Page 1

FIVE CENT SOUND SPRING 2016

¢ 5


¢ 5

Volume 4 ◆ Spring 2016

Around the world EDITOR Suchita Chadha

WRITERS

EXECUTIVE BOARD EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Lindsey Gonzalez and Isabella Dionne, Clare Fuller (Fall 2015)

ASST. EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Nic Damasio (Fall 2015)

Annette Choi ◆ Maya Gandara Jacob Kornfeld ◆ Zoe Licata Sara Mae Henke

MARKETING DIRECTOR

live & local

Photography

EDITOR Michelle Krigsfield

WRITERS Haley Joseph ◆ Kat Westbrook Matt Benson ◆ Rachel Burke Alexandra Estrada

reviews EDITOR Rachel Fucci

WRITERS

Emma Weeks ◆ Annie Fell Emily Taylor ◆ Emily Kinzer Hayley Sherif ◆ Janii Yazon

Michelle Lavner, Nick Stalford and Samson Brody (Fall 2015)

EDITOR

entertainment & culture EDITOR

Meaghan McDonough, Sophie Schoenfield (Fall 2015)

WRITERS

Phillip Morgan ◆ Alexandra Rich Julia Summers ◆ Sarah Ruemenapp Brad Trumpfheller

features EDITOR

Jacob Cutler, Nick Stalford (Fall 2015)

Emily Anderson

PHOTOGRAPHERS

Liza Wagner ◆ Jess Filippone Marisa Dellatto ◆ Ross Cristientello

Sara Barber ◆ Delia Curtis Benjamin Frohman ◆ Nora Wilby

design team HEAD DESIGNER Cindy Luu

DESIGNERS Nicholas Burress ◆ Bella Bennett Samantha Harton

copyediting HEAD COPY EDITOR Madeline Poage

COPYEDITORS Dylan Pearl ◆ Casey Nugent Alyssa Nations

WRITERS

BLOG EDITOR

Lindsey Gonzalez and Isabella Dionne

ASST. EDITOR

Emily Kinzer

WRITERS Aidan Connelly ◆ Phillip Morgan Abigail Visco ◆ Lauren Lopez Cody Kenner ◆ Austin Weimer Nick Stalford


LETTER FROM THE EDIT

ORs

Hello friends,

Two years ago, we were living in a shoebox-sized room in Paramount. Isabella was a full-time copy editor for Five Cent Sound and occasional freelance writer for its blog, staying up all hours of the night to write the perfect concert and album reviews. Lindsey was a member of the blog staff, abusing her newfound power of the press to interview her favorite bands. As the year came to a close, the position of blog editor was up for grabs, and it wasn’t long after we got wind of this opportunity that we started plotting our takeover. We had big plans. Lindsey dreamed of color-coded schedules and meetings filled with fun-sized candy bars. Isabella couldn’t wait to start brainstorming with the staff. In the past year, our job as blog editors has been one of the most gratifying experiences we’ve had since joining this organization. We feel so blessed to have collaborated with such talented and passionate writers. As we say

goodbye to our blog family, we look forward to watching them grow under the lovely and talented Emily Kinzer. At the beginning of this semester, the responsibilities of being editors-in-chief fell into our laps. Isabella did her best to console Lindsey as she went a little mad with spreadsheets and ate too much candy. And before we knew it, the semester was almost over and it was time to print. Now, reader, you hold in your hands our first-ever double issue. This was no simple task, and there’s no way we could have completed this project without the hard work and dedication of our brilliant staff. Simply because they love music, our writers, editors, copy editors, photographers, and designers did everything within their talents to bring you this beautiful magazine. We wish you a pleasurable read in the pages to come.

Much love, Lindsey Gonzalez and Isabella Dionne


D N U O S T N E C E V I F UNEXPECTED

AND

BRIGHT, BOLD, LIVE & LOCAL

SUN KIL MOON: SOMERVILLE THEATER 10.7.15 RACHEL BURKE

4

JACK ROMANOV: TAKING BOSTON ONE DIVE BAR AT A TIME

KAT WESTBROOK

5

WRBB BLOCK PARTY

MATT BENSON

6-7

GENE SHINOZAKI: GOD OF CLICKS HAYLEY JOSEPH

8-9

HAYLEY JOSEPH

10-11

ALEXANDRA ESTRADA

12-13

ALLBE INTERVIEW

LYSTEN BOSTON: ONE WOMAN'S FIGHT TO REAWAKEN THE BOSTON UNDERGROUND SCENE

ENTERTAINMENT & CULTURE

GENDER IN THE GENRE: HIP-HOP LEADS THE WAY IN GENDER DIVERSITY SARAH RUEMENAPP

SEXUAL ASSAULT IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY ALEXANDRA RICH

14-15

JULIA SUMMERS

IN THE SHADOW OF THE CROSS BRAD TRUMPFHELLER

16-17

THE LEFT IS RIGHT: THE EVOLUTION OF POLITICALLY MINDED PUNK LYRICS PHILLIP MORGAN

FROM YOUTUBE TO THE RADIO

18-19

20-21

22-23

TRY REALLY HARD AND LET EVERYONE SEE: AUTHENTICITY IN THE AGE OF TWITTER ALEXANDRA RICH

24-25

PRIDE: FROM POP TO PUNK JULIA SUMMERS

26-27


FEATURES

LOVE YOU TOMORROW MARISA DELLATTO

THE RISE [AND FALL] OF SOUND CLOUD LIZA WAGNER

THE MIND AND MUSIC

28-29

30-31 32-33

ROSS CRISTANTIELLO

34-35

LIZA WAGNER

36-37

YEEZY TAUGHT ME

I JUST CALLED TO SAY “I LOVE YOU”

MARISA DELLATTO

ANNETTE CHOI

PIDGIN OPERA: BRINGING AFRICAN VOICE TO THE STAGE

ZOE LICATA

48-49

50-51

52-53

I'VE GOT THE DENGUE FEVER AND YOU SHOULD TOO JACOB KORNFELD

FINDING NEW ZEALAND'S IDENTITY THROUGH MUSIC ZOE LICATA

54-55

56-57

58-59

DIE ANTWOOD TAKES THE WORLD STAGE REPRESENTING “ZEF” STYLE MAYA GANDARA

42-43

PHOTO SPREAD

44-45

PHOTO SPREAD

46-47

CHERRY MELLOW, JACK NELSON

REVIEWS

WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE ANNIE FELL

61-63

EMILY KINZER

64-65

HALEY SHERIF

66-67

MEOW THE JEWELS: A PURRR-LEASANT SURPRISE

NEW JERSEY DIY'S CLAIM TO FAME: BACK ON TOP BY THE FRONT BOTTOMS EMILY TAYLOR

60-61

68-69

DIDN'T HE RAMBLE BY GLEN HANSARD EMMA WEEKS

70-71

REVIEWS STAFF

72-73

BOWIE BLUES

MOTH BY CHAIRLIFT

SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW, SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING BLUE SARA MAE HENKE

PHOTO SPREAD

JIVE MCFLY, BEN MUELLER AND THE LOW CEILINGS

HONEYMOON VIBRATIONS

FRENCH KISS: HOW FRENACE INFLUENCED PUNK ROCK CULTURE SARA MAE HENKE

TIM GAMACHE, MARC BABCOCK, STEPPING STONES

38-39

AROUND THE WORLD BITTER WORDS OF A STRANGE TONGUE: ASIANAMERICAN MUSIC

40-41

JESS FILIPPONE

JESS FILIPPONE

ALBUM TO ALBUM

THE PROBLEM WITH AGE RESTRICTIONS

JANII YAZON

74-75

EMILY TAYLOR

76-77

ANNIE FELL

78-79

THE “SLOW JAM” REVOLUTION: TELL ME I'M PRETTY BY CAGE THE ELEPHANT ANTI BY RIHANA

WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE BY VILLAGE EMMA WEEKS

EDITORS' PLAYLISTS // MAY 2016 CONCERT CALENDAR

80-81 82-83


LIVE & LOCAL SUN KIL MOON somerville theatre 10.7.15 BY RACHEL BURKE

W

hen a forty-eight-year-old man steps on stage—with a beer belly comparable to a suburban dad’s—the last thing one expects him to sing about is losing his virginity. This juxtaposition is just what Mark Kozelek has to offer the indie rock canon, and what his band Sun Kil Moon has contributed to music since their emergence in 2002. Lead by poet and composer Kozelek, former head runner of “The Red House Painters,” Sun Kil Moon delivered a viscerally shattering and punk-like version of their often somber recordings. Kozelek is the eclipsing figure of Sun Kil Moon, with the rest of the members mainly musical support for his eccentric storytelling. Kozelek is known for his autobiographical lyrics that often transpire tangentially, but also poetically. The honesty of his work is almost as captivating as his unique and borderline monotone delivery. The Somerville Theatre was nearly packed to capacity, the balcony and orchestra swollen with fans predom-

4

FIVE CENT SOUND

the Quietus inantly in their early forties, who perhaps relate most closely with Kozelek’s lyrics. A veteran of sorts in the music industry, Kozelek’s work with Sun Kil Moon illustrates events both presently and retrospectively, often focusing on his childhood in Massillon, Ohio. On Sun Kil Moon’s 2014 album Benji, two tracks explore the deaths of both his uncle and his second cousin in his stylistic and raw delivery. Sun Kil Moon performed both “Carissa” and “Truck Driver” during their October 7, 2015 show in Somerville, but took them in a slightly different direction than the album versions. While performing “Carissa,” guest drummer Steve Shelley, famously a member of Sonic Youth, infused a bit more of his punk rock style—especially towards the end of the track. This harder percussion combined with Kozelek’s almost unintelligible scream-o version of his usually tranquil text resulted in a very different experience than one would obtain from a first listening of the recorded album. Although the emotion-fueling

tracks like “Carissa” and “Truck Driver” is intense, the beauty and simplicity of Kozelek’s delivery leave that emotion uninhibited and more relatable, which is what many listeners find so encapsulating about his work. To say the least, it was surprising to hear Kozelek become so entrenched within the song as to nearly lose control of his elocution completely. This happened a few other times throughout the performance, notably on the tracks “Dogs” from Benji, and “The Possum” from Sun Kil Moon’s newest release, Universal Themes. On a cover of “The Weeping Song” by Nick Cave, Kozelek kept his performance clean, letting his haunting vocals vibrate through the crowd. Overall, the night was rich with a variety of Sun Kil Moon’s discography; versions of songs presented as the original to a tee, and others with an unexpected edge. The smorgasbord of Sun Kil Moon’s work, old and new, gritty and calm, was sure to leave every audience member with satisfied ears.


C

omposed of founding members Nick Aikens (vocals/ keyboard), Nico Renzulli (drums), Esteban Cajigas (bass), and newest member Mike Mirabella (guitar), Jack Romanov has been packing basements and dive bars since 2012—as well as Boston Pride Festival in 2015—with their self proclaimed “cornrock.” After parting ways with their original guitarist and joining up with Mirabella, a student at Emerson College, Jack Romanov released their second studio album, After Ignorance, Before the Start, in April 2015, while signed to Emerson’s Wax On Felt Records. The guys sat down to discuss their newest ventures, a recently signed distribution deal with Top Notch Records, and an upcoming music video for “Even the Homeless Have Wifi (And Blue Dreams).” The distribution deal came along in a really unexpected way. Renzulli said that a friend posted on Facebook that he had begun working for Top Notch Records. Taking a chance, Renzulli posted “Even the Homeless Have Wifi (And Blue Dreams)” on his friend’s wall. Garnering a positive response, Renzulli’s friend got into contact with the head of the production company about a distribution deal for the band’s sophomore album. A few weeks later, Mirabella and Renzulli got the call about a contract. When asked about any pros and cons that this deal would bring as opposed to self-releasing and promoting the album, Mirabella said, “They want to help us promote our album for a year, which is what we were going to do anyways. Technically, this is a financial loss, but since we aren’t making any huge money right now and they don’t want to change anything, just re-release with more hype, it worked out really well.” The deal allows the band to work on new music while having the official release of their album taken care of by Top Notch. There were very few downsides to the contract, and the label was more than happy to respond to any questions the band had. Luckily, the answers they provided were the answers that Jack Romanov wanted to hear. The only real restriction is that the band cannot release any new music while under contract, although they can play new songs at shows. In the meantime, the band began working on their upcoming music video for “Even the Homeless Have Wifi (And Blue Dreams).” The idea for the video primarily came from bassist Esteban Cajigas. At first, brainstorming was not going well, as there were a lot of issues with plot holes and cliches. After a late-night meeting and smoke break, the creative ball was put into Cajigas’ court, since he wrote the song. Cajigas had a lot to think about going into the video shoot planning. After sitting on this song for a little while, he got out of a long-term relationship, which prompted a return to his home state of Florida, where the song really came together. The challenge for Cajigas with this song was to “find new meanings” while also trying to keep it “fresh” during live performances. The production crew will be composed of all Emerson students, including producer Harry Brownstein and cinematographer Taylor Jarvis. After Cajigas sat down with director Amos Stillwell, the idea worked out rather quickly. “Even the Homeless Have Wifi (And Blue Dreams)” will be the single off After Ignorance, Before the Start, and it’s one of the band’s favorite songs. Vocalist Nick Aikens says that this song is “really representative of the whole album” because of its sound, and Mirabella loves it because, although it was already written by the time he joined, it was a song he

JACK ROMANOV Taking Boston One Dive Bar At A Time BY KAT WESTBROOK

MUSIC ALL ACCESS

got to play in the studio. The video was released on January 12, 2016 on Jack Romanov’s VEVO page. So far, no second video from this album has been discussed. Fundraising for the video was done mainly via Indiegogo, contributions from merchandise sales, and the band themselves. The guys are saving up money to buy a car in order to do wider tours, and have been happily surprised with how well their merch-for-tips strategy has been going. Instead of selling older merchandise at a set price, they have people donate what they feel they can, and have received a great response from fans at shows. As far as live shows in the future go, the band is excited for their winter break tour, specifically their Washington, D.C. date and a small date in Connecticut. Jack Romanov’s live shows are unique because they do not use a set list, but instead decide the first song and sometimes the last depending on time restraints. They’re thinking about doing a few more covers in the future, and about rewriting a few unreleased songs. Jack Romanov takes every show as a challenge to push themselves and to play the best set of the night, and with this continued growth, the Boston scene can expect big things from these local rockers.

SPRING2016 2016 SPRING

55


wrbbradio.org

T

he WRBB Block Party is one of the largest annual music events that Northeastern University hosts on its campus, featuring an outdoor concert stage within easy reach of Ruggles station. It consistently brings in rising popular acts, that students can see for free, as effective promotion for the student-run radio station. Northeastern has had an ambitious concert schedule over the last couple of years, with the last Block Party featuring YACHT, A Great Big Pile Of Leaves, and The Front Bottoms. This year, lo-fi local favorites LVL UP opened for Antarctigo Vespucci—a side project of Fake Problems’ Chris Farren and Bomb the Music Industry!’s Jeff Rosenstock—and Hop Along headlined a set that lasted a solid hour. The event is notable for its accessibility, particularly on a university that likes to host its impressive musical acts in strange corners that aren’t accessible to the public. This record includes Manchester Orchestra’s Andy Hull in

6

FIVE CENT SOUND

an on-campus chapel or using its Starbucks cafe/show venue “After Hours” to hold concerts for Neon Indian and Cloud Nothings. Planting a show stage in the school’s largest common with a full concert audio set-up is a testament to the logistical skills of WRBB organizers. The space transforms very well, even if the size of the stage felt disproportionate to the size of the crowd -- but it also made the entire show feel accordingly larger. Despite the professional production the students achieve, the show highlighted the university’s discomfort holding a concert that’s essentially open to the public. Security is not an unfamiliar presence at shows, but beyond the usual human barriers between the crowd and the stage, the level of security was escalated from previous years, particularly among attendees. It’s understandable that Northeastern (or any venue) has an interest in safety, but the presence of semi-plainsclothes private security officers mingling in


the crowd isn’t something I’ve ever seen at a show before. Given how impressive the event is and how it promotes student radio, it hopefully isn’t a sign of the event being closed off in the future. In any live show, the little things that happen between songs seem unimportant, but they’re a crucial element that ties the entire concert into a cohesive experience. It distinguishes a performance from an artist simply replaying their work to a crowd. This doesn’t have to be banter (though it usually is), and it’s space for the artist to establish a relationship with the people watching—good crowd-work communicates that the performer is comfortable up on stage and that the audience is in good hands. Ideally, the artist can use that good will to pivot to the next song, starting it out with the crowd already warmed-up. Conversely, in weaker acts, the music and filler are at odds— the audience is in a good place as a song ends, only for the front man to suck the energy out of the room with a lame joke. The crowd work at this year’s Block Party was awkward, and it wasn’t immediately clear why. All of the musicians involved have been touring for almost a decade or longer except LVL UP, who still aren’t strangers to live performances. The awkward back-andforth shouldn’t be laid entirely at the feet of any of the bands, though. The same audience that swayed and sang along to the music went mostly quiet when they were spoken to, half-mumbling out its responses and leaving the musicians onstage to struggle their way out of awkward silences. What follows, depending on the band, is either a somewhat salvaging anecdote or a pandering joke about drugs, because in case anybody forgot, we’re on a college campus, you guys! Despite what happened in between songs, the music was unaffected, and it was still obvious that many attending were fans. The performances were energetic and varied, particularly Frances Quinlan of Hop Along, who held the

stage alone for a couple of solos intermixed through the band’s set. If the awkwardness between songs was a glaring issue, the actual performances easily won the audience over, which speaks to the group’s touring experience. Hop Along’s set list was a mix of tracks from their latest album, Painted Shut, but crowd-favorites from their last album, Get Disowned, were also featured. The group struck a good balance between playing the songs as recorded and still having fun with them, turning them into special, dynamic performances, particularly with Quinlan’s solos. Despite the initial rockiness of the connection between the bands and audience, this year’s Block Party was a great time that I’m hoping to see again next year. Beyond popular talents like Hop Along or last year’s Front Bottoms, as a stage for rising acts like LVL UP, it’s one of the few free events in the city to feature that kind of emerging music on such a scale. It’s something that WRBB should be proud of, and it’s something that deserves to grow even more in the future.

SPRING 2016

GOOGLE

www.yardhawk.net

7


BY HAYLEY JOSEPH

B

y the way Gene Shinozaki carries himself with such a relaxed attitude, as well as his humbleness, one would never guess he once competed in Berlin for the Beatbox Battle World Championship title. His shaggy hair nearly falls into his eyes, and his facial hair comes in strong. He just seems like a relaxed, cheery guy. Yet Shinozaki is an artist--a musician in a genre that’s obscure to mainstream media, but has been making waves recently with people all over the world. Shinozaki, among many others, is an musician of the mouth--not vocals, but the little-known art form of beatboxing. Beatboxing has been around for decades, its origins dating all the way back to early American jazz and scat music. The ‘80s, though, introduced beatboxing to mainstream music. Some of the biggest names in beatboxing are also the earliest, looking back to 1985 with Doug E. Fresh and then in the ‘90s with Rahzel from the Roots. It wasn't much, but it had younger kids listening in, bobbing their heads and inspiring them to try a few beats of their own. That's how it was for Shinozaki, born in Claremont, California. His life has always been about the music, though he didn’t discover the magic of beatboxing until he was in college. Growing up, Shinozaki had always played music, training in piano and giving saxophone and guitar a try. His mother and uncle were both very influential on his music, his mother being the one to have him learn piano and his uncle teaching him guitar. His heart ended up on the drums, however, and throughout high school, Shinozaki was always more interested in playing music than paying attention in classes. So he continued to pursue music, moving all the way across the country to Boston to attend the Berklee College of Music for drumming. He enjoyed going to school in Boston;

8

FIVE CENT SOUND

i.ytimg.com he loved the city, and he joined a band called DC Wonder, playing guitar and singing. However, he still felt unfulfilled in life. "I just didn't really know what I was doing," he says. That was, until he found beatboxing. It was through mostly chance that he found out about the music form through videos on YouTube. One of the artists he first remembers watching is British beatboxer Reeps One, who popularized dubstep beatboxing. "I just remember watching him and thinking. . .I want to learn how to do that.” So he did. He followed his gut, quit school, and pursued his dream. Practicing tirelessly, Shinozaki built up his skills as a beatboxer and continued to live in Boston. In 2012, his name broke through audiences when he competed in the American Beatbox Championships in New York, and again in 2015 when he won the Grand Beatbox Battle in Switzerland. He also placed eighth in the Beatbox World Championships in Berlin, putting his name in the mouths of fans around the world. In just a few short years, Shinozaki was able to launch himself forward in the ranks of beatboxers, past others who had been performing for far longer than he had. "Anything is possible with your voice,” he says of how he learned to beatbox. His background as a musician and affinity for sound is what sets him apart from others in his craft. As a beatboxer, Shinozaki is known for his clicks, and he’s created a technique that’s entirely his own. He’s absolutely in love with the world, and that joy is evident in his performance--the way he moves and smiles and genuinely enjoys the art. Once Shinozaki had become established in the world of beatboxing, he was introduced to a huge community that, while supportive, was also trying to one up each other. "It's competitive, but it's like a loving family," Shinozaki says. Going to battles, he sees a lot of showmanship that beatbox-


ing is known for. Beatboxers are actors on the stage, and having a big personality is essential for a performance to keep the audience’s attention. Watching Shinozaki perform, audiences can see him interacting with the fans, playing along with them, encouraging them to get into his music. Working with other beatboxers like Kenny Urban has not only improved his skills as a beatboxer, but incorporated him into a strong community that he's never regretted joining. He's made close ties with other beatboxers both around the area and around the world. "I know I can go to almost any country and there'll be a beatboxer there I can meet up with." The universality of beatboxing has turned it into a global language used by all. Even though beatboxing technically originated in the United States, the rest of the world seems more taken to it, being incredibly popular in the United Kingdom as well as countries like Germany and Switzerland. While the American Beatbox Championship has only existed for five years, the World Beatbox Championship has been around since 2005. Gene hopes to make the scene back home bigger than it's ever been before. His involvement in beatboxing has gone beyond YouTube videos, marketing beatboxing as an entertaining genre that can be listened to by all. He's incorporated his vocal skills into the tracks of Emerson student Marshall McGee (‘17), a music producer whose work can be found on Soundcloud. McGee met Shinozaki through mutual friend Daniel Friedman, and the two naturally worked well together. “If I wanted Gene to give me something specific, all I had to do was describe a beat and seconds later we could sample it and turn it into something new,” McGee said of working with Shinozaki. Shinozaki "loved collaborating" with McGee and said that it's refreshing to work with musicians of other mediums. As he said, "You meet few beatboxers who started out as musicians, so they don't really know what they're doing besides making beats with their mouths. It's refreshing, working with artists who really know what's going on." Shinozaki believes that collaboration is an important aspect

of music, and without the constant influence of other artists pushing and inspiring them to do better, there would be no growth. Boston, being such an art and music hub for aspiring artists, has brought together local musicians such as Shinozaki and McGee to create some seriously original content. With all that Shinozaki has done the past few years, he shows .org no signs of slowing down--quite the nucssa opposite, in fact. He recently hosted the Boston Beatbox Competition at the Middle East nightclub, as well as an upcoming event with Sofar Sounds. Since the American Beatbox Championship has begun, it has always been curated by stage actor, musician, and beatboxer Chesney Snow. He was also the executive producer of the documentary “American Beatboxer,” which follows the story of some of the participants in the American Beatbox Championship. Snow, however, is leaving the championship to go on tour, and Shinozaki is stepping up in his place. At the moment, he’s organizing meetings for sponsorships with companies such as Red Bull to gather money for the next competition. "I plan to keep doing exactly what I'm doing," he said confidently. "Beatboxing has changed my life. But there's still a lot more to do. There's a lot more I need to explore with beatboxing itself, as well as myself." As competitions around the country grow, it’s clear that beatboxing is gaining speed in popularity with a more mainstream audience. “It’s only getting bigger, too,” Shinozaki said excitedly. “There’s kids who are learning who are going to be way better than all of us. And their little brothers in sixth, seventh grade, they’re hearing it too and they’re learning it even younger. I really believe it can only get bigger from here.” Shinozaki has had a hand in popularizing such a unique form of music, and along with other beatboxers, has shown that there are countless ways to blend beatboxing with real instruments and make it truly something special. Self-expression takes all forms, and Shinozaki has found that through beatboxing, with hundreds of thousands of others who find inspiration through their beloved artists.

SPRING 2016

9


AllBe INTERVIEW

BY HAYLEY JOSEPH

L

iving in a small Allston house are four members of the funk fusion band AllBe, a group fueled by Berklee talent and held strong through deep friendship. Despite their various backgrounds, the members of AllBe found each other through mutual connections and school. Several of them were working with different bands when they started playing with each other. “We had a lot of fun playing together,” says trumpeter Ryan Stanbury. It all began when Stanbury, guitarist AJ Jagganath, drummer Tyler Newson, and saxophonist Lomar Brown started playing together. Percussionist Lex Schmidt was in Africa at the time, but would later come to join them. Later on, PJ Duffy would come to be the band’s bassist, and Emerson student Leo Manzari (‘17) would join on vocals. “We started playing music in Allston basements. Mostly house party stuff,” says Manzari. The growth of AllBe comes from the recognition of talent that all the members had, combined with the desire to channel that talent into something meaningful. “It’s definitely been an evolution,” Stanbury says. Manzari, AllBe’s vocalist and only member from Emerson, explains how AllBe has helped him grow as a songwriter. “I’ve been writing lyrics since seventh grade. When I come [sic] across AllBe and I get to collaborate, it’s an honor to do that. Yes, we can all have vision, but if you don’t have the skill to back it up, what is it?” Manzari is known at Emerson more for his tap dancing, a skill he’s been honing for years, so his involvement in AllBe is less known. His vocals should not go unnoticed, however, as his singing and rapping talent brings

10

FIVE CENT SOUND

another element to the group and blends in effortlessly. Collaborating as much as they do, pulling everyone’s talents and tastes together, means that there’s a tendency to test the relationships between members. Many artists and musicians would butt heads over creative control, but that doesn’t seem to be much of an issue for AllBe. “We have a connection,” says Brown, “which is important because if there’s no connection to the people you’re playing with, why the hell are we doing whatever we do?” As for the name, AllBe came from the attitude the group embodies. “It’s come to mean all-encompassing to us, all-inclusive,” guitarist AJ Jagganath explains. “The style of music we play is wide.” The description couldn’t have been said better, as AllBe’s style is certainly diverse. It took a long time for AllBe to come into its own as a band. “We were basically in training for a year and half before we came out to the public as a band,” Manzari explains. Before that, it was a whole lot of basement shows covering other artists’ work. When the group decided to get serious about their work, and to really come together as a collaborative band, that extra time spent in the studio would prove to be worth it. Influenced by everyone’s individual tastes and experiences, the music that comes to life from each member’s talents produces an incredibly diverse and complex blend of genres, from R&B and hip-hop to rock and jazz. Stanbury describes it as an “open table”—that everyone who brought new ideas and sounds to the group was heard, and that they were always trying to incorporate those ideas into tracks. The


band’s single “We AllBe”, referred to as their theme song, is a powerfully positive piece with hints of hiphop, funk, and jazz that comes together naturally. “We come from a lot of different places, musically. We molded together into one product,” says Jagganath. Stanbury, nodding, adds that they are molded by what excites them. All of the work spent in the studio has been well worth it, with the release of AllBe’s debut album on October 23, 2015. When asked about their thoughts on the new album, Stanbury was the first to jump in and express his anticipation. “I’m extremely excited. I feel like it’s something that has been a long time coming for all of us.” Members who wrote on the album had a chance to tell their own unique story for every song. Stanbury’s song Timberhawk, for instance, tells the tale of an unfortunate skiing trip the band took in Killington, Vermont. Everything about the song, from its lyrics to its structure, all reflect that story and the events that took place. They even incorporate lyrics directly from a sign in their cabin’s kitchen, the slightly ominous words “it’s not the end of the world, but you can see it from here,” to take on a whole new meaning in context to their adventure. While the sounds and genres heard in the album may be a wide array, Stanbury made it clear that the message was the same. “We want this to be enjoyed,” he says. “We want people dancing.” Despite all the work they’ve been doing AllBe isn’t planning on slowing down at all soon. “We’re always in rehearsal thinking about what we can do next,” says Stanbury. With the release of their album, AllBe hopes to take their music further outside of Boston, and to tour around the East Coast. While individually, they have been able to take their music to various states, bassist PJ Duffy says, “as a group, we haven’t really taken our music outside Boston.” There have been many bands that come out of Allston, but AllBe has a flavor all their own, one that can set them apart from other groups. Though known on the Berkley and Emerson scenes, they have quite a bit more elbowroom to make their name known. With Manzari and Newson still in school as well, there is still so much to be thrown into this group. “Let’s be honest,” Brown cheerily announces from his Skype window, “school’s standing in the way of everything we do.” On that note, it seems that AllBe can only go up from here, continuing to improve and test their sound to create the best fusion of genres that they can. As a local band, AllBe has a lot of promise in the Boston area, but if their goals are achieved through this album release, their name will definitely be recognized outside of Allston.

ALL PHOTOS BY CLEVER BALAZS SANDALAZA

SPRING 2016

11


BY ALEXANDRA ESTRADA

M

onday February 8th’s performance at the Middle East Corner was Ice Cream Orphan’s first as a full band outside of their North Andover high school. Lead singer Cam Pulaski had reached out to Lysten Boston after noticing other local bands booking with the company. Lysten Boston’s owner, Alyssa Spector, manages the Middle East Corner’s calendar Monday and Wednesday nights and was able to give Ice Cream Orphan a slot there. Spector also gave the band complete control over their lineup, so Pulaski and bassist, Eric Ouellette, contacted Ricecrackers, a four-piece of Berklee sophomores. Ouellette, a long time fan of Ricecrackers, introduced Ice Cream Orphan to their music. Pulaski also contacted Fenn Macon through a Facebook group called Non Denominational Emo, which, according to Pulaski, “has over 3,000 members from all around the world who play/listen to Emo music and collaborate with others to create a community.” All three performers were included in the show Pulaski booked through Lysten Boston. On Monday night, Fenn Macon took to the stage first with songs that would be comfortable on the set list of a Front Bottoms concert. His shouted lyrics and energetic guitar play did little to pump up the nine people in the audience, but he delivered a solid performance in spite of the lackluster crowd with the help of a well received XX cover and an ode to Taco Bell called “Bell of Dreams”. Ice Cream Orphan came next and, despite it being their first performance together, they commanded the attention of the tiny crowd. Pulaski, although only a high school student, conducted himself with the professionalism of a seasoned performer. Ice Cream Orphan played seven original songs and Ouellette stepped in with the lead vocals for a cover of “Green Eyes” by Wavves. Following Ice Cream Orphan were Ricecrackers to close

12

FIVE CENT SOUND

out the show. Although vocalist Olivia’s lyrics were often drowned out by the music, the impact of her words was still felt in songs like recent single “5 Golden Rings”, which she described “as a way to say materialism and social climbing is not cool” after a falling out with a close friend. Ricecrackers also played the entirety of their Kolohe Kid EP from June of last year. Ricecrackers have booked through Lysten Boston before with the help of fellow Berklee student Keegan Farara of Red Mill. When asked about this trend, she tells me, “it’s as simple as that: friends book friends shows.” Alyssa Spector, founder, owner, manager, and the only employee of Lysten Boston, is keyed into this networking nature between local musicians. Though she herself is not a musician, Alyssa has always been involved in music as a listener. In Lysten’s early days, Alyssa was booking one show a month but through continued networking she has grown her business to the point where she books as many as five a week. Lysten has recently become a permanent booking agent for four local bands: Florio, Let’s Wait, Radclyffe Hall, and Le Roxy Pro. Her goal is to “bring together talented musicians and the city of Boston”. To do this she needs the cooperation of both the musicians and the city. The musicians have been pulling their weight for decades, creating a collaborative and supportive music scene that gave us acts like The Pixies and Aerosmith. But speak to the musicians and they’ll tell you the city isn’t doing their part. When asked about the livelihood of the local music scene, Alyssa said, “we do have a music scene here but it’s very limited unless you’re directly involved [as a musician, agent, etc.]” Locals don’t come out to see shows anymore. Pulaski of Ice Cream Orphan, and the mastermind behind Monday night’s lineup, said, “What I would like to see is peo-


ple who aren't just fans of the bands they go to see, but fans of the whole experience of going to see bands and discovering new artists that they love. I think this would create an environment that feels much more free… Audiences should challenge themselves. Go see bands you've never heard or go to a venue that you've never been to. You might [be] pleasantly surprised.” Anyone in the Boston area looking to take Cam Pulaski’s advice can find a list of affordable local shows months in advance on the Lysten Boston website, courtesy of Alyssa Spector. Alyssa also distributes a monthly newsletter regarding local music events. Lysten is doing everything in their power to make the Boston music scene accessible to the public. It’s up to local listeners to respond. The fate of up and coming bands like Fenn Macon, Ice Cream Orphan, and Ricecrackers lies in their participation.

face

boo

k.co

m/t

her

icec

rack

ers

face

m/IceCreamO book.co rpha face n

boo

k.co

m/i

amfl

orio


ENTERTAINMENT & CULTURE

Tumblr

14

FIVE CENT SOUND


F

lipping through the pages of Dazed’s fall 2015 issue, you’ll find him wearing a sheer dress with a tulle skirt. In another photo, he dons a clear plastic top that reads, “WARNING: EXPLICIT BEAUTY.” The following picture shows him lounging in a bubble bath. In the last image, he rests atop a sleek red vehicle in a leopard print robe. Atlanta rapper Young Thug broke the Internet with this spread. Twitter’s reaction to the shoot was varied. “This is gay and NOT fashion,” reads one tweet. One fan shot back, saying, “Y’all hating on Young Thug for how he dresses, but he said himself that every time he dress himself it goes viral.” In an interview with GQ, Young Thug said that women’s clothing makes up 90 percent of his wardrobe. “Women’s clothes are slimmer than men’s clothes,” he says. “They fit how they’re supposed to fit. Like a rock star.” Young Thug isn’t the first mainstream male rapper to experiment with skirts and dresses. Fashion-forward artists as big as Andre 3000, A$AP Rocky, yasiin bey, Wiz Khalifa, and Kanye West have too. But Young Thug’s bold choices, like his music video that portrays him hooking up with a copy of himself, reflect a more experimental attitude about gender presentation and sexuality, which has been made possible through increased gender diversity in hip-hop as a genre. Many are quick to label hip-hop as a genre filled with misogyny and sexism. And from the outside this judgment seems substantial. Popular music videos feature hypermasculine male rappers bragging about their spending power and aggression while surrounded by dancing women. Though such images are ripe with bad connotations, they are not only seen in the world of hip-hop. Almost all music and media is bogged down by sexism, homophobia, and misogyny. Still, culture prefers to attack these issues in hip-hop, probably because artists of color dominate the genre. But pigeonholing hip-hop as sexist ignores its diversity. Female artists, such as Nicki Minaj, Lil’ Kim, Eve, and Missy Elliott, express more open sexual agency through hip-hop than many other female public figures of various backgrounds. Even Eminem, who has been known to hinder progress within the genre, openly expresses homophobia and a penchant for violence against women. Today’s world of hip-hop is much

more complex and interesting than outsiders would have you believe. Beginning in 2012, the face of hip-hop changed forever. Pansexual rapper Angel Haze released two critically acclaimed mixtapes, Reservation and Classick, featuring a deeply personal exploration of the abuse they endured as a child in a song called “Cleanin’ Out My Closet.” A few years later, Angel Haze came out as agender, stating that they prefer the pronouns “they,” “them,” and “theirs.” In a statement to BuzzFeed, they said, “When I hear people use the word ‘her’ around me I’m like, ‘who are they talking about,’ you know?” Also in 2012, rapper Macklemore released “Same Love,” a heartfelt single that gently admonishes hip-hop culture, saying, “If I was gay / I would think hip-hop hates me.” But this track received a lot of pushback from LGBT artists, who believed Macklemore was capitalizing off the struggle for gay rights. Angel Haze eventually remixed “Same Love,” replacing Macklemore’s straight perspective with their own story of coming out. In July 2015, R&B artist Frank Ocean came out as bisexual, joining a growing list of LGBT hip-hop artists, including Le1f, Mykki Blanco, Syd tha Kid, Big Freedia, and Barf Troop. Hip-hop can no longer be confined by its adherence to the ideals of heterosexual masculinity. Queer artists, who disregard prescribed gender roles, won’t go unnoticed. Of course, critics were quick to lump these people together, calling “LGBT hip-hop” a novel genre. But many, like Mykki Blanco and Zebra Katz, continue to protest this label; it is too weak to accurately describe all the music stuffed into it. Hip-hop has always been a genre of revolution. It’s allowed marginalized people to challenge society through profound self-expression. Though cultural critics have long discredited hip-hop for instances of misogyny and heterosexism, today, many hip-hop artists are at the forefront of challenging racism, sexism, heteronormativity, and cisnormativity. And while existing power structures, like gender roles, still permeate hip-hop, these artists openly defy the gender binary to a large audience of excited listeners.

SPRING 2016

15


BY ALEXANDRA ESTRADA

O

n February 19, Kesha was denied the chance to leave her abuser after months of hoping she could be free. A judge in New York denied her preliminary injunction in a case involving her producer, Dr. Luke, whom she has accused of “sexual and drug related” assault. This injunction would have allowed her to work outside her contract with Dr. Luke while the case continued; since she first filed a complaint in October 2014, she has been unable to leave her record and publishing contracts with Dr. Luke’s record company and has

Indi-Visualist

16 16

FIVE CENT CENT SOUND SOUND FIVE

been unable to work with other music producers, publishers or record labels. In an affidavit, Kesha explained, “Dr. Luke has been tyrannical and abusive ever since our relationship began . . . I specifically remember him telling me that if I ever tried to get away from him for any reason that he would tie me up in litigation until my career was over.” Though there has been an outpouring of public support—with musicians from Adele to Miley Cyrus proclaiming their support for her and Taylor Swift donating $250,000 “to help with any of her financial needs during this trying

time”—there is the distinct possibility that she will continue to be held in this contract even after her full hearing, which will most likely not take place until 2017. What is even more alarming is that Kesha is not close to being the only female musician who has been forced to see her abuser continue to live and work with little to no consequences. It’s not hard to realize that what Kesha has gone through at the hands of an abuser is wrong, but why is her experience shared with so many other women in the music industry? Why isn’t this pervasive assault against women in music being addressed further? One of the most recent incidents of sexual assault in the indie music community involved Amber Coffman, vocalist and guitarist of the groups Dirty Projectors and Sleeping People. On January 19, Coffman posted a number of tweets accusing the founder of Life or Death PR firm, Heathcliff Berru, of sexually assaulting her. This lead to a number of other women coming forth and sharing their similar experiences with him: Yasmine Kittles of the electronic duo Tearist, singer Angel Deradoorian, former MTV host Shirley Braha, and publicist Beth Martinez also came forward with their stories. Later, bands that were represented by Berru, such as DIIV and D’Angelo, announced that they were no longer under his management and about a day later Berru stepped down as CEO of Life or Death. While this is positive and a large step in the right the direction when it comes to addressing assault against women, the problem is that a month later this event has been all but erased from the consciousness of the music community.


“Dr. Luke has been tyrannical and abusive ever since our relationship began . . . I specifically remember him telling me that if I ever tried to get away from him for any reason that he would tie me up in litigation until my career was over.” -Kesha Billboard Berru’s statement concerning the incident, written days after he stepped down, also points to what is wrong in the music community. He wrote, “There have been several reports about my alleged inappropriate behavior which deserve a response…If I crossed the line of decency or respectfulness in situations when I was drunk and under the influence, there is no excuse of course.” That Berru chose to write “alleged” behavior and that he paints the problem as a result of his drinking allows him to deflect some of the blame and “rationalizes his behavior” as he claims he was “under the influence”. And by not completely owning up to his actions and making himself come across as a victim, he minimizes the painful and possibly traumatizing experiences of the women he has assaulted. This situation is currently being mirrored in Kesha’s case, but to a larger degree. An important difference is that Dr. Luke has refuted all of Kesha’s allegations, as he wrote on Twitter on February 22, 3 days after Kesha’s injunction was denied, “I didn’t rape Kesha and I have never had sex with her . . . It’s sad that she would turn a contract negotiation into something so horrendous and untrue.” In a higher profile case such as this, it makes sense that it is moving slowly and that the

accused did not immediately come forward and admit to any wrongdoing. But if the trajectory of this case progresses in the way it has been, it may be likely that Dr. Luke will not face the legal consequences he deserves. Berru and Dr. Luke are not the first to be accused of sexual assault and face minimal consequences. In the future, possibly only even a few years from now, they will most likely be able to live a normal life. It is more than likely that they, and especially Berru, will not face the long-term consequences that they should. Though Berru has had to answer for himself in the short term and Dr. Luke will have to further address Kesha’s accusations at some point, they will, like many other men in the music industry, most likely be able to move on with their lives in the future. But why? Because: even though think pieces on the mistreatment of women in the music industry have poured in every other week for the past year, the climate that lets these men get away with whatever they want with has not fundamentally changed. So is there any way to address this? While there are certainly no perfect solutions, there is one group of people that have more power to make a difference but typically do not exercise it: men. As men dominate the music industry and are typically the highest

paid—both from the music side and from the corporate side—if men were to speak up against abuse and assault when it happens and prove that they are not willing to tolerate it, this climate of no consequences for men might begin to dissipate. As Coffman wrote toward the end of her series of tweets about Berru, “Tired of sketchy ass dudes and sexual predators getting a pass from their ‘bros.’ Grow a spine and hold your friends accountable.” Perhaps if this becomes the norm, the number of incidents where men get away with sexual assault or abuse will shrink. Back to Kesha: as more of her hearings come up, it is important for this to be written about and discussed more. But it is also important for men in the industry to raise their voices; though some, like Jack Antonoff of Bleachers and producer Zedd have publicly offered support, many more men need to come forth to make a bigger difference. Ideally, women would be able to accomplish major change by themselves, but as the most powerful positions continue to be occupied by men, men need to work for change as well if anything is to be done. It should not always fall to women to address important issues that disproportionately affect them; as the #FreeKesha movement continues, hopefully the men will come forward.

SPRING SPRING2016 2016

17 17


Wikipedia Rolling Stone

E

ver since Johnny Rotten declared anarchy in the United Kingdom and Jello Biafra told the Nazi Punks to fuck off, writers from all branches of the punk family tree have dabbled with politically and socially conscious lyrics to the point that it’s considered a staple of the music by many outsiders. When examined on a deeper level, however, few actually speak to real issues or attempt to deliver a nuanced, insightful message. The majority of songs don’t venture beyond ranting about how terrible the government is for being the government. The Sex Pistols biggest hit, “Anarchy in the U.K.,” has Johnny Rotten proclaiming over and over, “I wanna be anarchy.” But he never bothers to include why that would be better than the current system. Perhaps he assumed all his fans were really into Lord of the Flies and hadn’t read the ending yet. Meanwhile, Green Day, widely considered the Walmart of punk rock, claims that American Idiot a critique of Bush’s first administration that wore its flagrant anti-government

18

FIVE CENT SOUND

GOOGLE

stance like a badge of honor. Still, it does nothing but point fingers at abstract concepts of authority and scream, “This is all your fault!” Frontman Billy Joe Armstrong opens the record defiant against a “redneck agenda” while conveniently ignoring the fact that there were plenty of politicians on both sides of the spectrum who supported the invasion of the Middle East. Sure, they inject a hefty amount of raw aggression and catchy melodies to empower their finger-pointing and unabashed partisanship, but at the end of the day the most fleshed-out idea they bring to the table translates roughly to, “Everything is awful so burn everything.” But there are plenty of examples showcasing bands who champion their sociopolitical musings and actually have something thoughtful to say. The earliest example is probably The Clash. More or less The Sex Pistols but with a fully defined ethos and awareness of key issues, The Clash pioneered lyricism that challenged the listener and the corrupt system they lived in. They wrote songs like “Lost in the

Supermarket” that openly criticizes consumerism, saying, “I’m all lost in the supermarket / I can no longer shop happily / I came in here for that special offer / A guaranteed personality.” In tying their politics with personal connections and anecdotes, The Clash showcases a cause-andeffect relationship between the public and their systemic oppression, forcing the listener to question if they too get lost in the capitalist daze of sales and markdowns. But this isn’t to say that addressing the crowd and invoking a “we” mentality is inherently limiting. While typically considered more of an emo/punk band, Desaparecidos’ newest album, Payola, is built on a manifesto. The cover art features a blackedout government document with an Illuminati symbol at the top—in case you were unsure of their intentions. A majority of the album is geared toward addressing the problem of America’s ever-increasing economic inequality. Frontman Conor Oberst channels the angst of the common man whose dreams of financial stability and a self-


fulfilling existence are slipping further and further away. But while Green Day simply shouted about the problem, Desaparecidos articulates exactly who they feel is the source of the issue and why, saying, “It’s a frat house full of silver spoons / Watching pornography of busts and booms / It’s a locker room of CEOs / Telling dirty jokes.” Here the populist approach is effective because Desaparecidos zero in on how the 99 percent have been abused by businesses controlling politics through money, rather than ranting about how businessmen are evil on virtue of being businessmen. It might come off as finger-pointing, but this time the band has insight and experience to back them up. While most bands in the political vein cover larger issues affecting the general population, some have opted for a more precise approach, tackling individual events and how they reflect society’s flaws. One of the last songs released by ‘90s post-hardcore legends At the Drive-In was “Invalid Litter Dept.,” which speaks to the Juárez Murders, a series of rapes and murders

of women working at maquiladoras (assembly factories) in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. When the song opens, frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala charges in with frantic spoken-word that calls out the inaction of the Federales in the area, and each verse is coupled with the haunting refrain of “dancin’ on the corpses ashes.” More recently, indie/emo collective The World is a Beautiful Place (TWIABP) and I am No Longer Afraid to Die released a song featuring the corruption of Juárez law enforcement called “January 10th 2014.” The song reflects on the saga of Diana, the Hunter of Bus Drivers, a local folk heroine who shot two male bus drivers with a bow and arrow in retaliation for rampant sexual abuse of female passengers and the general collusion of local authorities. But while At the Drive-In took a decisive stand against the Federales, TWIABP takes a sympathetic but non-partisan approach, acknowledging the women of the town’s desperate need for a symbol of hope in their plight and conceding that the lionization of someone who murdered

without evidence of wrongdoing is problematic, saying, “This is a duel and she won / Congratulate her, send her thanks / ‘How great that someone’s doing what many of us should have done’ / Put up a statue of the new killer out of chains in the waxing moon / Do you see my shadow off the stake? / Are you Diana, the Hunter?” While not every political stance a band takes has to be hyper-specific to maintain its vitality, TWIABP could be setting a precedent for how the punk community can address issues on a deeper level. Anger at those who you’ve felt have done wrong is at this point expected given punk’s tendency toward raw, emotionally charged lyrics. The next step is to channel that rage, examine everyone involved, and confront all facets of the problem. Regardless of using a populist or personal approach, it’s time bands that claim political awareness on the whole seriously consider who and why they’re pointing their fingers of indignation at. It’s fine to yell “I’m angry at the government,” but it doesn’t mean much until you say why.

SPRING 2016

19


I

n the 80’s, you heard your music through the radio and MTV. The teenagers of the past only knew their favorite musicians’ images through music videos, having to buy records and tapes of albums. As time has passed, musicians have become more accessible. Thanks to the Internet, we have never ending artists and music. From Justin Bieber to Troye Sivan, YouTube has produced many names we hear today. When it comes to Internet-famous musicians, we have different breeds. In 2001, MySpace- birthed artists like Panic! at the Disco, Sean Kingston or Adele. Then in the later 2000’s, we had the “I was discovered on YouTube” acts like Justin Beiber, Gotye or Rebecca Black. But now, the trend is moving towards acts who become famous through their you YouTube following, like Alex Day, Karmin, Alessia Cara, or more recently, Australian vlogger, Troye Sivan. Troye posted his first video in 2007, a simple cover of “Tell Me Why” by UK singer Declan Galbraith. But it was not until 2012, when he began posting vlogs on his channel, that he gained a steady following. He would

20

FIVE CENT SOUND

GOOGLE talk about his life, collaborate with other YouTubers, and share original music with his followers. Sivan gathered 27,000 subscribers in his five years since joining YouTube in 2007. As of October 2015, Sivan has over 3.6 million subscribers, and over 213 million total views across his YouTube videos. Troye is not only an internetfamous blogger, but now a reallife celebrity. His new album, Blue Neighbourhood, was released on December 4, 2015, and has since peaked within the top ten albums in both Australia and the U.S. While Blue Neighbourhood has essentially launched his career and a worldwide sold-out concert tour, his music career began long before. Troye has been performing since he was a kid at talent shows in Australia, but it was his growing YouTube fame that skyrocketed his singing career. He would regularly poster original songs and music videos on his channel, but what really boosted his international popularity was a song he wrote named “The Fault in Our Stars,” which was inspired by the John Green novel of the same title.

Troye released a six song EP titled TRXYE, which featured “The Fault in Our Stars,” and his popular single, “Happy Little Pill,” in August, 2014. Not only was he immensely popular on the Internet, but he had broken into mainstream media, a perfect segue into creating his first full-length album. He has released singles such as “Youth” and “Fools,” which have been driving his current music career. While Troye’s fame was launched by his persona online, other Internetfamous pulled themselves to success with one hit. Karmin is an American pop duo whose popularity was launched by their cover of Chris Brown’s “Look at Me Now.” Amy Heidemann and Nick Noonan, the creators of Karmin, were signed to Epic Records in 2011, purely based on the popularity of their covers. Unlike Troye Sivan, the couple did not have a huge following, and did not write original music until they were signed to a label. Although their label did help them produce a few mainstream songs, it was not enough. While Karmin have split from their label, other internet-famous musicians cling to their labels. Recently, we have been hearing


American Songwriter a lot about Canadian teenager and singer, Shawn Mendes. His debut single, “Stitches,” has been playing on the radio constantly, but where did he come from? Mendes’ popularity can be credited to the Vine app, as he has been posting 6-second song covers since 2013. By the time music producer Andrew Gertler found him in January 2015, Mendes was already the third most popular musician on Vine. His first full-length album, Handwritten, was released in April of 2015, debuting number one on the Billboard 200 list in its first week. “Stitches” has been in the top ten of the U.S. and Canadian charts, peaking at number one in the U.K. His internet fame even added him to Time’s “25 Most Influential Teens” of 2014 and 2015, and earned him a brief appearance on the CW’s postapocalyptic teen drama, The 100. While more modern internetfamous people are found from within the depths of Youtube, and sometimes Vine, we are forgetting one of the classics: MySpace. Before YouTube became the most popular video-sharing site, the Internet had MySpace, the originator of many original artists. We can thank the early social media site for

one of the most influential rappers of our time: Nicki Minaj. Minaj began posting her demos on the site starting in 2005. In 2007, she was signed to Dirty Money Entertainment. She released several albums, but didn’t break through until 2010 with her album Pink Friday. The single “Super Bass” peaked at number three of the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. She released Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded in April 2012, the lead single “Starships” becoming the fifth bestselling single of 2012. The Pinkprint is her third album, released in 2014, kicking off her third world tour. Her most popular single, “Anaconda,” became her highest charting single in America, the music video setting a record of 19.6 million views on YouTube in its first 24 hours of release. Nicki Minaj is not the only influential female discovered on MySpace. Adele, Britain’s true love, was discovered 4 months after her graduation from BRIT School for Performing Arts and Technology in 2006. Her friend posted one of her demos on MySpace, found by Richard Russell of XL Recordings. He signed her onto his label the same year. She recorded 19, but did not reach popularity until her breakthrough song, “Hometown Glory” in October 2007. Adele has become a staple in modern pop culture. As we all know, she came back recently with her new album, 25, and the new classic, “Hello.” Where would we be without MySpace? No Panic! at the Disco, no Avicii, no Sean Kingston, no Jessie J, no Nicki and no Adele. When we look back at pop culture, what is the difference between modern and say, thirty years ago? Style, yes. Accessibility, yes. But also the amount of people that weave in and out of our pop culture. The Internet has made it easier than ever to perform for a huge audience. Musicians used to have to play in bars and hope to get noticed. The most accessible artists in 80’s were those that appeared on MTV. Now you simply have to upload a video onto the Internet and hope that someone sees it. From sound clips on MySpace, to full-length covers on YouTube, to even the 6-second sound bites on Vine, you could earn yourself a record deal.

Time

SPRING SPRING2016 2016

21 21


I

n most discussions of the modern strains of baroque-pop and folk music, the name Sufjan Stevens is nearly unavoidable. In a career spanning the past decade, Stevens has managed to carve out his own section of what will assuredly become the modern indie canon. In 2003 and 2004, Stevens released the albums Michigan and Seven Swans back to back, bringing him into the radar of fans of the burgeoning new genre of “indie rock” and receiving acclaim from independent music journals like Pitchfork and Stereogum. In 2005, the release of his album Illinois catapulted Stevens to the forefront of the indie scene. Across its length of 22 tracks, Illinois catalogues Stevens’s relationship with its eponymous US state. Upon release, the album was heralded as Stevens’s masterpiece, receiving widespread critical acclaim, and went on to top multiple “best of” lists by Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, and NPR. Stevens didn’t release another full-length studio album until 2010’s Age of Adz, which saw a massive shift in the type of music he was creating. Adz focuses its 11-track length on the sonic qualities of anxiety, incorporating electronic experimentation and synths. In that five year gap between albums, Stevens went from blending indie pop with chamber-folk to this radically different digital style. Taking another five-year break following the release of Adz, Sufjan relegated his attention to side projects. Then, in March of 2015, Stevens released the album Carrie & Lowell, which centers around the sickness and eventual death of his mother in 2012. Stripped of baroque instrumentation and electric mayhem, Carrie & Lowell is just the bare essentials: Stevens’s voice, a guitar or piano, and his heartbreaking stories.

22

FIVE CENT SOUND

Despite all of the praise and accolades, Stevens has received in the past decade, the most surprising aspect of his music is how often he uses overt themes of Christianity and God. To many listeners, the notion of “Christian music” is very much based in proselytizing—converting its listeners, often at the expense of creating meaningful art. How then, does Stevens reconcile his blatant religious influences with managing commercial and artistic success? His first major album, Michigan, only lightly approaches these Christian themes. Through much of the first half of the record, Christianity is present only as an ethos. God is not explicitly present in the lyrics, but the sense of conservatism and quiet grace that underpins the song ‘The Upper Peninsula’ resounds with models of traditional Midwestern Christianity. The speaker here remembers their mother: “She smoked in her room and colored her hair / I was ashamed of her.” Only on the album’s second half does Stevens begin to directly grapple with faith and religion—and never in a way that feels as though it is being forced into the music. In some way, perhaps Michigan acted as a testing of the waters. Released in the following year, Seven Swans, on the other hand shows Stevens throwing himself into this intersection of the religious. Still perhaps Stevens’s most topically religious album to date, each of Seven Swans’ 11 tracks is dedicated to discussing God and the Bible. The first track ‘All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands’—the title itself a direct quote from the Book of Isaiah—features the speaker eagerly awaiting the second coming of Jesus Christ. Stevens also presents more human and perhaps even personal stories as he does in Michigan. Early

on we get the song ‘In the Devil’s Territory,’ a story about a child turning to sin, implying that because of this, “the beast will arrive in time”. This use of imagery of biblical apocalypse displays the fear that can occur as a result of strong beliefs. This idea of fear as an undercurrent of faith in Christianity persists in Steven’s subsequent and breakout album, Illinois. Religion plays a much darker role here, with songs such as the infamously morose track ‘Casimir Pulaski Day,’ describing the speaker’s relationship with a girl who is dying of bone cancer. The speaker laments after the girl’s death, pointing out the “. . . complications when I see His face / in the morning in the window”. This creates a sort of crisis of faith: the speaker doesn’t know how to reconcile this intense suffering he feels with his idea of a Christian God. Then, at the end of the album, in the song ‘Seer’s Tower,’ we see more direct allusions


ChartGOOGLE Attack to the book of Revelations and the apocalyptic prophecies of the Bible. The apocalyptic finds no better home in Stevens’s oeuvre than the 2010 release Age of Adz. Rooted in electronics and experimental composition techniques, Adz, in Stevens’s own words, centers around themes of “love, sex, death, disease, illness, anxiety, and suicide.” To this end, we see Stevens employ several references to God as a means of further complicating the narrative voice of the album’s anxieties. Adz is, at its core, a personal album – the degree of its honesty is up for debate, but it is clear that Stevens is addressing some level of his own personal history with anxiety and love. It is that same personal history shines through even more notably in his follow-up to Adz, 2015’s acclaimed album Carrie & Lowell. In an interview with Pitchfork magazine, Stevens described the process of making Carrie & Lowell as

“necessary for me to do in the wake of my mother’s death — to pursue a sense of peace and serenity in spite of suffering.” Released three years after the passing, the album threatens to break under the weight of Stevens’ grief—even the acoustic ballads about his childhood Oregon summers are tinged with a sadness. The childhood memories are clear in the lyricism here, as are Stevens’ religious beliefs—this album is Stevens laying himself bare in every way. In the song “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross,” Stevens offers a look into his personal religious life – he is trying to turn to God & Christ for consolation, yet finds “no shade” in that image of the cross. This is no attempt at conversion; to Stevens, that idea is wholly foreign. God is never crowbarred into songs where religion doesn’t belong—Stevens knows when to keep the Christian themes and ideas sparse, and when to lay them out for the listener.

At his core, Stevens is a personal musician. He tells elaborate, researched stories about the history of Illinois; then in the same breath tells you about the time he fell in love in the suburbs of Chicago at a young age. His Christianity, his relationship with God—these are as much a part of him that deserve to be explored in his music as the state of the working class in Michigan. “It’s not so much that faith influences us,” Stevens explains in a 2006 interview. “As it lives in us. In every circumstance, I am living and moving and being.” To Stevens, all of his music is religious, because he is religious. He couples that honesty about himself with inventive and often non-traditional musical elements to create these beautiful works of art that just as often speak of sorrow and strife as they do God and Christ. His music is an extension of himself - and in himself, Stevens has managed to find success.

SPRING 2016

23


BY ALEXANDRA RICH MITSKI

T

Indi-Visualist

24 24

FIVE CENT CENT SOUND SOUND FIVE

he only porn I will ever be down with is the POV [point of view] video for One Direction’s ‘Night Changes,’” tweeted Mitski on February 15, 2015. Mitski’s Twitter brand is fascinating. It’s also the means through which many come to know her music. She offers followers mix of funny and insightful comments, moving sentiments, and observations like “Fuck effortlessness. Fuck that. Try really hard and let everyone see.” Since it was posted on August 19, 2015, that tweet has amassed over 500 retweets and 1,000 favorites. Recently, Mitski’s been catching more attention for her music, which is warm dream pop with something darker beneath the surface. But her Twitter remains at the forefront of what she does. During an interview with MTV News, one of the first questions the re-

porter asked was about Mitski’s Twitter presence, to which she responded, “In my case, I truly still tweet for the pleasure of it. My profession is that I’m a musician, but I just so happen to enjoy Twitter. So there’s less pressure for me to keep an aesthetic, or to maintain a brand on Twitter, because I don’t really care.” It might be this exact attitude that’s granted her so many followers. Mitski’s tweets feel like something a really cool friend might say. This helps a lot of people bridge the gap from scrolling through her account to listening to, and possibly crying over, her music. She adds a certain candor to everything she does. Nowadays, this level of finesse seems to be expected of every musician. But this is no secret. Ever since social media became society’s second nature, people have examined the ways


Kenneth Bachelor

it’s revolutionizing the music industry and speculated what it will do to the future of music. What’s new is that while Twitter and other social networking sites have evolved, so has the way professionals in every industry utilize them. For example, there’s more pressure for authenticity from musicians than ever before. People want to be able to intimately relate to their favorite musicians, and sites like Twitter have provided musicians platforms with which to do so. Taylor Swift is one controversial user of social media. In 2015, she used Tumblr to reach out to a select group of fans and send them a variety of storebought and homemade items. Initially, people were enamored with the idea and with her because it made her more lifelike. But when Swift’s lawyers

threatened to sue fans that produced items with her image or trademarked phrases from her songs, her sweet, down-to-earth persona imploded. As more of these scandals rolled out, it became clear that Swift is one of many prepackaged pop stars. Of course, it’s hard to compare Swift, who earns millions of dollars a year, to Mitski, who, operates in relative obscurity. Still, it can be argued that Mitski is seemingly more authentic than Swift. The biggest difference in their social media accounts appears in the way each musician shows her imperfections. For instance, Swift posted a picture of her bandaged thumb, saying, “Band aids don’t fix kitchen knife-related injuries.” This is a reference to a lyric from her hit single “Bad Blood.” Mitski, on the other hand, tweeted, “Imagine being someone who

has a nice car.” Authenticity is extremely difficult to navigate, and social media has only confused this. The power to constantly edit one’s own image undermines the supposed authenticity social media brings. This is the pitfall that Taylor Swift is now caught in. Her life simply isn’t relatable for the average fan. Mitski, however, shares both the good and the bad with her followers, making her come to life. What do you expect of an artist’s social media accounts? Do they need to be entertaining and be filled with things that feel like something a real, flawed person might post? At the end of the day, you must come to terms with the amount of pressure you’re placing on an artist for a simple follow.

SPRING SPRING2016 2016 25 25


“I

Culture Vulture Express

26

FIVE CENT SOUND

used to want to be private about it, but I think it’s something that needs to be shared publicly,” said Lynn Gunn of PVRIS in an interview with BBC’s Newsbeat about her sexuality. “I think a lot of people are trying to accept themselves and come to terms with it because it’s still a pretty big thing right now. I never had someone to look up to and be like ‘oh that person is ok and they’re gay.’ If I can be that for someone, then it’s why I’m open about it.” Gunn brings up a couple good points here. First, she acknowledges that self-acceptance has become a trend. When young people are trying to figure out who they are, sexuality is a large question to tackle. Second, Gunn points out that she never had a gay role model. In the music world, it seems these people are more hidden. We all know the famous artists like David Bowie, Adam Lambert, and Freddie Mercury. But what about Jobriath, Brandi Carlile, Sia, and Le1f? Elton John was one of the first openly gay musicians, coming out as gay after divorcing his wife in 1988. But people forget about Jobriath, the ‘70s glam rock American Bowie. He is credited with being the first openly gay musician. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he said, “I am the true fairy of rock.” Adam Lambert was the first openly gay artist to top the charts with his album Trespassing. He’s been out since his American Idol debut in 2008. At the same time, Lady Gaga released “Poker


Face,” a song about her bisexuality that launched her into stardom. Both these artists continue to play important roles in the LGBTQ community. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ song “Same Love” is another chapter in LGBTQ music history that cannot be forgotten. Although both musicians are straight, they tackled gay stereotypes, like being gay in the hip-hop world. The song featuring Mary Lambert, an openly gay singer from Seattle, peaked at #2 on the US Rap Chart. In one year, “Same Love” sold over 22 million copies. Sam Smith’s debut album, In the Lonely Hour, broke US sales records after he came out as gay, selling 166,000 in its first week of release. In 2015, he won four Grammys, making people wonder if his success is a result his sexuality. Although farther from the limelight, LGBTQ artists have strong voices in many different genres. For example, Le1f is an openly gay rapper, who rose to prominence in 2012 when his music video for “Wut” reached over 3 million views. He twists the conventions of a traditionally homophobic genre by rapping about being gay. “As I grew less naïve,” he said in an interview, “I realized if so many girls and women can like songs that suggest they should be sex slaves to any dude with a luxury car, and so many harmless white kids listen to gangster rap, then straight people can probably like my music just the same.” As indie musicians, Tegan and Sara often use their platform to speak out about LGBTQ issues. For instance, they joined the NOH8 Campaign, agreeing to not get married in solidarity with the millions around the world that

“I think it’s good to have an open mind and speak about stuff if you have a platform to as long as it’s something positive and something that’s beneficial to other people.” -Lynn Gunn

do not have the same marriage rights as the citizens of Canada (and now the US). “We hope that our voices help raise awareness and assist in bringing equality to the masses,” Tegan told to the NOH8 Campaign. Within the punk genre, there exists a ‘90s subunit of “Queercore.” One member of this community, Pansy Division, formed to destroy the stereotype that all gay men prefer pop idols and show tunes to punk rock. Essentially, the band is a giant middle finger to the stereotypical “gay best friend.” In addition to this niche group, more prominent artists like Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy, Jenna McDougall of Tonight Alive, and Brendon Urie of Panic! At the Disco all identify as bisexual. In fact, Panic! At the Disco’s song “Girls/Girls/Boys” is about bisexual girls. In an interview with Fuse, Urie said, “It’s not something anyone should have to hide, and that goes along with the message of the song, that it’s important to know who you are, to be able to be proud of that, and have courage behind your convictions. People can say whatever they want; it doesn’t matter unless you let it affect you.” Over the last few years, PVRIS has become more popular, touring with big names like Mayday Parade, Bring Me the Horizon, and Fall Out Boy. All the while, Gunn’s message is being spread among the LGBTQ music community. “I think it’s good to have an open mind and speak about stuff if you have a platform to,” Lynn said in the interview with Newsbeat, “as long as it’s something positive and something that’s beneficial to other people.”

Vam

SPRING 2016

27


FEATURES

LOVE YOU TOMORROW HOW MUSIC TRANSCENDS GENERATIONS MARISA DELLATTO

T

he dark chocolate voice; the deep, bellowing melodies; the jawline that could cut glass. Frank Sinatra is a staple in American music. His songs have soared their way into the hearts of generations past and present. Originally representing the swing culture of the ‘40s, he now lives preserved, forever timeless. To me, Sinatra is a go-to for long walks. With headphones in, his soft and vibrant mystery swoons and swirls in my brain. The crisp autumn sun warms the outside as Sinatra “fills my heart with song.” Our lives only overlapped for a short and inconsequential three years, yet he has found a way into my music library seventeen years after his death. Days were spent as a child dancing to the Rat Pack in front of my family’s large, reflective television. My sister and I would sway around with our dad, Ralph, to the swing music of a time before his. Ralph, a charismatic, confident, and complex man, would sing with us at the top of his lungs, closing his eyes and sinking into Sinatra’s world. For him, Sinatra is much more than a childhood memory. Sinatra’s version of “The Way You Look Tonight” was his wedding song. Even on simple occasions—Christmas, nighttime, yard work, and driving—Sinatra’s songs are always there for him. Ralph got to experience Sinatra in all his glory—he was born twenty years into Sinatra’s sixty-year career. He saw the star grow and change with the times. To him, Sinatra was a living, breathing man, not just a part of history. And as he got to experience Sinatra alive, he also had to watch a star die. But even Ralph doesn’t fully understand Sinatra. He wasn’t there when Sinatra rose to stardom from humble beginnings. He wasn’t there in the ‘40s when Sinatra shocked the world. My grandparents, on the other hand, jitterbugged to his tunes when they first came out. Sinatra was a part of their culture. Before television and, he was there. His songs played at afterschool dances and in drugstores where teens drank milkshakes. The new kid on the block made quite the name for himself, defining a musical style that would shape a generation. Today, my grandfather listens to the Sinatra station on Pandora. He even has it hooked to the Bluetooth in his car. The juxtaposition posed by his way of listening seems shocking at first, mostly because an eighty-one-year-old is so in GettyImages touch with the listening devices of today. As of October 2015, Sinatra has 2,401,939 monthly listeners on Spotify. And I’m going to go ahead

28

FIVE CENT SOUND

and assume these aren’t all tech-savvy eighty-one-yearolds. Once again, Sinatra’s music is making itself readily available to listeners for generations to come, all from beyond the grave. But what about us? The leftovers? The new fans born after his death? Our experience is left undecided, completely unknown and different from that of fans that were alive when Sinatra was. Though we have a whole lifetime available to us at our fingertips, we miss out on so many memories. We will never understand, no matter how hard we try, how this music shaped a culture and the culture shaped a career. We have seen many musicians’ careers and public images bounce back and forth, even in our


es ton S g n Rolli Take Justin Bieber, the quintessential pop star of today. Back in 2008, as Internet culture was exploding, Bieber was discovered on YouTube. He was one of the first major artists to make the transformation from viral sensation to platinum-selling artist. Everyone is aware of his career, regardless of their opinion of him. We all experienced the mop-headed teenybopper clad in purple and belting out love songs in falsettos. We watched him on the big screen, claiming his downto-earth ways. We groaned as he egged a house, got a DUI, and had nude photos leaked. We’ve heard him ask for forgiveness and listened to his new techno-influenced songs. His progression as an artist and person, from preteen heartthrob to edgy tool, is evident in his music. How could one effectively binge-listen outside of this cultural context? relatively short lifetimes. Conversely, how do we take on an artist who has passed away? How do we judge their career as a work in progress? It’s a tricky listening experience, especially when, as time goes on, we become more removed from the reality that the music was created in. We, the listeners, are left to decide the fate of this undead music. Maybe that’s a positive thing. Music that survives past its creator’s lifetime breaks a barrier. It becomes something unlimited by time, a staple in culture. Take Bob Marley, for instance. He used his music as a political statement, standing up to the Apartheid and other issues of his day. But now the man stands alone as a universal symbol of peace. Though Marley passed away in 1981, his music is something legendary and current, and it seems it will remain that way. For the first time, it is now up to me, the listener, to decide how a departed artist is going to be remembered, because I’m left with heartbreak of my own, having lost one of my favorite musicians: Amy Winehouse. The cat-eyed mistress sang soulful ballads filled with hints of a sound from generations past. Her voice was raspy, unique, and strapping. My cousins and I would gather around the pool and belt out full ranges of heart with Amy, unaware of the reality the songs were centered around. Back to Black carried us through for-

mative years. And little did we know that two albums were all we were ever going to have. Amy’s time, and our time with her, was cut short. After she joined the Twenty-Seven Club in 2011, I felt like I’d been dumped. I would never get to see her in concert. Never hear another album, or new song. Never hear her voice in interviews. Never see her on stage at award shows. Her writing, style, and grace was all gone for good. Six years later, she remains my favorite artist. Luckily, I got to have one last chance with Amy, my final piece of her. This summer, her biopic Amy was released. It brought back the wide-eyed girl with the voice of an old soul. Previously unseen footage, paparazzi coverage, and family videos were all used to compile Amy’s behind-the-scene stories. By watching this film, I got to see the mirror image of her life unraveled paired with the tragic lyrics inspired by her experiences. I felt born again. Since that film, I listen to her music in a different way. Never before could I have understood her music on such a deeply personal level. That was my concert, the live performance that I had always wished for. I’m lucky to live in a world where so many other creators dedicate time to reimagining the work and lives of lost geniuses. When an artist dies, a documentary is made. Never before heard remixes are released. Tributes are made. Covers are sung. Lyrics are decoded. Books and biographies are published. Artists of other mediums step in to guide the deceased’s work into an everlasting life. Maybe our fight to not let anyone die is out of selfishness, or maybe it’s out of healing. Somehow, it is human nature to preserve, remastered album after remastered album.

Tum blr

SPRING 2016

29


SLOPEMEDIA

The Rise (And Fall?) of Soundcloud By Liza Wagner

I

n December of 2012, after five years of building their brand and their business, a new of era of the audio streaming service SoundCloud shook hands with its users. And their grip was firm. At the time, they were reaching over 180 million users per month, and folks were uploading 10 hours of music every minute. There were more sharing options, more instances of continuous play, more personal playlists, and more opportunities to interact with specific songs. Unlike the music platform that rivaling service MySpace had created, SoundCloud provided a type of social media flexibility that appealed to millions. And users were responding in kind. “It was just really, really annoying for us to collaborate with people on music — I mean simple collaboration, just sending tracks to other people in a private setting, getting some feedback from them, and having a conversation about that piece of music,” co-founder Alexander Ljung told Wired in 2009 of his decision to launch the platform. Two years prior to the Wired interview, Ljung and Eric Wahlforss had an idea for an online music sharing service that catered to independent artists and aficionados. As the two founders were still designing the company, there was a gap in the market for a platform geared towards independent artists. Vimeo hosted high-quality videos and Flickr hosted high quality pictures, but there was no service for high-quality audio. So they made one in August of 2007 and called it SoundCloud, seeking to enhance the experience of listening, creating, and promoting music on the internet. Their product has proliferated for a number of reasons. One of the biggest draws to SoundCloud is also the simplest: the ability to share audio with a unique URL. Websites like MySpace only allowed users to listen to music in their in-site player. But with SoundCloud, sharing audio is quick, simple, and aesthetically pleasing. Both listeners and musicians alike are able to quickly tweet out a song, choose to attach a user-friendly widget to their blogs, or just share a track from person to person with ease. With the rise of quick-paced social media broadcasting, SoundCloud quickly found its seat at the popular kids’ table.

30

FIVE CENT SOUND

Another golden perk of SoundCloud? You don't have to pay for it. Create a song, a cover, a beat, a poem and upload it. It’s as simple as that. No money involved. No expensive distribution fees or restrictions. Users are allowed up to two hours of audio, regardless of size, and after that, there are premium plans available to provide more space. But most users don’t need that much capacity. The majority of those who use SoundCloud are using a service that offers completely free listening and uploading, which is an incredible feat in a time where money is being demanded for any high-quality user experiences. The interface of SoundCloud is such a breeze to scope through that users can easily stumble across new artists. Those who use the site are exposed to music they would have never otherwise unearthed, which leads to the success of small-scale projects. Take the band Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment, for instance. The collective initially became more popular after backing Chance the Rapper on his 2013 mix tape Acid Rap and were able to further establish their musical identity on their SoundCloud page. This is what attributed largely to the success of their album Surf, which was released online this past summer and was downloaded 618,000 times in the first week released on iTunes. Chance the Rapper himself has used SoundCloud to broadcast his music for free. As none of his albums have ever been up for profit, the artist relies heavily on the Internet to gain a following. And despite never having a record deal, he has performed on Saturday Night Live as their first unsigned artist and sold out a number of tour dates. The web has the power to make artists famous who would have remained in obscurity under any other circumstances. But every rose has its thorn, and SoundCloud users are starting to feel a little wounded by recent changes. With all of SoundCloud’s benefits in mind, a thriving


eyelinerandsynthesizers.com TechCrunch business can only last so long without charging their users. Lately, they have made large efforts to monetize their company. In August of 2014, SoundCloud began running advertisements in the United States; The New York Times called the ads “one step further to being legit in the eyes of music industry”, but the more “legit” they are, the less users will be interested. On top of that, ad revenue is not enough to establish a sustainable business. Also in 2014, SoundCloud announced a licensing deal with Warner Music Group that guarantees artists under the label compensation when their music is streamed, including when sampled in DJ mixes. This is the first step on a long road towards smaller artists having to pay royalties, an advent that will seriously compromise the fabric of the site’s musical community. SoundCloud needs the profit they seek. The company is struggling–last year alone they lost $29 million. Paying fees without receiving any royalties like Spotify and Apple Music do has been detrimental for SoundCloud. Under all this pressure to increase their revenue, the service announced their plan to add a paid subscription tiers in the first half of next year. In short: change is coming. And people are noticing. Emerson College Sophomore Samson Brody recently touched on the current fate of SoundCloud during his and Luke Gibson’s WECB radio show, Midday Marauders in the Morning. “Right now, the future of it is in the air because it has no real way of monetizing,” Brody said on January 29. “Or the ways they do right now is very inefficient, so SoundCloud is looking to make deals with record companies. Basically, if they don’t find a way of monetizing their accounts better, it could go out of business.” Brody is an avid user of SoundCloud when promoting his own content and listening to other music, but he admittedly is not satisfied with the way things have been looking. Literally. Though SoundCloud provides its users with

free interface, said interface is flawed. The mobile app, Brody says, isn’t perfect. And Emerson College Sophomore Casey Denton agrees. “As both a listening platform and artistry platform, it fails to use and implement the features [that] basically every other content streaming website/company does,” Denton said. “It lacks the technical features of other music services, like the ‘play next’ feature, or that kind of stuff.” Now, as a platform for artists, it again fails to meet the standard. Unlike SoundCloud does not have any mutually beneficial partnering services, as does rival platform YouTube, who pay their “partners” for their views. Instead, SoundCloud has the Pro features where a user has to pay a monthly fee in order to have a few extra features to their profile and a star next to their name. Thus the incentive to stick with SoundCloud is not incredibly high. Moreover, the site’s technical and business faults pale in comparison to its legal ones. The service’s biggest downfall, as of late, is their battle with copyright laws, which continue to arise the more SoundCloud struggles to monetize. In early 2015, Sony removed songs under their label on SoundCloud, including ones from artists who had uploaded those songs to their account. One of the greatest features of the interface was the ability it gave its users to sample and mix different beats, lyrics, and other content from published music. But in SoundCloud’s efforts to save themselves from sinking, they have enforced an aggressive no-sampling policy following the signing of royalties and implementation of advertisements. Per the parameters of this policy, all mixes with any unlicensed tracks, unlicensed samples, or really anything that bears a resemblance to an infringed copyright, has been taken down. This is detrimental to the foundation of SoundCloud, as it took off on the basis of being able to sample and mix whatever songs possible. In an interview with the Guardian, cofounder Wahlforss acknowledged the removal of creative content and the conflict of upholding both a treasured and successful business. Although things seem they are heading south, he remains optimistic in changing not only the way music is shared on the internet - but in the world. “To date, unlicensed remixes have resulted in takedowns, and frustration from creators and users alike,” Wahflorss said. “But we’re exploring ways to fairly recompense all relevant rights holders for plays of this kind of material; a whole new avenue for the industry at large. The creator community and music industry alike recognize that what we are trying to do with SoundCloud is genuinely unique and undeniably complex.” Once the ultimate safe haven for underground music, SoundCloud looks to be selling out to the masses to either save themselves or the creative integrity of its following. Only time will tell.

SPRING 2016

31


B y J ess F ilippone

32

FIVE CENT SOUND


M

usic has a certain way of getting into people’s heads and making its mark; the interesting part being that each “mark” is different, depending on the person. Even Napoleon understood the enormous true strength of music; he once said, "Give me control over he who shapes the music of a nation, and I care not who makes the laws." Many questions may arise when thinking about how music may affect us: How does music impact our mind? What about our body? Why do some minds like certain music, while others do not? And is music as powerful as one may think? Thankfully, we have ways to find answers to these questions. David Knopp, a professor of music theory at Boston University,says that responses to music are able to be observed, and that it has been proven that music influences in both good ways in and bad ways. “These effects are instant and long lasting,.” Knopp said. Said effects are, in part, physical. According to a study by Neuroscience that analyzes the link between brain activity and music,melodies can affect the amplitude and frequency of human brain waves. Music may also increase breathing rates and electrical resistance of the skin, i.e.how your skin reacts to electricity. And it has been observed to cause the pupils to dilate, increase blood pressure, and increase the heart rate. In short: it has a profound impact on you, whether you realize it or not. And not just physical impacts. There are two kind of emotions related to music: perceived emotions and felt emotions. Emotion perception refers to one’s capacity to recognize and identify emotions in others. Felt emotions, as the name might suggest, are the tangible feelings one experiences on their own. “ [Emotion perception] means that sometimes we can understand the emotions of a piece of music without actually feeling them, which explains why some of us find listening to sad music enjoyable, rather than depressing,” said Billy Garzone, one of Boston’s leading music theorists. “Unlike in real-life situations, we don’t feel any real threat or danger when listening to music, so we can perceive the related emotions without truly feeling them—almost like vicarious emotions.” PBS’s recent analysis of music’s impact on the human brain, aptly titled “Music & the Mind,” found that there is a significant relationship between music and intelligence. According to their findings, taking music lessons and listening to music can enhance spatial intelligence (a.k.a.the ability to perceive the visual world accurately). Spatial reasoning is crucial for higher brain functions, like complex mathematics, science, and chess. Additionally, according to a November 2005 study by Stanford University, musical training enhances the way in which the brain processes the spoken word, a finding that researchers say could lead to improving the reading abilities of children with dyslexia and other reading problems. Basically, music is good for you. Other research on the subject has come to different conclusions. Nidhya Logeswaran, a psychologist from Goldsmiths, University of London, came up with the cross-modal transfer of

emotions by music theory. Logeswaran addressed the question of whether or not there is a connection correlation between music and emotions by investigating how the human face reveals the way a person processes mood-specific music. “Our behavioural experiment showed a significant effect of musical priming: prior listening to happy music enhanced the perceived happiness of a face irrespective of facial emotion,” Logeswaran noted. Meaning that happy music is scientifically proven to enhance the listener’s happiness and an overall positive experience. According to the New York-based Institute for Music and Neurologic Function, music also appears to animate and organize brain activity. Neurologic Music Therapy, or NMT, is a process that uses music to help with cognitive, sensory, and motor dysfunctions. In using NMT, an individual can do more than simply improve their special intelligence or chess skills – it may have a profound impact on health care. By using music and sound, caregivers and doctors communicate with their clients and patients, including those suffering from amnesia, memory problems and neurological dysfunctions like Parkinson’s disease, Cerebral Palsy, and Alzheimer’s. NMT is a twoway street, too; patients are able to use musical tones and vibrations to help communicate pain to their doctors, all the while improving their communication skills as a whole. The relationship between the human mind and song is reflected in more than just brain waves and thoughts–in fact, music interest may be explained by one’s personality traits. According to a study conducted at Heriot-Watt University, the correlation between disposition and music preference is traceable: “Rap fans have high self-esteem and are outgoing Dance fans are creative and outgoing but not gentle Indie fans have low self-esteem, are creative, not hard-working, and not gentle Rock/heavy metal fans have low self-esteem, are creative, not hard-working, not outgoing, gentle, and at ease Chart pop fans have high self-esteem, are hardworking, outgoing and gentle, but are not creative and not at ease Soul fans have high self-esteem, are creative, outgoing, gentle, and at ease.” From the organization of our thoughts all the way down to our personalities, music is inextricably linked to the human mind. It is thought to link all of the emotional, spiritual, and physical elements of the universe; it can be be used to change a person's mood, to cause like physical responses in many people simultaneously, and to strengthen or weaken emotions felt in response to a particular event. This, in part, may be why music has been so important to humans for the last centuries. And as more genres come to the forefront of music, and as more experiments that test the relationship between brain and song are conducted, and as more theories arise centering all around music, there is no stopping to see what is in store for our musical future.

SPRING 2016

33


ROSS CRISTANTIELLO

A

s an avid pop pun fan throughout my teenage years, I heard one complaint about it all the time. Friends and family bemoaned that the music I listen to is too sad, too angry, that all the songs sound the same and deal with the same issues. Indeed, clichés are everywhere in pop punk and I believe that they add to the value of the music. For those of you who may not know, here’s a bit of background. Punk music began to break into the mainstream starting in the ‘90s with the wild success of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Green Day. This paved the way for the fusion of pop and punk around the turn of the twenty-first century. A new genre started to emerge, one that shared lyrical and thematic ties to punk and had the catchy sensibilities of pop music. Pop punk arrived with bands like Blink-182, Good Charlotte, and Simple Plan at the forefront. While these groups achieved significant success, they also bore the brunt of criticism. Much of the animosity from critics and casual listeners was directed at the lyrics of pop punk songs, specifically the use of clichés. While pop punk has con-

34

FIVE CENT SOUND

Alyssa Stephanie Photography tinued to evolve, the complaint about trite lyricism and themes has persisted. If you’re unfamiliar with this kind of lyricism, go listen to Real Talk, the 2010 record from Man Overboard. The album is peppered with simple lyrics about general teenage angst. Themes like unrequited love, feeling like an outsider, and drowning out pain with drugs and alcohol all make an appearance. The chorus of the song “World Favorite” stands out in particular as it ends with the line, “I think you’re my favorite girl I’ve ever met, yeah / I think you’re my favorite girl I ever met.” Man Overboard have become the poster boys for this type of songwriting and translated it into a solid career. Their albums continue to chart, and an avid fan base keeps them touring regularly. Success like theirs is possible because clichés easily strike a chord with listeners. This emotional connection likely explains pop punk’s relatively small but intensely devoted fan base. If you attend any show with bands that fall into this genre, it will not be hard to see the love on display. Stage diving, crowd surfing, circle pits, and

kids screaming lyrics at the top of their lungs are commonplace. The fun and excitement is palpable. Lyrics that some may see as corny or dull are oftentimes the most relatable, so a songwriter can reach a larger audience by being vague. True love of music often comes when the listener identifies with the content and can relate it to themselves and their own lives. Nearly everyone can relate to those Man Overboard lyrics in some capacity. Many people have been head over heels in love with someone, longing to tell them that they are their “favorite.” Man Overboard’s lyrics have enabled listeners to live vicariously through their songs by telling a story of someone doing what people often don’t have the courage to do in real life. The criticism of pop punk music is often a result of stereotyping based on preconceived notions about the lack of sophistication these bands exhibit. Pop punk band members’ dyed hair, gauges, and wacky clothing don’t necessarily scream maturity. Some may say that clichéd songwriting isn’t mature, either, but I would argue that that is not always the case. Sometimes it takes


Substream Magazine maturity and confidence to write in clichés. Pop punk bands are most certainly aware of the criticisms of their songs but they continue to produce music that falls into this stereotype. They are confident in their ability to overcome the stigma attached with corny lyrics. In addition, they have confidence that their fans will keep enjoying the scene for what it brings to the table rather than getting bogged down by outside judgment. Don’t get me wrong, when pop punk bands are just starting out, their songs tend to be full of hackneyed lyricism. But skilled bands can take the clichés that are essential to pop punk and use them to grow lyrically and thematically. Take a look at the career of The Wonder Years, a sextet from Philadelphia currently on top of the pop punk world. Their debut album, Get Stoked On It!, was a goofy record chock full of pop punk stereotypes. On the album’s eighth track, a screamo gem from guest vocalist Mikey Kelley makes an appearance: “We stand so tall / We live above this world / We are so fucking invincible.” This is a perfect example of clichéd lyrics, extolling the bonds of

friendship while simultaneously putting on a confident, positive face. As The Wonder Years grew, so did their songwriting abilities. Their sophomore record, The Upsides, is all about what the title suggests—it is an album brimming with positivity. There is another level to the lyrics, though, as Campbell takes the clichéd glass-halffull mentality and explores the roots of that mindset—a dark, creeping depression he is trying to cover up. With The Upsides, The Wonder Years demonstrate how the triteness of pop punk can be used to thematically explore new avenues. The band demonstrates maturity by taking a cliché and using it to their advantage instead of flinging it aside to pursue a holier-than-thou songwriting approach. The Wonder Years have kept maturing but they have not left behind their pop punk beginnings. There are still clichés on their most recent album, No Closer to Heaven. The first lines of the LP are a choral chant of the repeating phrase “We’re no saviors if we can’t save our brothers.” This refrain pops up several more times throughout the album and echoes the previously

mentioned pop punk stereotypes. Even with this line as a central theme, the album is their most wide-ranging by far. It touches on issues as heavy and mature as classism, racism, and child abuse. The band uses clichés to anchor their album in familiar themes for fans, which enables them to tackle larger ideas that generally wouldn’t fall into a pop punk song. Lyrics from The Wonder Years and Man Overboard show how themes that many think of as cliché can work in the modern pop punk scene. These patterns should be celebrated in pop punk music, not derided. When looking at Man Overboard’s lyrics, you see a band that is aware of the clichés in their songwriting. Their self-awareness has let them build a career and actively tap into the basic emotions of their fans. The Wonder Years show us that clichés are not an anchor holding bands back from growing, but they can be an integral part to the process of growth itself. Clichés actively add to the value of the genre, enabling it to cement itself in the minds and hearts of fans.

SPRING 2016

35


BY LIZA WAGNER

"If you're a fan of Kanye West, you're not a fan of me. You're a fan of yourself." – KW

I

, Liza Wagner, proudly identify as a fan of Kanye West. But I haven’t always been. I mean, fuck, I hated “Flashing Lights” when I first heard it. The Dwele hook crawled under my skin. Honestly, there was a time in my life where I thought West’s artistic ability was parallel to that of Flo Rida. So I shoved him into a box full of mediocre mainstream artists who traded their integrity for radio time and profit. I nestled in my comfort zone of pop punk and mildly underground indie folk music. I remained oblivious to the world of hip-hop, not knowing the raw emotion and dope beats it held, until the moment I really needed it. And by my first couple years of high school, believe me, I needed it. My early teenage years feel like an emotional blur. The peak of my depression and anxiety fell in sync with teen angst, and I felt a heavy pressure to excel academically and socially. All of these feelings would intensify at home. When I wasn’t being fought with, I was fighting

36

FIVE CENT SOUND

with myself. I blamed myself for everything; it was a sick coping mechanism. I didn’t respect myself, let alone like myself. So I actively tried to become someone I wasn’t. Isn’t that crazy? What a life to live, in absolute dishonor of myself. The only time I was really honest with myself was when I was writing poetry or listening to music. These were the things I kept close. Music was and still is the most positive influence in my life. It comforted me more than anything and anyone. If I could listen to a song that replicated my emotions, my connection to the world and myself was much stronger. In 2010, West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was released. These thirteen songs of gorgeous, innovative production triggered some introspective epiphanies. Maybe it was possible to love myself without ignoring my flaws or becoming someone else. Maybe I should accept everything about who I was, including imperfections. This album meant everything to me.

West has been the underdog’s ambassador since his first album, The College Dropout. Years later, in his fifth album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, he continued the fight for the misunderstood, berating himself for his flaws and demanding praise for being the incredible artist he is. West takes the impact of his album further as he urges emotional growth upon his audience. Lyrics that encouraged leading a more positive and assertive life were unheard of to me. Keep in mind that I just spent all my teen years listening to self-deprecating pop punk and sulking to indie folk music. There would be happy songs now and then, but none with the influential impact of this album. “POWER” stirred up a confidence deep in my chest. “Lost in the World” comforted a feeling of unity even in isolation. “Runaway” was the beautiful, dark, twisted fantasy the album had been talking about. The unfamiliar ambition to not only live, but also conquer a passionate life grew stronger within myself. The lyrics were made of


brute strength, a classic standoff between West and the rest of the world.   And that’s just lyrically. Unlike other artists that illustrate an “I know what you’re going through” feeling, West evokes more of an “I know what you’re going through, but you can still be better than who you are today” feeling. I would say he saved me, but in reality, he taught me to save myself. After watching and listening to him pump confidence and positivity no matter what obstacle stood in his way, I could not help but adopt that same life-changing mentality. But the general public doesn’t like that. They like looking up to people with humility in their eyes and a shy smile downwards, accepting affection. West has been quoted in interviews comparing himself to the likes of Shakespeare and Walt Disney, two wildly beloved artists. Headlines prefaced this with words like “arrogant” and “cocky.” He declared himself “the biggest living rock star on the planet” in 2015. Online commentators called him a douchebag and asshole. In a motivational rant following his performance of “Runaway” at England’s Wireless Festival in 2014, West crooned to the audience: “Now what did I do that was so wrong other than believe in myself?” Most West hate stems from hatred of how much he loves and believes in himself. Again, the idea of being your own biggest fan is a peculiar idea. Loving yourself and being confident in who you are is a societal rarity. There are advertisements that urge us to buy new things to become better versions of ourselves. Industries capitalize on insecurity. In “All Falls Down,” he, “We’ll buy a lot of clothes when we don’t really need em / things we buy to cover up what’s inside / ‘Cause they make us hate ourself and love thy wealth [sic].” Without a need to impress anyone but ourselves, a lot of mental energy (and money) would be saved. Believing in yourself should not be a character trait that pushes people away, but folks are often threatened by confidence. We project our own insecurities upon others instead of attempting to live life in a similarly positive fashion. Listening to West helped me achieve that level of clarity, where I viewed myself as a person of equal importance to those around me. Some may argue that West does more than just “believe in himself.” In 2005, he first rebelled against the expectation of the quiet, passive celebrity when he claimed that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” on live television, prefacing this with his concerns about how the negligence shown towards victims of Hurricane Katrina and how black people are portrayed in the media in times of crisis. In 2007, his mom and mentor, Donda West, passed away. This devastation led to alcoholism and depression, as narrated in many of his songs following her passing. This self-sabotaging attitude combined

with his impulsive, honest nature led to the 2009 VMA incident when he stormed the stage and grabbed the microphone from Taylor Swift. After the infamous VMA incident, West made no attempt to retroactively justify his actions. He simply accepted the criticism and used the event to further transform his art. Then, he bounced back with one of the greatest albums known to the genre: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. This was the conclusion of his self-imposed exile from the media. This is one of the most astonishing feats to me. To be able to receive animosity from such an overwhelming number of people who insult your most personal craft and still deliver something brilliant is a sign of true resilience. In “Last Call,” West raps, “Now I could let these dream killers kill my self esteem / or use my arrogance as a steam to power my dream.” He has held true to this statement throughout his career. Every time he’s been knocked down, he helps himself right back up and tries again until he succeeds. West makes the concept of failure seem impossible. If we do fall down, it is only to propel ourselves forward. There were amazing innovations on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, like a nine-minute song about confronting his disloyalty in past relationships beginning with a single key on a classical piano and ending with a fade out of crooning auto tune (“Runaway”). In terms of production and overall creative quality, this album was on a completely different level than anything the genre of hip-hop had seen before. He greatly diversified his featured artists, collaborating with Fergie and Bon Iver. West approached the studio like a canvas at an art gallery. Each chord, was made intentionally to push the envelope of the genre and challenge and inspire the minds of his listeners. I believe West is the visionary of our generation. The relationship between an artist and a fan instills a one-sided closeness. West does not have any idea I exist, but I feel close to him. Perhaps this is why I am so defensive of his work. After watching him develop as an artist and person, I am completely empathetic and supportive of his influence. In the song “Blame Game,” West channels the desperation for closure post break-up. He is tormented by his ex and the damage she has done to him. The outro is a recording of a man talking to the woman in question about the amazing sex they just had. Amazed by how good she was, the man asked her where she learned to satisfy someone so well. In response, she says: “Yeezy taught me.” This has become the new mantra of West’s influence. So amidst all the pain, heartache, and tragedy, I am proud to say that I am not just a Kanye West fan, but I am also a fan of myself. And it’s all because Yeezy taught me well.

SPRING 2016

37


I Just Called to Say “I Love You”

By Marisa Dellatto

E

veryone remembers their relationship firsts—the first meal eaten together, the first dance, the first kiss. These baby steps are milestones on a road of progress to deepening our connection with another person. But one moment sticks out from all the rest as one that truly solidifies an emotional connection between two people. For many couples, the first time they realized they had more than just a fling was when a special song was shared. Music, given its rich ability to create and connect with emotions unlike any other art form, helps bring people closer. Candice Thompson knew her fiancé, Lance Ning, was a keeper after a night exploring his musical collection. The pair met at Emerson College. He was on the hockey team, and she was a fan. By taking the T home with Ning after games, Thompson knew the two of them had something special. But it wasn’t until a magical night in Ning’s dorm that a true bond was established. “Shortly after we started dating, we were both by his computer and started looking through his iTunes [library]. I wasn't crazy about most of his music, but when I came to “Chasing Cars” [by Snow Patrol] I was like, ‘oh, I like that song,’” says Thompson. It was an unforgettable moment. Finding a similarity, even in a small song, helped draw them closer together. “Chasing Cars” was dubbed “their song.” “The lyrics [are] really beautiful and relevant to us,” says

38

FIVE CENT SOUND

Thompson. Music was a constant in both Thompson and Ning’s lives, even before they came together. She grew up as a musician, performing in choir and band from elementary to high school. As an avid dancer and musical theatre actress, almost everything she loved in her life was touched by tunes. Ning played different instruments throughout his life and dabbled in bands throughout high school. So it only makes sense that these two souls found harmony together through music. On the pair’s first anniversary, Ning printed out pages with the lyrics to “Chasing Cars” and hung them around his dorm room. The couple reminisced on the time they had spent together while “Chasing Cars” provided the perfect soundtrack. Nine years and a proposal later, the song still serves as a sacred treasure for Ning and Thompson. Although they no longer play music or write, “Chasing Cars” is still their song, and it is just as important today as it was the day they first listened to it. “I plan to make a sign with some of the lyrics and have it somewhere at our wedding,” says Thompson. Julia Kreitman can relate. She too knew that her current boyfriend, Ben Rogge, was the man for her after the two shared a musical experience. Kreitman and Rogge instantly hit it off when they met at the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, Massachusetts. The self-described “artsy ones in their families” had much in common, and the theatre set the


http://portadasportadas.blogspot.com

stage for them to build a bond over their passions—one of those being music. Within a few months of becoming friends, the two started dating. But they were soon forced to make their relationship long distance. On their six-month anniversary, they were separated by more than 1,000 miles. But Rogge turned this obstacle into a moment that he and Kreitman both still relish. “He got me a sweet card, and there was a bunch of pieces of paper with sheet music on it. And my job was to arrange [the sheets] and figure out the song,” she explained. “I [had] a few weeks to do this, as I was going to see him the first week in March.” The challenge was on. Unsure if she had correctly arranged the music sheets, Kreitman had no idea what to expect. “When he picked me up from the airport, he turned on the radio and this beautiful song came on that was emotionally provoking and skillfully performed. The song was ‘Days of Wine and Roses’ by Keith Jarrett,’” says Kreitman. The way she tells it, Rogge still wanted to be able to get her wine and roses for their anniversary, which happened to fall on Valentine’s Day, and that was the only way he could pull it off. Kreitman had never heard the song before. But from that point on, it was theirs. Two years later, two were again separated on Valentine’s Day. Kreitman took the opportunity to return the romantic gesture that Rogge had extended on their first year together. “I decided I was going to get him a vinyl for his new turntable. I spent three hours searching, trying to find something

he would like. Then I thought about our song and decided to focus on finding that album,” said Kreitman “It is extremely, extremely rare. And I found one.” Once again, “Days of Wine and Roses” found a way to bring the lovers closer together. For Kreitman, it makes sense that music helped bring her and Rogge together. She finds herself drawn to the emotional aspect of music—what provokes her, what reflects her mood or helps to change it. As a musician, Rogge appreciates music more for its craft—the construction, experimentation, and technicalities that come together to create a work of art. But their different relationships with music aren’t a point of contention. “Our takes [on music] are quite different and can lead to a lot of great kind of eye-opening experiences. Sometimes we will debate and defend certain music one loves that the other doesn't care for as much,” says Kreitman. “Music connects us as well as allows us to have contrast in our relationship.” Thompson agrees with the specific nuances that music can provide a relationship, saying, “[The] lyrics create a connection and the music pulls you in. It's available in bite size chunks that you can repeat innumerable times… Whenever [“Chasing Cars”] plays we always get sentimental. It reminds me of how far we’ve come since we started nine years ago. Music stirs emotion. It heightens an experience.”

SPRING 2016

39


The Problem With Age Restrictions at Music Venues by Jess Filippone

E

mma Lynn Fisher, a third-year Communications student at Emerson College, was arrested for going to a concert with a fake ID on March 24th, 2011. She doesn’t regret buying the fake identification itself but she does regret not being able to see her favorite band, Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows (D.R.U.G.S.). “That show was going to be my everything,” Fisher says. “I can’t even tell you how excited I was to go and see them. They only had one album at the time and nobody knew they were going to break up shortly after.” Now that they’re broken up and she won’t have a chance to see them live, Fisher says she is bitter towards the entire music industry. She noted that she hasn’t been to a show since getting arrested before the D.R.U.G.S. show. “I was arrested for trying to see my favorite band,” Fisher says with a smile, almost laughing at herself. “It sounds crazy, doesn’t it? They thought I had a fake to drink when I specifically got it for the show. At that time, I never even tasted alcohol.” According to a representative for IDGod, a website devoted to selling minors realistic fake IDs, the company has talked to many buyers about getting fakes specifically for attending concerts with age restrictions. Interestingly, the home page’s main picture is an image from a concert. But according to the District 1 Boston Police, possession of a fake ID can result in a number of charges. Since the legal consequences of owning a fake ID are determined on a state level, each state has its own form of punishment for this crime. In some places, it’s a simple $500 fine and misdemeanor charge; in others, it is considered identity fraud or forgery. Both felonies are punishable by up to a year and a half in state prison. In Massachusetts, having false identification can result in a $300 fine and the revocation of your driver’s license. There is always going to be laws to prevent chaos but enforcing them in such an extreme way on people that own fake identification so that they can see their favorite band in concert? That seems a bit obscene. Most people use fake identification for non-criminal reasons: to see a concert, to get a beer at your favorite restaurant with some friends, and so on. Most aren’t intentionally attempting fraud or identity theft. But regardless of intent, the consequences of getting caught can be severe and costly. A conviction can permanently affect your record and harm your chances of getting into college or finding a job. Age restrictions in concert halls in Boston are nothing out of the ordinary; about half of the venues in the greater Boston area have them, including Middlesex Lounge and Paradise Rock Club. Most venues, like the Royale, a local concert pub, determine age restrictions on a show-by-show basis. Age re-

40

FIVE CENT SOUND

strictions for shows are made by the venue, not by the bands themselves. According to bouncers at Royale, there are many reasons why age can determine the success of the show. But sometimes artists will take issue with the rules clubs put in places. This begs the question: Should venues limit access to shows just because alcohol is in the area? “A lot of performers like to set the vibe themselves,” said Jake Singer, a bouncer at Royale. “But most pubs and venues don’t run that way. Most of the time, if you’re hosting the performance, you have the right to make the age restrictions.” That being said, seeing the caption "All Ages" under the title of a show won’t always be enough to make someone completely change their minds about going. So having an age restriction for those under 21 really doesn't have any effect on their desire to go. The worst part about having teenagers in the venue would be having to ignore any irritating underage activity, such as yelling, crowding, and possible mosh pits— behavior that isn't necessarily dangerous (and is often exhibited by those over 21 as well). Concerts usually require the attendee to be at least 18 because, by then, a person is a legal adult and can make their own decisions without parental consent. Legally, anything that someone over the age of 18 chooses to do at the concert will be their own responsibility so it’s considered beneficial from a company's perspective to refuse underage patrons. If there were a problem with a minor during an event, that minor’s parent or guardian would have to be contacted which may, in turn, result in legal troubles and a whole slew of other problems for the venue. For instance, in a recent unfortunate concert situation, a minor was arrested for assaulting a security guard at a Nicki Minaj concert in Concord, California. According to Perez Hilton, a brawl broke out that was so big Minaj had to stop performing early. If the age demographic were always limited to those between the ages of 18 to 35, it would be more difficult to bring in people who will want to go and attend a performance. Most people by this time are either full-time students or have full-time jobs. Having a "real life” with adult responsibilities and obligations, as those in this age bracket do, can often make it harder for people to spend that kind of money on concert tickets and take time off from their job or school to attend shows.People that are under that 18 to 35 age


range—i.e. high school and middle school students—are usually free every weekend and every now and then they want to do something other than go to the school football game or hang out at a friend’s house. Concerts are a perfect way for them to shake up their typical after-school routines. But if there are age restrictions at venues, they won’t have that opportunity.

“Reaching out to the high school age demographic can be beneficial because it greatly increases their publicity rate,” said Singer. The issue of age restrictions at venues matters to people that aren’t under-aged, as well. The topic has sparked discussions among music fans of all ages. Some big-name musicians have even weighed in on the matter. Zedd, an incredibly well known house and electronica artist, recently advocated for music fans of all ages. He reached out specifically to the generation of “party-crazed college kids” on social media with the goal of reminding them that, at some point, nearly every music fan was a teenager looking to attend a “mature” gig. On September 29, Zedd tweeted about the issue: “To anyone complaining about 16 years olds being allowed to my shows... think about how it felt when you were 16 and you weren't allowed in.” And another tweet says, “If it was my decision EVERY show I play would be all ages. I believe every age group should be allowed to watch a concert / show [sic].” The matter has also been discussed in North by NorthWest Magazine, a student-run publication at Northwestern University. “Obviously, underage people shouldn’t be at the bar,” student columnist, Taryn Nobil, wrote in an article from November 14th. “I understand security giving wristbands to identify those who are 21 and over, but why do you have to close the show off to people who can’t drink? You can enjoy the music without being of legal drinking age.” Emma Fisher also agrees with Nobil’s statement about drinking in concert culture. “I don’t think there should be age restrictions because the artists themselves have nothing to do with people’s drinking habits,” said Fisher. In a perfect world, music lovers of all ages would be able to experience the enjoyment of their favorite artists performing before their very eyes. Live music is not only a catalyst for enhanced connection to music but also for human connection overall, since concerts are such communal experiences. Concerts create memories, foster growth, and promote togetherness. Some of my favorite memories have been from shows I’ve attended and I know numerous fellow music enthusiasts feel the same way as I do. Some people might choose to drink at a show but concert culture is not exclusively tied to an intoxicated environment. People might have a few drinks before a show to loosen u but, once an artist takes the stage, the music melts away tension anyway. The vibe is set by the performance, not by one's beverage of choice. Disclaimer: Five Cent Sound Magazine does not condone the purchase, sale, or use of fake identification cards. We are, however, proponents of all-ages spaces and think everyone should have access to quality live music.

SPRING 2016

41


stepping stone

Stepping Stones is a cover band comprised of students Dylan Curry, Chris Idzal, Colin Kirwan, and Connor Quigley. They play at bars, private parties, and weddings throughout New England.

42

FIVE CENT SOUND

s


k c o c b a marc b Marc Babcock (‘17) is a student of writing for film and television at Emerson College. He plays folk and other acoustic music in the greater Boston area and he’s commonly featured at the Spotlight Tavern in Beverly, Massachusetts.

Tim Gamache (‘19) is a student of visual and media arts at Emerson College. He is first and foremost a singer-songwriter, but has played in many bands with varying musical styles. Currently, he plays guitar in a psychedelic band. In February, he hosted his first house concert in the third floor common room of Piano Row, and plans to make this a regular event.

tim gamache

SPRING 2016

43


jive mcfly

Jive McFly is comprised of students from Berklee College of Music. They are signed to Emerson College’s student-run record label, Wax On Felt Records. They play a modern take on pop rock mixed with funk in venues like The Middle East, The Red Room at Cafe 939, clubs in New York, and festivals on Cape Cod.

44

FIVE CENT SOUND


d n a R E L L E U M N E B s g n i l i e c w o l e h t

Ben Mueller and The Low Ceilings is comprised of Phil Jones, Julia Brackett, Mike Ijac, Jesse Butcher, and, of course, Ben Mueller. They describe their sound as “psychedelic dad freak folk.� The band plays at venues throughout the greater Boston area, such as Allston and Lowell, and Nashua, New Hampshire.

SPRING 2016

45


Cherry Mellow is comprised of students from Berklee College of Music. They are signed to Emerson College’s student-run record label, Wax On Felt Records. Cherry Mellow describes their sound as “heavy mellow” and “indie Russian roulette.” Their debut album, Feng Shui, will be released May 8. They play a variety of venues, including The Red Room at Cafe 939, Out Of The Blue Too, and various festivals.

cherry mellow 46

FIVE CENT SOUND


Jake nelson Jake Nelson (‘19) is a student of visual and media arts at Emerson College. His DJ name is Bennett, and he’s played in several clubs in the greater Boston area.

SPRING 2016

47


AROUND

Bitter Words of a Strange tongue

T

hough the Asian American music scene has recently been dominated by images of Psy and “Gangnam Style,” it is becoming quite evident that catchy pop is not all they have to offer. Run River North, Blue Scholars, and Bambu are just a few of numerous other bands looking to share their culturally riveting stories through songs that offer insight into the unexpected struggles of Asian American families. In North America, alternative folk band, Run River North is made up of six Korean American musicians—John Chong (drums), Sally Kang (keyboard), Joe Chun (bass), Jennifer Rim (violin), Daniel Chae (guitar), and Alex Hwang (vocals). Their hit song, “Monsters Calling Home,” brought them into the spotlight in 2011, following their performance at Kollaboration, a talent show for Asian Americans, at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. Hwang, who wrote the song, was inspired by the challenges Korean immigrants, like his parents, face in coming to the United States.

48

FIVE CENT SOUND

In a 2014 interview with KCET, Run River North said that Korean parents have a tendency to express love for their children in covert, less explicit manners. Second generation Korean American children often misinterpret this subtlety for a lack of compassion. The band members experienced firsthand the disconnect between Korean parents and their children brought on my this misunderstanding. Hwang hoped that “Monsters Calling Home” would allow children of immigrant families to realize that the multitude of sacrifices made by their parents is an expression of love in itself. Korean immigrants have to overcome many obstacles in order to establish a stable lifestyle in a foreign country. Though many of the band members’ parents received a college education in Korea, their degrees were not valid in America. Hwang’s father, who had a degree in statistics, ran a liquor store in the United States. Chae’s father, a former engineer in Korea, sold hot dogs for a living. “The whole ‘Monsters Calling

AsianAmerican Music ANNETTE CHOI

Home’ is that, my dad has been away from Korea for thirty years, so he’s not even Korean anymore, and he’s kind of American, but he’s not,” Hwang said, “so he’s in this weird space and the only thing he can call home is the family. And if the family isn’t respecting him or working well, he’s just lost on his own. And so the whole call of ‘Monsters’ is just: what do you call home, or what is family to you?” One stanza in the song that speaks this idea says, “They’re walking heavy to the beat of a broken drum / Digging for worth in the land of a strange sun / Their children call, bitter words of a strange tongue / Hearts down, they’re walking heavy till the dying’s done.” This song also captures the difficulties many second generation Korean Americans still have in expressing their anxieties and concerns to their parents due to undeniable cultural and linguistic barriers. Hwang, who had once worked at a respected talent agency, quit his job in 2012 to fully dedicate himself to the future endeavors of Run River North. Chae also left his steady


job at a finance company to pursue his passion for music. Many of the band members’ parents were gravely concerned when their children decided to opt for unstable careers in the music industry. The six musicians admitted to feeling guilty of seemingly disappointing their parents who simply wanted their children to lead comfortable lives with secure jobs. But the growing success of the band has assuaged some of those worries and drawn an increasing amount of support from their parents. Following a series of self-made music videos shot entirely inside the band’s Honda cars, they were given a gig on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and later featured at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. They signed with Warner Music Group and are making more music to put on their upcoming album. Many of the trials recounted in Run River North’s songs are not specific to just Korean Americans. Blue Scholars is a hip-hop duo that tackles serious topics including racism and socio-economic struggles. The name “Blue Scholars” is a play on “blue col-

lar,” a term used to describe wage-earning individuals of the working class. Vocalist MC Geologic (George Quibuyen) revealed that many of Blue Scholars’ songs are inspired by his own experiences as a Filippino American. MC Geologic and his music partner DJ Sabzi (Saba Mohajerjasbi), an Iranian American, have dedicated their careers to challenging US neo-imperialism in the Philippines. They also performed with fellow hip-hop artist Kiwi on the “Stop the Killings” tour to bring light to the overlooked injustices and deaths occurring in the Philippines. Former gang member Bambu is another Filippino hip-hop MC who challenges various social issues, including immigration policies, police brutality, and workers’ rights through his lyrics. His second album was released in 2007 on the anniversary of the Los Angeles race riots. The cover of the album features a picture of a Ku Klux Klan member being hanged. Bambu combines his political and social activism with his personal insights regarding controversial happenings to create

Catie Lafoon

The WORLD

his art. An avid advocate for gender equality, he has also collaborated with his wife, rapper Rocky Rivera, to produce a song titled, “Labor of a Girl,” which calls out social sexism, specifically in regards to women of color. Artists like Run River North, Blue Scholars, and Bambu bring light to prominent issues in Asian American communities everywhere. It’s time for audiences to hear what they have to say about class, maturity, social standards, sacrifice, and revolution.

SPRING 2016

49


P

icture the opera: what do you see? The image in your mind is likely women in old-century dresses, and boasting men, both singing loud and fast in some European language. There may be nicely dressed audience members with turned up chins, or even a large-busted women with a horned helmet. No-matter how correct or incorrect your imagination is, there is still a commonly understood theme when it comes to opera: high-class European. The opera tradition began in Italy in the 16th century. Composers Jacopo Peri and Jacopo Corsi co-wrote the piece Dafne, a story of the Greek god Apollo falling in love with Daphne the nymph. Peri created a special kind of music number known as a recitative, which became the signature melodic speech opera is known for. The performance was extremely popular, and composers began to adopt the style with the start of the 17th century; Heinrich Schütz in Germany, Jean-Baptiste Lully in France, and Henry Purcell in England. The genre spread quickly, but stayed contained in Europe. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that opera made its way to Russia, and the mid-20th-century to reach China. A genre so old and classic, it seems like it is long beyond its years of innovation. In fact, in the past 50 years, the genre has almost backtracked, with opera houses requesting original piece performances rather than translations. But one woman is bringing a new sound and language to opera from an unlikely place: Africa. The woman is Nigerian-born Helen Parker-Jayne Isibor, and her creation is Pidgin Opera. Pidgin is known by many not as a unique and singular language, but instead a more general term to describe simplified language—generally English—used to communicate with people who are unfamiliar with a language. However, Pidgin is also an ac-

50 50

FIVE CENT CENT SOUND SOUND FIVE

tual language, though it keeps the idea of combining cultures. Pidgin is used mainly in Africa, helping people from the many different countries within the continent communicate. There are over 500 languages spoken in Nigeria alone. Pidgin is not recognized as an official language, but serves as a combination of dozens of other languages, and not all African. The language can be used as a dialect to help multiple groups with different backgrounds and first languages communicate. It is fitting that Pidgin was used as a gateway to this innovative opera considering its ability to be understood by so many people. An essential aspect of opera’s history is the way it separated people. Although Opera’s roots accepted the lower-class masses, traveling with common language and themes, it eventually gained status to create the class separation we know today. Opera was something that only high-class people would and could attend. It was only the wealthy and the educated who could afford to go to the theatre, and who could understand what the actors were saying. Opera served as a barrier, decorated with romantic languages and high culture. There was no thought about the entertaining the masses. Pidgin is the exact opposite. It is meant to expand the receptive audience. This was important to Isibor when she decided to create Song Queen: A Pidgin Opera. She chose to use a language that could be understood at least partially by many social backgrounds, using Nigerian Pidgin, a form of the language commonly referred to as just Pidgin. The dialect pulls many words and phrasing from multiple languages including English and Arabic, so that a native speaker of either language could pick up words or phrases, but the language still stands on its own. Before creating the opera Isibor was already creating music with spiritual tones and talking drums. After

moving to London she created The Venus Bushfires—a creative collective. She credits her inspiration to avant-garde, psychedelic, tribal, and meditative arts, describing her own music as “Neo Afro Folk.” She tried to incorporate her Nigerian roots and culture into her music and she became fully aware of the lack of representation in more contemporary music in 2013 when she attended a production of Parsifal at the Royal Opera House in London. At the performance, Isibor was dressed in traditional Nigerian clothing. She quickly noticed how much her attire made her stand out in the black-tie formally dressed audience. It was then she decided she wanted to see her culture become a part of the stage. She decided to create her own opera so that the African languages—represented through their combination in Pidgin—could be represented like they never had before. Pidgin is a language filled with energy. It is typically spoken fast-paced and with high energy. Isibor is not the first person in the music industry to be inspired by the language. The language has been utilized in rap and R&B by many African performers. But this is the first time the language has been brought to not only European music, but European audiences. Song Queen: A Pidgin Opera first debuted the London festival Tête à Tête last summer. It was originally a one-woman show, but has since turned into a full production with a 14-person cast. The performance is an hour-long event that mixes classical opera singing—scores including tenor, mezzo, and soprano—with African percussion, accompanied by contemporary dance. And, most importantly, every one of the 13 songs is written in Pidgin. The story of the opera is based on Mami Wata, a West African folklore of a mermaid songstress who lures travelers to death, and yet is still worshiped by everyone. Similar stories have been


GOOGLE

told throughout many cultures, and this was an intentional choice by Isibor. Her intent was to carry on the theme of pidgin of bringing the masses together. The premiere of the opera was extremely well received in London; a huge accomplishment considering the Tête à Tête festival is one of the largest Opera festivals in the world. But it didn’t come without its critics. While the opera was being made, many of Isibor’s friends and family questioned why she wanted to use pidgin in her work. They didn’t think anyone would want to listen to the language. But she was determined, arguing that her reason was simple: Pidgin is a part of Nigeria, she is a part of Nigeria, why shouldn’t her work have Nigeria as a part of it? Her work was a part of her and she wanted that to include everything about her, which includes Nigeria. Once they saw the final creation, she found some people coming back to her apologizing and remarking on the beauty of the piece. However, she claims those who haven’t seen the opera are still hesitant to embrace the piece, not quite understanding why Pidgin should be in Opera, such a European-controlled medium. It has been six months since the innovative opera was presented to the public. Since then Isibor has not stopped creating and updating her piece. The composer is working on expanding her creation to a larger audience, creating a global phenomenon. Her first mission is to bring the opera back to Nigeria. As she observed when creating her piece, the Nigerian community is the most critical of using aspects of their culture for the masses. But Isibor wants to show Nigerians the true beauty of their culture, and how it can even be incorporated into classical music. The opera will then come here to the United States. Ultimately, Isibor wants to go on a world tour, spreading her musical revolution. The tour is supposed to be confirmed in the next coming months. Opera continues to be dominated by traditional European values and languages. But the creation of A Pidgin Opera could be the start of change. There is no doubt that when musicians and composers blend cultures, huge innovations are made to expand audiences and represent more people. If something as classic as opera can change, there is no telling what other innovations will be made to the music world: that’s the beauty of the industry. You can check out Song Queen: A Pidgin Opera at https://vimeo.com/134629518.

SPRING SPRING2016 2016

51 51


“Punk was defined by attitude rather than musical style.” – David Byrne, founding member of American New Wave/art punk band, Talking Heads “Punk rock is just another word for freedom.” – Patti Smith, American “godmother” of punk “Voilà ma subversion, Voilà ma révolution.” [Translation: “This is my subversion, this is my revolution.”] – French band Chavire’s song “Je Suis Chioran”

I

t is widely accepted that punk music began in the United Kingdom and United States, but France’s influence is too often overlooked. Bands like The Sex Pistols, Green Day, Black Flag, and Fugazi are recognized as some of the most prevalent and influential punk artists. But these are bands from American and the United Kingdom. So where do the French fit in? Historically, French music has been criticized for being a copycat of American and British scenes. But France

Trajes de novio italiano

52

FIVE CENT SOUND

had more of an influence than most might believe in the development of the anti-establishment culture that is punk rock. For instance, the French punk scene lent many facets to the evolution of punk in United Kingdom and United States. Punk is heavily influenced by politics, and the riots of 1968 in France exemplify this. Early French punk was also hugely influenced by Guy Debord’s ideas of Situationism. French reaction to the social crises of the time encouraged big names in the


United Kingdom, like Malcolm McLaren, manager of the Sex Pistols, to treat punk as a social movement. The music itself wouldn’t have been shaped quite the same were it not for French bands like Stinky Toys or Metal Urbain who experimented with instruments and lyrics. As time went on, French punk continuously evolved in order to adapt to the politics of the time. This gave the music lasting power. Shoot-offs of punk influenced by post-punk and post-hardcore metal trends then started to develop in France. Some artists were labeled as emo rock or math rock, which is a guitar-based experimental genre that came out of the 1980s. The common thread among these groups is the musicians and artists whose craft remains deeply entrenched in their political beliefs. As in any kind of punk, there remains the burning desire to escape the confines of social norms. Billy Joe Armstrong, lead singer of Green Day, once said, “A guy walks up to me and asks, ‘What’s Punk?’ So I kick over a garbage can and say, ‘That’s punk!’ So he kicks over a garbage can and says, ‘That’s punk?’ and I say, ‘No, that’s trendy!” In that sense, it stands to reason that those involved in the DIY punk culture must continue to change and grow as a scene. Today, France’s underground music maintains the principles of punk while moving forward to explore new forms of musical expression. However there is variance in the extent to which different French bands play into the American influence or stay true to their roots. Lyon-native band SPORT is self-proclaimed indie punk group, who often veers into emo and post-hardcore as well. It is clear that they are influenced by American culture in some ways. The opening track of their newest album Bon Voyage opens with instrumentals playing over an audio clip from the Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me. So are they adopting American culture or adding their own French commentary to it? There’s no way to say for sure, but it is undeniable that they are fascinated by America and implementing that curiosity into the making of their music.

Rebloggy But not all take that route. Chavire, a band from Nantes, France, for example, stuck to singing in their native language. “French is the language I am the more comfortable with,” said band member Ed in an interview with online blog Droid Rage Zine. “I think it was important for us to use it to build the bridge between our feelings and ideals (and the way to translate them faithfully) and radical politics.” Their lyrics contemplate the direction of both the punk movement and the current government of France. Their music doesn’t reflect superficial love or the attractiveness of some girl, but it recognizes the imperfections of the modern world. “Of course the old world we are living in is awful and disgusting,” said Ed, “but once we’ve made peace with that finding, how can you get over it? Looking for solutions, how can we rebuild things together?” Other notable bands include Ba-

ton Rouge and I Was a Cosmonaut Hero, both of whom utilize an odd compromise of the two influences. Like Chavire, they sing in their native language while communicating in English on social media. Perhaps it is their goal to be more widely accessible while maintaining their authenticity as a French band. If you’ve been to any basement shows or grimy makeshift clubs in Boston you’d know that there is a significant punk scene here. The cool thing is a lot of the styles parallel what is happening in France. Maybe it was more of a mutual conversation between France and the United Sates, but putting the cultures side by side can expose a lot about the history of punk. In a weird way, it is reassuring that no matter where in the world you find yourself, there is probably a house show with twinkle lights, screaming, and moshing nearby.

SPRING 2016

53


i've got dengue fever and so should you BY JACOB KORNFIELD

M

ost people never expect to get Dengue Fever. That was certainly the case for Ethan Holtzman, who contracted the illness on a trip to Cambodia in 1977. While in the hospital, he passed the time by listening to the radio. For six months, Holtzman was enamored with what he heard. The sixties style psychedelic soundscapes of Cambodian artists like Ros Sereysothea, Pan, Rom, and Sinn Sisamuth occupied the airwaves, preserved and fossilized in auditory amber for nearly three decades. Holtzman eventually returned to his home in Southern California, but this time he took psychedelic Cambodian rock with him. Whether it rode on the sound waves of the American Forces Vietnam Network radio station or was performed by the soldiers themselves, songs by The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, The Smiths, Elvis Presley, and Jefferson Airplane rang throughout most US Army bases of the Vietnam War. These songs eventually extended their reach into areas where Vietnamese civilians lived. From village to village, this fresh new American style of music gained a large following among Vietnamese youth, which allowed it to reach Saigon, the capital and cultural bastion of South Vietnam. Eventually, the Saigon rock scene grew out of covers of English rock classics. Not only was this new fusion of culture revolutionary, unique, and completely indicative of the new global age, but it was also the birth of rock music in South East Asia. Photo by Lauren Dukoff

54

FIVE CENT SOUND


Due to the popularity of rock and roll in the cities during the war, many Vietnamese musicians headed to bars to preform for US soldiers and other fans of the genre. Such was the case with the CBC Band, the house band for Saigon-based CBC Bar. Nam Loc (vocals) and her brothers, Tung Linh (guitar) and Tung Van (drums) started playing in order to lift the family out of poverty. With catchy vocals and electric guitar solos akin to Jimi Hendrix or post-“Rubber Soul” Beatles, CBC’s fanbase grew, offering them great opportunities like the chance to play at Live From Saigon, South Vietnam’s first international rock festival. Much like their musical inspirations, CBC also found international success. Perhaps the most successful Vietnamese musician to come out of the East Asian rock and roll scene is Elvis Phương, whose career spans over fifty years. Born Phạm Ngọc Phương in 1945, Phương always had a passion for music. When he was six, he taught himself how to sing by listening to records and cassette tapes of foreign musicians. His favorite was the King of Rock himself, Elvis Presley. After working with a handful of popular Vietnamese bands, such as the Rockin’ Stars and Les Vampires in the early ‘60s, Phương released his first album, Shotguns 26, in 1968. Its seventeen tracks feature bluesy, harmonica driven tunes, brassy New York style jazz, and, of course, rock and roll ballads that showcase Elvis Presley’s influence. “Vết Thù Trên Lưng Ngựa Hoang” is a standout. It’s an extremely beautiful and soulful ballad made in response to the war that ravaged his country. Phương’s powerful and emotional vocals make this a definitive sound of Vietnam. The song belongs in any playlist that already includes George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Since then, Phương’s career has continued to evolve, and he remains one of Vietnam’s most prominent singers. After the Fall of Saigon, Phương left his country and moved rom France to the United States. In 1998, he returned to Saigon, which is contemporarily known as Ho Chi Minh City, where he continues to produce music. This diffusion of sound and culture wasn’t limited to wartorn Vietnam. It also found its way into neighboring countries like Cambodia. Widely considered The King of Khmer Music, Sinn Sisamouth is a musical visionary and an inspirational figure. Sisamouth started his professional music career around 1953 with a regular spot on the national Khmer radio station. His beautiful, crooning vocals combined with his sweet romantic ballads made Sisamouth a beloved performer and eventually a protégé of the queen of Cambodia. The King of Khmer Music not only created his own tunes and melodies, but also translated a handful of contemporary English songs into Khmer. An example of this would be his great cover of The Animal’s iconic “House of the Rising Sun.” Like many heralds of rock and roll, Sisamouth’s time making music was tragically cut short. In 1975, Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge took control of the Cambodian govern-

ment. Being a musician, a doctor, and having strong connections with the old regime, Sisamouth fit exactly the societal niche that Pol Pot sought to eradicate. Therefore, as was the case with most music of the Khmer rock golden age, much of Sisamouth’s work was destroyed and lost to history. But Sisamouth left a lasting legacy in the doors he opened for artists that came after him. One such musician is the extremely talented Pan Rom. Featuring tracks with heavy drums, awesome electric guitar solos, and echoing lyrics, Rom’s sounds are comparable to those of Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd. She frequently collaborated and preformed with contemporaries Sisamouth and Ros Sereysothea. Rom’s “Don’t Speak” is a great motivational jam. It has some wicked guitar solos, great supporting vocals, and, of course, her iconic voice. Fast-paced and bluesy, this track belongs on any sort of classic rock playlist with sounds that you can dance to. One of the most prominent singers of the golden age, Sereysothea, may have gone unnoticed if not for her friends convincing her to join a singing contest in 1963. By 1967, Sereysothea moved to the capital to perform on the national radio station. Much like Rom, she has was a high-pitched voice. This coupled with her use of organs and electric guitar, gives her a psychedelic, almost eerie sound. King Norodom Sihanouk awarded Sereysothea with the royal title of The Golden Voice of the Royal Capital. Special mention should go to the track, “I Will Starve My Self To Death.” Just like the track’s title implies, the song possesses an eerie feel due to Sereysothea’s trailing and haunting vocals. What makes this track unique is the beat that resembles a reggae sound. Place this song in a swing/reggae playlist for some interesting variety. It’s widely accepted that rock has a pretty rebellious spirit. It knows no boundaries. In Cambodia, a unique blending of Western and Eastern sounds blossomed into a golden age that was nearly wiped from history and eventually reborn from the ashes. Holtzman and the rest of the Dengue Fever band are a result of this resurgence. Upon his return from Cambodia, Holtzman formed Dengue Fever with his brother, friends, and Khmer vocalist Chhmol Nimol. Ironically paralleling the evolution of South East Asian rock, the band started off covering classic tracks by Sisamouth, Rom, and Sereysothea. Gradually, they proceeded to write their own songs. Dengue Fever works to further mix and combine elements of eastern and western sounds—classic Cambodian rock and contemporary indie. The song “Tiger Phone Card” from the band’s third album Venus on Earth is a great song for newcomers due to the track’s English vocals and distinctly Cambodian rock sound. Dengue Fever Presents: Electric Cambodia compiles and remasters many fading and lost songs of Khmer’s golden age of classic rock. Dengue Fever is continuing the rich legacy of a culture and of rock and roll.

SPRING 2016

55


davidjamesphotos.blogspot.com/

Finding New Zealand's Identity Through Music By Zoe Licata

M

any associate New Zealand with hobbits, elves, and the dragon Smaug. Otherwise, they confuse the country with its neighbor Australia. From its beginning, New Zealand has struggled to establish a known identity. And the same can be said about its music scene. Before the rise of Lorde in 2013, homebred music was unknown to most, including the locals. But with a new surge in the want for identity, times may be changing. New Zealand is not Australia. It’s further south, and it’s landscape is much more diverse. Rolling hills, active volcanoes, and breathtaking waterfalls collide with populated cities, loud harbors, and modern architecture. Wellington, the condensed capital city, could pass for a combination of Los Angeles and Boston. But New Zealand’s music scene is not so diverse. A look at the country’s Top 40 list reveals a less-thanunique music taste. Each week, American and British musicians, such as Justin Bieber, The Weeknd, and Ellie Goulding, top all the charts. New Zealand citizens, known as “Kiwis,” have grown accustomed to the lack of native musicians occupying the pop culture space. Local groups simply aren’t given enough attention, which means they can’t

evilstu.wordpress.com

56

five cent sound

make it big enough to find a national audience. The original inhabitants of the islands were the Maori people, who came from Eastern Polynesia. When European presence greatly increased during the seventeenth century, New Zealand became a part of the British Empire by the mid800s. It’s a classic story of colonization. With all of the conflict and struggle for power, the country has never been able to redefine a Kiwi. The country is still working to separate itself from England. Recently, they announced that their flag will no longer contain the Union Jack. This news has many refocusing on patriotism. There’s been increased support for national sports, such as rugby and cricket, and a change in the way they listen to local music. One band that has benefitted from this newfound love is indie group The Phoenix Foundation. They formed in 1997, in Wellington, New Zealand. The founding members were high school classmates Luke Buda (vocals, guitar, and keyboard), Conrad Wedde (keyboard and guitar), and Samuel Flynn Scott (vocals and guitar). After a very brief exploration of metal in school, the band graduated and quickly found their sound by mixing psychedelic indie-rock with calmer alt-country. A year after releasing their first EP, China Cove, in 2000, the band added three more members: Tim Hansen (bass), Richie Singleton (drums), and Will Ricketts (percussion). The Phoenix Foundation grew in popularity during 2001. Their sound appealed to the young music lovers of their generation. Their track, “The Drinker,” which they recorded in their athome-studio, was named Best


Unreleased Song of 2001 in New Zealand. But for the majority of the population, this didn’t mean much. The band’s next few singles gained similar recognition by way of independent radio shows. Over the next few years, The Phoenix Foundation rose to nationwide acclaim, touring throughout Australia and Europe in 2005. Then, they began to stagnate. It looked the band was going to end up like all the other local artists: on the cusp of achieving large-scale popularity, but just not good enough. Over a decade later, The Phoenix Foundation is back. And they’re making more of an impact than ever before. There have been a few member changes—Warner Emery replaced Hansen on bass in 2005 and Chris O’Connor replaced Singleton on drums in 2015. But what’s really gotten everyone's attention is the release of the band’s sixth album, Give Up Your Dreams, this past summer. In the first week, the rhythm and synth heavy album was number two on New Zealand’s charts, beating out many popular American and British LPs. Many say the reason for the album’s success is a result of timing and a young audience with different musical tastes. But what seems like a more significant reason is the country’s newfound focus in forming an individual identity. The group has become a symbol of New Zealand’s surge in national pride. The Phoenix Foundation is not the first artist from New Zealand to gain popularity. Nor has it gained more popularity than any other New Zealand group—Lorde holds that title. Other successes include jazz/reggae group Fat Freddy’s Drop, folk band Avalanche City featuring lead singer Dave Baxter, rock band The D4, singer Brooke Fraser, and rapper Scribe. All of them grew both nationally and internationally in the past couple decades and put New Zealand on the map; however, for the locals, they didn’t contribute enough to the country’s sense of national identity. What is most significant about The Phoenix Foundation is the fact that it has national popularity without being internationally known. This seems normal for those in the United States, but New Zealand is more isolated. With two major islands and multiple smaller ones, the country’s physical divide has been hard to bridge. This disconnect makes it more difficult for national trends to take flight. It’s easier for the people of New Zealand to simply tune in to what the world is listening to. Until 2001, radios only played about 2 percent of original New Zealand music. During The Phoenix Foundation’s rise to fame, New Zealand founded Music Month, a group consisting of several local radio outlets that petitions to play more New Zealand

music on commercial radio. Now, every May is dedicated to large celebrations and festivals of national labels. Since their rebirth, The Phoenix Foundation has gone against the norm of limited stardom that typically plagues New Zealand groups and become nationally popular. Lorde also continues to be supported with national pride, while she is absent from the US music scene. Thus far, New Zealand has proven to have many hidden gems, and you never know when the next one will appear.

metrolyrics.com

festival.co.nz

spring 2016


Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue historama.com

BY SARA MAE HENKE

FIVE CENT SOUND

http://w w w .tim eso fi s r ae l.c o

58

lifestyles as well. Some of the most famous Israeli artists, like Shlomo Artzi and Arik Einstein, came along during this time period. Artzi is tied to the roots of Israeli music culture, like Bob Dylan is with American grassroots music. An active musician since the 1960s, he is considered the biggest rock star of the nation. His number one album on iTunes is Osher Express. The use of piano, accordion, and harmonica creates a bluegrass singer-songwriter sound throughout the LP. Although you may not understand what he says, you can hear the earnestness in his voice. It’s very soothing. While English appears on a few tracks, Artzi sings a majority of the songs in Hebrew. Shalom Hanoch was one of the first heavy rock musicians in Israel. Einstein, previously mentioned, was another name popular in folk music. Hanoch and Einstein collaborated a lot in the late twentieth century, most notably on Muscat for which they sing each other’s songs. This album has a rich blend of rock and folk so characteristic of this era in Israeli music. After the death of Einstein in 2013, Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu said, “We all grew up on his songs. You said Arik Einstein, you said Israel… The State of Israel bids a sad farewell to a culture giant.” In a state where there was once not much in the way of musical identity, Einstein rose to the top as an important figure alongside Hanoch and Artzi. They built the groundwork for a distinct and proud culture. “I primarily listen to the older music because that is the music of my parents—I just happen to think that’s the best,” Pomeranitz says. When it comes to today’s music, Pomeranitz thinks artists have started to sell out. “Israeli music [post Six-Day War] is very much like a sponge. When it first formed it was music of the diaspora, so m/

W

hen you look at the progression of a country’s musical identity, it may not be with the country’s political history in mind. On the surface, you think about the music’s elements—the instruments used or the tempo of the songs. The mood you’re in when you listen could mean the difference between crying in a dark room or smiling and walking through a field of flowers on a sunny day. But in Israel, their history has defined the sounds of their culture. The conflict between Israel and Palestine for Jerusalem, or what is considered the Holy Land, has been going on for thousands of years. In 1967, the Six-Day War started as a preemptive attack by Israel against Syria, Jordan, and Egypt, who had supposedly been planning to take back Jerusalem. Only four days into his position as defense minister, Israeli Moshe Dayan made the decision to destroy the Egyptian Air Force on the ground, followed by attacks on Syria and Jordan. Before this war, the Israelis felt very vulnerable surrounded by so many countries that threatened them. With the victory came a new confidence. Israel had not had much in the way of a national musical identity apart from traditional Jewish music, and now a new era of music emerged. Rather than focusing on Orthodox Jewish culture, post Six-Day War music reflected the everyday lives of Israelis. Selah Pomeranitz (’19), a first-generation American and Israeli student at Emerson College, has parents who both grew up in Israel. This is the music his parents grew up listening to, and it later played a large part in his childhood. Pomeranitz says, “After the Six-Day War, that is when Israeli culture crystallized; like now we can have an actual national identity.” In addition to blending new styles of music, the lyrics of these new songs began to reflect the struggles of Israeli


you had music from Yemen and Iran and Klezmer and all that. New music is very much American because American culture has left a huge imprint.” The Klezmer music mentioned here has origins in the Ashkenazi Jewish peoples of Eastern Europe and is one example of the traditional Jewish music that was so prominent before the Six-Day War. The influence of American culture on the other hand has translated into a lot of artists who are “Americanized” because they use elements from pop culture prevalent in the United States. While this is not necessarily bad, it does stray from Israel’s other historical influences. Singers like Marina Maximilian or Ninet Taveb, who won Israel’s The Voice have a tendency to use English and cater to the mainstream crowd’s hunger for stuff that gets a lot of radio play. Although Taveb’s songs, like “Paper Parachute” and “Child,” are catchy, they definitely showcase the Americanization happening in global music. Her songs most closely resemble Western artists like Daughter and Florence & The Machine. Maximilian is another such artist, who embodies the early 2000s vocals of Norah Jones. She also adds some electronic elements to her English songs, which feel a little out of place in the context of an otherwise earthy folk style of music. Maximilian alters between Hebrew and English music. The songs in Hebrew feel quieter, sweeter, and more genuine. The vo-

cals are soulful, whereas her songs in English sound washed out and breathy. In some sense, she represents the tugging between American culture and Israeli culture that is apparent in today’s music. In a culture that Pomerantiz describes as a sponge, it is hard to figure out what authentic Israeli music really is. Music is a transitory thing, a reflection of a culture during a certain time period. Again, you probably don’t think about bands through the lens of their nation’s political history. Even if you did, Israel’s musical vernacular is not so simple. But whether you are a fan of the post Six-Day War music, the modern Israeli music, or the Klezmer music that has been around for centuries, you can catch a glimpse of the nature of Israel’s history. In a strange way, you can connect with how much music has evolved, and the hardship this nation has endured to get to what they sound like today.

WIKIPEDIA

SPRING 2016

59


theokayarms.com

Die Antwoord Takes the World Stage Representing the “Zef” Style

T

B y M aya G andara

he first song on the Spotify artist page, “Ugly Boy” is queued up. Suddenly, a soft, almost eerie, voice begins to sing along to a catchy beat. The voice belongs to a tiny, blonde, high-pitched soprano Yolandi Visser, whose voice almost resembles that of a K-pop artist. But don’t be fooled: her shaved crown, long spiky hair, white albino makeup and all-black eye contacts are unique. Her voice is soon replaced by a speaking style rap rave voice coming from Waktin Tudor Jones, or as he is known by his stage name “Ninja”, a scrawny white male covered in “prison like” tattoos. A third member, known as “DJ Hi-Tek,” takes the back burner, but is nonetheless present. To the uninitiated, this music may seem odd, possibly even demented, but also undeniably interesting, and different from a lot of the music heard on the radio. Described by Media Club South Africa as having “catchy and crude beats, pre-pubescent bodies, gold teeth, tattoos and mean-looking mullets”, this duo called Die Antwoord caught the public’s eye back in 2010. Today, Die Antwoord is rather well known, and have played alongside popular musical figures such as Drake, - they both were featured in Australia’s Future Music Festival this year. But, like a lot of musicians these days, the band started by putting out their songs on YouTube, where it spread so rapidly the server even crashed. Their song “Cookie Thrumper” has managed to acquire over 21 million views, while “Enter

60

FIVE CENT SOUND

The Ninja” has almost 37 million. So what exactly is special enough to attract so much attention? Die Antwoord is one of the biggest names to come out of South Africa, forming a unique genre out of the Afrikaans slang word Zef. When translated to English, the word means “common”, though the people who associate themselves with the term are anything but. A jumble of all different terms, this group can be seen as “white trash” hipsters donning statement haircuts and big gold jewelry. While this may not seem like the most sophisticated mode of representation, they don’t care in the slightest. This is how they choose to express their identity, to make a name for themselves, and to represent the impoverished white Africans from Cape Town. So the stylistic image surrounding Zef is clearly idiosyncratic, but what musical tones fall under the Zef umbrella? This distinct look goes hand in hand with the peculiar sound. A fusion of rave-rap and hip-hop, it’s hard to pinpoint a single existing genre Zef comes from. Extremely synth-heavy and energetic electronic beats are placed behind speaking style raps that could be described as having a lot of potty-mouth lyrics. This style of rap is far from polite, and it takes on its own persona. Die Antwoord’s music doesn’t mimic any other musical genre out there: they created their own. Die Antwoord isn’t the only group to be put in the Zef category. Jack Parow, though a fellow African rapper coming out of the suburbs north of Cape Town, prefers to adopt the


topfunz.com musical identity of more pop African rap, while still wearing the eccentric style of gold chains and hi-tops. He’s the kind of guy who falls under that description of having an extremely dirty potty mouth. He even claims that someone once came up on stage and stopped his set because his swears were getting to be too much. Though primarily a musician, Parow recently released a book on his experience with fame, called The Guy with the Moustache at the Bar, which came out this past September. Since most consider Zef to be the “white trash” coming out of the impoverished white suburbs of South Africa, some of the people of Cape Town take offense to the persona the genre embodies — one that wishes to represent the “gangster style” of colored South Africa. However, an article in The New York Times considers a different perspective, “That move [towards a gangster identity] reflects a broader change in white South African culture. It was the black majority that achieved political liberation in 1994. But whites experienced their own form of liberation. Their liberation was in the arts,” writes Eve Fairbanks. In their music video, “Fatty Boom Boom,” Yolandi, painted all black while wearing a yellow dress, appeared to be in blackface, while the dancers were painted all white. This image attracted a lot of negative press and views. This group wanted to represent South Africa, but their methods of doing so have been criticized for being disrespectful and potentially racist.

This video left people wondering if it were indeed a racial injustice, or just a parody in which Die Antwoord were showcasing their form of art and representing their homeland. How are people to take Yolandi’s body covered in black paint? It is hard to know where the line is drawn between a stunt for audiences and an offensive racial issue. Jones (Ninja) claims to be a “black man stuck in a white mans body,” but does that give him the right, even as an artist, to create works like this? What you take away from this is up to your own interpretation. Taking away any sort of negative connotations surrounding the Zef style, could the music alone be considered catchy enough to deserve all the press it has received in the United States over the past few years? Die Antwoord toured Europe and North America in 2010, and even had a whopping 85,000 audience at the music festival Coachella. Celebrities in the United States were amazed at their unique sound and sent praise their way, opening more doors for the group. Take a listen to Die Antwoords most recent album Donker Mag out just last year, or read Jack Parow’s latest book and see if the Zef genre and lifestyle is up your alley. Even if the sound isn’t something that could grow on you, you have to give them credit for being crazy and extraordinary in the way they show themselves to the world. Die Antwoord doesn’t care if you take them seriously or not, their form of art is theirs to create and share; whether the public hates it or loves it is irrelevant to them.

SPRING 2016

61


reviews drake x future

/ what a time to be alive BY ANNIE FELL

Photos by Mark Peckmezian and Krista Schlueter

62

FIVE CENT SOUND


T

he defining characteristic of What A Time To Be Alive, the mixtape collaboration by Drake and Future, lies in the gap between the duo’s public personas: it’s a tangle of hard and soft, of Future’s codeine-coated anxieties, and of Drake and his friends just having “money to spend.” Their strange dynamic has been previously hinted at with Drake being featured on almost every album Future has released. While the songs (including “Where Ya At” and “Tony Montana”) have generally experienced commercial success, there’s always been a subtle stiffness in Drake’s adaptation to Future’s style. That isn’t as much of a problem on the highly-anticipated mixtape as it is a more equal collaboration. But despite a handful of truly great songs, there’s still a lingering awkwardness in the reconciliation of their personalities. The album mostly alternates between tracks respectively helmed by Future and Drake. Future opens with “Digital Dash,” which, though slow and maybe even a little boring, is an effective introduction to their chemistry. Future, low and rhythmic, depicts sex and violence with an underlying sense of heaviness. Meanwhile, Drake brags about his status and machismo (and makes a Harlem Shake reference in the year 2015 AD, for the record). It’s always obvious when Drake is in the midst of success, as his lyrics shift from meme-able self-loathing to aggressive, almost alienating braggadocio, and his current comedown from “Hotline Bling” and the infamous Meek Mill tracks is no different. It’s clear that on this album, we aren’t getting Sad Boy Drake, but Bad Boy Drake. Their differences are cemented on the third track, “Live From The Gutter.” Future addresses his demons— mainly his teenage years spent hustling—inserting a sense of himself into the album that is less apparent on other songs. Future “reporting live from the gutter” is personal, vulnerable even; Drake’s reportage, on the other hand, comes off as corny. I feel like I’m not making too much of an ass out of you and me by saying that Drake has probably never been in the gutter in the same way Future has. While Drake’s investigation of the emptiness of fame is an interesting plot point in the evolution of his persona, it seems almost quaint in comparison to Future’s misfortunes. “Diamonds Dancing” is Future’s strongest track, but that unfortunately comes at the cost of it being Drake’s worst. While Future gives subtlety and nuance to the album’s overarching theme of excess, Drake bemoans his current lay friend not paying enough attention to him. He laments, “You better not be on the phone talking up a storm like you usually do,” a truly mixed message considering just a little over a month

ago, he was complaining about how you never call him on his cellphone anymore. But despite Drake finally crossing the line between Concerned Softie and Controlling Nightmare, Future saves the song with his slow-burning, catchy bridge and makes it one of the best on the album. WATTBA has two bangers, “Big Rings” and “Jumpman,” which, like all of the other notable songs on the album, were produced by Metro Boomin. It feels almost dirty to enjoy these songs, as they glorify the exorbitant wealth that Drake and Future have been faintly denouncing in every other song, but the demand for “some really big ring [and] some really nice things” is far too intoxicating. Within the short time since their release, both songs have already become iconic in a sense, seeing as it is virtually impossible to go anywhere without hearing either. And that’s not just in the hey-I-think-that-dude-justplayed-“Know Yourself”-for-the third-time-tonight-at-thisshitty-house-party way; they’ve equally become fixtures on both Top 40 and college radio. Apparently, there is a new law that every neighborhood in the city has to have at least one car driving around blaring them at all times. The other day, I heard the haunting trills of “Chi-town, Chi-town, Michael Jordan…” coming from the headphones of a woman sitting a few seats away from me on the T. They’re inescapable, but only in the most compelling of ways. Unfortunately, Future’s subtlety is no match for the potent combination of Drake’s signature bravado and the nearly unfathomable hype that’s been surrounding him for the entirety of 2015. He deserves equal, if not more, praise than Drake for his lyrical prowess, but it’s hard to pay attention to the nuances of “Live From The Gutter” and “Diamonds Dancing” when you’re just trying to memorize “Jumpman” in time for the weekend. As corny as Drake sometimes seems on WATTBA, the hype isn’t completely unmerited. He built his career on the foundation of being at least vaguely relatable—he’s at once self-deprecating and aggressively confident, a paradox that can be understood by anyone who’s deleted a tweet or an insta because it didn’t get the amount of faves you thought it deserved. That’s why his transition to more mainstream rap, based mainly around the theme of exorbitant excess, over the past couple years has been so wildly successful. It makes you, a person who may have been following Drake since his humble beginnings MC-ing the Degrassi High Talent Show, feel like you too have the power to demand some really nice things.

SPRING 2016

63


Meow The Jewels A purrr-lesant Surprise BY EMILY KINZER

I

feel pretty vindicated in saying that this has been the most anticipated cat album of the 2015. The project started as a joke. Rap duo El-P and Killer Mike announced the fake spin-off in tandem with the release of their sophomore LP, Run The Jewels 2. Following a wildly enthusiastic response, El-P jokingly tweeted that if fans were willing to cough up the cash, Run The Jewels would deliver. The Meow The Jewels kickstarter then raised over $65,000—significantly more than the $40,000 price tag Run The Jewels had set for the project. Well, message received—after donating the money to charities aiming to end police brutality, the duo set to work, assembling a team of producers, rappers, and celebrity pets to make this kitty-themed dream into a reality. Some pretty notable figures signed on as Photo by Tom Spray

64

FIVE CENT SOUND


Jewels is actually a pretty interesting production challenge. collaborators—Snoop Dogg, The Alchemist, 3D of MasRun The Jewels and their team set out to create a tight resive Attack, and Lil Bub, the feline internet sensation and mix album possessing the same personality and drive of documentary star. As the project grew bigger and bigger, so their past projects, using a specific and limited catalogue did its notoriety. An enthusiastic following beyond its initial of sounds. For the most part, Meow The Jewels succeeds in financial backers kept up-to-date on the album’s progress, this maxim, maintaining the vitality of the original tracks reading articles appearing in big-name publications like reworked with new beats that make impressive use of samPitchfork and Rolling Stone. The public waited for the alpled purrs, yowls, and mews. The best songs on the album bum to drop with baited breath, and at the end of September, are striking for their creativity but are hard-hitting and totalRun The Jewels posted their finished feline fantasy as a free ly unique, highlighting the individual sound of the featured download on their website. So far, the album has received producer, just as Run The Jewels 2 celebrates the voices of mixed reviews. Many critics can’t even believe they are the original duo. giving it the time of day. What’s important, though, is that “Oh My Darling Don’t Meow” is a particular gem at people are paying attention. the top of the album. Guest producer Just Blaze sets up Yes, everything about this album is ridiculous, but its a narrative in which, after attending a rager with El-P, he anticipation and reception are a testament to how high the comes home to unwind to Cat Week on the tube. . .to dire Run The Jewels star has risen. Both El-P and Killer Mike consequences. The beat is bumping enough to rival any have been working the underground hip-hop scene for club anthem, and features dystopian kitties mewing wistyears. El-P has enjoyed a reputable career as a producer, fully as they terrorize the protagonist, who responds to the and Killer Mike as a solo artist, occasionally collaborating original lyrics with, “What the fuck do you mean ‘don’t with big names such as Jay-Z and Outkast. Even though cry’?” “Pawfluffer Night,” concocted by Zola Jesus, transthey were known by invested hip-hop fans keeping up with forms meows into droning synth tones, calling to mind an the obscure, it wasn’t until they joined forces to create Run army of zombie cats serving up rapThe Jewels—and even then—un“I LOVED THE IDEA... IN THEORY. game domination. The highlight of til Run The Jewels 2 dropped, that they made it big. Critics and lis- HOWEVER, I ANTICIPATED THE ACTUAL the album is “Paw Due Respect,” teners alike raved over the album, LISTENING EXPERIENCE TO BE A re-imagined by the up and coming producer/video game designer sky-rocketing the duo into the mainFUCKING NIGHTMARE.” Blood Diamonds, who described stream for the first time. Its combihis music in a Pitchfork interview nation of killer beats and uncomproas “generic-brand pineapple wave.” He takes the original mising politically timely lyrics made the album not only song, which is about a twisted, misunderstood young ana sure success, but a rare treat. Now the public is craving ti-hero that moves at about one hundred miles an hour, and more, and after wearing out their copies of Run The Jewels injects it with his signature dreamy electronica sound (as 2, they’ll take whatever fresh material they can get. well as a healthy dose of feline flavor). It brings to mind a But let’s get real for a second. Cats, despite all their curcarefree kitty clan lounging at the beach, rather than a volmudgeonly cuteness, have a pretty limited audio repertoire, atile teenager with a dark past. While both subject matters and the sounds that they do make are mind-numbing over are relevant and engaging, Blood Diamonds’ departure from long periods of time. Back at my Atlanta residence, I have the script is welcome. It’s the best example of what elevates a cat named Hank. I love him, and some of the sounds he Meow The Jewels from a gimmick to art—at its best momakes are pretty cute. But mostly, he meows, and through ments, it offers us a fresh, new, silly way to enjoy a song we a combination of conniving genius and pure endurance, utialready know and love. lizes this skill to torture and manipulate anyone who has to Shortly after its release, El-P tweeted, “can’t wait to endure it. All this to say, I know from personal experience read the first serious review of meow the jewels by some that the sound of a cat’s meow can be truly abhorrent when poor bastard who thinks its a serious album.” Well, I guess sustained for more than a couple of seconds. When I first this reviewer is that poor bastard, and I’m calling it surprisheard about Meow The Jewels, I loved the idea . . . in theory. ingly successful. Even if it doesn’t have the same merit and However, I anticipated the actual listening experience to be weight as their earlier work, Meow The Jewels highlights a fucking nightmare. many of the reasons listeners started loving Run The Jewels To my great surprise, Run The Jewels and their superin the first place—fast tracks, solid production, and pure, group of remix masters proved me wrong—and delightedly unapologetic individuality. And, completely ridiculous or so. Meow The Jewels started as just a funny concept, but in not, that’s worth something. practice turned out to be—dare I say it? A sick jam. The a-dork-ability of rapping kitties aside, Meow The

SPRING 2016

65


HONEYMOON VIBRATIONS BY HALEY SHERIF

L

ana Del Rey has a way with words, a talent that has helped her rise to a unique stardom. Her first album, Born to Die, came out four years ago and introduced the music scene to a haunting, majestic new voice. Since then, Del Rey has produced two other albums: Ultraviolence and her latest, entitled Honeymoon. Photos by Neil Krug

66

FIVE CENT SOUND


Del Rey’s voice is different than any I have heard before. I was going through a very difficult breakup when I saw Del Rey in concert right around the time her first album was released. I hadn’t wanted to attend the concert—I wanted to lie in bed and eat ice cream and go through the normal post-breakup rituals. But I pulled on some clothes and went. In the few hours, I watched Del Rey sway on stage, singing such hits as “Born to Die,” “Video Games,” and “Off to the Races.” I suddenly understood the power of music and what it can do for the human psyche. I remember hearing “Video Games” countless times on the radio, but never understanding its significance. But hearing Del Rey live was completely different. Her voice, though deep and hard-hitting on the album, suddenly became personal and intimate. Del Rey’s lyrics carried sensual notes I hadn’t noticed before, as if she were grabbing the listener by the scruff of the neck. In Honeymoon, I was completely in awe when again, I heard a similar sensual sound. This time, it wasn’t in person, but Del Rey was coming alive in my ear. Del Rey established her voice on Born to Die. Songs such as “Summertime Sadness” became anthems repeated on playlists and topping music charts. Honeymoon proves that Del Rey’s voice has definitely matured. Her title song, the first in the lineup, is worthy of all the hullaballoo surrounding her: “…it’s not fashionable to love me / but you don’t care,” croons the Grammy-nominated musician. Her voice sparkles alongside the acoustics in the background. I was in awe the first moments I settled into her first song. Throughout the album listeners can pinpoint countless places where Del Rey has demonstrated her unique ability to capture a story in a song, as each track takes the listener through a narrative. Del Rey is the beautiful storyteller, and we are her disciples. In “High Bby the Beach” (a song that was the end-of-thesummer anthem for many), she belts out several refrains that accurately capture her (and her audience’s) state of mind at

times. “I don’t want to do this anymore / It’s so surreal I can’t survive / If this is all that’s real.” (We’ve all been there). Del Rey captures a perspective that’s shared by many as her vocals go on to stress the chorus, “All I wanna do is get high by the beach. . .” Her vocals are so strong that her emotions clearly reverberate through her voice. On “Religion,” her lyrics are whimsical at first—it takes a minute to gather one’s bearings as you listen and then re-listen to her belt out lines like, “Everything is fine now / Let sleeping dogs lay / All our minds made up now. . .” Del Rey goes on and on, her voice carrying a slightly sad, but also confident tone. We understand her love; it’s both all-encompassing and deeply passionate. The listener can relate to the story she describes of falling in love and having that lover becomes a sort of religion, despite what her friends say and despite the warning signs, “I need your love. . .” We aren’t afraid of Del Rey, but we are afraid to stop listening. The song sparks feelings of nostalgia as soon as it ends, as if listening to it was like smelling a certain scent that brings you racing back to the first time you ever encountered it—on your lover’s sweater, or on your first date. Del Rey has the ability to do this in her music, a skill that many musicians, especially modern-day ones, have struggled to accomplish. Many fall short; too many attempt to copy past successes, only to fail. Del Rey has done something significant, which is more present in Honeymoon than anywhere else. It isn’t just an album; it’s a cornerstone marking the singer’s accomplishments in her art. In the last song on Honeymoon, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” Del Rey sings, “If I seem edgy / I want you to know / I never meant to take it out on you / Life has its problems and I get more than my share. . .” providing a powerful place on which to finish. We are completely transformed, as is Del Rey. There is a sense of accomplishment, but also exhaustion. We are ready to sit and contemplate Lana Del Rey’s words with her by our side.

SPRING 2016

67


m i a l c s ' y i d nj e m a f to

ms o t t o b t n fro e h t y b p o back on t BY EMILY TAYLOR Photo from thefrontbottoms.com

68

FIVE CENT SOUND


"...coming-of-age tales told through

I

intense emotional reactions

was introduced to The Front Bottoms through a friend in the New Jersey DIY music scene. A little bit of research (read: Wikipedia skimming) told me that these guys grew up twenty minutes away from me, played at stages I played at through haphazard “rock band” summer camps, and mentioned a lot of Jersey DIY elements in their songwriting. This might not sound like a big deal to anyone from a large city or relatively well-known area, but coming from a middle-of-nowhere wealthy suburban county with nothing to tout other than the Knicks’ former coach living down the street, any mention of the area in the media is an exciting shock. The Front Bottoms’ early work perfectly captured the lovehate relationship with north Jersey that I felt throughout my childhood—an anger at the problematic, sheltering bubble surrounding us, but a fierce pride hidden inside that mostly comes from shared complaints about the ‘burbs. Lead singer Brian Sella’s pronunciation of the word “uncomfortable” is extremely important to their early work, to give you a sense of their overall lyrical aesthetic—coming-of-age tales told through dumb, drunken acts and intense emotional reactions to commonplace things. Their third album signed to a record label (fifth in total), Back On Top, still stays true to most of the band’s best qualities—creaky, imperfect vocal delivery, pop-punk drumming styles and awkward, purposefully immature lyrics. However, in between this and their last album, Talon of the Hawk, TFB signed with indie rock giants Fueled By Ramen, and the clean, slick sound this transition produced is a lot less interesting than their earlier sound. The NJ DIY scene is all about lo-fi recordings and multi-tasking production; their previous two albums clung to this commitment, being minimally produced and beautifully messy, but the clean, poppy synth breaks, layered harmonies, and heavily treated guitar sounds on Back On Top are less relatable. Of course, The Front Bottoms aren’t even part of the New Jersey DIY scene anymore—they’ve hit the big leagues, a goal that most emo Bergen County teens can only dream of—but you don’t have to be from north Jersey to notice an inconsistency with the messages in their lyrics and newer sound. This album has some extremely strong tracks with relatable lyrics and catchy melodies that coexist with—and even improve—their new, cleaner production. “Laugh Till I Cry” is an earworm that has placed among my all-time favorite songs of theirs, a loud and desperate lament about the coming-ofage cycle of constantly partying without feeling much pleasure from or seeing any reason for it. The relatability factor for a young audience, particularly college students, is through the roof—millenials understand the cyclical act of self-medicating and expecting it to work each time. “Historic Ceme-

dumb, drunken acts

and

to commonplace things."

tery” is also extremely innovative, using a clean, creepy piano riff over tough punk power chords and drumming, as well as the blatant pot references for which they’ve become pretty well known: “Just you and me / getting high / and hanging out / getting high / and messing around / getting high / trying to figure it out” recalls the same theme as “Laugh Till I Cry” and throws a reference to one of their previous singles, “Skeleton” (“And I got so stoned / I fell asleep in the front seat . . .”). The biggest shock on the album appears on “Historic Cemetery” as well—the song features a slower, mellow rap verse to close it out, which is something TFB have never done before. In contrast to the self-deprecating themes on the rest of the album, “West Virginia” is an extremely important, emotionally charged track; the random, overproduced surfer riffs in between verses feel unnecessary, but the integrity of the lyrics make up for it. Brian Sella’s slight voice crack at the question, “Is it raining where you are?” has the capacity to break your heart, and the precursor to the first verse, “This is for all my friends in West Virginia,” recalls feelings of distance and nostalgia for good friends, even if you don’t know anyone in West Virginia (I certainly don’t). Their lyrics continue to be strikingly relatable. Still, many aspects of the album miss the mark. The slick piano riffs dispersed in “The Plan (Fuck Jobs)” and the forced, overproduced harmonies in “Summer Shandy” don’t match up with the rest of the tracks and their overall sound. Most of the album’s lyrics still hit home, but they use some meaningless filler lyrics in “Summer Shandy” and “Cough It Out” that are cringe-worthy. One could argue that they’re purposely generic, but that space could still be filled with more meaningful lines. The usual pop standard, “wave your hands in the air / like you just don’t care / I just don’t care,” makes an appearance on the album; whether or not this line was facetious, it was honestly disappointing. Even though this folk-punk band based in DIY culture is cleaning up its act, Back On Top is extremely effective and enjoyable, maintaining just enough of The Front Bottoms’ old self to satiate their most loyal fans. It is undoubtedly important to let bands evolve their sound as time goes on instead of staying stuck in their past work. So even if their new, cleaner sound is sometimes adverse to their songwriting, The Front Bottoms’ integrity as a band is still there. They’ve allowed themselves to become less of a north Jersey phenomenon and more of a national hit. This album is entirely worth hearing, its lyrics serving as a narrative for every uncomfortable moment in your life. The Front Bottoms’ sense of humor and understanding of the world still rings clear, and Back on Top can be related to and enjoyed by virtually anyone.

SPRING 2016

69


didn’t he ramble

glen hansard F

or a quarter of a century, Ireland’s favorite crooner, Glen Hansard, has built an impressive career for himself as a heartbroken and wistful singer-songwriter. Starting off in 1990 with Dublin-based rock band The Frames, Hansard has risen to great prominence in the folk scene. He is most commonly known for performing as half of the romantic duo The Swell Season and for starring in and composing 2007 film Once, for which he and his Czech counterpart, Marketa Irglova, share an Oscar for the beautifully hopeful song, “Falling Slowly.” Now, as a solo artist, Hansard has shown the music world just how talented and pensive he is, especially with his latest record released this September—the melancholy ten-track album, Didn’t He Ramble. The album opens with the sorrowful and passionate tone-setter, “Grace Beneath the Pines.” Hansard makes use of

70

FIVE CENT SOUND

his trademark string accompaniment to produce a ballad that begins with a heartrending sound that eventually turns into a song of hope. One cannot help but feel empowered by the subtle and minimalistic piano, complimenting Hansard’s keening melody as he repeats the line “I’ll get through it.” “Grace Beneath the Pines” lets the audience know that they are listening to the same raw Hansard that they have come to love, but this time, he focuses on more uplifting and spiritual themes. What really sets this album apart from Hansard’s previous work is the unique inclusion of a brass section. In Hansard’s first solo album, Rhythm and Response, he almost exclusively relied on the backing of an acoustic guitar, a piano, and a small string ensemble. Now on his sophomore album, Hansard has included tracks like “Her Mercy” that make use of trumpets, trombones, and drums—almost reminiscent of a New Orleans


Photo by Danny Clinch

BY EMMA WEEKS

gospel choir. Even though “Her Mercy” incorporates a chorus and an electrifying trumpet section, the upbeat and welcoming song still stays true to Hansard’s sound, as it includes many of the artist’s signature pleading wails. However, “Her Mercy” is not the only song similar to a bluegrass tune from the Bayou. “Lowly Deserter” also enhances Hansard’s alternate sound through the inclusion of the many horns and strings. “Lowly Deserter” best establishes Hansard as a narrative songwriter, as the somewhat moody and mysterious song tells the tale of an individual triumphing over self-suppression. This is a refreshing and inspirational topic for Hansard’s music, as he usually writes about overcoming heartache and grief. There is no doubt that the standout track of this album is “Winning Streak,” which was also released as the first single. “Winning Streak” is likely the most successful and

meaningful song on Didn’t He Ramble because of its ability to be effortlessly soulful and elegant. In this song, Hansard masterfully merges elements of classic folk music to more contemporary folk rock, loosely in the style of Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and Leonard Cohen. This track also includes guest vocals by musicians Sam Amidon and Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam; the subtlety of this collaboration making the song all the more graceful. The extraordinary harmonies between these three folk artists create a sound unparalleled to any of Hansard’s previous solo releases. Another difference between this track and Hansard’s other songs is his explicit use of religious imagery. Hansard sings, “And may the sign of the Southern Cross be some comfort to you when you’re lost, and may the devil’s evil eye pass you by.” While the meaning behind these lyrics may be missed, Hansard is truly offering the listener a message of good fortune—an idea that seems to be a consistent theme throughout the album. This song is absent of all negativity, as it provides the listener with a soothing feel. “Winning Streak” is the kind of song that would play during the end montage of an NBC drama like Friday Night Lights or Parenthood, or would be the perfect addition to the soundtrack of an indie movie—all in the best way possible. While “Winning Streak” is the definite album headliner, the track that precedes it, “Wedding Ring,” is perhaps the most underrated song on the record. In this song, Hansard moves away from his normal intense pitch and sings in almost a whisper, giving the song a vaguely hopeful tone. The nostalgic blues feel of the song slows the album down and gives the listener a nice break from the other fierce tracks. The album is also broken up by Hansard’s inclusion of a more traditional Irish melody, “Mccormack’s Wall.” With just Hansard and an Irish fiddle, this song truly captures him in his most intimate form. While this song may be too provincial for some, it is commendable that Hansard is able to stay true to his Irish roots in an album with so many different sounds. Unlike Rhythm and Response, Hansard’s latest album strays away from his typical downcast refrains and shows just how versatile he truly is. In just ten tracks, Didn’t He Ramble explores fresh sounds, including blues and gospel, while his exciting collaborations with other notable folk musicians on “Winning Streak” also adds to the album’s overall expressive empathy. One of the most impressive components of Hansard’s album is its ability to connect to almost any audience. It is also clear that his timeless lyrics and instrumental accompaniment have influenced a number of artists, including Mumford and Sons and Ed Sheeran. Hansard’s raw emotions evident on the tracks leave listeners little to complain about. He does an excellent job focusing on new themes of overcoming shortcomings and persevering while still incorporating some of the heartsick sounds of The Frames and The Swell Season. Didn’t He Ramble will leave listeners looking forward to whatever the contemplative and romantic Glen Hansard plans to put out next.

SPRING 2016

71


BOWIE EMILY TAYLOR

I

t’s hard to believe that a musician can stay relevant and consistently create incredible art for over fifty years, but David Bowie did just that. He produced amazing content from his debut to his latest album, Blackstar. Each track on that album is in a completely different genre of its own, from the upbeat drums and dissonant chords of “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime),” to the jazzy “Tis a Pity She Was a Whore,” to the slow ballad “Lazarus.” My favorite track is definitely “Dollar Days,” possibly beating “Heroes” for my favorite Bowie song — the saxophone solo before the refrain of “I’m trying to, I’m dying to” is almost too emotional for me to handle. The saddest part of this album is how good it is. All I can think about is how much life-changing music we’re missing out on with him gone; no other musician has consistently stayed five years ahead of time for an entire fifty-year career. Without Bowie showing us the future, I’m not sure that we’ll be able to find it. I’ve loved Bowie since my parents played his music in the car driving me to school, or in the kitchen where we’d dance to it in our socks after dinner. We may never get another Bowie; all we can do is be thankful that he left us such a beautiful send-off album.

RACHEL FUCCI

I

’d been putting this one off for a while. In the weeks following David Bowie’s death, I listened almost exclusively to his catalogue. I bounced around from Station to Station to Hunky Dory and, of course, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars—carefully avoiding anything off of Blackstar. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to hear it; I just didn’t want to hear it. How do you prepare yourself to listen to someone’s last words, especially after they’ve crafted them so meticulously in the form of such a public yet personal goodbye? I realized that after a lifetime of listening to Bowie, I owed it to him—and I wasn’t disappointed. Sure, it’s undoubtedly melancholy and downright uncomfortable at times; the title track is sinister, choppy, and dissonant, the low horns on “Dollar Days” would better suit a funeral dirge, and the now iconic “Lazarus” forces us to look a dying man in the face with its heartbreakingly honest lyrics. But it’s not all doom and gloom. There’s something airy and calming about “I Can’t Give Everything Away,” the verses of “Girl Loves Me” are so nonsensical that they’re almost comedic, and the jazzy instrumentation on “’Tis a Pity She Was a Whore” is upbeat and exciting (not to mention the fact that he’s singing about his junk—I’ve never been to a funeral this wild). The album is sad, absolutely; authentic, definitely; but above all, fucking weird. Bowie went out with the bang doing what he does best—catching us off guard and making us think. For that, I’m beyond grateful.

72

FIVE CENT SOUND


BLUES EMMA WEEKS

“I

don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” Thank you, David Bowie. Thank you for giving us Blackstar. Thank you for making a truthful album that portrays the desire to embrace life. Thank you for combining atmospheric jazz with those classic, lamenting ballads. Thank you for the density and lushness of the album. Thank you for staying true to your dazzling sound but also introducing melancholy instrumentals, paying homage to artists like Miles Davis. Thank you for an extraordinary twenty-seventh album. Thank you, David Bowie. Thank you for being you. Thank you for teaching me the days of the week as I listened to “Thursday’s Child” over and over and over again. Thank you for giving the world art that will live on forever. Thank you for being the Man Who Sold the World. Thank you for introducing me to “Changes,” and thank you for causing me to relentlessly beg my high school teachers to let us sing it for graduation. Thank you for being a space hero. Thank you for being the soundtrack to my life. Thank you for being the patron saint of anyone who has ever felt different and for letting them know that they are not alone. Thank you for “Heroes” and all of the amazing covers that came after it. Thank you for crossing generations and being a musician my whole family loved. Thank you for reminding me that I am enough. Thank you Ziggy Stardust, thank you Thin White Duke, thank you David Bowie.

ANNIE FELL

I

’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I never really had a Bowie phase. You would think that I would have, considering I was as much of a flamboyant weirdo in high school as the next art school scumbag, but my eccentricities tended to lie more scrawling the Black Flag logo on a stall in the girls bathroom (sorry, custodians of Libertyville High School). David Bowie was my mother’s music. I associate him much less with my days of angst and alienation than with hearing my mom sing along to “Let’s Dance” under her breath as it played on Chicago’s WXRT. I had no Moment of Discovery—he was always just there. Bowie’s death was like a death in the family. I’m sure it felt that way for a lot of people, and Blackstar is the heirloom locket we’re all left with. The album is a beautiful sentiment—a parting gift for all who were affected by him. It understandably doesn’t have the same vigor as his classics, but it doesn’t need it. By enforcing his own last words, Bowie gives fans closure; he has said all that he needs to say. The idea of having some form of control in your own death is reassuring, even if it’s just in the message you leave with the world.

SPRING 2016

73


chairlift moth BY JANII YAZON

W

hen listening to Chairlift’s latest album, Moth, it’s hard to not feel like the eponymous insect—vulnerable and uncontrollably drawn into the cityscape vividly created by pop duo Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly. As their third LP, and the first in four years, Moth reasserts Chairlift’s prowess in the music industry. This album marks a huge step forward in the combination of Wimberly’s edgy production and Polachek’s ever-strengthening vocals. Some songs miss the mark with the former conceding too far or the latter losing herself to the sentiment. But when the two strike the perfect balance, the track’s narratives resonate tightly with the listener. The story begins with “Look Up,” an ethereal tune that spends its whole two minutes coming together. The first verse is rather bare, leaving Polachek’s vocals exposed and the metaphorical lyrics vulnerable to scrutiny. The call to action to look up when faced with trouble is accompanied by a light beat and climbing horns, each chorus leading up to the strike of a conclusive chord. Photo by Tim Barber

74

FIVE CENT SOUND


Chairlift introduces the listener to the progressive perspective that drives the rest of the album. The duo considers Moth a “New York record,” emulating the harmonious eccentricity and unsteady durability of the city. Though there is a brief presentation of Japanese inspiration in “Ottawa to Osaka,” a very “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”-esque, fanciful track, the Big Apple’s impact is the main focus. This influence is most obvious on the first single released from the album; “Ch-Ching” displays its New York roots from the production to the lyrics. It demonstrates a contagious fling between hip-hop and pop, with contrast between Polachek’s sharp staccato, flirtatious whispers, and rollercoaster-like melodies mirroring the variability of the New York skyline. The lyrics speak about “the ch-ching moment,” where by some stroke of luck, the numbers line up in your favor. Living in New York is a gamble, and Chairlift advises those given that rare opportunity to seize it. This song sits on the track list between quick-paced “Romeo” and bittersweet “Crying in Public” as the hardest hitting song on the album. It opens with pulsating horns and a whistle reminiscent of those in Western films when the protagonist enters a new town and finds himself unwelcome. To Caroline Polachek, “the cowboy is the American symbol of individualism.” But instead of borrowing their individualism, “Ch-Ching” is about creating your own as soon as you’re given the chance. The bridge summarizes the carpe diem theme: “I beg for forgiveness not permission.” The rest of Moth follows this mantra, with Polachek and Wimberly remaining unapologetically confident even in their most vulnerable moments. Many critics praise “Polymorphing” for its assertive delivery of the chorus: “there’s something better than what you’re asking for, kid.” In this track, one of the highlights of the record, Polachek sings of the transformative quality of love. Just as Moth is a New York record, it is also one heavily based in love. The order of the tracks tells a very clear, universal narrative about falling in love. As the album progresses, the narrator goes through a journey from backing away from, accepting, and then celebrating love. This starts with “Romeo,” a modern retelling of the Greek tale of Atalanta. In this story, the strong and beautiful Atalanta challenges each of her suitors to a foot race, with the condition that if he wins, she will marry him, but if she wins, she kills him. Atalanta is beaten by Hippomenes — who cheats by dropping irresistible, golden apples that Atalanta must slow down to pick up. This cocky track expresses distaste for love, but the bridge serves two purposes: to display her hard-to-get attitude and to expose that she is running away from love. That Greek tale leads the listener perhaps the best song on

the album, “Crying in Public.” This track serves as a moment of epiphany where the speaker, realizing how deeply enamored she is with her partner, cannot keep her emotions from overflowing. Here, Chairlift takes a rather discouraged, embarrassing practice and turns it into a romantic display of falling in love. The production of this song effectively creates the necessary atmosphere, with percussion mimicking the rhythm of the tracks and the hissing of the train. Polachek’s vocals are hushed in the verses, like she’s speaking low into her phone, holding back tears. This builds up to the chorus, with a melody that rises and falls like the chest when sobbing. “Crying in Public” is a highlight of Moth, from its clever production to Polachek’s emotive vocals, and from its sparse but effective metaphors to its embodiment of a moth’s vulnerability. It serves as a great opposite to the confidence in “Polymorphing” and the aggression of “Ch-Ching.” In “Moth to the Flame,” Polachek croons over being inevitably drawn to what may even hurt you. No longer reluctant to open up to love, the songs have passed the turning point and now look reflectively into the process. In a way, this heightens the vulnerability of the speaker, now susceptible to her lover’s power, the public eye, and her own judgment. This perspective on love reaches its pinnacle in “Show U Off,” a track dedicated to unabashedly flaunting how in love you are. Undeniably one of the more groovy songs on Moth with its smooth production calling for the listener to dance, “Show U Off” also allows Polachek to demonstrate her incredible range near the end of the song, which is all about letting go of limitations. The biggest drawback to the album is the incompatible inclusion of the final two tracks, “Unfinished Business” and “No Such Thing as Illusion.” The former makes for a jarring experience, coming after the upbeat, happy “Show U Off.” Here, Polachek returns to a hollow, sliding falsetto before belting out a Bjork-like chorus with unsettling wails. The latter track’s experimental instrumentation disrupts the stories Chairlift had spent the previous eight tracks building. Whether or not Chairlift was attempting to make a statement about the irregularity of the city and of love, the sudden switch in sentiment hits listeners by surprise and detracts from these otherwise enjoyable songs. Within the ten songs on Moth, Chairlift manages to vividly emulate the eclectic city of New York and tell a ubiquitous story of coming to terms with love and its implications. This album masterfully demonstrates Polachek’s talent as a rousing vocalist and introspective songwriter, as well as Wimberly’s ear for innovative and effective production. Those with an interest in songs with poetic lyrics or vibrant backstories should give Moth a listen, and keep an eye out for this pioneer pop duo.

SPRING 2016

75


m a J w o l S e Th n o i t u l o v e r

hant p e l e e h t age c y b y t t pre m ' i e m l l e t BY EMILY TAYLOR Photo by Pooneh Ghana

C

age the Elephant has been among my favorite bands since the release of their second album, Thank You, Happy Birthday. Their sound has an incredible amount of layers—you can find elements of hardcore, punk, indie, and surfer rock when you pick each track apart. Dark, gothic lyrics have been their signature ever since their first big single, “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked.” However, the band has gone through a major evolution since their inception, bringing us to their fourth and latest LP, Tell Me I’m Pretty. CTE’s specialty has always been creating a good balance between hard, punk jams and slower, grooving tracks, but Tell Me I’m Pretty admitted lacks balance. The tempo of each track is significantly slower than all of their previous work, forgoing any of the fast-paced punk tracks for which they were known. This seems like a strange decision since their entire first album flies by and leaves you overwhelmed by the sheer force of their music—this was their style from the beginning. But since then, they’ve slowed down their music a lot and began focusing more on harmonies and catchy cho-

76

FIVE CENT SOUND

ruses. This evolution is reminiscent of a lot of popular indie bands today—the same progression occurred with the Arctic Monkeys, who started out with a strange, surfer-punk sound and polished themselves into more of a pop-rock outfit. I’m sure that popularity and success can make a songwriter much less angry, but I do miss CTE’s roots. If you were to separate each track of Tell Me I’m Pretty into singles, they would hold up on their own extremely well. Their catchy first single, “Mess Around,” brings their surfer vibes to the forefront, and while it lacks in lyrical substance— maybe two vaguely worded verses, with “no, she don’t mess around” said about fifteen times, plus a lot of vocal filler—it’s still a lot of fun. “Too Late To Say Goodbye” grooves effortlessly, and “Trouble” is a beautifully crafted slow track with a clever reference to their first big single (“You know what they say, yeah, the wicked get no rest”). “Punchin’ Bag” is possibly the closest to their older, harder sound, with a relentless beat resounding from the drums and creepy harmonies in the chorus similar to those used on their previous album. Howev-


er, going along for the groove for an entire album can put a listener to sleep relatively easily. Putting together a slower, softer album seems mildly offbrand for the band, but it makes sense. If you look at their best-selling singles, their softer stuff has achieved more commercial success—“Shake Me Down,” “Cigarette Daydreams,” and “Come A Little Closer” all sold extremely well, so naturally, the next album was styled after them. I can’t help but lament over the way that the music industry convinces artists to make the music their fans will buy. This is speculation, of course, but after seeing CTE in concert and following them, as well as other artists that followed a similar path for a long time, it’s incredible how popularity can sap the energy out of a band’s discography. The energy is lacking not only sonically, but lyrically; the first track of CTE’s first album, “In One Ear,” is a thrashy half-rap about ignoring the haters and doing what you love despite the criticism people give you. Topics discussed in Tell Me I’m Pretty include women, women, and more women.

Don’t get me wrong, love songs can be just as innovative as any other song; previous album Melophobia has a track about love continuing in zombie form—”It’s Just Forever,” possibly one of the coolest (and creepiest) love songs on the market, features the line “I’ll love you ‘til we decompose, and the skin falls off our bones.” That kind of innovation is simply lacking in their latest ballads. Their success mayu drowning out the haters, leaving them with nothing to fight against. It’s a trope that’s happened too often in the evolution of punk music—once a band succeeds enough, they don’t have much left to complain about anymore, and the angry lyricists you once looked up to have gotten a lot softer and less interesting. Despite its shortcomings, I thoroughly enjoy this album and have a lot of hope for CTE’s future. Tell Me I’m Pretty succeeded their best album yet, Melophobia, and following up on an amazing record is undeniably difficult for any band. I still love CTE and enjoy Tell Me I’m Pretty, I just hope they rediscover their punk roots and make some more of the freaky, hardcore stuff they began with.

SPRING 2016

77


r i h a n n a

anti BY ANNIE FELL Photo by Christopher Polk

78

FIVE CENT SOUND


D

espite being her eighth release, ANTI is Rihanna’s debut. After compiling a decade-long list of singles impressive in both their soulfulness and certified-banger cred, our beloved bad gal RiRi has released an unapologetically hit-single-free album. Her fusion of classic R&B and dancehall is nearly unrecognizable in comparison to contemporary mainstream pop, proving her malleability as an artist—not that she was ever obligated to do so. It is troubling to consider pop music as less authentic than other genres. At its worst, the notion stems from the subconscious racism in devaluing the work of usually black artists, and at its most benign, it’s just boring and douchey. However, in stripping away the Top 40-friendly hooks, the drama-free vulnerability of ANTI makes it seem like Rihanna is revealing herself to us in a way she never has before. While the album certainly has moments of heartbreak and intensity, there are none of the grand, theatrical choruses she became known for with songs like “Unfaithful.” Much of the album revolves around the theme of romantic plight, and her pain is apparent in the rasping of her voice. Because of its subtlety, the first time listening to the album can make you feel like you’re waiting for the punch line—for that big, swooping hook to bust in and beg you to forgive her taking four years to release a new album. It never comes, because it isn’t necessary. Rihanna is more levelheaded now, and so are her beats. The album essentially has two introductions, “Consideration” and “James Joint.” Both are under two minutes and establish the album’s sonic and lyrical thesis effectively with their slow, steady compositions and confidence in the face of a broken, or at least bruised, heart. The first features SZA singing the lilting hook and Rihanna quasi-rapping about how she can “cover your shit in glitter.” She is essentially letting you know how dope she thinks the album is before you even hear it; it’s not entirely clear how much creative control she has had over her previous releases, but this is a proclamation that she made ANTI for herself, first and foremost. The latter is the sound of Pop-Rihanna and Lovingly-Staring-At-A-Blunt-Rihanna reaching singularity, with Rihanna serenely crooning “I’d rather be smoking weed” in the song’s opening line. The listener is given a tiny glimpse into what she’s been doing in her four-year vacation since 2012’s Unapologetic, which, aside from smoking a ton of weed, is become surer of her wants and needs in the latter

half of her twenties. The two songs lead into “Kiss It Better,” a slow, intense burner about make-up sex, and perhaps the album’s most complex song. The heartbreakingly clever line “take it back all night” bridges to a steamy guitar riff reminiscent of Prince at his best. The song finally merges the personas Rihanna has presented to us for the past decade—the open wound of a girl from “Unfaithful” and “Take A Bow” and the no nonsense gyal of “Bitch Better Have My Money.” The closest we get to a traditional Top 40 track is “Work,” the album’s first single. Featuring The Boy, aka. Champagne Papi, aka Drake, the track is the lightest and most tropical on the album. Rihanna sings in Patois about not getting any emotional support from the dude she’s hooking up with over a deceptively sunny beat. Drake plays her romantic lead, giving corny excuses of questionable intention, like the now semi-iconic “if you had a twin I would still choose you.” The song garnering probably the most attention, even before it was released, was “Same Ol’ Mistakes,” a cover of Tame Impala’s “New Person, Same Old Mistakes.” The rendition uses the same backing track and, for the most part, barely strays from the original; but it somehow feels entirely Rihanna’s own. Her gingerly soulful vocals play off of the dreamy composition in the line “you’ve got your demons and she’s got her regrets,” making it feel as if Rihanna was reflexively singing about herself. The album climaxes with “Higher,” probably its most dramatic song. The backing track is sweet and sad, subtly highlighting Rihanna’s powerful wails. She is at her most vulnerable, pleading “you light my fire / let’s stay up late and smoke a J,” in a gruff, whiskey-soaked voice, drawn out just long enough for you to fully realize the depth of her yearning. It might be the realest Rihanna has ever been. Bangers have merit—society wouldn’t be able to flourish without those cultural touchstones that have the ability to bond everyone in a certain generation. But one of the most interesting and gutsy things a world-renowned pop star can do is produce an album that, for the most part, is devoid of any feasible club hits. One can be a serious pop artist without essentially having DJ Mustard produce her diary entries, but by abandoning the tender embrace of catchiness and universality, ANTI has allowed Rihanna to ascend to a new level of pop artistry.

SPRING 2016

79


LIFE? WHERE

HAVE

YOU

BEEN

ALL

MY

VILLAGERS 80

FIVE CENT SOUND

BY EMMA WEEKS Photo by Rich Gilligan


H

onest. Stripped-down. Intimate. These are the first three words that come to mind while listening to the Irish indie-folk band’s new project, Where Have You Been All My Life? The album is an incredibly interesting work, as it is re-recorded. Villagers took material from their three previous albums (released in 2010, 2013, and 2015, respectively), rearranged the twelve songs with a more pared-down and acoustic style, and recorded them in one or two takes, with no overdubs, all in one day. More than half of the songs on Where Have You Been All My Life? are from their 2015 album, Darling Arithmetic, including one of their most popular songs, “Courage.” This track shares the experiences of frontman Conor O’Brien living as a closeted gay man in Dublin, with emotional and candid lyrics like “it took a little time to be honest, it took a little time to be me.” While listening to this song, you truly feel connected to O’Brien. You resonate with his melancholy and pensive tone, yet you also feel completely at peace with it. When compared to the original recording of “Courage,” it is obvious that the Where Have You Been...version has maintained the loose shapes of the song but has since been restructured with a more delicate tone, complete with brushed drums and double bass arrangements. One of the album highlights is “Memoir,” which O’Brien originally wrote for French singer Charlotte Gainsbourg on her 2011 album, Stage Whisper. However, the song has never been recorded by O’Brien or Villagers until now. “Memoir” is a beautifully harmony-laden song with some level of lyrical dissonance; there is an upbeat and happy feel to the melodies, but the lyrics tell the tale of two lovers being separated from each other. The song is desperate, romantic, and somewhat discomforting; you cannot help but mourn along with O’Brien as he sings, “I can vaguely hear the outline of your call” and “you were the lighthouse to my broken boat.” Perhaps it is because “Memoir” is O’Brien’s piece originally, but the Villagers’ version of the song comes across as much more sincere than Gainsbourg’s recording. After listening to the Villagers’ performance of “Memoir,” you can hear the intense intimacy and vibrancy— almost reminiscent of Paul Simon circa 1976—that is lacking with Gainsbourg. “Memoir” is a definite album success, as it is a pure and beautiful docu-

ment of a time and a place. Another standout track from Where Have You Been All My Life? Is “The Waves,” originally from the 2013 album, {Awayland}. “The Waves” has gone through three different recordings and remixes: the original 2013 version, which incorporates strong percussion with an electronic atmosphere; the remix by house duo Psychemagik, which furthers this electronic undercurrent and is more repetitive in nature; and finally, the drastically different acoustic version featured on Where Have You Been... Although the song has been recorded several times with electronic ambience, this slowed-down, acoustic reinterpretation feels like the natural state of the song. When you listen to this song, you get the urge to close your eyes, lie down, and wholly embrace its honesty and the anticipatory crescendo for the entire seven minutes and six seconds of the recording. “The Waves” is truly a near-perfect song and shows the listener just how much Villagers can achieve. However, as is expected of any live-in-studio album (especially one for which the songs were recorded in two takes or fewer), Where Have You Been All My Life? has its weaker moments, most notably with the cover of Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman.” This song, released by Campbell in 1968, is an extremely powerful and heart-wrenching song, and it is even more emotional now given Campbell’s failing health. Sadly, the Villagers’ cover did not do the song much justice. While it is pleasant to listen to, this version is just a bit too bare compared to the original version. It lacks the passion and intensity brought to us by Campbell, making it a fairly forgettable cover. “Wichita Lineman” was perhaps a bit too ambitious for Villagers to cover on this album. Overall, Where Have You Been All My Life? is an excellent intro to Villagers and a clever anthology of five years in one senior album. This album masterfully combines the atmospheric indie folk with the chamber pop sound present on Villagers’ three previous albums. O’Brien’s comfortable voice and the neat arrangements of the songs leave little to complain about. Although the songs are taken from across albums, they flow in an impressively cohesive way, making it perhaps Villagers most satisfying session to date.

SPRING 2016

81


Summer is the perfect season for a fresh playlist. If you haven’t decided on a mood for your summer soundtrack, Five Cent Sound’s got you covered. Editors Isabella and Lindsey handpicked two playlists indicative of what each of their summers will look like—mellow days and upbeat nights. Lindsey

Isabella

1.  “Hello Friday” -­ Flo Rida (feat. Jason Derulo)

1.  “Shadow of Mine” - Alberta Cross

2.  “F Cancer (Boosie)” - Young Thug (feat. Quavo)

3.  “Green River” - NGHBRS

3.  “I’m Straight” - Fetty Wap

4.  “Slow” - The Fratellis

4.  “Saved” - Ty Dolla $ign (feat. E-40)

5.  “See You Again” - Elle King

5.  “Work” - Rihanna (feat. Drake)

6.  “Cleopatra” - The Lumineers

6.  “Somewhere In Paradise” - Chance The Rapper (feat. Jeremih and R. Kelly)

7.  “Harold Bloom” - Cold War Kids

7.  “Promise” - Kid Ink (feat. Fetty Wap)

9.  “How Are You True” - Cage the Elephant

8.  “7/11” - Beyoncé 9.  “No Hands” - Waka Flocka Flame (feat. Roscoe Dash and Wale) 10.  “Find You” - Plies (feat. Lil Wayne and K CAMP) 11.  “World Is Mine” - A$AP Ferg (feat. Big Sean)

8.  “In Silhouette” - King Charles

10.  “She Lays Down” - The 1975 11.  “Hourglass” - Catfish and the Bottlemen 12.  “This Time Around” - The Technicolors

12.  “Want Some More” - Nicki Minaj

13.  “Catch You On My Way Out” Finish Ticket

13.  “Hollywood Niggaz” - Tyga

14.  “Sun’s Coming Up” - Tame Impala

14.  “Classic Man - Remix” - Jidenna (feat. Kendrick Lamar)

15.  “The Dream Synopsis” - The Last Shadow Puppets

15.  “Make My Love Go” - Jay Sean (feat. Sean Paul)

82

2.  “Heart of a Girl” - The Killers

FIVE CENT SOUND


MAY 2016 concerts 1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

Basement, Royale Spiritual Rez, Brighton Music Hall Laura Stevenson, Great Scott

X Ambassadors, House of Blues Speedy Ortiz/ Hop Along, The Sinclair BIG UPS/Dirty Dishes/Kal Marks/ Strange Mangers, Middle East Upstairs Protomartyr, Great Scott

Hit the Lights/ Seaway, Brighton Music Hall

Caravan Palace, House of Blues Weakened Friends, Great Scott

Discharge/ EYEHATEGOD, Brighton Music Hall

Yuna, The Sinclair Sticky Fingers, Brighton Music Hall

Frightened Rabbit, House of Blues Wild Nothing, The Sinclair Half Moon Run, Brighton Music Hall

Santigold, House of Blues Super Furry Animals, The Sinclair

Lamb of God, House of Blues Chelsea Wolfe, Royale We Are Scientists, Brighton Music Hall

LANY, The Sinclair The Foreign Exchange, Middle East Downstairs

Paperwhite/ Cheerleader, Middle East Upstairs

Snarky Puppy, House of Blues Ought, The Sinclair

Twin Peaks, The Sinclair Rooney, Middle East Downstairs

BABYMETAL, House of Blues Born Ruffians, Middle East Downstairs Local H, Brighton Music Hall

Justin Bieber, TD Garden Rogue Wave, The Sinclair Lukas Graham, Brighton Music Hall

The Kills, Paradise Rock Club Beach Slang, The Sinclair Giraffage, Middle East Downstairs

Kittyhawk/ Dowsing/Save Ends/Lilith, Middle East Upstairs

Ripe, Brighton Music Hall

Yeasayer, Paradise Rock Club King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, The Sinclair

Embem3, House of Blues

The Used, House of Blues

Adult Mom/ Forth Wanderers/ Horse Jumper of Love/Brittle Brian, Middle East Upstairs

Selena Gomez, TD Garden The Summer Set, Paradise Rock Club

Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties, The Sinclair

SPRING 2016

83


¢ 5

Five Cent Sound Vol. 4: Spring 2016  
Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you