Sophomore Year Playlist

When I was growing up, music came to me in two different forms: albums my mother bought and whatever was playing on the radio. Coming into college this presented a problem. I was no longer around the CD my mom was loving at the moment (i.e., no more listening to FUN.’s album for two months straight) and I didn’t have a car so no more radio. Now, music has come to me from a variety of sources: my friends, Spotify, Pandora, old music from my iTunes that resurfaces every once and awhile. It would be impossible for me to name every song I’ve listened to this past semester, but these are the ones that have stuck with me the most. I’ve written descriptions of why each song is listed and included a Spotify playlist with all of them on it at the end. Hope you enjoy!

  • Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel
    I cannot tell you how many snapchats I have sent or received that just have the phrase, “Hello, darkness my old friend.”
  • Let’s Get Drunk and Get it On by Old 97’s
    The main reason I love this song is for the line, “You’ve got a gorgeous face, thought it’s a little odd.” Which I find to be so endearing and I’m not quite sure why. I’ve known the song “Question” by this band for years, thanks to my cousin, Aron. Earlier this semester I decided to find more songs by the band and came across this beauty.
  • Ultralight Beam by Kanye West
    Basically all of TLOP. Probably my most productive day of spring break was the day that I individually downloaded every song off of the album and put them all on my phone. I found myself mainly listening to: Ultralight Beam; Father Stretch My Hands Pt.1; Pt.1; Famous; and I Love Kanye. Out of those, Ultralight Beam was played and sang the most. There was a solid few weeks wherein someone would ask what song to play and at least one person ask for Ultralight Beam.
  • Stressed Out by Twenty One Pilots
    I am all of the stressed. All of the time.
  • Build Me Up Buttercup by the Foundations
    This is one of those songs I’ve always known, but found myself playing a lot this year. It’s made itself into my text messages and I have this distant memory of it coming up on shuffle as I was driving to the library over Christmas break. When I think of myself listening to this song, there is an image of driving over the Samoa bridge and seeing all of Eureka home and remembering listening to it back in Tacoma.
  • Copacabana by Barry Manilow 
    This is the go-to song whenever we need a study break dance party. I cannot tell you how many times we listened to it. There was one specific time, when Maddy, Emily, and I were in Portland and all of the windows were rolled down and the wind was blowing my hair in my face and we were all singing along as loud as we possibly could.
  • This Is Gospel (Piano Version) by Panic! At the Disco
    I still think this song is sad, but it was stuck in my head for the majority of October. I’d recommend the piano version over the original, as the voice strikes harder without an abundance of background music. I played it for Maddy last week, as we were studying for finals, and she was over the moon, because she loves finals. The piano version can only be found on YouTube, with a link for it here.
  • Two of Us on the Run by Lucius
  • Winners by Trampled By Turtles
  • Don’t Ask Me Why by the Great Caesar
    All three of these songs showed up on my Spotify Discovery Weekly and they stuck with me. There’s something about the way the voices, I don’t know. I actually went out of my way to purchase them both on iTunes (a rare feat for me).
  • I Took a Pill in Ibiza by Mike Posner
    This song is me awkwardly dancing alone in my room. Also, I’m a huge fan of the line, “My name’s a reminder of a pop song people forgot,” because I haven’t listened to “Cooler Than Me” (or thought about it) in years.
  • You Got Lucky by Tom Petty
    All of freshman year, every time Claire heard me listen to music she asked me if it was Tom Petty. Most of the time it wasn’t. My point is: Tom Petty is one of those artist that I grew up listening to and still love. This song came up on shuffle quite a bit and one night Thomas sang it in this funny voice and it stuck with me.
  • Django by Luis Bacalov
    I can’t read the title without dramatically internally singing DJANGO. I also imagine Maddy throwing her head back and rocking back and forth as the song plays. Another song along the same line as this, which was played a fair amount is “(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance” by Gene Pitney
  • Taj Mahal by Jorge Ben Jor
    This is a bit of a throwback, I read Rod Stewart’s autobiography a few years ago and last year I was talking about it with Emily. There is this ridiculously arrogant song called, “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” and all proceeds of the song are donated to the United Nation’s Children’s Fund after Jorge Ben Jor argued (very rightfully) that Stewart’s song was strikingly similar to his “Taj Mahal.”
  • A Long Time Ago by Jim Croce
    There was a specific night when I stayed up in the sub until 4AM and this song was stuck in my head and I couldn’t get it out. I think it had something to do with the lines, “We spend the whole night talking / you said you’d like to see the sun rise / but in the gold of morning / was nothing that I had not seen in your eyes.”
  • Mother We Share by CHVRCHES
    I listened to this song on repeat first semester. Thanks, Spotify.
  • The Weight by The Band
    I had this whole drawn out conversation with Nick one morning over breakfast, wherein I was trying to convince him that this entire song was about sex. We both knew it wasn’t, but I managed to thoroughly convince our mutual friend that it was.
  • Magnets by Disclosure feat. Lorde
    The last few times I’ve been with Emily late at night, as we’re driving around Tacoma, this song as played. It reminds me of that feeling of being both restless and content.
  • Rich Girl by Hall & Oates
    There’s a video of me and Maddy singing this song into candy canes as we walked over to GPhi one night right before Christmas Break. I just remember the way the streetlight shone as we spun through the parking lot.
  • Head Over Heels by Tears for Fears
    Claire: “Do you mind if I play a song?” 9/10 times it was this.
  • Hotline Bling by Drake
    As soon as it came out, Nick and I began singing it back and forth to each other. I know it was probably overplayed, but every time I hear it I think of him standing in the suite and reaching out to me while singing it. Most of the time I think of him doing it while wearing Emily’s red heels (that I never actually saw him in, but have seen the Polaroids of him in them on Casino Night).
  • Feels Like Home by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris
    During the second semester I fell back into love with the album Trio II. When I was younger, my mom would play it on the way to school and I never paid that much attention to it. I had the song “High Sierra” stuck in my head one day, though, and found myself only listening to this album. Particularly because I found it was good music to study to.
  • Playing With Fire by Redinho
    Sometime in mid-November Emily and I went to Seattle for the day. It was overcast and cold and we both needed a break from campus. We took a picture in front of the Ferris Wheel and ate cupcakes even though Emily likes neither cake nor frosting. This song played at least five times that day.
  • Jolene by Dolly Parton
    At the end of Freshman year, Maddy revealed her love of this song. Every time it plays she gets super excited, and it’s adorable. 
  • Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley
    Rick Astley turned 50 this year!
  • Girlfriend by Avril Lavigne
  • Birthday by Selena Gomez
    Both of these songs were played multiple times in the hours leading up to midnight on May 6th. We celebrated Maddy’s birthday in style, with her continuously repeating: “It’s my birthday.” Her main birthday wish? Become a dictator.
  • Go Back by Cookies
    This was another one that is courtesy of both Emily and Spotify. She played it a few times and it got stuck in all of our heads and then Claire started playing it all night.
  • Sexual Healing by Marvin Gaye
    This song has its time and its place. One of those times being immediately after someone jokes about playing it really loudly.
  • Cool Cat by Queen
    Emily showed Nick this song and they fangirled over it.
  • Booty Bounce Pop by Mr. Collipart feat. Yin-Yang Twins
    The last night that Emily, Thomas, and I were all here, we went to Five Guys so Thomas could get dinner. Even though it was a little after 9PM, it was still in the mid-70’s and while cutting across the grass (which was dry for the first time in forever), Emily played this song very loudly while dancing along.
  • End of the Line by the Traveling Wilburys
    I first heard this song in 2007, when the complete collection of the Traveling Wilburys was released and my mom bought the album. It stayed in our CD player for months. It resurfaced Freshman year, with the Rock After the Beatles playlist for my SSI. Then it played during the last scene of Parks & Rec. I played the song with Emily and whenever I hear it I think of our friendship. (Unfortunately this song isn’t on Spotify, but the music video for it can be found here.)


Spring 2016 Playlist

Last semester, I wrote about making a playlist of the music I had downloaded throughout the semester. The idea behind this little project was to see how my tastes in music changed as I went through the semester. Ideally, by the time I graduate in three years, I’ll have eight playlists detailing my journey through college.

I downloaded 48 songs this semester, three more than I did last semester. Here are some of my favorites (in order of date downloaded):

  • Love Yourself x Roses by Enoch – Starting this list is a mashup up of The Chainsmokers’ Roses and Justin Bieber’s Love Yourself. This mashup perfectly blends the two songs, laying Bieber’s vocals over the melody and beats of The Chainsmokers.
  • Mean by Taylor Swift Can’t have a list like this without including some Taylor Swift. It’s hard to believe this song was released back in 2010. Two things I love about this song is that it has some of that country sound that brought Swift to stardom and has a great message about dealing with critics.
  • Viva La Vida by Coldplay –  Another classic. This one is two years older than Mean, being released back in 2008. There not much to say about this song. It was just bouncing around in my head one day and I had to add it to my library.
  • Hello (Marshmello Remix) by Adele – I first heard this song back in March at a rave that I went to. When the DJ, Brillz, dropped this, everyone just lost their minds. It’s such a good remix, I can’t help but dance a little every time I listen to it.
  • Inside Out by The Chainsmokers – This is the latest song from The Chainsmokers. After their hit with Don’t Let Me Down earlier this year, expectations were high. And those expectations were met. Trust me when I say, you have to listen to this song.
  • The Horizon is Ours by Underground Sound – This acapella masterpiece was composed by Daniel Wolfert., a graduating senior of my fraternity, and is performed by his acapella group, Underground Sound. If you read my last post, then you know how much this song means to me.

So there are just a few of the songs I downloaded this last semester. What songs caught your ear this semester?

An Open Letter to Taylor Swift

In which Daniel unpacks his complex emotions regarding the new musical ventures of the pop star Taylor Swift.

Dear Taylor Swift,

My darling Tay, dear Tswizz, Tswizzle, Swisscheesizzle, Tswift of the swiftest Taylors. When first I listened to your new album 1989, I was a different person. I dismissed it with a certain amount of derision and laughter.  And yet I still felt compelled, perhaps because of my allegiance to trashy pop music, to download your album onto my iPod and listen to it on repeat. Over and over again, I listened to the songs, with the assumption that I would eventually remove it from my music library, but to my surprise, the awkward, almost juvenile manner by which the songs were constructed became charming to me.

The album cover of Tswizzle's new musical masterpiece.

The album cover of Tswizzle’s new musical masterpiece.

Many of the lyrics first struck me as bizarre, as if they were a stream-of-consciousness first draft.  The best two examples are from the song “Bad Blood”, describing a grievous offense by a past friend:

1) “Don’t think it’s in the past; these kind of wounds, they last and they last.” So, Tay, not only do these wounds last… they ALSO LAST AGAIN. Could you think of no other phrasing wherein you didn’t use “last” twice?

2) “Time will heal, but this won’t; so if you’re coming my way… just don’t.” Again, Twizz, it sounds as if you just couldn’t think of anything better. Your ex-lover is approaching you and you tell him “What are you… could you… just… don’t.” I am heavily reminded of the phrase “Could you NOT?”

And yet I am simultaneously delighted by the ridiculous self-indulgence of so many of the album’s lyrics.  Take the words of one of the bonus tracks entitled “New Romantics”:

1) “We show off our different scarlet letters; trust me, mine is better.”  Let’s be real, for a second, Taylor; if someone is actively seeking and listening to your music, I doubt that they are wild enough to merit a scarlet letter from anyone. Mind you, I have no idea what the “crazy kids” listen to these days, but I have a strong suspicion it is not your music.  That being said, the concept that any of your listeners might be wild enough to attract the derision and scorn that “scarlet letter” suggests is hugely over-dramatic, and therefore I am a massive fan.

2) “We need love, but all we want is danger.” Again, few true swifties would be inclined to seek out terribly dangerous activities, but still you offer the philosophy of “thrill over romance” in this song that is so clearly an over-dramatization that I can’t help but love it.

In no particular order, here are a few of my other favorite lyrical and musical moments of the album:

1) The line “The monsters turned out to be just trees” from “Out of the Woods”

2) The first bass drop during “Welcome to New York”.

3) The introduction of male vocals after the bridge of “Out of the Woods”.

4) The line “Darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream” from “Blank Space”.

5) The second bass drop during “Welcome to New York”.

6) The moment in “Out of the Woods” at 3:20 when the stacked vocals singing “Are we out of the woods?” (for the umpteenth time) form an Am add9 chord.

7) The third bass drop during “Welcome to New York”.

8) The line “Love’s a game; wanna play?” from “Blank Space”.

9) The retro guitar riff that carries most of “I Wish You Would”.

10) The sick arena-rock drum beat change during the chorus of “I Wish You Would”.

11) That ENTIRE section of talking in the middle of “Shake It Off”.

12) The use of head voice, rather than belting, in “Wildest Dreams”.

13) The arpeggiation of the EM7 chord in the background vocals at the end of “This Love”.

14) The line “It’s all fun and games until somebody loses their mind” from “Wonderland”.

15) The bass drop during the chorus of “Wonderland”.

16) The fact that the melody of “You Are in Love” only uses four pitch classes: A, B, C#, and E, and yet the song gets stuck in my head all the time and I do not find it unmelodic.

So, my dear Tswift, what I am getting at? I am saying that your album reminded me that life can be ridiculous and fun and, sometimes, you’ve just got a kitten and a cake full of blood and a gazelle, and when the time comes, you just have to stand on your white horse before your Long Island mansion and sing:

I mean, magic, madness, heaven, sin – what’s not to love? They tell us we’re insane, Tay, but we’ve got a blank space, baby…

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

Music Makers and Shakers

Friday night, the thumping beats of “Turn Down For What” and “Talk Dirty to Me” echoed in my head. The audience was screaming, cheering, laughing, moving; the music wormed its way deep into our bones. It was the second-to-last number of the Repertory Dance Group (RDG) Fall 2014 show, and everyone was loving it. As the last song came on—“Rather Be”—and the dancers—over 100—all flooded back onto the stage for the final number, the audience roared.

The next evening, I sat in the quiet dark of the Schneebeck Concert Hall. On stage, a single violinist dressed in red coaxed music out of the strings. The soaring notes of the movements by Mozart and Rachmaninoff and Bruch and Ponce filled the hall. I didn’t close my eyes to listen; rather, I watched as the violinist, a junior, bent and wove with the notes she played.

I have no experience in music. The closest I ever got to playing an instrument was the month in elementary school we spent learning the recorder, at the end of which my music teacher did not let me perform in the class-wide recital. Because I was terrible. And this terribleness extends throughout anything related to music—I am incapable of dancing to a bit or singing along to song in tune.

Despite my inabilities, or perhaps because of, most of my friends are tied to the more musical arts in some way. Two of them play the clarinet, one of them performs in musical theatre, one has perfect pitch and plays the flute and the piano, one dances in RDG. And I get taken to every single show, from ridiculously good a cappella concerts to musicals to orchestra performances to, yes, RDG and violin recitals.

The dichotomy of the two shows that I saw over the weekend was stunning. One was in a high school theatre; the 800 seats were completely filled; the audience moved and clapped and cheered along to the music as the dancers swayed on-stage. And RDG accepts everyone who tries out—it was filled with people who danced, not because they were good, but because they wanted. The violin concert was much more sedate, with less flashing lights and thumping beats; the violinist herself was hugely talented and a major in that field; the concert hall was intently focused on simply listening to the notes she played.

I cannot make music myself: I cannot play an instrument or sing in tune or even tap my toe in time to the beat. But I can definitely appreciate it.

(Also, my friends see it as their duty to educate me.  So now I know which dances were difficult and which ones were not, and which composer focused on tone over structure—and therefore sounded better.)

(It was Rachmaninoff.)

Bit by Bit Putting it Together

For the first time in a long time, Thanksgiving break offered an uninterrupted half week of free time. I used a lot of it to revisit some musicals I hadn’t worked on in a while. I submitted my first musical, a couple years old now, to a festival and will hear back about it during winter break. But I also made progress on a short musical now almost three years in the making.

For a bit of background, I composed a ninety-minute musical in high school with my brother, which I was lucky enough to see performed as a staged reading. We started collaborating on another musical after that which was going to be full length but we trimmed it to a short, basically sung-through musical in keeping with my brother’s one-act play on which it is based.

I wrote many of the songs my freshman year of college and continued to add and tweak them basically until now. To perform it, the show would have to be scored or recorded somehow, and I didn’t have time to assemble another full piano vocal score like I did for the first one (while certainly an experience, it is extremely time consuming). So this time, I decided to look into some digital recording, which would not only handle a lot of the scoring for me but would also allow me to quickly orchestrate the piece for more than just piano.

I’d forgotten how entertaining digital recording is. In fact, I got so wrapped up in marveling at what my computer instruments could do that I quickly went  too far and produced some very complicated orchestrations. They say less is more with most orchestrations, but each song was a tad fast and a tad too dramatic, especially compared to most other arrangements I’ve heard. Of course, the anecdotal feedback I’ve received on my music is that my songs are already very energetic pieces and I need some mellower ones. What can I say – I’m a sucker for drama.

In any case, they made for some rather entertaining demo tracks, and since they’re just song demos, I’ll have plenty of time to polish them. At least I have started recording my second show. And even though I hadn’t composed anything new in a while, I was quickly getting accustomed to the formerly mysterious world of computer orchestration.

Then, just as I thought I had no more song ideas, a flurry came to me out of nowhere. That’s not entirely true – I’d been working on a ten-minute musical but hadn’t figured out how to put it together, and finally I came up with an outline for several different songs and an opening number. I guess hearing some new instruments and sounds was enough to get back into the swing of composing again.

Working at the Cellar (not the dungeon kind)

Whenever most of my friends back home ask where I work I tell them an ice cream & pizza parlor, which is way easier than saying I work at the Cellar. And I think it makes sense to label my workplace so; that’s what we’re known for. And although we also offer jalapeno poppers, quesadillas, wings, smoothies, milkshakes and a mini grocery store it’s our pizza and ice cream many people come for. Surprising I’ve never thought of our Cellar in the traditional sense. Normally cellars are dreary, cold, stifling, dark and musty but my workplace is far from that. The pizza oven fills the room with heat as the many students that trickle through to eat or just hang out would attest to. I have some of the greatest co-workers in the world, granted this is my first job, but I love working with them. We don’t quite have a set order on shifts, everyone takes time restocking, cashier, pizza making, and ice cream scooping and lounging around. The warmth and ambiance really makes me look forward to work as the time flies by quickly.

There are quite a few regulars that come a visiting to the Cellar, often ordering the same thing and they know the routine already. Many of these regulars are male athletes, ordering large pizzas to build up on carbs during season; the bakers and chefs who select from the C-Store to purchase milk, flour, and baking mixes; they have fun groups that always get salsa, hummus and chips, and late night workers grabbing red bull and 5 hour energy drinks. We even have regular phone orders, like that Vince guy that always orders a gluten-free BBQ chicken pizza. It’s funny how people can and ASK if we serve pizza, what do you think? But the best phone orders are the people who know what they want, state their name (to identify who’s picking the order up) and know it’ll take 25 minutes or so to bake. And generally everyone who comes in are really great people, and that’s part of the reason it’s such to joy to work on campus surrounded by such amazing people.

Now that the semester is winding to a close, students are frantically trying to use up all their dining dollars (since you can only carry over $25) and coming into the C-Store to do so. Some students have a couple hundred in their accounts and choose to buy cases of drinks to store in their room over break and eat lots of pizza now. With so many people coming in to buy stuff, even taking whole boxes of granola bars, gum, chocolate, assorted candy and pints of ice cream that our shelves are nearly bare, with nothing else to stock with it. With so many items to ring up, pizzas to make, and items to restock, our team has been working hard this past week and will continue to do so during finals. Luckily enough our boss informed us there is another large shipment of items to restock all our shelves for all the students to continue to spend their money.

Music is a VITAL aspect of the Cellar. We have our Ke$h@ playlist, Christmas, Fall Out Boy, 90s Classics, Rock, Disney and so many more. Many times we’ve had arguments over which playlist to play, and what songs to skip. So many times if you’ve looked in the back you will see pizza making and karaoke happening in the back, even some smooth dancing. I always love singing in general and being with other crazy people singing karaoke while working is the best! There was even one time Zach wanted to punish Lev so for the rest of the shift (3 hours) we had Africa by Toto playing, all night. By the third time it was tiring but still oh so fun to listen too.

The Cellar is a student-run store, pizza and ice cream parlor known for our large ice cream scoops, funny drawings on pizza boxes, good music, loud karaoke, funny movies of sporting events playing on the TV and good company in the warmth. Sometimes it sucks when there are a million orders, pizzas to make, ice cream to scoop, pizzas to send out, and people to ring up but by far I’ve had some amazing memories down there.

Loggers in L.A.

I love the Northwest. I really do. If my life lasted another 80 years I’d plan on being based here for at least 70 of them. That being said, sometimes Southern California just feels really, really nice.

This recent visit was my first time in Los Angeles. Growing up in my house LA was always the bad guy. The big polluted city full of nothing but rich jerks, airheads, and gangs, all either pushing or using drugs that they wash down with water stolen from the poorer outlying towns. And they don’t have seasons! That’s the way I was raised. Blame my father.

After that you terrible description you might be wondering why I would ever visit LA. Well, I work in the student programs of the Associated Students of Puget Sound. I work in the office that brings performers to campus. Lectures, comedians, movies, musicians – stuff like that. There are 7 of us in the office and this year three of us got to attend a conference called NACA West.

NACA stands for National Association of Campus Activities and is kind of like a showroom for college performers. Agencies submit members of their roster to be showcased for the students and advisors that make the decisions and we in turn choose whether or not to book these performers for dates on our campus. It is a great opportunity for the school to tap a new source of talent as well as a wonderful experience for those who get to attend. We are lucky that Puget Sound sends students every year and I am lucky that I have been able to attend twice.

Now, to be fair, NACA West was not in Los Angeles. It was about an hour East in Ontario, California. Where is Ontario? Well, its East. That’s all I can tell you. They have an airport. And three In-N-Out. And a mall. And two movie theatres sharing a parking lot for a total of 52 screens. And hotels built for the sole purpose of servicing the people who visit that mall. And of course a convention center where we held our conference.

Luckily (I guess) the cheapest option for travel was to leave Tacoma at 3 AM on Thursday and arrive early in the morning in Los Angeles. Registration didn’t start until that afternoon and we didn’t see any reason to explore the Ontario mall, so we did what any other vitamin C deprived Washingtonian would do in the middle November, we went to Venice Beach. Despite never getting used to the fact that the shapes I saw on the horizon were not mountains but smog (gross), those two hours on Venice Beach almost made up for a childhood of brainwashing I endured about California. Yes, I saw a lot of those problems but they didn’t seem to bother me. Maybe it was sudden rush of sunshine, or maybe the smog was cutting off my oxygen supply, but I actually enjoyed my time there.

And then we made it to the conference and I saw Zero from Holes ruin my childhood by enlightening me about his new rap career. Maybe that knowledge would have been palatable on the beach, but not in a dark conference room turned theatre. Despite Mr. Zeroni’s efforts, I still flew North with a better appreciation for Southern California, and you know what, maybe this is the lack of sun talking, but I’m not sure I’d object to joining the So-Cal alumni and spending more than a weekend down there.