Album Review: young forever by Nessa Barrett

Nessa Barrett was originally known for being popular on the very popular social media platform, TikTok. She would post videos with other well-known people on the platform, and this is what caused her to “blow up.”

Nessa began her music career in 2020. Back then, I knew about her, but didn’t necessarily listen to her music. To be honest, I only really knew her by her name.

When she released her album young forever in October of 2022, I was instantly captivated from the start. I’m not a huge fan of pop music, but I feel like she really puts her own style into her work.

The opening track, tired of california, is just so relatable to me. The chorus is extremely catchy and I honestly can’t get enough of the song. There is a child choir in the background during the end of the song, and it really pulls it all together.

One of my top 5 tracks on the album, dear god, is so incredible. The vocals are beautiful. There is this sense of calmness in the melody, and I think it is amazing.

Another one of my favorite songs on the album, lovebomb, is so relatable to me. The lyrics are so captivating and I fell in love with the song the very first time I heard it. You can truly hear the emotion in her voice. It is so raw and honest, which I appreciate.

Album Review: Invitation to Her’s

One of my favorite relics from nostalgic summers is the music I discovered as the weeks passed. From windy summer nights to morning heatwaves, my fondest memories from those three-month vacations are the playlists I used to make. As I take a trip down memory lane, the first album that reminds me of those “good old days” is Invitation to Her’s.

Album Cover Art for Invitation to Her’s by Her’s.

Indie pop band Her’s released their second album, Invitation to Her’s, in 2018. A year after its release, I came across this project and quickly fell for the duo’s witty lyrics and catchy soundscapes. More specifically, I was captivated by the duo’s ability to balance each track on this album. From groovy instrumentals to clever bridges, Her’s contrasted their low and punchy vocals with soft falsetto melodies. In just a few moments, some of the best songs on this album would feel like a completely different experience.

“Harvey” and “Love on the Line (Call Now)” were by far my favorite tracks on the album, most likely by nostalgic bias. The groovy instrumentals and catchy lyrics immediately kept me hooked onto their music, and their riffs would replay in my head for days on end. Other songs, such as “She Needs Him,” transitioned from a lively song to a dreamy, slow-paced instrumental solo. Her’s knew when and how to balance their tracks; some songs had their moxie settle until the end, and others turned to a different tune.

Although some songs like “Breathing Easy” and “Under Wraps” were not as upbeat as the other tracks on this album, their soft and lounge-inspired soundscapes were just as compelling. Each song on Invitation to Her’s was unique in its own way, which is why there is at least one song that will impress you. For this reason, this album has been my go-to recommendation for years, and I find myself coming back to those blazing summers from the moment their drums kick in. Whether we’re stuck in another freezing winter or blossoming into a new spring, Invitation to Her’s is an album for every season and every music fan. Give this album a try; you won’t regret it!

Album Review: Evermore by Taylor Swift

In July of 2020, acclaimed singer-songwriter Taylor Swift surprise released her eighth studio album, Folklore. Fans were shocked by her abrupt dive into the alternative-indie genre after being a global icon of pop music for years. On December 11, 2020, she followed up by surprise releasing her ninth album, Evermore, shocking her fanbase once again.

Evermore is a 15-track album of alternative rock and indie folk songs. Swift collaborated with Aaron Dessner on the album, and most of it was recorded at the Long Pond Studio in the Hudson Valley. It features the bands Bon Iver, Haim, and The National. As a cottagecore-inspired escapist album, Evermore is most known for Swift’s incredible and haunting storytelling and poetic lyricism, which is backed by fingerpicked guitar, melancholy piano melodies, and soft percussion. This album is a musical storybook full of tales of marriage, infidelity, heartbreak, grief, love, and human emotion. In my opinion, the following are the most well-written songs on Evermore:

Track 2: “champagne problems” – This song is the story of a woman who turns down her partner’s marriage proposal, shocking all their family and friends. As Taylor Swift stated, the characters were “longtime college sweethearts [who] had very different plans for the same night, one to end it and one who brought a ring.”

Track 5: “tolerate it” – This beautifully written song tells of a never-ending struggle where the narrator wants love from their partner, who isn’t paying attention to the narrator at all. Swift drew inspiration from the novel Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, explaining that the young woman in the story put in much effort to impress her husband, yet he merely tolerated her love.

Track 9: “coney island ft. The National” – This song features back-and-forth conversational lyrics between two characters who were previously involved in a relationship. Through somber and nostalgic lyrics, the narrator regretfully apologizes for not loving their partner enough.

Track 10: “ivy” – In “ivy,” Swift sings about a woman falling in love with someone who is not her husband, leading to a secret affair.

Track 15: “evermore” – As the title track of the album, “evermore” is a piano ballad about the narrator’s journey from an endless stretch of deep depression to a place of hope and healing.

To conclude, Evermore is a beautiful album that stirs up emotions in listeners. I would absolutely recommend this album, especially if you enjoy reading classic literature and can appreciate the beauty of Taylor Swift’s lyricism.

Happy listening!

The question pounds my head
“What’s a lifetime of achievement?”
If I pushed you to the edge
But you were too polite to leave me
And do you miss the rogue
Who coaxed you into paradise and left you there?
Will you forgive my soul
When you’re too wise to trust me and too old to care?

-Taylor Swift, “Coney Island”

-Lam T.

Album Review: Ceres and Calypso in the Deep Time

As a fan of the dream pop scene, my biggest challenge is finding new albums to listen to. My current favorite songs have been stuck in my music rotation for months, and I’ve been trying to expand my music taste for some time now. Luckily, I struck gold a few months ago and came across the criminally underrated album Ceres and Calypso in the Deep Time, and I am more than glad that I did.

Released in 2013, Ceres and the Calypso in the Deep Time is an album created by Candy Claws, a Colorado-based music group. Their strange knack for storytelling came to life in this project specifically. This project explores the adventures of a seal-like animal and a human girl throughout the Mesozoic Era, journeying through the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous eras. The members of Candy Claws collaborated with poet Jenn Morea to write the lyrics for this album. Her expertise in writing blossomed throughout her lyrics, each song depicting the beautiful landscapes of our world. Candy Claws built off of her writing by filling each track with dreamy vocals and various sounds, whether using stringed instruments or electronic synths. Most importantly, the band’s diverse music inspirations are what creates an immersive scenery for their audience.

Album Cover Art for Ceres and Calypso in the Deep Time by Candy Claws.

Candy Claws’ interesting production style is inspired by countless music eras, most notably 50s bossa nova, 60s pop, and 90s shoegaze. Their inspirations, along with their production talent, is what makes Ceres and Calypso in the Deep Time different from other albums. Every track feels like a different experience, but they all add up to create a cohesive project along with a light-hearted story. The poetic lyrics and small references to Earth’s beauty tie into the atmospheric feel that this album is going for. All of these details left me admiring Candy Claws’ talent in musical production, but also their ability to make a world simply out of sounds.

When I came across Ceres and Calypso in the Deep Time, I was first intrigued by the cover art. After a lot of research, my interest for this album peaked, and I knew that I had to give it a listen. My love for niche artists and conceptual albums thrived as I listened to each track, even more so around the end. Although Candy Claws’ production can sound confined or distorted, I personally enjoyed their take on the dream pop scene. I guarantee that somebody in the music world will have a newfound love for this album, especially shoegaze or dream-pop fans. Ceres and Calypso in the Deep Time may not be for everyone, but it is definitely worth a listen!

Album Review: Midnights by Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift’s tenth studio album, Midnights, was released on October 21, 2022, barely over a week ago, and is already shattering world records. Midnights is a lyrical pop album with 13 tracks, which she has shared are the stories of 13 sleepless nights throughout her life. These beautifully written songs are deeply personal, and Taylor sings about emotional struggles in a raw and honest way.

Let’s get into some of the songs on Midnights:

Track 2: “Maroon”

“Maroon” tells the story of a failed relationship and the powerful emotions she felt throughout it. Taylor sings of many different shades of red, a color that symbolizes passion. Taylor has said that “red emotions” are the most powerful; with affection, love, and warmth on one side and jealousy, frustration, and miscommunication on the other; which are shown in “Maroon.”

“The burgundy on my t-shirt / When you splashed your wine into me / And how the blood rushed into my cheeks / So scarlet, it was / The mark thеy saw on my collarbone / The rust that grew bеtween telephones / The lips I used to call home / So scarlet, it was maroon”

Track 5: “You’re On Your Own, Kid”

In “You’re On Your Own, Kid,” Taylor sings of waiting to be noticed and loved. She tells of how she still felt alone after reaching fame; and how she hosted celebrity parties and struggled with an eating disorder, waiting for love to save her, but ultimately realized that she is on her own.

“From sprinkler splashes to fireplace ashes / I gave my blood, sweat, and tears for this / I hosted parties and starved my body / Like I’d be saved by a perfect kiss / The jokes weren’t funny, I took the money / My friends from home don’t know what to say / I looked around in a blood-soaked gown / And I saw something they can’t take away / ‘Cause there were pages turned with the bridges burned / Everything you lose is a step you take / So, make the friendship bracelets, take the moment and taste it / You’ve got no reason to be afraid”

Track 12: “Sweet Nothing”

“Sweet Nothing” is a sweet and beautiful song about finally meeting someone who feels like home and just being comfortable around them. Taylor sings about how her romantic partner isn’t constantly demanding more from her and loves her unconditionally.

“They said the end is coming / Everyone’s up to something / I find myself running home to your sweet nothings / Outside, they’re push and shoving / You’re in the kitchen humming / All that you ever wanted from me was sweet nothing”

Track 13: “Mastermind”

In “Mastermind,” Taylor confesses to her partner that she was determined to win him over from the moment she saw him, so she “masterminded” a plan to make him fall in love with her. She confesses that she only manipulated him because of feelings of anxiety, because she cared so much. In the end, she realizes that her partner knew the entire time and played into her trap because he saw who she truly was and loved her anyways.

“No one wanted to play with me as a little kid / So I’ve been scheming like a criminal ever since / To make them love me and make it seem effortless / This is the first time I’ve felt the need to confess / And I swear / I’m only cryptic and Machiavellian / ‘Cause I care”

Also, 3 hours after the release of Midnights, Taylor surprise released 7 more tracks on what she called Midnights (3am Edition). Her lyrical genius clearly shines through on this album, and I loved every minute of it! Give Midnights a listen!

-Lam T.

Album Review: Superache by Conan Gray

Singer-songwriter Conan Gray’s widely anticipated sophomore album, Superache, was released on June 24, 2022. If you haven’t heard of Conan Gray, he has previously released an EP called Sunset Season and his debut album, Kid Krow. You may have heard his songs “Heather”, “Maniac”, and/or “Memories.”

Superache is a pop album with beautiful vocals, lyricism, and style. It is centered around the themes of love, friendship, and childhood trauma/abuse. Following are the tracks that stood out to me the most on this album:

Track 1: “Movies”

“We go to parties with people you know

We’re holdin’ hands but it’s all just for show

‘Cause Monday through Friday we both barely spoke

They don’t know, they can’t know”

This track touches on the flaws beneath the surface of the narrator’s relationship. On the outside, the relationship seems perfect; however, as the narrator tells us, there are many major problems within the relationship.

Track 4: “Best Friend”

“Who else is gonna grocery shop with me at 2 AM?

Who else will take that picture for you just to get revenge?

You’re just as psycho as me, just as sick inside the head”

This track is written to Conan’s best friend since seventh grade, Ashley. It tells of their unconditional and platonic love, a rare and beautiful thing. In this song, listeners can truly hear Conan’s love for his best friend and how he would do anything for her.

Track 5: “Astronomy”

“Stop trying to keep us alive

You’re pointing at stars in the sky that already died

Stop trying to keep us alive

You can’t force the stars to align when they’ve already died”

“Astronomy” is a song about two young lovers drifting apart when their romance dies out and they both realize that their lover is not the same person they fell in love with anymore. Conan compares this relationship to astronomy, specifically the stars.

Track 8: “Family Line”

“Scattered across my family line

God, I have my father’s eyes

But my sister’s when I cry

I can run, but I can’t hide

From my family line”

This track touches on Conan’s rough and traumatic childhood. He sings about abuse inflicted by his father and how his life has been influenced by the holes in his family life. The concept of family line is that someone can never truly detach from their family, as characteristics existent in their family live on in the person themself.

Track 12: “The Exit”

“Feels like we had matching wounds

But mine’s still black and bruised

And yours is perfectly fine now”

“The Exit”, the final track on Superache, tells the story of two former lovers and their separate pathways after a failed relationship. The narrator observes their past lover in love with someone else, happily moving on as if their relationship never happened. On the other hand, the narrator is still stuck on their broken relationship and the future he believed they would have.

To conclude, Superache by Conan Gray is a beautifully written album that is completely worth listening to. Every track on the album is well written and takes listeners into another world. Definitely give Superache a listen!

-Lam T.

Review of San Francisco Conservatory of Music – Harp Camp

I recently attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s harp camp, and it was absolutely delightful. Given that I don’t live in San Francisco, my family and I flew up for a week, and my brother attended a Golden State Warriors Basketball Academy camp. My harp camp was only for five days, and we met from 12:30-4:30 for five days straight. On the last day, we held a concert.

I have been playing harp for a little while now, and I have played both pedal and lever harps. In my camp, there were a total of nine other people. 7 were on pedal, and 2 on lever, so we had both types. The conservatory provided the harps, which was good, because I didn’t have to bring my harp all the way up there. There was also a wide span of proficiency, but I was happy to note that everyone was very welcoming and supportive. Our program director, Dr. Jennifer Ellis, was also a great teacher, and she hosted a master class with us too, where we would play a solo piece for her and she would critique us.

In terms of the ensemble pieces, we were given them a few weeks before in order to practice. That was one of my only complaints, because the pieces weren’t given very far in advance, and so there wasn’t much time to practice. Additionally, because I didn’t have a harp at the hotel, I couldn’t practice after camp hours, but Dr. Ellis was willing to let me enter an hour before to get some practice in. Of the three ensemble pieces that we were given, there was one piece with three movements, one irish piece, and one classic harp ensemble piece. All pieces had multiple parts, and every person had at least one other person with the same part, so they weren’t playing alone.

Additionally, everyone had the option of playing a solo piece during their concert. Around five people decided to play, and five people opted out, so it was a balanced decision. When the concert came around, everyone played their solo pieces beautifully. There was a bit of time, so Dr. Ellis sat down and played some pieces, which was met with lots of applause, and then we all went on stage and played our ensemble pieces.

In addition to regular playing, we also had fun activities. Every day we would have a workshop after lunch, with different topics. These topics include performance techniques, history of harp, sight-reading practice, and sound effects (my personal favorite). We would also have a eurythmics break for around ten minutes.

Overall, I had a lot of fun at camp. I met 10 other harpists, played in a harp ensemble for the first time, and took a master class for the first time. It was a very positive experience. I only had two complaints – I didn’t have enough time to practice the ensemble pieces before the camp, and my fingers were hurting a lot because of the constant practice that I was doing.

I would definitely recommend this camp to anyone who plays the harp.
~ Kailyn L.

Soundtrack for Summer: Hold My Hand by Lady Gaga

Oddly enough, I never really paid much attention to Lady Gaga until the recent Top Gun sequel came out. I did hear her songs on the radio in the past and knew that she had some popular songs in the past, but from a few years up to now I never really liked many of her songs or had any interest in them. However, when I heard this song to close Top Gun: Maverick, I just had to know who made this masterpiece. I was shocked to find that it was actually made by Lady Gaga.

This song really hit me deep, as it actively emphasizes a person’s duty to be there for the people they care about, whether they accept it or try to refuse any help. It can be applied to many situations in real life, but I saw the connection between the movie and the track and I really had no choice but to give this song – as well as Lady Gaga – the credit they deserve for this track. Throughout the movie, the main character, Maverick, struggles with life and the pressure of making people close to him proud – Iceman, Rooster, Penny, his dead friend Goose – and the fact that all of his struggles resulted in a stable relationship and a close bond with Rooster made this song perfect for the movie. Even though I mainly interest myself in the plot of many TV shows and movies, I also find the soundtracks interesting, and the discovery and hearing of this song made me happy that I took the time to watch this new movie.

Adding onto my point about connections to the song, I believe that this song also connects to many people in their lives. For example, this song is perfect for someone trying to be there for a loved one in time of grief or sorrow caused by a death in the family or threats of losing everything in their life. Often times people under grief try to reject help and tell themselves that everything is okay, but end up worsening their mental state and the pressure in their minds grow. With this song, it actively emphasizes the love and care that the people we care about – close friends, family, loved ones – and a masterpiece for many to listen to.

Personally, after hearing the song, it really made me think of all the people in my life who had been there for me in times of hardship. I thought of my family first, and how they have been patient and tried to be there for me despite struggles over work and personal lives and wanted the best for me at all times. I also thought of all the friends I had over the years – how some faded and some still last to this day – and made me remember and appreciate all the memories and great times from the day I was born to today. Even though life does move fast and time seems like it moves faster than we want it to, what we can learn from this song and from our own experiences is that we need to appreciate and be there for the people we care about while they are still here.

Overall, this was a really great song and I’m glad to have added it to my summer playlist. I believe anyone who either has or hasn’t seen Top Gun: Maverick have one thing in common: they will enjoy this song.

Album Review: Melodrama by Lorde

The Melodrama album cover, painted by Sam McKinniss

Melodrama, singer-songwriter Lorde’s sophomore album, was released 5 years ago in 2017, yet it is still one of my favorite albums I’ve ever listened to. Melodrama is an electropop album with piano-based melodies and electronic beats. It is raw, honest, profound, and thought-provoking; and it elicits sensations and emotions like no other. In this artistic masterpiece, Lorde’s immense talent as a songwriter truly shines through. 

Following are, in my opinion, some of the best tracks and lyrics on the album:

Track 2: “Sober” – “Sober” is about the magic of being involved with someone, the intense rush Lorde and her lover feel at a party. However, when the night ends and they are “sober” again, the rush ends and Lorde is unsure of what will happen to them.

Favorite lyrics from “Sober”:

“Midnight, we’re fading / Till daylight, we’re jaded / We know that it’s over / In the morning, you’ll be dancing with / All the heartache and the treason / The fantasies of leaving / But we know that, when it’s over / In the morning, you’ll be dancing with us”

Track 5: “Liability” – “Liability” is about the pressure Lorde feels of it being difficult for people to be close to her. It’s about learning to be her own best friend; to be on her own, love herself, respect herself, and take care of herself.

Favorite lyrics from “Liability”:

“The truth is I am a toy that people enjoy / Till all of the tricks don’t work anymore / And then they are bored of me / I know that it’s exciting, running through the night / But every perfect summer’s eating me alive until you’re gone / Better on my own”

Track 6: “Hard Feelings/Loveless” – “Hard Feelings/Loveless” has two parts: First, “Hard Feelings”, which explores the feelings that follow a breakup; then “Loveless,” which shares Lorde’s thoughts about her generation and their tendencies in a relationship.

Favorite lyrics from “Hard Feelings/Loveless”:

“Three years, loved you every single day / Made me weak, it was real for me, yeah, real for me / Now I’ll fake it every single day / ’Til I don’t need fantasy, ’til I feel you leave / But I still remember everything / How we’d drift buying groceries, how you’d dance for me / I’ll start letting go of little things / ’Til I’m so far away from you, far away from you”

Track 9: “Supercut” – “Supercut” is about dreaming of an ideal relationship, a compilation of the positive parts of a relationship. In this song, Lorde appears to be blinded by hope and her own imagination of how a relationship should be and not how it truly is.

Favorite lyrics from “Supercut”:

“’Cause in my head, in my head, I do everything right / When you call, I’ll forgive and not fight / All the moments I play in the dark / Wild, fluorescent, come home to my heart”

To conclude, Melodrama by Lorde is such a wonderfully enchanting album with beautifully written songs, and I’d recommend it to all listeners! Happy listening!

-Lam T.

Music Recommendation

As a music lover, I am always looking for new music that is similar to what I already know I love. My taste has evolved constantly over the years and it’s been an adventure to try and find artists in which I love all of their songs, and not just certain particular ones. Right now, some of my favorite artists are Lewis Capaldi, Alec Benjamin and Harry Styles. There is one other artist who lies more under the radar that combines all of these styles of artists together.

Coming from Australia, one of my all time favorite musicians, Dean Lewis, has a really interesting combination of upbeat and slower songs for whatever you’re in the mood for. He discusses a lot of topics that he himself went through, mostly centered around heartbreak and starting new things (as much music is nowadays). When I first discovered him, I started with some of his more popular songs. As I began to listen more and more, I discovered how much he was like other artists I already listened to, such as Lewis Capaldi. 

If you’re looking for some new music and we listen to similar musicians, I highly recommend Dean Lewis. His songs all carry something special and are completely different songs to one another. You can have multiple favorites of his because his songs span many different types of the same genre. Some of my favorites include, “For The Last Time,” “Don’t Hold Me,” and “Half A Man.” 

-Danielle B.