Judging your Music Taste 

by Gavin Schauble

Submit songs here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1oOnhKRc0Q8kd7XXptXD6gjevHmFci9pY-9kE5pIFHac/edit

Each month I will be listening to and reviewing songs chosen by you, the readers. You can suggest music for me to review in future issues using the google form above. I will listen to songs of any genre, so feel free to suggest anything. 

Prior to listening to this song, I had never heard of the band Polyphia. They are a progressive rock band that has been gaining popularity over the last decade; this song, “G.O.A.T”, is one of their most popular. As soon as I started the song, I was drawn in by the instrumental – specifically the guitar. The song has no words, but the instruments work extremely well together and it does not feel like anything is missing. The band throws in sounds throughout the track that might be considered weird, but I think they add a touch of individuality that makes it stand out. My only complaint is that the song could have been a little more intense; it did not feel like the drops matched the skill of the people playing. The eerie outro adds a lot to the song though, and I would definitely recommend the experience of listening. 

2. Say Something - Justin Timberlake, Chris Stapleton

Justin Timberlake is an artist I grew up listening to, but I have never gone out of my way to listen to him beyond a few songs. I really enjoyed this “Say Something” though. It does not push any boundaries nor is it super unique, but it is a fun pop/country fusion. I think Timberlake and Stapleton’s voices mesh well together; both performances felt successful over the simplistic guitar instrumental. The vocals on the chorus stand out to me, not because the singers go out of their comfort zone or do anything particularly unique, but because of the way in which they enunciate their words. The clarity of the lyrics makes the song that much more catchy. At times the melody gets a little repetitive, but I do not think it takes away from the song as a whole. “Say Something” is a song I will definitely be returning to. 

This was a personal pick, and has been my favorite song of 2024 so far. I have been listening to Osamason since last summer, when he had barely any music uploaded to streaming services. Since then, he has dropped two albums, FLEX MUSIX being the second. I held off on listening for a few weeks, but I am very happy I finally did, specifically because of this song. The sudden beat drop at the start of the song took me by surprise, especially the extremely distorted bass that somehow works. It is easily one of the best rap instrumentals I have heard in the last year, it contains a few pauses where Osamason switches from his rapping to singing, then it drops right back in where he starts rapping like nothing happened. The song also has a lot of replay value to me and even though I constantly play it on repeat I have not gotten sick of it. 

January Issue 

Over the past few years I have become a much bigger fan of rock music, but Dave Matthews Band is a group that was not on my radar. This song was a great introduction to their music though. The band came together in 1991, and this song was released on their third album, Crash, in 1996. From the moment the vocals came in on this song I was blown away. They are sung in such a unique way, where it is hard to make out everything he is saying, but you can still feel the emotion. The instrumental on the track is phenomenal as well. There is such a wide variety of instruments being played that all come together perfectly to create an instrumental that progressively builds during the track's six minute run time. My only complaint with the song is the long instrumental outro, which lasts about three minutes, but I would most definitely recommend this song. 

2. SIRENS⏐Z1RENZ (feat. JID)

Denzel Curry is an artist that I have been a big fan of since I started listening to music on my own, and this album, TA1300 (Taboo), is my favorite of his. Released in 2018, this album contained lots of social commentary, personal stories, and more introspective content. This is highlighted on this track, which features another very talented rapper, JID. Although the instrumental on this track does not stand out compared to many other songs on the album, the rapping performances from Curry and JID specifically stand out. The lyricism on the track is very strong, criticizing the media, government, and other rhetorical tools like double entendres. Even if you do not care for the lyrics though there are other parts to enjoy. Both rappers have a really smooth flow on the song, specifically JID, which switches up his rapping multiple times and keeps his verse fresh. The song’s chorus even contains vocals sung by Billie Eilish, which is a nice change of pace in between the verses. I have been a track of this song for years, so I would recommend this one as well. 

3. Little Bit (Feat. Lykke Li)

Drake is one of my favorite artists, but I had never heard this mixtape or song before. It is his debut commercial mixtape, which he released in 2009, which had more RNB elements than a lot of his newer music. This song definitely made me interested in his older work though, just from a few listens it is already one of my favorite songs of his. I had never heard of the feature, Lykke Li, before this song, but I learned she’s a Swedish pop singer, and she fit perfectly on this song. Throughout the song her and Drake back up each other's vocals, each sing the chorus on their own, and go back and forth. The unusual song structure adds another element to the song that I really like and gives it much more replay value. This is my favorite song out of all the new submissions I listened to, and it definitely deserves a listen. 

November Issue 

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 sounds that were 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 builds and intensifies as well, and they 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 being heard as part of the instrumental. The song is a beautiful tribute to his 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 one of my favorite 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 more 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. It matches so perfectly with the instrumental though, making it hard to not invoke some type of emotional reaction out of 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 ever 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 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 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 his 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, having one of the most iconic beats in all of hip-hop, with rappers like Lil Wayne, Drake, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and more making 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.