Concert Review: AJR’s One Spectacular Night

by Amy Soba ’21

On Saturday, December 26th, AJR hosted their first full livestreamed concert. I’m not normally a big fan of livestreamed concerts, but this was something different. It was hosted on VENEWLIVE which presents a more interactive interface than Facebook or Instagram Live. For example, the viewer can rotate between different camera angles and chat with other audience members. Viewers can also cheer, stomp, and applause which are played at the end of each song. Fun fact – AJR themselves created the cheering sound effects! (see their TikTok or Instagram for more @ajrbrothers).

 

I’ve been to two AJR concerts, one for The Click and one for Neotheater. Both times I was absolutely blown away by the level of dedication and creativity the brothers show to their music and to their audience. Thus, I was really intrigued to see how they would pull off a virtual concert experience.

 

The show started out with a FANTASTIC overture containing pieces from AJR’s entire discography. As a big AJR fan, I was a little sad that they did not include an overture on their Neotheater album like they did on Living Room and The Click, so, to me, this was the perfect way to kick off the night. The band played through a good portion of their Neotheater album while also throwing in some bigger hits like “Weak,” “Sober Up,” “Burn the House Down,” and (perhaps their biggest hit yet) “Bang!” They also debuted a new song, “My Play,” which will be part of their upcoming album OK ORCHESTRA.

 

Just like with any in-person concert, there were also tons of lighting effects like strobe lights and laser beams in addition to the songs themselves. Similar to their Neotheater tour, AJR also used a giant projector screen which Jack, the lead singer, interacted with. However, I think the coolest stunt they did was having Jack suspended mid-air with wires and making it look like he was walking on a laser beam. In a way, I think certain visual effects could have only worked in this virtual setting, as you would have had to look at the stage from just the right angle to make the effect look real. That’s what I really like about AJR. They took this virtual concert space and were like, “Okay, the audience can’t really be there, so how do we make this an experience worth watching and how can we take advantage of this virtual setting?”

AJR performs “My Play”

 

 

One of my favorite moments of the night was when Ryan broke down the production of “Bang!” AJR does a song breakdown in every concert they do, so it’s always fun to guess which one will be featured. “Bang!” was a little tougher to guess than past ones because it honestly sounds like a standard pop song until you hear that tell-tale marching / swinging rhythm and trumpets. I loved how Ryan started with the simple, everyday sound of a door knock, and added in elements piece by piece until he created a whole song. It was like watching them produce a song right in front of us.* 

 

*if you’re into music production or really love song breakdowns,  I highly suggest checking out AJR’s Youtube channel where Ryan opens up their ProTools setup and breaks down acouple of different songs.  

 

All in all, AJR’s One Spectacular Night was indeed spectacular. While nothing can be the same as moshing to “Weak” with hundreds of other people, the band did a fantastic job putting together and performing a virtual show. Everything from the song selection to the visual effects to the stunts was completely captivating and I’m really glad I decided to go.

 

If you’re looking for the latest from AJR, check out “My Play” and make sure to keep an ear out for their upcoming album, OK ORCHESTRA, which drops March 26th, 2021.

 

Find AJR on Spotify!

All featured photos are from AJR’s Instagram @ajrbrothers

A Reflection on Remote Radio

From the perspective of a station manager

Photo credit: Amy Soba ’21

 

The fall semester has come to an end and what a crazy one it’s been. I remember walking out of the station in March thinking “I’ll be back soon. It’s just spring break.” Boy, was I wrong. One week turned into two weeks and then a month, and then a whole summer which blurred into a remote fall semester. I was definitely let down. I thought, “Wow, I’m a senior and one of my last memories of the station will be sitting on the couch watching Barry – wild.” Little did I know that radio could continue on from the oh-so-familiar four walls of my room. I called a meeting with the other station manager, our faculty advisor, and our technical engineer. We were able to brainstorm four pretty good ideas which we then pitched to the rest of exec and the DJs. One of the ideas – prerecorded shows – really caught on. We ended up with about 24 active student and community DJs, which I think is pretty amazing. I was able to record a show on Friday night and have it air on Tuesday, which was convenient.. The prerecorded format also gave me space to try talking more “on-air” and add in more fun facts about the artists or personal anecdotes about a particular song. Our exec board also hosted a few Zoom hangouts, game nights, and even pulled off our semesterly 24 Hour Live event.

 

The spring semester offers a whole new set of challenges with Dickinson’s plan to flip the on-campus student body halfway through the semester. I’m hoping to have more live DJs in the station with proper cleaning protocols in place along with continuing remote radio for those who are at home. In an ideal world, I would love to see a socially distanced Live on Britton once it warms up in April/May. With 2020 almost over, I’m definitely ready to look towards the new year. I’m sure I won’t wake up January 1st, 2021 with all of my problems solved, but if this year has shown me anything, it’s that people can be really creative in coming up with ways to keep moving forwards. All in all, I’m very impressed with how radio has fared and I’m curious to see what next semester holds.

 

by Amy Soba ’21

The BEST Halloween Playlists you have never heard of, until now

Aquarium Drunkard. Bookmark it. Put it on your daily reads list. Educate yourself on all sorts of awesome music that isn’t on commercial radio (but we play on WDCV!). Their vintage mixtapes are the stuff of legend. Perfectly crafted finds from scratchy records that might have languished in a forgotten box in your neighbors basement but these expert diggers source, curate, and share these gems for all of our benefit.

My favorite ones are the Trick or Treat Mixtapes filled with a focus on 60’s garage and surf rock monster tunes but other vintage gems are peppered in there. You won’t hear Monster Mash but I promise you will hear tunes you wish you heard before today. I can only find volumes 5-9 online and if you can find me 1-4 I will forever be in your debt.

They have 7-9 still posted and 5 and 6 links straight to a sketchy download site.  So, for your trick or treat bag I have downloaded all 5-9 for your enjoyment and also because they keep removing the old ones and I don’t want them to disappear forever. 

If you like these I highly recommend their other holiday mixtapes “Lit up like a Christmas Tree Vol. 1 and 2′ And “Christmas Jambree :: A Vintage Jamaican Yuletide Mixtape”.  Really, just use this link to search any post with the term ‘mixtape’ in it and you are likely to stumble upon the best treasure trove of downloadable vintage jams you never knew were missing from your life until now. 

I’m also a fan of the Bomboclat! Island Soak series.  Really, you can’t go wrong on any of these mixtapes.  Happy listening!

billie eilish Album Review

Nothing can compare to the excitement I felt when Billie Eilish dropped her first full album on March 29th, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?  It immediately shot to No. 1 on the Billboard charts, making Eilish the first artist born in the 21st century to hit the chart’s peak. The album accumulated many recent singles released and added more diverse sounds and styles.

I have been a huge fan of hers ever since I heard her song “watch” in January of 2018. I instantly fell in love with her unique voice, her pop and indie style, and the creativity in her lyrics. After discovering her, I made sure to tell everyone about her, and I’m sure others did too, as she rose to fame with multiple single drops and collaborations with new artists like Khalid in the song “lovely”.

Her songs cover a variety of subjects: love, culture, self-image, hatred, and everything between. She fantastically combines these lyrics with incredibly chill beats and new technology to give her music an edge.

 

 

Some may say that her recent album is too dark and dismal, but I think it is a true masterpiece. There is a sense of fluidity through her album, as the last three songs are called “listen before i go”, “i love you”, and “goodbye”. There is a great combination of songs to bop to, songs to get you in your bag, and songs to sit back and appreciate musically. My favorite song on the album is called “xanny” where Billie addresses teen culture of using drugs. Other favorites are “wish you were gay” and “when the party’s over”. As her first full album, it is unbelievable how much talent and musicality is pieced into every song.

I very highly suggest you take a listen to Billie’s new album, and all her old songs too. She is truly unique to this generation of music.

 

 

By: Victoria Dionisos ‘22

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Fishing for Fishies | Review

Album Review- Fishing for Fishies by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

by Jackson Rhodes

 

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, an Australian psychedelic rock band formed in 2010 and fronted by Stu Mackenzie, return after a year-long hiatus with a cohesive and sonically radical new album, Fishing for Fishies. 

The Gizz announced at the beginning of 2017 that they would release five studio albums throughout the course of the year; Mackenzie elaborated that “We had this random batch of songs. It was not a cohesive record at all. So we thought we’d split it up, and split again until it became five.” Flying Microtonal Banana, Murder of the Universe, Sketches of Brunswick East, and Polygondwanaland were released, concluding on December 31, 2017 with the release of Gumboot Soup. Although an exciting idea which produced gems like Flying Microtonal Banana and Polygondwanaland, the rate of album releases surpassing even Brockhampton was bound to birth some half-baked and rushed ideas (looking at you, Sketches of Brunswick East). It’s a credit to the band that quality was retained through the mass of quantity pushed into 2017, validating their hiatus through 2018. With the new release of Fishing for Fishies after just a year and few months from Gumboot Soup, the lack of Gizz content versus 2017’s prolific output makes the hiatus feel more like a decade.  

If there’s one thing in common between Death Grips and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, it’s a hatred of a stagnant instrumental palate. Previous works like Nonagon Infinity boast instruments as strange as the Zurna: Fishing for Fishies laughs at that and uses vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, keyboards, mellotron, piano, synthesizer, organ, bass, flute, drums, vibraphone, drums, percussion, and a harmonica to create a catchy, irresistible psychedelic blues-rock sound that boogies like nothing has ever boogied before. In a similar kooky charm to Bill Wurtz or hokiness of T. Rex, King Gizzard’s leading harmonica lines and quality drumming throughout the record create an enrapturing boogie. I mean, this thing’s got boogie. There should be a warning on the album cover that, upon starting the album, your body will be paralyzed into the boogie until the final track fades away. If there’s one thing I can’t emphasize enough, it’s that if you listen to this album, the boogie shall be within you.  

Fishing for Fishies is an indication of what the Gizz can do if they allow themselves the time to do it. Songs like “This Thing” and “Acarine” methodically morph throughout their durations, easing transitions through introductions of varied instruments; “This Thing” in particular switches up the beat so much Travis Scott should be punching the air out of jealousy. While I’m talking about it, “Acarine” is an example of the environmental theme throughout the record, bringing to light the acarine disease that mortally handicaps bees’ ability to fly (and makes it psychedelic). “Plastic Boogie”, while instrumentally still an undeniable boogie, spreads the boogie into blunt lyricism, where Stu Mackenzie sings “It’s not fantastic/It’s gonna come and kill us/It’s gonna be massive/It’s gonna be brutal/Death will come from plastic/Death will come from people”.   

Is this record a great album throughout? Absolutely not. “Cyboogie”, despite the boogie still being present, lies too flat in its electronic production, an unnecessary direction for the bluesy record. You could consequently say that “Cyboogie”, despite its annoying qualities, is a welcome point of variance from eight other songs that sound interchangeable in the tracklist. However, you gotta love this thing for what it is. If you need some well-crafted boogie, buddy do I have something to show you.

 

Concert Review: Hardwork Movement

On Friday April 5th, Philly-based hip-hop group Hardwork Movement took the stage in Allison Community Room. Founded by two Dickinson alumni Dwight Dunston ’10 and Jeremy Keys ’11, this concert was a celebrated homecoming. With four rappers, a flutist, pianist, bassist, drummer, and trumpeter, the band’s energy immediately infected the crowd. Audience members leaned against the stage as Keys, Dunston, and the rest of the group bounced and danced through their set. Keys had a specialty for leaning up into the audience, zoning in on listener, and speaking his verses to an individual. When the music would build, the band would crouch with the tension. When the beat finally dropped, they’d all splash around the stage, infectiously dancing and singing. Dunston had multiple costume changes, sporting a denim onesie, socks and sandals, and of course Dickinson merchandise. The crowd’s favorite of course was when he grabbed our over-sized WDCV canvas poster and wrapped it around himself like a cape. Whoever sang the next verse had the honor of wrapping the sign around themselves, all the while grooving with the upbeat music. Throughout the one hour set, Hardwork Movement presented the crowd with their best songs, including freestyles in spoken verse and instrumentals. 

                 

When the set finally wrapped up, every audience member went home with an extra bump in their step. Hardwork Movement brought to Dickinson light and energy, passion and power. WDCV thanks the band for coming through, and the audience members who made it such a fun experience!

 

                      

Find Hardwork Movement on spotify!
 

Written by Julia Ormond ’19

Sidney Gish Concert Review

Last Saturday, Sidney Gish engaged a large crowd of Dickinsonians and Carlisle residents. With a set list written on her forearm, Gish played many of her most popular songs, with audience members dancing and singing along with her. Songs such as “Persephone” and “Not But For You, Bunny” drew cheers after the first couple seconds. She riffed off her own recorded songs, such as “Sophisticated Space,” adding new jazzy twists to her typical rhythm. 

Check out a snippet of her concert below!

The crowd loved her, evidenced by her massive merch line. The concert was a huge success, and WDCV loved having Sidney on campus! 

 

WDCV’s next concert will be March 1st at 5:30pm with Alice Kristiansen! Join us in the Allison Community Room!

WDCV / MOB Spring Concert Series Line-Up

This semester, WDCV and MOB are teaming up to bring the Dickinson campus and wider Carlisle community a concert series for the books. Ranging from indie bedroom-pop to full-throttle jazzy hop-hop, the Spring Concert Series is sure to satisfy any music-lover, as well as introduce many to great new artists! The line-up is as follows.

 

2/16 : Sidney Gish

First up on February 16th and 8pm in the Allison Community Room is innovative loop-pedal utilizing Boston college student Sidney Gish. For more about her see here.

 

3/1: Alice Kristiansen

Next up, on March 1st at 5:30 is Alice Kristiansen. Kristiansen is a NYC-based aspiring pop star and songwriter. She initially started out posting covers on youtube, which she still frequently posts, but eventually began writing and recording her own tunes. Her newest single “Easy” was released in December and is filled with big EDM synths, distorted vocal samples, and house drums. My favorite song by her is “Lost In Translation”, which I suspect may be named after the Bill Murray film. Though the lyrics are often clunky and the production is boilerplate, the vocals are stunning and the melody is infectious. Expect her to release some even more memorable singles in the coming months.

 

3/22: Shaed

On March 22nd at 5:30, the electro pop trio Shaed will come to campus. Chelsea Lee is the lead singer and twins Max and Spencer Ernst produce. “Trampoline” is a bonafide hit with over 39 million streams on Spotify alone. It’s easy to hear why. The production is icy and propulsive and the vocals are impressively layered. “Melt”, the title track of their newest EP, may be even better than “Trampoline”. It reminds me of Ariana Grande’s most recent material. If you don’t know Shaed now, you’ll definitely have heard them in a few years so see them here while you can for free!

 

4/5: Hardwork Movement

On April fifth at 5:30, Hardwork Movement is coming to campus. Hardwork Movement is made up of 4 rappers backed up by a crack five piece live band. They also have TWO Dickinson alumni in the band! Whoever says a liberal arts education doesn’t pay off clearly hasn’t heard the sweet sounds of these Hard Movers (which is what I called them). These guys release a lot of music with two albums from 2017 and an EP that came out in 2018 but the song that I’ve been bumping a lot is “Praise”. It’s piano based beat reminds me a bit of “Two Weeks” by Grizzly Bear but the vocals are super cheerful. “Dance With Me” is another great song, utilizing horns and a rapid fire delivery that reminds me a bit of Ghostface Killah.

 

4/19: Danny Fisher

Danny Fisher brings his unique take on electro pop to Dickinson on April 19th at 5:30. His most recent song, “With Love Or Nothing At All” mixes layers of his own vocals with atmospheric electronics crafting what reminds me a bit of Panda Bear. There will also potentially be student performers to open this act.

 

5/3: Phony Ppl

The final concert in the WDCV/MOB Collaborative Spring Concert Series Featuring Great Free Live Music For You Lovely People (title pending) finishes up with the neo soul band Phony Ppl. “Somehow.” is a simply wonderful song mixing jazzy guitar work, indie R&B vibes, hip hop beats, and luscious strings into a sweet love song.

 

We hope to see you at our concert series!

Sidney Gish- Coming to Campus 2/16

The amazing and talented Sidney Gish will have a concert on Dickinson’s campus, February 16th at 8pm in the Allison Community Room.

This semester, WDCV and MOB have partnered to bring a few wonderful concerts to Dickinson, so our blog will be providing articles spotlighting the artists so you can become familiar with them before they perform. First up is 21 year old singer-songwriter-producer Sidney Gish. Gish attends Northeastern University. Her latest album, No Dogs Allowed, was released on New Year’s Eve 2017 but really started to get traction this year thanks to word of mouth on Twitter, great reviews (5/5 from the Guardian, 7.7/10 on Pitchfork), and high profile shows with Mitski, Petal, and Camp Cope.

I first heard Ms. Gish’s music because of the aforementioned Pitchfork review and was immediately hooked by “Sin Triangle”. There rest of the album is just as great. Instead of merely accompanying herself on acoustic guitar as most young singer-songwriters are content to do, Gish uses samples, offbeat percussion, jazzy electric guitar playing, midi instruments, and a healthy dose of effects to add extra flavor to her songs. Her lyrics are relatable and cleverly filled with allusions and word play. “Sin Triangle” alone references Romeo and Juliet, Japan’s foreign policy, sine functions, and the Bible. “Persephone” plays with the common mispronunciation of the Greek goddess of vegetation “I’ve called Persephone by the name of purse-a-phone”.

 

 

As a live performer, Gish utilizes a looping pedal which repeats sounds so that a single performer can command a more detailed sound. I saw her open for Mitski over the summer and she was wonderful. She even wore a cowboy hat in celebration of Mitski’s classic Be The Cowboy. I am looking forward to seeing her live again and you should be too.

 

 

 

Her concert is Saturday, February 16th at 8pm in the Allison Community Room. WDCV and MOB are very excited for this performance and we hope to see you there!

 

Review by Jonah, you can tune into his show Playing It By Ear on Wednesday’s from 10-11pm 

 

Persephone https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGmJ6FOiECs

Sin Triangle https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EFKJbyFkgo

Top 10 Albums of 2018

Jonah Skeen’s Top Ten Albums of 2018

 

Hey folks welcome to my second annual countdown of the best music of the year. There was a lot of great music this year and, unlike last year, I kept pretty up to date on the hot new albums. Everything on this list is truly worth hearing.

  1. Love, Loss, and Auto-Tune – Swamp Dogg

Autotune is the most deverse current sound in popular music and I love it unabashedly. I especially love when artists who I don’t expect to use it. One of my favorite uses of autotune ever was Bon Iver’s 22 A Million. I was in sheer delight when I found out that the 76 year old R&B singer Swamp Dogg had recorded an album in Bon Iver’s studio and made similar use of autotune. This album is cut from the same cloth as 22 and by is far funkier, funnier, looser and maybe even weirder in the simple fact of it existing. “$$$ Huntin’” updates the talkin’ blues formula for these trap heavy times. The most beautiful moment on the album is the cover of the standard “Stardust”. It sounds like I’m picking up a transmission from space of aliens approximating human music.

  1. Boygenius – Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus, and Phoebe Bridgers

Boygenius is a supergroup made up of Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus, and Phoebe Bridgers. If that sentence doesn’t make you excited then you have some catching up to do. These women have put out a few of the best indie albums in recent memory. And now they have joined forces for a tour and an all too brief EP. Despite their variety of styles (Dacus is more fuzz rock, Bridgers is more folk influenced, Baker somewhat emo leaning), they sound like a natural fit. The highlight of this EP are the harmonies which are tear inducing. This is powerful stuff. If you’ve just gone through a break up or something of that nature, listening to this will be cathartic.

  1. El Mal Querer – Rosalía

I wish I still took Spanish so I could understand the lyrics on this. I hear that they’re great. What I can understand is the music which is groundbreaking. Rosalia uses the sound of revving motorcycles as percussion! There’s a song that does James Blake even better than James Blake does himself! The whole thing is as fun as any pop record you’ll hear this year. It’s equally at home at a house party as it is during the comedown. It’s rare to hear experimental and pop instincts balanced this well.

  1. And Nothing Hurt – Spiritualized

If Jason Pierce is to be believed, this is the last Spiritualized album. Which is sad news but what a way to go out. Unlike their earlier records, this record is not a grand statement. There’s no Elvis samples, 17 minute song about killing cops, orchestras, or gospel choirs. And Nothing Hurt is simply a set of well constructed songs recorded in Pierce’s home studio. The strings and horns come from samples from his record collection. What’s amazing is that Pierce can still write such deeply affecting music this late into his career and how lush this album sounds despite its modest origins. The lead off tracks are my two favorites: “A Perfect Miracle” starts off with ukulele and sounds like a straightforward love song before the narrator shifts from love to ending the relationship over the course of a few verses and the music builds into a beautiful crescendo. “I’m Your Man” is the ideal classic rock. There’s a guitar solo that wouldn’t sound out of place on a late Beatles record and lyrical similarities to the Leonard Cohen classic where it takes its name. This song, like the whole album, positions Pierce in the lineage of classic songwriters. I think it succeeds.

  1. Daytona – Pusha T

Back back way back in december 2015, Pusha released the clunkily titled King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude which was to serve as an appetizer for King Push, his planned magnum opus. King Push never materialized but Push did drop his opus. Daytona is all killer, no filler. Just straight bars. This record barely bothers with hooks, which normally spells disaster but with a rapper as talented as Push, this is a huge plus. And the production! Ho boy! There’s this playlist called Kanye West – Producer of The Year that’s posted on Pusha, Kanye, Teyana, and 070 Shake’s Spotify pages which clearly signals that Kanye is aiming to be nominated for Producer of The Year at the Grammys. He shouldn’t get it, but listening to Daytona made me hope that the Wyoming Session albums would be a return to classic early Kanye. I was wrong, the production on Ye is his least focused ever, but at least I got Daytona out of it.

ALSO DRAKE WAS HIDING A CHILD COME ON

  1. Thresholder – Ian William Craig

This isn’t an album. It’s a compilation of outtakes recorded between 2014 and 2016. This album doesn’t really have songs on it; it mostly has sounds. But what glorious sounds! Ian William Craig is an artist like no other. He builds his music by combining avant garde tape manipulation with his magnificent opera trained singing voice. The end results bring to mind Bon Iver at his most experimental, a more minimal Sigur Ros, and William Basinski’s classic The Disintegration Loops. This is music that is both alien and somehow deeply human. All of Craig’s albums, particularly Centres, are worth checking out but Thresholder showcases what he does best in a comfact runtime.

  1. Sparkle Hard – Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks

My love of this album started with the lead single “Middle America”. It’s a ballad which Malkmus doesn’t do often but when he does it leads to classics like “Gold Soundz”, “Church on White”, “Freeze the Saints”, and “Spit on a Stranger”. I hoped that the rest of the album would be mature and understated. I was wrong. Sparkle Hard is a little of everything Malkmus does best. It has an extended stoner jam (“Kite”), garage rock (“Shiggy”), a country duet with Kim Gordon (the hilarious “Refute”), and a two part electronic experiment that turns into krautrock (“Difficulties – Let Them Eat Vowels”). Even more astonishing is that this isn’t even the album Malkmus planned to release. He made a completely electronic album that he planned to drop before his label told him to put out a more traditional release first. These were the songs that Malkmus just happened to have lying around. I am also extremely biased about this album for two reasons 1. I eternally love Malkmus for his work in Pavement and 2. I saw Malkmus live front row and he played most of Sparkle Hard. The songs are even better live and it felt that I was sitting in on a band practice because I was so close to the band. During the encore, Malkmus sang “Freeze the Saints” directly to me and it was among the greatest moments of my life. So listen to this album but maybe listen to a Pavement classic like Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, or Slanted and Enchanted first.

            3. Knock Knock – DJ Koze

This album will take you on a journey. I know a lot less about dance music than I ought to but I do know that this record is dance music at its best. This record brilliantly uses a plethora of samples, synths, and newly recorded vocals to create a deeply psychedelic listening experience. The track that drew me in was “Bonfire” because it has vocals from Bon Iver and I will listen to anything that Justin Vernon sings over. The whole record is worth listening to straight through but the highlight is “Pick Up” which should’ve been a huge hit.

  1. Some Rap Songs – Earl Sweatshirt

To quote my roommate Jackson, this decade finally has its Madvillainy. Earl has been one of the most adored MCs in the game since way back in ‘10 when he was a wee lad of sixteen. Now he’s 24 and just ended a three year hiatus with his best, and most experimental, record. This year has been a big one for short albums. All of the five Kanye produced Wyoming albums were 7 or 8 songs in under half an hour. Earl one ups Ye. It’s 15 songs in only 25 minutes! And each one is a winner. There is not a wasted second on this record. Every verse is insightful, filled with allusions, and poetic. Earl isn’t rapping with precision; he’s rapping with purpose. He turned from the prodigy of Odd Future to a wizened philosopher. The beats on this thing are just insane. They’re more like soundcollages than traditional rap beats but hit all the pleasure points of classic old beats from someone like Dilla or Madlib. Earl’s father, South African poet Keorapetse Kgositsile, died earlier this year and though much of the album was completed prior, his death hangs over the project. This album is both surreal yet hyper emotional. People will be dissecting the meaning of the lyrics and trying to wrap their heads around these mind-bending beats for years.

 

Before my number one pick I’d like to shout out a few honorable mentions that didn’t make the list:

 

Iridescence – BROCKHAMPTON: BEST BOY BAND SINCE 1D! Also, “San Marcos” may be my absolute favorite song of the year.

Freedom’s Goblin – Ty Segall: a great double album covering everything from hardcore punk to folk to psychedelic rock.

KTSE – Teyana Taylor: Underrated R&B vocalist backed by old school sampled heavy Kanye beats.

Room 25 – Noname: live soul beats with unmatched lyrical wit.

Virtue – The Voidz: Strokes frontman returns with his best record since Room on Fire.

Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves: Psychedelic country recorded in Sheryl Crow’s barn.

The Longshot – The Longshot: Green Day frontman solo album in disguise. If it were a Green Day record, it’d be their best since American Idiot.  

  1. Be The Cowboy – Mitski

The first time I heard this album, it was on the train into Manhattan with two of my friends. We were all listening to it and exchanging excited looks. The second time I heard this album was about two hours later and it was live. Seeing Mitski the day this album came out no doubt influenced my opinion on it. I didn’t care for the single “Nobody” until I saw her singing and dancing and realized it was meant to be sarcastic. Now, it’s among my favorite tracks of the year. This album is Mitski’s huge leap forward. Her last record, Puberty 2, was a great breakout album that cemented her as one of the most popular up-and-coming artists in indie rock. This album loses the grungy guitars, screamed vocals, and most other indie signifiers. It cements Mitski as one of the greatest artists of our time, full stop. Not just indie. Over 14 songs, and only 32 minutes, Mitski breezes through too many genres to name and often forgos standard verse-chorus structure. Sometimes, her lyrics read more like freeform poetry than pop lyrics. Yet this does not feel like an experimental album. It is as catchy and emotional as any of the best pop records. Each song conveys an incredibly detailed story in around two minutes. It is truly hard to pick highlights on a record as great as this, but “Remember My Name” is sung from the perspective of a lonely musician who wants her audience to keep her in their mind after she’s done performing. There is no way I’ll ever forget Mitski’s name after this album.

 

 

Written by Jonah Skeen ’21