New year, same great music picks (well, to me, and hopefully to you). The first month of a new year is an interesting place to be. It’s a time of uncertainty, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. This is the time to be inspired and to trust yourself to set goals and resolutions. It can feel very scary and a little awkward to try to live up to the past or not feel guilty that you are not where you want to be, but believe me when I say, we got this! The song picks of the week will be a great way to start fresh and even add some tunes to your playlists for this new season. These song picks can get you out of a funk or feel optimistic of what’s to come. If not that, then I want these songs to validate how you feel in the moment and help you navigate where you want to go. There’s nothing like music as it possesses the power to find a sense of life.
“My Girls” – Animal Collective (2009)
This song is track 2 of their albums that came out in January 2009, titled “Merriweather Post Pavilion.” “My girls” sounds like a new day — the sun is coming up, the traffic is starting to build up, and it’s time to put some real clothes on. It also sounds like a banding together anthem, a rising of all the good people in our life and people we can’t live without. The song’s known to be a personal track by Animal Collective band member Noah Benjamin Lennox, AKA Panda Bear. The girls the song refers to are his wife and daughter. It’s a rush and burst of happy bubbles with loud shouts and claps, alongside layers of bass and crisp hyper-electronic sounds. The song details that the need to provide a strong house for his family may look on the outside as an attempt to engage in materialism, but he just wants the best and to give the best for the special people in his life.
“Isn’t much that I feel I need/A solid soul and the blood I bleed/But with a little girl, and by my spouse I only want a proper house.”
It’s a song that’s repetition-proof, as it’s made to be played again and again.
“Hyperballad” – Bjork (1995)
This song is track 2 from the album “Post.” Bjork is known to create beyond-the-surface ballads of love that sound like dreams that can only be created with our minds. My music niche is when artists reel you in slowly by setting the pace in tone, while gradually progressing until the very end. Bjork does this seamlessly while picking up the pace in the middle. This ballad shifts the focus on herself as it details the need for me time. She is in love and in a relationship and loves being in the relationship. But she doesn’t want to drift away and give up parts of herself. She details how she goes early in the morning to the mountaintops to be in the moment and take in the natural beauty of her surroundings; she watches as the rocks fall down from the high mountains and wonders what it would be like to be in the same state of the rocks.
“I go through all this/Before you wake up/So I can feel happier/To be safe up here with you.”
She goes through the thought process of also feeling elevated in her love life and wants to keep it light, so she has time for herself to recharge and remember who she is beyond a piece of a puzzle called partnership. This song is a message to all of us — to take time for ourselves and breathe some fresh air. Who are we beyond the labels we take on in daily life? Everyday, are we drawing closer to our real selves or are we allowing the world to chip at us? We may have people around us who love us, but we need to cherish time to sit with ourselves. Let the new year remind us to put ourselves first, so we can be present and loving for others.
“Love Language” – Ariana Grande (2020)
Ms. Grande was in her jazz bag with this one. Track 11 of her seventh album “Positions” sounds like a Maxwell underground jazz club in the late 90s. Ariana is more than just “7 Rings” and “Thank U, Next.” She has a plethora of potential singles and fun deep cuts. “Love Language” went number one on my phone, and it can on yours. The lyrics flow out with cadence and confidence that is so infectious. The bounce makes it such an easy dance song and when it’s on, everyone needs to move out of my way because I won’t be able to hear anything but the music. “Love Language” is the code in a relationship that makes everything seem alright. It’s the little things that keeps people on their toes and Grande details that the need to feel special and appreciated goes both ways.
“You soothe me, You hold it down with every word you speak/ oh, baby, been a minute since I had somethin’ so sweet.”
Grande appreciates how fruitful and light her love life has been, especially through all the ups and downs. This could also be a reference to “Sweetener,” her fifth album, as that was the last time the music sonically was about love and light.
“Silhouette” – Little Simz & Cleo Sol (2022)
The song is track 3 of the album “NO THANK YOU.” Since I have been lamenting about my musical niches, I love six-minute songs like Kamala likes her Venn diagrams. There’s just something about them. There is room to allow the song to ruminate, for the artists to say how and what they feel and to time for appropriate breaks and adlibs. The first time I listened to this track while doing my late-night listens, I was speechless, and all of the warmth in my body left for an instant. Was it the choir in the back persuading me to find my light? It must have been the impressive and layer-full composition of the track. The song sounds like the end of a movie or the end of a turbulent era in life. We have seen enough, we have been through enough; it’s time to move forward because better days are ahead. Through the lyrics, Simz describes putting guards up, validating the hurt one feels and moving on to a new chapter.
“Step into the shadow if you’re tryna hide your silhouette/When they stab you in the back, trust me, they ain’t finished yet Lettin’ go isn’t easy, /I’ll admit and it saddens me/If you knew how this has made me question my sanity/How could I ever doubt my truth and what I’m feelin’?”
Cleo Sol, with her breathy and soft vocals, is able to come through and hold your hand through the speakers:
“You only see the silhouette, but don’t hold your breath/I’m protected by the light, realize you can’t crush my soul.”
For all those who have their guard up, it’s okay. We all have those people in our lives who we thought would come up with us and we’d bask in each other’s successes and triumphs. But then, there are those moments in life when we must let go of those said people to relieve ourselves of toxicity. What this track is telling us is when we have our guards up from accounts of being let down by others, sometimes we have to set boundaries and take a step back to rebuild ourselves and gain new strength to protect ourselves from the future. We have times when we must be in the dark to come into the light again. It’s also a necessity to remember that no one should make anyone feel inferior or invalidate their feelings. This song is a reminder that even in those times of hurt, we are protected and can carry on.
“Records” – Weezer (2022)
Music should be fun, not serious all the time. This song is so unserious but in a “stick your tongue out with fingers up” kind of way. Records is an ode to, well, records. The comfort tracks that make a song on the top of our lungs keep it sane and enjoyable from start to finish.
“I hear records in my head everywhere that I go/ got records in my head spinning out of control.”
Most of the time, the only thing that gets us is the music. Music has just the right words to convey our feelings. Even in short one-minute-and-thirty-second songs, we can feel way better than how we did prior.