Side A, Track One
For awhile now, I have been looking for ways to become more involved in the world of music. But having tried my hand at three separate instruments (and failing to master even the most basic of concepts), it seemed that there was no clear path for me to show my appreciation for an art form that has changed the lens with which I view life. About a week ago, I decided that I wanted to try writing about music; what I am listening to, what songs or artists I’m really vibing with right now, which new releases I thought were hot (or flops), new up-and-comers on the scene or small, local artists who have been craving a shot at their 15 minutes. So here it is, my first attempt at leaving some sort of lasting mark by writing sporadically about whatever seems to be inspiring me in that moment.
New Kid on the Block
I have been working at a company in New York’s Finacial District for a couple of months now. It’s actually a fairly casual gig, nothing like the stereotypical Wolf of Wall Street investment firms, and the summer dress code reflects that. In my short time here, I have gotten to know a particularly eccentric and happy-go-lucky co-worker through a mutual appreciation for music. During one of our conversations, he happened to coolly drop that he had released a self-titled mini-album, Wesley Ruger. The album, composed by only three songs – “Sweet Lover”, “Maybe We”, and “People” – was written, produced, and mastered entirely by Wes. This fact is impressive in it’s own right, but it’s even more impressive when considering that the album is actually good. The songs are soulfully sung. The lyrics are brilliantly written. The music is silky but contemporary. The collabs with other artists bolster the value of the work, rather than detract from it. And I’m not just saying all this because to say otherwise would create some awkward encounters at the company water cooler. I truly do feel that this is an impressive effort from a young artist, especially given that his artistry is a part-time hobby. Everyone looking to venture out in the indie music space, or looking for refreshing new music, should check out Wesley Ruger, which can be found on Spotify, Apple Music, and in the Google Play Store.
In each edition, I plan to list a couple of songs that I find profound in meaning or sound, in the hopes that anyone reading this either learns something or discovers music they didn’t know existed. So without further ado, I introduce the first “Set List”.
The Set List – August 27, 2018
- “My God has a Telephone” by The Flying Stars of Brooklyn, NY
This is one of the most interesting and soulful songs in my playlist right now. It invokes a retro, 70's-era Motown vibe with it’s slow, gospel lyrics and echoey vocals. The only thing more surprising than the fact that this song was released in 2017, is that it is sung by a man named Aaron Frazer.
- “Coins” by Local Natives
This song is amazing to me, but not in the same way that the others included in this list are. It lulls you into a monotony with a cliched, strum-heavy guitar intro. It forces you to expect that the rest of the song is going to be a boring, cheesy attempt at an indie pop song. But then Taylor Rice starts singing and your expectations melt away. You can tell from the second he starts singing that something is about to happen. And it does. All of a sudden the acousticy, campfire song sound is replaced with a melancholic intensity, which reaches a climax at the chorus. It’s a shift from day to night as even the background switches to a more manufactured sound to accompany the overall change in tone.
- “Faded” by Opia
“Faded” follows a similar format to the previous entry, opening with slow and soft vocals accompanied by background “scat”. The song comes to a head and, seemingly out of nowhere, a deep and bouncy bass line (alla Krrum, if anyone knows that artist) manifests, changing the whole direction of the song. It’s a wild transition and it makes the song that much more interesting.
- “Too Young to Burn” by Sonny & the Sunshines
If there was ever a song that could be played at a beach bonfire or while cruising along a sunset-lit highway, and be equally appropriate, it is this one. The whiny, downtempo, repetitive lyrics teleport me to a self-reflective state, where all I want to do is watch the trees whizz by as the sun dives deeper or the embers of a fire flicker and glow as waves crash out and in. It is the simple things in life that are to be admired and it is this fact that makes this song great.
- “Chloroform” by Phoenix
Following the massive success of their album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, the Versaillais released Bankrupt, a more low-key project that yielded,what I feel to be, their coolest song. It opens with a distorted pop ballad, which is pretty standard issue until Thomas Mars lays his vocals over top. And what follows is a deep, synthy chorus that proves Phoenix is a master of the new wave pop genre.
- Alaska (Tycho Remix) by Maggie Rogers
Written as an assignment for a masters class, the original version of this song rocketed to popularity thanks to Pharrell Williams. Maggie’s lustful lyrics and soft, whisper-like, singing pair so well with Tycho’s chill electric style, making this a ridiculously underrated collaboration. Not only will this song induce a dreamy, hypnotic trance, but it will leave you searching for any excuse to explore Alaska.
And with that, the first of hopefully many music-inspired rants has played it’s encore. Who knows what the next edition will have in store, all I hope is that at least a few people found this any bit stimulating to read. If you are reading this and found a song you liked, feel free to check out my Spotify playlist (https://open.spotify.com/user/_saloliver_/playlist/1XBb4Y48fCFTBthQmkZzkR?si=kkAnmHUuRSGEW1aP3_ml8A) for more like it. Any advice, suggestions, recommendations for music to cover or on how to improve is always welcome and appreciated.
Until next time.