Saturation III by Brockhampton
If you’re ambitious for a successful term, Saturation III is a good choice for bolstering your self-belief; the album is an ecstatic and surprised look at success, like receiving better than expected exam results.
The steady paced ‘Alaska’ is a gritty discussion of the road to success from humble beginnings; there’s a full acknowledgment of the difference money makes in life, yet the boyband’s lyrics are more often placed on the value of their friendships. ‘Stains’, with rapping from Ameer Vann that flows over a simple beat and chilled backing, is a great track looking at how members interact with each other; an airy vocal from Joba (Be there any minute/ I’ll be on it in it baby) uplifts and pulls together an uncluttered track.
For music that is unafraid to admit personal fears and failures, the album is undeniably fun. ‘Hottie’ and ‘Zipper’ are both catchy tracks with brilliant hooks sung by Kevin Abstract; like ‘Gold’ from the group’s first album, they’re engaging songs perfect for any Monday Motivation you might need.
Crack-Up by Fleet Foxes
Fleet Foxes’ third album is one for forest walks and foggy mornings. Although experimental, it retains a wonderful folksy quality that is almost hypnotic. The album mixes traces of genres easily; ‘Naiads, Cassadies’ has a psychedelic touch to its introduction which quivers through the guitar but leads to the more notably folky ‘Kept Woman’, where Robin Pecknold’s yearning vocals sail above an intricately woven instrumental.
The album’s epic is a nearly 9-minute track, ‘Third of May / ?daigahara’, written about the relationship between band members Pecknold and Skyler Skjelset and the tensions of artistic collaboration: “Night ended the fight, but the song remained”. A brash and rousing track moves to soft remorse with the words, “I was a fool”, and from here on is largely instrumental. It’s an intriguing mix of European and Japanese instruments, blurred together by the hum of organs and synthesisers: it should sound messy, but I found myself disappointed when it ended.
69 Love Songs by The Magnetic Fields
February, whether you care to admit it or not, has become entangled with the notion of Valentine’s Day. No matter if you approach the day with cynicism or sentimentality, The Magnetic Fields catalogue of love songs has you covered. Stephin Merritt’s emotional range, as author of every song on the albums, is as wide as his vocal one: the jarring bitterness of campfire ditty ‘The One You Really Love’ is a total contrast to the warm country-drawl of ‘Time Enough For Rocking When We’re Old’, which speaks of a love that lasts as long as the spirit.
Approaching a vast variety of love song genres, some of The Magnetic Field’s experiments are odd and quirky; the buzzing synth and lyrics of ‘Let’s Pretend We’re Bunny Rabbits’ sound slightly bizarre, (We’ll put on bunny suits/ I long to nibble your ears/ as bunnies do) but certainly earns a smile through its strange sincerity. Though impossible to cover all 69 Love Songs has to offer, all three albums are worth a listen if romance is on your mind.
Vampire Weekend by Vampire Weekend
Vampire Weekend’s eponymous debut, made famous perhaps by the single ‘A-Punk’, is an album for that indeterminable meeting of winter and spring, where the days are charmingly sunny and yet still freezing cold. Energetic drumming and lively melodies are met by Ezra Koenig’s chilled vocals; if the weather won’t, Vampire Weekend will brighten up your days around campus.
Tracks on the album are often an amusing mix of nonchalance and earnest concern: ‘Oxford Comma’, with a disregard for pedantic grammatical convention, cannot take the same attitude with personal relationships.
The album is truly one for students; written after graduating from Columbia University, the songs often sound like the soundtrack to an indie rom-com. ‘Campus’, a punchy number about a campus romance gone sour, is kept lively by stabs of music and pacey bass notes, while ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’ is quite the opposite.
It’s the beach get-away from university life, with the beat of hand drums and a playful guitar riff keeping track behind Koenig’s wandering vocals. It’s an album perfect for admiring the more lovely parts of the university, sunshine on the downs and escapades with your mates.
Phantom Thread by Jonny Greenwood
Phantom Thread, a score for the film of the same name, will add a touch of opulence to your day. Scored by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, the tracks knit together a 60-piece orchestra in luxurious pieces that enrich the aesthetically captivating world of post-war fashion-designer Reynolds Woodcock.
In typically romantic tracks such as ‘Alma’, named after the film’s muse, and ‘House of Woodcock’, there are strains of fragility in the orchestral strings reminiscent of the first daffodils of the season; rich piano chords, whether embedded far back in a piece or tumbling at its centre, strike a note of old-school romance.
‘Sandalwood I’ and ‘Sandalwood II’, themes written for the scent of Alma’s perfume, foster a sense of attractive intrigue with soaring string arrangements that hang above the depths of low cello. ‘Barbara Rose’ teeters between playful and anxious with a dizzying mix of rising and falling strings: Greenwood fantastically conveys the onscreen romance, caught at a point between love and obsession, through his score.
Phantom Thread is gorgeous and scrutinising with a touch of mystery – for who knows what lies ahead this year?
Featured image from Phantom Thread, courtesy of Annapurna Pictures via IMDb.
Image use license here.