It has been a summer for the history books with corona cases steadily rising, entire cities on lockdown, hand sanitizer theft and murder hornet paranoia. On the bright side, quarantine has allowed for some of the most creative minds to thrive.
Taylor Swift revisited her country roots and love of storytelling with “Folklore.” Twenty One Pilots created an ode to these paranoia fueled times with their single “Level of Concern.” Dua Lipa remained hopeful for the future while keeping the past in her rearview with her album “Future Nostalgia.”
More musicians are stepping out of the shadows to try and comprehend this new reality in whichever way they see fit. In the end, however, it's up to fans like us to determine which songs are worth exposure to and which songs we should permanently distance ourselves from. On that note, here are some summer music highlights.
Taylor Swift’s sixth studio album “Reputation” (2017) brought about angsty lyricism and dark…
Taylor Swift, “Folklore”:
While I’ve already devoted an entire article to reviewing this album, the bonus track “Lakes” has recently blessed my eardrums.
If you are only going to listen to one song on the album — which is unfortunate for you — this is ideal. The song starts off with an explosion of orchestral wonder. The chord sequence is so simplistic, yet the strumming is lively and melodic. It’s the kind of song you want to analyze. The lyrics are jam packed with words people rarely use in a sentence, like “unsurmountable” and “calamitous.” Not to mention, the imagery is stunning.
Five Seconds of Summer, “CALM”:
Although this album was released at the end of March, it demanded an entire summer's worth of jamming out to. While their previous record “YoungBlood” (2018) was upbeat and full of ‘80s inspired bops, they seemed to be searching for their signature sound.
CALM” (2020) proved this wrong. This album was experimental, yet all the individual genres sounded unified, and lead singer Luke Hemmings’ vocals were effortless and free. Their opening track “Red Desert” was a power house track consisting of the entire band harmonizing, which they should do more of. “Lover of Mine” was raw and authentic with a lovely instrumental breakdown, which bordered the classical genre. “Wildflower” was unique because it featured another band member, Calum Hood, best known for his bass guitar.
Dua Lipa, “Future Nostalgia”:
I’ve never been able to call myself a Dua Lipa fan, but several of her tracks on this album stuck with me. I love ‘80s music, and hearing something that utilized those same electronic synth beats and background ambience but in a modern way was exciting, to say the least. Or maybe a better phrase is “adrenaline pumping,” specifically with her song “Physical,” which explored a broader vocal range. While a few of the tracks on the album seemed overly repetitive — as pop songs tend to do — you could tell she was exploring a new type of sound, not wanting to be stuck putting out songs like “New Rules” forever. It is far from it.
Armond Arabshahi, or Unlike Pluto, is not your average electronic artist. He plays the drums…
Unlike Pluto, “Messy Mind”:
I’m aware that up to this point, I’ve only discussed mainstream artists. But, if you’re looking for something a bit different, check out this multi-talented producer turned singer. I’ve mentioned him in a previous article, but he recently released an album with 18 tracks called “Messy Mind,” consisting of singles released weekly since March.
There is a song for any type of music taste. If you prefer something more alternative rock with a bit of electronic, check out “Regret Roulette,” “Starlight” or “Lullaby.” If you want something a little more laid back and soothing, “Shadow,” “Pocket Symphony” and “Mindless Bliss” would be ideal. Don’t forget to check out the beautiful ballad “Nicotine,” featuring Joanna Jones.
Sam Tinnesz, “Warplanes”:
This is an underrated artist I’ve never discussed before. He releases the kinds of songs you would find in the trailers of action movies. The tracks on his “Warplanes” E.P. released in May have epic instrumental breakdowns. My favorites are “Bloodshot” and “Play with Fire,” featuring Yacht Money. If you like him, check out his other EPs “Babel” (2017) and “White Doves” (2020).
Twenty One Pilots, “Level of Concern”:
Towards the end of March, when the famous duo left hints of a new single release all over Twitter, I would have never expected the song to sound the way it did. At first, I found it overly cheesy and almost rushed in production with the tacky disco-inspired introduction. But, after multiple listens, I became pretty fond of the track because it is so light hearted and representative of the times. It is vastly different from their usual darker tones. I especially loved the line, “Will you be my little quarantine?” And, the music video made it all come together.
Billie Eilish, ‘My Future’:
Billie Eilish stole hearts with her first hit single “Ocean Eyes” and is still consistently coming out with good music. The only “bad” part about this song is that the drum beat sounds like something off of Garage Band or one of those keyboards with an electronic drum kit. Aside from this, the song is eerily beautiful and seems to put Billie in a better state of mind than she’s been in the past.
We could learn a thing or two from that kind of mentality. After all, it might be the end of the world as we know it, but the music is still fine.