In my time as a student leader in college radio, I loved the breaks. As stewards of the public airwaves, we felt an obligation to keep our humble broadcast outlet running, even when the rest of the university shut down. The castaway feeling was especially pronounced during winter break, when the skeleton crew of institutional staffing dwindled down to the barest of bones. For the couple weeks around the December holidays, it could seem like those who volunteered to click on the microphone and build music playlists were the only people to set foot in the Communication Arts Center, a sensation compounded by the gray days and snow-smothered streets outside.
The only downside to this stretch was the halting of the steady flow of new music into the new station. The record labels knew everyone was diverted by an array of other activities, meaning anything new that showed up would likely get lost. For the kind of material favored by college radio, at the time anyway, there were additional reasons to hold back the new stuff during this part of the calendar year, usually leading to an onslaught of great new records right as the second semester of the academic year got underway. Giving a listen to the sheer number of outstanding new tracks that hit this week reminded me of those old days. The onslaught looms.
Having so many songs to choose from can make it difficult to get down to just one to plop into this digital space to properly end the working week, but the decision would up being easy to make. Though I bypassed several favorite artists with fine new material, it was clear to me that nothing else this week was as immediately arresting as “Stop This Flame,” the new single from Celeste.
A performer of British and Jamaican descent who is California-born and British-raised, Celeste has been championed heavily by the BBC the past year or so. “Stop This Flame” all on its own makes the case for the taste of the the state-funded media apparatus. Opening with a bright, jazzy piano line, the track moves with a soaring R&B energy and piercing pop sensibility, Celeste’s evocative, emotive vocals delivering lyrics about romantic perseverance. It’s the kind of song that quickly gets under the skin, mostly because it’s burrowing straight to the soul.