Hayden Goldspink, Staff Music Reporter
Cincinnati-based alternative powerhouse band, Walk The Moon, kicked off the new year with an explosive Press Restart Tour. The band was promoting the release of their third studio album which shot to the top of the billboards, What If Nothing. Known for their upbeat and rave-esque concerts, Walk the Moon did not fail to impress with multiple sold out venues across the nation, including Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom.
On the night of January 26th, the crowd of heaving Chicagoans were let into the beautiful venue of The Aragon Ballroom. The opener was an up and coming band called The Company of Thieves which featured alternative music reminiscent to that of Imagine Dragons. However, the highlight was the lead singer’s bubbly attitude which kept the crowd excited and even laughing at some points.
At around 9:30, Walk the Moon took the stage. As the anticipation and tension of the crowd rose to a climax, the music finally started, but it was not the energetic start that everyone was expecting. Rather than playing an upbeat attention-grabbing song, the band started off with a slower more relaxed tune hailing from one of their older albums. This song didn’t set the tone for the whole show, however; the more relaxed opener was the calm before the storm.
For the send number, the band exploded forth with “Different Colors” from their breakout album Talking is Hard. They featured a slew of songs coming from their albums, such as “Kamikaze”, “Avalanche”, and their billboard success “One Foot”. With perfect vocal work, excited guitarists, and a set which shone perfectly with each song, the band quite simply commanded the stage. Everyone was jumping off the ground, singing, dancing, and the excited nature of the crowd was brought to the forefront. The show lasted until 11:30; the excited nature of the crowd never died down.
Just when I thought the crowd couldn’t have greater energy, the band led into their breakout single “Shut up and Dance, which put Walk the Moon on the global map. The crowd erupted, and every person in the venue seemed to start screaming the lyrics, and the floorboards bounced with everyone jumping. Knowing that this was easily their most well-known song, the band strategically placed it three-quarters of the way through the concert to reinvigorate the already elated masses. Easily being the highlight of the night, the band closed out the event featuring songs from their new album. Still, I was surprised that one headline song was missing, “Anna Sun.”
After leaving the stage, the crowds did not move an inch from their spots and started chanting asking for one more song. After about five minutes, the band retook the stage and performed the long-awaited encore. At one point, lead singer Nicholas Petricca walked down the middle of the stage and reached out to the fans. After the track was finished, there was a moment of pause within the venue during which my fellow concert-goers and I were utterly speechless.
I rate this concert 5/5.
Samantha Hay, Staff Music Reporter
As a rising artist of 2018, 16-year old Billie Eilish has become extremely popular with the release of her EP, dont smile at me. Her mesmerizing vocals have made her Apple’s “Artist to Watch.” Eilish has spent most of her life singing and is greatly influenced by her parents who were also musicians. She released the song “Ocean Eyes” in 2016 on SoundCloud, and started her music career. Ocean Eyes is a blissful listen. She’s featured on the Thirteen Reasons Why soundtrack with her song “Bored.” This feature helped her get noticed, and her EP dont smile at me was released shortly after.
Eilish releases 9 songs on her EP. The songs flow well together and give off slight nostalgic vibes and opens with the song “COPYCAT,” a thrilling energetic tune. For being only 16, her lyrics are cleverly-written, and her vocal range is mesmerizing. Although many of the songs have a similar sound they all have different messages. With clear R&B and jazz influences Eilish uses these styles to speak powerfully on topics such as the pressures of being a woman in the 21st century, and wanting to be somebody else. For being only 16 she elicits in her audience surprisingly deep sensations of heartbreak and a yearning for finding yourself.
The final song on her EP “&burn” features a popular rap artist Vince Staples. I think it’s a nice way to end the album. All of the songs on the EP flow very well, but once you get to the song “party favor” it seems to be more of a choppy transition to the song due to the long intro. In a weird kitschy way it’s still cohesive, but personally I’m not a fan of the song. Once the songs progress to the chorus, it begins to fit with the EP more. Overall the 9 song EP has a nostalgic sound and impressive for such a young artist.
In conclusion, Eilish has developed a lot of talent over the years. And used the 9 song EP to tell a story. I rate this EP 4.5/5.
Joey Pauletto, Staff Music Reporter
In 2011, Car Seat Headrest, with their stripped down and reckless brand of indie rock, became Bandcamp legends. That year, they released the legendary Twin Fantasy, a project that, despite rash organization and poor mixing, launched Will Toledo and his band towards underground stardom. This breakthrough, created when Toledo was still a teenager, established the group as one of the most promising up and coming acts in music, and allowed them to refine their sound and direction. Four years later, Car Seat Headrest was signed to Matador Records, giving them access to professional grade production equipment and personnel, while keeping their youthful spirit alive. For Matador, in 2015 they released Teens of Style, a compilation of reworked tracks from the band’s Bandcamp years, followed by one of the best rock albums of the decade so far, Teens of Denial, in 2016.
Teens of Denial took the band’s popularity to new levels, as fans and critics praised their straightforward yet powerful style. Despite speculation, this deserved success did not inhibit further risk-taking; just two years later they shared plans to release a rerecorded and reimagined version of Twin Fantasy. This announcement was clouded with uncertainty among fans, with die-hards fearing that this tribute would tarnish the significance of the original and lack creativity. However, the album’s lead single, “Beach Life-in-Death,” provided hope and excitement. The souring thirteen-minute anthem, filled to the brim with scorching guitar work, classic Toledo vocals, and spectacular buildups and tempo changes, showed the world that Car Seat Headrest had the same technical skill, emotion, and punk rock swagger that made their music so special in the past. As a whole, the record successfully lived up to the mark set by “Beach Life-in-Death,” and actually improved upon the original version through revamped production and creative reinterpretations.
With Twin Fantasy, Car Seat Headrest taps into the same instrumental structure that made Teens of Denial such a pleasurable rock album. Distorted yet light electric guitar is elegantly layered, and becomes a surprisingly versatile sound, offering dialed down chord picking on album opener “My Boy (Twin Fantasy),” and satisfying explosiveness on highlight “Cute Thing.” This sense of familiarity calls upon 70’s punk and 90’s alternative, giving the album healthy doses of perfectly executed rock nostalgia. Toledo’s raw vocals are utilized smartly, giving off a sense of intimacy through spoken word breaks (“Nervous Young Inhumans”) along with glowing harmonies and echoing (“Twin Fantasy (Those Boys)”). Additionally, tracks like “Bodys” feature electronic drum work and synth leads rarely heard in previous Car Seat Headrest projects.
The tonal and thematic equilibrium the band creates are what make this project special. Today, rock music is on the decline in terms of popularity, as its being increasingly overshadowed in the mainstream by hip-hop and R&B. However, new records such as Twin Fantasy shed light upon the genre’s dwindling status, perfectly balancing tradition and innovation. Yes, Will Toledo writes songs about love and heartbreak, but from a unique millennial perspective in which modern technology and culture create unbeknownst struggle and complication. Yes, the band uses a classic composition style, but they expand upon it with ambitious sixteen-minute rock opus’ and sonic experimentation. Some may believe that bands with obvious influence from the music of the 20th century won’t be able to keep rock alive in years to come, but by going back to the past, and looking at it from a modern perspective, Car Seat Headrest has made great progress in the music world. Evidently, the result is a pretty awesome record. I rate this album 4.5/5.
Logan Steenbergen, Staff Music Reporter
Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, more commonly known by his stage name, Nas, is listed as one of the best hip-hop artists of all time. He has been nominated for eleven Grammys, including best rap album for I Am… , Untitled Nas Album, and Life is Good, but that is only the surface of the work that Nas has done. He’s released ten studio albums, collaborated on three, and has worked as an executive producer on The Get Down. Directed by Baz Luhrmann, the popular Netflix original series that details the story of the rise of hip-hop in the Bronx in the late 1970s, a story not too different from that of Nas’s.
The story of his experiences is one of the overwhelming themes in his first studio album, Illmatic, which he put out in the spring of 1994. Growing up in Queens, Nas details the extent of the overwhelming street violence in “N.Y. State of Mind”, the second track on the album. He describes “bullet holes left in my peep holes,” which alludes to the violence and how close to home it hit. A repeated line throughout his music originates in this song, which is, “I never sleep, cause’ sleep is the cousin of death.” Nas made a statement on the specific use of this line, “it has been something that [he’s] been told since [he] was a kid,” and that you must always keep one eye open, because sleep made you an easy target for violence. The unfiltered story telling of the struggles of his childhood contributes to the raw and passionate sound of the album.
Things take a positive turn on the album during the third -my personal favorite- track “The World Is Yours.” In essence, this track is about finding light in dark times, being able to find a diamond in the rough. Nas describes the works of Gandhi, likening them to his use of music to express his situations. This is a direct contradiction to “N.Y. State of Mind,” which resorts to violence to survive. The positive and hopeful vibes that this song give off make it a more attractive every day listen, and might be a contributing factor to why the song is the most popular off the record, according to Spotify.
Perhaps the most interesting song on the record is “One Love”, featuring Q-Tip. As the seventh track on the album, it provides a deeply personal insight into Nas’s life, as the entire song is comprised of letters to friends that have been incarcerated. “One Love” deeply intensifies the Urban landscape that Nas is trying to paint through the rest of the album, and the unity that comes through when growing up in an environment of violence. The title itself pays homage to the Bob Marley song of the same name. Marley’s song describes the importance of staying united even through times of turmoil and trials. The fact that the track is comprised of personal letters Nas has written emphasizes this theme.
In comparison to his subsequent albums, Illmatic provides a raw and uncut sound that his latter albums don’t, as they are more conventional and mainstream. The themes that he carries throughout move the album from good to great, allowing the listener to fulling imagine what it’s like to live in Nas’s childhood, and what shaped him into the person he became. Illmatic deserves its title as being one of the best East Coast albums of all time, and certainly as one of Nas’s best albums he’s ever produced. I give this album a 4.5/5.
Shujan Marali, Staff Music Reporter
1991: N.W.A is on its last crutch and about to break up. Dr. Dre and The D.O.C.have left NWA and have started another record label called Death Row Records. One man from the East Coast, Tim Dog, was fed up with the treatment of East Coast rappers and released a diss track about Compton, California where most of the LA rappers had been from, igniting a feud between rappers from both coasts.
As an answer to the East Coast’s opening assault, 2pac’s double album, All Eyez on Me, was released on February 13th 1996. It was the answer to East Coast dominance of the rap game. Coming up on its 22th year anniversary, it is still a classic and staple of the LA vs. NYC hip hop feud of the 90s.This was also Shakur’s fourth and final album before his untimely death later that year.
2pac was in jail at the time and Suge Knight and Jimmy Lovine had to pay a whopping 1.5 million dollars to get Shakur released on bail. Because Suge had paid Shakur’s bail, Shakur had to make 3 albums under Death Row Records to pay him back in full. All Eyez on Me was an answer to the 3 album3-album request. This had cleared him from 2 of the 3 album3-album agreement. All Eyez contains several singles, the most iconic being “California Love” with “How Do U Want It” as a double A-side single. “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted” featured fellow Death Row Record rapper Snoop Dogg. Finally, “I Ain’t Mad at Cha” was released as a single shortly after his death in 1996.
Pac’s writing skills were impeccable. He was able to write new material and record it within days. This was crucial for him to get out of his 3 album3-album contract deal. All Eyez on Me is a beautiful story told of a paranoid thug. Written while in jail, it makes sense that these themes come up throughout the album. Pac’s strengths as a writer helped him become number one in the rap game in 1996. He connected his thoughts and emotions to his rhymes. He would be able to paint a picture with his words and everything would be in color. With everything going on in his life, Pac had been able to write about it all: the horror and paranoia of going back to jail and his apparent “knowledge”e of his imminent demise. We can see this in “Life Goes On” as he rhymes “How many brothers fell victim to the streets?” He is foreshadowing his own death and with the beat he raps on.
We hear Shakur rap about his friends but describing things he was doing with his fame and money. He also states in “Only God can Judge Me,” “Flatline! I hear the doctor standing over me/Screaming I can make it/Got a body full of bullet holes laying here naked.” This is how Shakur died. He writes so clearly on his death it seemed like he knew it was going to happen. Pac’s ability to write has made this album, and his others, a work of art. 2pac’s All Eyez on Me has become a staple in LA rap as one of the best albums for its writing capability and for me, it's nostalgia. Pac had written an album so good it peaked on the charts as number one album in 1996.
In Las Vegas September 7th, 1996 Tupac “2pac” Shakur was fatally shot four times and died six days later on a hospital bed. His untimely death may have also attributed to the rise in his album sales. Nonetheless, it is still a good album. I would give All Eyes on Me a 4.5 out of 5 because of its lyrical content and its ability to convey a message that would later be better understood.
By Matthew Freeman, Staff Music Reporter
It seems year after year that hip hop icons and trap stars are getting younger and younger. Brian Imanuel, an indonesian, American born viner now trap artist released his first hit “Dat Stick” at 16. Now, after two years, many singles, and many collaborations, Brian has released his first official album named “Amen.” This is undoubtedly a very big step for the young artist. With an ambitious fourteen songs, featuring artists big to small like Offset, Joji, NIKI, and AUGUST 08, this album experiments a lot with the traditional hip-hop/trap formula.
The style and flow switches almost entirely at times, going from “Introvert,” a mellow, harmonic melody with Joji about depression, loneliness, and lack of love, to “Attention,” a trap heavy flow with Offset about the trap lifestyle. The album tracks rebound, though,and go right back to a track about heartbreak, and right back to another trap heavy track. Perhaps it’s meant to represent the dichotomy of his feelings. Struggling between the glamour of his newfound lifestyle, and his youthful heartbreak.
The lyrics aren’t anything out of the ordinary for a trap artist. Thankfully, his lyrics are clear and on pace, unlike a lot of the “mumble rappers” who rely heavily on their beat and lack proper annunciation. Many of his tracks are rely on the glamour and superficiality of his lifestyle, but he does break that mold to speak about his parents, his childhood, home schooling, his race, heartbreak, and his rapid emergence to fame the music scene. The rhymes aren’t extraordinary, but the message he portrays, the great melody of the beats, and his flow change make up for it. My personal favorite tracks were “Cold” and “Glow Like Dat” because of their harmonic, synthesized beats and unique flow. They’re a great add to a hip hop playlist to break up the monotony of traditional hip hop tracks.
Overall, I decided to give this album 4 out of 5 stars. My rating is based off the production value, the variety, and how the album expands the genre. Rich Brian has the production value, most of the variety, and I think he's done something to expand the hip hop/trap genre with the addition of original harmonic melodies. However some of the songs sound too similar to each other to feel they really add to the variety of the album. I was also impressed by the sheer number of songs he managed to pack into his very first album. The features definitely added to the album as they incorporated tons of diversity, but still felt like they belonged. From Offset to Joji, Rich Brian manages to make all these different artist styles work on a single album in a unique, intriguing way. I felt that even people who don’t enjoy hip hop or trap could find a song they enjoy on this album.
Afiya Jaffer, Staff Music Reporter
Have you ever had an overload of all your senses at once? Have you ever experienced energy and vibes running through your veins and sinking into your brain? I never thought such a feeling existed; I never believed anything could make me feel this way. Little did I know that “never” was and remains to be a very strong word. Of course, I’m writing about the Guns ‘n’ Roses with Alice in Chains Not in this Lifetime Tour. Together, Guns ‘n’ Roses and Alice in Chains brought together a community of over 50,000 people who all love the same music, live by this music, and honor these two bands beyond description.
Alice in Chains set the tone for the evening. Lead singer William Duvall’s voice filled soldier field and everyone was clapping along and singing at the top of their lungs. The band played hits such as Man in the Box, Rooster, Down in a Hole, etc. I loved the way Duvall sang the lyrics with so much passion and power, and I could tell by his facial expressions during each song that he was putting in his all to the music and just letting himself become one with the lyrics and instruments. Duvall and the rest if the band made that stage their home, and made all of us in the audience feel at home by performing the songs that half of the people in that arena grew up listening to.
Next was Guns ‘n’ Roses. The amount of energy in Soldier Field when Guns ‘n’ Roses came out was indescribable. It was the moment we were all waiting for, and for some of us (like me) it was the first time ever seeing them live. I was sitting next to a man who was talking to me a bit before concert began; he told me this was his 7th time seeing them, and that when he was younger he used to chase them around city to city with his friend just for the laughs. Hearing stories like this filled my heart because I love when people at the show are crazy for the band playing - real love. Every time Axl sang or Slash or Duff Mckagan had a guitar solo, the crowd was wild. Guns ‘n’ Roses knew exactly how to make the audiences feel like we were one big family. Many times throughout the show, Axl would take breaks between the songs and just takes 5 minute and see how we were doing, talk to us, and make us all feel connected. Axl and Duff both made a lot of jokes and were so very welcoming to us all.
Something else I loved a lot about this concert was their set list. When you go to a concert, a lot of the times the artists mainly plays the big hits, songs that everyone is familiar with, but they did not do that. Of course they played your usual Sweet Child ‘o’ Mine, Welcome to the Jungle, November Rain, etc., but they also included songs which I didn't even know, hidden gems they wrote when they first got together. That is what I loved so much, hearing new things and hearing Axel tell us the backstory of who, what, when, and where. Not only did they have amazing guitar solos and vocal power, they always had these amazing stage effects that you do not see everywhere. Fire was shooting out of places on the stage, flames that looked so powerful that they could devour you in one second, smoke machine with so many crazy colors, strobe lights with crazy patterns stretching across the entire field, and of course at the end, the amazing fireworks. The concert may have ended after a short couple hours, but they brought a vibe into me that I know will never leave, and that is what made this concert very memorable and powerful to me.
Out of a possible 5 stars, I give the Guns ‘n’ Roses with Alice in Chains Not in this Lifetime Tour or Summer 2016 a solid 5 out of 5 stars for high energy, great performance, and a concert experience that will stay with me for a lifetime.