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TEST SPIN: Future – HNDRXX

If you tried to convince the average hip-hop listener that Future’s most recent work was soulful, rhythmic and deep, you’d probably be laughed at. Nayvadius Wilburn, known as Future, is best known for club bangers, such as “Jumpman” and “F**k up Some Commas.” Indeed, most of Future’s past work has been more about Atlanta trap and club music, and less about recreating the sound of soulful, rhythmic blues. However, with Future’s sixth studio album, HNDRXX, released only one week after his eponymously titled album, FUTURE, Wilburn has departed from his booming, trap beginnings and instead arrived at a far smoother and more soulful R&B sound. Not only is HNDRXX a complete and meaningful album, but more importantly it proves to skeptical listeners, both within and outside of the hip-hop world, that Wilburn is a versatile recording artist who has filled a distinct niche in his genre. Future is by no means a newcomer to the world of hip-hop; the platinum-certified rapper is in his prime and has released a number of successful solo projects over the past few years.

(Cameron Pollack/Sun Photography Editor)

The Head and the Heart at the State Theater: The Past and Present of the Seattle Indie-Folk Outfit

The move from a small label to Warner Bros. for the Signs of Light album should leave no fan surprised that the stage production was as polished as the album’s established indie pop sound. Hanging lights and potted ferns were arranged across the stage, like a dreamy NYLON Mag photo shoot, and the draped reflective curtains in the back and twinkly lights atop the antique piano were impressive alone. An impressive light show weaved through the setlist, neon colors (sometimes a complimentary yellow over violet, but always bright) and floor lights always in motion created a stage your eyes couldn’t ignore. A disco ball was even added during the sixth song, and as Josiah and Jonathan crooned the last line of “Let’s be Still” the lights switched off right as the final chord was strummed, a beautiful quiet moment after long projections of light.

(Katie Sims/Sun Staff Photographer)

Pop, Rock and Indie Bands Take the Stage at Cayuga Lodge

Despite the single digit temperatures and the layer of fresh snow on the ground, Cayuga Lodge’s basement was full on Saturday night, thanks to four out of town bands. Ellen Siberian Tiger, Rickie & Aimee, And The Kids  and Adult Mom brought a mix of performance styles, though their music was similar and went well together. The show was cohesive, danceable and fun. Ellen Siberian Tiger, a five-piece group out of Philadelphia, opened up the night with sweet rock music that leaned toward folksy, but had its bold moments. Frontwoman and songwriter Ellen Tiberio-Shultz brought powerful vocals, and the whole band brought skilled instrumentation.

Spinning Singles: Coldplay, “Hypnotised”

Upon seeing the cover art for Coldplay’s newest single “Hypnotised,” I feared that they had not yet put their 2015 album, A Head Full of Dreams, to rest. The single was released today without any previous announcement, which shocked me. Regardless, I feared that once more, Coldplay would try to blend in with what’s mainstream instead of retaining their signature mellow style. Their recent release of the collaboration single with The Chainsmokers, “Something Just Like This,” affirmed my doubts even if it was a good, catchy song. I love Coldplay, but I must say that A Head Full of Dreams appeared to have been written by a procrastinating college student at 3AM, and that’s not even getting into the terrible CGI chimpanzee versions of Coldplay in the music video for “Adventure of a Lifetime.” I nearly lost hope in Coldplay, but not quite.

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String Theory: The VIDA Guitar Quartet Coheres at Barnes

On Thursday night, the VIDA Guitar Quartet made its Ithaca debut at Cornell’s Barnes Hall. Since 2007, the British ensemble has been impressing a conscientious sonic footprint on listeners. Seeing them live, however, the interlocking nature of their artistry is apparent not only in their craft, but also in their choice and assembly of programming. There is, of course, plenty of savvy over which to marvel regarding each player’s technical wheelhouse. Mark Eden’s highs, Mark Ashford’s harmonizing and melodic leads, Amanda Cook’s unbreakable ground lines and Chris Stell’s rhythmic backbone (enhanced by tapping of the guitar body) make for a kindred fit that is rare among quartets of any constitution.

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TEST SPIN: Eisley — I’m Only Dreaming

With cover art that looks like a 1960s cinemascope collage, deep, resonant chords and nostalgic lyrics, Eisley’s fifth album exudes longing.  The Texas-based Indie Pop group, founded in 1997 by an eclectic bunch of siblings and cousins, tries to capture and harmonize something simultaneously far-off and contemporaneous. Like the collage cover art indicates, the album truly melds a universal sympathy that connects so many unrelated moments—the far-off planet—and yet it also retains a sense of western egotism—the Marilyn Monroe-esque figure crying newspaper tears.  This collage metaphor carries beyond the cover art, the track list and the album.  Eisley—which translates to ice island in many Germanic languages—named itself after Mos Eisley, a space town in the fictional Star Wars universe.

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Test Spin: Lupe Fiasco – Drogas Light

Lupe Fiasco has remained a prominent figure in hip hop for over a decade. Lupe was considered by many to be one of the first “conscious rappers,” a term that is now used to describe the more lyrical and political sect of the genre, including artists like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole. With meaningful bars about politics and religion, Lupe helped to promote the Chicago rap scene along with fellow Chicago rapper and producer, Kanye West. Unfortunately for Lupe, Drogas Light seems to have lost some of the meaning and focus that was once such a staple of his earlier classics, namely Food & Liquor and The Cool. The album as a whole lacks coherency and unless one is familiar with Lupe’s entire discography, it would be hard to take away any meaning whatsoever from this release.

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TEST SPIN: Japandroids — Near To The Wild Heart Of Life

Sometimes you can judge a garage rock album by its cover. Rock duo Japandroids have long opted for short, punchy album titles. The duo made their 2009 major label debut with the decisively named Post-Nothing, followed it up the next year with the similarly bold No Singles, a compilation of their limited-run EPs and then released Celebration Rock in 2012. Japandroids’ titles underscored their music: unadorned, fuzzed-out, straight-to-the-point rock tracks about Vancouver, traveling around and awkward love in your 20-somethings. As such, the title of the duo’s 2017 release — Near To The Wild Heart Of Life — signaled a change to longtime listeners.

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TEST SPIN: BTS — You Never Walk Alone

The collective K-Pop fandom is an intense place where Twitter wars, fan art, fan fictions, group orders and just about anything you can think of happens. However, each K-Pop group’s fandom will do anything to prove that the group they stan is the best, especially the BTS fan base. BTS is quite possibly the most internationally famous K-Pop groups. In just 24 hours, their newest music video, “Spring Day,” reached over nine million views on YouTube. Back in October, BTS left everyone speechless with their dark album Wings, which was based on the book Demian and all about breaking free from a toxic love and learning to love oneself.

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The Culture of Culture

When Donald Glover, better known as Childish Gambino, was called on stage to receive his Golden Globe on behalf of the show Atlanta for best TV series, people did not expect what he would say next. Donald did not take the conventional route of thanking his parents or making a political statement for unity and inclusion. Instead Donald said, “I really want to thank the Migos, not for being in the show, but for making ‘Bad and Boujee.’ Like that’s the best song…ever.” He would later go on to call the Migos “the Beatles of this generation,” high praise for the Atlanta rap trio who have been pioneering the new wave of trap music. To say that the Migos have been “hot”’ lately would be an understatement. In a matter of four months their chart-topping single “Bad and Boujee” has reached platinum status and the group has amassed a cult-like following that stretches from places like Atlanta, Georgia to Lagos, Nigeria.