K-POP: Red Velvet - The Red: Red Velvet is a five-member group from probably the most powerful labels in South Korea, SM Entertainment. Red Velvet is the their newest girl group who has been releasing some of the most off-kilter Korean pop music. The lead single “Dumb Dumb” is my favorite song of last year. The video is so strange with a Pippy Longstock being made in factory concept shot with cheesy kaleidoscopic effects, similar to their debut MV “Happiness”. The rest of their album continues on with their unique sound for “Huff n Puff”, which while weaker than “Dumb Dumb” is still high quality. The album does not any particular weak points, but the “Fancy”-biting “Time Slip”makes almost every other track irrelevant. The lyrics are my favorite essentially detailing the members’ desire to be lazy in bed all day. Red Velvet are only in their second year of being a group, but I believe they will continue to ascend K-pop stardom with their unique style and superbly talented members. KEN
RIYL: f(X), EXID, Miss A, SHINee
Recommended Tracks: “Dumb Dumb” (1), “Huff n Puff”(2), “Oh Boy”(5), “Time Slip” (7), “Don’t U Wait No More” (8)
CLASSIC: My Chemical Romance - Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge: I told you this would be unpopular, and frankly, it is not even that funny, which is fine because this is not a joke. Though MCR is more often little more than a punch line to a joke about middle school than as a quality music group, My Chemical Romance does deserve some credit, particularly for the group's sophomore album, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. This is probably the first album that I listened to independently from my parents, which may not be any indication of the quality of this album as my fellow MoM members pointed out, but it was the foundation for my individual music taste (especially my taste in punk). Sam Hill is particularly skeptical and demanded that I make a solid argument to support adding this to the classics wall, and I am sure he does not count my personal taste development as sufficient evidence of this album's classic-ness. However, it is pretty hard to argue with the massive presence of pop-punk and emo music in the music landscape: from mall "punks" to Van's Warped Tour to the American icon that is Hot Topic, this subgenre is valid and should be and IS represented by a number of the shows at the station. The problem is that MOST of this music is COMPLETE AND TOTAL CRAP; there is a reason most people my age are ashamed of playing iPods on shuffle for an audience – middle school music taste. This album is NOT crap, this album is NOT a source of shame in my music library, it is perfect pop punk. On Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, MCR succeeded in reinvigorating emo (making it lively and exciting rather than morose and whiny) while retaining the angst and moodiness endemic to the genre, and most importantly, Gerard Way solidified the theatricality that has come define the genre. Pop punk may not be a genre worth curating en masse at the station, but including the gems – like this album – on the wall only seems fair to respecting a genre that not only continues to thrive in American pop culture but also has influenced the tastes of most people my age in addition to new music. THRASHLEY
RIYL: The Used, Thursday
Recommended Tracks: all
Massive Attack - Ritual Spirit EP: By now Massive Attack’s trip-hop sound is strongly established, even though that genre definition feels a bit passé. The Ritual Spirit EP is completely produced by Robert “3D” Del Naja and is only 4 tracks long, which actually feels like the perfect length for this album. Even though 3D did all the production, this album feels more collaborative than any of their previous releases with every track having features including Tricky, Young Fathers, and Roots Manuva. For Massive Attack fans this EP would not be a disappointment by any stretch as it does stick their expected formula, but it is unlikely to convert any new fans. A second EP with tracks produced by Grant “Daddy G” Marshall expected to drop later this year. KEN
RIYL: Young Fathers, Tricky, Portishead
Recommended Tracks: All
Radiation City - Synesthetica: Radiation City named their band with the idea that their music would sound like something from some sort of dystopia. Initially, I thought the upbeat tracks on Synesthetica didn't really live up to that description. However, each of the songs have a sort of warped quality to them that makes this more than just run-of-the-mill indie pop. Radiation City's music sounds as if its been pulled from the past yet simultaneously futuristic. "Milky White" (5) combines a thumping bass and keyboard that sounds like a funky spaceship control panel with guitar and vocals that are more reminiscent of blues rock. Meanwhile "Futures" (8) is a salute to 1960s pop that dips into a Beach Boys-esque bridge. Even in sounding like the past, however, Radiation City manages to offer up something new. The Portland-based group is able to pack innovation into each of the deceptively catchy songs on their third album.Synesthetica is a standout album and a strong comeback for the band (whose last release was back in 2013) that allows their bold and eclectic sound to shine. CAROLINE
RIYL: Chairlift, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, STRFKR, St. Vincent
Recommended Tracks: "Come and Go" (4), "Milky White" (5), "Separate" (7), "Futures" (8)
Essaie Pas - Demain est une autre nuit: This is the debut album from Montreal based producers Marie Davidson and Pierre Guerineau just released on James Murphy’s label DFA. If you’re into any sort of dark synthy electronic music then you’ll find something on here to dig because they really run the gamut. Everything from dark wave disco to EBM to gothic techno. Tracks like “Retox” even remind of Kraftwerk and “Le port du masque est de riguer” actually sounds like it’s about to lead into Tour de France when all of a sudden it plunges into some dark industrial space. The music is consciously avant-garde, like a high fashion catwalk through a German bunker with lots of leather and metal studs, but easily accessible and definitely danceable. SHILL
RIYL: Xeno & Oaklander, The Human League, The Juan Maclean
Recommended Tracks: “Carcajou 3” (4), “Le port du masque est de riguer” (5)
Lucy Dacus - No Burden: On her debut on album, No Burden, Lucy Dacus shows that she is an exciting young artist with a lot of potential. The album’s sound is not overly exciting using mostly generic pop rock qualities that without vocals could have been mistaken for any Weezer song, however the true centerpiece of the album is the vocals and lyrics. Dacus’s voice brings darkness on to each track that can turn even the most lighthearted song into one that makes you want to sit in bed. What she does is remarkably similar to Courtney Barnett but feels more rock than indie. Like the vocals, the lyrics are great from the first song. In I don’t Want to Be Funny Anymore Dacus discusses what it is like feeling like you boxed into a personality that you don’t want anymore and overcoming it despite the sacrifices one might have to make to do so. In this she is trying to give up being funny in order to be a nicer person but faces risk such as judgment from others and not being accepted. Other lyrical highlights from this album includeStrange Torpedo and Map on a Wall. It should be interesting to watch Dacus step further into new musically territory. HARRY
RIYL: Courtney Barnett, Mitski, Emily Yacina
Recommended Tracks: "I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore" (1), "Troublemaker Doppelganger" (2), "Strange Torpedo" (4), "Map On a Wall" (7)
Wiz Khalifa - Khalifa: The prolific Wiz Khalifa just might be back in it with his 6th studio album (in addition to eleven mixtapes). I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Wiz due to such masterpieces as Deal or No Deal, Kush & OJ, or Cabin Fever. However, lately he has been sort of blowing it. This latest release restores my faith in Wiz somewhat. He may never be the rambunctious little star of Pixburgh ever again, but he embraces that. He is older, he has a son now - to whom he devotes a song and a feature - and his tone becomes far more reflective. As usual, my favorite part of this Wiz is the consistent great vibes. To me, Wiz is a mood lifter. He keeps it pretty superficial and talks mostly about weed, but you can still sense that his awareness of the world is far deeper than that. Wiz has always had my respect for making a combination of both good stoner music and good party music. This record is no exception. “Bake Sale” (6) is a catchy banger, especially with help from Travis $cott. “Make a Play”(8) is a nostalgic maximum-reefer song. “Call Waiting” (7) is literally not rap, it is a frighteningly catchy love song. The cool thing about this album is I could say something great about almost every song, so I would highly recommend listening through it. Do it you won’t. CHRISTIAN
RIYL: Juicy J, Travi$ Scott, Chevy Woods
Recommended Tracks: “BTS" (1), "Celebrate" (2), "Zoney" (10),"Make a Play" (8)
Kanye West - The Life of Pablo: 2016 is so far the year of dichotomies. Since Kanye’s last release in 2013, the landscape of music and American politics has vastly changed. In 2016, you have Bernie Sanders going head on against Donald Trump in a battle of polar opposite ideologies, both using social media as their primary communication platform, this uncontrollable beast of instant communication where trends and soundbites dominate the ever shrinking attention spans of the masses. When Trump proclaims that Muslims will be barred from the U.S. or Sanders reinforces his repetitive message about income inequality, the share button becomes their most powerful tool. Much of marketing, branding, and communication must account for this new way in which we simultaneously become ever more connected, yet disconnected from each other.
The music industry is not so different. The traditional method of methodical album rollouts is becoming increasingly nonexistent. This is the day and age where Rihanna accidentally posts her new album on Tidal and subsequently releases it early and for free. Where Drake creates a mass media sensation through creating a music video geared towards generating memes (it is rumored that Apple gave media outlets the video of Hotling Bling before the release so they could release memes right when it came out). Drake knew people would make fun of him, see him as a gimmick, and he is now relishing in free marketing across the board.
And now look at the way Kanye West releases his seventh LP. As if a caricature of himself, Kanye does what everyone expects and beyond. He changes the name of his album 4 times, he gets in a twitter feud with Wiz Khalifa (#wizwearscoolpants) and Amber Rose (buttplay 2016), and he tweets BILL COSBY INNOCENT all in the weeks leading up to his release. Not Bill Cosby is innocent. No literally two buzzwords put together that gets everyone’s attention. And even if you’re disgusted, offended, or sick of these antics, you find that everyone can’t stop fucking talking about it. How many times have you heard someone talk about Kanye West the last week or so? When Kanye changes his album name or tweets some absurd jumble, Pitchfork, FADER, XXL, Rolling Stone, Huffington Post and NME HAVE to write an entire article dedicated to each individual action. Why? Because it makes them so much money and gets them so many clicks. The same way how media websites “despise” Donald Trump, but can’t help but validate his behavior with attention.
All these antics lead most people to believe that Kanye is probably having a mental breakdown Brian Wilson style but, is that really what’s going on? Kanye is dominating the trending bar on your Facebook newsfeed constantly. You can not escape. Both him and Trump are aware of the state of social media: you can gain so much attention and traction by creating wildfires of absurdity for everyone to talk about and question why you are such piece of shit human being. Even if you hate Donald Trump, even if you’re sick of Kanye West’s ego, you give them more power by talking about them. Remember there’s no such thing as negative publicity.
People LOVE sharing negativity or something to make fun of or feel superior to. It is reality television to the newest level. If you don’t believe me, I’ll just leave this here. (It’s a tweet deleted by Kanye West with annotations on it. You decide) Or maybe I’m just giving him way too much credit. But either way keep in mind his mother in law, Kris Jenner, is amazing at building brands off the same nature. Manufactured absurdity for the maximization of our entertainment.
Take the song “I Love Kanye” where Kanye raps an acapella where he rhymes Kanye with Kanye. In it, he uses the sentiments, jokes and memes I’ve seen for years about him on Internet. The classic “I miss the old Kanye, the Soul Kanye”argument in reference to College Dropout that you see on every hip hop forum. The natural disdain for his antics comes up i.e. “the rude Kanye, the spaz in the news Kanye” and finally an meta acknowledgement of his infamous ego by saying “what if Kanye made a song about Kanye?… That’d be SO Kanye!” And the last reference to the internet meme "Love your woman, like Kanye loves Kanye”. You think celebrities don’t have time to see the shit you post on the Internet? They’re people like us too you know, not just the topic of your next conversation with your friends or on a forum.
But through all this, the album itself, proves that this is all part of some strange dichotomy. While the album roll out was dirty and strange, the Life of Pablo is a beautiful piece of work. TLOP is the struggle between two extremes: Kanye fighting the lasting pains of fame, ego, and lust while beginning his new life as a family man. The name Pablo could refer to two very different people: Pablo Piccaso, the beloved Cubist painter, and Pablo Escobar, the infamous drug kingpin. Kanye is struggling to find himself between the artist with heart and the hated thug. At first listen, TLOP seems very disjointed and scattered, with its track placement or in mid song there will be an abrupt change, but I believe it plays into this theme of extreme conflict. Take the first two tracks.
The album opens with the absolutely gorgeous “Ultralight Beam”, where Kanye sings about maintaining faith, finding a God’s Dream, and Praying for Paris over muted church organ chords accompanied by a gospel choir and Chance the Rapper’s stunning verse. When the first falsetto vocal from The Dream comes in, I get chills every time. Then Kanye follows up this beauty with the verse “Now if I fuck this model/And She just bleached her asshole/And I get beach on my T-Shirt/I’mma feel like an asshole” in the next co-produced Metro Boomin’ trap track featuring a sample from newly signed GOOD music artist Desiigner (who sounds like if 50 cent and Future had a child). The transitions are so strange and abrupt, even the way the songs move from idea to idea; it’s like a whirlwind. But that speaks much to the Kanye we’e always known right? The man who at one moment can pull your heartstrings then the next proclaim he could have sex with Taylor Swift and is responsible for her fame on the track “Famous” (You decide if that’s true).
The contrast continues: with “Feedback” (a brag where he insists everyone is sleeping on him) and “Freestyle 4” (an eerie song where he considers fucking someone in the middle of a Vogue party) in comparison to Lowlights, Highlights and Waves, all bright gospel songs that make you feel like you’re reaching up to Heaven. Fade is an amazing club bound song that samples two very famous house songs. The new Charlie Heat version of Facts is fire and trash at the same time, which makes it gold to me.
FML is one of my favorite songs on the record and encapsulates much of his inner conflict of this album. Even though he is married and now has two kids, he bellows “they don’t wanna see my love you” in reference to the haters waiting till he “fucks up his life” by giving into infidelity and corrupting his children. In Real Friends, he says that he’s lost man close friends for being in love with Kim. While FML sounds like it’s “Fuck My Life”, it turns out the acronym stands for For My Lady. Kanye is trying to overcome his anger, temptations and lifestyle in order to be the man he needs to be for his family and Kim. The Weeknd delivers some incredible vocals and the sample of an obscure 1980s British band with eerie sounds that remind me of Portishead is sexy.
And through his fake friends and backstabbing cousins (“Real Friends”) and superficial Los Angeles culture (No More Parties in LA, awesome madlib beat), Kanye finds his salvation and happiness through his devotion to his family, and like the Old Kanye, faith in God. The resolution in the album comes in Wolves, where his wife Kim Kardashian and his children North and Saint, provide to him ultimate salvation from the hoes, the excess, and his temperament we all know him for. He acknowledges that his mother Donda might be shocked at how wild he’s become, but ultimately, he is in it for those who are real to him and his family against all the wolves.
Which leads to the final interpretation of who Pablo is: Paul the apostle (Paul being Pablo in Spanish). Paul serves as the bridge between the two polarizing figures of Pablo and ultimately as Kanye’s salvation. That’s how through the trap songs featuring Kanye’s vulgar lustfulness and bravado and the songs about self doubt and disgust with fake people, we end up with gospel songs about faith and love. He is never afraid to show he’s a flawed, vulnerable human being, but in that vulnerability is his biggest strength. It’s how there are usually two extremes about Kanye: you either love him to death for the heart, passion and honesty he shows in his music (lol this review) or you vehemently reject his ego, bravado, and humor. Either is valid, but both are just as important to each other.
In the same way that 808s appeals to a listener going through a rough breakup, I think TLOP appeals to those fighting inner conflict, something I think many college students, including myself, go through. And hell, I myself love watching Kanye be a crazy mess with all his antics, his bravado, and absurd humor because in the end, it goes hand in hand with the passionate artist in his music. You can’t have Piccaso without Escobar, and you can’t have either without Paul.
And if you disagree with me that’s fine. Perhaps Kanye is going through a mental breakdown and I’ve given him way too much credit. Perhaps the reason I see all of this is because I too, am going crazy. But that’s okay with me, because like his career and this album, the lows might be low, but the highs are pretty damn high. DYLAN
RIYL: No One
Recommended Tracks: "Ultralight Beam" (1), "Father Stretch My Hands Pt 1 & 2" (2&3), "Highlights" (7), "FML" (11), "Wolves" (13), "Fade" (18)