Sunday, February 18, 2018

The 10 Best Nick Drake Songs

I assume this post won't get a lot of views, because you're probably only clicking the link if you know who Nick Drake is in the first place. For those who don't, I'll try to give you a brief synopsis on him without sounding as geeky or condescending as your Facebook friends who relentlessly flaunt their love for Bitcoin:

Image result for nick drake smile

Nick Drake is a British artist who made dropdead gorgeous music. He's got this low, soothing voice that you'll get hooked on at first listen. He died in 1974 due to overdose on antidepressants. He made 3 albums in his career: Five Leaves Left (1968), Bryter Layter (1970), Pink Moon (1972). Five Leaves Left is a definitive folk album with with vast, raw instrumentation that sounds like he's in the room with you. Bryter Layter goes for even larger, more colorful arrangements with production that aspires to fill up the entire sky. For Pink Moon, we literally get just his voice and an acoustic guitar for 28 minutes.

So yeah, for an artist with less than 2 hours'worth of LP recordings (a total 31 songs) under his belt, this was an easy list to make. I've been listening to his stuff a ton lately, and I recommend you get to know this guy as well. It's basically the most beautiful music of all time. Not sure where to start? Spotify playlist included, here are my 10 favorite tracks from him:

10 Introduction
4 of Nick Drake's 31 songs were instrumentals. This one kicks off Bryter Layter, but honestly sounds like the beginning of the first day of your life.
9 Thoughts Of Mary Jane
I try not to think about the double−entrendre in this title... I myself am pretty sold on this song once I hear that flute part in the beginning.
8 Time Has Told Me
This might be Nick's most familiar song. I can't remember my first time hearing this song because I feel like I might have heard it throughout my whole life. Plus: I LOVE the lyrics.
7 Which Will
Many of Nick's songs basically just mention girls he has a crush on but he's too shy to talk to. This song is conversational. But definitely nothing wistful. It's actually a painful pin to the heart. 
6 One Of These Things First
This song could be a Bible for people who believe in reincarnation. Yet somehow, Nick reaches for an even more personal and romantic concept.
5 From The Morning
The last song from his last album. I say, as an album overall, Pink Moon is the most depressing album of all time, and yet... this song always makes me smile.
4 Hazey Jane I
This Bryter Layter track lives up to the grandeur and beauty that "Introduction" sets us up for. 
3 Northern Sky
I'd like to think this is equally a love song as much as it is a song of rebirth. And living in Logan UT, it's hard not to think of this colorful "Northern Sky" when watching the sky turn pink at sundown.
2 River Man
Whether musically or lyrically, I think this track would fit nicely on any of Nick's 3 albums. He pulls all of his strengths out for this track. The textures, the mysticism, the clarity, etc.
1 Pink Moon
I gotta admit, there's nothing quite like hearing this opening acoustic guitar strum. A 2minute song with 22 seconds of piano and 25 words in it somehow leads us to ultimate self−introspection.

Friday, January 26, 2018


Adulthood can be hard.

This picture may or may not mean anything.

For me, adulthood has been a bad trip. I don't think it's that way for everyone though. And it's not like I can blame all my problems on a stage of life everyone goes through. But I think a lot of my expectations for my own adult life have just continuously/constantly backfired on me. 

I think there's a person I see myself as; someone who I should attain to be. I've had a blurred vision of this person for years. It's blurred by all the other great things I see around me. There are so many beautiful people and bright opportunities around us, it's overwhelming. I cannot be everyone. I can only be me. 
Despite this blatant truth, this has not stopped me from trying to be everyone at once.
There are a few months of my adult life I romanticize on; most of the 18th year of my life. I think I figured something out then. Because I remember feeling a sense of sincere charity and understanding for others that I have since merely tried to imitate. I remember friendships, service, hiking, my AP English class, acting, musical discovery... The Renaissance of Scott. 
Then I specifically recall my mind being hit with a sense of anxiety and loneliness I'd never felt before. This was some time during my first week of junior college.

Everything I had ever imagined, created or dreamed was slowly sinking down a hole. Over the years, only portions of this have occasionally risen back onto the surface. I've made many choices out of fear of looking like an idiot in the generic public eye. It's so bizarre. I'm always thinking things that nobody ever says out loud, so I never bring these things up. I have felt as though everyone grew up and I'm just a childish boy trapped in a man's body, pretending to be something I'm not: An adult.
This all sounds poetic and negative. Well, I've learned that this is not true. 
**Apparently I'm full to the brim with creativity. 
**...And heaping doses of self-doubt.
I know some of you probably don't believe either of those last two statements, but hear me out.
The college campus is packed with eager business majors done-up in suit+tie outfits from Men's Warehouse and reek of cologne. Engineering majors who are extremely lanky and scholastically intelligent. Art majors who button the top button of their flower-print shirts and keep the hair gel industry alive. Ag majors who were raised on a farm and look like they're literally made out of meat and potatoes. And all these people think they know the answers to life's questions. 
It's overwhelming, really. It's as though I am no longer myself, but a small ball entwined of every character that barks at me as I pass them. The vision of who I want to become gets lost.

Throughout this month, I've had days where I feel like I've been hit in the face with a baseball bat and I'm waking up from some nightmare. I wake up to find that my life is real and that there is still time for me to be me. And the vision of who I want to become is clearer than ever.
I guess it's a constant drive for self-improvement that will keep me alive+well as an adult. Whatever righteous desires and creative ideas I've ever conjured up are for me to share. My views on adulthood have crushed my dreams into oblivion. Some saccharine movie made from gentrification, professionalism and wedding photos has reduced my self-confidence to a crumbled sheet of paper. Somehow, amid this world of cowboys and CEO's, I must be my own person.
No, I'm not gonna go on a backpacking trip to Europe or move to a crappy overpriced apartment in New York City to find myself. All I want is to be my best self possible. The person I aspire to be is willing to help; someone happy and kind. Someone confident in themselves and caring towards others. I just want to do my best in what I do, and do what I feel to be right.
For the first time in a while, I think I can say with a surety that I will accomplish this. Because in a way, it's already happening.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

If I Remember Anything

I woke up around 5:00am to kick off this new year. Definitely not on purpose. All I wanted was to go back to sleep. But for any reason, my first thought was to stay in bed and listen to music. So just lying in bed on a dark, cold, silent morning, the first song I listened to in 2018 was "Love's In Need Of Love Today" by Stevie Wonder. Totally unexpected and instantaneously, I started bawling my eyes out.
It's hard to explain these emotionally gigantic-yet-temporary moments that happen to each of us. Because it's as though one moment we can remember the experience vividly and romantically, then the next we can just simply forget. Heck, sometimes we not only forget these personal moments of peace and clarity, but we go into utter despair. As I type this, I'm listening to that Stevie Wonder track. And although part of me is like, "Frick, I was just feeling this earlier today and the aesthetic is already gone," I don't think this is worth stressing over. I've had plenty of moments of complete inner-joy since then, and I will probably continue to have more. I've kept some pieces of these moments with me. If I remember anything, it's that I've realized my despise for superficiality. 

I've spent a good chunk of my life holding on to the superficial. Yeah, that's kinda my word of the day. Here are some terms the Google dictionary uses to describe it:
-Lack of thoroughness
-Lacking depth of character
-Lacking serious thought
-Existing/occurring at or on surface level
It's amazing (and by amazing, I mean ridiculous) how much irrational judgment we make on our initial impressions of others. Or even toward ourselves. I mean, a guy doesn't wave back to you in the hallway, and all the sudden every small mannerism you see in him has some prideful tint to it. Holy cow, we are literally monsters. And on a self-criticizing level, I think I've felt regret for +/half the text messages I've ever sent. Like it freaking matters!

While I don't think I'll ever crack the code for how deep genuineness can go, I'm learning a lot about just how thick the ice of superficiality truly is. Perhaps your taste in music can say a lot about you. Or the stuff you post on Facebook. But dang, what a terrible way to write someone off. We're all making the same mistakes every day here, and we are all divvying out the pain and joy within us; deciding not only what to keep with us, but how much of it. 
How much joy do you keep with you? How much pain do you carry around? What pain has meant the most to you? What joy has meant the most to you? When you put it this way, it seems obvious that we should be hopeful all the time. Yet when we hit our roadblocks, this is far from obvious.
The Old Testament prophet Isaiah described Christ as a character "acquainted with grief." Due to our human condition, we will all come across some grief and pain. If we let grief become our enemy, we will crumble at its presence. If we allow grief to become our friend, we will stray from cheer. If we sustain an acquaintanceship with grief, we become like Christ. We will have a slight knowledge of it; we'll handle it when it hits us, then continue to go about our lives without it. 
Like I said before, we can never decipher the deepest depths of every person we come across. That would be too emotionally tasking. The fact that there is a surface level to all things keeps life bearable. However, clinging to the surface of things--to superficiality--leads to mere surface-level understanding. We can only assume that perhaps those who seek help truly need it. The happiness that comes from true human connection is totally worth the effort. It's a disciplinary conscious, borderline-spiritual effort to crack through the superficial and truly get to know another person; to truly get to know ourselves.

Through 2018, I have learned to care less about--well--basically anything that appears on the screen of a smart phone. I honestly think that by talking more with other people about valuable things, you learn more about them and even about yourself. You develop a stronger love for other people and oddly enough, learn to love yourself. I gotta admit, the internet is cool, but humanity is that much cooler.
I'm not saying we should all just give up on the material world and gather around a campfire singing "Kumbayah" or something, but...
Actually, yeah. I kinda am.

*This blog post is brought to you by the Bible, Stevie Wonder, and!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

My Asinine Year

I graduated with a Bachelor's Degree from Utah State University 1 year ago.
Here we have a biographical account of this last year of my life. Here's your chance to enter both my inner-psyche and my tangible/real life like never before. If you're not into that stuff, you can turn back now. If you are, buckle up. describes "adventure" as a "risky or unexpected undertaking." The last year of my life has been the exact opposite of an adventure. It's been an all-out abstention from everything in the universe. Refraining from adventure requires a lot of comfort in your surroundings, as well as plenty of confusion and fear of the outside world.
I mean "the outside world" slightly more metaphorically than literally. I guess I've never been anywhere outside the North American Northwest, but when I listen to other people talk about their lives, I rarely understand what the hell they're talking about.
It's the rarest of occasions that I meet someone I connect with. I rarely have stuff in common with any person I meet. I've spent a good chunk of my life-- between childhood and adulthood-- wondering if there's anybody out there who's like me. I mean, I'm under the impression that plenty of people out there like me, and I like plenty of people, myself. But I'm talking about people who ARE LIKE me. Ya know? People who think like me, relatively. People with more than a couple similar interests. Where are these people?
I believe I have a slew of true friends, and yet I am incredibly distant from where I want to be and/or need to be. While at times this can be deeply depressing, I sometimes find it extraordinarily fascinating! Perhaps when people write all this cheesy crap on the internet about ADVENTURE, I could use a huge, literal dose of that. Perhaps a lot of this is creating adventure for myself; perhaps a little stumbling upon an opportunity and jumping on board. Perhaps some things are worth going for broke.

And now, the past year of my life. In 3 parts!

The summer before my final semester at USU brought about a sense of immenent doom that would come back to haunt me. I was staring down the barrel of my own B.A. It's a sign of success; a rite of passage. It's a glorified accomplishment that requires a lot of time, money, and devotion to attain. I know it sounds like I'm ripping on the American education system, but hell, I went through with it. And I liked it!
I freaking loved being a college student. I loved the campus atmosphere and its mixing aesthetic of community with individuality. What I felt the summer before I graduated was the feeling that I would graduate and not know what to do with my life afterward. This turned out to be 100% correct.
These past 12 months have had me feeling lost on a consistent basis. I rarely (if ever) talk to people about my life or how I'm doing. It's an embarrassing topic. When I talk about my fun experiences and professional skills, I'm always referring to moments from the past. It's like my life has literally been on pause for an entire year.
When I graduated, I went straight home to Jerome ID and didn't know how long I'd live there for. I milked it out for 8 months. I was unemployed for 3 of those months. I wasn't sure what to tell people when they asked me about my life. So I moved back to Logan UT. I've been unemployed half my time here, mind you I've started working some random desk job now. I am still not sure what to tell people when they ask me about my life.
But, yeah, I got the Diploma. I got the student loan debt. I got the 10 semesters of college stories I could fall back on if I want to look smart or experienced. It used to be reality, now much of it seems like a dream; as though it never even happened. I wrote for the USU newspaper, I was a stage manager for a couple USU shows, I got a business minor... but it's as though I'm not willing to admit that I accomplished all this. Is there some kind of universal pedestal of prestige that comes with this stuff? Professional credentials? Was this practical at all? Does it still count if Scott E Hall does it? I've never fully grasped my mind around these things...

I say "apparently," but this is not something I learned this year. A doctor diagnosed me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7 years ago. It's been up-and-down throughout my life. What I've come to learn is that even on my best days, it's still an issue.
This statement will come off cheesy, but I am not my anxiety disorder. It's more like a backpack forever strapped on to me. I decide how heavy I want it to be. In a vicious cycle, I can make it heavier and it will keep painfully multiplying weight on its own. However, I could just subtract from it. Yeah, I guess it would still be on my back, but I'd feel light enough to travel freely without unnecessary self-loaded burdens.
Although I shouldn't be ashamed of my GAD, I still hate talking about it. Here are some reasons why:
-Shockingly, some people don't believe that mental disorders exist
-I feel like I'm starting some kinda "woe is me"-fest
-People overreact, making the situation even more uncomfortable
-That feeling like you're just talking to a brick wall
Anyways, I've learned a lot about my anxiety lately. I've started seeing a psychiatric counselor about a month ago. I think it helps because it gives me a chance to converse things I feel like I never get the chance to talk about; things that are actually on my mind.
So, if anxiety is essentially the same thing as worry, what do I worry about? You name it, I've worried about it. I mostly worry about what others think of me. I don't think I'm fake with people or I put on some facade to fit in with social groups... No, as opposed to acting like I'm someone else, I usually just don't give my whole self to people. Everyone gets pieces of me, and these are genuine real pieces of me, but nobody's getting the whole thing.
At times I think I'm crazy, but mostly I just assume that other people think I'm crazy. Here are some facts about me most people don't know:
-I've always wanted to be a musical performer, or songwriter or something
-I've never kissed anyone before
-I am strongly active in a church I don't always believe in
-I am not a Republican
Anyways, I understand if any of you guys think less of me after all this. It's frustrating how I imagine people being turned off by my actually expressing how I feel about real stuff. The least I can do is be nice to people and tell some jokes. It gets you lots of acquaintances, a Bachelor's Degree, and some random desk job. I guess I'm still not fully satisfied with my life. But making plans is scary and self-promotion is stupid.
However, these days I've been "coming to terms with" my GAD. I've made a choice to understand it, accept it, and deal with it. In order to do this, I must do a lot of stuff that I consider scary and stupid.

So, I attend the LDS Institute of Religion sometimes. I usually don't even sign up for classes just in case I want to bail out mid-semester. Apparently people graduate from it, but people never talk about that. I've been going to a night class these last few months. I showed up last week for our final class, and... BEHOLD! Brother Lucherini gave me an envelop saying I had officially graduated from Institute. I never intended to do this and had no idea I was so close to accomplishing this, but apparently I graduated Institute.
I've been reading LDS talks and scriptures much more often lately. And I gotta admit, it's helpful. I mean, it's one of the weirdest traditionalist organizations someone could get born into, but it helps me.
Even at age 27, I-- much like a real-live emotional teenager-- don't feel like I belong anywhere. Like there's a lack of personal connection. My music buddies and my church buddies usually don't meet in the middle of that Venn Diagram. Things I want to talk about almost never get brought up in conversation. I'm sometimes convinced that it's really just me, folks. Perhaps I have no human capital. Or I'm not attractive. Or I have zero social skills. Or all of the above.
Last night I bought myself a glass bottle of root beer. I only drink soda once a year, so this was a big event. Unfortunately, it was the worst root beer I've had in my entire life ("Private Selection" brand; wouldn't recommend it). I usually reserve my annual soda-drinking ceremony for a night when I feel quite sad. I'll sip the root beer like it's alcohol and listen to Joni Mitchell or something. But last night, with this crappy root beer in my left hand, I stared at my ceiling and couldn't stop smiling... I can't lose.
I really can't. I can do whatever I want and I'll win because of the sole fact that I did those things. I caught a glimpse of both present + future victory. A beam of success and an opportunity for hope. No matter what I do, I can't lose. If I'm doing anything, be that for myself or for another person (especially the latter), I'm winning the game. That is, the game against my anxiety.
This was the most asinine year of my life because I did nothing.
My simple goal for next year is to do more things.
...(sigh) Or have an ADVENTURE, whatever...

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The 25 Best Albums of 2017

2017 is not over yet. But we can always pretend like it is.

I walked to a local park the other night. Sat on a bench and stared up into the dark, clouded, fading sky. It was cold and I was breathing clearly, having just finished a workout. After my mind raced through topics like my purpose in life and my state of well-being, I just observed what was before me... An empty field of grass, kids' playground equipment, silhouettes of trees and mountains... There was no music.
It was peaceful. I imagined some delightfully smug character sitting beside me with his arms stretched to the sky, narrating the view to me:

"You wanna see things as they really are, Scott? This is it, right here! Ha! This is it. That's all. You don't have to be anything or think anything! If you have something to share with the world, you are free to share it. This stuff you're looking at right now isn't going anywhere. This is okay. And you're going to be okay."

Here's a spiffy list I made. Enjoy!

Here are some honorable mentions that almost made the list.
- Alex Cameron Forced Witness
- Ariel Pink Dedicated To Bobby Jameson
- Broken Social Scene Hug Of Thunder
- Jay-Z 4:44
- Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings Soul Of A Woman

Now the list.
The 25 Best Albums of 2017

25 Feist Pleasure

This probably won't make sense to any of you, but the album actually sounds like what the album cover looks like.

24 The War On Drugs A Deeper Understanding

While Adam Granduciel may just be a really corny figurehead for dad rock, you gotta admit he swung for the fences on this new album.

23 Power Trip Nightmare Logic

It's not like I actively look for throwback Texas thrash metal, but perhaps it's the mere fact that this album exists that it made this list.

22 Jlin Black Origami 

I don't know jack about footwork, but I like that there's an elephant on the album cover because most of its musical influences come from countries that have elephants.

21 Thundercat Drunk

I still can't think of a good blurb for this one, but that's probably because I've never had alcohol before.

20 SZA Ctrl 

I've been debating whether or not this album belonged on this list, but it's that heart-breaker of a closer "20 Something" that just seals the deal for me.

19 Tyler, The Creator Flower Boy

I think this is the closest to Channel Orange Tyler's gonna get.

18 Protomartyr Relatives In Descent

A good fix for some good post-punk; Elvis-death theories and fatherhood struggles included.

17 Fleet Foxes Crack-Up

Ya know, this thing turned out alright.

16 The Mountain Goats Goths

"What if John Darnielle was secretly a big 80s goth culture junkie and he's just been waiting his whole career to record a jazzy elevator lite-rock album about it in extensively nerdy detail?" asked No One Ever.

15 Rapsody Laila's Wisdom

This a jam-packed fun West Coast rap album that I kinda find comparable to Anderson.Paak's Malibu in nature.

14 Moses Sumney Aromanticism 

I love this guy's voice (and his apparent-yet-respective influence taken from a bunch of 2000s indie bands).

13 King Krule The OOZ

Turns out that smiling redhead kid from MAD Magazine is a super depressing British dude.

12 Converge The Dusk In Us

As long as we're keeping score here, All We Love We Leave Behind is the better album, but The Dusk In Us ranks pretty high on this list because it really was just that kind of year...

11 Sampha Process

I never thought I'd write this, but I'm really glad there's an artist out there owning the mantle of "the modern-day Seal."

10 Bjork Utopia

This album is gorgeous, mind you, this is still a Bjork + Arca collaboration, and I wouldn't recommend this to anyone easily prone to headaches.

9 Kelela Take Me Apart

Kelela delivers some of the most impressive alt-R&B stuff I've heard in a while, and in bulk.

Richard Dawson Peasant 

This is really somethin' else, guys... as beautiful as it is strange, here we have a freak-folk album with complex arrangements, vibrant instrumentation, lo-fi production, and weird stories about people's lives during medieval times.

Father John Misty Pure Comedy

The whole world is going to hell so we might as well listen to some Elton John.

Ibibio Sound Machine Uyai

I'm gonna go out on a limb and guarantee that all of you would love this band's zany spin on Afropop music.

5 Charlotte Gainsbourg Rest

November came and I suddenly realized that I was waiting all year for something with bold, sly melodies and thick, French textures to be my obvious pick for "pop album of the year."

4 Run The Jewels Run The Jewels 3

Outside its place on this rather muscle-less list, I should clarify that this grandiose-soundscape rap album is literally from 2016 and its Christmas release will go down as part of the 2016 narrative. 

3 Perfume Genius No Shape

Looking at his loaded (yet still-young) career under the Perfume Genius name, this exquisite delicacy of an album solidifies Mike Hadreas' spot among the most exclusive realm of this decade's greatest songwriters.

2 Kendrick Lamar DAMN.

For those following the whole "Radiohead-Kendrick" connection, part of me believes DAMN. is Kendrick's In Rainbows because of its lovable natural flow, but part of me says this is his Hail To The Thief because it's a 14-track, 55-minute, politically-conscious album taking a step down from the artist's usually extreme experimentalism; complete with a full-album song-title shtick to boot.

1 Mount Eerie A Crow Looked At Me

Death is real.

Friday, November 24, 2017

My 33 Favorite Songs of 2017 (kinda)

2017 still has an entire month left. But what the hey. Let's make a list.

So, I haven't made an end-of-year songs list in these past few years because it's not like I've heard every song in the world. But I had a ton of free time on my hands this year and I came pretty darn close. My problem is, when I have personal favorite albums, how can I make an end-of-year songs list without cramming, like, 5 songs from my favorite album in the top 10? This is what I decided on:
This is a list of my favorite songs of 2017... kinda. It does not include any tracks that come from albums you'll see on my upcoming "Album Of The Year" list.
It's a stupid shtick, but it made the list a lot easier to make. And I'm having some fun with this! A couple tracks aren't even stream-able, but are just songs from YouTube videos. Most of these songs are just by indie-hype bands I've always liked, so this list is kinda in their honor. And I guess this is a super roundabout (and fairly unique) way to prelude my eventual end-of-year albums list which usual gets plenty of views.
So scroll through this list. Check out some darn good songs. I'm done here.

MY 33 FAVORITE SONGS OF 2017 (kinda)

33 Eminem The Storm
Apparently Slim titled his BET Awards freestyle "The Storm," but I'll always remember it as "that one random time old-man Eminem did a freestyle on TV and everyone liked it."
32 Beach House Chariot
Beach House released a compilation of B-sides and rarities and it was quite good.
31 Jay-Z (ft Gloria Carter) Smile
Jay-Z's 4:44 album wasn't too shabby and this track has a sample from my favorite Stevie Wonder song.
30 Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile Over Everything
We have reached peak dad rock.
29 Broken Social Scene Hug of Thunder
The new BSS album is an honorable mention on my AOTY list btw.
28 Brian Eno / Kevin Shields Only Once Away My Son
Brian Eno + Kevin Shields = It's about darn time.
27 Rina Sawayama Cyber Stockholm Syndrome
This could probably go toe-to-toe with any industrial/pop track from FKA Twigs.
26 Blanck Mass Silent Treatment
So, this guy used to be one-half of F* Buttons, who were a big-name buzz band back when I was getting into indie music, and this song comes off as an uncomfortably deserving blast-from-the-past for me.
25 Super Deluxe Alex Jones Rants As An Indie Folk Song
I'm just gonna leave a link to this video right here...
24 Arcade Fire Everything Now
But lest we forget, this album sucks butt.
23 Ariel Pink Feels Like Heaven
Yeah, Ariel usually knows what he's doing.
22 Brockhampton GOLD
Brockhampton is an 8-piece hip-hop group from Texas (but also kinda from California), and while most of their their songs are guilty of trying to be too many things all at once (if you can imagine that), this song nails what they're aiming for (whatever the heck that may be).
21 Frank Ocean (ft Jay-Z + Tyler, The Creator) Biking
I rather enjoyed this year of assorted Frank Ocean singles.
20 Kirin J. Callinan (ft Alex Cameron + Molly Lewis + Jimmy Barnes) Big Enough
Here's everybody's favorite part!

19 Oneohtrix Point Never (ft Iggy Pop) The Pure And The Damned
Some day, I swear, we're gonna go to a place where we can do everything we want to and we can pet the crocodiles.
18 Lorde Supercut
Lorde pulled off a few solid pop songs this year; I can attest.
17 The National Day I Die
The National haven't sounded this anthemic in nearly 10 years.
16 Carly Rae Jepsen Cut To The Feeling
This woman is on a freaking roll with these bubbly/80's pop singles!
15 David Bowie No Plan
I don't always dig posthumous music releases, but dang, this Bowie track just kicks you in the feels on so many levels.
14 Mount Kimbie (ft King Krule) Blue Train Lines
I liked that new King Krule album, but I really wish there was a track on there as downright torturous and gut-wrenching as this.
13 Kendrick Lamar The Heart Part 4
This isn't on the DAMN. tracklist, so, duh, it's on this list.
12 Vince Staples Big Fish
Take it easy homie.
11 Alex Cameron Runnin' Outta Luck
Alex Cameron is one of the most fun characters I was introduced to this year; touching influential base with all our favorite corny 80's songwriters.
10 Big Thief Mythological Beauty
This song is some family-made comfort food amid the usually strange world of indie rock.
Bruno Mars That's What I Like
This was the only hit from this year where everyone in the car could agree on not changing the radio station, mostly so we could sing together, "SEX BY THE FIRE AT NIGHT!"
Charli XCX Boys
Don't judge me, just love me.
7 Mac DeMarco My Old Man
This is the only Mac DeMarco song I've ever cried to, and I think we should take that for what it is.
Migos (ft Lil Uzi Vert) Bad & Boujee
All my rap peoples should browse every project produced by Metro Boomin this year, for everything he touched turned to gold, and this dope collaboration brought this song a commendable nationwide popularity that's made it arguably the most culturally significant song of the year.
5 Future Islands Ran
Music video further confirms lead singer Samuel T. Herring is my favorite person of all time.
4 Dirty Projectors Up In Hudson
Behind this song's powerhouse of studio electricity, its New Orleans horns section and realistic storytelling from David Longstreth gives it a fermented taste of post-relationship nostalgia comparable to Paul Simon.
3 LCD Soundsytem American Dream
Hearing someone explain The American Dream has never made so much sense as when James Murphy starts absolutely wailing about it at the climax of this song.
2 Jens Lekman (ft LouLou Lamotte) To Know Your Mission
Being a Jens fan and having been a Mormon missionary, this song means a lot to me.
1 SOPHIE It's Okay To Cry
A song like this is a rarity, where merely listening to it feels like an event.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The "I Love Beck!" Blogpost

Beck Hansen is coming out with a new album this month. After literally 2 years of sporadically releasing singles, it finally has a release date with album info and everything to boot. I haven't been excited about this album in the least... not until recently. I don't expect a classic by any means, but I believe Beck could potentially release an intriguing branch in his discography.

Unbeknownst to most, I used to worship Beck. He was the soundtrack to the 17th year of my life; at least any of his music I could gather off YouTube. I want this blog post to be a million years long. I'll try to cover all I can. I can honestly say I've heard most every song he's made. That's like 25 years of music. I memorized all the words to "Loser" and thought that made me cool. It's been 10 years, and I still wear my t-shirt with the single art for "Where It's At." I wound up seeing Beck for $5 in Salt Lake City back in 2014. I got secondhand high and my buddy broke his ankle, so I guess you can say it was a great show.

My undying love for Beck over the years.

Anyways, I was worried that his upcoming album Colors would just be some kinda half-hearted remake of of his 1999 zany funk album Midnite Vultures. Sure its singles denote this is obviously going to be a a polar opposite to 2014's dreary Morning Phase. But I've taken a liking to his newest single "Up All Night." Of course it's as dancey as anything from Midnite Vultures, but it's not trying to be ridiculous. It's just a well-produced, classy, commendable, funky single. The same can be said for his 2015 single "Dreams," which fortunately is also on the album. What if Colors turns out to be the Beck album packed with simplistic, radio-worthy dance tracks? I'd actually be okay with that.

So, yeah. Beck Hansen. Weird dude. It's hard to attach a single genre to him if you've heard his career's-worth of work, but I've always just considered him "alternative rock." Heck, next to most any radio alt-rock artist, Beck looks like a God. That's because he kinda is.
Starting off as a lo-fi folk artist singing about Mexican food and manure, he magically got a top-10 hit out of his 1994 single "Loser" and has won multiple Grammy's ever since. He's dabbled in psychedelic rock, noise rock, funk, electronica, hip-hop, trip-hop, songwriter-folk, freak-folk, anti-folk, etc. He tries to master a different genre with each album. It doesn't always work, but it's always worth listening to.
I gotta admit, looking back at his early work as an independent artist, it's easy to fall in love with his initial personality. This raspy voice behind a cheap acoustic guitar making all these references to greasy food, the devil, garbage, alcohol... all tied in with irrelevant references to the apocalypse and dropping f-bombs mid-sentence in ways that have no correlation with the actual English language. This would eventually turn into fun, purposely divisive faux-Kerouac-ian rambling. By the late 90s, he started using his lyrics to match his songs' atmospheres. This is rather difficult when you're experimenting with like 100 different genres per album. But this is Beck. He usually knows what he's doing. It's interesting to hear his newer work, where it's seems like he's forcefully trying to send positive messages in his music. It may seem out of character for him, but I think he'll be dishing out another character a couple years from now anyway.

I've already written too much exposition stuff, so here's a list of my favorite Beck songs!
*I was really hoping that Blogger's YouTube function would give me direct video frames for a few more songs, so you'll just have to trust the hyperlinks. Because some of these are deep cuts that true Beck fans need to hear. I know you're out there.

My 25 Favorite Beck Songs
25 'Guess I'm Doing Fine' (Sea Change 2002)
My high school drama teacher once described Sea Change as Beck's "My life sucks so I might as well just kill myself" album. I cannot tell a lie, this song kinda backs up that sentiment.
24 'Harry Partch' (non-album non-single 2009)
I never knew who Harry Partch was until I heard this song. Here, Beck gives a 10+minute tribute to the 20th Century's first microtonal composer with 100% weird AF experimental justice. Probably the craziest thing Beck ever cooked up.
23 'Heart Is A Drum' (Morning Phase 2014)
Despite all its cheesiness, it's hard not to love its sincerity. It was refreshing to hear this and know that Morning Phase wasn't going to be some complete Sea Change rip-off.
22 'Ramshackle' (Odelay 1996)
Although Beck recorded billions of acoustic tracks in the 90s, this makes for a comfort food of a closer to the electric, thick Odelay. This song will always remind me of summer.
21 'Beercan' (Mellow Gold 1994)
The only song other than "Loser" that sounds like a single on Mellow Gold, this track was an unexpected predecessor to Beck's Odelay song formulas.
20 'Strange Apparition' (The Information 2006)
The pianos sound gorgeous on this song. And I don't just say stuff like that lightly.
19 'Let's Get Lost' [ft Bat For Lashes] (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse OST 2010)
Although Beck never released any albums between 2008 and 2014, he was busy. He got a group of homies together (including Devandra Banhart + MGMT) to cover 6 entire old albums in full. He produced albums for Charlotte Gainsbourg + Stephen Malkmus. I dare say his coolest work was this gigantic-sounding collaboration with-- who was, at the time, one of indie's hottest artists-- Bat For Lashes. Check it out.
18 'Rowboat' (Stereopathetic Soulmanure 1994)
It's hard to define Beck's influence. For example, Beck recorded this song back when he basically had $0, and it was a mere 2 years later that freaking Johnny Cash would cover it. Respect.
17 'The New Pollution' (Odelay 1996)
It must have been hard for Beck to pick singles from Odelay. But the use of flute and saxophone on here makes this a standout track in any circumstance.
16 'MTV Makes Me Want To Smoke Crack' (non-album single 1993)
Apparently there are 3 different versions of this song. I will always love this one. You really, really have to listen to the link to find out.
15 'Get Real Paid' (Midnite Vultures 1999)
The first half of Midnite Vultures is pure gold. A personal favorite moment is this sexually awkward attempt at sounding like a modernized Prince. And yes, a group of people actually sing the word "pregnant" in the chorus.
14 'Unforgiven' (Morning Phase 2014)
Not every artist needs a piano ballad. Especially not in alternative rock. But the electric echoes all over this song makes a great centerpiece for Morning Phase, and for that matter, one of the greatest live performances I've ever witnessed.
13 'Pay No Mind (Snoozer)' (Mellow Gold 1994)
This must be the only song ever recorded that uses "dildo" in a totally peripheral manner.
12 'Girl' (Guero 2006)
At this point in his career, I think "Girl" was the closest thing Beck ever wrote to a lovable, sunny pop song. I think he should write tracks like this more often.
11 'Lost Cause' (Sea Change 2002)
"Lost Cause" was the lead single to the eye-watering depressive Sea Change. It's hard to define the magic of this song and why it's stuck around as a classic Beck staple. I love its ultimately broad lyrics and intro/outro sounds that I believe are distorted samples of choir singers.
10 'Nobody's Fault But My Own' (Mutations 1998)
Hard not to love this song upon first listen. The instrumentation is thick and droning, causing a dual moment of deep emotion and neurotic staleness.
9 'Hollywood Freaks' (Midnite Vultures 1999)
It's difficult to compare this song to anything else I've ever heard. It features some of Beck's craziest rap flows, the beat is totally based on 90s West Coast hip-hop, and yet... it's difficult to tell what genre it it intends to be. There's too much happening at once not to get lost in it.
8 'Chemtrails' (Modern Guilt 2008)
Underrated track, underrated album. One of the most sonically innovative Beck ever produced, this track is reminiscent of 60s Pink Floyd. Bass solo and all, I consider this a premature taste of those Tame Impala dudes everyone talks about.
7 'Devil's Haircut' (Odelay 1996)
There's no doubt that people put Odelay into their CD players in 1996 and were immediately impressed by track 1. "Devil's Haircut" samples 3 different 60s tracks, and the album only launches off from there.
6 'Debra' (Midnite Vultures 1999)
Probably Beck's most epic closer, his vocal performance is just as sexy as it is hilarious.
5 'Jack-Ass' (Odelay 1996)
True story: This song is what sold me on Beck. I was 15 year-old in Stockton when I heard this song for the first time. I thought it was the coolest thing I ever heard. I still consider it a dry anthem in Beck's career. And it's fair to note that there's an alternate version of this song that's almost as good, titled "Burro." Beck sings in Spanish and there's a backing Mariachi band. I kid thee not.
4 'It's All In Your Mind' (One Foot In The Grave Japanese edition 1994, non-album single 1995)
My first time hearing this song was amid the Sea Change tracklist. Apparently it was originally recorded back around 1994, and it's just Beck and his acoustic guitar. The dense remake on Sea Change makes it come off as a filler track, but in the mid-90s? I consider this Beck's first truly emotional song. It's something cold and raw. A truly naked moment of clarity.
3 'The Golden Age' (Sea Change 2002)
I've used this song to tune my guitar for the last 10 years. That leading acoustic guitar part is so upfront and pristine, it's the most beautifully obvious E-chord I've ever heard. As a teenager, Beck fooled me into thinking this was a minimal folk song. It's anything but. The production is thick with ghostly synths, reverb vocals and a meddled drum kit tempered to sound like it's straight off Neil Young's Harvest. The whole idea for this song + album is rather brilliant.
2 'Where It's At' (Odelay 1996)
"2 turntables and a microphone." I really shouldn't have to write a blurb about this.
1 'Loser' (Mellow Gold 1994)
Many respectively argue that "Where It's At" is the better track. I just consider this song a "freak hit." Music like this was never meant to be popular, but lo and behold, this is Beck's only top 10 single to date. And it was made on an incredibly low budget. There are few things more definitively "90s!" than "Loser." Heck, this very blog is titled after a quote from this song! It's a classic.

...And of course, here's how I'd rank all of Beck's albums!

My Favorite Beck Albums
9 Guero (2005)
I wouldn't dare say this album is "bad." It's just an overt attempt of trying remake his 90s sound. He even brought back the same producers he had Odelay (Dust Brothers). It amazes me that "Go It Alone" has become its most popular Spotify track, because it always has sounded like watered-down Odelay to me... Anyways, this album's worth a shot. "E-Pro" is a respectable hit. And much of the album sounds like "E-Pro."

8 The Information (2006)
Looking back, this album was more varied than Guero. You probably wouldn't be able to tell it was produced by Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich if I didn't tell you, but I like how Beck embraces both his songwriter and his electronica sides on this album. "Think I'm In Love" is still a solid hit.

7 Mutations (1998)
I really wanted this album to be ranked higher, but sadly, it sounds pretty dated. It was somewhat a universally recognized step down from Odelay, but at least previewed a bit of the melancholia we'd see in his later work. Perhaps the coolest thing this album has to offer is its curve-ball hidden track "Diamond Bullocks."

6 Morning Phase (2014)
Behold: The 2015 Grammy Award winner for Album of the Year!
Miraculous, really. The pothead who recorded "Satan Gave Me A Taco" in his bedroom won music's most prestigious, glossy award over 20 years later. I actually love this album. I feel like my #6+#5+#4 on this list are interchangeable, so take this low ranking with a grain of salt. It's no secret that this is supposed to be a positivist sunshine sister album to Sea Change, but he kinda nailed it. There's a grandeur on this album incomparable to anything else Beck has ever done.

5 Modern Guilt (2008)

I bought this album the week it came out, so maybe I have a bias. It's a shame that lots of new Beck fans don't even know this album exists. A 10-song, 33-minute affair with production from Danger Mouse and background vocals from Cat Power, Beck tries sounding like a dark-tinted version of The Zombies. Brief, 60s psychedelic rock songs about anxiety and apocalypse. Songs like "Orphans" and "Modern Guilt" have stayed strong.

4 Mellow Gold (1994)
I cannot tell a lie, this album could either be somewhere in the upper half of my list, or I could tank it straight to the bottom. As the album cover foreshadows, this is arguably some of the worst music you'll ever hear. But you'll notice that Spotify lists Ween as one of Beck's related artists. This only makes sense when I look solely to this album. The fact that songs like "Beercan," "Mutherf*ker,"and "Blackhole" are all crammed together automatically makes this his most diverse album. Whether the songs are "good" or not is up for debate, but you can't knock it 'til you try it.

I decided not to include any of Beck's unofficially-released independent albums on this list. From 1993-1994, these include Golden FeelingsStereopathetic SoulmanureOne Foot In The Grave. I haven't even heard anything from Golden Feelings, but I love what fun country-twang tracks I've heard from Stereopathetic Soulmanure. And One Foot In The Grave is easily some of Beck's best work! I would rank it anywhere amid the top 4 of this list. I've learned to love it in recent years due to its deadpan lo-fi minimalism and sporadic flow. It's like Robert Pollard made a solo folk album.

3 Midnite Vultures (1999)
The production here hasn't aged a bit. This album is evidence that Beck's studio work still stands toe-to-toe with latter-day greats like Kanye West, James Murphy, and Diplo. Trying ridiculously hard to sound like its album art, Midnite Vultures is an ironic take on sex culture taken to zany extremes. It's fruity and layered to no avail. I went years without listening to this album because I couldn't focus on anything else while listening. "Focus" is obviously not the point here...

2 Sea Change (2002)
So starting things off on a negative note, the only cardinal sin this album commits is that the last 2 songs are its 2 worst. Other than that it's pretty solid. I was an overly-dramatic 17 year-old, so Sea Change was my Bible for a time. I guess it's died off on me over time and I might even prefer its "1-80"-counterpart Midnite Vultures, but... when you are sad, you're gonna want a copy of Sea Change on hand.  It's Nick Drake's Pink Moon with doses of Flaming Lips-esque psychedelic mixing. Gotta love it. We're not always in the mood for its slowness, but when we are, we really are. Like, dang.

1 Odelay (1996)
You all saw this coming. You can't talk about 1996 or, heck, 90s albums as a whole without Odelay being part of the conversation. It's like Beck was like... "Here's an idea: What if we sampled a buncha stuff that sounds like James Brown with beats from the guys who produced Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique, but also some scattered Sonic Youth guitar interruptions behind me rapping absurd doses of absurd Bob Dylan lyrics?"
This sounds like a terrible idea. And it turned out perfect. Of course only a couple other Beck albums sound like this one, but if you want to flex Beck's artistic value and legacy, here's your titan.

In closing, here's a video of Beck jamming with Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and Beastie Boys' Mike D in 1994.