John Mayer – Room For Squares
Mayer’s first full-length studio outing is sometimes overlooked in the context of his discography, outshone by the master guitarist’s later blues-pop arena jams. Room for Squares, though, is one of the best-aging early-2000s pop records; it captures this period of music cleanly, without the baggage of cringe, seeing its author deliver creative spins on its era.
While it is perhaps odd to discuss John Mayer’s tangible sense of innocence here considering his fluctuating reputation over the years, it is a relevant, likable aspect to the record. The album is infectiously zestful from a songwriting perspective, and underratedly witty, with amusingly articulated observations and stand-up comedy sensibility; think ‘My Stupid Mouth,’ or the end of ’83.’ Squares exists in a pleasantly introspective territory, too. Songs like ‘5×3’ (a favourite) and ‘Great Indoors’ perform some well-aging ideas alongside compelling chord structure, and feature a refreshing feeling of authenticity that mixes well with the project. Save for The Search for Everything, it is John’s most playful record.
Between barefaced pop roarers – ‘Why Georgia,’ ‘Love Song For No One’ – and a generally well-preserved aesthetic, Room For Squares is the permissive, multifaceted, joyful record that listeners need amidst this stressful time. It is a comforting listen. Check it out.
Palace – Life After
Palace are well-known for their dreamy sounds, and their most recent album Life After certainly demonstrates this. Title track ‘Life After’ consists of tranquil, echoey guitar riffs, with the soft vocals layered on top generating a song perfect to move to. Its bouts of loud moments, yet still maintaining the dream-like qualities of the song, allow for an emotive and powerful listening experience. ‘Face in the Crowd’ is also a comforting song worth noting, with its rather simple coupling of acoustic guitar and vocals creating a perfect song to shut your eyes to. Life After is also an album best listened to in the sun, as the tunes definitely have a spring and summer feel to them. To summarise, Palace’s album is the perfect comfort during a time of uncertainty as it will simultaneously relax and calm you in its soothing tones and also provide a sense of hopefulness in its spring and summer vibes.
JP Saxe feat. Julia Michaels – ‘If the World Was Ending’
This song is the perfect sombre sound to get you through the days locked inside your house. As the title suggests, the song is an honest reflection of everything you would want to say to the one you love if the world around you should come crashing down. The state of the world we live in right now is difficult and strained and peculiar. Some may feel that listening to this song won’t help their already deflated mood, but for me it helps me to focus on the now and appreciate the beauty around us. The song is also graceful and wonderfully written; the first time I heard it I could’ve sworn the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.
Billy Joel – ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’
Written by Joel, this song covers 100 of the biggest headlines between the year of his birth, 1949, and the year of the songs release, 1989. From the Korean War to the first woman in space, the song chronicles the bad and the good and everything in between. It is a great listen right now as the world around is so unfamiliar and unknown this anthem causes you to reflect and reminisce… and have a good dance around the kitchen with your family (whilst observing social distancing rules, of course)!
I am very much a person who uses ambient mixes from films, video games, and television as background noise when working or just traveling from place to place. There’s something comforting about walking to Highfield Campus but in reality listening to tracks like ‘Kaer Morhen’ and ‘Ezio’s Family’, or the theme for Pokemon while out for a run. ‘Concerning Hobbits’ is great for those moments when it’s quiet and heartwarming; there’s a track for every mood and every situation. YouTube even has ambient mixes of entire albums there for some relaxing listening – all great options to fall asleep to!
During the isolation season who better to listen to than Prince? His innovative music pioneered psychedelic funk music, infusing it into the mainstream. The multi-instrumentalist is known for his gender-bending and flamboyant musical style featuring a wide-ranging vocal ability and has produced some of the best songs in music history such as ‘Purple Rain’, ‘Kiss’ and ‘When Doves Cry’. But his otherwise lesser known releases showcase his true musicality; take ‘Stare’, for example, the single is from his final ever album and is known as one of his most playful and funky tracks and alludes to his famous hit ‘Kiss’.
Prince is a lyrical genius and plays around with themes of sex and lust in his songs, in one of my personal favourites ‘Uptown’, Prince address the common misconception that he is gay because he dresses effeminately in verse, “She said, “Are you gay? Kinda took me by surprise. I didn’t know what to do. I just looked her in her eyes. And I said, “No, are you?” Prince finds humour in this and proves clothes do not equate to sexuality or gender. This sort of up-beat take on this issue makes Prince an astonishing listen. Each song takes on a new sound within the funk genre making him an artist that not only produces such amazing and diverse tracks, but perfect for the isolation blues. Other Prince recommendations are ‘I Wanna Be Your Lover’ and ‘Something in the Water (Does Not Compute)’.
Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown
All of Green Day’s more political records (American Idiot, 21st Century Breakdown and Revolution Radio) are of great comfort when the world feels a bit too chaotic, but there’s something about 21st Century Breakdown‘s perfect blend of politics and emotion that is hitting just right at the moment. From the punk rage of ‘East Jesus Nowhere’ and ‘Know Your Enemy’ to the softer tones of ’21 Guns’, it’s one of those album that offers you a new favourite song after every listen. From start to finish, 21st Century Breakdown tells a story of love and pain in one of Green Day’s more musically ambitious albums. It’s arguably one of the highlights of the band’s fantastic discography, and it’s the comfort album I always turn to when I need it.