By Isla Mustin
As the winter chill embraces Durham, many will find themselves grappling with a subtle sense of melancholy. January often descends with a harsh return to routine as resolutions are set and lectures begin. Yet, amidst the cold and the quiet, music can be used to navigate the Epiphany lull. With carefully selected compositions spanning genres and decades, these albums are uplifting and can offer comfort during these more challenging months ahead.
Debut (1993) – Björk
In the ever-evolving landscape of music, certain artists emerge as pioneers, transcending conventions. At the forefront stands Björk. The singer, songwriter, composer and producer’s innovative and eclectic music has captivated audiences with her genre-defying compositions, ethereal voice and a visionary approach.
One of the standout tracks on this stellar album is Big Time Sensuality, in which Bjork’s distinctive vocals dance above pulsating beats, creating an infectious and exhilarating energy. Like Someone in Love, offers a change in pace; the enchanting rendition of this 1940s jazz tune combines Bjork’s emotive performance with electronic elements, creating a dreamlike ambiance that feels nostalgic and full of longing.
Sound of Silver (2007) – LCD Soundsystem
LCD Soundsystem’s Sound of Silver album is considered one the best Dance and Electronic albums of the 2000s, known for its infectious beats, emotional depth, and intricate production. James Murphy, the creative force behind the band, creates energetic instrumental loops, adding more and more layers as the song progresses. Songs like Get Innocuous! and Someone Great showcase the power of repetition done right. The album invites listeners to get lost in its mesmerising loops, providing an irresistible invitation to dance.
I Love You Jennifer B (2022) – Jockstrap
I Love You Jennifer B is the experimental debut album of electro-pop duo Jockstrap, and is completely unique to everything that makes a pop album typical. A creative breath of fresh air, the album takes listeners on a journey filled with unexpected twists and turns. It transitions from a gentle folk record at times, to a musical cascade where classical violin, dubstep, and playful vocal effects collide, sometimes within a single track, such as Greatest Hits. While this genre-mashing could easily become a musical nightmare, a feeling of comfort and fun can be found in the disarray, capturing a sound never heard before. Much like LCD Soundsystem, Jockstrap utilises chaotic presentation as an opportunity to engage powerful presences without rigid lyrical structures, but the duo favours imaginative, strange and dysfunctional lyrical moments over repetition. Subverted pop at its most sublime, the album captures a perplexing, yet beautiful and immersive mosaic of sounds.
Wede Harer Guzo (1978) – Hailu Mergia
1970s Ethio-jazz is renowned for its unique fusion of traditional Ethiopian music with soul, Latin rhythms, funk and western jazz. An influential album from this era was Wede Harer Guzo. Released on cassette in 1978, it was rediscovered and received its first vinyl release in 2016, introducing a new generation to keyboard prodigy Hailu Mergia. Western instruments like electric keyboards, bass guitars, accordions are played in a unique accent, blending distinctive indigenous sounds with American Jazz.
Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You (2022) – Big Thief
A personal favourite on this list, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You by indie folk band Big Thief, is arguably one of the most beautiful and authentic albums, creating magic out of the mundane. An adventurous double album that grapples with the profound questions of death, relationships, and self-acceptance with the same importance as shoelaces, morning geese, and earthworms. The album delves into the idea that all things, whether grand or small, cosmic or casual, are interlinked. A very short eighty minutes, Dragon shifts from dreamy folk to shoegaze, to electronic beats. To only give a few recommendations would feel like disservice, but the whimsical title track is high on the list, while The Only Place and Certainty feel warm and cosy, performed with love and pure joy.
Bloom (2012) – Beach House
The Baltimore dream pop duo known for their signature ethereal sound have created a captivating blend of melody and mood with Bloom. While dark and nocturnal, it is by no means a depressive album, more so contemplative and reflective, encapsulating the feeling of staring at the ceiling at night. Victoria Legrand’s lullaby vocals standout on The Hours, Myth and Other People, enveloping listeners in a surreal musical experience. The lyrics are wistful, the production hazy, the guitars transcendental. Forever Still, the album’s accompanying performance film is a wonderful watch to appreciate Bloom, with other-worldly cinematography that feels larger than life.
Image: Isla Mustin