Soundtrack Spotlight: Coffee Talk

“Coffee Talk” is a game released in 2020 that follows a visual novel format and tells a story of various customers that visit a late-night coffee shop in a Pacific northwest city populated by humans and a variety of fantasy races, including succubi, vampires, and elves.

The game requires the player to click through dialogue, with our playable chararcter being the shop barista, meaning you make characters drinks as you play.

Like any good coffee shop, your coffee shop has a great rotation of chill lofi hip-hop beats to carry you through late-night conversations with whoever may be visiting that night. The soundtrack was fully originally composed by Andrew Jeremy, the music director of Toge Productions, which is the studio that made “Coffee Talk.”

Although the game is fun and remains one of my favorite games, its soundtrack is truly the best part of the game. I can normally study with music on, but sometimes music with lyrics will make it harder to focus. The “Coffee Talk” soundtrack is my solution to finding instrumental music that does not leave me bored or annoyed.

The game has a 27-track album that only features one song that doesn’t fit in a chillhop category, that being “Gala Gila” (this song is more upbeat to match a climactic moment in the story). Every other song is calming and soothing in a way that makes me want to settle down in a cafe and write or draw with a latte nearby.

Some of my favorite tracks are as follows:

  • “Moon Bright” — this song takes the tune of Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” and makes a lofi hip-hop beat with it.
  • “Cup of Sweetness” uses a crackly background noise to add some coziness to this already smooth song that uses a cool array of snares.
  • “Calming Drizzle” is dreamy and groovy; it represents the soundtrack as a whole very well.

I haven’t played it yet, but “Coffee Talk 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly” was released in April, and features another full-length soundtrack by Andrew Jeremy that I’m very excited to dig into and add to my study rotation.

— bel$


A DJ’s Process: How Setlists are Made

Meeting a WKNC DJ can be intimidating. Maybe you’re overcome by our cool presence, stumbling over words and trying to pretend you know what shoegaze means. You’re too nervous to ask us about how we throw together our sets, so you never learn and resolve to assume that the art of crafting a DJ set is beyond you.

This is a common experience, and I’m here to demystify the DJ setmaking process. Note that not all DJs are the same, and this process varies amongst us.

Collection Phase

I play a once-weekly show on HD-1, so every week I’ve got to compile between 15 to 20 songs to put on air. To collect my tracks, I make a playlist after each show to put each new song I’ve liked from the week in one place for my next show.

I’m the sort of person who tends to play just a few songs over and over until they get old and then move on, so sometimes I don’t come up with 15 songs. If this is the case, I’ll scour my old playlists to fill in the cracks.

Occasionally, I’ll have more songs than I need for a set. Because my show is one hour long, I try to have songs that total to a runtime between 53 and 56 minutes. This allows time for voice breaks, and with sets that have songs I’d like to talk about more than the average track, I’ll aim for the lower end of the 53 to 56 minute range.

Proofing Phase

At WKNC, we have a few rules that always need to be followed. One of these rules is that there are certain words we cannot use on air. As such, we’ve got to comb through every lyric of every song we’d like to play on air to make sure our set is squeaky clean.

Of course, this is made much easier with lyric-sharing sites like Genius. However, with songs that don’t have lyrics publicly posted, a thorough listen of the song to be sure of its cleanliness is necessary.

You might be thinking, “Why don’t you just make sure you don’t play any songs with the ‘E’ on them?”, referring to the ‘explicit’ label that many songs have on streaming services. Because we not only follow the FCC standards for Obscene, Indecent and Profane Broadcasts but also our own station standards, there’s no guarantee that an artist has appropriately marked a song as explicit that is qualified as such for our purposes.

If there’s a song you want to play that has explicit lyrics, you have the option to find a clean version of the song or clean it yourself using an audio-editing software.

Set Design

Once all of my songs have been chosen and appropriately cleaned if necessary, I order my playlist to make the set flow. I tend to do a voice break every three songs, so I will typically put 3 similar songs in a block, have a voice break, then repeat. Some DJs may have a voice break between every song or none at all.

A lot of times, I’ll have my set move from slow to fast, soft to heavy, etc. based on the tracks I’m working with. So, it’s attention to the individual songs in their blocks of three, but also attention to how each of those blocks flow and interact with each other.

Okay– at this point, we’ve got our songs, they’re clean and ordered, and we’re nearing the final steps of the DJ’s pre-show process.

At this stage I will occasionally design a poster for my show to promote it and always upload my tracks into Spinitron so that folks can see what they’re listening to during my set.

I’ve made probably over a hundred sets for radio shows before and I find the process to be rather soothing– cultivating a setlist requires more attention be given to the music I listen to than normal casual listening might.

Does this sound interesting to you? Are you dying to know what the prohibited words of radio are? Fear not, there are Fall 2023 interest meetings for students interested in joining WKNC as a DJ or other staff: Tuesday, Aug. 22 and Thursday, Aug. 24 from 6-7 p.m. in 201 Witherspoon.

— bel$


Soundtrack Spotlight: “Whip It” (2009)

There are few movies that hold as much nostalgia for me as the Drew Barrymore-directed “Whip It,” released in 2009. I grew up watching roller derby in my hometown and, because “Whip It” was the only movie I’d ever seen about roller derby, it quickly became a favorite.

The movie itself emanates 2000s alternative coolness. Elliot Page plays a teenager who attempts to find a way out of her small Texas hometown through joining a roller derby team. In the same way that “Juno” feels eternally 2007, “Whip It” feels eternally 2009.

When I got my first iPod, I downloaded the soundtrack to the movie. It left an imprint on me that I think likely contributes to my interest in alternative music today.

The movie utilizes a lot of high-tempo rock. The Ramones’ “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker,” featured in the film, is arguably the first thing that led me towards punk rock. Throughout the story, Page’s character Bliss is faced with choosing between two worlds– that of her mother, which is full of pageants and custom gowns, and that of her roller derby dreams, filled with blue hair, scraped knees and beer.

“Pot Kettle Black” by Tilly and The Wall matches the high-tempo theme and adds in a new theme of chanting-shouting-screaming that the rest of the soundtrack showcases as well, with “Boys Wanna Be Her” by Peaches keeping it up. Lyrics from Peaches’ song repeat “The boys wanna be her / The girls wanna be her,” undoubtedly adding to how badly I wanted to be Bliss Cavendar.

The soundtrack features a lot of then-current indie rock, but also has a few classics such as 38 Special’s “Caught Up In You” and “Jolene” by Dolly Parton. At a point in the story where Bliss begins to date a new love interest, the music gets a bit softer, with tracks like “Learningalilgivinanlovin” by Gotye (pre-Somebody That I Used to Know!).

The movie itself is a bit of a mess– weird pacing, plot holes and questionable aspects of its storyline keeps it from standing up to much criticism– but it’s incredibly loveable, and its soundtrack is equally sentimental.

— bel$

Concert Preview Miscellaneous

K-Pop Bash at Ruby Deluxe

I’ll be the first to admit I had a K-Pop phase– my “kpoop” playlist remains a staple of my Spotify profile even though I’m no longer trading photocards of my favorite idols. K-Pop is ever-growing and the fanbase of the many groups that make up the genre is only getting bigger.

There’s a lot of opportunities for K-Pop fans to interact with music and communities online, but due to the global reach of many K-Pop groups, opportunities to see favorite artists are few and far between and are usually only found in big cities with expensive, nosebleed-seat tickets.

Citizens of Raleigh– fear not! K-Pop is coming to Ruby Deluxe in the form of a K-Pop Bash being put on by local DJ and music producer Rusty later this month. I asked Rusty a few questions about his event to get some information about what to expect for this first-of-its-kind event.

What is the K-Pop Bash?

“K-Pop Bash is a brand new monthly event that I’m hoping to expand in North Carolina. Our aim is to bring a K-pop filled night to fans while providing a safe space while dancing their favorite music, and meeting new people.”

Who are some of the artists you’ll be playing?

“A few of the artists we’re going to play are groups like BTS, Blackpink, Seventeen, NewJeans, TXT, NCT 127 and Twice. Honestly, there’s so many groups we’re hoping to play, I hope people come and find new songs and groups to enjoy. I personally enjoy finding hidden gems within the genre.”

Will this be a regular/monthly event?

“The aim is to make this a monthly event, so I’ve been working on getting an event booked for each month. July 20th is our first and we have another one in August, which we’ll announce a bit later.” 

What are you most excited about for the Bash?

“The thing I’m most excited for is seeing how this event can grow. These kinds of events really only happen because of community and so far I’ve been amazed out how excited everyone is for this kind of event.”

The K-Pop Bash will take place at Ruby Deluxe in Raleigh, July 20 at 10 p.m. More information about the event can be found at this link. If you’ve wanted to have a BTS dance party somewhere other than your own bedroom, now’s a great chance.


New Album Review

Album Review: SPEED RUN by Frost Children

I was introduced to the new Frost Children album, “SPEED RUN” by a friend who said that the song “HI 5” seemed like something I would like. Within a few listens the song became a staple on many playlists of mine– the samples of Yoshi from “Super Smash Bros. Melee” made it an easy win in my book.

Pitchfork said in their review of the album that it came off as “creatively vacant,” and that wore away at the listening value of the LP. I’m here to agree on the vacancy described, but also to say that I felt that was the point of the album.

It’s similar to the 100 gecs or Black Dresses use a sense of silliness or airheadedness to add to the appeal of their already-chaotic music. Frost Children adopts this sort of ‘indie sleaze’ idea that is so popular among new and emerging music of 2023 into hyperpop, an ever-changing and growing genre without well-defined limits.

I’ll admit that there are songs on “SPEED RUN” that fall flat and lack much appeal. “ALL I GOT,” which was released as a single alongside “HI 5” and “FLATLINE,” isn’t a song I would write home about. It’s pretty simple and gets grating after a few listens due to its repetitiveness and simplicity.

“SICK TRIP,” heavily criticized in the aforementioned Pitchfork article, is actually one of my favorite songs off the album. It’s cheesy and kitschy in a way that indie sleaze should be. If 100 gecs is praised for songs like “Frog On the Floor” or “I Got My Tooth Removed,” then Frost Children can be praised for the ways they embrace cringe. The duo, siblings Angel and Lulu Prost, have actually spoken previously in an interview with Office Magazine about “embracing cringe.”

Although the album is not a 10/10, it’s fun to listen to and excites a lot of what I love about music and about hyperpop specifically.

Songs to Start With: “HI 5,” “FLATLINE,” “SICK TRIP”

— bel$

Concert Review

Joyce Manor with Teens in Trouble at Cat’s Cradle

If you frequent the WKNC blog, you may have seen me post a few weeks ago about an upcoming concert featuring Joyce Manor, a personal favorite, and Teens in Trouble, a WKNC favorite. Their show was on June 26 at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, NC.

As I wrote in my concert preview, Joyce Manor has been one of my favorite artists since middle school. I love going to concerts but often feel like a poser of some sort when I don’t know every song an artist might play. Joyce Manor is the group that I can say I would feel confident in my ability to sing every song, knowing almost every word.

Teens in Trouble onstage at Cat’s Cradle. Photo by bel$

Before the headliner went on, Teens in Trouble put on a great show as an opener. My partner and I had seen them play at Double Barrel Benefit 19 and were probably some of the few in the crowd to have seen them twice this year, along with other WKNC DJs at the show.

The crowd was very clearly thrilled to be there and Teens in Trouble provided a fun set that got people moving but still allowed us to conserve some energy for the incoming Joyce Manor pit.

Joyce Manor did not disappoint. Starting their set off with “Heart Tattoo” was a strong choice, and the many of us in the crowd with heart tattoos on us from the influence of that song raised our hands high immediately.

Surprisingly, Joyce Manor only played three songs off their most recent record, “40 Oz. to Fresno”– “Gotta Let It Go,” “Don’t Try,” and “NBTSA.” They made sure to dip into older obscure songs like their cover of The Murder City Devils’ “Midnight Service at the Mutter Museum.”

The band went off stage, then returned for a three-song encore. Before the second song of the encore, frontman Barry Johnson asked the crowd, “Are there any ‘Cody’ enjoyers out there right now?”, referring to their 2016 LP. Many hands, including mine, shot up, and the band broke into their song “Stairs.”

It was impossible not to move at The Cradle that night. I’d gone into the venue with a full face of makeup, and by the time I got home my face was bare. The venue floor was sticky when people cleared out from PBRs dropped and pit sweat. My bangs were soaked. I have a few bruises and my feet are still sore days later. It was fantastic and it makes me sad that I’ll never be able to see Joyce Manor for the first time again.

— bel$


On the Pinegrove Shuffle

I will begin this by saying I do not use TikTok. Proud disclaimer. However, because I’ve not been able to avoid contact with the internet in its totality, I’ve become aware of the Pinegrove Shuffle– a dance trend to a song from Pinegrove that’s been going around the video-sharing app.

Pinegrove is a band whose work I’ve adored for years, but some of that admiration was marred when Evan Stephens Hall– the group’s frontman– was accused of sexual coercion in 2017. The band took a year to refrain from releasing any music, and Hall took time to work on himself, stating that he’d begun therapy in the Facebook post in which this was all revealed.

Since then, it seems Pinegrove and Hall have been mostly accepted back into the spot they once had in the music scene. This acceptance has been solidified by the burst of the band’s alt-country music regaining public attention in the TikTok trend.

The Pinegrove Shuffle itself is a mix between the hardcore two-step and something else, resembling a bird flailing. Its movement suggests a melancholy feeling that matches the song– “Need 2,” well.

After the TikTok trend went viral, the band re-released “Need 2,” this time with a slow version, a fast version, and a hyperspeed version. The song hasn’t been reproduced at all but has instead just had its speed altered in the new releases.

Robin Murray of Clash Music describes Pinegrove’s re-ascent into the public spotlight “incredibly, bizarrely unlikely,” given their history. I could not agree more.

Even when an artist has done their time in therapy or has completed the proper reparations after an incident such as the one Hall was a part of, it feels strange to have them resurface at such a public level, especially with Pinegrove in particular. Historically, they’ve been adored, and since Hall’s accusation most have been unsure how to feel about the group.

It seems the dance trend has brought them back to a normal, inoffensive position that old fans and listeners were not exactly prepared for. I can’t say the trend is wrong or shouldn’t be popularized, but I can’t say I adore the booming popularity of a band with a sticky history either. It’s tough territory. In the meantime, I’m still enjoying the sped-up versions of “Need 2.”

Band/Artist Profile

Artist Profile: DRAIN

After seeing friends’ posts about a recent hardcore show they’d been to in South Carolina, I finally decided to check out DRAIN, and they easily lived up to their reputation.

DRAIN’s first two EPs, “Over Thinking” (2016) and “Time Enough at Last” (2017) garnered public attention and solidified them as a prominent peg in the Santa Cruz hardcore scene. According to DRAIN frontman Sammy Ciaramitaro, “When people come to Santa Cruz, they’re like, ‘Oh, I get it, DRAIN looks like what this town looks like.’ We also sound like what you expect Santa Cruz to sound like.”

Following their local roots, DRAIN released “California Cursed” right after the dawn of the pandemic– April 2020. This is the album that first drew me to DRAIN. It’s one of those LPs I can’t help but move to when I listen to it.

Songs like “Feel the Pressure,” “Army of One,” and “Hypervigilance” are undeniably bangers, for lack of a better word, and they’ve helped the album quickly become one of my most-listened for the month.

Having an album released so soon after the outbreak of COVID-19, DRAIN wasn’t able to tour or perform any shows for “California Cursed.” This was especially unfortunate because of how vital live shows are to the fire that fuels the hardcore scene.

“Kids fell in love with music but didn’t have the chance for two years to see it live,” said DRAIN’s frontman. “Now that it’s come back, the feeling is, ‘I want to see it live. I want to go to every show. I want to experience it.'”

DRAIN’s most recent album, “Living Proof,” released on May 5 of this year. Its reception has been wider than any of the band’s other releases, and for good reason.

A review of the album in Kerrang! by Luke Morton reads, “From piledriving opener of “Run Your Luck,” “Living Proof” puts its pedal firmly through the metal, hauling a mix of chunky riffs and frenetic two-steps into a mosh-ready melee, superbly bolstered by Slayer-esque guitars and snarling, spiteful vocals. Despite the aforementioned Sammy being a genuine Good Dude, he is in serious F— You mode throughout “Living Proof,” spitting lines of defiance and individuality.”

I could not have put it any better.

DRAIN is currently on the “Living Proof” tour through the U.S. until the end of June. Here’s to hoping we get a Raleigh show real soon.

— bel$

Concert Preview

Concert Preview: Joyce Manor & Teens in Trouble

Joyce Manor is a pop punk band from Torrance, California.

I was 14 or so when I was first introduced to Joyce Manor by someone I probably considered cooler than me. Their 2016 album “Cody” was the first new album from the band that I was able to listen to as the singles dropped and I’ve considered it to be one of my favorite albums since then.

Joyce Manor will be at Cat’s Cradle with Teens in Trouble on June 26 as a small pit stop on their tour with Weezer. Tickets are currently being sold for $25, and more show info and ticket access can be found at the Cat’s Cradle website.

Joyce Manor

Joyce Manor’s most recent release was their album “40 oz. to Fresno” in 2022. Their most popular album, according to Spotify and the many Joyce Manor fans in my life, is “Never Hungover Again,” released in 2014 on Epitaph Records.

Joyce Manor has performed at the Cradle a number of times, including touring with Jeff Rosenstock and Modern Baseball. Their music is punchy and punky without crossing the bridge over to hardcore or pure punk. It’s like the type of punk that might be palatable to a larger audience, but still not everyone– essentially, pop punk.

Vocalist Barry Johnson has a trademark voice that sounds a bit like screaming without any of the vocal violence of screamo. It’s part of what makes the group so special, because they’re able to maintain a signature sound without becoming repetitive.

Teens in Trouble

Teens in Trouble is a WKNC favorite, especially after Double Barrel Benefit 19 earlier this year when they joined us for our annual fundraiser at Kings Raleigh.

Teens in Trouble is the perfect opener for Joyce Manor, because they’ve got indie rock to offer that is easily enjoyable without sacrificing inventiveness.

Vocalist and frontwoman Lizzie Killian described her band’s sound as “fuzzed out indie rock for dog people,” which is kind of a perfect descriptor. Reminiscient of music from Remo Drive and The Beths, Teens in Trouble should be a great opener for the show at the Cradle and will undoubtedly hype the crowd up before headliner Joyce Manor plays their set.

See you at the show!

— bel$

New Album Review

Album Review: “Everyone’s Crushed”

Water From Your Eyes is a duo made up of Rachel Brown and Nate Amos. In late May 2023, the duo released an album worth writing home about– it’s a unique mix of art pop and rock. It’s the sort of album your somewhat-elitist music friend would like.

The album, “Everyone’s Crushed,” begins with a song titled “Structure,” paying homage to Water From Your Eyes’s 2021 album “Structure.” The opening of the album is slow, almost cryptic, but still inviting– at the very least, intriguing.

The album feels a little bleak– it’s got catchy songs, high-tempo beats, interesting vocals with thoughtful lyrics, but it still leaves the listener with a feeling of melancholy, though not overwhelming. The musical choices made within the album are also pretty unique, and although the music doesn’t sound alien in any respect, it does maintain an “out of this world” sound.

The aforementioned bleakness of the album is the result of the artists’ perspective, which is focused on the struggles and discomfort of the pandemic and what’s come since then.

The album’s title reflects this. “Everyone’s Crushed.” It’s something you’d normally hear at a funeral, or upon hearing tragic news. In the case of this album, Water From Your Eyes seems to be attempting to relay the idea that everyone is struggling, it’s the nature of right now.

The album ends with a song called “Buy My Product,” which seems to be a kitschy kick at capitalism and corporations that spew adverts implying that a product or material good could bring you peace from the ugliness the rest of the album expresses.

The album is vulnerable in a way that’s not overt or cliched, and it makes for a good listen for those interested in new and different pop.

— bel$