COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. RECORDS

The Inherent Charm of Regina Spektor

This past Friday, Dan Smalls Presents treated us to a lovely and endearing performance at the State Theatre of Ithaca by inviting Regina Spektor to pay the city a visit. Waiting for the start of the concert, the theater was loud and everyone seemed in a slight daze, presumably from the recent turn of the weather, or maybe as a residual effect from the week’s earlier presidential debate. The cold outside had everyone shedding layers of coats, or drinking off the chill, or both. A half hour after the projected start time, as people could be heard asking their neighbors, “The opener hasn’t even started yet?” Spektor waltzed out onto the stage with drummer Mathias Kunzli, cellist Yoed Nir and keyboardist Brad Whiteley. “Oh my gosh she’s so cute!” I heard someone half-whisper off to my left.

11lahavas-master1050

ALUR | An Ode to Lianne La Havas

On a typically dreary day in London during my semester abroad, my friend from Cornell and I began a text conversation about the artists we longed to see live. We had the privilege of seeing Norah Jones last fall at the State Theatre, and we began brainstorming other musicians who would be equally as enthralling. Lianne La Havas rolled off the tongue — a versatile musician who we had grown to love over the course of our college experiences. Her vibrato was a routine point of conversation, as no matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t emulate the intense subtlety of her vocal wavering. And we had fond memories of listening to and discussing her 2015 album Blood just moments after its release.

izzy-bizu-a-moment-of-madness-2016-2480x2480

TEST SPIN: Izzy Bizu — A Moment of Madness

Once in awhile, an artist appears who produces exactly what you were looking for. The pop music scene has been overly blessed with strong female leads, from any of Ariana Grande’s continuously multiplying tracks (I love her and Nicki Minaj, but “Side to Side” is a bit much for me to get out without wincing a bit — “wrist icicle/dick bicycle?” Really?) to any of the pure gold that Rihanna and Beyoncé rain down on us. I’d been craving someone with a bit of a different sound for a while and around last spring ran into Izzy Bizu’s “White Tiger,” off her 2013 EP Coolbeanz. This track is liquid happiness and believe me, it makes a much better alarm then your AT&T default track “Spring Morning.” With a minimal rhythm of piano and percussion by her side throughout, it feels about as wholesome as watching How to Train your Dragon with your grandma (which is a 10/10 would recommend, by the way). It’s clean in lyrics and in production, it’s light, it’s substantial and it leaves you feeling the same as the track comes to a close.

03-britney-spears-glory.nocrop.w529.h560

Spears Falls Short of Glory

Pop has changed. Over the course of the last decade or so, what was once an outlet for one-dimensional electronic ballads such as Spear’s Top 10, Toxic, has become one that allows expression of the complexities of more than simply romance, artists are expressing the intricacies of their lives. Pop has come to encompass a great deal of music as well. Suddenly, Adele, Ed Sheeran and Britney Spears are all in the same category. That being said, in many respects, the pop bar has been raised in just the last 10 years.

high school musical

A Conversation With High School Musical Composer, David Lawrence

David Lawrence is a film and television composer, songwriter and producer whose score and song credits include the American Pie films, the High School Musical series, and the forthcoming HBO documentary, Becoming Mike Nichols. The Sun spoke with Lawrence in anticipation of his visit this Friday about movie music, the process of scoring and Frank Sinatra. The Sun: There are so many people who write music to be a pop hit or for the radio.  Was it your goal to write television theme music or soundtrack music? David Lawrence: I went to conservatory in New York.

artworks-000150441122-rfel8e-t500x500

Spinning Singles: DMX, Nick Jonas

 

“Moe Wings ft. Big Moeses and Joe Young” — DMX

Despite almost dying in February, DMX came back in March with “Moe Wings,” his first single in almost three years. The track finds X continuing his career-long tradition of sounding like an enraged pit bull, gnashing its teeth and growling at you from behind some sorry-ass chain-link fence. Rapping over a low-chord string arrangement and crashing drum-kit beat, he spends the first verse bringing down other rappers by asserting his masculinity over theirs, and the chorus declaring himself to be “hot like moe wings.” Such belligerence is certainly what gives DMX his appeal, but as he gets older, his bark makes him sound more and more like an angry old man yelling at you to get off of his lawn. Nevertheless, “Moe Wings” has vital signs.

35b1058f9ccfc69ddaadd33eee29c6c2.960x960x1

Spinning Singles: ZAYN, “BeFoUr”

Zayn Malik is using his post-One Direction life for two important things: creative capitalization and tender, R&B-inspired slow jams. Tossing aside the saccharine sound he shared with Styles & Co., Zayn (needlessly stylized as ZAYN) has embraced his standing as “the mysterious one,” as described by Harriet Gibsone in The Guardian. With this self-directed intrigue comes such heartthrob-y tunes as last week’s “BeFoUr.”
“So say what you wanna say,” Zayn croons. Say what you wanna say about One Direction’s cheesiness, their accessibility or their major label camp. “BeFoUr” reminds us why Simon Cowell assembled 1D in the first place — they’re damn talented. Zayn’s infectious vocals float delicately over the single’s sparse electronic instrumentals, wistful and distant until he takes full tonal control over the bridge.

35dd966b

Spinning Singles: Lana Del Rey, “Freak”

In the self-directed music video for “Freak,” from her album Honeymoon, Lana Del Rey invites you into her oversaturated, trippy vision of California. Featuring Josh Tillman (Father John Misty), the video is supposedly inspired by his experience dropping acid at a Taylor Swift concert. “Freak” opens with Tillman and Del Rey walking in the desert before she presses a tab of acid on Tillman’s tongue, cuing the hushed chorus “Baby if you wanna leave /Come to California/ Be a freak like me too.”

Sun-drenched and hazy, the rest of the track unfolds lazily like a dream with shots of Tillman surrounded by young women in white and a surreal close-up of Kool Aid gushing down Del Rey’s chin as she drinks. A sequence of the couple slow dancing in a thick fog marks the end of the song “Freak.” The dance continues in silence for a few seconds before switching to an underwater shot and the opening notes of Debussy’s “Claire de lune.” In the rest of the 11-minute track, Del Rey, Tillman, and the young women glide in this glittering underwater place, in a continuation of a scene from her previous video for “Music To Watch Boys To.”

Those who complain about her inauthenticity forget that Lana Del Rey is a purposeful, carefully created persona that produces pop music too weird for the mainstream. Her goal is aesthetic pleasure, and in her self-aware, at times self-mocking art, she achieves it.

t-rihanna-cover-art-roy-nachum

TEST SPIN: Rihanna — ANTI

A new Rihanna emerges with ANTI. A black ­and ­white childhood image of the singer makes its appearance on the album cover, both striking and mysterious. This is not the first time we have seen a hip hop artist use a childhood portrait for their album art: Nas’ Illmatic and Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die are iconic album covers that also engage with the symbolism of a young child. However, ANTI’s album art distinguishes itself from what any other artist has done in the past. In collaboration with Israeli artist Roy Nachum and poet Chloe Mitchell, Rihanna co-wrote a poem called “If They Let Us” and translated it into Braille.