Music of the month: December

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Following on from last month, members of Palatinate‘s editorial team are creating Spotify playlists formed of ten recommended songs. Featuring suggestions from a range of Editors, this month outgoing Editor-in-Chief goes through some of her top tunes, available to listen to on a Spotify playlist here.

I always find it really hard to categorise my music taste – I tend to get hooked on a few specific artists, albums or songs at any one time, some of which become permanent favourites if I add them to one of my millions of playlists. As such, this playlist is a mixture of new obsessions and older, tried and tested songs. I play a lot of music that can sit in the background while I read something or get on with my day – there are several of those songs on this list.

  1. dodie – ‘Cool Girl’

The first single on her debut album Build a Problem (to be released in March 2021), ‘Cool Girl’ features stripped-back acoustics and dodie’s signature vocals. If this song is anything to go by, the album promises to be one to look out for in the Spring. In November’s Music of the Month, Maddie spoke about how we all have “songs that make you feel like the main character”, and ‘Cool Girl’ is up there – with this in your headphones, go and walk wistfully through the streets of Durham to your heart’s content.

2. Tom Chaplin – ‘Midnight Mass’

As it’s December, I felt obliged to include a Christmas song here. I could have filled this list with all the festive classics that are now gracing my Spotify at least half the time, but I thought this more gentle track deserved some attention. Chaplin, frontman of Keane, released a Christmas album a few years ago called Twelve Tales of Christmas. A lot of the tracks are covers, but ‘Midnight Mass’ is an original song; set to gentle piano, the song describes everyone driving home on Christmas Eve and getting together to sing hallelujah in chorus – it’s as lovely as it sounds.

3. Miel – ‘Tourist Season’

I encountered American comedian Miel Bredouw on her music podcast, Punch Up the Jam, during lockdown, but her debut Tourist Season is a beautifully tragic, self-proclaimed break-up album. I would recommend the entire thing, but the title track in particular is a heart-breaking account of moving “far from home”, as she asks in the song “Tourist season hasn’t even started yet / what the fuck was I thinking when I left?”. Against a delicate synth soundtrack, Miel’s vocals are gentle before a euphoric chorus, proclaiming that “I’m no one, this is what I wanted”. Other standout tracks on the album for me are ‘Columbus Day’ and ‘Must Be Fine’.

4. Florence + The Machine – ‘No Light, No Light’

To my mind, Florence’s entire discography is phenomenal; I usually put the whole thing on shuffle, and I changed my mind several times on what single to put here. This song is from the 2011 album Ceremonials, which features other hits like ‘Spectrum’, ‘Shake It Out’ and ‘Only If For A Night’. Florence + The Machine are known for their lyrics that read like poetry, joyous choruses and Welch’s truly remarkable voice. In ‘No Light, No Light’, she sings about lost love with the fervour and intensity of a religious “revelation in the light of day / you can’t choose what stays and what fades away”.

5. Billy Joel – ‘The Stranger’

I was raised on Billy Joel’s music by my parents; there’s something oddly comforting about an album full of six-minute songs that I’ve returned to time and time again. ‘The Stranger’ opens with a soft jazz piano then suddenly breaks into something more upbeat, as Joel sings about hiding oneself from a lover, and the “faces” that we try on for other people.

6. Regina Spektor (feat. Ben Folds) – ‘Dear Theodosia’

The soundtrack of Hamilton is always my go-to set of feelgood songs, but the remixes are worth a listen too. Spektor’s cover of Hamilton and Burr’s lullaby to their newborn children is a charming and gentle ballad, which removes a lot of the specific lyrics from the musical such that it sounds more like an album track.

7. Nerina Pallot – ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’

Pallot’s cover of Joy Divison’s classic featured on the soundtrack to the BBC adaptation of Normal People. It replaces the heavy percussion of the original with piano, as her vocals move from soft to desperately imploring that “something so good / just can’t function no more”. Perfect for those long train journeys through Italy that every student obviously goes on with their friends, just like Connell and Marianne when this track comes on somewhere in the middle of the series.

8. Tracy Chapman – ‘Fast Car’

I have a theory that the best songs to drive to are songs about driving – in this list I include ‘Getaway Car’, ‘Castle on the Hill’ and ‘Born to Run’. ‘Fast Car’ is another; it tells the story of a woman trying to make a life for herself, hoping her lover can drive her far away, only for him to let her down. Still, the chorus feels like driving with the roof down; it’s utterly joyful, as Chapman celebrates “city lights lay out before us / and your arm felt nice wrapped around my shoulders”.

9. Taylor Swift – ‘the lakes’

I’ve been a loyal Swift fan ever since my mum bought me a CD of Fearless for my ninth birthday, so naturally the release of folklore was welcome news during lockdown. When Taylor Swift released the album’s bonus track, the Lake District’s tourist board went wild, but the best response was Cumbria University’s feature on ‘13 things our students do in the Windermere peaks that are so much better than crying’. folklore marks another reinvention for Swift after the rebellious glamour of Reputation and unicorn-glitter of Lover, but it’s also a return to the storytelling found in Fearless and Speak Now. ‘the lakes’ is a poetic and gentle track that describes escapism in modern and traditional senses, with references to both Wordsworth and ‘hunters with cell phones’.

10. girl in red – ‘rue’

“Don’t wanna make it worse / I’m gonna make it work”, sings girl in red on one of her newest singles. The song is a bold articulation of mental health and how hard dealing with it can be, one the themes she returns to in other songs like ‘dead girl in the pool’ and ‘i need to be alone’, using her characteristically frank and honest lyrics to deal with personal issues.

Image: Florence and the Machine by Justin Higuchi via Wikimedia Creative Commons

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