Category Archives: Reviews

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ALBUM REVIEW: “Wiped Out!” – The Neighbourhood

After seeing The Neighbourhood live for the second time this past September, I could scarcely contain my excitement for the release of their second album, Wiped Out!. Released on October 30th, the album follows up The NBHD’s first full-length, I Love You., released back in 2013. Equally strong in content and variety, Wiped Out! has been my go-to album recommendation for anyone looking for an alternative album that satisfies from start to finish.

Beginning with “A Moment of Silence,” the album starts with a literal 30-second track of silence before launching into “Prey,” one of the several songs I was exposed to at their concert. In classic NBHD fashion, the track starts with faint background sounds, perhaps of a chorus, along with the dim intimations of a guitar. Then the tambourine and bass come in, producing an irresistible beat to complement frontman Jesse Rutherford’s smooth tenor voice and honest confession “Something is off, / I feel like prey, / I feel like praying.”

The album continues its momentum with “Cry Baby,” relying on another catchy chorus and beat that has even been placed recently at the end of Alt Natecea58df5d71ee05cec203993c6c32cb.600x600x1ion’s Top 18. The song is framed around a common theme of the Neighbourhood—loving a girl that you shouldn’t love, or at least has quite a bit of baggage. This theme is woven throughout the album, particularly in “Daddy Issues,” “Baby Came Home 2 / Valentines,” and “Single.” Also prevalent is the band’s connection to the West Coast in songs such as “The Beach” and “Greetings from Califournia.” Often, one can hear waves crashing distantly towards the end of the songs, combined with electrical feedback. Listening to these songs and their lyrics, it comes as no surprise that the band used birds, palm trees, and highway roads as imagery at their concert to bring the music and its message to life. Moreover, along with this imagery, the juxtaposition of easy-going, relaxed beats and deep emotional expression seems to foster a profound connection with listeners while also making them feel small and distant, a strange yet somehow comforting sensation.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of Wiped Out!, however, is the final song, “R.I.P. 2 My Youth.” The tambourine and drum once again lead the song, until Rutherford comes in with the title from the get-go: “R.I.P. to my youth, / And you could call this the funeral. / I’m just telling the truth, / And you can play this at my funeral.” Combining Rutherford’s R&B-style voice, a hip-hop beat, and electronic waves, “R.I.P. 2 My Youth” encapsulates the album’s feeling of hopefulness despite internal struggle and compositional vibe. It’s relatable enough without becoming discouraging, and it will occupy your mind for days after listening to it. If you have to listen to one song from Wiped Out!, it’s this one. But I don’t know why you would only listen to one
—after all, everybody deserves a moment of silence and a trip to the beach before laying their youth to rest.

laz

David Bowie – Blackstar Album Review

In his 1975 single “Golden Years”, David Bowie sings “Never look back, walk tall, act fine.” Thirty-five years later, it is apparent that Bowie took his own advice. David Bowie died on January 10, 2016, 18 months after being diagnosed with cancer, and only two days after his 25th and final studio album, Blackstar, was released. News of his illness and battle with cancer were kept secret; not even Bowie’s closest friends knew. Even though Bowie was planning a follow-up to Blackstar, he new his days were numbered, and had for a while. The result is an eerie, cryptic, and stunning record that is arguably the farthest Bowie has ever forayed from straight up pop. Blackstar is, in short, Bowie’s brilliant response to his impending death.

Musically, this album is meticulously arranged, lush, and constantly shifting. The title track Blackstar” kicks off the record with tight, irregular drums, a wailing saxophone and etherial synth swells. This is certainly the jazziest Bowie has ever been on record. Bowie’s vocals are haunting and unclear. About 4 minutes in, the track shifts time signatures, and gives way to a creeping groove. Bowie’s vocals are poignant and well performed, and  he repeatedly sings “I’m a black star”:  a star that has let out it’s last light for all to see, a star that is dying.

Bowie’s most telling moment comes in the first lines of “Lazarus”, where he sings in a slightly weak sounding voice, “Look up here, I’m in heaven / I’ve got scars that can’t be seen” after an intro bass riff that would not be out of place in a Joy Division song. “Lazarus” maintains a post-punk aesthetic throughout; moody vocals, distorted guitars slapped in reverb, and driving drums that, coupled with the sombre saxophones, give the song a certain melancholy to it. The music video for “Lazarus” is equally poignant. It features a sickly looking Bowie on a hospital bed, blindfolded, arms stretched skyward. The video goes back and forth between the hospital bed and Bowie frantically writing, as if trying to beat a rapidly approaching dead line.

“Dollar Days” seems to be a highly self-reflective song, and arguable the prettiest arrangement on the entire record. Bowie makes reference to the music industry (by comparing it to an oligarchy), his longing for his English boyhood home, and his life decisions. “Dollar Days” is Bowie openly reflecting on his life for all to see. Over and over, Bowie sings “I’m trying to” and  “I’m dying to”, the latter of which operates as a wonderful ambiguity; Bowie could be saying how he is trying and wants more than anything to write music in his final days, or he could literally be saying “I’m dying, too.” Musically, this song beautifully spans Bowie’s career as well. The gently strummed acoustic guitar of “Space Oddity”, synths reminiscent of the Berlin-era, and the same wailing saxophones that characterize Blackstar.

“I Can’t Give Everything Away” opens with the same harmonica melody that Bowie uses in “New Career in a New Town”, off of 1977’s Low. That theme repeated here, taken from a song about change, makes perfect sense. Bowie knows he is staring the largest change fathomable straight in the face.

In truth, all seven tracks on here are excellent. In “Girl Loves Me”, Bowie sings about the rapid passage of time, over an immaculate, irregular, and yet driving drum beat.  “‘Tis A Pity She Was a Whore”, which according to a note posted by Bowie back in November is thematically connected with World War I, features some free flowing saxophones over a skeletal march-like drum beat. Even if the deeply meaning lyrics all over this album are ignored (which they obviously should never be), ever track on Blackstar is excellent. The music is off-kilter, experimental, even occult or unsettling in places. But despite this the songs have strong hooks, catchy melodies, and are beautifully arranged. Blackstar is probably the liveliest album about death around. But through the allusions to death and Bowie’s pained voice, there is an underlying optimism. “Blackstar” and “Lazarus” both touch on  the prospect of life after death. It’s impossible to say if Bowie is looking down at us from heaven, but David Bowie’s music and legacy will long outlive him or any of us.  Bowie had one of the greatest careers of any musician, and fittingly Blackstar is a monumental end to a monumental career.

CONCERT REVIEW- Ominous Animals and Kauzmann On Ice

 

leo (use)This past Saturday night CC students gathered at 666 Uintah to let out some energy to the sounds of CC student bands Ominous Animals and Kauzmann On Ice. Above the roar of friends gathered around, upbeat guitars and smashing symbols keeping the room sweaty, lively, and full until the bitter end.

 

While I personally showed up late to the Ominous Animals set, friends like Lena Farr-Morrissey shared that they brought a lot of energy to the room with groovy jams like their rendition of “Whiteguitar (use) Room” by Cream. They have been consistently creating an incredible atmosphere for every live set. These talented musicians have been around the CC music scene for a few years now and they that have come together under the name of Ominous Animals. The crowd always adores their performance and were sad to see their set end.

After the crowd filed out quickly for a short smoke break, Kauzmann On Ice followed Ominous Animals to complete the night. While Kauzmann On Ice was the name of this band this past Saturday, the official name of this group has yet to be decided. So continue to keep an ear out.  With influences from CC student bands such as the beloved Randy and the Reptiles, curiosity elevated the crowds excitement.  Extended downtempo jams on the guitar gave the room a spacey ambience as those nexdrummer (use)t to me began to shut their eyes and dance for nobody but themselves. As the tempo increased so did the amount of collisions in the crowd. A perfect mixture of groovy bass, upbeat guitar, and loud, rhythmic drums riled up the crowd for the climax of the night. A crowd surfer passed overhead and fell soon after, but everyone still had smiles on their faces.

With another dynamic performance from  Ominous Animals and Kauzmann On Ice’s lively debut show, Saturday night was one to remember. The intimate venue, the abundance of tigers, and high-spirited music created an exhausting yet refreshing experience for those who were lucky enough to attend. Keep an ear out for these bands next show, you don’t want to miss it.

Photos by Leo Turpan ’18

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Colorado College’s own Jeremy Zucker Releases Great New Tune

If making an awesome song wasn’t impressive enough, Jeremy Zucker, a sophomore at Colorado College, shot and directed the music video for his new song, “Dramamine”. The video features a very lovely Elizabeth Ellinger, another Colorado College student, who stands in the middle of the frame in front of a very well known landscape among CC students, Pikes Peak. The video effortlessly flows with the lyrics and vibe of Zucker’s track. The girl being like a drug, dramamine, is further illustrated through her being the absolute center of attention of the video. To further the message of the track, trippy visuals and changing colors are scattered throughout the video.

Zucker’s sultry, smooth voice is perfectly layered over a lush synth melody and simple beat. Zucker’s voice perfectly compliments and fills in the song, locking in it’s position as a sure fire hit. Zucker also brings in something that hasn’t been around for awhile, autotune. The way he uses it in this new track is unbelievable, Kanye-esque one could say. Just when you didn’t think Zucker could get any better, he comes out with a new track and blows you away.

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EP OF THE DAY: Tom Misch & Carmody – “Out to Sea”

Tom Misch & Carmody’s debut EP “Out to Sea,” released on December 8th, strikes a beautiful combination of R&B and electro-dream pop. The EP features five duets from the London-based duo. Misch, at 19, is an up-and-coming songwriter who makes tracks from his bedroom studio and just created a new label called Beyond the Groove (check it out here).

Their lyrics speak of love and loss and have their illustrative strengths and downfalls, but I think the most striking aspect of the EP is how Misch and Carmody’s voices gently interweave to create a real groove. On “So Close,” the EP’s strongest song, syncopated handclaps, quick guitar riffs, and other beats create a lively backdrop for the close harmonies between the two. Misch’s voice also carries a few traces of James Blake. He’s definitely one to watch. Check out the EP for yourself.

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An Interview with Shane Lory

I was waiting for Shane downstairs in Worner when I felt my phone vibrate. It was a text from Shane, saying that he was waiting upstairs for me in the ballpit. I walked upstairs and found him neck deep in an inflatable kiddie pool full of colorful plastic balls, reclined and relaxed. I took off my shoes and climbed in next to him.

Shane’s musical career started at an early age, experimenting with the recorder, the clarinet, and choir by the time he was in fifth grade. He decided he did not like any of these that much, but when his granddad gave him a guitar in sixth grade he found something he wanted to stick with. While teaching himself how to play the guitar, Shane also began writing his own songs and lyrics. Shane described his creative process to me, and although I had trouble following his initial explanation, after some further clarification I realized how unique an approach it was.

“A way that I’ve been going is instead of writing a song that necessarily has a meaning, is starting with the instrumentals, figuring out what the song sort of feels like and then singing nonsense babel until it sounds good, then figuring out what the nonsense babel sounds like in real word terms and ascribing real words to the babel.”

It may sound confusing, but this approach lends itself to songs that stray away from specific intentions that may restrict potential and creates songs with a more vague meaning.

“I read something somewhere that said, ‘you really mature as an artist when you can write songs that aren’t about yourself,’ so I try to do that more often that not. However, I don’t really think I’ve gotten to that maturity yet because they always end up a little autobiographical.”

Shane’s skill as a performer reached a new level when he took a year off between high school and college. He originally intended to spend the year working on farms, but after getting kicked off a farm in Canada full of “hardcore, post apocalyptic, punk, redneck, Canadians,” he found himself in a country he was not familiar with and without any means of making money. All he had with him was his guitar, so he decided to utilize his talent and became a street performer. He paid $20 to get a street performing license and began to play in the Canadian city streets on Victoria Island, learning how to attract an audience and make a good bit of money doing it.

“When you’re on the street it’s important to be louder than everyone else. That only lends itself to success if you can also be really animated and energetic. I got into the style of playing really loud, jumping up and down, dancing, and I was usually barefoot, too, which got a lot of people’s attention.”

He also made his way down to Boulder where he performed on Pearl Street, focusing on improvisational playing on his acoustic. His guitar became the focus of his year abroad, allowing him to make some money while exploring a different style to his musical composition.

Shane has found a confidence in his singing, utilizing it as a way to express his opinions. For Shane, writing and performing are a way to convey his thoughts and ideas to people in a thoughtful and calculated way, whether it be standing on a corner or playing for friends.

“It’s an opportunity to yell my opinion at people and not have that seem like I’m forcing anything on anybody, but also being to premeditate how I’m going to articulate those emotions, which is pretty cool. It’s great to be able to stand on a street corner and express myself to strangers in a way I can’t even express myself to my friends.”

Despite his talent, Shane has been largely absent from the music scene this year. Between running Colorado Springs Food Rescue and the woes of being a junior, Shane has little free time to devote to his music nowadays. He’s hoping to change this and get more involved (heads up to any low commitment bands or musicians searching for a partner). Look out for him at open mic, Food Rescue events, and occasionally downtown playing on a corner. Shane is a really talented musician and songwriter, and if you haven’t heard his stuff I encourage you to check it out. His music is easy to listen to, thought provoking, and has a specific style that is reminiscent of how Shane carries himself day to day.

Link to his music page: https://www.facebook.com/Guitarmonies/info

 

 

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But Who is Randy?

LINEUP
Nic Titus – Keyboard, moral support
Emily Naranjo – Rhythm Guitar
Eliza Densmore – vocals
Kyle Lutz – Bass, chief negotiator of internal affairs
Austin Langsdorf – Guitar and Vocals, Keeps the reptiles blood warming up to survive

It’s 6:30pm and I’m sitting in the main room of some house on Monument, as Randy and the Reptiles get set up to play. I have never been to a band practice, but the imagine of teenagers banging on instruments in someone’s garage while the neighbors cringe in fear always comes to mind. However, Randy and the Reptiles were a bit better than that. In this room clad with blue walls and stained with the smell of cigarettes, great music was created.

“I think it’s the full moon, I’m feeling crazy” says Austin. Maybe it was the full moon or maybe we can blame everything on the weird telekinetic vibes that were occurring between members in that room because the music was electrifying. There was not a moment when my foot was not dancing and tapping to the tunes. This is the music that people want to hear: good music from good people. If you ask them how to describe their sound they may use terms such as “mediocre,” “demonic,” or ” or even “cold-blooded.” However if you ask me, I’ll be a bit boring and say funky, soulful and electric. In many ways the sound was warm and vibrant, but this would be interrupted with a nice strong attention catching attack. An attack that had the potential to send your body into chills after being caught by surprise.

Oh and how could I forget about the vocals? Eliza Densmore, although small, packs a big punch and has the power to knock you off your feet. Combine that with Austin’s bluesy voice and Kyle’s vocal pizazz and you get the creation of something like hard cider, sweet and delicious yet powerful.

So, how did these wonderful people all come together? Apparently Austin asked Kyle, who was playing his guitar in Rastall, if he wanted to play in a band. Then on a separate occasion Nic drunkenly explained to Austin that he really wanted to be in a band and it turned out that they were looking for someone to play the keyboard. Depending on whom you ask, the big group came together out of love and mutual passion and it’s a good thing they did because they are definitely going to bring more to the music scene at CC.

What’s next for the group? Kyle screams out “World Tour” and Nico replies “The International Expo.” Apparently they are both wrong and Acacia Park is really what’s next. Are they actually serious about this, I’m not really sure but I guess we will find out soon. More realistically, they are planning to write more originals this semester and practice some new covers. Lastly, Austin explains that they are planning to “create a safe space for people to get groovy without fear of judgment, competition, repercussions. We would really like to be just a fun band that everyone can get down to. We aren’t trying to do it for being cool or winning or being the best band. We just want to get down.”

Honestly, I’m excited to see more of Randy and the Reptiles playing this year. If they are anything like what I saw in their band practice then we all should be excited. As for who Randy is? That’s something I’m still trying to figure out. Kyle explains, “We had just climbed Mt. Everest and Eliza was half dead on account of oxygen.” Nico adds, “A lizard scurried by and we thought wait. Reptiles.” Somewhere along the way Emily realized “that’s the only life up here.” There you have it. Randy was born. I do not know how legit this story is and you do not have to buy it, but you can buy their music because that was something honest and pure.

Photo Credits: Hannah Fleming

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SONG OF THE DAY: Bon Iver and James Blake-“Fall Creek Boys Choir”

This song has been around for a few years now, yet every time I listen to it I find something else that I love. It is a beautiful song. James Blake and Bon Iver are two of my favorite artists, and this song remains my favorite of both their work. When I first heard that they had made a song together I was ecstatic. I think the reason this song works so well is because they complement each other. Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) provides what James Blake usually doesn’t- a softer, rawer, sound with the help of his heart-gripping vocals. Blake provides what Bon Iver usually doesn’t- an increasingly complex (and always impressive) multilayered instrumental background that marks all of Blake’s songs, and that works harmoniously with Vernon’s vocals. Focus your attention on the small details- it’s easy to overlook the complexity of this song. There are tons of unique sounds and delights that make up the background, yet can only be heard when listening closely.

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SONG OF THE DAY: Lily & Madeleine – “Devil We Know”

Lily & Madeleine are two Ohioan sisters who write simple, quiet songs that express a depth of emotion for their understated image. Their voices match with an eery quality when they sing in unison (you can tell they’re related), and their close harmonies will make you want to listen over and over again.

Their song “Devil We Know” sings about April and incoming spring. The piano riff gently cascades throughout, but it’s the harmonies between the two that truly shine. Enjoy.