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.

My Favorite Rock Song-Mighty K.C.

I’ve always loved rock music, particularly grunge. The loud, lazy, purposefully incorrect, flannel-ridden music has a special place in my heart. Yet my favorite rock song was released a year after Kurt Cobain died, often called the day grunge died. Yet it serves as an ode to grunge music, and as a reassurance of the future. 

The song is Mighty K.C. by For Squirrels. It was their breakout song, and tragically their only major song as their lead singer, bassist, and manager died in a tour bus accident. In many ways, the song reflects this tragedy and the lives taken before they could reach greatness. 

He lies in an empty room

With his hair burnt to the back

It sure sounds funny

When you say his name like that

Within the first 10 lines of the song, we reach the subject of Kurt Cobain’s death. His suicide is portrayed in these lines, a man alone, with hair burnt to his back. They find it ironic to refer to him in this way when his name meant so much more. To them, he was and will always be Mighty K.C. 

Ship me off to the morgue

I’m ready to be buried

Away down in my bed, bed

And I’m alone without the sun

Please just take one

Here they describe how the grunge movement felt, both in general and after his death. They are suffering, some want to die or copy him, others feel dead and alone suffering from depression in their bed. They don’t have their light anymore, they are without hope.

And by the grace of God go I

Into the great unknown

Things are gonna change in our favor

And if we gather, if we fall

Over the great unknown

Things are gonna change in our favor

Yet despite their struggles, despite the all-encompassing depression, For Squirrels have faith in their future. The world is lost, grunge is lost, but they can escape this unknown. It’s a very optimistic outlook on an otherwise depressing topic. The song becomes a sort of happy grunge, which seems like an oxymoron

100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 600

Oh they are found dead, dead

And I am numb from watching TV

100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 600

Oh they are just there, there

And I am numb from watching TV

Please don’t break me

This references many events of the time, and many argue what exactly it means. To me, he is referencing how it feels to hear about the many artists and legends who have died. Or the many fans who copied Cobain and committed suicide themselves. It could also simply reference the negativity of television, how it can break our spirits. Yet again it could be referencing the Rwandan genocide that occurred around this time. How hundreds had to watch but could do nothing to stop it, they were just there. Despite all of this they still sing.

And by the grace of God go I

Into the great unknown

Things are gonna change in our favor

And if we gather, if we fall

Over the great unknown

Things are gonna change in our favor

I’ll always wonder what would have happened if God had allowed them to go past the great unknown. Things were already changing in For Squirrels favor, but now they’re just another number, another life cut short on the road to greatness. But their words will always resonate with me. This is why Mighty K.C. is my favorite rock song. 

-Parker K.

“Ohio” by Neil Young: The Greatest Protest Song

Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming

We’re finally on our own

This Summer I hear the drumming

Four dead in Ohio

This is the introduction and hook of Ohio by legendary musician Neil Young. It was released a month after the Kent State massacre, an event in which the Ohio National Gaurd opened fire on a group of anti-war protestors. It tragically killed 4 of the protestors, paralyzed one, and wounded 8 others (History Channel, 2021). The event cause mass outrage and there were many responses, the greatest was from Neil Young. 

Young starts the song by referencing Tin soldiers and Nixon, the men who carried out and allow the attack. But there’s more to the ‘Tin soldiers”, firstly Young is calling them out for being pawns to their masters, following orders without any empathy. But he’s also calling out the fact that many in the national guard were young, inexperienced, fake soldiers parading as real ones. Next Neil explains the feeling of his generation, on their own, the older generation and the government have abandoned them. They spend their summers hearing the drumming of marches, and the drumming of guns. Which eventually culminated in four dead in Ohio. This leads into the verse,

Gotta get down to it

Soldiers are cutting us down

Should have been done long ago

What if you knew her

And found her dead on the ground

How can you run when you know?

This of course describes the event more, but it also pleads for empathy. Neil wants the soldiers and those in charge of the war in Vietnam to imagine if they knew one of the victims. He accuses them of cowardice, running away from something that should have never occurred. He also informers them of the protestors’ message, that the war in Vietnam should have been done long ago. 

The bridge of the song is a repetitive chant of “na na na na na na na”, which allowed the song to easily sang at protests. The recording of the song itself uses multiple voices for this portion of the song. The ending is also repetitive, with Young sounding more and more desperate as he echos out

Four dead in Ohio

-Parker K.

Bibliography:

History Channel Article https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/national-guard-kills-four-at-kent-state

Book Review: Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I recently finished the book Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid and fell in love with Reid’s writing. The book tells the story of first, a band called The Six and a girl by the name of Daisy Jones. Living separate lives trying to make it on the music scene in Hollywood during the 60s, the two groups collide to create a joint band.

The story is told in the format of an interview that takes place long after the band has split due to circumstances you find out as you continue reading. As you read the book, you get to hear about the beginning, middle, and end of the band from their own perspective. The story dives into issues of the 60s and how they impacted the band on their way to success. 

Reid is very good at putting you into the book. She is able to create a space where readers can become one with the band and the way they write, and oftentimes why they write the music in the novel. One of my favorite parts is the end of the book, after the last chapter and epilogue, shares the lyrics for a multitude of the songs that are sung by the band on tours. 

Reid also writes the characters very real. They’re not written like many books or TV shows where the characters are perfect and can do no wrong. In Daisy Jones & The Six, the characters make mistakes and own up to them. This was one of my favorite aspects of the book. I recommend this book to anyone who loves music, or wants to dive into an entirely different world. The interview format that this book takes allows people to feel almost like they’re watching a documentary about these fictional characters. Reid with Daisy Jones & The Six is able to create a beautiful story about the struggles of making it in the music industry when you don’t always take the easy path.

-Danielle B.

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Music Review: love is not dying by Jeremy Zucker

Often, when listening to music, we tend to only listen to a few songs from one album, but I find that listening to the entire album from start to finish is much more impactful.

I recently listened to Jeremy Zucker’s newest album, love is not dying, and I found that the album, as a whole, is a touching story. The concept of the album isn’t particularly new, as it’s a glimpse at the rollercoaster of love, but the approach that Zucker takes in this album is original and creative—the album is almost like a timeline of phases of a relationship.

There are thirteen tracks in total from this album, which if listened to in order, transition right into one another. The transitions are probably the most well-known aspect of Zucker’s album, however, there is much more to it.

The album starts out with a forty-second track called “still,” which is an intro to the entire album. Next to his apartment in Brooklyn, Zucker samples the everyday sounds of life (birds chirping, a church choir, etc.), which crescendo slowly over the course of the short intro. Zucker says in an interview for Genius Lyrics that “The title came from something that someone said to me once. Everything was moving so fast and everything was so hectic, and this person was like, ‘I just wish we could be still,’ and that phrase really stuck with me.”

Zucker then transitions into a series of songs that represent the ups and downs of a relationship.

The third track, “somebody loves you,” is the start of a relationship. Zucker, through Genius Lyrics, says that the song is about someone he met online and really connected with, but knew that it wouldn’t be the same in real life. Though he feels that he loves this person, he knows it won’t last long, and reassures this person that someone else will love them much better.

The seventh track, “not ur friend,” represents a time where the relationship has become toxic. Using a rhythmic beat and a catchy melody, Zucker explores the concept of cutting someone toxic out of a person’s life and being better for it. He elaborates, “It’s a selfish song, which, in its own way, is a really celebratory thing.”

“not ur friend” transitions right into the next track, “full stop.” The song’s intro is interpolated with a snippet of the pre-chorus of “not ur friend.” The idea behind “full stop” is built right onto the previous track—essentially, what happens after breaking away from someone toxic. Zucker describes the concept as, “Alright, I’ve removed this person from my life, but now what?” The structure is sort of random and nonsensical, as each section of the song is quite different; but somehow it still flows together perfectly. “full stop” is just this complex, spiraling train of thought, which, to Jeremy Zucker, “feels like the sky is falling and the world is crashing.”

The ninth track, “julia,” portrays a point post-relationship where the subject has moved on, and looks back on his relationship without bitterness, finally ready to mentally let go. “julia” was written about a person who many of Zucker’s previous songs were about. According to Zucker, the track was one of the last written about the aforementioned person; as it represents a time of self-realization and closure.

The eleventh track, “always, i’ll care,” depicts a period of time far after the relationship has ended. During the song, through soothing melodies, Zucker sings of the realization that not all of his relationship’s problems were his significant other’s fault. He has moved on completely, and reminisces of memories apologetically, saying he’s still sorry for not being as attentive or responsive as he should have; and promising that he will do better in the future. Zucker concludes that “always, i’ll care” is “me showing how much I care.”

Jeremy Zucker’s love is not dying touches listeners through its gentle tunes. The tranquil sound of poetry shines through in Zucker’s both heartbreaking and heartwarming masterpieces. love is not dying is more than an album—it’s a complete story, calming the listeners with more than just music. This musical story cannot by passed over, being more than just rhyming words set to a tune—it’s an entire story that will completely change the way listeners think of music. Don’t miss love is not dying by Jeremy Zucker; it’s absolutely worth your time.

-Chan T.