April Music Highlights

Hello, it’s your friendly neighborhood music blogger here to show you my favorite artists of the month.

 

Tank and the Bangas

Videos of this group performing have been circulating all over the internet. The electric vibes given off by their lively and playful performances Their album Think Tank reminds me of spoken word, soul, jazz, and The Roots Classroom Instruments bit merged and spun into an outstanding web of story telling and musical brilliance. Winner of NPR’s Tiny Desk music competition, Tank and the Bangas is a great addition to almost any playlist. New Orleans based, hopefully this band will find its way to Chicago some way or another.

Cupcakke

Recently placed in the top 40 best rap albums of 2016 by the Rolling Stones above artists live Travis Scott, 2 Chainz, and J Cole, Chicago based rapper Cupcakke dropped and album this month titled Queen Elizabitch and I was pleasantly surprised. 19 year old Cupcakke is known for her sexually provocative lyrics and body positivity, but Queen Elizabitch was so much more than an album about sex or body image. The album opened up with Scraps which gives the listener a dose of Chicago realness as Cupcakke sets the bar for what has to be the one of the strongest debuts yet in 2017. Cupcakke describes what it’s like growing up with a deadbeat dad and the hardships that come when facing adversity while also setting the scene for today’s social climate, which for me, cemented her place as a rapper not to be toyed with or looked down on. Of course, this album still has songs quintessential to the Cupcakke we know and love. Her single, Cumshot, embodies the sexual freedom that we are familiar with in past songs like Spider Man Dick and Deepthroat. I can see this album becoming a staple of many Summer 2017 playlists.

Passion Pit 

Passion Pit released an album that might have flown under the radar to a lot of fans. In agreement for retweeting a post that promotes funding for science and replying with your email, Passion Pit’s twitter account would personally email you the link to a download of the album, Tremendous Sea of Love. So far I have got to say that this album was exactly what I wanted from Passion Pit. I would not consider their new album their best work, but I will say that it is a fantastic album that has a good synergistic connection with their past works, seeming to give a quaint and slightly nostalgic nod to their roots, if their roots were a slightly stripped down version of the synth symphony we all went crazy for with Sleepyhead worth a listen, worth the tweeting, worth supporting science for.

Perfume Genius

While not in April, Perfume Genius has announced the release of their newest album No Shape along with the single Slip Away on May 5th. Owner of their own genre, Perfume Genius continues to release a solid selection of new music. Songs like Queen and Hood have created such raw and powerful statements, it makes me wonder what ambient journey the tracks on this new album will take us to in May.

Music Ratings are Nothing More than Opinion: Artists Done Dirty by Pitchfork

 

IMG_1433Judging music is merely an illusion. No one can actually quantify what the people like because the people, after all, are all unique. What one person thinks is crap, another will consider a masterpiece, and a small group of people can’t decide for the masses what is good and what is not in such a subjective field. Music is purely preference. My prime example has to be Pitchfork. I appreciate Pitchfork news and updates and being exposed to new music, along with the music festival they host in Chicago, but many of the ratings are far from what the populace would consider correct. Unless you’re Radiohead or someone who follows the “uncommercial” pitchfork aesthetic, don’t expect to find an album someone makes in the pitchfork perfect tens category. In fact, there are more than a handful of albums that I don’t believe deserved a perfect 10 in general or by genre. I implore you, the reader, to take any review with a grain of salt and listen to an album before you write it off. You might end up missing a diamond in the rough and hate yourself when you finally get into an artist and find out their concert was 3 weeks ago in your hometown.

1.  The Airborne Toxic Event  (1.6/10)
An old rating but a good album, the self-titled The Airborne Toxic Event is a popular indie band from the mid-2000s. While this band received praise on this album, pitchfork decided the album was not worth their time. It didn’t phase this band much, they even wrote an open letter sarcastically inviting pitchfork to watch one of their “moody and dramatic” concerts.

2.  Mumford & Sons- 1st and 3rd albums. (2.1/10-2.0/10)
This is an example band that doesn’t fit the mold the raters are looking for. I’ll admit, you either love them or you hate them, but in the end, Mumford and his band didn’t deserve the low ratings. The reasoning for the low rating was due to Pitchfork thinking that they are a Fleet Foxes knock off (Every rated Fleet Foxes album has received an 8.7 or higher), along with alluding to them being phony or fake artists ([They] are in the costume business.They’re playing dress-up in threadbare clothes.). Either way, after 2+ World tours, 3 albums, and 2 EPs, I don’t think M&S cares much for their ratings in the first place.

3. Hamilton The Mixtape (4.8/10)
Hamilton, the Tony Award-winning musical, received less than a 5 on the mixtape version, which consisted of many well-known artists collaborating on the rap tracks that the world has been learning history through all of 2016. The reason for the low rating? Basically, It wasn’t the same as the original and it lacks the narrative of a musical. Crazy. I invite pitchfork to find any musical soundtrack that has the same narrative as the onstage production, excluding operas and operettas, which tend to have no dialogue outside of their songs.

4. Nine Inch Nails- The Fragile (2/10-10)
Nine Inch Nails in 2017 received a 8.7 on their reissued album The Fragile, but in 1999 NIN received a 2/10 on the same album. After some digging, I found the original review. It still exists, but any linking to the page does not. Almost 20 years later after their review was deemed futile, and NIN popular, and the original deleted. The lead singer Trent Reznor had no nice words for pitchfork, which a lot of artists seem to agree with these days.

5. Childish Gambino- Camp (1.6/10)
Pitchfork basically said Gambino was too conceited for rap and should stick to comedy. Camp definitely isn’t Because the Internet or any of his other works, but it is a quality album that Pitchfork didn’t give the time of day. Find Gambino on any “Certified Bangers” playlist at your local college campus. Email me if you genuinely honestly believe this album didn’t deserve better.

6. The Killers- Any of their albums (5.2-6.4)
The Killers are known for their amazing songs. To this day I know every word off of Sam’s Town and any of their singles including Mr. Brightside and Somebody Told Me, which were both on Hot Fuss, The Killers’ first album. Pitchfork has never liked The Killers and basically say their sound is too generic or their albums aren’t cohesive enough, wanting every track to be the screaming your head off in the car with your friends while people stare at you masterpiece that Mr. Brightside ended up being (Hot Fuss deserves at least an 8.5 in my opinion). Even the greatest hits album received a low score, which means that Pitchfork just really does not like this band.

7. Ed Sheeran- Divide (2.8/10)
The initial Artist that inspired this article. Sheeran probably doesn’t care what an American music rating website has to say about his new album when it has no effect on whether or not he’s going to sell out his next stadium (to be clear; the stadium is going to sell out even if he released 50 minutes of straight fart noises). A short summary of this album review is that Ed’s music is that Ed shouldn’t rap and the shallow album has no real worth.

8. Travis Morrison- Travistan (0/10)
Fans of Travis Morrison will proudly say that Travistan is worth a listen. Lead singer of the indie band The Dismemberment Plan decided to come out with an album and got a crushing review from Pitchfork in 2004. If you are able to write, produce, and sell an album, anything written definitely does not deserve a 0/10 even if the content is poor. Not saying this album is poor, many people enjoy this album. The review mildly hurt Morrison’s career but he still made more music after this review came and out and for that, we thank him for proving his naysayers wrong.

 

Say what you must about these albums, but I can assure you that they are all pretty decent listens, even if they aren’t my musical preference. Take a second to listen to an album, even if you’re weary of what everyone says about it. It might end up being your favorite. If you have any artists you think were done dirty, comment below and I’ll add them to the list.

Hand Held Up

My grades are dropping. I feel like a failure. All I’m doing is ordering Thai food and crying at my bank statements. I’m trying to study but all I end up doing is lying on the floor doing literally nothing. Nothing. When I say literally nothing I mean I fell asleep with my eyes open last week while staring at the ceiling and not moving for 15 minutes.

Other than depression, there has been something else recently that has been keeping me from my studies. Something more maniacal and evil in stature that the sheer nature of its existence disrupts the average collegiate student from excelling in their realm of academia.

This noun in question? Hand-held gaming systems. I have been non-stop grinding my way through Nintendogs frisbee competitions, through Animal Crossing mayoral duties that bring my town to peak condition, and through Gameboy emulators that are creating endless black holes of Pokémon level grinding and RPG monster slaying.

I feel like I’m failing all my courses because Tom Nook won’t get off my back about paying my mortgage, followed by shoving another mortgage down my throat. Or because May won’t get off my damn back about the Pokédex that I’m being forced to fill.

Of course, it is only week 4. Maybe I am failing, maybe I’m not. Who knows? (I know.) As time goes on, dropping out of college and sitting on my couch for 12 hours a day starts sounding more and more doable. Alas, I know why I’m spending thousands of dollars at an institution to get a piece of paper.

As much as I like playing video games, I like music more.

Maybe one day I’ll write background music for video games. Maybe I’ll write movie soundtracks or TV show themes. Maybe I’ll finally get motivated enough to get off my lazy hiney and write music. Who knows? (I know.)

Virtual reality is definitely 20x times better than being poor and in college. This is an indisputable fact. Doing what I want to do eventually is great too. One day I’ll be on the other side of that hand-held and I’ll smile when some tiny human is carting his DS XXXXXXL the size of their torso onto the train while playing a game that I took part in. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t. Who knows? Nobody for sure, but we’ll see.

Dissent is Patriotic

image1.JPGDissent is Patriotic

 As I write my blog post, I am currently in the middle of god knows where someplace in the countryside of Ohio. So almost anywhere in Ohio. I’m sorting through photos and trying to organize everything that happened this weekend.  Above is a photo of a friend and I walking through Washington. I’m just writing down my thoughts as they come along so this may be a very disoriented blog post. What you need to know is that my journey started at 2:30 PM when I boarded a train at Union to Naperville. After there was an accident on the tracks, I hitched a ride from Lisle IL to a Walmart parking lot in Naperville and waited patiently for a bus that would take me on a 14-hour bus ride to Washington D.C. The reason for my journey? I was going to stand in solidarity at the Women’s March on Washington. Yeah I know I identify as a man, I know that this is a march for women, but at the same time, I know that women should not have to be having this march in the first place. It’s 2017 and people are still fighting for their right to exist. We are living in an age where we as American Citizens have finally reached the boiling point to change this melting pot for the better.

So here I was, Marching in D.C., Representing every nasty woman that I’ve ever known that did not have the opportunity to drop everything they had planned and spend a weekend across the country. Representing every woman that has ever made an impact in my life. Representing what it means to be a Feminist until everyone, including myself, don’t have to explain the concept of equal rights to their relatives at the dinner table.

So the march itself had a very Woodstock-like feel. Hundreds of thousands of happy people marching for what they believe in. Though there were downsides. The number of people was so enormous that you would have to wait for hours to use a bathroom or buy food anywhere near the vicinity of the march. You’ve seen the pictures online, you’ve seen the media posts. The march itself was one of the most peaceful protests that I have ever been a part of. I never saw anyone fight. I never saw any police engage, and I never saw any open space that was uninhabited by human beings.

It was amazing.

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It was a surreal experience. The amount of people that were generating positive energy engulfed the crowd. The sea of protesters ebbed and flowed into every open crevice. Cheers started and ended like a relentless, sonorous tsunami in the waves of pink pussyhats. There were so many people wading through the streets that the march route became more than 4 separate streams all flowing towards the White House. From the trickle of marchers at 8 am at the capitol building to the storm of justice that overtook this nation’s capital just hours later, every single person who could feel change in the storms they conjured up.

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I can’t fathom into words the experience that I had this weekend in D.C. The sheer mass of content that I experienced this weekend could fill a novel. I am cutting this blog post short, but I ask everyone reading this one thing. We, the people, have the power to generate change. If you are passionate about something, or know that there is injustice out there, go out and fight for what’s right. It’s up to us to do the right thing. There will always be someone out there to support your beliefs, just ask the 3.3 Million people who marched this weekend around the world.

My Top 10 Artists Who Didn’t Release an Album in 2016

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There were tons and tons and tons of releases in 2016 from some of the biggest names in music. From Beyoncé to the Weeknd, Lady Gaga, Drake, Kanye, Chance the Rapper, Frank Ocean, Kid Cudi, J Cole, and many more that I can’t really think of right now. 2016 was a great year for music. There were so many releases that I almost forgot about some artists that didn’t release in 2016, so I decided to make a top 10 list of artists that I wish did release albums in 2016:

10. Gorillaz

Everyone loves Feel Good Inc., but for a lot of people don’t know about any of the releases that followed like Plastic Beach and The Fall. With their last release being more than 6 years ago.

9. Lana Del Rey

I was really surprised that Lana Del Rey didn’t release an album in 2016, but as of today, she started registering song names for her newest album 2017 is starting to look up already.

8. The Districts

The Districts were a band that I got angsty to in high school. I just want them to release new music asap.

7. Nicki Minaj

Nicki is known for having some of the strongest versus out there. With the male dominated raps of 2016 (Lil Yachty, Chance the Rapper, Kanye) it was strange to see 2016 be a year without a Nicki Album. Hopefully this year changes that.

6. Arcade Fire

With their last studio release in 2013, it was about time for this award winning band to release new material

5. Perfume Genius

Mike Hadreas has released an album about every 2 years. I was surprised to not see a release in 2016. Perfume Genius is pretty quality and if you’re looking for new music to start off 2017, this is where you should look.

4. Arctic Monkeys

It’s been confirmed that the Arctic Monkeys are officially off of Hiatus. Arctic Monkey albums should be a staple to anyone’s music collections. Can’t wait to see what this year brings us.

3. Daft Punk

For some reason, every time Daft Punk makes anything, it turns out amazing and wins a ton of awards. This is great. It should happen again.

2. The Black Keys

Every Black Keys album just seems to get better and better (Although Brothers will always be my favorite album). Without a release in 2016, this year seems like a probable time for The Black Keys to drop an album.

1. Lorde

Lorde is one of my favorite artists. A lot of people were hoping that Lorde would release an album last year, but the bright side of Lorde not releasing her second album is that the chances of her sophomoric album not being overlooked because of big hitting artists like Beyoncé and Kanye.

2016 brought us a ton of new music, and even if a few of these artist release music this year, 2017 looks like its going to be as equally promising as last year.

Weekly Artist Spotlight

Every Monday I’m going to be blogging about what I’m listening to this week, while I’ll blog about all the different shows that I go to throughout my time at UIC.  I’m going through an Indie Binge right now so here are my top artists for this week.

 

 

Milky Chance

An indie artist with unique vocals, great rhythms, and a good flow, Milky Chance is the type of band that I play when someone hands me the aux and the overbearing stress of not knowing what to play because you don’t know what the other person likes consumes you.

 

Dog Is Dead

U.K Based band known originally for the use of their song Glockenspiel Song for the finale of Skins Season 5. They have a unique style that includes a focus on classical instruments such as saxophone or concert percussion. Great for anyone on an indie binge.

 

The Apache Relay

This band sadly broke up in 2015, but in the time they were together they created two amazing indie albums. Katie Queen of Tennessee was one of their biggest hits and was used in 2014 for almost every commercial possible. Definitely worth listening to.

 

 

Foster The People

Everyone knows about Pumped Up Kicks but not a lot of people followed these artists up with the rest of their discography. Supermodel is one of my favorite albums because it ranges from the notorious “Foster the People” sound to some slower songs that somehow work with the flow of the album.

Weekly Artist Highlight

The artists and types of music that we want to listen to change on the daily. I made a short list of artists that have peaked my interest this week that I would like to share with y’all:

Allan Rayman 

My Roommate introduced me to Allan Rayman this summer because it was the only artist he would listen to when playing video games. His music style intrigues me, because its not exactly singing, but still not exactly rapping, and its not exactly R&B but not exactly alternative indie. He’s on tour right now, and actually will be performing at The Metro this Wednesday.

Chris Rubeo

I was first introduced to this artist when his music was used in the gay web series The Outs. Most of his music is acoustic and hella soothing. Definitely one of my favorite artists from this decade.

Mumford and Sons

Everyone knows who Mumford and sons is and the impact their banjos had on modern music. Something that I didn’t know until recently is that they released an EP (Johannesburg) based on South African music and featuring a Senegal Singer named Baaba Maal, South African band Beatenburg, and The Very Best, which I don’t know very well but I saw them live at the Mumford & Sons stopover in Dixon IL in 2012. Definitely a large shift in artistic style and worth a listen.

Wild Child

I went to a wild child concert with a friend without knowing anything about their music. I assumed they were going to be some sort of rock band but what they really were blew me away. The concert was basically a spiritual experience. What I could describe them as would be an indie big band jazz take on folk music. Some interesting things include that instead of guitar they have a tenor ukulele that tunes to each song and the lead singer sings while strumming away on her violin and I’m definitely a big fan of their artistic style. Best concert of 2016 so far.

What Ever Happened to Lorde?

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Lorde’s first album, Pure Heroine, swept everyone off their feet as Royals became the only song that anyone could hear on any radio station back in late 2013. Ever since its release, some say they love Royals, some say they hate it, but one thing can be agreed: Pure Heroine is an amazing album that still remains on any party playlist that you can hear from your noisy next door neighbors.

We all, at one point in time, have had at least one song from Pure Heroine that we could have on repeat for a solid hour. The hypnotizing vocals, the pulsing rhythms, and the general Lorde ‘Aesthetic’ made for a force that quickly took over everyone’s iTunes playlists. On her first album, Lorde was able to make a name for herself and make everyone go crazy for her music, just like how artists like Vance Joy and Halsey were later able to create the same effect.

About a year or two after Pure Heroine’s release, a lot of people, myself included, expected Lorde to release her sophomoric attempt at a second album somewhat soon. Just like back then, a release date for this album has yet to surface. For me, and most undergrads, Royals was a song I first heard in high school. Songs come and go but if anyone ever asked me to make a playlist of songs that created the embodiment of the modern millennial high schooler, Lorde and her music would be very prominent on this very nostalgic and probably avoided playlist.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, waiting three years for an album to drop isn’t the longest time anyone has waited for an album to drop. We just got done patiently waiting 5 years to have Frank Ocean drop his next album and the emotionally taxing time spent looking up internet articles to see whether or not Frank Ocean was alive definitely took a toll on even the most loyal of fans.

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Thankfully, Lorde, who is actually younger than your average UIC Student, has been dropping hints for most of 2016, saying that an album drop should be soon, and hopefully late 2016. Lorde’s twitter page confirms that she has an album name already picked out, while many internet sources claim that this album will come out sooner than later. I personally believe in the success of the sudden release method, but if an album is going to drop anytime soon, hopefully we will see some advertisements or maybe even be lucky enough for a single to drop.

News for this album has been very scarce, but at least Lorde has done a few collaborations in the past few years, including songs for movie sound tracks and her latest co-written song, Heartlines by Broods. If anything, Lorde can take as long as she wants on this album if it means that this sophomoric attempt will blow Pure Heroine out of the water, which is a pretty hard feat considering that it was nominated for more than 80 awards and won at least 1/3rd of them. While we wait patiently, I’ll say that I’m satisfied with artists who have released new material this year, like Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book and Beyoncé’s Lemonade, the musical developments of 2016 have definitely been at an all time high in music and pop culture.