Album art for Greta Van Fleet’s “Anthem Of The Peaceful Army.” Photo courtesy of Google Images.
By Tori Hinshaw
Musically, 2018 was an exciting year for the resurgence of classic bands such as Queen in the wake of the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody and the Rolling Stones announcement of their world tour. 2018 was also a critical year for new releases and new artists. Here are my top three must-listen albums of the year from the playlists of Sewanee students and faculty.
First, Greta Van Fleet’s Anthem Of The Peaceful Army opens up to reveal a thunderous debut album. A chorus of strings drifts in. Josh Kiszka’s voice breaks the mellow dawn with a call to action, “In age of darkness light appears… March to the anthem of the heart / To a brand new day, a brand new start.” Then, like the rolling thunder, in comes the drums and guitar, building to stake Greta Van Fleet’s claim on modern rock & roll. You likely know this band as “the group who sounds like Led Zeppelin,” but what you won’t know until you experience this album is the young group’s ability to resurrect the old to mingle with the new.
Though track two, “The Cold Wind” starts out with and all-too-familiar Robert Plant “ooh yeah,” it’s reminiscence of familiar rock that instantly allows listeners to connect to the sound. “Mountain Of The Sun” best integrates the slide guitar licks echoing Zeppelin’s “Travelling Riverside Blues” with the spacey vocals of “The Song Remains The Same.”
Nick Govindan (C’21) said, “Greta Van Fleet, while extremely divisive, is a group that I’m willing to be patient with. While their Zeppelin inspiration is pretty obvious, their latest album displayed many moments of independence, of rockers my age growing up and finding their own way.”
No matter your stance on the Zeppelin connection, Greta Van Fleet is undoubtedly doing one thing that Led Zeppelin isn’t: curating new albums. So I say we join the Peaceful Army and march together in support of a modern band creating their take on what has been known and loved as Classic Rock.
Next drifts in Florence + The Machine’s lyrically-striking High as Hope. Florence’s music has always had the quality of existing on both an Earthly and otherworldly level. While the music still evokes a dream-like trance, the lyrics for this new album reflect a more down-to-earth nostalgia. This nostalgic trip has shattered the rose colored glasses and surveys lost love, dissolved friendships, and times long gone with an eye to see the truth gained and the lessons learned.
“There’s a sort of ethereal beauty to most of her music that’s kind of hard to articulate,” Vanessa Moss (C’20) said, “Her most recent songs have been so deeply relatable…It is so much about the music and about conveying her life experience, and ultimately her life experience is shared by millions of people.”
Each track in the album holds a haunting elegance, but none quite like “Big God” where she cries out, “You’ll always be my favorite ghost.” Gems lie in the individual song lyrics, building to create a cohesive, cosmic curation. Florence + The Machine never disappoints with their albums, but this one really stands out as an apex of sound.
Finally, Rosanne Cash’s She Remembers Everything is an essential addition to this list. What’s in a name? For a name like Cash, it holds the title of Country Music Royalty. The daughter of country’s best-loved rebel, Johnny Cash, has made a long-lasting career based off of her own individual talent and stellar songwriting. This album is a must-listen since Rosanne Cash will be performing in Sewanee this April.
Stephen Miller, Sewanee music professor, looks forward to the event. “We’re so lucky to get Rosanne Cash here!” Miller said, “Her music draws on deep wellsprings of tradition but embodies a contemporary sound. She’s crafted concept albums of narrative power, and written intelligently about the craft of songwriting for national audiences.”
This album holds deep personal expression and soothing musicality. Cash is a master of writing from the heart and speaking her truth through her lyrics. Miller himself lauded this quality.“Something else I admire is how courageous she’s been with her music,” Miller said, “Taking a stand against gun proliferation and the NRA at a time when the Nashville culture could so easily turn on her. Ditto for the pro-woman message in her latest album, She Remembers Everything. At a time when too many artists seem willing to have their music serve as sonic wallpaper, Rosanne clearly thinks it still matters.”
It does matter, and this music is a beautiful expression of that. So add these songs to your playlist, take in the songwriting mastery, and get ready to experience Cash’s songs first-hand this spring. That’s a wrap on 2018. Only time will reveal what great new music 2019 will hold. Until then, we’re at no loss for good music. Rock on, Sewanee.