Welcome back to another round of recommendations from people you probably don’t go to for opinions on anything other than sports! But without much in the way of sports happening right now, you could probably use other distractions to keep your mind off the existential dread that can creep in from time to time. Ah, there it is again. Hello, old friend...
A couple weeks back, we talked shows worth binge-watching, and before that, you all had plenty of reading selections. This time around, we shift gears to music — and specifically an album or two we’ve been listening to a lot lately. Have some picks of your own? Share yours below as well.
Christian: The Hamilton Mixtape, Various (2016)
By this point in my life, I’ve annoyed all of my friends about my love for musical theater. From age eight throughout high school I performed in musicals every year. “Hamilton” is the latest musical to transcend pop culture, but for those who may not like a traditional musical soundtrack, The Hamilton Mixtape is for you. The creator of “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda, collaborated with multiple artists to add their own musical style to the show’s songs. The various renditions of the the songs taken out of a musical theater style and infused with a pop, rap, or other musical styles makes the album an incredible listen.
Kevin: No One Can Do It Better, The D.O.C. (1989)
I’m going to go with one of my all-time favorite- “No One Can Do It Better” by The D.O.C. I think this is one of the most underrated hip-hop albums. Yes it’s pretty old as you can tell by the black LA Kings hat on the cover but it’s produced by Dr. Dre and has some pretty catchy tracks . You can find this one on Spotify and it’s perfect for an afternoon like today when I’m struggling to get some work done.
John: RTJ4, Run the Jewels (2020)
I didn’t mean for this list to be more hip hop-focused, but it’s perfectly fine that it is. Rap duo Run the Jewels’ fourth record dropped just over a month ago, and despite being written and recorded well before the various protests going on here in the U.S., you’d be forgiven for thinking it was all put together in the days immediately following George Floyd’s murder. Though not a straight-forward album musically, it’s topical, gets its point about a flawed society across, and is a relatively quick listen, too. My favorite selection has been “Ooh La La,” featuring Greg Nice and DJ Premier, but it’s worth investing in the entire (brisk) 39-minute run time.
Steve: The Atlas Underground, Tom Morello (2018)
I guess I’ll continue the trend with some pseudo-hip-hop with some EDM and crunching Tom Morello guitars mixed in? The Atlas Underground is Morello’s fourth solo offering, and first without his Nightwatchman moniker, which tended to be more of a folk guitar based line of albums from him - Amazing, but definitely different style. I fell in love with Morello and his mind-bending guitar work from the beginning of his career with Rage Against the Machine’s, self-titled 1992 debut, probably in my top-3 albums of all time. This effort features a broad range of collaborations too, with tracks featuring Big Boi and Killer Mike, GZA and RZA from WuTang, Marcus Mumford, and Portugal the Man amongst others. Overall a really unique album that I’ve been on for a while now.
Szuba: American Fool, John “Cougar” Mellencamp (1982)
I was tempted to follow suit with the rap/hip-hop picks and give the nod to Drake’s most recent Dark Lane Demo Tapes mixtape, but since I always have a steady dose of Drake in my musical rotation I’ll go with something else. Since departing New York City and coming home to Syracuse almost two months ago I’ve really been enjoying the simple pleasures and freedoms that come with a slower paced life. I’ve taken a liking the bucolic setting and peacefulness here in ways that I never did in my youth (Who am I, what do I believe in and am I getting old?), so I guess it’s not much of a surprise to turn to music that captures that sentiment.
American Fool is an album some of you are surely familiar with, holding the No. 1 spot on Billboard for nine weeks in 1982 (Wikipedia told me so). Even for the least ardent rock fans, most would recognize songs such as “Jack & Diane” as well as “Hurts So Good.”
I won’t pretend to be a passionate classic rock fan, but I do enjoy from time to time. Or maybe I’m just trying to appeal to the older demographic that reads the site. Who knows?