Music that crafts a transportive, compelling listen


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By Northern Star Staff

While we may be taking a break from classes, spring break doesn’t change our love for music. Here’s what we’ve been listening to so far this break.

Nick’s picks

  1. Fishmans – “LONG SEASON”
  2. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – “Antennas to Heaven”
  3. Steve Reich and Musicians – “Music for 18 Musicians”

My picks this week are all songs that require patience. Normally, I try to keep my picks at a reasonable length so that the playlist isn’t bulging in size, but this week, well … you’ll see. Japanese indie-group Fishmans’ album/song “LONG SEASON” is an aptly-titled longer version of one of their earlier works, “SEASON.” “LONG SEASON” is an epic 35-minute-long song that takes up an entire album of run-time. The group’s dream pop style is made up of psychedelic rock influences as well as an eclectic group of influences such as ska, rocksteady and minimalism. “LONG SEASON” is a flowing composition full of texture and character which is constantly building upon itself. The piece is long and full of interesting and sometimes strange instrumentation and arranging, but it is worth a listen. I’d recommend listening to “LONG SEASON” late at night after you’ve finished everything else and are looking for something to contemplate the banality of existence to. 

If you liked Anika’s bit last week about long titles, prepare yourself for another. Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s” Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven” is an album of phenomenal size. The double-LP is one of the best ambient works I’ve ever heard. The 2000 release is essentially free of vocals if you exclude little sample bits at the beginnings and ends of songs. The last song, “Antennas to Heaven,” is like the other songs on the album: a classic of the instrumental post-rock genre. “Antennas to Heaven” is a song of many parts. Made up of other bits, some with names like “She Dreamt She Was a Bulldozer, She Dreamt She Was Alone in an Empty Field,” the song is chaotic yet wholly cohesive. While the song is a few seconds shy of 19 minutes long, it doesn’t drag. “Antennas to Heaven ” is the perfect starter to post-rock and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. 

Last, we move to Steve Reich’s composition “Music for 18 Musicians.” Once again, “Music for 18 Musicians” is an entire album made up of one song. This time though, it is even longer, coming in at 56 minutes long. For readers into genre classifications, Reich’s composition is closest to classical music. Stemming from the minimalist tradition in the late 1950s and into the 1960s, “Music for 18 Musicians” features an 11-chord cycle that repeats throughout the work. Following trends created by La Monte Young, Phillip Glass and, well, himself, Reich built “Music for 18 Musicians” off of a set structure with pre-supposed limitations. These limitations — chordal limitations, set instrumentation and a solid pulsing motif — are the basis for the work. Minimalism, as opposed to other movements and styles, is known for starting with limits and rules and creating music from there rather than solely writing music with a wide-reaching, limitless approach. “Music for 18 Musicians” sounds like the whispers of the universe and I have come to cherish its unique sound and form. 

Sarah’s picks

  1. Echos – “Leave Your Lover”
  2. Amy MacDonald – “This Is The Life”
  3. Steve Lacy – “Some”

For the aching, desperate souls, “Leave Your Lover” is a heartbreaking melody about two people tormented by time. The song is sung from the point of view of someone who wants to be with another person, but they both already have a lover. These two people know they should be together, but meeting at the wrong time has held them back. The singer repeats “We should leave our lovers” throughout the song, pleading with this other person and herself that what they have now isn’t what they want. The song feels as if the artist is singing to herself in a dark room, knowing that she’ll never attain what she needs, and in the end, her pleading will fall on deaf ears. 

Once again, TikTok has introduced me to another bop. Amy MacDonald revisits a time when she went out and partied, expressing how, in the moment, she was simply living a carefree life. The song places the listener in a nostalgic headspace where everyone is dancing and singing. The music blends folk pop and that acoustic indie vibe to create a classic 2010s song feel. Because of her British and Scottish background, you get a different taste of music that you don’t receive from American artists. MacDonald sings about a past moment as if she was reliving it again, happy and untroubled.

In less than two minutes, Steve Lacy shows the world why he’s the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time) at making indie, soulful music. “Some” is short but sweet and crosses R&B with motown funk to create what’s called a neo-soul track. The song consists of a chill, laid-back rhythm that falls alongside Lacy’s lyrics about wanting to be the guy his crush falls in love with. Because this song is so short, it doesn’t have any deeper meaning to it. That’s the thing to love about Lacy’s music. For a groovy, short-lived vibe, this song can be played while in the shower, the car or walking to class. 

Daniel’s picks

  1. Yes – “Roundabout”
  2. Glen Campbell – “Southern Nights”
  3. Lindsey Buckingham – “Holiday Road”

Most notable for its use in the anime series “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure,” “Roundabout” is a song that has paid a huge contribution to progressive rock. The beginning of the song almost gives off a sort of deserted Western feeling, but the moment that guitar kicks in, the song just takes off. The song has a predominant bass sound throughout that whole song. The lyrics alone give you the feeling of the perfect road trip song, which makes sense as the song was written during a road trip.

“Southern Nights” by Glen Campbell is a song primarily about childhood memories. It’s a song with a warm and carefree tune that carries the feeling of being young and free. The song was originally performed by Allen Toussaint, and it was his version that reminded Glen Campbell of his childhood in Arkansas. Soon, he covered the song with slightly modified lyrics.

“Holiday Road” is another perfect road trip song for those going on spring break, or at least on the drive home from college. Lindsey Buckingham’s song is synthwave heavy all throughout. The song was written for the 1983 film “National Lampoon’s Vacation” and, though the song is rather simple, it allowed Buckingham to step out of his comfort zone of what he was used to writing with Fleetwood Mac. The song is commonly used in many pieces of media, including the 2015 film “Vacation” where it was covered with a more country rock sound to it by Zac Brown Band.

Eli’s picks

  1. Talk Talk – “The Rainbow”
  2. Vic Chesnutt – “Until the Led”
  3. Buck Owens – “Everything Reminds Me That You’re Gone”

After a string of mainstream pop hits, Talk Talk threw fans a curveball when they released their 1988 album “Spirit of Eden.” The album, which featured emotional, often instrumentally focused and ambient songs with extended runtimes, can be seen as a precursor to the post-rock genre. The opening track “The Rainbow” begins with a moody saxophone backed by a string section. From this point on, the song slowly builds in a crescendo that results in a bluesy breakdown before winding down to an ambient style once again.

The late Vic Chesnutt had a knack for using unusually jolly and upbeat instrumentals and backdrops for his dark, often heartbreaking lyrics. “Until the Led” is a perfect example of this ability. Backed by the band Lambchop, the song features a vibrant horn section that only adds to the song’s upbeat nature, while lyrics like “I didn’t realize / You were to be despised” demonstrate Chesnutt’s darker edge.

Buck Owens’ “Everything Reminds Me That You’re Gone” is one of the most devastating songs in classic country. The title succinctly sums up the subject of this wistful song – a man is unable to forget a woman who he is no longer with. While Buck Owens was known, along with Merle Haggard, as a founder of the “Bakersfield sound,” which is characterized by punchy, trebly guitars and upbeat rhythms, “Everything Reminds Me That You’re Gone” takes a much more subdued approach. The track mainly features acoustic guitars as well as an echoing harmonica that just screams loneliness. 

Anika’s picks

  1. London After Midnight – “Sacrifice”
  2. Girls Aloud – “Sound of the Underground”
  3. Versailles – “The Red Carpet Day”

“Sacrifice” starts with the sound of a rainstorm pattering against your eardrums for the first minute of the song. Along with it, synths that were vital to ‘90s goth rock start to kick in, lulling the listener into a trance. The intro already makes it clear this is an easy song to listen to. Then, lead singer Sean Brennan uses his soothing voice to carry the listener through an incredibly gothic love song. The singer confesses to someone that their love is undying and they are willing to die for them. The song then closes down by slowing the speed of the instrumentals and returning to the rainstorm in the beginning, signifying that the singer sacrificed themselves in the name of a lover.

Before BLACKPINK, there were early 2000s girl groups in all their low-low rise jeans glory. Girls Aloud, an Irish English pop group released this title track on their debut album in 2003. The tune is an earworm – it crawls between both headphones through the use of panning, which is when audio switches between the right and left sides. It has a dark, eerie feel to the production that makes it feel like your head is spinning while colored lights flash from every direction. Plus, it has a cool guitar riff ending the bridge and leading into the chorus, adding to the sound you’ll be sure to “dig.”

Visual kei – the genre Versailles belongs to – is like Western glam rock on crack. It blends heavy metal guitars, the pace of punk rock and the harpsichords and organs popular in goth rock to create music that has a vampiric feel. Not only that, but members of visual kei bands look like vampires. A big part of the genre is the extravagant makeup, flamboyant (oftentimes androgynous) clothing and complicated hairstyling. Versailles is no exception, the members looking like they hopped out of a gothic historical drama. Their song “The Red Carpet Day” immediately sucks listeners in with the sound of shredding guitars, banging drums and a harpsichord. The rest of the song continues with a fast tempo and smooth vocals from Kamijo to create a song that is just as over-the-top as their looks.