How typical that this album is going to be the first that I’ll be reviewing here. If you’re looking for an expert’s advice on what to listen to, please visit pitchfork.com for more information. I’m kidding. Anyways, read along if you want to start on your journey of listening to dream pop music. Beach House’s seminal classic “Bloom”, which was released in 2012, and was allegedly meant to be the year of when the apocalypse would strike us. I did not buy a thick seven hundred page national geographic book for children about myths and taboos about the Mayan people for nothing. This ten track LP is nothing short of a masterpiece; as it was oh so carefully crafted by the creative minds of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally, as well as producer Chris Coady (thanks wikipedia!). I can’t say the same for others, but this album very much shaped the later years of my teen-hood. Bloom opens with “Myth”, which is also arguably the most popular track off the album, according to the seventy seven million (and counting) plays on spotify, which I have probably contributed a good 100 of. It takes you on a journey of percussion and melodies, and I am well aware that is what music is meant to be; I’m simply stating the obvious. Legrand’s crooning voice instantly soothes your ears from the first lyric; in a sense it kind of reminds me of how a mother would sound trying to give you sound advice on things to do or what not to do. Not to rave over this album like a fangirl would, but there is simply not a bad song in sight on this album.
Back in university (which was approximately seven months ago), I would play this album on repeat, almost like a soundtrack to walk to. This might sound very peculiar to you, but “Bloom” is an extremely appropriate album to walk to, due to its BPM not being too fast nor too slow. I guess the perfect film to match this album to would be “Her”, directed by Spike Jonze. You would think, hey, Arcade Fire didn’t do all that to not get an honorable mention, which, is my bad by the way, but I think the nuances of this album, how tenderly the songs wrap around your head as you’re appreciating the body of the song and daydreaming of being in a far away place...seems ideal to me.
My personal favourite off the album is the ninth track listed, titled “On the Sea”. And if I have to be honest? If you held a gun to my head and told me to sing word for word each song off of the album, I would ask you to kiss my cats goodbye for me. What really drew me to this album and continues to have such a strong “shelf life” on my list of spotify albums on repeat is the fact that each time you listen to the album, there are different elements of the track that you can take note of. This track almost seems whimsical to me, with the build up of the song reminiscent of the tune of a song playing at a carnival, or even a tiny music box that you could wind up quietly to listen to before bed.
Now, a few non-important but decidedly relevant points about this album that I believe makes it ever so iconic to me is the album art, and that the album is a perfect sixty minutes long. To this day, after many listens to “Bloom”, I still do not have the slightest clue to what the album art is meant to depict. Perhaps the dimming light bulbs of a stage? A poorly printed pattern of polka-dots on a screen?
If this album were to be a person, I would imagine them to be extremely withdrawn from reality; having their heads stuck high in the clouds, filled with thoughts and worries. They would probably love the smell of rain in the morning when the skies are thick with mist.
On my personal rating scale, I would rate this 6.8 out of 7.
As Lady Gaga famously said; “Talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, showstopper, spectacular, never the same, totally unique…” This album quite literally shaped the essence of my 13 year old self. Strangely enough, my mum was the one who introduced my sister and I to Lorde. She was still an unknown artist at the time, with many girls my age fixated on either Taylor Swift or One Direction (man, those were the days). I remember she would get mocked a lot for her dinosaur hands that she would make when she would be performing on stage.
I think it’s safe to say though, that many people my age were heavily influenced by the lyrics to her songs in this album. (my personal favourite off the album when i was young was the little spoken word “you buy me orange juice” off 400 Lux). This album, released in 2013, was Lorde’s- or should I call her Ella to rid off formalities; debut. Fresh out of high school, our favourite North Shore gal who at the time, was dating a man twice her age (honestly she was such an icon...although now that I think of it there was possible grooming involved) begins the LP with Tennis Court, a dark brooding track with an equally strange music video, where she tries to communicate with the viewers with her eyes.
The fourth track, which is still very much an important song in many teens lives; I can’t begin to tell you the number of iterations of twitter handles off the lyrics of just Ribs alone. I still remember ever so clearly the first time I listened to this song on headphones, when the track bounces off your left ear, then your right, and then it goes back and forth like a ping pong ball being tossed in a drunken game of beer pong at a student flat, cold at night during Auckland winters. To this very day, after more than 7 years of listening to this song, it still never fails to give me chills.
My personal favourite track off of “Pure Heroine” would have to be “Buzzcut Season”. Everytime I close my eyes and listen to it, I see a sky of blue, with stars that seem to be winking at me. It’s weird, but it reminds me of a cold night’s drive on the motorway, when you’re cozied up in the backseat, filled with drowsiness. She continuously repeats “ I live in a hologram with you”,which honestly...props to her for coming up with such poetic lyrics! Back in 2013 I was writing parody lyrics to call me maybe to tease my friend about the shoes she was wearing, so pick your poison. A World Alone deserves a call out in this review, as I enter into a quarter-life crisis everytime it starts playing. The perfect ending to this album, the atmospheric chatter in the track is very reminiscent to the networking sessions that I would go for occasionally which did nothing for my anxiety, and as she says “People are talking”, and they never stop going on and on about their lives as you feel yourself slowly drifting away from the conversation at hand, wishing you were somewhere else with the one you love.
Pure Heroine, despite not being one of my all time favourite albums of all time, will always have a special spot in my heart, in the ways of which it raised me to be a teen overly aware of her emotions and decidedly thinks the best way of pouring thoughts out of her head was to create a Twitter account. Lorde/ Ella/ my love, if you are reading this (probably won’t but wishful thinking always helps), I will run into you in Ponsonby very soon, mark my words.
June 2021, Auckland
City-pop, ever heard of it? If you’re a student with trouble focusing, I’m sure you’re familiar with the endless videos on Youtube of “chill-hop”, or “lo-fi beats”. I’m not afraid to admit that I am absolutely in love with the genre, even having no clue what any of the songs mean. It is thanks to the algorithm of Youtube that I’ve been absolutely hooked on this music. Plastic Love, a song by Mariya Takeuchi, racked up a whopping 63 million views, and was even taken down multiple times due to copyright issues. Try as hard as you might, Takeuchi’s face did not leave anyone’s recommended page for months on end. Now this would be the perfect segue to introduce Tatsuro Yamashita, Takeuchi’s husband. Yes, they are the city-pop “it-couple”, with amazing catchy releases from the 80s onwards.
This album, I dare say, is in my top 5 list of best albums of all time. I chanced upon this album one mundane afternoon when New Zealand was in Level 4 lockdown. Bored out of my mind, I was going through a rabbithole of city-pop, listening to the likes of Anri and Junko Ohashi. The album art caught my eye initially; an overly saturated image of a man on a surfboard on a big wave; seemingly the perfect postcard capture to send to a loved one during a vacation. “Big Wave”, released in 1984 was an accompaniment to a film on surfers in Hawai’i. This LP is what the perfect summer’s morning feels like, when you step out into the sun, basking in its rays while you’re thinking of what to do for the rest of the day. It was one of the few things that kept me sane during the lockdown, as I felt more and more withdrawn from the real world.
Now, I don’t condone streaming pirated content, but I have been playing this album religiously from a download link that was provided to me thanks to the wonders of the internet. Some good samaritan decided that they would be kind enough to share a cassette rip of this album, due to how unknown/ rare its releases are.
This record starts off strong, with Tatsuro expertly belting out some amazingly smooth notes. If you pay close attention though, it’s all just about being a surfer enjoying the waves out at sea; simply just enjoying the summer breeze, without a care in the world. Winter has just begun not too long ago, and this song is the perfect temporary aid to anyone’s seasonal depression. My all time favourite track off this album would definitely have to be ‘Jody’, a masterfully written ballad chock-full of nostalgia. It reminds me of the time that I would spend in my grandparents’ home back in Kluang, when the air was dusty as ever and my main concern of the day would simply be if I could have an ice cream in the afternoon to cool off. He cries, “Jody, come love me”, as if desperately trying to reach his unreciprocated lover.
I might be biased, but I have quite literally never heard of an album as well-rounded and consistent with good tracks as this. A bit of a warning, if you’re someone that exclusively indulges in sad, depressing albums this may not be the one for you, as this is a foot-tapping, hip swaying album that makes you want to add an extra bounce to your step. It’s like an ode to your summer fling, one that you know you will never meet again.
PS: let me know if you want the link to download the full album for free!
August 2021, Auckland
As Kanye reminds us in the first track of this iconic album, Yeezy season is approaching. In the past few weeks or so he has been edging us with the release of his latest LP “Donda”, which will feature the A-List equivalent of artists in the industry. Look, I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve been a fan of his for ages, and I also wholeheartedly enjoy Taylor Swift’s music. So if you’ve come here to diss either of these talented artists, please leave and reconsider…
Yeah, I started listening to Kanye West a lot more in recent times due to a friend of mine having an unhealthy obsession with him. But I’ve also been brought up with a healthy dose of his music ever since I was young; I still have an extremely clear image in my head of when I first saw the Stronger M/V, which was inspired by the iconic film Akira, which I believe had some of the biggest impacts on pop culture today. Now, about Yeezus. I’m not going to lie, and bear with me I’m about to start sounding super pretentious, but if you do not listen to experimental hip-hop, and are used to songs with melody and catchy hooks, you will NOT enjoy this album on its first listen.
Yeezus, Kanye’s sixth studio album released in mid-2013, stands to be one of my favourite albums of all time, and possibly my favourite from him as well. It probably isn’t something that you would want to listen to when you first wake up, especially when you are hit with the first few seconds of “On Sight”, the leading track of the album. Now you can definitely roast me here, but I found this song through a snippet of it that went viral on Tik Tok. Yes, I do in fact take most of my music recommendations and find new things to listen to on that wretched app. Sue me!
This record, in my opinion, does not have a single bad track, yes even “I’m In It”, which features some of the wackiest lyrics I’ve listened to; where he alludes to performing cunnilingus on an Asian woman, stating “eating Asian p***y all I need is sweet and sour sauce”. Most people, when asked if they know much about the album if shown a tracklist, would point to either Bound 2 or Black Skinhead, two of the most popular tracks off of Yeezus. As most of us would remember, Bound 2, when its m/v was released showed a barely clothed Kim Kardashian bouncing up and down a motorcycle, which will later be parodized in many other forms of media.
My personal favourite off this album? It would be a tie between “I am a God” and “I’m in it”. The best way to describe “I Am A God” would be that liquid courage you have running through your system in the middle of a night out, when you think you suddenly develop a god complex and you have never felt better. The synths playing throughout the majority of the track almost feels like the strobe lights striking right into your eyes as you’re getting lost in the music playing, feeling an extremely heightened sense of elation. The latter track, however, is, and I can confidently say this, one of the horniest songs with explicit sexual imagery I have listened to. I’d say that it feels like when it’s 2 in the morning and you’re lonely and feeling a bit (to put it lightly) pent up, wanting someone to touch you all over but alas, you’re alone with nothing but your right hand, vibrator, and a tube of lube (yea I’m speaking from personal experience).
So, to conclude, Yeezus is unlike anything that you have or will ever listen to, and is an album that perfectly encapsulates feeling horngry* and having absolutely no way of releasing your frustrations(yes I just coined that term myself). And Kanye, I’m begging you, please release Donda.
*horny and angry
mitski was right. absolutely nobody.
Picture this: you’ve just received a long text from who you thought was “the one”; and you’ve made your feelings outwardly known to them, praying and hoping that this time, your love is reciprocated. Instead, you’re met with a cold slap of rejection. “I’m sorry, I hate to be that person but I actually have feelings for someone else.” You quite literally feel like your heart’s been torn into half, ripped into shreds, like someone used a blunt pair of shards to cut the strings holding you together. Your breath feels shallow, like your throat is filled with some sort of viscous liquid, almost kind of like sludge? You check your phone again, it's 1:25 in the morning and you have work tomorrow. Hmm, what’s the best remedy for this pain you’re feeling? Almost like a muscle reflex, I scroll haphazardly through my crying playlist (yes I do have a playlist for every occasion if you were wondering) and play “Nobody”, as I feel hot tears flowing down both sides of my face.
Ah Mitski, dear Mitski. Who hurt you? Seriously, which evil man decided to treat you like shit? I’m dedicating this entire article to the song that has carried me emotionally for the past 3 years. Nobody, the second single released off her most recent album “Be the Cowboy” starts off with a small window of drums, with Mitski jumping immediately into song, “My God I’m so lonely…”, as if she’s treating the listeners like her closest friends, or rather, a diary where she keeps her deepest secrets. If you’re familiar with her music, you would know that this is one of her easier songs to get into. Most of her creations are rather depressing sonically, but “Nobody” is one of the rare few, where it sounds incredibly upbeat while her lyrics state otherwise. I remember when I first discovered her music; I was a first-year at university, incredibly homesick and stuck upon this small crush I’ve developed on a guy in my Introduction to Information Systems class. Just like any delusional person with an overactive brain at night, I dreamt of him and decided that I would be head over heels for this person that I only see twice a week in class.
I’m not sure what she put in this song, but I literally can never get sick of it. The fact that she got the inspiration while she was staying by herself in Kuala Lumpur really speaks to me as well (considering the fact that I feel quite lonely at times when I’m back home during summer vacation). “Nobody” builds up over its 3:13 course, and she says the word 32 times, almost like some twisted affirmation that she is bound to a doomed, unrequited romance.
Here’s one thing that Mitski and I have in common. We are both September Libras and we fall in love/lust way too hard for our own good. I hold this song closer to my heart than any other as each lyric of the song speaks to me; no matter how much we change ourselves, that it would never be enough to be yearned by someone. In the earlier verses, she says she wants “one good honest kiss”, but as the song goes on, she decides that she wants “one good movie kiss” instead. She looks at love in an idealistic manner, through rose-coloured glasses, deluded into thinking that someone could fall for her and embrace her despite her thirst for wanting to be loved so badly that it pains her. Her sobs in the last bit of the song really makes the song what it really is, a song about desperation and feeling unwanted. I really hope that one day she is able to find the love of her life and feel complete, although it may compromise the quality of her music...
September 2021, Kuala Lumpur
In the 2020 film Promising Young Woman, Carey Mulligan’s character essentially lures disgusting predatory men and takes vengeance on them. After constantly being wronged and let down by the male race, her character seemingly FINALLY finds a decent nice guy played by Bo Burnham. Both of them dance and lip sync to Paris Hilton’s Stars Are Blind in a pharmacy while a montage of their idealised relationship intercuts with the scene. As a viewer, I felt like screaming. I had completely surrendered my last 3 brain cells to this scene and felt such an explosion of relief that this poor character had *finally* found the tall, disgustingly charming man of her dreams amongst the filth and shit of the male population… well not even TEN minutes later we find out her perfect new boyfriend was in fact a bystander in her best friend’s rape.
The film catapulted that song into mainstream awareness again- not that the interest around that song had been completely dormant before either. Stars Are Blind to me really represents the utopian catalyst quality of the 2000s and the thrill of the early internet space. Everyone now is so nostalgic for the freedom and innocence of that decade, Y2K fashion is back, and we crave that youthful illusion that the possibilities in life are endless- not that I believe things were actually better back then, it’s just because everyone was younger. The song being used in the film was honestly a genius move, it's a romanticised void that we want to live in forever that shatters when the song eventually ends.
Our website’s less influential competitor who eerily shares a similar name to us (pitchfork) described the track’s sound as “vague reggae” which when layered with the upbeat elevator-music like rhythm and Paris Hilton’s signature “baby voice” makes for an undeniable hit. This song peaking at number 10 on the charts is so valid but pretty surprising to me. As much as we love reminiscing about the noughties, we all know Paris Hilton and most young women at the time were unfairly treated by the media, as she was reduced to an heiress awaiting her fortune, rendered untalented, or branded as a dumb blonde aka: a bimbo. The previously misogynistic term has since been proudly reclaimed and associated with hyperfeminine traits not limited to physical attributes. Additionally the bimbo lifestyle and mentality is about being blissfully ignorant and references that care-free attitude of the 2000s, but also satirises consumerism and capitalism- which ties into how influential and culturally relevant Paris Hilton and her music still is.
The lyrics are not complex poetry but it doesn’t need to be. It exudes the fantasy of desire and longing for that one person but simultaneously being effortless and apathetic about it, because it is implied that she knows she’s confident. She knows she’s the shit. The iconic chorus is probably responsible for most of my serotonin bursts in lockdown, “even though the gods are crazy, even though the stars are blind, if you show me real love baby I’ll show you mine” is really a spiritual reminder that no matter how depressing and how futile our lives under capitalism and corrupt forces are, sometimes you need to concentrate on being in the moment. “Got a heart and soul and body” reinforces the importance of being here now and kind of echoes whatever a Buddhist version of live laugh love might be.
In my opinion Stars Are Blind holds so much power, and it still amazes me when I hear it on the radio or at the supermarket and it sounds just as timeless and catchy like I was being transported back to 2006. Her music truly became the forefront of the ‘bimbofication of pop’ genre that later on birthed artists like Charli XCX and Kim Petras, and I have immense respect and admiration for her cultural impact still felt today.
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