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Conceptualizing Musical Dissent

I used to be a lot cooler than I am now. Flashback to a while ago, about six years actually, right around the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, when I was a freshmen in high school. I played considerably more guitar (mostly electric) than I do now, and at that time I found myself as the rhythm and occasional lead guitarist in a Rage Against the Machine cover band. The entire group consisted of five young high schoolers, and it was organized through a shop at which we all received lessons on our respective instruments. We ultimately booked two performances, a week apart from each other, at two different dive bars in central New Jersey.

COURTESY OF SCION FILMS

The Zookeeper’s Wife Lacks Tragedy

I can’t imagine a more fitting title for The Zookeeper’s Wife. Hearing the title alone, one would have no idea that this was a film about the Holocaust. It’s about a zoo! Animals! Maybe even a love story!

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The Political Jokes in Veep Are More Realistic Now

Almost every Grey’s Anatomy fan I know went through the “I’m going to be a surgeon” phase. Despite hating every one of my science courses and getting a 2 on AP Bio, I did too. However, Veep pushed me into a more realistic phase: to work in politics or government. I wanted to work on the Hill in D.C. like Vice President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). I thought her chief of staff Amy Brookheimer (Anna Chlumsky) was absolutely one of the coolest, funniest and most competent people ever.

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Not Enough Spark

Spark: A Space Tail, written and directed by Aaron Woodley (with additional written material by Adam Rotstein, Robert Reece and Doug Hadders), has been a mystery to me. I didn’t know what to make of the film. It premiered nearly a year ago at the Toronto Animation Arts festival. There were no advance reviews, and only a nebulous plot synopsis. All I knew was that it was a Canadian-Korean production from ToonBox and Redrover, the same people who brought us The Nut Job.

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TEST SPIN: Ulver — The Assassination of Julius Caesar

“The most hunted/Body of the modern age/Flowers crown her head/Ancient goddess of the moon”

So purrs lead vocalist Kristoffer Rygg on “Nemoralia”, the opening track of The Assassination of Julius Caesar. The track is named after the Roman festival celebrating the goddess Diana, syncretized here with Diana, Princess of Wales. The contrast of Princess Di’s famously untimely demise with the ancient immortality of the gods creates a troubling contradiction – if celebrities are our new deities, what does it mean that those we have imbued with godhood also die? Ulver, a Norwegian experimental band whose genre-defying catalog has ranged from black metal to electronica and even opera, has declared their latest to be their “pop album.” Indeed the eight tracks which compose The Assassination of Julius Caesar have an immediate appeal akin to pop, a pulsating, polished immediacy given menacing depth, a more baroque version of the glamorous anguish found in the music of popular artists such as, say, Rihanna or Drake. The Assassination is as immersive and intense, each song a perfectly realized expression rich in aural detail.

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Actually, No One Is OK

Darcie Wilder’s novel literally show me a healthy person is a constant yet broken inner monologue in which commas, periods and uppercase letters are scarce, while strangely specific bad memories, death and ex-boyfriends are abundant. There are no chapters, no coherent paragraphs and definitely no chronology. As it turns out, Darcie Wilder knew the recipe for the perfect book all along: all you need is the internet, a large helping of bad experiences, humor and — if you’re as deranged and edgy as Darcie Wilder — you can also kill grammar because in your scattered mind, there are no such thing as rules and organization. Through confusion and memory, literally show me a healthy person taught me many things, among them the fact that either I am already just as deranged as edgy as Wilder, or I will get there very very soon. The novel is meant to tell stories that will make the reader think either “This is weirdly specific and it sounds like something terrible to go through, yet here I am laughing,” or “Yeah that actually happened to me too and I thought I was the only one.” Each anecdote triggers different memories in different people, creating a highly intimate, roller coaster-like,  soul-finding journey for everyone.

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Spinning Singles: Lana Del Rey, “Lust For Life”

Lana Del Rey’s new song “Lust For Life” debuted on BBC1 on April 19.   The song is the titular track off her upcoming album. It features rich vocals and a collaboration between Lana and the singer Abel Tesfaye of The Weeknd. The track opens with Lana Del Rey’s seductively saying “Climb up the H of the Hollywood sign, in these stolen moments, the world is mine.”  These sultry lyrics are followed by “we’re the  masters of our own fate.”  Lana’s vocals proved to be just as mellifluous as usual, and her performance gave off similar vibes to her first album Born to Die.  

I felt that the collaboration between Lana Del Rey and Abel Tesfaye was disappointing.

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Spinning Singles: Eleven, “Step Forward”

Two of the newest artists to watch are currently working through their undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania. Eleven, a budding band started by Blue Bookhard and Karis Stephens, recently released their single “Step Forward.” Bookhard floats you in with sounds just shy of evanescent, before dipping down to more grounded tones on the synth. Stephen wanders onto the beat moments later, with a voice smoothed out by her acapella experience. She leaves traces of an Alessandra Cara kind of lull, while dishing out lyrics more fitting to an album by Marian Hill, a more established Philadelphia duo, “You don’t like the rain/a gemini too, 5’6” on a good day.”

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Personality in Electromagnetism: The Glamour & The Squalor

Car speakers emit radio waves with a long travel logged history.  When we turn up the dial on a finger-worn sound system, our heads bop to a sound bit morphed into electromagnetic energy — a wave particle caught up in the ionosphere, thrust back down again and ricocheted at the speed of light from one aerial antenna to the next.  By the time these notes reach our numb ears, they carry more than empty air.  Once our carpool starts singing the lyrics, we’ve forgotten even what station transmits each new note.  The next best single transports our minds like the long-form radio wave — away from car parts and gasoline, beyond wired batteries and tuning dial.

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The F8 of a Franchise

I went to the bathroom during this movie (and I never do that). I usually get pissed off when I see other people leave the theater before the lights come up, but watching Fate of the Furious, I had no problem stepping out for a minute. The kicker is that I wasn’t in a hurry — I walked calmly to and from the restroom and even stopped to fix my hair on the way out. For reference, when I drank a little too much ICEE during my second viewing of The Force Awakens, I flat out sprinted to the bathroom and didn’t stop to wash my hands. When I returned from my lengthy restroom excursion, my friend informed me that I hadn’t missed much — ”just some gushy stuff.” By “gushy stuff” I mean anything other than fast cars being driven aggressively, which I maintain should be the only thing on screen at all times.