I take the good with the bad at the start of a new semester. The good: the return of friends to Columbus from all corners of the world, and new credits that bring me closer to the looming distinction of being a college graduate. The bad: walks to class in the unbearable heat that will soon turn to unbearable cold, and the removal of the soul from High Street due to construction.
I’ve taken the same attitude with music that’s been released over the last three months. There’s been plenty of good, but there’s also been bad – mainly, the torturous wait for the new Frank Ocean, which has finally arrived. Also, Steven Tyler released a country album. So that was … bad.
But three tracks dominated my playlists this summer. And even though they may not be the cheeriest, summery songs for late August, they seem to capture a certain mood to which we can (probably) all relate.
“Destroyed by Hippie Powers” by Car Seat Headrest
Will Toledo, singer and songwriter for Car Seat Headrest, is probably the mouthpiece for more early 20-somethings than we would like to admit. His anxiety-ridden, brutally honest songs of self-doubt and uncertainty in 2016 are relevant yet timeless. He expresses the kind of angst that feels directly applicable to the listener, yet universal. One might look back and laugh at some of the pain of early adulthood, but those feelings are very real for a big portion of the population.
And a big part of that portion are college students unsure of their future. “Destroyed by Hippie Powers” is the song I turn up all the way when it seems like everything’s falling apart, experiencing catharsis through the rings of a cowbell. I can say I’ve personally shared the sentiment of the first verse: “I am freaking out in my mind, in a house that isn’t mine/ My end goal isn’t clear/ Should not have had that last beer.” I have, it isn’t, and I almost always shouldn’t have.
“No Limit” by Usher ft. Young Thug
Usher has been around forever. “Yeah!” is one of the first pop songs I can remember hearing everywhere, and that was 12 years ago. He is probably underrated for not only his continued visibility, but the uninterrupted quality of his work.
He’ll probably never stop churning out catchy singles, and this one, with one of the best rap artists working right now, Young Thug, is another one in a long line. Usher has radio dominance down to a science at this point, never without a catchy hook that is spun on repeat in one’s head for hours.
“Your Best American Girl” by Mitski
The high point comes unexpectedly in this song. It’s unassuming at the start, the strumming of one guitar string, and for about a minute it’s nice enough. It builds subtly, but there is still not much warning of the operatic outburst that arrives 1 minute, 25 seconds.
Mitski comes across as lovelorn yet resilient, confident yet unsure of herself. “Your mother wouldn’t approve of how my mother raised me,” the chorus goes, “But I do, I think do.”
The distinguishing feature of the current crop of lo-fi bands is their emotional vulnerability. While Mitski exhibits that, she has found her own lane, building on the simplest of melodies and hooks with stacks of sound. She is also one of the best writers today, evidenced not only by her lyrics that read like poetry, but also her tweets, which amount to 140-character literary statements. This song is her strongest statement yet.