Lifestyle’s weekly Spotify playlist #71


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By Northern Star Staff

Weekly Spotify playlist: 

Nick’s picks

  1. Jalen Ngonda – “Just Like You Used To”
  2. Townes Van Zandt – “For the Sake of the Song”
  3. Brainstorm – “You Put A Charge In My Life”

I saw Jalen Ngonda for the first time Friday night. The view from the stage of Thalia Hall must have looked like a shag carpet of beanies. Immediately, Ngonda walked out and smiled. His guitar playing was superb; his strumming was rhythmic and he twinkled subtle counter-melodies into the chord progression with his fourth and fifth fingers. Ngonda was the star of the show and yet somehow only the opener (for those wondering, it was a Thee Sacred Souls concert that he opened for). “Just Like You Used To” shows off Ngonda’s most identifying feature: his clear and sparkling voice. He flows from soft mutters to high screeches effortlessly. His soul influence is so clear. From the simple rhythmic backing to the saxophone solo, Ngonda sets up a retro-feeling bop that I feel so lucky to have experienced live. 

Townes Van Zandt is a folk legend.“For the Sake of the Song,” the first song off his self-titled album, is pretty simple. Van Zandt plays guitar and sings. From this description, it may seem a bit underwhelming, but Van Zandt’s lyrics are where his talent shines. The song is about a woman singing sad songs for him. The high point of the song is the chorus when he sings, “Maybe she just has to sing for the sake of the song / Who do I think I am to decide that she’s wrong?” Van Zandt thinks that this woman is a bit odd, but he realizes by the end, that he can’t be the one to decide that. 

Brainstorm’s “You Put A Charge In My Life” is the epitome of groove. Its smooth drumming and active bass line create a danceable feeling that makes the listener want to stand up and boogie. The fluid vocals go from a smooth falsetto to a throaty tenor over the course of single lines. Romantic lyrics build the tone even more – the title line most of all. The song features a ton of backing vocals, sometimes singing rhythmic lines mimicking horn lines, sometimes singing more lengthy, smooth pads. Overall, the song is a fun and lively piece of R&B. 

Sarah’s picks

  1. SZA – “Open Arms (feat. Travis Scott)”
  2. Clairo – “Sinking”
  3. Jefferson Airplane – “White Rabbit”

SZA released her highly anticipated album “SOS” in December of 2022. “Open Arms” is the twentieth track off the album and features a collab with rapper Travis Scott. SZA sings about a relationship where she feels open to love and be accepted freely. For 13 seconds in the beginning of the song, an audio clip of SZA’s grandmother Norma Rowe plays, reminding the listener that “When you do your best, hell, that’s all you can do.” SZA wants the listener to apply Norma Rowe’s advice to their love life, as this song is about relationships. 

Clairo bares her pain to listeners in “Sinking,” a track from her 2019 album “Immunity.” A relatable song to many, Clairo expresses how her mental and physical health is taking a toll on her. In those moments when her mental health is taking a toll on her, it feels as if she has just collapsed, and is sinking to the floor. She realizes that, in part, she has to be the one to help herself get better, and she hopes that no one around her sees only this vulnerable, “weak” part of her. Clairo’s vocals evoke a gentle, calming feeling and convey once again how she can tell a story through music. 

Going back to 1967, the six-member band Jefferson Airplane released “White Rabbit,” a song that uses the widely known story of “Alice in Wonderland” to allude to drug use. In “Alice in Wonderland,” Alice goes down the rabbit hole and enters a strange world where everything isn’t all what it seems. Similar to when a person takes a hallucinogenic drug, they enter a state of mind where everything is a bit loopy and confusing. “White Rabbit” is unique because it uses a “marching” beat where it sounds like there’s a marching band playing in the background. Because of this feature, the song makes you transfixed, as if you’re the one who fell down the rabbit hole. As if you’ve just entered this place full of wonder in your head and when the song ends, you wake up from that dream.

Madelaine’s picks

  1. Father John Misty – “Real Love Baby”
  2. Faye Webster – “Remember When”
  3. Feeling Blew – “Out Getting Ribs (Slowed)”

“Real Love Baby” is a happy, feel-good song about being in love and wanting it to be “real.” Indie artist Father John Misty compares himself to a flower and his lover to a bee, while describing feeling alive and free. The song is a single released by Father John Misty in 2016 and is the artist’s most popular song on Spotify with over 150 million plays. 

Faye Webster is an alternative/indie singer-songwriter from Atlanta, Georgia. Webster’s voice sounds crisp and clear, and all of her songs have a light, airy vibe to them. “Remember When” is a bittersweet song about remembering different events in a past relationship and what those moments felt like, while also wondering if the other person “remembers when.” 

“Out Getting Ribs (Slowed)” is a guitar cover of “Out Getting Ribs” by artist King Krule. This acoustic version is perfect for studying, relaxing or working. Each note sounds like a perfect rainy day in the fall and you can tell that the artist, Feeling Blew, plays with a passion. Even if you don’t recognize the song, you may be familiar with a clip of it that has been used over 88,000 times on TikTok.

Daija’s picks

  1. Taylor Swift – “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve”
  2. SZA, Phoebe Bridgers – “Ghost in the Machine (feat. Phoebe Bridgers)”
  3. Carly Simon – “You’re So Vain”

Released in October off Taylor Swift’s album “Midnights (3am Edition),” “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” is the second to last track on the deluxe album. In the song, Swift reflects on an emotionally scarring relationship in which she was young and innocent. This song is along the same vein as “Dear John” by Swift as both songs are rumored to be about musician John Mayer, who Swift dated when she was 19 and he was 32. The lyrics “Give me back my girlhood, it was mine first,” show that Swift, now older and maybe wiser, realizes that the relationship wasn’t the best for her. 

Put together SZA, an artist who left fans waiting five years after releasing a near-perfect debut album, and Phoebe Bridgers, who leaves you crying and contemplating your life, and you get “Ghost in the Machine,” a masterpiece. It was a collab I never saw coming, but, oh, am I happy it did. SZA enters the song with a pulsating beat that is a mix between R&B and pop and gives the catchy chorus “Can you distract me from all the disaster? / Can you touch on me and not call me after?” Bridgers enters and the pulsating beat goes real quiet, almost like her vocals are being isolated and she’s on a different song. “Ghost in the Machine” is the perfect mix of both artists’ sounds in one song and that’s why it is quickly becoming my favorite.

“You’re So Vain” was released on the 1972 album “No Secrets” but recently gained traction again after clips from the movie “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” started going around on Tiktok, like most things these days. Carly Simon sings about someone (or more than one) who’s so arrogant that she knows they’ll think the song is about them. In an interview with People magazine, Simon said that only the second verse is about director Warren Beatty, but leaves fans guessing about the others. I think it’s safe to say Simon dated a lot of arrogant men in her life and she’s not afraid to call at least one out about it. 

Eli’s Picks

  1. Apollo Ghosts – “Spilling Yr Guts”
  2. Cary Brothers – “Blue Eyes”
  3. Seona Dancing – “More to Lose”

Canadian indie-rock band Apollo Ghosts still haven’t gotten much mainstream attention since their formation in 2009, but they are back and stronger than ever on their latest album, Pink Tiger. “Spilling Yr Guts” instantly stood out to me because it reminded me of the classic era of lo-fi indie rock, hearkening back to 90s bands like Dinosaur Jr., Pavement, Silver Jews and Guided by Voices. This relaxed, simplistic anthem is exactly the type of sound I hope to hear more new bands embrace in the future.

I first heard “Blue Eyes” by Cary Brothers on an episode of “Scrubs” about two years ago and was instantly hooked by the wistful sense of longing the track encapsulates. Stylistically, the song at times reminds me of Brothers’ more famous contemporaries like Coldplay and Keane, but with a much darker edge that is almost reminiscent of Leonard Cohen. Though Brothers lacks Cohen’s rawness, he shares his ability to write love songs so complex that you can’t tell whether they’re heartwarming, heartbreaking or both. According to IMDb, Brothers’ songs have been featured in nearly 40 TV shows in the last 20 years so chances are, even if you’ve never heard of him, you’ve probably heard at least one of his songs before.

Have you ever watched one of Ricky Gervais’ TV shows or stand-up specials and wondered to yourself, “I wonder what it would sound like if he were the lead singer of an ‘80s new wave band?” No? Me neither, but a few nights ago I stumbled upon Seona Dancing and my mind has been blown ever since. Gervais was the lead singer and lyricist for Seona Dancing in the early 1980s. They only released two singles before disbanding, and both failed to make much of an impression in the US and UK. However, according to Michael Sutton’s biography of the band on Allmusic, 1983’s “More to Lose” somehow became a huge hit on radio stations in the Philippines around that time. Apart from the novelty of hearing one of the most famous comedians in the world as an ‘80s pop singer, it’s honestly an emotionally resonant song with a memorable melody that fits in quite well with other classics of the era.