touché amoré volume6.issue2.nov2012 1

to uc hé
group love.12
touché amoré.16
letter from the editor.04
music news.07
lyrically speaking.07
steel city start-ups.08
cut ‘em all.24
concert reviews.26
album reviews.28
from the
Kristen Swanson
Assistant Editor
Zach Branson
Art/Layout Director
Sarah Gorman
Photo Editor
Samantha Ward
Copy Director
Mike Ryan
Marketing and Publicity Chief
Dan Curhan
Public Relations Coordinator
Christina Mitas
Web Manager
Jake Kushner
Writing Staff
Rachel Asbel, Zach Branson, Sankalp
Bhatnagar, Leela Chockalingam, Allison
Cosby, Dan Curhan, Hannah Dellabella,
Vanessa Frank, Ian Go, Sarah Gorman,
Will Lush, Christina Mitas, Kaytie Nielsen,
Alec Resende, Alejandro Reyes-Morales,
Christopher Skaggs, Steven Wang, Samantha Ward, Rebecca Warshofsky
Photo Staff
Lindsay Corey, Dan Curhan, Christopher
Indie sweethearts Grouplove are featured in this issue—you’ll want to read
about this baby of a band that are quickly making a name for themselves. For
the more adventurous, check out an interview with WHY?, who are as unique
as their name implies. And I have to admit, this month’s column Cut ‘Em All
just might be my favorite entry to date—trust me, even as someone who can’t
get into metal, it might be one of the most interesting reads this semester.
Last but not least, one of my personal favorite bands, Touché Amoré, are
featured on our cover. I know post-hardcore bands might not have that commercial appeal to everyone, but you have to respect a band that’s kicking ass
and traveling all over the world while doing it. That’s right, from the UK to New
Zealand, these guys are becoming a big deal. At the end of the day, a band
like Touché Amoré is why I run a music magazine—they are honest, passionate, creative, and they give me something worth writing about. Bands like this
are something the music industry needs to further embrace and promote.
Layout Staff
I think I’ve ranted enough about how much I’m completely in love with this issue, and I hope you’ll feel the same once you have a read through. I personal-
Editing Staff
ly suggest reading the magazine in a big cozy chair with lots of blankets and
hot chocolate filled to the brim with marshmallows. I think that’s how I plan
to get through these bitterly cold months—with music and marshmallows.
Kathy Lee
Rachel Asbel, Kairavi Chahal, Leela
Chockalingam, Joshua Choi, Hannah
Dellabella, Holly Fitzgibbon, Will Lush,
Danielle Maly, Danielle Peters, Jordan
Stephenson, Adria Steuer, Rebecca
Autumn is my favorite time of the year—the leaves are gorgeous shades of
red and yellow, the weather is perfect, and—oh, wait, I almost forgot that in
Pittsburgh autumn lasts for a week before the freezing rain sets in, and it’s
anyone’s guess when the snow will arrive. So the weather is gloomy, and
with finals lurking just around the corner, you’re stressed out of your mind.
Obviously it’s time for a serious break. The Cut is here to help you out.
Not only do we have a cool feature on electronic music to keep you updated on the current scene, but our Pittsburgh band this month is so
eclectic they are sure to please all music lovers. News junkies get their
fix in this month’s issue with a monthly dose of music news with a mixtape worthy of the heated, but also humorous political debate. Plus, our
concert and album reviews are keeping you updated on what’s happening around Pittsburgh and in the always-entertaining music world.
Kristen N. Swanson
The Cut Magazine
1. Said The King To
The River La Dispute
6. Until Now
Swedish House Mafia
2. Breezeblocks
7. Classy Girl
The Lumineers
3. Thrift Shop
Ryan Lewis &
8. Misery Fell
Tally Hall
4. Let it Go
5. Skyfall Adele
9. This Head I Hold
Electric Guest
10. Boyfriend
Best Coast
The New
compiled by Allison Cosby and Samantha Ward
Finally, a reason to watch football: Beyoncé
is officially headlining the Super Bowl
halftime show this February.
Carnegie Mellon Activities Board has
announced that Sleigh Bells will be our
annual hip fall show. Now all we have to do is
learn a song other than “Rill Rill.”
Jay-Z released his Live in Brooklyn “optic
EP,” which features songs and video —you
guessed it—live in Brooklyn.
Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab for Cutie)
released his first official solo album Former
Lives, which draws on his acoustic roots to
create a sincere, folky sound.
This month, music magazine Billboard
shook up the way it calculates its charts,
with changes designed to reflect online
sales, Spotify plays, and other Internet-based
popularity. What took them so long?
The annual CMJ Music Marathon & Film
Festival took place this month in New York
City, featuring performances by the Presets,
the Walkmen, the Mountain Goats,
Kimbra, GZA, OFF!, King Tuff, Killer Mike,
Com Truise, Young Magic, and many, many
by Sarabeth Perry
The bass is booming through speakers that are not more
than 10 feet away from you, popping out with every
downbeat. The lights swirl and fill what would usually
be a plain old tent into a mix of colors and lasers that
seem to match the music perfectly. Everyone around
you is dancing in their own styles; some just move back
and forth with their eyes closed, while others utilize
their whole bodies to enjoy the music. The constant
bass gets your head bobbing until, finally, the melody of
unexpected trumpets and claps on the offbeat surround
your ears and you understand what all the hype is about.
Nature One Music Festival 2012 in Kastellaun, Germany
was my first electronic music festival, and I’m bound to
go back. It introduced me to a whole new genre, what
the Germans and many Europeans call minimal electro.
However, it is slightly different than minimal electro in
the US, dominated by groups like the xx and Passion
Pit. This music is for dancing, swaying, and moving; best
appreciated when the DJ is right above you and the wave
of bass keeps hitting you until you can literally feel the
music inside you.
Slowly but surely, the door has been opened for different
types of electro to come to America by the infiltration of
house music. Artists like Flo Rida have mastered the art
of taking catchy hooks from songs like “Levels” by Avicii
and adding rap to the verses to create a number one hit
single. Some people object to this method, because it’s
taking the main idea from a track and adding a couple of
words to it under a big name to make big money. And even
though it’s hard to disagree with that notion, it also has to
be acknowledged that songs like Flo Rida’s “Good Feeling”
have put house music on a whole new level in the US.
Even dubstep has made huge leaps into the mainstream
pop scene; Britney Spears has incorporated sounds from
dubstep and house on her 2011 Femme Fatale album. Now
there are more and more singles incorporating this popular
type of electronic music into the “top ten” than ever
before. And festivals like Detroit Electronic Music Festival
(DEMF) are becoming more popular as well. Although we
all mourn at the sight of what used to be a lesser-known
genre going “mainstream,” this movement to house has a
significant impact on what is becoming more acceptable.
With this surge of house sound going mainstream, minimal
electro will also begin to emerge as an alternative to the
classic and often repetitive club sounds that are now filling
our radio’s top stations. Songs like “Relajate” by Aka Aka,
“Wine and Chocolate” by Theophilus London, and “One
Day/Reckoning Song (Wankelmut Rmx)” by Asaf Avidan
& the Mojos have a heavy bass and addicting melody lines
that move the listeners into a new place. It can be described
as “chill,” but is more powerful than one would expect.
So take a chance on this genre, and you won’t be
Bruce Springsteen supported Democrats
at his political rally by singing his strange
Obama-themed song titled “Forward and
Away We Go.”
Taylor Swift released yet another mysterious
“guess-which-ex” themed album called Red.
Looks like Nick Jonas is taking a page off
of T. Swift’s book, as the Jonas Brothers’
new song, “Wedding Bells,” is “pretty blatantly
about me,” claims Miley Cyrus.
Now you can eat like a hipster rockstar: Chris
Taylor of Grizzly Bear (bass, backing vocals)
is currently working on a cookbook to be
published by Random House.
lyrically speaking
with Hannah DellaBella
The thing that sets lyrics apart
from poetry is, obviously, the
music. I’ve always been pretty
fascinated with the effect music
can have on lyrics. The same
lyrics can create a radically
different feeling, depending on
the tempo and instrumentals
that accompany them.
The first example that comes
to mind is the song “Mad World.”
The lyrics are heavy and sad,
dealing with the futility of life.
These are the most oft quoted
lines: “And I find it kinda funny/I
find it kinda sad/The dreams in
which I’m dying/Are the best I’ve
ever had.” Lyrically, it’s a rather
depressing song.
Like many people, I was first
introduced to this song through
the Donnie Darko soundtrack.
The movie features a haunting
cover of the song by Gary Jules.
The sparse piano and slow
tempo make “Mad World” the
kind of song you’d listen to while
staring out a window on a rainy
Then, someone introduced me
to the original version of “Mad
World” by the 80s band Tears
For Fears. Hearing it for the first
time, I couldn’t believe it was the
same song that Jules had sung.
The Tears For Fears version is
faster, set to some synthesizers.
The beat of this version is pretty
infectious; I find myself nodding
along when it plays. It’s a totally
different effect than Jules’
version. Tears For Fears almost
makes the song sound upbeat.
Personally, I’m attracted to
the idea of taking heavy lyrics
and making them into a catchy
song. It’s something that one of
my favorite bands, Motion City
Soundtrack, does well. They
too use synth sounds to create
catchy beats in their songs, but
their lyrics deal with themes of
mental illness, addiction, and
heartbreak. There’s something
pleasantly paradoxical about
singing a song that sounds
cheerful on the surface, but
is depressing on the inside.
One of their more well-known
songs, “Everything Is Alright,”
exemplifies this kind of music.
On the surface it’s catchy and
upbeat, but look closer at the
lyrics: “I used to rely on selfmedication/I guess I still do that
from time to time.” It is sadness
conveyed in a happy way. It
doesn’t really make sense, but I
love it.
I’ve always said that if I
possessed a better singing voice,
I’d become a singer-songwriter.
Poetry is beautiful on its own, but
there is a transformative power
in setting words to music.
by Vanessa Frank
ow that we are well into the 21st century,
there are finally hopeful glimmers of musical
hipness emerging from the industrial exterior of
the Steel City. Balloon Ride Fantasy provides
their own contributions to the development of
Pittsburgh’s musical rebirth with an intelligent
twist on today’s indie rock band. The six-piece
ensemble has taken new wave to the next
level. Their synth-heavy progressive rock style,
combined with sci-fi-inspired lyrics, has resulted
in the development of what they have dubbed
fantasy rock. “We invented that, by the way,” says
bass player Brad Schneider with a grin. “Most of
our stuff doesn’t sound like it’s influenced by
any particular genre exactly. All of our songs
have a totally different feel to them.”
After a number of years playing with a heavier
progressive rock band, Chris Olsziewski and Phil
Conley branched off and spent the last three
years finding their way into uncharted territory.
The other four band members—bass player
Brad Schneider, drummer Eric Neugebauer,
keyboard player Jordan Wood, and vocalist
Bethany Berkstresser—were sought out. The
current ensemble was formed by September
2011, five months after the release of the
debut album Monocle City. “They wanted a live
band for the songs they recorded,” comments
Schneider on his entry into the band. “It takes a
while to find the right people to make it fit and
to make it all work.”
The unique name of the group often
becomes a topic of conversation. The band
explains that their intention was to find a bizarre
and memorable signifier for audiences. “It fits
the style of music, too—fantastical,” explains
Berkstresser. “It’s fantasy with a modern
Their infatuation with the idea of fantasy
is boldly reflected in their sound. They utilize
haunting harmonies and electric vibes to create
their own brand of smooth and eclectic rock.
Despite their avant-garde, electronic style, they
claim the structure of their music is based on
pop, especially music from 80s icons Michael
Jackson and Prince. “We get the 80s nostalgia.
Not to where it’s exactly replicating 80s music,
but it’s that same carefree, fantastic feel 80s
music has,” comments Olsziewski, the primary
Olsziewski receives lyrical inspiration from
80s fantasy movies as well: “Legend, Labyrinth,
The Beastmaster—I love things like that.”
The poetic lyrics on Monocle City are about
whimsical subjects, including a zombie outbreak
as well as surreal depictions of simple, familiar
moments. “Chris is really original,” Berkstresser
praises. “He doesn’t write about relationships.”
Unexpected elements, such as prayers and
verses in Japanese, create a wide range of
themes. This compilation of intriguing materials
prohibits one’s ability to pin a specific formula to
the band’s work.
However, the lyrics do not rely on the bizarre
nature of the subjects to make them unique.
The artistry of Chris’ poetry lies in the humorous
prose and intelligent execution and arrangement
of his lyrics. He creates vivid depictions of
dreamlike worlds using effective brevity
and cunning literary devices without losing
the substance behind his fanciful writing.
This original brand of lyrical content
complemented by their unique sound has
established Balloon Ride Fantasy as their
own genre within the offshoots of indie
Like many new wave bands, they are
aware of the challenge in executing a
quality live performance while keeping the
energy high and the audience loose. They
recognize that their unique sound tends to
inhibit the audience. “People aren’t used
to it,” Chris admits. “It takes a more openminded crowd.” The extensive variety of
song styles encourages different reactions
from audiences. “There are songs that you
can dance to for sure, and there are some
that you will just watch and pay attention
to,” Brad explains. They have played past
shows at Brillobox, Club Café, Howlers,
and the Thunderbird Café. They were also
recently featured at the September WYEP
Third Thursday show. Anyone looking to
experience Balloon Ride Fantasy live can
look out for their next performance on
December 1 at Club Café in South Side.
For now the band is working towards
finishing their next album, which they expect
to release by Spring 2013. Until then,
Balloon Ride Fantasy virgins can find their
music for free online by visiting their website
at I recommend
that Pittsburgh music enthusiasts become
familiar with their work, because Balloon
Ride Fantasy is among the first in a new
generation of local music.
Photos by Samantha Ward
by Lindsay Corry
Photo courtesy of Aaron Foley
people responded in such a way was really exciting
and reaffirming because we’re all from different states
and places and backgrounds. We all didn’t grow up
listening to that band wearing leather jackets and
hoped to be that band. I couldn’t even sing three years
ago. It was a process I had to grow into really quickly.
Now I feel like one of those trippy people handing
out flyers and saying, “Go with your dreams, man.”
The Cut: If you had to do something about
your debut over again what would it be?
HH: We’ve just been on the road playing the
album, so we haven’t really had time to settle
down and understand what’s going on. Musically
I’m really proud of how the album came out. I
wouldn’t change anything. I maybe wish I would
have come into my own on stage faster.
The Cut: Now that you’re touring on your first
album Never Trust A Happy Song, what are you
doing to keep up the energy and the motivation?
The Cut: It is my understanding that the
band met at an artist colony in Crete. What
was that process like? How would you say
the band has grown since the early days?
Interview by Chris Skaggs
Hannah Hoper: I feel like it’s a lie now, but it
honestly did happen. It’s so surreal. None of us knew
each other. I was a full-time painter in New York,
and this guy came and told me he was going to
buy a painting from my studio. Then he came and
said he wasn’t going to buy a painting, and that he
was really just offering me an artist-in-residence in
Crete. Everyone was playing music and we all started
working together. We were playing all the songs we
made in Greece and then recorded our EP in a garage
in Los Angeles. Our managers heard the music and
decided that we had to be a band and we moved
to LA. We all feel like we’re really lucky people.
HH: Having the bus makes all the difference. Normally
we wake up and we’re there, so we can sing more
and do more radio shows. We have this thing where
we have a day off and we go out the night before
and celebrate the night. If we have multiple shows,
we pretty much like to hang out. Now that we’re on
tour, my new thing is sleeping—like waking up late.
I used to be an insomniac and proud of it. So that’s
something that has really changed a lot for me.
The Cut: What were your biggest artistic
influences when you were writing Never
Trust A Happy Song? How do they affect any
forthcoming work you are working on?
The Cut: Grouplove came to prominence in the
alternative music scene fairly quickly. What was it
like to be playing shows at Lollapalooza before you
had even released your first album? Do you feel those
experienced shaped the first album even more?
HH: Honestly, our biggest influences are each other.
Up until the album, we were really playing our own
music. We’re all from different backgrounds and
there isn’t really that major affiliated factor. Our
producer has a Beach Boy sensibility. I love the Pixies,
and Christian [Zucconi] is a huge Nirvana fan.
Sean [Gadd] loves Oasis and Paul Simon. Andrew
[Wessen] likes NOFX. The band doesn’t really have
one overarching influence. We all collectively love
Arcade Fire, but we can’t even agree on a band to listen
to in the car. It says a lot about our personalities—
every song has a piece of our personality.
HH: People’s response to our music was such a
reinforcement. We weren’t writing hits. The fact that
The Cut: Your album’s title is “Never Trust A Happy
Song,” but many people would describe your music
as upbeat. Is the title meant to be a contradiction?
HH: Everyone has a different meaning for it. Sean said one
day that most of our songs are happy and upbeat, but they
come from a darker place. It’s also an encouragement to look
a little deeper beyond the surface. Everything coming out
of Sean’s mouth just sounds epic—it’s the british accent.
The Cut: Since the band’s formation, you’ve had the
opportunity to play at festivals and venues all around
the world. What has been one of the coolest shows you
played or one that really sticks out in your mind?
HH: Bonnaroo, Coachella, and the Rickshaw in San Francisco
were amazing. The residency at the Bootleg was really cool.
We played at an awesome festival in Portugal right before
Coldplay. There were thousands and thousands of people
shouting our name. I remember playing an acoustic show
here in Pittsburgh, which was really memorable. Actually,
I always remember our first show at a Mexican restaurant
because it was terrifying and my first time on stage.
The Cut: When I saw Young The Giant in April, their
lead singer wore a Grouplove t-shirt during their set.
What was it like touring with them, and is there anybody
you would especially like to tour with in the future?
HH: We were all immediately friends when touring
with Young The Giant. There were so many guys! It
was the most dudes I’ve ever toured with. They are very
friendly people and there weren’t any too-cool-for-school
musician vibes. On a purely epic level, I think it would
be so cool to tour with Neil Young. On the road we’ve
become really close with Manchester Orchestra and
Cage—that would be really awesome for different reasons.
It’ll be really nice to do some acoustic stuff and not do
the full show for a bit just to get back to the roots.
The Cut: Grouplove is a pretty young band. Where do
you think the music scene and industry are headed?
Do you think it’s becoming harder or easier for bands
like yours to get exposure and grow their fan base?
HH: Music is at a really interesting place. People have
the opportunity to take it into their own hands or go the
more traditional route and find the label. I think it’s really
exciting that there is the opportunity for so many bands to
get to a certain level. Once you get that kind of exposure
and get to a larger level, I can’t really answer that question.
Are there still people who can be like the Rolling Stones or
Neil Young who aren’t pop stars? I don’t really know. The
Internet does wonderful and terrible things to music.
Motion City Soundtrack
Mr. Smalls
Go Radio
Altar Bar
The AP Tour
Altar Bar
World/Inferno Friendship
Altar Bar
Alex Goto
Altar Bar
Mr. Smalls
Lamb Of God
Stage AE
Mr. Smalls
Other Lives,
Reverend Peyton’s Big
Damn Band
Altar Bar
Cit of IFA,
Delusions of Gradeur
Garfield Artworks
Cannibal Corpse
Mr. Smalls
Remember Your Roots
The Smiling Moose
Falling Andes
Stage AE
Altar Bar
Mr. Smalls
Woe, Is Me
Atlar Bar
Every Avenue
Altar Bar
Stone Foxes
Club Cafe
Twenty One Pilots
Stage AE
MC Lars
The Smiling Moose
Every Time I Die
Mr. Smalls
The Composure
Altar Bar
Sum 41
Altar Bar
Ace Hood
Altar Bar
Mace Ballard
Altar Bar
Justin Bieber
CONSOL Energy Center
Olympus Mons
The Boogie Hustlers
Club Cafe
touché amoré
Interview by Kristen Swanson
Photos by Kristen Swanson
Touché Amoré is a band you’ve probably
heard by now with the wave of post-hardcore
bands that are flooding the shores of the
music scene. For anyone who thinks they’re
just another angsty hardcore band soon
to be washed up any minute now—these
LA boys are ready to prove you all wrong.
Touché Amoré really sets themselves apart
with the intense rawness of their songs and
their incredible dedication to being a highly
memorable band. The Cut sat down with lead
vocalist Jeremy Bolm to reveal his geekdom
for vinyl records, the upcoming adventures
for the band, and his fear for writing the next
Touché Amoré record.
The Cut: Touché Amoré started out in 2007, and you guys have
come a long way since then. I know there is a joke about “The
Wave,” but do you feel like your success has been from this
wave of post-hardcore bands that seem to be flooding the music
JB: I think it’s a combination of all those things. When our
band started out, all we cared about was trying to tour as
much as possible and release as many things on vinyl as
possible. So I think we have it in our heads to do a full
length and then do a bunch of 7-inches.
Jeremy Bolm: I’m not even sure. As you mentioned, the whole
wave thing is not even a thing—we’re all just friends. There was
such an oversaturation of one style of hardcore, where every
band was doing the same thing, and all of our bands started
around the same time and we all found each other in one way or
another. I don’t really believe in fate or anything like that, but I
think we just genuinely lucked out with time and place.
The Cut: Is that partly the record nerd inside of you?
The Cut: Something I find interesting is that you guys are from
LA and a lot of the bands you are often grouped with come from
the east coast or midwest. Have you noticed differences this has
created, musically or personally?
JB: It’s easy for people to say that a lot of us sound the same or
similar enough, but I really don’t think a lot of us do. At the core,
what combines all of us is the same ideas and feelings on certain
topics. We don’t sound anything like Make Do And Mend—they
are a Hot Water Music-y sort of band. La Dispute in general has
a totally different approach to how they deliver their words—
they’re a bit more experimental than us. I don’t even want to
confine in just those bands. We’re as close to those bands as we
are with bands like Title Fight and Tigers Jaw. I don’t think that
location has anything to do with it either—again, it’s just things
kind of falling into place. At the same time, since all of us have
toured together and played a lot of shows together, I think that
also influences one another. When we get down to writing, I’ll sit
there and be like, “This kind of sounds like something Balance
would write. Oops.” It can be a combination of all those things.
The Cut: Speaking of LA, do you still have a love/hate/love
relationship with the city?
JB: My feelings have completely changed on that. I used to hate
LA and now that I’m never there, I come home and love it. I think
it’s the best place in the world. It took being away from it to
realize how special it really is. There are things you’re always
going to dislike about your hometown, but when I come home
now I look at it completely differently. I realize that I love the
weather there, I’m so thankful for how good the food is there—it
made me really appreciate home. I’m glad that I can actually
come home and be happy.
The Cut: TA’s latest release is a split with the Casket Lottery, and
you guys do a lot of splits with bands you respect and are friends
with. Is putting out an EP more comfortable and less stressful
than an LP because of that connection to other bands, or do you
just enjoy that format more overall?
JB: Yeah, exactly. I just love putting out 7-inches. I am a
total geek for records and getting to design them with your
friends—I mean our guitar player does all of our design
work—and having labels help us out and be willing to
release them is even cooler. It’s less stressful because
you can experiment. You might record a song that people
aren’t generally that into, but it doesn’t matter because
it’s one song and you still have a full length to release that
actually gets the most listens. You put out a 7-inch, you
might love the song on it and you might want to play it live,
but it’s not going to get the same reaction as a song on a
full length. It’s hard enough for kids to even listen to the
record, downloading it on iTunes and things like that—it
probably seems like a hassle to download one song. We
know that these are songs that are probably not going to
get the full impact like songs on a full length, but it’s fun,
and we’re huge fans of the Casket Lottery.
The Cut: I read in an interview that you said most hardcore
bands don’t make it to the third record and if they do it’s
shit. Have you started working on your third record, and
because of this belief you have, does it make you cautious
about the third record?
JB: Oh, absolutely. It’s terrifying [Laughs.] There are
examples of bands that have been able to do it and do it
successfully. Converge is the perfect example of a band
that continues to just get better and better. There’s bands
like Coalesce, too. It’s a lot more of those older bands that
were able to continue to do it. With that statement also,
kids these days—that makes me sound like I’m old, but
including myself—it’s a totally different generation of kids
now where you’re downloading fucking 10 records a week
and you’re probably listening to only half of them, and
maybe only a quarter of the record, and you don’t really
connect with the record. I’m guilty of that, too. I’ll throw 12
things on my iPod every two weeks and I forget what I even
put on my iPod. The attention span is so small to where if
you’re doing a third record it’s got to be impactful. If not,
it’s just like, “Oh yeah, it’s cool, it’s fine,” or it will be shit in
general. There’s definitely a whole lot of pressure to do the
third record. We have started writing it—we were home for
the summer, so we wrote four songs. I don’t have words
for them yet, or words that I like, at least. We’re not going
to rush into it, we’re not going to put out something that
we’re not 100 percent sure of. Even if we’re not 100 percent
sure of it ever, then who knows if it’ll happen. I don’t want
to go out being a band that lets people down. Nothing is
sadder to me than bands that try to hold on, like, “We’ll
get ‘em with the next record.” No, it doesn’t work like that.
It’s not like in a lot of commercial music like R&B and hiphop—you can put out seven bad records in a row and then
you put out a new record that has a hot, catchy single on it
and people are like, “Oh yeah, it’s great! I’m back.” Chingy
can put out a song tomorrow, and if it was super catchy
and featured Drake, I’m sure he’d be back. It doesn’t even
matter—people just accept you again. Whereas in punk
and hardcore, it doesn’t work like that. Even with reunions,
sometimes bands do a reunion and it’s fucking awesome,
but then those reunion bands put out a record and it’s
embarrassing—now you’re just ruining your legacy and
you should have just left it alone. There’s a lot of stuff to
consider, and I’d like for us to be remembered in good faith
as opposed to a band that just strived for acceptance.
The Cut: Your lyrics remind me of a poet —just someone
who expresses himself very well through the written
form. It’s been over a year since Parting the Sea Between
Brightness and Me, so when you sing those songs and get
back into the mindset you wrote the album in, how does
that make you feel?
JB: I’d be a liar if I said things haven’t changed since then.
I’m a whole lot happier than I was. I’m really proud of my
band, I get to travel all the time, I’m able to support myself
well enough off of this band now, and I have a girlfriend
that I’m crazy about. All those things really have changed
how I feel about things. That also goes back to the last
question with writing a new record. I’m not going to write
the same stuff again and I’m not going to force some selfloathing record for the sake of “Oh, well that’s what we
sing about.” I’m not going to fake anything. In a way I’m
excited about the challenge of writing about other things,
but at the same time that scares me because that might
steer kids who have this connection with our band away.
I’m terrified of letting anybody down. When it comes to
performing every night, some nights it takes me a couple
songs to really get into the mindset, but it’s easy to work
whatever your daily scenario is into performing. If I’ve had
a bad day or if I’m annoyed about something, I can take
it out when I’m on stage. I never want to fake anything—
nothing is more embarrassing to me than a band that is.
We always use the term “fake weird”—when you watch
a band that you’re hanging out with all day, just normal
people, and then they go up there and they’re pretending.
I never want to pretend. I’d rather put on a show where
we seem unenthused because we’re just not there than
fake it.
The Cut: Fans really connect with your honest and confessional
lyrics, but has that ever backfired and you regretted being so
honest in a song?
JB: There’s been scenarios in the past with people I’ve been
with and “So, is that song about...” kind of a thing. I may have
lied and said no in those situations. But an ultimate backfire?
Not really. I would never go out specifically to hurt anybody. I
wouldn’t write a song that is malicious. At the end of the day,
they are about me. I could never write a hateful song about
somebody—if somebody did me dirty I’m not going to write a
fuck you song about them. I’m a huge Glassjaw fan and their
first record Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence
is one of the most spiteful and hateful records in the world. I
don’t think I’ve heard a record that’s angrier, and I love it for
that, but any interview you read with Daryl [Palumbo], he’s so
embarrassed and he hates it. He says it’s an embarrassing,
misogynistic record because he says things like “fucking whore”
and that type of stuff, and you can hear in his voice that he’s
genuinely upset, that he’s not saying it for shock value. I would
hate to be in that boat of genuinely regretting saying something
mean about somebody or blaming somebody for something—I
try to just focus more on myself than anything.
The Cut: You guys are all over the place with shows in Australia,
Southeast Asia, and New Zealand coming up, then touring
with Converge in Europe. I hear a lot about how touring can be
exhausting, but it seems to be a comfort for you from what your
songs imply. Is the road still a comfort, and did you ever image
that road taking you so far?
JB: I never would have imagined we would get this far, and I
would have said the same thing three and a half years ago when
we did our first tour with Thursday. Now we’re going to all these
places we’ve never been to—I never thought I would see New
York City, let alone London, and now Singapore and Indonesia.
We have a manager now, which is something I thought we’d
never have—that alone took some time to get used to, but he’s
awesome. When we met with him the first time, I explained
that if we did break up tomorrow, it wouldn’t matter. None of us
would be upset—of course it would be a moment of mourning—
but at the same time we’d be assholes to be upset because
we’ve got to put out a record on our dream label. Deathwish is
it for us, that’s the top. Converge is our favorite band. They are
a life-changing band to me, and I get to tour with Converge, I
get to put out a record on his label. I have a relationship with
those guys now because of all this, I’ve got to tour with so many
of my favorite bands, I get to open reunion shows or farewell
shows for so many of my favorite bands. I genuinely feel like
we are hands down the luckiest band. So I explained to our
manager, anything he can do for us at this point is just extra
credit. We’ve achieved so much that I never thought would be
possible already, so we’re just forever thankful.
“I’d like for us to be remembered in
good faith as opposed to a band that
just strived for acceptance.”
The Cut: WHY? started off as your solo project, but
then it grew into a band. The lineup has changed a
lot over the years, so how has that affected WHY?’s
songwriting process—going from a solo act to a
band that seems to change with every album?
Yoni Wolf: Yeah, I don’t do it all on my own. I wrote
all the songs for the last record, but I’ve written lots of
songs with Doug [McDiarmid] and Josiah [Wolf]. Josiah
and I produce the songs together, and then everybody
helps in the studio. But yes, the lineup is constantly
in flux. It’s good—well, it’s hard, but it’s good. It’s hard
because we’re always having to relearn all of our back
catalog or make new arrangements depending on
what band we have. The flipside is that it keeps it fresh.
We’re never going out 10 years after an album like
Oaklandazulasylum and feeling, “Ugh, this is the same
old thing.” We sing a song from Oaklandazulasylum
now—well I don’t sing it, they sing it—and it’s real fresh.
The Cut: Yeah, some of your old songs are really
lo-fi, so I guess now you have a lot more resources to change the production of those songs.
YW: No, I like lo-fi. It’s how I started—out of necessity.
And I work with whatever I can muster up now. Everything
is about what you have at your disposal. You could say
that more frequency range is a better thing. You could
say a two-inch tape has more depth and subtleties than
an eight-inch tape, but I like using an eight-inch tape.
Interview by Zach Branson
Photography by Lindsey McClary
The Cut: Right, I know when you started off in college
you used eight-inch tapes. I’m curious to hear why you
got into music in the first place, because you went to
college for video art. What made you go towards music?
YW: Well, I was in bands in high school. That was just a
hobby, but then I met a guy named Adam [Drucker]. He
was rapping and recording, and I started messing around
with him and got really into it. I felt like it was giving me
the fulfillment I was looking for in other kinds of art. For
me, arranging is a very visual thing. I like symmetry, or
even asymmetry, if it’s intentional—to me it’s very related to the visual arts. I learn about myself through the
songs, and that’s one of the reasons why I do it. It’s a
gathering of thoughts and trying to figure out what’s
going on with me and my
surroundings in the world and
how I relate to the world.
The Cut: I’ve heard that your
health is a big concern, and
it sounds like your music is
incredibly influenced by those
struggles. As an artist, do
you think it’s necessary to
struggle to have inspiration,
or does it just hold you back?
YW: Oh, I don’t want to be
sick! I’m doing well now. I’m
“I learn
about myself
through the
songs, and
that’s one of
the reasons
why I do it.”
WHY? is a band started by songwriter Yoni Wolf that’s nearly impossible to
categorize. With meticulous rapping and instruments that range from guitars to
xylophones, WHY? covers everything a listener could ask for. WHY?’s lyrics sound
so personal that you might think you already know Wolf just by listening to his
music. The Cut got to sit down with Wolf and hear why he got into music in the first
place, how his health affects his music, and what he thinks about the band’s new
album Mumps, Etc.
working hard to stay healthy. Art imitates life—I’m just talking
about what’s going on with me. I definitely don’t want to stay
sick so I can write about sickness. I’m writing about sickness because that’s what I know. But as a healthy person,
I’m good to write about love or health or God or whatever.
The Cut: I’ve heard you say multiple times that you really liked the song “Twenty Seven” and wanted to put
it on Mumps, Etc., but you put it on the EP Sod in the
Seed because it didn’t fit well with the album. I’m curious
to hear why you like “Twenty Seven” so much, just because it’s so different from a lot of other WHY? songs.
The Cut: I’m sure touring can take a toll on you too.
YW: Touring can be wearing, it can. A positive attitude is very
important. You have to stay positive. You’re around people 24/7,
and it’s good to be positive for each other and stay in good
spirits. Everybody affects everybody, so if somebody’s down
or somebody’s sick, everyone’s down and sick. It’s a blessing
to be able to do it, to travel around and play songs. I like it.
YW: Yeah, it’s real different, and that’s why it didn’t fit. But
it’s a real tender thought. I didn’t write it for an album at all,
I didn’t write it for WHY?. I wrote it for a girl and gave it to
her on her 27th birthday, and that’s what it was supposed to
be. And then later they kept telling us, “You need to record
this,” and so we did. It just has a tenderness that I like.
The Cut: Let’s talk a bit more about your new album. Mumps,
Etc. just came out, but you wrote most of the material between
2007 and 2010. When you listen to Mumps, Etc. now, would
you say it still represents where you are musically, or are you
in a different mindset in terms of what you want to write?
The Cut: One of the big themes on Mumps, Etc. is
a sense of ending. For example, on the last song, “As
A Card,” you say, “I’ll hold my own death as a card in
the deck/To be played when there are no other cards
left.” Do you get the feeling that something about
WHY? or about yourself is coming to an end?
YW: I don’t know what I want to write—that’s the last stuff
I wrote, other than little odds and ends, some lines here
and there. The thing that people don’t understand is that
that’s how it always is. It takes time to make an album for
most artists, unless you’re just rushing some shit on Ableton or something. This one wasn’t done until June 2012,
so there were other steps in the process, such as mixing
and mastering, that take time to get right. There’s always
stuff to do. I did write the songs a while ago—like ”Thirst”
I wrote back in 2007—but it still feels fresh to me.
YW: Well, death is a card to play, but it’s the last card to
play. I think “As A Card” is a hopeful song. But there are
a lot of references to ending my career and things like
that. At the time I was so sick and I didn’t know what was
going on with me. I was really anemic, and I was thinking, “I can’t hang on much longer, I can’t keep doing this,”
and I just felt really worn out. I think that was probably
why I was thinking in those terms. I thought, “Just a little
bit longer, and then I’ll quit and curl up and die under the
porch.” I don’t feel like that anymore. I’m not ready to quit.
Cut ‘Em All
Regional Styles in METAL \m/
Alejandro: The sounds of heavy metal are always being
expanded in new and interesting ways by bands all around
the world. When a new style is developed, it is often the
result of a group of friends and local bands influencing each
other, which can lead to a recognizable regional style.
Dan: While modern recording techniques and music-sharing on the Internet have done a good job of blurring the
lines of regional uniqueness in music, there are a few notable and irrefutable examples of regional styles that we’d like
to share in this month’s column.
“The Gothenberg Sound”
Formative Years: early 90s
Location: Gothenberg, Sweden
Key Artists: At The Gates, In Flames, Dark Tranquillity,
Arch Enemy, Hypocrisy, Edge of Sanity
Mandatory Albums: At The Gates’ Slaughter of the Soul,
In Flames’ The Jester Race, Dark Tranquillity’s The Gallery.
One of the most recognizable regional metal styles developed in Gothenburg, Sweden in the early 90s. At the time,
there was a handful of young musicians in the scene trying
to take d-beat punk to the extreme with the influence of
black metal bands like Bathory. Most recording studios in
the area were just “going through the motions” for these
new bands, but one studio truly believed in the music and
nailed down the elusive sound that they were trying to
achieve. Pretty soon, nearly every metal band in Sweden
was vying for a recording slot at Studio Fredman to get that
“Gothenburg Sound.” These Swedish death metal bands
had collectively developed a combination of blast beats and
double bass drumming with melodic guitar leads and harsh
vocals. Melodic death metal was born, and it became popular with the near-simultaneous releases of the “mandatory
albums” listed above.
“Bay Area Thrash”
Formative Years: 1980s
Location: San Francisco, Ca.
Key Artists: Metallica, Vio-lence, Testament,
Exodus, Death Angel
Mandatory Albums: Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All, Vio-lence’s
Eternal Nightmare, Testament’s Practice What You Preach
During the early 80s, a couple of angry teenagers were
tired of the image-driven mentality of glam metal and
started blending the speed and melodic focus of bands like
by. Dan Curhan/Alex Reyes-Morales
Iron Maiden and Judas Priest with the raw aggression of punk
rock. The end result involved rapid and complex guitar riffs,
shredding solos, and fast drumming, as well as lyrics that dealt
with social issues, witchcraft, or violence. More importantly, the
early thrash metal bands wanted to make a musical style that
was based on musicianship, songwriting ability, and strong
live performances. The scene began declining during the
early 90s with the emergence of grunge and nü-metal, which
shifted record label support away from thrash.
“The Black Circle”
Formative Years: 90s
Location: Oslo, Norway
Key Artists: Mayhem, Burzum, Dark Throne, Emperor
Mandatory Albums: Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom
Sathanas, Burzum’s Hvis Lyset Tar Oss
In the early 90s, a group of musicians that liked to hang out at
Mayhem cofounder Euronymous’ record label began developing a new style of metal. Based off the work of bands like
Bathory and Celtic Frost, “The Black Circle” would become as
famous for its music as it would for the violence committed
by its members. The music was heavily atmospheric, relying
on blast beats, high pitched tremolo picking, and ear-piercing shrieks to deliver a message of rage, misanthropy, and
satanism. Ideologically, members of the Black Circle vehemently opposed Christianity and other organized religions,
turning to ancient pagan rituals and imagery instead. This was
reflected musically as well. Songs and recording techniques
were stripped down to the bare essentials to allow the music
to convey a primitive message with honesty. Unfortunately,
the scene’s striving for authenticity, misanthropy, nihilism, and
chaos escalated and resulted in a lot of violence. During live
performances, Mayhem’s vocalist Per “Dead” Ohlin would cut
himself with shards of glass and wear clothes he had buried
for weeks so that he could be an embodiment of death on
stage. He would be one of three members of the scene to
commit suicide, alongside Erik Brødreskift of Immortal and Esper Anderson of Strid. The drummer of Emperor, Bård Guldvik
“Faust” Eithun, was convicted of repeatedly stabbing a man to
death, and Euronymous was also stabbed to death by a fellow
band member over an escalating power struggle. Additionally,
over 50 church arsons were committed by members of the
Black Circle in Norway from 1992-1996. The scene has recently evolved dramatically in terms of music and ideology, but
it continues to profess a focus on authenticity above all else.
The leaves are turning, there’s a little chill in the air
and every four years, the nation prepares for the
mudslinging, backstabbing near-fist-fight that is our
country’s presidential election. Whether you’re planning
on voting for Obama, Romney, or the lizard people, if
all of the nasty politics of the season leave you feeling
a bit woebegone, just give these tracks a listen. They’ll
get you back into the fighting spirit in no time.
Big Parade The Lumineers
Getting tired of the debates that are starting to look
more like middle school catfights? Here’s a footstomping number that’ll have you harking back to the
ol’ fashioned campaigning parades and hankering for
some apple pie. “Here he comes, the candidate!”
Ohio Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
In the spirit of this heightened electoral fervor,
it’s wise to remember the politics of the past and
how events like the Kent State shooting shaped
America’s culture, especially the music.
–Kaytie Nielsen
Where Is The Love? Black Eyed Peas
In this biting criticism on the sad state of our union,
everyone’s favorite pump-up group slaps us on the
wrist for being selfish, violent, cruel, and otherwise
sucky Americans. When you feel the judging eyes of
Fergie upon you, you know it’s time for a change.
Little Boxes Malvina Reynolds
Covered by almost every artist to ever exist, this anthem
of nonconformity satirizes the happy-go-lucky malleability
that exists in suburbia. The inability to think for oneself
has shaped the generations of Americans, and Reynolds
wanted to snap these lazy youths out of the political haze
that has been over them since the Kennedy administration.
–Nicole Marrow
American Idiot Green Day
In the titular song of Green Day’s politically-leaning
2004 release, the band unabashedly criticizes
the Bush administration. And while Bush has
been out of office for years, the message of a
nation controlled by the media still rings true.
Killing in The Name
Rage Against The Machine
Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan failed to see the irony
of naming Rage Against The Machine as his favorite band,
but the rest of America didn’t. In one of their most famous
songs, Rage Against The Machine does exactly what their
name implies—they rail against a racist government.
–Hannah Dellabella
Television Rules The Nation Daft Punk
In the spirit of the media control over the elections
theme, this song will get you hot and ready for some
sensationalized views on the candidates. Propagantastic!
Alright Alright (Here’s My Fist Where’s
The Fight) Sahara Hotnights
Nothing makes you feel like we’re working towards a better
future for Americans like two candidates coming out into
the ring swinging. The presidential debates especially have
shown a lot about each candidate’s fighting style, while
simultaneously fueling some pretty good Internet memes.
–Christina Mitas
A Real Hero College & Electric Youth
When going to the voting booth, I asked myself a lot of
questions about who to vote for. Thinking things over, I
decided that I needed to vote for someone who I thought
could rescue the country, but also someone I could trust
and have a drink with. In other words, I wanted a real
human being. And a real hero. So I voted for Ryan Gosling.
99 Problems Jay-Z
This election, we heard nothing but all the problems our
country is currently facing: the economy, foreign policy, gay
marriage rights, women’s rights, all on top of worrying about
whether the new Boy Meets World reboot is going to ruin
the original. With all these pressing matters, it’s nice to know
that although we may have 99 problems, a Mitt ain’t one.
–Sarah Gorman
by Nicole Marrow
As a Steelers fan, it pained me to type “Cleveland” into my GPS,
but I would do much worse to see a performer as breathtaking as
Regina Spektor. She played to a sold out crowd at the House of
Blues with her husband/opening act, Only Son. After Only Son
performed over the audio of a backing band blasting from an
iPod, one was left wondering why he didn’t just hijack his wife’s
band like he did the rest of her tour. Nevertheless, his quirky lyrics
and awkward banter perfectly complemented Spektor’s style,
and the softly pulsing high point, “It’s A Boy,” re-hyped the fading
crowd for the woman of the hour.
Finally, the lights dimmed and Regina Spektor tiptoed on
stage. She shyly approached the microphone as the crowd
roared, creating the natural stage presence that she didn’t need
to rely on self-aggrandizement to achieve. Everyone worshiped
Spektor just for being herself.
With a delightful mix of old and new, Spektor tried valiantly
to represent her vast and adored discography. My favorite song,
“On the Radio,” came toward the beginning, leaving me time to
soak in the rest of her performance, including a gorgeous piece
in Russian. The highlight of the night was “Dance Anthem of the
80s,” for which Spektor traded her piano for an electric keyboard.
The crowd went crazy for this upbeat and engaging change of
Spektor played most of the songs from her newest release,
What We Saw From the Cheap Seats, with standouts being “All
The Rowboats,” a haunting and accented song with a deliciously
abrasive dose of vocal percussion, and “How,” a ballad emoted
Photo by Nicole Marrow
by Samantha Ward
Stage AE was packed to the brim on Sunday, October
19. The audience warmly welcomed Fiona Apple’s guitarist,
Blake Mills, on stage, who was slowly joined by the rest of the
band one-by-one as the opening act. They played a selection
of mellow pieces, ending in an instrumental. The audience was
slightly disappointed when, instead of inviting Apple on stage
to join them, they exited and didn’t come back with the lively
singer until half an hour later.
When the lights dimmed, the venue exploded in cheers
as the tiny, vivacious woman danced her way onto center
stage. Bright blue foggy lights illuminated Apple’s weathered
face as she opened her mouth and began wailing out “Fast
As You Can.” It seemed as though every word she sang was
spat out at its most electrifying state, heavily emoted and full of
raw energy. She moved around the stage with strange, quick
with unparalleled grace. A pleasant surprise was “Ballad of
a Politician,” a song in which Spektor likens our policymakers
to prostitutes. I wasn’t a fan of this song until I witnessed the
intensity and pleading in her voice, aided by the shock of live
After a flawless encore featuring fan-favorites “Fidelity,”
“Us,” and “Samson,” Spektor left the stage with a small
“Thank you!” and the audience deflated, dreaming of so many
more songs to experience live. Such a crippling longing for
more is a testament to how talented and unique this singer/
songwriter truly is.
by Rebecca Warshofsky
I don’t know what you did on your Halloween weekend, but
I spent mine with peacocks, hula-hoops, rainbows, and whirling
fractal vortexes while riding an improvised loop through space
and time. I’m talking about EOTO of course—their set at the Rex
Theater in South Side was a dazzling spectacle of light, color,
and sound. The stage was decked out with “The Lotus” setup,
which was a series of projection screens set up in the shape of
a lotus flower. Keyboardist/guitarist/synth-player Michael Travis
and vocalist/drummer Jason Hann sat in the middle of the flower
while a visualizer projected crazy, trippy images onto the screens
surrounding them in colors I hadn’t previously known existed.
EOTO’s unique brand of electronic jam music is always a blast
to see live, since they improvise everything and never play with
pre-recorded loops. Despite the fact that both members of the
band are middle-aged, they brought so much energy to the stage
that it filled the air in a way that was completely infectious and
irresistible. It was easy to see how much fun the musicians were
having, which made the crowd get even crazier, which made
the band get even crazier, and so on and so forth until the place
was positively bursting with energy and excitement.
Over the course of the night, EOTO’s music took on many
different forms—from spacey experimental to dubstep and drumand-bass to electronic covers of older pop songs (including
Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack”) to tribal jungle rock, complete
with a crazy extended bongo solo! Nobody was immune from
having the rhythm sneak into their bones, causing them to
dance like mad. Not to mention the fact that everybody was in
costume; it was truly a night to embrace insanity and celebrate
being alive. Good music, good people, and good vibes all
around made for a totally sweet psychedelic experience, man!
movements, like a person controlled by another force. Apple
stood on one leg with the other bent, swaying and twisting on
one knee, exhausting her stunning range.
The crowd was particularly excited when the group played
songs from her 1996 album, Tidal, including “Shadowboxer” and
“Sleep to Dream.” She sang a more animated selection of work
from her newest album, released earlier this year after a sevenyear lull, The Idler Wheel..., as well as a mix from her When the
Pawn... and Extraordinary Machine.
With rumours flying around from her more-than-lively tour,
the audience seemed to be anticipating some sort of covert
freakout. Apple was more than happy to admit, “It’s my last show
in America, so I’m not going to say anything stupid. But there’s a
lot I’m not saying, and when it’s okay, I’ll fucking say it.” We’re all
waiting to hear what exactly that is.
by Kaytie Nielsen
Seeing that it was a dreary mid-semester Monday night,
it’s not surprising that Stage AE wasn’t exactly packed for Sea
Wolf. Add the poor timing to the fact that you’re not likely to
see Sea Wolf fighting neck ‘n neck with J. Biebz for the top of
the charts, and you’ve got a pretty vacant house.
For those who are wondering what Sea Wolf is all
about, they’re a bit like the Shins—not too bold, not too chill,
and rocking an acoustic foundation with some electronic
As for the venue, it was incredibly intimate, which was
perfect for the type of music being played. The stage was just
a little platform in the corner, raised only about a foot. Given
the low attendance, I was able to stand right at the front. I
could literally see the shine of Carmex on the lips of the cello
player for the opening band Hey Marseilles.
Having never heard their music before, I wasn’t sure what
to expect given that Sea Wolf is a pretty small-time band
themselves. Fortunately, they really blew me away. They had
an awesome string section, and they utilized their keyboardist/
accordionist to capture the specific French essence they
were looking for. The songs could transition seamlessly from a
quaint Monet neighborhood to the deck of Jean Lafitte’s pirate
After their performance was over, I caught the attention of
the keyboardist (which really wasn’t difficult) and asked if the
closeness of the audience was uncomfortable. He said it was
Photo by Samantha Ward
quite the contrary; if the audience is close, then “you don’t forget
who you’re playing for.”
The volume of the percussion was a little heavy, and the other
instruments were a bit overshadowed, but I attribute that more
to technical or acoustical failures rather than to the band’s actual
performance. I was most impressed by the keyboardist, who was
multitasking with a two-tiered set up of four sets of keys. All in all,
it was a solid performance, and it was worth risking the wet roads
of Pittsburgh to see.
Until the Quiet Comes Flying Lotus
Flying Lotus’ sophomore album, Cosmogramma, might have provided a perfect
soundtrack for the birth of the universe (no big deal), but more importantly, it
showcased the artist’s musical and spiritual growth. It literally took me a year
before finally “getting it” and realizing that Steven Ellison is not from this planet.
For better or worse, I felt like I fully understood his latest album, Until the Quiet
Comes, after the second listen.
You definitely get a sense of immediacy here, even if most tracks seem a
little forgettable. “Getting There” sets cosmic electric pianos and signature
self-conscious drumming to Niki Randa’s hauntingly evocative voice. Whereas
much of Cosmogramma’s layering was unknowably complex, here he leaves just
enough open space for the listener to get lost in, but not experience, a mild panic
attack. Half the fun of Cosmogramma was the unapologetic way it made us feel
uncomfortable. This is gone in Until the Quiet Comes. Everything is just, really,
really nice and pretty. –Alec Resende
Shut Down the Streets A.C. Newman
With their signature upbeat, happy-go-lucky sound, indie rock duo Matt &
Kim returns with their fourth studio album, Lightning. The album showcases the
traditional Matt & Kim formula of energetic beats, cheerful melodies, and catchy
lyrics. The one new element to the band’s brand of music is the increased use
of synths. Though present in previous albums, synths are used more heavily in
Lightning, even a bit too excessively. The first half of the album contains synthheavy tunes that fail to stand out from each other and beg listeners to ask,
“When’s the next song?”
Luckily, the rest of the album delivers with not only a cut back on the synths,
but also some clever loops and booming drum lines that deliver the originality
that Matt & Kim is known for (think “Daylight”). Even better, the band strays
a bit from their simplistic, pop rock roots with some tempo and key changes
that create a feeling of epicness. Overall, there are enough unique songs on
Lightning to outweigh the cookie-cutter ones. –Steven Wang
Halcyon Ellie Goulding
With her airy voice and infectious combination of instrumentation and
electronica, Ellie Goulding rose from an underground sensation to a mainstream
pop star. After the success of Halcyon’s first single, “Anything Could Happen,”
fans were left wanting more of Goulding’s unique, appealing sound. The rest of
the album, however, didn’t quite deliver.
I wasn’t expecting Goulding’s sophomore release to be identical to her last;
instead I wanted a more mature pop sound. In attempting to create that sound,
however, Goulding lost much of the dynamic quality that she is loved for. When
listening to her album, I found myself lost in an ethereal audio haze; many of
her songs contain a monotonous drive, rendering me unable to differentiate
between tracks. Goulding does achieve a more mature, dynamic sound in
“My Blood” and “Hanging On,” but these are exceptions. Like the album name
suggests, it seems that Goulding’s new sound is overly placid—even to the
point of monotony. –Ian Go
If you weren’t aware, underground rapper Macklemore teamed
up with hip-hop producer Ryan Lewis to create The Heist, one of
the most versatile hip-hop albums of the three years it has been in
the making.
Macklemore opens the album (“Ten Thousand Hours,” “Can’t Hold
Us”) with introspective lyrics over Lewis’ pounding drum loops and
melodic choruses. Next, the two-man team raises the bar with the
refreshingly quirky premise, irresistible beat, and outlandish wordplay
of the album’s lead single “Thrift Shop.”
Continuing through the first half of the album, it becomes clear
that Macklemore treats Lewis’ incredible production ability as the
foundation on which he offers compelling insight into unhealthy
relationships (“Thin Line”), gay rights (“Same Love”), life aspirations
(“Make the Money”), and alcohol addiction (“Neon Cathedral”).
The album’s interlude (“BomBom”) introduces a well-orchestrated
change in tone that smoothly transitions from the album’s first half
to its second.
Filled with catchy choruses (“White Walls”), raw beats (“Jimmy
Lovine”), triumphant hooks (“Wing$”), and solemn samples (“A
Wake”), The Heist’s second half starts out by capturing the naturally
high energy between Macklemore and Lewis. Following up with
a soulful blend of rhythm and wordplay (“Gold”), a surprisingly
deep personal catharsis (“Starting Over”), a decidedly festive
campfire celebration (“Cowboy Boots”),and an upbeat invitation
to his own view of paradise (“Castle”), Macklemore demonstrates
an exceptionally broad range of lyrical technique and style while
simultaneously showcasing Lewis’ command of hip-hop production.
The Heist is a shining example of what innovative hip-hop is and
can be. In 19 songs, Macklemore and Lewis deliver a potent mix of
truly memorable music, pleasing longtime fans, inviting newcomers
of hip-hop, and setting a true standard by which to merit future hiphop artists and producers. –Sankalp Bhatnagar
Lightning Matt & Kim
Everyone knows that I drool in anticipation of each new release by
North Carolina progressive metalcore quintet Between The Buried And
Me. The Parallax Part 2: Future Sequence was no exception, especially
given the overwhelmingly positive hype it had been receiving.
The first listen of any BTBAM release from recent years is always a vastly
different experience from each successive listen, but no release better
exemplifies this than Parallax Part 2. There are a few stand-out moments
on the first listen (like the fantastic 7/4 bass groove in “Lay Your Ghosts
To Rest” and the BTBAM-ized twelve-bar blues in “Bloom”), but the
cohesiveness of the songwriting doesn’t really make itself apparent until
the fourth or fifth listen. And when it hits you, holy crap, it hits you. You
start realizing, “Hey, that’s a modified riff from this other song” and “Hey,
that was a motif from The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues EP!” BTBAM
have really outdone themselves with the songwriting on this album. The
74 minutes of playing time are damn near flawless.
Looking at Parallax Part 2 from a musician’s viewpoint, the
musicianship is phenomenal. Tommy Rogers’ clean vocals have taken
another massive leap forward, and his heavy parts sound significantly
heavier. The guitar playing is just as intricate as ever, never sacrificing
memorability for complexity. Blake Richardson is one of my favorite
drummers, and his performance on this album really shines. You can
hear Dan Briggs’ bass more than on past albums, and he even uses a
fretless in places! On top of all this, the production is perfect, as one
would hope for a BTBAM release.
Overall, this is by far the most mature, cohesive, and well-written
album that BTBAM has ever put out, and it deserves many more listens
for years to come. –Dan Curhan
The Heist
Ryan Lewis & Macklemore
The Parallax Part 2: Future Sequence
Between the Buried and Me
Shut Down the Streets starts out sounding a bit too much like Owl City.
Thankfully, New Pornographers frontman A.C. Newman blends his saccharine
indie pop tendencies with lyrics more reflective and accessible than those of
past projects. Having recently witnessed the birth of his son and death of his
mother, Newman reflects on both the beginning and end of parenthood. The
final track, “They Should Have Shut Down the Streets,” despairs about the
same roads that Newman hopes his son will grow to know.
Newman wears his involvement with the New Pornographers on his sleeve
by including bandmate Neko Case on roughly half of the album. Tracks like
“Encyclopedia of Classic Takedowns” and “I’m not Talking” keep the twisted
flow of the band’s melodies alive, but Newman sprinkles the latter with synth
harmonies and a folk atmosphere that make the sound his own. Shut Down the
Streets does not depart too far from Newman’s comfort zone but offers some
welcome insight into the life that drives his often enigmatic songwriting.
–Mike Ryan
by Leela Chockalingam
y best friend and I had a really
heated argument once. And at
the risk of sounding dramatic, it was
one of those fights that was larger
than an argument; one might call it a
clashing of our fundamental ideals. All
of this hullabaloo was surrounding my
love for Fleet Foxes, a quiet acoustic
folk band from Seattle, Wa. Fleet Foxes
had recently released their new album
Helplessness Blues. I was finally
going to go see them live and I couldn’t
contain my excitement—couldn’t stop
talking about them, couldn’t stop
listening to them, couldn’t even stop
thinking about them.
My new found love interest was
driving a wedge between me and my
best friend. She couldn’t really give a
damn about that “fast fox” band, as she
liked to call them. So what if she didn’t
feel included in this part of my life! This
wasn’t the first time we had differing
interests. I tried to make a mixtape
(which I’m pretty sure can cure all ills),
but to no avail. For the life of me, I
could not figure out why this bothered
me so much.
I finally realized: It was because this
difference was based in music. I was,
and still am, a music-head. I developed
mini-obsessions, and these obsessions
could take over my life from time to
time. I could have full-on conversations
about Jason Mraz as if I knew him
personally based on the progression
of his albums. And while I might be
dramatizing to make a point, it’s only by
a little bit. I believe this obsessive love
of culture is common to other music
lovers as well.
How could I explain the depths of
my care to my friend, who was deaf
to the charms that seemed so loud to
me? I had never decided to love music;
it was just the only way I knew how
to be. I was raised in a home where
music was integral. Tunes were blaring
from some source or another when I
roused myself every morning, and by
the age of 15 I had tried my hand at
six different instruments. But as my
friend so kindly pointed out, I wasn’t
helping anyone, furthering a cause,
making friends, learning, or doing
anything, really, when I listened to my
favorite album on repeat. Acting as
any sane individual would in a moment
of confusion, I turned to Wikipedia to
answer my queries. I typed C-u-l-t-ur-e into the search bar.
“The term developed to refer first
to the betterment or refinement of
the individual, especially through
education, and then to the fulfillment
of national aspirations or ideals.”
While skimming the extremely lengthy
article, I stumbled upon the phrase
quoted above. Something clicked in my
mind. I did not listen to music to make
the world a better place; I listened to
make me a better person. I’ve connected
deeply to some songs, songs that can
drive me to be better and do better.
These connections have helped me feel
comfortable with myself as I’ve grown up
and have helped me become the person
I want to be. They’ve been my friends
when I am overwhelmed and lonely.
They’ve helped me connect my dot to a
picture much larger than myself.
And my friend? She did not rely on
music as I did. That does not make her
any lesser than me. But when I pushed
music on her, I was implying that I thought
she needed the improvement that music
gave me, that she was not good enough
just the way she was. Which was a load of
bull, obviously. But it was the connotation
nonetheless. So I apologize to her, and to
anyone else who has been made to feel
For anyone else who feels overwhelmed
by Carnegie Mellon’s busy culture,
remember this. Tear your eyes away from
those integrals and remember that your
heart does not always have to be in the
work. Music is a fabulous way to see
the bigger picture, something not often
promoted at this school. Your heart can
be in anything you choose, and a song
isn’t a bad place to put it.