Florida Singer-Songwriter Shares How It Feels To Heal In Her New Single

By: Kristine Villarroel

Photo courtesy of Erin Laverty

Laverty is unafraid of being introspective — and of sampling a sound bowl.  

The Florida singer-songwriter and full-time music teacher Erin Laverty, who goes by Laverty, makes highly emotional and reflective indie folk-pop. The themes in her songs come directly from her life and her healing process. The artist originally started playing various instruments at a young age thanks to the influence of a close family member. After losing her job at the music school last year at the beginning of the pandemic, Laverty started teaching in-home music lessons, as well as dedicating more time to her music. 

In her songs, Laverty touches on deeply personal topics that stem from introspective sessions and healing through therapy and spirituality. With songs touching on topics ranging from toxic relationships to childhood healing, and weaving in more sensitive topics such as eating disorders and sexual assault, Laverty hopes that her music starts a conversation about dealing with trauma and healing emotional wounds.

“I started therapy at the beginning of last year and I continued (I’m still in therapy) and I definitely think it’s helped a lot [in songwriting] because it’s brought everything to the forefront of my brain,” Laverty said. “Whenever I’m like processing emotions or processing trauma it will inspire me in a way because I will sit and just write about everything I’m feeling.”

Laverty’s songs are partly inspired by the spiritual practice of “shadow work.” Shadow work is when an individual confronts and heals their “shadow self,” which is defined by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung as those parts of ourselves we repress and hide that hold our deepest wounds, unconscious fears and insecurities. 

“Now more than ever I think my music is very ruled by my spirituality, because I don’t think I could be writing about any of this if it wasn’t for my spirituality,” Laverty said.

Photo courtesy of Erin Laverty

Written during quarantine, her new single released on April 23, “Such a Shame,” explores the addictive aspect of emotional processing and healing. 

“It basically is about the pain that comes with processing hard emotions and processing trauma, but how it’s almost addicting in a way and how there’s a sense of pleasure that comes with processing those emotions,” Laverty said. “Because even though it’s painful at the moment, it’s gonna lead to more enlightenment and more freedom in the future.” 

Sonically, the song explores new ground for Laverty. The upbeat track is a departure from her previous meditation-inspired atmospheric sound. 

The sound established in her debut EP “Energy” released last October takes inspiration from Bob Dylan, Mumford and Sons and meditation music. The production surrounds the listener in a space of sound where the lyrics of healing and processing come to the forefront. Moving into new territory, the artist quotes Dua Lipa, Doja Cat and the recently-revived disco sound as some inspirations for her new song.  

“”Such a Shame” is my first pop song. It's more upbeat... so I hope it’s received as something that someone would listen to in the car with their windows down during the summer,” Laverty said. “A mixture between making people feel good and making people reflect upon their own emotions.”

Laverty often posts on her TikTok where she has found a community to connect with people that relate to the experiences and emotions she narrates in her music. With 97% of her followers being female, she hopes to personally connect with women with similar life experiences.

Photo courtesy of Erin Laverty

She credits her newfound social media platform for providing her the ability to connect with other female musicians in Florida, where she says the music scene is very male-dominated. 

“No shade to Florida, but I feel like when I first came onto the scene it was really weird because I felt like I was just surrounded by like so many male musicians and male bands, and I was very intimidated and almost deterred from what I wanted to do,” Laverty said. “Now that I’ve gone on social media, I’ve met other female musicians from Florida that are just starting up and just starting to record and release music and hopefully in the next year there will be a boom of female musicians.”

Fostering human connection and starting conversations about emotionally intense themes are just some of the things the singer-songwriter hopes to accomplish through her music. Sending messages of positivity and emotional healing, Laverty’s message is clear in both her music and her social media. 

“The main thing [that I want people to take away from my songs] is that the main way to heal is to confront your own feelings and your own emotions and be honest with yourself with what you’re feeling,” Laverty said. 

Photo courtesy of Erin Laverty

“Such a Shame” is out now on all streaming platforms, and the accompanying music video is out on Youtube

After Years of Production and COVID-19 Delays, Is Chemtrails Over the Country Club Worth all the Praise?

By Nicholas Palmer

Going into this album review, I didn’t have much experience with Lana Del Rey, and I will be frank in saying that I never actually listened to a single song of hers before. Recognition by name, despite not knowing of her sonically, I’d heard her name come up quite often as one of the most unique and interesting artists that currently resided in the music industry. As a result, when I heard that she would be coming out with her new album in the early part of 2021, I knew that I would have to give it a try.

To my surprise, I found an album that exceeded any expectations that I had before. With a sound so unlike anything that I had listened to throughout the whole semester, and themes that felt so personal to both the industry and the artist herself, it was a piece that left me thoughtful and reflective. With these points laid out, I think it is important to talk a little about the background of the album.

Chemtrails Over the Country Club is Lana Del Rey’s seventh studio album, as well as her seventh top-ten album in the country. Receiving critical acclaim from upon release, the album deals with topics such as escapism and love — with a tinge of retrospective nostalgia that seems to carry between songs.

Photo by Julia Collins

Originally set to be released in 2020 but due to manufacturing delays, the release was pushed back to 2021 and released on March 19th. Del Rey states that much of the album is pertained to her “stunning girlfriends” and “beautiful siblings,” revealing a much more emotional, innocent side of her than was previously explored.

In particular, among the high points of the album, I found myself attached to three of her B-sides, along with the title track “Chemtrails Over the Country Club.”

The first song I’ll talk about, “Wild at Heart,” is a song that explores ideas of freedom and love, connecting back to the genuineness of her prior album. The song is often praised for its use of recycling elements from several tracks found in her previous album, creating a bridge from her past self to her current. The slow piano opening features a melody so pure and open that you can hear the strings on the guitar in the recording. The song doesn’t keep itself limited, however, with the end of the pre-chorus creating a small swell into a jazz/folk inspired chorus that is jarring from the verse but intriguing. Another element that is explored on the album that is showcased in success here is her use of dueling vocals, one typically in a higher range, that play off each another. This album had many moments to show off Del Rey’s amazing vocal, with her airy, echoey tone feeling almost spiritual. In its truest essence, this song has a bombastic nature with the varying vocals at the end providing the perfect completion to a song of exploration and experimentation.

Photo by Julia Collins

The next track after “Wild at Heart” is another of my favorite songs off the album, “Dark But Just A Game.” Beginning with a quote from the song’s producer, Jack Antonoff, the song explores the tragedy many stars face where artists must create a façade of themselves to achieve the fame they desire. As fame tends to be the album’s main antagonistic force, Del Rey refuses to change who she is, being happy and open as the person she is. This theme of identity and truth is played throughout the song and creates a great juxtaposition. For example, in the opening verses, there’s a vocal effect placed on her voice that creates a compressed, almost heavy feeling that is then stripped away for the chorus where her voice is carried and clear.

The song is at its best when it moves between parts. There’s key changes, differences in percussion between tambourines and a deep bass that gives variety and uniqueness from point to point. Finally, as the song begins to fade out, there is this one bit of repetition that provides this almost futile feeling. A song that gets better the more you explore the interesting background elements and the lyrics in attachment to the instrumentation, “Dark But Just A Game” has a strong message that could speak for the music industry as a whole.

Photo by Pablo Fierro on Unsplash

The next song I want to turn attention to is the 8th track on the album, “Yosemite.” The song describes a changing relationship and says a great relationship can “stand the test of time” just like anything in nature. Del Rey once described that even if people in the relationship change, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a change that would cause the relationship to come to an end. To Del Rey, she states that this song truly captures the essence of what a relationship ought to be, and its lyrical elements truly carry that message throughout. The beginning carries this atmosphere that’s reflective of a western, with the guitar’s repeated melodic line giving it a haunting feel. As well, the tapping of the soft bongos give the song a fun, fluttery tone as her vocals carry over the instrumentation. As well, the cymbals and synths that kick in just melt into one another and feels like one large sound.

One thing that really captured my interest in this song is how it makes use of some repetitive elements. The guitar never really explores any different melodic lines, but it works in conjunction with the various instrumentation changes and tonal shifts that grounds the song in a bit of commonality. Truly, this song has a lot of interesting things going on that one review cannot truly explore. There’s the bridge where she adds an echo vocal effect on her voice, the screeching in the background at points, and more that leaves the listener encapsulated in a song that seems to end far too quickly, despite its lengthy run time.

Photo by Julia Collins

Finally, there is the title track for the album “Chemtrails over the Country Club.” In this quieter piece, Del Rey contrasts the imagery of chemtrails, often the focus of many conspiracy theories, with the serenity of suburban life. A ballad that speaks right to the artist’s strength, she creates a landscape that speaks to the true essence of life, commenting on the lavishness and happiness often created in suburban ignorance. There’s a supernatural quality to her vocals that caught me the first time I heard this song; something that would be reinforced throughout the rest of the album. There’s a slight reverb in her voice that slightly dissuades itself from purity. It adds a layer of insecurity just like the suburbia that she comments on. One interesting element of the song is how Del Rey plays with the weight in her voice. At times it can feel so light as if it would float from word to word, and other times it feels so dense that it could be felt within the listener themselves. Into the final verses of the song, the build up with the percussion and synth in the background creates this anticipation for one final exploration. As the song fades away, there is this repetition of the drum that leaves the song unsettling, as if there’s more to be explored; a quality that I find to be intriguing, and leaves the listener anticipated for the other tracks to come.

For myself, there were a lot of high points on the album. I found the tone to be quite unique and starkly different from what many of the top artists in the industry are doing, which creates a style and message that is quite Del Rey’s own. As well, while there were not any large tonal shifts throughout the album, the variations and experimentations that take place are quite interesting. The more you listen, the more appreciation they’ll get. While I would have preferred a couple songs that maybe broke the form a little, perhaps one with a third verse or one that had a fast opening, I have to say no song on the album left me disappointed and it was difficult to pick favorites to analyze in more detail. While I have no basis of which to rate this album in comparison to Del Rey’s past works, it left me wanting more and genuinely interested in her work. While this style of music is not one that I typically listen to, her stellar vocals and her careful instrumentation, along with deep lyrical themes that carry from song to song, really make this an album that stands out in the year so far.

A Look Back on Taylor Swift’s Discography

Ahead of her re-records, we re-listened to all the albums she’ll be redoing. And we fell in love with her music all over again.

By: Julia Collins & Kristine Villarroel

Photo by Julia Collins

The re-records are changing everything. Taylor Swift, if you’re unaware, is re-recording six of her albums to regain the rights to her masters and own her own work. With the Fearless (Taylor’s Version) album that dropped today, we thought it would be appropriate to look back on Taylor’s discography and relive the magic. The following albums we go into are the ones she’s re-recording. Swift has the rights to her albums Lover, folklore and evermore so she’s not re-recording those.

Taylor Swift

Photo by Julia Collins

The album that changed her life, Taylor Swift, or Debut, as most fans refer to it, is a time capsule of Swift’s adolescence. With popular tracks like “Tim McGraw,” “Teardrops On My Guitar” and “Picture to Burn,” Debut sits on a mantle next to other country legends. The record was written when Swift was just fifteen, and it shows in the best way. If you haven’t listened to this album since 2006 when it dropped, I recommend doing so. Swift’s voice is young and reminds me of a simpler time. When I recently relistened, I discovered that my six-year-old self seriously overlooked some of the lesser-known tracks.

“Should’ve Said No,” “Cold As You” and “Mary’s Song (Oh My My My)” are some new favorites of mine that were previously buried in the Taylor Swift corner of my brain. It’s worth it to dust off her debut album and prepare to be pleasantly surprised.

Fearless

Photo by Julia Collins

Fearless is undoubtedly the album of the moment. Swift dropped Fearless (Taylor’s Version) today, April 9th. With that record release, she dropped six new “from the vault” songs. “From the vault” songs are songs that she wrote at the time she was writing the original album but that didn’t make the final cut for the original record. In an attempt to show the music industry why it’s important for artists to own their own work, she’s recording and releasing these “from the vault” songs to explain that only an artist can understand the significance of their record. 

Fearless was the album that took Swift from famous to a household name, in my opinion. With now timeless classics like “Love Story,” “Fifteen” and “You Belong With Me,” the album is a bridge between Swift’s old life in a small town in Pennsylvania and her rise to stardom in Nashville. The first batch of songs on the record are about high school and growing up, while the second half is an ode to her 2008 relationship with then-Disney star Joe Jonas as well as what comes with burgeoning stardom. Another writer might not have been able to translate the unique experience of becoming famous to their audience, but that’s the magic of Taylor Swift. One of the best songwriters of our generation, Swift not only explains her life experiences in a relatable way, but does it well enough to earn a Grammy. Fearless gave her her first “Album of the Year” Grammy. 

Speak Now

Photo by Julia Collins

A fan-favorite album, Speak Now marked a new fairytale-esque era of Swift. She wrote Speak Now all on her own with no other co-writers — an impressive feat for any songwriter, let alone a 21-year-old. Speak Now is an album filled with impressive figures of speech and creative writing, taking the listener through the story of her and John Mayer’s relationship, with the occasional dig at her haters. The radio hits from this album were “Mine,” “Mean” and “The Story Of Us.” Though I love those songs, my personal favorites have to be “Haunted,” “Better Than Revenge” and “Never Grow Up.” 

If you haven’t tuned into Speak Now since 2010, and you’ve grown up significantly in the past eleven years, listening to “Never Grow Up” will make you cry. 

It hits a different nerve now that we’re the ones experiencing this feeling, 

“So here I am in my new apartment

In a big city, they just dropped me off

It's so much colder than I thought it would be

So I tuck myself in and turn my nightlight on"

Red

Omid Armin on Unsplash

A career highlight, Red most clearly shows Taylor Swift’s gradual transition from country to pop. Looking back at the full picture of her entire discography, Red clearly stands out as the turning point between the country sound we heard in her first three albums, and the pop sound that Swift continued to expand and develop in her following records. 

Collaborating for the first time with the legendary pop mastermind songwriter and producer Max Martin, Swift delivers the anthemic trio of hit singles “I Knew You Were Trouble,” “22” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” Fully coming into the popstar status she quickly achieved, Swift started facing scrutiny that focused purely on her personal life rather than her music — with special attention being paid to the romantic endeavors she narrated in her songwriting. Anyone who had to live through the 2012-esque Youtube era of parody videos can probably remember Bart Baker’s parody of “I Knew You Were Trouble.” While not 2021-friendly at all, this parody is a fair summary of what represented a significant portion of the negative media response Swift got after Red.

As Swift continues to release songs from the vault, Swifties hope that the Red re-recording includes an extended version of the fan-favorite “All Too Well.” The track, despite not being a single nor being promoted by Swift, amazed fans and attracted a cult following that passionately express their admiration for the song. Talking about the song during an interview with Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums podcast, Swift revealed that the original session in which she worked on the song resulted in a 10-minute-long recording that also included a swear word (something Swift stayed away from until her recent album folklore.)

1989

Photo by Julia Collins

Considered by some as the modern pop bible, the Grammy-winning 1989 marked the moment where Swift completely abandoned her previous country sound and fully embraced pop. In its essence, 1989 is a fun album that isn’t afraid to be pop. 

This album is as self-aware as it is self-embracing. In 1989, Swift takes the fairytale-esque love songs and digs at her exes that got her mocked and criticized, and rather than running away from them, she blows them up to the extreme — unapologetically. Rather than letting the borderline bullying she faced scare her away from her signature narratives, she takes it and flips the script, reclaiming control over her image on songs like “Blank Space'' and “Shake It Off” where she directly references the things she got made fun of and owns them. 

1989 also featured the production and co-songwriting of Jack Antonoff, who has also worked with the likes of Lorde and Lana del Rey. Soon enough, Swift and Antonoff became a dream duo. 

Many fans are speculating that 1989 will be the next re-recording that Swift will release after snippets of the re-recorded version of “Wildest Dreams” appeared in a trailer for the upcoming film “Spirit Untamed” that first aired on TV during the 2021 Grammy Awards. 

Reputation

Photo by Julia Collins

Following the most controversial period in her career, Taylor Swift uses Reputation as a declaration of her confidence and as a defense of her character.  

Thematically, Reputation is an epic tale in which Swift battles against multiple antagonists. In it, Swift fully expresses all the frustration, anger and resentment and liberates herself from the passive image she had previously built. Swift takes full ownership of her narrative in songs like “I Did Something Bad” and “Look What You Made Me Do.”  

Perhaps overlooked because of the album’s thesis and nature, Reputation shows a natural progression in Swift’s songwriting and a departure from the fairytale love songs of her earlier work and presents a more mature and personal approach to romance in songs like “Delicate,” “Gorgeous” and “Dress.” These songs show Swift’s perception of love as a grown adult, often narrating how her superstar status affects her personal relationships.

With Reputation being her last album recorded under Big Machine Records, it might take a while before the release of the rerecorded Taylor’s Version. Fans hope that the songs from the vault show more of Swift’s personal narration of this period in her career. 


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The Weeknd’s After Hours: Deserving a Grammy Nomination or an Overreaction by Fans?

Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

With the Grammy’s in hindsight, now comes the time for reflection and opinions. Maybe you thought a different artist should have won, or you felt that the Academy was unfair and overlooked a certain song for contention. This year, I believe there was no greater disappointment by the Grammy’s than their ignorance of the Weeknd’s album After Hours. Released in March of 2020, it received generally positive reviews, with many critics claiming it to be Abel Tesfaye’s (The Weeknd’s) greatest work to date. With After Hours breaking multiple chart records, achieving immense popularity amongst fans of Tesfaye’s and charting on Billboard for weeks, the lack of any nominations came as a shock to many. Being dubbed “album of the year” by critics without even making the nomination list, it left me curious what the piece would be like. As such, I began my listening of the After Hours to see just how good this Grammy oversight of an album really is.

After Hours is the Weeknd’s fourth studio album, representing a reinvention and renewal for the artist. With themes of loneliness, heartbreak and recklessness, the often shining instrumentals create a stark juxtaposition with the lyrics and message of each track on the album. With introductions of new wave and dream pop influences, those familiar with his Starboy era are sure to be surprised in listening to this new style. Vulnerable, innovative and downright angelic, this album’s place in a shattered 2020 was bold and touching. For myself, I find this album works best in when listening in order. Many of the themes and narratives, of love lost and change can be felt from track to track. As well, the similar instrumentation and aesthetics give the audience a journey from start to finish that feels incomplete without hearing every single element that The Weeknd has to offer. From “Hardest to Love,” to “Faith” to the singles “After Hours” and “Blinding Lights,” this fourteen track album offers the listener many variations of which to enjoy; fitting a style and atmosphere for everyone to latch on to.

“Hardest to Love” is the third track on the album. The Weeknd paints a relationship that has gone sour; where the singer knows their partner wants to break up, even if they are together at the time the song is written. Here, the singer wants a real and meaningful relationship, with the absence of others and the emptiness it brings being represented and touched upon. The main melodic rift is light and fleeting, reflecting this sort of whispery remorse that echoes throughout the song. The deep bass that kicks in during the verses gives a darkened vibe, with the outro having a mixture of droning and distortion. Here, the main melody plays ever so faintly to carry the listener forward. While repetition is an element that I find to be a little bit stagnant in the album on the whole, I think The Weeknd does it best in this piece. It doesn’t feel forced, and by the end of the song, you find yourself singing the main choral lines. It was an easily memorable and catchy piece.

One of my favorite B-sides on the album, “Faith” is a song that offers a reflection between religion and partying/drug usage. Personable and honest, it has those moments of humanity that makes this song standout. Comparing getting high to losing one’s religion, the mix of synths and sirens, along with The Weeknd’s angelic vocals really gave this song its ethereal sounding quality. This is most prominent at the ending, where the religious imagery painted throughout the song is reflected in the sound. It is this outro, however, where the distortion and pacing shift to make the melody deeper and somber as it leads towards its conclusion. What this song does best is its moment of attention grabbing, such as at the line “But if I OD” where instrumental changes occur during a counter-melody introduction in the synth that creates an intriguing tonal shift. A song that gets better with each listen, this is definitely one I do not recommend skipping.

Next comes the album’s titular track, “After Hours.” The album’s penultimate record, it describes an ex-relationship, with the singer apologizing for his past failures and wishing to make up for them. Clocking in at just over 6 minutes, some may not appreciate its extended runtime. However, its varied sections really give the album some time to experiment and shine. Poignant and refined, the song never feels as if it is dragging and I was shocked at how quickly it felt. The song gives it moments to breathe, being an experience from start to finish. There’s a dark atmosphere to the piece, with some dissonance and electronic sounds, but Tesfaye’s falsetto shines brightly, being a light in this rather darker tone. I will admit that between verse 2 and 3, it can feel a bit repetitive or as if the song may be dragging on. But overall, I think this song just goes to show the balance that the Weeknd does in this pop and creative fusion, creating a piece that is both impactful and different from minute to minute.

Finally of the tracks that I will discuss in depth, there is arguably the most popular and well recognized song from this era of the Weeknd, “Blinding Lights.” This piece finds The Weeknd distracted, with the presence of his significant other making up for his state. An 80s synthpop sound, mixed with electropop and EDM drums, this song both harkens back to this pervious eras, while also explosively pushing into an era all brand new. Certified platinum and breaking the record for most weeks in the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart — this song was a hit amongst fans and its very evident why. One thing Tesfaye stands out for most are his vocals, which carry smoothly through the chorus here. This is backed accordingly with high-pitched electronic sounds in the melodic frame that creates differentiation in the song. As well, the lower bass works well here, indicating tonal shifts as the song moves from section to section. In fact, it works so well that by the time you reach the end, you only wish that it went on just a tad bit longer.

As someone who has never listened to a Weeknd album in full, or his style of music prior, I went in with very little expectations other than the opinions I’d heard from others. And, while I have mostly enjoyed this album and added a few songs to my playlists, there were some elements that I found to disrupt my listening pleasure. One of the biggest being the abundance of similarities, in my own opinion, from song to song on the album. I’m not someone that necessarily feels that each song on an album has to delve into different genres of music. However, with the instrumentation being similar in a rather large album such as After Hours, along with core themes that carry from song to song, it can start to feel a tad repetitive when you listen to it all in one go. Moreover, on a personal level, I had wished The Weeknd had gone a little deeper in his lyrical approach. Overall, I am sure many of these songs touch upon topics that must be difficult for him to address, so it is not a strong critique. But, with some very moving moments in many of these songs, I only wish that it carried into every corner of this album.

In collecting my thoughts on After Hours I think my overall first impression from it was: shocked. I was shocked that this album, which had so many great tracks and really touched upon a lot of the emotions that many felt in this 2020 was just ignored by the recording academy. That this album that had broken so many records and became an instant classic would not be remembered for winning anything that year. I do not know the intimate process that goes into the nomination of a piece of music for the Grammy Awards, so I do not know the ultimate decision process that was behind the voting panel. However, to me this album was rather solid and gave me an interest in future The Weeknd material in the future. While it had some elements that I disliked, I overall found it to be sonically cohesive and an enjoyable experience. While the Grammy’s may not have a seen it as award winning, if you’ve yet to listen to it yourself, I say listen to the fans and you’ll be in for a treat.

Evermore: A Reflection of the Past in a Year Filled with So Much Turmoil

By: Nicholas Palmer

Photo from Unsplash

When Taylor Swift dropped Folklore in the summer of 2020, it came as both a surprise and shock to fans. While an album may have been expected to arrive in the near future, the lack of leadup and promotion led to a release that focused solely on the music and the message behind the songs. As such, it came as an even greater surprise to most when a second album was released in the winter of 2020. Evermore, a 15-track album that delves into concepts of escapism and introspective thought, is a sister album to Folklore. Many think that Folklore can be thought of as the spring and summer to Evermore’s fall and winter. As well, Taylor Swift dedicated this album to people who use music as a means to deal with loss, a theme that touched heavily upon the hearts of those impacted by 2020.

Evermore can be described as bold and revealing in nature, delving strongly into the idea of love in a more sophisticated and mature manner. American Songwriter perfectly described the album as representing, “‘the ‘unhappily ever after’ anthology of marriages gone bad,” (Crone, 2021). Through concepts of forgotten love, intolerance and even a curious murder plotline, the concepts explored in this album show a maturity Swift hadn’t revealed before.

Swift takes these concepts of love and heartbreak so rooted in traditional western pop songs and completely flips the script; providing an introspective look on the human condition and how relevant these emotions can be. Along with the intriguing themes of the album, Evermore also roots many of its songs in first-person storytelling through a third-person lyrical style that dances between what is real and what is not to create a sonically whole piece that is as devastating as it is beautiful.

Being a 15-track album, there were many highlights for me throughout my listen, and many that I will have to revisit in time. For now, however, I will narrow down my highlights to four pieces: “Champagne Problems,” “Tolerate It,” “No Body, No Crime” (ft. HAIM), and “Marjorie.” While the musical stylistic elements of each song may differ, some being wildly different from others on the album, what each of these tracks has in common that stood out so strongly to me was a lyrical precision that was original and intoxicating.

As such, with each song (and really with every song on this album) I highly recommend following the lyrics while listening to the piece before making a decision on whether you like it or not.

“Champagne Problems” opens with a beautiful piano melody that carries through the entire song, with Swifts vocals being some of her best on the record. Many Swifties have noted that the chord progression in this song is identical to that of the song “New Year’s Day” on Reputation, which showcases Swift’s proclivity for Easter eggs and storytelling. Another one of her skills is evident in her range through this record (especially in Champagne Problems) as she is able to hit some rather high notes, while hitting probably her lowest note on the word “problem.” Moreover, her vocals building on themselves in the bridge is absolutely angelic and other-worldly. However, as stated earlier, some of the best parts of this song are the message and the underlying story.

The song discusses a woman turning down a marriage proposal before Christmas, with the woman being heavily hinted to have a history of mental illness, which is especially evident in the lyric, “She would’ve made such a lovely bride; what a shame she’s f***ed in the head.”

Champagne Problems is typically defined as something that is very stressful and difficult to someone, but insignificant compared to global issues. Mental health can often feel this way to the individual, being so suffocating, despite seeming irrelevant compared to natural disasters and other worldly problems. What this song does best as the second track on the album is create an emotional discourse right out of the gate, while also providing beautiful instrumentation and melodies that set the bar high for the rest of the album. A potential favorite of the album on the whole, I think this song is best understood when experienced, with its motifs and illustrated scenes conveying this extremely sad, yet powerful perspective.

Keeping with the idea of unsuccessful love stories, another impactful song is “Tolerate It.” Upon research, I learned that the fifth track on Swift’s albums typically are her more vulnerable songs on her albums. As such, you can imagine the relatable message that can be felt behind this song. Describing the struggle of being ignored and unappreciated by someone you love, Swift’s inspiration for this song came from her reading of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier in which she said she thought, “Wow, her husband just tolerates her. She’s doing all these things and she’s trying so hard and she’s trying to impress him, and he’s just tolerating her the whole time.” Throughout the song, the piano provides these deep, depressing chords as Swift’s vocals almost seemingly cry out in anguish. The percussive beat matches the tempo of the piano, providing an almost anxious element to it. The end of the song is very lacking in hope, as she spends the final chorus speaking on how she could leave if she wanted to, before repeating the verse at the beginning; that she continues to try to impress him anyway. As stated before, its a vulnerable, personal piece that will only get better the more you relate to it.

Compared to the past two songs, if you’re looking for a song that is sonically unique compared to the rest of the tracks, look no further than “No Body, No Crime.” This song features HAIM band member Este Haim, a good friend of Swift’s, whose parts may be subtle but add a lot to the song in the emphasis of the line “He did it.” While the other songs may have talked about failed relationships or very intimate elements, this track is the center of a missing persons case involving a cheating husband and a missing friend. Returning back to Swift’s country roots, where I must confess I have never been the biggest country fan, it stands so unique and is done so well, that it feels both refreshing and exciting at the same time. While the lyrics may be repetitive for some, I felt that their constant drumming in the chorus was haunting and chilling, especially when the subject turns from the husband to the mistress and Swift. Overall, I felt that the instrumentation did a lot for this song, with the country ensemble giving it this ruthless vibe that feels very western standoff in nature, with small elements like HAIM’s parts and the police sirens at the beginning just raising this track to be one of the best on the album all together.

While perhaps not my absolute favorite on the album, “Marjorie,” in terms of connection to its audience, feels the strongest in an already impressive catalog. The song is a tribute to Swift’s late grandmother, Marjorie Finlay, whom she lost at age 13. This track is a reflection of the track “Epiphany” from Folklore which described the loss of her grandfather, Dean. An opera singer, Marjorie helped to inspire Swift to pursue music, with her background vocals in this track being credited in the album notes. One of my favorite elements about this song is how it just seems to keep growing all the way to its final seconds, bringing in acoustic guitar, background vocals and various other elements all the way to the final chorus. Furthermore, the lyrics, while simplistic at first, have a lot of interesting things going on, with repetition being a common technique used throughout the album. She also utilizes a form of chiasmus, in which the grammar or structure of one phrase is inverted in the following phrase, such as in the opening lines, “Never be so kind you forget to be clever; Never be so clever you forget to be kind”. Its the way that she uses literary techniques and unique ways to transcribe her music that makes her one of the best lyricists in the industry, consistently amongst some of the most talked about artists year after year. In a year unlike any other, with such heavy loss and devastation shaking the planet, this song can be an escape for many. It’s a song to listen to and reflect in ourselves and the things we’re going through. I went into Evermore with pretty much no expectations, having never fully listened to any piece of discography by Taylor Swift before. While I have heard many of her singles over the years, the disparity between her singles and her other tracks can often limit one’s exposure to her true capabilities as a songwriter and performer. While I did find some of the repetition of elements and instrumentation to be a bit tedious in a 15-track album, many tracks, such as “No Body, No Crime” really broke the mold whenever things felt to be turning stale. While this album may have been out for a while, if you have not given every single track a listen, I would say they are each worth a try. Each tells a different narrative in a way that if you only know Taylor Swift from her past works, you’re missing out on what she’s creating now. An album that will most likely go down as a marker of the year 2020 in totality, Evermore represents everything dark, depressing and yet inspiring about the human condition. With Taylor Swift having recently re-recorded past tracks of hers, as well as two bonus tracks that can be listened to on the album, Evermore stands as a great re-introduction into the true talent that is Taylor Swift.

Hayley Williams Lets Go in Her Sophomore Solo Album

On this self-defined prequel to her debut album “Petals for Armor,” Hayley Williams explores a quieter, softer sound while reciting love letters to a dead relationship.

Photo by Jonathan Velasquez on Unsplash

Created in isolation, “FLOWERS for VASES / descansos” paints a picture of the internal conversations Hayley Williams had while going through the processes of healing and letting go of this dead relationship. 

The album serves as a companion to her 2020 solo debut “Petals for Armor;” a three-part album in which Williams explores the different aspects of healing and growth after her divorce from her partner of 10 years. “FLOWERS for VASES / descansos” focuses on the grieving state. However, rather than a follow-up, Williams defines “FLOWERS” as a prequel or an extended detour between the first and second parts of Petals.

The name of the album, as explained by Williams on a Tweet, represents the process of learning to let go of dead things. The word “descansos” refers to markings placed in memoriam at the side of the roads where unexpected deaths occured. In the context of the album, this illustrates the mourning over the lost relationship that Williams sings about. 

Truly a solo project, the Paramore lead singer wrote every lyric and played every instrument in the album. Through delicate guitar strumming and intimate storytelling, Williams presents a record that feels fully hers. 

The album perfectly illustrates the recent, mildly dystopian trend of the quarantine album. The influence of the isolation from the world represents itself in the quietness and simplicity.

This quieter sound allows the intimate lyrics to really shine through in this deeply personal album. At times, the listener feels as if they’re intruding into Williams’ private, personal diaries. A great contributor to this intense intimate feeling is the inclusion of voicenote recordings in multiple tracks. A perfect example of the level of intimacy achieved in the record is the song “HYD;” a song so delicate but so direct that just listening to it feels like an invasion of privacy.

The folk melodies of the album truly contrast with the anthemic indie-pop brightness presented in “Petals for Armor.” The ethereal sound achieved through simple guitar and piano might become a bit monotone at certain points of the record, but the striking lyrical content of every song allows every track to shine in their own way. 

While known for her impressive acrobatic vocals with Paramore, Williams sticks to a simpler approach for “FLOWERS.” She accompanies the delicate sound of the record with mostly her lower register. Rather than showing off her insane vocal talent, Williams focuses on intimate storytelling.

In the album’s closer track, “Just a Lover,” Williams sings, “I’ll be singing into empty glasses / No more music for the masses.” 

These songs are not for the crowds— they are for her. 

Track highlights: Trigger, Just a Lover, My Limb, Good Grief

Local Artist Spotlight: The Housing Crisis

Starting a musical endeavor in a pandemic is not ideal. But for The Housing Crisis it has proved to work out just fine so far.

Dylan O'Bryan is a second-year student at UF. Photo by Julia Collins

Dylan kicks his shoe into the far corner of his childhood bedroom and agonizingly runs his hands through his hair. Glancing around his room as though looking at it from new eyes, he sees his guitars, a few potted plants, his trusty computer and a chemistry textbook strewn on the bed. Instead of getting more frustrated about the situation, he decides to sit down and write.

“It’s never been so clear to me

The truth, I never wanted to believe

I’m not what you want

So look for someone else.”

When listening to this song, “Someone Else,” it would seem as though it’s written about an emotional breakup. And it is — kind of. Dylan O’Bryan was an engineering major, but after he realized he’d rather be making music than studying chemistry, he changed his major to music composition.

“And so kind of saying like, “I'm not what you want, look for someone else,” that was me saying that, nothing against them, but it was me saying that to my professors. I'm not going to be an engineer,” O’Bryan said.

Making music during a pandemic is not easy, but O'Bryan is doing it. Photo by Julia Collins

The second-year UF student Dylan O’Bryan, 20, does not regret changing his major at all. In fact, it pushed him to want to make and release his own music, and thus his one-man-band, The Housing Crisis, was born.

Like Tame Impala or Panic! At The Disco, The Housing Crisis is one artist who chose a band-like name for his musical venture. O’Bryan says he chose The Housing Crisis as an homage to the 2008 financial housing crisis. Originally from upstate New York, O’Bryan and his family were forced to move to Florida with his grandparents when the crisis hit.

“That always kind of stuck with me as one of those moments that just completely changes the trajectory of your life,” O’Bryan reminisced.

That 2008 financial crisis shaped a generation. According to Richard Florida in an Atlantic cover story, “The crash of 2008 continues to reverberate loudly nationwide — destroying jobs, bankrupting businesses, and displacing homeowners.” Though that article was written in 2009, the same principle echoes eerily into 2021.

O'Bryan smiles at the thought of getting to perform music live again one day soon. Photo by Julia Collins

During his time as The Housing Crisis, O’Bryan has so far released one EP, one single, and has a new single "Thru My Mind" that dropped February 18th. O’Bryan writes, records, produces and masters all of his songs in his bedroom. When asked why he didn’t outsource any of the components, he said it’s partly because he likes the process of every element, but also because of COVID-19. According to a Rolling Stone cover story from May 2020, “Some artists, including Lady Gaga, delayed their album releases or announced suspensions of upcoming tour plans.” The coronavirus pandemic rocked the entire music industry, and people had to get creative. It’s interesting that O’Bryan chose to begin his music career, while most of the rest of the music world were putting theirs on pause.

Because O’Bryan began his individual musical venture during the start of lockdown and into the forthcoming months, he hasn’t had the opportunity to play his songs onstage yet. However, the stage is not unfamiliar to him. Being a former theatre kid, O’Bryan knows the rush of adrenaline performing on a stage can give you and is excited to experience that again when he can.

Until that day, he’s been performing with the popular music ensemble in the music school at UF.

O'Bryan shakes his head at missing playing on stage. Photo by Julia Collins.

Jason Mullen, 36, is a PhD student studying ethnomusicology and is also the director of the popular music ensemble.

“Dylan is an excellent musician and outstanding member of the ensemble,” Mullen said. “He contributes musically, but also contributes beyond music in a way. He helps to create a creative and open environment where people can bring their ideas and we can get the best work done together.”

Mullen says the ensemble is a time where, every Thursday, O’Bryan shows up to learn and share everything he can about music. With his solo The Housing Crisis endeavors, it seems O’Bryan craves the control and satisfaction of seeing every element of the song-making process come to fruition. But in the popular concert ensemble, O’Bryan appreciates the collaborative elements that come with playing in a group. O’Bryan joined the ensemble class in the Fall 2020 semester, the first official semester where he was a music composition major. Mullen has worked with O’Bryan since then and they’ve gotten to work together in a way they both describe as incredibly meaningful.

“It builds a level of trust to kind of put yourself out there and say, ‘Tell me what you think needs to change, so that way it can be better,’” Mullen said.

And O’Bryan does that. Not only during the ensemble, but for The Housing Crisis as well. When O’Bryan was just starting to tinker with the idea of making music, he sent some voice memos to friends to see what they thought of his early ideas. They assured him they all loved what he was doing, and that boost of confidence helped him decide to start learning how to produce and make songs.

O'Bryan sits outside his second home, the music school. Photo by Julia Collins

“We know that he has an attention to detail and we know that he takes it very seriously and puts a lot of work into his music,” Mullen said. “But music isn’t always in the sound itself, it’s also in what’s around it; and the people around it… And knowing Dylan and his music, he is a person that cares a lot about others.”

Being as he cares a lot about others, it’s fitting that O’Bryan said he occasionally challenges himself to write songs outside of his own emotions to try and broaden his songwriting skills. He says no two songs he’s made so far have been written the same way. O’Bryan wants people who listen to his songs to hopefully get some cathartic relief out of listening to them — he wants people to relate.

He’s just glad that he’s interested in music and not acting, as having the same name as the other Dylan O’Brien would’ve proved difficult.

Watch the on-air interview we also did below:

Julia interviews O'Bryan on her show The Friday Blend.


More Posts for Show: Julia

Is a Party-Pop Experimentation the Move for Foo Fighters Medicine at Midnight?

By: Nicholas Palmer

Photo from Unsplash

If you’ve ever considered yourself a lover of all types of musical genres, then you’ve probably heard of the Foo Fighters before. And, if you consider yourself a rock music enthusiast, chances are you’ve heard one of their singles, even if you haven’t dabbled in the band’s records. As such, with the band only continuing their legendary success with a nomination into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the question someone would ask themselves is: where does a band with a 25-year legacy go from here? How does a group so imprinted in the rock and roll genre possibly reimagine itself?

Therein lies their 10th album, Medicine at Midnight. A party-pop, dance album that takes both elements that the group has worked on before and also completely walks away from that. Going for the more sing-along pop-rock kind of songs, this album definitely feels constructed under the idea of sing-along concert venue songs. And, with those being on hiatus indefinitely, this album for fans is the next best thing to attending a live performance. With writing beginning after a brief hiatus in 2018, and with some ghostly stints in the recording process at a 1940s house (I personally would look up the story to hear some of the testimonies from the bandmates) the album was finished rather quick, but delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The band would then later decide to release the album to lift sprits regardless, with it releasing February 5th, 2021.

Songs that really grabbed my attention and represented much of the high points on this album were: “Cloudspotter,” “Holding Poison,” and, one of the singles, “Waiting on a War.” “Cloudspotter,” the third track on the album, is so unique to me in part due to its percussion and vocals. The harmonization between Dave Grohl and the female voice is beautiful, and the deep voice mumbling ‘cloudspotter’ was almost chilling. As well, the buildup into the final chorus, along with the yelling and explosive vocals, help give this album its first real jolt of energy and provides a great experience.

“Holding Poison,” the 7th track on the album, does a lot of word painting around its lyrics that adds a fun layer to the song on the whole. When the word ‘down’ gets sung, the melody goes down and when the lead singer sings ‘around and around’ the harmonic progression continues to get higher and higher as if the listener is being spun around and around. As well, during the guitar solo section, which on its own is a very nice addition to the song to help break up any sort of monotony, there’s a sort of choral vocal element in the background which just adds that extra layer of interest to the song. In essence, this song builds upon the percussive and melodic elements before it, but takes a lot of interesting turns that create unexpected and uplifting moments throughout.

Finally, there’s the single “Waiting on a War.” It was by far my favorite song on the album. A definite concert song, Dave Grohl stated that he wrote the song in relation to his past growing up in the Cold War era, where the threat of war was always possible. This is reflected in the line “everyday waiting for the sky to fall” with the threat of nuclear destruction always leering over the head of past generations. Besides its strong message, the whisking voice carries this almost ghostly present of the past, with acoustic guitar definitely giving it a reflective feeling. The ending, however, is a must listen to. As different instruments were added throughout the song, they come together for an explosive finale with typical rock elements as the tone turns from bleak to hopeful. Climatic and tumultuous; maybe society can keep waiting on a war just a little more.

While I mostly enjoyed the album, there were some critiques I had with the album on the whole. While I had no issues with the performance, nor the instrumentation on the album altogether, there were elements that ,when taken with the rest of the album, created a less than perfect listening experience. One of those being that a lot of the instrumentals were similar throughout the whole album. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but by the time you reach the ninth and final song on the album “Love Dies Young,” you start to feel like you have already heard the beginning section somewhere else in a different song. Moreover, while every chorus felt unique and different, that was only true if you examined each individually. A lot of the time, many songs by the final chorus felt repetitive. And with many having a four plus minute runtime, this felt like it didn’t need to be so.

Overall, as someone who has never fully explored Foo Fighters discography before and as someone not that familiar with their music, I would say that I was pleasantly surprised by this album. With this being their 10th studio album, it seems to me and general listening audiences that this album did not drastically change or reshape anyone’s perceptions of Foo Fighters. In this point in their career, however, maybe that’s okay. Being inducted into the hall of fame and having countless charted singles and awards, it seems at this point all the members need do is write music that pleases them and their fans. Hopefully, fans of Foo Fighters can hear these pieces, especially the real treasurable ones in concert soon. Until then, give this album a concert-like listen in your own house — your own personal medicine at midnight.

New Song Recommendations to Broaden Your Music Taste

Photo by Travis Yewell on Unsplash

Do you often find yourself listening to the same few songs over and over and wish you could find new music to add to your playlists? I’ve curated a small sample of songs that I think you’ll enjoy if you like the following artists:

If You Like: Ariana Grande

Photo by Roger Harris on Unsplash

For starters, if you like Ariana as a whole, I definitely think that you will enjoy Chloe x Halle’s “Don’t Make It Harder On Me”

Hardcore Arianators might recognize Victoria Monet and Tayla Parx, both being longtime Ariana collaborators that share a similar vibe in their music. 

You might have heard Monet’s “Monopoly” featuring Ariana Grande already, but if you’re a Positions stan, check out Victoria Monet’s “Experience” featuring Khalid and SG Lewis. 

Parx worked with Ariana to make hits like “7 rings”, “thank u, next”, and “34+35”. If you enjoy these absolute bops, you need to listen to Tayla Parx’s “I Want You”.

If you enjoy Ariana’s R&B-influenced pop sound, you’ll love iyla’s “Naked Girl”.

Just here for the vibes? Give a listen to Tei Shi’s “Even If It Hurts” featuring Blood Orange.

For a catchy, unapologetic banger with big thank u, next energy, check out FLETCHER’s “Bitter” featuring Kito. 

If You Like: Taylor Swift

Photo by Raphael Lovaski on Unsplash

Have you been going back and forth between folklore and evermore for the past few months? Give Samia’s “Triptych” a listen. 

Are you a fan of old Taylor music? Do you also like HAIM? Then you might like Waxahatchee’s “Lilacs” too. 

For a more Lover and indie pop vibe, I would go for Maude Latour’s “One More Weekend” and spill tab’s “Name

If you’re looking for a sad girl anthem that might come with tears included, listen to Sasha Sloan’s “House With No Mirrors”. 

If You Like: Harry Styles

Photo by Rachel Coyne on Unsplash

If you’re not a fan already, I’m sure you’ll love Declan McKenna. In terms of sound, I think his music is the closest you can get to Harry’s. Check out Declan McKenna’s “You Better Believe!!!

You might already be familiar with Jack Antonoff, A.K.A. the mastermind and frequent collaborator of Taylor Swift, Lorde, Lana del Rey, etc. If you haven’t already, check out Bleachers’ “I Wanna Get Better”. 

If you like songs like “Golden” and “Lights Up”, check out Rina Sawayama’s “Love Me 4 Me”.

For a similar sound from a local band, listen to Flipturn’s “August”. 

For a Kiwi-like explosive and energetic song, check out The Wrecks’ “Freaking Out”.

Finally, if you’re a Harry stan, I definitely recommend you look into The Regrettes’ “Pumpkin”. 

"Nobody is Listening" to Zayn and It's About Time They Start

By: Nicholas Palmer

Moving away from his sophomore album, Zayn Malik has never felt both further away from his time in One Direction and closer to a style all his own. In his third studio album, Nobody is Listening, Zayn brings together some of the closest personal elements of his life into a construction of artistry that he's not done before. Being described as such, Zayn had total creative liberty throughout the entire album, from lyrics all the way to the album artwork. The album has its ups and its downs, but what it does best throughout it is share the soul of Zayn in the way that an artist could not have done any better.

In his album, Zayn gives a personal touch to his music that gives a real connection between the message and the melody. In Nobody is Listening, he plays upon the perception of fans who never listen to celebrities’ real voices in which they talk about their grief and pain beyond the façade of the mysticism of fame. Throughout the album, Zayn deals with topics such as his anxiety, past eating disorder, his use of cannabis as a calming agent and his relationship with Gigi Hadid. For fans, this album speaks as a reflection of the artist himself and a true connection between Zayn and his audience. And, just as with the single “Vibez,” sometimes you have to just not be afraid to be yourself. Because in the end, nobody is even truly listening.

Personal highlights of the album come from the single “Better,” along with the tracks “When Love’s Around” and “Sweat.” “Better,” the first of the two singles, gives the first taste of the album’s main musical stylistic elements of R&B, pop, and maybe even a little soul. Harkening to almost an emotional ballad of sorts, with underlying lyrics hinting to his relationship with Gigi Hadid, this serves as a representation of the type of artistry present throughout.

“When Love’s Around” includes one of the two feature artists included on this album, Syd, with Devlin providing great moments as well in “Windowsill.” WLA is a song that has some of the most interesting instrumental moments of the whole album with keyboards, synths, drums and guitars all combining beautifully. As well, Syd’s vocals in harmonization with Zayn’s creates some of the most powerfully emotional melodies you will hear from Zayn yet.

For “Sweat,” its message of physical love is consistent with other parts of the album, however, the vocals and harmony are perhaps Zayn at his best. The elongated vowels that split up the chorus bring the passion reflected in the lyrics, creating a piece that is as powerful in text as it is sonically.

That is not to say that there are not some elements that do not detract from the album on the whole. One thing that I have seen criticism of Zayn over is his lack of proper enunciation, with mumbling often being described in his singing style. As well, this album does not do him any favors in combating that criticism, although it does have its charm at times. While the lack of big instrumentation may be reflective of the message and title of the album itself, it is unfortunate a couple more larger production pieces could not have been included. This would have helped to break some of the repetition and similarity that took place from time to time.

Ultimately, I find this album to be almost transitional in nature for Zayn. A piece that feels so distant from his past performance nature but also gives just a taste of his best qualities, Zayn feels right at the moment to create a truly sensational piece of music in the coming years. While it is likely that this album will not perform as great as many fans may hope for, the talent and direction of Nobody is Listening is interesting for Zayn. With this album being so closely personal for him, he makes it evident that he’ll keep on singing even if there’s nobody left to listen.