Music is why we do this. The car rides to visit family, soundtracked by a favorite record that taps into nostalgic bliss. The hustle and bustle of connecting flights for our eyes to feast on the beauty of the Earth, creating new memories of the place we call home. We cherish the experiences forged in our time away from the workplace and always wish for another few days spent in our little escapes. What albums have taken us to new destinations or been the fuel to our fun?
DJ Sabrina the Teenage DJ - Charmed
The most recent addition to my summer soundtrack is the 2018 release “Charmed” from this UK house artist. Right off the bat, “Next to Me” is the sonic flashback to teleport you to a nostalgic era of Muzak and sitcom themes that proliferated the fondness of the late 90s. Across this large compilation of tracks, genres wax and wane as you journey to a simpler time of catchy sing-song pop, four on the floor dance music, and instrumental euphoria compared to what’s playing on the radio to and from work. I find myself picking this record as a pleasant backdrop to the evening’s decrescendo. Tracks like “New Years Resolution” and “How Did You Know?” additionally tap into the blissful optimism of what it was like as a child with a wild imagination. “Charmed” and “Still Cool” sound like they’re pulled from the sensation and glamor around the modeling world at the time. The Lii F15 speakers at my desk present a large and dynamic soundscape when listening to this album that I am enveloped by the synthetic grooves from a bygone era.
The Weeknd - Dawn FM
I have been following The Weeknd for a while. I was late compared to his day-one fans, but I instantly got the itch to hear more of him after his appearance on “Crew Love” from Drake’s modern classic album, “Take Care”. I remember using a pair of Beats by Dre Solo HD’s I had found on campus, and hearing a very different Abel Tesfaye crooning in his signature falsetto. In retrospect as an audiophile, it was a simpler time when listening to music. I only had one signal chain that would play music, my iPod Touch and those on-ear Beats.
In the modern era of The Weeknd, he’s arguably the biggest pop star on the charts. "Dawn FM" ultimately is here because of my better half. She absolutely loves this record, and I join her in the praise of this concept record about a fictional radio station and a phantom DJ voiced by Jim Carrey. I started 2022 with this on repeat, but my partner hasn’t stopped jamming to 103.5 Dawn FM. The number of times I’ve sung a few of these choruses in private rivals that of old favorites from Abel, and even of all-time favorites. Daniel Lopatin, also known by the performing name Oneohtrix Point Never, provides infectious rhythms and powerful synthesizer hits on so many highlights. Hearing “Gasoline” for the first time, I thought I was in an early 2000s doomscape. I feel the transition between “How Do I Make You Love Me?” and “Take My Breath” is my favorite discovery of the album on my audio systems I have at home compared to the first listen in my car. The single “Sacrifice” opens with a processed electric guitar that evokes influences from his collaborations with Daft Punk if they were to ever cross paths again. The remix with Swedish House Mafia is an excellent meeting of two very different stars, both of which I discovered in 2011. Finally, the last Weeknd-sung song on this record, “Less Than Zero”, encapsulates pop bliss. This song shook me with its gigantic ear worm chorus, and was the first song that annoyed my social neighbors as I belted the lyrics. I don’t know how the album sits in the public discourse, but this Weekend project is the current favorite of mine in this new decade of albums.
The Midnight - Kids
I was introduced to this artist and album by a fellow Discord member who goes by Ceph. He mentioned a couple songs that emanate pure euphoria, and the one that led me to enjoying this album was “America 2”. I discovered The Midnight through this song, and am so glad to have this little pocket of scripted paradise at my disposal. Notable looks back to the past include “Wave” which opens with teleprompter broadcasts from when video games were a new headline to the news audiences. Both the prelude and reprise of the “Kids” chant add a familiar playfulness in the middle and end of the record. The “Saturday Mornings” interlude starts with a perfect encapsulation of a child flipping through the channels on a day off from school. I now enjoy “Endless Summer”, but I am so happy to discover The Midnight through “Kids”.
Kavinsky - Reborn
A French electronic music artist I discovered through college friends watching the movie “Drive”, Kavinsky’s latest release is a detour from those days “Nightcall” was the backdrop to memories at university. A bit more synthwave this time around, “Reborn” is the first album from Kavinsky in nine years and a welcome change from his debut, “OutRun”. While “Reborn” might not be an audiophile pick in terms of vastly detailed mixes or highly dynamic passages, a couple tracks stand out on this long-awaited update. “Cameo” is by far my favorite instant hit, even if the vocal refrain repeats one too many times in the song’s four minute run time. Each Morgan Phalen featured song on this record (“Plasma”, “Zenith”, “Vigilante”, and “Zombie”) I’ve enjoyed for the creative detours Kavinsky takes me on.
My morning run is where I get my thoughts in order for the day ahead. I line up challenges, form a plan of attack, and charge straight ahead. There are times when I listen to the environment around me to tap into its wisdom, but most often I am listening to music. This is where the basshead in me takes over and I use my AKG N400NCs for their Harman energy.
When running I prefer repetitive, high-energy tracks. Spotify introduced me to JOYRYDE when I trusted their playlist makers to guide me through a run. Traditionally, I like to run to tracks I’ve already heard. This makes it possible for me to amp myself up for a power sprint when the drop hits. It’s fun and keeps me motivated. JOYRYDE has plenty of these moments in their album BRAVE. If I start my run with ON FIRE, around 2:22 I head into the corner of a steep hill and power through it with the build here. There are plenty of moments like this throughout the album. The textures and layers present all kinds of opportunities to synchronize, challenge myself, and basically run on auto-pilot. This is how I’m able to both focus on the run and plan my day. By the time I get to SELECTA 19, I’m usually going down hill and can take it easier heading into the slower paced track MILK.
When I’m nearing the end of my run, depending on how I feel, I either take it easy on the home stretch, or I toss it back to IM GONE. It’s my favorite track on the album and around 3:05, it has an awesome build that makes me want to push through exhaustion and belt out a final full-speed sprint to the finish.
For more chill outings—where I’m not trying to find and push past my personal limits—I defer to electronic artists like Disclosure. 2013’s Settle has a chill, yet fun pacing to it. There are plenty of tracks that lead to unintended dance breaks. The kind you really hope no one is filming. Latch is one of those tracks. Sam Smith’s vocals on an electronic track make you move your feet in more than just a straight line. Then you have F for You featuring Mary J. Blige, the Queen herself. Forget any semblance of composure. Just as the chorus repeats “I’ll play the fool for you,” I’ll act a fool to some high energy MJB. There are so many good songs on Settle that I play it on shuffle to keep the surprises rolling. It is the perfect complement to a beautiful day in the park with no planned course.
Whether we’re looking for a pop of nostalgia mid-flight, or getting down with our feet on the ground, music moves us. Once a track gains traction it impacts our every action, amplifying even fractions of a second. It gets us in gear, calms anxiety and fears, and gets our rears moving to a variety of beats.