Music Moment: Lana Del Rey

Music Moment: Lana Del Rey

*Disclaimer: I’m using the abbreviation of the album’s title in this blog post. Just for clarification.*


I’ve never been one to obsess over the West Coast or dream of living on the beaches of Malibu. In fact, I typically wish I was in a cozy NYC loft or strolling through Central Park.

But Lana Del Rey’s latest release has me wishing I spent all summer laying on the beach in Cali with the warm sunlight peeking through pollution. 

Or spending summer nights indulging in the luxe life at the Chateau Marmont.

Or maybe towering over the city of Los Angeles, as Lana does in her vintage film-inspired music video for Doin’ Time. Nevertheless, my cat eye sunglasses only magnify the vibes this album exudes, as I listen and daydream of a fantasy summer filled with heartbreak and lost romance. 


In 2013-2014, I was obsessed with Lana. I bought flower crowns from Forever 21 to match her Born To Die aesthetic, and I thought I was the coolest kid in school (I can assure you, I was most definitely not).

As time passed, either I “outgrew” her or her albums got progressively worse. So, I just kind of stopped listening to her. But now she’s back with another album.

And I can’t stop listening to it.

Album cover for NFR!

NFR!–Lana Del Rey’s newest release–is a dreamy, hazy mix of songs about her former summer lover(s) and her new life in L.A.

Behind the Album

NFR! is Del Rey’s sixth studio album, produced with the help of Jack Antonoff, frontman of Bleachers.

It’s no secret that Del Rey tends to include American cultural references into all her albums, and this album is no different. Instead of paying homage to the cherry pie and retro red lipstick (or being the “classic” Americana diva), she chooses to use this album as a sort of mourning of American culture.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Lana explores the meaning behind her latest aesthetic. “The chaos of the [current] culture is interesting, and I’m hopeful that there’s room for there to be some movement and excitement within it.”

NPR music critic Ann Powers claimed that “On NFR! Del Rey is at her most instantly compelling, a pro asserting her future spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” 

As Time magazine points out, Del Rey’s voice is extremely unique. “She laments, stretching out the final word ominously, amid verses that enumerate the things she misses: Long Beach, New York, idleness and, somehow most chillingly, rock ‘n’ roll.”

My Thoughts? Lana is the epitome of the next internet sensation: Sad Girl Fall.

The title track opens with an instrumental swell that is soft and sweet, setting up the scene for the rest of the album. The lyrics, however, are harsh and crude against the instrumentals, giving the entire album an interesting contrast.

While I love the sound of the album, my one complaint is that most of the songs sound the same (as it goes with indie pop I suppose). Nonetheless, listening to her album was a serendipitous moment. I wasn’t expecting much, and she really outdid her previous albums. 

Fave song: Mariner’s Apartment Complex or Doin’ Time 

Least Fave: Bartender 

Overall, I give this album an 8.5/10. The last half of the album was less impressive than the first half, but Lana still manages to top all her previous work with NFR!


What did you think of the album? Leave a comment below!

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Music Moment: Ingrid Michaelson

Music Moment: Ingrid Michaelson

I’m pretty sure the last time I listened to Ingrid Michaelson was in 2011. Seriously.

I was a freshman in high school when I heard her singing in that cliché indie voice, singing about getting rich and buying a home in the South of France. (My little wannabe flower girl self totally fangirled over her songs.)

I probably wouldn’t be amiss to say we all thought she had just faded out of the music scene. But then out of the blue, she came back. Released on June 28, 2019, Stranger Songs is Michaelson’s latest attempt to be an indie artist.

Album cover of Stranger Songs, Michaelson’s latest album.

This album was quite literally based on the Netflix original TV series Stranger Things. There are 11 tracks on the album (go figure). From “Freak Show” to “Take Me Home,” each song deals with a scene or portion of the show. Billboard interviewed Michaelson and had her break down the meaning of each song.

Listening to the album, I felt extremely unimpressed. It was monotonous and honestly really cheesy. Maybe if I was still 14, I would like it. Who knows. Regardless, something about the album really rubs me the wrong way.

I’m all for using art as a means of inspiration to create new art. But this seemed a little much for me. I adore Stranger Things, but to make a song about Dustin getting bullied or Nancy breaking up with Steve? Maybe it’s just me, but if you’re making an entire album about another show/work of art, you might need some more creativity.

[Side note: I can’t be too horribly upset with this album because one of my favorite albums is the exact same concept. Tales of Mystery and Imagination by The Alan Parsons Project. It puts Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous poems to psychedelic rock music.]

Anyway. Michaelson’s album still bothers me.

Fave song: Missing You

Least fave song: All the rest of them

Overall rating: 2/10… Sorry, Ingrid.

My thing is this: in a world of great synth pop, I simply cannot find a reason to like this album. It’s really only something I think we’ll be hearing on a muffled radio in JC Penney, not featured on Season 4 of Stranger Things.

Does Music Really Have an Effect on Our Memories?

Does Music Really Have an Effect on Our Memories?

Anyone who has spent more than 30 minutes with me knows how much I love music. From the moment I wake up to the moment I fall asleep, I have music playing as a sort-of soundtrack to my life. I write album reviews on my blog. I read peer-reviewed journal articles about the effect of country music on white suicide rates (or another good one: pop music’s affect on our memories) just for fun.

Music has been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember. My earliest memories of music include listening to ’90s Celine Dion and Mariah Carey with my mom, as well as singing “Uptown Girl” by Billy Joel with my dad on our way to his construction job sites.

As a kid and angsty teenager, I spent many long car rides listening to my iPod nano and staring longingly out the window of my family minivan, pretending I was in some sort of nostalgic music video. When I had a bad day in middle school, I’d come home and blast “Bad Day” by Daniel Powter or “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls. At one point in my life, I strongly believed “You Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban was a worship song. (It’s not.)

The point is, I’ve always been intrigued by the way music influences our memories and shapes our experiences. I found some interesting information from my brief researching on JSTOR. Essentially, music is like time travel. A perfectly crafted playlist can whisk you back in time to a memory you may have buried in the depths of your mind. However, it isn’t quite the same as reading your old diary entries or seeing old photos of yourself. Music attached to memories allows you to feel “a renewed sense of how it was to be that person or self at that time,” said Bas Jansen in his journal article “Tape Cassettes and Former Selves: How Mix Tapes Mediate Memories.

I then decided to ask people what songs were most dear to their heart. And what memories accompanied those songs. Here’s what they told me. (I may or may not have integrated my own memories into the mix of anonymous voices.)

“Fall for You by Secondhand Serenade. When I was in high school, I dated this guy for a long time. He texted me to look out of my window and he serenaded that song to me. It was pretty romantic.”

“Jasmine by Jai Paul. I heard it in the weeks before I started college. It made me feel like I was coming into my own, prepared for the world ahead.”

“Homecoming by Kanye West. It sounds like such a silly thing for a Kanye song to be sentimental, but when I got into high school my big brother started driving me to and from school every day. He was a senior when I was a freshman. I was bullied and struggled with self harm, and the time I spent with him in the car was my safe place.”

“ILYSB by LANY. It’s the song [my boyfriend] played when we were just friends, and it became our song when we started dating. It honestly just takes me back to when we were falling in love.”

“Touching Heaven by Johnnyswim. It was my little sister’s first dance at her wedding, and I have never felt more love and joy than in that moment.”

“Best I Ever Had by Vertical Horizon. It was put on a mix CD by my high school boyfriend. He had the best taste in music and made the best CDs. I felt like he really meant that song… He broke up with me a few weeks after giving me the CD because his dad made him. Honestly, I was so heartbroken over it. So now when I hear that song, I think of simpler times. When relationships hinged on how good the mix tape was. And riding down the mountain on a date, watching the sunset and listening to that song, with no care in the world.”

“Unforgettable by Nat King Cole. It was my 17th birthday, and my boyfriend and I had just gotten back to my house after dinner. We wanted some privacy, so we slow danced on my porch as the sun set. It’s a great slow dance song.”

“The Night We Met by Lord Huron started playing in a little restaurant in Glacier Park while I was there with my family right after we’d finished a 13 mile hike. Now whenever I hear the song, I wish I was back in Montana with my family, experiencing the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen.”

“Are You In by Incubus. Driving along the cliffs of Highway 1 in California. Serenity.”

“My Wish by Rascal Flatts. It was the first time I had even gone to a summer camp. For a whole week, I was spending time with strangers from all over. I grew so much by being vulnerable. I had people who so genuinely cared about me and wanted me to grow. At the end of the week, this was the song that was blasted throughout the auditorium as we loaded cars and headed separate ways. Now when I hear this song, I think of endings. Although they come with sadness, it’s a period of realization.”

“Human by The Killers. It was 1 a.m., and my friends and I were driving back home from a concert. We were blasting this song in an effort to stay awake. Even though I was exhausted, it was so blissful. I can feel that same feeling every time I listen to this song.”

“Me and You by Kenny Chesney always makes me think of my dad because he sang that to me on the way to school as a child. Some of the best memories I’ve ever had.”

“If Ever I Would Leave You from Camelot. My dad used to belt it out, and it reminds me of when my parents were still married. I used to think he was singing about my mom, but I guess not.”

“Coldplay got me through my high school depression. The song Yellow and the meaning behind it is fortifying to me.”

“Back Pocket by Vulfpeck. This song means a lot to me because during the summer of 2017, I would be editing late at night and the photographers would be editing with me. And we would turn on this song and just danced a ton.”


I was so overjoyed by the responses I received that I decided to create a Spotify playlist dedicated to all these special memories. Check it out! Want me to add your song to the list? Just leave a comment below explaining a song that you have a deeply connected to a cherished memory.

Music Moment: Paper Kites

Music Moment: Paper Kites

It’s after midnight, and you’re driving down the highway. The windows are down and your hair is almost (but not quite) blocking your view. The wind is warm and sticky, and you know summer is coming. You could drive for hours and let your mind wander because these are the days you’ll miss the most when they’re gone.

Can you tell I’m ready for summer? Not to mention I’ve already found the perfect album to accompany it. Today’s music moment is about On The Corner Where You Live by The Paper Kites.

On The Corner Where You Live album cover. Photo courtesy of The Paper Kites.

I found this album by accident one day, and I was shocked to find out it was by the Paper Kites. I had only ever heard their single “Bloom,” which was very very indie folk. But unbeknownst to me, they had released two entire albums in 2018. The first album is titled On The Train Ride Home and was released on April 18, 2018. Just five months later, the band released On The Corner Where You Live.

On The Train Ride Home is a good album, but On The Corner Where You Live really got me. It is infused with lo-fi and synth sounds, pays homage to the Blue Nile (where are my ’80s indie pop fans?!), and epitomizes heartbreak in the 21st century.

The album opens with “A Gathering on 57th,” an instrumental track that combines city sounds and a saxophone. It smoothly follows up with tracks that detail two lovers hopelessly striving for the perfect relationship in a postmodern society. Sam Bentley and Christina Lacy switch out lead vocals throughout the album to make it feel like a sort of dialogue.

Though it is stylistically different than their other albums, The Paper Kites made sure to keep a folk track in there with “Midtown Waitress.” They also included “Does It Ever Cross Your Mind” as a nice, introspective piano ballad. The album ends with the soothing yet emotionally charged “Don’t Keep Driving,” leaving the listener unsettled and longing for more as Bentley’s and Lacy’s voices trail off singing

Don’t push me, push me away (Don’t leave me).

Music journalist Thomas Hocknell describes it as “the sort of album you’d marry were it a person, although it would probably break your heart just to improve its context. It’s a delicate, yet muscular beauty of an album.”

The entire album just ebbs and flows in a way that is perfectly intricate. A cascade of emotions hits me every time I listen to it. The main critique I have is that it doesn’t seem to have a climactic song. However, the album flows so well that you get lost in the songs and don’t even realize when it’s over.

Favorite track: Deep Burn Blue or Does It Ever Cross Your Mind

Least favorite track: Red Light or On The Corner Where You Live

Overall, I give this album a 9/10. I simply adore the nostalgic sound mixed with the modern dilemmas. It feels so raw and real and true to life. And I love it.

Music Moment: Mumford & Sons

Music Moment: Mumford & Sons

Happysad. One word. A weird conglomeration of liberating joy and nostalgic gloom. The feeling that inspires you to travel the world but also isolates you to the cold depths of your heart. That’s the only way I know how to describe Delta, Mumford & Sons’ newest release.

After a three year hiatus, Mumford & Sons returned with Delta on Nov. 16, 2018. It’s no secret that this album is quite different than their previous ones. The folk aspect of Mumford & Sons is now embedded in heavy drums and electronic beats as though it’s begging to get on the Top 40 charts. 

While many critics said that the album was their worst one yet, I truly think it may be one of their most progressive. After switching producers, the band incorporated more indie sounds into the album to give it a modern vibe.

I love how Pitchfork’s Larry Fitzmaurice described it: “Delta is also the strongest collection of songs Mumford & Sons have released to date; the cool-handed atmospherics and dreamy melodies here simply suit them better than any other sonic guise they’ve worn.”

The album begins with “42”–a tribute to their 42nd single–and continues with a journey through the mind of Marcus Mumford. The climax of the album is revealed in the transition from “Picture You” to “Darkness Visible.” With an extremely smooth ride from bittersweet love to a contorted poetic reading from Milton’s Paradise Lost, the instruments crescendo until your heart feels as though it’s going to burst. 

While there are some amazing songs on this album, there are definitely a few weak points. Parts of the album lull, putting you off to the next song. I found myself skipping quite a few songs after listening to it a few times.

Favorite song: 42 or Forever

Least favorite song: Slip Away

Overall I give this album a 9/10. This is a super high rating, I know, but something about this album really spoke to me. Ultimately, I don’t think this album is a sell-out. Sure, the band has continued to blend into the mainstream. But it’s clear that Marcus Mumford is using this album to reflect on some very deep and troubling issues in his life, simultaneously causing me to do the same. (Thanks for the existential crisis, y’all.)

Check out Delta by Mumford & Sons on Spotify. 

A Small Reminder (to Myself Mainly) as Winter Approaches.

A Small Reminder (to Myself Mainly) as Winter Approaches.

One of my favorite songs right now is Seasons by Hillsong. I just love hearing it. I love singing it in church.

And it’s exactly where I am right now. If we’re being honest, it’s what I’ve been trying to run away from for so long. I don’t want to use the Christian clichés of “being in a valley” or “the winter of my life,” but it’s so true.

I’m convinced God created seasons to remind us of the ever-changing facets of our own lives. And with every passing season, He is always faithful to reveal to me what I need to learn and how I need to grow.

My favorite line in the song is the following.

Lord I think of Your love
Like the low winter sun
As I gaze I am blinded
In the light of Your brightness

It may be freezing in my heart, but the blinding light of Christ reminds me of His warmth. May I never lose that gaze.

Music Moment: Arctic Monkeys

Music Moment: Arctic Monkeys

A concept: a retro, Kubrick style hotel. A red silk dress glistening at the bar. Gold earrings reflecting in the dim light. Arctic Monkeys’s Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino playing softly in the background.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I think this album is pretty dreamy. Released on May 11, the Arctic Monkeys ended their five year hiatus with Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. Compared to their other records, this one takes a whole new face. The groovy guitar riffs transport me to space. Turner’s melodic, humming voice accompanies me as I gaze at the stars around me.

This album has been received with very mixed reviews, and I’m just going to add my thoughts into the mix with my very own Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino review.

I’ll admit I was hesitant upon first listen. This album hardly sounds like their previous grungy rock albums, such as AM or Favourite Worst Nightmare. But after listening to it three times through (my rule of thumb), I fell in love with it.

Pitchfork says the album is “a song suite documenting a futuristic moon colony and the exodus that spawned it, told by an assortment of unreliable narrators who can sometimes barely string a sentence together.” Rolling Stone describes the new album as “a lounge-pop concept record set in a casino piano bar on the moon.” What does all that even mean? It seems just as existential as it sounds. While some critics view those descriptions as a pretentious or lazy excuse for a crappy album, I think it’s more than that. Turner knew what he was doing with this album. It has a pretty political undertone and lyrics that can’t be ignored.

Star Treatment kicks off the album with a commentary on celebrity culture and its influence in the world. The album quickly flows through a series of songs highlighting dystopian future, monster trucks, taquerias, and even Donald Trump. Four Stars Out of Five calls the taqueria the Information-Action Ratio, pointing out the juxtaposition of having the world at our fingertips and not knowing what to do with it all.

The album itself is a giant paradox. It’s full of subtle and witty politicized lyrics soaked in a nostalgia that reeks of the 1970s. It’s grungy and gross while also extremely sleek and modern.

Favorite Song: Batphone

Least Favorite Song: Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (ironically enough)

 

Overall, I give this album a 8/10. This album is a shimmering work of art, and it really can’t be compared with their other albums. While stylistically it’s certainly not my favorite album of theirs, I really appreciate what they did with it. Despite all the negativity, I think it’s an interesting commentary on modern society (and what better way to do it than with some space lounge music?).

P.S. 8/10 is actually 4/5… See what I did there?