Soundtrack to the end of the world: Normie music

Graphic by Derin Savasan
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Jess: Robert Kaplan’s Spotify followers know of his infamous playlist for normal people: “Normie music.” This week, Robert recounts the recent additions to this playlist in the folk, synth and rock genres.  

Today is the day you learn one of my secrets. It’s less of a “don’t tell my crush I like them” secret and more of an “I’ve only told five people” secret. Read on and you could be the sixth. Congratulations!

To fully appreciate it, you’ll need to know something about me: I’ve never been able to make out the lyrics in songs. I can pick up an occasional word or phrase, but I need to Google the song to actually understand it entirely. I think a karaoke update to Spotify would rock my world.

Partly because of this, and partly because of a childhood dream of becoming a professional clarinetist, I’ve spent a lot of time listening to jazz and classical music. In these genres, I’ve found I can appreciate rhythm, texture, harmony and other compositional choices while ignoring lyrics (should they exist).

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The secret is that something about me changed in December 2020. Whatever the trigger (finals, pandemic, both?), I felt hypocritical. I like trying new things but couldn’t remember the last time I listened to a new song. On Dec. 11, Taylor Swift’s album “Evermore” (2020) was released. The timing was impeccable — I listened only days later.

Below, I sample the many artists and songs I’ve discovered since Swift bent me to her wind. They’re all collected in my “Normie music” Spotify playlist, which mockingly began months earlier. Having started with the recommendations of a dear friend, it now chronicles a full-fledged metamorphosis of my music tastes. 

“Sheets” (2008) by Damien Jurado

I’m now partial to indie rock, but Jurado’s versatility and extensive discography introduced me to more folky shades. His stellar voice and skill in building warm, blanket-like textures, both of which are compounded by powerful lyrics — “Swallow him whole like a pill that makes you choke, it steals your soul” — can only impress. See also: “Lady Lie” (2015) by Rainbow Kitten Surprise; on the sunnier side, see “Weight of the Planets” (2019) by Aldous Harding.

“There’s a Reason Why (I Never Returned Your Calls)” (2018) by Blossoms

I could easily list seven other songs in its place — Blossoms is a favorite of mine. Listening to Blossoms is like drinking a glass of (freshly squeezed Florida) orange juice on a Saturday morning. Snappy titles (see above) and catchy melodies sit aloft the tropes of synth-pop, communicating emotion via synthesizer in a way I never thought possible. For other shades of pop I’ve discovered, see: “Festival Grrrl” (2018) by Ivy Mono and “What You Know” (2010) by Two Door Cinema Club.

“Shampoo Bottles” (2020) by Peach Pit

Peach Pit is another find like Blossoms — one of the few I could listen to irrespective of track or album. “Shampoo Bottles” in particular combines witty breakup lyrics (“I’ve run out of my Speed Stick, honey / So I have been using yours”) with an irresistible counter melody and a bassline fit to fill the soul. Other rock tracks from “Normie music”: “Blue Lips” (2018) by Her’s, “Bad Decisions” (2020) by The Strokes and “Pictures of Girls” (2018) by Wallows.

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