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.
by Marty Gatto
Grouplove’s Big Mess is an interesting album to follow the hippy-inspired indie rock artist’s previous album, Spreading Rumors, released three years ago. Up to this point, Grouplove has been an eye-catching act because of how different they are from the status quo, and because of how they use that difference to make fun, nonchalant, and exciting music. Big Mess lives up to this reputation in some respects, but it does skimp on uniqueness of sound in many tracks, which is what makes or breaks Grouplove’s music.
The album starts off with one of its best tracks, “Welcome To Your Life.” It’s a casual, colorful song that includes a nice beat accompanied by good releases of guitar strums and a catchy, calm chorus. “Welcome To Your Life” is a good intro, since it encompasses many of the techniques the album goes on to utilize.
Many cliché sounding, rather bland songs or parts of songs are riddled throughout the album, and the second track, “Do You Love Someone,” is a perfect example of this, given that it is crisper but blander than the previous track. It sounds like the type of song you’d hear during a commercial for sunscreen.
Big Mess has its hidden treasures, however, such as the catchy rhythms in “Enlighten Me,” or the song “Good Morning,” which is reminiscent of the “Macarena” for its quickly flowing wordy chorus, or the raw attitude in “Traumatized.” Ultimately, though, Big Mess is not what I would call a perfect successor to the Grouplove legacy, because when a track isn’t cliché, it embraces a tone that is, in most cases, too cold for Grouplove’s style, which generally flourishes in what is fun and fizzles in what is dark.