashedly confrontational, this is music that speaks to the soul. It inspires confidence in oneself through all of its abrasion and jubilance. It’s a work of art that in so many ways couldn’t be more timely. -Tyler Gittelman

Writer’s Pick: “Shameika”

MORDECHAI – KHRUANGBIN (JUNE 26, 2020)

Mark Speer’s silky guitar melodies, Laura Lee’s syrupy bass lines, DJ’s tight drum groove: three essential elements that made the claustrophobic feelings of quarantine slightly more bearable. Khruangbin’s third album takes a departure from their usual instrumental approach to include more vocal-based tracks recorded by all three band members. While this album stands apart from their previous releases for the new vocal element, it still holds true to the classic Khruangbin vibe of showcasing that glorious mix of different global influences and styles. The lively low-end provides a strong foundation, while the twangy guitar intertwines and echoes off like passing thoughts. In a matter of minutes, the trio has you hooked on their groove, feeling as though you’re soaring high among the clouds. -Jessica Gambino

Writer’s Pick: “Dearest Alfred”

FLOWER OF DEVOTION – DEHD (JULY 17, 2020)

Flower of Devotion is all-encompassing. It is ecstatic on “Desire” as Kempf shouts “you are my dream” and heartbreaking as she crumbles on “Flood,” begging “I sit at your feet/I wanted you to keep me.” It’s hard to admit attachments you cling to on “Letter” —  it’s holding a special place in someone’s heart, and figuring out how to be a loner. It takes all the ambivalence, anxiety, euphoria, yearning, joy and despair and throws it in your face. Don’t want to hear it? Good. Overly emotional? Fine. Can’t take the truth? Whatever. With their post-punk approach and doctrine of absolute honesty, Dehd doesn’t care if you’re uncomfortable. They will yell, yelp and scream about the everyday magic we overlook, the power of emotion, and the light we find within each other. Ending with “this times enough/I hold it up/My mind is love/My heart is tough,” Flower of Devotion isn’t a rejection of the “true love conquers all” philosophy of Water, rather a reaffirmation of its fluidity — love can come and go, but it lives inside us all eternally. -Samantha Sullivan

Writer’s Pick: “Flood”

PUNISHER – PHOEBE BRIDGERS (JUNE 18, 2020)

Simply put, Punisher sounds like 2020. The melancholy, the feeling of isolation, random bouts of calmness, and, at times, the need to scream. This album has been on a constant loop since its release, company for cooking, cleaning, studying and walking. -Blake Nutis 

Writer’s Pick: “ICU”

Phoebe Bridgers has become somewhat of an indie darling over the past three years, and not without good reason. 2017 saw the release of her acclaimed debut album Stranger In the Alps, a folk-tinged effort packed with acoustic ballads and simple chord progressions. While sonically, the record was rather straightforward, it did give Phoebe a chance to showcase her trademark introspective songwriting and deeply personal commentary. It was no surprise that within a year she would go onto to cut collaborative albums with the likes of Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus and indie-folk heavy weight Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes fame. The first release was an EP with Baker and Dacus under the name boygenius, and the other, a full-length album with Oberst, titled Better Oblivion Community Center. The efforts saw much of the same powerful songwriting and folk-rock instrumentals as before, but now with other voices to trade off on some of the verses. The three albums stand as staples within the genre and were well received by fans, but would ultimately go onto pale in comparison to her most recent release, Punisher. Put out by Dead Oceans in 2020 and set to be released on June 19th, or Juneteenth, Phoebe ultimately announced the record would come out early in a tweet urging fans to donate to racial justice organizations amidst the protests following the murder of George Floyd. She went on to state, “I’m not pushing the record until things go back to ‘normal’ because I don’t think they should.” With Punisher, Bridgers reveals what she had been holding back on her previous releases: a sprawling and sometimes dissonant epic, traversing the topics of simulacra, infinite anxieties, and undying hero worship. Her previous straightforward instrumentals take a backseat to more adventurous and grandiose arrangements on Punisher. Sometimes, the weight of an artist’s lyrics can get lost between layers of advancing sounds, but with Punisher, they only serve to propel Bridgers’ words forward as if her voice had caught the crest of a wave. The album finishes with a crawling six-minute narrative about driving into the sun and escaping the passing slaughterhouses and outlet malls. The track is appropriately titled “I Know the End” and eventually finds itself battling among bombastic blasts of noise and screams from Bridgers herself. It is a dramatic ending to a dramatic album. With Punisher, Bridgers perfectly synthesizes the unrest and insecure time from which it was born. -Benji Taylor

Writer’s Pick: “Garden Song” and “I Know the End”

The tone of Punisher fits the vibe of 2020 perfectly, and it features some of Phoebe Bridgers’ best songs to date. The tracks represent an interesting range of genres that fit together surprisingly well, and the lyrics all explore deep themes that Bridgers addresses with raw honesty. The album showcases Bridgers’ development as an artist since her last album, Stranger in the Alps (2017); notably, the upbeat track “Kyoto” is a huge departure from her normal folk ballad style. Listening to the album from beginning to end is an intense experience, building up to the powerful climax in the penultimate track, “I Know The End.” The almost 6 minute long song has three distinct movements, beginning with a slow emo-folk ballad and building into a scream-along indie rock anthem that descends into musical chaos with a touch of screamo. The repeated lines “the end is near/the end is here” feel scarily accurate given the current state of the world, but it is incredibly cathartic to hear Bridgers vent the emotions that we’ve all surely been feeling. It is produced and mixed incredibly – each song manages to create its own distinct atmosphere. Bridgers’ vocals are double-tracked in an homage to her favorite artist, Elliot Smith, which lends her songs an ethereal, subtly powerful quality. Overall, this album is an emotional journey that couldn’t have been released at a better time. -Lainey Macken

Writer’s Pick: “Graceland Too”

weight of the world – MIKE (JUNE 21, 2020)

MIKE is an experimental New York based rapper who has been making waves in the underground rap community for a few years now. He has gained a lot of notoriety through his relationship with Earl Sweatshirt; his freeform use of sampling and short-length tracks helped inspire Earl’s critically acclaimed 2018 album, Some Rap Songs. In June, MIKE released Weight of the World, an album that does a great job of mixing grimey and soulful melodies together through clever sampling to create what feels like a rap collage. The album is obviously very personal. Songs like “More Gifts” and “trail of tears” touch on everything from his relationship with his late mother to nostalgia. The album also ends with the track “allstar” which features Earl Sweatshirt and serves as a triumphant end to one of the most refreshing underground hip-hop projects released in a long while. -Dylan Stevens

Writer’s Pick: “get rich quick scheme” and “allstar”

QUARTER ROY – QUARTER ROY (JULY 17, 2020)

With dreamy instrumentation and tender lyrics, St. Augustine-based trio Quarter Roy’s self titled debut EP provides the perfect mix of slow dancing at prom in a coming-of-age film and the adrenaline rush that comes with something new.  As if they took inspiration from the changing of seasons, it is structured with four tracks, with the third one coincidentally named “Autumn.” The release starts with tracks “Hope You Get the Gist” and single “Darlin’,” as lead singer Gabi Yost’s warm vocals guide you through heartbreak and yearning. Through positive self-talk in spite of the state of grief, Yost affirms to herself: “everyday it gets easier/Everyday it gets better and I’m fine/I’ll be alright.” Shifting gears to desire, “Darlin’” is a confession of love through rose tinted glasses, simply and sweetly singing “I think about you all the time.” Changing the pace with “Autumn” and “Mingle,” the band nudges you in the opposite direction, providing a new, more upbeat sound and chiseled edge ushered by lead guitarist Tyler Cooper-Kolb and bassist Kaylie Gesky. With strong reverb and guitars perfectly interlocking in “Mingle,” this track feels like we’re getting up, we’re moving forward and we are most definitely not looking back. Evoking feelings reminiscent of house shows and swaying along in sync with the crowd around you and the liquid in your room temp PBR, Quarter Roy provides a niche balance of that indie rock sound that leaves you warm hearted and a smile on your face. -Melissa Resurreccion

Writer’s Pick: Mingle

folklore – TAYLOR SWIFT (JULY 24, 2020)

folklore by Taylor Swift is a wondrous celebration of creativity and the magic of storytelling. Created by the queen of songwriting herself while in isolation, it consists of 16 ethereal tracks; all of which tell some kind of intimate and intricate narrative wherein “the lines between fantasy and reality blur.” The accompanying album cover and promotional photos also match the overall feel of the album perfectly, as listening to it feels just like a delicate and airy walk through a mystical fairytale forest. From start to finish, folklore is both a product of and testament to Taylor’s boundless imagination and talent as a creative. In her surprise announcement of the album on Twitter, she shared that the stories for all of the songs originated from unique imagery and visuals that popped into her head, which later “became characters.” This groundbreaking and innovative concept album borne out of Taylor’s time off is not only impressive, but full of heart and passion. It essentially created a whole world for fans to unpack and enjoy, and provided a great deal of comfort and excitement to people everywhere. – Ruby Lee

Writer’s Pick: “august”

“IPHONE” – RICO NASTY (AUGUST 13, 2020)

While a departure from her usual sound, Rico Nasty’s “iPhone” is a segue into Hyperpop that just makes sense. “iPhone” might not have the same punk rock aura, but it still features the same high energy vocals that make listening to Rico so distinctly enjoyable. Fans of Charli XCX and 100 gecs will fall in love with this absolute anthem. – Lily Sanders

FALLING ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL – HOLLY HUMBERSTONE (AUGUST 14, 2020)

UK singer-songwriter Holly Humberstone’s debut EP Falling Asleep At The Wheel is a lyrically intimate, indie-rock and pop infused collection of songs. As a 20-something herself, the lyrics she pens are bound to be felt or understood as a younger listener. She navigates themes of relationships, understanding herself, and mental health, like on the track “Deep End,” where she heartbreakingly sings “you’ve practiced your lines to convince us you’re fine but I know that’s not where you are.” On “Vanilla” and “Overkill,” she talks about relationships in contrasting ways, being bored with one and not knowing how to come clean about how she feels on the other. Her songs feel like personal stories that she sings in her soft voice that draws on the likes of Lorde, Maggie Rogers, Sharon Van Etten, but is uniquely her own. Her songs are emotional, maybe validating for some, and are pulled together by catchy piano ballads and guitar riffs that make the tracks a little less hard hitting than they might be lyrically. -Regina Schliep

Writer’s Pick: “Overkill” and “Falling Asleep at the Wheel”

SUGAREGG – BULLY (AUGUST 21, 2020)

People should listen to Bully because Alicia Bognanno is perhaps one of the best in the game doing it. Not even taking into account her music, her background in the technical aspect of music is incredible and her upbringing in the industry is second to none. She’s worked alongside Steve Albini and learned all the ins and outs of producing and engineering records through him. Bognanno, being a woman in that area of music, is one of only about 5% or so that occupy those types of engineering spaces. With her background aside, what is to say about her music? Considering that this is her 3rd album as Bully and evident growth in release after release, this specific record is the crown jewel of Bully’s discography. Bognanno touches on topics of mental illness and self-worth in a way that very few artists are able to capture. The song highlighted “Like Fire” is a perfect representation of her experiences with Bipolar II Disorder. The entire record is an empowering take on owning mental illness and facing it front and center. Alicia Bognanno is not only an incredibly brave person, but one of the best musicians in the indie sphere right now. -Vince Barreras

Writer’s Pick: “Like Fire”

WHAT COULD BE BETTER – THE HAPPY FITS (AUGUST 28, 2020)

The Happy Fits prove time and time again that the cello and rock can be synonymous. Each track on What Could Be Better creates its own world with a stuck-in-your-head melody, bouncy cello, and plenty of cymbal crashes. Most of the LP is upbeat with a quick tempo, from “Go Dumb”’s saturated vocals, to the title track’s pulsating beat. The boys slow it down slightly for “Sailing,” and even more so for “The Garden,” a nostalgic dreamscape whose harmonies alone will take you elsewhere. It’s undoubtedly the odd track out, but in the very best way. Throughout the album, Calvin Langman’s booming vocals wholly complement those of Ross Monteith’s – soft, raspy and raw. Drummer Luke Davis sings backup too, creating a three-part melodiousness that gives this LP a heft their brief discography craved. A cheerful alt-pop-rock jam that just about everyone could use a hit of right now– What Could Be Better? -Rae Burach

Writer’s Pick: “The Garden”

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