Welcome to the new year! As many of you probably noticed, we did not post any ‘best of’ lists in December 2017. This was an intentional decision made by our entire contributing staff, and we made it for good reason. All too often the rush to be among the first to declare something the best makes us act irrationally. Sometimes we hop on the bandwagon for something we don’t fully believe in because it’s what is trending at the moment, or perhaps we forget something small we loved because so many bigger, more commercial projects took up our daily lives.
In an attempt to avoid these errors we allowed everyone the full month of December to consider their favorite records of the year. This week we are sharing their picks with you daily, one staffer at a time. Enjoy.
Joe Ruzicka (Contributing Writer)
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Harmony Woods – Nothing Special
Initially started as a bedroom project by Sofia Verbilla, Harmony Woods was not supposed to be seen by the world. Releasing Nothing Special in May of 2017, Verbilla has created a narrative centered around two characters and their relationship from the beginning to the end. With a knack for storytelling and powerful vocals, Verbilla has created an incredibly powerful debut that is truly something special.
The album is hooked by four vignettes as the story progresses. As used in literature, these vignettes are used as brief descriptions or accounts of episodes. Each one serving as a transition between stages of the relationship between the two characters.
Starting the album off with ”Vignette #1”, Verbilla paints the beginning conversations of a prospective relationship with generic pick up lines often found at frat parties like “do you come here often?”. Following “Vignette #1”, Verbilla continues the journey that these two characters go through in the beginning of the relationship as anxiety-filled public transportation rides filled with the smell of weed and cheap perfume are soon followed by “’cause your smile quite frankly, actually reminds me that things might be okay”.
“Vignette #2” – at just one minute and eleven seconds – is almost frozen in time. With muted lyrics describing a frigid morning after a night of binge-watching Breaking Bad as a leftover glass is shattered on the floor as the speaker’s significant other mutters a swear and goes back to bed. Verbilla makes you feel like you are watching every little exchange unfold in detail as if you were there at that exact moment in time. As the narrative progresses, Verbila’s ability to portray the emotions of a situation shines.
“Vignette #3” almost serves as the end of the conflict but does not have a resolution just yet. Even with simple instrumentals, “Vignette #3” perfectly portrays the emotions of both the speaker, who’s guard has been let down emotionally, and they are significant other. Allowing their story to continue without missing any details that may otherwise be overlooked.
“Vignette #4” feels like the last song, but it’s not. Bringing the most profound emotion to the record, it returns to the comforting warm bed mentioned in “Vignette #2”. When fear arises in the speaker: “I’m terrified of what you’ll say“, it is almost immediately quelled when the other person just lies next to the speaker in the line: “You just lie there next to me, our bodies creating heat. Silence never sounded so sweet.”. Reflecting on the simplicity of times like these at this stage of the relationship, that one verse is easily one of the most breathtaking moments on the album.
Finishing off the album is “Equinox”, a song about changing states from one to another. Taking a deep breath from all the anxiety that built up through the second half Nothing Special, Equinox sets the two characters in the story at a new beginning and ends the best release in 2017 the best way possible.