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“Morning Phase” Beck

Beck

Morning Phase Album Review

Capitol Records

Released February 21, 2014

Genre: Alternative Rock, Folk Rock, Country Rock

“You should never get your hopes up”, everyone always says and rightly so, no-one likes to be disappointed and it’s not like Morning Phase, Beck’s umpteenth thousand album, dropped like a ton of bricks, but rather just failed to captivate, excite or interest me as much as many of his previous releases have. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Beck is a maverick of production, songwriting and hat-wear. Blending elements of funk, Hip-Hop, acoustic and Indie in his spectacular and obtuse debut Mellow Gold, Beck has since been an omnipresent overseer within the alternative scene for coming up to twenty years now. Now, with his twelfth release I can’t help but question whether he’s spread himself too thin? Actually, I don’t think that’s the right vernacular to use since Morning Phase is by no means a ‘thin’ record, in fact it’s immensely profuse in woozy orchestrals and rippling instrumentation peppering every track, however this just detracts from the cyclical nature of this album since a lot of the songs have very little to offer in structural variation making an enjoyable moment often sullied by unsettling déjà vu that you’ve heard these exact chord progressions a few tracks back.

Internet lore deems Morning Phase a companion to the universally admired Sea Change released back in 2002 and maybe this is why my expectations were ramped up a notch. Beck proved most popular at his most vulnerable and melancholy which tells us two things – 1) Music fans are sadistic sociopaths and 2) Beck is at his most proficient when miserable, and that’s what I was looking forward to on this record (now I’m the sociopath). Morning Phase sees Beck whittle down what were the sprawling and emotionally dense rhymes of Sea Change into a series of non-descript catchphrases on this LP. On ‘Heart is a Drum’ for instance, I can revel in it’s sentiment and one of the more indelible melodies of the album but I can’t help but feel the scarcity of conviction and self-vindictive charm that made Sea Change such a powerful record.

Beck’s guitar intonation seems to suffer as well, while on tracks like ‘Blackbird Chain’ and ‘Say Goodbye’ his blues infused acoustic-style remains admirable, a lot of stellar playing is overshadowed by the haunting production levels which does very little to evoke a connection with the idiosyncratic style I cherished on previous releases. Lead single ‘Blue Moon’ was the springboard for my hopes and still remains as charming and refreshing as it was on the first listen providing an idyllic juxtaposition to the equally intoxicating ‘Wave’ with it’s cinematic string arrangements and one of the most serene vocal performances from Beck on this whole album.

The harsh tenor I adopted with this review stems only from my disappointment and the promise of a Sea Change v2.0 but for all it’s menial shortcomings Morning Phase provides some true moments of tranquility, perfect for lazy sunday afternoons filled with feet up procrastination and lacklustre shruggery.

FAV TRACKS: Blue Moon, Wave, Heart is a Drum

LEAST FAV TRACKS: Phase, Turn Away, Morning

Score: (5.0/10)

Interview With Old Ivy!

How did you guys start?

Our singer Stroef (who played the guitar back then) and our guitarist Cedrik played in a band together when they were about 15 years old or something like that. When Cedrik quitted that band they asked me to fill in on the guitar so I agreed. It didn’t took long to split the band but about a year later, Cedrik and I began talking through internet because we didn’t know each other in real life. We shared the same ideas so we decided to start a project together. The genre and the bandname changed a lot through the years but since 2011-2012 it became Old Ivy as Stroef joined the band. Also Lisa (bass) and Brecht (drums) completed the line-up that year but since 2013 Laurent joined us on bass and Frederic on drums.

Who are your influences?

Kevin: Our influences vary a lot ! From Code Orange Kids to Oathbreaker, from Have Heart to Touché Amoré. We just don’t want to be put in any genre like ‘Yeah, Old Ivy is definitely a melodic band. No doubt about that.’ So that’s why we have so many bands as our influences.

Lorang: The biggest influences for me to play Melodic Hardcore are Crooks, Climates, The cold Harbour, The Smiths, Insomnium, Skid Row and My Emotions

Belgian hardcore has been getting a lot more recognition in the US (Oathbreaker, Hessian). Why do you think that is?

Kevin: I don’t know, maybe the darker sounds? It feels like this genre is haunting you when you listen to it. It sounds heavy, dark but it feels like you’re in another dimension when you hear them live. On stage they always wear clothes in black and white and stuff like that, that makes it more dark. They are very known and rightly so ! They deserve it.

Lorang: I think that is because hardcore is getting more popular than ever in Belgium and so by supporting Belgian bands, those bands can get to places. Also the internet is a great way for bands to get recognition

What do you aim to do with your music?

Kevin: We don’t claim anything. We started this as a hobby and it’s still a hobby. We’re not that big but it feels good when you hear some people say : ‘That or that song from you guys really touches me.’ We just want to do some (little) tours and when people are angry, happy, sad, … just come along and sing, yell, jump, dance, but most of all : feel free to do whatever you like if you don’t hurt anyone else with it. Every gig we say this : ‘Equality is the soul of liberty.’

Lorang : Be happy, Living my dream..

If we wanted to book you (for example, in a house show or basement show) how would we do that?

You can contact us through facebook (it’s the most efficient way) or through e-mail : oldivybooking@hotmail.com

Do you have any upcoming releases?

We’re now busy recording a single called ‘Coals’ which will be released as a music video. It will be way harder and darker than our other releases but there’s still a melodic touch in it.

Do you plan to tour the states?

Kevin: Not yet because that’s a big project for us to come over because most of us are still students. So to get your stuff in the U.S., tickets for the flights, and things like that, it would be too expensive right now. But in the future, we would very much like to come over to the U.S.!

Do you listen to any music that is unlike your own?

Kevin: I listen to instrumental music like Mono or Sleep Dealer. Or punk rock like Rise Against. Most of the time bands with very good lyrics or bands with no vocals in it. Bands with vocals but shitty lyrics don’t mean much to me, I must say.

Lorang: All kinds of metal and hardcore, K-pop and J-rock are really awesome! I also like Traditional Indonesian music. Rap and Jazz.

 

Read our review of their latest EP, The Greater Mind

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“Supermodel” Foster The People

Foster The People

Supermodel Album Review

Columbia Records

Released March 14, 2014

Genre: Alternative Pop, Alternative Rock, Neo-psychedelia

Listen: Supermodel

After touring their debut 2011 album Torches for two full years, Foster The People took an extensive break and slipped under the radar until the beginning of 2014. The band’s sophomore album, Supermodel, is much less self-conscious than their first LP. With so much downtime between albums, can a band crank out another celebrated album with the same luck and finesse that they had on Torches? Yes and no. A fresh message came entirely from front man Mark Foster’s new perspective gained from much introspection in the band’s extended break. “My idea of what was beautiful changed between Torches and Supermodel. Imperfections, to me, over the last couple of years have become more beautiful,” he said in an interview.

Supermodel isn’t polished. They recorded it like no one was going to hear it. They tried to capture raw creative energy by jamming out and hitting record and later going back to minimally fix things. Supermodel wholly rejects capitalist ideology and society’s value of “perfection”, which is a genius idea. Intentional or not, if you don’t like the album because of its unpolished sound and ideas of songs, well, you’ve been spoiled and have completely bought into plastic rock stars and their record labels that spend millions of dollars making every synthesized chord and beat suitable for the radio so that albums will sell.

The album artwork itself depicts a model in a back alley throwing up, surrounded by cameras. “She’s vomiting this poem about consumption.” Supermodel allowed Foster to delve into human psychology. “…For me, social media and the way that we act and what we prioritize in culture is just something that’s really fascinating to me right now, and so that’s what a lot of this record’s about.” This changed the content of the album lyrically and made it more cohesive with one central message. Supermodel wastes no time getting to the point as it opens with a celebratory, high-flying song and presents listeners with a question: Are you what you want to be? This album is less shiny and more honest lyrically. The heaviest songs Foster says are “Goats in Trees” and “The Truth,” “[They] make me uncomfortable,” he said.

Truth be told, I was weary to listen to the full album because I was completely underwhelmed by the first single “Coming of Age”. Releasing singles from this album other than “Coming of Age” (“Pseudologia Fantastica” and “Best Friend”) perhaps did the album a disservice. Yet, maybe that’s why “Coming of Age” was chosen as the single: because it can be taken out of context and still be received fairly well. In addition to a new sound and message, Foster The People throws a curveball with what? An interlude?! Yes. According to a Reddit AMA the band participated in last week, “The Angelic Welcome of Mr. Jones” is part of a larger project that has (obviously) yet to be released.

So what hasn’t changed? Foster continues to explore writing from different perspectives. On this album, he plays the character of a fire escape accompanied by a longing, nostalgic chorus. In addition, he personified his own writer’s block. Being a dark subject for him, it was of course matched with an upbeat, light melody.

Overall, the counter-culture message completely forgives the delivery of the album in places where it lacks Top 40 potential.

 

FAV TRACKS: Are You What You Want to Be?, Pseudologia Fantastica, A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon, Fire Escape

LEAST FAV TRACKS: Tabloid Super Junkie, Coming of Age, Nevermind

SCORE: (6.5/10)

Interview With Ryan Cabrera!

Note: Joint project between Jon Birondo and Michael White

Imagine the aftermath of your high school graduation. It’s a frightening thought, unless you’ve already gone through it. Now pretend that you attend college for a short time, and then you’re suddenly whisked away to Hollywood by Jessica Simpson’s dad. After some hustle, you become a star. MTV follows your every movement. You have a hit single on the radio. You transition from never seeing girls on a daily basis (having come from an all-boys Catholic school) to having a plethora of women adoring you. Such is the experience of Ryan Cabrera, Class of 2000. Michael White and Jon Birondo, both Class of 2015, recently had a short Q&A session with him. Here’s what he has to say about his life, as well as the impact of the Jesuit Dallas experience:

 

Jon & Michael: Mr. McDaniel (our Junior counselor) told me that your first public performance was at the Junior Retreat. Was this the moment that you decided to pursue your career as a musician?

Ryan Cabrera: It was indeed, and I remember being super nervous and enjoying that feeling…I liked the excitement and wanted to play as many shows as possible after that!

J&M: How did you discover music?

RC: I always pretended to be in bands as a kid but didn’t discover the guitar really until I was around 16 when I was bored at a buddy’s house, and I would just mess around!

J&M: Explain the chain of events from your leaving UTD to landing a record deal.

RC: Well I had played every single kind of venue you can imagine – I never turned anything down!! Even restaurants, (chuckles) – I think the critical turning point was Joe Simpson saw me perform at the Hard Rock and by the next week, I was with him and his family out in LA – I performed in the office of every label across the board and was told “no” everywhere…I kept at it, and about after a year of writing, I was signed to Atlantic after I wrote “On the Way Down” – then linked up with Johnny Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls to produce my album which was a dream!

J&M: Do you listen to any genres of music that are completely unlike your music?

RC: I mainly listen to old classics like Sam Cooke, Sinatra, Beatles, Paul Simon, Solomon Burke, Otis Redding

J&M: When did you realize “I’ve made it?”

RC: I always said if I ever had a tour bus, I had made it! Haha so that was a great feeling, but also singing with Smokey Robinson at The Songwriters Hall of Fame and receiving two awards really would be the moments.

J&M: Are there any artists that you wish you could tour with?

RC: My dream has always been to tour with the Dave Matthews Band!

J&M: What are you going for musically on your next release?

RC: The new record is very positive and fun, and I think a more mature sound than my previous records. I challenged myself to make a very diverse album.

J&M: I saw a picture of you and Sophia Bush in 2005. What’choo doin with my girl?

RC: Hahahaha she’s a sweetheart..we did some celebrity Grand Prix at the Super Bowl that year

J&M: What artists do you think deserve more coverage in music today?

RC: Singers like Aloe Blacc or Sam Smith who sing on the dance tracks, and everyone gives all the credit to the producer.

J&M: How long have you been interested in art?

RC: I started painting about 6 years ago when I was vacationing in Hawaii. I didn’t even know I could paint, but it turned into something creative I could do when I wasn’t in the studio

J&M: How did you start DJ’ing?

RC: I’ve always really enjoyed house music and being in clubs, so I figured why not be the guy who gets to decide what’s being played?! I love any aspect of performing live and DJ’ing is thrilling!

J&M: Would you consider performing at Jesuit?

RC: Of course!! Waiting for that McDaniel phone call brah!!!

So there it is. None of this might have happened if not for his experiences in high school. Even amidst all the fame, Jesuit’s indelible mark is worn by Cabrera. Once a Ranger, always a Ranger.

Ryan Cabrera’s next album has a tentative 2014 release date. 
 

Listen to “On The Way Down” By Ryan Cabrera (2004)

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New Track: “Chimera” The Results

Dallas djent sextet, The Results have released a new single off of their upcoming EP, expected to be released later this year. The new song is entitled “Chimera”. Listen to it on Soundcloud here
The song is Recorded, Mixed, and Mastered by Nick Eastep. The cover art photo by Madeline Flores.

Read our interview with the band here.

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“Oxymoron” Schoolboy Q

Schoolboy Q

Oxymoron Album Review

Top Dawg/Interscope

Released February 25, 2014

Genre: Hip Hop, Gangsta Rap, West Coast Hip Hop

Schoolboy Q has returned with his highly anticipated project that has succeeded to surpass all expectations. Oxymoron may seem like a pun to the word “oxy” as Q is known to rap about narcotics, but in this genius record, Q manages to fulfill the album’s name.Though Oxymoron isn’t Schoolboy’s first album, since he released Setbacks and Habits and Contradictions in 2011 and 2012 respectively, he manages to release something new and fresh and it seems to be a new beginning in his discography.

Schoolboy Q is part of the Top Dawg Entertainment conglomerate that consists of Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock, Black Hippy, and others. But with Oxymoron, Q is fighting for the top spot, trying to “overthrow” King Kendrick, who released the monumental and cinematic album, “Good Kid M.A.A.D. City”, which rose Top Dawg and Lamar to subsequent fame. But what is so contradictory about the album Oxymoron? Well for one thing, the album cover is a divergent in itself as Q is shown wearing a ski mask and a bucket hat. Robbers and other delinquents are known to wear ski masks and to show that they don’t play around to display a menacing image. However, Q wears a bucket hat; no one really ever take people and hats seriously (like Pharrell for example).

This juxtaposition means nothing, really, but it serves to show that Q means funny business but throws in some serious topics as well, evident by the morose color hue on the cover. The contradictions don’t just apply to the artwork, but apply to the whole album.  The appearance of Kendrick in the track “Collard Greens” adds to this argument, where both Q and Kendrick appear to be friendly and cooperative making up one of the best songs on the album. Honestly, how can you hate Lamar rapping in spanish?!

But on “Break the Bank”, Q tells Kendrick to “move from the throne”, throwing a complete curveball at the listeners; you wouldn’t expect an artist to collaborate with an artist from the same label and then later tell him to get out of your way. This just shows Schoolboy’s creativity throughout the album and brings up a reoccurring theme in the album:to remind people that he isn’t just “another” guy from T.D.E. and this is something Q has never done before. He also does the same, in a way, with 2 Chainz as the two of them make the song “What They Want” but Q calls out 2 Chainz in “Break The Bank” saying “B**** call me 2 Chainz, units be moving”.This isn’t a criticism but rather shows how he makes money like 2 Chainz. In “F*** LA”, Q doesn’t stop with the contradictions as it’s abnormal to call out your hometown when there are rappers that are proud to say where they’re from, evident from similar artists like Dr. Dre and Snoop Lion, but this could also be explained as Q’s place of birth is Germany. Nonetheless, the album in itself justifies for the title very well, quite adequately in fact.

The album starts out with “Gangsta”. The word is obnoxiously repeated through the refrain while Q reminisces on his past and his relation to the 52 Hoover Crips and allows an insight on how he grew up and why he’s the man he is today. This gang-banging type of language is reiterated in “Hoover Street”. Q is sticking to his roots and there’s nothing wrong with that as most hip hop artist that come out of L.A talk about the same thing. Q also manages to pull off a lot of types of styles of rap which helps showcase his versatile talent as his collaborations range from all over the rap game.

From Odd Future’s Tyler, The Creator to Wu Tang Clan’s Raekwon to Kendrick Lamar and even 2 Chainz, many guest MC’s appear on the record, showcasing a variety of artists, notorious for their marks made in the world of hip hop. Q evidently has no barriers when it comes to making something great and noteworthy from people you wouldn’t expect. The featured rappers aren’t the only ones that helped create a great project but the producers played a huge part as well. The Alchemist on “Break the Bank” helps create the “old school” type feel with the rustic piano and the beats layered on top along siren-like effects, to create that gangsta aesthetic. Though Q’s “la-la-la-di-do’s” do get bothersome after a while, the track is heated with a sick flow and lyricism that defines itself as one of the most noted singles before the album’s release, not to mention Schoolboy Q himself.

Tyler, The Creator’s style is also prominent in his production of Q’s “The Purge”. At the beginning of the track, it may confuse some listeners because for a while you might think that your iTunes information is messed up and accidentally switched to an Odd Future tracks with the descending noise of the sirens and Tyler’s repetitive cursing, but Q shines through regardless. “Man Of The Year”, conservatively samples a Chromatics track; packed with laced synths, fresh 808s and a booming bass, this track quickly becomes alive and assists Q in demonstrating his strengths, which he has been strongly showing throughout this entire album.

Overall, Schoolboy Q succeeds in accomplishing to justify the name of the album, showcase his talent, and show what he’s really made of, in order to let others know that the new chart topping artist of T.D.E. isn’t just Kendrick. Intrusively and as manic as he appears, Q will stop at nothing to get the props he deserves, with all the grit and glory that he can provide.

PRETTY NEAT MUSIC

FAV TRACKS: Collard Greens, Prescription/Oxymoron, Hell of a Night, Break The Bank, Man Of The Year, F*** LA

LEAST FAV TRACK: Los Awesome

SCORE: (9.0/10)

Interview With Modern Life Is War!

The Sons of Hermann Hall is a curious place. On the outside, it looks like an ancient home, with peeling paint and foggy windows. Even the first floor, which contains the bar and restrooms, maintains a bona fide vintage feel. There’s pool, a water fountain and some other bar games; there’s also a fully stacked snack bar for people who need to put fuel in the tank before they lose their minds during the show. The upstairs feels renovated and modern, but somehow less authentic than this first floor. Modern Life is War singer Jeffrey Eaton sits at the bar, sipping a Coke and Jack, patiently answering my run-of-the-mill opening questions.

“[Modern Life is War] started in 2002,” he says. “We all already played in different bands together, and we all hung out…some friends started a new band, and they asked me to sing. That’s it, you know, very simple.” He breaks every few sentences with a small sip. A skater since youth, Eaton eventually discovered hardcore through many gateway punk rock bands in the 90’s. “My first big love [however] was Guns ‘n’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction. I always listened to it when I skated. Then I got into Rancid’s Let’s Go. I kinda fell in love with music again [after a long period of time without listening to it].” He assures me that there are a plethora of other bands that piqued his interest at an early age.

Currently, he says he’s been listening to a lot of local bands lately. Being true to their native scene, the band closely follows other musical outputs in the Iowa area. They played a show in Iowa City, with opening act Brooks Strauss, who just released an LP entitled Acid Casual. “I think it’s one of the best records I’ve heard in years,” he assured me. It’s apparently a folky, Kinks-esque masterpiece that all of Jeffrey’s friends have been informed of.

We decide to talk about hardcore once again, trying to decipher what determines a band’s worth nowadays. Jeffrey says that a band that deserves recognition eventually gets it. He pointed at my Touché Amoré shirt for reference. “They’re band is a great example of that. I saw them play in California before their first LP was out, and I just knew. Everyone in the world’s gonna hear this band.” I nod in agreement. They are one of the more well-known bands in today’s scene, and they’re critically praised as well.

The interview meanders on, as Eaton describes his yearnings to tour with Off With Their Heads, Terrible Feelings, the band’s positive experience with Ceremony at the infamous Gilman venue in Berkeley. “Ceremony is one of my all time favorite bands,” he says. He prefers the intimate shows to the “bigger” shows. He says that the band hopes to start writing soon, even though they just reunited to release Fever Hunting to positive acclaim. They still share that same inherent desire to create music, and that’s what keeps the band going.

He then discloses information about guitarist John Eich’s high school obsession with Sarah Michelle Gellar. He had a cardboard cutout of his favorite Vampire Slayer in his room. We also talk about his experience in Denton, Texas, how he skated around town and bought rare vinyl. He says it’s a cool place, similarly to his fellow friends on the Deathwish Inc. roster. “I like Jeremy [of Touché Amoré] a lot, and our friend Daniel [of Bitter End] is roadie-ing for us. Tre and Jake and Blacklisted are all friends.” He says it’s like family, something that became evident when they released their 3rd full-length on Equal Vision records. “It wasn’t the same,” he admits. He then says his favorite Deathwish as of late was the Code Orange Kids full-length. “That records awesome. I’m a big fan of them.” I agree with his enthusiasm; we both appreciate how they’re the same age as me. He talks about the great experience at This Is Hardcore 2013 in Philly, but is sad to report that Modern Life is War will probably not play this year, although he will try to attend as a fan. “I got to see Negative Approach, Ceremony, The Geeks, all these rad bands. It felt like a family reunion [last year].” He loves the DIY mindset, especially since the show is so massive.

I use the mentioning of the DIY attitude to Segway to a question asking him if his band could play in my high school auditorium if I organized it. An inebriated fellow next to us that went to my high school’s rival claimed his punk band was cut off during a pre-game set booked at Jesuit. Jeffrey said, “I think that’s what would happen to us.” Eaton loves intimate shows, though. It’s what makes hardcore unique, where the band is essentially the same as the fans. He sees no reason for copious amounts of violence in the pit, but he thinks that a show where people are fully invested in the band is the best show. It’s not strictly assigned to hardcore, but it is important; it’s what propels Modern Life. “I don’t care about succeeding, just being creative and playing shows.”

He thanks me for the interview and encourages me to talk with him after the show in a more relaxed manner.

After the show, which was low-energy on the crowd’s part but impassioned for a handful of fans, I sat down with Eaton, bassist Chris Honeck, and drummer Tyler Oleson. We all talked about parental disapproval of hardcore, and listening to Metallica as kids. Tyler illustrated how hardcore came into his life. “When I was thirteen, I heard Sick Of It All on a snowboarding video, and I freaked out. I’d never heard anything like it,” he says.

Although Tyler was excited to talk about his early experiences with hardcore, the band was not ecstatic about their set. “I think we didn’t play as well, and the energy in the room matched that,” said Chris. However, they didn’t have any regrets or complaints. The band unanimously agrees that someone always suggests that they play in a different venue, at a different time, etc. It’s a constant struggle to please everyone. “How are we supposed to know what works perfectly,” Chris maintains. “People say, ‘well, if you would’ve played here, more people would’ve showed up.’ How were we supposed to know?” Modern Life is War is a band that “embraces the show for what it is,” as Jeff says. “I respect all the bands we played with [Stymie, Modern Pain, Die Young TX]. Tonight was a victory.” Putting on a crazy show takes a lot of money, and since punk doesn’t rely on money, things don’t always go according to plan. They’re just happy to have shared moments with people that have emotional investment in their music. Chris says, “I just talked to a bunch of people that drove down from Oklahoma City. That’s insane!” He hopes people can have that much passion for something regularly, and he hopes those people had a good time. “The fact that there’s kids mouthing every single word means that they’ve listened to our records, they care about being here. Just because they’re not [moshing] doesn’t mean we’re not playing a good show,” Chris says.

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“G I R L” Pharrell Williams

Pharrell Williams

G I R L Album Review

I AM OTHER/ Columbia Records

Released March 3, 2014

Genre: Funk, Neo-Soul, Dance Pop

The first word you hear on the opening track, “Marilyn Monroe,” is “different,” and then gentle strings arrive, like something you’d hear off of a Lana Del Rey album before the song breaks into some soulful territory. From this point on, it’s evident that everything about Pharrell’s music has changed. Instead of rap, we’re met with a smooth croon and falsetto, and the topical themes of gang culture are traded in for some romantic topics. While the rambunctious energy of his last album gained him a loyal following, the funky, soulful atmosphere on G I R L gives the world of pop music a breath of fresh air.

Pharrell Williams has kept himself busy since 2006′s In My Mind dominated the charts. Since then, he’s dabbled around as a producer, producing albums and songs for artists such as Frank Ocean, Mariah Carey, and, most notably, Daft Punk, soundtracking children films and even dabbling in the misogynistic “Blurred Lines.” Despite his notoriety amongst pop culture as the changeless 40 year old, Williams has slowly been innovating a genre that has been pushed into the media for quite some time.

Due to In My Mind’s lackluster material, Williams endured years of being rarely ubiquitous, mostly, as said before, producing. His fame however has shot up to the public eye with the success of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Daft Punk’s nostalgic Random Access Memories. It seems that on G I R L, Williams has pointed all his creative innovations, experiments and accomplishments into a direction that has encapsulated the eight years since his last effort.

“Blurred Lines’” blatant imitation of Marvin Gaye’s disco hit “Got To Give It Up” as well as Daft Punk’s disco revival influences appear here on this album, continuing on with the revival of 70s disco fused with dance floor ready bravado that has been popping up everywhere, from Broken Bells to Arcade Fire. While this sound is starkly different from what old school Pharrell fans are used to, Williams has reincarnated its nostalgic sound, but with a few modern modifications.

The breakthrough track “Happy” gained a lot of media buzz, enough to attract the attention of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who nominated it for Best Original Song. The song smoothly glides with Pharrell’s falsetto slithering through the funky bass grooves and cluttered claps, delivering an impossible-to-not-dance-to vibe that comes complete with a 24 hour music video loaded with enough celebrity cameos to attract the attention of Steve Carrell fans to Golf Wang followers. If the fun energy of “Blurred Lines” went without the sexist lyrics, this is the song that points this energy into a more optimistic direction. You can’t help feeling empowered, hopeful, and, you guessed it, happy.

However, “Happy” stands apart distinctly from the rest of the album in terms of themes. Every other song either deals with women or wanting. Now while the shallow concept of the album comes off as reasonable and goes down easy, clichés and comparisons never leave the mind. The all-out debauchery of “Hunter” shows almost no difference from “Blurred Lines,” complete with middle school comparisons and corny lyrics; neither does the sleazy attitude of “Gush.” The two fail to switch things up in positive direction much like “Happy” did.

Given the album title and tracks with names such as “Lost Queen” and “Come Get It Bae,” the overall focus of the opposite sex comes to a prominent level. However, Pharrell is married and 40, and yet G I R L speaks about women on a broader level, ranging from modest to immorally seedy.

In an interview with Pitchfork, Williams said “My wife is a direct inspiration, for sure, but when I decided to do the album, I instantly knew what the album was going to be a full-spectrum ode to all the women who have been so good to me in my career. Most of my company, i am OTHER, is run by women.”

Now Pharrell does pay homage to women on this album, evident on tracks like, “Brand New,” where Williams croons, thankful for his personal revival: “but then you came along, and you made me strong” he sings, atop Nile Rodgers stylized guitar licks and a rhythm that was snatched from an early Jackson 5 demo. Similarly, on “Come Get It Bae,” Williams infuses 2014 pop culture slangs, a prominent pop singer (Hint: Bangerz), and enough corny metaphors to make up another Timberlake album. Interestingly enough, he layers it over a disco rock rhythm that will force you to dance and move like no other.

Williams further explores the realm of pop music by incorporating ska elements in “Know Who You Are”, where guest star Alicia Keys brings in some soothing backup vocals and an equally as sweet chorus. But Williams’ corny lyricism plagues this potential radio-friendly track. Any line that includes “Inhale, exhale, in and out, like a seal” should be frowned upon for its over the top corniness, but hey, at least it doesn’t stoop to “Suit & Tie” levels. Equally as corny is the track “It Girl,” where Pharrell sings “My compass spinnin’, baby, it’s the right destination.” Really? This is beginning to feel like corny town; subsequently, the album ends on a bad note.

The overall stylistic aim for retro-modern-pop is present on this album, but Williams struggles to connect the blatant lyricism of 21st century pop with the unblemished music of the past. It appears that the music is where Williams has flawlessly and beautifully rendered; and while Williams offers many opportunities to explore the realms of disco, pop, funk and soul in order to bring them all under a common viewpoint, Williams’ latest endeavor fails to reach expectations that it set up for itself, and ultimately makes you wish it was more personal than inventive.

BEST TRACKS: Brand New, Happy, Come Get It Bae, Know Who You Are (feat. Alicia Keys)

LEAST FAV TRACKS: Hunter, Gush

SCORE: (6.8/10)

 

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“Pseudologia Fantastica” Foster The People

Foster The People

Pseudologia Fantastica Track Review

Columbia Records

Released February 25, 2014

Genre: Indie Pop, Neo-Psychedelia, Psychedelic Pop

Mark Foster has always had a knack for throwing curve-balls at us, in the metaphorical sense. Who would’ve thought that a writer for commercial jingles would end up writing one of the best songs of 2011? No one would’ve. Similarly, off the release of the lackluster “Coming Of Age”, a track off of their upcoming LP, Supermodel, Foster throws a surprise at us by improving on the hooks and incorporating some psychedelic pop into the mix.

Structurally, Foster The People improves tremendously, almost. Instead of using the catchy hook as a placeholder, the band utilizes its appeal to push the listener through the verses, which are all riddled with dizzying synths and wharped guitars. However the affair stops there, for the clumsy and disjointed transition into the piano led coda and prolonged outro gives the song a mistakable, anticipated ending to one of the longest tracks in their discography. But knowing that the band can still add to their sound, gives us hope in their next endeavors, hopefully spiraling into other fields of the psychedelic tangent.

Score: (6.6/10)

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“Don’t Bother Me, I’m Crying” An Article About Emo

WARNING: HIGHLY OPINIONATED AND BIASED THOUGHTS AHEAD
A highly opinionated discussion about the emo genre by co-founder Michael White.

(Note: You DO NOT have to agree with what the following article says and this DOES NOT reflect the views of the site as a whole or any of the members. This is all Michael and is for entertainment purposes only)

What is the definition of Emo? Is it the musical embodiment of Hot Topic stores? Is it, perhaps, an onomatopoeia, because the word “emo” sounds like a whine? Is it a word that MTV just made up? Is it a word that people just made up? Is it even a thing?

Honestly, I have no idea. I just know that it is a polarizing term, almost as polarizing as the term heavy metal. For some, it is a term that induces vomiting. For others, it is a nostalgic term, a term that brings back vivid memories of adolescence. Like the name suggests, emo is supposed to evoke emotions, especially drastic emotions. But, isn’t most music aimed to evoke motions? I mean, with that kind of description, emo could be any genre of music. How the heck am I supposed to distinguish what is emo and what isn’t?

Years ago, I decided to consult a good friend of mine, who is an aficionado on all kinds of music… the Internet. From what I’ve gathered, emo is a more emotional offshoot of hardcore punk. Early bands such as Rites of Spring and Embrace, both important parts of the DC punk scene, approached songwriting in a more emotionally conscious fashion than their contemporaries. The reason that the definition of emo became so ambiguous was because through the years, bands became influenced by these bands.

For example, the 90s spawned two approaches to emo: The evermore-controversial screamo and the “regular” emo. Screamo, obviously, was more aggressive, sporting very high-pitched shrieks and its soundscapes (band recommendations: Pg. 99, Saetia). The regular old emo is a style of indie rock that also glorifies the focus of emotions (band recommendations: Sunny Day Real Estate, American Football, Braid).

Two different styles aren’t hard to keep track of, right? Well, in the later 90s and early 2000s, things got complicated. Many different bands were being called emo even though they didn’t play music that was very similar to the aforementioned two styles. Bands that weren’t as dramatic when it came to emotion now received the “emo” tag. This was where bands like My Chemical Romance, Dashboard Confessional, and AFI emerged. In my opinion, none of these bands sound extremely similar to each other, let alone the bands that pioneered this genre of music. These bands, nonetheless, were brought into the mainstream.

Closer to the mid 2000s, emo dwindled in popularity as electronic music invaded the radio airwaves. Fast forward to present day, and there is a resurgence of aspiring emo artist that are rapidly gaining popularity in the underground. For example, bands like Pianos Become the Teeth and Touché Amoré borrow major influence from late 80s punk and early 90s screamo, while bands like You Blew It and Tigers Jaw borrow from emotionial indie rock. All of these are great bands, but none of them sound alike.

“So Michael,” you might say, “you’ve vented about a genre of music you particularly like. Why should we care?” Actually, I THINK I talked about a genre of music I like that has an ambiguous history.

This brings me to my next point: I still don’t know what emo is. I just know that there are some bands I enjoy that happen to be classified as emo. This whole issue of emo is a testimony to how useless labels can be. A label that was designed to classify has actually been bastardized to confuse. Sure, one may use a tag to help them discover music that would’ve otherwise been extremely difficult to find without the nomenclature. Just don’t be a “strict interpreter.” In fact, just say, “I want the band that sounds like this band.” Nobody is certain about anything concerning the genre, so don’t confuse yourself.