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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

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Music Mondays: A Farewell

<p><em>Graphic by YounHee Oh, The Collegian</em></p>

Graphic by YounHee Oh, The Collegian

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of The Collegian. 

This is it! In the coming days, The Collegian will be transitioning to new leadership, and I’ll be letting others take over this column. First-year Zac Zibaitis and sophomore Daniel Saravia-Romero from WDCE have done great work filling in at times already.

Since this is my last Music Mondays, I thought I’d do some reflecting and give you all some last memories and recommendations, all music released since I’ve been at school here at UR (August 2017 to present).

Music to Study to: RAP - “Export” (2019)

Ambient, electronica, jazz and other variations of instrumental music became essential for me when I got to college. I don’t go to those playlists but instead tried to expand what I was willing to try, aided by guidance from WDCE’s former music director and my long-time mentor, Kevin Johnson, who graduated in 2018. 

Rap’s “Export” is about as underground and mysterious as it gets these days. From the faceless Jolly Discs label who reside somewhere in London came RAP. It’s a record all its own combining elements of house, post-punk, Aphex Twin, and Nick Cave.

This is probably the electronic album I’ve played the most, and I know nothing about this band, nor do I know any way to find information about them. But I know that they’re one of the reasons I was able to push through a chaotic sophomore spring and get somewhere outside myself and into the world of “Export.”

My favorite music event: Taylor Swift - “Reputation” (2017)

This is a really tough one to choose. In my entire life, my favorite album release was Frank Ocean’s “Blonde” back during my senior year of high school, during which I spent most of a Saturday watching Frank Ocean saw wood on a strange Livestream

There are some other contenders from the last four years: Kanye West’s summer of five albums in 2018, Brockhampton’s Saturation series in 2017, my personal anticipation of Foxing’s “Nearer My God” or on the comedic side of things, Arcade Fire’s fake review of their own album “Everything Now.” There’s also the endless album cycles from The 1975, which I love dearly and follow religiously. 

But “Reputation” is the most memorable for me personally. 

My first radio show time slot at WDCE was 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. late Thursday nights — how I stayed up that late consistently I do not know, and my co-host even had a 9 a.m. class on Fridays. New music usually releases Friday at midnight, so the night that “Reputation” dropped, all my friends and I got together and listened to it in full before my radio show, where we then reviewed the album on air with our instant reactions. The whole narrative leading up to it was a huge shift for Swift’s image, and it remains one of my favorite Swift albums to talk and think about.

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It’s hard for me to feel the same excitement for new releases now as I had for “Reputation.” I’m not quite as invested in the day-to-day music industry coverage as I was then, and I don’t have friends who are as intensely passionate about those releases either anymore. College was the first time I had friends as interested and engaged with new music as I was, and though some of those feelings have faded, I’m forever grateful for that experience my freshman year. 

Favorite album: Foxing, “Nearer My God” (2018)

Favorite song: Soccer Mommy, “Scorpio Rising” (2018)

In a review lost to a website changeover at WDCE, I gushed about Foxing’s “Nearer My God” to a level where my close friends still tease me for how I described the bagpipes on the track “Bastardizer.” I wanted to stamp that album on my chest, and whenever I return to it, I still get caught up in it emotionally in a way that precious few albums still do. 

“Nearer My God” isn’t just my favorite album of the last four years, but it’s a reminder for me of how new music used to make me feel, and how I rarely feel that same emotional vulnerability and ecstasy. That’s a strange thing to hear from a guy who wrote pretty often about new music the last several months. But while I still listen to new stuff nearly as voraciously as I did as a teenager, I don’t often feel as attached, like the stakes are as high, like any new album could make me a new man or bury me with crushing disappointment.

That sounds like an unhealthy relationship with hype and anticipation, but those extremes are also what make this stuff fun, and maybe what burned me out to a degree. “Nearer My God” may have even been the last album where I felt like my whole emotional state was tied to its release date. I knew it would deliver everything I wanted from it, and it absolutely did. 

I feel like I observe more from an arm’s length these days. I’m still excited all the time, whether by Lomelda’s “Hannah” from last year, or Black Country, New Road’s “For the first time” just last month. But, it’s hard for me to feel as completely overwhelmed, even by the music I love most, as I used to. I hope that’s not just a part of growing up, and that I can eventually reclaim what I had when “Nearer My God” was released. Maybe I’ll feel it when I’m back in concert venues, surrounded by others who feel it with their soul, just like 19-year-old me. 

And “Scorpio Rising,” well, it’s everything I want in a pop song. That melody is something that only Sophie Allison could have sung, and yet it feels like a miracle no one in 60-plus years of popular music had cracked what she did on “Scorpio Rising.” Effortless, simple, and the last song I wanted to hear each night before it cradled me to sleep for months and months after it came out.

Contact opinions and columns editor Conner Evans at conner.evans@richmond.edu.

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