Jules Bourbeau ’25
My dual duties as a Tripod Arts Editor and host of a radio show on WRTC mean that I listen to a lot of music. That, and my constant need to have some sort of external input to drown out my thoughts. Plenty of that music, however, falls short of warranting its own article, or it doesn’t quite fit on one of my setlists. Thus begins a new monthly segment of mine in which I highlight the miscellaneous tunes that I’ve been spinning over the course of the month that I want to make known one way or another.
“Smoke Signals”- Phoebe Bridgers
Phoebe Bridgers is not exactly obscure, but it would be dishonest for me to exclude “Smoke Signals” from my monthly music summary because of the sheer number of times I have listened to it. The lyric, “Something happened when you were a kid / I didn’t know you then and I’ll never understand / Why it feels like I did,” has particularly made me feel like I’ve been crushed by a steamroller emotionally. The song paints a beautiful image of two people not yet knowing each other—but calling out to one another nonetheless—until the destined moment that they meet. The Henry David Thoreau and Smiths references also feel like bait designed to lure me, personally, in.
“Yowler” – Yowler
Self-titled albums are not uncommon, but I have seldom heard of a self-titled song. Yowler is what I call a “one guy” music artist: one person performing under a pseudonym that suggests a multi-person band. Maryn Jones has this lovely, almost haunting voice that more than makes up for the somewhat sparse instrumental in this song and many of her others.
“Isle of Man” – Sam Vance-Law
There is indeed a real-life Isle of Man, but this song is about a very different fantasy island: a gay utopia imagined by a closeted, married man. The song is chock full of clever wordplay and innuendoes, from the title sounding suspiciously like “I love men” to the bears who “pad through each other’s undergrowth…”
“As a Child” – Madeline The Person
This is the first track of a larger EP titled CHAPTER 1: The Longing, tackling the death of her father when she was young. Obviously, trauma and loss make anyone who experiences them hurt but as Madeline says, “It hurts all the more / When you carry the world as a child”.
“Standing in the Sun” – Jessica Lea Mayfield
While the lyrics are pretty repetitive, this song never fails to brighten my mood a bit. Jessica Lea Mayfield gives us a warm-hearted song about wanting goodness and growth for someone you love. As we approach the winter solstice and our days grow darker, hold onto this song for when you need some sun.
“Wild Horses” – Sufjan Stevens
There is only one known recording of this unreleased Sufjan Stevens song, taken during its one-time premier at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The academy commissioned Stevens to write the piece for a film depicting Oregon rodeo riders. Rumors exist of recordings of the entire show, but for now, no one is sharing them. I propose that “Wild Horses” be added to the hypothetical Oregon album, along with the contents of Carrie and Lowell, the Call Me By Your Name soundtrack, “Exploding Whale,” and “Tonya Harding.” Despite debuting in 2015, I suspect that this track was written earlier, since it definitely has more of a 2010-era Sufjan flavor. I’ve listened to the singular extant recording enough times now that the person coughing in the beginning is just part of the song at this point.
“The City We Loved In” – Jordaan Mason
This is now the second preview we have received for Jordaan Mason’s upcoming album Rewrite the Words Again, and it truly surprised me for how different it is to the first single. The prior single, “No More Metaphor,” is much more in line with Mason’s established mournful folk sound. “The City We Loved In,” however, opens with a shock of feedback-y guitar before transitioning to an uncharacteristically pop-sounding melody. Now, I’m left without much of a clue as to what the new album will sound like, but what I do know is that I’m excited! Watch for its release on October 21st.
“Horseshoe Crab” – Slothrust
To tell the truth, I initially only listened to this song because of the title; I harbor an immense love for horseshoe crabs and other arthropods. Slothrust sound impressively heavy, not in the sense of heavy metal, but as if they’ve hung a weight from your heart. If it weren’t for “Horseshoe Crabs” by Hop Along, I would say that no one has ever sung the words “horseshoe crab” with such a bitter cadence.
“Always Wrong” – Blood Girl
Normally, this sort of baby-voice singing reminiscent of Nicole Dollanganger tends to annoy me, but for whatever reason, I actually enjoy Blood Girl’s vocals. I suggest not listening to “Always Wrong” if you are in a difficult place mentally, though; you might slip into the self-hating sentiments presented by the lyrics. The almost jaunty tune and Blood Girl’s humming interludes give the sonic elements of the song an almost cheerful mood, on the other hand, which to me points to some self-awareness of the ultimately illogical nature of a lot of mental illness.
“Ogre” – Richard Dawson
I know I had listened to Richard Dawson’s Peasant before, but for whatever reason, it never stuck in my mind. Earlier this month, however, on a quest to listen to more “freak folk,” I decided to return to this genre-defining LP. The whole record is fantastic, and one that I suggest listening through in full. If you only listen to one, however, “Ogre” would be my pick for its dynamic alternation between Dawson’s solo vocals and the larger chorus. When the outro, which is nearly half the song, breaks out, you will have completed your spiritual transference into the fantastical world that Peasant presents.
“Exuma, The Obeah Man” – Exuma
I imagine that if I were in the year 1970, when this song was released, and I innocently set this track on my turntable without knowing what to expect, my eyebrows would have been blown clean off. Exuma has crafted a hybrid sound between American, West African, and Bahamian folk music, much like the hybrid creature that he presents himself as in the lyrics: “I’ve got the voice of many in my throat / The teeth of a frog and the tail of a goat.”