Instead of doing a full album review for this month’s issue, I decided to switch it up. I still want to review and talk about music, but with short-form reviews. I had friends of mine give me songs to review, and from now on you, the reader, can submit songs as well. I created a google form where you can suggest songs for me to review in future issues; you can find it at the top of this article. I will listen to songs of any genre, so feel free to suggest anything.
“Dead Man’s Party” - Oingo Boingo
This is a song and band that I was completely unfamiliar with before. Oingo Boingo was a band created in the late 1970s and peaked in popularity with their album Dead Man’s Party in 1985. The title track of this album gained the most popularity, and is the one I listened to for this article. The song opens with a short guitar riff, and then the rest of the instrumental vocals come in shortly after. Although the lyrics focus on darker subject matter, the song is very upbeat. The horns and guitar that continue through the song are very catchy and get stuck in your head. It reminds me a lot of a cliche opening scene in an 80s movie. It is a rock song, more specifically new wave, but it combines aspects of other rock subgenres, like ska, that make it unique. The song is quite long, clocking in at almost six and a half minutes, but it is not repetitive – the instrumental changes a lot throughout and doesn’t get boring. I would definitely say it is worth a listen.
2. “Sandman” - A$AP Rocky
This song was released in 2021 in a re-released version of rapper A$AP Rocky’s iconic mixtape Live Love A$AP. The mixtape initially gained popularity in the early 2010s for its psychedelic sound that was new to rap at the time. The re-released version was uploaded to streaming platforms for its tenth anniversary in 2021, and this track was featured as a bonus song. Over the course of the song Rocky’s flow and delivery is constantly changing. As the verses progress he starts to rap faster and the beat intensifies; the lyrics and music build up together to a point where the beat breaks and the chorus kicks in. The chorus is the complete opposite of the verses, as it is very melodic with beautiful vocal samples as part of the instrumental. The song is a beautiful tribute to Rocky’s late friend, A$AP Yams, with many of the lyrics referencing him and his unfortunate passing. The song is a perfect mix of intense and calm, and I am glad it was suggested, as it is one of my favorite songs ever.
3. “Seventeen” - Sharon Van Etten
Sharon Van Etten is an indie folk and pop artist who has been releasing music for almost a decade and a half. On her fifth studio album, Remind Me Tomorrow, she released the song “Seventeen.” This was my introduction to her music, and it quickly became a favorite among the songs I have discovered recently. It is an extremely powerful song that focuses on topics like nostalgia, growing up, reflection, and finding yourself and your place in the world. The song is like a roller coaster, going from calm at the start, then intensifying, becoming calm again, and then, at the three-and-a-half minute mark, there is an epic transition into the chorus that brings the entire song together. Her vocals throughout the song intensify as well, peaking in emotion during the final chorus, where she is practically screaming. The lyrics match so perfectly with the instrumental though, making it hard not to evoke some type of emotional reaction from the listener. I still remember where I was and what I was doing when I first heard this song; that is how much I enjoy it. Whether or not you listen to genres like indie pop/rock, I would 100% give this song a chance. Not only is it very well written, but it has one of the best instrumentals and vocal performances of any song I have heard.
4. “Parallel Deserts” - Five Star Hotel
I don't really know how to describe this song. It’s a genre I have never heard of before – power noise – and the whole song sounds extremely glitchy. I had to take off my headphones because they couldn’t handle all the noise. It is a completely instrumental track with no vocals, filled with heavy bass and synths. I actually really enjoyed the intro, but when the bass kicks in at around thirty seconds the tone of the song shifts. It is not bad, I just do not know if it is something I would ever go out of my way to listen to.
5. “Dames” - Biggy
This is the most popular song by South African rapper Biggy, and it makes sense as to why. Even though I have no idea what he’s saying, it’s clear the song is meant for parties and clubs. I really did not enjoy the song though. His singing is pretty terrible and the beat and lyrics are extremely repetitive. It would be fine background music, but he does not do a great job with the club rap sound.
6. Dead Presidents II - Jay-Z
This song was on Jay-Z’s debut album Reasonable Doubt, which, in my opinion, is one of the best albums of the 90s. This song in particular is a standout on this album, with one of the most iconic beats in all of hip-hop; rappers like Lil Wayne, Drake, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and more have made their own version of the song. Jay-Z samples Nas’ song “The World is Yours,” which matches the beautiful piano melody perfectly. It’s not just the instrumental that is impressive though; Jay-Z’s lyrics, wordplay, and delivery are all amazing as well. Although the song does not have deep subject matter, it is still one of the best from Jay, and in my opinion one of the best rap songs ever made.