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“Slide (ft. Frank Ocean and Migos)” Calvin Harris

Calvin Harris ft. Frank Ocean & Migos

“Something Just Like This” Track Review

Sony

Released February 24, 2017

Genre: EDM, Pop, Soul

Calvin Harris does not have a knack for making unique EDM. He does however know what to do to stay relevant in mainstream media. By Jove, he’s done it again with the release of this new song, but not for having another explosive chorus that everyone and their kandi masks can dance to. By teaming up with two of the hottest artists out there, Calvin has completely surpassed my expectations  and won me over on this track

Calvin lays down a smooth and summery beat for Frank to croon mid-range over, while the Migos deliver a natural-sounding slightly auto-tuned verse; it’s glitzy but not obnoxious. The signature ad-libs and chemistry are still here from the Migos. Frank, on the other hand, lays ambiguous lyrics that sound totally open ended. The chorus is still emphasized, as it’s Calvin Harris’, but it’s not a forced build-up to a climax. This is a better “slide” than the Goo Goo Dolls’.

SCORE: YAY

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“Something Just Like This” The Chainsmokers & Coldplay

The Chainsmokers & Coldplay

“Something Just Like This” Track Review

Disruptor/Columbia

Released February 22, 2017

Genre: EDM, Pop

The latest collaboration between indie-rock bores, Coldplay, and EDM nuisances, The Chainsmokers, highlights a common quality between the two groups: they have run out of momentum – recycling terrible idea after terrible idea. In retrospect, this haphazard collaboration makes sense. Chris Martin’s “humble” lyrics sound anything but humble, and are sloppily strung together by The Chainsmokers redundant and contrived instrumentation. Even his vocals fail to reach the emotional pits he dares to even call insightful. Elevating these timid observations to stadium heights, Martin’s vocals remain unconvincing and lacks the charm and conviction of Coldplay’s earlier works. Coldplay’s work has recently vomited the same dull album after the same dull album, merely highlighting the stark fall from the grace the once praised band has seemingly forgotten they’ve gone through.

The Chainsmokers on the other hand, have done their time in the limelight and are due for a much-needed departure from the music scene. Whilst known for being able to conjure a catchy hook, I will admit, they have proved themselves to be insipid cons, – demonstrating a lack of artistic originality as they produce and splurge out useless drop after drop, collab after collab, and cheap hook after hook.

Just avoid this track, and honestly everything Coldplay or The Chainsmokers plan to release in the future. This godawful collaboration is anything but fruitful, and answers Martin’s lyrical question: “how much you wanna risk?” The result is an embarrassingly awful, and insulting excuse for music.

SCORE: NEH

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“Abandoned Mansion” Dr. Dog

Dr. Dog

Abandoned Mansion Album Review

Anti- Records

Released November 29, 2016

Genre: Indie Folk, Folk Rock

It doesn’t feel fair that I’m going into this album without having heard anything else by this extremely prolific band. However, I feel like this band has been in my life for more than just one album. It’s not to say that this is familiar music to me, but Dr. Dog does a solid job of making the listener feel comfortable on this release.

Dr. Dog showcases catchy songwriting that takes influence from standard American folk but injects indie rock instrumentation. Songs like “Survive” are bouncy and have air-tight melodies. These songs and moments are exemplary, but there are sleepier and slower songs like “Casual Freefall” that don’t grab the ears as much due to being too familiar and not having the energy to make up for it. What is consistent even throughout the weaker songs is the production that allows the instruments to ring out but not drown each other out. Studio wizardry is definitely at work here.

I see why people freak out over this band album after album, especially if this is what they deliver on each of their releases. Peep!

FAV TRACKS: Ladada, Survive

LEAST FAV TRACK: Casual Freefall

SCORE: 7.0/10

Maggie-Rogers

“Now That The Light Is Fading” Maggie Rogers

Maggie Rogers

Now That The Light Is Fading EP Review

Debay Sounds/Capitol Records

Released February 17, 2017

Genre: Indie Pop, Electronica, R&B

Maggie Rogers’ rise to fame is mainly contributed to a rather intimate and cordial exchange with Pharrell Williams during a once-in-a-lifetime moment aspiring artists alike could only dream of achieving. But it wasn’t just this serendipitous encounter that has contributed to Rogers’ success; Pharrell didn’t shed a tear and offer no criticisms or complaints for no reason. Rogers’ bubbly R&B-infused electro-pop sound melds the heartfelt with the electronic, turning even the most cynical of listeners to fans of her ethereal vocals and subtle dance influences. Now, after a sequence of signing with a label, a North American tour, and numerous interviews, Rogers has released her debut EP Now That The Light Is Fading.

Inspired by folk and the outdoors Rogers mixes in these sounds – both musical and field recordings – into her music, inserting them into electronic pop instrumentation. What sets her apart from other contemporaries (some not as captivating or interesting), are her vocals. Rogers’ ethereal and R&B-tinged voice effectively communicates the feeling of love, longing, and living in the moment with passion and authenticity. The gorgeous balladry of “Dog Years” finds Rogers entertaining the idea of a relationship, while the EP opener “Color Song” sounds like a camp-fire group chant in that period of the night between ‘when the sun sets’ and ‘before the bugs come out’ – that pristine moment where the night has not come out.

Her smash hit, and one of our favorite tracks of 2016, “Alaska” is one of the more effervescent tunes on the EP. Pharrell mentioned hearing nothing like it, but its place in modern music makes sense in 2017: its light but propulsive beat that evokes tropical house music, and its ethereal & dreamy vocals are very reminiscent of the music of its time. It’s gentle touch is both relaxing and alluring – a talented indication of more to come from this rising star. Rogers’ folk influences (in the traditional sense) feel less in the background here, and it goes to show how she has utilized her influences as a spring board for something greater.

Now That The Light Is Fading is Maggie Rogers’ debut EP, and her opportunity to show the world who she is, and what she can do. Rogers falters a little bit near the end, where the track “Better” overstays its welcome, but not enough to completely deter the EP’s trajectory. Nonetheless she’s shown her talents, and she’s shown her weaknesses. It’s not perfect, but it shows a lot of potential for greater music to come. If anything, this EP left me wanting more; and that’s exactly what Rogers needs: the whole world waiting to see what she does next.

PRETTY NEAT MUSIC

FAV TRACKS: Color Song, Alaska, Dog Years

LEAST FAV TRACK: Better (kinda)

SCORE: 8.0/10

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“Hang” Foxygen

Foxygen

Hang Album Review

Jagjaguwar

Released January 20, 2017

Genre: Baroque Pop, Glam Rock

Foxygen’s last record, …And Star Power, showcased the band’s weaknesses in a brazen and blatant fashion. The noisy, chaotic, and experimental tracks sprawled across twenty-four tracks burned fast and got tiring quickly. Foxygen’s strengths shine when replicating sounds of a past era: 60s glam, soft rock, and baroque pop with an eccentric filter placed upon them. Their keen ear for mood and attention to detail make these songs sound gorgeous renditions of pop & rock classics. On their latest, Hang plays on their strengths and showcases a newfound sense of progression bubbling underneath. These songs begin as old-timey callbacks, but are carefully and creatively stretched into fleshed-out pieces that can simultaneously belong in our time, and in the 60s/70s that the duo so lovingly spend their time replicating.

“Follow The Leader” features some shrill horns peppered throughout a patient glam rock romp. It then aptly segues into the rustic “Avalon,” which sounds like it was plucked straight out of Disney’s The Princes & The Frog given the many musical passages it goes through and its overt theatrical feel. “Mrs. Adams” and “America” are both meticulously constructed art rock pieces that show clear thought and passion have been put into these songs; and for once, it feels that Foxygen are creating songs that go past simple imitation. The band’s eccentricity and zany personality is felt in the vocals, temp changes, and instrumental flourishes – showcasing a wide variety of sounds, melodies, and moments to always dive back into.

The album closes with perhaps the duo’s most triumphant songs on Hang: “Trauma” and “Rise Up”. The two songs slowly build and build towards a triumphant climax, with horns to complete and guitar jangles galore, to cap the record off on a glam fashion. Hang is Foxygen at their most accomplished, eccentric, and – at times – ridiculous, showcasing an unbridled voice that is just waiting to burst out of its shell.

PRETTY NEAT MUSIC

FAV TRACKS: Follow The Leader, Avalon, Mrs. Adams, America, Trauma, Rise Up

LEAST FAV TRACK: Up On A Hill

SCORE: 8.7/10

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“Revive Me EP” OG Garden

OG Garden

Revive Me EP Review

Self-Released

Released February 14, 2017

Genre: Funk, Soul, Indie Rock, Future Soul


The yOung band OG Garden are coming straight outta Denton, Texas with a fiery smooth soul and indie rock combo. While half of this 4-song output isn’t as lively as the other half, this band shows tremendous potential to create sticky and soulful hooks.

“Hidden Language” kicks off the project with busy guitar work and synth. It’s a bouncy and fun tune that has slightly overbearing keyboard on the verses but slaps unequivocally on the chorus. “Boyfriend” and “Ego” are fun songs that showcase this group’s ability to write creamy hooks that are big enough to fill a large amphitheater, but don’t pop as much as the first track or the last (also the lyrics are a little cringe-inducing, but it seems like this is intentional on “Ego). “Revive Me” is a sultry mid-tempo jam with the coolest chord progression on the bridge. Unpredictable and fun, this is the best song on the album.

OG Garden are another essential band in Denton’s circle of more soulful indie rock bands.

FAV TRACKS: Hidden Language, Revive Me

LEAST FAV TRACKS: Boyfriend, Ego

SCORE: 6.0/10

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“Process” Sampha

Sample

Process Album Review

Young Turks

Released February 3, 2017

Genre: R&B, Alternative R&B

The first time I heard Sampha was on Drake’s 2013 album Nothing Was The Same (what an awful introduction). I thought, “what I nice voice” and thought nothing of it afterwards. Flash forward almost 4 full years to the release of Sampha’s debut LP, Process. What is on this debut has made me feel ashamed for not hearing this guy’s previous output, because what is on here could truly be the future of pop music…

…which is a conclusion that I had no idea that I was going to make after hearing the first two songs off this album. “Plastic 100C” and “Blood On Me” both were convincingly sung, but the beats were too spacey and distant. “Kora Sings” is the third track and starts the momentum for Process. The string arrangements are indescribably innovative. The busy and syncopated percussion reminded me of my favorite moments of Craig David’s early songs but with more down-to-earth singing. This singing style greatly contrasts the almost frenetic and spacey production all over this album.

“Take Me Inside” is another gorgeous piano-based tune. The pitch-bending of the piano matches Sampha’s quieter singing style perfectly. This is the type of song people like Charlie Puth with they could make. Which brings me to the theory that Sampha’s sound on this album in indicative of the sound that mainstream pop and R&B will take on in the near future. This does not sound totally different from FKA Twigs’ debut album, which definitely influenced some production in mainstream pop thanks to producers like Arca. Be on the lookout for Sampha in the near future, because this is truly something special.

PRETTY NEAT MUSIC

FAV TRACKS: Kora Sings, Take Me Inside, Reverse Faults

LEAST FAV TRACK: Blood On Me

SCORE: (9.0/10)

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“Life Without Sound” Cloud Nothings

Cloud Nothings

Life Without Sound Album Review

Carpark Records

Released January 27, 2017

Genre: Indie Rock, Noise Rock, Punk Rock

Baldi & Co. return with another record, pushing forward with the noise rock outlet known as Cloud Nothings. Here, the band focuses more on lyricism – just barely shifting their sound away from pop punk and deeper into standard indie rock and noise rock. There are still hooks, but Baldi uses Life Without Sound to focus more on themes – contemplating on loneliness, desperation, finding a purpose in life – while also smoothing out the edges that made Here And Nowhere Else such a raucous and chaotic listen.  The shift from John Congleton to John Goodmanson on production adds long gestating swells that pit bass lines against drum breaks, guitar chords against Baldi’s vocals – a tense and envigorating listen that shows Cloud Nothings can craft these arcs within their songs that can help make even the angstiest phrase feel much more important to everyone.

“Up To The Surface” opens with a rather dismal piano lead, before Baldi’s voice comes in with restraint; the song then builds before becoming a typhoon swirl of sound and noise around the three-minute mark. The screeching guitars on “Things Are Right With You” is by-the-books Cloud Nothings, but feels just as invigorating and electrifying as anything they’ve ever put out. Jayson Gerycz’s drumming perfectly seperates these tunes into different acts, poising obvious emotional quips to crash and rise at the perfect time, elevating each moment to a peak of punk catharsis. “Internal World” shreds; “Darkened Rings” pummels; and “Modern Act” combines a memorable hook with pitch-perfect instrumentation. It’s the indie rock record to accompany those still reeling in the angst and malaise of growing up.

Baldi falters however, sadly in the last two tracks. “Strange Year” is wonderfully noisy, but horrendously clunky. Baldi’s sloppy vocal performance fail to effectively translate the mood the band tries to convey. “Realize My Fate” is a furious slow build, that begins stagnant, and ends burned out to a crisp. Despite these detriments, Baldi pulls together a good record that should keep those yearning for a rock record in 2017 entertained. His vocal performance has the perfect combination of confidence and fragility; the mere fact that he puts himself out there is the shining light of Cloud Nothings, and is what keeps me (and fans everywhere) coming back for more.

Life Without Sound is Cloud Nothings’ most reflective record, with confidence and verve. While it may not be their defining record, the roots are still there; what matters is if Baldi’s lyrics remain moving and inspiration. If you listen closely, there’s line or two in here that will make you smile to yourself, happy that Baldi is out there writing the next great Cloud Nothings record.

FAV TRACKS: Up To The Surface, Things Are Right With You, Internal World, Modern Act

LEAST FAV TRACK: Strange Year

SCORE: (7.3/10)

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“Ty Segall” Ty Segall

Ty Segall

Ty Segall Album Review

Drag City Records

Released January 27, 2017

Genre: Garage Rock

Ty Segall is today’s garage rock Energizer Bunny. He’s released 9 albums under his solo name since 2008 and shows no signs of slowing down; he’s full of ideas. Sometimes the well runs dry and you have to fetch water from an older well; however, most times Ty Segall delivers fresh and fun songs and this self-titled album is mostly an example of that.

Steve Albini’s production allows Ty’s guitar work to shine clearly over the standard rock instrumentation, guitar work that is stellar. The solos are bright and showy without sounding robotic. The guitar and bass work flow well with each other since the production perfectly balances fuzziness and clarity. This helps make this album, ripe with catchy songs, stick even more. Even when Ty allows the guitar to get downright nonsensical in songs like “Freedom,” every note rings out.

The one thing that doesn’t sound as consistently good is Ty’s voice. This is a rare occurrence that only happens when he tries to take a more nasally tone, like on “The Only One.” That song isn’t awful, though, because he ends it with more guitar wizardry. He also makes up for this on beautiful acoustic songs like “Orange Color Queen,” which is very Beatles influenced.

These aren’t totally novel sounds that he’s working with, but it’s exactly what you wanted from Ty. This is the garage rock you need.

FAV TRACKS: Freedom, Orange Color Queen

LEAST FAV TRACK: The Only One

SCORE: (7.0/10)

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“Culture” Migos

Migos

Culture Album Review

300, Atlantic Records

Released January 27, 2017

Genre: Trap Rap


Ah, Migos. One of the culprits of educating suburbia about what a “trap” is. The kings of intersectional memery (yeah, that’s a stupid term, but name one person in America who hasn’t done the dabbing dance) are back for a follow up to 2015’s Yung Rich Nation, which was a steady slog of triplet-based rapping about lewd endeavors. Although YRN provided culturally impactful bits, it wasn’t a consistently interesting body of music. Culture falls into this trap BUT IN A MUCH SMALLER way.

Quavo, Offset and Takeoff aren’t doing anything differently in terms of delivery or subject matter, but they still mesh extraordinarily with each other and do their best to make the beats hit even harder. The ad-libs and tommy gun flow hits the ears from all angles every track. Their voices are distinct enough but the personalities that they demonstrate are pretty similar. Still, the harmony between these three really is something else. These beats compliment their style, especially on songs like “T-Shirt” and “Big On Big,” which make the emcees sound even more confident and comfortable. “Big On Big” especially accomplishes this with Zaytoven’s illustrious gospel keyboard work.

Some songs are just total filler, however, a problem reminiscent of YRN. “Kelly Price” featuring Travis Scott finds the three emcees and the guest all sounding exactly like each other without dropping any quotable lines. Slippery has an expected Gucci Mane feature but has the exact same problem. It’s already hard to get through a full hour of brag rapping with no surprises.

In short, Culture is a solid follow-up. If that kid you don’t like at school keeps saying, “rain drop drop top,” it’s okay, because you can be on the cutting edge for much better trends that are attached to much better songs.

FAV TRACKS: T-Shirt, Big on Big

LEAST FAV TRACK: Kelly Price

SCORE: (7.0/10)