Album Review: Mitski – Be the Cowboy

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Artist: Mitski

Album: Be the Cowboy

Genre: Indie Rock/Alternative Rock

Rating: 9/10

It’s no secret that much of Mitski’s music is melancholy and tear-jerkingly sad, but the incredibly talented New York based musician does not want your pity. Singing with incredible passion, it’s hard not to assume that all of her music is autobiographical, but before going into her music one must understand that she is creating scenarios and maybe fictional characters, singing from the perspective of someone who has to go through these situations that are often dark and tap into a melancholy state of mind. That isn’t to say there isn’t truth behind these songs. Her last album Puberty 2 was an experience of immense fervor and music that frequently shifted from raw guitar-oriented “Rock” to bare “Indie Folk,” and lyrically it was hard to differentiate what was autobiographical from what was fiction, but you know what? That’s one of the many reasons why she is a beautiful songwriter. Her new album Be the Cowboy could have been another Puberty 2, and yes much of the melancholy vibes from that album drive this new album as well, but this time around the delivery and combination of infectious instrumentation and passionate vocals are near perfection. With lyrical themes that dwell in the more obsessive or co-dependent nature of being in a relationship or experiencing a breakup, this music can resonate with everyone, because we’ve all had to deal with the realization that romance isn’t all sunshine and kisses like the movies and love songs will have you believe, but instead of sounding bitter, Mitski uses this realization to meditate and to raise awareness on how unhealthy it is to lose your identity in someone else. However she is in by no means being preachy. She like many of us succumbs to the common unhealthy traits of our love hungry hearts. Traits like blaming the other person for a failed relationship like on the track “Why didn’t you stop me?” being afraid to let go of a previous lover even when you’re in a new relationship like on the track “Old Friend,” and the feeling of wanting to project an image of success and happiness to an ex, only to realize that the fact that you’re doing all of that just to prove independence to this person shows that they’re still very much on your mind like the track “Lonesome Love.” She is very much aware of our many flaws, and if this album has a central theme it would be realization. Many of us want to be remembered and can’t deal with the fact that we’re insignificant when it comes to the bigger picture of this world, she realizes that on the track “Remember My Name.” Many of us seek importance and flattery someone else can give us, she realizes this on the track “A Pearl,” and as much as this album focuses on our unhealthy traits, Mitski manages to prevent this album from being a real downer. The upbeat and light melodies of many of the instrumentation contrasts the lyrical content quite well. It’s almost as if she’s accepting of the fact that we are all co-dependent beings. It’s almost as if she’s celebrating these flaws. Finding beauty in this unhappiness, because she doesn’t have the answers. She’s merely projecting these feelings that can resonate with us all, and the loneliness anthem “Nobody” with it’s upbeat Disco-driven style is the album’s most shining moment that encourages us all to learn to live with ourselves and be comfortable with the fact that there are going to be a lot of situations where we’re going to be alone, and that’s okay. Mitski may seem like she’s on a mission to encourage us all to rid ourselves of our many toxic characteristics, but she’s simply spotlighting her own experiences of love, loss, and loneliness to tell a story or to therapize herself, and the music is all so relatable that it can help many get through tough times, it can even save a life. Mitski has proven herself to be one of the most important songwriters today.

Written By: Steven Sandoval

Date: 08/19/18

Mitski Releases New Song “Nobody”

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Mitski won’t drop her new album Be The Cowboy until August 17th, but she has shared another new track off the album titled “Nobody,” and it’s a moody track that speaks on loneliness and solitude, but at the same time it’s an encouragement to dance your loneliness away. You can listen to the track as well as watch the music video below:

Interpol Announce New Album “Marauder”

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Everyone’s favorite Post-Punk revivalists “Interpol” will release a new album titled Marauder on August 24th. This is the band’s first release since their 2014 album El Pintor. The band have also released a new track off the album titled “The Rover.” In a recent press conference held in Mexico City, frontman Paul Banks described that the album is “A facet of myself. That’s the guy that fucks up friendships and does crazy shit. He taught me a lot, but it’s representative of a persona that’s best left in song. In a way, this album is like giving him a name and putting him to bed.” You can listen to “The Rover” and watch the press conference below:

Album Review: Skating Polly – The Make It All Show

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Artist: Skating Polly 

Album: The Make It All Show

Genre: Alternative Rock

Rating: 7.5/10

 “Skating Polly” are a band from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The founding members are step-siblings Kelli Mayo and Peyton Bighorse, and they have been making Grungy and raw “Alternative Rock” since the beginning of this decade. Both beginning at a very young age, the two utilized their parents’ instruments to practice and practice, and it’s impressive how the two have perfected their multi-instrumentalist abilities, as well as their ability to write songs. It’s evident that the band have gotten better and better over the years releasing four full-length albums, each one better than the last. Their sound draws from 90’s “Alternative Rock,” “Grunge,” and even some “Riot grrrl” with their ferocious vocal delivery that echoes bands such as “Bikini Kill” or “Babes In Toyland.” Their new and fifth album The Make It All Show isn’t a drastic departure from their previous work, but the band went for a more melodic approach this time around, and with the addition of their brother Kurtis Mayo, the band are now a trio, and the result is a cleaner and fuller sound. The first few tracks on The Make It All Show are smooth guitar-driven fun rockin’ enough for those who love Rock but also poppy enough to win over those who love a good chorus, but the album doesn’t truly bite until the fourth track “Queen for a Day (feat. Exene Cervenka.)” This track starts off like the band are schooling us in “Sleater-Kinney” 101, but the explosive chorus that erupts displays the magic of “Pop” and “Rock” contrast. This album however is not all light. When these songs get heavy, THEY ARE FACE MELTING HEAVY with howling tumultuous vocals provided by Kelli Mayo who takes on the majority of the lead vocals. Tracks like “They’re Cheap (I’m Free),” “Camelot,” and “This Vacation” are grungy, dark, and absolutely passionate with pure unadulterated emotion. The lyrical content consists of the band’s reaction to their personal lives, getting away from their teen years and becoming young adults, and even though they are still youthful it’s perfectly clear being immersed in the music business at an early aged has matured them. With that raw emotion day one fans love them for, and with new “Pop” sensibilities, the band are displaying where they come from and where they are headed, and I couldn’t be more intrigued.

 

Written By: Steven Sandoval 

Date: 05/05/18

Album Review: Ganser – Odd Talk

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Artist: Ganser

Album: Odd Talk

Genre: Post-Punk/Noise Rock/Indie Rock

Rating: 7/10

 Chicago’s own four-piece Post-Punk/Noise Rock band “Ganser” have been making music as far back as 2015, releasing a myriad of singles and one stellar EP. Now with the aid of indie label “No Trend Records” the band have finally released their debut album Odd Talk. “No Trend Records” is fitting considering that the band doesn’t exactly make the kind of music that’s hip with most millennials, (you’re not going to hear any Trap hi-hats on this thing) but the band creates bone-crushing “Indie Rock” that will definitely resonate with those who still enjoy cutting edge Rock music, dismissing the ridiculous claim that “rock is dead.” Odd Talk is a short but hard-hitting crash course in the endless possibilities of Rock music. The band incorporates elements of “Post-Punk,” “Grunge,” and “Noise” and they do this while sounding accessible enough to keep casual music listeners from straying away. The vocals provided by both members Nadia Garofalo and Alicia Gaines ground the otherworldly wall of noise the instrumentation contains, and instead of burying the vocals into the mix like most artists in the realm of “Noise Rock” tend to do, the vocals are very noticeable and quite polished, and at the same time they are humble, not putting more importance on the vocals, which shows the listener that everyone in the band is equal. There is no star member, and they all work together as a unit. This is a pretty solid release, however the fact that this is the band’s debut is noticeable. Some tracks are a little rocky here and there and there’s much room for improvement, but I think the band have the chops to truly utilize their talent as a whole to perfect their songwriting abilities.

Written By: Steven Sandoval 

Date: 04/25/18

Album Roundup

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With so much music being released constantly, it’s hard sometimes for an aspiring music critic with a day job to cover every single new album with a full length and in depth review (Trust me i’m trying!) Especially since this year has already been an incredible year for new music, so here is a roundup of new releases that I enjoyed but didn’t have a chance to review.

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Artist: The Voidz

Album: Virtue

Genre: Experimental Rock/Lo-Fi/Indie Rock/Post-Punk/Synth-Pop

Rating: 9/10

Julian Casablancas is mostly known for being the lead singer of “The Strokes,” the band that was often regarded as the leading force in the “Garage Rock Revival” movement in the early 2000’s, but in recent years Casablancas’ eccentricity and wide array of musical influences have transcended the “Pop Rock” category “The Strokes” have fallen into. This is all thanks to his new band “The Voidz (F.K.A. Julian Casablancas + The Voidz.)” Following the band’s 2014 debut Tyranny, their new album Virtue features even more diversity and unpredictability as the band charges through various genres with oddball antics, lyrical content rich in existentialism and politics, and beautiful melodies, and even though it’s easy to spot which genres the band pulls from on each track, the band by no means emulates anyone, instead this vast mixture of genres results in “The Voidz” fully developing their own hybrid of sound. It’s the sound of “The Voidz,” and it is glorious.

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Artist: Halfway Good

Song: Letter To A Friend

Genre: Alternative Rock/Indie Rock

Visalia, CA based “Halfway Good” have been working hard on new music and on their unpredictable and often hilarious podcast. Our first taste of new music following the band’s debut full-length album Arts and Crafts is the acoustic driven “Letter To A Friend,” and it’s an uplifting number with a catchy as Hell and sing-a-long-able chorus. It’s a reminder that no matter how much of a struggle you’re going through with whatever roadblocks or curveballs that are obstructing your progress, it’s important to remain optimistic, because that optimism can drive you to better the situation. Whether or not this track is about a specific person is unknown, but this song is delivered in a way that sounds like the band is talking to all of us, and in a world now where even some of the best music delves into melancholia or cynicism, it’s nice to hear something truly uplifting.

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Artist: Jack White

Album: Boarding House Reach

Genre: Blues Rock/Garage Rock/Funk/Spoken Word/Hip Hop

Rating: 8/10

Despite the ramblings of Jack White in recent interviews that can make anyone who despises pretentiousness cringe, Mr. White’s immense talent and genius still shows greatly in his music. His new album Boarding House Reach features the most interesting and innovative music in his solo catalog. This album finally reflects the eccentric persona White projects to the public with it’s experiments with genres one would normally deem unlikely when it comes to White’s music, and following his “Dad Rock” dominated music he’s been creating for years and years, it’s about damn time he lets his bizarre side shine.

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Artist: Johanna Warren

Album: Gemini II

Genre: Folk/Indie Folk/Acoustic

Rating: 7/10

Johanna Warren definitely does not write the kind of “Jimmy Crack Corn” Folk music you can sit around the campfire and sing along to, but the beautifully melodic and heartfelt music she has created on her new album Gemini II with it’s infectious guitar picking and atmospheric sound textures offers a gorgeous backdrop to the angsty and at times dark lyrical content. It is evident that singing her sorrows is very therapeutic for her, and hearing her sing with such sincerity and passion is a great experience.

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Artist: Car Seat Headrest

Album: Twin Fantasy (Face to Face)

Genre: Indie Rock/Alternative Rock

Rating: 7.5/10

Following an incredible debut record for a major label like “Matador” and much critical acclaim, going back and re-recording an older “Bandcamp” album may seem like a bold move. Especially since the older version with it’s Lo-Fi sound and DIY aesthetic is what garnered much of the band’s fans and attention in the first place, but now that lead songwriter Will Toledo is backed by a full band, and now that he revealed that he finally knew how to finish the record 7 years after it’s release, it was clear that Toledo knew what he was doing, and the result of this re-recorded version of the beloved “Twin Fantasy” is proof that re-recording it was very necessary. This new version is cleaner, it’s tighter, it’s punchier, and improves on the many interesting ideas the original version had, and somehow Toledo sounds even more passionate when singing these songs 7 years later. Many of us are dying for new material, but this re-recorded version of “Twin Fantasy” is a real treat for old and new fans alike.

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Artist: Preoccupations 

Album: New Material

Genre: Post-Punk/Indie Rock/Gothic Rock

Rating: 8/10

“Preoccupations” don’t really break new ground with their new album New Material, but the band’s ambition to create uncompromising “Post-Punk” with a gloomy flavor that reflects some of the best “Gothic Rock” of the 80’s drives this record to success. With it’s minimal but hard hitting instrumentation, reverbed walls of sound, and poetically nihilistic lyrics, this album contains all of the best elements of “Post-Punk,” and it solidifies this new scene of “Post-Punk” bands keeping that spirit alive.

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Artist: Harm’s Way

Album: Posthuman

Genre: Metalcore/Hardcore

Rating: 7/10

With a band like “Code Orange” changing the landscape of “Metal” with their incorporation of outsider genres into the very one-dimensional genre of “Metalcore,” it’s nice to go back to the sound that inspired the band in the first place, and Chicago’s own “Harm’s Way” definitely know how to deliver that sound. The band is fine with what many people label a “corner,” and they run with it creating the most aggressive and violent sounding “Metal” today.

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Artist: Yamantaka // Sonic Titan

Album: Dirt

Genre: Experimental Rock/Progressive Rock

Rating: 7/10

Canadian collective “Yamantaka // Sonic Titan” are known for their theatrical and almost cult-like live shows, and their studio albums carry that same weight. Their new album Dirt is back to business as usual with their rollercoaster of emotions jumping from atmospheric and dreamy to heavy and sinister, and it’s an artistic experience that has no limits.

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Artist: Anna von Hausswolff

Album: Dead Magic

Genre: Experimental/Drone/Post-Metal

Rating: 7/10

Swedish musician Anna von Hausswolff has never had an interest in writing traditionally structured and straight-forward music, but her new album Dead Magic is easily her most accessible release, but don’t let that fool you, this is still a drony and highly experimental album, but it’s a lot brighter this time around, and when those unexpected sinister moments appear with her screeching vocals and almost “Doom” like guitars, it adds a lot to the intensity as opposed to some of her previous material which features a consistent dark tone all throughout.

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Artist: A.A.L (Against All Logic)

Album: 2012 – 2017

Genre: Deep House/IDM

Rating: 7.5/10

Producer Nicolas Jaar never fails to express the artistic and innovative merit “Electronic” music has with his compositions that are more headier than they are danceable, and with his new album under the moniker “A.A.L (Against All Logic)” he also proves that danceable four to the floor music can be experimental. He does this by providing music with numerous samples, clever production techniques, and soulful and at times Jazzy backdrops. This is an “Electronic” album for a thinker.

 

Written By: Steven Sandoval

Date: 04/03/18