Cat in the Stax: What are you listening to?
By Ethan Shea
Here at Falvey Memorial Library, we certainly emphasize the importance of reading. Film is also given a fair amount of attention, especially when a beloved book is adapted to the screen.
In fact, Falvey’s “Flick or Flip” series is dedicated to discussing exactly that. The art form that isn’t mentioned quite as much in literary circles is music, and personally, music is something I couldn’t do without for even one day. Whether I’m driving, studying, exercising, or just hanging out, I almost always have music playing.
I realized I may have gone a bit overboard with my listening habits when Spotify notified me back in 2017 that I had listened to a total of 108,455 minutes of music that year, which according to my calculations is over 75 days of constant music consumption. Keep in mind that these stats only include time spent listening to a single streaming platform.
I’ve since re-evaluated my admittedly excessive level of music consumption. Nevertheless, I stand by my belief that music is an indispensable art that can not only increase your productivity but bring countless hours of pleasure. On that note, here are a few albums released this year that I’ve been listening to.
Mood Valiant – Hiatus Kaiyote
Hiatus Kaiyote is a group based in Melbourne that manages to pop up more often than you may think. Even if you have not heard the name of this band, you may have heard their music sampled by superstars such as Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and Anderson .Paak. Their most recent release, Mood Valiant, stays true to their self-acclaimed “genre-fluid” style. This album’s neo-soul influence creates a groovy blend of natural sound that often feels like it was recorded by Mother Nature herself.
With song titles such as Flight of the Tiger Lily, Rose Water, and Stone and Lavender, the group is not shy about how they are influenced by the natural world and indigenous aboriginal imagery. My favorite track on this record is And We Go Gentle. I just can’t get enough of the lush, layered vocals and catchy bass line. This album’s relationship with nature is the reason why I believe this album is best listened to outdoors, so grab a pair of headphones and take a walk around campus while you soak in the tight 42-minute tracklist of Mood Valiant.
CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST – Tyler, the Creator
Fortunately for his fans, the LA based rapper, producer, and fashion designer (amongst many other titles) known as Tyler, the Creator, releases an album every two years like clockwork. Tyler’s been on a hot streak for a while now, and CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST is no exception.
Tyler takes on yet another persona in this album. This time he calls himself Tyler Baudelaire, a man of class and exquisite taste who enjoys eating brioche in France and traveling in luxury cars across Europe. The theme of travel is present in this record from front to back. Admittedly, this thematic choice is rather odd given the fact that we’re in the middle of an ongoing pandemic, but I’ll allow the fictional Tyler Baudelaire to do as he pleases. The narrative of a messy love triangle that appears here and there throughout the record culminates on the track WILSHIRE, a spacey track that gives Tyler room to speak from the heart for over eight minutes.
My personal favorite, SWEET/I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE, is two songs in one and blends smooth, soulful rap with bossa nova. Given the number of upbeat tunes on this record, I’d recommend playing this album at a party to give some life to the function.
The Turning Wheel – Spellling
The Turning Wheel is the first Spellling album I’ve listened to, and unfortunately, I have to admit that I never would have discovered the multitalented purveyor of progressive pop if it wasn’t for the famous internet critic Anthony Fantano giving her album a 10/10.
From the very beginning, in the opening track Little Deer, it is clear listeners are in for something special. Among an ensemble of strings and dreamy chimes, Spellling’s vocal performance is moving yet playful. My favorite song off The Turning Wheel, the 7 and a half minute track Boys at School, builds itself up with spiraling electric guitar riffs and eventually gives anxious audiences a breath of release with a triumphant bridge that makes use of a powerful horn section. This album is something you have to let marinate to fully appreciate, which is why I enjoy listening to it during long car rides.
Sling – Clairo
The second full-length album from Clairo, the 22-year-old songwriter who rose to fame after her single Pretty Girl went viral in 2017, is good news for her fans, as she stays true to her indie, bedroom pop roots while growing as a writer and vocalist alike. There is a healthy amount of folk influence in this album, which is especially apparent in the track Reaper. This track’s soothing guitar melody accompanies Clairo’s subtle and emotive voice. My personal favorite track, Amoeba, is in my opinion, the most danceable song on the record. I love the keys that are reminiscent of a ’70s funk song, and the flow of Clairo’s lyrics are unbelievably catchy. Because most of this album is relatively low-key, I’ve loved listening to it while studying. It can also set the tone for a relaxing night of playing board games with friends.
Now that I’ve shared a few recent releases I’ve been enjoying, it’s important to note that reading and music are not mutually exclusive. There is an entire section of Falvey’s subject guide dedicated to music, which can be found here, so rest assured that Falvey Library will have the answers to all your tuneful questions!
Feel free to share what you’ve been listening to lately in the comments below. I’m always looking for recommendations!
Ethan Shea is a first-year English Graduate Student at Villanova University and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Memorial Library.
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