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TEST SPIN: Cloud Nothings— Life Without Sound

Cloud Nothings’ Life Without Sound explores the contradiction within its title.  Audiences expect recalcitrance and disobedience from the alternative Indie group; but their new album carries the irony of its name throughout each raw, mismatched track.  Artists have a long tradition of rejecting their genre.  Even the first English novel began with, in more complicated language, this is not a novel.  These writers wanted to create something new, something detached from form and independent of critical expectations.  The first modern novels told stories of self-invention that lent writers as much individual autonomy as their protagonists.  Naming an album — a mechanism of noises, phrases and harmonies — as sans sound has the same effect.  The first thing Life Without Sound does is deny its instrument and mute its impact.  It strips away its validity and then rebuilds with a notion of newness and impossibility.  There is, of course, sound in the world.  Front man Nathan Williams knows that and shares his own voice and noise in the nine-track album.  With his chosen title, he openly frees the band from the expectation of what kind of sound or silence his life and his album should exploit.  Cloud Nothings labels its album Life Without Sound and then fills a silent void with music. The reinvention begins from track one.  A mechanically-mesmerizing piano introduces the album as if breaking an infinite silence.  And like a child learning to walk it happens all at once — sound emerges.  Williams rises from a muted ambiguity: “I came up to the surface/ Released the air/ With no words to remember/ What happened there.”  He describes a relatable awakening to the rhythm of his bass guitar and breaks with the anticipated soundlessness to express a mental noise.  Like listening to music in headphones or getting lost in thoughts, sometimes life takes on a tone other than sound.  Cloud Nothings’ violent drum clashes with an electric guitar between Williams’ coherent words.  The fleeting cacophony walks the line that we repeatedly cross each day between silence, sound and noise.  Sound carries a certain connotative clarity — a cause and effect — that noise lacks. William’s choice of title plays to this thought.  Each track fuses new,  unidentifiable resonances.  Voice, guitar, piano, tambourine, drum, technological intervention meld in a novel, not-all unharmonious noise.  Cloud Nothings composes noise in a way that defies its displeasing essence yet retains the rowdy tumult.

Arguably, Life Without Sound evades the qualifications of sound.  With one contradiction reconciled, however, the album focuses on others.  The track list progresses from “Things are Right With You” where Williams repeats “feel right, feel right, feel right” to “Internal World” where he sings “But I’m not the one who’s always right.”  His indecision resonates with me and equals the mismatched instrumentals.  Feelings and thoughts don’t line up in Life Without Sound, just as in our lives.  The album brings this inner turmoil “Up to the Surface” with a screaming splash. Just like reading an author’s indulgent coda, the whole album ends up making sense after a few patient listens.  Life Without Sound signifies an internal existence breaking through.  Soundlessness blankets our reality when the mind’s noise grows too loud.  Life Without Sound violently splinters the divide between an inner and outer self; amid the chaos, Williams provides flashes of insight and understanding.  When you let the inner noise become reality’s soundtrack “You give up what you know/ Can’t explain where to go/ And you move in a world that moves on its own.”  But when you realize, like Williams, that “it’s time for coming out” that there’s “No use in life without sound” you pull back the blinding mental curtain and remove the brain’s earplugs to clear, coherent sonorousness.  This resurfacing and re-invention comes from a thought or a feeling, a sigh or a bang. Julia Curley is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences.  She can be reached at jmc628@cornell.edu.

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Bassists McBride and Meyer Bring the Love to Bailey Hall

The double bass is a perennial fixture of many jazz combos. And yet, how rare to hear it on its own terms. Rarer still in duet with a like partner. The Cornell Concert Series kicked off its spring season by proving that a duo of basses could be more than meets the ear. As twin ramparts of their generation, Christian McBride and Edgar Meyer are as masterful as they come. Where one cut his teeth on the jagged edges of jazz, the other was baptized in classical waters.

JAIN | Why DJ Khaled?

This past Friday, hypebeasts all around the world (including myself) collectively celebrated the much-anticipated release of Migos’ latest album, Culture. I could sit here and type up a description of Migos, but I’m sure you already have an idea. They bring life to your pregames and are probably the reason dabbing is still kind of cool. As their album title suggests, Migos have created a new culture in hip-hop and they’ll be the first to tell you that. Practically every major rapper has adapted the Migos flow in some way or another, but this column isn’t about how formally interesting Migos’ music is.

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TEST SPIN: Chance The Rapper & Jeremih — Merry Christmas Lil’ Mama

A holiday wishlist in 2016 is a strange concept, and I’ve found mine filled mostly with things that I don’t want. In no particular order: I don’t want any more surprise election outcomes, I don’t want music and film icons to continue dying in such quick succession and I don’t want to walk into another store that’s playing Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime.” I should have known that what I really wanted — what we all wanted — was a Christmas mixtape from Chance The Rapper and Jeremih. The surprise project arrives as a much-needed dose of relief, in particular for those faithful to the Church of Kanye West left rudderless by their leader’s newfound bromance. Last holiday season, I wrote a column on the sacred tradition of Christmas-themed rap songs, a small but undeniable canon that originated with Run-DMC’s classic “Christmas in Hollis” (which, not coincidentally, Chance parodied on last week’s SNL). In one fell swoop, Chance and Jeremih have nearly doubled the size of that canon, contributing nine original songs in a project more cohesive than it has any right to be.

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TEST SPIN: Various Artists — The Hamilton Mixtpe

Hamilton… a mere mention of its name opens a bevy of conversation. But really, what more can be said about ten-dollar founding father, that has not already been said? Lin Manuel-Miranda’s Broadway behemoth already has a Grammy Award-Winning soundtrack that reached #1 on the Rap Albums chart (apparently the first cast album to ever do so), and its shows have been consistently sold out, with some re-sale tickets going upwards of $2,000. Yet Miranda’s involvement with recent films like Star Wars The Force Awakens and Moana, seemed to signal his departure from the musical.

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The Sun’s Top 50 Albums of 2016

Join The Daily Sun’s Arts & Entertainment writers as they count down the 50 best albums of 2016, releasing 10 new albums every day. 

50. Horse Lords — Interventions

Horse Lords  — a four-piece avant-rhythms band from Baltimore with more creativity than they’ll ever know what to do with — have been specializing in freaking us all out since 2012, but Interventions is their first release which brings it all together into one coherent vessel you can really dive right into. Maybe it’s because they’ve finally said goodbye to anything resembling rock music; maybe it’s because they’ve figured out how to make that flitting groove stick around from start to finish. Either way, Interventions’ mind-busting polyrhythms and brain-zapping dissonances no longer sound like Pere Ubu outtakes or Steve Reich scraps. Every second on Interventions sounds just like Horse Lords.

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The Sun’s Top 10 Songs of 2016

In a great year for rap, hip-hop and emo, The Daily Sun’s Arts & Entertainment writers came together to name the 10 best songs of the year. 

10. “(Joe Gets Kicked Out of School for Using) Drugs With Friends (But Says This Isn’t a Problem)” — Car Seat Headrest 

Steve Jobs once said that hallucinogens reveal another side to reality, but in “Joe Gets Kicked Out Of School” — written about an acid trip taken by Car Seat Headrest frontman Will Toledo — the revelations aren’t so pleasant. On acid, Toledo sees himself and his friends as “filthy people,” hedonistic pleasure-seekers with no meaning or purpose. Good thing the song is so fun. The band’s album, Teens of Denial, builds huge, operatic epics from the building blocks of indie rock, and “Joe” is a perfect example, a seven-minute journey that begins with Toledo strumming an acoustic guitar and develops into a foot-stomping breakdown.

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ALUR | Billie and Ella: The Timeless Two

Jazz warms my soul. It’s the sound of horns, mingled with brushed snares and sparse keys that strike a chord with me, bring me to an everlasting ease. I appreciate the way the same standard can be interpreted by the famed and by the lesser known, phrased and formed to fit the voices and styles of the musicians. I love the flexibility, the innate improvisation, the freedom and spontaneity. And while there is jazz that goes over my head, music that feels more speedy than soothing, I look to the genre as a pick-me-up more often than not.

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More Tricks Than Treats?: Pianist Tamara Stefanovich at Barnes

Toward proving that “solo piano” is a misnomer, I might present Friday night’s recital by Tamara Stefanovich as my Exhibit A. Stefanovich knows that the piano is more than a single entity, that the trials of other composers and performers before — if not also echoes of those after — graft their own wires into its evolving circuitry. Not only did she seem to make reference to these histories, but also created an alternative one of her own. Her program was a formidable one. Titled “35 Études,” it brought together knuckle-busting pieces of varying temperament. By way of Frédéric Chopin’s “Étude in F minor (Op.

WANG | Marilyn Diptych

The music executive standing in front of us seemed either irritated or irrationally passionate. It was hard to tell. He hardly seemed executive. He stood a good two feet above the podium, shouting, criticizing and barraging the streaming industry, calling out no talent artists and what not. It was the vaudeville of Warren Hall.