Music

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Matt Schulte ’15 | Staff Writer

Most teenagers use their iPhones to make phone calls or send text messages, Alex Eschenburg ’12 uses his to record freshly conceived rhymes. For being a new face in a sea of suburban rappers, he’s not that bad.

Raw is certainly one way to describe Eschenburg’s debut mix tape, “Pinewood Derby.” Its distorted beats and gritty iPhone audio quality in-cahoots with Eschenburg’s poetic rhyme schemes and fluid flow is a curious juxtaposition, which in the end makes “Pinewood Derby” a work of art and a mix tape to remember.

Since titling songs is too mainstream, Eschenburg has left them as crude as possible, labeling them, “Track 1, Track 2, Track 3…” and although tedious when importing to iTunes, I’m glad he did it. Why? Because it allows listeners -such as myself- to become more intimate with Eschenburg’s music and, therefore, personalize the names of his songs.

In addition to possessing astute lyrics that accomplished hip hop artists would admire, such as, “Don’t need no oxygen, this smoke is what I breathe. Doing what I want to do because that’s what I believe,” Eschenburg also puts forth a tremendous effort in “Pinewood Derby.” From “Track 1” to “Track 17,” he takes everything and leaves nothing and even acknowledges his endeavors, saying, “I’m on that grind mode boy! Showin’ love for the people that are under me.”

Every verse, every bar and every word is insightful, unforgettable and occasionally, downright hilarious. For example, in Track 2, Eschenburg spits the line, “Seriously, where is your mommy? Tell her to make me a sandwich with some ham or salami”. That line by itself is violently rollicking, as is the rest of the song.

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Relatable issues such as these are found skewed throughout the other 16 tracks in “Pinewood Derby”, too. However, specifically, in “Track 10,” Eschenburg describes the toils of living independently, by conveying topics such as: fiscal responsibility, car troubles and relationship issues.

While Eschenburg’s drive is nothing short of inspirational, his vocabulary and message is not. Although his songs are not plagued with cuss words and references to illegal substances like most contemporary rappers, they definitely are present; but in the end, what else could one expect? Eschenburg is an explicit and tenacious hip-hop hopeful, not an author of nursery rhymes.

Knowing Eschenburg personally may have caused me to be a little biased, however, it is safe to say that even those who do not appreciate rap music will consider him a diamond in the rough. In fact I think so highly of Eschenburg, that I believe he has the potential to smash through the glass ceiling that many suburban rappers face and make it to the “mainstream underground” hip-hop scene. In short, “Pinewood Derby” is a masterpiece, and Alex Eschenburg is the real deal.

Grade: A

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Franny Aliotta  ’14| Staff Writer

Between 2009 and 2011, the London based group Bombay Bicycle Club released three albums. The music was good, but it seemed unfinished and that the band did not know what their voice was. Their genre is definitely indie, but it was confusing as to if they were indie-rock, indie-pop, or indie-dance.  Their newest album “So Long, See You Tomorrow” makes it clear that whatever they are, they are very good at it.

 The first single released was “Carry Me” which starts off with an artificial guitar mixed with a synthesizer and hard drum beat.  Lead singer Jack Steadman’s vocals come in soft and then there is a mixture of what sounds like electric violin. The song erupts with life in the chorus and sounds like an electronic dance tune.  There is also the addition of solo artist Rae Morris vocals, who collaborates on several other songs on the album.

Another song that erupts with life an emotion is “Luna.”  This songs starts off with what sounds like it is going to be an 80s David Bowie hit, but then at the chorus it takes a turn with a rock guitar riff and light drums.  Adding to the song is Morris’s voice in the chorus as her and Steadman belt the lyrics.  Although they are belting, it does not sound over killed or harsh, their voices mix smoothly together to create an effortless masterpiece.

“Overdone” is a track that like title seems a little overdone at points but in the right way.  It has a background melody of something that sounds like the music to an ancient tribal dance.  But Bombay Bicycle Club turns it into an indie pop dance song that is a for sure hit.

Bombay Bicycle Club has not changed exactly style wise, but they have gotten more put together and cleaned up than before.  Their songs on previous albums “I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose” and “A Different Kind Of Fix” were depressing and unfinished, but “So Long, See You Tomorrow” has unique and fun sounds that are complete.

Two songs that slowdown from the mainly poppy genre of the album are “Eyes Off You” and “So Long, See You Tomorrow.”  The first song starts off with a simple soft piano riff and Steadman hitting high notes in the chorus to words like “And I bathed in the light you gave/But it’s dark in another way/Yes, you gave me the light today/But it’s dark in another way.”  Morris again chimes in matching Steadman’s high notes that meshes together to form a perfect love song with the sweet repeated words of “And you know that/I can’t take my eyes, eyes, eyes/Eyes off you.”

“Home By Now” is another perfect duet between Steadman and Morris with overlapping lyrics at certain parts.  It starts with a happy piano tune that reappears in the chorus.  It also has cellos and violins to add to the bands dynamic and emphasize some parts of the song.

This album doesn’t have a bad song. Although their genre is still uncertain but after producing music that was just good, Bombay Bicycle Club has proven by using interesting instruments and mixing with other artists that they are great at what they do and are here to stay.

Grade: A

Listen to this album if you like Passion Pit, The Kooks, Two Door Cinema Club, and Beirut.

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1. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

The genius that is Vampire Weekend continues to amaze me. With each album, beginning with their witty and bubbly self-titled debut, Vampire Weekend has reinvented their sound. Their latest, “Modern Vampires of the City”, is a triumph; their best album to date. The songwriting is incredible, placing complex stories of religious identity and live into catchy and joyful melodies. The instrumentation is perfect, and the band continues to sound like they operate on a higher plane of existence. “Modern Vampires of the City” is amazing, and definitely the best album of 2013.

2. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Eight years removed from their previous “Human After All,” Daft Punk’s impressive full-length, “Random Access Memories, has been met with universal critical acclaim and commercial success. Daft Punk has made disco music exciting again. Songs like “Lose Yourself to Dance” are aided by incredible bass lines, and “Get Lucky” may have been the song of the summer. WE still don’t know what Daft Punk looks like, but we do know that they’re very, very good.

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3. Arcade Fire – Reflektor

Arcade Fire has already hit the big-time; after winning a surprising “Best Album” Grammy for their previous work, 2011’s “The Suburbs,” the band had officially made it. It’s a testament to their skill that their next album, “REflektor,” is arguably better. Reflektor is a new, unflinchingly alternative sound for Arcade Fire, their music to new, more rhythmic areas. Canadian Alt-Rock has never been this good.

4. CHVRCHES

With their debut album, CHVRCHES has hit the music scene with a nearly perfected form of electropop. Their bombastic sound is characterized by thumping bass, blaring synthesizers, and piercing yet beautiful vocals from singer Lauren Mayberry. It’s hard to follow up excellent singles like “Recover” and “The Mother We Share,” but the entire album is filled with instantly catchy hits-in-the-making. This Scottish Synthpop band came out of nowhere, but with music this good, who really cares?

5.Lorde – Pure Heroine

New Zealand teen Lorde took the music world by storm with her debut “Pure “Heroine.” But once you look past the novelty of her identity, you’ll recognize the album’s amazing music. Lorde has  a knack for using pounding electronics to make strong hooks, and hits like “Team” and “Royals” prove her wide appeal. Lorde has a bright future in the music industry.

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6.Chance the Rapper – Acid Rap

Chance the Rapper’s “Acid Rap” is a mixtape, but it’s too good to be left off this list. Chance has a very sincere album, proving that the man behind these infectious rhymes is still just a man. This album has blasted Chance into the forefront of rap; he’s demanded the attention of the masses.

 

7. Drake – Nothing Was the Same

It can be hard to like Drake. The guy knows he’s good, and songs like “All Me,” an ode to self and success, reinforce this pretentious image. But even haters can’t deny the quality of this album. “Nothing Was the Same” is fantastic, made up of consistently strong tracks. “Hold On We’re Going Home,” is a powerful ballad, and “Started From the Bottom” is undeniably catchy. Drake may be obnoxious, but he’s proven he’s got the talent to back it up.

8. The National – Trouble Will Find Me

The National has been at the pinnacle of indie-rock music for years, crafting their third straight excellent album with “Trouble Will Find Me.” It’s easy to take their excellence for granted; their sound hasn’t evolved too much this time around. But when you sound this good, change isn’t needed. Songs like “Graceless” are melancholy with inherent joy, a strange and powerful combination. Each song presents a deep picture of love and loss. You may not feel particularly happy while listening to this album, but you’ll definitely feel something.

james blake9. James Blake – Overgrown

“Overgrown”, British R&B singer James Blake’s second full-length album, is a detached and subtle take on pop music. With haunting lyrics, pulled back bass lines, and melancholy melodies, Blake has crafted a passionate album that, while initially challenging, improves with subsequent listens. Songs like “Retrograde” drip with passionate emotion, and the strength of Blake’s distant vocals ensure that listeners want to take part.

10. Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience

After a long hiatus and well-received foray into film, JT triumphantly returned with this impressive full-length. His ialbum is bold and challenging, featuring six- to eight-minute songs. Aided by producer Timbaland’s penchant for strong hooks, Timberlake built a strong amount of buzz surrounding the album. Irresistible singles like “Suit & Tie” and “Mirrors” helped make this collection of powerful R&B as successful as it is deep.

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By Franny Aliotta ’14 | Staff Writer

1.”Royals” by Lorde

When 16 year old Lorde’s album “Pure Heroine” dropped it had many great hits. However, “Royals” can stand alone without the whole album. It has amazing vocals along with seamlessly fitting lyrics. Not to mention the unique and interesting rhythm and beat to the whole song that separates Lorde from mainstream artists.

2.”Wait for Me” by Kings of Leon

The song starts out with a slow guitar riff that sounds like an old rock song. Paired with lead singer, Caleb Followill’s deep and raspy voice, the track turns into a love song about waiting and comforting a loved one. With the right about amount of background vocals symbols, this is a complete song.

3.”Here Comes the Night Time” by Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire never fails to amaze fans. Out of the whole album, “Reflektor,” “Here Comes the Night Time” proves to be the best. This song has something for every listener, reggae beats, heavy guitar, piano, and poetic lyrics.

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4. “Better Days” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

This musical group has always been unique with their music style. This song has back up vocals that sounds like a church chorus, along with an interesting mix of drums, piano, and guitars. In addition to a great sounding track, the main message about having better days in the future makes this song whole.

5. “Happy” by Pharrell Williams

Debuting first in the motion picture “Despicable Me 2” Pharrell Williams’ song has more than just a fun beat for minions to dance to. It is impossible to listen to this song without having a smile on your face. It’s a song on being happy and continuing to be happy no matter what. Perfect to dance to and sing to.

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6.”The Wire” by Haim

The song starts out with a loud electric guitar, giving listeners the idea that they are going about to experience a hard core rock song. However, the song becomes slower and compassionate with all girl vocals, making “The Wire”  different and engaging.

7. “Drunk in Love” by Beyoncè ft. Jay-Z

Great things are always expected from Beyoncè, but nothing was expected from her this time because the album, “BEYONCÈ” that “Drunk in Love” is on had no preview or announcement. Never the less, “Drunk in Love” proves to be better than what could even be expected. It is slow, yet fast in a pervasive way. In addition to a great song already, her husband Jay-Z has a part in the song which referencesthe the start of their relationship, “Crazy in Love.”

8. “Mirrors” by Justin Timberlake

Like Beyoncè, Justin Timberlake is always expected to produce great music. The song starts off not like most of his hip hop songs with a short guitar ballad. Then it goes into his usual style of singing his heart out, but it does not fail to impress Timberlake lovers.

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9.”We Can’t Stop” by Miley Cyrus

Although some believe that Miley Cyrus has gone crazy, they can’t help but enjoying her single “We Can’t Stop” from her controversial album “Bangerz.” As much of a provocative song that it is, Cyrus still has a decent voice that adds to the composition of the song.

10. “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk

Some may have gotten annoyed with the techno beat from “Get Lucky”, but it still is a great song. Smooth vocals paired with guitar and an unexpected techno beat in the back, making this a well produced and well polished song.

 

 

By Franny Aliotta ’14 | Staff Writer

After unexpectedly winning a Grammy for Album of the Year in 2011, Arcade Fire produced their 4th album “Reflektor” with more cunning and creative music styles that won them the award in the first place.

Arcade Fire always had an indie-pop/rock genre throughout their albums; “Reflektor” continues this theme but brings more complicated beats and mixes to the group’s dynamic than ever before.

The two lead singers, Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, originally from Montreal, Quebec, Canada like the rest of the band, are married which creates an impeccable musical chemistry.

In the album there is a background sound of a Caribbean or Haitian reggae beat during the album in various songs. Since Chassagne’s parents originate from Haiti, this technique is fitting.  This style paired with diverse instruments like saxophones and xylophones creates a seamless album.

The album has a different style from before, but it is blended together with the right amount of weirdness of electric keyboards and French lines that create a chilling sublime.

The first song,“Reflektor,” starts the record off perfectly, debuting the unique and new style the band is trying to create.  It starts off with a mixture of bongos, crescendo-ing saxophones and an amazing bass line. Then Butler’s voice comes in that then harmonizes with Chassagne’s ever-so-delicate voice that goes into a verse in French. All elements combine in the chorus, and if this wasn’t already a hit, David Bowie has a small singing part in the background, similar to his 1975 track “Fame.”

All the songs on the album can attest to having a distinctive sound to them. One that stands out for being fast paced is “Here Comes the Night Time.” It starts out with a fast guitar riff that almost sounds Hawaiian, and then slows down with a synthesizer and piano tune.  This song also features groundbreaking  and thought-provoking lyrics like “If there’s no music up in heaven then what’s it for/When I hear the beat, my spirit’s on like a live wire.” It gives the song a message of questioning what life is really about and how music is so influential. It’s instances like this that prove how talented and well rounded the group is.

Another well-rounded song on “Reflektor” is “Normal Person.” This jam has high notes on the  guitar and classic rock influences paired with deep and poetic lyrics. During the chorus Butler sings, “They will break down everything that’s normal now/I know they will break down everyone that’s normal now/ I know.” These words seem to point the finger at society and the media for changing and pressuring people to be what is “normal” when they are really just ruining individuality.

Other great hits on the album are “Joan of Arc” which has more French parts effortlessly mixed in with English lyrics, which really highlights Chassagne’s exquisite voice. “Porno” also adds something different to the album, which is a slow song with a kind of 80s keyboard riff in the background.

The band seems to be getting better with age and showing new and distinguishing characteristics to the music industry; “Reflektor” is definitely one for the books.

Grade: A

Listen to this album if you like: The Shins, Spoon, Cold War Kids, or Beirut.