REVIEW: The Winter Passing's "Double Exposure"

COURTESY OF BRIXTON AGENCY

COURTESY OF BRIXTON AGENCY

The Winter Passing’s 2017 E.P., “Double Exposure,” starts out with a riot of sound, there’s a wave of feedback and crashing cymbals, layered over quick guitar riffs. Confronting the listener with a wall of sound is one of The Winter Passing’s specialties. It’s how they opened their 2015 release, “A Different Space of Mind,” which opens with jubilant drums similar to the Pixie’s “Head On,” as siblings Rob and Kate Flynn alternate vocals.

In the opening track of “Double Exposure” Kate Flynn’s clear, sharp soprano takes over the bridge admitting, “You’re the only place that I feel safe.”

The second track, “Significance” opts for a more mellow, contemporary indie sound with looser bass-lines and a more relaxed drum beat. The instrumentation acts in direct opposition with the lyrics wherein Flynn begs, “Stay with me/ I’ll try to be all you need.”

A level of growth is expected between any band’s first and second E.P. In comparison to their 2015 release A Different Space of Mind, their sound got tighter and more cohesive, but this cohesiveness does not lessen the unbridled joy that seems to seep through each track. These tracks tackle some tough subjects, such as struggles with depression and anxiety — but the music itself is almost triumphant. It perfectly demonstrates the disjointed axis that one inhabits while trying to find joy in the midst of anxieties.

On “Like Flowers Ache for Spring” Rob and Kate Flynn sing, “We don’t think about/ leaving the house,” amidst an upbeat pop-punk drum beat, and somehow inferred tension between the upbeat sound and the resigned nature of the lyrics perfectly exemplifies depression. It’s not just a cartoon-grey-skies Cymbalta commercial completely devoid of color or any happiness for eight to twelve months, it’s this feeling that when something good does happen it feels scary and weird.

Other stand out tracks include “E*Sca*Pism” which features only Kate Flynn and her organ. The notes of the organ are eerie and electronic inspired, similar to an early eighties no wave song or a Stevie Nicks B-side. Flynn is mournful as she admits, “I’m used to running/ away/ from the light of day,” as the notes of the organ circle around her vocals. The gentle looping of the notes mirrors the repetitive nature of anxious thoughts.

This album operates interestingly on a lyrical level. Rob and Kate Flynn each wrote the lyrics separately, eventually combining their separate writings to present two distinct narratives which intertwine to provide the listener with the lived experience of anxiety and depression. This speaks to the simultaneous universality and isolation of mental health struggles, so often people feel like they are alone in experiences with anxiety or depression, but in reality it’s an experience that is shared by millions of people worldwide.

There is a bombastic energy in the Winter Passing’s sound, they clearly love and believe in the music that they’re playing, you can hear it in the excited pop punk guitar riffs and Kate Flynn’s exalted vocals and it makes Double Exposure an exciting listen.

Oftentimes within D.I.Y. or punk scenes, anger seems like the default emotion. Granted, there are mile-long lists of things to be angry about, but this record exemplifies tackling heavy subjects with cautious optimism.

REVIEW: Paramore's "After Laughter"

LINDSEY BYRNES

LINDSEY BYRNES

With the recent influx of pop-punk themed cocktail hours and emo nights, I’ve tentatively developed a theory that we’re living in a 2008 renaissance. I recently found the perfect pair of black skinny jeans that would make my middle school self drool, and I heard a new Panic! At the Disco song on the radio. Most importantly, three years after their self-titled release, Paramore released their fifth album, After Laughter.

This album marks the return of band’s original drummer, Zac Farro, and a new synth-infused sound for the band. The lead single, “Hard Times,” utilizes ska-inspired beats that are similar to Rock Steady-era No Doubt. It’s more upbeat than previous records, and it could be the band’s first true pop banger. It’s infectious, but a troubled lyrical reality lurks beneath the neon hues of the music video as  Williams sings, “All that I want/ is to wake up fine/ Tell me that it’s alright/ that I ain’t gonna die.” It may seem superfluous to note, but no amount of synths can conceal a tough situation where the ideal outcome is simply not dying.

In the follow-up track Williams asks, “Just let me cry/ a little bit longer/ I ain’t gonna smile/ if I don’t want to.” This is actually one of the healthiest impulses I’ve heard in song-writing. So often, people are quick to try and eradicate their negative emotions  rather than give themselves the space to actually feel them.

Come to think of it, providing a space for fans to actually feel things is one of the reasons why emo as a genre has continued to thrive within rock ’n’ roll. This impulse to allow is one of the reasons why Paramore was such a great pop punk band in the first place. I first found Paramore a decade ago (!!!), when they released Riot, a record that both blew my mind and presented me with my first real crush. I was struck by the edge of the riffs and the pounding of the drums, as well as Williams’ very real and complex articulation of a deeper sadness that I didn’t yet have a name for.

The idea of discontent hiding beneath pristine realities is an integral theme throughout Paramore’s discography, and this record is no exception. “Fake Happy” starts with the stray acoustic chords and segues into tighter funk-infused guitars as Williams muses, “I bet everybody here is fake happy too.” In this track, Williams contemplates the tenuous nature of happiness itself as she admits, “I should have known that when things are going fine/ that’s when I get knocked down.” It’s an undeniably honest sentiment hidden beneath a pop guitar hook.

The following track, “26” is actually a softer acoustic track, paired with a string orchestra. It’s an eventually decadent orchestration, but the ethos of the song is similar to “Misguided Ghosts,” off of Paramore’s 2008 release, “Brand New Eyes.” The idea that, “dreamin’ is free,” would seem cheesy but Williams makes singing “Reality will break your heart,” thus allowing the honesty to drown out what would otherwise be considered cliche. Williams’ ability to use raw lyricism to transcend cliches has always been one of my favorite things about her writing, it speaks to her upbringing as an emo fan, and devotee of Sunny Day Real Estate and Jimmy Eat World.

Williams’ emo heritage also appears as she sings, “I can’t think of getting old/ it makes me want to die,” on “Caught in the middle.” It’s a line that’s deliciously saturated with feeling — one that anyone who appreciated Pete Wentz’s 2007 eye makeup job will also appreciate.  Similarly, the decision to include MeWithoutYou’s Aaron Weiss on, “No Friend” is another nod to Paramore’s pop punk roots.

Yet, musically Paramore references more mainstream pop projects like “E*MO*TION” era Carly Rae Jepsen  or HAIM via bouncy ‘80s inspired bass lines. This combination of emo sentiments with pop-rock riffs is magical. This record did the impossible: it has provided the former emo kids/ current emo twenty-somethings a summer soundtrack that won’t depress the shit out of whoever is riding shotgun.

This record is successful because Williams maintains an unflinching level of honesty throughout. The fact that she refuses to compromise her confessional style of songwriting is one of the reasons why the band’s experimentation with a pop sound feels so seamless. Sure, there may be some synths, and the line up may have shifted, but the core ethos of honesty and killer pop punk riffs that made Paramore so remarkable when they released their debut record, All We Know is Falling in 2005 is still there.

There are many things I regret about eighth grade, writing a four-page essay about Paramore is not one of them. I always knew they could make a killer record. After Laughter is triumph.

7403a1949dcfa699dbf64bec6b12b572.1000x1000x1.jpg

After Laughter

1. Hard Times
2. Rose-Colored Boy
3. Told You So
4. Forgiveness
5. Fake Happy
6. 26
7. Pool
8. Grudges
9. Caught In The Middle
10. Idle Worship
11. No Friend
12. Tell Me How

Stream Paramore's After Laughter on Spotify and Apple Music.

REVIEW: Cayetana's "New Kind of Normal"

GRANDSTAND MEDIA / EMILY DUBIN

GRANDSTAND MEDIA / EMILY DUBIN

Cayetana’s second full-length, New Kind of Normal kicks off with the banger, “Am I Dead Yet?” It features those existential, introspective lyrics about hopelessness and depression that we all love so much. There’s something special about such an upbeat song that makes you wanna jump on your bed, but paired with gut wrenching emotional lyrics that are almost too relatable. Singer Augusta Koch asks repeatedly, “Is there a way out of this?”

The opener rolls into the first single, “Mesa.” “Mesa” appeared on Cayetana’s split with Melbourne’s Camp Cope in January 2017. The song is catchy, with punchy drums and a noodly riff, paired with those raw and poetic words that Koch expresses so openly. A song like this precisely displays the band’s vibe as a whole.

“Side Sleepers,” one of the album’s slower songs, seems to focus on the difficulty of navigating one’s own mental illness while maintaining a relationship. Koch expresses feelings of discontent and wonders simply if it’s possible for someone to remain at the side of a person experiencing depression.

“Will you love me still when I can’t get out of bed? Will you love me still with these sick thoughts in my head?”

The last track is floaty and hypnotizing, a perfect way to end an album with such a nice mix of upbeat bops and slow, unhurried tunes. It features a sleepy guitar and ambient background noises, with Koch’s soft but powerful voice echoing over top. “The world is wide/ the world is wide/ and I forget that all the time.”  The song ends with the sound of a car driving away, a plane in the sky, a faraway bird chirping, closing the album softly, contentedly, like an exhale.

Check out Cayetana at one of the tour dates below, and stream New Kind of Normal on Spotify now.

5/9 - Durham, NH @ University of New Hampshire
513 - Poughkeepsie, NY @ Vassar College
5/26 - Lakewood, OH @ Mahall's
5/27 - Howell, MI @ Bled Fest
5/28 - Pittsburgh, PA @ Smiling Moose
7/6 - Washington, DC @ Songbyrd
7/7 - Lancaster, PA @ Lizard Lounge ~
7/8 - Belmar, NJ @ Paul's Tavern ~
7/9 - Boston, MA @ Great Scott ~
7/17 Buffalo, NY @ Mohawk Place ^

* Record Release Show
~ w/ Worriers & Camp Cope
^ w/ Snail Mail

FULL TRACK LIST:

1. Am I Dead Yet?
2. Mesa
3. Too Old For This
4. Bus Ticket
5. Easy To Love
6. Side Sleepers
7. Certain For Miles
8. Phonics Failed Me
9. Grumpy's
10. Follow
11. Dust
12. World

It's Okay to be Sad: A Review on Kamikaze Girls' Debut EP

Courtesy of Bearded Punk Records

Courtesy of Bearded Punk Records

The perceived bravado of rock and roll is legendary.

It is a world where exalted states reign supreme, not the sort of musical niche that invites introspection or thoughtfulness. With their latest E.P., Sad, U.K-based Kamikaze Girls are letting listeners know that, contrary to the rock ’n’ roll mythos, it’s okay to be sad sometimes. 

As a duo Lucinda Livingstone (vocals/ guitar) and Connor Dawson (drums), intend to, “[use music] as a means to challenge attitudes and taboos surrounding mental health.” This record delves fearlessly into the realms of emotional dualism, examining one’s ability to be simultaneously happy and sad through lyrical and sonic means.

On “Black Coffee” Livingstone growls, “Without you I'd sleep forever, without you I'd sleep / You made my bloodshot eyes no longer / Look like red decay” while Dawson bolsters her with a tumultuous drumbeat that begs for a mosh pit and a basement show. This duality — bloodshot tired eyes and a rabbit-heart pounding after one two many double shots is perfectly encapsulated throughout the E.P. Kamikaze Girls are kinetic, they exist in motion while understanding that life is complicated — so much so that it doesn’t always allow one to stop and think.

Vocalist Lucinda Livingston’s voice often careens into a scream as she sings. Her ruthless growl aches with sincerity, it calls forth comparisons to fellow hardcore queen and champion of vulnerability, Perfect Pussy’s Meredith Graves.

As a writer, Livingstone is brutally honest. She details her emotional downswings, headaches,  and distaste for funerals with candor and a healthy amount of rage.

The E.P.’s lead single, “Ladyfuzz” details reliving an overdose as Livingstone concedes, “You can leave me in the dead of night/ if that’s what you need to do.” The video was shot in Livingstone’s childhood bedroom, with bookshelves and beat up records still intact and drenched in an atmospheric blue light. Visually, the video calls forth the aimless and vaporous nature of sadness, how it seems able to fill a room without being seen invading the spaces that are supposed to be most comfortable — a bedroom or a hometown.

As Livingstone explains in a press release, “It still looks just like it was when I left it. Loads of old band merch, a LOT of Michael Jackson memorabilia, records and a bunch of stuff that I can't really have with me at the moment. With Conor knowing the meaning behind the song - and obviously standing by me as a friend when I wasn't well at the time - we kind of just wanted to tell it how it was. Not the happiest of songs, or videos, but it is what it is.”

Telling it like it is seems to be an integral part of Kamikaze Girl’s mission as a band. In addition to being the titular lead single, “Lady Fuzz” is also the name of a ‘zine that Livingstone curates which aims to celebrate female artists and musicians.  The idea that one can reclaim their experiences and turn them into something positive is fantastic. Kamikaze Girls proves that there’s no need to obliterate one’s own sadness, it is what it is.

Kamikaze Girls is currently touring throughout the U.K. with fellow Hooligan contributors, The Winter Passing. See them at any one of the dates below.

21st September The Cavern Exeter, UK

23rd September - DIY Space for London London, UK

24th September - The Key Club Leeds, UK

26th September The Bannerman Edinburgh, UK

1st October - Southsea Fest Portsmouth, UK

 “Sad” will be available September 2nd through Wiretap Records (US) and Bearded Punk Records (U.K.)

On the Rock: Cass Cwik Offers a Fine New Voice to the Chicago Music Scene

Courtesy of  Dumpster Tapes

Courtesy of Dumpster Tapes

“I’m constantly recording; it’s almost a problem.” This was the response I got from Cass Cwik when I asked him about his music-making habits and history. The 27-year-old Chicagoland native’s been at it since childhood, writing and recording, alone and with friends, on family computers and four-track machines; now his debut EP’s been released on Chicago’s promising Dumpster Tapes label. And it’s good to have it at last.

The seven songs that make up On the Rock, which came out in June, fit in pretty well with the local indie rock scene in general, and with Cwik’s labelmates in particular. With local acts like Cafe Racer and Varsity, Cwik shares a penchant for fuzzy, catchy pop songs that draw on sixties psych-pop and nineties-to-now indie alike. It’s not a unique mode, but Cwik's work is done well, and for fans and followers of Chicago music, it’s definitely worth a listen.

Cwik traces his musical roots back to an adolescent interest in American folk music and UK pop/rock bands of the sixties. These influences show: his simple, sunny melodies and cozy guitars recall the Byrds and early Stones, and a touch of the psychedelic harks back to Revolver-era Beatles, Syd Barrett’s Floyd, and Donovan. Cwik professes a long-lived love for Dylan, crediting the prolific folk-to-rock-to-jazz mastermind with teaching him much of what he knows about songwriting. Opening track “On the Evening Rock” does remind one of brighter Dylan songs like “Love Minus Zero/No Limit”, up to a touch of harmonica that feels refreshingly nostalgic.

As for more recent artists, Cwik’s sound is at times akin to the Deerhunter of Halcyon Digest (but without the darkness), or early Car Seat Headrest (but without the literary fixation). The vocals are hazy; guitars are crisp and melodic. And again, Cwik cites the Chicago music community as a perennial inspiration, characterizing it as “supportive and creatively driven in the best way.”

Photo by Ellie Rutledge

Photo by Ellie Rutledge

Narratively, On the Rock traces the arc of a relationship, from the love-happy bounce of its first track, to the desolate self-indictment of “Cannot Say”, which finishes out the record. Throughout, the lyrics are simple, introspective, occasionally heart-piercing. A rocky-shore metaphor ties it all together: we “lay it down easy on the evening rock” with the lover, who by the EP’s midpoint inevitably comes to “keep [us] on the rocks/ in a state of shock” rather than invite us into the comfort of their bed. Finally, “Cannot Say” relates heartbreak with no one to blame but oneself: “It’s not your fault I feel uneven/ I took a dive in a shallow bay.” (Frankly, I don’t listen to a lot of music by men these days; so, after some apprehension over the second song, titled “You’re a Sign”, I was relieved to land on the concluding track and its refusal to pin the male lover’s sorrow on the conscience of the love object.) The lyrics lack the poeticism of a Dylan, and they don’t match the inventiveness of someone like Syd Barrett; but they tell a story effectively and with feeling, and though it’s a story often told, it’s one we never seem to tire of hearing.

You can stream On the Rock, or buy the tape, on Dumpster Tapes’s Bandcamp page; keep up with Cwik by following his personal page, too. And, if you’re in Chicago, check out one of his upcoming shows: the next is September 15 at the Burlington, in Logan Square. Watch his Facebook page for updates.

Earth Girls: A Look inside of Wanderlust

Courtesy of Grave Mistake Records

Courtesy of Grave Mistake Records

Chicago-based band, Earth Girls, released their debut full length Wanderlust last Friday on Grave Mistake Records. It’s a project that has been multiple years in the making, but still feels fresh and brand new. Hooligan spoke to vocalist and guitarist, Liz Panella, to talk influences and what’s coming next.

Panella and drummer, Joey Kappel, began recording what would become Wanderlust two years ago. At the time Kappel played bass and current drummer, Antonio Holguin had yet to join the band at all. The material was all there but Panella knew something just wasn’t sounding right. Instead of going back to the drawing board completely, Earth Girls did some rearranging of their members and got back to work.

What they ended up with is quick, playful, and summery. Musically it hints, rather than screams, at Panella’s childhood spent listening to her parents music—1960’s pop and Motown hits—blended with her personal inclinations towards 90’s alt rock. One sing-through of “Say Goodnight,” and listeners may very well conjure up mental images of classic crooners stuck on fast forward.

“Influences aren’t really a conscious thing,” she says. “I’m never sitting down and thinking this is what is influences me right now. Let each song develop over the course of a few months—a lot of mental moving parts.”

Earth Girl’s drummer, Kappel is currently living in Japan. Because of this, the band hasn’t been as active as would be expected with a brand new album. Currently, Panella is working on promoting Wanderlust as a solo artist until Kappel’s return in six months. They then plan on embarking on a full-band tour across the US—and potentially internationally. In the meantime, Panella is also working on new material in hopes that they can begin work on another album as soon as possible.

Wanderlust is soft, but it isn't hiding. In fact, it embraces the very roots of bubblegum pop in its fastness. Each song fades into the other, but with meaning and purpose, each with a designated place for the well-crafted garage punk record. 

You can find Wanderlust on Earth Girl’s Bandcamp page here.

You can purchase physical copies through Grave Mistake Records.

Review of TEENS OF DENIAL; or, Review of Car Seat Headrest's Pitchfork Aftershow at Empty Bottle, Chicago, 7/16/16; or, Review of My Pesky Emotions (The Ballad of A)

Photo by  Morgan Martinez .

Photo by Morgan Martinez.

FIRST VERSE:

And how should I begin?

Last Friday: I went from zero (an unhurried forty-five-minute walk from my apartment to Union Park for day one of Pitchfork Festival) to sixty (impatiently bemoaning the amorphous blob-line waiting to get through the gates over which Car Seat Headrest's first song drifted) in three seconds flat.

Last Friday, Saturday: I went from zero (fine with missing Car Seat Headrest's sold-out Pitchfork aftershow, they'll come back, I'm not that into them, no big deal) to sixty (leaving the festival five hours early to lurk around Empty Bottle for three hours waiting to snag one of a few door tickets; though sleep-short and body-weary and standing-sore, I held my place at the front of the crowd through two opening bands [not to say that Detroit's Stef Chura and Chicago locals Pool Holograph didn't themselves play super solid sets]) in three seconds flat.

Last week, this week: I started at zero (Teens of Denial sounds pretty good, but I'll probably not listen to it more than a few times), slid a foot lightly onto the pedal (I'm tired and feeling lousy at work, but at least I really like this album now, hm), and shot up to sixty (setting up an enormously goofy Facebook page named "True Car Seat Headrest Fan Club" [aiming to dodge the trouble I might get in for designating the page "official"]) in three seconds flat.

I can't write this without admitting that I'm having to reread my recent piece on Jessica Lea Mayfield and parasocial relationships to calm myself down; it feels almost unethical to omit that.

I tweeted to Will Toledo requesting a brief interview even though (because?) I've been posting many wildly lascivious tweets about him.

I'm in a place where listening to Mitski is an act of self-care, because it's not listening to Car Seat Headrest.

I'm in a state.

*

CHORUS:

I give up I give up I give up I give up
I give up I give up I give up I give up

*

SECOND VERSE:

How can I move on after beginning?

Teens of Denial reminds me of another of my favorite records released so far this year, Mitski's wonderful Puberty 2. But where Mitski masters the thirty-minute album and the three-minute song, Teens stretches above an hour and recalls other expansive albums that have affected me profoundly in the decade since I started to find myself musically. (In our post-"epic win" world I kind of hate using that first word but feel I can't avoid it here.) With The Monitor it shares elaborate ship metaphors and battle-cry choruses; themes of death and rebirth emerge over the course of Teens, The Moon & Antarctica, Lifted or the Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground, and Kendrick Lamar's works. Like Broken Social Scene's self-titled record (and the others I've mentioned, really, now that I think about it), Teens is exhausted by living and yet manages a great deal of genuine tenderness. These albums feel giving: halfway through them you're satisfied, and then they offer you more. They also approach (in my opinion) perfection: no filler, nothing superfluous. (I have to wonder if women artists don't yet feel quite comfortable taking up so much space and time. It's hard to come up with Infinite Jests or Blonde on Blondes by women—Joanna Newsom's Have One on Me, with its appropriately generous-tending title, is one example that does come to mind. But conciseness is a skill, too.)

Musically, Teens doesn't sound new. It sounds classic, which is not at all a bad thing; it also sounds really good, marking a departure from the lo-fi quality of Toledo's previous releases and featuring exhilarating guitars and vocal crescendos. Toledo's great accomplishment, though, is his lyrics. It's not so surprising that this album and Mitski's latest both refer to adolescence in their titles: both are about angst (if not mental illness proper), self-knowledge, growing up, and the hard slow work of all that. I'm twenty-five. These things are interesting to me.

*

CHORUS:

You will always be a loser
I give up I give up I give up I give up

*

THIRD VERSE:

What might I have asked Will Toledo, had he responded right away to my request? Some ideas:

How does it feel to finally get this kind of recognition after working unsigned for so long? Is it strange, or does it just feel earned? Were you always ambitious as far as eventually attaining some level of fame? In "1937 State Park,” you sing: "I didn't want you to hear that shake in my voice; my pain is my own"—do you write for an audience, or are your songs, above all, your own?

Teens is concerned with self-improvement and includes a lot of advice, or self-talk that doubles as advice. Did you worry about crossing from earnest over into corny? (I don't think that he does.)

What comes first, lyrics or music?

Do interviewers ever annoy the hell out of you?

And what comes next?

*

BRIDGE:

“Unfortunately I am afraid, as always, of going on. For to go on means going from here, means finding me, losing me, vanishing and beginning again, a stranger first, then little by little the same as always, in another place, where I shall say I have always been, of which I shall know nothing, being incapable of seeing, moving, thinking, speaking, but of which little by little, in spite of these handicaps, I shall begin to know something, just enough for it to turn out to be the same place as always, the same which seems made for me and does not want me, which I seem to want and do not want, take your choice, which spews me out or swallows me up, I’ll never know, which is perhaps merely the inside of my distant skull where once I wandered, now am fixed, lost for tininess, or straining against the walls, with my head, my hands, my feet, my back, and ever murmuring my old stories, my old story, as if it were the first time.”
―Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable

Let's take a look at the lyrics:

"Stop your whining, try again. No one wants to cause you pain. They're just trying to let some air in, but you hold your breath. I hold my breath." I'm going to make a playlist called "I Choose Sadness". It will include Teens's opening track, Mitski's "A Burning Hill", and Rilo Kiley's "The Good that Won't Come Out", among other songs I wish I didn't relate to.

"We're just trying, I'm only trying to get home: drunk drivers, drunk drivers. Put it out of your mind and perish the thought—there's no comfort in responsibility." We're growing up, let's get uncomfortable.

"This isn't sex, I don't think. It's just extreme empathy. She's not my ex. We never met, but do you still think of me?" These lines hit close to home and don't help at all with the wreck of a parasocial relationship I've found myself in.

"I've been waiting all my life. I've been waiting for some real good porn, something with meaning, something fulfilling. I'd like to make my shame count for something." Neither do these.

"How was I supposed to know how to not get drunk every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and why not Sunday?" My college years could have been so much more productive had I only known how. Lately I am learning to appreciate the experience of not getting drunk at shows. It feels so good.

"Hangovers feel good when I know it's the last one. Then I feel so good that I have another one." Learning is difficult. Living is difficult.

Keeping this brief is difficult.

"We're dancing, right? This is dancing."

*

CHORUS:

It doesn't have to be like this
It doesn't have to be like this

*

OUTRO:

"How am I supposed to [open up my heart] when I go to the same room every night, and sleep in the same bed every night, the same fucking bed with the red comforter with the white stripes, and the yellow ceiling light makes me feel like I'm dying? The sea is too familiar; how many nights have I drowned here? How many times have I drowned?"
—Car Seat Headrest, "The Ballad of the Costa Concordia"

(Even just thinking about some of Toledo's lyrics makes me cry.)

Back to last Friday: after Car Seat Headrest's Pitchfork set, I headed to another of the festival's stages to stake out a good spot for Carly Rae Jepsen's. That crowd did grow large, and it might have been the most ecstatic one I'd ever been a part of. But then it's Saturday night and spirits are just as high amid Car Seat Headrest's Empty Bottle audience.

Jepsen's latest album has won over a diverse swath of listeners with lyrics that feel universally accessible as well as intelligent and mature. (Emotion is a bit like a kids' movie that adults praise as being "actually really smart".) Toledo's lyrics are more likely to make you suspect they were written especially for you: they're complex, verbose; they describe experiences and emotions that don't get a lot of radio play. But the thing is, they'll make you and you and you believe they were meant just for you and you and you. The crowd at the Bottle that night shouted along with the same kind of passion that Jepsen's fans had expressed the day before.

CREDITS

Buy or stream Teens of Denial, ASAP. Try your best to see Car Seat Headrest play live whenever you're graced with the chance.

Lucy Dacus's "No Burden": An Album Review

By Rosie Accola

Audiotree Music

Audiotree Music

Lucy Dacus debut album, No Burden, is full of sprawling, honest, tracks that are perfect for long hot summer days. Her confessional style of songwriting combined with her ability to weave a lyrical narrative through a gritty southern blues bass-line results in a record that is best blared speeding down the highway as the sun sets at 9 P.M. It’s a record for travelers, dreamers or loners— anyone who has ever felt a bit out of place while simultaneously in love with the world around them.

The record opens with I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore.” It’s the sort of song that begs to accompany the opening credits of a classic teen film. The track’s urgent guitar riff coupled with lyrics like “I heard my friends saying things they don’t mean out loud” calls to mind the emotional climate of teenage hood. It’s a track that explores the ease and terror of melding one’s identity, and the frustration that comes along with attempting to negotiate one’s own sense of personhood. During the bridge Dacus laments, “Try not laugh, I know it will be hard” the entire record is filled with these tiny flashes of honesty, so much so that Dacus’ sense of lyricism feels like confessional poetry.

“Green Eyes Red Face” is more like a shy, flirtatious smile.  Dacus’ voice ebbs and flows effortlessly as she promises, “I’ve got plenty of affection” to a baseline that’s just the slightest bit sexy. It’s the antithesis of trap or E.D.M bangers, a flirty Tinder message for the shy among us.

Throughout No Burden there are tracks that seem to take their rightful place amongst femme singer songwriters who can shred. “Strange Torpedo” is slightly reminiscent of “Exile in Guyville” era Liz Phair with frantic, tight guitar riffs. It’s a track that best exemplifies Dacus’ precise control of her voice, she lets the chorus meander without getting out of breath, she aches without feeling compelled to wail outright. Yet, she doesn’t sacrifice any lyrical vulnerability the ache in these tracks is quiet and persistent, like a last minute worry that keeps you up at night. In “Dream State” she croons, “Without you / I am surely / The last of my kind” and it becomes a sort of mantra seamlessly merging into the next track, “Trust,” which serves as a meditation on the creative process.

“Trust” focuses on the feelings of inadequacy that often stem from attempting to exist creatively: how one can nervously retain criticism, desires to start anew, and the cleansing feeling of finally letting go.

Yet, the emotional opus of the record exists in “Map on a Wall,” a seven-minute long meditation on vulnerability beneath a gentle and tremendous drum beat. Dacus’ voice wavers as she pleads, “Oh please/ don’t make fun of me/ with my crooked smile/ and my pigeon feet.” Around the 2:29 mark, the track flows into another musical movement as the guitar riff builds accompanied by frantic quick, cymbals. The drums move quicker and quicker as Dacus proclaims, “But here we are / and something about it doesn’t feel like an accident” and lets her voice revel in its’ own power. It’s a declaration, a musical manifesto of sorts, a nod to all the other girls with knobby knees who are unsure of their own curiosities.

It’s a record that forces emotional vulnerability to confront the rock and roll mythos, forcing both listener and artist to contemplate the performative artifice of rock and roll and reconcile with their own knobby knees and golden hearts.

No Faking, No Shaving

By Delaney Clifford

The latest and greatest track from the status quo-challenging duo Holychild is a true kick to the teeth. The two have collaborated with singer Kate Nash to bring us “Rotten Teeth,” a dance-anthem that goes far deeper than the heart-pounding beats and groove that lie on the surface. Coming to us with a video full of sexually charged imagery and feminist-allied lyrics, this is certainly deeper than other songs that we’d find in the “Related Artists” column. Self-described as “Brat Pop” by the duo’s Liz Nistico, the video for “Rotten Teeth” speaks entirely for itself. Featuring powerful lyrics such as “I can never be the girl I wanna be – No, I’ll never be free,” along with the imagery of cheap, disposable razor-blades, gender-bending costuming, and cotton-candy pubic hair, this video and song are a thrust back against social constructs, conformity, and the oppression of anybody who identifies outside of the norms.

Holychild is tired of explaining their art, so they’ve given us “Rotten Teeth” and left it up to us to decide. The lyrics and message are draped in electronic haze and a groove that gets to everyone, something done very much on purpose. This song comes with an air of cynicism, as if the duo just wanted to see how far they could take the joke. Even still, this song falls relatively in line with the creative drive featured in the other music that we’ve heard from this group. It still excites us; Nistico still captivates us with her voice, Diller’s instruments continue to beat and shock through the song, but “Rotten Teeth” seems to show the side of this duo that’s sick of the hype. Sick of the oversaturation of absurdist art and ridiculous gimmicks, this video and song-style are a satire to the way some artists garner attention in the current industry. However, no matter how far the satire reaches, the lyrical content remains, which is resounding. For all of the vitriol directed at the music industry, it doesn’t begin to match the frustration and fury hurled towards the oppressive constraints of being a female. This is where Nistico comes in, pushing back against all of what she and millions of other women are fed up with and saying “no more.”

With this song, Holychild has declared war on restriction and falsity. These musicians want people to exist the way that pleases them, not the way that pleases the people. Whether it’s making music for radio play or shaving your armpits, this is one group that’s sick of it. So if you’re into a band that’s defying convention, and having a hell of a time doing it, Holychild is the band for you. Happy listening.

 

The Multiple Sides of 2016's Breakout Artist, Bishop Briggs

By Delaney Clifford

Bishop Briggs has hit 2016 with incredible force and inexplicable calm through the release of her two singles, “River” and “Wild Horses.” Briggs, who was born in London with Scottish and Irish heritage, grew up in Japan and Hong Kong, where she gathered influences that are all too apparent in these two songs. Capturing the European grit that runs through her veins and incorporating the discipline and control of her Eastern-world upbringing, Briggs brings us two singles with dance-inducing crescendos and sultry releases into a hazy head-nod, making for a hell of a ride all throughout.

    Beginning with “Wild Horses” at the beginning of 2016, Briggs created a track with the help of Los Angeles producers Mark Jackson and Ian Brendon Scott that conveyed both her softer side and her heart-pounding angst that dwelled within. The track begins with Briggs’ smooth voice reeling her audience in, soon to be sucked in by the percussive cacophony laid over the ever-smooth guitar riff that persists throughout the song. However, Briggs doesn’t stop there; she pushes the bounds of her sound and includes resounding electronic beats that throw every listener for a loop. What was expected to be a string-plucking folk song has now burst into a energetic, pounding triumph, never forgetting to recognize Briggs beautiful voice. “Wild Horses” brings the listener into the scene— an open plain, surrounded by the calm of the fresh air, the emptiness of it all. But before you know it, you can hear those hooves pounding towards you, making your heart skip and jump in bounds, exciting you nonetheless. Briggs has the special ability of the artist to pull her audience into the sound she created, and somehow change the perception of what that music is supposed to sound like.

    Moving onto Briggs’ latest single, “River,” listeners find a familiar sound, but something has changed about Bishop Briggs; her voice has found new power, which she uses to its full potential to belt out the chorus of this nearly Wild-Western sounding track. When I first listened to it, all I could imagine was looking out over a canyon, watching the sunset over the powerful Colorado River. But before the listener can fall into rest with that scene, Briggs shocks you right back into chaos, using backing gang vocals and the ever-familiar pounding electric drums. Parts of this track suck the air right out of the room, but Briggs never fails to throw us right back into the mix with her smooth guitar playing and slick voice. “River” has something for everybody.

    With these two singles, Briggs has introduced us to her sound that pulls from different audiences and newly explored combinations, highlighting the very best of her artistry and leaving us only wanting more. 

You can catch Bishop Briggs on tour at the following dates:

June 4th @ Live 105 BFD // Mountain View, CA

June 7th @ Troubadour // Los Angeles, CA

June 18th @ Shadow of the City // Seaside Heights, NJ

July 1st – 2nd @ Mamby on the Beach // Chicago, IL

July 23rd @ Mo Pop Festival // Detroit, MI

July 24th @ WayHome Music & Arts Festival // Ontario, Canada

September 2nd – 4th @ Bumbershoot // Seattle, WA

DROOLPUSSY: A Split Review

By Jonathan Burkhalter

In the midst of some great albums dropping over the past few weeks, Chicago natives Pussy Foot and Drool have produced a new split tape, titled DroolPussy, full of high-energy grunge that will get us through the days that come babbling down the hills of spring like idiots strewing flowers.

On Side A, Pussy Foot marches forward with their driving guitar. Their style embodies the word, forward. Pussy Foot’s members, Wendy Zeldin and Megan Homewood, don’t hold back from making noise and calling shots as self-described riot grrrls. The first track, “Glass”, features strong lyrical imagery, such as turning to glass and stone, given in the same cool tone that one might use when giving a monologue while exacting well-calculated revenge. This duo will make your head bob to their dark rock sound with a single distorted guitar, strong drumming, and pair of female voices. Often shouting and tight in their timing, their side of DroolPussy is hard and heavy.  The duo has a haunting grudge that is going to cost someone big time, as they claim in their last song, “Lorena”. Side A of the split leaves off in a dreamy wave of grunge that is sure to keep listeners waiting to hear what they have to say next.

Side B features features another Chicago duo, Drool. Hersh Chabra and Ben Leach use low-fi vocals to brood and stir up a general sense of trouble. Their side has a thrilling speed to it, to be read as: you might not be able to sit still while listening to it. In their opening song, “1 latrobe 1”, forty-five seconds of entrancing rhythm pairs with their distorted vocals to give off a mysterious mood. “Terminal”, the quick-tempo second track, opens up to a variation in clever guitar rifts. Between the rifts, the guitar is muted to frame lyrics such as “stand there and suck it” in all of their post-punk glory. Their final track, “Youth Large”, is a hit. Using loops, the guitar is able to cover raucous lows to hi-fi highs. The melody is fast paced and deep, then overlaid with a higher-pitched electric guitar that builds up to a small solo at the end. This split is the first release out of many to come in a tape collective series called Base Tapes.

Both Pussy Foot and Drool fall into the same styles of post-punk, goth-grunge rock. While the vocal styles differ, the presence of only a guitar and drums along with the agreeing genres, give this whole tape a cohesive feeling of resilience and resolution. 

By Kara Sajeske

By Kara Sajeske

The Perfect Summer Playlist Additions: Knox Hamilton and Coasts

By Genevieve Kane 

As we welcome in the month of May, we are reminded that summer is just beyond the horizon and approaching fast. No one wants to enter the summer season without a flame playlist prepared, and I know one band that has got you covered. The first time I heard Knox Hamilton’s hit song "Work it Out" on the radio two summers ago, it immediately caught my attention. I fell in love with it instantaneously. My sister and I listened to "Work it Out" on repeat and deemed it our summer anthem. Knox Hamilton is the perfect indie pop-rock band to deliver some fresh summer vibes when you need them most.

Naturally, I was very excited to see them live, and at a very intimate venue like Lincoln Hall no less. Their faces were lit by an electric blue light. Boots, the frontman of Knox Hamilton, entertained the crowd with sharp witty banter between songs. “You guys are a very polite crowd,” he joked at one point. And he was not wrong. Being in the audience felt like attending one big love fest. “I love you!” the infatuated crowd would shout to them. It was clear that not everyone in the audience was there for Knox Hamilton in the beginning, but it ultimately did not matter because they won every person over before they had even finished their set. Boots would jokingly ask the audience which songs they would like to hear, prefacing it by saying, “We’re not going to play Wonder Wall...not again.” They then broke out into another one of my personal favorites, "How's Your Mind." 

Knox Hamilton delivered a little nugget of summertime sublimity amidst the lingering fog of spring. By the time they had finished playing "Work it Out," there were salty streaks of tears rolling down my cheeks. Although the temperature outside may have been hovering around 40 degrees, Knox Hamilton made it feel like summer in my heart.

I wasn’t as familiar with Coasts as I was with Knox Hamilton, but I was on such an adrenaline high that my excitement at that point in the night was through the roof. As Coasts began their set, Liam Willford (guitar), James Gamage (bass), David Goulbourn (keys), and Ben Street (drums) graced the stage in their respective spots. The focal point of the stage was a lonely microphone, as the beginning riffs of "Wallow" rung throughout Lincoln Hall. Lead singer Chris Caines then emerged and grabbed the mic in one grand swoop. Their long legs and bobbing heads of hair, were a spectacle in and of itself. Coasts dominated the stage with large gestures and motions, which was then countered by their quiet English demeanor in between songs. Chris would say a few humble words in between songs; always ending with a little, “cheers” which of course would then be followed by an eruption of shouts from the audience.

I was really digging their Two Door Cinema Club vibe, despite the fact I felt a little out of place because it seemed as though everyone around me knew practically every word to every song the band would play. Regardless, it was a very fun crowd to be a part of, especially when Coasts played "Modern Love." However, the audience really went nuts when Coasts ended the night with "Ocean," which is the first song on their self-titled album.
 

Although we still need to fight our way through May, summer is coming up, and I know exactly who I will be listening to thanks to this killer show. Knox Hamilton and Coasts are definitely worth adding to the summer playlist.

Moving The Grey Mountain

By Delaney Clifford 

 

Skylar Grey has released her new single to a resounding acclaim, but only wants more. Her single, “Moving Mountains” was released at the beginning of April in addition to a masterfully created video for the song being released last week. The five-time Grammy-nominated artist produced the song with Mike Elizondo and Mark Batson, creating a sound that perfectly fits the subtlety and underlying motivations of Grey, who is finally putting her unrelenting ambition aside to make room for some personal happiness in her life.

Her recent video was shot and directed by Peter Handler in the rural snowy mountains of Park City, Utah— a perfect location to make a comment on appreciating the moment and letting everything else slip to the side to exist in the present. This seems to be exactly what Grey needed in her life, as she said, “Most of my life I’ve let ambition get in the way of happiness— too focused on the future to enjoy the moment. Now living in Utah, I’ve realized the importance of taking the time to sit back and appreciate a mountain view.  It's amazing how just being present has the power to elevate your mood.”

Grey seems to know better than most what that mountain view can do for someone, and Handler’s artistic video production has conveyed that feeling to viewers in volumes. Featuring the gorgeous views of the Utah mountains as well as the heartwarming scenery of a log-cabin fireplace, those who watch this video will feel right at home in that cabin, perhaps even more so on the icy slopes as the sun peaks over the mountain ridge. All of this natural beauty captured by Handler pales in comparison to the beauty of Grey’s voice. Almost haunting, her voice glides right over the near Mumford and Sons guitar sound that she brings to the table. This combination creates a sound that you’ll want to listen to over and over again.

This song is almost a complete backflip compared to her previous song, “Cannonball,” a soulful pop anthem that seemed to base Grey on the large-scale music scene. “Moving Mountains” is exactly that; Grey has decided to move a mountain in her life, whether that be the shift in genre or maybe a shift in her life overall. One thing is certain, Grey won’t be going anywhere but up anytime soon. Keep your ear to the ground for her new record, a follow up to her debut record in 2013, and expect some serious earth-moving material.

You can catch Skylar Grey on tour with Atlas Genius, presented by Journeys at the following dates and locations:

04/23 Charlotte, NC         Visulite Theatre

04/25 Tulsa, OK               The Vanguard

04/26 Dallas, TX              Granada Theater

04/27 Houston, TX           House of Blues

04/29 Phoenix, AZ           Crescent Ballroom

04/30 Los Angeles, CA    El Rey Theatre

 

You can follow Skylar Grey at the following media outlets:

Website

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook

 

 

Metamorphosis: Unraveling the layers of Aurora Aksnes

By Delaney Clifford 

If you’ve been searching for an artist that I can only refer to as the “perfect medium,” then you’ve come to the right place. Aurora is that artist, revealed most prominently on her new album, All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend which was released in March of 2016. This debut record had set Aurora out in front of the herd as someone who won’t be ignored. Her style can’t be pinned down, the very same way that her eccentric look refuses to conform to any set of parameters.

On a first listen through her record, listeners might hear a familiar sound a feel the vibe that they’ve experienced while listening to other records… maybe for the first song, anyway. The deeper you get into this record, the deeper you fall into Aurora’s process. Almost as a shield, Aurora uses electronic beats and harmonies to bolster her painful lyrical content. This is an example of an artist that has made her emotion relatable, worth far more than a song to dance to in some club. One of the most interesting features about this record is the way that it changes, the way it morphs as you listen. Almost like getting to know a person, you see the surface first, the beats, the grooves, the melodies and harmonies, but the more you get into it, the more you get to know the person behind all of that, that’s when you feel for them; that’s when you know them.

This example comes in the form of Aurora’s song, “The Eyes of a Child,” a beautiful piano ballad showcasing the best of what Aurora has to offer her audience. Painful content shrouded in an angelic voice that you can get lost in over and over again. For me, this was the real focal point of the record, what everything was building up to. From that song, the rest of the record takes on a different form, a new shape. The beginning of the record seemed to be what Aurora was “willing” to show to her mass audience, and the latter half was a much deeper side of the artist, presenting a different side to both her and her music.

When I first looked at the album cover for this record, the image was all too clear to me. Featuring Aurora wrapped up in cloth with wings emerging from her back, she is going through a change. She began in one style, but she refuses to be pinned down. Her style is fluid, a dynamic flow that will have you listening to every song. There is no filler on this record. Aurora has created a record featuring a metamorphosis, a physical change that we can listen to occurring throughout the record. To me, that’s one of the most amazing things that a piece of music can offer. This album is like a sprint. You start off running headfirst into the night, not knowing exactly where you’re going to end up, but bursting forth anyway. Then before you know it, you’re coming to a halt, somewhere entirely different, and you just have to look around and feel it. So enjoy dancing your ass off, and enjoy feeling yourself, because that’s what Aurora brings to the table. Happy listening.

 

You can follow Aurora here:

Instagram

Facebook

Twitter

 

 

In-depth Exclusive with Canadian Rapper SonReal

By Joe Longo

SonReal should not standout. He fits every description of successful rappers before him. With a harsh, fast-paced style and hipster appearance, he could be mistaken for an Eminem or Macklemore knockoff. Moreover, as a native of Vancouver, SonReal's recent breakthrough could easily boil down to Canada's rise as a rap powerhouse. Yet, SonReal avoids these simple generalities. Rather, he stands as a clear outlier to the often over-hyped, stale rap game.

Born Aaron Hoffman, SonReal not only acknowledges his easily generic appearance, but flips-it on its head. Through innovative music videos and a consistent social media presence, he successfully highlights his raw talent and undeniable hard work to transcend past initial impressions. SonReal had little clout getting into the game. But while this star has—finally— —hungry even to prove himself.

Read on as Hooligan Magazine interviews the earnest rapper reflecting on his success, his mother’s influence, and the ever-growing importance of Snapchat.

 

You have two Juno award nominations and embarked on several nationwide tours in both Canada and the US within the past few years. But, you still haven’t released a full-length debut album. Could you comment on your uncommon route to success?

My success story is one of persistence. Because of me not really getting same [exposure] as a lot of people because my music is kind of different, we’ve got to kind of do everything by ourselves. I really owe a lot my success and everything we’ve achieved off of exactly that. My first bit of real success came out in 2013 when I did a video called “Everywhere We Go.” [Since then], I’ve been blessed to work with talented enough people that we can take this to the next level. It’s been a journey.

 

Do you think that taking a different route has made you a better artist?

100 perecent. Taking the same route as other artists, you end-up getting pigeonholed with them. You end up fighting for the same spot. With me I don’t occupy anybody else’s space, so they don’t see with what I’m doing and what my team is doing.

 

Your new single SOHO was released last month and has a slightly new sound from some of your previous work. Is this any insight on what’s going to be on your new album?

It’s not on my new album, SOHO. It’s more of a [single] we just wanted to put out. For me and my crew, we just love bumping that song. It’s just one of our joints in the van or something. We just put on SOHO and turn it up. There’s certain songs we did for the album that didn’t quite make [it] that were some of my favorite bumping songs. Just always wanting to bump. We decided to put it out there in the inter-waves and [we] may have some visuals coming forward too.

 

Do you think there is a benefit to releasing music just online and not part of your album?

Music is music. SOHO at the shows— people know the words to the song; people want to hear it. It’s not on an album. But, we live in a time now where you can just hop on to Soundcloud or Spotify, become a fan of a song, put in it to your playlist and listen to it everyday.

 

Could you comment on how the album is progressing? What can we expect to see?

The first single of the album comes out [in April]; It’s called “Can I Get a Witness.” I think it’s just a good introductory to what the album is going to be like. Everything is way bigger. Everything is more well thought-out. I’m working with some of the best producers on this album. I’m working with RedOne— working with Rush and RedONe. Those two guys have done a lot of work on it. Rocky— Rocky produced Kendrick Lamar’s “i.” He’s one of Kendrick's in-house guys. Just so many great producers that have expanded my mind. I'll be able to achieve what I’m calling my best work to date.

 

You stay very active on social media to connect with your fans. Why do you find this important?

It’s just really good to do; my fans love it. I literally spend an hour or two hours a day if I can. I like spending an hour or two hours a day replying to my fans on Snapchat, replying to my fans on Twitter, and facebook. Because, I was a fan. I remember Method Man taking a photo with me. It’s a lot to the fans. I’m Method Man or whenever I was a fan of to them. It’s nothing for me to do it. A lot of artists they get cocky too quick. So, I try to take the time to comment back to my fans while I can.

 

You’re specifically popular on Snapchat. Why is the app so beneficial for you?

I just started doing it, and I guess I’m good at it. Snapchat is one of the only places for me on social media where I can completely do the dumbest shit I can think of. But, my fans love it. They don’t want me to do that on Instagram or Facebook— somewhere where it lives forever. But Snapchat is so disposable.. my fans love me for it, and it’s my fastest growing social media. So, watch out DJ Khaled; I’m coming for ya.

 

Your music videos standout for being highly conceived and in-depth. Why is that important to produce creative videos?

Because we live in a time that anybody with can go buy an single-lens reflex camera for $1,000 and shoot a video that’s going to look nice and clean. There’s so many videos and so many people doing stuff that we don’t necessarily try to do stuff different. [But], by default I like doing different stuff. I like doing stuff that excites me. Seeing so many things— I’ve done so many things that we always try to get to the next level and be something that we appreciate [as] a fan of art.

I always wanted to do a western music video. I thought it was dope for a rap video to be a Western. I came up with the idea on a plane with my manager. We started talking about it and wanted a bar fight at the end.

 

The video for you song “Woah Nilly” was recently released and again there are comedic elements to the video. Do you intentionally incorporate comedy into your music?    

I like adding comedy to the videos, but not as much to the actual music. Some of the quirky lines and whatever. I’ve never want to become a parody rapper. Never want you to listen to my album and be like, “Oh my god, this guy is so funny. It’s such a joke.” My music is actually really serious. But, I just like juxtaposing that with the contrast of doing something that's a little bit funner and something that’s gonna affect people in that way.

 

Your mom makes an appearance in the video. How was working with her?

My mom kicks ass. She comes to the music video shoots and actually nails her role. I’m gonna get her in more music videos. I’m gonna give her a big role in one of my next music videos. She makes any character she gets.

 

Did she encourage your artistic pursuits growing up?

My parents divorced when I was 15. I lived with my mom, and she was always really supportive. She was raising a mad teenager. When my parents divorced, I was mad. I was straight up mad. I didn’t know why; I just knew I was mad and need an outlet. So, I was making a lot of mad raps and mad ass things. She always supported me. I would come home wearing a 4XL [shirt], size 40 jeans and a big ass Raiders hat. She is supportive of me. If she can love her confused son like that, she earns the respect to be in any music video I drop.

 

You recently did an interview with TorontoRappers.com where you complied a list of your favorite underated artists. Do you consider yourself underrated?

Of course. I consider myself underrated for sure. But I also am firm believer everybody deserves to fail. My time is this year. It wasn’t supposed to be last year, because I wasn’t ready. Now, I’m ready. Everybody has different cards. People have been telling me for a long time--people told me in 2015, “Why haven’t you blown up yet? You should be bigger than everybody.” But, I guess not. If I wanted to do that, I would do that.  I’m proud to say when it does happen for me, it’s gonna be the right time.

 

How would you characterize the difference between the Toronto and Vancouver rap scenes?

Vancouver is really laid back. They’re really great, just don’t have fully the infrastructure Toronto does. But, Toronto had everything really fast. Vancouver has got a lot to offer though--a lot of insane music. A lot of artists I think are gonna be really big. We just somebody to break down the door, and that’s what we’re trying to do.

 

You can follow SonReal here: 

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram 

 

Feeling Bloo

By Delaney Clifford

           Has the world ever deserved the perfect combination of Sam Smith, James Blake, and Ellie Goulding more than now? Well the time is nigh for the newly acclaimed artist Kacy Hill, who continues to drop jaws as she continues her powerful march onto Spotify playlists and tour after tour. With her release of “Bloo” in 2015, Hill didn’t gain much recognition right off the bat. In fact, most of her notoriety came from a controversial American Apparel advertisement, but what else is new for that brand, really. Apparently, being involved in that kind of controversy, being a backup dancer for the Yeezy tour, and making music that’s seriously ahead of the curve is a perfect storm to get Kanye West, Yeezus himself, to notice you and pick you up as his protégé. But enough about the background, we need to talk about this woman’s music. So, what’s so special about a woman with a pretty voice hopping on a track with a soft electric beat? There are plenty of other artists doing that, right? Wrong. Plenty of female artists are making music today (which is great!), but most of what I’ve been hearing isn’t breaking the mold. Everyone is following the work of the female greats: Beyoncé, Rihanna, etc., and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s just not… this.


           I really can’t convey Hill’s work through words, so please do yourself a favor and go listen through her debut EP “Bloo” and feel that rush for yourself. But to give you an idea, just imagine the silky smooth style of Sam Smith combined with the ingenuity and creativity of James Blake, and the delicate, yet powerful voice of Ellie Goulding. Not to be redundant, but that’s exactly what you’re getting out of the three original songs that make up “Bloo,” and I don’t think I’ve ever fallen harder, faster for three songs in my entire life. Featuring the ever-eclectic mix of piano and electronic beat as well as a quick jolt of jazz infused piano, Hill creates a sound that clashes against itself, throwing clever lyricism in with soul-soothing vocals, forcing the listener to actually listen. At a first listen, Hill’s music may just want to make you jump on top of the nearest table and dance your ass off, and it’ll definitely make you want to do that with every listen after, but once you start really hearing the pain in her voice, the raw feeling behind her words and her music, listeners develop a connection with her, not just her music. Isn’t that the real point, anyway? Creating connections is what I take away most from music, and if an artist can make me feel for him/her, then I feel their music as well. Anyway, after that little emotional nirvana, Hill takes you right back into that big, comfy, cushy chair that you just keep sinking into the more you listen. This EP has it all; groove, punch, and shine, and it’s just waiting for you to pick it up.

           For all that can be said for Kacy Hill, she is still relatively unrecognized on a grand scale, a true crime and shame when such talent exists just beneath the surface of the Top 40. She’s doing something innovative and original within her targeted genre and audience, and I believe we’ll be hearing a lot more from her sooner than later. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for Miss Hill.

You can check out Kacy Hill on tour with Jack Garratt here.

You can also follow Kacy Hill on the following media outlets:

Spotify

Facebook

Instagram



“We’re Just Solders In A War:” A Look At Sofia B’s In The City

By Kenneth Miller

Courtesy of Fascinate Media

Courtesy of Fascinate Media

Jessie J released a tangy, practically swinging track entitled “Do It Like A Dude” on her 2011 debut album “Who You Are,” which caught kids totally off guard, leaving most completely stumped within their own gender frustrations and fantasies. In reality, however, the tune hadn’t taken flight until 2015, when London-based singer-songwriter Sofia B covered it, and consequentially, put some honest meaning to an otherwise atypical pop hit with her signature electrifying folksy androgynous flare.

 It’s been a little over a year since fans and Internet surfers were exposed to Sofia B’s rustic Jessie J cover, but alas, the wait has come to an end. Before the turn of the New Year, Sofia B dropped her second EP “In The City,” which swings listeners through trials of love, identity and loss. Unlike her debut album “Once Upon A Time,” which featured a majority of pop-driven tracks like “Friendly Little Ghost,” Sofia B changes gears a bit with slinging acoustics that propel listeners into states of awe throughout her latest release.

Courtesy of iTunes

Courtesy of iTunes

 The softly spun Tegan and Sara-esque lyricist, who has had her work featured in a variety of queer publications including Curve Magazine and SheWired, seemingly ditched her diluted synthesizer and picked up more heavily influenced jazzy guitar licks, like in the heart wrenching lullaby-like second track on the album, “Hurricane.” 

 With each song treated as an amassing of once-unexpressed now-spoken feelings, listeners go into teeny inner dialogues Sofia B seems to have been trying to work out for quite some time without ever knowing what the real dilemma is. You may speculate Sofia B was dealt unearthing trials of unrequited love in tracks like “Ice Cold Love,” but her pensively abstract wording guards her true expression. With that, passerby fans are able to connect more readily to said lyrics like “From a lifetime of love and deceiving / I won’t be sorry / I’ll never stop grieving,” and interpret them freely, without any strict guidelines.

 In the end, her lyrics are majestic; her bouncy compositions even more so.

 Look at the album’s first single, “Solders.” Inside, listeners acquaint themselves with a coming of age story wherein our narrator realizes that—yeah, we’re all perpetually in a war and cannot every truly stop fighting to maintain our sense of dignity and worth till it’s all over. In an almost Ingrid Michaelson manner, Sofia B chants “We’re just soldiers in a war,” and ultimately pushes out a question to her listeners: When is it ever okay to stop fighting for what you desire so badly, even when it essentially becomes a necessity?

 Leaving us with some bruised up, but hastily healing battle wounds, Sofia B takes us through the sands of a windy beach, hoping we too will begin to understand our lives and surroundings more thoroughly with each passing day. And even if you don’t fully understand your existence by the end of the 17-minute long EP, you’ll most definitely fade into your own space and forget about the rampant demands consuming your body on the daily. And that’s all you can ask of music, anyways.

 Check out Sofia B's music on iTunes and on her YouTube channel.

Sam Hunt Shines With Between the Pines

By Joe Longo

Courtesy of samhunt.com

Courtesy of samhunt.com

Sam Hunt is country music for the anti-country listener. Though his debut studio album Montevallo embraced the pop country notable of Florida Georgia Line or Luke Bryan, Hunt found a niche in an overcrowded, stale musical climate. Deploying spoken word and undertones of classic 00's R&B, Hunt presents an exciting, unique mixed sound. Much in the same way Taylor Swift expended well beyond on the classic country twang, so too does Hunt.

Yet if Montevallo is country for the pop fan, then his newly re-released acoustic “mixtape,” Between the Pines, is for the true country fans. Serving as a blueprint for Montevallo, the digital reissue of his original mixtape contains both stripped-down versions of his 2014 debut, as well as his take on several songs he co-wrote for other country artists. Thus, Pines’ stripped down, natural sound of acoustic albums naturally embraces a more country-specific tone. There is a soft, muted sound highlighting Hunt, but rarely overtaking him. The two albums expertly portray Hunt’s growth as an artist.

This change is most notable on “Ex To See.” Whereas the original, acoustic predecessor shines as a traditional country male ballad, the mainstream version seamlessly fused the staple Nashville twang with a new, minimal EDM sound. In fact his least “country” single, “Break Up In A Small Town,” with elements of rap and EDM fails to appear on Pines. Instead, the mixtape works to showcase the multi-faceted Hunt. His acoustic take on Keith Urban’s hit “Cop Car,” which Hunt co-wrote and also appears on Montevallo, highlights the strength of his country croon.

Courtesy of roughstock.com

Courtesy of roughstock.com

On its own, Between the Pines fails to stand-out rise above the mass, regurgitated sound of pop country. Yet the mixtape serves as a nice counter to the stronger, mature Montevallo. Presenting a glimpse into Hunt’s musical upbringing, Pines works to reassure his true country artist persona to those concerned of his multi-genre sound. Both signal a strong opening for the new artist, yet Hunt shines when he embraces all elements of his unique, multi-genre sound where he is at his best.

No wonder Hunt is a staple amongst the millennials. Much like Swift, Hunt seemingly has a clear understanding of his image. Even the cover art for Pines signifies a clear message. The polaroid quality reminiscent of Swift’s 1989 album is easily interchangeable with any given photo of a hip, young male Instagram blogger. And it is this keen self-awareness that transcends Hunt beyond just another country crooner. Hunt is on the path to being both the next big country star and also the next pop heartthrob, but only if he  continues to embrace his unique, urban country sound.

 

The Death Of Ultraviolence And The Rise Of Lana Del Rey

By Anna Brüner

Honeymoon, the much anticipated fourth studio album from Elizabeth Grant (better known by her glamorous alter-ego Lana Del Rey), came out on September 18th after a summer of teasing and sneak peaks, just like a burlesque performer. In the wake of last summer’s edgier, sulkier, grungy Ultraviolence, which was the go-to album of 2014 for crying while looking cool, Honeymoon arrives like a warm tropical breeze. It’s dreamy, sexy, cool, and heartbreaking…but it’s all things we’ve heard before from Miss Grant. It’s not as gritty as Ultraviolence, and fails to capture the fun of Born to Die or the theatricality of Born to Die: Paradise Edition. However, Honeymoon may very well be Lana’s most finely crafted album to date, if only we didn’t have her previous albums to compare to. It is certainly the most “Lana Del Rey” that Lana has ever been, and it feels as though she’s finally arrived. 

 

Long gone are the days of the short-short wearing, pink bubblegum chewing, diet mountain dew drinking Lolita that defined Lana Del Rey’s style and iconography in her earliest studio works. What Honeymoon projects is the image of a made woman, an old-Hollywood style star who is both mob wife, mistress, and first lady. While all the familiar imagery is evoked (Lana still croons of JFK and James Dean, and says “soft ice cream” like it’s never been said before in the track “Salvatore”), the persona that is Lana Del Rey has matured into a softer, classier, stronger manifestation of the romanticized American dream. It is the next chapter for a character who has gone from playful young girl, to directionless vagabond, to struggling poet, to both victim and criminal, and has emerged a starlet nostalgic of the bad as much as the good. 

 

While at times it feels as though Lana is parodying herself, that self awareness isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Songs like “Freak” and “High By The Beach” deliver a dose of cool a la “Florida Kilos” from Ultraviolence, while “Music To Watch Boys To” is as flirty and bouncy as the Born to Die days. By honing her intricately orchestrated sound and image, Lana Del Rey seems to know exactly what the people want, and even if it feels a bit recycled at times, at least it is still more, and it is on a new level. “God Knows I Tried” is as beautifully authentic as the earliest EP’s of “Yayo,” and a smokey, The Doors-esque cover of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” is a solid closer to the whole album as well as a gorgeous stand alone tribute. However, the title track “Honeymoon” falls a bit flat, and the “Burnt Norton” interlude feels like a Jim Morrison-style impromptu monologue…without the poetry or pain of Morrison’s or the 60’s influence. 

 

In truth, Honeymoon is a great and beautiful album that firmly establishes Lana Del Rey as a timeless artist. She captures her character as expertly as Marilyn Monroe and invokes a vision of California through both rose colored glasses and opium smoke. It’s only a shame that it took four albums to get here. 

 

 

 

Dynamic DJ Duo Disclosure To Release Second Album

By Kat Freydl

I don’t care how many times you use the phrases synth beats or fusion of garage and house or modern revival of disco elements coupled with a pop-leaning layout and meaningful lyrics—you won’t demystify Disclosure. All of these elements are true, of course, and resonate with increasing fervor in each track that the duo produces, but they don’t quite explain what makes nearly every song they produce a hit. In 2013, the pair had three consecutive Top 20 hits in the UK (“White Noise,” “You and Me,” and “Latch,” clocking in at #2, #10, and #11, respectively). Perhaps some of it can be attributed to the brothers’ young ages at the time of the release of their debut album, Settle; At just 21 and 18, Guy and Howard Lawrence were, for all intents and purposes, rookies. To produce such a high-quality album, rich with kaleidoscopic beats, raunchy motifs, and frankly impeccable bass lines, was relatively unprecedented. Their ages have been beaten to death by the press, but again, this also can’t explain away the magnetic quality of Disclosure’s tracks. 

 In contrast, the upcoming release of Caracal has been prefaced by several pre-released tracks, featuring artists such as Sam Smith, Kwabs, Greg Porter, and Lion Babe. The released songs are moody, almost bluesy in their delivery, punctuated by syncopated synth stabs and the truly excellent beats which the pair is so well-known for. It is not tension, it is realization; they are not tracks you dance to, necessarily, but tracks that remind you why you were dancing in the first place. “Hourglass,” for instance, which features Lion Babe, juxtaposes a lively beat with emotional vocals, a staple of many of Disclosure’s best works.  This is not to say that the album is devoid of dance-oriented tracks; “Bang That,” conceived to be part of one of Disclosure’s DJ sets, is a beat-based track that pays more homage to their house-music roots than the other songs on the album. Though the track skirts dangerously close to monotonous repetition at times, it brings itself home with periodic rhythmic shifts that keep the piece fresh enough to sustain itself. 

The duo clock in at 24 and 21 as of now, proving that their claim to fame isn’t only their age. Though their talents verge on prodigious at times, the product of a musical upbringing, an interest in music theory and classical music, and genuine passion for what they do, Guy and Howard Lawrence have created an album that not only compliments but perhaps even surpasses Settle. The album is bleary summer nights where the colors bleed together like an impressionist painting, sweating out a fever, getting over heartbreak. It is subdued and passionate where Settle is invigorated and carefree. 

There are multiple ways to be impressive. Disclosure has hit on many of them. Far from formulaic, their writing process has at times been less of a process and more of a chain of events, consisting of afternoon-long consultations with featured artists on their tracks leading to the production of a single in the span of one day; in the case of the aforementioned single “When A Fire Starts To Burn,” when schedules didn’t align for the Lawrence brothers to collaborate with a rapper, the duo cut up bits of audio from a motivational speech to create the illusion of rapping, leading to the creation of a video that featured a congregation having a spiritual experience at the behest of a Southern preacher, the repeated refrain “when a fire starts to burn/and it starts to spread/she gon’ bring that attitude home/don’t wanna do nothing, what they like” just barely kept from being monotonous by the lively beat overlaying it. This simultaneously illuminates one of Disclosure’s greatest strengths and biggest weaknesses: while the music coming so naturally to the duo spills into the sound and comes out in a way that appeals to the listener, the fact that many of the songs are created as parts of DJ sets or dance mixes can make them less pleasant to listen to as an album rather than hearing them in a club setting. However, this flaw is all but resolved in Caracal; the tone of the album is fuller and more somber—not just the party, but the moments after. “Willing & Able” feat. Kwabs pleads, “If you don’t feel it the same as me/speak now or hold your peace.” Unlike Settle, Caracal embraces vulnerability, set at an altogether slower tempo without sacrificing Disclosure’s signature garage style. 

Full disclosure (pun 100% intended): I still haven’t demystified Disclosure for you, but maybe I don’t need to. Settle is full of songs that I would love to dance to. Caracal makes me feel okay about when the dancing has to stop.