Fall Music Essentials, Vol. II: Horn Picks

This post was written by Gavin Mead ’15, Horn Gallery member and guy who digs music.

The Horn Gallery is a student-run arts and performance space, dedicated to bringing free events of all art forms to Kenyon and the surrounding area.  First and foremost, though, we’re music people, and the point of this list is to highlight songs by upcoming acts, bring attention to new releases we like, and generally just share what we’ve been vibin’ to lately.

1. Lower Dens – Brains

Led by Maryland’s Jana Hunter, this dream pop band takes the tried-and-true formula of swirling guitars and hazy atmospherics and adds to it the edge of 70s Post-Punk in a unique, effective way, topping it all with Hunter’s beautiful, sultry alto voice.  “Brains,” their latest single, is ethereal yet propulsive, driven by an unceasing, Kraut-y drum beat, sure to hypnotize the entire crowd on Wednesday.  Some people complain that dream pop all sounds the same, but when a group nails the sound this well and adds so many new ideas, how can you say no?  Say yes at the Horn this Wednesday!

2. How to Dress Well – Running Back

Haven’t you heard? R&B is back. With the huge rise in popularity of “PBR&B” acts like The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, and The XX, the arty kids can finally listen to as many slow jams as they please.  Plus, now I can unabashedly proclaim my love of ’90s Mariah Carey without shame. But shortly before R&B indie-fication became a bona fide Thing, How to Dress Well’s Tom Krell was taking these same influences to a different, more tortured place, layering his songs with tape hiss and sound collage.  He released his latest album, Total Loss, last week, and despite being recorded in significantly higher fidelity, it’s still as fragile and touching as his debut.  “Running Back” is probably the most uplifting of this new set of songs, but behind the MJ-esque percussive vocals and slinky Spanish guitar, Krell uses his delicate falsetto to lay out ruminations of love and loss in a painfully bare manner.

3. LIL UGLY MANE – Bitch, I’m Lugubrious

Okay, stop.  Before you do anything else, feast your eyes upon the glorious album art accompanying this song. The spooky skeletons! The money-filled grave! That font! If you can’t see the beauty in this you desperately need more ignorant fun in your life. Even better is that this song sounds exactly like the cover looks: dark, smoked-out, paranoid, and heavily indebted to the days of early-90s Memphis rap. It sounds claustrophobic and antisocial in the best way possible, with woozy vocals, murky piano and horn samples, and trunk-rattling bass that makes the little mixtape DJ in my head go “DAMN SON, WHERE’D YOU FIND THIS?” However, the darkness never becomes too much, largely because it’s all so absurd.   I mean, how often do you hear a typical rapper say “lugubrious?”

4. Future – Turn On The Lights

Forget “Mercy,” “Amen,” or any other overplayed Hot 97 jam.  This is the hip-hop song of the year.  Hell, it might be my song of the year, period. Mindless braggadocio is fine and all, but Turn On The Lights is different.  That street-hardened, syrup-sipping Future, whose first hit pretty much just consisted of him doing a bad Tony Montana impression in his signature autotuned gargle, had the courage to release a song with so much heart is kind of amazing. This isn’t about sex, it’s about yearning for a crush.  “I want to tell the world about her just so they can get jealous,” he rasps, and you can just feel his giddiness.

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