Yesterday may have been cloudy, rainy, windy and overall depressing, but Gorillaz came through and released four new songs. I’ve been a fan of British virtual band Gorillaz since the early 2000s. I would jam to “Clint Eastwood” when I was in elementary school (I was the coolest, edgiest third-grader in my day), rapped along to “Feel Good Inc” and when every high school crush rejected me, “On Melancholy Hill” healed me. Creators Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett not only created the members 2D, Noodle, Murdoc and Russel, but they gave these characters a story and world of their own, which they have shared with us through music and animation. Since then, I have eagerly dropped whatever I was doing to listen to any new songs when they’re released.
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.
All your favorite artists are problematic. It’s an obvious statement, but one that resurfaces on social media in the wake of most every celebrity scandal, from Kanye’s vocal support of Donald Trump to Azaelia Banks’ apparent Twitter crusade against any and all forms of human decency. Of course, with other artists the crimes prove more unforgivable, inviting armchair critics everywhere to try and reconcile good art’s occasional tendency to come from bad people. Skillful deflections and self-justifications on this topic range from “Only a troubled mind could have made this!” to the more nihilistic “Everything is terrible; we might as well enjoy the music”. It’s an exhausting debate, and one that seems to affirm the sad truth that people will always do what they can to avoid feeling guilty in their indulgences.
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 email@example.com.
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.
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.
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.
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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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.