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Sun Sessions with West End China Shop

West End China Shop is a shabby rock outfit comprised of four self described “basement dads.” They play garage rock tunes with plenty of keyboard, for the kids and no one else. Drums: Jonny Collazo, Arts and Sciences, Comparative Literature, Class of 2018
Bass: Stephen Meisel, Arts and Sciences, Comparative Literature, Class of 2018
Keys: Franklin Ellis, CALS, Development Sociology/ IARD, Class of 2019
Vox/ Guitar: J. Benjamin Montaño, Arts and Sciences, Gov’t /Comparative Literature, Class of 2019

Set List
“Courtyard”

Instagram: @westendchinashop
Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/WestEndChinaShop/

Credits
Videographers: LeeAnn Marcello
Video Editor: LeeAnn Marcello
Audio Engineer: TJ Hurd
In collaboration with Electric Buffalo Records and Fanclub Collective

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TEST SPIN: Kurt Riley — Tabula Rasa

Kurt Riley ’16 is, first and foremost, an optimist. Riley’s imaginative blend of rock, blues and theatricality always gazes forward, hoping for a more enthusiastic and less cynical future. While Riley took on the persona of an alien king to critique humanity from the outside on his 2016 release Kismet, Riley and his band have come back to earth on 2017’s Tabula Rasa. With his distinctive style of “21st century rock,” Riley turns to problems that have been all too pertinent throughout the past few years: a sense of helplessness in a massive political system, a news cycle filled with depressing stories and growing malaise. Yet, Tabula Rasa, with all of its forward-looking anthems, begins on a decidedly somber note.

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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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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.”

COURTESY OF INTERSCOPE

TEST SPIN: Kendrick Lamar — Damn.

“Is it wickedness? Is it weakness?” opens Kendrick Lamar’s long awaited fourth album, Damn. The question he poses in “BLOOD,” the album’s first track, is answered by the rest of the album, highlighting the failings of man to meet his own expectations, burdened by fame, and still trying to make sense of his country, community and self. Dropped on April 14, Good Friday (which has sparked rather desperate speculation of a followup album on Easter), the 14-track album is a stripped down version of Kendrick, whose vocals and rich lyricism do the heavy-lifting, a welcome deviation from the instrumental, narration-heavy critically and popularly acclaimed good kid, m.A.A.d city and To Pimp a Butterfly.Though the album lacks the consistency of earlier concept releases, its purpose is to show the versatility of his storytelling, unbound by a single narration and style. In the face of a pre-release lead up that saw Kendrick checking his rivals, Damn.

COURTESY OF PRO ERA RECORDS

TEST SPIN: Joey Bada$$ – All Amerikkkan Bada$$

Joey Bada$$, Brooklyn rap phenom and founder of the New York hip-hop collective Pro Era, has released his long-awaited sophomore album, All-Amerikkkan Bada$$, and there’s a lot to be excited about. Joey has made a name for himself over the past few years by making music that truly emulates the vintage 90’s East Coast sound that gave way to the likes of Biggie, Nas and Jay-Z. In a world where the more trap-oriented, less lyrical breeds of rappers have taken the mainstage (think Migos, Lil Uzi Vert and Future), Joey Bada$$ remains wholly committed to bringing hip-hop back to its roots. With his profound, aggressive lyricism and classic boom-bap New York production, Joey Bada$$ has shown a keen ability to make music that reminds listeners of hip-hop’s roots without sounding too dusty. And at only 22 years of age, there’s reason to be hopeful; his debut mixtape, 1999, catapulted him onto the rap scene and drew immensely positive critical reception.

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Sun Sessions with Conor Emerson

“I think of myself as your childhood imaginary friend come to life. When I am writing and recording music, I try to synthesize organic and natural sound, like actual sound from nature, as well as sound from space I am in, closing drawers and shuffling papers, like getting textures from that and then reorganizing and repurposing them in a way that takes them out of their original context. I don’t know where I exist musically but I just like to make music whenever I can.”

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The Decemberists at the State Theater

The Decemberists kicked off their tour with a performance at Ithaca’s State Theatre this Friday. Despite having a couple of kinks to work out, the band produced a beautiful sound that involved a variety of instruments. The Decemberists delighted the audience with songs old and new, and great energy that filled the entirety of the theatre. The Decemberists were introduced by Julien Baker, a young songwriter out of Memphis. Her soft but slightly haunting vocals were perfect for the night’s setting and tone: captivating and emotive.

Kelly Zutrao of Wet performing at The Haunt.

Wet: Electronic and Compelling

 

It was the perfect way to start off Spring Break — I was going to see Wet perform at the Haunt.  The band filled the Haunt with a passionate and engaging performance, playing with a soft energy that gripped the audience and created a relaxed, yet compelling environment.  It was a loving, intimate night. The band opened with “It’s All in Vain” from their album Don’t You.  The phrases “I don’t believe you” and “I can’t feel you” were vocalized softly, but hit the crowd with a strong effect.