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Short Docs for the Music Lover

The past week has been hectic for me, between work and school and just life in general. And though my downtime was scarce, I spent every single second of it on one site: Vox.

Self-described on its website as “a general interest news site for the 21st century,” Vox is most known for its short and to-the-point informational videos which, given their immense popularity and share-ability, have probably shown up on your news feed more than once. Vox also shows up on the Featured section of Snapchat from time to time (you know, those once-annoying news snaps that we once loathed but now rely on to stay up to date on current events?). Their videos range widely in topic, from politics to entertainment, to questions that we ask once and then never think about again (like “Why cartoon characters wear gloves” or “Sweet potatoes and yams: what’s the difference?“).  The videos are usually 2-8 minutes, making it very easy to fall down the rabbit hole that is watching a video, opening recommended ones in new tabs, watching those, and repeating this process until the sun has gone down and your brain hurts from all the new information (aka how I spent 5 of 7 days this week).

My personal favorite genre of Vox video is the series that centers around music, from artists and creation, to industry and culture. Sticking with the theme of “something you thought about once while you were driving home from Target, then abruptly forgot about and never brought up again,” these videos are informative, entertaining and also absolutely beautiful (seriously, they are so visually pleasing it is mesmerizing). Highlights from this series include “Kanye deconstructed: the human voice as the ultimate instrument” and “Why rappers love Grey Poupon,” both of which I have embedded below.

So, whenever you have a hour or two to learn a little information about a lot of topics, or are confused about the fact that in Cuba a cab driver makes more money than a doctor, or just wanna know why American breakfast is actually dessert, head on over to Vox, they’ve got you covered.

She Say That She a Wanderlust…

“She say that she a wanderlust, but she ain’t seen the world

So much to do at 21, you feel invincible”

Blackbear by far makes the cut in my top five favorite artists list. His music has a certain sound that stands out from any other r&b artist or rapper. He is just a goofy guy with a big heart that I am hella soft for.

One of his songs in particular that has always resonated within me is Wanderlust. This song is basically about a girl who is a wanderlust, but is also pretty clueless about the world.

Not to sound cheesy or basic, but, I feel highly connected to the wanderlust girl.

If you’re not familiar with the term wanderlust, it means to have a strong desire or impulse to travel. To wander and roam the planet.

I wasn’t raised in a wealthy family. There were no Disney World trips in the summer, or ski trip vacations in the winter. I’m 19 years old and I’ve never been on a plane and I’ve never been outside of the Midwest. And it is driving me insane.

I like to think of myself as cultured. That I know a lot about the world, and music, and the arts. That I am a free spirit. An indigo child. A wanderlust.  But… yet I have never left the cornfield states?

I’m kidding myself. I cannot be cultured if I haven’t seen the world. There is so much out there I haven’t seen or experienced, and I really am just a clueless college freshman from Chicago, Illinois at the end of the day.

Think about all the cities you’ve never been to. Or all of the states, countries, and continents. Think about the 7 billion people on this planet you have yet to meet and learn from. All of the things you have yet to try and to do. It makes my head spin just thinking about it.

I have high hopes and aspirations though. Just like Blackbear’s wanderlust girl who “wants to be an actress and a singer like Selena,” so do I. I have dreams of creating and travelling and growing.

I’ve recently purchased plane tickets to California and Florida this summer. While I’m beyond grateful for these future experiences, I don’t plan on stopping there.

I want 2017 to be my year of growth. I plan to travel as much as I can. I plan to meet as many unique individuals as possible. I want to make something out of myself and live my life the way I have always wanted.

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19 is such a strange age. It’s an age where you don’t really know yourself or know where your future lies, and I don’t think I’ll be able to figure it out if I remain in the same place.

Though I have not physically traveled much, my soul is definitely a wanderlust. I have that yearn to find something higher in life, and I promise I will find it before Earth and Nibiru collide. I mean, none of us live forever, so why not make the most of life and see what the world has to offer while we can.

There is so much undiscovered beauty in this world; let’s not take it for granted. I do not want to be caged up or tied down while the rest of the world is going on around me. And who knows, maybe I’ll find myself partying it up with the legend Blackbear himself during my future endeavors.

 

 

Millenial Cartoons Stepping Up Their Game

The kids of the Millenial generation are one of the most privileged generations to ever see the face of the earth. Why do I say this? I say this because these kids get to grow up and have exposure to some of the best cartoons that have ever graced the face of this planet. While our generation got to experience the wacky hi-jinx that existed in the inbetween of an older generation of Cartoons transitioning to today’s creations like Powerpuff girls, Ed, Edd, and Eddy, KND, Spongebob, and Courage the cowardly dog, none of us really got to experience the emotional rollercoaster that exists in shows like Steven Universe, Regular Show, Gravity Falls, and the later seasons of Adventure Time.

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Steven Universe’s latest episode from season 4 dealt with the after effect of a child growing up after losing a parent. Something that Rugrats wasn’t even allowed to talk about for years after it’s creation. I watched this episode today and actually shed a few tears from how well the episode was crafted. While music is not a new concept to be used in cartoons, I don’t think that any other form of mass media is using it in the way that cartoons are today to help kids understand what they are feeling and process it healthily. cartoons

Let’s face it. We are a generation of kids who were left in front of a TV by a generation who made TV what it is today, and now we’re the generation continuing that trend and leaving kids in front of TVs. I guess I don’t mind it that much. Kids these days have access to some high-quality shows and if the world didn’t completely suck at this point I’d be extremely jealous of them.

I Had Fun At A Club

As many of my friends could testify, I am not the clubbing type. In fact, I’m the totally lame stay at home and read a book or grab food with a friend when I have the time to type. However, I’ve had friendships where their prime past time was jumping around or grinding about at clubs, and therefore I have been to my fair share of them.

And you may have guessed correctly…I’ve always hated it. Maybe I wasn’t as drunk as everyone there or maybe everyone could sense that I didn’t belong, but it has always been uncomfortable and awkward, not to mention equally as annoying being felt around by some dude probably 20 years older than me. Gross exaggeration, but also probably not.

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The thing is I love to dance too. I’m not very good at it, and often my friends will tell me after, “you were a little too into it back there” or “what was that”, which probably paints a pretty good picture of how great I look out there. Regardless, I really do enjoy dancing, although often weirdly and eccentric, and yet the club has never been a place I felt good at.

This weekend, however, a large sum of my friends made a trip down to U of I where we danced and sang more in one weekend than I have this entire school year. It was truly one of the funnest weekends I’ve had in a really long time, and a lot of it was spent at a club. The music felt like it was remixed all to the same beat and the song selection in general could have been a whole lot better, but that didn’t seem to stop us from laying it all out on the dance floor.

This had everything to do with the people I was with, which were some of the goofiest most fun-loving people I know, and I accredit such an excellent weekend all to them. They even made a sticky, loud, and hot-mess of a bar a great success. And so, I conclude, that almost anything can be made positive or negative by the people you surround yourself with and your attitude. This has been your Motivational Monday. See you at the clubs.

You Should Probably Just Vote Republican

This past weekend, it was warmer in Chicago than San Diego. In February. That’s right, February – the month that everyone told me I would to need to be sleeping under a sun lamp and snorting vitamin D pills to fight suicidal urges.

Though, rather than sulking indoors, it seems that half the city has been drinking outdoors for two days straight. The Quad at UIC which generally sounds like whistling wind was scored by laughter. People were actually smiling and stopping to talk to each other, it was like the amount of beautiful people walking around suddenly tripled. Hell, the lunch lady who I exchange grimaces with as part of my daily routine even told me a joke.

That’s when I knew something was really wrong.

Continue reading You Should Probably Just Vote Republican

Happy 50th Birthday, Kurt Cobain

images-1                                                                                                      Kurt Cobain would have turned 50 tomorrow.  As we all know, he passed away in April of 1994 at the age of 27.  He released four albums with Nirvana in just a little over four years, and they have certainly stood the test of time.  We can only imagine how much great work he might have done, had he decided to stay with us.  But would he have been the same artist without the pain and depression that drove him to shoot himself on that April day?   As Neil Young sang “It’s better to burn out, than to fade away”.  Perhaps.  But in appreciating Cobain’s genius, there is also that sadness that he just couldn’t keep it together, despite all of his success.   We will never know.  But attention must be paid, and I will be featuring his music on my show Monday, 12-4 PM CST at https://uicradio.wordpress.com/ .  I hope you can join me.  

Indie Binge: Animals – How Pink Floyd Parallels Animal Collective

Pink Floyd was, at many points in their long careers, one of the most capable, musically intelligent and diverse rock bands of all time. Their legendary status has been recognized the world over. Their unique prestige has gone nearly unchallenged in rock history. However, by the law of history always repeating itself, I believe there must be some modern musical equivalent to the prog-rock legends.


Making their debuts 33 years apart, Animal Collective and Pink Floyd bloomed out of humble avant-garde beginnings. Their first albums, Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967), and Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Finished (2000) are unrecognizable to fans of each group’s mainstream music.

Pink Floyd’s debut features lengthy, loose-feeling psychedelic instrumentals with odd sound effects even for the time: just a few months before The Beatle’s landmark Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The songwriting is edgy, with nonsensical lyrics which bite as hard as the distinct early prog-rock guitar riffs (see Interstellar Overdrive). Songs as innocent as Scarecrow and Bike showcase Pink Floyd’s versatility and musical capability, as well as the complicated mindset of early songwriter Syd Barrett.

Animal Collective’s Spirit They’re Gone… is an impressive collection of experimental pop, originally released by “Avey Tare and Panda Bear”, the band’s two future bandleaders. Featuring lengthy musical phrases, drones, and vocals that are either inaccessible or obscured, the album creates a distinct electronic sound that remains organic. The first track, “Spirit They’re Vanished”, begins with impossibly high-pitched buzzing, echoey textures, and strained vocals. Upbeat standout track Bat You’ll Fly layers multiple vocal lines, each one equally catchy, with rushed, almost R&B style drums. The effect creates a cluttered, disorientating production style which Animal Collective would somewhat become known for.

Continue reading Indie Binge: Animals – How Pink Floyd Parallels Animal Collective

What Is A VenoSci And How Does It Chiptunes?

Nothing like dancing your feet through a fog machine and cutting your hands through flashing neon lights to clear up your writer’s block.
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I was lucky enough to learn about a show put on by MILKSHAKES in combo with Rora TEAM, an online label that deals with creative DJs and EDM composers. The event took place in the Digital Art Demo Space and featured artists from New York to California. Each performance was accompanied by customized visuals projected on a screen behind the stage, accentuating every turn and change in the music like an accompanying instrument. The team behind the visuals, lights, and smooth-running set ups of the show made the night beautiful.
At the expense of journalistic integrity, I’m going to play favorites. I couldn’t complain about any performer, but three really stood out.
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Photo courtesy of Rora Team & MILKSHAKES
First up is Brackets. When she got behind the table, I recognized her as the gal who got the crowd jumping even before her performance; her dancing  was practically contagious. Her set was high-powered and loaded with variety and tons of crowd-pleasing references. Also worth mentioning: she’s a Chicago native and Rora TEAM co-founder. If Brackets can find the time, she says she’s down for an interview and a visit to UIC Radio. No clever segue here, just click the brackets for the sound cloud: [][][][][][][][][][][][][][][]
Though a tough act to follow, Brackets had no weight on Skinny McToothpick. His white hair and neon jacket gave the impression of a radioactive cartoon character. The music only contributed. So much energy packed into each brilliantly composed song kept everyone on their toes. You know when a performer gets so pulled into their work and enjoys them self so much, it makes you feel good just watching? Skinny McToothpick was more of a performer behind the table than most instrumental musicians and singers I’ve watched. I’m surprised he had the energy to rejoin the crowd and keep dancing after his set. See for yourself!
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Photo courtesy of VenoSci
The real reason I attended was to watch a good friend of mine, VenoSci AK(to me)A Aaron. I’m very lucky that the people I grew up with pursued their creative passions and then invite me to their performances. It’s been amazing, watching my friend improve and develop his music, but personally, I’m thankful it hasn’t changed too much since the shows he’d put on in high school.
What was that about journalistic integrity? Ah, yes. My unbiased review:
VenoSci makes chiptunes, and if you aren’t familiar with the genre, it’s well worth looking up. Here’s his Soundcloud for you to stream while finishing this article. Anyone who says DJing isn’t performance art obviously hasn’t seen this artist in action. VenoSci performs like the buttons he presses on his set up send electricity up his arms and moves with his music like he’s modeling for the crowd how to dance to his compositions. No wonder he describes performing as sweaty, exciting, and fun. During the show, he used a few pieces of Toy Box’s “Best Friend” and let the audience sing along. He even left the table and danced with the crowd to his own creation.
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Photo courtesy of VenoSci
VenoSci rocked the house and then agreed to be interviewed for UIC Radio. What a fabulous Saturday for this blogger!
Asking him to explain how his set up works to a non-tech, non-video game savvy person was an awkward inquiry, but he managed to get his process across. He uses 2 original Nintendo Gameboys, 1 Korean GP2X handheld, and a PsP 1000. Aaron added that, “since some of this equipment is over 20 years old at this point, things often go wrong: devices crash, SD cards aren’t recognized, batteries die frequently… It’s always an adventure having to maintain a quality set and also to troubleshoot hardware on the fly.”
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Photo courtesy of omicrono.elespanol.com

 

To make music on his Gameboy, he uses a special cartridge. Rather than containing a game, it contains a piece of custom music software. This allows the artist to control the sound card directly: “I can sequence out full songs which I then playback live. I use similar methods for playing back songs on my GP2X, but instead of synthesis, I sequence samples.”
What always amazes me is Aaron’s ability to make music feel nostalgic and classic, though it’s most at home among modern EDM genres. He credits this to the “built-in ‘nostalgic’ feel” in his software, as it’s an original Gameboy. He explained the soundcard is 100% stock, so the same soundcard has produced soundtracks to Pokemon and Zelda, two games our generation knows pretty well, even if we only got to watch our older brothers play them.
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Photo courtesy of VenoSci.
Aaron cites Japanese dance music as his biggest inspiration, mentioning Maltine Records, MadMilky Records, and artists like Tofubeats and Perfume. Combining these more complicated influences within the comforting 8-bit framework of the Gameboy is Aaron’s main challenge and inspiration. It ensures his music stands out while making his audience cheer.
I left the venue Saturday night with a hug and a promise that I’d be the first to know when he was on deck for his next show. That means you’ll be the second.
Have a VenoSci-en-tastic Day!

Blahsmopolitan No. 8: “All Fags Go to Heaven”

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This is Blahsmopolitan, a weekly column about one freshman’s misfortune as he navigates his New Adult Life in Chicago, and the songs that soundtracked it. New stories are posted every Thursday, alongside a curated Blahsmo playlist to complement your reading and get you through the week with some new music. This week, our columnist gets bullied into googling porn, cries about the Mars Rover, and realizes he’s in love for the first time in hopes you can learn from his mistakes. (Sorry I’ve been gone so long! I’m in two workshop courses so I’ve been totally drained creatively- this is my first final piece. Enjoy!)

Stream this week’s playlist on Apple Music or Spotify.

This piece has been censored for UIC Radio. 

I was five years old when I got my first computer. It was a pale, white, unfortunate thing that moaned and groaned to life, a process which usually took about ten minutes. I already had my own email address, (bluesclues@ameritech.net, can you imagine that not being taken today?) and a little scuba diver followed my cursor around as my obsessive-compulsive self made alphabetized catalogs of all the CDs I owned so as to better keep track for the radio show I hosted under my bed. It was a lot of Spice Girls with a hint of 50 Cent. A real variety show.

Being one of the first people in my neighborhood to have not one but two computers with Internet access, I was obviously the talk of the Kindergarten class. A playdate with two Internet-enabled computers meant that we could play Stratego or Bowling Blitz from opposites sides of the room! It was unheard of. It all made me very popular, which was only boosted by the fact that I lied and told my classmates I won a Nickelodeon sweepstakes with a prize that was just too special to tell.

Fun as it all was, something changed once Ella Thomas started coming over.

Continue reading Blahsmopolitan No. 8: “All Fags Go to Heaven”

The Killers: where have they been?

If your early high school days were anything like mine, many of them were made up of hours spent watching music videos, debating with friends why A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out is one of the greatest debut records of all time, and dreamily planning cross-country band-following trips that your part-time fast food cashier minimum wage would never be able to afford. I daydreamed of being front row at rock shows, or hanging out on tour buses with legendary (to me at least) frontmen; an one day in December of 2012, these dreams came true.

I was at UIC Pavilion, waiting to see The Killers on the fall tour that was promoting their latest release, Battle Born. It was frigid and snowy, but the 2 hour show was absolutely life-changing, and as luck would have it, my friends and I were later invited onto the tour bus to meet the band and hang out for a bit. Though I was most definitely in shock after such a  surreal experience, and the hypothermic weather conditions may have been messing with my head a bit, it was on that night that The Killers were cemented as one of my GOATs. That was The Killers’ last official tour, and though it stretched well into 2013, that was almost four and a half years ago. So, where are they now?

Continue reading The Killers: where have they been?