Meditations: Leonard Leauge

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I regret making this.

Ok, I think it’s been long enough… i’m just going to say it. Are you ready? Alright, here we go…. (inhale)… the Justice League movie sucked.

Granted, it wasn’t as bad as Batman vs Superman or Suicide Squad, but the there’s no denying that the two hours of pedestrian acting, obnoxious CGI, and weird story decisions that made up the movie could suck a golfball through a straw. That’s not even mentioning the fact that the film underperformed at the box office, which I guess isn’t correct on my part because I just now mentioned it.

It’s all a damn shame too, because I genuinely enjoyed Wonder Woman.

Despite all this though, Justice League give me something that I would never in a million years expect it would give me; a newfound love and appreciation for the works of Leonard Cohen. Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either.

It all started when I went and saw the film with a few friends during my first few days back home for Thanksgiving break. Ironically, while the film is a bit of a dumpster fire, I do remember it having a very well crafted opening credits sequence. A montage of how nations around the world dealt with the tragic (yet ultimately meaningless) death of Superman, the sequence did a good job of painting a world that had lost its protector (but it’s OK he comes right back about halfway through the movie). While the imagery of black flags bearing Superman’s insignia and a sad looking Ben Affleck were powerful, what really makes it all work is a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” by Norwegian pop artist Sigrid.

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Batman and Flash watch as their box office and Rotten Tomatoes score plummet.

It’s one of the better covers I’ve ever heard, and I was humming the tune long after the film was over. I actually at first believed that the cover was an original song by a talented and clever up and coming pop artist. Once I went to check her out Spotify however, the weird Norwegian pop that started playing quickly reminded me that I still live in the modern music industry.

It wasn’t until I watched Red Letter Media’s Justice League Half in The Bag Episode that I found out who actually wrote the song. During the review, host Mike Stoklasa, mentions off hand that he knew he was in for a bad time time when the opening credits of the film were accompanied by a  crappy Leonard Cohen cover.From there, things made a lot of more sense, and I immediately went digging for the original version.

Up until that point, I had only really known Leonard Cohen as the hallelujah guy who “probably died or something”. Once I finally got a chance to pick through his discography and read up on the man. It took only a few days for me to quickly fall in love with the man and his discography. His songs were contemplative, thoughtful, and could genuinely make me feel really emotional times. Cohen’s low and almost conversational vocals and silky smooth classical guitar playing was a hypotonic combination, and during those first few days I remember listening to songs like “Suzanne” “Chelsea Hotel No. 2” and “Who by Fire” on almost near constant repeat.

Then there are those lyrics… those sweet, sweet leonard cohen lyrics.

Those were the reasons and that was New York. We were running for the money and the flesh, and that was called love for the workers in song, probably still is for those of them left,” you don’t get that anywhere else.

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The man himself.

The timing was also pretty good, as I was already going through the obligatory college freshman folk/americana singer songwriter phase, so adding Mr. Cohen to my Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, and Warren Zevon filled playlists was a very natural choice.

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Aquaman is still lame.

The whole thing has me a little frustrated if I’m being honest. It made me realize how narrow minded I can be when it comes to music, which can be a little problematic considering that I pride myself on being a music aficionado. I could name you every Pink Floyd or Beatles song, but somehow it took watching a lame superhero movie for me to come to appreciate the discography of one of the great american songwriters. It’s a little embarrassing actually.

So what’s the moral here? Same old crap really: have an open mind, try new things, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket  blah blah blah…

But in all seriousness though, you would do well to keep your ears open. Who knows, maybe the opening credits of Fifty Shades Freed will be just as life changing.

 

 

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2018’s “Little Dark Age” (Also MGMT concert in Chicago!)

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I’d like to begin this article by saying welcome back to another glorious semester here at University of Illinois at Chicago; as usual, I ushered in the new year by being incredibly lazy, and I’m sure you had the same response.

Whatever. Let’s talk about MGMT who is releasing their 4th studio album on February 9, 2018. 

This marks MGMT’s fourth studio album, and a lot of the aesthetic of the album pertains to the Gothic medieval era, similar to the album’s namesake. The themes are very apathetic, evil, and has the typical trippy vibe of MGMT. “When You Die” is my favorite single on the album, and it is a very warm and tangy song for how dark its lyrics truly are. Just watch the music video and you’ll understand what I mean:

Continue reading “2018’s “Little Dark Age” (Also MGMT concert in Chicago!)”

The Daily Blend’s December Top Ten 2017

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Hey, hey, everyone! Another month gone, and another year gone! WELCOME TO 8102 EVERYONE! In this new advanced year, instruments are no longer around, and are now artifacts preserved in a museum. Robots have taken over the world, and, of course, music. I’m kidding, of course; that’s a total nightmare! In all honesty, though, 2018 is bound to have some great music, and there’s already some releases coming up this month that I am SO excited about! But enough about new music, let’s have a look at the music that’s already been released, and has made it onto my playlists this past month! This month has honestly been a little different from past months: I’ve had less of a variety this month! As you’ll be able to tell, it has definitely been a rock-filled month, since almost all I listened to was rock-based music. But you’ll also see that there were a few hidden exceptions to this!

Continue reading “The Daily Blend’s December Top Ten 2017”

Looking For New Music?

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in the midst of procrastinating to study for finals, i put some playlists together on spotify.

i highkey have a bomb taste in music, so if you’re looking for something new, or something to fit a certain mood, check these playlists out:

(i PROMISE these are good)

1.)

for nights out with the girls / pregaming / promiscuous and saucy moods

2.)

f*ck boy rap, but like, good f*ck boy rap

Continue reading “Looking For New Music?”

The Daily Blend’s November Top Ten 2017

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Hey all! Wow, has it been a busy month. I’ve been SO busy with homework, my job, this (my other, unofficial, job), and every possible other thing you could think of. BUT I have found time to get some new artists, songs, and albums into my music library. I’m going to be honest though, there definitely are a couple people that I listened to A TON in October that I continued to listen to in November. And that’s okay! We all have those artists that we always go back to no matter what. Continue reading “The Daily Blend’s November Top Ten 2017”

Best Albums Of 2017

2017 is almost at an end and though it has been a terrible year for politics, and basically everything else, 2017 however, has been an incredible year for music. 

Back in March, I put out an article highlighting some of my favorite albums that had been released early on in the year. Since then, we have been graced with even more outstanding, 10/10, listen-from-start-to-finish albums, so I would like to take a moment to showcase my top 15 picks (in a very particular order) of 2017: 

15.) Ariel Pink – Dedicated To Bobby Jameson

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Dedicated To Bobby Jameson is Ariel Pink’s 11th studio album. The album is an intimate and humble piece, containing a combination of pop and rock anthems.

TOP SONGS:  I Wanna Be Young // Bubblegum Dreams // Do Yourself A Favor 

Continue reading “Best Albums Of 2017”

The Daily Blend’s October Top Ten 2017

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Hey everyone! My name’s Sam, and welcome to my blog! I will be doing this blog once a month along with my show, The Daily Blend, which is every Monday at 4 PM. So first, introductions. I am a first-year student from Rockford, IL, which is like two (ish) hours north of here. I went to a high school with a performing arts program, which I was heavily involved in! I have also been a dancer for the past 14 years. When not doing my show or homework, I play for UIC’s rugby team and play and write music with some friends (not that it’s actually going anywhere…). I love all different styles of music, although I tend to favorite anything with guitars and drums over other music genres (oops). On my show, I play so much different music to give everyone something diverse to listen to, because let’s be honest, no one listens to only one style of music their entire life. Continue reading “The Daily Blend’s October Top Ten 2017”

Writer’s Block

Has anyone else hit a brick wall that they’ve become stuck and uninterested in something you like to do?

I’ve hit writer’s block recently in writing raps/songs that it’s made me a little uninterested in writing, and it’s been hard to write about what I’ve wanted to write about, and it becomes more and more overwhelming in my head as time progresses. I usually write about a need for intimacy, my shyness, how life is going, and other things, but it’s been difficult to write and get out what I’ve been wanting to get out, because it’s about what you say and how you say it. I’ve made a playlist to help me try to get out of writer’s block, and get back into my groove of writing, whether it just be technical or writing full songs.

So in this playlist I’ve included mostly Hip-Hop songs with a few alternate rock and pop rock songs. I included some songs in this because they’ve helped me write before such as: “What’s Understood (ft. Joey Bada$$)” by Nyck Caution and “The Way I Am” by Eminem. Other songs, like “Illuminate (ft. Kendrick Lamar)” by Ab-Soul make me think about writing. Meanwhile songs, “Train Your Mind” and “State of Mind” by Dizzy Wright, “Enter the Void (ft. Ab-Soul)” by Joey Bada$$, and “YMF” by Ab-Soul make me think and overthink about what I want to say. Then there are songs like “Chum” by Earl Sweatshirt, “Hard Times” by Paramore, and “Slow Down” by Phora which I relate to personally as I go through problems and try to get through them. Lastly, there are songs about pushing forward such as, “Sing For The Moment” by Eminem. Many of the topics in these songs I’ve wrote about in some way, and can probably help me get through writer’s block and get me back in the moment. Maybe it can also probably help those out there struggling with writer’s block or if you’re stuck on a project.

Arcade Fire at the United Center – October 30th, 2017! (Also AF albums from worst to best)

Arcade Fire was last spotted at this year’s Lollapalooza. They return to town on October 30th, but this time, they have come with only one other musical compatriot (The Breeders).

I don’t have much to say about the upcoming show; Arcade Fire is fantastic live, and I urge anyone who is either fans of Arcade Fire or fans of electronic indie rock to see the show next Monday.

You guys can grab tickets here.

Anyway, in preparation for the upcoming show, I wanted to list the Arcade Fire albums, from my personal opinion on worst to best.

 

5. Everything Now

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I hate to jump on the bandwagon to place the most recent album last for any artist or band, but I think that in this case, Arcade Fire had somewhat of a hiccup with “Everything Now”. I still think that it is a solid album, but among the rest of Arcade Fire’s discography, it falls short. This album sounds the most synthetic and electronic in Arcade Fire’s productions. The most notable negative of the album is the fluff. The concept of infinity in the album seems to be lost due to a lot of weaker tracks that take away from the cynical message of the entire album. I noticed that the album seems to split itself up with the tracks Infinite Content (1) and Infinite Content (2). These tracks are much weaker than the rest, and the position of the songs in the middle of the album breaks up the smooth continuity that I think should have been present in this album. I do like the message of the album, that being that the world is constantly choking on its own abundance of resources, and that pain will continue infinitely with the cultures we force ourselves to have. My personal favorite track on the album is Electric Blue. It stands out among the rest, and Regine Chassagne’s vocals are very much welcomed.

 

4. Neon Bible

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“Neon Bible” introduces somewhat of a similar theme to Everything Now, but on a much grander scale. Everything Now was more about American cynicism and pain, while Neon Bible is about much more: dangers of religion, the government, and personal dread. Basically all of Arcade Fire’s albums talk about pain, but Neon Bible tackles this issue in the biggest way. There are a lot of Bruce Springsteen and American themes in how this album presents itself. The album is lower on my list due to my personal dislike for the flow of the album; almost all of the tracks stand out, but they do not work well with each other. Each track seems to be performing their own thing, and with concept albums like this, I think that the spread of themes was a bit too wide with Neon Bible. My favorite track on this album owns its album’s namesake: Neon Bible.

 

3. Reflektor

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“Reflektor” is Arcade Fire’s largest album. The full version is almost double the length of Neon Bible’s. On CD, it is split up on two separate CDs, which makes this a double album. The music themes align to Haitian style music, making this album arguably the most unique sounding. The themes discussed in this album deal with the same religion and death that all Arcade Fire albums deal with. This album is an easy listen and is not overburdening in its themes. However, I do think that the album drags on due to its great length. It is does not carry the world like Neon Bible, and is akin to a personal journey more than a global one. A strange parallel that I relate with this album is that it sounds like a dark version of Vampire Weekend’s Contra. My favorite track on this album is Supersymmetry. (I first heard Supersymmetry in a trailer for the movie “Her” by Spike Jonze; I highly recommend it)

 

2. Funeral

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Arcade Fire’s debut album “Funeral” already starts off with a somber tone in its title. The themes in this album may seem obvious, but I want to say that this album deals with death the least. I think that this album talks more about the celebration of someone’s life rather than their death. This album is the most conventionally rock, but it is very satisfying to listen to each and every track. The album is a much more digestible piece of music than “Reflektor”, clocking in at 48 minutes. One theme that it covers very surprisingly are hometowns; Funeral has a backstory of youth living in small towns around the world, from America to Russia to France. I believe that Funeral has the deepest story in all of Arcade Fire’s albums. I would say that this is Arcade Fire’s best album, but I still personally enjoy the following album more. My favorite track in this album is “Neighborhood #2 (Laika)”.

 

1. The Suburbs

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I can listen to this album any day of the week. “The Suburbs” draws so many parallels to my own coming of age and it is such a fantastic album to listen to. The deaths of childhood are prevalent in the themes of The Suburbs. It talks about the evolution of technology, the blind happiness of childhood, and the irreversible fate and cynicism of adulthood. The Suburbs is the most conceptual album out of all of Arcade Fire’s, and while “Funeral” had the most in depth, The Suburbs follows how a child would grow up in an average American suburb, along with the trials and tribulations that accompany the coming of age. It is a pretty long album, clocking in at 62 minutes, but I love every second of it. It is very much conventional rock in a musical sense, and it I would say that this album is the most relatable out of all of them. Even if you didn’t grow up in a suburb, everyone eventually grows up or dies before they do. My favorite track in this album is “Suburban War”.

– Matt Cuartero

 

Daily Playlist

Am I the only person that stumbles upon a new band or an old band whether it be on YouTube, the radio, in a movie and becomes completely obsessed with it until it’s unhealthy?

Sometimes it’s not even the band overall, it could be just one of their albums, one of their songs or a couple. Either way, they become a part of my daily playlist for about a month, playing in the same order my mind thinks of them every day.

So, for the month of September and mid way through October it has basically been these songs on repeat, EVERY DAY.
Pink Floyd

I apologize in advance to anyone disappointed by this news, but: I have never listened to Pink Floyd in depth.

My influences growing up were either spanish music, rap or Slipknot. Although limited, once I got into early 2000’s pop punk that’s all I ever listened to, that’s all the music that mattered. Besides bands like the Ramones, Nirvana, AC/DC and the Beatles, I didn’t have too much knowledge about older bands. However about a month or two ago, I listened to The Wall (1979) in depth for the first time. It takes a lot for me to shut up for an hour, sit down and listen to not only the music but the lyrics. It’s hard for me to do this with a band I’m not too familiar with, but two of the Pink Floyd songs I added to the playlist were what reeled me in. The album, although too long for my impatient self, told a story with not only the lyrics but the instruments.

The Frights

This awesome band is currently on a U.S. tour, they’re set to play Chicago next month at Lincoln Hall AND they’re in the process of recording album #3!!!

Fidlar and the Frights have a different sound and delivery, BUT if you like one, you have to like the other. Zac Carper, lead singer of Fidlar, produced the Frights’ second album You Are Going To Hate This (2015). Like the title predicted some of their fans DID hate it. It has less of a rough sound than their first album, but personally the second album seems more mature (sound, instruments working together wise) although some of their lyrics haven’t matured like in the song “Kids”, the chorus is literally “I hate my mom and dad” awks.

Continue reading “Daily Playlist”