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Concert Review: Hopscotch Music Festival

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By Mack White, James Crooks, and Michael Papich

Marnie Stern

Marnie Stern put on a thoroughly refreshing performance at Hopscotch. She brings a fun energy to each little movement that so much live music is lacking, from the quick little steps she takes as she builds into a riff to delivering more emotion in her singing when the microphone would routinely not work. There was also the bizarre stage banter, where she and her amazing bassist Nithin Kalvakota would exchange quick barbs and she would abruptly cut off the punchline with the squealing guitar of the next song, creating absurdist comedy episodes.

But by far the most incredible thing about Marnie Stern’s performance was seeing first-hand just how original her approach to song writing is. Each song has several sudden tonal shifts, and live, these turns were even sharper. That’s paired with her chipper vocals, quick guitar, relentless drums, and evocative but vague lyrics. Seeing such unreplicable music was a good sign that music will continue to evolve and grow into amazing new forms.

 

Kurt Vile and the Violators

 On albums, Kurt Vile does not necessarily sound like a charismatic live performer. Or, at least, it does not sound like a traditional rock show with pumping fists and banging heads. But boy did Kurt and his band bring it home on Thursday night. All of the backing Violators band played furiously, especially his drummer, Vince Nudo.

This relatively intense and musicianship-driven performance ended up pairing perfectly with the haziness of Kurt’s most recent music. The gloss of his reverbed vocals, combined with the gun-ho band, created a perfect wall of music and echoing lyrics. It was like a dream.

 

A-Trak

A-Trak is promoted as one of the few real DJs left and his set on Friday proved this quite well. From start to finish, A-Trak entranced the crowd with incredibly danceable beats, with the occasional flourish of a recognizable sample that reignited passions in the audience. The crowning achievement was a roughly-10 minute sample of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” with the song’s robotic chorus repeated over and over as A-Trak played and created increasingly complex and changing beats and melodies.

Beyond the obvious appeal of an energetic dance session, A-Trak truly made his set memorable with his clear prowess at physical DJing. His hands would fly and dip with nimble dexterity from record to console, creating a show both visually and musically. He also had a penchant for adding glitch characteristics to his set, making the beats unpredictable and fun to move to. Also, going against the stereotypes of DJs, A-Trak was very cordial toward the crowd, interacting with them on a regular basis and even giving the local audience a nice nod with the repeated sample of a wolf howl.

 

Mykki Blanco

No credit should be taken away from Mykki Blanco’s skill as a rapper, but her Friday show could not honestly be described as a “rap show.” It was full-blown performance art. Of course, there was her DJ, Larry B, who brought creepy, vaguely-trap flavored beats throughout the show and both she and her opener, Psycho Egyptian, rapped with unbelievable ferocity and skill. But Mykki also gave acapella performances of bombastic poems, ran through the audience and around the enormous Contemporary Art Museum the event was held in, at one point climbed up into the rafters and hung from her legs, and used the microphone stand to stymy her arms, turning her into a lumbering, crucified demon.

None of this was a distraction from any lack of rapping ability, however. Every true song Mykki did was hungry, heavy, and had the audience going wild, especially with her closer “Wavvy.” Even after her show was technically over, Mykki had Larry B keep the music going and had the audience dance on stage. Mykki went to high school locally at Enloe High School, and at Friday’s show, she came back to remind us that she could conquer us just as easily as she did New York’s underground.

 

Suuns

Suuns’ show suffered from being in one of Hopscotch’s smallest venues and starting over half an hour late, but when they played, it was captivating. The size of the environment may have helped as the dark waves of the band washed over the audience completely. Every heavy, fast note possessed everyone on and off stage, leaving few heads still. The band’s bassist, Joe Yarmush, couldn’t escape the rush of passion, at one point playing so vigorously he crashed down into the drum set.

The darkness of Suuns’ performance cannot be overstated. The droning guitars made it feel like the lights were slowly losing power and the walls were melting together. Listening to Suuns’ studio music, one can easily predict what singer Ben Shemie’s face looks like when articulating Suuns’ slurred vocals. His face was turned into a sarcastic grimace, each word slithering out. Through and through, Suuns did not mess around when it came to delivering a journey into the dark recesses of space.

 

Breeders 

Three months after the Pixies announced that Kim Deal is no longer associating herself with them, it’s comforting to see that she still has enough musical talent to keep her fans satisfied. Backed up by her sister and three friends, the Breeders took the stage at Hopscotch to play their 1993 masterpiece Last Splash in its entirety. The band did an excellent job of making the audience feel like part of the show, asking people in the crowd questions after each song and lecturing on how each song got its title.

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Among the many highlights, one shining moment was Kim Deal tearing off the bottom off a plastic cup and putting it on her microphone to create the same vocalization of Last Splash’s biggest hit, “Cannonball”. Kelley Deal also put on a powerful performance, slaying with her guitar and taking lead vocals on “I Just Wanna Get Along”. To everyone’s surprise, all the equipment that the band used on stage were the exact same ones that they used in studio in 1993 to make the album. It was like taking a step back in time, hearing the Breeders play the album in order and with just as much enthusiasm as back in the day.

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Right when they finished with the album’s closer, “Roi (Reprise)”, Kim said they wanted to play a few more songs. With the audience on their feet cheering, the band slammed into a medley of songs from their 1990 album, Pod. It felt like seeing a second show from the band, considering the change in musical direction they took with Last Splash. Kelley Deal taking lead vocals on the Beatles classic  “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” was a spectacle of the show, letting the crowd sing along to the background “Bang, bang! Shoot, shoot!”. Not many bands that have been around for over twenty years still put on a commanding performance, but the Breeders have without a doubt been privileged in that department.

 

John Cale

Collaborating with Brian Eno, singing with Nico, and being a founding member of one of the most influential bands of all-time, the Velvet Underground, is a resumé that only John Cale has. At 71 years old, I expected Cale to walk onstage and have a shot voice that faded with time. Fortunately I was wrong and Cale gave us the best performance of the whole festival.

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For a man who is as skilled at production as he is performing, I was surprised to see how under-produced the show was. Backed by a guitarist, bassist, and drummer, Cale took lead on the keyboard while occasionally busting out his guitar. Seeing Cale was a primal experience, because if you listened to his 2012 release, Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood, you may have been turned off by his autotune and Vocoder-influenced sound. He took a right turn for the songs from that album and performed them without effects, including the booming chorus of “I Wanna Talk 2 U”.

It didn’t really hit me until after the show, but recognizing all the bands over the years like the Pixies and R.E.M. who cite the Velvet Underground as a primary influence, it’s possible that Cale is among the highest tier of musicians who create a novel sound that over time means something bigger than they imagined. Hearing classics like “Fear Is a Man’s Best Friend” and “Ship of Fools” was without a doubt a primal experience. I waited after the show to see if I could meet Cale, but the only people I ran into was his band. They were a group of young, nice guys who said Cale is a great guy and has his mind set on continuing the tour and entertaining his fans. After almost fifty years in the industry, that’s all a fan could ask for.

 

Prypyat 

Made up of members of local bands Hammer No More the Fingers and Lost in the Trees, the boyfriend-girlfriend duo of Prypyat was a very pleasant surprise at Hopscotch. The two started off with what seemed like a recipe for seemed like sleepy indie-folk – a cello, a guitar, and a kick drum – but after the first few songs they both started churning out big numbers, with the cello’s sounds altered to sound electric and distorted.

A signature aspect of Prypyat’s performance was the overall dorkiness of their between-song banter, with the two talking about their history as a couple (they first met at Hopscotch 2010, interestingly) and the stories behind songs. The lyrics and vocals themselves had a yearning whine, whether it was talking about local N.C. streets or the dreaded Ghostwoods of Twin Peaks, WA. Hopefully Prypyat stays active in the local music scene to give more people exposure to their take on the North Carolina sound.

 

Horse Lords

Unfortunately, I was only able to catch the last 20 minutes or so of Horse Lords’ set, but these four musicians put on an incredible performance. Guitar and bass played off each other in incredible textured strumming while the two were accompanied by two drummers. This created an amazing beat, especially as one of the drummers primarily used nimbler percussion instruments.

Horse Lords’ finale was amazing, as the “nimbler” drummer moved to saxophone and the four traded off quick little solos, getting faster and faster as they went. It was all reminiscent of a Battles show, with every member of the band clearly having impressive chops and each enjoying jamming in tandem with one another.

 

Holly Hendron

 Holly Hendron’s performance codified modern art quite well. On the wall next to her, a projector played a constantly shifting program of 3D renders of Japanese products and stills of Japanese living spaces. In her music, she filled the room with samples of her own gentle singing which she chopped and screwed several different ways, adding abrasive bass and roaring sounds. As this chaotic and somewhat unpleasant sound grew, she dispersed the noise immediately, going into strange and pumped up beats that had the awed crowd moving in an instant.

All of Hendron’s set was then defined by this challenging dance music, combining the staccato, raindrop-like beats with whooshes, bizarre samples, and her own siren cooing. As the show went on, the video got more chaotic in response, with boxes of Japanese flour and Amazon.jp.co packages flying and stopping, the screen flicking in tangent with Hendron’s music. This odd brilliance made it an incredible original and fulfilling set and despite its complexity, no one was still when her music hit its high marks.

 

Low

Despite being in one of the largest venues at Hopscotch, Low managed to put on one of the most intimate shows of the entire weekend. The three, using just their guitar, bass, and standing drum set, created an autumny atmosphere, every line Alan Sparhawk delivered carrying a heavy amount of melancholy emotion.

While Low, with their big carpet set-up and their sparse instrumentation, could easily have passed for a light band, Sparhawk took plenty of opportunities to grind his guitar and get wrapped up in the passion of playing. But the skill and texture that was brought to the bass and drums also seasoned the room well, making Low’s slow music rich and nearly tear-jerking.

 

Solar Halos

Saturday evening at the Lincoln Theater opened with N.C.-native stoner metal group Solar Halos. This female-fronted three piece opened with their galloping track “The Vast White Plains,” and this was only the beginning to what would become a heavy set list. The following track, “Frost,” was bass driven and would establish their sound as a band.

Between the sludgy chords and droning vocals, Solar Halos capture the sound that any fan of stoner sludge is looking for. Slow, distorted, and heavy easily describe the sound of this new band, and it fits them well. After seeing and hearing this recently created band, I can easily say that they have gained a new fan and have a great chance at quickly moving up in the metal ranks within the next few years.

 

 Evoken

The penultimate band of the evening was N.J.-based funeral doom band Evoken. This set list was low and slow, with the bass guitar having a heavy, driving tone. An interesting addition to the Evoken performance was the presence of Japanese noise veteran Merzbow. Hooking up what looked like a wash pan covered with two metal coils, Merzbow added a distorted feedback to one of the songs of this set list. Between the shrill sounds of Merzbow and the pummeling bass, the sound produced by Evoken was easily one of the most interesting at Hopscotch Festival.

Each song appropriately captured the funeral doom sound, with slow processions and minor keys to add to the saddened sound. After the high feedback, low bass, and slow rhythm, Evoken put on an amazing performance that was one of the best metal performances of the festival.

 

Sleep 

The final band of the evening, and of the Lincoln Theater portion of Hopscotch, was stoner pioneers Sleep. This show marked an important date in metal music, as this show was Sleep’s first in N.C. in almost 20 years, and one of only a handful of shows they have performed since their split in 1998. Playing classics off of their landmark album, Holy Mountain, every track was met with huge cheers from the crowd.

After playing most of the aforementioned album, the true praise was heard when Sleep played their signature song, “Dragonaut.” Although each song was met with cheers, it was not until the opening riff of this track was slowly played that the entire venue exploded with cheers and fists in the air. Following “Dragonaut,” Sleep continued to play through their set list before reaching the final, epic ending that was Dopesmoker. This 63-minute song was another piece that cemented Sleep in the history books of stoner, sludge, doom, and metal as a whole. Playing an excerpt from this 1996 epic, Sleep stretched their performance time to nearly 2 hours, every minute of which was amazing.

 

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Album Review: Chelsea Wolfe – Pain is Beauty

 

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By Michael Papich 

In as much as witch house can be considered a genre of music, Chelsea Wolfe is the indie rock equivalent to that. Glitchy, dark visuals. A lumbering mood accompanying genuine beauty and pop appeal.

Ever since her debut album, “The Grime and the Glow,” Wolfe has taken a strange, gothic approach to folk-influenced rock music. Her breakthrough sophomore album, Apokalypsis, or as it is spelled in a much more badass way on the actual packaging,” Ἀποκάλυψις,” stepped deeper into this darkness and largely left the acoustic guitar behind. Then, in a total 180, Wolfe’s third album, Unknown Rooms, was a pure, lo-fi folk album. Sure, she maintained her haunting, siren-like way of singing, but the macabre allure of her earlier work was essentially non-existant.

Now, on her fourth album, Wolfe has brought the best of heaven and hell in the aptly titled Pain is Beauty. Wolfe’s dark songs have never sounded darker and her gorgeous accompanying melodies have never sounded brighter. The album’s opener, “Feral Love,” is easily Wolfe’s most gothic song; her voice drifts like a shadow on a catacomb wall and the guitars and drums form an ambient drone that sounds like it could have come from a 70s horror movie. Other songs like “Kings,” which has an almost demonic, Mordor-like quality to it.

Wolfe also steps up the beauty in her music, with “House of Metal” and “The Warden” sounding the closest to electro-pop Wolfe will likely ever come. Her experimentation with genres helps to create a crack in the heavy cloud of soot that hangs over so much of her music. Other songs manage to keep the beauty of Wolfe’s music while letting it struggle against the chaotic tones she works to cultivate, as evidenced on “Ancestors, the Ancients.”

Not all of Wolfe’s new tinkering with styles always pays off, however. “Destruction Makes the World Burn Brighter” is a pure beach-rock song. Although it’s well executed, she does not bring much new to the genre and it does not bring much to her repertoire either.

“Pain is Beauty” also manages to combine the atmosphere of Wolfe’s darkest works with the song-writing seen in her most folky and intimate tunes. “Lone” and “They’ll Clap When You’re Gone” both take the acoustic guitar and see how much evil can be extracted from the strings and casing. “Reins” and “The Waves Have Come” take long, drone compositions and see how much longing and artistry can be painted on the cavern walls.

Chelsea Wolfe remains a very complex songwriter on her fourth album and challenges the definitions of both dark and ethereal music. Songs written by Wolfe need to be heard to be understood and near-every track on “Pain is Beauty” is well worth the listen.

 

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Concert Review: Run the Jewels

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By Michael Papich

There were more security than I’ve ever seen at Cat’s Cradle and they were giving people pat downs, which never happens. Anyway, the show started kind of late, and while I was waiting, I got to survey the scenery. I first noticed that there were a lot of seapunks. But then I saw the giant posters on stage for the Run the Jewels tour, and they included the two opening acts: Kool AD and Despot.

For exposition, Run the Jewels is the name rappers Killer Mike and El-P are giving themselves as they work together on an album, this past July ‘s Run the Jewels. It was released for free, which is partially what made the audience so interesting. Both Killer Mike and El-P put out huge albums last year, charging for them as usual, but everyone here was obviously and overwhelmingly here to hear music from Run the Jewels. They were on a huge promotional tour for a free album and it was working.

Anyway, I knew Kool AD was going to be opening, which excited me because I like him and I’ve never seen Das Racist perform live, nor will I ever because they broke up. But I had no idea that Despot was going to be there, which was exciting. His rapping is surprisingly intense and his general persona is funny and odd. Plus, he’s working on new material so I’d get a sample of what’s coming next.

Two  DJs came out on stage after a while and one of them introduced us to him as Amaze 88 and he said he’d be filling in for Despot, who couldn’t be there. Kind of a bummer, but I didn’t know Despot was going to be there in the first place, so I can’t really complain. Amaze 88 rapped for about 20 minutes and warmed up the crowd pretty well. He had a kind of slow flow and wasn’t astounding lyrically, but he had an overall “positive vibe”, which wins me over when it comes to hip hop. He also did a kind of slam poetry acapella song that was cool and had lots of rhyming big, long words together.

Not too long after him, Kool AD came out and he immediately started interacting with the crowd, running around, high-fiving, doing his stage banter. Like I said before, I like Kool AD, but I haven’t heard much of his new solo songs. Despite my lack of familiarity, each track was completely enthralling. They had the typical kind of funny, weird lines I’ve always known him to have (“legalize weed, outlaw credit cards”) and all of the beats were done by the opener, Amaze 88, were impeccable. They reminded me of Madlib beats, almost. And throughout the set, and even during his final, 10 minute song, Kool was constantly engaging the crowd in real ways, responding to what we were doing and saying.

A while after he finished, Killer Mike coolly walked on stage. I was waiting for El-P to come out as well, thinking, “okay, now here’s all the Run the Jewels songs.” But no, he started belting out “Big Beast” from his album last year, R.A.P. Music! The crowd went wild, and as he thanked us for coming out, he went into “Untitled.” The realization then dawned on me: I was not just going to hear Run the Jewels. Both Killer Mike and El-P were going to do sets from both of their albums AND THEN do Run the Jewels.

After the first two tracks, Mike talked more with the audience, talking about how he loved us and wanted us to be nice to each other and encouraged us to sing along loudly with him. With that, he went into an acapella version of “Reagan,” which was incredible. Not only is it a hard-hitting song, both in tone and lyrics, but every line was punctuated with the audience chanting along. From there, he did “Don’t Die” and “R.A.P. Music.” He ended with “God in the Building,” giving a brief talk about the importance of the song and his belief that God is more present at a rap show than at any religious institution. And toward the song’s end, he went into the audience, walked a good way in, and did the song over acapella, stopping every now and then to explain the lines, and when it was over, he disappeared. He completely vanished. He left a complete chill over the audience, leaving us all with this sense of history and power and passion.

Enters El-P blasting “Drones Over BRKLYN.”

El-P’s set up had two “DJs,” but they were more or less playing live instruments. The beats for El-P’s “Cancer for Cure” are a lot more intense and band-like than most hip-hop albums, so they added a whole extra element to the performance. El-P was less about banter and more about pure energy, so from there it was one banger after another, starting with “The Full Reatard,” which had everyone jumping and flailing more than for any other song the entire show.

A while after El-P’s set was concluded (Mr. Killums, unfortunately, never showed up), both Mike and El’s DJs came on stage and started belting out the beat to Run the Jewels’ title track, going right into “Banana Clipper” after that. The two had great stage presence together, pointing and motioning to one another between verses, choreographing poses, all kind of great stage work like that. Before “36’’ Chain,” El-P gave a speech about how everyone in the audience should believe in themselves and be cool – a corny kind of message, but in the context of the show and the music, was real. So much of rap, especially modern, mainstream rap, is about projecting a character, and on the flip side, there’s a whole cultural misunderstanding about the listenership of rap music. But what El, and the song itself, says is as you do what you do, you embody hip hop values and people will be able to tell.

“36’’ Chain” flowed directly into “DDFH,” and from there the show followed the order of the album up until “Job Well Done.” After that, amazingly, they both went into “Butane Anthem” off of Mike’s “R.A.P. Music,” starting by turning the song’s hook into a real kind of old-timey, rallying cry. It was impossibly fun. Then came “Get It,” before which El-P had to literally wring the sweat out of his shirt. It was unbelievable and, as Killer Mike put it, disgusting.

They both slowed things down a ton for “A Christmas Fucking Miracle.” El-P took time the point out how Run the Jewels was a totally free, unfunded album that belonged to the people and presented “Miracle” as a tribute to those who died too early and included Trayvon Martin.

Compared to the rest of Run the Jewels, “Miracle” is a much drearier and grittier song and both Killer P and El-Mike gave it the last remnants of their spirit. They absolutely brought the house down. Watching these two perform as a true pair felt like something totally new was happening in music, something good. If these two continue to make music in such a close capacity, rap music is going to continue to be in a very good place.

 

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Ohio’s Own Twenty One Pilots Graduate From Hometown Heroes to the Major Leagues (Q&A)

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By Valerie Reich 

I got the chance to sit down with one half of the rock duo, whose current single, “Holding On To You,” is climbing the radio charts.

Twenty One Pilots is actually a twosome — lead singer Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun — but that doesn’t mean they carry any less of a punch. The band’s latest album Vessel, entered the Billboard 200 chart at No. 58, after which they appeared at a number of high-profile festivals including Bonnaroo, Firefly, and Lollapalooza.

It all started innocently enough: the two guys were living in Columbus, Ohio. Dun and Joseph were introduced through a mutual friend and clicked. “We stayed up all night talking about our ambitions and dreams, and what we wanted musically,” Dun says. “It was kind of this weird thing where were very like-minded of the whole vision for the band. From that first night, we really wanted to play music together.”

In the span of two years, the Ohio-based duo have accomplished some of those goals in playing for massive crowds, landing a record deal with Fueled By Ramen and building the sort of buzz most bands only dream of — all thanks to their explosive unorthodox sounds and honest emotion-filled lyrics.

I recently sat down with Dun talk about the Twenty One Pilots’ whirlwind rise, why their lyrics are so serious, and where they got their name, among other topics.

Valerie ReichWhen it comes to making music, how do divide duties — does one of you write lyrics and the other music? Or is it all a collaboration? 

Josh Dun: It’s interesting. Right now,  it’s changing a bit because, when we met, Tyler was doing all the writing by himself. By the time we went to record our album, we had a glorified mix tape of songs. Some of that was a little bit of collaboration, but a lot of it was just Tyler working in his basement. Now that we’re moving forward, we’re writing songs together. The process is harder to describe. It’s not totally nailed down.

VR: How did you get your name? 

Dun: Twenty One Pilots is a play by Arthur Miller who also wrote All My Sons. It’s about a guy who’s creating and developing parts for airplanes in war time when it comes to his attention that some of these parts were faulty. He was faced with a decision: do I send the parts out and risk people getting hurt and potentially dying or do I recall the parts and most likely hang my name and probably end this business? That was a huge decision and ultimately he decides to send the parts out and as a result twenty one pilots die. There ends up being no correlation between the deaths and the parts, but one of the pilots killed happens to be one of his sons and his daughter blames him for his death the rest of the play.At the end, he kills himself.

The way we apply that to our band is that all of us are constantly faced with decisions. It could be a moral decision or just a small decision, like, should we watch the opener play? Maybe a bigger decision like, should we sign this publishing deal? Or which label should we sign with? It’s been surprising how many times we’ve used that reference throughout the last couple years to help us base our decisions that we’ve made.

VR: Suicide seems to be a recurring theme on Vessel with songs like “Car Radio,” “Migraine,” and “Holding On To You” making reference to taking one’s life. Is there a reason for that?

Dun: The lyrics are all Tyler, but it’s a real thing that’s pretty common, especially with teens. A lot of times, parents will avoid talking about it, or they’ll say, “Let’s not think about that.” But why not grant people the permission to think about it and redirect those feelings and thoughts to something different and creative? That’s kind of the mindset behind a lot of the content and lyrics on Vessel.

VR: Your music is so explosive and has so many different elements. How would you describe your sound? Could you put it into a genre?

DUN: That’s a good question. I really don’t know. I’ve lately been saying in the words of the great Louie Armstrong, there are two kinds of music the good kind and the bad kind. And I believe we are the good kind.

VR: Do you have a favorite song?  

DUN: Yeah, but that’s a tough question too. I enjoy all the songs on the record but I think from a live show perspective there are two I really enjoy. The first one is a song called “Ode to Sleep” which we typically open with and I enjoy that one because it’s so, I guess you could say, “weird” it catches people off guard and I think that’s one of the most exciting parts of the set to me especially if we’re talking about festivals where people maybe don’t know who we are. Knowing there are people who have never heard of you or seen you before playing this song with it’s strangeness and tempo changes and different styles mixed in with one song and people are trying to process two guys on the stage like “What is he doing is he rapping or is he singing?” So it’s like seeing the people who you can tell have never seen it before and watching them process the whole thing is kind of a really cool feeling for me. But then at the same time, kind of on the opposite set of things, near the end of our set we play a song called “Trees” and usually by that time because it’s the end of the set I’ve pretty much hit my drums as hard as I possibly could for almost an hour or however long it is. So I’m usually physically exhausted. But for that song, ever since we played it live it’s kind of been a refresher in something that I feel like renewed physically and I don’t know what it is or how to explain it. It’s kind of like every other song during the set is for someone else and I guess sometimes I just play that song for me.

VR: The album cover for Vessel features two older gentlemen; Who are they? 

Dun: They’re actually both of our grandfathers on the cover. We were talking about it and we’ve never seen that done before. So we were, like, “Let’s get our grandfathers together and do a photo shoot. And we did. We talked it over with our parents, it’s both of our fathers’ dad’s. They asked is they should wear anything in particular, and we were, like, “Absolutely not! Let’s just pick them up from their place and whatever they’re wearing, that will be on the cover.”

VR: Your single, “Holding On To You,” is currently No. 46 on the Billboard Rock Songs chart. What was it like hearing it on the radio for the first time? 

Dun: I honestly don’t listen to the radio often at all, but I was home about four months ago and driving to get food with my sister. We stopped at a light, it turned green and our song came on the radio. I guess I thought it was a CD at first and then my sister was, like, “This is awesome, you’re on the radio!” I kind of just sat there and the light almost turned red and the person behind me was honking. It was like how you see it in some movies, where people hear their songs on the radio but you don’t really know what that feels like until it happens. It was a really cool moment.

VRYou guys have spent much of the summer on the festival circuit. What’s it like to play on a massive open field? Do you still get nervous?

Dun: Yeah. It doesn’t sound that cool to say it, but I still get nervous for any show. But it’s different degrees — playing a small basement of a club verses playing a festival like Firefly or Bonnaroo. The feeling is, “Crap I’m about to be blasted in the face” and once you get started, then it’s, like, “OK, I’ve done this before I know what I’m doing.” After that, I feel fine. The really cool about festivals is that you’re getting to play in front of a whole lot of people who have never heard of us before. That’s exciting. At the same time, it’s a little bit of a challenge to capture the attention of people who have already seen a lot of bands.

VR: Are you enjoying touring?  

Dun: Man I love it. I actually have been home the past week which is more, that’s actually the longest period of time I’ve been home since the beginning of the year. We’ve been pretty consistently on the road. Now, it’s kind of got to the point where I was like “alright, I’m ready to get going and get back on the road. Your home is the road and for me I’ve come to really enjoy that and there’s nobody else that I’d rather play music with than our crew of guys who we play with. They’re my best friends and hopefully that will last for as long as possible. I know there comes a time where you want to sort of I’m assuming be with family and kind of stick around one place at a time but for now and for the past two years it’s been a blast and I wouldn’t rather have a normal job just go to work and come home with a routine life. I love it right now.

VR: What’s next for you guys? 

Dun: To continue touring and writing. Hopefully in the fall, we’ll have a vehicle that will be more accommodating to having a little mobile studio where we can and write and record demo stuff, because we both really itching to do that. That’s one thing that’s hard about being on the road, it’ tricky to be creative when you’re not in a place you’re used to. So we’re working on that and just pushing forward with that.

 

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Matt Nathanson: “I’ve Felt Like a Misfit All my Life” (Q&A)

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By Valerie Reich

With his latest album, “Last of the Great Pretenders,” coming in at No. 16 on last week’s Billboard 200, the singer-songwriter talks about how success lands you a lane that you can’t always choose.

Matt Nathanson is not your typical singer-songwriter — or, as he likes to call it, “man with white penis guitar player.” For one thing, he first learned the six-string rocking along to the music of KISS at the age of five and six. A few years later, the New England native would catch a show by the J. Geils Band and decide that his future would revolve around stages and recording studios.

Today, Nathanson lives in San Francisco, where the sights and sounds of the city have played an integral role on his new album,Last of the Great Pretenders. I sat down with the singer moments after he saw the first physical CD copy of his new release, and exclaimed, “Dude, I got to make another one of these!”

Valerie Reich: So this is your tenth studio album…

Matt Nathanson: It is? That sounds like a lot. … Hold on, I’ll do the math. Let’s see, there’s PleaseBurns … all of those and the EP, then there was this one, but there was a live album, so counting the live albums and EP, yeah that’s 10.

VR: What drives you to keep creating?

Nathanson: Um … drugs? Just kidding, I don’t do drugs. For me, the only thing I’ve ever committed to was music. Going to record stores and buying records and hearing bands and seeing bands and people turning me on to new shit. … It’s like fuel itself.

VR: So many of the songs are about San Francisco. Did the city inspire the whole album? 

Nathanson: Yeah, because I’ve never really committed or felt like any place was my home. I was born in Boston, lived in New Hampshire and Maine, I went to school in Southern California, and then San Francisco was the first place where I was, like, “Oh, yeah, I get it. This is what people feel like when they drive home over the bridge and see their city.” I’ve never gotten that.

VR: How did you choose San Francisco?

Nathanson: I just felt like the thing. My girlfriend at the time — my now wife — was from there; my manager at the time was moving up there to work; and San Francisco has had this amazing singer-songwriter scene, with the Red House Painters and American Music Club. Chris Isaak was making some dark, spooky, weird records before he went not-as-spooky-weird. … So I felt like that would be a fun place to go. It felt like the place that misfits can go and do well. I ended up loving it.

VR: Did you feel like a misfit then?

Nathanson: I’ve felt like a misfit all my life. The world is full of people who love reality television, and I’m just not that person. I would rather sit in my room and listen to records. I was the person who worshiped at the altar of music. Like when a movie is No. 1 at the box office, I know it’s not the one I should see. Same with the records I like, it’s just a small circle of people who dig it.

VR: Are you writing for fellow misfits or is your music for everyone?

Nathanson: I don’t know who it’s for. That’s the hardest part of talking about [music]. I feel self-conscious about how it’s directly pulled from my life. … Like a song about this girl who worked at the coffee shop around the corner from where we made the record in the city, and she’s kind of foxy and punk rock and sleeved up and I was kind of nervous to write a song about her. Like, I don’t want to give away my secret world, you know what I mean? So I have no idea if anyone is going to relate to it, but it’s neat when they do. I feel like I’m giving part of myself away, where with my other records, I would chop the specifics out and make it broad because I felt like broad was a way to not be assassinated by people — like no judgments can happen when you’re being sort of obtuse.

VR: Would you say then that this album is the most you?

Nathanson: Yeah. Lyrically, this is the most specific to who I am.

VR: What do you think brought this on then at this point in your life?

Nathanson: Truthfully, because I got to this place where I didn’t like where I was in my career. I didn’t like that I was associated with other artists I don’t listen to. I built my way into this room and it wasn’t necessarily a room I wanted to be in, I was. like, “How the f— did I get here?” People would say, “Your music reminds me of” this, and I was, like, I must be doing something wrong because I listen to none of those people. My influences weren’t coming out through this music. … That’s kind of how I felt — not that the records were wrong, I was just wasn’t making it specific to me.

VR: What does the title mean? 

NathansonThe Last of the Great Pretenders is that idea that I’m ready to let go of that person who is sort of self-conscious about himself and his creative process and get deep into just getting on with being creative and open. It’s sort of hippie — but that’s it.

VR: Maybe living in the Bay Area has made you more of a hippie?

Nathanson: Yeah. I’m the hippie guy that owns every Tesla album. [Laughs]

Note to Mariah Carey: Say No to Lip Singing

By Valerie Reich

mariah_carey_bet_awards_2013_p It is straight up wrong for a former American Idol judge to lip-sync. We’re looking at you,Mariah Carey.

At the risk of infuriating the many “lambs” out there, it needs to be    said because Carey, who is widely regarded as one of the world’s top vocal performers, was recently accused of doing just that at Sunday’s BET Awards.

Singer her latest single “Beautiful” with the help of rapper Young Jeezy and R&B star Miguel (the latter also seemed to be aided by a track), the veteran diva had an unfortunate moment when her microphone, voice and mouth looked and sounded completely out of sync. Furthermore, the performance sounded strangely similar to the studio version of the song.

Yes, we live in an age where technology makes it easy — even tempting — to sweeten a television appearance, but when that performer’s last job was critiquing the raw talent of hopeful future stars, to not display her own is, well, inexcusable.

Of course, Mariah Carey is not alone. Many artists, including Jennifer HudsonWhitney HoustonMadonna, and Beyonce, have been caught lip-syncing in the past. And even in concert, audiences have become accustomed to pop stars singing along to tracks, opting instead to concentrate on choreography and elaborate props.

There is a major difference between Mrs. Carter and Ms. Carey, however. When Bey was confronted about her performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” during this year’s inauguration ceremony in Washington, D.C., she admitted to lip-syncing. “Due to no proper sound check, I did not feel comfortable taking a risk,” she said in a statement days later. “It was about the President and the inauguration, and I wanted to make him and my country proud, so I decided to sing along with my pre-recorded track, which is very common in the music industry. And I’m very proud of my performance.”

To prove her point, she belted out the same anthem a capella at a pre-Super Bowl press conference and sounded stellar. “Any questions?” Beyonce then asked cheekily.

It all comes down to the circumstance. Sometimes singing to track is simply a must, but an awards show that celebrates natural vocal skills is not one of those situations. So next time, Mariah, just say no to the temptation. We don’t need you to sound perfect, but we do want you to be real.

FireFly Music Festival Review

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By Valerie Reich

June 20th– June 22nd in Dover, Delaware was home to an up and coming major music festival. When you combine heat, rain, music and approximately 70,000 people you get FireFly Music Festival. The three day festival featured four stages, a coffee shop with a stage, two campgrounds, countless food stands, two hammock areas, one brewery, one outdoor wine lounge, VIP section and of course a never ending lineup of musicians including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Vampire Weekend, Foster the People, Calvin Harris, MGMT, Dispatch, Kendrick Lamar, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Big Gigantic, and Matt & Kim.

Headlining the first night, the Red Hot Chili Peppers set the bar high for the rest of the festival’s headliners. Opening with an instrumental piece from bassist Flea, drummer Chad Smith, and guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, the crowd quickly went from cheering to hard core rocking out as the intro erupted into “Around the World”. Front man Anthony Kiedis wearing pants with one and half legs, a high sock, a 70 styled thick mustache and slicked back hair, didn’t disappoint with his scat styled rapping and his singing.

The crowd’s energy continued to sore and lighters were raised in the air (vintage concert style) as the RHCP went through the set list combining their classic hits with newer ones. “Dani California”, “Otherside”, “Factory of Faith”, “Snow”, and a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” were some of the songs that made up the night and were separated by impromptu instrumental “jam sessions” between Flea, Smith, and Klinghoffer. This was a high light if you are a die hard fan of RHCP. Flea, Smith, and Klinghoffer play off each other so well almost predicting what each one was going to do next. The love between the band could be felt from miles away as Kiedis exclaimed, “Chad motherf*ckin Smith y’all,” during one of the jam sessions. Never have so many people down right danced during a rock concert, as audience members left and right were jumping, dancing with each other, and rough housing during the hour and half long set.

“The audience was a mix of several generations,” said Gabrielle Fortunato of Philadelphia, PA. “They did an excellent job appealing to everyone they played for. It was one of my favorite performances hands down.”

As the band walked off the stage after a final performance of “By the Way,” the crowd sat chanting in unison for an encore. But the boys didn’t immediately comply and allowed the tension to build in the audience before running back onto stage and kicking off the encore with more impromptu jam session that lead into “Sir Psycho Sexy” and eventually ended to “Give It Away”.

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, the second night headliners, opened up to what seemed as never ending crowd. During this performance it really showed how much FireFly Music Festival has grown in only it’s second year. The massive group started at the metal barricades in front of the main stage and reached as far back as the brewery on the other side of the festival. To anyone who would assume that the youthful festival attendees of FireFly would not enjoy the classic rock stylings of Petty, they could have not been more wrong.

“Tom Petty is one of the best performers I have ever seen and I’ve seen Bruce Springsteen,” said festivalgoer Matt Hughes, 19, from Cold Springs, NY.  “I can’t wait to see him again.”

As Petty and the Heartbreakers opened the show with a cover of The Byrd’s “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”, the crowd went wild. They continued to lead the crowd through some of their most famous hits “Learn to Fly” “Free Falling” and “Melinda”, the crowd literally roared in response. In the finale of “Running Down a Dream” Petty’s voice was almost cancelled out by the sound of the crowd singing along. After a short-lived exit from stage, the band played their encore with “You Wreck Me” and “American Girl”.

Jessica Gore, a festivalgoer from Kloof, South Africa, talked about her introduction to Petty and the Heartbreakers. “I don’t know a lot about music and I suck at recognizing artists. I just listen to music, enjoy it, and that’s it. Going to Tom Petty I figured these old men would be fairly sweet and decently enjoyable. An hour later and I don’t think I’ve ever been so impressed and left with such an afterglow of happiness from any artist. They owned their little piece of the universe effortlessly and even included humor and charm. I’m so glad I got to be apart of it.”

Matt & Kim ‘brought the house down’ playing one of the most energetic and high power shows of the festival over all.  “Matt and Kim were my favorite band because of how they worked the crowd,” Corey Shegda of Doylestown, PA explained. “They made their show funny and enjoyable and even though it poured rain during their show they worked with it. Kim even walked on the audience’s hands and twerked. It was defiantly a performance I will never forget and makes me want to see them again.”

The duo kicked off their set with “Block after Block”. As a joke and teaser for the audience who was viewing the show in the rain, Matt & Kim started to play “Daylight” before quickly shutting it short and switching to “Cameras”. In between songs Matt Johnson, pianist and singer, and Kim Schifino, drummer, would shout at the crowd encouraging them to “get weird” while the two as they played.  Getting creative, the duo also incorporated some rap hits as mini-intros to their songs including “Bugatti” by Ace Hood where Kim would jump up onto her drum set and dance. Before starting “Ten Dollars I Found” Kim addressed the audience discussing hear difficulty with the heat and took off her bra, much to the joy and cheers of the audience, and encouraged all female audience members to do the same. She then expressed her desire to help everyone in the audience get laid, jumped back on the drums and started to rock out.  A final highlight of the set included Matt calling out to the crowd to raise their hands up and lock their arms tight so Kim could walk out on their hands. The drummer readily responded by racing out from behind the drums and standing on top of the audience. She continued to walk out on the audience until she decided it was time to dance and got down right there on top of the festivalgoers hands.

Yet, in a festival not every show can be a hit. Saturday’s MGMT performance is a clear example of that. As the band opened with “Youth” the graphics on screen were what really took the show. As the band was difficult to see from the audience’s perspective, the highly creative and mystical animations that accompanied the songs ended up overshadowed the music. Images resembling contact lenses and snakes danced across the screen and waves of colours and distorted unrecognizable images gave the feeling of a bad acid trip. Besides the distracting visual display, the music was somewhat unimpressive and the crowd was less than impressed with the performance. “MGMT was disappointing because they played a more mellow show and did not play their most popular song ‘Kids’,” said attendee Alexandra Miller from Pennsylvania. “It was cool to see them live but I wish they played a better set list.” The band only played music from three songs from their 2010 album Congratulations and did not the crowd continued to enjoy swaying, literally swaying back and forth, to the music. This left die-hard fans wishing for more of their older music and left new fans scratching their heads trying to understand the lyrics.

Another slightly disappointing act was singer Ellie Goulding whose slow paced set list was not a match for an early afternoon set where the crowd needed to be pumped up to make it through the rest of the day’s shows. Golding also left her most popular hits for the end, which by that time many people had already. Unfortunately, adding to the disengagement of the audience was how quiet her voice was. Many people through out the audience, especially those closer to the back of the crowd, could not hear her.

Some great discoveries were made at FireFly and fans should look out for some of these smaller bands at upcoming festivals. These include Twenty One Pilots, a duo featuring Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun from Ohio, showcase an interesting combination of rap, electronic, and rock music. Their performance was high energy and the entire crowd danced along to their set. The Neighborhood based in California, were one of the first bands to preform at the festival and drew a large crowd. Though their single “Sweater Weather” is more of a pop-styled love song, audience responded well to the rest of their discography of more ‘f*ck off’ rock tunes. Delta Rae, who only had a half hour set, preformed their eerie folk rock to the sprinklings of rain, fueling lead singer Brittnay Holljes brassy and unyieldingly powerful voice.

Other notable performances included Zedd, Krewella, Capital Cities, Toro Y Moi,  Django Django, Big Gigantic, Dispatch, and Dr. Dog.

Johnny Cash Immortalized as U.S. Stamp

By Valerie Reich 

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Legendary country rocker Johnny Cash will be honored by the U.S. Postal Service with his own stamp. The limited-edition “Forever” postage, part of the Postal Service’s Music Icon series, will go on sale starting June 5 and feature several images of Cash, including this promotional shot for the 1963 release ofRing of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash.

VIDEO: Folsom Prison Blues Live 

Son John Carter Cash praised the series, saying the stamps “truly embody my father’s spirit.”

To celebrate the occassion, several musicians including John Carter Cash, Randy TravisMarty StuartLarry Gatlin and The Oak Ridge Boys will perform a free concert at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on Wednesday. Last week, the Johnny Cash Museum opened in downtown Nashville and work is also underway to save the singer’s childhood home in Dyess, Ark.

Cash died on Sept. 12, 2003 at the age of 71.

Album Review: Kanye West – Yeezus

By Mack White

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There’s a man who we’ve learned about that went through great lengths despite constant criticism, hatred, and pain. He was able to destroy the agony by taking comfort in knowing that he was getting his messages across. This man holds a prominence in the world today unlike any of his time.

There are two possible people that fit this description. One is Jesus Christ, the savior who sacrificed himself so that we can continue through his holy image. The other is Kanye West, a man who has gone through tragedy, relationships, and loss, with the sole purpose of pouring his heart into the verses he writes and engaging the listener with every word.

How does a person follow up an album that is of the acclaim and influence of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy? An album where West took a completely new direction with his sound and carved his ideas into the minds of those who were privileged enough to catch it? How do you follow that?

By doing it again. With production so minimalistic, yet booming with the same volume as the words being spoken, Yeezus is our look into Kanye’s religious scripture.

“On Sight” begins the genesis through channels of distortion and noise. Suddenly, Kanye’s voice rises through the static and gives the listener a fair warning. He expounds that they are about to realize that everything they’ve previously listened to will fail in comparison to what they are currently hearing. It successfully sets the stage for the rest of the album considering he is reintroducing himself and updating us on what has happened since My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The intro is excellent since every album I’ve heard this year sounds like static compared to the story that Yeezus himself is about to tell.

The rawness of the album is exhibited through the following track, “Black Skinhead”. With a sound that echoes like it could’ve been recorded in a basement, the track serves as the “Gorgeous” or “Roses” of this album that lets Kanye vent on how the media portrays him. He even cites the tune as his theme song which seems appropriate since he said himself “Every superhero needs his theme music.” West performed the song on the finale of Saturday Night Live (a superior performance to the studio version in my opinion), and the presence and power he exudes onstage only strengthened his argument. If a person like Kanye puts that much emphasis into a song like this, it gets harder to disagree with him.

If you were two tracks into the album and still not certain about how Kanye views himself, the track “I Am a God” answers the question for you. With a haunting reggae-inspired introduction to the song, West repeats the title numerous times, spilling over how he is of a status close to God and should be treated as such. One thing I love about West is how he has a couple cheesy, but golden lyrics that demonstrate his points perfectly. I never question his motives for putting them in the songs, they just work. The line “I just talked to Jesus, he said “What up, Yeezus?”” is a line that doesn’t seem coherent, but has such a weight to it that it’s essential to the song’s purpose. With frequent Kanye-collaborator Justin Vernon of Bon Iver closing out the track, “I Am a God” is another staple in the never-ending Bible according to Kanye, giving us listeners another reason to keep reading.

Speaking as the voice of his entire race, “New Slaves” is among the album’s strongest tracks. Painting a picture of his mother’s youth when racism and segregation were vividly prominent in the United States, West shows why he thinks things haven’t changed. Countering common beliefs about racism with personal examples, such as salesmen offering him exclusive and expensive items just because of his reputation and that people of his race are frequently interested in those products. There is a heavy transition in the song where a heavenly sample is added and Kanye becomes autotuned. West and Frank Ocean repeat the line “Too high” at the end the song, which seems to be an answer to the question asked on his last album in the song Dark Fantasy, “Can we get much higher?” We learn that West recognizes his strengths, but more importantly, his limitations.

A history of drunken decisions are recalled in “Hold My Liquor”, where Kanye states he isn’t responsible for the actions of him and his crew when they’re under the influence of alcohol. The song tells an engaging story of Kanye’s broken engagement, suggesting that numerous meetings occurred with his ex-fiancé after their relationship ended. West also speaks about one-night stands as a whole. He discusses how most of the time men are portrayed as monsters in this scenario, but no one seems to touch on how the women want exactly what the men desire. People bash Kanye about his relationships, opinions, and music, but there is no doubt he is able to make a convincing point through the power leaking from his verses. He offers this song as communion to his disciples and listeners, but remember to avoid getting drunk off the wine.

“I’m in It” provides some insight to Kanye’s current relationship with Kim Kardashian. Even though he claims he’s in the happiest time of his life, his relationship is full of second-guesses and regrets. He recognizes that he is a bad man, but it’s too late to turn back now. Full of Kanye-isms like “I’m a Rap-lic priest” and “I be speaking Swaghili”, West is not afraid of discussing the trials in his love life and speaks with a tenacity only matched by his previous records.

If Kanye were to release a single song that encompasses everything he tries to prove on Yeezus, “Blood on the Leaves” would be the track. Racism, love, and respect are professed over a lingering Billie Holiday sample. The heavy use of Vocoder in the song isn’t so much a retreat to his 808 days, but more of a necessary revisiting. West seems to be the most revealing when the use of Vocoder is present, crying out his troubles with the people he cares about. The title is fitting; you can feel the blood dripping through every line. This song will be looked at as one of Kanye’s greatest triumphs since it’s his only song where the flow isn’t in the voice, but in the blood.

One would think that Yeezus was the work of many artists considering the back and forth tribulations in the tracks, but it seems only Kanye West can change his mind this frequently. “Guilt Trip” overtakes us in the mistakes West is embarrassed to confess, seeing that even though he is of a self-proclaimed godly status, he is still human. Through a powerful hook by Kid Cudi, you remember that feeling of being crushed by a relationship that you installed so much effort into. Whether Kanye is pining to talk to an ex-girlfriend or even his mother, the answer remains unknown. Kanye has been crushed by love multiple times as evident in his albums, yet he is hungry to admit he is wrong and start anew. Though when you’re at a level like Kanye that makes you as likely to be passionate as dangerous, it’s often too late.

Nobody loves Kanye West more than Kanye West, but as explained in “Send It Up”, West isn’t a sucker for suck-ups. He’s done with being tricked into relationships and is not afraid to break it off. It’s ironic that the song has some childish lines considering this seems to be a maturation of the West we heard only three minutes ago on the album. You would think he would be the most established when he realizes his guilt, but he ascertains himself by committing the same hurtful actions that others have done to him, thus proving that Yeezus is the anti-Bible by breaking the golden rule. King Louie’s verse at the beginning is delightfully spiteful and Beenie Man closes with a melancholy stanza of how memories build who you are, perfectly sandwiching Kanye in a song where he learns from his mistakes by making them again.

The Bible has an ending, and Yeezus has an ending. “Bound 2” acts as the album’s Revelations, taking the listener back to real time and the prophet Yeezus has fulfilled his destiny. The second coming has probably already happened since a man as miserable as the Kanye West we learned about on this album is finally at his happiest. The ‘70s sample is perfect for the closing track and as a whole, “Bound 2” is a masterpiece. What I love most about it is that he ended the track with the “Honey” sample. It’s a huge artistic statement in itself since it’s the last thing the listener would hear. He didn’t have to do it, but he did it anyway. There’s even some hidden insight in the song. “One good girl is worth a thousand bitches” sounds ridiculous, but displays some incredible awareness in the state that West is in. It’s amazing to hear a track that sounds like it could be off his first album with lyrics that only a man who has experienced everything could compose.

Of course, there are a few things that could’ve been done differently. The track list seems a bit out of order. “Black Skinhead” should’ve been a bit later since it displays the creed that Kanye was abiding by at the time. The reggae influences didn’t always fit, but the moments when it did envelop a hidden sinister feeling to the songs redeem the negatives. Not all of the guest spots were necessary, a few of the Justin Vernon lines could’ve been taken out and the points would have remained as effective. Some may complain about the length of the album, but ‘Ye of little faith excels in this new environment, cutting straight to the morals and memories from his brain to our minds.

It’s difficult to compare Yeezus to Kanye’s other releases since the man has challenged rap as a genre through nearly every release. Whether you look at The College Dropout, which combined his wise cracks with soul and blues, or 808s & Heartbreaks that allowed West to mesh his passion through Vocoder and drum machines. Since a ranking doesn’t seem fair when looking at Kanye’s discography as a whole, I find it easier through an analogy through masterpieces. This album is his Kid A to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’s OK Computer. Both albums were outliers in the current musical field, created by artists who were in a privileged enough position to make a daring record and still be considered among the greatest in the world.

Everyone should have a moral code to live by, but Kanye West has his own holy trilogy. Through the pain, breakdowns, and blood experienced in Yeezus, it feels as if the prophet is one with himself. Kanye, Yeezus, the Louis-Vuitton Don, whatever you want to call him, is the Holy Father. As evident in “Bound 2”, the Holy Father finally has a son, someone to spread the messages that he has learned through hardship and experience. And the Holy Ghost, the person who Kanye West was, is not dead, but has risen and makes the judgment that assisted the Father into ascending into the heaven where he is currently resting. Yeezus is by all means a complete work. Never before has a Gospel of its sort brought such bad news while being so insightful The creator of it made sure we extensively heard his messages and it’s amazing that he still speaks with so much emphasis. Sonically, it’s unlike anything he’s ever done before and even puts him leagues ahead of anyone currently in the game. It didn’t live up to the hype, it exceeded it. And once you realize the album is over, all you can do is go back and listen again. The album is inspiring and will definitely be looked at in the future as one of the most brilliant successes in not only hip-hop, but art as a whole. Kanye West will never finish preaching. Yeezus wept.

Album Review: The National – Trouble Will Find Me

By Sarah Pak 

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Matt Berninger is the vocalist, songwriter, and centerpiece of The Nationals, and his trademark style of singing is almost muttered. Listening to Trouble Will Find Me is like slow dancing with a stranger in empty city streets. You’re on this intimate and smooth work of poetry, where you have to be shown and not told the story. The feeling comes from where the tempo and the instrumentation takes you, rather than the logic of the lyrics. Melodies are told through keyboard, guitar, bass and soft drumming.

The Nationals is a standout band in a way that seems effortless. Instead of flashing bright colors or pulling wild stunts, they speak from a timeless, aching darkness. They have an echoing, distant sound, which is rich but also understated. Definite strengths lie in having a specific sound, as well as distinguishable songs. The album is evenly paced, maintaining a healthy energy level that pulses throughout.

A personal favorite of mine on this album is “Don’t Swallow the Cap.” The effect this album has is calming. Each time I listen to this album, I like something different about it. It coolly resonates sadness without rubbing off on you.