Staff Pix 3/3: Playlist Buddies
The Milk Crate staff’s favorite tracks of the week, presented with blurbs worthy of a promotional sticker on a jewel case. Tune in Fridays from 2-3 EST to the Staff Pix radio show.
Change by Big Thief
While saying this is equivalent to spewing hate speech in the eyes of many Emerson students, I’ve never really enjoyed Big Thief. Sure, some songs are undeniable bangers (thinking “Masterpiece” and “Paul”)— but really, I’ve never understood their status as an indie cult classic. “Change,” however, may be the song that changes my mind. Adrienne Lenker’s voice is reminiscent of times past, sweet and unmarred by excessive production. The song is raw, acoustic, and has a bit of a country twang that really hones in a familiar and naked sound. “Change” is beautifully brutal with lyrics like “Could I feel happy for you / When I hear you talk with her like we used to? / Could I set everything free / When I watch you holding her the way you once held me,” encapsulating the tender bittersweetness of a cherished relationship’s change from love to disconnect. “Change” is full of questions that never get answered, but inspire reflection and thought on the part of the listener— it’s the perfect ditty to listen to while reckoning with the barrage of life changes that seem never-ending. While I still wouldn’t call myself a Big Thief fan, this song has earned itself a solid spot in my library.
Lily Suckow Ziemer
Kick The Tragedy by Drop Nineteens
It’s Saturday night, your friend just threw up in an Uber, and you're cleaning your room as she sleeps in bed next to a trash can. It was in this mindset that I pulled out my noise canceling headphones and hit play on Ethan’s playlist. I had listened to it many times before; he had created a great compilation of songs, further fueling my love of Arctic Monkeys. However, one particular song stood out at the moment, “Kick The Tragedy” by Drop Nineteens. The majority of the eight minutes and fifty-five seconds is instrumental. Drop Nineteens’ instrumental prowess is clear as the repetitive yet ever-changing melody persists. It is the perfect background music for getting in your head or pretending to be the star of a coming-of-age film. A little over five minutes in, the instruments peel off and a voice begins to musically speak. The feeling of the song is perfectly encompassed in the words, “I was down, more than I probably wanted to be probably.” It finally culminates with one of my favorite lyrics of all time: “It's even funny when you stop to realize I'm just nineteen, and how serious can anything be anyway? / Not very.” “Kick The Tragedy” is the perfect song for sitting in the corner of your room eating ice cream, walking alone down Boylston Street, or any other time you need a soundtrack for your life, especially if you’re 19.
Real Pain by Indigo de Souza
Holy shit Maura nailed my playlist. There are so many bangers — from After Hours by the Velvet Underground to Obstacle 1 by Interpol — so it was difficult to choose a single favorite out of 20 songs. I’ve listened to Indigo de Souza before, but never this song. It sounds like a house show feels; it starts off light, with just the singer and electric guitar, and then slowly builds as more instruments and sounds join. Then all of the sudden at 1:50 it begins to pick up as Indigo repeats the word “Going” over and over again. There are a bunch of noises that morph from the background into the main sound of the song; people conversing, screaming, electric feedback, I LOVE WEIRD NOISES! Finally, this build up bursts at 3:42 and it goes back to an upbeat melody with Indigo’s voice at the center of the song’s sound again. I want to hear this song live so badly. Thank you Maura for this song, it’s a new favorite!
New Jersey by Blue Deputy
It is amazing to me how one of the most romantic songs I’ve ever heard is named after one of the least romantic places I can think of! The Philadelphia-based band only has two songs released and it is heartbreaking. And! To add insult to injury, their social media accounts have seemingly gone radio silent, since their most recent Instagram post is from April of 2022. I’m sad because I think Blue Deputy has both the sound and narrative talent to become something great in the industry. Vocalist Andy Bunting fits right in with popular “sad girl” singers, sounding reminiscent of Julien Baker and Clairo, but still brings something new to the table. I think it has something to do with their inflection. Despite the angst and yearning conveyed in the lyrics (“Won’t you take all your clothes off of me / And put them in a pile at your feet / And just look me in the eye / Why won’t you look me in the eye?”), Bunting still captures hope. It accurately illustrates budding romantic feelings — you’re excited, and you really think it might be going somewhere, but they just keep falling short of your expectations. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s not quite as catastrophic as it can (and probably will) be. I especially love the chorus, “And when you touch me / I can barely keep it together / I can’t keep it together / And when you touch me / I am beside myself,” because it solidifies that this is meant to be interpreted somewhat positively. Thank you, Sophia, for putting this song on my playlist! I am so happy but so sad that I don’t have much more from them to listen to.
Fine by The Linda Lindas
The Linda Lindas have been in my repertoire since late 2020 when I got into Riotgrrrl for the first time. I heard “Oh!,” a heavy yet upbeat song, serving as an anthem for the modern Riotgrrrl movement and the fronting song on their first album Growing Up, released in 2022. “Fine” is fourth on the album, a song about teenage angst, something that The Linda Lindas sing about in all their music. The opening lyrics, “You hear us shouting but you don't feel a word/ You know we're dying but you say that we're cure/ You keep on going, you think it's fine” is a direct callout to the people that doubt The Linda Lindas and therefore all the young girls that speak their minds. What’s unique about the band is that it’s made-up of a group of four girls who started performing in 2018 for big names like Bikini Kill and collaborating with Sleater-Kinney. They were also featured in the Netflix original Moxie (2021), a movie about a modern high school group who started their own feminist zine rooted in the Riotgrrrl tradition. “Fine” is a song about teenage rebellion and not caring about what others think.
Martin Scorsese by King Missile
When I was fourteen, a friend of mine stopped me before school started one day, phone outstretched in the way only someone dying of anticipation to show you the least funny thing you’ve ever seen can. “My dad showed me this song,” he expectorated, with a voice like someone whose Letterboxd comes up when you Google their name. “It’s really funny, check it out.” So, I stood in silence for three minutes and twenty-three seconds while this future film-school dropout played me King Missile’s “Detachable Penis” from his iPhone 7. And for eight dreary years, that was the end of my journey with the aggressively Greenwich Village-ian avant garde band, until friend and fellow Milk Crate staffer Salem Ross sent me a playlist with this song on it. One listen, and I was down the rabbit hole. Happy Hour is admittedly a mixed bag of an album, with epic highs (“I’m Sorry”), moments of catharsis (“It’s Saturday”) and substandard schlock (“Detachable Penis), but it’s a downright miracle I never stumbled back into King Missile of my own volition. The first hit of that Primus-soaked-in-swampwater bass riff sold me on John S. Hall’s whole act. Frankly, the only flaw I can find in this track is how soon it ends. I’m sure there’s a whole list of creative ways Hall can mutilate the body of acclaimed director Martin Scorcese, enough for at least another minute of the chest-beating gorilla euphoria the rhythm section induces in me. I’ve been addicted to the way Hall says “fuckin’” for weeks, and I think anyone who gives this nightmare fuel an honest try will be too.
Forever by Alex G
I have been meaning to listen to Alex G for so long, and seeing this track on the playlist Che made had me so excited! “Forever” is so lovely and transcendent, the sweet melody and soft vocals make this a beautiful and romantic track to blast as the weather slowly warms and our hearts defrost. I plan on keeping it on repeat for solo walks to the esplanade, relying on the delightful acoustics and joyful beat to keep me alive as the city increases in temperature and everything slowly becomes more bearable.
Good Fortune by PJ Harvey
PJ Harvey’s glam rock album, Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, featured a mixture of radio ready rock hits, Thom Yorke hits, and slow jams. Harvey’s rock was always strong, but in this particular era she achieved a perfect balance of personal aesthetics and radio sensibilities. “Good Fortune” is one of PJ’s finest. Coming from her grungier Is this Desire?, “Good Fortune” is bright and ambitious, a song about taking control of one’s fate, even if that means just stalking around New York City in a black dress.
Shadrach by Beastie Boys
Senior year of highschool I was absolutely obsessed with Beastie Boys, specifically their album Pauls Boutique. You will never find a sound identical to their sophomore record, littered with so many samples that the full list of songs used isn't known to this day. Released in 1989, MCA, Adrock, and Mike D created a whole new brand for their once party boy selves. Wanting to move away from their frat bro type sound of their first album Licensed To Ill. Having biblical roots in the song also relate to the three lyricists within it. “ We're just three MCs and we're on the go Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego.” The three men mentioned refuse to submit to the king of Babylon, but end up as high points in babylon. A lot of Beastie Boys music stems from attitude. Settling into yourself, even if it doesn't feel natural.
La femme d’argent by Air
Air is one of those bands whose music seems perpetually ahead of its time. “La femme d’argent” is an instrumental tune off of the band's critically acclaimed album Moon Safari. True to the group’s name, this song encapsulates an airy feeling with a mellowed-out 70’s funk-esque sound. This song uses a masterful medley of vibrant synth piano, low percussion, and other synth sound effects. Instrumentally, the real star of the show for me is the dynamic bass line that occurs consistently throughout the melody. The bass riff is reminiscent of a psychedelia-funk fusion sound that really makes you feel like you're floating in, well... air. I play this song whenever I want to walk around and feel like I’m the femme fatale protagonist of a 70’s film. This song definitely goes down as an instrumental favorite and staple of mine.
War of the Hearts by Sade
I began listening to this song as I laid down for a mid-evening nap (one thing about me, I love to nap!) and it was truly the most magical experience. It’s a near seven minute odyssey of a song and I stayed suspended between REM and consciousness, loving every moment of it. The layers this song develops, from the delicate synth to the progression of maracas, bass, horn, and piano, was ascendant. Not to even mention the echoing vocals, lighter than air. With my eyes closed, I envisioned this song as the light shining through wading water, gold floating through oceanic blue. An incredible experience, an incredible song.
Peace & Happiness by Ted Hawkins
There’s a certain intoxicating simplicity to a musician who can craft a good story with just their voice and an acoustic guitar. Ted Hawkins is definitely no exception. When he was crafting my playlist, Harry did a really great job putting together a huge assortment of all sorts of different sounds. It’s almost all musicians I hadn’t heard of, too, so I’ve been discovering a lot this past week just by going through some of their discographies. But from the spacey psych rock to the punchy hip hop artists, none of them have hooked me quite as much as Ted. His story is an interesting one, finding little success in the States, he’d usually perform on the street in L.A. But, in Great Britain, Ireland, France, and Japan, he was a bit of a star. He finally had his domestic breakthrough in 1994 with the release of his sixth album, “The Next Hundred Years”, but died later that year before he could enjoy his newfound success. In “Peace and Happiness”, he sings about his search for a successful life, but it’s clear that he isn’t looking for that success in his career. Instead, he tells listeners that he’ll find contentment through love. It’s a little cheezy, but something about how stripped back the song is makes this point hit extra hard. There’s a certain coziness to both his playing and his songwriting that helps him feel extra sincere. I’ve already added “Peace & Happiness” to my March playlist and I haven’t heard a Ted Hawkins song I didn’t like yet, so I think I’ve got a new personal favorite on my hands thanks to Harry!
Eugene by Arlo Parks
Since Collapsed in Sunbeams was released in 2021, I always felt it was exclusively for casual listening. Arlo Parks is incredibly clever and the style of her music honestly encapsulates that warm spot on the carpet where sunbeams peak through a window, or sage green and fresh linen. When Claire put “Eugene” into my playlist, it gave me a chance to really listen to Parks and do a little more than just feel the songs and their energies. “Eugene” is beautifully written, opening with, “I had a dream we kissed / and it was pure amethyst.” Even though the song later turns into what seems to be about being in love with your best friend, I think this line is pretty profound in articulating the way we dream of those we want but can’t have. Sometimes we dream of people we’ve lost, those that have broken us, and it feels safe in that bright, warm space in our minds. We see the pure image of them that we created, distilling out all of the negative qualities that made it difficult to keep loving them down to the ones that made us love them in the first place. Love in dreams is always going to feel safer, brighter, less tumultuous—and maybe it’s better that way. But maybe the pain and the change that accompanies raw, human love is the best part about it. Amethyst as a crystal is often used to ease stress and anxiety, indicating that the dream embodied peace and some kind of safety in love, something we all yearn for but often are cheated out of. Friendships sometimes remain just that—friendships, with yearning and ache coming from one side and one side only. It’s the magic of humanity, I guess, that we get to experience heartbreak and have such a capacity to feel it. Much like Amethyst, the purity and honesty of “Eugene” is enough to fill my heart with sunlight and reduce my stresses and heartaches down to mere specks in the rearview.
Yoshimi, Forest, Magdalene by beabadoobee
To me, Lily’s playlist ended up being the perfect blend of new discoveries and familiar favorites. From The Backseat Lovers, who I constantly visit time and time again, to DPR LIVE, a Korean rapper that I had known about vaguely but never truly listened to. Amongst all these hits (many of which I hadn’t heard in a while), I think the song that stood out to me most was Yoshimi, Forest, Magdalene by beabadoobee. For months now I have been constantly hearing about beabadoobee but for some reason haven’t found myself putting any of her music on. When I finally got to this song on the playlist, I was surprised by the wall of noise that I was met with. Being both aggressive and catchy, I feel that it was the perfect introduction to beabadoobee and made me go further into her discography. The song was truly a visceral experience, and fits perfectly with the ambiance of Lily’s playlist.
High Tide, Storm Rising by Skinshape
I am a lyrics person. This is a well-documented fact – when I talk or write about music, the conversation is more often than not heavily lyrics-centric, because to me, words so easily make or break my enjoyment of a song. And yet, out of the new and familiar tracks that new staff writer Amelia put on their playlist for me, this is one that I have returned to again and again… and it has no lyrics at all. “High Tide, Storm Rising” is an instrumental track, and it is pure happiness and peace contained within four minutes. Lush orchestral elements and a rhythmic, almost hypnotic percussion line support a melody that winds its way through various instrumental features. The grounding point, however, is a twangy guitar riff that makes the whole track feel like a meandering walk in the tropics. It was the perfect song to kick off a playlist of new favorites.
Charcoal Baby by Blood Orange
Blood Orange has repeatedly appeared in my life over the last year and a half. I first heard him while listening to the soundtrack of Gia Coppola's Palo Alto (2013), and I was immediately drawn to his melancholy lyrics and sound, which matched perfectly with the film. Blood Orange's Charcoal Baby accomplishes one of the most powerful things music can do: it can resurrect long-forgotten feelings of nostalgia. Every time I listen to a Blood Orange song, it's as if I'm reliving a romanticized memory of my life, making me appreciate the small things I take for granted, like the sun on my face, the water that drips out of my bathing suit, the softness of my linens after a long day, and many more aspects that bring beauty into my life, all perfect to pair with songs such as Charcoal Baby.
Cherio De Amor by Maria Bethania
Maria’s voice is so heartfelt, soulful, and reflective of the lovely groove delivered by this track’s far-out instruments. The Brazilian singer speaks to the feeling of sudden love – the way that the heart moves much faster than the brain, and how minor sparks of interest from a brief encounter can ignite and grow into a full-blown bonfire of desire over time. “Cheiro De Amor” comes from Bethania’s 1979 album Mel, and its exploration of the human experience is still relevant some fifty-years after its original release on Universal Music Ltda. Overall, it’s just a really cool sound, and a special thanks goes out to Matt for introducing me to this artist, in addition to all of the other awesome songs they included in my playlist, with a special, secondary shout out to “Northern Highway” by Martin Courtney!