EMMIE MAGAZINE STAFF
Dear Emmie Reader, In fourth grade my teacher asked our class to name our favorite song. Much to his surprise, I immediately belted out “Helter Skelter,” a hard-rock ballad by The Beatles. Inspired by the music suggestion, my fellow 10-year-olds began drawing pictures and listening to the four-piece band from Liverpool. Twelve years later, I hope the music suggestions, critiques and recommendations thoughtfully filling the pages of Emmie Magazine have the same effect on you as “Helter Skelter” had on Mr. Rick’s fourth grade class. It is my pleasure to welcome you to the latest issue of Emmie, UW-Madison’s premiere student-run music magazine. Throughout the semester, our group of talented writers, editors and designers dedicated their time and efforts to the discovery, compilation and promotion of music. From metal to rock-androll, reggae and opera, this issue highlights that Madison’s music scene is multidimensional and well-rounded. From the beautiful architecture of the Majestic Theater and Barrymore, the iconic ceiling of the Orpheum and the intimate nature of the High Noon Saloon and the Frequency, Emmie spreads its wings across Madison. At the heart of every review, interview, playlist and feature story is the thread that pulls us all together — our passion for music. We are Emmie. Forever Young,
Abbey Schneider Editor-In-Chief
TABLE OF CONTENTS 6 8 10 11 12
16 18 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 30 31
Zola Jesus Drake Love V Hate Strange Oasis Entertainment Otello, Reimagined Playlists Vance Joy Disclosure LVL UP The Sword & Garbage Mac Miller Glass Animals Saint Motel Oh Hellos Father John Misty The Decemberists Heartless Bastards Ratatat
The Front Bottoms
34 Raury & Halsey
35 36 37 38 39 32-39
Borns & Youth Lagoon Demi Lovato & Miley Cyrus Wavves & Sophie Milo & Wood Brothers Chvrches & Slayer 3
COVER PHOTO COURTESY OF ROLLING STONE PHOTO COURTSEY OF PITCHFORK
HOMETOWN HERO EMMIE talked influences, school and Wisconsin with Zola Jesus before her jam-packed performance at the University of Wisconsin’s Memorial Union Theater. LR: What’s the largest sacrifice you’ve made to pursue your dream? Lizzie Ryan: You attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison before graduating and moving to Los Angeles. What were some of your largest challenges while managing being a full-time student and following your dreams as a musician? Zola Jesus: Oh my gosh, the biggest one was trying to make that happen, trying to make that work. I would be touring while still in school, and then there were exams, and then I was in Europe during final exams. LR: Wow, crazy. ZJ: Yes, it was. I loved school, I wanted to stay in school, but I really wanted to pursue music. You figure out how to manage both and you work extremely hard. Thankfully, I had a lot of professors that were understanding.
ZJ: When you are doing something that you love and are so passionate about, nothing feels like a sacrifice. I don’t feel like I’ve made any sacrifices. There are things I’ve had to do — work really hard, not sleep for a couple of weeks — but it never feels like work. It’s like you’re on autopilot by that point. You want to be doing what you’re doing so badly that you enjoy everything. So, I don’t know. I don’t consider anything I’ve done a sacrifice. LR: You’ve performed here in Madison, Wisconsin before, and we’re so excited to have you back. What is your favorite song to perform? ZJ: “Nail,” actually. That song is the most emotional when I perform, and I really like that it’s acapella — it’s challenging. It feels very raw.
LR: What was your daily routine for writing your newest album, Taiga? ZJ: I lived on this island off of Washington you had to take an hour ferry ride to get to — very isolated. I only went into town once a week, maybe once every couple of weeks, so I had a house on the water and would wake up and write and write until I went to sleep. When I wasn’t writing I was walking around by the water, by the forest, and that’s kind of where I feel most and home. I was just soaking that up. LR: I read that your childhood in Merrill, Wisconsin really shaped your music, and it was the secluded location that affected your songwriting. Can you elaborate on that? ZJ: Growing up in an area that’s so far from cultural hubs… it was three hours from Minneapolis, three hours from Madison, even, so to get anywhere with anything going on is out of the question. You really have to invent your own world to entertain yourself and to discover things on your own organically. In that way, I didn’t have a lot — you live in Wisconsin, you make your own fun. I feel like northern Wisconsin influenced me in that way.
LR:. Who are your musical inspirations? ZJ: That is hard to say. When you’re making music, if you’re inspired by other musicians, I feel like it’s almost like cheating, in a way. I prefer to be inspired by things that aren’t musical because it’s more work to try to transliterate the inspiration into a different form. LR: Like the forests that inspired Taiga?
“WHEN YOU ARE DOING SOMETHING THAT YOU LOVE AND ARE SO PASSIONATE ABOUT, NOTHING FEELS LIKE A SACRIFICE.”
LR: How did you channel your childhood that was filled with nature and the woods of northern Wisconsin into the music? ZJ: It’s partly subconscious and conceptual, but I think the most important thing is having that seclusion again, because with the record before this, I wrote it in Los Angeles. Returning to that peace that feels very much like home to me — that allowed a different type of writing and liberation and empowerment in my creativity that I kind of lost when I left Wisconsin — that was the most important thing. Also, being a part of the natural world made me think of human relationships to nature and why we feel so separated from it.
ZJ: Yeah, or architecture, experiences, film, things like that. LR: How does architecture inspire you for a song?
ZJ: I’m really inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright. There’s just a bunch of architects, like mid-century modern, Tadao Ando [Japanese minimalist architect], one guy based [in Seattle] that I’m totally obsessed with, Tom Kundig. I like buildings because they are creating a physical environment, and it’s just like a utopia. These architects are trying to create this ideal microcosm that people can live in, can work in, and they have all these different utilities. It’s utilitarian, but it’s also it’s trying to oversee an ideal for humanity and for the world, and I’d like to be in those spaces and try to think about the music. What kind of music would be playing for the piece of architecture I’m inspired by? I work off of that. It’s all part of this bigger universe. LR: Do you think you’ll return to the forests of Wisconsin, where you grew up, to gain inspiration for another album? ZJ: Actually, I’m planning on moving back there. It’s interesting. I’ve lived in a bunch of different places, but once you leave the place where you’ve grown up with such strong roots… I feel like I’ve been trying to find Wisconsin in all these other parts of the world. I think I just need to go back. y lizzie RYAN
PHOTO COURTSEY OF VSB
Drake’s masterpiece, “Hotline Bling” is as much a part of the internet as Google at this point. The Grammy award-winning artist originally released the track in July 2015 on his label’s Soundcloud account, followed by a premiere on Apple Music’s OVO Sound Radio. The buzz created when Drake originally released the track is a breeze in the wind when compared to when he dropped the music video.
If I wanted to watch a douchy guy show off his horrendous dance moves while simalteanously witnessing scantily clad women flaunt butt implants, I would just head down to the KK. I could save my bandwidth and use it on more important things — like watching a live feed of paint drying or visiting purple.com
Once Drake finally expressed his artistic abilities in visual form, a song about romantic limitation and frustration danced its way up the Billboard charts and currently sits as No. 2 in the nation (as of November 2, 2015). Drake released the “Hotline Bling” music video on October 19 and it instantly became a internet sensation. The video consists of a plain background that changes colors: yellow, pink, baby blue, etc. The genius behind this colorful video is Director X, known for working on Usher’s “Yeah!” and all of Sean Paul’s videos. Mr. X is able to emphasize the grand-scale sensation of the rap lyrics through thoughtful minimalism. However, the most important element of this artwork is Drake’s suave dance moves.
First off, Drake’s “Hotline Bling” music video shows the exDegrassi actor dancing around in expensive brand-name clothes that we all know he was paid to wear. Don’t believe me? According to MTV, his Moclear jacket costs $1,150 and his turtle neck costs a cool $400 — both of which spiked in sales after the release of Drake’s commercial... I mean music video. However, don’t be fooled, the price tag on his clothes (that could be bought in a thrift store for a quarter) don’t augment his horrific dance moves in the least. If anything, they prove that money can buy a lot of things. It can buy beauty, a lavish lifestyle, even a sexy singing voice, but sorry Dizzy D, you can’t buy dance moves.
The moves are not contemporary, such as the whip, hitting the quan or stanky leg. Rather, they are brief, universal and not overly expressive. The moves are even relatable and kind of silly. However, Drake’s dancing and Director X’s minimalism are the perfect blend for the internet. This duo seemed to design a video that could be broken down into screenshots and short GIFs. Individuals can rewrite and personalize Drake’s image and gestures. Within hours of the videos release, Twitter, Vine and Instagram were flooded with clips cut from the “Hotline Bling” to other songs: “Suvemente”, “Single Ladies” and “Cha Cha.”
Sometimes when I’m not thinking about burritos or anything more important than Drake, I think about how awkward that video shoot must have been. I picture Director X just sitting behind the camera man-crushing on Drake saying, “I love your deep physical interpretation of the lyrics” when Drake pretends he’s on his cell phone while singing, “You used to call me on my cell phone.” I also picture Drake awkwardly flirting with the butt models, because, after all, as the song implies, he is so irresitable and dreamy and every woman wants him.
No other musician understands the mystical mechanics of internet obsession better than Drake. He understands that online fandom is not just receiving his work but they are interacting with it. Fans can recontextualize his art to adore or undermine his work. Drake understands that this will happen whether he likes it or not — so why not own it? Nevertheless, it is gucci. Drizzy Drake and his dance moves are, undeniably, very important to the mainstream music scene and society in general. y luis RODRIGUEZ
Drake’s pretentious, materialistic, misogynistic music video makes me embarassed for him. I would gladly and confidently challenge Drake to a dance battle any time night or day. I would even bet on myself, which means a lot because the only time I remember formally dancing was in my basement while playing Michael Jackson’s Dance Experience on the Wii. y
MADISON MUSIC MANAGEMENT I am walking down Bassett Street looking for something a bit unusual, a launch party for a company created by students. Such an endeavor seems far-fetched for six kids currently working toward college degrees, but after having the chance to talk to the founders of Strange Oasis Entertainment, what they are pursuing does not seem crazy at all. The collective professionalism, knowledge and passion for music exuded by Hannah Frank, Mary Kate Gavigan, Brennan Haelig, Grace Lavin, Danny Schwartz and Bobby Vanderwist is extremely impressive. As I approach my destination, I can hear the bass bumping loudly from underground. Suddenly, I’m excited to experience local talent beginning their musical journey with Strange Oasis. For those of you who do not know, Strange Oasis is a one-wof-akind company based in Madison, Wisconsin. The organization was founded by a group of UW-Madison students involved in the WUD Music program. As a whole, they possess a wide variety of skills from graphic design to artist management. It was decided that their talents should be put to good use by helping out others in the music scene. Specifically, Frank says, “Strange Oasis is an artist development and management company that focuses on tour routing and partnerships with other organizations and businesses.” Haelig goes on to explain, “We put on concerts, manage local artists, and we try to bring more awareness to the local community of music that is going on in Madison and beyond.” One thing that is particularly notable about the Strange Oasis team is their ambition. Individually, each team member has had success in their field. Frank interned at The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, while Vanderwist has extensive experience putting on house shows since high school. The group is able to efficiently learn from one another as they create opportunities for themselves as well as local bands. Gavigan comments how important it is to bridge the gap from campus to community because, “Not everybody has the opportunity to go to school and get all the resources to be in a band in college.” Ideally, Strange Oasis aims to “facilitate growth for the artists that we work with and especially those local artists looking to be a smaller national or regional act,” Haelig says. This growth is achieved by providing a company that is not too big, nor too small to serve the local community, and focuses on building genuine relationships with its clients. y ashley MACKENS
PHOTO COURTSEY OF STRANGE OASIS
otello Opera is virtually the only form of art that has not undergone major changes over time. All has remained the same — the stage, the scenery, music, voices, everything. Amazingly, with the help of music, composers and singers manage to create and maintain the intrigue of the performance hundreds of years later. “Otello” at the Metropolitan Opera was fascinating from the first stroke to the last. The audience breathlessly followed the opera from the brief prelude of woodwind instruments to the end with the kiss motif. Tony Award-winning director Bartlett Sher presented the opera as a psychological drama, but left enough space for exploration. The wonderful selection of singers, the combination of exquisite voices, stunning costumes and intriguing stage made this opera a diamond that shone with a completely new light.
By virtue of new technologies, the stage changed instantly, allowing the singers to concentrate only on their voices. Yannick NézetSéguin, the conductor at the gala, outstandingly led the orchestra through the performance. He emphasized the fullness and the depth of Ms. Yoncheva’s exceptionally rich and beautiful soprano. As for Mr. Antonenko, his singing was not as unimpeachable. Having a ravishing tenor, his voice seemed to be a little heavy in some parts and his character to be a little lost or distracted.
“...BARTLETT SHER PRESENTED THE OPERA AS A PSYCHOLOGICAL DRAMA, BUT LEFT ENOUGH SPACE FOR EXPLORATION.”
The production recreated the setting of the original opening of the opera in 1887. Mr. Sher, working with the incredibly talented British set designer Es Delvin, created a fascinating scene with translucent walls that instantly changed from an outdoor scenery at one point to the walls of the bedroom at another.
As the opera started, almost like a storm Verdi’s choral music filled the audience with horror. You could feel yourself sailing through the mist of darkness with the chorus. The alternation of light and sound were almost the only scenery on stage, but was all that was needed.
Once, long before this production, Salvini Tomazzo (Otello) forgot to put apply makeup on his hands. The audience noticed it and became indignant. However, during the intermission Salvini struck black makeup on his hands and put on white gloves. In the second act, he took them off, and viewers saw his black hands. Salvini made the audience believe there were gloves on his hands in the first act! In this production, however, the Met decided to cease the application of any darkening makeup on Otello, to abandon the racial implications of the main character, who is originally black, in order to put the mind of the audience to the music and the plot of the opera. The opera ended with a storm of applause. The innovations and overall experience could not leave the audience indifferent. There certainly were shortcomings in some places, but they did not affect the overall impression of the performance. y anna SOBOLEVA
After Dark Lights On - FKA twigs spooky ghost - Teen Suicide You Know I’m No Good - Amy Winehouse Blue Velvet - Lana Del Rey Lone Bell - Mount Eerie Lampshades on Fire - Modest Mouse Goats in Trees - Foster The People Came Back Haunted- Nine Inch Nails Igneous - V V Brown Pinebender - Made of Oak Kiss Land - The Weekend A Lung - The Knife Wrath of God - Crystal Castles
Depreston - Courtney Barnett
Cherry Picking - Girlpool
Border Line - King Krule
All The Pretty Girls - Kaleo
Truth - Alexander
Roots - Imagine Dragons
The Loop - Mimicking Birds
You’re a Wolf - Sea Wolf
Lua - Bright Eyes
November Blue - The Avett Brothers
Ultimate - Denzel Curry
Yankee - Spencer Radcliffe
Georgia - Vance Joy
Ventura Highway - America
Love You Crazy - Mikky Ekko
Nocturnal - Disclosure, The Weeknd
Road Trippin’ Go Your Own Way - Fleetwood Mac
Next In Line - Walk the Moon
One Of These Nights - Eagles
Road Trippin’ - Red Hot Chili Peppers
I Lived - OneRepublic
Country Road - James Taylor
Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen
You Can Call Me Al - Paul Simon
Grown Ocean - Fleet Foxes Woods - Bon Iver I Wanna See the States - Hellogoodbye
Songs to cook to Biscuits - Kacey Musgraves All Night Diner - Modest Mouse Salad Days - Mac Demarco Making Breakfast - Twin Peaks
Staff Picks Jane - Girlpool
Someday - The Growlers
Run Away - Leighton Meester
Gooey - Glass Animals
Texas Reznikoff - Mitski
Freazy - Wolf Alice
College - Animal Collective
Got It Bad - LEISURE
Magnets - Disclosure, Lorde
You - Good Morning
Cowboy Dan - Modest Mouse
Shriek - Wye Oak
Chic ‘N’ Stu - System Of A Down Chocolate - The 1975 Vegetables - The Beach Boys Ragoo - Kings of Leon Banana Pancakes - Jack Johnson Froot - Marina and the Diamonds Lost in the Supermarket - The Clash Ignition (Remix) - R. Kelly Coffee - Sylvan Esso
SHOW R 14
VANCE SPREADS JOY AT THE BARRYMORE
PHOTO COURTSEY OF ELLE
Take an American-tinged alt-folk rock band, an Icelandic alt-rock group and a humble Australian singer-songwriter, and what do you get?
Later in the show, he played another new track called “Fire and the Flood.” You could see by the look on his face that he was surprised at how many people already knew the lyrics.
One sold-out Fall Ball at the Barrymore Theater. And for a Wednesday night, it was packed.
Vance Joy then transitioned to his well-known songs, and beat the mid-show haziness by jumping right into “Mess is Mine”, one of his crowd pleasers. Needless to say the entire venue was on their feet singing every lyric to the song, jamming along with his vibrant vocals.
Madison band The Mascot Theory kicked off 105.5 Triple M’s Fall Ball with a setlist that sounded as if the Goo Goo Dolls met Matchbox 20 in the back of a dingy bar and played some songs together. Honestly, take that as you will. Luckily, the crowd was pretty amped for the next performers, Kaleo, so energy was high throughout the entire performance. If you didn’t know Kaleo before you saw them that night, you sure as hell did afterward. They were the type of opening act that made you contemplate purchasing their album the second you walked out of the venue. With only two tracks released in the U.S., Kaleo dominated the stage with a calm and collected, yet powerful confidence. The seamless lead vocals had the entire crowd straightup mesmerized. They played some of their well-known hits such as “All the Pretty Girls” and “Way Down We Go”, which, to much surprise, had everyone singing along within minutes. There is no doubt that Kaleo will become a recognizable band in the coming months. As pumped as people were for the Icelanders, there was no denying the audience was teeming with anticipation for someone else: the headliner who was the reason that tickets for the Fall Ball sold out in weeks. Then, it happened. Curly-haired heartthrob Vance Joy, the 27-yearold from Australia, walked out absolutely beaming. He was nothing less than tickled that people came to see him, but in the most surprised and humbled way. Vance Joy began his setlist with “From Afar”, a well-received track off his 2013 album Dream Your Life Away. Though DYLA is his first and only album, it gives him a definitive profile in the music industry both abroad and in the U.S. After his first songs, he expressed how he the loved intimacy of the Barrymore and thought it was a “beautiful, down-across-the-way place.” He even commented on the nice weather, which, for good reason, baffled most in the audience. The third song he played was near and dear to him, because he remembered playing it back in 2010 at an open mic night at “Uni,” or college as the Aussies say. There was no doubt “Winds of Change” brought back memories for him. He even gave Madison an exclusive preview of a new song, never before played live, called “Straight Into Your Arms.” He concluded the love song by saying, “Madison will always be embedded in my memories.”
And as if he couldn’t get any cuter, Vance Joy admitted to the time when he almost, ALMOST, plagiarized Lynyrd Skynyrd. While on Facebook, he saw his quirky uncle post some “poetic” lyrics on his feed, and Vance Joy decided to use those lyrics in a new song. Thank goodness his parents told him to look up the lyrics to make sure they didn’t belong to someone else, because they did, in fact, belong to Lynyrd Skynyrd. “That was distressing,” he said. The resulting song? “My Kind Of Man”. The reaction from the crowd? Amazing. After introducing his band, which, to him, is “legendary,” he graced the crowd with a song they could sing to: Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me”. His connection with the crowd was something refreshing. He tried to make eye contact with every person in the crowd, and it was plainly obvious. Who does that nowadays? To be appreciated as a fan is something unexplainable. The fact he opened for Taylor Swift’s Red Tour and had a number one song in America is enough to push him over the edge of popularity, yet he was still rooted in his humility. Though debatable, probably the best part of the show was when he played the last two songs, “Georgia”, a slower, more romantic song, followed by his staple, “Riptide”. At this point, if everyone wasn’t already engaged, nothing topped the crowd’s reaction to Vance Joy putting on his ukulele and strumming the familiar opening to “Riptide”. “Riptide” propelled him to fame, and was top-charting within a year of the album’s release in 2013. But to the crowd’s despair, he left the stage afterward. This left every single person screaming for more, and “encore” was the only audible word throughout the entire room. After about 30 seconds of anxious waiting, a still-smiling Vance Joy walked back onstage. It was clear that there was no place he’d rather be in that moment than performing for Madison. Paying homage to one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time, he played Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” as if he had been playing it his entire life. The 13-year-old girls in the front row grew quiet as the middle-aged parents cheered and yelled every word. This last number defined the entire performance with its pounding red lights and complete band-synchronicity. With one last look into the crowd, paired with the same glowing grin that met the audience, Vance Joy leaned into the microphone and left Madison with two resounding words: “Stay awesome.” y morgan HAEFNER & sarah LODUHA
DISCLOSURE BRINGS GOOD OMENS TO MADISON PHOTOS COURTSEY OF ITUNES & PIXASSO
Electronic duo Disclosure has been said to have a unique sound since their debut album Settle was released in 2013. However, Disclosure’s differentiating quality is their use of complementary voices to enhance their own. Last year, their single “Latch”, featuring Sam Smith, took over American and British radios, propelling both the duo and Smith to stardom. Similar to their debut album, Disclosure’s newest release, Caracal, features a wide range of vocalists who each add depth and emotion to the songs. On Settle, Disclosure mainly featured little-known singers, and helped many of them find success, notably Sam Smith, London Grammar and AlunaGeorge. In Caracal Disclosure featured several newer artists including Kwabs, Brendan Reily, Jordan Rakei and LION BABE. However, they also collaborated with big names including Lorde, the Weeknd, Gregory Porter, Miguel and of course, the favorite from Settle, Sam Smith.
The crowd ate up Disclosure’s high-energy performance. Without being overly aggressive, the entire venue danced the night away, belted lyrics and left with smiles on their faces. There is no doubt Disclosure overcame any fears of a sophomore slump with Caracal and their recent tour. The duo is back and better than ever, and I can’t wait to see what they give us next. y rachel BARUCK
The key to Disclosure’s many successful collaborations is soul. Though the singers featured on the album range in experience and genre, for example, Gregory Porter is a Grammy-winning jazz singer while Sam Smith is a young, well-selling pop ballad singer, they all have incredibly soulful voices. These well-chosen voices add dimension to Disclosure’s already engaging music, helping the duo to separate themselves from the crowd of emerging electronic artists. Miguel’s legendarily smooth voice perfectly floats over the dancey beats on “Good Intentions.” Jordan Rakei, whose music is similar to that of a young, funkier John Legend, effortlessly adds to the emotion of slow-burner “Masterpiece,” and Gregory Porter’s rich, jazz voice perfectly balances the high-pitched, fastpaced nature of “Holding On.” Disclosure’s tracks are already compelling, but it is their carefully cultivated list of guest stars that takes Caracal beyond what most artists who are solely electronic or strictly vocalists can go in terms of depth and versatility. Every song on the album makes you want to dance and to listen carefully at the same time. At the Orpheum, Disclosure took their unique, collaborative style to the stage, and it was glorious. The best electronic shows are not always those with the biggest light shows, the craziest crowds or the most surprising drops. In my opinion, the best shows, regardless of genre, are those with the most onstage action. Disclosure was incredibly engaged in the music, singing and dancing the entire show. Equally entertaining were the musicians that joined them onstage. Throughout the concert, Disclosure brought out featured singers from the album, including Brendan Reilly from “Moving Mountains,” to add fresh energy to the stage and avoid lulls in the set.
LVL UP THROWS
DOWN AT THE FREQUENCY
Madison, Wisconsin is not New York City; this fact is disappointing for some and ideal for others. However, when LVL UP played the small, loud space that is the Frequency to an intimately small crowd, it was the closest Madisonians would get to experiencing that east coast DIY aesthetic: and it was damn good.
On the other hand, throughout the set, Benton never played his guitar without some sort of fuzz or overdrive dirtying it up, and the epic last song finished off in a noisy aural pummelling of guitar feedback with most of the band ending up laying on the floor.
LVL UP, a lo-fi indie rock group from New York, released their fantastically catchy and not-sterile-sounding record, Hoodwink’d, last year on Double Double Whammy, a record label two of the members co-founded.
It was loud and intense, but never overwhelming; through this mixture of pop melody and noise, LVL UP successfully communicated their (not-so positive) emotions of being a 20-something dude in the city, not knowing exactly what you’re gonna do next in life.
Double Double Whammy is a record label founded in late 2011 by the two friends who attended a liberal arts college in New York state. Two musicians, who bonded over their love for Merge Records (Neutral Milk Hotel, Arcade Fire) and K Records, (Beat Happening, The Microphones) started the label simply to press tapes for themselves and their friends (doesn’t get much more DIY than that).
In the set highlight, “I Feel Extra-Natural”, Benton sings, “I don’t wanna be the one to bring it down, to be no fun/ what’s left in New Jersey but my family and my job?/ Just me and my dog.” When they played this undeniably catchy tune, Benton illustrated his crises through humor and self-deprecation, and the audience (mostly men in their 20s, in a very similar mental and emotional situation) connected and responded well.
Although the Frequency is admittedly not a DIY venue, its cramped style truly made you feel like you were watching the group in a crowded basement, but not one so crowded that you could not easily get a great view of the group.
Although the turnout was not stellar for the show, its intimate state was fitting, which is unusual for a band as noisy as LVL UP. The group, ingrained and inseparable from the New York DIY scene, successfully brought this aesthetic to Madison, and as a result evoked a lot of emotion in the audience.
Guitarist and singer Dave Benton’s presence was a perfect ratio of blissful pop and noisy underground punk. He used a red Rickenbacker guitar (yes, the same model George Harrison used on early Beatles records) and sang expertly-crafted pop melodies over familiar chord progressions.
It was the next best thing to viewing them in a crowded New York basement. y jordan ZAMANSKY PHOTOS COURTSEY OF ADHOC.COM
GARBAGE BRINGS ENERGY TO THE ORPHEUM Upon entering the Orpheum on a chilly October night, I am immediately surrounded by an energetic and bustling crowd all making their way to the stage where Garbage would be performing in an hour. The crowd was made up of an array of ages: older folks that clearly had been following the band since it’s beginning, and younger lads and lasses that shared the same enthusiasm. Torres opened the show. Lead singer Mackenzie Scott drew the crowd in with her powerful voice, and her poetic lyrics. Her emotion was evident behind the rifts of her guitar. The band’s ethereal vibe shined through their performance of songs like “Sprinter” and “Strange Hellos.” Immediately after Torres finished their set, the crowd became electric with the knowledge that Garbage would perform next. A white curtain was draped, hiding the stage from the audience. Loud music, and a video montage of Garbage band members from 1995 played, along with events that took place during that time period as well. Finally, after much anticipation, the curtain dropped introducing Butch Vig, Steve Marker ==and Duke Erikson, and an animated Shirley Manson, adorned in pink in honor of the 20th anniversary of their first album, Garbage. Because of this special celebration, the band decided to only play their songs written between 1995-96. Manson danced through each song with a wide smile on her face, only pausing in between to tell special backstories of certain songs, or whip out charming anecdotes. Throughout these stories, Manson was sure to remind the crowd how special it was for everyone in the band to be performing in Madison, where the band was formed. The highlights of the show included their performances of: “Queer”, “Girl Don’t Come”, “Stupid Girl” and “Butterfly Collector.” The crowd, pumped up by the colorful, flashing lights, swayed, bopped, and shimmied to each song, shouting the words without hesitation. After the band’s last song, the crowd cheered with determination, impatient for their encore. As Garbage reemerged, Butch Vig took the mic to state that this tour was not their final hurrah, and a new album would be released sometime next spring. Following the exciting announcement, the members rocked out to songs like “Trip My Wire”, “Kick in the Ass”, and ended with “Cherry Lips.” While the concert had ended, the room still crackled from the electric atmosphere emitted from their performance. The only question left to consider is when Garbage will grace our presence again. y kenzie ENGEL
PHOTOS COURTSEY OF COUP DE MAIN MAGAZINE
THE SWORD SLASHEs EXPECTATIONS Stoner metal band The Sword paid a visit to the Majestic Theatre on a smoky night in early October. The band recently released a new album, High Country earlier in August and played a wealth of new material from the album. High Country is somewhat different than the band’s previous albums, having a more classic/southern rock vibe instead of a sludgy stoner Sabbath sound. With guitars on High Country being tuned to E flat standard instead of a bludgeoning C standard, the songs have a different, lighter feel. The crowd consisted of mostly long-haired stoner metal heads as one would expect. Opening acts All Them Witches and Kadavar provided a classic mix of heavy riff-rock and ripping guitar solos that warmed the audience up for The Sword to take the stage. Given that most of the selections in the band’s set list were not their past heavier material, the concert atmosphere was more like that of a rock show than a typical metal show. As the pentatonic riffs plowed along, the crowd slowly headbanged in unison whilst simultaneously bathing in the glory of all the blues-y riffs. A lot of the material off High Country has a more psychedelic rock sound and made for a lighter atmosphere for the show. The band played some material from previous albums, opening with “Tres Brujas” from 2010’s Warp Riders as well as material from 2012’s Apocryphon. The show’s set list was primarily filled with material from High Country with highlights including “Tears Like Diamonds” and “The Dreamthieves”. The audience cheered for an encore and the band finished with “Maiden, Mother & Crone” as well as “Suffer No Fools” off High Country. The Sword put on a riff-fueled show that gave listeners just what they were hoping to see. y james STRELOW
ORPHEUM If you’re a 20-something college student who spent your high school years anywhere relatively close to a computer with iTunes, chances are you’ve heard of Mac Miller. The wide-eyed, shaved head, flat-brim snapback-wearing kid from Pittsburgh was the definition of successful internet sensation when internet sensations were just taking off. His hits like “Donald Trump” (who he made clear he does not endorse for the 2016 elections; “Vote for Mac”), “Senior Skip Day”, “The Spins” and “Blue Slide Park” all reminded us of how care free and relentlessly ridiculous we can be while we’re young. We reveled in those songs and all secretly one day hoped to match the lifestyle that Mac lead. We watched as he faded from the spotlight, a time when he experienced the harsh effects of acquiring fame and fortune at the young age of 19, such as depression and addiction. We grew up too (or like to think we did), and could relate to Mac’s dark side on his 2014 mixtape Faces. In September, however, Mac showed us a new side of himself in his first major label debut, coming into the mainstream and releasing GO:OD AM. Many predicted what the album would be: would Mac reveal himself to still be drugriddled and in too deep over his head or would he have reverted to his old styles? The result was neither the former or the latter. It was better. GO:OD AM revealed a mature, still troubled, but improved Mac, getting back to his rap roots and ridding himself of the synth beats that overwhelmed his earlier mixtapes. We were all anticipating how the album would be translated into a tour—all dreams were fulfilled when Mac announced a stop in Madison and arrived backed by posse including Goldlink, Domo Genesis and Earthgang. Mac’s hype men openers were nothing less than expected. You had the DJ remixes of all the latest rap hits keeping the crowd preoccupied while Mac prepared to the take the stage (nothing gets a crowd going more than 15 minutes straight of Drake and Fetty Wap mixes, am I right?). The only opener that left a real impression was Goldlink from Washington, D.C., who has had a lot of success on SoundCloud and is another up-and-coming Internet sensation. His hit “Sober Thoughts” reverberated throughout the Orpheum as the crowd reacted thinking, “Hey, does this guy sound a little like André 3000?” Yes, yes he does. Only when Mac hit the stage with his recognizable Pittsburgh accent and beer in one hand did the crowd absolutely lose it.
PHOTOS COURTSEY OF THEDOUBLEO.COM & ROATPKZ.COM
Starting off the set hot with “Loud”, Mac absolutely blew out the Orpheum, jumping around the stage spitting his cleverly careless lyrics and invigorating the already pretty intoxicated crowd to a whole other level. His show encompassed a variety of his ‘eras’ that he’s had in the past few years, including songs from his 2013 Watching Movies with the Sound Off and K.I.D.S. mixtape. He also included a few heated rants to the crowd varying from topics of staying true to yourself no matter what anyone else tells you, to politics, drugs, drinking and coming full circle, reassuring everyone that he’s still as unabashed as ever. By finding his niche and telling his story and his experiences, Mac’s stage presence and album genre fits in with left-of-center rappers like Tyler the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, and others who can truly be categorized as making music reflecting their own lives rather than making it for others. While many in the crowd were expecting a show from a younger, “Nikes on my Feet” wearing Mac, no one left the Orpheum disappointed. A show from a newer and different Mac may have been a nostalgic reminder of what used to be while we continue to grow up; however, no matter how old we get, there’s still a little reckless Blue Slide Park to channel within us all. y lauren CHOJNACKI
GLASS ANIMALS: KINGS OF THE JUNGLE Glass Animals is an English band from Oxford known for their first and only album, Zaba. Their freshmen album was released in 2014 by Wolf Tone/Caroline International and Harvest Records. In July 11, 2015, Zaba reached 177 on Billboard 200, according to Billboard.com. The album incorporates sounds of murky tropical percussion and jungle-like timbres. Glass Animal’s derives their album sound from William Steig children’s book, “The Zabajaba Jungle.” This jungle theme bleeds into their live performances. On October 6, Glass Animals made their first appearance in Madison, WI with their groovy tunes at the iconic Orpheum. Upon approaching the venue’s stage, viewers were greeted by a row of large, artificial palm trees with lighting running up and down the trunk, and one large, glowing bulb within the leaves. Behind the trees hung an enormous banner that served as a curtain decorated with an enlarged version of the Zaba album cover. Before the band stepped on stage, the sounds of the jungle quieted the audience and then fog machines sprayed mystical vapor that covered entire venue. Literally, the fog was even in the restrooms. Suddenly, all four band members arrived on stage, picked up their instruments and started to play a rhythmic beat. The palm tree lighting fell in sync with beat. Then David Bayley, the bare-foot lead vocalist, quickly made eye contact with the audience and then seductively sang the first verse into the microphone.
The atmosphere memorized the audience in a trance. The crowd grooved and swayed at the pace of the music, and even David himself seemed caught up in the moment. During each track, he tiptoed barefoot around stage and always kept one arm in the air, moving it along with the music. His voiced floated the around the audience, enveloping the melody in context and meaning. Even though the band only has one album, the crowd was really pleased to hear tracks from Zaba, such as “Hazey” and “Black Mambo.” However, the song that took take cake was “Gooey”, the band’s most played song on Spotify. The audience was in a roar when the band started to play “Gooey,” and the whole crowd sang along when David smoothly crooned, “peanut butter vibes.” For their encore, Glass Animals performed their cover of Kanye West’s “Love Lockdown”. To put their own spin to the successful hip-hop track, the band emphasized the downbeat, which brought out the track’s bluesy and soulful undertones. Glass Animals’ live performance evoked movement within their jungle-like world. Listeners will not always understand the lyrics but the exotic vibes and silky vocals surely bring the music to life. Hopefully, their sophomore album keeps the jungle rumbling. y luis RODRIGUEZ
PHOTOS COURTSEY OF INDIE HIVE
SAINT MOTEL GETS INTIMATE AT THE HIGH NOON SALOON Indie pop group Saint Motel, known for their over-the-top live shows, delivered just that on October 8 at the High Noon Saloon. The event was their first indoor show in Wisconsin. The band hails from the Midwest — just a few hours away in Minnesota — and seemed genuinely thrilled to show their neighboring state Wisconsin some love. Saint Motel’s contagious enthusiasm combined with the venue’s inherent intimacy made it seem like the band was throwing a party for their closest friends, and Madison was invited. The night’s eccentric tone was set from the get-go when Saint Motel took the stage bathed in warm red and yellow lights, frontman A/J Jackson equipped with a tiger-print guitar strap, straw hat and telecaster. A/J grinned at the crowd and performed a quick Chuck Berry duck walk as drummer Greg Erwin took a swig of his beer, and the band dove into the first song of their set, “Feed Me Now”, from their 2012 album Voyeur. The remainder of the night consisted of songs exclusively from both Voyeur and 2014’s My Type EP.
The frontman frequented the stage’s edge to get close to the audience, at one point even placing a hand on an audience member’s shoulder in a moment of fellowship. The night continued in this lively manner, a party atmosphere encouraged by A/J as he shouted, “Meet your neighbor, let’s have some fun!” The crowd had a straight-up dance party during “Cold Cold Man.” The only break in both the band and the crowd’s noise and movement-based display of enthusiasm was purposeful, and increased the evening’s air of togetherness: during “Ace In The Hole”, A/J had everyone in the crowd hold up and gently sway their phones’ flashlights to the rhythm.
“... WHAT SURPRISED ME ABOUT SAINT MOTEL IS THEIR ABILITY TO PUT ON A SHOW THAT IS BOLD ENOUGH TO ENTERTAIN, YET SIMULTANEOUSLY INTIMATE...”
The young crowd, mostly under 21, matched Saint Motel’s high energy. Highlights for crowd enthusiasm include singing along to “Honest Feedback” and “Stories”, and shout-singing to “Daydream/ Wetdream / Nightmare”, the lyrics “don’t wake up, wake up, wake up” echoing from all directions in the High Noon Saloon. Though every member of Saint Motel was knee-deep in animation (epitomized when they executed a synchronized jumping routine during “Puzzle Pieces” every time the chorus hit), A/J’s crowd connectivity was on another level.
To bring the show to a close, A/J fondly recalled playing by the water at the Memorial Union Terrace the last time Saint Motel was in Madison, and joked about the importance of cheese curds to his Wisconsin visits. The band made the crowd feel special by playing “At Least I Have Nothing” during the encore, a song which A/J explained they haven’t played in a long time. When the last chords faded and Saint Motel prepared to exit, Greg threw the set list into the hands of an eager fan. The night ended on a personal note with A/J saying “See you again soon,” as if saying goodbye to friends he’s known forever. I began the evening expecting theatrics, which I got, but what surprised me about Saint Motel is their ability to put on a show that is bold enough to entertain, yet simultaneously intimate enough to provide a sense of community among everyone present. It’s this combination that makes Saint Motel a band worth seeing live. y shaye GRAVES
PHOTOS COURTSEY OF ELAINE MENIGO
OH HELLO The Oh Hellos brought their infectious energy to a packed house on October 24 at the Majestic with down-to-earth charisma and charm. The Austin, Texas folk-rock group is best experienced live where their feisty, yet vulnerable songs crackle with emotion. Their typically mellow demeanor surges to life with the prominence of percussion. This balance between the abrasive and the delicate was mirrored in the two opening acts on Saturday night. Family and Friends brought enthusiasm and energy to their set, and ended with a brilliant cover of Outkast’s “Hey Yeah.” The second opener, Cereus Bright, added their backwater, Tennessee twang. Both groups were impressive and well-received — I wouldn’t be surprised to see either of them back in Madison soon. By the time the Oh Hellos ambled on stage, the Majestic was humming with people of all ages – dads in t-shirts, hairy men in flannel, high school girls in floral dresses. Lead singer and guitarist Tyler Heath opened the set soft and gentle and with little fanfare. As each member of the group joined in, the song was fleshed out with electric guitars, a banjo, an accordion, a violin and two drum sets. The sheer number of people on stage and the enthusiasm of the crowd echoed around the small venue like a chapel choir. It didn’t take long until the tranquil intro built to the lively “Eat You Alive”, with the crowd immediately joining the rapid clapping. The set contained a few songs off their newest album, Dear Wormwood, and although the album was only released on October 16, there were many in the crowd who already knew the words. The members of the band were visibly pleased, especially when they moved seamlessly into their most famous song, the tragic “Hello My Old Heart”, and were met with cheers. Part of the charm of the Oh Hellos’ live performance is the awkward, yet endearing banter. The group wasn’t afraid to take long breaks to make puns about cheese or to tease each other. “You might have already noticed that we’re pretty silly,” Heath mentioned apologetically. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
At that, the violinist interjected, “And neither should you!” But they clearly take their music seriously. Tracks like “I Was Wrong” that are polished on the record, became a stomping, fullbodied chorus when performed live. The members of the band danced chaotically around Heath and his sister Maggie, who stood motionless at stationary microphones. The duo are vocally jarring
“... THEY ENDED THE NIGHT WITH THEIR ARMS AROUND EACH OTHER, SWAYING AND HUMMING AS THE LIGHTS CAME UP.” — she is sickly sweet, he is course and melancholy — but after being in a band for four years, their voices fit together. The climax of the night was when the members of Family and Friends and Cereus Bright came back on stage for an intense rendition of “The Truth Is A Cave”. The musicians scrambled to set up the drums in the audience, and a tight ring quickly formed around them. One musician hoisted another up onto the side of the balcony. He frantically waved his arms to clear a place on the floor before jumping at least 25 feet. The stage was packed with more than 10 performers, and they ended the night with their arms around each other, swaying and humming as the lights came up. Each musician seemed overwhelmed by their reception here in Madison, and as Heath murmured into the microphone, “We’ll definitely be back soon.” y rose LUNDY
FATHER JOHN MISTY
BLESSES THE ORPHEUM
Do you like men with beards? Hm. What about the percussion section of Fleet Foxes? Most important: how do you feel about emotionally stirring yet incredibly complex (albeit potentially meaningless) snarky lyrics? And awesome indie folk/ rock/synth harmonies? Well, if you answered yes to some (preferably all) of the above, I have the show for you. On Sunday, September 20, Father John Misty took The Orpheum by storm. Kicking off his set with the title track of his latest album, I Love You Honeybear, Father John set the tone for the entire show: dancing around, jumping on and off the drum set, at times even lying on the ground. This is not your average performer. His performance is potentially the strangest live show I’ve ever experienced, yet it’s also absolutely hilarious and engaging. It Is everything you would hope it would be, given his music. Father John Misty, formerly of the band Fleet Foxes, is flying solo now, and this endeavor may just be (dare I say it) better than his original project. Lyrically, where Fleet Foxes is subtle and laid back, Father John is blunt and assertive. Musically, Father John is much more energetic and dynamic; you cannot drift off into his harmonies as with Fleet Foxes. They share a sense of cultural critique that is similar: a focus on problematic norms. Father John is just more... hilarious and weird about it. It’s “I’d rather be some functioning cog in some great machinery, serving something beyond me,” versus: “I’m just a little bored in the USA/ Save me white Jesus/ Just a little bored in the USA/ Save me President Jesus.”
Some highlights: “True Affection”, “I’m Writing A Novel”, “Holy Shit!”, and “Bored in the U.S.A.” — although musically, everything was executed excellently. The biggest highlight of Father John’s show, however, is not the music itself. Rather, it’s the aforementioned ‘strangeness’ Father John exudes: the perfectly-timed dance moves and witty comments, paired with a constant deadpan stare. “I’m gonna smear my eyebrow makeup. Did you know I actually don’t have eyebrows? They just CGI them in for videos.” I am 90 percent certain Father John is never serious about anything he says, and 100 percent certain he does not take himself or anything in life too seriously. And it’s great. At one point, I kid you not, Father John took a selfie-style video of himself performing, singing directly into the front camera of an audience member’s phone. He apparently does this often. Oh, to have made it to the front row. Crowd interaction was too perfect for words. One concert-goer brought a lemon, which was certainly appreciated as lemon juice helps keep his self proclaimed “zeitgeistey man-bun” in full form. Another audience member proclaimed, “I love you!” to which Father John replied, “I love you too. Just kidding, I really need some space right now.... No, I love you.” y ali GRIMES
The show, musically, was fantastic. Never overly indulgent, but always giving each and every song its due. For each song, lighting was perfectly timed to a flashing neon “No Photography” sign (framed within a heart).
PHOTOS COURTSEY OF NPR
LEAD A MUSICAL JOURNEY “Storytime with Colin Meloy,” could otherwise be known as The Decemberists concert at The Overture Center on September 30. Lead singer Meloy commanded the stage throughout the night to ultimately set the environment as less of a typical concert, and more of a musical journey. The evening began with Meloy alone on stage, reciting his makebelieve personal history through “My Mother Was a Chinese Trapeze Artist.” Through the rather dark imagery in the lyrics, Meloy skillfully portrayed the roots of The Decemberists in order to set the tone for the night. For those unfamiliar with songs by The Decemberists, they are full of beautiful imagery, folklore, and strong senses of mystical and even grim scenes to ultimately paint a tale of a far-off land in a far-off time. In simpler words, it was clear the goal of the night was to reflect the entirety of what the band has accomplished. Incorporating a mixture of songs from their early days, such as with “Crane Wife 3” and “O Valencia!” to their more recent works from The King is Dead (2011) and What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World (2015), the night never hit a lull. Additionally, the inherent personality of Meloy kept the audience quite attentive. At one point, Meloy went into a story about how songs are truly made. He discussed how they end up sounding rather profound, yet their origins are in the most mundane of daily tasks. As an example, he sang the melody to which he used to convince his son to eat oatmeal. The night moved on with major hits “Make You Better”, “All Arise!” and “Down By the Water”, in which The Decemberists fully displayed their talents as musicians and their overall great ability to play together in such a cohesive manner. They ended with “Chimbley Sweep”, an oldie from 2003, in which the band brought on a couple members of the audience for a guitar battle. This led to the literal collapse of the entire band, followed by Meloy taking hold of the stage as conductor to end the set. The Decemberists returned for not one, but two encores to truly demonstrate their love for Madison. Both encores fully honed in on the energy of the night. The first focused on a more extreme punk-rock style with songs from The Hazards of Love (2009) to heighten the show. Then, in contrast, the second encore was relatively low-key to finish off with a relaxed vibe. Concluding the show with “Dear Avery”, The Decemberists truly left a resonating sense of peace throughout the hall. Ultimately, The Decemberists fully demonstrated their ability to work together not only in an effort to create a musical sound, but also to guide the audience through the story behind the music. y PHOTOS COURTESY OF STAR TRIBUNE
SHOW SOME LOVE IN MADISON A beautiful fall day gave way to an enchanting night inside Madison’s Majestic Theater on September 26, 2015. After all, the Heartless Bastards were in town and they were there to make sure people remembered their name. The Cincinnati quartet are on the road promoting their fifth record, Restless Ones, and they took advantage of the eager Madison crowd to deliver a topnotch, old-fashioned rock’n’roll show. The British band, Alberta Cross, got the night started with their brand of heavy psychedelic rock. The band, which calls Brooklyn, New York home now, certainly took cues from their elders as they delivered a style reminiscent of early David Bowie and The Rolling Stones. The band certainly wasn’t shy performing in front of the nearly-full Majestic crowd, as the members dripped with an old-school swagger that garnered some new female fans. The band ran through songs that stretched through their three-album catalog, and also delivered some tracks from their soon-to-be released self titled record. The contagious energy and howling vocals from singer Petter Stakee was the ideal way to kick off the evening. The Heartless Bastards wasted no time taking the stage. It seemed that before the feedback from the guitars of Alberta Cross rang out, the members were taking the stage to a fervent response from the crowd. The band got things going with the title track off their third album, The Mountain, and was quick to find their groove as they moved through new songs, “Gates of Dawn,” and “Wind Up Bird.” Despite the band’s fairly deep catalog, it seems the new songs had already found a sense of comfort in the Bastards’ setlist. Showcasing eight of the ten songs on Restless Ones, the band’s confidence in their new material was justified, as they were the songs that seemed to resonate best with the audience. “No frills” easily explains the Heartless Bastards’ live demeanor. No distracting light show, clap-alongs or tired rock’n’roll rhetoric. Strictly business. When the band’s fearless leader, Erika Wennerstrom, did take the mic in between songs it was brief and leaned towards humorous asides or jesting jabs at her bandmates. Wennerstrom is one badass chick to say the least. Adorned in a sleeveless, black leather vest and waist length blonde hair, she makes for an intimidating presence onstage. And her soaring vocals and skillful guitar playing adds to her commanding spirit.
Wennerstrom delivers her brooding vocal lines with such strength and emphasis that you don’t dare take your eyes off of her. Her dominance over the stage is truly compelling. Musically, the Heartless Bastards are slightly difficult to categorize. While often compared to their fellow Ohioans, The Black Keys, the only similarities I see come in geographic location. Instrumentally, the band keeps things fairly simple, but in a harrowing way. There is something hypnotic about the swirling guitar sounds that are produced from Wennerstrom and lead guitarist Mark Nathan that is much amplified in a live setting. I find that the tracks of Restless Ones take this dynamic to a new level. Almost as if the music takes the form of a hurricane while Wennerstrom’s vocals act as the eye of the storm, which makes for a beautifully haunting sound. The timeline of the Bastard’s has followed the trajectory that every band strives for as each album continues to further exemplify what the band is all about. Unembellished at the surface, but upon digging you hear a flawlessly textured sound that wants to break out of the walls of the venue. What I found to be most enthralling and unique about the Heartless Bastards’ live experience was their ability to entrance the audience. As riled up as the crowd was as the band took the stage, as the show evolved, all distractions were left behind. No phones were out, no drunken ramblers, just a very engaged audience that showed their fervor between songs but listened keenly during them. I think this is a bit of a lost aspect in a lot of concerts today, and something I greatly appreciated being a part of. Captivation of the audience is what bands should be striving for, as opposed to whipping them into a frenzy. Between the Stevie Nicks-esche alluring nature of Erika Wennerstrom, the perfectly disorienting guitar sounds of Mark Nathan and the authoritative rhythm section of bassist Jesse Ebaugh and drummer Dave Colvin, the Heartless Bastards are an absolute force to be reckoned with. Their ability to hold the audience willingly captive and their no-bullshit attitude makes for an exemplary rock and roll show. Paired with the vibrant Alberta Cross, this Heartless Bastards show exceeded my expectations, which were pretty high. As the final notes rang out, the crowd were left trying to diagnose what exactly had happened up there on stage as they slowly shuffled out into the glowing fall night. y evan VERPLOEGH
ELECTRIFIES THE ORPHEUM
On a brisk summer night in September, the electro-rock duo Ratatat brought their enveloping instrumentals to Madison’s Orpheum Theatre. The duo of Mike Stroud (guitar, synthesizer) and Evan Mast (bass, synthesizer) has been touring under the name Ratatat since their Brooklyn beginnings in the early 2000s. Ratatat has supported acts like Vampire Weekend, Daft Punk, The Killers, Franz Ferdinand and Bjork, as well as contributing to tracks by Kid Cudi and CSS. Their own discography includes various remixes in addition to five full-length studio albums, the most recent being their 2015 release, Magnifique. Ratatat brought Magnifique’s melodious shimmer and powerful guitar punches to Madison with some unearthed older tracks to treat the audiences with a simply stellar evening. Starting off the evening was the New-York based, electronic producer Hot Sugar. His chilled-out, bass heavy beats can be likened to contemporaries like Giraffage and Flying Lotus. The steady bass lines had the heads of the anxious audience continually bobbing, however, the audience’s anticipation of Ratatat may have translated to disinterest during Hot Sugar’s set. With Hot Sugar’s exit and a quick resetting of the stage, Ratatat was ready for takeoff. The anticipation among the audience was high as smoke and darkness consumed the stage. The subwoofer rumbled the hall until finally the anticipation and hype reached its peak. The performers took to the stage that had abruptly burst in white-hot illumination, leaving the performers silhouetted to the blinded crowd. The duo then jumped straight into the bright, riffy rhythm of Magnifique’s “Pricks of Brightness” to get the crowd’s blood immediately rushing. Then, in true veterans of music fashion they played perhaps one of their biggest hits, “Loud Pipes” as their second song. The rhythmic pulsing of the song’s bass line fused perfectly with Stroud’s guitar strumming to be the ultimate crowd-pleaser. The song rang down upon the crowd like a true electro-rock anthem. The talented twosome alternated between the lush, melodious landscapes of Magnifique and the frenetic, distorted styling of their earlier albums (e.g. Ratatat, Classics, LP3 and LP4). As the band ripped through the set list, the virtuosity in their musicianship was quite evident. Massive songs like “Cream on Chrome” and “Lex” were expelled from Stroud and Mast forcefully while songs like “Supreme” seemed to float delicately from their fingertips.
“Supreme” showcased the sheer talent of Stroud who deftly worked the pedal steel guitar that added a twang of child-like whimsy to the performance. Mast was also very versatile in that he could alternate from a strong, rolling bass line to strumming on an Autoharp and then back into the bass groove, all within the same song. Perhaps the most remarkable and dazzling elements of the show came from the vibrant visuals that they have melded with their performance. From the first note played, the lights and lasers burst out from the stage like white lightning. Two large, transparent monoliths bookended the stage and served as board to which images of liquid gold falling on statues were projected. Other projections included projections of big, exotic cats during songs like “Wildcat” and images of tropical bird motif in the style found on their LP4 cover. The projections seemed to effortlessly meld into the lasers that cut through the hall. Working with the smoke machines, the lasers basked the hall in a kaleidoscope of color, as the sea of textured smoke wafted over the heads of the audience. Ratatat truly constructed an exciting and engaging environment in which you can experience their craft. The night culminated with a performance of “Seventeen Years” from Classics, and then, by order of the uproarious crowd, the duo enthusiastically took to the stage once more to perform their encore. To truly go out with a bang, an associate with the band allowed fans to file in to the front gate (where security usually holds their post) to get a face-to-face experience with the electronic virtuosos. The electro-duo proceeded to go to the front of the stage where two large drums were positioned for their last, epic song, “Shempi.” The performance partners pummeled the drums to a forceful rhythm before the song finally came to its peak. Stroud and Mast extended their hands to the crowd and immersed themselves in the crowd’s colossal praise. The electro-duo known as Ratatat came to Madison to do what they have been doing for years, creating an unforgettable environment in which their electronic rock instrumentals can properly be experiences. For a few hours, Ratatat transformed the Orpheum Theatre into a sanctuary full of brilliant light and harmonious hums that swathed its congregations. Ratatat have since continued their extensive tour, but the tones and melodies they performed that night linger on, until next time. y evan FLYNN
THE FRONT BOTTOMS After openers Elvis Depressedly and The Smith Street Band got the crowd ready to go up on Tuesday, Nov. 3 at the Majestic Theatre, the lights slowly dimmed and shadowy figures stepped on to the stage. The crowd was buzzing, waiting impatiently for the lights to come up. Suddenly, a loud whoosh came from the front of the room, and a spotlight shined to reveal a wacky arm-flailing tube man with the album art from The Front Bottom’s last album, Talon of the Hawk, painted on it. Shortly thereafter, the rest of the stage lights came back on and the Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey-based indie-punk quartet wowed the crowd with a passionate and exciting 20-song set. Old favorites like “Flashlight”, “Swimming Pool”, and “Maps” accompanied new music off the band’s September release Back on Top. Frontman Brian Sella opened the show by joking that that the band had prepared for the show by “eating cheese curds for literally every single meal” in the two days leading up to the performance, before launching into an energetic performance of “Flying Model Rockets”, The self-depreciating and sarcastic charm that emanates from The Front Bottoms’ studio performances was on full display throughout the show, as Sella also took breaks on several occasions to marvel at the 32-ounce cans of PBR apparently found only in Wisconsin, and to invite a woman from the audience on stage to sing “Au Revoir” with him, because she made a sign asking him to do so. While all of The Front Bottoms’ songs featured Sella singing and playing acoustic guitar, Tom Warren on bass, and Matt Uychich on drums, the multi-talented Ciaran O’Donnel switched between keyboard, trumpet, and electric guitar, often playing all three in one song. This flexibility allowed the band to produce a much bigger and fuller sound than an ordinary four-piece could. This was especially evident in songs like “Ginger,” which featured O’Donnel rapidly switching from guitar, to keyboard, then to trumpet during the
song’s climax. Sella’s distinct vocals were also a high point of the show. He is possibly the only singer I have heard live that sounded better in person than on a studio recording. Despite the obvious technical skill of O’Donnel, Sella, and the rest of the band, The Front Bottoms’ music relies heavily on power chords and simple melodies, much like the pop-punk predecessors that paved the way for them in the early 2000s. What really sets The Front Bottoms apart from other performers are their brutally honest, sometimes funny, and always relatable lyrics. Over the course of the night, the whole crowd sang along to a wide variety of material, from thought provoking lines like “Skeletons’” “When I’m sad, oh God I’m sad/ But when I’m happy, oh God I’m happy” to the infectiously fun chorus of “The Beers”, “I will remember that summer as the summer I was taking steroids/ because you like a man with muscles/ and I like you.” Rapper GDP made a guest appearance to perform his heartbreaking verse at the end of “Historic Cemetery,” one of the more somber and emotional moments of the show. After the verse ended, the crowd was dead silent, and blue stage lights shined down on the motionless band. The silence was finally broken by a chorus of “rapper air horns” and everyone in the building laughed as GDP walked back off the stage. The Front Bottoms saved their best for last, closing the show with their biggest song and the most memorable performance of the night. As soon as Sella struck the opening notes of “Twin Size Mattress,” the crowd went mad. A steady stream of crowd surfers were lifted up onto the stage, dancing around as long as possible before being nabbed by security, while the band never missed a beat. The mayhem surrounding the band went perfectly with the powerful lyrics Sella and the rest of the crowd were singing- “I want to contribute to the chaos/ I don’t want to watch, and then complain.” y alex LICHTENBERG
GRAPHIC COURTSEY OF DEVIANT ART
ALBUM RE VI EWS 32
All We Need, the debut album from 19-year-old Raury, mixes and mashes three separate genres — hip-hop, folk, and soul — into an indie-styled hip-hop. Raury is a budding talent whose use of bright, upbeat, often folky, melodies are slightly reminiscent of the early 70s flower power movement, while his unique blending of genres and introspective lyrics mark him as a modern analogue to a young André 3000. All We Need is an ambitious composition from a fresh face on the music scene who is attempting to carve out his own musical niche.
ALL WE NEED RAURY
Raury strays from modern hip hop themes, and instead chooses to tackle a diverse selection of ambitious topics. Interestingly, while Raury does criticize the world he does not show a touch of cynicism — everything is positive. The title song, “All We Need” asks “Who can save the world, my friend?”, and goes on later to say that we all need to pursue what we love. The album’s capstone, “Friends” featuring Tom Morello, urges for people to reach a hand out to those who need it, daring others to put the needs of others before themselves. In August of 2014 Raury joked that he envisioned All We Need sounding like a “World War III benefit concert.” As you sift through the 14-song album, you’ll find that he was not far off. With features from musical giants RZA and Tom Morello and emerging hip-hop artists Big K.R.I.T. and Key!, Raury puts out an impressive album on paper; however, his lyrics and the synthesis of his unique style are still a little off the mark. Raury’s All We Need did not live up to the prophecies of the music blogs, but that does not mean it wasn’t a success. Look for Raury to iron-out his flaws in his next album as he continues to grow and perfect his style. If he does that, get used to hearing the name Raury, because he’ll be around for a long time. y chris KAISER
If you are a Tumblr fanatic like myself, the name “Halsey” may ring a bell. There are many fandom blogs on the site that post Halsey lyrics on top of “aesthetically pleasing” photos and her feminist quotes are widely reblogged on the site. If you are not a Tumblr user, you may recognize Halsey from her radio hit, “New Americana”, or maybe because Halsey is one of the most buzzed about up-and-coming artists since Lorde. At only 21 years old, Halsey has a sound, stage presence and lyrical insight far beyond her years. Despite this, BADLANDS falls flat between the monotonous sound and mediocre cover of Johnny Cash in the deluxe edition.
BADLANDS BADLANDS HALSEY HALSEY
The album starts out with “Castle”, a dense song about Halsey’s quick rise to fame and how much she has to lose, while also touching on the ideas of patriarchy and swallowing her pride. “Castle” flows into “Hold Me Down”, a catchy chant about her inner demons that give her a voice and the criticism she faces for being different. Next up is “New Americana”, which has been hailed as a “generational anthem” with similarities to themes in Lorde’s “Royals” and Lana Del Rey’s sound. “Drive” serves as a metaphor that being distracted by the present can make you lose focus of the future, and “Roman Holiday” touches on running away to the big city for the first time with a love interest. At this point, all the songs begin to blend together in the same monotonous sound – a quiet intro with just Halsey’s powerful voice to a poppy and EDM-inspired chorus and a fade out outro. BADLANDS is a strong attempt to live up to the hype social media has created, but Halsey seems to crack under the pressure, producing the same sound 12 times in a row. On the other hand, her lyrics are profound and she certainly has a future in songwriting. y megan OPPERMAN
After two years, Youth Lagoon, the intriguing musical moniker of Idaho-native Trevor Powers, released his third full-length album. Compared to the kaleidoscopic and experimental sounds of his first two LPs, Savage Hills Ballroom is Youth Lagoon’s most cohesive project yet. As a whole, the album seems more in-tune with mainstream alternative, which may or may not be off-putting to longtime fans. Just as Powers’ intended, reducing the use of electronic manipulation allows Savage Hills Ballroom to showcase each individual instrument used on a track. Not to mention, with less reverb, Powers’ vocals are finally highlighted and listeners can really hear just how fragile and eerily almost-pre-pubescent Powers’ voice sounds.
SAVAGE HILLS BALL� ROOM YOUTH LAGOON
Standouts of the album include the piano-dominated “Highway Patrol Stun Gun” and “The Knower”, which features a chorale of trumpets backing percussion beats and Powers’ vocals. Without a doubt, “Free Me” is both the highlight of the album and one of Powers’ best tracks to date. Ultimately, Youth Lagoon’s new musical direction falls somewhere between a welcome change and a confusing transition away from a sound that had already worked so well for Powers. In other words, this sonical change hasn’t actually changed much for me as a listener and I appreciate Power’s music just as much now as on past albums. y lily HANSEN
Dopamine, the debut effort by BØRNS, brings a mix of 70s funk and 60s psychedelia to indie pop. His tunes vary from dreamy, cloud-watching sounds to shuffle step on the way to class beats, which is the perfect combination for his easy going style. BØRNS starts off on a high note with “10,000 Emerald Pools”, a falsetto-driven, poolside track with some guitar infusion. “All I need is you/ you’re all I need to breathe” rings through the track and in your head for hours after. This isn’t the only song where you can hear a California sound influence. “Dug My Heart” is a dreamy ode to the “one that got away” that isn’t the overdone cliché that many songs exploring this theme become.
BØRNS shows off his lyrical genius with the slow and steamy “American Money”. The song’s chorus is reminiscent of Lana Del Rey’s “National Anthem” with the additional synth sounds and secondary vocals. “Paradise, in your eyes/Green like American money” melody slowly drives through the song and BØRNS gets a chance to show off his guitar chops with a quick, gritty solo. Dopamine will make you want to don your bright paisley, butterfly-collared suit and strut down the city streets like Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever. BØRNS’ nostalgic, funk-based indie debut solidifies his unique sound and propels him into the forefront of alternative pop music. Dopamine is, simply put, fun to listen to. y katie THEIN
A bulk of music tends to fall in one of two major categories: there’s stuff that makes you feel, and there’s stuff that makes you forget. The dichotomy of intensifying emotions or drowning them out, and the latter rides the line between dishonesty and self-preservation. Enter V — brainchild of Nathan Williams-led Wavves — an album that isn’t out to make an argument or to take your mind off anything. The in-your-face brashness and brattiness assure listeners it’s still the same Wavves, if only a little bit grown-up, accepting. What makes this release so addicting is the nascent chaos beneath the surface. Pop influences will have listeners hooked instantly, but it’s more than a collection of catchy tracks. A shadow of self-destruction lives in lines Williams delivers like, “I’m getting off because I’m being used by you” in “Heart Attack”.
Pretending to have a good time is something Williams does well, especially on V. Sonically, it’s cleaner, tighter and more coherent than previous albums, but doesn’t sacrifice the signature grit and fuzz or the perpetual slightly high existence Wavves seems to lead. The record is a pleasure to listen to straight through, because on the surface everything’s good—it’s an unbearably catchy record. It’s only after a close listen that you realize you’re tapping your foot to lyrics like, “Try to have fun/ Try not to ruin it for everyone”. The tension between the lightness of sound and underlying pain is what brings depth and magnitude to V. V is the hazy response to the shit that will eventually plague everyone on earth — growing up, feeling old, hitting plateaus, missing someone. Williams seems to have found that the best course of action is to face it all head-on without any embellishments, and maybe even find some peace in the within your own turmoil. y mia SATO
SOPHIE, a key game player in the up-and-coming PC Music label, has begun to aid in pioneering a genre of chaotic pop music showcased in a sharp, spastic, high-pitched fashion. The erroneous use of glittery slams and blips guide SOPHIE’s sporadic, flinch-ridden, straight-from-space electronica in a bullet train to the future.
The newer half of the album gives a new element to SOPHIE that’s increasingly more faceted, progressive and likely to be from another dimension. Highlight “Vyzee” comes in with a bang after the lower key “MSMSMSM” and acts as the album’s most dance-driven, club-ready Ibiza jam. The sing-talk style in conjunction with the punching pulsation of the percussion delivers ample energy and euphoria, and it was here that made me stop and realize that it’s music from the future – something that would be ruling the airwaves years from now, something that’s ruling in an alternate dimension, something that’s too uncharted and refreshing to be classified as human. The steroid-driven glitch pop continues to intensify on the demonic and squelchy “L.O.V.E.” – beginning in a dissonant squeal with revisiting shrieks and a hellish drone-like chord progression, it takes a unexpected 180 several times to instead deliver a happy, blissful selection just to return to ear-scratching computerized static. The song takes an unlistenable concept and makes it broodingly thrilling in an ironic or hyperbolized way. The LP takes a head-jerking turn for the last time at the beautifully nostalgic “Just Like We Never Said Goodbye”, nearly reminiscent of an 80s love song (2080, that is). The abrasive, chaotic pop headlined in Product brings a lot of moments of excellence to the table and stands proudly atop the emerging electronica of the mid-2010s. y collin KIRK
Demi Lovato opens her latest album, Confident, with the lyrics “you’ve had me underrated.” By the song’s end, it is clear that she means it. The combination of unforgiving lyrics and profound vocals on Lovato’s fifth studio album shows that we just might have been underestimating Demi Lovato for years. The 23-year-old pop star extends her vocal range beyond four octaves and presents raw, self-written lyrics produced under her own record label launched earlier this year. Confident’s combination of pop, soul, and R&B introduces listeners to a versatile and innovative side of Lovato. The album begins strong with a full band of horns backing Lovato’s solid vocals before transferring into the summer buzz single, “Cool For The Summer.” Although the song’s seasonal lyrics have an expiration date, the instrumental backing is cutting-edge. As the album progresses, we hear more pop hits such as “Old Ways”, an edgy tribute to Lovato’s 2011 song “Skyscraper”, and “For You”, an 80s style power ballad.
CONFIDENT DEMI LOVATO
Only female artists accompany Lovato. “Kingdom Come”, the sixth song on the album, is a catchy and enjoyable song up until you hear a voice that isn’t Lovato’s say, “Iggz” and realize you’re about to experience an unexpected 45 seconds of Iggy Azalea. Similarly, “Waitin’ For You” features Grammy winning rapper Sirah and is quite the opposite of “Kingdom Come.” Lovato remains confident in the song, making sure everyone knows she handles all issues one-on-one, face-to-face. Maybe her backup dancer that she clocked in the face back in 2010 can vouch for the honesty of the lyrics, “Knuckles out with a guard in my mouth when you’re hungry for the next round.” Confident is an exceptional album from Demi Lovato. Like any pop album, it has its fillers and radio friendly songs. However, it’s the emotional rawness that proves Lovato’s music career is headed in the right direction: making music that showcases her unique and irreplaceable instrument. y ross SRODA
Miley Cyrus’ music career has been a roller coaster for those paying attention. From “teen pop sensation Hannah Montana,” to “that girl from Hannah Montana,” to “that crazy girl from Hannah Montana,” Cyrus finally separated herself from Disney with the release of Bangerz, a billboard-topping pop album released in 2013. Setting aside her tongue-wagging, scantily-clad antics, her Bangerz tour was the 16th highest-grossing tour of 2014. By the end of 2014, Cyrus became a successful pop star and redefined her public image following her defaming performance at the 2013 VMAs. That is, until the 2015 VMAs and a release of her latest album, Miley Cyrus and her Dead Petz.
MILEY CYRUS AND HER DEAD PETZ MILEY CYRUs
Dead Petz is stylistically what you’d expect from a weed-loving pop star collaborating with an old-school psychedelic rock band. The album immediately begins with the track “Dooo It!” and Cyrus yelling, “Yeah I smoke pot/ Yeah I love peace, but I don’t give a fuck/ I ain’t no hippie,” and lets you know from the get-go what themes to expect. At 23 tracks and about an hour and a half of track time, Dead Petz is a rather long ride that you’re going to need to prepare for. It keeps the variety alive by interweaving both psychedelic rock and dance pop tracks as well as themes about sex and weed with hopes and dreams. If you can get through the worst tracks, a few songs delve into the mind of Miley Cyrus and give listeners an inside look and a great dance beat. While the album itself may be a bit of a mess, what else to you expect for free? y kasey MARGELOFSKY
To label Rory Ferreira, a grand and personal poetic rapper hailing from the arising Milwaukee hiphop community and the altrap collective Hellfyre Club, as art rap may mislead, indicate that his style may seem frigid, rigid, and inaccessible. Instead, a strong contrary is true: Rory, aka Milo, with his recent release So The Flies Don’t Come makes a quirky and surprisingly somewhat accessible project that can yet only be labeled 100 percent properly as art rap. With So The Flies Don’t Come, Milo upturns his previous release entirely in terms of instrumentals, fleshing and stripping away the previous harsh electronics all the way down to a warm and urban hiphop/jazz vibe. The interplay between the new snug synths, downright smooth bass, and steady and popping drums can force even the most bitter person into a mild and mandatory headbob.
WITH SO THE FLIES DONt COME RORY FERREIRA
However, the instrumentation still flirts with many different areas while in this moderate bodymovingjazz confineexperimenting in tweaking the tension such as in “Re:Animist,” to tone play such as the squeezed and deep fuzz on the throbbing bass in “Yomilo,” to vigorlevels which increase to a lazyrapidity with the calmly flurried drums in the album’s closer “Song About A Raygunn.” Additional instrumentation glides in smoothly as well, complementing the whole music equation from Milo’s peculiar spokenword rap to the chilljazz backing. So The Flies Don’t Come cummulates to a great refresher of a rap album, introducing slews of irregularities in rap into a coolheaded and normally accessible listen. To call the project art rap may dehumanize it, when in reality the nature of it is that Milo rehumanizes it by making it an art rap album with mixings of chill jazz and of complex poetry that, in all, is completely human and innate to him. y mitchell EWALD
Oh yes, The Wood Brothers have done it again. The Nashville-based trio have released another heart-stirring, whiskey soaked record that encompasses exactly what they do best. In Paradise, the blues/americana act adds a touch of pizzazz and a little more distortion to their traditionally acoustic sound. But no charm is lost. If anything, The Wood Brothers have released their most thoughtful and ambitious album to date.
PARADISE WOOD BROTHERS
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Paradise kicks off with the driving “Singing to Strangers”. We get a taste of Chris Wood’s talented harmonica playing, which he seems to perform effortlessly while running up and down the neck of his upright bass. Oliver’s patented vocals dance over the upbeat tune before we get a little high-gain acoustic shreddage. This is about as hard-rocking as The Wood Brothers will get, and they pull it off quite nicely, making for a energetic album opener. The third track “Never and Always” is simply classic Wood Brothers. Chris’ buoyant bass sound bouncing in the background, Rix’s popping guitar strings and wood-slapping holding down the grove, and Oliver’s sorrowful, yet humorous and self-deprecating lyrics that just beg for your attention. I think “Never and Always” will end up holding up with songs like “Luckiest Man” and “Loaded” as timeless and quintessential Wood Brothers tracks. Oh yeah, it doesn’t hurt to have soon-to-be blues guitar legend, Derek Trucks, and his soulful wife, Susan Tedeschi as guests on the tune. If there is anything possible to criticize about this band, it is that they have stayed fairly close to their characteristic, peculiar roots-blues sound. And why shouldn’t they? It sounds good. But on Paradise we hear the band take some risks and hit some newfound highs. I can’t wait to hear these tunes in a live setting because, as you may have guessed, they are certainly a force to be reckoned with on stage. y evan VERPLOEGH
The sophomore effort of Scottish electro-pop group, CHVRCHES, starts with a bang, and barely lets up until the closing track. The record, released on September 25, could have easily fallen into the classically scary trap of the second album flop. A band that enjoyed as successful a debut as CHVRCHES did with The Bones of What You Believe (2013) could be tempted to either play it safe or change completely. However, CHVRCHES triumphantly avoids both of these risks by sticking to what they know.
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Much of Every Open Eye examines their newly public profile, especially that of lead singer, Lauren Mayberry. She has been vocal in recent years about the misogyny and violent threats she has received from online trolls. This issue is explored on the album’s strongest track, “Clearest Blue.” Mayberry sings, “Just another time I’m caught inside every open eye,” in reference to her new presence in the public. The track builds layers of pounding rhythms on top of weaving melodies and harmonies, demonstrating the band’s skill at structuring a song from the base up. The album’s main anthem comes on the second track, “Leave a Trace”, and embodies CHVRCHES newfound confidence and defiance. In a recent podcast interview, Mayberry said this album was a pivotal moment for the group in deciding how to address their critics. In response, Mayberry chants, “You had best believe/That you cannot build what I don’t need.” Clearly, Mayberry and her bandmates, Martin Doherty and Iain Cook, are not going to take anything sitting down. Every Open Eye is successful because it does not attempt to change the things that made CHVRCHES so popular in the first place: 80s synthesizers, heavy beats, and a pure, clear voice. They stick to what they do best and, as Mayberry states in “Make Them Gold”: “We will take the best parts of ourselves and make it gold.” I had high expectations for this album, and although Every Open Eye did not quite live up to all of them, it still is a tremendous performance from a band that sounds like no one else. y rose LUNDY
Slayer’s Repentless marks a massive turning point in the band’s 30+ year history. Repentless is the first album following the tragic death of founding member, guitarist, and songwriter Jeff Hanneman in 2013. We also see drummer Paul Bostaph’s return to again replace Dave Lombardo following his 2013 departure due to a contractual dispute.
Repentless is also Slayer’s first studio output since 2009’s World Painted Blood. With Hanneman’s absence, most songwriting has shifted to King who is known for more politically and religiously charged lyrical content. Gary Holt of Exodus fame has taken over Hanneman’s guitar work both on this album and in Slayer’s live shows. Repentless no doubt provides a heavy assault of familiar thrash metal, but will leave listeners wanting more. King’s lyrical content begins to get stale after the first few songs as he re-hashes the same anti-religion/society themes that we have heard on many past albums (we get it Kerry, you are not a fan of organized religion). The guitar riffs are still heavy as ever but don’t provide much in terms of memorable lines (e.g. “South of Heaven”). The album suffers from the lack of Hanneman’s creative input in lyrical content and songwriting. Gary Holt puts forth a valiant effort as new Slayer guitarist, although filling Hanneman’s shoes is ultimately impossible. Holt’s style is evident when he even provides *gasp* a never-before-seen harmonized guitar solo on the track “Cast the First Stone.” The album does include a song written by Hanneman (“Piano Wire”) that serves as a favorable tribute to the fallen guitarist. King also nods to days of Slayer passed in songs such as “Implode” with lyrics like “I’m pretty sure that god still hates us all.” In the end Repentless has its strong points that show that Slayer can still thrash pretty damn hard, but won’t go down as a very memorable album in the band’s catalogue. y james STRELOW