Gorillaz-Humanz-album-cover-art

TEST SPIN: Gorillaz — Humanz

There are few things more complex and engaging than a virtual band in the era of technology and the internet. British virtual band Gorillaz, created by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, has been around since 1998. Since then, the band and technology have been pushing forward rapidly. The four members — 2D, Murdoc, Noodle and Russel — are not meant to be a normal band. They have an unusual dynamic, and as Russel described in a recent Skype interview, their “history is a dirty, shallow lake, clogged up with grievances, grudges, decomposing bodies.” Indeed, for 2010 album Plastic Beach, Murdoc kidnapped 2D and forced him to make the album with him.

Pg-6-arts-riley

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.

ulver-the-assassination-of-julius-caesar

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.

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.

bob-dylan-triplicate-cover

TEST SPIN: Bob Dylan — Triplicate

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.

drake more life

TEST SPIN: Drake — More Life

Imagine that the More Life playlist is your first exposure to Drake. What sort of artist would he appear to be? With plenty of Afro-Carribean beats, lots of bare bone bangers and a handful of thoughtful verses, Drake seems to be reinventing himself once again.
The playlist is great not only for its music, but for what it symbolizes about Drake’s career moving forward.

depeche_mode___spirit_by_idalizes-dalblns

TEST SPIN: Depeche Mode — Spirit

I knew pop music reached a turning point when Depeche Mode released their single “Where’s the Revolution” and Katy Perry followed, a week later, by releasing “Chained to the Rhythm.” Ever since the presidential election, everyone became “woke,” including artists. I expected Katy Perry to buy into this, but not Depeche Mode. “Where’s the Revolution” left me hoping for something less industrial and more like the band’s trademark upbeat synth sounds. I had high expectations for Spirit and, sadly, they were not met. Rather than continuing to make thoughtful, soul-searching soundtracks, Depeche Mode bought into the rising “Purposeful” or “woke” pop act.

Climate_Change_Pitbull_Cover

TEST SPIN: Pitbull — Climate Change

Well-worn but never quite worn out, Pitbull classics like “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)” and “Hotel Room Service” are always a go-to for playlists if you want a song everyone can sing along to. He’s been around for a while now, having released his first album M.I.A.M.I. in 2004 and been on an up and up trajectory with many collaborations with big-name artists. In Climate Change, released Friday, Pitbull has (once again) gathered artists like Enrique Iglesias, Robin Thicke, J-Lo and Kiesza to do a lot of the heavy lifting in most of his tracks with their vocals.

Greg-Graffin

TEST SPIN: Greg Graffin — Millport

In elementary school, running into your teacher outside of school was like watching your favorite television character walk right out of the screen. Our grade school teachers only existed in construction paper covered classrooms, between cursive writing lessons and popcorn reading. As we’ve grown, of course, it’s easier to see that teachers have lives too. They wait with us in line at Temple of Zeus; they peek at their phones during discussion. But Greg Graffin, a professor of evolution this past fall semester and former PhD student at Cornell University, forges new boundaries for the teacher-form.