The following albums are the foundation of my Fall Term soundtrack. From instrumental hip-hop to not-so-straightforward folk, each of these records keeps me coming back for more and they definitely have plenty to offer as we all get back to Lawrence’s daily grind.
1. Shlohmo, “Bad Vibes”
Shlohmo seems to conjure his beats from nowhere. He takes samples that seem to have no rhythm, no pulse at all, and makes them into tracks that sound so organic that it’s difficult to believe he created them largely from behind a set of turntables. And though all the tracks on “Bad Vibes” are instrumental, Shlohmo still manages to create a contemplative, melancholy atmosphere that’s consistent enough to fade into the background and evocative enough to warrant a close listen or two.
2. Beirut, “The Rip Tide”
Although Beirut’s new album is lacking in some of the Balkan flavor that characterized the band’s previous work, leader Zach Condon’s skill as a songwriter has clearly matured. These songs are restrained and uncomplicated but manage to retain the anthemic energy of the band’s previous records. “The Rip Tide” is nostalgic without being sentimental, uplifting without being sappy, and makes for a great end-of-summer listen.
3. Amy Winehouse, “Back to Black”
Amy Winehouse’s music has always seemed reassuring to me. Its straightforwardness, its sheer audacity provided some authenticity amongst the persistent euphemisms of popular music. And though her death complicates things, it doesn’t give us the right to make “Back to Black” into a veiled cry for help, or a hazy prophecy of a life cut short. Listening to the album still feels right, her voice still sounds brazen, shameless, and even comforting in its own impolite way.
4. Laura Veirs, “July Flame”
Laura Veirs’ most recent album, praised by many critics, is a high-point for contemporary folk music. Produced by her husband Tucker Martine, “July Flame” is full of familiar sounds, allusions of sorts to different periods in America’s musical history. Yet the stories Veirs tells and the insights she draws are wholly her own and they demand attention. The stark beauty that this husband-and-wife team so effortlessly create will undoubtedly keep you coming back for more.
5. Fleet Foxes, “Helplessness Blues”
The songs on “Helplessness Blues” are refined, well thought out, and more groove-oriented than before. And though that means sacrificing some of the simplicity — musically and lyrically — that made the band’s earlier music so appealing, their new sound is full, buoyant, and has loads of potential. In spite of frontman Robin Pecknold’s efforts to take the record in a more serious direction, “Helplessness Blues” as a whole doesn’t sound all that helpless, which to me makes it an even better back-to-school listen.