What I’m Listening To: Week 5

by Stephen

1. Alaska – Maggie Rogers

A few weeks back, my sister and I stumbled across a video on Reddit of Dorian “Pharrell Williams” Gray reacting to an unreleased track crafted by NYU student Maggie Rogers. The clip went semi-viral as Pharrell vainly tried to control his excitement while taking in the track. That song, “Alaska”, is now available in its final and mastered version and is available to stream on Spotify. And the song itself? It’s unlike anything I’ve heard before; a summer cocktail mix of light pop, ambient electronica, ghostly vocals and minimalist sound that hits all of the right notes and hints. “Alaska” effectively conjures up a sonic experience with its aural magic that haunts your mind long after its final beat.

Maggie Rogers’ soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/maggierogers

Watch the clip of Pharrell and Maggie Rogers that went semi-viral below (starting at 18:15) 

2. You Don’t Get Me High Anymore – Phantogram

Phantogram returns with the exceptionally dark, moody and alluring single “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore”. It’s a buzzing track that combines rock-electronica tunes with a hip-hop beat as Sarah Barthel spits out her lines at a near rap pace before her chorus hits. There’s a hypnotic quality here, a daze that the song lulls you into that feels chemically induced. And the raw emotional punch of the line “nothing is fun/not like before/you don’t get me high anymore” speaks to addiction, love lost, depression and inner angst all at once. It’s an exceptional single that hints at the turmoil and pain that awaits us when their upcoming album Three drops on September 16.

3. Sucker for Pain (w/ Logic, Ty Dolla $ign feat. X Ambassadors) – Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa and Imagine Dragons

There’s a lot going on here that it’s almost futile to try to sort through it all. So, just lean back, put on the cans and listen to it all before passing judgment. We whizz on by from the personified shouting match that are Imagine Dragons to the smooth, cold delivery of Ty Dolla $ign, then back again to Logic, who rattles off his verse like a semi-automatic. But it is Lil Wayne who shines through here as the song’s main selling point, spitting out convoluted and clever verses like “I’m devoted to destruction/A full dosage of detrimental dysfunction” and “Tongue kiss a shark, got jealous bitches up in the boat”. Even Whiz Khalifa and X Ambassadors make an appearance, allowing the already flowing testosterone to brim over in this track. “Sucker for Pain” knows what it is; a fun song that was made for an upcoming hit movie (Suicide Squad), but as long as it gives Lil Wayne a platform to properly release new material? I’m all about it.

4. Drug Dealers Anonymous – Pusha T (feat. JAY Z)

I keep returning to this song to take in the ghostly beat DJ Dahi has crafted for Pusha T and JAY Z to spit over. It’s a mesmerizing tune, eerie and foreboding at the same time. The type of music you would play during a late night heist montage in Miami or something. But my mind runs wild again, and this supernatural tune carries me away with it. Anyways. If there are two rappers with any credibility when talking about pushing and pulling “bricks”, it’s these two. And while there’s a difference between the glorification of the trade and a realistic telling of it, Pusha T and JAY Z will always lean in on the former. Who can blame them? It’s always more fun to do it that way. With lines like “The money count is the only moment of silence/Cause hush money balances all this drugs and violence” and “Federico Fellini in the flesh/Sergio Tacchini inside his mesh”, we’ll continue to listen to these two men as long as they’re willing to tell these tall dark tales of their former pasts.

5. Shapeshifting – Great Good Fine Ok

There are dimensions to “Shapeshifting” that seem to constantly be transitioning under one’s feet. Voices cut in and out, inter-spliced with a bubbly electronica tune that pushes in and pulls away at just the right moments. It’s a glossy song with vocals that crescendo at a moments notice. In that way, it’s a bit unpredictable and the lack of leveled ground throws its listeners off throughout the song. And that makes it a bit difficult to hang with what Great Good Fine Ok are trying to do in “Shapeshifting”. Still, it’s interesting to listen to what they’re trying to do with this song, despite how disorientating it may be at some points.

6. Make It Up – Shura

Ethereal. That’s the first word that came to mind as I listened to “Make it Up” by Shura, another single off of her upcoming debut album Nothing’s Real. And then the beat kicks in, transforming this song into a killer catchy track with its keyboard whines, clicks, pops and hand snaps. There’s a certain whimsy combined with an emotional pain as Shura sings over and over again, “Do you ever make it up?/Do wake up in the night and change your mind?” And as she takes on influences from 80’s electro-pop along with her Madonna-like vocals, Shura’s “Make It Up” is another reason why we’re all paying attention as her album drops on July 8th.

7. Wona – Mumford and Sons (feat. Baaba Maal, The Very Best, Beatenburg)

I have to give kudos to Mumford and Bros for trying something different here with “Wona”, a song off of their South African inspired EP Johannesburg. As the quartet tries to incorporate African musicians such as Baaba Maal, The Very Best and Beatenburg into their folk-rock genre, the resulting product is an affecting, genuine attempt at creating a new sound for themselves. Oddly enough, the lesser known musicians have less to gain than Mumford and Sons by doing this collaboration. The band still commands their presence throughout “Wona” and the EP’s other songs. With their name plastered across the album cover, they know that they’re the main draw to this parade. Yet, it’s the features that really shine through in the process, making for an collection of African rhythm and sounds that makes things interesting enough to keep you wanting more.

8. Rest In Peace – Yellowcard

Let’s bring it back to the middle school days, long before any of us were associated with the half-label, half-insult “millennial” term. Back to the days when bands such as Evanescence, Green Day, Switchfoot, and Hoobastank reigned supreme on our click-wheel iPods. And amongst that list was Yellowcard, who exploded onto the scene with the still-potent single “Ocean Avenue”. Now as we fast-forward thirteen years later, it’s the end of an era for the band. Yellowcard is calling it quits after the release of their tenth (!!!) self-titled studio album and a world tour. “Rest in Peace”, their aptly titled single off of that EP is a throwback to the classic era. Rest assured, there are no punches pulled here as their time-tested combination of violin, guitar, bass and drums rollicks on forward, rocking their way towards the eventual sunset.