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.
by Sofia Fernandez
by Tommy Gerity
What do you associate with the sounds of a pedal steel guitar? For many of us, we’d think of the twang of country music or the soundtrack to any SpongeBob SquarePants episode. In other words, our associations with this instrument are typically things we regard as either silly, trivial, or just depthless. (One of the first articles I ever read in the paper was a review in which the writer explained that s/he had listened to a Tim McGraw album for the sole purpose of crucifying it.) On Goodbye to Language, Daniel Lanois attempts to dispel these uninformed assumptions about his most favored instrument. Working with collaborator Rocco DeLuca, and using just pedal steels plugged through synths, Lanois even challenges the reigns of the freeform genre “ambient music” which he appears to be operating in. Whereas most ambient work is soothingly ignorable, tracks such as “Deconstruction” and “Later That Night” confront listeners with their ambiguous mood, snaking between tinges of hope and pangs of deep blue. “Time On” pulsates and even breathes an exhausted sigh towards its completion, and we are left to wonder whether it is one of relief or sorrow. Perhaps a departure from language is simply due to the fact that whatever Lanois is attempting to convey can only be felt through an instrument, but could never be properly deciphered in words. Each work here carries a burden, yet lilts like a spirit. Lanois is most famous for his work as a producer on classics such as U2’s The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby, as well as Bob Dylan’s Time Out of Mind; rock pieces that won awards and amassed major fanfare. Those days are long gone, but Lanois’ continues to prove his worth as an extractor and manipulator of sound
by Jenny Harris
The Mowgli’s are best known for producing indie pop music that usually includes both a tambourine and a clap-backing track. Basically this band makes very, very, very happy music, and their third album, Where’d Your Weekend Go, did not stray from this overly optimistic path. Fittingly, the majority of the album is super upbeat and danceable, but there are also two slower songs thrown into the mix. These slower songs, “Arms & Legs” and “Open Energy,” showcase some of The Mowgli’s better songwriting with more nuanced and original lyrics, but also break up the general flow of the album in an awkward way. The rest of the songs revert to the Mowgli’s usual repetitive song structure. These songs are so repetitive and catchy that you know approximately 70% of the lyrics after the first listen. Despite, or perhaps in spite of, a lack of songwriting prowess, these songs are all just plain fun to listen to or to sing at the top of your lungs. The best tracks off the album are “So What,” “Bad Thing,” “Spiderweb,” “Freakin’ Me Out,” and “Monster.” “Spacin Out” is a highlight track that has a jazzy sound and includes a brass section, which is relatively new territory for the band. This album is the Mowgli’s next step in trying to make the world, or at least the world that is made up of indie music listeners, a happier place. Listening to it will certainty put you in a better mood, so in that way, this album is a success.
by Luis Gómez
It’s said that history doesn’t repeat, but it rhymes. In unrelated news, Green Day has a new record out. It’s okay. Now I know you want me to go into more depth, but really that’s basically all I can tell you about it. It’s an okay Green Day album. The band’s had an... let’s say interesting time since American Idiot came out. They followed it up with 21st Century Breakdown, an album that wasn’t great but that 14-year old me loved. And then they had the world’s least interesting triple album with ¡Uno! ¡Dos! ¡Tré! which nobody liked, because they were dumb. And now we come to Revolution Radio, which in many ways is a return to form. It doesn’t disappoint, but it also doesn’t have any of the emotional highs of tracks like “21 Guns,” and that’s fine. It doesn’t sink to the boringness of some of the tracks off ¡Uno!, but it also doesn’t have the single power that drove American Idiot or their earlier stuff to fame. Thematically it’s very similar to their earlier work. There’s an undercurrent of “I’m mad as hell, fuck the system, punk forever” that’s been in Green Day’s music since the band came into existence. The tracks even sound similar; the album’s lead single “Bang Bang” has this radio announcer start thing that the band did on “East Jesus Nowhere” back in 2009, and there are a few chord progressions that sound like Billie Joe rewriting parts of American Idiot. Mike Dirnt is still there ooo-ing harmonies in the background. Basically, if you were waiting for Green Day to continue existing, they are, in fact, still around.
by Kaitlyn Clarke
Mykki is the long anticipated debut studio album of genderqueer experimental hip-hop artist Mykki Blanco; it is a fresh, exciting, subversive album that redefines what femininity means in a predominately male genre, and it gives representation to the LGBTQIA+ community. Produced by director and singer-songwriter Woodkid, along with Jeremiah Meece, the album features 13 tracks of genre-bending and deeply personal music. Before beginning a career in music, Mykki wrote and published poetry, some of which appears on the album. “Interlude 2” features a stark and industrial soundscape layered with a reading of a poem about the desire for love and intimacy that ties in the themes of self-love and acceptance.
The album as a whole maintains a euphonious continuity while allowing each song to develop a distinctive sound. Considered her most accessible work to date, Mykki includes lush melodic pop melodies, like in “Highschool Never Ends” (Feat. Woodkid) and “Loner” (Feat. Jean Deaux), as well as forceful and driving beats influenced by classic hip-hop, revealing some of the Southern rap influences that stem from her upbringing in North Carolina. The track “Fendi Band” perfectly demonstrates this abrasive nature and showcases the punk sensibilities that distinguish Mykki’s sound from her contemporaries. The final song off Mykki, and one of my personal favorites, is “Rock N Roll Dough,” a severe yet engaging anthem about Mykki’s experiences being in the underground art scene in New York.
Long time listeners and new fans alike will be enthralled with the exuberant confidence and poignant vulnerability that Mykki presents to the world in what is hopefully the first of many groundbreaking studio albums.