Happy Memorial Day! It’s time for some music!
I’m going to be trying something slightly new this year. I like making playlists and writing about what I’ve been listening to, as you can see here. It kind of started as me making a summer playlist, which wound up covering everything I’d been listening to from the start of the year through roughly Labor Day, and then me making a smaller article to cover the rest of the year. But last year’s summer playlist wound up being way longer and more involved than I liked, and it looked like that trend would only continue.
So instead, this year I’m splitting it into two playlists to keep things more manageable. The Summer one should come at more or less the regular time, but I’m cutting it down to just May through August, more or less. And this Spring Playlist will cover January through April (even though it’s posting in late May; sorry, but I do still need time to actually write out my thoughts).
I’ve had a lot of fun looking for new music and collecting my thoughts on it (and not overwhelming myself with eight months worth of it! And spacing out the writing over a few weeks!), so if you want to follow along, I’ve included both Spotify and Youtube playlists. And if any of the songs jump out at you, definitely check out the records and artists they’re from; a lot of the time, I’m picking my favorite songs from full albums that I loved (especially if it’s one of the albums I’m writing about!).
Some housekeeping notes on the playlists, before we dive in: the Spotify version is missing 8 songs. Three of those (the DDRKirby(ISQ) and Jamie Paige ones) are on the Youtube version. The Hiro Tadomatsu songs can be found on his Soundcloud (here and here). 7mai’s can be found on their Bandcamp page (here, here, and here). In fact, most of these artists also have Bandcamp pages you can check out; it’s where I found a lot of them! Things are roughly arranged in the order I go through in the article, but also obviously feel free to skip around if you want; it’s not like the pacing of the music and writing will sync up, I’m not that skillful.
Also, if you’re a fan of these playlists or my game articles and want to be notified when they go up here, a reminder that you can sign up for my Out of Left Field mailing list below!
Expert in a Dying Field, The Beths
I’m sure this will come as a shock to everyone, but my two playlists from last year featuring a few dozen recommendations? They don’t cover the entire sum of music released by humanity in the year 2022. So I spent the first but of the year catching up on some of the albums that I saw getting discussed on End of the Year Best lists, which is what brought me to New Zealand power pop band The Beths and their stellar record Expert in a Dying Field. And as you might be able to tell by looking at the contents of the playlist, I liked it so much that I wound up listening to even more of their stuff.
Really, I don’t know what else to say, other than it’s a perfect pop-rock record. The Beths excel at packing in catchy hooks and melodies that will get stuck in your head and have you singing along by the end of your first listen, even as they keep everything to reasonable lengths. The guitar riffs are jangly and energetic, the rhythm section is tight, and their vocal harmonies provide a lot of fun layering in the background. Lead singer Elizabeth Stokes has an understated but powerful vocal style that accentuates her lyrics, which have this beautiful melancholy to them, as she recounts all the anxieties that make up life and provides a cathartic release for those pent up emotions.
From the first notes of the opening titular track as it slowly builds from staccato pick ups to big chorus while weaving a metaphor between a failing relationship and seeing your life work die out, it has the way of just hooking you in, being relatable in an almost mundane way while also making you want to pump your fist to big guitar moments. But even the lower-key numbers, like “Your Side”, have an energy to them while still feeling intimate. And my favorite moment might be towards the end, “A Passing Rain”, another rumination on anxiety where Stokes relates her many fears before expressing shock and gratefulness at a partner who accepts her in spite of that, a sweet moment that’s made so much bigger by the kickass guitar riff and belted chorus of “I cave! Like I was built to break!/You stay! Like it’s a passing rain!” Man, it just feels like a high point that’s been slowly building for the entire album, even as there are so many good points on the way to it; I feel like I’m appreciating new songs each time I re-listen (even now, on my latest re-listen, I’m debating whether to swap in “Best Left” for one of these).
If you try Expert in a Dying Field and also find yourself liking it, my next move was trying the singles from before and after it, as well as their previous album, Jump Rope Gazers. It’s all just great in the same ways (check out “Dying to Believe” for a highlight), even if I think Expert is still a cut above them.