I just got back from the cottage after a week and a bit. With no internet and no TV, I had the bonfire glow, the beautiful lake, and the general happenings of nature to keep me entertained or to experience — although I was not totally without my own resources. Loaded up with offline albums from Tidal, my phone provided some amazing music to serve as a soundtrack to the stay. Here, I picked out ten songs (in no particular order) from some of the albums I listened to. From the classic-level-old to old-new to brand new, these songs are great (in my opinion), but more importantly they resonate with me on some level. So here they are:
Beauty Behind The Madness
This is a dream vocal team-up. The British songster Sheeran and Abel Tesfaye, aka The Weeknd, push each other throughout this ballad. Simply put, they croon the shit out of this song. The slow, steady groove of the instrumental is prominent on this song and other tracks from the now-chart-topping album Beauty Behind The Madness. The two trade verses and alternate on the hook like true pros.
Favourite Line: Weeknd – “Only my mother could love me for me, in my dark times…”
2. Dr. Dre ft. Anderson Paak & Marsha Ambrosious – All in a Day’s Work
Starting with a straightforward, inspirational speech excerpt from co-founder of Interscope Records and Apple Music, Jimmy Iovine, this track is an ode to consistent and disciplined work ethic amidst unbridled success. Dre raps and crafts songs with the hunger of an up-and-comer, even though he has done so much musically and thus financially. This was a great track to ride the bike and work out to.
Favourite Line: “If you really wanna do it like this, shit you gotta work”
Science from an Easy Chair
A quicker-beat, chanty tune, ‘True Believers’ and the band in general have a Canadian music feeling (although they are from Bradenton, Florida and this recent album was release on the label This Is American Music). It has a simple message, and I find simple clarity in the music.
Favourite Line: “We are the only true believers that we have”
In all their trippy, abstract glory, The Management expertly dances around the concept of existence in human time on the opening track of their self-titled album. The playful track starts with a child reciting the first lines, and the song progresses along with floaty melodies leading to sequential cymbal explosions. What I’ve come to expect from MGMT, and I can’t seem to get enough.
Favourite Line: Hard to single out one line, especially considering the nature of the music, but – “You don’t need wings to hover 40-ton stones for a mile”
It is hard to describe or get across how I feel about this song, or how it makes me feel. I can say that it almost provides my mind with a reset. But perhaps even cooler than the song itself is the story behind it. Wisconsin native Justin Vernon’s most successful music “project”, Bon Iver, has produced three top-notch alternative/indie/folk albums, two of which (For Emma, Forever Ago; Blood Bank) were born out of the stuff of legend. Vernon went up to a cabin in rural Wisconsin for a few months after two breakups — one band and one girl — and, among other things, recorded those collections of songs. He started developing the song in North Carolina, while still with his band, and took an extreme liking to the Auto-Tune effect — including something called a “Harmony Engine”. Thus, the four-line, no-beat, layered harmony song was born. And those who like it are thankful it was. (Fun Fact: Most people probably recognize this song as it was used for the basis of Kanye West’s “Lost in the World”, which Vernon worked with West on along with other tracks on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy)
Favourite Line: Wow, soooo many to choose from, but I like – “I’m building a still, to slow down the time”
This is a two-parter, and the two parts together make a 25-minute song, so it’s kind of cheating. But who cares! I DO WHAT I WANT! Sorry. From the iconic Floyd album, or should I say the other iconic Floyd album, this is a wandering symphony of psychedelic rock and roll. It hits ups and downs, lulls and crescendos, transitions, and contains incredibly personal lyrics. It is a somewhat mournful tribute to former band member, and arguable catalyst for Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett. The talented and charming musician got deep into drugs, specifically LSD, after which point the rest of the band says he was never the same, and left The Floyd. Guitarist David Gilmour hit four notes which probably changed the trajectory of eventually one of the most revered bands of the last two centuries. The track in its entirety is one of those ethereal numbers you can put on in the background and just zone out; looking out at the water from the beach or a rock, or looking at nothing in particular. As mentioned, the lyrics are not only personal, but conceptually on point.
Favourite Line: “Come on you boy child, you winner and loser, come on you miner for truth and delusion, and shine!”
If I Should Go Before You
Dallas Green and his band depart from the acoustic-based, folky songs they are known for on the upcoming album, and on this song in particular (which is also Floyd-inspired). A plodding, subtly building track, Green reflects on and pleads perhaps for a lost love. It’s as if he is writing a letter into the ether, floating a bottle into the ocean with the message being the simple yet powerful lyrics of the song. You can relate to the longing, installing the archetypal ‘woman’, and pine for the love you once had (or even currently have, depending on your experience).
Favourite Line: “Woman, my love, is neverending, like a, sea with–out a shore”
8. S. Carey – Supermoon
A bandmate of Justin Vernon and fellow Wisconsinite, Sean Carey gets real minimal on his third “solo” effort. The title track, and most of the project, just crosses the plane of absolute silence. Carey’s voice itself is so soft that it completely tunes you in to a new level of perception and thought. Because of the delicacy of piano plinking and the low fuzz of his vocals, he forces you to pay attention to the song more. From this new awareness, experiences were coming back to me from my childhood — playing in the neighbour’s backyard, climbing trees, catching frogs — that seemed so vivid as I laid in the cottage bed with my eyes closed.
Favourite Line: “Who’s to say, where we’ll end up?”
Another musical act with a connection to Vernon, the magnetic British sister-trio recorded this most recent album, If I Was, at the Bon Iver musician’s Eau Claire, Wisconsin studio. Vernon is also featured on this record, adding an even more extreme degree of harmony to the magical amalgamation of the three singers’ heavenly voices. Not much compares to the innocent sweetness this music contains; there is an inherently hypnotic element in its abstract contents.
Favourite Line: “Shaking out the sheets and holding on (holding on) Following my feet until it’s gone, (until it’s gone)”
10. The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Voodoo Chile
Another long rock hymn. The version of ‘Voodoo Chile’ on the album was recorded live, and it is a total jam in the most musical sense of the word. This is another one you can put on and just forget and come back ten minutes later when Hendrix is just shredding through one of many breakdowns. Drummer Mitch Mitchell, perhaps the Meg White to Hendrix’s Jack White, is to me generally underrated, and does a fantastic job not only on this song, not only the album, but all of The Experience’s performances. It is a very extra bluesy rendition as opposed to the more commonly known ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’.
Favourite Line: “Because I’m a million miles away, and at the same time I’m right here in your picture frame”
I couldn’t find ‘Voodoo Chile’ on YouTube, so here is probably my favourite video that exists of Jimi Hendrix.