Beyonce captivates audience with Lemonade

[image courtesy of hypebeast.com]

By: Liam McGurl  @Liiiammm1996

 

Fans might think Beyoncé effortlessly handles life’s curveballs because, well, she’s Beyoncé.  But her new, highly secretive album Lemonade is visual and sonic proof that’s not the case. Even further, her latest artistic effort shatters the typical boundaries of pop music—utilizing striking visuals to accentuate an already powerful message.

Opening with the prophetic words, “The past and the present merge to meet us here…What am I doing my love,” Lemonade’s official trailer left fans unexplainably disturbed, intrigued and downright confused. The promotional video itself didn’t include an excess of Bey-focused shots; rather, it put the attention on art—with starkly contrasted visuals of peace and tranquility, juxtaposed to utter chaos and destruction.

Continue reading “Beyonce captivates audience with Lemonade”

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Album Review: Earl Sweatshirt’s “I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside”

By Sean Lynch

[Image courtesy of factmag.com]

Earl Sweatshirt hit a rough patch after the release of his mixtape Earl when he was sent to boarding school in Samoa until he was 18-years-old.

Sweatshirt felt that he doubted himself in his first studio album released in 2012, shortly after his return from Samoa, Doris. Sweatshirt needed a voice after his days of conformity with rap group Odd Future and his lost mind on Doris.

Even through all the uncertainty, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside serves as a platform for Sweatshirt to reveal his true talent as an artist, and to finally let his voice be heard.

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Image courtesy of youtube.com

“Huey” serves as the opening track to Sweatshirt’s album. The song goes back to Sweatshirt’s Odd Future days with its comical lyric content as he rants on critics and talks about the change in his career as he came back to Los Angeles again. The song changes from a dreary organ to a simple drum beat with some synthesizer thrown in between.

“Off Top” creates an unsettling mood with its eerie piano and cold lyrics including “I’m only happy when there’s static in the air cause the fair weather fake to me.”  The production is extremely choppy, but it goes along with the rap perfectly.

“Wool” features rapper Vince Staples; he matches Sweatshirt’s dark rap with his own dark verses. The beat is simple with the use of a cut up piano and a simplistic drum beat that captures the dark tone of the song.

“Grief” is the hit single from the album and comes off as artistically driven. The beat is glitchy and gives an eerie vibe to the song. Sweatshirt takes us to a dark place in his life, rapping about his struggles with drugs and finding himself after losing his grandmother.

Sweatshirt was upset with how National Public Radio handled his album’s release.

The album was originally supposed to only have been a music video released for the song “Grief,” but Top Dog Entertainment released everything but the music video.

Sweatshirt said through NPR Music: “I was so mad cause it was like — especially because I feel like this is my first album. This is the first thing that I’ve said that I fully stand behind, like the good and the bad of it. I’ve never been behind myself this much. So for them to not treat it as importantly as I was treating it was just like — I couldn’t help but to feel a little disrespected, you know?”

Earl Sweatshirt took simplicity and turned it into something special. Though the glitchy beats and dark raps, Sweatshirt finally found his own voice. Over the past few years, we have seen Sweatshirt mature through his projects, and I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside feels like the rounding off of his maturity. He has finally stepped away from the childish ways of Odd Future and has grown into a stronger rapper because of it.

Kendrick Lamar: “To Pimp A Butterfly” Review

By Joshua Svetz — @Svetz17

[Image courtesy of highsnobiety.com]

Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly has not only defied expectations after his last album Good Kid M.A.A.d City, but it may go down as one of the best hip hop albums of all time, and I’m not the only one saying it.

Pitchfork gave it a 9.3 out of 10, Rolling Stone Magazine gave it four and a half stars and Spin Magazine gave it the first 10/10 in over nine years. Even the harshest of critics are singing this albums praise. With that said, dissecting this album is like dissecting a Picasso painting, or trying to dissect why Taylor Swift has so many issues with men – it’s difficult.

To begin, the production is incredible. Kendrick and the TDE team out did themselves this time as the creative hands that touch the album shine through with each producer providing their signature flair. Terrance Martin, Flying Lotus, Dr. Dre and Pharrell Williams are all on point each creating something that challenges the listeners’ preconceived notions of hip hop. By stepping outside the comfort zone using Miles Davis’s style of funk, neo-soul and 70s jazz replacing the typical hip hop beats, typical trap production is tossed to the wayside, a bold move with the overarching popularity of the sound.

To put it bluntly, it’s going to be tough for other rappers to use the beats Kendrick spits on. Of course, genius doesn’t need half-rate impostors to bring it down.

The funk comes about early in the first track “Wesley’s Theory,” where Kendrick introduces the album by making a multiple entendre in the song talking about women, hip hop culture, the rap game, the celebrity lifestyle and much more. The song is centered on a repeating chorus that brings it all together beautifully. Kendrick enlists the help of funk legend George Clinton to give the song even more kick than it already had, and it effectively sets the tone for the ride you are about to go on through the album.

The 16 track masterpiece has way too much content to review in a limited format – honestly, I might write my senior thesis on it – but some of the highlights consist of rhythmic spoken word poetry interludes such as “For Free?,” more double and triple entendres in “These Walls,” conversations with God disguised as a homeless man in “How Much a Dollar Cost,” an awesome feature verse from newcomer Rapsody in “Complexion” and a surprise ending that will jar the listener in “Mortal Man.”

Going into specifics, more time needs to be spent on maybe the most powerful hip hop song emotionally since Eminem’s “Stan,” in “U.” This song shows a moment of weakness. Kendrick hits a rock bottom where he questions his purpose on earth. He fights internally about his desertion of Compton and wonders if he’s lost himself in the celebrity lifestyle.

Simply put, this song hits your heart with a javelin and haunts the psyche as Kendrick’s lyrics create a movie-like scene in your head. Everyone is able to relate, on some level, to this song; however, Kendrick’s feelings are far more intense and exaggerated. It’s a listening experience that is tough to put into words.

In comparison to other artists, you can argue that there are often filler songs that can weaken an album. However, To Pimp a Butterfly doesn’t suffer this fate as all 16 tracks are top-notch quality and only get better with repeat listens. Even the Interludes are excellent, which is not the easiest task.

With all the good mentioned, there is criticism to address. Many people have complained that the album doesn’t contain any “radio hits,” “party music or “low riding music.” To those people I say this: you are missing the point.

This is not an album suited for the average listener. To Pimp a Butterfly requires intensive listening and understanding the complexity of the lyrics. Furthermore, this is about more than the rap game, or music in general, this is about Kendrick’s metamorphosis from a rap star into an activist, a voice of black culture. This is Kendrick essentially taking the step towards fulfilling his self-defined prophecy as one of 2pac’s disciples. You just need to sit down and let Kendrick take you on the journey for 80 full minutes, and you’ll come out a smarter human being.

Overall, years from now, the rap game Mount Rushmore may just have a space carved out for King Kendrick Lamar next to Rakim, Nas and 2pac. Still, for now, it is official, Kendrick Lamar is the king, and it’s extremely doubtful we see anyone take the crown as long as he lives and breathes.

 

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[Image courtesy of karmaloop.com]

 

Modest Mouse: “Strangers to Ourselves” Review

By Sean Lynch

[Image courtesy of static.stereogum.com]

Modest Mouse seemed to have bad mojo thrown their way the past seven years while creating Strangers to Ourselves. The band has recorded with artists including Krist Novoselic of Nirvana and Big Boi; however, these tracks were released. The band has changed producers multiple times and even lost their founding bassist Eric Judy. It seemed as if Strangers to Ourselves would be left in limbo, never to be released, but it has finally made it out of obscurity.

“Lampshades on Fire” is a song that carries Modest Mouse’s original indie-rock sound. Isaac Brock is noted for his unique singing voice that comes off shaky and often changes pitch – but it works for him. The guitar is vibrant as it bounces along with the vocals giving some energy to the song.

“Coyotes” gives a softer tone to the album with its gently picked acoustic guitar and silvery voice from Brock. “The Best Room” has a similar sound to that of “Coyotes,” but the acoustics are instead replaced by effect-heavy guitar and a heavier voice. While “The Best Room” begins smooth, a heavily picked guitar solo towards the end of the song creates a transition that brings the album together after their brief hiatus.

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Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock performs on Jimmy Fallon. [image courtesy of billboard.com]

It feels as though this album was left in limbo for too long. Even though it is a traditional Modest Mouse record at heart, there are no other improvements on it or brand new concepts. Not to say that is bad at all, it’s just that there is a higher expectation for more after seven years rather than just to play it safe. The album gives some great singles, but leaves a longing for something new and bold.

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Modest Mouse [image courtesy of mtv.com]

Even with that statement, the band members are extremely generous live performers because of the energy they put into all of their appearances.

Modest Mouse appeared on The Tonight Show and gave another great performance. They played “Lampshades on Fire” to large applause as they bounced and jumped around on stage. The performance was their first one in nine years on television since they released “We Were Dead before the Ship Even Sank.”

Modest Mouse will perform on the newest Late Late Show with James Corden tonight at 12:30 a.m.

Marina and the Diamonds: “Froot” Review

By Liam McGurl

[Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org]

On March 13, Welch singer/songwriter Marina Diamandis, known professionally as Marina and the Diamonds, released her third studio album, Froot.  While Diamandis’ latest effort was originally set to release on April 3, its recent release was prompted due to a series of unauthorized internet leaks over the past few months.

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A tweet from Diamindis’ Twitter shortly after her album hit iTunes. [Image courtesy of bhmaincdn.breatheheavy.com]

While the complete release of the album came as a shock to some, many fans anticipated an upcoming release due to Diamandis’ constant promotional campaigns on her website and her Twitter account.  To kick off the promotion of the album, one official single was released each month leading up to the official release.  By the time the album was made available to the public, the singles “Froot,” “Happy,” “Immortal,” “I’m a Ruin” and “Forget” were officially released and received generally positive reviews from critics.

Often noted for her 2012 pop track “Primadonna Girl,” Diamandis features a much more mysterious tone on these new tracks – unlike her definite pop sound on her preceding effort Electra Heart.  Overall, the majority of the leading tracks are somber with serious undertones.  While Diamandis’ evolving style may stray her away from guaranteed success in the pop world, it is likely that it will create an appeal to a whole new audience.

“Happy,” the first track to appear on the album, features the dark story of a struggle to find happiness.  Singing the words, “I found what I’d been looking for in myself / found a life worth living for someone else / never thought that I could be, I could be / happy, happy.” “Happy” discusses the human condition of being upset, wanting to find love and finding someone we feel we can live for.

Other songs which conform to the haunting nature of many of the tracks are “Solitaire,” “Weeds,” “Gold” and “Immortal.”

While “Happy” is a sentimental ballad, the second song on the album, “Froot,” has a slightly more upbeat and mysterious tone.  Perhaps this song is the most eclectic of the bunch as the track uses the metaphor of Diamandis being a fruit waiting to be juiced.  This song seems to be fairly sexualized and is one of the more promising successes off the album.

[Image courtesy of wikipedia.org]
A screen capture from Marina Diamindis’ music video for “Froot.” [Image courtesy of idolator.com]

The third song to appear is “I’m a Ruin” which comments on a lover’s desire to continue on loving, despite being a detriment to their partner.  Also on this track, it is suggested that the lover being discussed has some sort of secret as shown in the line “Don’t wanna keep a secret but I don’t know how to keep it fair, yeah.”

Moving through the album, “Blue” is the most seemingly pop conforming song on the album.  Much like “Froot,” this track seems to have pop undertones that may be hit for mainstream broadcasting.  “Forget” and “Better than That” are other upbeat tracks off the record.

Perhaps the most empowering song on the album is the feminist track “You Can’t Pin Me Down” which plays off of the expected sexual and gender roles of women. Diamandis takes a bold risk with this song and touches on a topic often ignored singing the words “I am never gonna give you anything you expect / you think I’m like the others, boy, you need to get your eyes checked / checked.”

The most controversial track off the album, “Savages,” mentions some touchy topics like rape.  This effort seems to be a direct critique on society’s violent, narcissistic and hedonistic nature.  The catchy chorus of this painfully honest tune comments on facades and deception:  “Underneath it all we’re just savages / hidden behind shirts, ties and marriages / how could we expect anything at all? / we’re just animals still learning how to crawl.”  Also, throughout the song Diamandis discusses the idea that man should be our biggest fear due to the recurrent destruction of self and others we see in the media.

Diamandis’ efforts are expected to be successful—whether in the mainstream media or among her constantly growing fan base.  Along with Diamandis’ efforts with Froot, she is also expected to go on “The Froot Tour” which will be stopping at major annual events such as Coachella Festival and Lollapalooza Festival.

Regardless of if listeners are past fans of Diamandis, emerging fans or are uninterested in her catchy tunes, most agree that she has most definitely rocked the music industry.

Album review: Title Fight’s “Hyperview”

By Caitlyn Morral

[Image courtesy of whatrecords.co.uk]

American punk rock band Title Fight has recently released their latest album Hyperview this past week. As the fourth addition to their discography, Hyperview is definitely a different take than previous records. After a listen or two, it is easy to say that Title Fight has changed up their style a bit with Hyperview.

Unlike some of their past records, such as The Last Thing You Forget and Shed, Hyperview has a softer element of sound to it. While the vocals may hit some heavy notes and there is still a fair amount of drums and guitar strumming to give it the punk rock appeal, it is safe to say that there is a definite sense of calmness to these tracks. With an alternative take and a sounds similar to that of The Smiths, Title Fight brings about a sound that is indifferent to any other albums that they have released in the past.

The lyrics are also more in-depth. For instance, in “Liar’s Love”, entails a bit of loneliness in its words. one verse reads: “Ostracized, a loss of pride/There’s only shadows on my side/Lessons learned: no one’s concern/Lends itself to wounds that won’t/repair with time”. Essentially, the song depicts a person a soul that feels empty and alone. Some other tracks, including “Murder Your Memory”, are written in the same manner with “Murder your memory/Let it suffocate/Reduce/Circle back to sorry days/Like a bird of prey/subdue”.

While the majority of the tracks are very similar in the rhythms and tempos, they all generally sound alike. However, there are also few less upbeat tunes, such as “Dizzy”and “Your Pain Is Mine Now”. As for the remainder of Hyperview, there is definitely a heavy grunge aspect. The record has traces of something that either blink-182 or Nirvana may have released in their day.

This 90s sound carries over into “Chlorine” especially, which is also the first music video that the band released to this album prior to its release. The video illustrates a distraught, middle-aged man waking up on an isolated boat in the middle of the ocean. Disheveled and confused, he jumps off of the boat with a suitcase in hand, only to find himself waking up in the same bed and repeating the pattern over and over again. The man is unaware as to why he cannot take his own life, until the ending reveals that a pair of peculiar divers had been saving him each time.

Overall, Title Fight has done in excellent job with Hyperview. The new styles incorporated into the music and the heavy lyrics coincide to create the ultimate listening experience. No matter what type of mood you’re in, Hyperview brings about a mellow style to any atmosphere.

Review: Kid Ink’s Full Speed

By Sean Lynch 

[Image courtesy of albumjams.com]

Kid Ink has come back in full force after the release of his second studio album My Own Lane. After My Own Lane came out to rave reviews, Ink looked to continuing his success through the release of Full Speed, and is continuing his transition from Rap to a R&B/Dance Rap style. The album is charged with animated beats and energy unmatched by few other albums.

The album is stacked with a ton of featured artists including R.Kelly, Migos, Trey Songz and Chris Brown. Ink built up his reputation with his last album so he utilized it by building this star-studded ensemble for Full Speed. This strong supporting ensemble helps out Ink by making the album stronger than it actually is because without the help, the album would not be the same.

”What it Feels Like” is an energetic and vibrant song that thrives on blaring trumpets and the drum machine in its background beat. For a track without any featured artists, Ink includes some of his better vocals on the track because it is not auto-tuned and it shows off his natural voice.

“Body Language” is another song that is animated through its beat. Ink has some of his better lyrics on this album, and it shows in this song. Usher actually takes over most of the singing duties in “Body Language” and does a great job keeping the energy going. Other songs that are worth a listen include “Dolo,” “Hotel” and “Every City We Go”. “Hotel” is definitely made better with the use of Chris Brown. Coming off a Grammy nomination for best R&B song for “New Flame”, Brown shows why he is going to continue his success in 2015 with his soft but powerful vocals leading “Hotel” forward.

Full Speed is a very dance oriented album. The bouncy beats and catchy hooks will keep you dancing all day. Kid Ink gets more credibility than he deserves on the album because of the strong group of collaborators that he built up on, but Ink still has some great raps within the album. If you are looking for something to really get your party going, then you would really enjoy this album.

Azealia Banks — “Broke with Expensive Taste”

By Bryce Spadafora @bryce_spadafora

Azealia Banks surprised fans and critics when she released her debut album Broke with Expensive Taste on Thursday. Following a trend set by artist Beyoncé Knowles last year, Banks released the album with little promotion and without giving her fans a set release date.

While Broke with Expensive Taste may be Azealia Banks’ debut album, she is no stranger to the spotlight. In 2011, Banks released “212,” a sharp and edgy track that proved Banks was capable when it came to good lyrics. The following year, Banks released her EP 1991 along with the 18-track witch-hop mixtape Fantasea. Both projects received amazing reviews from music critics; however, just when it seemed Banks was becoming an unstoppable force in the rap industry, she took a brief hiatus.

In 2012, Banks confidently announced that the album Broke with Expensive Taste would be released in the fall of 2013. Critics started to question whether or not Banks would deliver when the anticipated release date was pushed to January 2014 and again as far as March 2014.

Banks blamed the multiple delays on her record label Universal Music Group.

In January, Banks took to Twitter stating, “I’m tired of having to consult a group of old white guys about my black girl craft…I’m literally begging to be dropped from Universal.”

Tension between Banks and Universal escalated to the point that, by March, she threatened to leak the album on April 15th. It wasn’t until July that Universal finally dropped Banks for good.

Fortunately for Banks, Broke with Expensive Taste proves that it was worth the wait.

The album features several singles that loyal fans will recognize. There’s the iconic “212,” a track full of confident, assertive lyrics and a sample from Belgian DJ Lazy Jay’s “Float My Boat.” The witch-hop single “Yung Rapunxel” is featured on the track list, too.  Also included is the recently released trap hit “Heavy Metal and Reflective” as well as an older track of Banks’ titled “BBD.”

The album features new tracks that are on par with Banks’ previous work. One of these is “Ice Princess.” Banks is known for her confidence – two factors that come to play throughout the track. Lyrics like “Competition I’m a beat it so relentless / I’m a be legendary when I end this” along with a cut from Morgan Page’s “In the Air” complement each other flawlessly. The result is a chilly and cutting flow that demonstrates Banks’ ruthlessness in the rap game.

The only downside to Broke with Expensive Taste is the track “Nude Beach a Go-Go.” It’s fun, beached themed lyrics are a radical departure from previous tracks. It breaks up the trap heavy album and even seems a bit over the top. Overall, it feels like a bad parody of a Beach Boys song. Banks is capable of far greater work, but she missed the mark with this one.

One bad track doesn’t ruin an album, though. Whether you’re a die-hard Azealia Banks fan or have never heard of her before, there’s bound to be at least one track on Broke with Expensive Taste that you will be rapping to yourself daily. Azealia Banks had found her place in the rap industry; after this album, she doesn’t seem to be leaving anytime soon.