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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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TEST SPIN: Vagabon — Infinite Worlds

Anthony Fantano, David Longstreth of the Dirty Projectors and Hua Hsu of the New Yorker think that indie rock is all out of ideas. Hsu writes, in an article called “Parquet Courts and the Uncertain Future of Indie,” which examines Parquet Courts’ latest release, that “it can seem a little beside the point to play rock music that aspires to sound like rock music” and ponders if there’s any “conceptual heft” left to the idea of an indie musician.  

This is a story that’s been written over and over again over the past few months: indie is on its last legs. Critics and artists argue that Mac DeMarco and Parquet Courts and and Car Seat Headrest’s music is tired, uninspired, and reaching backwards into an older musical ethos for a sound and a feeling that today, is extraneous. I agree.

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TEST SPIN: Ed Sheeran — ÷

Ed Sheeran came back with a bang. On December 13, 2016 — exactly one year after he announced he would be taking a hiatus because he felt he was “seeing the world through a screen and not [his] eyes” — Sheeran posted images of a plain light blue square across all his social media platforms, indicating the coming release of a new album. The light blue turned out to correlate with the color of the album cover for his third studio album, ÷ (Divide), which was released on March 3, 2017. Two singles were released on January 6 as a prelude to ÷. “Castle on the Hill” and “Shape of You” soared to the tops of international charts, breaking several records and generating much anticipation for more content that was nearly three years in the making.

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TEST SPIN: Costera — Aliados

This Test Spin can be read in Spanish here. Mexican band Costera has just released their first album, Aliados, and it’s an ethereal journey from start to finish. Previously, the band had released two singles from the album, “Paseo Sideral” and “Altamar.” Both singles gave listeners a preview of the concept of the album: finding someone you trust completely and going on an unreal journey with them. The album may be about love, but not the tired, cliché kind where the singer can’t stop thinking about their muse. Aliados explores a much deeper concept of love and intimacy: one involving a true connection achieved when two people know each other inside and out, to the point of spiritual fusion.

TEST SPIN: Dams Of The West — Youngish American

There’s something to be said for background dancers, second string singers and the drummer performing in his band mates’ shadows. A certain confidence grows from being the person just outside the spotlight. If the spaghetti strap on your top snaps mid-performance, there’s the chance that no one will notice the malfunction; if you forget the lyrics, the lead singer will remember. The background performer’s anonymity fosters a sort of lighthearted freedom, a confidence that everything will work out and a youthful commitment to the play in entertainment. Chris Tomson, Vampire Weekend’s drummer, brings these qualities into the forefront with his solo project Youngish American.

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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.