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Tree-Mix, Volume 1

Singer-songwriter Julien Baker (Courtesy of The Verge).

Every week, the Daily’s Music beat comes together to make the Tree-Mix, a playlist of recommendations of the music that helps us get through the week. Here are our picks for this week:

Jacob Kuppermann, Music Desk Editor (jkupperm ‘at’ stanford.edu)

Julien Baker – “Appointments”: Julien Baker’s music is sad and beautiful, but not, per se, beautiful in its sadness — none of her songs valorize pain or suffering, make glamorous the things that gnaw at you and try to destroy you. “Appointments,” the lead single off her sophomore effort, “Turn Off the Lights,” is the most fully-formed thing she’s made yet; the beauties and sadnesses here are that much sharper as the arrangement builds, with her multi-tracked voice carrying her simple, effective lyrics with an honesty and clarity that very few singer-songwriters possess. Baker’s first album was lo-fi, mostly just her and her guitar, so the pianos and orchestral tinges of “Appointments” are almost jarring to hear around her. Yet the rawness and passion that Baker has always carried are heightened, not diminished by her new trappings.

 

Dylan Grosz, Staff Writer (dgrosz ‘at’ stanford.edu)

King Krule – “Dum Surfer”: Submerged, “Dum Surfer” is built on grime, recorded while floating down sewer. While he goes by many names, King Krule features singer/producer Archy Marshall’s voice front and center, scoffs and all. His seething baritone vocal timbre is rough, and on its own, it might turn off listeners; however, the song’s ominous imagery pairs perfectly with his gritty snarls and apathetic delivery. As the undeniably post-punk song fades in and out of all-out brass jazz, Marshall vividly barks about winning bets against a dumb surfer, taking multiple pisses and nearly crashing a cab, all while severely crossfaded at some grungy bar. Nearly every line ends in an “ah” sound — -ash, -ab, -at — allowing Marshall to leverage his voice’s grit to essentially scream the end of every line and increase the urgency of the track. By end, all the instruments converge into a free jazz section as Marshall toggles between the similar sounding “dumb surfer” and “don’t suffer.” As the second single from King Krule’s divine new record, “The Ooz,” “Dum Surfer” evokes a stormy mood, with flashes of genuine fear emerging over its thunderous rhythm.

 

Nick Burns, Staff Writer (njburns ‘at’ stanford.edu)

Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile — “Over Everything”: I listened to this song walking down from 680 in the golden evening past the mushroom-shaped pine trees by FloMo Field, which always remind me of Rome’s Palatine Hill. Kurt Vile’s trusty old casual half-clever shrugging delivery opens with a line laden with internal rhyme: “When I’m all alone, on my own, by my lonesome / And there ain’t a single other soul around / I wanna dig into my guitar, bend a blues riff that hangs / Over everything.” Halfway through the song the line is repeated with Courtney Barnett’s voice luminous in harmony. I’m happy to see this collaboration because Vile and Barnett share a love of the quotidian, a resignation but also a sense of acceptance of both failures and unexpected moments of joy. They’re over everything in the nihilistic sense, but they’re also believers in something unifying that spreads itself over everything — even if it’s just a blues riff played in solitude.

 

Trenton Chang, Staff Writer (tchang97 ‘at’ stanford.edu)

Pat Lok – Oh No (feat. mar|co) [JNTHN STEIN Remix]: This is a song for lazy afternoons and carefree days. Pat Lok’s track “Oh No,” featured on his debut album “Hold On Let Go,” is already a post-disco, downtempo masterpiece, but JNTHN STEIN’s take brings the music to a new level. It feels so slow that it borders on the lethargic, but the sloppy piano chords keeping time in the back keep the groove moving just enough. Mar|co’s ambiguous lyrics tell a story of passion and restraint, but the soulful delivery feels surreal here, anchored to reality only by the occasional, plaintive  “Hold on / Let go.” There’s no electronic trickery, no cheesy hooks on this track. The piano is slightly off, and the constant ticking of the hi-hats ebbs at times — but those qualities only give the track an intimate, honest feeling. It’s still certainly electronic music — yet it doesn’t feel electronic at all. On the contrary, it feels human; it feels live. The music is mundane, and that is its value: it doesn’t pretend to be celebratory or festive. It’s a timeless track, because it effortlessly orchestrates everyday moments, the blank caesurae between memorable moments.

 

Damon French, Contributing Writer (damonf ‘at’ stanford.edu)

Andrew Bird – “Echolocations: River”: “Echolocations: River” is the second in a series of albums recorded in the field by American violinist Andrew Bird, albums which move away from the lyrically playful folk rock of his more well-known music to focus instead on pared-back violin compositions. The resulting LP is perfect for studying; some pieces (“Ellipses,” “Black-Crowned Night Heron”) feel more contemplative and involved than previous entry “Canyon,” but as a whole it neatly balances this and the floating, carefree spirit present in its other tracks. The peaceful sound of the Los Angeles River undergirding several tracks pushes “River” in the direction of ambient music and transports the listener to a simpler, more organic place in the way the best study music should without ever feeling contrived. Give “Lazuli Bunting” a listen and you’ll fall in love, I promise.

 

Jourdann Fraser, Contributing Writer (jourdann ‘at’ stanford.edu)

Fenne Lily – “Top to Toe”: Fenne Lily’s fragile voice accompanies this song, and the fragile relationship at its center, well. It’s not a relationship in the sense of a girl and a boy, but in the sense of her relationship to her younger self. The song documents an uneasy relationship that results from her growing up, upheld by the bumpiness of the guitar swinging back and forth between a few notes. The song is simply an easy song to listen to when you want to want to feel like you’re tip toeing around in a flower garden.

 

Hamza Zahurullah, Contributing Writer (hamzaz98 ‘at’ stanford.edu)

Beck – “Wow”: Cowboy trap. This is the best term I can come up with for the song. Beck appears to be rapping, but it’s hard to say given that his flow isn’t especially impressive. Nevertheless, it really does complement the simplistic trap beat. That beat is matched with the Cowboy-movie whistles that find an old meets new balance between the Old West and the Dirty South. On “Colours,” Beck’s latest and an album of excellent synth pop and alt rock, this song is a welcomed change of pace. Beck’s use of the term “Wow” in the chorus sounds earnest, but maybe so much so that it unintentionally parodies itself. I won’t lie though, I have been changing the pace of my walk to match the beat of the song, “Baby Driver” style, which can only be a compliment from me.

 

Paulina Campos, Contributing Writer (pcampos2 ‘at’ stanford.edu)

Alice Merton – “No Roots”: Listening to this song during my commute to campus in the morning is what’s getting me through midterm season. As I sing along and play the drums on my steering wheel, I feel like a total badass. Merton’s deep, haunting voice (think Florence Welch, but with a bit more grit) lends itself to a chest-thumping chorus that repeats like a self-affirming mantra. I feel like I should be marching down a dusty road in a pair of combat boots, looking for my next adventure, ready for anything. The song is all about wanderlust, but with an edge, an undeniable toughness. At 23 years old, Merton has no roots and isn’t letting anything hold her back.

 

Kendrick Shen, Contributing Writer (kshen6 ‘at’ stanford.edu)

Langhorne Slim – ”Life is Confusing”: After listening to “Life is Confusing” for the first time, you’ll probably remember only one line in the entire song: “life is confusing, and people are insane.” With an acoustic riff interlaced with strings lending the song a folky feel, Langhorne Slim’s new single encourages us as listeners to step back from our computers, look around and simply enjoy. The song captures the mood shared by many on campus — in the urgency of college life and the stress of approaching exams, how can we make the time to slow down once in a while and notice the changes happening around us? To those ends, I suggest “Life is Confusing,” with its relaxing acoustic riffs and concise yet remarkably sage lyrics. After all, who wouldn’t want to just “sit here, shut up and smile” for a little while?

 

Jacob Nierenberg, Contributing Writer (jhn2017 ‘at’ stanford.edu)

Moses Sumney, “Plastic”: I, like Moses Sumney, have never been in a romantic relationship. I could think of a few excuses why — I’ve never really made the time for one, hookup culture never appealed to me — but probably the most honest answer is that I would want to form a deeper emotional connection with someone before starting a relationship. It takes time, and someone has to want that connection as much as you do. That doesn’t make the feeling that love is happening all around you, without you, any less isolating. (See also: Yorgos Lanthimos’ jet-black satire “The Lobster,” about love and the societal expectation to find it.) Sumney understands this feeling. “I know what it’s like to behold and not be held,” he sings on “Plastic,” a standout from his long-awaited debut album “Aromanticism.” I’ve heard Sumney compared to Radiohead and Dirty Projectors, but after about a month of spinning the album, I still can’t hear it. There’s no political paranoia or conceptual overload in Sumney’s lovelorn lyrics, and there’s no mistaking Thom Yorke’s falsetto or Dave Longstreth’s yelp for Sumney’s androgynous, soulful croon. Instead, Sumney is closer to Frank Ocean, another elusive, genre-defying Black artist who sings about love in ways that are as intangible as they are relatable.

 

Catch the Daily Music beat’s week five playlist next Friday, October 27.

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