Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Beginner’s Guide | Focus Tracks


Without the aid of focus tracks, where to start in a friend’s album recommendation or at the helm of passenger DJing can be a daunting task. Luckily, there’s a trend that leaves albums formulaic and much easier to read.

Tracks two and seven always catch my eye for their subtle arrangement and importance in a well-organized bimodal album. These albums vary in length and tend to recognize the importance of creating slopes of sounds and a nice ebb-and-flow from track to track.

Those short minutes at the beginning of the album are so important to hook you for the rest of the album. Albums tend to follow the rule of a one-two punch and generally, be top heavy to set an impression. Track two is almost always the album single or title-track — think of Blur’s “Song 2.” This is true across genres particularly with hip-hop albums frequently making use of skits, calling the first track “intro,” and allowing the second track to bring you back in stronger than ever.

Not to overshadow the importance of the first track, but track two has so much more potential to be speakeasy and stabilizing after jumping into an album. If not for being the common single space, it definitely holds importance for setting the tone of the rest of the album, and whether or not each transition will be just as stark.

While the top-heavy arrangement can leave itself fresh in your mind, it’s important to stick through to the end and find the core of the album. Track seven should hold this place as the deep-cut and be very close to the secondary single. It’s the breadth of the message behind an album usually holding the most evoking contents and developed heartfelt tones — I always recommend Ween for their variability of sound.

Being partial to their works I can still admit that they’re goofy. It’s often an obstacle to get past “Ocean Man” on their 1997 album The Mollusk. “It’s Gonna Be Alright” is something sincere, and perhaps underrated amongst other live hits, but holds true to the album’s multi-faceted creature of mashed sounds. It’s the track sevens that show there’s still depth and something to plunder at the heart of it all.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. It’s just a little off-set with a track just outside of this arbitrary focus, as with anything it can’t be perfect. In an ideal world, this is for albums that are just a bit uneven and the further down an extreme you go in length there will be some unpredictability. 

The following recommendations uphold these guidelines, and hopefully, give merit to how you find your favorite tracks.

Alvvays — Alvvays

“Archie, Marry Me” 

Behind wax paper filters and nostalgic teen dream summer cuts, “Archie, Marry Me” is Alvvays’ rise to prominence. It’s palpable with charged emotions about finding your place in a maturing and changing landscapes of adulthood.

It’s painted with lyrics that truly resonate on a level that opens like a picture book. Track two truly sets the tone for the rest of the album. “Archie, Marry Me” is single material for its palatable word sense, cryptic to make a moment individual, but still spoken easy enough to be familiar friend-to-friend chatter that really runs like a couch-side story. With guitars that encapsulate the fleeting moment that is the summerside beach and surf, it’s just enough to keep you floating.


“Dives” is the slow churning deep-cut that every fan should yearn for in their cries for encore. A different kind of crowd pleaser that owns up to its name, encapsulating the right sweeping guitars and swooning vocals to wash over you. It’s a true release of pressure, alleviating the tumultuous bundle of emotions into a more spaced out forum. As a seventh track, it eases the listener towards the end of the album without being a complete departure from course. “Dives” is a respite and necessary change of flow within the album to deliver a truly introspective experience that drives the sentimental ebb of our youthful hearts.

The Velvet Underground & Nico

“I’m waiting for the Man”


A quintessential Lou Reed cut, ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’ is the basis for a lot of garage rock music to come in the 70s and 80s. Maybe a precursor or foreshadow to the 7th track, Reed details heroin withdrawals as he waits impatiently for his dealer. Fast, determined, and covered in bleeding tambourine hits, ‘I’m Waiting’ completely throws rock music on its tail. Following and preceding two mellow tracks, this number two cut on Velvet Underground & Nico sets the pace high and makes sure the audience knows they are in for a strung-out ballad or two.


“Heroin,” the seventh cut on Velvet Underground’s self-titled album, may very well be the most important track of the era. Primal, masculine, and triumphant in such a perverted way, Lou Reed creates the perfect track and the cornerstone of the album in a fit of hysteria and artificial joy. Maureen Tucker, the band’s drummer has been quoted, saying “As soon as it got loud and fast, I couldn’t hear anything. I couldn’t hear anybody, so I stopped, assuming, well, they’ll stop too and say “what’s the matter, Moe?” [laughs] But nobody stopped. And then, you know, so I came back in.” This crescendo is a historic moment in music history, and it sits ever so sweetly in the seventh spot, not too early to turn-off new listeners, but far enough that it’s too late to turn back.

Animal Collective  — Merriweather Post Pavilion

“My Girls”

Often cited as Animal Collective’s most accessible song, “My Girls” was the first single off Merriweather Post Pavilion. It is the archetype of a number two as it really sets the tone for the whole album. The song opens with ethereal synth sounds flowing and building until it immerses the listener in music. The anti-materialist lyrics match the care-free instrumentation and give even a casual listener a taste of what the rest of Merriweather Post Pavilion sounds like, and even  what Animal Collective can sound like at its most pop-based.

“Guys Eyes” 

The seventh spot on an album often houses a fan-favorite or a song that is perfectly in step with the tone of the album. “Guys Eyes” falls in both categories for me, an extremely vibrant song on an album full of them this track perfectly fits in with the rest of the album. Panda Bear’s voice is recycled and repeated over itself in such a way that it creates an immense and beautiful harmony which immerses the listener, much like the effect that the instrumentation on “My Girls” has on the listener. Placing “Guys Eyes” this deep in the tracklist makes it a sort of a treat for a listener or a hidden gem.


Impact Content Team collaboration by Andrew Becker, Andrew Younker, and Greg McClure. 

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