Father John Misty — “Pure Comedy”
By Kelly McGarry
Father John Misty continues a tradition of suspiciously comforting cynicism, and the current political climate may provide the most appropriate audience his career has seen yet. A hesitant piano melody ushers in his typical oddly specific lyrics of obscure relevance, “Say that half of us are periodically iron deficient.”
The song picks up, quiet choir voices lead in to a discussion of religion. The irony of procreation is so perfectly fitting to Father John Misty’s style: It’s a miracle that elicits intensely happy emotions, yet we know that this perfectly innocent thing is going to be subject to the injustice of the world.
The accompanying music video illuminates this point more clearly: Home videos of children are juxtaposed against disturbing cartoon drawings of uncivilized, grotesque, violent people. Finally the horns kick in. Misty joins the artists of many other singles to come out this month with images of Trump’s puckering face, “Where did they find these goons they elected to rule them?” Misty abandons his usual uninterested tone and builds into a heartfelt wail.
Slowing down, he responds to a bleak situation, “I hate to say it, but each other’s all we’ve got”; but that’s not such a bad thing to have.
Ryan Adams — “To Be Without You”
By Nora McGreevy
When we talk about music, there are seemingly infinite ways to classify songs – by genre, by artist, songs to play in front of your Grandma, songs to definitely not play in front of your Grandma. Well, let me propose another category: songs that pair perfectly with thunderstorms.
One of Ryan Adam’s newest singles “To Be Without You,” released in December, provides the quintessential example of this category. I haven’t had a summer thunderstorm season to definitively prove my hypothesis, although I have played the song over a YouTube recording of thunderstorm sounds to promising effect. Part of my conviction is likewise upheld by the fact that Adams weaves poetic references to storms into the song’s lyrics themselves: “Thunders in my bones out in the streets where I first saw you / And everything was new and colorful, it’s gotten darker.” The song, a selection from his upcoming album “Prisoner,” speaks about the pain of his divorce, a highly publicized and emotionally devastating affair that ended last summer. A gentle tambourine in the background mimics the falling of the rain, while Adam’s sorrowful voice pierces through the guitar chords like lightning: “I feel empty, I feel tired, I feel worn,” he croons.
All told, the beat and emotional thrust of the song hits deep in the ribcage, leaving its listeners — forgive my pun — a bit thunderstruck.
SZA — “Drew Barrymore”
By Bobby Wozniak
Even after three EPs that showcased her soulful chops and unique style, SZA wasn’t thrust into the music and pop culture spotlight until her relatively recent feature on Rihanna’s “Consideration,” a track that the alternative R&B artist actually wrote herself. Now she’s back and as original as ever, releasing her most recent single “Drew Barrymore” and announcing an album on the way. SZA sticks to her inimitable genre-bending musicality and breathy vocals on the track, which floats between a breezy, laid-back vibe and prideful exclamations of independent power. She sarcastically and seductively sings, “I’m sorry I’m not more attractive / I’m sorry I’m not more ladylike / I’m sorry I don’t shave my legs at night,” basking in her self-empowerment and wit. Her dry sense of humor overlaps with her undeniable musical talent, letting us know that her upcoming record is definitely one to keep an eye out for in 2017.
Phoebe Bridgers — “Smoke Signals”
By Erin McAuliffe
I ran to the WVFI studio after a Friday afternoon of networking and opened the door to hear a crooning voice reminiscent of a vulnerable Taylor Swift. The friend spinning the track told me it was the opener for Julien Baker, 22-year-old Los Angeles-based musician Phoebe Bridgers. I unbuttoned my blazer, kicked off my heels (worn over strategically placed Band-Aids) and sat on the couch feeling content, nostalgic and in awe all at once.
Signed to Ryan Adams’ PAX AM label, Bridger’s 2015 7-inch “Killer” brought guitar strumming to rival today’s biggest folk acts, a voice that leaves you warm but aching and lyrics ranging from amphetamines to Dahmer.
Her latest single “Smoke Signals” is a five and a half minute masterpiece. She addresses the deaths of influential musicians (Lemmy and Bowie) alongside circuitous melodies that are marked in existence by a circle of burning trash on the beach. The music video sets the tune to a zombie-esque prom, the perfect backdrop to a death ridden tune that wanders along a somber, burning setting.
Mac Demarco —“My Old Man”
By Adam Ramos
It’s always a little weird as a young 20-something when I catch myself idiosyncratically mirroring my dad. There is something semi-morbid and disheartening about my individually fading into my father’s short temper and his love for falling asleep on the couch at 8:30 p.m. But I guess it’s true what they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree — regardless of the tree’s growing gut and receding hairline.
Apparently jangle pop icon Mac Demarco and I are alike in our hereditary issues. In “My Old Man,” one of two recently released singles off his upcoming third album “This Old Dog,” Demarco expresses his likeness concerns over wispy guitar strums, a bouncy synth beat, soft brush snare beats and light kick drum. With his celebrated lethargy Demarco opens his breezy track lamenting, “Look in the mirror / Who do you see? / Someone familiar / But surely not me,” a feeling I know all too well.