February may be the shortest month of the human year but the music that we enjoy is everlasting. Here are some recommendations from the Music Shelf crew.

Mustard’s recommendation

John Cena – Former WWE World Champion and now maker of peace released an album in 2005 called “You Can’t See Me.” This human has the magical ability to wave his hand in front of his face and vanish. This month Mustard has found themselves listening to “You Can’t See Me” far more than usual. Wrestlers do not always make the best musicians but Cena’s album is incredibly solid. At the time of its release younger Mustard was shocked to hear Cena say words such as shit and fuck with such bravado. The opener “My Time is Now”, which has now been memed, is not only a great theme song but an excellent song in general. Cena does an excellent job of being braggadocious on this album. It adds another layer to his character who was oftentimes described as stale. Fans for the longest time, including Mustard, clamored for John Cena to turn heel (wrestling lingo for bad guy.) This album in a way gives us that. Songs such as “Make It Loud”, “Bad, Bad Man”, “Chain Gang is the Click”, and the closer “If It All Ended Tomorrow” remain standouts. If you are a hip-hop and wrestling fan, Mustard recommends you check this album out. 

J. Maya – writes pop music for her fellow nerds. Mustard first discovered J. Maya on TikTok and was blown away by her creativity. Maya’s brand of pop flips the formula like a page in a book. Maya who went to Harvard and is a former world pun champ cleverly crafts songs that would liven up any academic function. Last year J. Maya released her EP “Poetic License” which Mustard listens to frequently. It opens with “Library Card” – a song about how she begged her parents for her own library card so she could escape into the world of books. Maya’s work is a love letter to those books – her earliest works such as “Achilles Heel” and “Thanatos (End of Us)” bring us back to Greek literature. Mustard’s favorite song of Maya’s though is “Sunday Crossword.” Rather than follow the same beats of your standard pop love song, Maya uses the concept of a crossword puzzle and implements it into the song. So much so that the chorus itself is a crossword. Maya recently got the change to play at the Vice President’s Holiday Party and deservedly so. Mustard believes J.Maya is an artist who should be on your radar. 

Whitney Tai – Last year Mustard had the pleasure of interviewing Whitney Tai. Since then they have found themselves listening to their 2020 release Apogee. It is hard to accurately try to scale just how powerful and mesmerizing Tai’s vocals are on this album. Her voice is elevated through fantastic arranging, production, and storytelling. If Mustard had a human voice they would hope it would sound and do what Whitney Tai does. As a condiment who loves Jazz, the bluesely elements on “Not Have Each Other” are pure bliss. Mustard recommends you do yourself a favor and check out Whitney Tai when you can. Your human ears will be glad you did. 

Mr. Substitute’s Recommendations

Laufey– I don’t know if you’re like me, but I have to be listening to something while I’m going to sleep. It has ranged from music to meditations to tranquil alpha waves. Regardless, if my head is on a pillow, something calming is playing 9/10 times. For about 2 years it was Joni Mitchell’s Blue, but I digress. I am always looking for new albums that I can play that will gently carry me off to Slumberland and thanks to Music Shelf (absolute shameless self-promotion) I’ve come across two artists that have been added to a rotating list of what I listen to to sleep. The number one go-to album has to be Laufey’s Everything I Know About Love. Laufey’s voice is serene, angelic–quite frankly it’s perfect to me. She ties in elements of jazz while singing these lovely melodies that somehow leave the air feeling a bit lighter. 

Sufjan Stevens- Oh boy. If you follow me on Twitter you know where I’m going with this one already. I seriously have no idea how I came across Sufjan Stevens’ album The Age of Adz in the past. If I’m not mistaken, I learned about Sufjan Stevens through Pandora back when that was a thing people did. Actually, it’s all coming back now, I downloaded (illegally? yes.) Sufjan Stevens’ discography when I was like 17 or something and in that was this weird-looking album called The Age of Adz and I tried listening to it and dear God was it difficult at times: at times there are sounds that I describe as those octopus-looking things from the Matrix having sex, there is a lot of repetition and almost chanting, and it is 75 minutes long. Now, very briefly, I’m a Cancer and I’ve learned to trust my intuition a long time ago and whenever my instincts tell me to do something I tend to do it. About a week ago I woke up in the middle of the night and had difficulties falling back asleep and some voice in my head said to listen to The Age of Adz and well, I’ve listened to the entire thing 4 times now. It’s amazing. It’s important. It’s breathtaking. If you can get through the entire thing without skipping, I commend you but I also highly recommend it.

The Shape of Ska Punk to Come Vol. II I know these are supposed to be artists we’ve been listening to this past month, but I am an absolute sucker for a great compilation album and Bad Time Records puts out great ones. I bought The Shape of Ska Punk to Come Vol. II when it first came out because it had so many bands that I loved and wanted to support. As any great comp will do, this collection really expanded my horizons and introduced me to some amazing new (to me), up-and-coming artists like Noise Complaint, Dang!t, Thirsty Guys, and Remnant Collective. The reason I’ve been listening to this so much lately is because I have it on CD and it’s been in my car basically since I bought it. It never fails to bring me to this “ska punk center” that brings me inner peace. In a nutshell, whenever I can’t figure out what specifically I want to listen to, I put this CD on because it’s always what I want to listen to.

Gimplegs Recommendations

JER – For those of you who don’t know, Jeremy Hunter, the mastermind and solo creator for Skatune Network, released their debut album of original music last March under the name of JER and it has been one of my most listened to albums ever since.

I fell into a trap in the mid 2000s that led me to mostly listen to the same music I loved in my late teens and early twenties. By the time I hit 40, I had almost stopped listening to music altogether. In 2020 Scott Klopfenstein started streaming on twitch, and his album under The Littlest Man Band was one of my all time favorite albums, so I started watching his streams, and he played a music video for We Are The Union. I started listening to their music and followed them on social media, and that’s how I was introduced to Skatune Network- the self described (and widely acknowledged) CEO of Ska. Skatune Network introduced me to hundreds of current ska bands, and highlighted the significant number of bands- especially within ska- that are fronted by non white, cis, heterosexual men, and the diversity of artists provides a deep diversity in sound that I love. That was all a long-winded way of saying that I owe my rejuvenated love of music to Jer.

Over the past month, they have been making daily videos to bring attention to under-appreciated black bands and musicians across all genres, and I’ve discovered a lot of great musicians I would have never heard of otherwise. 

Now, back to the recommendation. JER’s Bothered/ Unbothered album is absolutely a must listen. Last year this was my album of the year, so it almost feels like cheating putting it on this recommendation list, but it’s still one of my most played and heavily recommended albums that blends genres from hip hop to ska, to rock and R&B. But aside from telling you it’s an amazing album, I also wanted to tell about how they are partially responsible for my current love of music.

Supersaurus– Supersaurus is *mostly* an upbeat indie pop band from the UK. While they only have one LP plus one single out so far, these songs are just catchy and make me want to hear more. Their latest single, Valentine’s Day, makes me excited to find out what’s next. I can’t explain it, the catchy, rhythm driven pop music set over depressing lyrics just appeal to me and have me recommending this band to anyone that likes pop music. I know they said they have much more planned for this year, and I can’t wait to hear what it will be.

Bob Marley and the Wailers– Yes, everyone knows Bob Marley, and it’s not much of a recommendation as far as a recommendation to let someone know Marley exists- however, the last week or two I keep going back and listening to this band when I’m in the mood for something more relaxing- when I just want to vibe. I hadn’t listened to Marley in several years and sometimes I forget how good some of his lyrics are and just swim in a sea of the old school ska and reggae beats.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s