Life … has changed. Not the most groundbreaking or novel statement of the year, but it stands true. The reality that I — we — were living has been whisked away for this strange, unpredictable, albeit temporary one. I went home, or rather I was exiled from my orange and blue nest along with my fellow Hawks. Any sort of happening, from classes and meetings to parties and concerts, seized like a bubble popping in the air. My favorite faces, smiles and laughs turned to frowns as we bid adieu and went our separate ways, like a flock dispersing into a frenzy at the sound of a gunshot. I grieved, all five stages, and then some. At times I even revisited passed, processed and cleared away stages, just to feel something.
Except … there was nothing left for me to feel. I turned to music, naturally, to evoke those both-a-gift-and-a-curse emotions, but nothing relit the fire. I put on old playlists of mine, but still no spark: I only had soot.
In this scenario, trying past kindlings wasn’t going to work. I didn’t want to listen to anything joyous as it’s too distant and unrelatable, not to mention corny. Even songs of the “Great Summer ‘16” that everyone’s always nostalgic for are no match for a global lockdown. Pop hits of 2019 started to fade away and lose their shine, too. I didn’t feel like pretending I could still vibe to the memories before this year, or even this past month. Plus, do I really want to taint the memory of the good ol’ sunny days when I bumped Mac DeMarco nonstop? No, I don’t. Mac deserves better than that.
Then, as I fell deeper and deeper into the numbing abyss, I even missed agony, my old friend. The usual disillusioned, yet melodic voice of indie I listened to wouldn’t cut it. I wanted more, more, more! Sure, I could always turn to my dear Lana Del Rey and have a cry, but I didn’t want to relate to anyone I’ve already been before. I’m already the Sad Girl, so nothing on Norman F*cking Rockwell was going to work. This is a new situation, a new time we’re living in, and I wanted some new music to mark it with.
The problem, I realized, was that every single day looks the same and if I thought I had a poor perception of time before, it’s 20/200 now. Get up, eat, read and write, eat, sleep, rinse and repeat. My dreams have become more vivid than my waking moments. To fix this, I knew I had to make every day stand out somehow, as they would in the olden days before quarantine, and what other way than by giving them a soundtrack? I decided I would listen to a different and previously unheard playlist, album or artist each day.
That was when I went searching. But as an expert in the field would know, the worst time to go shopping is when you actually need something. Happiness is a butterfly after all. So the music search was difficult, and it was frustrating because nothing quite hit like I wanted it to.
After a few chance stumbles in the Apple Music browsing tab (yes, there you have it folks, your Oracle A&E Editor is an Apple Music subscriber. Sue me. I did create the “Unpopular Opinion” column, didn’t I?), I managed to find a few remedies to sing to my tar, black soul.
First, I listened to Yves Tumor’s new album Heaven To a Tortured Mind that dropped earlier this month. The images and graphic promo I saw of it looked pretty dark, so I was intrigued. Come to find it’s actually light in tone. I put it on while putting on my makeup — for no good reason — and it was quite a mood. With every song, I was able to get out of my own head and groove to something for the first time in a while. I suppose the title of the album is quite fitting after all. On top of that, the lyrics to one of my favorite tracks titled “Folie Imposée” go: “Monday, Tuesday / Wednesday, Thursday / Friday, Monday, Tuesday / Wednesday / I can’t escape.” I’d call this piece truly representative of the times during which it debuted. My other favorites are “Kerosene!,” “Super Stars,” “Strawberry Privilege” and “Asteroid Blues.”
That was good for a bit, but then I heard “Falling” by Trevor Daniel, a lad I actually hadn’t heard of before, probably because I live under a rock, but I’ll tell myself it’s because I’m too subcultured to know about pop music. This song, however, struck the chord that kept teasing me, itching me to pick at more. I gave this song many more plays than I’d like to admit, then moved on to find more like it. After a montage of back breaking research, I came to a playlist appropriately titled “Emo Rap.” Bingo. I excitedly sampled the tracks, ready to hurt.
For the most part, the playlist was a bit of a let down. The standout songs for me were the ones that soothed the itch: “(i hope you) miss me” by Joseph Black and “Nothing Left to Say” by Baby E. However, I did hear more of Daniel, so I gave his discography a gander.
A few of his songs did indeed make the cut for the ache I was trying to induce on myself musically, namely “Lovesick” and “Past Life.”
Now, I could tell you more about the time I spent in this pit, but truthfully after having crawled out, it’s nothing to write home about. For the day (or two) (or more?) that I spent listening to Daniel, emo rap, and the likes, I’d say it was something I needed, but had to move on from.
By now I was well into my emotional roller coaster of a journey, and without knowing it, I hit a turning point when I decided to stream New Paltz local GREENHOUSELAKE’s recent release, ALLCAPS/NOSPACES. Having heard some of their music before, I knew I was going to feel something, but I wasn’t expecting what actually ended up happening.
In a way, I shouldn’t be surprised at all that they were able to capture and encapsulate the unique experience of youth, especially the kind that dances between adolescence and adulthood, particularly in New Paltz. I don’t think the record boasts itself as so, but having that experience and having been to DIY shows in that beautiful rainbow-filled village of gaiety that we were all so cruelly ripped away from, I felt it. I felt the lyrics like a storybook flipping through my head of my own memories. That agony that I so much wished for? I got it. And my goodness did it feel good.
Picking favorites off the EP is hard, but I’d have to say “GOODNIGHT” had a melody that touched me in a way like a ghost going through my chest. Speaking of hitting me in the chest, the crooning of the lyrics “This will never happen again” in “300LBSOFBOOKS” were reminiscent of that bittersweet moment where you’re having the time of your life with your friends and you know, you just know, that it won’t last. Other emotional syringes were found in “GOODMORNING” and “SUGARLOAF.”
As I listened to this sunny EP, remembering the sunshine of my last college days that I was robbed of, I knew I was ready to move on. While sad undertones stay laying like bedrock, those six songs were like therapy. They made me grateful for the times I had, no matter how much I wished I could have them back.
I let any remnants of emo rap flush out of me and found the encouragement to return to my dreamy indie and electronic beats. Next up on my moody cue was Men I Trust.
Listening to this Canadian band’s 2019 album, Oncle Jazz, was refreshing, and everything I didn’t know I wanted. It’s a tracklist of two dozen songs I both lost myself in and found myself through. For the first time, I dared to think about a summer. Not this summer perhaps, but a summer. This album is perfect for the day I can fill my lungs with fresh, flower-touched air and soak up the sun without any of my current worries. The nonchalance of the beats, the coos of the lyrics that touch ever so softly, the eloquence with which each song flows into the next, all wrapped me up in an embrace that let me know everything will be okay. Better days are always possible.
A few of my favorites are “Tailwhip (Album V),” “Say Can You Hear (Album V),” “I Hope to Be Around (Album V),” “Dorian,” “Pines,” “Slap Pie” and “Seven (Album V).”
Now, there’s no knowing if the songs that breathed the life of summer into me will actually be what I listen to once it comes around, but they offered relief in the meantime. In the end, I’d say my cross-genre spiritual journey went in ways I never predicted it would. The objective was reached as I felt and felt until — well actually, I could still feel some more.