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Four Albums to Get Into in 2024
Adam Elayan ’24

Adam Elayan ’24 is an aspiring journalist, leader of the Big Blue Sports Network, and a regular contributor to The Flex. As a music connoisseur, he imparts some musical wisdom in this witty and sharp Op-Ed that is bound to widen your musical tastes (or make any Gen Xer feel inexplicably old) in the Four Albums to Get Into in 2024.


1. Third Eye Blind - Third Eye Blind (1997)

Third Eye Blind knew they were superstars before they sold their first record. As an unsigned band in 1996, they got the opportunity to open for Oasis. Frontman Stephen Jenkins told his guys, “we are going to crush this band.” Listening to Third Eye Blind, it is easy to see why he was so confident.  

With Jenkins on the mic and the band’s co-founder Kevin Cadogan on lead guitar, Third Eye Blind is the product of two excellent musicians at the peak of their abilities. Jenkins, a UC Berkeley grad who started his career as a rapper, brings wit and a poetic edge to his lyrics, while Cadogan, who is known as one of the finest guitarists of his era, steals the show with his layered, emotional melodies. The two work together perfectly on “The Background,” with Jenkins providing vivid, heart-broken verses as Cadogan takes us on an emotional roller coaster with his ax. They work together perfectly on every song, in fact, as this album is truly a treasure trove of fantastic guitar riffs and masterful songwriting. 

During that opening performance for Oasis, fans were so taken with Third Eye Blind’s sound that they chanted for an encore at the end of their set. The rarity of this happening for an opening act, especially an opening act for the biggest band in the world, cannot be overstated. It is easy to understand, however. By the time I finished listening to Third Eye Blind the first time around, I was the one chanting for an encore. I only wish I could listen to it for the first time again. 


2.  McKinley Dixon - Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!? (2023)


“Sun, I rise,” announces McKinley Dixon the first time we hear his voice on Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!?. This opening line, delivered amidst a heavenly swirl of harps, horns, and hi-hats, is the first of many beautiful sentiments that the Virginia rapper shares with us on this ten-track journey of personal exploration.

Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!? is equal parts jazz album and musical celebration. Behind Dixon’s effortless flow, trumpets swell, strings quiver, and saxophones come to life. His verses are broken up by breathtaking vocal performances from feature artists, like Ghais Guevara’s soulful hook on “Live! From the Kitchen Table” and Anjimile’s “on God, I’m gold” refrain on “Dedicated to Tar Feather.” This is one of the few rap albums that I have heard that could be performed almost in its entirety by a small band of no more than five or six people, and that quality gives it a unique intimacy. 

For all of its genius instrumental fusion, this album would still be nothing without McKinley Dixon manning the microphone. Besides varying his cadence and inflection with absolute confidence, Dixon’s bars are deeply introspective and paint vivid portraits. Once again, I have to revisit “Dedicated to Tar Feather,” where Dixon takes us through his deepest uncertainties about his own existence using metaphors whose other-worldly aspects recall the style of Toni Morrison (the album is titled after three Morrison books). With Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!?, Dixon has created something that honors Morrison’s legacy and embodies all three exclamations in its title.


3. Chet Baker - Chet Baker Sings (1954)

After starting his career exclusively as an instrumentalist, Chet Baker was inspired to start singing by his mother, who had always loved his voice. When Chet Baker Sings hit the shelves, critics were not as kind, teasing Baker for being a weak, effeminate vocalist. In this case, as with nearly all others, the mother was right. 

Perhaps Baker’s voice isn’t perfect in the technical sense. In the context of Chet Baker Sings, however, it is wonderful. His soft delivery lends itself to the sweet romance of the album’s lyrics, as he delivers silky melody after silky melody. This is especially true on the incredibly beautiful (and my personal favorite) “Time After Time” and on Baker’s signature song, “My Funny Valentine.” 

Though the album cover does not reveal it, Chet Baker also plays the trumpet. In fact, he plays the trumpet so well that his trumpet playing is the main attraction in an album called Chet Baker Sings. From the break between verses on “It’s Always You” to the introduction of “There Will Never Be Another You,” Baker’s balladry on the brass has the power to make a candle-lit dinner for one feel like falling in love. If I could have one jazz album, this would be it.


4. Jack Johnson - In Between Dreams (2004)

Jack Johnson is an all-time good guy. From his sustainable, 100% for-charity tours, to his multiple environmental education organizations, to the YouTube videos where he sings the Curious George theme to kids, it’s extremely difficult to harbor a negative feeling toward the guy. 

His laid back, selfless attitude shines through on In Between Dreams. His easy-listening guitar strumming sets an uplifting tone for the whole album, and his lyrics, though not always happy, are always pure hearted. Even when he confronts himself with human powerlessness to the whims of life in “Never Know,” he remains unbothered, laughing at the irony of how much we think we know compared to how little we actually understand. He delivers a beautiful tribute to a deceased friend on “If I Could,” once again working through his inability to have full control over anything.

The core of this album, however, are its most heart-warming tracks. In the friendship anthem “Better Together,” the tear-jerking marriage retrospective “Do You Remember,” and the infectious “Banana Pancakes,” Johnson brings a patient, empathetic approach to relationships, and I believe him when he says “love is the answer at least to all of the questions in my heart.” He even hits the mark with a track in American-accented French, coming through with one of the sweetest moments on the album with “Belle.” The album cover, which depicts Johnson thoughtfully picking a mango from a mango tree, really gets at the essence of this album—he’s got a guitar, he’s in no rush, and we shouldn’t be, either.



To contact the author: Adam Elayan '24

Portrait by Flex photographer Aiden de Asla '24