It’s the end of the semester. Let’s play a game.
Picture your stress. Make it a ship. Realize your mind is an open ocean. Your mind is also the air above the ocean. Gently fill the sails of the ship, watch as it disappears into the horizon. It will probably return eventually, but for now let’s listen to some music.
I made a playlist for you (and for me) to help de-stress in stressful times. It’s okay if you don’t like the songs on it. You’re welcome to make your own playlist (in fact, I highly encourage you to do so). I hope you do like it though.
Now if it’s alright with you, I’d like to talk about a few songs from the playlist, plus a few I couldn’t find on Spotify.
Solange – “Cranes in the Sky”
There isn’t much I can wax poetic about Solange’s new album that hasn’t been waxed and polished already by critics many times more qualified than little old me. I’ll try though: it’s timely, it’s audacious, it’s sonically sublime, it teems with vivid emotions running through intersections of race, kinship, history, grief and healing with intense inner and outer scope. “Cranes in the Sky,” a personal standout from A Seat at the Table, is a sweetly somber portrayal of futility. Even as Solange acknowledges the fruitlessness of her attempts to push away pain, she displays a steely resolve to rebuild herself from the wreckage of her grief. As shown in the music video, the raw material for this reconstruction can, in part, be found in the strength of family ties. All lyrics and symbolism aside (not that they ever should be), both the song and video are genuinely gorgeous pieces of art.
Kim Jung Mi – “Haenim” (The Sun)
Kim Jung Mi’s album Now (arranged and produced by Shin Joong Hyun) was one of the seminal bits of psychedelic folk to come out of South Korea in the 1970’s. Honestly, I don’t know much about it beyond that. I found this song two days ago. Here are some translated lyrics I found on the internet:
The sun is waving at me on the top of the mountain
We live close to the warm sun
Birds are flying in this silent place
They are singing for me
How beautiful is this place, the sunlight is radiant
Lift up your face and look at the sky
Let’s ride on a rainbow to meet the sun
I don’t know if those lyrics are real, but I want them to be. That’s good enough, right?
Frank Ocean – “At Your Best (You Are Love)” (Aaliyah/Isley Brothers Cover)
From Frank Ocean’s other (less talked about) project released this year, Endless. I still remember when Frank dropped this cover on Tumblr last year – or rather, I remember the feelings it generated. To this day, the sound of Frank’s tender falsetto never fails to pierce my body like a warm, inviting beam of sunlight. If I ever help to conceive a child, I want them to emerge into the world as this song plays over the hospital soundsystem.
jinsang – “Summer’s Day [v2]”
Soundcloud is a funny place. Sometimes, in your 2 a.m., bleary-eyed, huddled-mass-in-the-corner-of-your-bed internet ramblings, you find a generic lo-fi track replete with a generic drum beat and generic anime album art, and it’s fine. You keep scrolling. But sometimes, that generic lo-fi track happens to harness an overpowering wave of childhood nostalgia (the piano riff is from the soundtrack to Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away), and you sit there, your spinal cord slowly stiffening into a question mark, trying to fight back tears of happiness and bleary-eyed insomnia.
Rebecca Sugar + Estelle + AJ Michalka – “Here Comes a Thought”
If you don’t watch Steven Universe, I don’t expect you to be reduced to a soppy, aqueous mess the first time you hear this song. As someone who does watch the show, and does so with unabashed ardor, it’s hard to explain in a few sentences what makes Steven Universe (and “Here Comes a Thought”) so goddamn perfect. In the context of the episode and long-standing character development arcs, the song embodied a huge emotional payoff for lots of avid viewers. Even without context, the song’s core message – learning to accept fear, anxiety, doubt and frustration as passing thoughts that don’t define the individual – ties in nicely with this article’s introduction. So I’ll leave things there.