The 'Shroom:Issue 171/Music on a Staff
Music on a StaffWritten by: The 'Shroom Staff
Hello there, readers of The 'Shroom! For well over a hundred issues, writers over in Palette Swap have introduced you to a wide variety of musical pieces, spanning numerous genres and styles. With this issue, the members of The 'Shroom staff have decided to join in on the fun. We staff members have each selected two pieces of music to introduce to all of you, and we've put it all together on this page in one collaborative project. In the spirit of a Palette Swap section, we won't be getting into in-depth reviews or breaking each song down piece by piece. We'll simply introduce it, explain why it appeals to us, and give you a chance to give it a listen.
Our tastes in music are as varied as any group's, so we'll be covering a wide range of genres, artists, and styles. If you're wondering what you might encounter, you'll want to give this little medley, put together for us by Zange (talk), a listen. In less then three minutes, you'll get a little taste of every piece you're going to encounter reading onwards.
|'Shroom Staff Picks Medley|
Did the medley intrigue you? No matter your answer, it's time to get your headphones on. Click the links to each piece and give them a listen as you read, and read on to see what music The 'Shroom staff has elected to introduce you to today!
"Gekikara LOVE" (by BEYOOOOONDS)
Oh boy, we're starting off with the weird one. (You'll very quickly see what I mean by that)
A little background, "Gekikara LOVE" is one of the songs off of BEYOOOOONDS's long-awaited second single (the first one came out in 2019 - thanks corona), which came out earlier this year. Interestingly enough, it's actually not an original song made for the group. Instead, it's a reimagined cover of Toto Coelo's "Dracula's Tango". I say reimagined because one listen to both proves that these are two very different songs: "Dracula's Tango" is very much a product of its time sound-wise, while "Gekikara LOVE" has an updated electric disco-funk arrangement and changes the lyrics to something more befitting of an idol group.
So I’m just going to be very blunt with this: the MV (linked above) for this song is definitely pretty weird. They're all in this curry restaurant, one of the girls is in the back trying to stir this huge pot, and this comically huge chili pepper keeps showing up. However, that's part of the charm for this group. Many of their songs and MVs so far have been very theatrical and bizarre in nature, this one being no exception. This is the latest group to debut under the Hello!Project umbrella of idol groups, and it's safe to say this group has been much more experimental than any other group that’s been under this company, in both concept and execution. This group and these wacky, fun songs and MVs are the next big thing for all of J-pop.
Something else that’s really nice about this song is that all the members get one solo each!! That is REALLY hard to do in a group with 12 (12!) girls. Heck, I know songs from groups with LESS members where some girls didn't get solos at ALL!!! Idol culture is no game, folks… On top of that, this song is really fun to jam out to! I wouldn’t really call it "driving music", but it's one of those songs where you're home alone and bored, so you play this song and just dance and sing your heart out.
"We Are Young" (by Fun. ft. Janelle Monáe)
There are a few non-video game songs that stick out to me. I don't really listen to a lot of these types on a daily basis. But one I keep coming back to in my head is Fun.'s "We Are Young". Aside from getting drunk at a bar, the lyrics are all about support and energy despite the hardships we encounter in life. The first verse is about wanting forgiveness and that you'll be there for those you care about no matter what, the second being about friends coming back together, and the third is about not being afraid yet still knowing when you need support. The main chorus is about energy, setting the world on fire (figuratively), and burning brighter than the sun, meaning if you want to make your mark and experience life to the fullest, you need to get out there and be involved in what you love doing. At least, that's how I'm interpreting it. The vocals and music are very well done and stick with you, just the feel of it all can really hit you, I just love the sound.
I used to listen to this song all the time when it was on the radio, it was the energy I needed whenever I was driving with my dad to school at the start of the day a decade ago (I keep making myself feel old). And looking at the comments of the YouTube video, I see a lot of people felt the same nostalgic energy. Their song "Carry On" is another favorite of mine.
"Gosh" (by Jamie xx)
One of the music videos that took my breath away in the last year or so has been "Gosh", by Jamie xx. I had seen the other music video released in 2016, a vastly more popular one with greater acclaim, but something about that one felt different. So, before I get into why the one subjectively struck me much more than the other, let’s see what this song is first!
"Gosh" is the 3rd single from Jamie xx’s debut album In Colour, an electronica and dance record that sought to blend in sounds from rave culture, house, and UK garage with a goal to sound like it’s from any era. It includes samples from BBC Radio 1’s One in the Jungle which is credited for brings the jungle genre out from underground and into the limelight, with other samples simply being references to the UK for Jamie to help cope with homesickness. Certainly a lot of subtlety and meaning, nods to UK dance music and rave culture, underground genres, various artists and shows, packed into what otherwise sounds like some nonsense phrases.
The 2016 video, directed by Romain Gavras, sure is a feat of cinematography and coordination, filmed completely free of CGI or 3D effects despite its strange appearance. This was done by on-site filming around the Eiffel Tower replica located within Tianducheng, in Hangzhou, China, and featuring albino actor Hassan Koné and 400 pupils from the Xiaolong Martial Arts School. Regardless of the acclaim given to creating this, it changes how the song feels to me significantly. Aside from the visuals appearing haunting and grim, as the city appears otherwise abandoned and lifeless, and the horde of children suddenly appearing to perform a ritual around mostly motionless and silent albino peeps who I can only guess were selected to add some kind of mystique and edge, the actual track playing in the video takes on sounds of the horde or children chanting, is disrupted at several points to near silence, and restarted right around where the whole sound changes halfway through and kinda muddying that. Subjective, of course, but it made the song sound almost sinister and dystopian, like some impending doom was on the horizon, something dark is bubbling or has already happened.
The 2015 video took me the other way. Directed by Erik Wernquist, it uses hi-res deep space photos from NASA, JPL, the University of Arizona, and the Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio. It begins with panning in to the planet Mars, as we know it today, with high energy beats and the titular Oh My Gosh vocals. Around 1:00 minute in the beats break down more, and a space station orbiter appears in the foreground, rotating as it approaches Mars. At 1:54 an incredibly low bass comes in, with the break down beats coming back in, while the camera quickly shifts to a closeup of Mars’ atmosphere with the space station, dwarfed, in orbit; this shift in tone combined with the visuals gave me goosebumps when I first saw/heard it and impressed upon me a sense of scale, and begins to feel almost primal, yet growing. From this point on the video’s pace begins to pick up exponentially, with something from the space station plunging towards Mars, and aerial landscape visuals closing in showing exploration occurring on the surface, while in the audio a high pitched ring slowly crescendos until it suddenly drops at about 2:41. This is a notable difference between Wernquist’s 2015 video and Gavras’ 2016 video, as this particular part is what is obscured in silence and edited, tragically so to me as this is one of a few major impact points within the song. As the ringing slowly climbs its way back up the scale and octave, the visuals continue showing exploration becoming colonization, with lights from structures appearing in the Mars night. As the song approaches the height, so does the terraforming process, as larger structures, cities, and eventually signs of plant life and bodies of water, lakes forming in craters among the martian dunes; recognizable features of Earth but curiously on a world not so recognizable. As the outro begins playing, a continuation of the sample from the beginning, thanking listeners for keeping the Jungle vibe alive. I can’t help but see the symbolism at play, bringing a treasured feeling and reality into a new world where it can be cherished once again with a new chance to thrive. The video embraces the intent of the song while providing stunning and captivating visuals, bringing a sense of hope and new life, and continues to be one of the myriad of songs I set in the background now while I do work.
"I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling" (by Annette Hanshaw)
Usually, for me, I can’t really do a lot of slow music. Like, I can tolerate it, but my preference is for fast-paced music. So the fact that I chose Annette Hanshaw's lovely "I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling (start the video at the 1:45 mark), which is a slower-paced love ballad, should show how great of a song I think it is.
Sung by Anette Hanshaw, a very popular singer from the 1930’s (being voted in 1934 the most popular female vocalist), the rhythm in this song is of a slow but light and fluffy tone and perfectly captures the feelings the song is trying to convey.
But, for me the real highlight of this song is the beautiful voice of Annette Hansha, my all-time favorite female vocalist and the person who, for my money, has the prettiest voice I've ever heard. I love the way the lyrics work in this song, with a lot of the lyrics being an internal contradiction that works perfectly. For example, one of the things that’s in this song is the fact the singer is both flying high because she’s so happy with this man but at the same time she’s falling because of how much she's falling in love with her boyfriend. I adore the way Annette Hanshaw is able to use her voice in this song, like changing her tone in certain parts to elicit a hint of surprise or shock when she's singing about how she can’t believe how in love she is. But my absolute favorite part is the very end, where she raises her voice to a high pitch to sing the final "nobody else but you." And, of course, no Annette Hanshaw song can be complete without her trademark sign-off, cheerfully telling the listener at the end of the song "that’s all" to let the listener know that the song is complete. For me, this is the best love song I've ever heard, and, while the tempo is a little slow, it's all worth it to hear Annettee Hanshaw's beautiful voice.
"INEXPLICABLE" (by The Correspondents)
Ok, I'm going to lead this review by talking about the music video BEFORE mentioning the song. Because, wow, this video is completely bonkers. These guys are always on some weird business when they're filming videos but this one sticks out to me as a whole new level of inexplicable insanity. It juxtaposes well against the somberness of the actual song, serving as an appreciated bit of fun amongst mostly dark undertones. The movement and clothing of the performers and lead singer are graceful and jarringly framed, like if Don't Hug Me I'm Scared decided to run an indie French pantomime. The only colour in the video is the inside of the singer's mouth - everything else is a stylised white or black, with very little greys.
This is, of course, until the very end, where the video is revealed to be contained inside a colourful stage, which itself is just the interior of a small box (which has now flipped back to being in black and white). This ties in to the themes of control and power the song speaks volumes about. The overview of the lyrics details someone lamenting their own lack of influence over their own life, not even being able to take control of their own motivation - motivation that would surely let them get them out of the rut they're in if they could just use it. The singer expresses various different takes on the idea of powerlessness, including the old childlike belief that his hand had superpowers and that the God he believed in would be able to cure his best friend of a fatal disease.
These beliefs in power are both destroyed. His superpowers fell short when a school bully beat him down when he was nine years old, and no amount of desperate prayer could save the life of his friend. He can't help but wonder if there even is anything worth believing in, and if the life he has chosen is really his, or if it's even a choice at all. He's happy, sure - but he'll never be satisfied unless he knows that he really does have control in his life, and that the choices he's made are the right ones.
Storytelling aside, the song is presented as an electro-swing banger, which is more juxtaposition of course. If you just had the instrumental version and the music video, there's no way you'd think the contents of the lyrics are as low as they are. But alas! The song is upbeat, dynamic enough to keep itself interesting, and extremely funky on all levels. I like it a lot.
Vs. DJ Subatomic Supernova (by Pejman Roozbeh AKA Funk Fiction)
My first pick of our collab gives me the chance to yap about No Straight Roads- which was one of my favorite games of 2020. It’s an indie game out of Malaysia, focused on rhythm-based action gameplay. You fight bosses based on EDM musical genres- an abstract artist who makes synthwave mixes, a k-pop boyband themed after sailors, a child prodigy who plays artcore, etc. All of the bosses are just an incredible spectacle, the world feels fleshed out with lore, and the rhythm sections are fun to play. The game is glitchy, but I’m willing to forgive that because this is the developers’ first game. You may have at least heard about NSR on YouTube- the main theme for SAYU (the pink mermaid boss) went viral last summer and racked up over a million views.
The theme I want to talk about today, though, is the theme of the first boss of the game, DJ Subatomic Supernova. He’s a former astrophysics professor turned EDM DJ, who just wants to make his mark on the galaxy by sending his music into space on a satellite. He’s got a massive ego and he really doesn’t appreciate you crashing his concert with your rock music. The boss fight is stellar- after you beat the first stage in Club Planetarium, he warps space to plop you right in the middle of the solar system (with himself at the center, of course) and you must dodge asteroid projectiles, jump over lasers, and counter attacks from the planets to earn projectiles to send back at him to damage him- all to the beat of the music, of course. In harder difficulties, you are forced to parry back his attacks to the beat in order to damage him and earn your projectiles. I’m not very good at counters and parrying, but to do it here to the beat (admittedly, where they are telegraphing it by dying it pink) is incredible. Can you imagine smashing Jupiter with a guitar while a disco beat pounds in the background?
What I love about this track is the way Funk Fiction incorporates the changing phases into this track. The thumping bass at the beginning is heavy but somehow still delicate, and this is one of the melodies you’ll hear in other areas of the game, in the area he resides in, and the club that you break into to face him in battle. The changeover to the second phase (starts at 1:30) is my favorite musical moment of the entire album. I can hear the dialogue at that point, how he’s just brought down the orbits of the planets to use them like records on his turntable, and he’s still somewhat in control here. The third phase starts around 3:20, and you can feel how the music itself is stretching out to match his spaghetti-fied arms (spaghettification is a real thing in space). Notes hold out longer, mirroring his long arms. The final phase (starts at 4:45) is a parry-only section- you need to parry his attacks to damage him and finish the fight. Listen for the claps in the music to know when to parry the planet attacks, and the melody from the beginning makes a repeat appearance to finish out the fight. Parrying those planets back at him is one of the most satisfying parts of the fight and the music reflects that.
The NSR OST is a bit special, in that every boss has a regular mix (their main boss theme), their EDM remix, and a rock remix (themed after the two main characters of the game and their quest for rock revolution). Supernova gets an additional track- a remix by artist TOKYO MACHINE, and that one is amazing too. Just listen to the album, trust me. You won’t regret it! I would absolutely recommend the game, but try to get it on PC or PS4 if you can- the Switch version is the least stable out of all of them, and the other versions got the free Christmas DLC!
"Tongue Tied" (by Grouplove)
Let's get this out of the way first: you can find the music video to Grouplove's "Tongue Tied" right here. I don't hate the video by any means, it's perfectly alright for a music video, but it isn't why I’m talking about this song here today. "Tongue Tied", man. What a song.
"Tongue Tied" was released on the band's album, Never Trust a Happy Song, in 2011, and received immediate popularity as a single. Certainly, no other song has hit the same popularity that "Tongue Tied" did for Grouplove. What's special about this song, though, are the people who have claimed it as their own. The generation of Gen Z who are nearly out of high school, or have moved on to greater things, absolutely adore "Tongue Tied" and consider it an anthem, myself included. Earlier this year, while I was applying for colleges, one of the institutes had created a playlist of student-suggested songs - and "Tongue Tied" was at the very top of the Spotify list. While releasing when Gen Z was younger certainly helps the song keep its relevance, the greatest quality of it is that it's easy to connect to emotionally. The best way to describe it is if a song had bottled up an eternal youth, exactly like the life I wish I had when I was younger. The lyrics paint the clear feelings of being alive with someone else, your relationship blossoming while you're peeling down the road and experiencing the summer air. It's every party you went to and never got to experience, it's those moments of hesitation wondering if you should kiss the person to your right, it's the sheer joy of being free and simply enjoying life. "Tongue Tied" successfully makes me nostalgic for times I had and times I've never had, and the upbeat, bouncy quality of the song leading into an emotionally-charged ending feels exactly like how my own teenage years have carried out. I’m going to be moving on to college soon, and these childhood years will be behind me, but at least I'll have songs like this to remind me how beautiful those years felt.
Onion Ocean (Kirby's Return to Dreamland)
Let's divert our attention from any mainstream song to video game music, focusing on a track which is perhaps one of the most upbeat pieces of music put to disc.
This time we're heading to the land of Kirby with some music from Onion Ocean. I can still clearly remember playing this level for the first time and this music blaring out the speakers as we swam through a tunnel trying to avoid some eels, and despite the sort-of high stakes going there was just this upbeat bop going along. And nothing screams Kirby more than slashing at huge eels with a sword while underwater with some chippy little tune going along in the background.
I'm not sure what quite draws me into this piece of videogame music more than any other, but I haven't felt the same joy from any other piece as I did from the first time I heard this one. I think Kirby games have some the best upbeat tunes in the business, and this little tune is something that all should aim for.
I do have some personal memories with this song as well, as Kirby's Return to Dream Land was the last game that I actually remember properly playing together as a family, with us all gathered around the TV, Wii remotes in hand trying to save Magolor's ship. Perhaps if other games had been played last, I could be writing a piece about how legendary the 'bahs' are from New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
"Hollowness" (by Minami)
When it comes to music, I find that, aside from a few sappy and sentimental songs touching on love and romance or existential themes, my favorite pieces share the common element of catharsis. I’m not the type of person who can let out a scream, punch a pillow, or otherwise channel my emotions into a primal release of rage and sorrow very well, so I often rely on music to provide a vicarious cathartic release, and "Hollowness", by Minami happens to be a song that is both easy to listen and a source of a great burst of catharsis.
Minami, though still not a well-known artist, especially outside of Japan, had her big break when she performed "Kawaki wo Ameku" (also known by its English title, "Crying for Rain"), the opening song of the 2019 anime adaptation of Domestic Girlfriend. She had been making music for a few years prior to its release, but the extra promotion that came with the anime series is what pushed her into the spotlight for a wider audience, myself included! I never did watch that show, but I saw "Crying for Rain" floating about on the Internet, and I was instantly intrigued by its sound. It's a song with a quality I, a non-musician, can only call a "musical scream," this sensation of letting feral emotions come out in the form of an oddly melodic, primal scream. To my delight, I quickly discovered that that quality marked not just the tune headlining the anime, but almost all of Minami's music. She's a singer who does a spectacular job imparting her songs with emotional depth, her frustrations and regrets channeled into the most poignant moments of each song when she belts out lyrics with the vitriol of someone consistently spurned by the world and her breathy, punctuated singing building up a sense of growing discontent in all of her best songs. Her style and the emotion which she weaves into her music has elevated her to the position of one of my all-time favorite musical artists, and, of all of her songs, Hollowness best captures that distinct style and rich emotion.
"Hollowness" stands out to me as a song that's better felt than understood in any other way, and I'd rather invite all of you readers of The 'Shroom to put it on and feel it for yourselves than spend time describing it to you, but I suppose I'd be lying if I didn't acknowledge that the story told by the lyrics and animated music video also draw me to this song. "Hollowness" tells a story of a girl who, desperate for the love and affirmation of her peers, adopts a false personality, who pretends to be someone she's not (in a metaphorical sense) and "virtualize[s] a lie," as the song itself puts it. Eventually, she realizes that she's lost herself in doing so, that, while she might have the affirmation she craved, it feels… well, hollow, fittingly, when she can't be herself, when she's forced to keep up the charade. By the time she realizes this, though? The lie has taken on a life of its own, becoming a persona she can't kill without doing herself as much harm, breaking all of those relationships she built. While the video might represent this all literally, with the girl's doppelganger in the mirror literally taking on a life of her own, the problem is a more down-to-earth one for anyone who struggles with social anxiety or elements of imposter syndrome. Anxiety is a hard monster to kill, living in the back of your mind as you work on projects and talk to the people around you, wondering despite knowing better if you're merely a fraud who has merely tricked everyone around you into tolerating you. It's easy for creeping doubts to whisper in your ear and convince you that the house of cards you've built will come down at any moment, that your own malicious doppelganger will leave you with too many balls in the air to juggle because you can't say "no," to an extra project and you'll soon find everyone around you suddenly aware you've done nothing but a horrible job. On my worst nights, it's something I feel. But, you know what? That's what makes it all that much better to have a song like this on hand. On those nights where I can't shake the thoughts that I know are irrational and illogical, or on those nights where I'm too worn down, too frustrated to carry on myself, I can load YouTube, navigate my way to "Hollowness," and let Minami do the screaming for me.
There's naught that I can say that's going to do justice to this song better than letting you listen to it, so go on, click that link, and, if you feel so inclined, scream with Minami at 4:08, embrace the breathless pleading at 4:28, and let every frustration you have flow out into the song as you give it a listen.
"La Femme à la Peau Bleue" (by Vendredi sur Mer)
Charline Mignot, aka Vendredi sur Mer (English: Friday at Sea), is a Swiss singer/songwriter/artist currently based in Paris, France. She shies away from labels, likening it to limiting oneself and being boxed in, but for sake of clarity can be seen touching on the genres mostly of electropop, synthpop, and space disco. Whatever you want to call it, she tends to evoke a kind of sleepy but restless vibe, akin to lounging poolside in the evening sun, much like her stage name suggests. More of a spoken-word poet, she describes her music as ‘delicate rap’, telling stories of her experiences in life.
The particular song being credited as bringing her more into the public spotlight is her second single, "La Femme à la Peau Bleue" (English: The Woman with Blue Skin), released in 2016 with a following music video midway in 2017. Like a lot of her music, it is written more like a poem, and spoken more than sung, telling a dreamy story of an ephemeral moment of a meeting. With her first passion being photography, she crafts her music videos with a visual purpose as well, to either tell the story of her song or to be a standalone medium on its own. She had specifically chosen Alice Kong as the video’s director, sharing similar visions and relationships with imagery, and gave free rein to create a ‘cinematic transcription of the song’. The lyrics are rather simple, and shortly put in english, the scene being midnight after the last cigarette and drink, when the lights illuminated the eyes of a blue-skinned woman, the vision following her and staying, an intimate act of fate.
Both the song and video have a dreamy noir aura, both retro and futuristic, devoid of time, with the video being a delicious sequencing back and forth between the blue-skinned woman’s public persona rising, and her behind-the-scenes allures and lusty encounters; the synth providing an almost comedic-tragedy backdrop. Direct admission of symbolism hasn’t been given by Mignot so one can only surmise. To me, it’s the story of a curiously cool and eye-catching woman who quickly becomes an object of desire. At first reluctant to others’ impulses, the hunger ends up consuming all visible public perception of her, becoming a cultural obsession and craze, and finally what had made her coveted becoming her entire being--only to be lost and changed in a vain tragedy; a story of the rise and fall of fame. This is quite a visually literal interpretation, so there may be more to it; what do you think?
"Where Are All The Scientists Now?" (by Jukebox the Ghost)
There's no music video for this one, just a clean audio recording with a static image. Sorry guys. The song itself is the penultimate entry of one of my favourite albums of all time, Let Live and Let Ghosts, following the singer's experience living through Judgement Day and beyond. The whole album tells this as a cohesive story, introducing a motif, "It's the end of the world, la da di da da da da da", which springs up in almost every song and is very present here. The genre is something called 'Power Rock', which is something I never knew existed until I looked up information about this song, but instantly agreed with the name. It's rock. It's powerful. Nice!
The story told in this specific song begins at the start of Judgement Day. It's happening, and the opening chords and drums build up a cheerful hype, almost nonchalant in the face of the apocalypse. Our singer believes he does not deserve to be killed today, and is attempting to romanticise, reason with, and avoid the forces set on his destruction. Once he gets through his initial proclaim of innocence, the song abruptly transitions into a much more chaotic and dirty arrangement, likely reflecting the reality of impending doom setting in. Despite this, our guy still sings above it all, repeating that motif I mentioned earlier.
After the song goes in and out of phase between these calm and rough portions, the singer declares "We survived!" as the song leads into the chorus, now accompanied by sleigh bells. Because who doesn't like sleigh bells? Here the songwriter has used this hidden technique to generate what people in the industry call "good vibes". It's now clear that, yes, our singer survived Judgement Day, and is free to celebrate his life with what is left of humanity. It's such a powerful moment in the album after all the proclaimations of doom and suffering that the album has led you to believe in for the last 30 minutes.
Throughout the song and album the lyrics refer to an unnamed 'You'. Could this be a lover? Family? The listener? I think it's this song's version of God. Whoever orchestrated Judgement Day in this story, at least. This is clear in the final verse, "Erecting scaffolding and Christmas lights//Dedicated and renovated for you", implying that this figure is someone that an entire community has come together to celebrate. Definitely some kind of religious figure at least, and one who's subjects are grateful to be living in the world it has created. However! In other songs, it seems like the 'You' is an individual living amongst the crowd, and someone who knows the singer. Truly the greatest mystery of 2008.
That's a brief little overview of how well this song and album use instrumentation and motif to tell a really good story and mystery. It's a decently uplifting track that carried me through a lot of 2020, and I highly recommend this entire album.
"Odd Eye" (by Dreamcatcher)
Remember all the way back in 2019 where I did an entire special section where I just talked about Dreamcatcher? Well now we’re kinda going back to that! It’s 2021, and Dreamcatcher dropped their 6th mini album back in January, titled "Dystopia: Road to Utopia" and featuring title track "Odd Eye". Handong is back after being gone for basically all of 2020 (she went home to China to film a reality show and got stuck there - thanks corona), and everyone's happy!
There are just so many awesome things I can say about this song. I'll start by saying that this song has one of the most even line distributions in all of K-pop. So many songs from other groups (and even earlier songs from this group) have members that only get one or two lines and are sadly shoved to the back, while some other members just completely dominate the song. Not here. In this song, everyone gets their time to shine. Everyone has memorable parts, and no one is shoved to the back. Not to mention, the level of talent here is just INSANE. Two of the four girls who are considered sub-vocals in this group (specifically SuA and Handong) are singing some of those really high belty parts in the chorus. The even more impressive part? One of those girls (Handong) has been shoved to the back since the group's debut. Handong really just came back and blew every single one of us away like that, huh…
The MV for this (linked above) is incredible quality, too. The lighting and visual effects are just amazing (especially all of the 'glitching' surrounding the electronics) and make excellent contributions to the image of this false Utopia the girls have found themselves in. And though we get few glances through the video about the dance for this song, the glimpses we DO get show that the dance is creative and powerful. Can we talk about the kick right before the final chorus for just a second?? Seriously my mind was just blown the first time I saw that. Not to mention, this is an incredible driving song!!! Especially at night!
Only bad thing about this song is the group did not get a music show win for it and they should have :<
"Dead Weight" (by Jack Stauber)
A number of you might be familiar with Jack Stauber, a recent internet personality and creator well-regarded for his experimental, bizarre animations and art pieces. His videos typically blend claymation, live-action footage, and VHS aesthetics to a result that can be equal parts uplifting and disturbing. His notoriety has even landed him an opportunity with Adult Swim to produce an original animation, "Opal", which premiered on the program block on Halloween of 2020. However, perhaps even more well-known than his animations is his music. Songs like "Buttercup" and "Oh Klahoma" have garnered newfound relevancy with their popularity on TikTok, leading to more Jack Stauber fans than ever before. I’d like to take this opportunity to cover a different song of his that isn’t as regularly discussed, but one that I resonate with most deeply.
The music video for "Dead Weight" was released on April 5th, 2018, one month after releasing on his album HiLo. The video itself perfectly demonstrates the different forms his animations take, featuring overlaid video of Jack Stauber himself, claymation faces, and awkward 2D animation reminiscent of poorly-made VHS shows. While I appreciate the video on its own, the music itself is the highlight of the experience. The quality in which Jack Stauber performs his music is hard to convey. There’s almost a sense of melancholy to a number of songs, with somber lyrics and muted instrumentation. "Dead Weight" has a certain repetition with the keyboard that emphasizes this, just as the way the vocal melody falls through each note. What I love most about Jack Stauber’s music is that it's evident his experiences and heart are pouring out into every track, and this song is no exception. For somebody being weighed down by the pressures of school and relationships and everything in between, I can definitely resonate with this song’s tone and message. I adore everything Jack Stauber creates, but this song has to be my favorite.
"How to Save a Life" (by The Fray)
To be entirely honest, I'm not much of a music person. Don't get me wrong, I'll happily go to a club and jam out to the latest hits or sit with friends and go through their preferences, but when it's just me, music isn't something I instinctively go for. Not even on long car or train journeys.
But there are some exceptions, one of which has to be The Fray's "How to Save a Life". I feel like if anyone knows a Fray song, despite their numerous beautiful hits, it's going to be this one – it gets the most radio airtime (even 15 years after it was first released) and has been used in numerous popular shows from Scrubs to One Tree Hill to even making it big on TikTok.
The song draws its inspiration from lead singer Isaac Slade's time working with troubled teens with the verses replicating phrases that some adults would have used in a misguided attempt to get through to the youngsters with the chorus serving as their lamentation that they were unable to get through. But what's great about the song is how open to interpretation its lyrics can be, something that the band openly encourages, my first experience of hearing the song was in medical dramas, so I ended up interpreting the lyrics in quite a literal way. My personal narrative of initial listenings of the song was a doctor telling a deceased patient's friend about their death, and the friend's sadness of being unable to stop it.
The song also has a deeper much more personal meaning for me as something who battles depression. When I was in my worst state, this song acted as an escape for me, providing four minutes of time in which my head could empty of all the negative thoughts bombarding it – it may not have always worked, but I stilled viewed, and continue to view, this as a comfort song to me. Its lyrics also spoke to my suicidal state, especially the music video who features youths aged 12-18 battling forms of grief in some way or another. This song speaks to me on every level, and if I'm out and about and hear it, I usually stop what I'm doing so I can absorb the lyrics and also reflect on how far I've come with my own personal journey.
"Church Bells" (by Carrie Underwood)
American country music, love it or hate it, is not all just beer, tractors, broken hearts, and in-your-face patriotism. There is undeniably a proud sub-genre, a sub-genre of the women of country music singing about taking revenge on men who have spurned and, in some cases, even abused them. From Miranda Lambert's "Gunpowder and Lead" to The Band Perry's "Better Dig Two," to Kelsea Ballerini's absolute masterpiece "Miss Me More," there's albums worth of songs from the women of country music which speak to that primal urge to get out from under the thumb of someone who treats you like you're less than human, who can't show you basic respect. But this sub-genre has a reigning queen in the form of Carrie Underwood. One of the most prominent musicians in country music today, Carrie Underwood has a number of songs all about getting revenge on awful men, the kind of scum who would abuse another person emotionally and physically, and of those songs, no song better distills it down to the basics than "Church Bells".
Carrie doesn't pull her punches with "Church Bells," getting right to the point and jumping into a Hallmark-style dream romance between a poor woman and a rich man that quickly turns into a nightmare. Drawn in by the promises of love and luxury, a woman is sucked into the dark void of being physically - and presumably, if her having to hide the evidence from those around her is any indication - emotionally abused with no means of escape. Of course, this being a Carrie Underwood song, there is one means of escape, and that's murder. By the song's end, the woman has killed her abuser, and, going uncaught, she finally finds peace at his funeral, her newly freed life ahead of her. All of this comes with a neat use of an evolving chorus, where the words are nearly the same every time through but the changing context gives them a different meaning each time!
The simplicity of the song's tale and the speed with which it progresses to murder masks how well the song reflects the experience of the abused, though. The lines which tell listeners that "everyone thought they were Ken and Barbie," which tell listeners that the woman in the song is still attending social events and maintaining a facade of being alright, of having a healthy and happy relationship, those lines speak to a grim reality of isolation. For those in an abusive household with no external support, keeping secrets "behind closed doors," can, unfortunately, feel like a necessity. "Embarrassing" an abuser or making them look bad - or, at least, that's what they'll make their victim feel has happened - invites only worse abuse. Even worse are cases when it's not just the abuser who gives the victim reason to keep quiet. Local culture and custom can dictate that domestic problems stay behind closed doors, too. To have nobody to turn to, to feel like you're the cause of your own suffering and that you're merely a burden on everyone around you if you even dare to bring up troubles in your personal life and relationships, it's an incredibly isolating experience that leaves it all too easy to internalize a view of yourself as "worthless." While murder may never be a solution to problems in real life, it's not hard to understand how the woman in "Church Bells" is pushed to the point it seems that the only way out is her death or her abuser's death.
"Church Bells" speaks to a nightmare scenario that's unfortunately all too common, but it can't be said that it fails to end up a hopeful, arguably empowering note. Like its peers in this sub-genre of country music, it resounds with a sense of power and control over one's own life, and don't we all occasionally deserve a reminder that we can and will take control over our destiny at some point?
Staff Roll - Super Mario 64 (by Koji Kondo)
I don't consider myself much of a musical person. I listen to mainly video game OSTs, which mostly consist of instrumentals. I had ear surgery when I was two or three, which botched some of my hearing, which makes lyrics difficult to make out, which means I just listen to the music. But music sticks with me. I love listening to it and I want to learn how to play the piano some day. Many tracks give me nostalgic feels for one reason or another, so narrowing down to just two was... actually far easier than I expected. These two songs immediately came to mind when I was told to pick only two, and here's why.
The staff credits theme from Super Mario 64 encompasses pretty much everything I like about video game soundtracks. Most of you that know me know that Super Mario 64 was my first video game, so the soundtrack has been playing in my head for over two decades (help I'm old). When it comes to the credits theme, it's a celebratory, peppy music track that just makes me feel happy every time I hear it. It starts out pretty energetic, like "Yay, you won!", before moving into a slow-paced tune that tells me "Take a moment to see how far you've come and where you've been.", and then being energetic again. It's a fantastic mood swing of a song in my opinion. My favorite version of it actually comes from Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games, which just raises the peppyness value of it even more.
This is my absolute favorite theme in video games. Not just for nostalgic purposes, but the instruments and tempo and everything mesh so well together that I consider it a masterpiece of an instrumental.
Endless and Artificial (by city girl)
My second pick comes from one of my favorite artists, city girl. This is from the album Chroma Velocity, and the track is called Endless and Artificial. city girl is a lo-fi artist who was recommended to me by You Tube (sometimes they get it right!) The first album I listened to was Neon Impasse, and I liked the vibes and the music so much that I followed their channel and checked out their other albums. My personal favorite is Chroma Velocity, but Goddess of the Hollow and Neon Impasse are close behind it. city girl’s album list has something for every situation- Chroma Velocity and Goddess of the Hollow are a bit higher energy, good for working out to, Neon Impasse is very chill, good for writing to, and I personally like Time Falls Like Moonlight for when I do yoga. Each album has unique art by @vickisigh, and the newer albums feature collabs with artists such as @tiffi to bring soft vocals and lyrics to the lo-fi beats. city girl has even uploaded a spoof “making of” video where they mixed an entire song using sound samples that they made with their cat- thumping on a box, chasing an ice cube across the floor, strumming on a guitar. Such a cute vid, definitely give it a watch.
I’m very much a visual person, and the thing that really drew me to click on Neon Impasse was the art style of the cover, but I was quickly captivated by the music. My music taste is honestly a bit of a mess, I usually listen to whatever sounds good to me, and for the past few years, that’s been lo-fi music. Have to say, I haven’t clicked on the “24-hr lo-fi music for you to study to” videos yet, city girl has had me covered so far. Their music is easy to slip into, and I can remember the early days of quarantine when I would be listening to Goddess of the Hollow at work while I was doing something mindless when it first came out, or how I found Neon Impasse while trying to write and needing something to occupy my mind.
Chroma Velocity starts off extremely strong with Endless and Artificial. The song feels like the opening to a magical story, a push for the hero to begin their adventure, the blooming of a new tale as the rest of the album stretches out in front of you. The text that city girl includes at the start of the album seems to mirror this, as the short passage talks about the subject being freed of their pain and sadness and a new person beginning again, waiting to take shape and be free. I like how the repeating melody weaves in and out of the back ground- you hear it as the main melody in the first minute or so, then it settles into the background, quietly thumping, before coming back out. I love the soft piano mixed with the crashing synth sounds, and there are a few other tracks on this album where the soft piano makes a return. The whole song is so bright and cheery that I always have to smile whenever I hear it, and I’m always tapping my foot or bobbing my head to the thumping beat in the background.
"Country Junction" (by Tennessee Ernie Ford)
When it comes to music, for me the two most important things are how good the vocals are and if the beat is fast and hot. I rock back and forth when I sit, so I like to rock with the rhythm of the music and, when listening to music, sing along to it. So for me vocals are a must for any song. With that out of the way the song I went with is "Country Junction" by the late, great Tennessee Ernie Ford. Tennessee Ernie Ford is a legendary country singer well known for his deep voice and is my personal favorite male vocalist.
The song "Country Junction" is a song about an ideal hang-out spot, with Tennesee Ernie Ford listing all the reasons why it’s a great place to be, from the records (fast ones and slow ones if your tastes are fickle), to the menu (you can get red ham and a pone or corn bread). And the place even has a square dance caller! Truly it's the ideal southern hang out in the 1950's. The interesting thing is that there are actually two different versions of "Country Junction" sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford. The first is a slower and longer version that features a lot of honky-tonk style piano and some country style fiddling, and, honestly, it's alright. A little slow for my taste, and I think Tenneessee Ernie Ford's voice doesn’t fit it as well. The version I picked is a much faster one, ditching the honky-tonk style piano for more modern rhythm and blues horns, guitar, and even a little bit of temp drumming. This version also includes backup vocals accompanying Tennessee Ernie Ford. Speaking of Tennessee Ernie Ford, his deep voice is a perfect fit for this style of music. Not only does it never feel out of place, but it always feels in tune with the rhythm. In a long line of great songs Tennessee Ernie Ford sings, I think this is one of his best. Everything from the rhythm to the deep voice of Tennessee flow perfectly and make for a really fun song to listen to.
With Tennessee Ernie Ford's voice and down-home country vibe closing us out, it's time to wrap this musical whirlwind tour up. Thank you all very much for reading and giving these pieces a listen. Hopefully you've discovered something today that you enjoy, or that has at least piqued your interest. May you continue to enjoy and discover music! If you ever get the urge to write about some music you like, whether you want to write a short introduction in Palette Swap, a detailed breakdown and analysis in Strategy Wing, or a review in Critic Corner, The 'Shroom welcomes your submissions!
|The 'Shroom: Issue 171|
|Staff sections||Staff Notes • The 'Shroom Spotlight • 'Shroomfest • Poll Chairperson Election|
|Features||Fake News • Fun Stuff • Palette Swap • Pipe Plaza • Critic Corner• Strategy Wing|
|Specials||Community Awards Dossier • Community Gallery • Music on a Staff • Ultimate Location Battle|