Music of the Month: October

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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 Music Editor talks through some of her top tunes, available to listen to on a Spotify playlist here.

It turns out that compiling a playlist of only ten songs is a rather difficult task – I find that my music taste is ever-changing as I am introduced to new tunes, either by friends or Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist. This collection of songs therefore includes some new discoveries alongside older classics.

  1. Misty Miller – ‘This Too Shall Pass’

Misty Miller’s new EP River Songs, released in early September, takes the listener back to her early folk-infused music. Known for her previous bolshy punk persona, this EP is bound by mature lyrics that reflect upon her youth. ‘This Too Shall Pass’ concludes the EP, combining this more assured tone with an acoustic soundscape and simple but effective melodies. Miller’s elastic voice flows over the gentle guitar accompaniment, and this cyclical return to her early style provides loyal listeners with a satisfying set of songs. For those who haven’t listened before, Misty is certainly not one to miss.

2. Cosima – ‘Girls Who Get Ready’

‘Girls Who Get Ready’ has stuck with me ever since it was released in 2016. Meaningful and intelligent, Cosima’s lyrics question the beauty expectations placed on women by society, whilst also heralding individual empowerment and confidence. The synth electronics and reverb on guitars provide a subtle backdrop to the narrative of the song, in which insecurity soon becomes liberation. All in all, Cosima, a second lyrical genius to grace this playlist, squeezes a meaningful story into a song that is just over three minutes long.

3. Vulfpeck – ‘Love Is a Beautiful Thing’

‘Love Is a Beautiful Thing’, from Vulfpeck’s 2018 album Hill Climber, is a refreshing song as far as ballads go. Penned by vocalist and guitarist Theo Katzman, it features guest vocalist Monica Martin, backed by Woody Goss, Joey Dosik, Cory Wong, Joe Dart, and Jack Stratton. Martin and Katzman’s harmonies are sublime; their voices merge into a lush blend and the charming balance of their tones is heightened as they sing in unison in the final verse.

4. Brasstracks ft. Samm Henshaw – ‘Change For Me’

Brooklyn-based duo Brasstracks, formed of multi-instrumentalist Ivan Jackson and percussionist Conor Rayne, dropped feel-good single ‘Change For Me’ with Samm Henshaw during lockdown. Typical of many of their songs, their intricate horn lines are interesting to follow, whilst remaining unique to their established sound. The topic of the song is still relatable today: empathising with current world events, the lyrics touch on the paradox of doing both too much and not enough. The duo commented on the single’s lyrics “we landed on this tongue in cheek concept of running out of reasons to change for yourself, which felt applicable to both of our situations at the time. So many people, so many opinions, so little time but also too much time to care.” Overall, the song’s euphoric grooves and slick lyrics make it the perfect tune to kickstart any morning.

5. James Copus – ‘Early Hours’

I first came across James Copus on Instagram, where his tasteful improvisations often inspired my own practice. Copus is known for his work as a session musician, with a recent endeavour including recording for Jacob Collier’s Djesse Vol. 3. Therefore, I found myself excited for the release of his long-awaited debut album Dusk. Each of the seven tracks are written by Copus for jazz quartet, and all provide the listener with a plethora of originality and experimental flair, with his quartet completed by Tom Cawley (keys), Conor Chaplin (bass), and Jason Brown (drums). The opening track, ‘Early Hours’ reveals an enigmatic sense of melancholy to the album; Copus plays with impressive precision from his opening notes. With an impeccably clean tone that carries the listener through the song with ease, Copus is truly an incredibly refreshing young jazz artist and a musician to watch. One of the most musically exhilarating albums of the year so far, Copus’ writing is both lyrical and vibrant, providing a new spin to the modern jazz scene.

6. Lady Gaga – ‘Chromatica II’ into ‘911’

Early 2010s Gaga has resurfaced in Chromatica, returning to her early theatrical and electronic sound. It goes without saying that Lady Gaga’s 2020 album would have been found blasting at full volume on a Monday night Osbourne’s if the pandemic ceased to exist. Her album exudes confidence, whilst also promoting healing through music and dance. The transition and beat drop from orchestral ‘Chromatica II’ into ‘911’ fits like a glove. What some listeners may not realise is that ‘911’ is a tribute to Gaga’s antipsychotic medication, which she has previously explained saved her life. The opening beat is stark and robotic, with synths building throughout the verses providing a purposeful distraction from meaningful lines like “Wish I laughed and kept the good friendships”. This return to EDM combined with grounded lyrics is what makes Chromatica Lady Gaga’s most personal and authentic album to date.

7. Miley Cyrus – ‘Heart of Glass’

Cyrus is known for producing classic covers, having previously performed Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’, Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’, and even Roberta Flack’s ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ to name just a few. Debuting ‘Heart of Glass’ on iHeartRadio’s virtual Festival in September, the cover soon went viral, prompting Cyrus to release it on streaming services. Miley has transformed the 1979 disco hit into a rock-heavy song with formidable vocals and heavy guitars. The cover strays from her more typical pop sound, producing a soundscape that might foreshadow her upcoming album.

8. Amy Winehouse – ‘Tears Dry’ (Original Version)

Found on the album Lioness: Hidden Treasures, ‘Tears Dry’ is an early recording of the energetic Back to Black hit ‘Tears Dry On Their Own’. Winehouse’s tender vocal lines are emotionally heightened by a lyrical string accompaniment, which was later replaced by punchy horns. Producer Salaam Remi commented on the track “When you listen to what’s being said – ‘All I’ll ever be to you, is a darkness that we knew, with deep regret I’ve grown accustomed to’ – this was the kind of mood that was being created. This was how she’d normally write, on an acoustic guitar at 85bpm.” This early demo introduces listeners to the unfiltered talent of Amy, before any large amount of production or sampling had been added.

9. Jacob Collier, with Mahalia and Ty Dolla $ign – ‘All I Need’

Collier’s ‘All I Need’ aims to subvert listeners’ expectations and featuring both Mahalia and Ty Dolla $ign this sunny tune never gets old. Formed of 646 Logic tracks, ‘All I Need’ is musically brilliant, modulating to the key of E-flat-half-sharp in the final chorus. This modulation to a microtonal key produces a feeling of euphoria that is one of the crowning moments of Djesse Vol. 3. By looking past traditional Western tuning, Collier unlocks emotions that boost his writing abilities to untouchable levels in comparison to other contemporary artists.

10. Gil Scott-Heron – ‘Lady Day and John Coltrane’

Composed alongside keyboardist Brian Jackson, ‘Lady Day and John Coltrane’ is from Gil Scott-Heron’s first studio album, Pieces of a Man, released in 1971. A homage to the legacies of Billy Holiday and John Coltrane, this song is one of the gems of Scott-Heron’s early music. Another feel-good tune, the lyrics discuss the ability of music to rid people of personal problems, highlighting the healing power of music. Completed by Scott-Heron’s soulful licks, even decades after its release ‘Lady Day and John Coltrane’ is just as powerful as the day it was first played.

For more playlists, and to keep up with Palatinate’s ‘Music of the Month’ series, be sure to subscribe to Palatinate Music on Spotify here.

Featured Image: Misty Miller performing at Rockaway Beach by Paul Hudson via Flickr

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