On “Laurel Hell”, her sixth studio album, Mitski does the unexpected, entering the realm of synth-pop with the signature ferocity of her musical penmanship. This shift into synth-pop isn’t the result of a label’s wishes, but the artist’s choice herself.
The fact that Noname’s Room 25 is our album of the year despite its relative lack of promotion is truly a testament to the quality of the album. Every track wows on its own but gets even better within the context of the album. Its live instrumentation and Noname’s poetic vocals give Room 25 the feeling of it being just you and her, something no other album is able to achieve to the same degree. All in all it’s the most cohesive and surprising album of 2018 and is deservedly our number one. —Daniel Moran
Dirty Computer — Janelle Monáe
Janelle Monáe’s latest release accompanied an “Emotion Picture” of the same name — a gorgeous combination of music video and narrative film loaded with social commentary.
It’s been two years since Mitski graced us with Puberty 2, a deep, thoughtful and powerful album that was so mesmerizing words will never do it justice. The Japanese-American artist has grown increasingly louder over the years, and now with her newest album, Be the Cowboy, she is louder than ever, making listeners feel emotions they didn’t know they were capable of. In the past, Mitski has consistently kept a rather slow, mostly acoustic and melancholic sound (save for the few bursts of lyrical and emotional impacts, i.e. the chorus in “Your Best American Girl”). In addition to keeping a consistent sound, Mitski keeps her lyrical style the same: emotional, deeply sad and lonesome lyrics that very often hit home and have listeners in tears just one song into her albums.
Mitski has never been scared to bare it all and be vulnerable, because it’s human. Women are too often told that being powerful and independent means that we have to meet certain superhuman expectations, such as immunity to negative emotions and heartbreak, as well as coldheartedness, all while being sexy.
As an arts writer, they tell you not to beat dead horses. We are told, when we get the keys to a one-bedroom flat of internet article space to dispose of our thoughts in, not to belabor on topics where debate is no longer generative; where a cultural consensus has been reached, or all viable arguments have been made. When Kim comes out with receipts incriminating Taylor for using Guys-Kanye-Called-Me-A-Bitch-Troops-Assemble feminism for personal gain, we are not supposed to shout into the crowded internet void about it, because the internet is a highly effective instrument that responds at hyper-speed to such events — and there are literally offices full of 20-something bloggers in every major city paid to sit around and wait for stuff like that to happen, and produce appropriately snarky takes on it. So, if you’re not one of those people paid to stare out at the internet and write that first “Taylor Lied and Here’s Why She’s The Whitest and Lamest Feminist Who Ever Lived, Who Gives Me Existential Doubt and Acid Reflux About The State of Feminism” article — don’t. I’ve shouted a lot about indie rock in the past few days.
In a great year for rap, hip-hop and emo, The Daily Sun’s Arts & Entertainment writers came together to name the 10 best songs of the year.
10. “(Joe Gets Kicked Out of School for Using) Drugs With Friends (But Says This Isn’t a Problem)” — Car Seat Headrest
Steve Jobs once said that hallucinogens reveal another side to reality, but in “Joe Gets Kicked Out Of School” — written about an acid trip taken by Car Seat Headrest frontman Will Toledo — the revelations aren’t so pleasant. On acid, Toledo sees himself and his friends as “filthy people,” hedonistic pleasure-seekers with no meaning or purpose. Good thing the song is so fun. The band’s album, Teens of Denial, builds huge, operatic epics from the building blocks of indie rock, and “Joe” is a perfect example, a seven-minute journey that begins with Toledo strumming an acoustic guitar and develops into a foot-stomping breakdown.
“Happy came to visit me, he brought cookies on the way.” Mitski softly spills out the words in a ghostly, vibrating mumble, over a quick, blasting automatic weapon-esque drum machine pulse on her single “Happy” — the second pre-released track from her forthcoming, sophomore sum, Puberty 2. The track is a beautiful mystery: a queer, sad, riddle of a song. The track recounts the memory of a visit from Happiness (who goes by male pronouns) who laid her down, told her it would all be okay, then vanishes while she’s in the bathroom, leaving a mess and reminders of the visit in his wake for the singer to clean up. In the song’s three brief verses, Mitski crystallizes the intoxication of happiness — the everythingness of small moments, the sun-filled room, cookies and tea with a lover — and the violent hangover of the come-down, the desperation to get it back. However, the most haunting emotion on the track, is Mitski’s apathy about the whole affair: that she is not heartbroken, screaming or crying: just a little bit sad, as she quietly cleans up the debris: “And I turned around to see/All the cookie wrappers/And the empty cups of tea/Well I signed and mumbled to myself/Again I have to clean.”
As it turns out, ambivalence about heartbreak is much sadder than heartbreak by itself.
“Girl power” is a tainted term in our cultural vocabulary. It is infected probably first and foremost by the image of Gwen Stefani, bindi-clad, prostrating herself onstage in her “Just A Girl” music video whimpering “fuck you, I’m a girl,” or of Taylor Swift parading around with her #girlsquad of models/singers/very famous people, explaining to Twitter, (mainly when other women criticize her) how very important it is for “women to support each other.” The term, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “a self-reliant attitude among girls and young women manifested in ambition, assertiveness and individualism” has been largely debunked as a commercialized white feminist ideology, based on vague assertions of rights and equality, which ultimately boils down to imitating masculinity while still looking hot. So, while explicit performances of girl power like those of Stefani, Courtney Love, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna and the Spice Girls — whose have-it-all, you-go-girl cultural feminist legacy was inherited by Swift and her peers — were subversive in the 90s and aughts, and will always be fun as hell to dance to, it has since become evident that these women’s girl power brands (remember kinderwhore?) were ultimately complicit with the relentless trivialization and eroticization of women within rock culture. In 2016, “girl power” in music is either obsolete, or begging for redefinition. The latter, I argue, is happening, and in an unlikely genre.