Just last week, singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens unexpectedly dropped a live version of his seventh album, Carrie & Lowell. After having relentlessly poured over the contents of that haunting, minimalistic tour-de-force all of two years ago – has it really been that long? – the sudden reincarnation of what is arguably Stevens’ greatest album invites loyal fans to re-examine the differences in cadence, nuance and theme that inevitably arise from hearing recorded familiarities performed live. But as much as I’d like to provide an exhaustive critique of the entire live album, one song in particular stands out for being both more potent than its studio counterpart, yet confidently similar in style. “Should Have Known Better,” Carrie & Lowell’s third track, was never my favorite of the original release, but when performed live, its thematic density becomes astoundingly apparent.
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
Videographers: LeeAnn Marcello
Video Editor: LeeAnn Marcello
Audio Engineer: TJ Hurd
In collaboration with Electric Buffalo Records and Fanclub Collective
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
On March 18th, the American music canon lost one of its greatest contributors. Chuck Berry defined Rock n’ Roll and he paved the way for legendary groups and artists like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, Elvis Presley and John Lennon. The music world lost a heart of style, personality and talent with the end of Berry’s prolific life — he died at the age of 90 after his last public performance just 9 years prior. Since his passing, the music world, as well as mainstream news platforms, have honored Berry’s legacy with equal fervor. Time Magazine wrote, “ While Elvis Presley gave rock its libidinous, hip-shaking image, Berry was the auteur, setting the template for a new sound and way of life.” Bruce Springsteen tweeted, “Chuck Berry was rock’s greatest practitioner, guitarist, and the greatest pure rock ‘n’ roll writer who ever lived.” John Lennon said, “if you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry.’” Berry duck walked into history and will stay there until the music stops.
After DJ sets that included multiple play-throughs of “Fake Love” and “Bad and Boujee,” one arguably misplaced playing of The Chainsmokers’ “Closer,” and several cries of “Y’all ready for Guwop?” and “Let me hear you say brr,” the lights finally went black. Instantly, dozens of phone flashlights and Bic lighters lit the center of Barton Hall. “Eeeeeeyyyyyyyy!” came a voice from backstage, to thunderous applause. “Let me hear you say ‘It’s Gucci!’” Sporting a backpack, aviators, and a hoodie bearing his namesake, Gucci Mane delivered a quick, but high-energy set on Sunday night, featuring earlier songs like “Go Head (Shawty Got A Ass on Her)” and “Making Love to the Money,” as well as hits from his time since his release from prison, such as “St. Brick Intro” from “The Return of East Atlanta Santa.” In between each song, he gave ample time to flash his trademark smile and rattle off his trademark lines.