The Memphis-hailed indie singer compiles her best of 2018 playlist.
Everyone knows that the lead-up to Christmas is a hectic turkey-stuffed all-drinking extravaganza – and getting into the office can be a bit of a struggle. Truth. But holed up in a serene pocket of the internet are the candle-lit indie songs of Memphis-hailed singer-songwriter, Julien Baker, and plugging in your headphones is 10/10 recovery bliss.
With two studio albums under her belt, and a collab group effort EP “boygenius” with fellow indie rockers Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers earlier this year, not to mention a slot at next year’s London festival All Points East alongside Bon Iver, Mac DeMarco and First Aid Kit, she’s going from strength to strength.
The singer compiles her playlist of 2018’s biggest hitters below…
Lucy Dacus – “Night Shift”
“Night Shift” is one of my favourite tracks off of Historian, Lucy’s record which was just released this year. I love this track because it showcases the breadth of Lucy’s musicianship; beginning with a low, timid drawling vocal and a single guitar, the song gradually unfolds the emotions of a break-up in real time from line to line, moving through anger, abject disinterest and boredom, sadness, mounting in emotion until the climax of the song, where Lucy’s voice tears through a wall of fuzz guitars to deliver a heartbreaking wail of a chorus. Its a moment of triumphant resignation, Lucy’s powerful, controlled vocals conveying the reserved strength of a person who could punch you in the teeth but doesn’t, the fierce dignity of self-possession.
Mitski – “Nobody”
This Mitksi song is a perfect example of what makes her music so revolutionary and important – this song is unequivocally a pop song, a song with a bouncing upbeat drum rhythm and glistening disco guitar riffs, a song that invites dancing. Though buoyant, it is not a frivolous song; it sacrifices none of the gravity or depth characteristic of Mitski’s poetry; the juxtaposition deep loneliness with the cinematically joyous production of the song reflect a yearning for a simple and realistic approximation of sensationalised romance, stating that “I know no one will save me, I’m just asking for a kiss… give me one good movie kiss and I’ll be alright”, declaring a guarded optimism that, while admittedly unfamiliar with loneliness, is not so disillusioned as to dismiss the valuable reality behind movies and pop love songs.
Hop Along – “What The Writer Meant”
The most recent Hop Along record, “Bark Your Head Off”, felt like a huge hurdle forward for an already amazing band, and this is my favourite track off of that record. The has a kinetic energy, melody lines snaking unpredictably through ever changing scenery of complex noodling guitars and spastically shuffling drums, creating a perfect sonic backdrop for the lyrics. We are shown two people viewing a gory event on a television, two people at a train, two people discussing a work of literature’s intent. Frances’ poetry presents vivid fragments of experience knitted together across surreal gaps of time, and then asks us to consider why these fragments of our memories shape us in the way that they do, making this song feel like an inquiry as to what we assign relevance and what we dismiss, an effort to portray life and emotion using the obscurity of every day occurrences, leaving all of the messiness of our histories intact.
Drug Church – “Unlicensed Guidance Counselor”
Drug Church frontman Patrick Kindlon’s lyrics are replete with little nuggets of unembellished truth; songs like this one give advice without actually giving advice, able to espouse wisdom by just making a crushingly candid observation about life. Gritty vocals, growling guitars and straightforward drums all mimic the uncontrived frankness of Kindlon’s poetry, with a driving chorus that offers a powerful proverb in the simplest phrasing “If you live long enough, you’ll do something wrong enough, that you’ll feel shame enough to say ‘enough’s enough'”, a line that manages to both acknowledge the inevitable failure of human beings as ell as their capacity to take accountability for mistakes, and ostensibly to change themselves.
Foxing – “Nearer My God”
“Nearer my God” is a crescendo of a song. It is short and simple, a slow, gradual build that rises from a piercing falsetto over a dark and brooding bass line to a soaring final chorus, full of longing and movement. The opening lines “I want it all,” express the desire to be many things, but fundamentally the desire to be loved, to be anything that would be wanted. This feeling of searching, of desire to belong becomes desperate, almost frantic, propelled forward by driving guitars and vocalist Conor Murphy’s ascending vocals, until the song ends, abruptly fading from the intensity of the chorus and offering in a moment of tender resoluteness a final, gently repeated question “Do you want me at all?”.