Best Albums of 2018

Here are some of the SoCC writers’ favorite albums this year in no particular order:

Be The Cowboy – Mitski

If you can believe it, I didn’t like Mitski (of Bury Me at Makeout Creek era) at first. I thought her sound was too rough, too grating, somehow a little too angsty. Fast-forward two or three years, and songs from Be The Cowboy occupy at least a quarter of my weekly music rotation. I can’t give Mitski all the credit for that transformation; I’ve grown enough to learn to love Bury Me at Makeout Creek and Puberty 2. Still, Mitski’s own artistic development is crystal clear to everyone engaged with her art–– for proof, google Be The Cowboy and count the number of “Best of 2018” lists the album’s included in.

This album shines so brightly because it feels so honest. We know most of the songs are persona songs; few contain any autobiographical information about Mitski at all, and yet almost every lyric feels intensely personal & soaringly sincere (i.e. “and I am the idiot with the painted face/ in the corner taking up space”). Musically, Mitski experiments more on Be The Cowboy than ever before, which is explicitly evident on “Nobody” –– a disco-Daft-Punk-circa-R.A.M. track that is both extremely energetic and emotional, a panic attack coated in glitter.

I could write about this album forever, except I can’t. I’m about to get on an 8 hour plane ride, during which I will listen to Be The Cowboy in its entirety at least three times. I don’t necessarily suggest you do the same (your Mitski tolerance might be a little lower than mine), but you cannot sleep on this album. If you do, you’re depriving yourself of the joy of feeling validated in your own experiences through a voice, and an artist, from the realm of the divine.

– Paulina Ukrainets

abysskiss – Adrianne Lenker

 

You might recognize Adrianne Lenker’s stunning voice from the songs she’s sung with her band Big Thief. Her solo album abysskiss, released this October, is a hushed, focused, and beautiful account revolving around intimacy, death, and nature. Because her airy voice and finger-picked guitar are the album’s only audible sounds, her emotions are palpable and the listeners feels as if they’re sitting in the recording studio by her side. The album’s highlight is the song “symbol,” an ambiguous love story in which Lenker explores phrases and imagery as she echoes sounds with the words: “fly make flea, make haste, make waste, eight makes infinity / times I’ve tried to make breaks, embrace for the enemy”. During a year marked by seemingly incessant chaos and negativity, Lenker created a space for introspection, appreciation, and imagination with her stripped down musings about life.

– Mimi Norton

Isolation – Kali Uchis

While there were great albums that came out this year, the album that completely commanded my attention was Kali Uchi’s pop masterpiece Isolation. Uchis’ debut album Isolation has a nostalgic tinge that made it warmly familiar. While nostalgic, it strays from solely being campy throwbacks through its hybridity of genres. The sound is an entirely new animal in its eclectic fusion of soul, funk, and reggaetón. Isolation’s lyrical content is apt for the times, speaking to a year of political distress, escapism, and loneliness. While the instrumentals are upbeat, her melancholic voice and lyrics throw each song askew. This album has been the soundtrack of my year as a relatable emotional landscape and a source of empowerment. A song that particularly jumps out for me in the album is “Dead To Me” with biting lyrics that make Uchis diva of the year. She is taking pop in an entirely different direction, opting out of the sonic trends of 2018 and delving into the past to make an entirely unique sound.

– Maya Day

I’ll Be Your Girl – The Decemberists

If the lyrics “…Everything, everything, everything, everything, everything is awful” aren’t relatable to a college student experiencing a minor inconvenience, I don’t know what is. This song, aptly titled “Everything is Awful,” is the seventh track on The Decemberists’ newest album, I’ll Be Your Girl. The nihilism continues with lead singer Colin Meloy’s plea, “Oh, for once in my life…could just something go right?” on the first track, “Once In My Life” (also aptly titled), overtop synth beats and chords reminiscent of the music of New Order and Berlin. Questions of doubt, life’s meaninglessness, and embracing despair pop up in tracks throughout the album while also, inexplicably, appearing alongside “Rusalka, Rusalka / Wild Rushes,” an eight-minute ballad about a mermaid (I think). “Rusalka, Rusalka / Wild Rushes” returns me, a seasoned The Decemberists listener, to the lengthy epics “The Mariner’s Revenge Song,” “The Crane Wife” parts 1 through 3, and their insane rock opera The Hazards of Love.

My favorite track, “Sucker’s Prayer,” showcases that good-old-Decemberists commentary on unrequited love, present on their older albums, with cheery chords opposing this chorus: “I want to love somebody, but I don’t know how.” That lyric, followed by “I want to throw my body in the river and drown,” presents an image so painfully full of aching, desire, and self-hatred. I may be very dramatic, but I almost fell out of my chair when I first heard it. “Sucker’s Prayer” thankfully brought me back to some earlier Decemberists tracks that have now been occupying my mind and Spotify queue for weeks. Overall, I’ll Be Your Girl, despite being an eclectic mix of songs experimenting with new styles and sounds, nonetheless draws from the best of their old music and projects their ideas towards the future and cements itself as one of my favorite albums of 2018.

-Jane Harris

NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES – Metro Boomin, Travis Scott, 21 Savage

Metro Boomin’s sixth studio album, NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES, redefined rap in 2018. The album’s sharp beats over ambient instrumentals forms a futuristic, yet familiar Atlanta sound.

 

[TOP SONG: Don’t Come Out the House (with 21 Savage)]

– Emily Faulks

Aviary  – Julia Holter

With the resurgence of vinyl and physical forms of music, the album as an art form has come back into style. Julia Holter’s latest album Aviary is not only a work of art; it stretches our ears into unknown shapes and sizes. Each of Holter’s songs feels like an album in itself. One moment we are wrapped in electronic, orchestral swirls, and then we land in a glitchy, spooky folk fairytale. Although it is hard to isolate individual tracks, “Voce Simul” exhibits this transformation of time through delicate sonic manipulation. Her songs are in constant conversation with one another. This is an album that I could write or think about for hours on end, discovering endless secrets embedded within pockets of sound. Holter guides us through the terrifying beauty of “Everyday is an Emergency”, which reflects on various sounds that occupy daily life, and how something as simple as a siren can affect us in multiple ways. These soundscapes are only strengthened by Holter’s usual thought provoking lyrics: “Firm in your mystery/ Will you remember the body?/ And what does it do to you?” Melding genres together with lucid craftwork, Aviary is so progressive that will certainly not be left behind in 2018.

Listen to when: you are ready to experience feelings that you’ve never had before.

– Lena Farr-Morrissey

 

SOCC DJ Profile: Hannah Bollen

DJ Cowgirl Pervert (AKA Hannah Bollen) moved out here to the Wild West from Nashville, TN. She’s studying Economics with a minor in Art History. As a senior this year, she’s been managing the SOCC radio DJs. Every Monday from 7-8, you can tune in to her show “Hoppy, Crisp, and Fizzy” to hear some indie tunes.

This weekend, I got the chance to sit down with her in the drawing studio and interrogate her for 40 minutes! So read on to find out what she had to say about the music in her life J

Mimi: Who’s your favorite artist from your hometown?

Hannah: Probably Sun Seeker. Although, can I have multiple? Have you ever heard of R. Stevie Moore? He’s from Nashville and has collaborated with Ariel Pink and he’s been doing lo-fi, weird music for like forever. I only found out about him a few years ago, but he’s so cool.

M: When did you first get into music?

H: Well, I played in band from 6th grade through high school and I think that playing an instrument really lead me to develop a love for listening to music. I played in the jazz band in high school, and I think people are like “Oh, band is such a geeky thing to do,” but it was so cool. I really miss playing – I played the alto saxophone and think I might join the jazz band next semester. Anyways, in terms of listening to music, growing up my dad would always have cool CDs in the car we would listen to. One was a band called Everything But the Girl, and he had a lot of Smashing Pumpkins in the car which I didn’t really appreciate when I was younger – I was always like “Eh this is just kind of annoying” but now I definitely appreciate it more. We’d always have a David Bowie CD in the car too. But I didn’t really have good music taste until late high school. I think one of the first artists I got really into was Fleetwood Mac.

M: How would you describe your show?

H: Well, I usually just put whatever songs I’ve been listening to in a given week and play from that. I feel like I like to think that my taste is somewhat eclectic, but then when you look at it, it’s really just not that eclectic, you know. It’s usually just a lot of indie and non-mainstream artists.

M: Do you ever talk about the songs you play?

H: Yeah, I like to give context to them. Sometimes I like to come up with a theme like “these are all songs that are special to me” and for each one I’d say why. For one of my shows that I did recently, I remembered what song was playing when I drove for the first time and it was “China Girl” by David Bowie. I also like to encourage people to say something in the DJ chatroom, that’s like my favorite thing about the show is when people participate.

M: What’s your favorite show you’ve ever done?

H: Well, last year I had a Tinder date on my show, so that was fun.

M: Do you have any famous DJs you look up to?

H: Peggy Gou. She does live house music… well I think you’d call it house music. Maybe club music. She’s so f—cking cool. Like look up a picture of her, she’s just so cool. And she has five songs on Spotify but there are a ton of remixes of them.

M: What were some of your favorite albums of 2018?

H: One of my favorite albums of the year was Sam Evian’s album You Forever. He’s really good, it’s kind of like ethereal but country-twangy a little bit. Also Sugar Candy Mountain’s Do It Right was a really good album – a lot more pop-y than their older stuff. Oh also Jerry Paper’s new album too, that was very good.

M: What were some of your most played artists and songs of 2018?

H: According to the Spotify Wrapped thing, Ariel Pink was my #1, which was not surprising at all to me. Then I think Sugar Candy Mountain, Sam Evian, Jerry Paper, and R. Stevie Moore. I think I’ve already mentioned them all before. Anyways, my top songs were:

“Pink Litmas Paper Strip” by R. Stevie Moore

“Hand It Over” by MGMT

“Sweet VA Breeze” by DRAM

“This Time Around” by Sugar Candy Mountain

“Escalator” by Good Morning

And I listened for 25,575 minutes!

M: What are your desert island albums?

H: Hmm, my immediate thought is Jim Sullivan’s album UFO. Ariel Pink’s album Before Today. And maybe a Steely Dan album, but I can’t decide which one. And ooh maybe an Amy Winehouse album – Back to Black I guess.

M: Do you have any favorite movie soundtracks?

H: Oooh, Napolean Dynamite. Elf, hahaha. And Boyhood. We grew up with the Elf and Napolean Dynamite soundtracks in my mom’s car. And in between each song, they’re like thirty seconds, there’s a quote from the movie. So yeah I think I can do the whole movie by now, haha. And the Elf soundtrack is definitely the best Christmas music soundtrack.

M: Do you think you’ll try to continue music in any way after college?

H: Yeah… I’m trying to figure out in what capacity I can, but one thing I want to do is join a local band, like a community jazz band or something. If there is a college radio station like KRCC or something nearby and they have volunteer DJ slots I would totally do that. On the more business side of it, I’ve looked into applying for some music analyst jobs that I’ve seen, but I’m not really sure.

M: Do you have a favorite music blog or any favorite music writers?

H: Have you ever watched Anthony Fantano videos on YouTube? He’s not my favorite, but I watch a lot of his stuff. He’s really annoying but I do watch his stuff all the time. Other than that, maybe like Consequence of Sound but not any particular writer.

M: How do you discover new music?

H: By stalking all of my friends, but stalking cool friends. Strictly cool friends, hahaha. And also just keeping my ears peeled wherever I go. And Discover Weekly on Spotify. Some people just poo-poo that because it just gives you more music that’s similar to your own stuff, but I find a lot of music that way that I wouldn’t otherwise know about. I also go down rabbit holes on Spotify and find a lot of stuff like that.

M: Where’s your favorite place to listen to music?

H: I think walking around campus and walking to class in the morning. I think when I’m listening to music at home a lot of the time I’m on my computer and not focusing on the music, but when I’m walking I’m not doing anything or talking to anyone, just walking and listening.

M: What’s the best show you’ve ever seen?

H: I keep bringing up Ariel Pink, but honestly he played such a good show last year in October in Denver. Afterwards, “I was like that’s the best concert I’ve ever seen.” Freshman year I saw Father John Misty in Denver and I don’t know if it was the orchestra hall but it was a really big, airy venue and it was really good. He’s such a good show person and all of the lights were timed perfectly. Oh, also Chicano Batman played in Nashville in 2017. They are so well practiced and they hit every note just right. That was a great show.

M: Okay, last question. Do you have any guilty pleasure music that you listen to?

H: “thank u, next.” Such a f—king good song. Although I don’t feel guilty about it. It’s so catchy. And then, well I also don’t feel guilty about this, but I think 80’s pop music is so cool. And early 2000s middle school songs. Like “Fire Burning” by Sean Kingston. I mean, that’s a great song too.

SONG OF THE WEEK(END): Mike Clark & the Sugar Sounds- “Burn You Up”

Mike Clark & the Sugar Sounds performing at Globe Hall in 2016. Image Credit: Nikki A. Rae

This song has haunted me all week. From the deep, deliberate drum beat at the song’s beginning to the singer crooning, “You know it’s gonna burn you alive…burn you up, burn you up” at the bridge, listening to this track transforms me into a more melancholic version of myself. “Burn You Up” reminds me of a failed relationship and lost love I’ve never even felt nor experienced before. However, the song isn’t overwhelmingly sad. It’s tinged with sweetness, present in the way the guitar chords are somewhat reminiscent of bells ringing, the way the lead singer draws out certain words while keeping others short, and also for the way the lyrics “you called me darling when you broke my heart” are sung- simply, tenderly, and truthfully.

The simplest way I could explain this song to my friends in hopes they would add it to their Spotify queues went along the lines of, “Oh my god, it’s SO good. It goes through, like, three vibes during the song.” For lack of better phrasing, “Burn You Up” does go through multiple vibes. The song’s cyclical nature takes the listener through different technical and emotional sections of the song, only to return you exactly where you started. Listening to it feels somewhat like recounting a dream when you wake, sometimes the details are fuzzy, it might have been strange (but seemed totally normal), and you always end up back at the beginning.

Of all the tracks on the one album Mike Clark & the Sugar Sounds have on Spotify, “Burn You Up” stands out, for me, as one of their most dynamic, and more emotional, songs. This song, though not too good at hyping anyone up for Winter Break, still serves as a good, chill listen as we near the end of fourth Block. Happy studying, procrastinating, and listening. Hopefully you enjoy the bittersweet “Burn You Up” as much I do!


You can listen to “Burn You Up” on Spotify with the link below:

A Few New(ish) Things to Hear & See

Earl Sweatshirt –– Some Rap Songs
This album doesn’t feel suited for taking apart. It’s full of seamless transitions from one jazz-beat and sample to another. Earl’s lyrics are significantly more dense here than on I Don’t Like Shit… or Doris, and in some ways, this contributes to some difficulty in approaching the album. Still, a single listen through the tracklist and the genius of the album and its maker become instantly clear. Maybe I’ll have more concrete things to say after a few more listens. For now, I let the album play out and wash over me, like a slow-moving tsunami I’ve not quite comprehended the magnitude of.
Bug Fight –– “Worm”
This is a recent single from Bug Fight, a band on the New Perfume label that is home to CC’s own Seal Eggs and the upcoming Honour Council album. Musically, “Worm” reminds me of Ought, with a sharp, pleasantly dissonant inflection in guitar and vocals. Lyrically, it brings me right to Kafka’s Metamorphosis, with lines like: “Onwards, upwards, till death or a conception of a different world.” The song lives in the abstract, but in an abstract that, even without totally understanding it, feels eerily reminiscent of the current cultural climate that surrounds me.
A$AP Rocky –– “Sundress” (directed by Frank Lebon)

Frank Lebon has been one of my favourite directors ever since I watched his video for King Krule’s “Czech One.” His video for A$AP’s recent single is just as innovative, moving endlessly through lo-fi Super-8-esque shots to disorienting (in the best way) animation. While I’m not a fan of the “jealous-ex-girlfriend-with-a-gun” narrative in the video, watching the video feels like a big breath of fresh air; in a climate that’s so invested in narratives, it’s so enjoyable to see as much emphasis on getting meaning from visual effects, rather than tropey storylines or characters. The song by itself is totally worth a listen, but if you’re gonna experience it at its fullest, watch the video.

Concert Review: Kamasi Washington at the Buckhead Theater on Nov. 17

As the lights dimmed in Atlanta’s Buckhead Theater, James Brown’s “Get Up Offa That Thing” played overhead and members of Kamasi Washington’s band walked on stage and received a warm welcome from the audience.

Once Kamasi stepped on stage, we were all transfixed by his presence – immense, towering, powerful. The audience yelled and hollered and even I, being relatively new to his music, felt I was in the presence of a real demigod. In fact, Washington has been referred to as the “savior of jazz,” but he’s always been too humble to accept the accolade.

Photo credit: Krists Luhaers, https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datei:POS17_@Kristsll-409_(35194970423).jpg

FlyLo and Thundercat have made a name for themselves as more electronic musicians, but Washington doesn’t feel the need to stray too far from traditional jazz. He’s emulated and expanded upon the music of his jazz heroes and proved that he can do it bigger and better than perhaps any other jazz musician at the moment.

I was blown away by the power and energy that Washington packed into his performance. I was expecting a relatively mellow night, but Washington and his band delivered super funky bass jams, an epic drum-off between his two drummers, and soaring vocals from his vocalist Patrice Quinn that got the entire theater dancing.

After a few songs, he introduced Quinn by saying “Patrice is one of the best singers I know. You can tell some people are good by the way they talk, but Patrice, she sounds amazing even when she’s cursing at you.”

After Washington introduced Quinn, she launched into the most powerful song of the set: “Malcolm’s Theme,” from Washington’s debut album, The Epic. The songs lyrics come directly from Ossie Davis’ eulogy for civil rights icon Malcolm X. The moving lyrics, paired with Quinn’s emotional, powerful, and beautiful delivery gave everyone goosebumps.

My favorite part of the set was when Washington’s stand-up bass player, Miles Mosley, played his incredible funk epic “Abraham.” I was blown away by Mosley’s ability to create such otherworldly and groovy sounds. Here is a link to a performance of Mosley’s playing “Abraham” that I suggest you all watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c73NCDr5ACo (skip to 3:30 if you’re limited for time).

After being mesmerized by Washington for almost two hours of free-jazz digressions and thoughtful, intricate pieces, I felt like I’d been to a different universe and back. Just like the legendary Pharaoh Sanders who I had the chance to see earlier this year, Washington’s music transcended all of us to another realm of experiencing. Washington confirmed that jazz can be as lively, engaging, and fascinating as any other genre, if not more so.

Concert Review: FIDLAR at Gothic Theater 10/26

When I tell people FIDLAR is one of my favorite bands, they look shocked. The thought of a small basic-looking girl liking punk rock blows minds. But FIDLAR isn’t just like any punk rock band. Their tongue-in-cheek lyrics over heavy guitar riffs seems to be a product of their west coast skater lifestyle and embodies their acronym: “Fuck It Dog Life’s A Risk.” FIDLAR’s carefree but angsty attitude captures youth sentiment in a palatable way while touching on systemic issues that are reminiscent of early punk music.

I saw FIDLAR in D.C. after their album “Too” came out during my sophomore year of high school. My first punk concert was one of confusion, excitement, and fear. This can be said for all my girl friends that I have dragged into FIDLAR’s mosh pits. The mosh pit can be a dangerous place, especially for small girls. But honestly, if you aren’t moshing at a punk concert what the fuck are you doing.

The mosh pit is a place where people come to express themselves and confront emotional experiences as a community. Although I interpret FIDLAR’s lyrics as mostly sarcastic, they lay down some hard facts about social and institutional issues in America as well as reflect on personal struggles with relationships and drug abuse. These insights are usually buried in satirism, but never seem to be lost on the crowd. FIDLAR’s upbeat guitar solos and screaming chorus remind me that I don’t have to be alone with my problems. I’ve never felt so supported in a crowd of strangers than I have at a punk concert.

As soon as I saw that FIDLAR was on tour, I immediately raced to my computer to get a ticket and, with some bribing, took my friend’s truck down to the Gothic Theater in Denver with two other girls. We made our way to the front as the opening band Side Eyes jumped on. The pit immediately erupted into a sea of smashing shirtless bodies and flailing arms in response to the lead singers siren-like screeching. My friends and I looked at each other with a what-the-fuck-did-we-just-get-ourselves-into look as we watched a group of older kids hardcore moshing with fake blood coming out of their eyes and ears. This was just an opener. The energy mellowed out when the next opener, Dilly Dally, came on with an eerie ambience in the lead singer’s voice and bass guitar chords.The pit was still very much alive, but my guard was lowered as I soaked in the wailing chords and the most quintessentially girl punk screams ever.

The crowd started closing in as people on stage started tuning the arsenal of guitars against the pile of old TV’s on the stage. My friends and I agreed that we would try to keep our spot next to the metal gate at the base of the stage and mosh only if we were really into the song. This agreement was shortly broken after the guitar chords for “Alcohol’ emerged from the back of the stage. I felt the force of the entire crowd pressing on my back when the mosh pit began to push towards the front as Zac, Max, Brandon, and Elvis casually strutted onto stage. There was no introduction, just a small smirk from Zac, then an absolute explosion from the mosh pit as he began to sing FIDLAR’s hit song “No Waves.” I decided to abandon my post and join my people. I have never been in a mosh pit so chaotic; about 40 or 50 kids pushing and shoving each other so forcefully that it was common that groups of people would have to be picked up off the ground. I couldn’t tell if I finally found a crowd of true punk enthusiasts or a group of belligerently drunk men who needed to expel a lot of pent-up testosterone. Either way, I embraced FIDLAR’s acronym and assumed an athletic stance before throwing myself into the pit.  

Mosh pits are generally a very male-dominated space because of the physical dangers as well as their stigma. It felt very empowering to occupy this space with other girls and completely own it together. I befriended a few girls when I was moshing who were also struggling with the combative nature of the pit. It seemed like the band picked up on this issue because right after I was forcibly separated from my friends, Zac grabbed the mic. He told the pit to create an aisle down the middle and then announced that the space created was for a girls-only mosh pit. I weaved through the crowd of skyscraper-sized men and jumped into our pit. We screamed and laughed and moshed the shit out of “5-9.” I gained so much respect for the people around me that night. I don’t want to admit how many times someone pulled me out of an uncomfortable place in a mosh pit or caught me when I was about to fall, but I would like to say how much compassion I felt by FIDLAR and their fans. Near the end of the show, I told a girl I met that I wanted to crowd surf FIDLAR, and next thing I know, her boyfriend had rallied a group of people to pick me up and sent me across the crowd. The gratitude I felt for that couple I met and the FIDLAR community while crowd surfing was indescribable.

The pit never lost steam, and continued to mosh even after FIDLAR ended their set. After a lot of screaming and pushing, FIDLAR came back on for an encore to perform “Blackout Stout” and then absolutely killed their final song. Zac ordered the pit to sit down on the floor so we were forced to sit on top of each other and quietly waited as the looping guitar riff introduction for “Cocaine” teased us. The pit burst to life as soon as Zac screamed the first lines: “you take Sally and I’ll take Sue/There ain’t no difference between the two.” Everyone emptied the rest of their emotions and energy in the pit with that song. I left the concert feeling like a weight had been lifted off my soul, but redistributed onto all my bruised limbs. Honestly, it’s worth the trade-off.

FIDLAR continues to be one of my favorite punk rock bands. Their emphasis on gender inclusivity aligns with the ideology of punk rock. I encourage everyone -especially women- to go to a punk concert and join its wonderful community of strangers at least once in life. The people that I have met in the pit become less like strangers and more like friends after sharing even a moment of moshing together. FIDLAR recently announced that their third studio album “Almost Free” will be released January 25. No tour dates or locations have been announced yet, but I am already looking forward to seeing them and the FIDLAR community again!

On Top of the World: Louisville, White Reaper, and I

My old Kentucky home is the land of many of the world’s superlatives. The world’s greatest horse racing, the world’s best bourbon, the world’s most influential boxer, the world’s largest baseball bat, and also the World’s Best American Band, White Reaper. Both White Reaper and I hail from the same city, Louisville, unknowingly frequenting the same restaurants and music venues for years before I discovered them. They put out their first EP in 2014, three years before I would first register hearing their music, and four before I would meet them and grow to be a huge fan. I must admit that I have not been a fan of White Reaper’s for long, but nonetheless, their music has grown to become a significant part of my life.

The author’s signed White Reaper album. Image Credit: Jane Harris.

My relationship with White Reaper’s music started on Record Store Day a year ago, when I was lucky enough to stumble upon a DJ set by the Wilkerson brothers, twins Sam and Nick, who make up the rhythmic section of the band. They play bass and drums, respectively and amazingly. That day I also met Tony Esposito, lead vocals and guitar, and Ryan Hater, who rocks harder than any other keyboard player I’ve seen live. (This experience left out Hunter Thompson, an incredibly talented guitarist who ironically has the same name as a Louisville icon though he is the only band member who is not from Louisville). At the record store I remember picking up one of their records from the “W” artist section, looking at the picture of the band on the sleeve, holding the record up to my face right next to the band members in real life, and doing a double-take. Within five minutes the record was purchased, I already had their signatures, and was engaged in conversation with the boys. From multiple interactions with the band members it is with ease and certainty that I can say they are some of the most genuine guys I’ve met in the music scene today. I acknowledge my bias as a fellow Louisvillian, but their onstage charm translates offstage as well. Their fan base is so dedicated partly because of how personable they are. They’re cool guys making cool music.

(from left) Ryan Hater, Tony Esposito, Nick Wilkerson, and Hunter Thompson rocking out at Louisville’s Forecastle Festival 2018. Image Credit: Jane Harris.

“The World’s Best…” is a title I would readily give them if they hadn’t already given it to themselves. Their second studio album, The World’s Best American Band, cements their self-fulfilling prophecy as one of the new, upcoming “greats” with tracks that rock, and don’t stop. Listening to the album I was immediately seduced by “Judy French,” as all other listeners are. Soon my favorite off their sophomore album became “Daises,” and before I had exhausted The World’s Best… I was already deep into their earlier tracks: first album “White Reaper Does It Again” (funny, right?) and self-titled EP. Fast forward a few weeks from the day I met them and all my “Spotify heavy rotation” tracks belonged to White Reaper—some personal favorites are still “Alone Tonight,” “I Don’t Think She Cares,” and “Tell Me.” Go a couple more weeks into the future and I’m getting whiplash in the front row at their concert.

Ryan Hater, Tony Esposito, Sam Wilkerson, and I at Forecastle Festival 2018. Image Credit: Jane Harris.

Headbanging and moshing to White Reaper’s music is easy with their catchy guitar riffs, strong rhythm, and especially Esposito’s piercing and unique vocals. You can listen to any White Reaper track once and then be able to pick out Esposito’s voice again, that’s how unique and profound in a strange, ambiguous way he sounds. In combination with their recognizable sound, their stage-presence as some sort of self-proclaimed rock gods also entices and draws in a dedicated audience and fan base. Their energy is pure and contagious. They easily bring everyone to their feet—with songs like “The Stack” it’s impossible not to dance. In this song Esposito sings the truth, “If you make the girls dance, the boys will dance with them,” but White Reaper doesn’t need to make people move because the audience is already dancing. The songs on White Reaper Does It Again, though the production can sound fuzzy at times (something I think adds to the character of some of the more eccentric tracks, like “Friday the 13th”), end as strong as they start. Listening all the way from their first EP to The World’s Best… it’s fun to watch the band grow, gain members, and develop a sound that has potential to fluctuate, develop, and continue to excite. Saying I’m excited to hear new tracks from them in the future would be an understatement—their music makes me feel at home.

(from left) Nick Wilkerson, Hunter Thompson, and Sam Wilkerson during their Forecastle set. Image Credit: Jane Harris.

Strangely enough, of all the things to be proud of about my city and state, White Reaper is at the top of my list. I’ll never forget the first time I saw them live in Louisville—how genuinely proud I was to be a fan of their music, proud of the great Louisville music scene they’re helping to develop, and proud of them being great, compassionate people. From my new, small room in Colorado Springs, listening to White Reaper takes me back to Kentucky in the fall. While blasting White Reaper I’m driving fast around Louisville at night, hanging out with my friends, and feeling like I’m strong, opinionated, and on top of the world.


You can listen to White Reaper’s discography on this handy playlist I’ve made of all their songs on Spotify:

ALBUM REVIEW: Khalid- “Suncity”

 

Khalid’s rise to fame has been slow and steady. His smooth sound and relatable lyrics make for versatile, chill music for a variety of settings.  But apart from being solid background music, his most recent album, Suncity, shares some words of wisdom about his journey to stardom as well as the unpredictability of life that we can all relate to.

Unlike his first album, American Teen, which centered on Khalid’s relationships and teenage experiences with catchy but simple songs like “Saved” and “Young, Dumb and Broke,” Suncity’s abstract feel is more of a focus on instrumentals. Apart from “Saturday Nights,” with the chorus “all the things that I know, that your parents don’t” which echoes the angsty teen of Khalid’s previous album, Suncity tackles life’s obstacles in a way that all age groups can relate to.

Suncity begins with “9.13,” a short instrumental which concludes in Khalid being given the key to his hometown of El Paso, Texas, or as he calls it in American Teen, the city of the 915. In “Vertigo,” Khalid reflects on his rise to prominence in the music industry among other accomplishments in a whimsical, dubious way. After going back to his roots with the somber, moody teen passion in “Saturday Nights,” he returns to a more reflective vibe with “Salem’s Interlude.” “Salem’s Interlude” revolves around life’s obstacles that we all face as well as the struggle of which path to take. Through the interlude, Khalid invites listeners to step back and contemplate their direction and goals in the craziness that is life. “Motion,” my personal favorite song on the album, is the most unique and has a dreamlike quality. The album ends with a note of pop in both “Better” and “Suncity,” definitely the most radio friendly of the album. “Better” is catchy, romantic and overall average. “Suncity,” featuring Empress Of, expresses Khalid’s tie to El Paso and the community he grew up in, ending back where he began in an upbeat, refreshing tone.

All in all, “Suncity” is both a continuation of Khalid’s style and an example of his progression into a variety of lyrical and instrumental genres. After being featured in songs with artists from Halsey to H.E.R., I was pleasantly surprised to see Khalid’s old style and growth reflected in Suncity.

See what you think!

Listen to Suncity here:

Jerry Paper October 10th Lost Lake Lounge

JERRY PAPER – Photo by Joe Leavenworth for Fader

As the season’s first snow fell in Denver, I made the trek to the capital’s Lost Lake Lounge to see Jerry Paper. It was my second time at Lost Lake; the staff were just as friendly as I remembered, the venue just as intimate. I came just in time for the last opener, Kiefer. Although a bit bummed to miss his predecessors, Prophet and Stimulator Jones, I easily got carried away with Kiefer’s rhythmic, floating keyboard-and-drum kit melodies. Citing J Dilla, and covering him once, Kiefer swayed his shoulders, letting his eyes close and his head fall back, as he grooved with the crowd. At the end of his set, he slipped off stage and stuck around to chat and enjoy the rest of the show.

I had seen Jerry Paper once before at a converted Free Mason lodge in Los Angeles this past summer. Then, the band had just finished recording Like a Baby, their newest and most accessible record. They were just introducing it to a live audience. Now, two days before the worldwide release of Like a Baby, the band had grown into the new songs. On the record and in concert, they had traded in synthetic instrumentals and muffled vocals to explore a funkier, organic sound that matches well with Jerry Paper’s jovial, live crooning.

Now, in Denver for the first time, wearing a purple t-shirt, Nathan Lucas, the songwriter, producer, and bodily vessel through which Jerry Paper is experienced, strolled and spoke with concertgoers. Minutes later, he was on stage, this time wearing a silky green dress. Joined by a tight, able five-piece backing band, Jerry began to do what he came there to do. If you’ve never been to a Jerry Paper show, it’s a sight to see. Jerry dances with a looseness and a focus like no one else. I would be hard pressed to find a performer whose enjoyment is more contagious.

The set was largely new material. For me, that was wonderful. The new songs feel made to be enjoyed live. It’s almost like the energy Jerry brings in every step and swing was transcribed into a song. However, his lyrics don’t come from his hips but from a deep, scary place in his head. On Grey Area, he sings: “Grey area come and find me/ In the cereal aisle/ Which corporate mascot/ Will bring me joy or paste me up a smile?”. Jerry’s newest songs are nihilistic anxieties of consumerism, society, and the afterlife, and, when you listen closely, the messages are every bit as contagious as his joy. But Jerry didn’t come to make anyone ponder their existence. He just wants people to get lost for one night.

“Right now, you’re experiencing pleasure and ecstasy. It’s what I do for you with my little song and dance”, he reminded the crowd. “Hope you like it”.

The crowd did like it, and the band seemed to like us. By the end of the show, Jerry was comfortable enough to ask the crowd at-large if he could use anyone’s shower.

“No funny business”, he warned. “I just feel dirty and live in a bus”.

After a beautiful rendition of “Reprogram Ourselves”, Jerry appeased the crowd with an uncharacteristic encore.

“Personally, I hate encores, but we’re never here”, he told the crowd.

With great songs, a fantastic band, and a truly lovable leader, I had a wonderful night. Jerry, you’re welcome in Denver anytime!

Soccer Mommy & Slow Hollows Concert Review

 Recently I saw two shows for free, in exchange for reviewing them. The first show I took up on a whim, trying to convince myself that I liked this particular band, Slow Hollows, enough to drive up to Denver for an hour and watch them play to a sparsely filled out audience. Mostly, that was true –– I was looking for an easy way to keep the few scraps of leftover summer spontaneity alive, in an attempt to offset the quickly settling CC-induced feeling of utter boredom.
The second show, though, was Soccer Mommy––someone I’d already loved, with another favourite––Sasami––as the opener.
Both Slow Hollows and Soccer Mommy consist of people that are about my (and probably yours’) age, which, every time I think about it, induces in me a complicated feeling of awe, inadequacy and existential dread. Like a lot of other people nearing the end of their time in college, I have no fucking idea what I’m doing. None of my most beloved pursuits inspire any confidence in their ability to provide for a simple roof and a (to be fair, not-so-simple) meal, and I spend at least a few minutes each day wallowing in this mind void. So, this confrontation with people who are actually doing what they love, is both sweet and ego-destroying, especially when they’re successful.
    The success segment looks different for the two bands. Slow Hollows, fronted by Austin Anderson, are on their first national tour; still, Anderson is featured on both Tyler, The Creator’s “Flower Boy” and Frank Ocean’s “Blonde” and “Endless.”
Slow Hollows at Lost Lake

 

Instrumentally, their set felt tight, if a little generic, soaring to its peak during the trumpet’s occasional features. Lyrically, though, the songs lived in the realm of the cliché, with rhymes like “you/glue” and “leaving/dreaming” sticking so saccharinely they carved cavities in my auditory cortex. I wanted so badly to like them better than I did, so I heard myself using their ages as some sort of excuse or explanation for their relative mediocrity, employing that same “you’ll understand when you’re older” mentality I’ve felt so hurt and patronized by in the past. Mostly, I think, I wanted them to be better, because I projected this position of young-creative-new-and-improved American Dream (i.e. you can do anything if you just believe&work rly hard) onto them. I wanted them to feel ageless, so that I could stop feeling hindered by my age too. Alas, I left that show confused, though a little more energised for having briefly left the bubble.
Soccer Mommy at Globe Hall
    A few weeks later, I sped through dense, viscous tonkotsu-like fog on the I25 to Globe Hall, a BBQ place-stroke-venue in Denver. I got there just in time to catch the latter half of Sasami’s set, which was wonderful, although sometimes a little less full than I’d expected, probably because of Globe Hall’s funky acoustics.
Then, after a short break, Soccer Mommy came on. Instantly, the room’s attention tunnel-visioned onto the stage. Sophie [Allison, the frontwoman]’s voice sounded so clear and perfect that I kept having to ask my friends if it was autotuned. Each song took me through a new story, poignantly communicated in each sound and lyric. The songs felt self-aware; they seemed to know exactly what they were trying to say, and the most evocative way to say it.
The fact that Allison and her bandmates are all college-aged did not present itself to me, until she told the audience that it was her bandmate, Graeme’s, 22nd birthday. The lyrical content was only aware of its performer’s age within references to school. The artistry of each piece, though, was outside of the youth that’s synonymous with inexperience. Allison’s work is as intricate, grounded and steeped in craft as any of those artists whose age we don’t even seem to know.
She towers above the “you’ll understand when you’re older” mentality, showing us (or at the very least, me) that we can, and do, understand “it” now, even if the “it” looks differently today. Her success barely inspires any jealousy; instead, I drive home from the show inspired, bursting with energy, grinning, happy to be my age again.