If there is one word that is overused when describing concert experiences, it’s “magical.” Experiences and emotions are subjective, yet everyone seems to come back to that word. I agree that there is a certain atmosphere to be found at concerts that can’t be found anywhere else, but I believe that the affects found in a Girlpool concert are in a category of their own. Girlpool’s music takes emotions that are difficult to describe and puts them in an accurate, concise form of music that makes one think, “Wow. Why couldn’t I think of that when it’s so straightforward?” Taking those sentiments to a small venue like The Haunt makes the experience personal by forcing one to address neglected, bottled up feelings, creating a truly magical experience. Girlpool opened their show with “123,” the first track off their newest album Powerplant.
The experimental pop band, of Montreal, delivered a theatrical performance at The Haunt in Ithaca on Monday. The band was founded by lead singer Kevin Barnes in 1996, and their music has since endured various evolutions since their early rock, alternative sound. With the release of their most recent album, of Montreal has embraced an experimental pop vibe that deviates from the style of the band’s 13 previous albums. This performance not only showcased the band’s new sound, but also integrated various songs from their older albums, all which were welcomed by the crowd of veteran fans. The band’s publicist Naavin Karimbux described Barnes as “a sort of modern day David Bowie.” Though this statement seems a bit too bold, Kevin Barnes certainly knows how to entertain the crowd and his use of costume changes, dancers, sets and theatrics allows him to mimic Bowie, in his drama and androgyny. The first song on of Montreal’s latest album is “let’s relate,” which begins with the lyric, “how do you identify?” This question of identity pervades the band’s music and was an overarching theme of the performance.
We’re all probably familiar with the story of Shakespeare’s Hamlet – Hamlet, prince of Denmark, seeks revenge on his uncle at the behest of his father’s ghost, all the while finding the time to talk to skulls, wallow in existential dread, etc. etc. However, this 1921 German silent film adaptation turns the familiar tale on its head, doing so with a very interesting proposition from Dr. Edward P. Vining’s 1881 book: Hamlet is actually a woman.
This not actually as unusual as it might seem; there is, in fact, a long and rich tradition of female Hamlets. After Charles II gave permission for women to act, the first woman to appear in a Shakespeare play did so in 1660, and soon afterwards, women began playing not only women’s roles but also those of men.
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.