I was fortunate enough to discover AWOLNATION early, and I continued to listen until their first album, Megalithic Symphony, caught the attention of the masses. With this, I abandoned them out of pretentious spite. Years later, I am happy to say that Aaron Bruno and company haven’t lost their ability to create unique, genre-noncomforming music. If AWOLNATION was a lesser band, they may have simply tried to recreate the sound and success of their smash-hit “Sail.” However, Here Come the Runts sees Bruno dramatically shift his instrumentation, following in the footsteps of ’80s-era rockers. This is echoed in the album’s thematic focus — Bruno’s “runts” are the successors to Springsteen’s working-class Americans, those that are pushing on despite the stress and struggle of modern America.
Fifty years ago, people from across the country gathered in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park to celebrate music. The Summer of Love hosted music from many different genres, both mainstream and underground, but the highlight of the festival was the new genre, born in California’s Bay Area and brought to life by bands such as Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead. 1967 was the year of psychedelic rock. Despite its immense influence on the 1960s and 1970s counter-cultural movement, psychedelic rock has largely disappeared from the limelight. Those, like myself, who still crave the unorthodox guitar riffs and new chord progressions, must plop down an ancient record onto a turntable for a chance to listen to the wild sounds of the genre.
As an arts writer, they tell you not to beat dead horses. We are told, when we get the keys to a one-bedroom flat of internet article space to dispose of our thoughts in, not to belabor on topics where debate is no longer generative; where a cultural consensus has been reached, or all viable arguments have been made. When Kim comes out with receipts incriminating Taylor for using Guys-Kanye-Called-Me-A-Bitch-Troops-Assemble feminism for personal gain, we are not supposed to shout into the crowded internet void about it, because the internet is a highly effective instrument that responds at hyper-speed to such events — and there are literally offices full of 20-something bloggers in every major city paid to sit around and wait for stuff like that to happen, and produce appropriately snarky takes on it. So, if you’re not one of those people paid to stare out at the internet and write that first “Taylor Lied and Here’s Why She’s The Whitest and Lamest Feminist Who Ever Lived, Who Gives Me Existential Doubt and Acid Reflux About The State of Feminism” article — don’t. I’ve shouted a lot about indie rock in the past few days.
In her Sept. 14 piece “Views from The Edge of the Mosh Pit: Making Peace with Periphery,” Sun columnist Jael Goldfine ’17 approached the topic of moshing from the perspective of an observer, and ended up tackling a more general subject: what it’s like to be at a punk or hardcore show, and how the experience is different for everyone. “I’ll leave the space of a column about moshing,” wrote Goldfine, “to someone/anyone who a.) semi-regularly inhabits mosh pits and b.) engages a perspective somewhere in the vast space between the belief that moshing is the salvation from the crippling boredom of the postmodern condition…and [the belief] that it’s a feminist nightmare …” I match these two criteria, and like Goldfine, believe moshing to be a subject fraught with multiple levels of socio-politics, and well worth writing a column about. To call myself even a “semi-regular” inhabitant of mosh pits would perhaps be a stretch, but I’ve moshed a handful of times in my life, and as recently as last month at the Pig Destroyer concert at The Haunt. Of all of my moshing experience, however, the only one that was truly significant was my first at the age of 14: an all-day, body-ravaging bender at, of all things, a Christian music festival in New Jersey.
There’s something almost incestuous about the way song titles are reduced, reused and recycled. When Lupe Fiasco sings about a rapper who is coping with his newly acquired fame and The Carpenters sing about a groupie who falls in unrequited love with a musician, and both of these tunes are called “Superstar,” it throws you off kilter. And yet, “Superstar” as a song title is far from the most hackneyed option. The corresponding Wikipedia page lists over 200 songs entitled “Hold On” featuring a sundry of artists, from the Jonas Brothers to Alabama Shakes to The Beekeepers. “Changes,” “Beautiful,” “Breathe” and — of course — “Love” are used just as often.
“Our music doesn’t have words and neither does our name,” ______ write on their Bandcamp, and often state at their shows. Last Friday, the duo (comprised of Brad Nathanson ’17 and Carsten Thue-Bludworth ’17) released Paralanguage, their second album following August 2015’s the linden sessions on Ithaca’s student-run Electric Buffalo Records. Recorded at the same Linden Avenue home as their previous release, Paralanguage offers 37 and a half minutes of complete sonic immersion. It is, at points, soothing, angular, sprawling, concise and susceptible to having many more descriptors tacked on to it. Yet, I offer a slight modification of _____’s mantra-of-sorts: not only does their music “not have words,” it doesn’t need words to convey interesting, intricate ideas and overwhelming moments of beauty.
There are few ideas that loom larger in American music legend than the concept of the rock star. A legendary figure, he exists for only one purpose in life: to see the masses swoon in appreciation of his mere appearance onstage. A band may have all the talent in the world, but without a larger than life personality leading the sonic charge and embodying the sound for a live audience, there is a good chance those good vibrations will fall on deaf ears. Many modern front men have tried to capture the animalistic energy of rock legends like Jagger, Hendrix or Mercury, and some have done it well. Is there room in rock and roll for another kind of star?
American DIY music is squarely in the era of Exploding in Sound Records. The Boston-born, Brooklyn-based label has quickly evolved into the premier tastemaker among a certain crowd with a certain sound, claiming a massive range of artists spanning from Big Ups to Palehound. And let’s not forget the integral hand Exploding in Sound played in launching the careers of Speedy Ortiz, Porches. and LVL UP. Just two weeks after releasing Washer’s stellar Here Comes Washer — and two weeks ahead of a slated Kal Marks drop — EIS is making ripples with a new Two Inch Astronaut record, Personal Life.
I almost did not review Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven. Kid Cudi’s mammoth 26-song release is so uncreatively written and strangely produced that I doubted its seriousness. In a few days, I thought, Cudi would announce that the album was a ruse, and I did not want to be the gullible writer who spent 900 words describing specifically how Speedin’ Bullet had failed. In the past few days, however, Cudi has only grown more serious. On December 1, Cudi tweeted a long statement explaining his decision to cancel tour dates.
If you’re reading this and you live in Ithaca, you probably missed out on Thursday. Cornell’s own Julian Gallo ’16 played as an opener to New Jersey-based alternative folk band Cold Weather Company as part of a WVBR/CornellRadio.com endeavor that I certainly hope will have an encore. Jordan Wechsler ’16, a member of Cornell Media Guild, found CWC playing in NYC this summer and asked them if they would be willing to come out to Ithaca during the fall. When I wandered out of the library and into The Nines, I found Brian Curry, Steve Shimchick and Jeff Petescia sitting in a circle on the stage beyond the bar. They introduced themselves (“We call Brian “Dad,” Shimchick said) and fleshed out the story of the show where they met Wechsler.