Review: Lana Del Rey – “Lust For Life”

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There’s a moment on Lana Del Rey’s fourth record, Lust For Life, that should hit her biggest fans (or as Hipster Runoff dudebros in 2011 once called them, apologists) harder than nearly all of her lyrical catalog. For those listeners that once found themselves entranced with the smoky voice totally consumed, and maybe a little depressed, by the moments of quiet domesticity with her lover on “Video Games,” it should come as a revelation to hear that same voice turned outward to the world around her: “We get so tired and we complain / Bout how it’s hard to live / It’s more than just a video game.”

This watchful eye on a world in turmoil is a motif across Lust For Life- which, in the early days of the promotional cycle for the album, seemed worrying considering all the obligatory “political pop” done so inelegantly by her peers. Still, if any major voice in pop music seemed fit for the challenge, it was Lana- an artist so deeply reliant on iconic Americana imagery that even the slightest shift away could seem like a revolution.

Continue reading “Review: Lana Del Rey – “Lust For Life””

My K-Pop Awakening Part 3: I Saw Both My Bias Groups In One Month

안녕하세요! UIC Radio 소니아 입니다.

It’s been such a wild ride.

So, I know undergoing this ~K-Pop Awakening~ (I now say with a hint of an eyeroll @ myself) has been weird, not only for me but also for my friends and probably everyone I know as well. K-pop, as I learned, can pretty much completely take over a person’s life, and I now realize I am a living example of this. Where is my shame, though? Do I have any? I really don’t think so anymore.

I learned a lot by entering the k-pop community. First: there is rarely such a thing as a casual fan. You either hardcore stan a group (or more than one, in most cases) or you don’t. Gray areas don’t exist, and once you catch feelings for a group, there’s no turning back.

Second: k-pop fans have no chill. Contrasting to my last point, this can vary from fan to fan. You can show your love for your group in small ways such as wearing items of jewelry or clothing adorned with the group’s relative symbols or your bias’s name, whereas other times fan groups with numbers in the hundreds or thousands get together and purchase ad space in Times Square to honor their bias group’s anniversary or plaster their faces on a bus for their birthdays. How they manage to pull it off is beyond me, but there is no denying the love they have for these groups and members is real.

Third: the k-pop community is one of the most accepting communities I’ve ever been a part of. Aside from fan wars (which is a completely different story), every person I’ve met and disclosed my “I don’t know what is happening to me but I love it” spiel to has given me a look of sympathy and said “it’s okay, I’ve been there too and I know what you’re going through and you will be okay,” followed by an exchange of how we discovered our bias groups and/or consequently gotten sucked into the k-pop void. It’s comforting to know that having your entire mindset and lifestyle taken over by this stuff is not only not unusual, but it is rampant, and you form an immediate bond with everyone else who this has happened to. In losing yourself, you find others.


Fourth: K-pop groups don’t come to America very often, but when they do, everything happens so fast. I am used to western artists announcing a tour anywhere from several months to more than a year before they actually hit your city. This gives you plenty of time to plan when you can go, maybe save up for a ticket or at least purchase it and make the money back later, but for k-pop groups, you get maybe a month or two’s notice before they begin a tour. This is stressful as h e c k. Not only are you bewildered that your bias group is coming to America at all, can you actually go? And if you can, can you afford it?? (Ticket prices are no joke, even the cheapest seats are half of one of my minimum-wage pay checks). If you’re able to take off school or work (which many, if not most k-pop fans go to that extent to do), you’re set… that is, as long as you’re part of a major US city. Likely, if you live anywhere that’s not NYC, LA, or Chicago, among other factors (being underage/can’t travel by yourself, can’t drive, can’t take off school/work, etc), you have to face the agony knowing your favorite group is in your country for once but it’s impossible for you to go see them.

Being a k-pop fan is not easy, especially when your dream is to see your favorite groups live even once in your life. In stanning these groups, both your pride and your wallet often ache with frustration.

That being said, in a surprising turn of events…

I got to see both of my bias groups within a month of each other!! Something I thought I would never get to do in this lifetime!!! Especially considering I’ve only adopted this lifestyle for a mere few months, whereas most of the k-pop fans I’ve met have been into this stuff for years. I’d be lucky to catch even one group’s show, but for once the stars (and my bank account, miraculously) aligned and I managed to see both of the two k-pop groups I fell in love with over the fall! Continue reading “My K-Pop Awakening Part 3: I Saw Both My Bias Groups In One Month”

Donald Trump Isn’t The Problem


160316-daly-trump-clinton-tease_dpubuo.jpgSource: Maring Photography/Getty


Donald Trump did not create the current awfulness of our politics; he is the product of it. Every evil, nasty thing you see on TV with the name ‘TRUMP’ attached to it is not his idea, not his creation. Trump doesn’t have original creations. He is just a name, a name to attach to other people’s creations, be they buildings, golf courses or horrific, life-ending legislation. To quote HBO’s John Oliver, he was (initially) a ‘sh*tty lifestyle brand,’ nothing more.

I say this because I have a very real fear that if Donald Trump leaves, so will people’s interest and awareness of the mess in this country. It is because people failed to be interested for so long that Donald Trump became president. It is because of passive disinterest, not active evil, that he came to power. All-too-common attitudes like, “I don’t care about politics,” ultimately gave him way more leverage than the minority of people who chanted, “Make America great again!”

Studies have shown… what the rich want [politically], the rich get, and when it comes to the rest of us, tough luck!

State and local community issues need to become a focus, and they are something we can start focusing. on. now. Both Democrats and Republicans alike have betrayed us, to varying degrees, for favor of the upper class. Studies have shown when it comes to actual results and enacted policies, what the rich want, the rich get, and when it comes to the rest of us, tough luck! This is oligarchy. Donald Trump isn’t the reason Illinois doesn’t have a budget. Donald Trump isn’t the reason colleges are in danger of shutting down. Admittedly his decisions are exacerbating all of this, but these dilemmas existed well before his rise to power. If Hillary had been elected, we would still be dealing with our problems closer to home (and many/most of the national ones, as well). It all originates at the top.

There’s no reason for it to be this way. Way more of us exist than them. Waiting a potential four (or god forbid, eight) years for one human’s time to be up is a strategy for brutal loss. This is something Bernie has been practically screaming from his old, tired lungs ever since the election started. Just as Trump can’t be solely responsible for the bad, as many before me have desperately pointed out, Bernie (nor any one president/figure) can’t be the sole source of good. It is our responsibility to fix this mess at all levels, continuously, as collective Americans. I don’t have all the answers. I just know what isn’t the answer. And the answer isn’t to start and stop our activism with Donald Trump. 🇺🇸


Trev Richards is host of the weekly talk program Trev on UIC Radio; Live, Mondays 8:30 – 10:30 PM Central Time. Follow/listen on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, iTunes and SoundCloud

A Working Spring

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Courtesy of Lost TV.

Three jobs and twenty one credit hours have kept me off of UIC Radio’s front page this semester, much to the dismay of my twelve readers (I ❤ you guys & gals). A busy spring also kept Nick V, Cheech, and me from sitting down in the same room together for about two months. When we finally found overlapping free time, we spent the better part of two hours animatedly talking about Syria, Chicago’s water, and the prison system. But between catching up and conversations eventually bleeding into politics, I managed to ask a few questions and listen to some phenomenal answers.

I wanted to interview the FreeFAM founders for a second time. Last fall, they’d impressed me with their business-minded approach to their genre. Without sacrificing individuality and independence, they seek to create a brand to support all kinds of artists. Coming from a city with a music culture that’s very “out-for-yourself,” their message is refreshing. FAM is in the name.

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Courtesy of Lost TV.

 

An obligatory catch-up is needed first, as these guys have not sat still since the last time they visited UIC Radio’s studio. They’ve been playing gigs, traveling, and working with producers like CB Mix, credited on Chance’s Coloring BookThey’re working with LRG to create clothing and Pat Banahan of Lost TV to make videos. The group just released a music video for Bless the Bottles, (my personal favorite so far) featuring the same BMW I8 King Louie and Vonmar used in their own video. They even played a show at College of DuPage, which only sounds mildly impressive until you learn COD won’t back anyone without a tax ID and business number. They even have a website. FreeFAM is officially in business.

On Tuesday, I asked Nick V and Cheech about branding. I wanted to know what audience FreeFAM would draw as a full-blown music label complete with t-shirts and dispensaries. Both brothers said “local” immediately. They don’t want to limit themselves to Chicago, but their focus is building up a platform to support all members of music production. Their circle includes engineers and videographers, animators, and even a few family members for legal counsel. The want anyone who’s drawn to an image of family, brothers, positive moves, and a platform that’s there to serve their clients. Cheech commented that “non-threatening artists” are what resonate in Chicago today.

 

Nick said he wants people with energy. “Energy to party, to help, to create.” He’s got a vision of FreeFAM as a charity and force for good in Chicago. We inevitably broke into ranting about senators and bills, but Nick had a ton to say about water quality. It was endearing and inspiring and had me walking home thinking how one could add water filters to a music label…But that’s beside the point.

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Courtesy of Lost TV.

I asked about brands that could “make or break” an artist. Lil Wayne and Cash Money were brought up, as was Future, who got in a legal battle with his manager and was forced to release two albums ahead of time so he could start making his own money. Some artists get caught promoting BS; Cheech brought up the Fyre Festival flop. But Jay-Z’s own streaming website was mentioned as a positive. “It all depends on if a brand will encourage or control you,” Nick told me. A label obviously wants a return on investment and will have to control an artist’s image if money is lost. So who’s got their label working for them? Cheech laughed at this thought and brought up Kanye. “His label has been taking so much money from his music. Someone’s been making 50% off all of his songs.”

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Photo courtesy of Lost TV.

Controlling the artist is beyond the aims of the Freedom Family. Both brothers explained respect for their artist is the only reason they’d sign someone, and there’s no need to control someone they respect. They don’t intend to cultivate a brand that interferes with music production or limits the evolution and development of an artist.

“At the end of the day, music is the most important. But music won’t be heard without branding.” Other groups have PR people to handle web pages, social media, and scheduling. But for FreeFAM, “It’s just me and Cheech,” Nick says. The work is taking a toll; Nick V’s been off social media and left with what sounds like carpal tunnel in his hands and a prescription for range-of-motion exercises. “Shouldn’t be constantly posting, anyway,” he admitted. I told him not to worry about it. “It’s always nice to hear from family.”

 

Have a Scien-tastic Day!

American Rage and Suburban Malaise: A Study of the Urban Punk Underground

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Martha’s Got a Limp Wrist (Photo by Christian Contreras)

This piece has been censored for the UIC Radio blog.

It’s difficult to write about punk without draining it of its chaos.

The greatest punk shows are soaked in sweat and blown into the red. The best punk lyrics are incomprehensible, the best punk venues include a highly suspect dirty mattress in the corner, and the best punk showgoer is one who will sweat all over you, push you into other strangers, scream in your face, and then let you bum a cigarette at the end of the night. When writing about punk neglects to include that sense of disorder and entropy, you get sterile talk of what is, above all, the art of violent, cathartic release.

When I was a teenager, DIY punk shows in Chicago were my safe haven. Growing up gay, there are very few spaces in which you know that you’re not the only outcast- which isn’t to say that I was some sort of hunchbacked adolescent hermit, but when you come out of the closet early, there’s a very thin line you have to walk, knowing all the eyes that rest on you. Getting drunk, then moshing and screaming and sweating in trashed apartments on the weekends was just the sort of chaotic release I needed to keep from cracking under the pressure.

There’s an energy at every great punk show that finds its way up your spine and lets you know you aren’t the only one who just needs a f*cking break. There are systems in place working against all of us- some more complicated or institutionalized than others- but the fun of a punk show is sourced from the moment it allows for young, frustrated, bored, and fed up people to stop needing to think for a while.

Eventually though, you stop being seventeen years old and it’s no longer socially acceptable to struggle through an Aquafina bottle full of whiskey, sweat through your shirt and make out with a high schooler at the end of the night.

Continue reading “American Rage and Suburban Malaise: A Study of the Urban Punk Underground”

Note To Self

“this is an open diary. this gives my insides a voice through visuals and poetry; this is me spilled out on paper.”

Typically on this blog you’ll find album reviews and updates on everything new in the music scene, but for right now I would like to do something different and talk about a book.

Books and albums are pretty similar. They’re both a form of art, they both tell stories, and they both can be used as a mental crutch.

I’ve recently finished reading the new book, Note To Self, written by Connor Franta. Connor Franta is a YouTuber, New York Times bestselling author, entrepreneur, and a LGBTQ+ philanthropist. This is Connor’s sophomore book following his memoir, A Work In Progress.

Note To Self is a collections of poems, memories, thoughts, and essays that come from a deep and vulnerable place. Connor Franta allows readers to see the world from his perceptive as he opens up about love, heartbreak, and dealing with mental illness. Note To Self gives us an interior look into Connor’s life that cannot be seen online.

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This book is real. A lot of these pages I read with a heavy heart and truly could empathize with Connor. I found myself reading a line and thinking, ouch, that really hits close to home.”

But then there were the pages that left me feeling hopeful and inspired. They were reminders that I’m not alone with my feelings, and to always keep an open heart and an open mind.

Connor Franta wrote this book for himself (hence the title) as a way to reflect on his past few years. Through this self-reflection, Connor has opened a gateway for readers to come in and find their own meanings and to find comfort. Through the highs and the lows, this book made me feel something; it was something I could relate to and something I could find a sense of ease in.

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I highly recommend everyone picks up a copy of this book. It’s a great read, and it offers a little something for everyone. You can buy a copy of Note To Self Here.

I also had the pleasure to meet Connor Franta at the Chicago stop of his book signing. I will also be attending the Note To Self Tour in Milwaukee, which includes visuals from the book created by Connor, and a Q&A and discussion session. You can buy tickets for the tour Here.

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Tips for Music Festival & Concert Goers

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A couple of useful tips to keep in mind when attending some of those awesome festivals and concerts I mentioned in my last blog post:

Stay hydrated

Don’t be that person that gets carried out from the crowd during the show 😦 it makes us sad and you don’t get to enjoy the show.
Whether it’s water you’re sharing with the people you’re with or water bottles some of the nice security guards offer – drink it, stay hydrated. No, beer doesn’t count as staying hydrated, neither does juice – H2O bro.
Also, if water is allowed during the entrance bring more than one bottle! If not, drink your 8 glasses before going to the concert / festival but also use the bathroom first – Porta potties suck.

Wear appropriate clothing

Don’t wear a jacket because it’s cold out — I made this mistake once. I wore my north face windbreaker to a concert and regretted it one song in because I was front row and everyone’s body heat almost made me pass out even though I was drinking water. When it’s hot, wear clothes you’ll be comfortable in (for example tank tops and sports bras).

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Wear comfy shoes

It’s hard figuring out what shoes are best. I’ve worn running shoes to concerts before but I made the mistake of wearing NEW running shoes…to riot fest…after it rained a whole day. Those new white running shoes are now brown. I also wore converse to some concerts and even before the headliner performed – my feet were killing me! I had waited hours standing.

Be nice

Don’t be the jerk to start a fight because someone accidently pushes you, I’ve made so many friends just by apologizing before and after a concert to the people around me if I was pushing them or if my hair gets in their way. Everyone is there to enjoy themselves and have a good time.

Purses

Always a purse with a zipper ladies you don’t want people being able to open your purse without you noticing and stealing your phone or wallet. Side purses are my go to because I don’t need to be bothered during a show holding my purse. Also a book bag!! Especially for music festivals, essentials: water !!
And…

Portable chargers

These are life savers. Make sure to fully charge them before a concert.

Lastly,

You don’t need that merch

The merch table is always exciting, and the merch guy is always charming but don’t spend your paycheck on merch like some people (I’m pointing at myself).

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Troye Sivan Takes On Coachella

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The incredibly talented Australian pop star, Troye Sivan, surprised his fans with a surprise performance at the 2017 Coachella music festival.

Sivan joined DJ Martin Garrix on the Sahara Stage during his set to drop their new song together, “There For You.

This is the first piece of new music that we have gotten from Sivan since his 2015 debut album, Blue Neighbourhood, and we couldn’t be more excited about it.

Sivan has been hinting on his Twitter that a new album is in the works, and new music will be coming our way in the, hopefully, near future.

There For You” is a brilliant song with a beautiful message. It’s pop heavy and radio-ready, and while it may be a great song to bop to, the lyrics hold a lot in them.

“I got you, I promise

Let me be honest

Love is a road that goes both ways

When your tears roll down your pillow like a river

I’ll be there for you

But you gotta be there for me too”

Communication is the most important thing in any relationship. You cannot expect someone to always be there for you, if you cannot be there for them. Communication, and as stated in the song, love, goes both ways. One sided relationships are toxic and unfair and I cannot stress this enough.

There For You” is a song I feel like everyone can relate to at some point in life, and songs like this are perfect to find comfort in. Sweet and soft.

With that being said, I cannot wait to hear what Sivan has planned for his sophomore album.

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As a longtime fan of Troye Sivan (and a fan of music and talent in general,) it’s been an emotional ride watching Sivan go from posting quirky videos on YouTube, to preforming on the iconic Coachella stage.

It just goes to show that if you’re passionate about something, and you want your dream bad enough, hard work and dedication pays off, and living the life you’ve always dreamed of, is possible.

My Favorite Letters Rated from Best to Worst

I’ve just had really strong feelings about characters used in the english language so I decided to rate my favorites if you disagree feel free to fight me about it in person in any setting you prefer.

26. I

25. N

24. L

23. J

22. W

21. R

20. G

19. K

18. O

17. H

16. C

15. D

14. E

13. X

12. M

11. V

10. F

9. Z

8. P

7. Y

6. T

5. B

4. U

3. A

2. Q

1. S

That’s my list, feel free to comment and join the alphabet discourse that plagues us all.