by Regana Alicka
Next time you’re in one of those heartbroken #shmoods but Usher’s “U Got It Bad” isn’t speaking to the depth of your pain in the way it usually does, consider giving Mannequin Pussy’s Romantic a spin instead. While the Philly band’s 11-track sophomore album clocks in at an unusually short 17 minutes long, it is quite dense -- few albums of standard length even attempt to address the range of complex emotions that Mannequin Pussy astutely unpacks in 17 minutes and without any filler. Over the course of Romantic, the mood shifts from aching vulnerability to foaming aggression frequently and with no forewarning. The listener is spiritually guided through it all by vocalist Marisa Dabice, our Virgil in the Inferno that is navigating one’s mental space after heartbreak, whose raw and emotionally perceptive lyrics become even more penetrating through her dynamic delivery that can instantaneously snap from sweet pop-punk croons to maximum power screams. A recurring motif in Mannequin Pussy’s work is the juxtaposition of feelings of chaos with moments of clarity by rapidly switching between disparate moods. In “Pledge,” Dabice snarls “No matter what you do, they’re watching you” over dissonant feedback sounds until she’s suddenly singing the word “baby” in a saccharine voice over upbeat surf-rock guitars. In “Denial,” Dabice airs out feelings of self-doubt tinged with a bit of imposter syndrome when she sings “When I close my eyes I’m never really by myself/ All the strangers that adore me put me on a shelf.” These lines are immediately followed by a markedly less doomed and even hopeful sounding “Pick yourself up, baby/ Everything’s gonna be fine/ But if not, so what?/ You’ll get it the next time.” Romantic, in its cataclysm of sounds and emotions, creates a mood that is seductive to inhabit for those of us who like a little bit of pain since it is simultaneously as full and warm as the feeling of falling in love and as hollow and anguished as the feeling of getting dumped.
by Nick Peters
by Marty Gatto
Indie rock band STRFKR just dropped a new album called Being No One, Going Nowhere. It’s an introspective collection of songs that at times prove to be much colder than most of their previous work.
The album starts off strong with the track “Tape Machine.” It has an electronic beat with a nice background that carries it very well, and it uses funky, spacey rhythms and soft transitions to keep it flowing smoothly.
Following “Tape Machine” is “Satellite.” “Satellite” encompasses everything that is good about the album; it has catchy base guitar throughout, which sucks you in and keeps you listening, and utilizes low-key vocals and electronic elements to create a reflective, empty feeling that still has strong rhythm.
The album goes on to include “Never Ever,” with its powerful chorus and beautiful hooks, and “Something Ain’t Right,” with its mixture of electronic and 80’s music beat and its contrast between heavy background and light, airy vocals.
“Open Your Eyes,” “In The End,” and “When I’m With You” are notable tracks of the second half of the album, and all include soft, raspy vocals against intense beats.
The only true criticism I have of the album is exemplified in “Dark Days.” “Dark Days” is a good song; however, it definitely draws from clichés seen before in their music, as well as in other music. This is occasionally true of other songs on the album as well.
Lastly comes the final track “Being No One, Going Nowhere.” This is the album’s namesake, and it is easy to see why. The track has such a despondent, reflective tone, as if all is lost, yet the base beat, guitar, and electronic elements move it forward against this empty, hopeless tone. The sadness contained in this sole track is exactly what makes the entire album unique and really worth listening to.
by Luis Gomez
Avenged Sevenfold have hit the “because of course” point in their careers. They’re now basically big enough that in releasing The Stage, they dropped one single and then just decided a week later to release the whole damn thing, because of course. The last track is fifteen minutes long and samples Neil deGrasse Tyson talkin’ bout space, because of course. The album hops between like five different arena rock bands without becoming one of them entirely, because of course. That’s just who Avenged Sevenfold are. The perennial metalcore-turned-metal-turned-????? band dropped their latest album after a live concert from the roof of the Capitol Records building that they streamed on their Facebook page. Oh, also the record’s a concept album about AI and going to space and finding aliens. Because of course it is. Here’s the thing about A7X – they’re leaning into their own perception so hard they get like eighteen bonus points for still keeping it going. Like, they’re still running around calling themselves M Shadows and Zacky Vengeance and Johnny Christ and Synyster fucking Gates. Come on, man. You can’t call this anything but amazing, quite honestly. This is another good album by a good band who know exactly who they are, and I love them for it.
by Tommy Gerity
by Anna Passero-Koennecke
Amaranthe’s fourth studio album, Maximalism, sticks to Amaranthe’s usual genre style of melodic pop metal with a touch of death metal via an unclean vocalist. The band is unusual in that it has three lead vocalists: a clean female vocalist, a clean male vocalist, and a harsh vocalist. Maximalism has a stronger pop feeling to it than a metal one, but the metal influence is still apparent. The album is overall lyrically simple and upbeat, starting out with the song “Maximize”. The track’s fast pace stays the theme of the album, which only slows down significantly for two of the twelve songs. The album is empowering, focusing primarily on success, strength, and pushing the limits. This, mixed with the strong, consistent beats, makes the album a great choice for someone looking to hit the gym.
Admittedly there is nothing particularly outstanding on the album. The three singles released could easily have been swapped out for any of the other songs from the album, as they are all of the same quality. That said, there is also nothing noticeably bad about the album. It knows its place as a simple and fun pump-up album and does that well. If you’re looking to find an album that will shake your views of the world, then you should pass on Maximalism. However if you’re just looking for something to dance or workout to that’s a little more heavy hitting than general pop music, Maximalism is worth a listen.
by Sofia Fernandez
As an avid fan of their previous album, Native, OneRepublic’s fourth studio album Oh My My fell short of my expectations. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not a bad album. It still has that feel-good, nostalgic vibe, which is a sound we all know and love from OneRepublic. However, this album had a serious problem with defining the band’s identity. It seems as though they did not really know what story, mood, and/or feeling they wanted to convey, so they just decided to do a little bit of everything, which led me to find myself bored listening. The album did not move me in any way.
The first track of the album, “Let’s Hurt Tonight,” has a clear Native influence, so it’s no surprise to me that it is one of my favorite songs of the album. The biggest chunk of songs in this album have a very positive, pop sound, which is almost generic, but then songs like “Choke” and “Fingertips,” which slow down the pace of the album, are very awkwardly placed. Both of these songs are preceded and then followed up by upbeat pop songs.
Oh My My is definitely not the best work by OneRepublic, but it is good enough to put on as background music for any occasion.
by Maria Byrne
Yes, you heard correctly, Solange Knowles: her older sister is Beyoncé, and it seems talent runs in the family. But what’s the point of recognizing Solange on how successful her album is if we’re still just going to center the narrative on Beyoncé? At the beginning of the month, Solange released her third full-length album A Seat at the Table, a powerful presentation of her identity through 21 tracks of both song and spoken word. This album is a little different than her previous work: she focuses on documenting what it means to be a black woman in 2016 while also acknowledging the struggles black people have faced historically. While drawing on recent reactions from the endless killings of black people by the police, she still accounts for the overall horrors and oppression African Americans have been subject to for centuries.
Despite the brutal reality of these topics, her album is elegant and radically soft while boldly putting a spotlight on different perspectives. In “Cranes in the Sky,” Solange in soft falsetto explains how loneliness and isolation (and potentially mental illness) grow in the face of systematic oppression. She notes on this track, which is fourth on the album, how quick fix solutions do not work for her (or us) in the long run, when there is a larger cause rooted at the source. “Don’t Touch My Hair” establishes boundaries by addressing the hostility black women often face in predominantly white spaces. Other notable tracks include a Lil Wayne feature in “Mad,” “For Us By Us,” and spoken word interludes, a few by Solange’s parents. Overall, Solange’s album powerfully and beautifully describes what it means to be a black woman in America while also radically claiming her identity within it.
by Luis Gomez
For people who don’t care about Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga’s Joanne is her first release since 2013’s ARTPOP, and for those people, Joanne is going to be a weird departure from what people consider ‘Gaga.’ For people who did pay attention to that thing she did with Tony Bennett, the content of Joanne probably sits at an unhappy midpoint between the crazy dance-pop nonsense of her earlier career and the actual jazz stylings of Cheek to Cheek.
Joanne is much more personal than much of Gaga’s other work, but that personal nature leads to a lot of strange genre hopping that definitely makes sense for Stefani but doesn’t make much sense for anyone else. Tracks like “Diamond Heart” and “A-Yo” are fun, if cheesy, dance-rock type things. “Perfect Illusion,” the album’s first single, is a more Gaga-esque track, powerful and emotional and waiting for Martin Garrix to remix it into a club song. The rest, though, straddles a line between awkward country, awkward ballads, and just kinda eh. For example, “John Wayne” has some really interesting production, except for the country bro rock beat and the fact that Gaga sounds like she doesn’t know what to do with her voice, which is actually a common problem on this record. I honestly don’t know what to think about this record – Gaga has consciously rejected her A E S T H E T I C and that’s cool and all, but I don’t know if this new direction is the way to go.
by Brian Conway
Is it getting cold in here or is it just me? Burr. It must be the new Gucci Mane album, Woptober, the second LP from the Atlanta rapper since he was released from prison. While out of the big house, Gucci’s been pushing for a new, healthier lifestyle prompting some fans to believe that whoever got released is actually a clone (I’m on the fence).
But, Woptober is as vintage Gucci as it gets, as he glides through trap beats referencing his ice, his millions, and his superiority to other rappers. And when you think about it, you can’t blame him. Gucci has been one of the main influences for some of the hottest rappers in the game right now, including 21 Savage, Lil Yachty, and Migos. His relevance is at an all time high and while many might not realize it, the man is trap royalty.
The album features bangers with a distinctly dark tone. The standout here is definitely “Bling Blaww Burr,” produced by Metro Boomin. the track features heavy, primal synths that feel as if they’re rising throughout the track. The Zaytoven/TM88-produced “Aggressive” is also a favorite with its organ-influence and catchy hook. Gucci does most of these beats justice with good flows and charisma, but he never strays far from the sometimes formulaic topics that made him successful in the first place.
While the production is on point for a good half of the record, it loses a lot of its steam throughout the backend of its 13-track length. The songs start blending together, and with only two features on the whole record (unlike his previous album this year, Everybody Looking), the variety is severely lacking. At the end of the day, Woptober won’t blow you away, but it’ll keep you cool nonetheless. Burr.