Here’s what I’ve been listening to for the last two months:
Frank Ocean’s Blonde.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way — Frank Ocean’s Blonde is a masterpiece. It withstood all of the hype, and was the best way to cap off the summer. I was instantly hooked the moment I heard the first few seconds of the first track.
I interpret Blonde as an album about identity, specifically the pains of growing into oneself and finding the right place in the world. It’s also an album about capital F Feelings about love and friendship, and authenticity in ambiguity. I think we all go through a period of introspection as we enter young adulthood, and Ocean has translated that into music with interpolation. It reminds me of collaging.
If Ocean never makes another record again, Blonde would be a great way to go out. My favorite songs are “Nikes,” “Ivy” (which I think has joined my list of favorite songs of all time), “Pink + White” and “Nights.”
Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam’s I Had A Dream That You Were Mine.
Speaking of Rostam, I’ve spent the last month eagerly awaiting the arrival of his album with Hamilton Leithauser of The Walkman. Rostam left Vampire Weekend last year, but the more he does without VW the more excited I am about where his career is going. I’ve had I Had A Dream That You Were Mine on a loop for a week now.
What I love about this album is that it has such incredible storytelling, both on the overall album level and within each track. It’s about moments, and unpacking the feelings and emotions that are tied up in just a brief flash of time. Take “A 1000 Times,” for example. It tells a story about the narrator’s attempt to unstick himself from unrequited love. When I listen to it, I get this sense of tugging between the past and the future — the narrator is stuck on replaying his life’s scenes in his head, but using it to propel himself towards the future and whatever that might look like. You can hear that too between Leithauser’s voice and Rostam’s sonic choices.
My favorite songs are “A 1000 Times” (which I’ve probably played that many times), “Sick as a Dog” and “In a Black Out.” If you like this album, go check out Rostam’s solo work.
In late August, my sister Willow and I went to the first day of FYF Fest — which is a capital E Experience if you like peoplewatching and don’t mind being in the same space as tens of thousands of people. We went mostly to see Tame Impala and Kendrick Lamar, which were the two last acts of the night. We headed to the festival’s main stage to get a good viewing spot. When we got there, Grimes was up on stage performing. Whenever I look at music festival posters, I almost always see the name Grimes somewhere in the lineup, but have never looked her up.
I’d like to take this moment to publicly apologize for sleeping on Grimes’ music, because I should have seen the light a long time ago. Grimes is the performance name of Claire Boucher, a young woman from Canada who writes and self-produces all of her own music. She is a genius when it comes to laying down beats and using cool electronica techniques, and a superb performer. Her lyrical inspiration can come from out of left field — “Kill V. Maim,” for example, is apparently written from the perspective of a vampire Michael Corleone. But when she combines the electronic sounds with the themes she’s dealing with — ambition, agency and trauma, to name a few — she makes such an overwhelmingly strong case for the importance of self-expression and feeling strength in femininity. The interlude from one of my favorite tracks she performed goes:
I know most likely
How I used to be a frail and silly thought in your mind
Call me unkind
You’re so far behind me
In essence, Grimes is a straight-up badass and everyone should take some inspiration from her. I remember Willow and I turning to each other and going, “Damn, she’s good.” In my Sunday after-festival haze, I made it a priority to look up her FYF setlist and download the songs I loved the most: “Kill V. Maim,” “Realiti,” “World Princess Part II” and “Oblivion.”
Father John Misty’s “Real Love Baby.”
My first exposure to Father John Misty’s music was through the Alabama Shakes Spotify radio station (which is an A+ radio station, if you’re in need of one.) Father John Misty, aka Joshua Tillman, is kind of a weirdo — lumberjack hippie is the best way to describe him. He has a few albums under his belt, and just came out with a single called “Real Love Baby” that I can’t stop listening to. It’s got a little bit of the Beach Boys essence with a country twang — on the track, he sings about yearning for a love that’s pure and incredible.
I also think that this song might be a little commentary on living in the social media age. Father John Misty the performer likes to make really meta comments about social media and the world it has created — he had an amazing Instagram project, and everyone’s pretty sure he stole the crystal from Moon Juice. He even deactivated everything last week. I would not be surprised if he felt that he needed to reboot with a love song that differentiates the “real” with throwback sounds. I hope it results in a full album.
Do you have any music recommendations? Share them with me in the comments.