Non-Blog | Channing Whitaker

What I've Been Listening to: June 2019


I was listening to the Coffee House station on SXM while chauffeuring my six-year-old to one place or another and song, Anxiety, by Julia Michaels featuring Selena Gomez came on and caught my attention. Of course, I knew who Selena Gomez was, though she became famous in pop music a bit after I was the type who stayed current on pop music. SO I wouldn't call my self a fan or even very familiar. I'd heard of Julia Michaels from her song Issues a few years ago but didn't know much more. But, I was impressed enough to go look her up on iTunes when I got back to my desk to do some work. I'm glad I did.

The song Anxiety is catchy and a lovely duet, but also has a fairly meaningful message about psychological struggles in today's society. The song appears on an EP called Inner Monologue, Pt. 1 which came out sometime earlier this year. It's only six songs, but Anxiety isn't even my favorite one. The song Happy, from the same EP carries on the ear-pleasing pop sound, with a very introspective theme and lyrics, reflecting a self-destructive impulse that accompanies the ideas form Anxiety well. Besides liking the songs, I think what really impressed me enough to want to write about this EP is how linked and complimentary all the songs are. Again, only six, but they walk us through a range of emotions through a struggling mind, and it's very gripping storytelling.

After I decided I'd likely use this for my Listening post for the month, I went to give the EP one more listen and discovered a new EP, called Inner Monologue Pt. 2 (if you can believe it) had already come out. I've only given it a little time, but can already see the consistent quality and depth with the song Falling for Boys standing out for me early.

Releasing so close to one another, I'm forced to wonder why this material appears as two EP's in two parts, rather than simply an album. With 14 tracks between them, it would have been a reasonable release, but I think the emotional connections are the reason, and I appreciate it. I mention liking the ties between songs in theme as if they're extensions of the same conversation, and while part 2 carries that format, the root themes shift a bit. It seems Michaels wanted a distinction rather than butting them together, and it works.

Bonus points: As I looked into this artist, I found she started her career writing songs for several other big pop stars. That's cool and all, but also that she originally hails from Davenport, IA. That's right, a fellow Hawkeye.

Worth a Mention: Orville Peck.

Think David Lynch meets Roy Orbison. I heard an interview on NPR and had to look this artist up. He sings in a mask, uses cowboy imagery, employs Orbison's almost operatic, vibrato-rich tenor, has unapologetic homosexual tones, and all his videos feel like excerpts from David Lynch movies. Even the general sound motif is Lynch-esque. I can't say I would sit and listen to an album, go to a concert, or groove to this music in any way, but as an artist, I have to appreciate it. It's clear Orville Peck is inspired by country classics like Cash or the previously mentioned Orbison, as well as visually inspired by the likes of the masterful Sergio Leone. His material is so very demands attention, is interesting, but is also exceptionally odd - Lynch anyone? It's good that this exists even if it isn't my jam, and I'm interested out of pure curiosity to see where it goes from here.
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