Editors Pick, May 2020: Albums!

Quarantine got you replaying the same songs over and over again? Planning to revamp your Spotify playlists for summer (whether or not it’s actually coming)? 7 of our editors pick 7 albums to help you get out of a quarantine-induced musical rut.


Alexine Castillo Yap:

Fetch the Bolt Cutters (2020)

Fiona Apple


Fiona Apple couldn't have come up with a more fitting album title for our times: Fetch the Bolt Cutters is the fifth full-length album released by the art/baroque pop indie goddess, and every single bit of critical acclaim she's received for it has been well-deserved. 


Her masterful, 51 minute-long meditation on the past and future speaks to a present anxiety. Painful, visceral, bitter experiences are tackled through a fun, eclectic musical soundscape featuring jagged staccato drums & percussion. Apple's thundering, husky alto complements the classic indie baroque pop keyboards in the album's slower, more pensive moments. The journey is fiery, existential, and confrontational. Curses are heard mid-song. Dogs bark.


The album is an energetic frenzy from start to finish, each track dripping with Apple's signature esoteric, nigh-stream-of-consciousness lyrical prose. My favourite track, “Newspaper” (which seems to feature a subtle sonic nod to Talking Heads' “Listening Wind”), is a feminist battle cry: Apple speaks to another woman who was abused by the same man. A mötley crew of loves, enemies, and everyone in between from past and future make star appearances: “Shameika” involves a middle school bully; “I Want You To Love Me” is dedicated to a future, yet-unknown lover; and the titular track, “Fetch the Bolt Cutters”, is a confrontation with herself. 


Self-aware and introspective at heart, the album encourages a certain sense of breaking free from toxic patterns and situations — "fetch the bolt cutters, I've been in here too long". It's catchy, it's heart-rending, it's Fiona Apple at her best.

Paul Namkoong: 

Adventure (1978)

Television


Do you ever get the first 5 seconds of a song just crucified into your skull, nailed up for display? Have that happen to you 9 consecutive times, and you have Television’s second-most perennial work, Adventure. It’s not even considered their best. This album will put you in such a trance that you’ll forget you accidentally shampooed your hair three times in the shower and rubbed it all in for a fourth. It will eradicate dandruff from the human race.

It’s the perfect tool for channeling your teen angst and rebellion, bringing up your repressed memories of getting grounded to your room (in that sense, hasn’t the coronavirus turned us all into 16-year olds?). “Carried Away” captures the sheer agony of squeezing a perfect amount of toothpaste on your brush, only to see it commit career suicide and slide off. The guitar solo in “Fire” is so over-indulgent and pure that Pope Francis listens to it during his milk baths. 

For me, great music is something that I can listen to at any fidelity. From a refrigerator-sized amp to the phone speaker suffocated by three layers of coat, I will listen to Adventure on any device, and I hope you will too.

Maho Nambu

Chasing Summer (2019)

SiR


You know your Kendricks and you know your SZAs, but another one of the TDE-born legends who needs to stop treading water and surface to their glory is SiR. His most recent album, Chasing Summer (2019), should not be going anywhere but on your “queue next” list.  If you’re impatiently awaiting summer now that the cherry blossoms have blown away into distant memory, I suggest you take 45 minutes out of your day for some mellow neo-soul tunes. Below, I’ve decided to lay out 5 reasons why you should be picking up Chasing Summer for a preview into your summer 2020:


Track 1. Hair Down (feat. Kendrick Lamar)

This is a must for Kendrick fans, but also for PB&J sandwich fans. There’s something oddly satisfying about the mixture of SiR’s smooth n’ creamy vocals and the slightly sour undertone in Kendrick Lamar’s rap lyrics.


Track 3. You Can’t Save Me

“SiR for DUMMIES”: A good introductory song for SiR newcomers.


Track 5. Fire

This is the type of song you want your shuffled playlist to miraculously end on before the Spotify ads kick in. The airline PA announcement signal in the last 2 seconds transition cleverly into… a song about having your head in the clouds. 


Track 6. New Sky (feat. Kadhja Bonet)

Checks all the boxes of a typical SiR song: soothing vocals, minimalistic guitar instrumentals and an underrated female R&B artist.


Track 13. The Recipe 

A personal favorite the sax and the falsetto are a recipe to a foolproof love song.

Minghao Xu:

Sondheim on Sondheim (2010)

Stephen Sondheim

“My name is Stephen Joshua Sondheim.” Without an ounce of conceit, the theater legend himself draws the curtain of Sondheim on Sondheim, a musical revue strung together by songs and episodes from his illustrious career. 


Despite being a revue, Sondheim on Sondheim is more like an autobiography told through songs. The album reinvents many of the iconic musical numbers in Sondheim’s rich repertoire and finds new meanings in the classics. The haunting mash-up of “Not a Day Goes By” from Merrily We Roll Along and “Losing My Mind” from Follies, for instance, creates a clash of universes where two women, poignantly yet steadfastly, confide their wistful longings in their own time and space. As they head towards the slated tragic end, their voices converge into a yearning imbued with a newfound strength and rapport from the shared human experience. They are no longer alone. This time, they have each other to lean on.


Sondheim proved that it can be insightful, impactful, and deeply personal, while also being as fun and enjoyable as its Golden Age predecessors. It sums up Sondheim’s works witty, funny, touching, and exhilarating but what makes a Sondheim song a Sondheim song is how it gives us the notes and words to face and communicate emotions that are often too ineffable or intimidating to express. If you are new to Sondheim or to musical theater, rest assured you are in good hands.

Jay Ha:

Me Before You (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (2016)

Various Artists

Have you ever felt so nostalgic about somewhere you’ve never actually been to? I have, after listening to the Me Before You soundtrack a million times. This film has always been one of my favourites since I watched it for the first time a few years ago, and coincidentally, the soundtrack was made up of songs by some of my favourite artists!

Me Before You highlights the colours of each and every frame of the movie; at first look, the soundtrack is a catalyst for emotions; then it becomes the emotion itself – bringing forth a sense of nostalgia. The soundtrack brings together such artists as Ed Sheeran, Imagine Dragons, The 1975 and Jessie Ware. If you’ve watched the movie, you’ll see Pembroke, Switzerland and Paris – the filming locations, and Louisa and Will – the leading characters, while listening to the music. 


When Lou goes to Switzerland to see Will for the last time, Photograph by Ed Sheeran plays. The instrumentation starts with simple chords on a guitar and develops with various strokes and beats as the emotion hits the climax. And as she strolls in Paris, the audience is treated to Not Today by Imagine Dragons.


Will, Lousia, the emotions, the film, and the songs – powerful, touching, and responsive to each and every scene – stay with you long after the last scene, and trust me, listening to the soundtrack is the best way to revisit the film every time you find yourself musing about it!

Whole Lotta Red (20??) 

Playboi Carti

(if it was) reviewed by Choi Jiwoong

On the 20th of April, 2020, known fondly as “. MoNDaY”, Atlanta-based rapper Playboi Carti released his highly anticipated sophomore studio album, Whole Lotta Red, to widespread critical acclaim. 


It was everything that the fanbase of the man whom a certain well-established and bald internet music critic once conceded “literally invented music and space and time” had hoped for. Following through on the brief glimpses of the mysterious and alluring “baby voice Carti”, a high pitched, mock-falsetto slurring of rapid fire bars that at first sounds like a green Martian baby goat trying to sing karaoke through a stroke but eventually dawns upon one that it is in fact the highest sonic pinnacle of human achievements, Carti melds his angelic voice and the accompanying ad-libs of “slatt”s and “waht”s effortlessly into the diabetically colorful, acid-washed productions of long time collaborators Pi’erre Bourne and Maaly Raw. 


Global pandemic and impending collapse of human civilization be damned, rejoice and relief washed over the globe in an awesome wave as studio quality versions of his most awaited singles, such as “Molly” featuring the ever-beloved Lil Uzi Vert, the trans-Atlantic collaboration “Cancun” with London grime roadman Skepta, and the already iconic “Kid Cudi” were finally granted upon our mortal ears. 


We were all gonna be OK. 


Editor’s note: Whole Lotta Red, despite repeated promises and announcements on Playboi Carti’s various social media channels, was in fact not released on “. MoNDaY” the 20th of April. Nonetheless, we shall persist in our bleak existence on this cursed world. 

Amishi Agrawal:

cold/mess (2018)

Prateek Kuhad

Whenever I tell people that I’m from India, one of the first things they mention is some Bollywood film they saw. Yes, Bollywood’s big, and unlike Western movies, all our films have songs in them (sometimes almost every fifteen minutes).


This also means that most of Indian music is from movies. But, don’t let this fool you! The indie music scene in India is one of the most versatile and growing creative industries right now, and Prateek Kuhad is the one artist who is riding the wave the best! 


Writing songs in both Hindi and English, he pens lyrics that are poetic and soul-baringly honest enough and composes music sweeping enough that with every guitar string that he plucks, you can feel the strings of your heart being plucked to a beautiful little nostalgic melody. 


cold/mess is Prateek’s latest release, and as much as I love his earlier works, none of them were as successful as this one. Prateek’s crooning is probably the most swoon-worthy set of tunes you’ll ever come across. Don’t believe me? Believe Obama’s music choice then – in 2019, the title track of the album made it to his “Favourite Music of 2019” list. Oh, and one more fun fact, we went to the same high school! No, not Obama and me, Prateek and me!



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