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Album Review: Cardi B - Invasion of Privacy

Jack Gillespie

It was easy for some people to write off Cardi B as a one-hit wonder. So many factors pointed toward that being the case. First, in a genre as currently crowded as trap rap, the chances of becoming a mainstay on the charts are becoming slimmer. Desiigner had one of the biggest songs of 2016, and he is already a footnote in the rap landscape at this point in time. On top of that, pre-”Bodak Yellow,” all that Cardi was known as was a reality show star with a decent following on Instagram.

Celebrities of that creed are not known for having especially long musical careers. To make things simple, Cardi B’s road to fame was an uphill battle.

But against the odds, she has become one of popular music’s brightest stars in just 10 months after the release of her breakout hit. Since then, she has not only appeared on four Top 10 hits, three of which have gone platinum, but she has become a cultural icon. She’s known for her personality just as much as her music.

However, as much of a sensation as she has become, she was going to need a successful, quality full-length project to solidify herself as a figure that was going to be a mainstay.

With Invasion of Privacy, Cardi has done exactly that.

With many of the best tracks on Invasion of Privacy, it shows that Cardi knows her strengths very well. All of the elements that made her biggest songs stick in the minds of many is presented in spades on the albums highlights. “Get Up 10,”  “Bickenhead,” and “I Like It” are deep cuts that do a great job of showing off Cardi’s distinct voice, larger-than-life personality and balance of humor, cleverness and bluntness when it comes to her lyricism.

“Get Up 10” is especially noteworthy as a dramatic, hard-hitting rags to riches story that has Cardi recounting her rise from stripper days to superstardom ‒ a journey she owes to her independence and perseverance.

The only times where the more energetic tracks fail to impress are when featured artists don’t mesh well with Cardi’s style. While the idea of Cardi B and Chance the Rapper, two striking rap figures with unique voices, on the same track sounds great on paper, the collaboration ends up being a tad disappointing. The duo fail to bring a harmonious vibe with their performances and sound like they belong on two separate songs. YG, on the other hand, just contributes a plain bad chorus on “She Bad.”

The hits are a bit harder to come by when looking at the more low-key tracks. “Be Careful” definitely deserved to be the single more than the other subtle songs, and Cardi and SZA work quite well together on “I Do.” But others like “Ring” are much too commercial to keep Cardi’s personality intact. These tracks also feature more of Cardi’s singing, which is pleasant but not her strong point.

As much as the softer songs drag the album down, the majority of Invasion of Privacy is made up of songs like “Bodak Yellow” and not like “Thru Your Phone.”

Cardi B was counted out by quite a few due to her history as a reality show staple. However, it’s what she’s criticized for most of all that has helped her become the phenomenon she is. She knows how to catch attention. Whether it be her one-of-a-kind presence, infectious energy or even her never-ending supply of quotables, she is the kind of artist that audience will want to keep around. This is exactly what Invasion of Privacy proves and future projects will continue to prove.

With Charli XCX, Vince Staples Collaboration Under Their Belt, Music Label PC Music's Future Seems Bright

Jack Gillespie

It’s been less than four years since British singer/songwriter Charli XCX reached a peak in popularity in 2014, featuring on Iggy Azalea's “Fancy” and having her own Top 10 single with “Boom Clap.”

However, the drastic difference between those songs and her recent material may lead people to believe it’s been a decade. It did not take long after Charli came into the limelight for her to dive into her most experimental work yet.

It started in 2016 with a 4-track EP entitled Vroom Vroom and continued into 2017 with two mixtapes: Number 1 Angel and Pop2. These projects, while still showcasing Charli’s sharp songwriting skills and sassy vocal delivery, were elevated to a whole new level due to the producers she has worked with ‒ the likes of SOPHIE, A.G. Cook, Danny L Harle and EASYFUN brought a progressive, futuristic sound to Charli’s vision. All of these artists are associated with one strange label: PC Music.

The London-based record label has been active since 2013, releasing music from dozens of artists whose material has few if any stylistic predecessors.  

The PC Music ethos is to expand on mainstream pop music, and to do so by accentuating the sugariest, most lovesick, and most plastic elements of bubblegum pop music to the point of surrealism. This theme extends into the artists’ visual aesthetics, which embraces the shallow, futuristic kitsch of the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. The results yielded from this formula range from shallow fun to unorthodox beauty to avant-garde confusion.   

Even for as uncompromisingly odd as PC Music work is, it still managed to catch on and turn heads rather quickly. By 2015, music by SOPHIE was already being featured in McDonald’s commercials. Various members of the labels have also collaborated with the likes of Madonna, Diplo, MØ, Carly Rae Jepsen, Vince Staples, and, of course, Charli XCX.

With so many high-profile connections, the suggestion that mainstream success could be in PC Music’s future becomes more legitimate. Maybe not at this exact moment though, with trap rap’s  domination of the charts. The current popular music landscape doesn’t seem to be quite fit for something as sugary as Hannah Diamond. But there is hope ‒ whenever there is a major shift in the landscape of popular music, it often includes a major mood change.

The polished, over-the-top hair metal of the late ’80s was taken over by the messy grunge and alternative rock of the early to mid-‘90s. The boy band-infested late ‘90s were replaced by the rise of gruff, angsty radio rock and nu-metal at the turn of the millenium. Larger-than-life EDM was swapped out for dim, grounded trap.

In this context, the suggestion that songs similar to the impossibly sweet “Unlock It” off of Charli’s Pop2 overtaking songs like Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO TOUR Llif3” as the zeitgeist of popular music.

One more thing to ask is what version of PC Music will get big, because there have been endless ways artists under the label have depicted and interpreted the label’s ethos. The avant-garde, post-modern material from the likes of GFOTY (Girlfriend of the Year) and the more abrasive, industrial-tinged tracks from SOPHIE are most likely not going to result in the breakthrough. Even the poppier songs from Hannah Diamond and A.G. Cook might struggle, due to how intensely saccharine they are.

In reality, solo artists from PC Music will most likely not be topping the charts. Instead, it will be through already established pop artists, a la Charli XCX. Many songs off of Pop2 sound like the kind of PC Music that could realistically hit the Billboard charts (“Out Of My Head,” “Unlock It,” and “Porsche”).

The conclusion that can be made by this assumption is this: PC Music is going to have to become more pop rather than pop having to become more PC Music. It’s a truth that has applied to most cases of underground music movements hitting the mainstream. However, even if the music of A.G. Cook or SOPHIE never reach the general public, there’s no doubt that their music would not only attract listeners they never would have reached if artists like Charli XCX, and their names and art, would have a notable place in the neverending evolution of popular music.

Grammy's Strive Towards Diversity is Apparent, Though Imperfect

Jack Gillespie

The Grammy Awards’ diversity problem has been making its presence known for quite a while. In 2014, Macklemore publicly apologized to Kendrick Lamar when The Heist won the award for Best Rap Album over Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city. In 2015, Beck’s unassuming record Morning Phase won over Beyoncé’s self-titled record for Album of the Year, shocking many. In 2016, Taylor Swift's 1989 won Album of the Year over Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, a record that stands as one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the 21st century.

However, last year’s Grammy Awards saw the controversy reach a peak, as Adele’s 25 won Album of the Year over Beyoncé’s Lemonade, a result that surprised even the winner of the award. In her acceptance speech, Adele expressed her love of Lemonade, even saying “I can’t possibly accept this award.” Moments like this and the rise of hashtags like “#OscarsSoWhite” and “#GrammySoWhite” show how much demand there is from the public for diverse representation in the few chances artists of all medium are given to be praised for their work.

With the nominations for the 60th Annual Grammy Awards announced, it seems that the people in charge have finally realized that some changes were needed.

The most obvious sign of the shift is in the Album of the Year category. In previous years, it was expected to see only one or two non-white artists nominated. This year, all but one artist is not white. In fact, it is the first time since 1999 that the Album of the Year category did not feature a white male artist. Albums from Childish Gambino, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar and Bruno Mars make up the majority of the rap and R&B-heavy crop, with Lorde being the odd one out.

Jay-Z stands as the artist with the most nominations with nine, including the aforementioned Album of the Year, as well as Song of the Year and Best Rap Song, Performance and Album.

Categories such as Record of the Year and Best New Artist continue to show some signs of progress, as both are made up of nearly all non-white artists, with the exception of Julia Michaels in the latter category. SZA, who is nominated for Best New Artist, has the most nominations for a female artist with five, many of which come from the R&B category.     

The attention being paid towards being more diverse is apparent. However, there are still areas where the adjustment is not as clear. The pop categories, while containing quite a bit of female representation, contrast the general categories quite starkly. The only non-white lead artist(s) are Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee.

Though that may have to do more with the pop landscape of 2017 than the Grammys themselves. R&B and rap’s dominance of the Hot 100 has been taken to a whole new level this year. With so many new artists creating music of that style, the Academy has to rely on pop mainstays such as Lady Gaga, P!nk and Kelly Clarkson for its nominations.  

The Rock categories face a very similar problem as their pop counterparts, though to a harsher degree. It has been quite a while since the last time rock music could be considered a formidable presence within mainstream music. With this stagnation inside mainstream rock, the Grammys are left to nominate already established groups that make for safe picks (Foo Fighters, Metallica) and newer artists that may have some recent success, but lack notoriety outside of their niches (Nothing More, K. Flay).

Many of the people of color and women in rock music are not on the same tier of popularity as a band like the Foo Fighters, so there is much less chance for those groups to be nominated unless the Grammys are willing to exceed expectations and nominate more underground bands.

However, taking into consideration the overall efforts made, the Grammys took a step in the right direction with this set of nominations. It may have been a long time coming, but hopefully this is a sign of permanent change and not just a consolation prize for the years of denouncing the Recording Academy for being unable to keep up with the times.


Album Review: Sam Smith - The Thrill of It All

Jack Gillespie

Sam Smith always had the voice of a great artist. Though things can get a bit sketchy when he reaches into his upper registers, he is still one of the most idiosyncratic singers in mainstream pop music and has one of the best lower registers out there. In addition, he has always lended his voice to instrumentals that have always complimented him ‒ from his various collaborations with house outfit Disclosure to his somber debut record.

The Thrill of It All is no different. For the most part, the atmosphere of In the Lonely Hour carries over. What sets his latest apart from the the debut is the strength of the songwriting. The difference in quality of these two albums’ non-singles is very apparent. Tracks like “Say It First” and “Midnight Train” prove that Smith has sharpened his ability to pen grey, downtrodden ballads while still keeping the catchiness expected of a great pop record intact.

While the dark ambiance is seldom broken and there are a few reoccurring sonic ingredients throughout the record (ex. gospel choirs, string sections), Smith and his producers continue to find ways to differentiate each ballad from each other. Piano ballads, slow, Radiohead-esque rock tunes, and orchestral pop compositions are some of the most notable directions traversed, with the latter two being the most rewarding in their executions (“Midnight Train” and “Too Good At Goodbyes”).

But the most promising avenue Smith goes down has nothing to do with an instrumental decision. “HIM” is most likely the greatest song Sam has released to date, and it all has to do with the lyrics. Smith is infamous for his lack of same-sex pronouns in many of his songs, so a song such as this, one that addresses his homosexuality so directly, is a bold lyrical direction for him and one that hopefully signifies more to come. He is one of the few openly gay male singers in mainstream pop music, and his embracing of his position gives him a perspective rarely covered, no matter the gender.

However, as much as its gloominess is integral to Sam’s music, there are spots on The Thrill of it All where the sun shines through the clouds. “One Last Song” and “Baby, You Make Me Crazy,” while they can’t necessarily be described as “danceable,” are the uptempo affairs of the project. The former’s staccato piano keys and high-pitched soul samples make it a peppy, radio-ready track and the latter is a wonderful throwback to the Motown sound. What both of these two tracks have in common is Sam’s ability to sound quite natural over instrumental not usually associated with his style. These two tracks show that if he ever wanted to move towards greener musical pastures, Smith would have the capability to do so.

Obviously, it’s great news that Sam Smith has sharpened his sound since his debut record. In a pop music landscape dominated by trap rap and alternative R&B, he and fellow Brit Adele hold a unique position. However, as The Thrill of It All carries many of the same strengths and weaknesses as its predecessors, how long Smith will be able to stick to this sound without becoming a redundant artist comes into question.

He has proven with tracks like “Baby, You Make Me Crazy” and even his collaborations with Disclosure that he is capable in moving in new directions. Whether he decides to stick to his guns, move in either of those aforementioned directions, or make a completely unexpected artistic shift may determine whether the follow-up to The Thrill of It All will continue the upward trend we have seen from Smith’s records at this point in time.   

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 Review

Jack Gillespie

The original Guardians of the Galaxy was an instant highlight within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While Marvel does have the reputation of being the more lighthearted of the two comic-turned-cinematic universes, the 2014 film took that quality farther than any Iron Man or Thor movie ever did.

It was the kind of rowdy, goofy blast of a cinematic experience that would come out of a man whose first film work was co-writing an X-rated adaptation of Romeo and Juliet budgeted at just $350,000. Gunn was able to solidify his own special place in film history’s largest franchise with just one film. It would only make sense for Gunn to keep that style alive and well once Vol. 2 came around.

Vol. 2 finds the crew we came to know throughout the original not too later after the first. Their synergy is a bit on the sketchy side, and is exactly what crash lands them into the main conflict after a battle of egos between Peter “Starlord” Quill (Chris Pratt) and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper).

It’s fitting for the plot to really be kicked into gear by a dispute within the group, as the main thing that separates Vol. 2 from its predecessor is the shift in focus from fighting one common enemy, to the development of our main characters and a few new faces as well.

Above all is the the in-depth answering of a question that was hinted at the end of the first film: Quill’s father. We were left with the information that Quill is not only half-human, but his father is of an unknown, ancient species.

It is not far into the movie that he crosses the Guardians’ path. It’s this introduction of Quill’s father (Kurt Russell), named Ego, that sparks almost every major character arc in Vol. 2. Almost too many, in fact.

By the time the climax can be felt creeping around the corner, the feeling of all of these arcs being rushed towards their completion is painfully evident.

The relationship between sisters turned rivals Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan), rather than developing at a natural pace, is instead dragged along by a handful of encounters.The payoff ends up being not quite as satisfying as a secondary villain’s transition into a member of the Guardians could have been.

But, in the end, while all of them being packed together gets messy at times, character interactions continue to be the series’ greatest strength, even seeing improvement in some cases.

Drax (Jose Bautista), a comical highlight in the first film, has only gotten better; 80 percent of the hardest laughs in the audience came from him. A lot of those moments were within scenes between Drax and newcomer Mantis ( Pom Klementieff). Their shared social ineptitude not only results in some great comical chemistry between the two, but an innocent friendship that ends up being one of the more heartfelt elements of the film.

However, the strongest arc goes to Rocket Raccoon and Yondu (Michael Rooker). The former, one of the highlights of the first film, really comes into his own as not only as the source of the film’s most entertaining action scenes, but as the most intriguing character among the Guardians. But it isn’t without the emergence of Yondu as his emotional equivalent.

Much like Drax and Mantis, their shared traits bring out the best in each other. While their antihero-esque qualities do result in some wonderfully snarky moments from both of them, their arcs parallel each other in their quests for redemption when those same qualities cause issues. Only someone as snide as Yondu could break down the ego of someone like Rocket.

The most satisfying part of the entire film ends up not being the climax.

While a few fun gags, both visual and conversational, pop through, the issues with overstuffing rears its ugly head more than ever. In tangent with the over-CGI’d main face off, its overambitious spectacle could’ve brought our main heroes closer together rather than assigning each of them to their own detached dilemma.

It's the resolution that gives the audience the satisfaction the preceding fight was short on. The novelty of ‘70s-80s hits soundtracking sci-fi felt less fresh this time around overall, but it’s Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son” that comes out as the most powerful use of music in the film as it really ups the emotional potency that comes with our heroes tying their conflicts up in the wake of a bigger loss.

In fact, the last 10 or so minutes of Vol. 2 showcase nearly everything that has made Guardians of the Galaxy one of the best additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe: unconventional yet rewarding soundtracking, a colorful visual aesthetic that puts infamously grey movies like Avengers: Age of Ultron to shame, and a colorful cast of characters that comes in a shapes, colors, species, and any other variable you can think of.

However, above all, it’s the genuine chemistry between the guardians that gives the series a notable advantage above its comic book film peers. Vol. 2’s biggest strength isn’t in its head, it’s in its heart ‒ its rude, crude, goofy heart.

Playboi Carti - Album Review

Tim Stephens

Playboi Carti is a quick-rising, Atlanta-born rapper breaking through with his newest album, Playboi Carti. Carti was signed to A$AP Rocky’s label Awful Records after his breakout single Broke Boi and appearing on multiple different tracks with groups such as A$AP MOB.

While Carti has become known quite quick in the hip-hop scene, he isn’t showing off anything unique with this self-titled album.

Overall, there’s not too much to talk about with this album. The only things that can be said is it is repetitive, uninspired by virtually anything, and is altogether mediocre.

Playboi Carti starts out with “Location,” which on first listen, it didn’t sound too awful. It had this cloudy, ethereal feel with the beat, until Carti himself actually entered the album.

The first thing that is even heard from Carti is the eyeroll ad libs. When you already have people like Lil Uzi Vert using ad libs that include almost exclusively Yeah and What in the background of a song, hearing from another artist makes you groan.

The main problem is Carti himself, with his odd voice. When it comes to a voice of an artist, specifically a rapper, it isn’t necessarily a bad idea to make an off the wall voice. It can make your music easy to recognize and could possibly bring in a whole different crowd of people.

One of the best examples is Danny Brown, with his trademark yelp that almost anyone that has listened to him can recognize in an instant. For many people, it’s something that has to grow on you since it’s so different, but Carti on this album just sounds effortless, and not in a good way. This is shown especially on tracks like “Magnolia” and “Yah Mean.”

The only thing that came out of this album that was positive was the production and the features. While Lil Uzi Vert doesn’t bring an immense amount to the table (especially since Carti sounds like a poor man’s version of Uzi himself), it brings some kind of charisma to the album.

The track “New Choppa (feat. A$AP ROCKY)” is probably the best song on this project, mainly because of ROCKY, who shows his usual attitude, but anything is better than Playboi Carti on this album basically.

RATING: 2.1/5

Moonlight Review

Olivia DeCrane

Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins, won Best Picture at the Academy Awards this year.

For years I have always watched the Best Picture film after it was announced. I have never been disappointed (last year’s Spotlight is very high on my list of favorite films), and Moonlight was certainly no exception.

The film surrounds the struggles of a black gay man in Miami. He knows he is different from the other kids, and the other kids certainly know that as well. Unfortunately, his outsider status causes him to be bullied.

The main character is played by three actors (a young child, a teenager, and an adult) since the film chronicles his coming-of-age, so it is hard to pick one as the best. They all play the character of Little/Chiron/Black very well, but my personal favorite is Ashton Sanders.

Mahershala Ali won Best Supporting Actor for his performance, and while his appearance in the film is limited, he did an amazing job. He plays Juan, who is a father-figure to the main character.

He is also the first Muslim to win such an Oscar.

Naomie Harris’s performance was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress.

In interviews about the movie, Harris said she was reluctant to play character due to it being a stereotypical black female part.

However, she agreed, and the audience should be glad for it. Her acting appeared very real, and when I heard she filmed all of her scenes in three days I was shocked.

The colors in the film are also very beautiful. The cinematographer definitely took a lot of time looking at specific details.

Even before the snafu at the Oscars, there was debate over whether La La Land or Moonlight would win Best Picture.

La La Land is definitely a more feel-good film. Moonlight is completely the opposite; tears were in my eyes throughout most of the film.

However, I feel that Moonlight was more deserving of the title of Best Picture. Its importance as the first Best Picture film with an all-black cast and as the first Best Picture LGBT film cannot be denied.

The film, while amazing, should not be watched by young viewers. It has some graphic scenes, and I think it would be hard for them to understand the themes of the film anyway.

Overall, Moonlight is most definitely a movie you should see. It has important themes, great acting, and beautiful cinematography.

The movie is out now on DVD.

Classics Reviews: David Bowie - "Heroes"

Jack Gillespie

One of the greatest things about The Berlin Trilogy, composed of 1977’s Low and Heroes and 1979’s Lodger, is how its origin can be heard throughout the material. On these three records, Heroes and Low in particular, Bowie, father of ambient music artist Brian Eno, and long-time collaborator Tony Visconti, embraced the world of ambient and electronic music. Few places in the world during the mid to late ‘70s were as instrumental in popularizing electronic music as Germany. Artists such as Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, and Neu! brought these sounds to a mainstream audience before the explosion of synthesizers in music hit in the 1980s. Mainly thanks to Eno’s contributions, the more ambient-oriented tracks in The Berlin Trilogy stand as some of the defining moments of electronic music in the ‘70s.   

Heroes takes this embrace of German culture a step further than the rest. As the recording of the record was underway, the Cold War was still raging on. Some influence on the lyrics was bound to be present. However, Bowie takes these themes and channels them in a way that feels timeless. The title track’s tale of two lovers reuniting after the Berlin Wall’s fall is one of Bowie’s greatest tracks, if not his greatest, and one of the best love songs of the decade. The simplicity of the lyrics and the main guitar riff, have a certain beauty to them that is brought to life by one of Bowie’s most passionate vocal performances. It all comes together to make an incredibly uplifting track that makes the listener feel as if any struggle they face can be overcome; we all can be heroes.

“Heroes” is just the greatest in a string of songs on the A-Side of the record that makes Heroes the best installment of the Berlin Trilogy. While Low may come with one of Bowie’s greatest string of tracks on its ambient second half, the first half is populated by a drove of sonically eyebrow-raising, yet songwriting-wise unmemorable art pop tracks. With most of these cuts not even passing the three-minute mark, many of them end before they can really get going. With Heroes, even though they still average around three minutes, the first half is populated by these art pop and rock tracks that are sharply written, passionately performed, and uniquely produced. The first three songs are enough to make the A-side of Heroes much more worthwhile.

As mentioned earlier, the second half of Low features some of the greatest, most dismal, experimental material to grace a David Bowie record. Not far behind is the second half of Heroes. Similarly ambient-oriented, it’s a dark set of tracks that build up an incredibly heavy atmosphere. There’s even quite a bit of variety among these ambient pieces ‒ the incredibly serene “Moss Garden” makes great use of the Japanese koto, and the sax on the back end of “Neuköln” is absolutely stirring.

The Berlin Trilogy saw the collaboration of Bowie and Brian Eno, two artists who’d later be considered some of the greatest who ever were, end in results that couldn’t have been more fruitful. Objectively, Low and Heroes had an equal amount of impact on the worlds of rock and experimental music. However, when comparing the two, Heroes comes out as the more consistent, fleshed-out project.

La La Land Review

Tim Stephens

La La Land is the Los Angeles-set musical following Mia (played by Emma Stone), an aspiring actress wanting to get her big break, and Sebastian (played by Ryan Gosling), a debt- ridden musician with dreams of opening up his own Jazz club.

When they first meet, both of them agree first that there is no chance of anything happening between them, since they deem each other as opposites, yet they become more entwined with the other, learning about why they love to do what they do, finally admitting to falling in love with each other.

Throughout the film, it shows both their ups and downs in their relationship. Both start to find opportunities for greatness in what they love to do, but it becomes more and more prevalent that the doors that have opened up for both of them are slowly closing the doors of their relationship and may rip them apart.

Even though the whole two opposites fall in love plot is a bit cliché, it feels genuine and fresh through every characteristic, especially the acting. When there is failure for one of the characters, you genuinely feel their emotion, something that is crucial for an okay movie to become captivatingly amazing. When watching Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling’s characters struggle to balance their love for each other and their lifelong dreams, you feel a genuine cry for help from both of the actors, giving you an immense amount of sympathy for both Mia and Sebastian.

The quality of the cinematography in La La Land is absolutely beautiful, with great shots that make you feel like you are standing right there and beautiful lighting throughout the entire film. Only a very small selection of shots that were a little odd and off-putting, but overall the look of the movie is fantastic.

The best part of this movie has to be the music. Not only is the soundtrack great with multiple instances of Ryan and Emma’s beautiful singing, blowing my expectations out of the water in the case of musical talent. The composer Justin Hurwitz, managed to make my favorite scores for two different years, with Whiplash in 2014 and now the beautiful score in La La Land.

La La Land isn’t amazing just for the film, but for how many awards it has been nominated for and won in a multitude of different associations. The most monumental achievements that it has made is taking 12 nominations in the Academy Awards for titles such as Best Picture, Best Actor for Ryan Gosling’s performance, Best Actress for Emma Stone’s performance, Best Director for the work of Damien Chazelle, Best Original Score by Justin Hurwitz, and seven other awards. Other associations that La La Land won or have been nominated awards have been the SAGS (Screen Actors Guild Awards), The Golden Globes, The Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, the AACTA, the Palm Springs International Film Festival Vanguard, and the Satellite Awards.

Overall, La La Land is witty, fun, and filled with music that will have you whistling and dancing like a fool for hours on end.

RATING: 9.5/10

Twenty One Pilots Lands in Chicago

Claire Livingston

Twenty One Pilots continued the second part of their sold out Emotional Roadshow tour in January, arriving at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois on the 28th .

The two openers for the show were Judah and the Lion and Jon Bellion.

Judah and the Lion’s folksy and banjo sounds pleased the crowd, who most had never heard of the band before.

After they played, Judah Akers, the front man of the band, met fans and quickly took selfies with all of them before Jon Bellion began.

The crowd all jumped up for Bellion’s opening song, “All Time Low,” which has recently become popular.

After the song ended, most sat back down and enjoyed the rest of his unfamiliar songs.

Bellion’s sound contrasted with Judah and the Lion, consisting of a lot of electronic sounds and rap vibes.

Twenty One Pilots’ show began, beginning with a projection of “Blurryface,” an alter ego that represents the bands insecurities and worries, singing the beginning of “Fairly Local.”

The projection vanished and revealed Twenty One Pilots, singing the first song of their newest album and a song on its way to becoming a hit, “Heavydirtysoul.”

Two songs later, they played a song called “Hometown” where Tyler Joseph, the singer, does what the crowd calls a magic trick.

Crew members throw a sheet over him while he is on stage, the shape of him remaining under the sheet for about 30 seconds, and when it drops to the ground, he is found somewhere amongst the crowd in a balcony seating area.

Tyler Joseph pulled out his ukulele a few songs later, telling the crowd Chicago was one of his favorite places to play and his first ever ukulele he had played on was named Chicago.

“I haven’t named this ukulele yet, I’m sure we’ll come up with a name by the end of the night.”

Later, the band rushes to B Stage, and small stage set up in the general admission area.

During the first leg of the tour, they played a medley of their older songs or songs not available to buy any longer, but during this part of the tour they kept the B Stage performance short with only three songs.

The two ran back to the main stage, where Josh Dun, the drummer, was having a drum battle, or what he has called it before, “a drummersation” with a video of himself on a screen behind him, ultimately beating the drummer on the screen.

During the next part of the concert, the opening bands come back on stage and joined Twenty One Pilots for some covers, such as “Tubthumping,” and “No Diggity.”

Soon they brought someone out from the crowd who had won a competition and had them play Mario Kart against Tyler Joseph, Tyler beating him and keeping his winning streak thus far.

They continued out with the end of the end of their set, ending with the same song they have always ended their concerts with since the beginning of the duo, “Trees,” where they go into the crowd and both drum while red confetti shoots into the air over the entire arena.

They both climbed back onto stage, bowed, and held two fingers like a peace sign and one intersected through the back, the band’s logo.

Classics Reviews: Prince & The Revolution - Purple Rain

Jack Gillespie

To call the existence of a character like Prince in the musical environment in which he thrived a subversion of the status quo is an understatement. The infamous Disco Demolition Night, in which 1000s of disco and funk records were destroyed in the middle of a stadium of 50,000 people solidified the public’s backlash against the genre. But the same exact year, a certain young, small-statured, effeminate funk artist was hitting it big with his first hit “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” The climate of the pop charts was almost the antithesis to Prince, yet he still managed to break through and eventually outlive that climate and go on and become the torchbearer for funk for the rest of the decade with albums like Dirty Mind, 1999, Sign o’ the Times, and his masterpiece: Purple Rain.

Even from the first few seconds of the record, Prince finds a way to open a record in a way only he could do so. “Let’s Go Crazy” kicks off with a eulogy that is the musical equivalent of the iconic Star Wars opening text crawl. It’s the first of many unforgettable moments all over Purple Rain. On the best songs on this record, Prince finds a way to keep things fresh and dynamic. Staying on the topic of the opener, “Let’s Go Crazy” is already an amazing pop song with some wonderfully ‘80s drum machines. The Linn M-1 Drum Machine used on this track has been in Prince’s musical repertoire for a while, and its idiosyncratic tone is synonymous with his music. But it’s the not one, but two, jaw-dropping guitar solos that Prince throws into the track that elevates the track to be one of his greatest songs, period. The dynamism continues on tracks such as “Darling Nikki,” an incredibly provocative funk cut that gets instrumentally dirtier as the track goes along. This is the track that caused the formation of infamous “Parental Advisory” sticker for a reason. No moment of the 44-minute runtime is wasted.

The greatest feature of Purple Rain, aside from the usual class songwriting that’s to be expected from a classic-era Prince record, is how emotive Prince comes across. He’s always been a huge personality on and off record, but he channels it best on this record. The way he screams so passionately on the climax on “The Beautiful Ones,” a cut where Prince starts off relatively collected vocally, makes the ballad so thrilling. But even that track is trumped by the title track, which deserve the title as the greatest powerballad ever written. The overly emotional, melodramatic feel of many a rock ballad during the ‘80s is replaced by sheer emotion that can be felt even in his instrumental performance ‒ the guitar solo in the outro is a prime example of passion coming through a song even without vocals.

Over his decades-long career, Prince played with an endless amount of genres. Labeling him as just a funk artist or a pop star would be ignoring the soul, rock, jazz, electronic and psychedelic elements that his music has had within since the beginning. However, with a record like Purple Rain, the label as a pop album could be excused. Not only is this record the album in his discography that features his most pop-oriented songwriting, but the fusions of funk and rock sound so natural with the pop foundation. There may be more deep records, more sonically experimental, more eccentric records in Prince’s catalog, but Purple Rain still stands as his most focused, colorful, and culturally explosive record, and that’s saying a lot.

Grave Digger - Healed by Metal Review

Tim Stephens

    For lots of music listeners, metal has not been a go-to genre. The biggest mistake of early metal listeners is not slowly introducing themselves into the music. It’s not a very good idea for someone who has only listened to AC/DC to jump right into grindcore or black metal.

    Metal is a genre you want to start out with the lighter, more melodic albums, and Grave Digger’s Healed By Metal is a great starter for anyone interested in getting into metal.

    This album may get a bit stale while listening to it, but Grave Digger has been around since the 1980s, so changing the sound that fans have loved for years on end would mean putting themselves in a corner of backlash, and if that’s what they enjoy to play, more power to the band.

    Healed By Metal’s performance is pretty standard for heavy metal, with its layered, beautiful choruses. The lyrics sound as if vikings were chanting about how godly they are on the title track, “Healed By Metal.”

    Some listeners may be turned off by the darker lyrics on songs like “Laughing With the Dead” or “Kill Ritual,” but if those songs turn you off with their lyrics, metal may not be the best genre for you.

    The main problem with Healed By Metal is its lack of variety, not only in its lyrics but in the composition, with some of the same riffs on each song, making each song feel too long, which is the biggest problem that crutches this album.

    But if metal interests you and want to start listening to some heavy, yet melodic music, Grave Digger’s Healed By Metal is perfect for you.

RATING: 6/10

Classics Reviews: The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground & Nico

Jack Gillespie

The Velvet Underground & Nico probably has the oddest choice of an opening track of all of the Velvet Underground records. However, it’s not because of any intense experimentation, or even any off-putting overt intensity. It’s quite the contrary ‒ “Sunday Morning” is an absolute beauty of a simple pop tune with its music box-esque keys, warm lead guitar, and the only vocal performance from Lou Reed on the record that could be considered to be conventionally pleasant. It’s especially jarring considering the fact that the track that follows, “I’m Waiting for the Man,” is a sleazy, rough garage rock track that deserves the label of proto-punk. It’s this large contrast between tracks that rub shoulders that makes The Velvet Underground & Nico the best of the band’s three records. While White Light/White Heat was a meditation on soundplay and sheer noise and the self-titled was a focus on songwriting, the debut’s two successors are simply the yin and yang that rightfully balanced each other out on The Velvet Underground & Nico.

The band’s association with Andy Warhol, while cut short due to disagreements between him and Reed, made quite a lot of sense, especially with The Velvet Underground & Nico. Both entities were not only some of biggest figures in New York City’s underground art scene in the late ‘60s, but the two and their most seminal work represented all of the dirty, drug-addled grit that the scene embodied. The raw, messy performances on the more straightforward rock tracks such as “There She Goes Again” may be anything but tight, but the lack of  lyrical and musical boundaries are what makes these tales of drug dealers, violence, and death that much more tangible. If a song like “Heroin” was made in a conventional fashion, it wouldn’t have been nearly as thrilling and emotionally moving. The hypnotic drum beat, sped up and slowed down to imitate the beating of a smack-affected heartbeat, makes for an incredibly tense element to a song that eventually builds to an ear-piercing, feedback-filled climax. It’s a simple yet genius formula that makes Lou Reed’s lyrics, a disturbed spoken word piece where every lines feels a bit closer to the narrator’s eventual succumbing to the drug, so much more affecting. Each direction The Velvet Underground goes in Nico are worthy additions to the record, but it’s when the group pushes the boundaries at full force that it creates the true masterpieces of the record.

But even through all the dark, noisy moments of the record, The Velvet Underground still finds ways to bring beauty into the madness. The majority of Nico’s contributions to the record fall under a certain subset of tracks on The Velvet Underground & Nico. “Femme Fatale” and especially “I’ll Be Your Mirror” are these soft ballads that could be considered commonplace among other vocal pop tracks. However, as to be expected from the band which subverted the old-school blues feeling “Run Run Run” with heaps of feedback and lyrically tells the tale of four drug-aided deaths, the group finds a way to make it their own. There’s the unorthodox mixing that runs through the rest of the record, but it’s Nico’s vocals that bring an eccentric edge to these tunes. Her German origin really comes through in her voice and her cadences ‒ it’s an odd sound, but one that has a special appeal. The simple, standard-esque songwriting met with the left-field elements The Velvet Underground brings to the table contrast well and breath life into songs that at their core sound older than they really are.

The Velvet Underground & Nico will be 50 years old as of March 12 this year. After nearly a half-century, it is hard for any album to continue to be considered to be boundary-pushing. With the constantly accelerating technological advancement of music production, songs and sounds that blew minds back in 1966 might seem standard in 2016. Reversing loops isn’t as innovative as it was back when The Beatles Revolver came out and changed psychedelic music. However, there are exceptions ‒ avant-garde artists like The Residents and Captain Beefheart continue to be enigma to many music listeners. The Velvet Underground fall under this category as one of the bands that after so long, still manage to sound on the fringe. Their fearless experimentation and neglect of what the mainstream demanded what a rock band should be paid off while other acts that were much more initially successful faded into obscurity. Even some independent artists who take after the group aren’t able to capture the danger, the grit, the ugly beauty that defines The Velvet Underground & Nico. If The Velvet Underground & Nico manages to still sound so unique after 50 years, it isn’t crazy to suggest that it will continue to do so for decades on.

Rogue One Review

Tim Stephens

When Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s first trailer appeared shortly after The Force Awakens, fear and anxiety struck a multitude of the fans, including myself. Was Disney going to start pushing out Star Wars movies year after year despite the quality of the film?

Despite the fear, fans were pleasantly surprised with the film’s great characters and the emotionally captivating acting. It is a story that keeps you on edge when everything is at risk.

The best characteristic of Rogue One is that you could take out anything that shows it is a Star Wars movie, and it would still be spectacular.

With Star Wars, The Force Awakens lots of the enjoyment was from the hype that was building up after each trailer or interview, and the hype was definitely well deserved.

The Force Awakens also had lots of fan service since it was the first Star Wars movie in nine years.

Obviously fan service is great, but if a movie with a die-hard fan base can stand alone by itself, then it is definitely worth seeing.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story takes place before A New Hope, when the Empire is just starting to fully oppress the galaxy.

The rebel alliance is still composing a plan to destroy the Empire, before they destroy everything, and when a group of rebels, a blind monk and his heavy gunning best friend, and a smart-aleck robot figure out that the Empire has been creating a planet killer known as the Death Star, they also discover there is a hidden trap to destroy the entire station.

Their mission is to retrieve the plans for the Death Star to find that weakness.

The only complaints I have with Rogue One is the CGI on the characters that either passed away or were much younger when the original trilogy was made. The fans will  understand if you need to find a different actor to play a younger version of General Tarkin instead of using CGI to make a version of him that just looks off, especially when you have close ups of his face so many times.

Other than that one complaint, Rogue One is amazing. It has great characters and a great story.

RATING: 9/10

Top 16 Albums of '16: 8-1

Jack Gillespie

#8: Weezer - Weezer (The White Album)

Since the beginning of the decade, Weezer have been on a slowly inclining redemption arc. 2010’s Hurley, when compared to the abomination of an album that preceded it, was a surprisingly decent effort, and Everything Will Be Alright In The End was fittingly titled and featured some of the band’s best songs in years. But even that record had its noticeably weaker cuts. That is not the case with The White Album. Within the 34 minutes of runtime, Rivers Cuomo and friends are able to jam in pop rock gem after pop rock gem and make one of the most consistently entertaining records of the year and their best record in nearly two decades. How do they do it? By just being themselves. There’s no crazy left hooks the band throws, nor are there any massive stylistic changes. Weezer just started being Weezer again, after so long of doing everything but.


#7: The Jezabels - Synthia

Whenever an artist purposefully tries to make a record that feels huge, the results are hit or miss.Try too hard and you’ll get a record that will fail to connect with the listener on an emotional or intimate level and come off as soulless. Don’t reach high enough and you get a record that comes off as underwhelming and in the shadows of its own ambitions. The Jezabels manage to find the perfect middle ground with Synthia. Songs like “My Love Is My Disease” with choruses that aim sky-high could easily come across as overblown. But the Sydney quartet manage to make it work with a batch of grade-A instrumentals that marry the synthetic and organically to a tee. Building onto the already impassioned instrumentals are the soaring vocals and personal lyrics of Hayley Mary  The ambition of Synthia was bound to result in an underwhelming product, but The Jezabels manage to win the uphill battle and come out with a grasp that matches their massive reach.  


#6: Esperanza Spalding - Emily’s D+Evolution

Esperanza Spalding has always been a great talent. Her prodigious skill as a bassist is nothing to sneeze at. However, it’s with Emily’s D+Evolution where we see her take the leap from simply being a skilled musician to an adventurous and eccentric composer and songwriter. Gathering elements of funk, folk, soul, experimental rock, and musical theatre under one record seems like an experiment meant for disaster, but Spalding manages to pull it off in spades. Everything from the oddball harder cuts to the soulful and graceful ballads, she makes it all work. Best New Artist fluke she isn’t.


#5: David Bowie - Blackstar

Before Bowie’s death, Blackstar was still an important album in the man’s discography. Opposite to The Next Day’s throwback aesthetic, Blackstar was an incredibly forward-thinking record for Bowie, even moreso with him nearing 70 years old. The experimental cuts on Blackstar, such as the title track and “Tis a Pity She Was a Whore” make great use of saxophones and horns, as well as Bowie’s withering voice to pull off some eerie and head-scratching vocal performances. After his death, the album’s themes were simply highlighted for all of its listeners. Songs like “Lazarus” that were once slightly macabre pieces turned into heart-destroying farewell letters from the man himself. Every beautiful, haunting word Bowie lays down to record was given so much more power once the context came into play.


#4: Stimming - Alpe Lusia

For the duration of the creation of Alpe Lusia, Martin Stimmin had isolated himself to a small hut in the Italian Alps, for which the album is named after. After listening to the record, the circumstances of the record’s formation makes sense. Stimmin takes advantage of the hypnotic, repetitive nature of house music and makes of of the most meditative, moving electronic records of the decade. Stellar grooves are matched with heart-stirring, melodic movements perfectly: the visceral is married to the sentimental. These two elements are only built upon with the ways these tracks, ones that reach to the lengths of nine minutes, wind, veer, and evolve into musical movements that rival the quality of the ones preceding.


#3: Ty Segall - Emotional Mugger

Ty Segall had worked hard enough to deserve his position of being one of the greatest acts in modern garage rock. Through his own solo work, collaborative albums, and contributions to other bands, Segall has had a big hand in more albums since his solo debut in 2008 than other artists have in their lifetimes. However, Emotional Mugger still stands as one of the most pummeling, rough, and raw releases in the Ty’s massive discography. All over this record, the guitars are scorching, the distortion and fuzz on said guitars is relentless, and the solos manage to break through all of the noise and cut and sear into the listener’s ears in the most fiery, rewarding way possible. But Emotional Mugger is not only one of Segall’s best sonic accomplishments, but it’s also one of his best songwriting-wise. Overall, Emotional Mugger ranks as one of Ty Segall’s finest works, as well as one of the greatest garage rock record of the ‘10s.


#2: James Blake - The Colour In Anything

The first thing that may come up when discussing the criticisms of The Colour In Anything is the length. With 17 tracks and and 76 minutes of material overall, fans of Blake’s previously succinct releases, and even newcomers to his work, will most likely feel overwhelmed by a tracklist of this caliber. That’s where the atmosphere comes into play. The icy, melancholy mood The Colour In Anything gives off is so vivid the album’s length eventually fades away and is replaced by total immersion into Blake’s beautiful vocals and melodies and his minimalistic production that feels so much more vast than any of his other works.


#1: Car Seat Headrest - Teens of Denial

The move from an entirely independent project to being signed to one of the biggest labels in alternative music could have been a bad thing for Car Seat Headrest; the major label transition has done more harm than good for more than a few bands. However, the band’s first album of new material for Matador Records has proven to be an outlier, as Teens of Denial is the band’s greatest achievement. The production is the greatest to ever grace the once lo-fi group’s music, the instrumentals are as direct and dynamic as ever, and the hooks have never been stronger. But, most importantly, the move has not affected Toledo’s songwriting chops one bit. The ambitious song structures of previous Car Seat projects are alive and well. In fact, lyrically, Toledo has found the sweet spot between relatability and personal struggle that makes for one of the most moving indie records in a long time.Will’s fusion of self-deprecation, self-analysis, and wit make for a record that will affect anyone who is struggling through the transitionary, confusing stage of life of teen-late ‘20s, or anyone who has strived for understanding of adulthood and ultimately failed, more than any other album in 2016.

Top 16 Albums of '16: 16-9

Jack Gillespie

As the year winds down and we get closer to 2017, the time to reflect upon 2016 is upon us. There’s quite a lot to look back on, as 2016 has been one of the most unpredictable, unrelenting, and generally odd years in recent memory. This applies to the year’s musical landscape as well. While in 2015 the biggest, most acclaimed album of the year, To Pimp A Butterfly, was cut and clear, this year there is much more to debate on the subject. So in the end, after thousands upon thousands of records were released over the past 365 days, which ones came out on top?


#16: Sarah Neufeld - The Ridge


With her work with the likes of Arcade Fire, Sarah Neufeld has proved that her skills as a violinist are strong enough to bring a casual listener to tears when working alongside her bandmates on albums like Funeral and The Suburbs. However, with The Ridge, Neufeld has proven that she can make equally moving music by herself. While there is some additional instrumental accompaniment on some songs, most of the music comes from Neufeld, whether it be through violin or vocals. With so few elements, Neufeld is still able to make some wondrous compositions and use her instrument in so many ways.


#15: Gold Panda - Good Luck and Do Your Best


With Good Luck and Do Your Best, UK producer Gold Panda doesn’t tread too much new ground. Like previous records, we’re given a set of extremely textured, intricate, and emotional microhouse and downtempo this album’s Bandcamp page accurately describes as “natural house.” However, what makes Good Luck so special is that it features Gold Panda doing Gold Panda better than ever before. Even previous efforts like Lucky Shiner weren’t this consistent ‒ everything from the off-kilter “Song For A Dead Friend” to the melodically somber “Autumn Fall”  to the potential song of the year “Time Eater,” nearly every track satisfies. All in all, Good Luck and Do Your Best is the most zen album of the year, as well as just being one of the best electronic albums of 2016.


#14: Bruno Mars - 24K Magic


With 24K Magic, there are no doubt some attempts to recreate the success of “Uptown Funk.” Expecting Mars to do anything but try and go in a similar direction as “Uptown Funk” with his upcoming record is simply foolish. However, considering that it is one of the best Top 40 hits of the 2010s, this isn’t exactly a bad thing. Besides, Mars has proven before that the sounds of 80s and 90s Contemporary R&B brings out the best in him, and he continues to prove so with 24K Magic. Never before has Bruno stayed this consistently energetic and entertaining with his vocal performances. Add in some of the most fun, funky, and colorful production to grace a Bruno Mars record and you get an absolute blast of a pop record.


#13: Jeff Rosenstock - WORRY.


Jeff Rosenstock has been in the game for quite a while. Coming through with his first record with his first band in 1998, he’s released over a dozen records with various bands since. All this experience shows with WORRY.. Rosenstock is able to cram so much passion, energy, and emotion into the 37 minutes this record runs through. The first half is definitely the lyrical high point of the record as Rosenstock mixes the “young forever” sentiment of pop punk, the delayed maturity of a 34-year-old in a young man’s genre, and some political commentary that is definitely a product of the year in which this was released. The second half, while not nearly as lyrically detailed, is a jaw-dropping,retrospective of all of the shades of rock and punk Rosenstock has played throughout his illustrious career in an Abbey Road-style medley. All together WORRY. is one of Rosenstock’s greatest achievements and an album that’ll even appeal to listeners who usually have a vendetta against anything that even has a whiff of pop punk.


#12: Andy Hull & Robert McDowell - Swiss Army Man OST


Swiss Army Man is a weird movie. When your movie caused some people to walk out at the Sundance Film Festival, a place where odd films are the status quo, you know you’ve got an oddball on your hands. But much like the film, the soundtrack to this independent film still manages to work even with its outlandish techniques. As an A capella soundtrack, Andy Hull and Robert McDowell of Atlanta indie rock outfit Manchester Orchestra manages to make so much out of so little. The soundscapes the duo create alongside Swiss Army Man co-stars/guest vocalists Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe cover a wide array of emotions: they can be incredibly soothing, bombastically euphoric, or absolutely heartbreaking. Furthermore, this is all without the soundtrack’s source material, which is a sign that Swiss Army Man OST transcends the typical background noise affair many everyday movie soundtrack would provide you. But that’s what makes Swiss Army Man, the film and its soundtrack so mystifying: they aren’t everyday. They’re a once in a lifetime kind of experience.


#11: Anderson .Paak - Malibu


If the Anderson .Paak’s multitude of features on major hip hop and soul releases in 2015, including Dr. Dre, The Game, GoldLink, and BJ The Chicago Kid, Malibu is no doubt the subsequent slam dunk. Over the 17 tracks on this record, .Paak and his co-producers like Madlib, 9th Wonder and DJ Khalil blend the musical worlds of pop, funk, soul, and R&B masterfully to create one of the smoothest, grooviest, and sexiest sonic experiences of 2016. Upon these great instrumentals, .Paak proves why he’s been in such high demand as a featuring artist. Anderson .Paak solidifies himself as one of the most promising soul artists of the 2010’s on Malibu with his passionate, raspy vocals, irresistible charm and personality, and some lyrical moments that give the listener a bit of an insight into his past alongside the usual soul affairs. Malibu, as great as it is, still feels like only the beginning of the evolution of an artist, which tells quite a lot about what we can expect from .Paak these next few years.


#10: Charles Bradley - Changes


Changes is unrelentingly pure in many ways. However, sonically it is a bit rugged in some places. Bradley isn’t afraid to let out some James Brown-esque screams within his showstopping vocal performances, and it affects the album for the better. Charles Bradley has always had an amazing set of pipes on him, but he sounds more explosive and impassioned than ever before. Where Changes sounds pure is in the stylistic department. You won’t find a single trendy sound on here. Instead, what’s delivered is an incredibly solid, well-written set of soul songs that call back to the early roots of the genre that Bradley lived through and embodies in 2016.   


#9: Glass Animals - How To Be A Human Being


If there is one thing that Glass Animals’ sophomore record has, it’s personality. Coincidentally, How To Be A Human Being is also a record about personalities. The concept of Human Being is a vehicle for Dave Bayley to vastly improve his songwriting and his lyrics. Sometimes the details within them are a a bit too silly for some, but the tales of various people Bayley met during the band’s extensive touring are more often entertaining than not, and can be quite emotionally moving in the of “Mama’s Gun” and “Agnes.” But the real star of the show is the production. Glass Animals’ unique blend of hip hop, pop, trip hop, electronic, and world music is more potent, more bold, and more colorful than 2014’s Zaba by a landslide.


Hacksaw Ridge Review

Sam Arvin

Mel Gibson’s war films include Braveheart, The Patriot, Apocalypto, and now Hacksaw Ridge.

These movies have followed a pattern: each are period pieces, and each offer a good amount of blood and guts.

Hacksaw Ridge differs slightly, however.

It follows a U.S. Army Medic in World War II named Desmond Doss, a devout Christian and, more importantly, an adamant pacifist.

So adamant that Doss refused to carry a weapon into battle, or even touch one.

We find out that this pacifism stems from memories that give him grief, and the only way to cope with that grief is to stand by his beliefs.

Doss claims “Conscientious Objection” but doesn’t get any slack from his superiors, who instead accuse him of disobeying direct orders by not training with a weapon.

Despite impossible odds, Doss serves his country in the Pacific Theater.

The film follows Doss and his fellow infantrymen on their quest to secure Hacksaw Ridge, a.k.a. the Maeda Escarpment, a critical capture in the United States’ famous victory in Okinawa.

In order to reach the top of the escarpment, the troops had to climb a cargo net. Something left out of the movie was that Doss was one of three men who volunteered to climb the escarpment and hang the cargo net for the rest of his division.

Doss performs so many miracles even Jesus would be impressed, saving approximately 75 men.

However, I was skeptical, so I decided to do some research on Doss, and I was surprised with what I found.

Although Desmond Doss did refuse to bear arms, he was not subject to the same scrutiny as he was in the film.

The film dramatized his discrimination, leading to Doss spending time in a military prison (which never happened).

The army did, however, want to send Doss to a conscientious objectors camp and have him discharged; but when Doss explained the reasoning behind his actions, he was classified as a “conscientious cooperator,” not objector.

And he did receive torment from his peers, almost to the extremes that were shown in the movie.

“One fella, he told me, ‘I swear to God Doss, you go into combat, I gonna shoot you,’” said Doss.

The real miracles occurred on the front lines, where Doss showed true heroism that earned him his Congressional Medal of Honor.

When his entire Infantry Division retreated from the pursuing Japanese, Doss stayed on the ridge, dodging enemy soldiers and friendly artillery who were both unaware of Doss’s presence. He ran back and forth, saving about 75 men from the ridge, and even healing some wounded enemy troops.

If you thought this act of heroism was unbelievable, Mel Gibson left out a part that he figured the audiences wouldn’t accept was real.

According to The Conscientious Objector Documentary, on the night of May 21, 1945, Doss and his unit engaged in hand-to- hand combat with Japanese soldiers. The Japanese soldiers began to throw hand grenades, one of which landed in a hole near Doss and other men from his unit. Doss took the majority of the blow, to protect his unit, and ended up with 17 pieces of shrapnel in his body.

The end of the story, however, lies with his struggle to reach safety after his close encounter with the Japanese.

Doss waited five hours until someone was able to reach him with a stretcher, and then was carried through an enemy tank attack.

When he saw a badly wounded man on the ground, Doss rolled off of the stretcher and allowed the wounded man to be taken first.

While Doss was waiting for help to return, he was shot by a sniper, shattering his left arm. Doss fashioned a crude splint out of a rifle stock and crawled about 300 yards to an aid station, all while under fire.

Every other major aspect of the movie was incredibly accurate. Joined by impressive cinematography and directing by Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge is one of my favorite new movies of 2016.

It left me feeling contemplative about my life, what I value, and what I wish to accomplish – also that life is fragile, which was amplified through the point of view of a medic.

A fantastic movie, with a fantastic cast and production, Hacksaw Ridge is a must see for anybody with a pulse.

Rating: 9/10

Arrival Review

Olivia DeCrane

Arrival may not be on the top of everyone’s list of must-see movies this month, with Moana and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them storming the box offices, but it certainly should be.

This science-fiction film has a new, refreshing approach to the question, “What would happen if aliens landed on Earth?”

After 12 extraterrestrial pods land on various places on Earth, Louise Banks (played by Amy Adams), a linguist, is contacted.

She, along with Ian Donnelly (played by Jeremy Renner), a physicist, attempt to communicate with the aliens and figure out why they have come to Earth.

As someone who plans to enter the workforce with a career somehow relating to foreign languages, the concept of Arrival captivated me.

However, I was a bit reluctant to see the film, because I’ve found that many sci-fi movies can be a bit frightening or violent.

Arrival was a very pleasant surprise.

The fear and anxiety the audience feels when they are about to watch the characters enter the pod and see the aliens is exhilarating, not terrifying.

The exhilaration does not leave either. As the story progresses, more and more things are revealed as Banks comes closer to communicating with the aliens and knowing their purpose.

The film may not be violent, but it is certainly still action-packed.

The complexity of the aliens’ language is incredible, and it is truly interesting to see how Banks learns the intricacies of the language.

And, having a strong, intelligent woman as the main character is a plus for me.

Amy Adams’ performance was spectacular, and her character is very believable. Like any human being, she has moments where she struggles and does not believe in herself.

The same goes for Jeremy Renner.

His character is a scientist, and rather than being fearful or suspicious of the aliens like most of the population, he’s excited and eager to learn about them.

The antagonists of the film were also believable. For example, some characters wanted to attack the aliens, as they were afraid and did not know what the aliens were capable of doing.

Having a giant, floating black pod land in the middle of nowhere isn’t exactly normal event, after all. Their fears were not unfounded.

One complaint about the movie is that at times, the music was a bit strange, and it was hard to tell if it was sound coming from the aliens or just sound effects from the music.

Still, Arrival is certainly a movie you walk out of and can’t stop talking about with your friends.

The revelation that audience members reach towards the end of the film is a great conversation piece, and it certainly helps to put the film onto Best Science-Fiction Film lists.

Whether you like science-fiction movies or not, this is certainly still a movie to see, especially on the big-screen.


24K Magic Review

Jack Gillespie

Among the writers credited in in the album credits of 24K Magic, one name stuck out in particular: James Fauntleroy. While his name recognition may only go as far as a few feature credits on To Pimp A Butterfly for a casual music listener, the work of his that should really be of note in this case is his co-writer credit on every single song on Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience.

There are some apt comparisons to be made between 20/20 and 24K, like how they are both the artists’ best records, but the most significant is the similar persona both Timberlake and Mars adapts on their respective records. Both artists transition from playing the role of your run- of-the-mill lover boy to a suave sex deity with an old-school flair.

While that does sound like something that would come across as incredibly lame and cringe-worthy if it were played completely straight, the levels of confident hedonism shown get so absurd that they have to be interpreted as self-aware. Lines like “You need activate your sexy” that are delivered in the exaggeratedly sensual way that they are signifies at least some sense of self-consciousness from Mars.

The tongue-in-cheek manner of 24K Magic doesn’t come across as some kind of Lonely Island parody though. Mars has an obvious passion for the music laid onto the record, as he sounds confident and swagger-filled across the entire record compared to the scarce single where he’d give his audience a sneak peek at how charismatic he could really be. Mars is just as entertaining on funky, energetic cuts like “Chunky” and “Finesse” as he is on ballads like the passionate, sexually charged “Versace On The Floor,” which is a first for any Bruno Mars album.

The sheer enjoyability of most of the songs on 24K  does have a lot to do with some wonderful performances from Mars, but the production steals the show more than once. Instead of The Smeezingtons, who have taken the reins on production on the last two Mars projects, newcomers Shampoo Press & Curl come out of nowhere and deliver some of the best production to grace a mainstream pop record since, well, The 20/20 Experience.

However, while 20/20 thrived on its lushness, expansiveness, progressiveness, 24K Magic succeeds as a compact, straightforward joyride of a pop record. 24K is a melting pot of various styles of contemporary R&B from across the decades with a modern-day face lift. From the old-school funk of “Perm,” where Mars kills it as a modern-day James Brown, to the new jack swing-esque drum patterns on “Finesse,” to the quintessential ‘90s slow jam of 2016, “Versace On The Floor,” every sound Mars and Press & Curl play with goes over swimmingly.

Nowhere is the combination of Mars’s irresistable charisma and Press & Curl’s wonderful production more of an unstoppable force than the lead single and title track. Much akin to “Uptown Funk,” “24K Magic” features a braggadocious Mars strutting his stuff and throwing out quotable after quotable with his hypemen keeping the energy of the track up.  Behind Mars is a grade-A electro-funk instrumental with some great vocoder talkbox that reminds me of g-funk. In a year that has has failed to live up to the standards 2015 set when it comes to the pop charts, “24K Magic” is a diamond in the rough.

Bruno Mars always had the potential to make a great full record. His sophomore effort, Unorthodox Jukebox, had some absolutely stellar singles like “Locked Out Of Heaven” and “Treasure” that unfortunately shared space with a lot of bland, disposable songs that dragged the album down considerably.”Uptown Funk,” which ended up being the 12th biggest song in Billboard’s 45+ year history, proved yet again that Mars was a personality to be reckoned with when he hits his stride.

That stride has finally been fully met on 24K Magic. Mars is consistently on point with his vocal performances and his songwriting chops, and Shampoo Press & Curl have breathed new musical life into his career. Mars has now joined the likes of Justin Timberlake, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Ariana Grande by going past just the essential singles and have made a full record that could be considered essential listening for music fans of any variant. 24K Magic may be a record that lives in the past, but the Bruno Mars’ musical future hasn’t looked this bright in a long, long time.  


The Represent Tour Comes to Purdue

Sam Arvin

The Represent Tour came to Elliot Hall in Purdue University on Friday, October 21.

The artists performing were Grey Lamb, TOKiMONSTA, D.R.A.M., and Waka Flocka Flame.

Headlined by Waka Flocka, the concert opened with a local rapper, Grey Lamb, who is also a student at Purdue.

Next came TOKiMONSTA, a record producer and DJ from Los Angeles, although I was most excited for the following act, D.R.A.M.

My wish didn’t come true, but I wasn’t disappointed.

Some Purdue students who work with Purdue Convocations came out and announced that there would be a shift in the concert lineup, and welcomed Waka Flocka Flame to the stage.

Waka Flocka hyped up the crowd, and played his hit song “No Hands” (also the only song I’d ever heard by him) for probably about ten minutes.

People were rushing the stage at Elliot Hall, a seated auditorium, which was frowned upon by the Fire Marshals who were keeping the concert secure.

Even I pushed my way to the front of the stage and was less than a foot away from touching Waka Flocka’s hand, and my seats were on the first balcony.

After two or three attempts by the Fire Marshals to push the crowd back, they left.

The crowd rejoiced because we thought that the Fire Marshals had given up on ruining the fun, but they hadn’t.

A student, who most likely represented Purdue Convocations, stopped the show and came out on stage.

He said that if the crowd didn’t go back to their seats, then the show would be shut down.

About a minute later, after a lot of yelling, swearing, and defiance from the crowd, the lights were turned on.

It stayed this way until the aisles cleared out to the approval of the Fire Marshals.

Waka Flocka came back on and tried to return the energy to the crowd that had been taken away.

It was clear that the crowd only came for Waka Flocka, because after he finished his set, the majority of the crowd left.

I’m glad I stayed to watch D.R.A.M.

D.R.A.M. had just come out with his debut album, Big Baby D.R.A.M., and performed many songs from the album.

After every song, he asked the crowd if they loved their “momma,” and told everyone to repeat the phrase, “Spread love.”

He finished his short, 30-minute- long set with his breakout hit, “Broccoli,” and thanked the crowd one last time before swinging his dreads and walking off stage.