Illustration by Abbie Kinney

Illustration by Abbie Kinney.

Albums with aspiration

Published November 9, 2023

Albums with aspiration

The Beat staff reflects on its appreciation for music

By Grace Brezine, Grace Koennecke, and The Beat staff | For The Post

At The Post, there are many writers who have a love and passion for music and attribute certain artists and albums that helped shape their tastes and preferred genres. In The Beat section, it’s not hard to find college students who can’t name a favorite album of theirs, as the plethora of music in the world is the medium they gravitate most to.

Containing many music lovers, The Beat section members decided to reflect on their favorite albums and the artists who have left a lasting impact on their lives.

Grace Brezine, editor for The Beat (she/her)

One of my favorite albums at the moment is, "For All The Dogs" by Drake. Due to the nostalgic sound of Drake’s early music and with features from some of my favorite artists, it’s placed at number one. Drake has always been one of my top artists because of the wide array of his music, ranging from rap to R&B. I really think he has the perfect mix of the two, and he’s someone I can listen to at any time of the day or any mood that I may be in. In my opinion, Drizzy really made a comeback with this album.

"Virginia Beach," the opening track, is one that I always find myself listening to. I love the slow yet uplifting beat it has, and it always puts my friends and me in a good mood. Another favorite is "First Person Shooter (feat. J. Cole)." This duo is unmatched, and their collaborations will never get old. Although this isn’t my favorite collab they have done, it’s a great song and gets me in the mood to have a good time. Last but not least, one of my favorite songs at the moment is "Rich Baby Daddy (feat. Sexyy Red & SZA)." This track is a consistent play between my friends and me, and it reminds me of the good memories we’ve been making recently. It’s catchy and puts a smile on my face. Overall, “For All The Dogs” is one of my favorite albums right now and may even be one of my favorites from Drake.

Grace Koennecke, assistant editor for The Beat (she/her)

My favorite album at the moment is probably "After Laughter" by Paramore. The album really speaks to me because it talks so openly about mental health struggles, which is definitely interesting to see from the perspective of frontwoman Hayley Williams. Even though there are only 12 songs on the album, it still holds such significance since its release in 2017 because of its range and vulnerability. It has also become a staple in Paramore’s discography and is honestly one of its most experimental records since its start in 2005.

Some great moments on the album come with bangers like "Hard Times" and "Told You So." Although these songs sound upbeat, their lyrical content holds a lot of weight, especially with lines like “Hard times / Gonna make you wonder why you even try / Hard times / Gonna take you down and laugh when you cry.” Other moments that proved Williams’ struggles with fame and her mental health come on pivotal peaks in the album like "Fake Happy" and "Tell Me How," with Williams pushing her vocals to near tears after trying to maintain her self-esteem amid the pressures of looking happy for fans. Overall, the album has been highly influential not only among my views of what music can discuss with fans, but also with my writing and how I address my own mental health.

Elizabeth Talaga, freshman studying journalism (she/her)

My favorite album at the moment, and probably of all time, is "1989 (Taylor’s Version)" by Taylor Swift. The original “1989” album was released in 2014 and was an album I played relentlessly over the past five or so years since I really got into Swift’s music. Although it has only been a short two weeks since its release, “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” has completely taken over my Apple Music history and has occupied all of the space in my brain. With five vault tracks,—songs that did not make the cut for the original album—I have gotten to experience new songs off the album while reveling in the excitement of listening to my favorite songs for the first time again.

While there has been some criticism of the album, I have found endless magic in these re-recordings. Songs like "Shake it Off" and "Style" are songs I have listened to incessantly over the years, and the subtle differences in the new “Taylor’s Version” songs have given me a chance to fall in love with them all over again. A majority of my favorite Taylor Swift songs are from “1989” and listening to them as essentially brand-new songs has been so much fun. I am currently obsessed with "I Know Places (Taylor’s Version)" and "Is It Over Now? (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)," I have tortured my earbuds with the constant streaming of these tracks. The release of “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” has been my favorite Taylor Swift moment and memory, and the album will always occupy a large space in my heart.

Sophia Anness, freshman studying journalism (she/her)

Noah Kahan’s "Stick Season (We’ll All Be Here Forever)" is one that I have had on repeat throughout the fall season. Kahan has introduced a whole new genre of music that I did not even realize I loved. The folk album is an extended edition of his 2022 album "Stick Season" because Kahan felt like what he put out was incomplete. It tells a beautiful story about reliving childhood memories, battling heartbreak and resenting living in a small town through a variety of songs.

Each song has a special place in my heart, and it is hard to choose a favorite when the songs are so different but so meaningful. "You’re Gonna Go Far" is an addition to the original “Stick Season” album, and it assures listeners that it’s okay to leave home. This song in particular helped me with my transition from high school to college because I had a hard time leaving behind family and friends as I took on a new chapter. Other songs on the album, such as "Northern Attitude" and "Dial Drunk," have so much emotion behind them, but they also hold so much power. Kahan has a habit of writing verses that build and it’s as though the music comes to life through the choruses. He is an artist who has inspired me and is one to look out for in the future.

Alicia Szczesniak, junior studying journalism (she/her)

As the nights get longer and colder, I find myself returning to old favorites that fit the vibe of the season. Lord Huron’s 2018 album "Vide Noir" does just that. It fits more than just one vibe though, it fits EVERY vibe. If I’m on a long late-night drive, I default to the cosmic "Lost in Time and Space" or "Emerald Star." If I’m in the gym, it’s "Never Ever" and "Ancient Names Part I." If I’m studying in the library, I’m listening to "Secret of Life" and "When the Night is Over."

Plus, the lore for the album runs deep. It tells the story of a man on a cross-country trip to find his fiance, who had just left him. The trip brings him to strange new places with strange new people, and along the way, he encounters the mysterious hallucinogenic substance Vide Noir. The story is set to an interesting soundscape, with both folk and progressive rock fusing together, all backed by masterful lyricism brimming with vivid imagery. This is seen in tracks like the trippy "The Balancer’s Eye" and the smooth and pensive "Wait By The River." It is, without a doubt, a no-skip album, as every single song is an absolute banger.

Sophia Rooksberry, sophomore studying journalism (she/her)

I grew up listening to "Fake Plastic Trees" on CD, and later the song grew to be one of my all-time favorites. Thom Yorke’s vocal style is viscerally showcased on this track, and the lyrics are undoubtedly some of the band's best. "Sulk" and "Bullet Proof ... I Wish I Was" are other examples of the band's lyrical capabilities, as well as demonstrations of their ability to match a musical aesthetic with deep and chilling text. Songs such as "Black Star," "My Iron Lung" and "Just" adopt a completely different style, leaning heavier into classic rock influences and gritty musical design. "High and Dry" is the only song off "The Bends" to make Spotify’s top five most streamed Radiohead songs. While the rest of the album is certainly deserving of such accolades, there is a good reason for that particular song's placement. It is a desperate plea masked by gentle guitars and timid vocals and exemplifies the true core of the band wonderfully. Albums like these are not produced every day, not even every decade. It has been in circulation for nearly 30 years and will withstand the test of time through at least another 30.

One of the most pervasive debates in the world of rock music is that of the best Radiohead album. There are many defenses for albums like "OK Computer" and "Kid A," even some for their debut album, "Pablo Honey." However, it is my firm belief that "The Bends" deserves the top spot on the leaderboard. The album’s flow and aesthetic are unmatched, and the songs are also able to stand alone as individual masterpieces.

Jackson McCoy, freshman studying journalism (he/him)

While I’ve been listening to a lot of albums lately, the one that's been hitting the hardest has to be Miley Cyrus’s 2020 album "Plastic Hearts." It is such a standout album from her more recent works and compared to her other releases, it has such a unique aesthetic and sound. The distinct ‘80s influence with rock and pop sounds from the decade combined with the grimy Hollywood visual aesthetic really sets this album apart. “Plastic Hearts” was also released over quarantine, and it was one of the many things that managed to get me through that incredibly isolating time.

For me, this album is very much a summer album. Songs like "Night Crawling (feat. Billy Idol)" have a very nostalgic sound that makes listeners feel like they’re flying down the streets of Los Angeles, while other tracks like "WTF Do I Know" take inspiration from glam rockers of years past. Cyrus also wasn’t afraid to get vulnerable and details her own mental health struggles in songs like "Angels Like You" and "Never Be Me." In addition to featuring the legendary Billy Idol, “Plastic Hearts” also features other 1980s icons Stevie Nicks and Joan Jett, and Cyrus performed a cover of Blondie’sHeart of Glass” on the album. The entire LP is very cohesive and teleports listeners to a crowded California beach at night, lit up by neon lights. “Plastic Hearts” always reminds me of car rides with the windows down at a time when that was one of the few ways I could leave the house, and it never fails to make me feel incredibly free.

Kenzie Callahan, freshman studying journalism (she/her)

One of my current favorite albums is "The Good Witch" by Maisie Peters. In the summer, I raved to my friends about how this was the perfect summer album; now, it’s autumn, and I rant about it being the perfect fall album. The album connects with me because of how versatile it is. It’s filled with anthems like “BSC” and “You’re Just a Boy (And I’m Kinda The Man)” that celebrate loving yourself while simultaneously encapsulating what it feels like to let go of someone or something.

For example, the album features acoustic, heartbroken ballads like “Two Weeks Ago,” “Want You Back” and “History Of Man” among angry, vengeful songs like “Body Better” and “Therapy.” “The Good Witch” takes it a step further with songs about going on tour in a band or feeling like the universe is shifting just for you. A musical element I like about this album is the bridges, particularly on “History Of Man” and “There It Goes;” they add such clarity and passion to the songs with lyrics so telling to the meaning. This album is emotionally charged with confidence and crazy ex-girlfriend energy, meaning it’s also really fun to hear live. The album is one that I will truly never get tired of.

Roman Salomone, sophomore studying communication studies and MPRI, (he/him)

A release I’ve been listening to recently has been the “Submarine” soundtrack EP by Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys. Released in 2011, it remains to be the only solo proper release from the AM frontman and a major departure from the sounds of his prior output. Turner dials back on the Dr. John Cooper Clarke-isms and the Sheffield snark and instead shoots for singer/songwriter ballads, wallflower-y indie pop, and a certain charm that lands between classic Prine and Blur’s “13.”

Although it’s only five songs and an intro, nearly everything there is great. The piano-backed “Stuck on the Puzzle” contains some of the EP’s most clever and humorous lyrics, and continues to be a classic indie tune. There’s also the beautifully gentle “Hiding Tonight,” the melancholic and romantic “Glass in the Park,” and Alex does a genuinely great homage to early Dylan-esq writing on the fan-favorite “It’s Hard to Get Around the Wind.” The amazing “Piledriver Waltz,” a song the Monkeys would re-record for “Suck It and See” later that year, closes the EP as undoubtedly one of the finest tunes Turner has ever penned. The song actually steps into a proper waltz on the chorus, as Alex flips the “Heartbreak Hotel” cliché on its head, and paints the picture of his significant other going through a rough patch. While the Arctic Monkeys’ music drops in quality pretty significantly—for me at least—after “Favourite Worst Nightmare”, this release stands as one of the few high points Turner hit post-2008 and is easily one of the best EPs of the 2010s.

William Troyer, senior studying media social change (he/they)

Tyler Childers tells and retells the stories of Appalachia in his music, especially on his most recent album, "Rustin In the Rain." Still, it all began with his 2017 album "Purgatory." Since living in the Appalachian region of Ohio, I have gained a shocking appreciation for country music. Songs like "Banded Clovis" and "Whitehouse Road" tell a story we've heard before – the long days and the long nights and the struggles Appalachia faces – but indeed highlight the beauty behind those flaws as a “hell with hope” due to the strong sense of community and the people that sew together the fabric of the region.

These lyrics from "Lady May," "As you cut my roots away / And I fell a good long ways for my lovely Lady May," particularly resonate with me. I'm a senior this year, and those lyrics resound with me louder and louder as my time winds down here in Athens. I can't help but think about those long nights, the strong sense of community I've felt here, my love for Athens and the love of communities woven within it.

Clara Leder, sophomore studying high school language arts education (she/her)

Many albums have been shuffling through my music rotation lately, but the one that sticks out the most is “Deadeye” by The Ballroom Thieves. Discovering The Ballroom Thieves is one of the best things that happened to me this fall. The soulful blend of voices mixed with beautiful instrumentals allows for a powerful music experience. Although this album was released in 2017, the songs remain relevant even now. The Ballroom Thieves are a pop-folk group that once you listen to, you won’t be able to stop.

This album has some of my favorite songs included in the 14 tracks. The standout heartfelt anthem, “Anyone Else” gives light to passionate love, one that is worth screaming about. The buildup in “Storms” is one of the best moments of the album, as the song details the struggle with mental health. “Bees” and “Peregrine” are softer songs but will have you hanging on to every word. On the opposite end, the album also contains heavier ballads like “Pocket of Gold” that mix breakup anthems of the 2000s and rock of the ’80s. It is a standout track that aids in the versatility of the album. “Deadeye” is a beautifully crafted album that has a song for every feeling and every season. The Ballroom Thieves and “Deadeye” have carried me through fall and will continue to carry me. The Ballroom Thieves are my new favorite band and are responsible for one of my favorite albums now.

AUTHOR: Grace Brezine, Grace Koennecke, and The Beat staff

EDITOR: Hannah Campbell

COPY EDITOR: Addie Hedges