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Tame Impala is back with their first album of 2015, Currents, after giving us sneak peaks at tracks all through out the year until now. Maybe it’s the 80’s techonology-esque cover art that’s doing it for me, but this time around Tame Impala bring a new energy and determination to their music. There are not a lot grainy vocals, and everything is more crisp and clear, but while still maintaining the classic Tame Impala ambiance.
If you’re looking for something similar to “Elephant” or “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” you might want to look somewhere else. The only thing similar is Tame Impala’s wispy sound, but other than that this album, for the majority, lacks a lot of the guitar riffs and has replaced them with a lot more electronic and sweet bass (my favorite) emphasis. That being said, you can still find this in some tracks, like “The Less I Know The Better” which opens up with a nice riff.
Another similarity is the ongoing theme of heartache and loneliness. In one of the pre-released tracks “Eventually,” this breakup sadness can be seen with, “But I know that I’ll be happier/ And I know you will, too/ Eventually.” It’s sort of giving me some Father John Misty I Love You, Honeybear vibes with the self-reflection you experience post-breakup.
The album is dotted with a lot of short transition tracks that are condensed and saturated with quality, almost effervescent tracks if I could describe them in that way. The 55-second track “Gossip” definitely falls under that category. It has no vocals but creates a dreamy scenescape in your mind when listening to it.
The earlier released “’Cause I’m A Man” is probably a personal favorite since I’ve been listening to it nonstop since it was released. It’s groovy, it has a killer bass going on and an addicting guitar riff in the chorus. The song right after, “Reality In Motion,” is another great listen, it give a nod to their more psychedelic rock style.
By and large, this album is another great success by Tame Impala, as they drift further and further away from their bedroom recordings and more towards a professional sound.
Key Tracks: “‘Cause I’m A Man,” “Eventually,” “Reality In Motion”]]>
It is with sporadic, spontaneous, and erratic strumming that Wilco’s surprise (and free) new album, Star Wars, opens up. Sounding reminiscent of Jeff Tweedy’s fake Parks and Recreation band, Land Ho!, Wilco takes on the ninth studio album complete with 11 tracks – which were all played at Chicago’s own Pitchfork festival July 17.
While this is Wilco’s first album in four years, it’s been merely months since Jeff Tweedy and son Spencer released the album Sukirae under the band name Tweedy.
Star Wars is random and rambunctious, while still channeling a country drawl in tracks like “The Joke Explained.” The relentless instrumentals pinned against Tweedy’s trademark soft but not sweet vocals mimic all of the amazingly harsh parts remembered from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. “Poor places” and “I am trying to break your heart” are given tributes in the similarly intimidating “You Satellite,” but then “Taste the Ceiling” follows and immediately offers a gentle contrasting melody with somber lyrics.
It is an album peppered with contradictions and surprises, which is exactly what the album was in the first place. It is the other half of the album 13 years its predecessor; while Foxtrot was more mellow with bursts of flammable energy, Star Wars offers only a few relaxing tracks. But briefly bridging the gap is “Where Do I Begin” – and while it is only for an outro, the ending guitar ramblings splice together the two Wilco halves for a few blissful moments.
Parts of the album can only be described as calculated, careful cacophony – and it’s executed in ways that only Wilco can manage. Rather than being pigeonholed, they straddle and experiment with too many genres and styles to count, with expertly crafted results.
While the album is wild, unpredictable, and at times too harsh for the Wilco fan who fancies “Please Be Patient With Me” or “Kamera,” Star Wars is still the same Wilco sound that has been practiced through the years. If anything, the focus is just slightly readjusted.
RIYL: Justin Townes Earle
Key Tracks: “Taste the Ceiling,” “Cold Slope,” “King of You”]]>
All Photos by Zachary Schroeder
This past weekend (Friday, July 10 through Sunday, July 12) Addams/Medill Park, just north of the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago, hosted the first ever Ruido Fest. Festival promoters marketed the event as one designed to showcase Latin music spanning genres and generations, with an emphasis on Latin alternative rock and punk. The festival has already been acknowledged as a first of its kind, following the structural example set by other outdoor music festivals, like Lollapalooza, Pitchfork, and Riot Fest, while giving voice to performers who receive enthusiastic receptions in Chicago but are typically snubbed by larger, more established events. Though the dust has yet to fully settle, Ruido Fest has been lauded by multiple publications for filling a glaring void in the music festival circuit, and for filling it so successfully and satisfyingly.
Before reviewing some of the most impressive acts, I think it is important to acknowledge two key points related to how I (and surely other attendees) experienced the inaugural festival. First, though Ruido Fest was produced by experienced professionals in the music industry, and got by with help from Riot Fest promoters, the overall smoothness and precision of every aspect of the festival was truly impressive considering the fact that this was its first year. There were three stages—Demon Stage, Santo Stage, and Mil Mascaras Stage—planted in a triangle from opposing points in the park. Despite a lack of natural barriers between each stage, sound bleeding was not much of a problem; music from multiple stages could be heard in the middle of the park, but standing in front of any particular stage meant becoming sucked into that one performance. Bathroom facilities were dependable, there was a variety of food and drink options (all offering, compared with other Chicago events, perfectly reasonable prices), and festival coordinators somehow arranged a deal with Coca-Cola which resulted in free soda throughout all three days. In other words, the festival never left people wanting, greatly reducing the chance of crankiness, festival fatigue, or feelings of buyer’s remorse. This reality made it feel almost unbelievable that the festival had never been held before.
The second thing I would like to point out is that, though I actively seek out new music on a regular basis, Latin alternative and punk are definitely in my cultural blindspot. This fact is worth noting because, though I had a working knowledge of exactly one scheduled band prior to entering Ruido Fest, I was at no time left to feel like an interloper or some weird outsider. The sense of community was palpable all three days, even to people with little previous awareness of a Latin Alternative community even existing. The welcoming vibe, and relaxed atmosphere made for a thoroughly pleasant festival experience, which I truly hope people remember as Ruido Fest works to become an annual event.
Friday introduced the musical diversity of the festival’s performers, beginning with the danceable but dense beats of Maria y José, who mixed familiar house music themes with a worldly variety of rhythms and percussive recordings, seamlessly moving from fast-paced tunes into dampened respites. Ceci Bastida was next to take the stage, with a performance laced with rude social awakenings and an aggressive reclaiming of the value of accepting an individual’s humanity and worth, regardless of man-made borders and greed-induced ideas of property and entitlement. Her messages were enhanced with prerecorded audio clips, which often introduced or concluded songs, and intensified the effects created by the abundance of instrumentalists on stage.
Ceci Bastida was followed by the band I was most excited to see: AJ Davila y Terror Amor. Davila took stage in a denim jacket, through which the brace around his lower back was visible, comically poking out. Early in the set, he joked about the brace, saying he messed up his back falling down the stairs. Though clearly working with a disadvantage, Davila put a remarkable amount of energy and punkish attitude into the performance, screeching out lyrics over the garage rock provided by Terror Amor, with the microphone in one hand and a beer in the other through most of the show.
Banda de Turistas changed the pace created by Davila, providing lighter, more feel-good music perfect for a beautiful summer day. Though their set came with a much more relaxed tone, the band members were treated as young heartthrobs, welcomed with enthusiastic screams and almost uniform smiles and excitement from the crowd.
The rest of the evening progressed with continued diversity in acts, between the thrashing hardcore relentlessness of the duo Cardiel, to the softer, pop-incorporating Dënver, and the bright, highly danceable Compass: MIS + Toy Selectah.
Zoe wrapped things up for the night, walking onto stage to the sounds of people chanting their name. Between lighting tricks and a style that seems most closely related to the early 2000s work of Coldplay, U2, and maybe Radiohead’s more relaxed stuff, they provided a sense of familiarity and comfort in a day filled with pushed limits, musically speaking.
Saturday’s schedule followed in the same vein as the day before, with acts appealing to an older audience, groups following a more avant garde punk aesthetic, and plenty of feel-good summer party music in between. Early standouts were Rebel Cats, who injected a loud combination of rockabilly and beach tones into the afternoon, even blasting out a caffeinated rendition of the classic “Wipeout” (just when I thought that song couldn’t be any more energetic). They were leveled out by the more modern alternative group Pastilla, which performed with a rich array of sounds, creating music that was easy to nod along with, but also broke out into more insistent rock thrashing at times. They were like the agreeable auditory calm before the storm that was Descartes a Kant, who seemed insistent on turning punk and screamo into performance art in front of a part-enthusiastic, part-downright confused crowd. Hilariously, they performed on the Mil Mascaras stage, which faced a Lucha Libre ring, so they fought with their crowd’s existing notions of what a performance could be while masked wrestlers acted out a physical fight.
Jessy Bulbo was the next outstanding act, channeling the likes of tUnE-yArDs in an energetic performance spanning her discography. Later in the evening, as the end of the day neared, Silverio provided the best competition for Descartes a Kant in the title of “weirdest performance of the festival.” His main performance strategy seemed to be gaining support by openly insulting his audience, not really in a condescending way, but in a way that invited the audience to insult him back. He created a pseudo-aggressive atmosphere, where people could be crude, throw stuff on stage, and liberally present their middle fingers. Most appropriately, it was during his set that I spotted the first condom balloon of the weekend. MOLOTOV closed the night for a thrilled, filled-out audience. Though they were one of the very few acts to take stage a little after the scheduled start time, they made up for the delay by jumping right into exciting, adrenalin-inducing crowd favorites, simultaneously rounding out the night and creating momentum to carry the festival into its final day.
While many acts throughout the festival inspired carefree dance moves from much of the crowd, several Sunday acts succeeded in getting just about every single person in the audience to dance along. The first was Dos Santos Anti-Beat Orchestra, whose performance was largely instrumental, but which inspired such a feel-good vibe that the show never got tiring. Even though they attracted a respectable crowd, people in the front section allowed for plenty of dancing space.
Though more of a band to watch and listen to, Carmen Costa was the next notable act, consisting of the same core members as Terror Amor. AJ Davila even jumped on stage to sing along with a couple of songs, but for most of the show could be seen in the crowd, enjoying the performance alongside other artists from the weekend, like members of Dënver. Carmen Costa, though entertaining in their own way, allowed for a much needed cooling period before one of the wildest acts of the day, Los Rakas. The Bay Area rappers offered one of the most versatile hip hop performances I have ever witnessed, and got the entire crowd into it with group chants and hand waving that, for once, didn’t feel forced or annoying. They used up their entire time slot, but there was still a sense of disappointment in the crowd that the group couldn’t go on longer.
Later in the evening, Kinky gave those not already waiting across the park for Café Tacvba another opportunity to dance, but to much more light-hearted music. They struck a difficult balance, playing music that could either be totally absorbed and focused on right then and there, or could also be enjoyed from a distance, mid-conversation, while regrouping before the headliner. In other words, their music could be received however anyone in the audience wanted to receive it, either whole-heartedly or at arm’s length. Café Tacvba closed the festival with a lively and continuously moving show. Though they clearly had a loyal following, I was honestly shocked to see that at least eighty percent of the crowd knew every single word to every song (and their songs have A LOT of fast-moving lyrics).
Café Tacvba embodied the strengths of the festival, creating an incredibly fun atmosphere for people of all types and ages, while also filling a clear void in the world of music festivals. Thus they were the most appropriate closing act for the new festival, and they hopefully helped to cement the fate of Ruido Fest as an event that will return.
Written by Julia Antonson
After 20 long years of being an Illinoisan it is weird to say that I now join the long list of students that have to commute by plane to school. It will feel weird that I won’t be taking the Suburban Express back to the suburbs for Thanksgiving break, and that I can’t come home for the weekend, but hey, you have to leave sometime. Without further ado, this is my tribute to all the memories I made in Illinois.
Sorry guys but it’s about to get personal.
1. Sufjan Stevens- “Chicago”
Okay sorry guys this might be a cop out but this might be the anthem for Chicago (along with “Chelsea Dagger”). Chicago is hands down one of my favorite places to go and I can’t imagine not being able to take the Metra up there anymore. From going to the North Street Beach, visiting the Field Museum, and looking over the city at the Willis (SEARS) Tower. I’ll be back Chicago, don’t you worry.
2. Alabama Shakes- “Rise to the Sun”
Alabama Shakes’s album Boys & Girls was given to me as a graduation gift. I have to say I was a little hesitant at first but let me tell you, the soulful voice of Brittany Howard is slightly addicting. The lyrics are so passionate and relevant that it easy to relate to this album.
3. Bombay Bicycle Club- “Always Like This”
I don’t know how or where I heard this song, but now I cannot imagine not listening to Bombay Bicycle Club on a daily basis. Currently, I am a faithful owner of all the songs they have produced and even missed an exam to go see their concert in Chicago (just call me a super fan). It made all those angsty high school years and long drives even better. So I tip my hypothetical hat off to you Bombay Bicycle Club and patiently wait for your next album to come out.
4. Tame Impala- “Elephant”
I must admit it is because of this song that I am infatuated with Tame Impala. Before I go on I must also give a faithful shout out to SoundHound for catching this song at the last moment on the radio. When I heard the psychedelic sound of Tame Impala I was instantly hooked and it made those nights at the drive in theater that much better.
5. Portugal. The Man- “Purple Yellow Red and Blue”
The first time I ever went to the House of Blues for a concert was when I went to see Portugal. The Man and let me tell you, I regret not going there sooner. Not only was/is the venue awesome but show was so personal and close. I went into the venue with no opinion of the band whatsoever and boy was I greatly surprised.
6. New Beat Fund- “Peachez”
I have only had one experience at Warped Tour and all I can say is that it was intimidating and very hot. However, it’s also the place where I heard New Beat Fund so I call it a win. These guys had such great stage presence and a cool Cali vibe to them that made the trip down to Tinley Park worth it. Definitely a good listen if you like weird funky music.
7. The Temper Trap- “Sweet Disposition”
We all have songs that we listened to on those late night car rides with friends and this one was mine. It made the endless rows of corn a little more bearable during trips to campgrounds and hiking trails and driving to get ice cream at Andy’s Custard late at night. To all the countless hours in the car that lead to all the worthwhile memories: cheers.
8. Smashing Pumpkins- “1979”
Now I know that this is a very well-played song but hear me out. One of my favorite memories that I have from my hometown is listening this song when I was younger and my mom was just boppin’ around the house. She would always play music wherever we went and this was one of her favorites. Although it seems like simple and silly to remember the music my mom played around the house, it’s something I’ll look forward to when I fly to Maine.
Thanks for the memories Illinois.]]>
Today is the anniversary of singer and songwriter Ray Charles’ death back in 2004. So for this Remember Whensday, we remember the man who was the catalyst for the gospel movement, and soul music generally, really all throughout the 1950s and 1960s, and whose music will continue to inspire music and songwriters for many years to come.
Though Ray Charles was phenomenal throughout his entire career, I’d like to highlight two things he did here: he pretty much created a genre of music, or at least brought it to the mainstream for all of us to enjoy, but the gears of racial integration in the 1950s and 1960s started turning thanks to him.
Charles molded together blues, gospel, and a dash of jazz to create his signature style and the soul genre. You can hear it in all of his songs, particularly in his singles “Unchain My Heart,” “Hit the Road Jack” and “Georgia on My Mind.” He brought sex, ladies, and all other taboo topics at the time to gospel music. As he moved his way up on the R&B charts, fellow musicians began to see that this was a musical prodigy. He was a genius because he had the ability to blend R&B with the common pop at the time, which really was the key to his success. He also did what was never done before and created soul interpretations of bluegrass and county classics.
Finally, he was the first black artist to receive so much recognition and popularity at such a quick pace, unfortunately for working twice as hard as his fellow white competitors. So the next time you hear any R&B, soul, or blues remember that their roots go back to Ray Charles and they wouldn’t be on the radio, were it not for his success and perseverance.]]>
2014 was an interesting year for Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kozelek. After releasing the critically lauded Benji, increased media attention brought to light Kozelek’s crude sense of humor with the whole “War On Drugs: Suck My Cock” circus. It was a surprisingly polarizing year for an artist who has been working since 1992. Given the newfound directness of Kozelek’s lyrics, an approach that was used to a devastating effect on Benji and to no effect on 2012’s Among the Leaves, I waited with interest to see how the past year would manifest itself in his music. After hearing his new album, Universal Themes, the answer is decidedly clear: Mark Kozelek has much more to worry about than what the media or even his fans think about him.
Universal Themes spans the stretch of time between Benji‘s release and the present day, covering Kozelek’s time spent in Switzerland filming a movie, touring in support of Benji, hanging out with friends and caring for an old friend that’s been sick, along with numerous anecdotes and memories littered throughout. It’s all presented in that stream of consciousness, half-sung half-spoken lyrical style that Sun Kil Moon is now known for. Honestly, it’s pretty hard to review an album done in this style, as it sounds almost like music that others were never meant to hear. It’s candid and personal and often mundane, but it’s immediately clear how much all of these things mean to the one singing them. And despite the specificity of the events, the album title manages to ring true.
Universal Themes is a pretty lofty title for an album that spends so much time wallowing in the mundane, but it really serves as an extension of the blunt approach to songwriting Kozelek has undertaken in the past few years. Any artist would say their music represents something universal, Kozelek has just done away with all metaphor. Even so, the themes on the album aren’t so much explicitly told as much as they are emergent from bits of explicitly laid out stories, which is a real testament to Kozelek’s talent as a songwriter. There are themes of death which will come as a surprise to no one who listened to Benji, but there’s also a sense of life affirmation that comes from fighting through the struggles that life provides. With every death, there’s a feeling of thankfulness for being alive. In contrast with Benji, the most emotionally affecting bits are the parts where someone is suffering rather than when someone dies. On “With A Sort Of Grace I Walked Into The Bathroom To Cry,” Kozelek details his time spent with a friend of his who is a single mother of two, but is too sick to take care of them. Shouted over the overdriven guitar, you can feel the strain that it puts on Kozelek to watch his friend suffer.
Musically, Universal Themes is easily the best Sun Kil Moon output since Admiral Fell Promises. The shifting song structures can be a bit jarring occasionally (“Little Rascals,” “Ali/Spinks 2″), but more often than not it offers an interesting shift in tone, or feeling of progression that was largely missing from Sun Kil Moon’s more recent albums. The guitar playing on the album is superb, plus it’s always great to hear Kozelek pick up an electric guitar.
Overall, Universal Themes lacks the emotional punch to the gut that made Benji so special. It’s disjointed and it has a tendency for repeating itself by referring to the same events multiple times in different songs. It makes you dig deeper for meaning than most of Kozelek’s recent output, and I doubt that anyone that isn’t already on board with Kozelek’s style of delivery will have their minds changed by Universal Themes. But the music is interesting enough to justify the somewhat lengthy run time and there’s enough food for thought in the lyrics to warrant multiple listens. Really, I’ve only scratched the surface of this dense and complex album, and I find that new things are revealed with each listen. It avoids the melancholy of the majority of his back catalog and has a charming gratefulness for life which is almost infectious, making it one of the happiest albums that Kozelek has ever recorded.
Key Tracks: “The Possum,” “With A Sort Of Grace I Walked Into The Bathroom To Cry,” “This Is My First Day And I’m Indian And I Work At A Gas Station”]]>
Alleya Weibel: Hey WPGU listeners, this is Alleya Weibel, music director and staff writer for the station. Here on the phone I have Andrew McMahon of Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. You may know him from his previous projects Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin. He’ll be coming through Bloomington, Illinois tonight at The Castle Theater. So Andrew, why don’t you tell us a little bit about this current tour?
Andrew McMahon: You know we’re out supporting the new single “Cecilia and the Satellite,” when I say new I guess it’s been around for eight months but new to a lot of people, but yeah it’s been fun and I’ve got a great crew of guys out with me as a band. We’ve managed to burn through a lot of the brand new record as well as some favorites from the Jack’s and the SoCo days.
Weibel: Awesome. And what exactly is the “Wilderness”?
McMahon: Gosh, for me it was a lot of things. You mentioned my previous two bands and I think when I was in both of those two projects I was working pretty heavily with staying on different major labels and there was a pretty good amount of insulation around me for those early years in my career and when I made the leap and decided to go out on my own, I kind of cut that cord and started making music independently and making records on my own. For me, the “wilderness” was that. That feeling of being out there and having to fend for myself a little bit and start fresh and start over with what had been a pretty good run with Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate. That’s kind of the environment that this record was created in and we decided to saddle it with a little bit of a monikering even though we did put my name on it.
Weibel: Yeah, well awesome. Obviously “Cecilia and the Satellite” is a song about your new family and you’ve mentioned previously, on your blog and others places, that it’s about knowing that you have this child coming. I’m wondering, what is it like being a touring musician with a relatively new family?
McMahon: You know, it’s kind of sort of, you have to readdress your priorities a little bit. I think obviously being a new dad, I want to spend as much time with my daughter as possible. She travels with me and my wife and her are generally on the tour bus with us while we’re doing these shows. I think it has been one of the happier times I have been out on the road, having some people in place rather than here’s my band and the bar after the show. It’s nice to have someone to come home to. [laughs]
Weibel: Yeah! That’s awesome. So then has the family being around influenced your writing style with the change in where you have to put your time and everything?
McMahon: Not necessarily, I see what you’re saying with time but your time is kind of relative. When you don’t have a family or you don’t have certain responsibilities or obligations you spend your time differently. For me I think if nothing else I am more focused. I dedicate specific time to writing and making sure that when I’m writing I’m not distracted, that I’m in depth every second, as where with before when I had a little bit more free time you can do that in a slued way where maybe you’re not as concerned about what comes down to it. Now I’d say I give direct attention, I just have a lot of focus. Same thing when I’m with my family. I’m focused, you know, I try not to be doing work or business when I’m with them. It’s just recalibrating your focus, but I am probably more productive and more present in both spaces just knowing that that’s what has to get done.
Weibel: Alright. So Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness marks your fourth project as an artist, do you see elements of your past projects in what you’re currently working on?
McMahon: Yeah, absolutely. I think in certain projects there are things that persist from one thing to that next and there are different circumstances that surround every record that I make, even with those projects. I think the one thing that I try to keep central to everything that I do is just focus on good songwriting and good melodies and trying to write honest songs and be honest with where I am in my life. That, I think, has been the one thread through every record that I’ve made and through every project that I’ve done. And rather than trying to tell someone else’s story, or trying to be honest and tell my story is to be the most authentic artist I can be.
Weibel: Alright, well that kind of goes along with this next question. One of my fellow staff writers, Emma Goodwin, was able to see you in concert earlier this year and she mentioned that one part of your live show that resonated with her was the fact that some of the more energetic parts of the show were songs that were not necessarily as popular or known, due to radio play or charts. What are some songs that really stand out to you as a performer?
McMahon: I think it’s interesting. Like for me, one thing I try to do is I try not to be the artist that doesn’t play the favorite song that fans want to hear because for the most part, like I try to play “Dark Blue” from Jack’s Mannequin catalog or “I Woke Up In A Car” from Something Corporate because the songs are favorites of the audiences and are favorites of mine. But truthfully there are tracks from the new record and from older records that have a life of their own and have a fan base of their own and maybe they’re not the ones that are most well-known if you listen in a broader sense and don’t have the record. There’s a b-side off a record called “Watch the Sky” which is one of my favorite songs and it didn’t even make the album but I still play that one live. I’m trying to think of a good example from the new record. There’s a song called “Maps for the Getaway” and it isn’t a song that we’re currently pushing and is kind of the last song on this album. But there’s a lot of energy to it, and it’s a song that I really want people to get familiar with so we play that one almost every night, sometimes we even open with it.
Weibel: Awesome. I kind of have a fun question here, I know you have a song from a while back called “Synesthesia” and I was wondering, do you have synesthesia?
McMahon: I wish! It’s funny, that song. I had made a note in a journal a while back when I first heard about synesthesia. It’s a condition where people hear music and actually see colors associated with tones or with I guess the notes of what is played. I always found it so fascinating, and I was in the middle of writing a chart, like a first idea for this song and really I think the verse is reflecting on some of the things I had been through in my own life and realizing you can try to compare yourself to “this” person or “that” person or what somebody else has done or accomplished, but my philosophy has always been like just try your best and to sort of focus on yourself, and make sure you’re living the most authentic life you can live. I found this idea of seeing color in your life and a theme that I could kind of tie synesthesia into [the song] so I wrote about it as a concept but I definitely do not have it.
Weibel: Well that’s kind of funny because I actually do have it.
McMahon: No, that’s amazing!
Weibel: I’m a musician, I study music here, and I actually have synesthesia and I just thought it was fun that you had a song called that and was curious if you also had it.
McMahon: See, I’m sure I could pick your brain for hours but that’s probably something –
Weibel: Yeah, we don’t need to bore the listeners with that.
McMahon: – I’m so curious and I hope that’s something we can do that some other point because I always want to talk to a synesthete and hear their thoughts on the condition.
Weibel: Yeah, well I think we can get to that a little later but I think that’s all we actually have time for now.
McMahon: Fair enough.
Weibel: So, thank you so much Andrew for your time.
McMahon: It’s my pleasure, thank you.
Weibel: That was Andrew McMahon of Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. He will be performing tonight at The Castle Theater in Bloomington, Illinois with opening act Mark Rose. Doors are at 7 pm, show at 8.]]>
Written by Julia Antonson
I hope you are feeling patriotic because today we celebrate the 31 year anniversary of Bruce Springsteen’s release of Born in the USA. As the idealistic face of the American working class, Springsteen’s use of poetic lyrics allowed his album to resonate with today’s modern citizen. Although it is a month until the 4th of July, it is never too early to bring out the red, white, and blue, open the grill, and throw on some burgers (or veggie burgers).
Born in New Jersey (which is in the USA), Bruce Springsteen was inspired to take up music after seeing Elvis Presley on TV at the young age of seven. However starting that early in his life did not give Springsteen an advantage in his career: it would be a long journey until he finally signed a record deal with Columbia Records in 1972. Hopping from venue to venue, Bruce Springsteen had only his band members to support him and his mother through her taking out a loan to pay for his $60 Kent guitar. As time passed, his relatable lyrics in combination with the band’s outlandish performances allowed Springsteen and the E Street Band to gain attention at their 10-show stand at New York’s Bottom Line club and finally break through.
Born in the USA is considered Springsteen’s finest album with its anthemic music and lyrics filled with the American spirit. Each song created a new synthetic movement, which was a style unheard of from the band and allowed this pop-filled album to appeal to mainstream audiences. This in combination with the commercial campaign surrounding the album allowed it to gain its stride in the United States and become the best-selling album on this day in 1985. A reason behind its popularity is partly due to its bitter commentary on Vietnam veterans and how relatable it is to the working class. Lyrics in the album touched upon the American working class and the daily struggles of identity they go through. What is significant about the album is that Bruce Springsteen was able to reach a global audience selling 30 million copies worldwide. One can but wonder if the cover of the album caused the popularity to grow exponentially. As a standard image of the American culture, the backdrop of the American flag with Bruce Springsteen himself serves as a powerful image of what the American spirit is.
Kudos to you Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band for your never ending influence on the rock and roll community. It is definitely true that your music has influenced many people’s lives by articulating through your lyrics what the true American reality is. President Obama stated that there are “a handful of people who enter into your lives through their music and tell the American people’s story. Bruce Springsteen is one of those people.” And hey, if you don’t have the President as a fan, then you are not doing it right.]]>
Florence + The Machine has finally released their much anticipated third studio album, How Big How Blue How Beautiful, which was announced in late 2014. If you are new to the Flo game, then this may not be the place to start. That being said, this album is a step away from its two predecessors. Florence fans tend to hold on to an album and scrutinize the others, thinking they may be “alright” or subpar but really this is not a problem with the music. It is almost grounding to see that Florence Welch is learning about life and living each day. No need to search for a sound that will float the group for years to come; it’s about the journey and change. This is another reason fans hold special places for each arc of Florence in their hearts; they may be in a similar state as her when she wrote that period of music. But people change, life moves on, and so does Florence + The Machine.
Although this album had a lot of hype when it was announced, that hype changed veins when its first single “What Kind of Man” was released. Reviews were seemingly split amongst listeners. My theory is that this reception is not necessarily related to the song-writing or the content, but the instrumentation and direction. It has been a while since Lungs was circulating and the explosive power of Ceremonials that received even more international attention. In “What Kind of Man,” the guitar is a critical part of the song. It’s classic bass-line riff pulls the song through to support Welch in spitting out whatever she feels through her normally composed and dynamic voice. The main focus of Ceremonials was an aesthetic created by piano, synthesizers, harp and percussion. The guitar was never in the spotlight. Florence + The Machine is cleaning up their sound this time around by also bringing in some soft horn melodies over the top to create the currently very popular horn section sound.
This is by no means a bad thing. As Welch said herself, “I guess although I’ve always dealt in fantasy and metaphor when I came to writing, that meant the songs this time were dealing with much more in reality. Ceremonials was so fixated on death and water.” If she wants to write a rock-driven song, let her write a rock-driven song, if it means a lot to her this time. And let’s be honest, most people are dealing with the trouble of love, loss and sobriety. You go, Flo.
Even so, “What Kind of Man” does not fully represent How Big How Blue How Beautiful as an album. “Ship to Wreck” has an indie-film (driving down a road in a retro convertible Mustang ’88 running away from life as we know it) vibe. The drums act as a kit more than in her previous tracks, with a bell-guitar duo tune floating under and between Florence, leading a catchy story through her voice. Welch has found her inner Janis Joplin in the past year or so. “Delilah” opens with a call and response similar to the Florence + The Machine we have known in the past, so fear not Ceremonials lovers, there is still hope for you for this album. It sticks to simpler chord progressions like most of the album, and presents pop-percussion but is a great dance track with Welch’s voice unleashed.
The pop sound flies by with the tracks “Caught,” “Third Eye,” and “St. Jude”. Their sound, developed by producer Markus Dravs, compliments Welch’s voice and this time more simple writing style to create a fundamentally classic pop piece of art. These tracks really define the sound aimed for in How Big How Blue How Beautiful. In review, Florence + The Machine has traded in their heartbeat tom drums for a four piece drum kit, so leave your witch cloaks and celestial crystals at home.
RIYL: Janis Joplin, Kate Nash, Marina and the Diamonds
Key tracks: “Delilah,” “Caught,” “Third Eye”]]>
I loved video-games as a kid. I’d daydream of having my own Pokemon and nightdream in glorious 16-bit. These days, I’m not as dedicated, but I do like how the multiplayer New Super Mario Bros game makes sure my siblings and I can pay attention to the same glowing screen. Since I’m looking everywhere for playlist inspirations, I used the worlds of New Super Mario Bros as an inspiration and came up with this. Enjoy.
1. The Lovin’ Spoonful- “Daydream”
The first levels are a cakewalk to anybody who’s ever held a video-game controller before. This 60’s pop tune is chill enough to reflect that. The lyrics are about a beautiful day that makes the singer so happy he abandons all responsibilities. Even the swelling guitar and harmonica sounds like the players didn’t want to stress themselves out too much about recording. Combine this with the fact that it’s catchy, and you’ll be tempted yourself to play hooky today.
2. Paco de Lucia- “Concierto De Aranjuez: Allegro”
The desert level deserves hot flamenco music. When I first started playing guitar I wanted to be Paco de Lucia so badly. He always plays expertly, but this is a concierto for the guitar, which is fancy classical music talk for a piece that is composed with the purpose to show off a particular instrument. You hear Paco play furious flurries and beautiful chords. The flutes playing as a backing are no slouches either and are a nice change of pace if you’re used to hearing Paco’s electric jazz band. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because this 20th century concierto has not only inspired flamenco guitarists but also the likes of Miles Davis (Sketches of Spain) and Buckethead (Electric Tears).
3. Fleet Foxes- “White Winter Hymnal”
I tried avoiding using a Christmas song for the ice world and instead picked the Fleet Foxes. They always seem in touch with nature. Maybe it’s because hearing their lush harmonies makes me think of mining dwarves (long ass beards of course). Maybe it’s because they use acoustic instruments. Or maybe it’s because the bass drum sounds like it’s being played by a mountain. The lyrics always remind me of my cousin Michael who would always be camping on mountains, which makes the red snow even sadder/creepier for me.
4. Makaha Sons of Ni’ihau- “Waipahe’e Falls”
On the lighter side, I love Hawaiian music so it had to be used for the island world. This is the musical group that Israel Kamakawiwo’ole led in the mid-70’s. This catchy song is currently my favorite because it’s more up tempo than “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” or “Sleepwalking,” the usual Hawaiian go-to tunes. The harmonies that this group performs and jazzy chord progressions give it just the right amount of Motown feel. To top it all off it’s got a snazzy ukulele solo in the middle.
5. Black Sabbath- “Solitude”
Let’s make things a bit darker now. We can’t keep playing the easy levels now can we? For the swamp world, I chose this track off of Black Sabbath’s stoner album Master of Reality. The bass is dominant enough that you can appreciate how sludgy and goopy it sounds. The slow tempo and depressing lyrics make you think the band is trudging along, dragging their feet as if trapped in a swamp.
6. Modest Mussorgsky- “Night on the Bald Mountain”
I always thought the sixth world, the mountain world, was the hardest, especially since you’re not expecting the difficulty to ramp up like this. That’s why I ramped up from that slow song to this intense piece. When people say they like classical music, they 70% of the time mean they listen to ambient piano music when they study. When I say I like classical music, I mean I love the epic and intense music that requires an entire orchestra to create. I always imagined titans battling or a category 5 hurricane or a really epic game of Solitaire. Well, okay that last one isn’t all that exciting, until you play it listening to these big crescendos or dramatic brass chords. About halfway, it seems the epic storm is over and they play victorious music, making this dynamic piece whole enough for you to imagine whatever story you want.
7. Electric Light Orchestra- “Mr. Blue Sky”
Okay, maybe it seems like I’m taking the world theme too literally, but this song not only fits the sky world, but the Mario games in general. It’s catchy and makes anybody who has a soul smile. It’s also pretty dense, with a lot of the instruments and vocals being doubletracked. If it’s not double tracked, it’ll be played by something similar (the combination of electric and upright bass or when the choruses sing Mr. Blue Sky with different tones). It’s also a lot of fun to chase where the panning takes the vocals during the chorus. Even the guitar solo is hummable. Fun fact: the robot voice at the end is saying “Please turn me over” because this was originally on a vinyl record.
8 & 9. Queen- “March of the Black Queen/Funny How Love Is”
In Bowser’s world we finally face the supervillain. This may be an excuse to use one of my favorite Queen tracks. Back when the band was more metal than pop, the band created clever forms. When it does repeat a section, they play it so differently it’s hard to tell. It all feels so forward moving. The album has a theme of black/white and here we see them get everything in between. In the middle, all the band climaxes and then abruptly stops, to then play an angelic ballad. Then they get even heavier and nastier with a scratchy guitar and rough vocals. Producer Roy Thomas Baker mixed everything perfectly so you can follow the right instruments during the jam and listen to Freddie’s tale of an evil tyrant. At the end, the Black Queen is apparently vanquished and the band celebrates, flowing right into “Funny How Love Is”. I put this song on the playlist partly because “March…” ends too abruptly, but also as a celebration to saving your princess in the videogame. Enjoy the wall of sound that would later make Queen famous worldwide.