On the eve of its tenth birthday, it’s impressive that Grand Rapids’ Orchid Tapes is able to maintain the same bedroom-pop charm it cultivated in its early years, giving rise to artists like Soccer Mommy, Infinity Crush, Katie Dey, and a pre-(Sandy) Alex G. The sounds of each record the label releases are the specific kind of cozy you feel with a few friends while spending a night snowed in courtesy of an unpredictable lake effect—relaxed, familiar, and carefree, if only just for the moment,
The latest release from the label comes from twenty-one-year-old Sam Hall, whose Ghost Orchard projects builds upon a decade of ambient and experimental pop generated by OT, infusing it with R&B vocals and a recurring reverence for the Gothboi mentality as heard on Bunny’s title track (also recalling the witchy vibes of Orchid alum Happy Trendy).
Clearly well versed in the label’s discography, Hall was able to narrow down his list to seven songs that define the label for him, from the glitchy sound collages of Spencer Radcliffe to the panicked ambiance of Sam Ray’s Ricky Eat Acid project.
Alex G, “Cards”
One of my favorite Alex deep cuts through Orchid. I remember it came out during the time I was more a fan of Orchid than an affiliate or anything, just checking my phone all the time in the middle of class to see if anything had been posted on Tumblr (lol RIP). When this song came out it was all I played for weeks. Also a moment where it fully clicked that Alex is one of the most talented songwriters currently doing it.
Spencer Radcliffe, “Tattoo”
I could have picked any song off of this split to be honest, and had a hard time doing so. Brown Horse is such a strong body of work from both Rachel [Levy, then known as R.L. Kelly] and Spencer, but man…“Tattoo” is really that song. I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of times I’ve been with someone just humming “Have your dad’s yellow cup holder..” and whoever I’m with having just finished the line. Such a special song and release—was actually gifted a copy of the tape from a friend of mine (shout out Elli), still in shock that he was able to part with it.
Blithe Field, “Paul’s Birthday”
Face Always Towards The Sun is one of the most important records in my life I think. The more that time passes, the more that that idea solidifies. Those songs have soundtracked some of the most major moments of my life and done so in a way unlike anything else. “Paul’s Birthday” is a perfect example of that. It says so much without saying a word at all, just like most of the record. I hear Spencer [Radcliffe] did most of the record just through his Casio SK-1, which is like…totally unbelievable given the complexity and lushness throughout the entire thing. One of the best to ever do it.
Ricky Eat Acid, “Inside My House; Some Place I Keep Dreaming About”
I used to not be able to listen to this one. It was just too much (in the best way possible). It’s a song that makes me feel like I’m watching all of my happiest memories in fast motion all at once. Sam [Ray]’s music does that a lot for me, and is definitely something I have strived more toward in my music post hearing his work. Right after it came out, I ended up catching mono, the flu, strep, and tonsillitis all at the same time, which was easily one of the worst times I’ve ever had. My girlfriend at the time surprised me with a copy of this record and instantly I just forgot about the rest.
Katie Dey, “Don’t Be Scared”
Katie is a genius and this song is a perfect example of that. asdfasdf came out just as I started making music under this name and it kind of came and flipped everything on its head for me. One of the first times I had heard such a huge amalgamation of sounds working together in such a perfect way, and definitely got me thinking of broader horizons. Her new record is just as brilliant, too, and I urge everyone to listen to it!
Foxes in Fiction, “Ontario Gothic”
How could you make a list about Orchid and leave out the guy himself? Over the years, Warren [Hildebrand] and I have had a strange, wonderful relationship where life kind of just kept throwing us together, and I am really grateful for that. I first booked a show for him at a house here in Grand Rapids in 2014 that ended up just being a really special thing. Since then, we just keep coming back together. Warren has curated such a special thing within Orchid Tapes that has kind of fueled me creatively while also becoming such a staple in my life. Most of my relationships can be traced back to a moment where Orchid has played a role. Thankful for Warren and Orchid, and this song rules. The textures throughout the whole thing accomplish something I think so many people wish they could, and it does it so well.
Alex G, “Skipper”
Alright, couldn’t resist one more Alex G song. DSU changed…everything, I feel like. There isn’t a single lukewarm song on this record, and this song feels like a quiet realization of that. I owe so much to these songs and just feel grateful to be able to hear them. It’s kind of crazy that the more that Alex releases, the more solidified his writing gets without drastic changes, fancier production, anything like that. Just like, the definition of strong creativity and talent.