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Album Review

Album Review: Weyes Blood – And In the Darkness, Hearts Aglow

And In the Darkness, Hearts Aglow is Natalie Mering of Weyes Blood’s second album in the trilogy that may well become a generational trinity. Its monumental predecessor, Titanic Rising, saw Mering beg and plead for some stable ground beneath her feet. With her cries answered only by the feedback of despondent tides, Mering swam through shipwrecks and salvaged memories just to look at the corrosion that had spread all over her desires. On In the Darkness, Hearts Aglow, Mering can no longer indulge in the past, and the future is no refuge either. The second act of this apocalyptic trilogy is birthed as Mering clings onto a romantic desperation to guide the way through a moonless night.

String arrangements reminiscent of “A Lot’s Gonna Change” give rise to a stairway of piano notes on the intro track. Mering’s glowing voice shines light as we approach. As if reaching her hand out through the music, she sets the scene for Hearts Aglow with a bittersweet reminder that every one of us gets lost in the current. Her golden chants proclaim “It’s Not Just me, It’s Everybody” repeatedly, celebrating a revelation that she no longer needs to muzzle the voice of her pain. “Children of the Empire” throws the listener into a music hall located in the eye of a hurricane. She taps into the beauty of baroque instrumentation – I can feel the aliveness of each instrument. Pianos, harpsichords, and bells jump around on top of the “oooh’s” and “aaahs” in the background. Even a xylophone comes in to do his always-pleasant dance (Yes I will anthropomorphize an instrument, this is the Weyes Blood baroque effect). She laments the blood on the hands of herself and other “children” of a globalized era: the time when it is near-impossible to avoid burning oil extracted through invasions and single-use plastics that will never decay. Mering acknowledges that we will pay for our sins while gazing into this cosmic clutter. However, she reminds us that we “don’t have time to be afraid.” This party at the end of our heyday is soundtracked with grim coloring: “They say the worst is done, but I think it’s only just begun.” She continues to frolic beneath nihilistic rain on “Hearts Aglow,” crooning lines like “The whole world is crumbling; Oh, baby, let’s dance in the sand.” During these moments of bliss, the apocalypse is merely a blip on Mering’s radar. 

The psychedelic folk tale, “Grapevine,” is a post-breakup rumination centered around Southern California’s Interstate 5. The soft hums of her guitar mystify the highway – she mythologizes the landscape as a path where one can curve around curves until they’ve escaped the relentless drone of time. It all leads to the nauseating realization that she and a past lover are now “just two cars passing by on the grapevine.” The song and the memory drive us off to become one with a dark blue horizon. In the Darkness, Hearts Aglow treats earthly forms as a foothill to wander up until we’ve entered the romanticized territory of mythos and fables. Mering’s voice can carry the listener away to these spaces, sweeping them up to fly to a world drenched in moonlit mystique. She’s got vocal prowess dripping with so much beauty that it could compel tears from a thirteen-year-old football player who has been conditioned to think that boys shouldn’t cry.

The escape that Weyes Blood seeks on the “Grapevine” has her sunk to her knees on “God Turn me Into a Flower.” She prays to morph into some embodiment of serenity – to be grounded and rooted. Birds chirp and Mother Nature communicates through synths similar to a language explored in Mort Garson’s Plantasia. Slowly, nature’s sounds take over and what’s human falls away, leaving in its wake buds that bloom to reach for the sun. The flowery ego-death that Mering prays for is a desire that can’t last. Resurrection fueled by blind hope arrives on “Hearts Aglow,” an endearing moment in which Mering shoots through the smog above to reach an unclogged sky. As she drifts in and out of white clouds, her voice is followed by harmonies of the heavens; Phil Spector’s ghostly fingerprints can be seen on the Walls of Sound that come from behind.

Photo Courtesy of Weyes Blood

Mering uses instrumental segments such as “And in the Darkness” and “In Holy Flux” as globs of gravity to pull the listener even deeper into the tide of the album. Sandwiched – a bit awkwardly – between these two is the carbonated “Twin Flame.” Psychedelic drum patterns flow up beneath to pop like bubbles in your ears. I’d like to hear more of this weird style from Mering, the song makes me feel stranded in the cold and lightless Aphotic zone of the ocean. Hearts Aglow is bookended with “A Given Thing,” slowing things down Tori Amos style. A solid knot on the tracklist, but it doesn’t tie the project up as tight as she did on Titanic’s “Picture Me Better.” Most Hearts Aglow songs are just a bit less strong than their sequential counterparts on Titanic Rising, but this album leaves a golden wake behind regardless of any memory bias. 

The most remarkable musical trilogies are often forged in great wildfires, whether those troubles are societal or personal: Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy, The Cure’s “Gothic” Series, Dylan’s 14-Month Trilogy. With a cocktail of microplastics and Teflon in our bodies and half a decade left on the Climate Clock, we continue to walk, even if our legs are fueled only by the foolish passion of our hearts. If earth ever goes gradient, this album and trilogy will be a picturesque elegy of the world as a car going downhill in neutral gear. 

Natalie Mering, also known as Weyes Blood – Courtesy of NPR
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Artist Spotlight Campus Events Interview

Interview with Charlie Burg

Charlie Burg is a singer, songwriter, and producer who released his first mixtape in 2015 when he was in college. After transferring from Denison University to Michigan State, he finally landed on Syracuse University to study music industry. From there, he released a series of extended plays throughout his time in University. Originally from Michigan, he now resides in Brooklyn NY where he dropped his debut album Infinity Tall (2022). Cinematic and youthful, Charlie Burg seamlessly transports listeners from one point to another with his pastel-shaded, storytelling lyrics. The curiosity and exploration that exists in his music is shown on his album art – which he creates himself. His personable whim showed in his performance at Colorado College, students still fan over his amazing show and charming personality a week later.

M: So Charlie Burg from Detroit Michigan, tell me a little bit about yourself, what is there to know about what has led you to where you are today? Tell me about your childhood and hometown and its influence on your music today.

C: Well, I grew up in a suburb about 20 minutes outside of the city. Detroit has a really rich music history that a lot of people don’t think about. Electronic dance music started in Detroit, techno and hip hop too. J Dilla is a producer that really influenced my production style. I grew up listening to Motown soul records that my dad would play: temptations, algorithm and Marvin Gaye, the classics. I think it just kind of seeps into my blood. 

M: What is the first piece of art you remember falling in love with and do you believe it takes shape in your music today?

C: I think one of the first records that really impacted me was “Parachutes” by Coldplay. Their first record was really great and solid all the way through. It taught me vulnerability in songwriting. I can’t remember the name of this painting, but another piece is a Spanish painting by Juan Mero. It has this really profound shade of blue that when I saw that blue, I thought to myself,  this is the feeling that I’d like to evoke with my music. And then I made Blue Mosaic which was my first record and I have a tattoo of it. 

M: Is blue your favorite color?

C: No my favorite color is actually either orange or forest green.

M: No way, mine is that shade of green and orange too…but what type of orange?

C: I like a burnt orange, something warm and passionate and loud.

M: We’re the same!

M: When did you make your first song and can you talk about its creative process? 

C: So art history is a favorite subject of mine. I love art history. And I have a song called Art History Part One which I wrote after I took an art history class. And Art History Part Two exists too. *Proceeds to ask to look at an art history book that someone close by is reading*

M: A lot of your online presence highlights Ralph Waldo Emerson as a major influence to you, can you speak on this and how his wisdom has impacted both your art and personal life? 

C: Yeah so it’s funny. In the early days of a music career you will reference one thing and then news outlets will fixate on that thing until you give them another thing to fixate on…I was gifted a Ralph Waldo Emerson collection of essays by my father when I was working on some EPs. There was this line that I read that said “a blood of the violet,” I think that was one of the names of the of the poems. And so I named an EP, One, Violet. And it was just kind of this conceptual drive that felt right to me. But yeah, I haven’t read Ralph Waldo Emerson in like five years so I don’t have much to say about him anymore but at that time, he resonated with me.

M: One, Violet, yes that brings me to my next question. You have a three series album that was released over a three year time span: One, Violet; Two, Moonlight; Three, Fever. Can you talk about these albums and why you decided to part them the way you did? 

C: I’m obsessed with trilogies for some reason. It just feels like a very perfect way to tell a story. 1. 2. 3. But when I put out One, Violet, and I’ve never mentioned this in an interview before so you are getting some exclusive content, I did not have a name or a concept for it. About a week before it dropped, I said, Okay, I need a name. I need a name. I have more songs that I want to put out, but they’re not ready so I’m just gonna give myself some sort of framework to release more projects; and so I named it One, Violet. A year later, I had enough songs for two. So I didn’t actually know how many I was doing or what the other ones were called. I basically set myself up for long form concepts. I used those three projects as an opportunity to explore my production. I moved away from the guitar, rock and roll, live in Peter’s attic and I dove into my computer. Those are my computer projects. 

M: On Spotify you have a playlist that is called “everyone is talented” where you feature music that people send to you — tell me a little bit more about the nature and philosophy of this playlist. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2W0NgEJvPhszTI1oaFDOVq?si=7a84183c82544c0d 

C: Yeah, um, gosh. In a span of a few weeks, I got a few songs sent to me by different musicians on Instagram. I realized that a lot of my followers make music themselves so I made a public playlist, where I had people send me their songs over Instagram. I put them in there and just wanted to give people a platform that usually didn’t have a platform. I really enjoy the playlist and listen to all the songs. 

M: Your tour is coming to an end at the end of the month, what are your plans for when you get off the road? 

C: I am going to hole up in my Brooklyn apartment and not leave New York for months. I was actually thinking of doing a week of silence because I am around people everyday all the time. I heard one of my friends is doing this and I don’t know, I think that’d be really cool. I would just be with my plants that I’m excited to see. My favorite is my monstera that my friend gave me about three years ago.

Rapid Fire Round: 

M: Who are some of your inspirations both musically and non musically? 

C: Prince, that’s it….non musically Joan Didion. 

M: What is a philosophy or quote you live by? 

C: Don’t be afraid to say yes to things.

M: What is a new hobby, interest, or skill you have picked up recently?

C: I’d say like… fricken painting. I use acrylics and watercolor. 

M: What is your astrological sign?

C: I am a Virgo, I don’t really believe in it but it is a fun thing to talk about. 

M: If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

C: Paris, France. 

M: What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

C: Mint cookies and cream.

M: What type of sandwich would you be and why?

C: I would be a turkey panini with monster cheese. 

M: What is your guilty pleasure?

C: Dark chocolate.

M: If you had to name this chapter of your life what would it be?

C: Margo because that is my old dog. 

M: What is something you have been doing that brings you joy?

C: Reading by Joan Didion plays it as it lays. It’s dramatic. I like drama, I like the dichotomies. I like to write in a journal too but I don’t think that brings me joy, it can be painful. I only focus on the bad things and get depressed. I want to do pottery. 

Charlie Burg’s Infinitely Tall, Available on Spotify and Apple Music
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Shows Uncategorized

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard Concludes Their North American Tour at Red Rocks

November at Red Rocks Amphitheater is sometimes a gamble with the changing seasons, but I had no hesitation when given the opportunity to attend another 3 hour marathon concert from King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s North American Tour. When I went to their first Red Rocks show in early October many of the fans held these tickets since their 2020 tour that was canceled due to COVID. The November date was a surprise, as the final show was tacked onto their tour promising the same feel-good giz energy as the first marathon show at Red Rocks. My friend flew into Denver with some film cameras after hearing the news and we eagerly waited in the longest line I have seen at Red Rocks- undisturbed by the cold in my gizzard-themed crocodile onesie.

Note: I was encountered by multiple “die-hard” Gizzard male fans who had a lot to say about the difference between a crocodile and an alligator, proceeded to mansplain the symbology of King Gizzard and their Giz-verse related to the crocodile, all of which I am aware of. If you are a girl going to a Gizzard concert, avoid this conversation at all costs. But DO wear a crocodile onesie because it is warm and Giz fans are cultish so you’ll get creds. If anyone asks, say: “crocodiles are from f**king Australia… just like them” and leave at once.

First and foremost, I will say that King Gizzard has an absurd amount of albums, with three albums released last month alone! and although I know many of their songs, I do not know all of their songs. But some people there did. When I was chatting in the photo pit with another photographer, she showed me the zoomed-in set list on her camera with the opening song entitled “Digital Black-” I was not sure what albums nor energies King Gizzard was bringing to the night. I was ready for everything reminiscent of their themes in their recent album: Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms, and Lava- with an emphasis on lava.

A funky set from The Murlocs and the ethereal sounds of Leah Senior set the scene of deception for King Gizzard. We went down to the pit to prepare for the show to start. The band was as playful as ever, with Joey trying to banter amongst the crowd while the staff were tweaking Lucas’ guitar settings. After a few minutes everything was ready to go and (surprise, surprise) they started with “Digital Black” in Stu’s satanic cadence and blaring guitar riffs. Everyone instantly went into a frenzy despite being confined to the tiered seats (although some people above did mosh/fall onto our row!). Throughout the night, King Gizzard dedicated a third of their set to playing songs from their 2017 album Murder of the Universe and selected the vast majority of their marathon set to more metal-oriented songs that strayed from their dreamy synthesizer hits. This meant a lot of head banging and an entrance into the Rats’ Nest, arguably the  hardest album that they played from. They drew from a variety of albums along the way including “Cutthroat Boogie” from their 2012 album 12 Bar Bruise, one of my favorite songs of the night that featured some amazing harmonica solos and fit comfortably among the Colorado landscape. King Gizzard continued their tasteful guitar thrashing from various albums including some favorites like “Hot Wax” and a jammed up version of “Her and I (Slow Jam 2)” and concluded with a more relaxed outro of “The Fourth Colour.’  The intermission offered a quiet countdown for fifteen minutes until their second set. A marathon indeed!

The second half of the show astonishingly kept up the same energy as the previous, jokingly playing the American National Anthem before jumping straight into “Head On/Pill” while lacing in “Hot Water” and teasing their recent release of “Hypertension” throughout their lengthened song. This was an especially impressive song for their ability to transition between three (basically four) songs in one, and definitely sent the message that they were not planning on slowing down. After about their 10 minute version of that song, they revisited the album I’m In Your Mind, Fuzz, a personal favorite of mine, while still sticking to a high energy set by playing Am I In Heaven?” The transitions between songs were seamless, usually recognizable motifs across all their albums, causing the crowd to stir with anticipation. Stu returned to Infest the Rats’ Nest to keep the pace up as the wind started to blow up the slope of the amphitheater. It was truly an epic scene: a showdown between King Gizzard and the elements, and they prevailed with hair flying. After a few metal songs, they switched up the vibe to something more lighthearted with Ambrose howling into the mic during “Let Me Mend The Past.” Shortly after Leah Senior came on to do an amazing narration of “Alter Me III” and “Altered Beast IV” also from Murder of the Universe. Leah Senior brought the eerie cadence like the Ronald Dahl-esque introduction of “Dark Fantasy” by Kanye West. King Gizzard slowed down for the final song, “Float Along-Fill Your Lungs,” playing an ensemble of dreamy guitar chords clashing against each other. The ending was drawn out like the studio version, but I’d like to think it was also a moment of savoring the last moments of their long-awaited North American tour.

The stamina and chemistry of the band is something that is rare amongst jam bands, and King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard put everything out in that three hour marathon set. Even if many of the songs were not ones I was familiar with, the songs were sharp and fast- perfect for hypnotic dancing and head banging. Their interaction with the crowd made it even more of a special experience, after spending so much time apart from their American fans it felt more like a reunion. Although their tour is finally over, their music continues. I know I will be trying to play catch-up as they keep cranking out more and more albums this year, and for many years to come.

Categories
Artist Spotlight Interview

An Interview With Seiji Oda

Seiji Oda is a rapper, singer/songwriter, and producer from Oakland, California. He began producing and creating music in high school. His big break hit when Seiji and his brother Nathaniel, or Lil Ricefield, released their viral hit “Trapanese,” a song that poked fun at asian stereotypes and referenced countless anime and other Japanese pop culture over a Seiji-produced beat. The song was remixed by local Bay Area rappers Daboii and Cash Kidd. But Seiji isn’t only an incredible producer, he can rap, sing, and songwrite just as well. In the past few years, he has worked heavily on his solo work, releasing one of my favorite albums of this year, lofi//HYPHY, an album that combines the two genres, the former being known for it’s chiller production and the latter known for its danceability. I got the opportunity to talk to Seiji about his upcoming album ORA//太陽, which is coming out on November 7th.

What’s your process for making a cohesive body of work, whether that’s a two-piece or an entire album?

I usually approach it by having a theme for whatever the project is. A lot of the time it might be a single song that inspires the full body of work. I think “Ok here’s this song that has this specific feeling that I’ve never done before and I want to keep building on and around that.” It’s really about that feeling. For this next project, I really want to make sure that every song, or at some point around the song I get that feeling from it. When you hear a song and think “that shit has that shit in there”, I can’t really describe it. The reason I listen to music is to get a specific emotion or get in a certain mood, so I try to create bodies of work that represent how I feel and I can go back to that project when I want to feel that way. 

It’s just fun too. Music doesn’t have to be serious in order to be impactful. It can be some dumb shit. It doesn’t have to be the most polished thing in the world and it gets the job done.

I saw that you made a Japanese City Pop playlist and your new song City Pop 001 incorporated that genre. Are we going to hear more of that on the album?

Not this album. I just did that as a loosy because that was what I was feeling at the time. That’s what I’m really into right now, but I definitely see myself doing a project based all around that. A fully City Pop-inspired project is gonna happen sometime. This next album is a whole different thing.

What vibe will the album have?

It’s called ORA//太陽, which means the sun in Japanese. The alternative title is A Love Letter to the Sun and I wrote it that way because to me the songs are ordered in a way that represents the phases of the sun throughout the day. The first song feels like the sun rising, it has a peak, and the project ends at the end of the day. I really wanted to capture this feeling I get sometimes when I meditate. It’s very warm, orange, I don’t know where it’s coming from. It’s that warm feeling that I get that I want to capture in the music. That color is why I ended up calling it ORA, the first three letters of orange. But it’s also that glow, expanding light that I was feeling. I think it has a cohesive, overarching sound but each song is totally different in terms of the tempo and the type of music it is. It’s definitely more Balledy than most of my music is. I think that a lot of my music is more rap, just me talking shit, freeform. This is more me writing songs to somebody or for somebody rather than a stream of consciousness. I wanted to come at this project with more intention. That’s not something I necessarily think I have to do, but I wanted to do it for this project, it’s how I wanted it to feel. Then it can be re-interpreted from there. 

Image courtesy of Seiji Oda

What do you see in your future working on genre-bending music? Will we hear this on your upcoming album?

This project is different. Each song is inspired by a different era of music. I’m not trying to combine to different things, but there is a theme throughout this project of looking at two different sides. I wanted to recreate the concept of lenticular images with this project where you’re listening from a different perspective. Most music has equal things on each side. I wanted to break that. People have done this in the past. The Beatles were very free about their panning. They would have the drums panned to the left, which is weird as hell, most people have their drums in the middle. I wanted to make lenticular songs, where there’s a song on one side and a whole other song on the other side. Depending on which ear you’re focusing on, you might hear something very different. That’s a theme of this project, especially in the first song. Throughout the project, it switches back and forth between the bright side of the sun and then the more cozy, comfortable side of the song. You’ll see it in the project. Half of the songs are uppercase and half are lowercase to represent these two sides. It switches back and forth between this.

I see that every Sunday you post a new item of music. Since you’re fully independent, is that a way to keep fans engaged, or is it more to keep yourself engaged in making music?

I would say it’s both. It’s definitely for the fans though. As an independent artist, I’m always trying to get new people to listen to my music. What matters to me the most is having the people that always listen to my music or more casual fans feel like they’re part of something. This is why I do early releases of music on my discord or artist page. I do this to create an engaged community. I want to create a space that people can return to every Sunday and build a personal relationship with the people that listen to my music. I can’t just disappear for four months drop an album and not talk to anybody, I’m not Frank Ocean, not yet. It also helps me stay creative, I work best within structure. Having limitations makes me more creative, like here’s something I have to do and how can I go outside this box.

Who’s better at lacrosse, you or Ricefield?

You can ask him *Seiji points the camera at Lil Ricefield*. Probably him not gonna lie.

Seiji and his brother Lil Ricefield//Image courtesy of Genius

Do you have a path that you’ve thought out or are you just taking things as they come?

Right now I’m just taking things as they come. In terms of music, I have my releases planned out. I have what projects I want to put out and in what order. In terms of life though, we’re figuring it out.

I really liked your Hyperpop remix of aero3, do you plan on making any more Hyperpop songs in the future?

I do love Hyperpop. I love trying to produce songs like that because it’s so intricate. I have been working on this project with one of my friends KP. He is really interested in it. His project is going to be really Hyperpop-heavy, and it’s mostly produced by me. 

Who are your biggest inspirations and influences, both musically and personally?

Lately, I’ve been inspired by Nujabes and his production, especially Lofi. Anyone that’s into that, whether they know it or not, pulls from his shit or from Dilla. I’m not a big Dilla fan, but of course, I listen to a lot of his stuff. Erykah Badu is another one of my favorite artists and inspirations, both musically and personally. Also Souls of Mischief. They were a jazzy hip-hop group from the 90s in the bay. I like that the way that they don’t take themselves too seriously but they also take themselves seriously. They take their craft seriously but they had fun with it. I think being light about stuff helps develop your craft. One of my favorite movies is Everything Everywhere All at Once. That’s definitely inspired me, maybe not in terms of music but more as a creator. They’re hella funny with their shit, but they can get their message across because their not trying to hit you over the head with it. It’s like “how can we make this cool ass thing and throw as many ideas at the wall as possible and not take ourselves too seriously to get our message across.”

-Seiji was disappointed that I hadn’t seen the movie-

Image courtesy of Seiji Oda

Are there any other movies that inspire you?

I wouldn’t say a movie necessarily but one of my aesthetic and sonic inspirations is Samurai Champloo. I love the storytelling. Princess Mononoke also inspires me. I have a two-piece Princess Mononoke-inspired project that I’ll drop on a Seiji Sunday

Who are you listening to right now?

I really like the new Smino album. I’ve been listening to a lot of City Pop. A lot of Cindy. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Pluggnb remixes on SoundCloud. They got a crazy Ariana Grande Pluggnb remix. 

How’d you get into producing?

I used to record myself on my old ass computer. That was me making songs over other people’s beats. I got to a point where I wanted to make my own shit and what I wanted to make wasn’t out there. This was before the youtube type beat era, we didn’t have those in 2012. Producing was the only option. I was also heavily inspired by HBK. I was like “these dudes are producing all of their own shit?”. That inspired me to be able to do it all myself, I didn’t have to have a whole team, I could just do it in my bedroom, so that’s where it started. When I was first making beats, I was on Mixcraft 5, and that was something. It was ass. 

Who is the next collab for you in the bay? Who’s your dream collab?

I’m working with the homie ClayDough, he’s a producer, me and him are gonna drop a project. I got some music with Franco Dollas dropping, it’s going to be on the album’s cassette tape. I also got some music with Nate Curry, he’s from Sacramento, but me and him are gonna put out some stuff. For dream collab, E-40. I just want to see his process. Just to be in the same room with him and soak up the game. 

Why are you dropping on Monday?

The reason I do that is because it technically drops on Sunday night so that way I can drop everything I need to on YouTube first so the people can see it before the album comes out on Sunday. I don’t like dropping on Thursday or Friday, even though it’s the industry standard and that’s when people look for new music because the context for me is more important than the numbers. If more people listen to it on a Friday, they’re going to be out with friends and doing stuff and listening to it. I’m not mad at my music being played in that setting but I’d rather have it be played on a Sunday when you’re having a relaxed day. I want people to listen to my music in the context where they are putting their full attention to it rather than playing it in the background.

Seiji’s doing a bonus track version of the album, which is going to be a virtual cassette tape. He’s going to sell it directly to the fans through emails. It’s going to have a lot of extra stuff, songs, videos, cover art, the tracklist, and more. This is a great opportunity to have ownership of music in a day and age where we’re streaming all of our favorite music.

ORA//太陽 is coming out on November 7th on all streaming platforms.

Follow his Instagram @seijioda

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