Another week in isolation, another opportunity to explore great music. Here at the Music Desk, we’re celebrating the fact that this is the 10th edition of this column that hopes to bring you solace during times of social distancing. Which is probably why the theme of yearning plays such a prominent role in this particular publication, as everyone from Frank Ocean to Desire vocalizes the pangs of lost love and desperation. Know that you’re not alone despite feeling secluded, take comfort in the fact that a tidal wave of hankering has suffocated the globe and take refuge in the following tracks that released this week:
“Dear April (Side A – Acoustic)” by Frank Ocean
Izzy Salas, Staff Writer
Frank Ocean’s new acoustic single “Dear April” has that reduced sound Ocean has mastered that delivers so much more than chill vibes and calming waves of synthesizers. It’s electric, it lingers and it vibrates with life the same way insects buzz during the summertime — blurry, almost indistinct. It all boils down to the lyrics, the sound merely supporting the story of strangers meeting and growing their lives together only to eventually move on. “Dear April” aches, mourns, remembers and echoes over and over again. “You took these strangers / and woke us up.” A dreamlike, floating sound hovers about lyricism etched in yearning, wholly saturated with memory. This song is what we allow ourselves to think of in the middle of the night; when we can’t be bothered to lie, when everything’s a bit more honest. And when the song abruptly ends, it’s as if Ocean’s waking from that ever-haunting dream.
“Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America” by The 1975
Henry Carr, Contributing Writer
The 1975’s newest single “Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America,” a collaboration with singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers, is grander than one might at first think. Upfront, there’s an acoustic guitar playing a simple pattern on loop –– warm and safe –– but look further and you realize the song sits in the middle of a vast ocean. There’s something out there, distant sounds of breathy saxophones and steel pedal guitars. It’s as if Matty Healy and Bridgers search, but never reach them. “Searching for planes in the sea, / and that’s irony,” they sing. This isn’t the first time The 1975 has tackled the subject of seeking connection, hoping to achieve faith in something but ultimately failing. 2016’s “If I Believe You,” explores a similar narrative: wishing one could believe in God; maybe then, feelings of loneliness and lack of direction would dissipate. “Jesus Christ…” takes it further, introducing the need for romantic connection in their desperate plea. In the third verse, Bridgers sings about being in love with a girl named Claire, that it’s “nice when she comes around to call, then masturbate the second she’s not there.” Here, Claire acts like God: desired yet unintelligible — and fleeting. It’s a story that feels poignant right now as, in our time of quarantine, we attempt to maintain relationships through a confusing and intangible technological landscape.
“Take Yourself Home” by Troye Sivan
Isabella Armus, Staff Writer
Former YouTube star Troye Sivan is now officially back with one of his first solo cuts since his 2018 LP “Bloom.” “Take Yourself Home” is yet another sleek, downtrodden track that serves as a meditation on the doomy, gloomy (and now very distant) ennui of urban city life. Beginning as a slow burn, Sivan mumble-croons “Sad in the summer / city needs a mother / if I’m gonna waste my time then it’s time to go” with the same unaffected abandon as his other projects, underneath a slinky instrumental and soft choral cut-ins. But, patience is key, as the track eventually ramps up the bass, slowly but surely taking the listener in. This slow progression persists until the song’s final electronic crescendo, which works as a subtle gut punch that finally gets you moving.
“Relación” by Sech
Ana Cubas, Contributing Writer
Has your relationship been strained by social distancing? In the midst of what seems like a lonely time for some, Sech graciously grants listeners with his first single of the year: “Relación.” A track that’s equally empowering and entrancing, it chronicles the saga of a woman releasing herself from a tolling relationship and cherishing her self-worth; “Relación” is liberating. The booming, thunderous beats of reggaeton are met with ever so slight vocal echoes that create a song ideal for dancing around the house. It is Sech’s reprimanding voice towards a regretful ex-boyfriend, interwoven with lines chock full of sentimental pain that makes this song of further substance, paving the way for a promising future of progressive reggaeton.
“Waiting on Design” by Westerman
Alexandra Bentzien, Staff Writer
Judging by the resurgence of scrunchies, white dad sneakers and echoing dance floor synths that seem to have woven back into today’s music, the 80s are pretty undead. Westerman’s “Waiting on Design” is a softer version of the style of that vintage, a sensitive electronic jazz pop song perfect for bopping around town or chilling in your room. Phil Collins and Hall & Oates and Modern English’s long-lost 21st century nephew knows the art behind the balancing act of less is more. There’s a lot going on instrumentally, but none of it is overwhelming. The beautiful alto saxophone takes its time on a solo and interspersed hand claps are a simple but clever choice for sonically lifting up the depth of the bass line. Not that he can help it, but there’s something alluring just in the hollow quality of his British accent that helps shape the body of airy tones in the chorus. For the most flavorful listening results: opt for headphones to get a surround-sound cinematic experience for the intro.
“rosebush” by (Sandy) Alex G
Nicolas Pedrero-Setzer, Music Editor
I was once told Alex G was the only remaining rockstar. The image that might come to mind might be that of a true provocateur, someone willing to obliterate his guitar before a shrieking crowd, to dress in the garbs of Bowie and host spectacular feasts on the regular. Which is funny, considering all his songs contain a significant amount of slurry yearning, funny falsettos and humdrum strings. So where’s the validity in stating Alex G is the only living rockstar? Well, let’s take a look at his latest track: “rosebush” (exclusively on YouTube as of right now). Lyric-less, repetitive, airy and featuring a short story about a woman named Joanna that slowly reveals itself in text as the song’s music video unravels, “rosebush” is bizarre. Part-jazz with an indie-heart, but also a feat of creative writing, “rosebush” is filled with contradictions that will thwart anyone’s attempts at classifying it. It’s complex and unashamed, in the same manner Alex G is bold enough to let his heart drive his every creation; a process that lends itself to bizarre musical hybrids etched in anguish, optimism, sorrow and jubilancy. He’s driven by matters of the heart not the brain, and in that sense, Alex G is a true contemporary rockstar.
“Escape” by Desire
Nicolas Pedrero-Setzer, Music Editor
This song is sexy. If I’m being honest, the bonus serenade version that was released with it is even sexier. But, how could that be? The spectacular synthwork, the scintillating singing, the sultry snares, the scarlet seduction — how could it possibly get sexier? Such knowledge is beyond me, I’m merely subject to Desire’s leather-clad spells. Johnny Jewel is the master and Megan Louise the whip behind the orchestration of one of the most marvelous and magical manifestations of ear-erotica whose existence conjures immediate infatuation. “Escape” is pure delight, ecstasy a la Bernini. It’s the type of song that spoils you before having to depart, leaving you with nothing but spectral sweet nothings. In fact, that’s all it is: a sweet nothing, a verbal pang of a seductive force that comes and goes.
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