Tag Archives: music critic

Don’t Fix What’s Not Broken

By Tray Taylor
IG: allusiontoreality

Sometimes writing for this website feels like I am consistently learning how to ride a bike and continuously falling off it each time.

There’s imposter syndrome and loads of self doubt with being a writer, but the gag is …. in order to be a writer you have to get over that and write anyway. 

I don’t think I can count the amount of times I heard the phrase in my life, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” I’m trying to relate that to what was working when I first started creating posts on this site and I don’t want to stray too far away from just sharing music with my opinions/reviews to each track or sharing book suggestions or writing anything in my authentic voice. I say all of this because I’m looking to grow my readership, so if you ever want to recommend my writing to a friend, family member, or stranger …that would be greatly appreciated. 

What does seem to be broken though are these past two weeks, because every single day has felt like a Monday. The amount of energy it has taken to intentionally find the silver lining in each day has been utterly exhausting. 

I have searched endlessly to find just the right kind of songs to make me feel upbeat for a mere two minutes of the day. Here are those songs (tell me why I said that like that part in L&O:SVU when the intro says, These are their stories.):

Shakedown Street – Grateful Dead

This is one of the songs that made me fall in love with The Grateful Dead and it is a song I turn to often when I want to reconnect with my younger self. My teenage years and early twenties were very drenched in Dead Head culture. I went to a lot of shows, played the music endlessly on repeat, and dressed the part. Over the years I’ve strayed a bit from my hippie ways, but every now and then I like to play the Dead to remind myself of how carefree life once felt…especially in moments of stress.

At My Worst Pink Sweat$ feat. Kehlani

Okay so, yes this is more of a sad bop. The truth is sometimes, when I am searching for music to uplift my spirits listening to sad songs that I can sing along to actually have a tendency to uplift me (I know I am not alone on this). This song is fairly new, and has been added to one of my recent playlists that I have had on repeat. I love the combination of both of their voices together – poetic in every sense.

Dead FLowers – New Riders of the Purple Sage

I admittedly didn’t discover New Rides of the Purple Sage until a few years into my love for the Grateful Dead. It was actually an old Tumblr friend that recommended the band to me. Sidenote: Tumblr for those that don’t know, is a blogsphere type of platform where others can connect through similar interests & blogging (Disclaimer sidenote: this was not the best description, you can Google it for further details). ANYWAY – my point is I have been going through old favorites of mine and stumbled upon this gem.

Got My Mind Set On You – George Harrison

Oh sweet George – I have a deep love and appreciation for George Harrison. I think the first time I heard this song when I was younger, I became instantly obsessed. I know for those that have listened to George Harrison’s music this may seem like the overrated single and he has a greater discography than this song….and I would agree with this sentiment. However, this song still has a special place in my heart, and will always be a favorite. Especially in a time when I need a song to boost my mood.

Heat – Paul Woolford, Amber Mark 

This song just made me feel like I was in a club in the Gayborhood in Philly or at Pride …and I couldn’t resist putting it on the list. I miss music to dance to, I miss dancing, I miss the feeling that dancing to good music gives the soul. So, if you want – here’s a directive…turn up the music, and dance wherever you are…right now.

America – Simon & Garfunkel

Yeah, I know… another sad bop…and this isn’t the last one – so get over that already. I adore this song. I adore Simon & Garfunkel. They were one of the first artists I listened to that showed me that some music lyrics are absolute poetry. Their music tells a story of a time I wish I could travel back and live through. My old soul yearns to just live during this musical time period more often than not. If I could live in a song – it would be this one, hands down.

Dancing On My Own – Robyn

A forever favorite of mine. Robyn is a go-to when I want to get up and dance – but don’t know exactly what I want to be listening to. The answer is never not Robyn, so therefore it is always Robyn. Plus, I mean…”Dancing On My Own”… it just kind of hits different during a time of quarantines and pandemics.

Orpheus – Sara Bareilles

Swoon…Every. Single. Time. when it comes to Sara Bareilles. Her voice is like the sun setting across an ocean horizon and the sky fills up in bursts of all of the colors that every existed in the universe. Beauty that expands any true imagination. She has the power to write a slow song and I find myself singing my heart out in my apartment suddenly filled with energy. Or maybe I am just some strange person that enjoys singing sad songs even when I am not sad just to feel something? I don’t know. Anyway, she’s a master of her craft – if you’ve never listened to any of her music…please do me a favor and go, now.

Welp. That’s it. That’s all there is for now. Writing this made today, an actual Monday, feel a lot less like a Monday…so hopefully reading it did something similar for you.

For Your Listening Pleasure: Recently Released 04/02/2021

By Tray Taylor
@allusiontoreality

I have an appreciation for reviewing and sharing songs that I have been listening to on repeat or just songs for the season- aka my infamous Happy Holigays playlist. Today, I think it is time to share and review some new songs that recently dropped that I think you need to add to your latest playlist, if you haven’t already. 

As much as I love reviewing and suggesting songs from throughout the decades and genres – I believe sharing recently released music to recommend is just as important (coming from a person that loves music and being introduced to new music). 

Some of these songs might be ones you have heard about recently, and others never before. Either way, enjoy:

Dancing with the Devil – Demi Lovato

I have been overly excited for the album to drop after hearing this single last week. This woman blows me away with her voice and her talent EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Overall the entire album deserves a listen, but I chose this song because it is what pulled me in. 

Recommend the entire album, but here are some standouts: Butterfly, Anyone, Met Him Last Night

Montero (Call Me By Your Name) – Lil Nas X

Lil Nas X just keeps giving us the music we don’t deserve but absolutely need in our lives. A true Queer anthem with a backstory that will warm your heart (as long as you aren’t one of those people that have been passive aggressive with your homophobia over the video). I couldn’t get this song out of my head for two days straight…and now since I am writing this blurb it’ll probably get stuck in my head again for a few more days.

I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) [Nicolaas Remix] – Hall and Oates

There’s no hiding it, I am a sucker for a remix version of a song when it is done well. And it is the right kind of song that can be remixed. This falls into that category for me. The song is already catchy, but with this Nicolaas remix it’ll have you turning up your volume so high that you’ll forget there are other people in the room that then tell you to turn it down (…or maybe that was just me…) 

Amir – Serpentwithfeet

The first time I discovered serpentwithfeet was watching the music video to Same Size Shoe which I loved. Listening to this album in its entirety though, Amir was the standout song for me. Serpentwithfeet is unlike anything I have ever listened to, which is a fantastic thing because it feels original and unique.
Also listen to: Fellowship, Same Size Shoe (and watch the music video)

Streets of Philadelphia (Bruce Springsteen Cover)- Waxahatchee

Some people have strong opinions on cover songs. I would consider myself to fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. Sometimes I have strong opinions on songs that shouldn’t be covered, and sometimes I think the cover of the original is much much better. This is one of those cases where I think the cover is better than the original.

What’s Wrong- half alive

Certain songs remind me of different times in my life and hearing this song instantly transported me back to a spring day in Philadelphia. I haven’t listened to half-alive in awhile- and was excited to see a new song drop. If you enjoy indie, alternative music…give this song a listen.

Live & Direct – Kota the Friend, Statik Selektah

There are few things I love more than discovering a new artist and falling in love with their art instantly. This album provided me with that satisfactory moment. Kota the Friend is a lyricist, a poet …so smooth with his delivery. Listening to every song feels like an experience, which made it hard to pick one or just a few songs.
Also take a listen to: Sunrise, Wolves

What better way to start your weekend …or for those in the service industry your work week...than adding a few of these songs to your playlist?

Waiting at the Bus Stop

By- Tray Taylor
(IG – allusiontoreality)

Is there any science behind January always feeling like 3 months within a month? I guess I could have researched before actually typing that sentence out…

Seriously though, it seems every January always feels so long in a short amount of time and then we blink and it is March. 

Whatever you are doing this week, may it be focused on taking care of yourself and staying safe. I live in DC and it is a bit surreal right now – I feel like I am inside a movie of The Purge. *I wrote this sentence a couple of weeks ago, just for clarification*

While the earth feels like an over shaken snow globe on fire, I have been trying to rethink back to times when I felt the most connected to music when I was younger. Trying my best to remember times when music sucked me in so deep that I felt extremely connected to what I was listening to.

All I could imagine was a younger me, waiting at a bus stop with my one chosen CD to listen to for the duration on my disc man. 

So yeah, that gives me the opportunity to introduce the musical choice of a younger me on a format that still exists but is rarely chosen over streaming. 

The Jackson 5 (The Best of Jackson 5)

I went through a phase when I was younger when all I wanted to listen to was “older” music. The moment I got my hands on the greatest hits of The Jackson 5 I was thrilled. There was a brief moment in my youth where this was the only CD I listened to. I used to watch the miniseries/movie on VH1 The Jacksons: An American Dream whenever it was on tv (yes, the one with Angela Bassett). The infatuation ran deeper than a greatest hits CD.

All American Rejects

This album triggers one of the most vivid memories I have of standing at the bus stop when it was absolutely freezing out – flurrying almost, and listening to All American Rejects through my discman. Going back and listening to this album now I am impressed with how well I know every song, but also how deeply I felt these lyrics at such a young age. I can’t even lie, I was obsessed with this band and this album. Here are a few favorites: My Paper Heart, Swing Swing *this was their most popular song at the time*, Time Stands Still, One More Sad Song, Why Worry, Happy Endings, The Last Song ….okay I think I just named the almost the entire album…

Dream Street

Most people have never heard of this boy band, but they were my …obsession. I was a member of the fan club, and I even had a Dream Street dedicated wall in my room (yes…this is true..). They were also one of my first concerts at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City with my best friend in the 6th grade and my Dad took us there (still grateful that he was willing to sit through this for me). Anyway, I know this album from beginning to end and I still remember the dance to “It Happens Every Time” but younger me had some embarrassment around my love for them in public. Whenever I would bring this CD to listen to on the way to school I would bring another CD case in my backpack so people didn’t know what it was that I was listening to. Unfortunately one of the members passed away this year from COVID – rest easy Chris Trousdale.

2GETHER

I think one of the funniest things about this band is the fact that they were supposed to be a joke manufactured by MTV. However, people (ahem – me) fell in love with 2GETHER after the movie aired. From the movie, to their albums, to the TV show – I was hooked. I even had my Dad listening to them in the car when I would get dropped off for basketball practice (back when I thought my future was the WNBA…pipe dreams). Anyway, does anyone else know their calculus? Do you further know that U + ME = US?

Taking Back Sunday (Tell All Your Friends)

The moment I got this album I was in awe. An instant flashback to middle school, I remember holding this beautiful teal jewel case album in my hand – I was infatuated. My best friend and I in middle school would listen to this CD on repeat and knew almost every song by heart. I wore this album out going to and from school – plus away games for sports (because that was a thing). And of course as an adult, when I eyed this album on vinyl there was no question on whether or not I had to add it to my collection.

Damian Marley (Welcome to Jamrock)

Growing up I had a deep appreciation for the Marley family – it started with Bob though, of course. Then, as I always tend to do, I did a deep dive within to discover the other musicians in the Marley family. I was a big fan of many of his children- Damian and Stephen especially. I listened to Damian’s album on repeat all throughout high school. Side fact: my first concert in Philly was seeing Damian and Stephen on South Street (this was either in high school or right after I graduated…)

Saves The Day 

Would I be a true millennial from NJ if I wasn’t a fan of Saves The Day? I first got into them because my sister was a fan. Then somewhere along the way I became a bigger fan of the band and now still own almost every CD they have ever released (as well as vinyl records). There was like this section of bands that were emo/punk/pop and that was 100 percent my favorite genre in high school (see above: TBS). Their lyrics felt like poetry to me when I was in high school and I overplayed almost every album of theirs. A few favorite songs I’ll share if I had to narrow it down: At Your Funeral, Shoulder to the Wheel, You Vandal, As Your Ghost Takes Flight, This is Not an Exit, Sell My Old Clothes I’m Off to Heaven, Hold, Jessie & My Whetstone, The Way His Collar Falls, Take Our Cars Now!, Z, O….. okay that list was longer than expected & that was me cutting it short.

….mixed CDs

It doesn’t feel right to write a piece about music of my youth without pointing out how much mixed CDs ruled my younger years. I still have stacks of CD books in the closet of my apartment somewhere…but who owns a CD player anymore? (says the person who owns a record player….)

So…what were you listening to when you were younger? Was it on a cassette player, walkman, discman, stereo sound system, boombox, record player, 8-track player…?

Music is Meditation

By Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

Poetry has always felt like meditation in a way, from my perspective. Words that paint a landscape for us if only just for a few stanzas. 

When I write my poetry I feel like I am in a zone of only my thoughts and for those moments – I am at total peace. 

I have tried to bring meditation into my everyday life for the past few years (recommendation from my therapist, and just something I thought would be better for my mental well being). I started to keep track of the days I meditated back in December, then a good friend invited me to do a meditation challenge for 15 days. *which I was doing well with, until the weekend hit* 

Music does something similar – it gives us different perspectives into different worlds if only for a few minutes in a song. 

I’ve been trying to think of the songs I turn on when I need to just get lost in the music and be present in reflection. These were some of the songs that came to mind right away for myself:

World Spins Madly On – The Weepies

I don’t know exactly when I fell in love with this song, but I think it happens every single time I listen to it. As I type this and have this song playing in the background – I am reminded how similar poetry and music are. Lyrics are poetry, and I think this song is a testament to that. “And the world spins madly on…” 

Baby Can I Hold You – Tracy Chapman


Oh Tracy Chapman, how I could listen to her sing for hours upon hours of any day of the week. When I need to really “feel” I will put on certain songs of Tracy’s. “Baby Can I Hold You” is the song I like to play when I just want to get lost in her voice and her lyrics. A perfect three minute meditation of Tracy Chapman.

Brace feat. Rainsford – Twin Shadow

A couple of years ago I used to listen to this song on repeat on my way to work whenever I was trying to channel myself into a good headspace. I went through a solid few months where I only listened to Twin Shadow. If you’ve never listened to them, I highly recommend adding them to your playlist. I like to seek songs that remind me I am not alone in the way I am feeling, and Twin Shadow tends to have those lyrics I need in the right moments.

Tilted – Christine and the Queens

This is a song I had on repeat for awhile after discovering it on the season finale of Better Things (have you seen this show? Go watch it. Pamela Adlon is a treasure). Mostly because that scene brought me so much joy, but also the lyrics (that are originally in French) are like damn yes a message we all need 100 percent.

Ship to Wreck – Florence and the Machine

I didn’t fully appreciate Florence and the Machine until I saw them live a couple of years ago with a few good friends. It was a special night that I really needed at the time, and I’ll say they were the right group of friends to experience this concert with. I fell in love with this song that night. Also grew a greater appreciation for Florence as an artist. This song pulls me into myself for a couple of minutes and allows me to sing out loud in meditation to cleanse my soul & feel my heart beat a little louder.

Runaway Goliath – Mantaraybryn

No clue how I found this song, I assume it was from a Spotify rabbithole that I tend to go down. For a whole year I had this song on repeat (because my self esteem needed it bad). I loved getting lost in this song- and I still appreciate getting lost in it every now and again. The beauty of music is the power it has of reminding us of our worth or it can just give us hope that darkness isn’t meant to be permanent.

A Better Son/Daughter – Rilo Kiley

Jenny Lewis is everything and Rilo Kiley is a musical gift. There are many Rilo Kiley songs that I like to play, so it’s difficult to choose just one. This is a song that, if you aren’t a huge fan, many people don’t know. I think my favorite part is hearing the emotion of Jenny Lewis in the song, how it breaks from her speaking in the beginning and then her emotion continues to build throughout the song. And you can feel it – in the lyrics and her voice.

I Got a Name – Jim Croce

My favorite artist to listen to on vinyl is Jim Croce. I love almost every single one of his songs and know them all by heart. “I Got a Name” always brings me back to my college years and listening to this record in my old apartment when I didn’t know what the future held (I mean, do I know now? No..but you get what I mean). I’ve always been a dreamer, and I think this song sums it up for me….”Like the fool I am, and I’ll always be/I’ve got a dream, I’ve got a dream/ They can change their minds, but they can’t change me.”

Do you have any of those kinds of songs that you find putting on in time when you need to recenter?

Once Upon a Rock Journalist Dream

by Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

Of the many writing dreams I had for myself as a kid, becoming a rock journalist was pretty high on the list. I had a subscription to Rolling Stone magazine dreaming my name would one day be featured within the pages. 

Almost Famous was one of my favorite movies – yep I was extremely jealous of William’s luck and lifestyle (for years I was convinced I was born in the wrong decade). I was the kind of kid that was fascinated by music from previous time periods – especially the 60’s into the late 70’s culture of music. 

My love and appreciation for music runs deep. 

I have come to realize since starting this blog that the pieces I enjoy sharing most are the ones where I pick a few songs and add commentary. 

As the blog continues to grow, and transform – I would like the music sharing to continue to be a constant. (Note: I have also categorized my writing posts now. Tray’s Music Corner is where you will find song suggestion posts.)

Music has been and will always be a big part of my life – and I fully believe sharing music is one of the most intimate things people can do.

And on that note, here’s some music to get you through the week (I know the stress of the holiday season is among us and in a different way than ever before): 

1.Soul Sacrifice – Santana 

This song was my introduction into the great Carlos Santana – and let me say, this man is one of the greatest guitarists of all time. I used to ask my Dad often about Woodstock and he would tell me how much he loved this performance in particular (no he did not attend even though he was old enough at the time – yes I grew up pestering him about this.) Santana’s music is incredibly calming and I proudly own at least half of his discography on vinyl – aside from Jim Croce, Santana is my favorite music to put the needle on the record to. If you’ve never taken the time to listen to his guitar skills, please do your ears a favor and do that right now. 

2.Holiday – Lil Nas X


It’s December and this song feels like it should be played year around. Lil Nas X is a gem and I’ll admit I didn’t appreciate him to the fullest extent until he came out as Queer. This song is catchy and it is guaranteed to get stuck in your head after a listen or two. My favorite verse in the whole song (based on the fact that I love clever inserts) “Man, I snuck into the game, came in on a horse/ I pulled a gimmick, I admit it, I got no remorse/ Nobody tried to let me in, nobody opened doors/ I kicked the motherf**ckers down, they didn’t have a choice”

3.A Case of You – Joni Mitchell


Anything and everything Joni Mitchell soothes my soul. I’ve began to appreciate her music in my late twenties and now as I am beginning my thirties. These past few years living in DC I have found when I feel lost or need to be recentered I turn on Joni Mitchell. So, I share with you one out of the many favorite songs I adore. 

4.The Boss – Diana Ross

This is my “get up and dance song,” my “everything is going to be okay if you dance it out song”. Ms. Diana Ross is the Queen of my feel good tunes playlist. Seriously though this is one of my favorite songs of all time, and it is the one song I think can be put on at anytime to improve my mood no matter what. 

5.I Love Me- Demi Lovato


Demi, Demi, Demi – where do I begin? First, I think her talent goes unappreciated among the other teen stars that emerged at the same time as her. She has been through some struggles, some real life hardships (if you don’t know, I recommend looking up her story…I will alert content warning for drug use). Anyway, this song had perfect timing for me personally and it was one of those songs I loved to belt out loud word for word when I am alone in my apartment. 

6.I Know a Place – MUNA


Sometimes I go down Spotify rabbit holes – like that section that says “fans also like”. That is how I found MUNA and I am so damn glad I did. This song has been on repeat for me for over two years now. It is upbeat and the lyrics are ones that pull, at least, to my soul of souls. A beautifully written and sung song with the catchiest of beats. 

7.Hazy Jane ll – Nick Drake


I fell in love with Nick Drake’s music when I lived in Philly, and I think that was the perfect time for me to have discovered his music. Listening to this song now, it takes me back to a crisp fall day in Philadelphia with me walking through one of my favorite parks right after all the leaves have just turned into a burst of golden colors. That day I described is actually a feeling that this exact song gives me. A sort of nostalgic feeling, wrapped in a hug of hope for the future ahead of me.

8.Once in a Lifetime – Talking Heads

“Same as it ever was…” no matter where I am in life I swear it seems this song keeps coming back. I remember as a kid hearing this song being played in my Dad’s truck as we would go out for a drive. The meaning of the song has changed for me as I have gotten older – when I was little I thought it was just a silly song. Now, as an adult still figuring it all out, I find myself asking the important question “Well…how did I get here?”

Have any of the songs I have written about so far sparked any memories for you? Did you discover a new artist or maybe an old favorite? Let me know in the comments below.