Category: Music Reviews

Formation of Social Justice

By: Michael Smith

Feb. 6th Beyonce Knowles did it again. Dropped a surprise single and video entitled “Formation” and it proceeded to do nothing less than shut down the internet. In the hours that followed, analyst began to bre
ak down the controversial imagery produced by the queen of the “BeyHive”. From Beyonce atop a police car in the middle of flooded New Orleans, Beyonce sitting beside other w
omen of color while in formal 1800’s attire, the little boy dancing in front of police officers in riot gear, to the spray painted wall that reads. “Stop Shooting Us”, Beyonce’s “Formation” quickly named the anthem of the Black Lives Matter movement. Fast Forward 24 hours to Super Bowl 50. Headlining the halftime show is Cold Play, featuring Beyonce and Bruno Mars. The world wants to know what is Bey going to perform. The answer is: The song she released 24 hours ago. She sang formation accompanied by 50 black back up dancers with afros, leather jackets and black
berets in recognition of the 50
th anniversary of the founding of The Black Panther Party. After an amazing half time show from all parties, Bey announced another world tour. But this tour is contributing to the ongoing water crisis in Flint Michigan, and her just as successful husband Jay-Z is donating 1.5 million from his music streaming service Tidal to Black Lives Matter. The next week that followed, the queen received a lot of p
raise and much more grief, but she still reminded us that she likes her baby hair with baby hair and (6)


By Brian Akers


James Blake, the 27-year-old singer-songwriter from London, has never been one to follow the rules. Ever since he broke onto the English electronic scene with his first single in 2009, “Air & Lack Thereof”, he has proven time and time again his resilience in the face of passing fads and pressure of conformity. His sound has never fit into the dubstep genre where he was placed: he was only put there because no one knew where to put him. His songs were always to slow, his sounds too ambient, his tone too dark. There was nowhere for him to go, but he continued to push on, eventually carving out an incredibly unique, and arguably revolutionary new sound in the world of electronica.

His 2010 debut record, James Blake, was this new artists first experimentation with the finer aspects of songwriting, as he began building songs thematic and lyrical structure instead of sonic experiments and new ideas for the keyboards and beats that he was building. Songs like “The Wilhelm Scream” and “Give Me My Month” showed his inner passion to be a songwriter instead of just a sonic architect, though he retained his electronica and dance influenced sound throughout the record with the repetitive build of “I Never Learnt to Share” and the beautiful chaos of “I Mind”. Now, on his newest record, 2013’s Overgrown, Blake delves even deeper into his abilities as a songwriter, pushing the limits of the word, and himself.

On first listen, Overgrown may seem like a safe record. Blake is not the same young man who was building songs and sounds in his bedroom in 2009. He is a man who has begun to embrace who he wants to be, not who he needed to be. The songs beats are not as complex as they were, and he spends the vast majority of the record focusing on the sound of his voice, which has been trained and groomed into a warm, soulful, but pained croon. He doesn’t show off with insane vocal acrobatics, because he doesn’t need to. His abilities and his emotions give all that they need. He has embraced the emotional side of the music he wants to make, and instead of building his instrumentals solely for the sound of them, he is building them to accentuate and elevate what he is singing. On “Retrograde”, as his voice raises and the emotional stakes come forth when he sings “Suddenly I’m hip/Is this the darkness of the dawn”, pained, strained synthesizers build and suddenly overshadow his soulful musings, almost seeming as though they are trying to push him back. It is a moment of emotional catharsis and sonic interplay that Blake has nearly perfected throughout the record. The beats work hand in hand with his vocals, and they compliment each other and work together, as his jazz and dance influenced rhythms fight with and against his bluesy, soulful voice.

He has not abandoned his influences, though. The production, though clean, and the instrumentals, though simplified, both still ring of the past, as he builds sounds that are both sharply rhythmic and ominously ambient. Blake is not a man to leave behind what came before, and he continues experimenting with the electronica that started him with “Digital Lion”, a standout track on the album with harkens back most clearly to his early days. It meanders, shifting itself so often that it becomes a giant amalgamation of sound and voice. He builds the song with sounds, not with structures. The driving, rhythmic breakdown of the track becomes a statement for who he was, and an opportunity to move forward for who he is.

James Blake is not a young man with inspirations anymore; he is a young man who is inspired. Even as he has begun to settle into being a songwriter, he will refuse to conform to any rules set around him. Blake will write his lyrics and build his songs, and he will continue to do it in whatever way he pleases. This record is just him stretching his muscles, giving us a hint at what may come next.



Jackrabbit, By San Fermin

By Quinn Murphy

Are you tired of the normal conventional rock and roll or hip hop that the music industry has to offer?  If your answer is yes, then look up a chamber pop band started by Brooklyn-based composer Ellis Ludwig-Leone.  Their second full album, Jackrabbit, was released in April 2015, to wide critical acclaim.  This album has a wide variety of song styles, from Alternative Rock, to instrumental interludes in between songs, and some slower songs near the end of the album.  This is definitely an album to listen to all the way through to get the full feel of the bands range, since it has interludes between songs that help as transition between the different styles of music.  Some of the stand out tracks of this album are Woman in Red, Emily, Philosopher, and Jackrabbit.  

Each song has a different feel to them, but all of them will have you pressing the repeat button when you are done listening to them.  Having listened to the bands first album, San Fermin, it is clear that the band has been able to build off of what worked for the album, as well as fix everything that didn’t.  It is also clear that composer and piano player for the band Ellis Ludwig-Leone, is a musical and lyrical genius of this age.  The band recently released a Deluxe edition of this album, which includes two new songs, Jackrabbit (Ra Ra Remix), as well as No Devil.  No Devil is another enthralling work of art, that has had me pressing the repeat button for that song over and over and over again.  

This band is starting to raise to popularity, and its not difficult to see why.  They have a new style that is appealing to the new age of music that is beginning to take form in front of our eyes right now.  Now this is not a perfect album, it does have one or two songs that aren’t as enjoyable as most of the other ones.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a near perfect album, and with it being only their second album, there is no way of telling what the band will crank out next.  

Jackrabbit gets 4.5 out 5 stars.


People Keep Talking

By Andrew Phillips

Hoodie Allen (real name Steven Markowitz) debuted his first studio album, “People Keep Talking”, a little over a year ago in October of 2014.  Allen has made several smaller EP’s and mixtapes over the course of his rapping career, but this one truly brought him into the spotlight.  The 14-track collection features several other popular artists such as Ed Sheeran, MAX, and Alex Wiley.  In summer of 2015, Hoodie Allen was a part of “The Boys of Zummer” tour with headliners Wiz Khalifa and Fall Out Boy.  The album reached the number 2 spot upon release on iTunes and was his first album to be released physically on CD.

“People Keep Talking” has a strong sense of unity within it to the point of connecting one song to the next via messages on an answering machine.  The first track, “100 Percent of Something,” has been a reoccurring line said at concerts and put on his merchandise.  He talks of being lost in life and simply wanting more, which, if you know of Markowitz’s background, makes it even more powerful.  Before he decided to go full time on rapping, Steven Markowitz attended University of Pennsylvania and then was a staff member for Google.  Over the course of his years at the technology company however, he built up enough of an audience in his off time to leave the internet group and make rapping and singing his career.

The second track of the same name as the album deals with all his “haters” and those that believed he would not make it to the big time.  Allen has had his fair share of hate or discrimination due to his voice, lyrics, and cultural background.  In May 2014, prior to the release of his latest album, Hoodie released a solo track entitled “Nolan Ryan”.  The diss-track was dropped for free on his website with Allen going to Twitter to state that the new album was more singing than rap and he felt he owed it to the fans.  A Twitter feud then occurred after the solo’s release amongst Hoodie Allen, Riff Raff, and Mike Stud, whom both had name drops in the song.  Stud and Allen then exchanged mean insults and diss-tracks days later.  Eventually both came to peace with the lyrics sung and moved on to more mature things.

The remaining twelve songs each address separate factors and passions of Allen’s life.  From “Act My Age,” a youthful love letter to remaining a party enthusiast, to “All About It,” where Hoodie and Ed Sheeran talk of how to impress the females they have crushes on, the collection achieves a solid nine out of ten rating.  My only gripe with the collection is that it is simply not long enough; just one or two more great tracks would have been a great addition. Overall, “People Keep Talking” contains a powerful rock-pop feel to accompany the basic rap / hip-hop lyrics.  This studio album has shown that Hoodie Allen can play in the big leagues of the music industry and shows promise for his next project.

PKT Front