Back-to-School Playlist

Greetings, my friends.

In honor of classes starting up tomorrow (at least for me), I have created a playlist for all those headed back to school/high school/college/university/grad school/etc (and even for those out of school who just want to hear some tunes).

The playlist I’ve created is a collection of songs I can remember listening to while on my college search two years ago, as well as a few from my senior year of high school, the summer before I started college. There’s also a few songs out now that, for some reason, I feel fit really well into a playlist about starting a new year of learning more about yourself and your academic studies.

For someone currently in college like myself, this is a crucial time of self-discovery and exploration of different fields. Music (along with my faith) always helps me out and hopefully this playlist will also help you.  You can find it here.

The track listing is:

  1. Mountain at my Gates/Foals
  2. Under the Pressure/The War on Drugs
  3. Hunger of the Pine/Alt-J
  4. Gotta Get Away/The Black Keys
  5. Name on a Matchbook/Springtime Carnivore
  6. Let it Happen/Tame Impala
  7. Pretty Pimpin/Kurt Vile and the Violators
  8. Chateau Lobby #4 (In C for Two Virgins)/Father John Misty
  9. Academic/New Order
  10. FloriDada/Animal Collective
  11. Return to the Moon/EL VY
  12. Shut Up Kiss Me/Angel Olsen
  13. All the Rage Back Home/Interpol
  14. Quartz/TV on the Radio
  15. Going the Distance/Zipper Club

Happy listening and good luck with your educational path!

God bless.

-A.L.D.

Why I Love Song Demos

Lately on my satellite radio I’ve been tuning into Jason Schwartzman’s Coconut Radio show on SiriusXMU (channel 35), and I must say, the guy plays some great stuff.

His latest show theme was “Demos.” He’d play the demo version of some of his favourite tracks and then play the album version for comparison. I especially enjoyed him playing both versions of the Cure’s “In Between Days,” which is my favourite Cure song.

And it got me thinking…what exactly is it that I find so compelling about an artist’s first attempt at creation, when the only person they suspect will be hearing is their fellow bandmates?

As a writer, it all boils down to the emotional element for me. Take, for example, the Beach Boys’ “Surf’s Up.” The demo version is just Brian Wilson and a piano. The song is raw, it has pauses for Wilson to catch his train of thought, it lacks the orchestral embellishments of the finished product. And it is bursting with unadulterated feeling.

I remember reading an interview  Father John Misty did with Pitchfork, where he wrote about how difficult it was for him to write the song “Chateau Lobby #4 (In C for Two Virgins).” He often grappled with how he could expose himself without being too open into his personal life, and ended up drowning the track in too many effects, embellishments and flourishes. Finally, his wife told him the only way he could achieve a true version of the track was to put aside his fear of vulnerability and write how he felt.

A demo is a band’s first attempt at capturing a feeling into a sound. It’s the sometimes fragile, sometimes a cacophony, encapsulation of a period in time, a person, a thought, a fear. An artist has to be vulnerable to reveal their demos: You’re hearing the original process before the effects and mixing came along and masked the particularly exposing feelings, buffered the rough edges, stowed away some of the emotional baggage.

While listening to Coconut Radio, I noticed I was enjoying the demo versions more than the original. A major example was The Lemonheads’ “My Drug Buddy.” Already a lyrically exposed song, the demo was slower, sadder and it sounded like the lyrics were painful for the frontman to sing, especially during the “I’m too much with myself/I wanna be someone else.”

Another was Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love.” The demo Schwartzman played was by The Velvet Underground (as opposed to just Lou Reed), and it was far more unpolished and rough-and-tumble than the atmospheric, dense final product. It was fun to hear the relaxed rock side of such an iconic song.

Even Mac DeMarco, an artist that proudly embraces the slacker-rock and jangle pop genre had a lovely demo of “Passing Out Pieces” (originally called “Passing Out Pieces of Me”). It showed that anyone, even someone who’s already as stylistically laid-back and exposed as DeMarco, starts with a tentative rough draft of various outlined feelings.

Basically, releasing their demos is an artist letting you into their mind, their creative process; it’s their attempt to help you feel for yourself what lead them to this creative point. If you listen, you can hear their words calling out to your internal monologue, to make that connection with someone who knows where they’ve been physically and emotionally.

And I, for one, am happy to listen.

Thanks for reading and God bless,

-A.L.D.

Anticipated Releases: August and September 2016

Greetings friends and welcome to another post of Turntable Talk. Some bands I enjoy have albums with approaching release dates coming up, and I wanted to do a brief rundown of some records on my radar for this month and early September.

1.) “Sunlit Youth” by Local Natives; out 9 September.

I’ve always enjoyed a good Local Natives single when it came on on my satellite radio, but after this groups’s Lollapalooza show this year, I’m psyched for this record to drop. While I’ll admit I’m not crazy about the leading single “Fountain of Youth” (a bit too simple lyrically for my liking), the other single “Past Lives” has some excellent subtile harmony and percussion work. I’m anxious to see if the same funky guitars and energetic vocals I saw live carry over to the studio.

2.) “This Album Does Not Exist” by Dreamers; out 26 August.

I’ve known since Dreamer’s breakout single “Wolves (You Got Me)” last summer that I wanted this record. Another band that blew me away at Lolla, Dreamers manages to tap into that alt rock/garage rock sound that I enjoy so much in early Strokes and Cage the Elephant releases. While the very clean production on the singles I’ve heard thus far keep it from sounding as brash as a White Stripes record, I think this will be a nice bit of alt-rock fun with some good lyrics here and there about adolescent reflections on life.

3.) “MY WOMAN” by Angel Olsen; out 2 September.

I’ll be honest with you here; I know all of two songs by Angel Olsen: “Forgiven/Forgotten” and “Shut Up Kiss Me.” I’m making this purchase on a whim, based solely on the fact that I love the catchiness of “Shut Up Kiss Me” and the playful, flirty, sincere vibe I get from the lyrics. If you know anything about Angel Olsen’s other music, please, feel free to educate me in the comments.

4.) “How To Be A Human Being” by Glass Animals; out 26 August.

I don’t know what happened. I didn’t really get into Glass Animals’ stuff they were releasing in 2014, writing it off as not really my cup of tea. And then this summer they start releasing these percussion based, layered, wonderfully produced tracks like “Youth” and “Life Itself” and now I’m totally into it. Maybe I just didn’t give them a fair chance before, but these tracks are SO FUN to listen to and I hope the rest of the album is too. All of the danceable riffs make me think that this band would be incredible live. Glass Animals, you might just have yourself a brand new fan.

That’s all I have for now. What are your thoughts on these upcoming releases? What records are you excited for? Let me know in the comments below.

As always, thank you so much for reading, and God bless.

-A.L.D.

My Car CD Collection: Part 2

Welcome back, friends. Last time we briefly discussed five quality records I’ve accumulated over the past year and it’s time to devote a quick minute to five more.

So, on to part 2 of my collection of CDs in my car….

1.) “Drones” by Muse

A very ominous record with lyrics about over-glorifying violence, excessive militarized force, fear of becoming nothing more than a piece of the system and an overwhelming paranoia about losing one’s sense of self worth and individuality, “Drones” sees Muse departing from their usual synth rock operas to a more classic rock inspired sound. From the opening cries of “Dead Inside,” frontman Matthew Bellamy sounds desperate for someone to listen to him before it’s too late.  I remember hearing Anthony Fantano of The Needle Drop say the instrumentation sounded more “hair metal inspired” (or something along those lines), which I agree with. While the new sound isn’t really my style, it’s interesting to see Muse go into such an overtly political direction. I would’ve enjoyed some subtlety, though.

2.) “Kintsugi” by Death Cab for Cutie

I’m pretty indifferent to this record. I enjoy it, don’t get me wrong, but there’s nothing really exceptional about it that stands out to me. There’s some great alt rock singles like “Black Sun,” “No Room in Frame,” “The Ghosts of Beverly Drive” and “Good Help (Is So Hard to Find),” and I enjoy singing along. I feel some strains of DCFC’s older work on tracks like “Little Wanderer” and “You’ve Haunted Me All My Life,” but I feel like this is their most accessible record. People who’ve never listened to Death Cab before can still enjoy this record because it’s fun, it’s easy listening, it fits snugly into the “alt rock/adult alternative/mainstream alternative” category. And maybe it might help people discover more of their older stuff.

3.) “Disgraceland” by The Orwells

At first glance this may seem like a typical punk/garage rock inspired teen outfit from Chicago that sings about adolescent struggles like relationships, wanting to live a carefree life and wanting to defy authority.The instrumentation, on a whole, kind of reminds me of The Replacements. But around the fifth track, this record starts to get dark. Themes of hopelessness, coming to terms with mortality, frustration and discontent with society and wanting to stand for something bigger than yourself are prominent. The record may start as a fun little jam session with a “boys will be boys” attitude with the song “Southern Comfort”, but as it progresses lyrically, it has a lot of emotional baggage that’ll make you think. I have a theory that The Orwells are the angsty, angry teenage version of Cage the Elephant, but that is a story for another day. Regardless, this is a fantastic record.

4.) “Melophobia” by Cage the Elephant

And speaking of Cage the Elephant, here’s their 2013 foray into more straightforward alt rock and less of the messy, Pixies-inspired indie rock that they started with. Not to say that there aren’t still strains of that original sound on this record; on the contrary, the opening track “Spiderhead” and “It’s Just Forever” sounds like something Cage the Elephant could’ve placed on 2011’s “Thank You, Happy Birthday.” While I personally loved their brash, noisy early stuff, I enjoy the more stripped-back sound, especially on singles like “Come a Little Closer” (which had a spacy, echo-y, atmospheric vibe), “Telescope” (which had a resigned and apologetic lyrical delivery about feeling lost in life), and “Cigarette Daydreams” (a somber, bittersweet song that I view as the more mature version of 2011’s “Right Before my Eyes”).

5.) “The Moon and Antarctica” by Modest Mouse.

By far, this is the masterpiece of the bunch. And I’m not just saying that because I’ve got a strange fascination with Antarctica. An almost hour-long indie rock jam, this record manages to be a noisy, atmospheric, experimental, spaced-out, thrashing collection of distorted punk rock-inspired tunes with some wildly symbolic, stream of conscious lyrics. And it is magnificent. It gets slow in parts, and the sound does occasionally wax repetitive, but this record is sure to be an inspiration for bands born from listening to early 2000’s alternative rock for years to come. And there are some great surprise tracks as well, from the folky simplicity of “Wild Pack of Family Dogs” to the catchy groove of “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes.” And if you’ve never walked off into the sunset with “Dark Center of the Universe” playing in the background, I suggest you do so as soon as possible.

And that, friends, is all I have for now. What are you thoughts on these records? What are your favourite CDs to keep in the car? Let me know in the comments.

And as always, thanks for reading, and God bless.

-A.L.D.

My Car CD Collection: Part 1

Aren’t CDs a great invention?

I know some purists would argue that nothing can beat the sound of vinyl (and I can find a lot of reasoning in that argument, as I do feel that way about certain records and try to support the vinyl industry as much as I can), but as someone who has a two and a half hour drive between her college and her home town, I have to say CDs are an excellent way of discovering new tunes/what your favourite artists have been up to.

Over the past year or so I’ve accumulated a modest collection of albums in my car. Here is part one of a brief rundown of what they are, why I got them and my general thoughts on the music.

1.) “Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit” by Courtney Barnett

This is a solid collection of fun little songs about the ironies and quirks of life, so as a writer, I can appreciate Barnett doing what my professor would call “making the small moments large.” Sometimes the lyrics can get a bit repetitive (like on “Nobody Really Cares if you don’t go to the Party” or “An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York)) and “Depreston” is way overplayed on the radio, but I love Barnett’s attempt to capture the minute details of life. Also, her guitar playing is killer, especially on the neurotic single “Pedestrian at Best.” And it’s pretty neat she got nominated for a Grammy here in the U.S.A. Eager to see what she does next.

2.) “Pagans in Vegas” by Metric

Hmm. My feelings on this record, which clocks in at just over 49 minutes, remain fairly mixed. While I really do enjoy moments on the front half such as “The Shade,” “Lie Lie Lie” (which has some excellent scathing lyrics about the world’s mass media system) and “Too Bad, So Sad,” after that the synth and keyboard pop just gets old. It’s an interesting record for a while that unfortunately loses its touch instrumentally. Which really is too bad, because I do like listening to Metric. But if you’re into more dancey, electronic based music, I’d definitely recommend it.

3.) “Currents” by Tame Impala

This record got huge when it was released last summer, so I’ll keep my comments to a minimum. The front half is a supremely fun venture into swirly synth-based soundscapes and I love the pulsating beats. “Yes I’m Changing” and “Eventually” are lyrically beautiful. The back half and the strange little interludes are lukewarm at best, but if you remove “Past Life” from the track listing (I can’t stand the strange distorted spoken word lyrics), it’s such a fun gem of psychedelic indie.

4.) “b’lieve i’m going down…” by Kurt Vile 

You have to really be feeling like hearing some slow folky lo-fi when you put on this record, but it definitely does deliver. Vile’s meandering vocals pair well with his lyrics about losing touch with your identity, feeling cast out and disconnected from your peers, struggling to not buy into peer pressure and just trying to live life, maaaan. I respect how genuine this record feels. It’s not trying to be the next biggest folk rock album or an independent rock magnum opus. It seems like every time Kurt Vile sets out to make a record, he doesn’t really pay attention to what his contemporaries are up to. He’s fine with being himself and creating the music he feels the most comfortable with, and it shines through on his albums in the best way.

5.) “Lost in the Dream” by The War on Drugs

This is the perfect record for near-dusk and night driving, or if not in a car, then for calming background music while studying for journalism (It sounds beautiful through a good pair of headphones). The layering and production on this just-over-an-hour-long record explodes with ambience and a less noisy, more melodic shoegazing sound. I’m not much of an Americana fan, and I still came to love “Suffering” and the title track after a few listens. The repetition of instrumentation on songs like “Eyes to the Wind,” “Under the Pressure” and “Red Eyes” works perfectly without getting too redundant. And while I know “Under the Pressure” and “Red Eyes” were the two singles that got huge after the release, I think “An Ocean in Between the Waves” is just as great (if not better) for how much is happening guitar-wise.

What were your thoughts on these records? Let me know in the comments. Stay tuned for my next CD post, which will focus more on the alternative rock/alternapop side of the spectrum.

As always, thanks for reading, and God bless.

-A.L.D.

Lolla in Brief: Day 4

What a great wrap up to a weekend of performances. Starting off the day was Oh Wonder, a chillwave outfit adorned with fuzzy bass and the usual breathy, distorted lyrical delivery of most keyboard-heavy bands. I feel like they’d sound amazing through a set of good headphones so I could catch each syncopation of the beat and production nuance. Their frontwoman was simply delightful.

(Above: Peeved Paul is prepared to enjoy an Oh Wonder show).

Next up was a an emerging three-person Brooklyn, NYC outfit called Dreamers. They made some great noisy garage rock that, while following a standard formula, did so without ripping off The Strokes or White Stripes or Cage the Elephant. It was both refreshing and fun to sing along to, and I look forward to their debut album dropping on August 26.


(Above: The gents of Dreamers and the frontman’s lovely “Pluto: Never Forget” shirt).

And then came Local Natives. On a previous post I put these guys on my Honorable Mentions list for bands I wanted to see at Lolla. What a mistake. They’re a must see. I think of them as a sort of indie-rock Beatles: Like the Beatles in their early years, the songs sound similar, but that’s not a bad thing. It just means the formula is working. They also switch around on who takes the lead vocal and a few appeared to be multi-instrumentalists. And while they did bring politics into the show for a bit (and I’m not really a fan of when artists start preaching politics, regardless of side and myself being political), I’m always in favour of free speech and it was still such a fantastic set.


(Above: Frontman of Local Natives jumps down into the crowd as the flag of Chicago flies overhead).

Next was some fun with the wonderful Haim sisters. These ladies did NOT disappoint. Besides getting the entire crowd involved in the show, they also debuted two new songs, got nostalgic about seeing Lolla in 2007 and paid tribute to Prince. And their stage presence was electric. All three sisters seemed to be having the time of their lives.

(Above: Este Haim drums along with her sisters Danielle and Alana).

But the main event was surely LCD Soundsystem. I could talk about every aspect of an LCD Soundsystem song that appeals to me and how it transfers to the main stage, but I kind of can’t use words to describe this show. I think it’s just best to picture a huge group of people who’ve never met joining together for a truly euphoric, magical synth rock dance party and having the time of their lives. It was a blessed experience, and I feel so happy to’ve been a part.


(Above: LCD Soundsystem mid-set).

I hope you all had a lovely Lollapalooza 2016. Let me know your thoughts/what your favourite artists were!

If you have to travel to get back home, travel safely and soundly. Thank you for reading, and God bless.

Till next post,

-A.L.D.