Not to toot my own horn or anything, but back home in Montreal, I’m kinda the go-to guy for new music. I mean, discovering new music and having the latest releases is pretty much part of my job description. Friends and friends-of-friends regularly drop off their iPods for a new batch of music or ask me to dropbox a new selection, and I gladly oblige. Music has been and always will be an integral part of my life, a fact that has only intensified since I’ve been on the road. When you’re constantly alone and in transit, your earphones become your travel partner and salvation.
When it comes to my listening habits, I’m actually still a bit old-school. While I’m more than aware of the many different streaming platforms and curated playlists out there—also part of my job description—I still love listening to full albums, front to back. There’s something about listening to an album in its intended order that has always appealed to me. This habit has taken on a new level of importance during my travels, because now there are certain albums that will be forever linked to specific moments, particular cities, and the specific feeling attached to that moment in that city.
So what artists have followed me around the world? These are a few of the albums that have been the soundtrack to my journey since August: where I first listened to them and why I like and/or dislike them.
The Weeknd – Beauty Behind The Madness
Where I first listened to it: At Jake and Sarah’s flat in Stockholm, Sweden. We played it a few times: while getting ready to go out to party, or in the background while we worked on our separate projects.
Thoughts: While I initially really enjoyed Abel Tesfaye’s sophomore effort, my affection for Beauty Behind The Madness quickly turned sour with repeated listens. From the misogyny embedded into an alarming number of songs to the downright cheesy lyrics spread throughout and the middling production, it’s an album that could have been so much better. Not to mention the blatant Michael Jackson ripoffs and halfhearted attempt at commercial appeal. The result is slapdash at best. And I simply cannot condone a fucking Ed Sheeran feature.
Cœur de pirate – Roses
Where I first listened to it: Dazed and sleepless on my way to the airport after partying all night in Berlin.
Thoughts: By far my least favourite release by Béatrice Martin, but not a bad album by any stretch. I’m just personally more partial to her French output and don’t particularly like her songs in English. Her lyrics don’t translate well in English, losing some of the nuance and innocence of her French lyrics. But I probably listened to “Crier Tout Bas” a thousand times, choked up, with tears silently streaming down my face.
Toro y Moi – Samantha
Where I first listened to it: At an impromptu party with my friend Emma’s flatmate Fy while drinking bubbly and eating pizza.
Thoughts: I’m a huge fan of Toro y Moi and his multiple pseudonyms (look up his Les Sins project, seriously, SO GOOD!) But the release of What For? left me cold, and that made me sad. But the surprise drop of Samantha, in an Instagram post of all places, quickly made up for any disappointment. Samantha is literally perfect and made me realize that Chaz Bundick might be one of hip-hop’s best secrets. Just listen to”Pitch Black,” his collaboration with Rome Fortune, and tell me it’s not one of the best songs of the year.
Foals – What Went Down
Where I first listened to it: On the train from Cologne to Munich while my friend Vicky slept, overlooking the countless castles perched atop the mountain range and feeling like I’m in a dark fairy tale.
Thoughts: Foals go hard on their 4th album, and they’re all the better for it in my opinion. Together with the help of James Ford, one half of Simian Mobile Disco, the band have crafted a loud, unrelenting and cohesive group of songs that hasn’t completely eschewed their upbeat indie sound that made them famous, like on one of my favourite songs “Nights Swimmers“.
Beirut – No No No
Where I first listened to it: Strolling through the streets of Milan, purposely getting lost, feeling a little morose and lonely.
Thoughts: Zach Condon could honestly record himself belching for an hour and I would love it, and The Rip Tide is right up there in my favourite albums of all times. So there was little doubt in my mind that I would love No No No. But it came at such a crucial moment that this album will forever hold a special place in my heart. I was lonely, I had just spent a few trying days in Romania, I was extremely tired, and I was slightly homesick. Listening to the album reminded me of my last birthday, standing at the Place des Spectacles with over 100,000 people, watching Condon perform at the Montreal International Jazz Festival with my friends and family. While it made me slightly sad and even more nostalgic, it also comforted me as only music can.
Jess Glynne – I Cry When I Laugh
Where I first listened to it: On a long walk through the barren wasteland that is the road towards the Banat Village Museum in Timisoara, Romania, home to PLAI Festival.
Thoughts: Most of you probably don’t know Jess Glynne, but you definitely know her voice. She’s the husky toned English girl with the massive red mane who lends her powerhouse vocals to acts like Clean Bandit (“Rather Be,” “Real Love”) and Tinie Tempah (“Not Letting Go”). While her album is a mixed bag—I only really like less than half the album—its message about being positive and getting ahold of yourself resonated strongly with me at that moment. I was having a really hard time in Romania: the people were cold and I was staying in a really weird “hostel” that only had one other super creepy guest. I was completely miserable. So I just listened to “Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself” on repeat and it made everything temporarily better.
Kylie Minogue – Kylie + Garibay
Where I first listened to it: On the shuttle bus from Bergamo Airport to Milan city centre on a dreary rainy day and on less than 3 hours of sleep.
Thoughts: While working on her last full length album Kiss Me Once, Kylie went into the studio with producer Fernando Garibay—known for his work with Britney Spears and Lady Gaga—and they recorded a ton of material that never made the cut for the album. But Kylie was a fan of the work, and they’ve released the bulk of it on two separate EPs: last year’s Sleepwalker, and now eclectic three-song self-titled EP. Eclectic in the sense that all three songs feature three very different performers: Shaggy (yes, that Shaggy,) Sam Sparro (of “Black and Gold” fame) and the inescapable synth-disco pioneer Giorgio Moroder. Is the release of these songs warranted? Definitely. All three songs couldn’t be more different, but they’re all anchored by Kylie’s distinctive vocals and the fact that they are all so fucking catchy. The Shaggy-featuring track “Black and White” in particular, which explains why I had it on repeat for most of my Milan trip.