Categories
Miscellaneous

Album Art Gems: Part One

One of my greatest loves, that I really could talk about forever, is album cover designs. Get ready. This is going to be a weekly series of my favorite album covers of all time, simply because there’s too many to fit into only one blog post.

I am a graphic design major and designer for WKNC, so you can imagine that aesthetics is very important to me. They say not to judge a book by its cover, but I think this foolish. Who wants to read a book that’s title is in Comic Sans? Not I.

Album covers help to communicate a lot about an artist and the message behind their music. There is something so beautiful to me about having one type of art inform another, and album art does just that. One of my favorite things to do is peruse Nice Price Records on Hillsborough St. and find a record with the coolest cover I can find. Even if it’s in completely random genre section that I would normally never listen to, this has been a great way to find design inspiration and new music.

Both a mixture of classics and newbies, here’s my top five for this week’s installment of Album Art Gems:

1.     Freetown Sound – Blood Orange

If you’ve read any of my blogs, you know that I am a big Dev Hynes fan. His album covers are always so beautiful, but “Freetown Sound” is the most standout to me. The colors are divine, and it pairs wonderfully with his album’s message to highlight Black relationships and love.

2.     Axis: Bold as Love – Jimi Hendrix

I LOVE JIMI HENDRIX. He was a musical god and his genius on the guitar and as a poet is timeless. I had the “Axis” cover as a poster in my freshman dorm for an entire year. With Eastern philosophy and psychedelics gaining popularity in America right around the time “Axis” was released, the Jimi Hendrix Experience reflected this cultural revolution in this insane album art.

3.     DHL (Single) – Frank Ocean

Frank is known for his simplicity and anonymity. To be entirely honest, I have no idea what’s going on in this cover, but I like it a lot. The type design for DHL is really fun and interesting, along with the colors overall.

4.     Vacation in Hell – Flatbush Zombies

This album cover is mm *chef’s kiss*. FBZ are the dark, expressive rap group we all need right now, yet this cover really contrasts their normal undead vibes. During an interview, they said that this shoot was scheduled on a day when it was completely overcast and rainy. Just when they were about to call it quits as the day was ending, the sun burst through the clouds and they were able to take the perfect shot.

5.     Let it Bleed – The Rolling Stones

Finally, we have a great classic from the Rolling Stones. Like the “DHL” single, I really have no idea what’s happening, but whatever it is, it’s working. If you look closely, the bottom layers of the “cake” seem to be made up of a bike tire, a pancake, a clock, and a film reel canister. The colors and strange simplicity of this cover will always make it one of my favorites. 

Hope you guys enjoyed this as much as I did.

Tune in!

– DJ butter

Categories
Playlists

Trekkin’ Tunes

Hiking is really the only type of exercise I actually enjoy doing. Middle school gym class conditioned me to dislike (fear) any sport that involves a ball, lots of running, or really anything remotely competitive. So, here we are left with long nature walks.

In Raleigh, my favorite place to hike is on the Sal’s Branch trail at Umstead Park. It’s a beautiful wooded loop that I find really relaxing to walk on. Sometimes I prefer to hike without music just to hear nature, but I find that if I’m feeling especially overwhelmed, music and walking is the perfect combo to get me out of my head.

Here is a sneak peek into my hiking playlist. At first glance, it may look like a completely random and weird mixture of artists, which it absolutely is. However, if you take a listen, all these songs combine gentleness and beauty that allow for reflection, along with a steady or upbeat tempo that keeps you walking at a consistent pace. Don’t be fooled by the Jimi and Zeppelin appearance.

Go outside. Start walking. Take a listen. I hope it’s as meditative for you as it is for me.

1. Cherokee Mist – Jimi Hendrix
2. Orange Peel – Sopwith Camel
3. Heart to Heart – Mac Demarco
4. Benzo – Blood Orange
5. Nikes – Frank Ocean
6. Give It to Me – HOMESHAKE
7. Purity – A$AP Rocky (feat. Frank Ocean)
8. The Rain Song (Live) – Led Zeppelin
9. Stormy – The Meters
10. Lost My Mind – Will Van Horn
11. Mango (Freestyle/Process) – Orion Sun & Mulch
12. You Don’t Have to Change – Kool & The Gang
13. Hit Me Like That Snare – alt-J (feat. Rejjie Snow)
14. T.M. – Jack Kilmer
15. Too Late to Turn Back Now – Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose

– DJ butter

Categories
Playlists

Wholesome Lyrics

Why is it so hard to find songs, especially in rap, hip-hop, and r&b that don’t oversexualize womxn or refer to them in derogatory terms? Of course, female artists objectify men in their music as well, but the overarching pattern is male artists dominating these genres with those type of degrading lyrics. I have found that over the years I’ve become desensitized to it all and instead have chosen to focus on the sound of certain songs rather than the lyrics themselves. Though this works at times, I’m tired of hearing my sisters be called names that I would get in trouble for writing in this blog.

I started a playlist a couple of years ago called “songs that respect women and I can listen to without cringing.” I thought I’d share some of these wholesome songs that both sound AND feel good.

1. Blind Man – Xavier Ömar

Best Lyric: “I can love you with my eyes closed/ I don’t lose sight of your beauty/ ‘Cause your heart is fine gold, baby”

2. Spicy 103 FM – Junglepussy

Best Lyric: “Acting up caught you slipping tripping on banana peels/ Now your heart is at the f—— bottom of my six-inch heels.”

3. Consensual Seduction – Mick Jenkins

Best Lyric: “Your instruction is important, just (say it out loud)/ We can do the wait if you can’t more than whisper”

4. Philosopher – Iris Temple

Best Lyric: “Would you sit a while with me?/ We can sit in conversation and create the constellations/ Teach me something, can’t just leave me here alone”

5. Hope – Blood Orange (feat. Puff Daddy & Tei Shi)

Best Lyric: “Sometimes I ask myself, like/ You know, what is it going to take for me not to be afraid/ To be loved the way, like, I really wanna be loved?”

6. An Idea – IAMNOBODY (feat. Emmavie, Zacari, & Josh J)

Best Lyric: “While I’m right here, baby, for you/ I just thought I should let you know/ While this feeling’s so fresh and so smooth/ I never wanna let you go”

7. Girl – The Internet (feat, KAYTRANDA)

Best Lyric: “If I told you that you rock my world, I want you around me/ Would you let me call you my girl?”

8. Unrequited Love – Thundercat

Best Lyric: “I’ve been searching high and love, wondering where my feelings go/ Nothing fees the same, ‘cause there’s no one like you”

9. OKAGA, CA – Tyler, the Creator (feat. Alice Smith, Leon Ware, & Clem Creevy)

Best Lyric: “Let’s just run away from here, ‘cause it’s not/ Workin’ out on Earth, my dear/ What you really want girl?/ My heart stops pumpin’ blood when I see you/ But I try to play it cool because I like you (I really like you)”

10. Prototype – Outkast
Best Lyric: “I wanna say stank you, very much/ For picking me up and bringing me back to this world/ I think I’m in love again”

Take a listen!

– DJ butter

Categories
Band/Artist Profile

Artist Spotlight: Greta Van Fleet

Jake Kiska by Nicolas Padovani / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

I was introduced to Greta Van Fleet by a close friend right before Christmas of 2019. We were both in awe of the (gorgeous) boys and their power on stage. Strangely enough, their music was what brought me to love classic rock as much as I do now.

Since their debut album, “From the Fires,” was released in 2017, they have captured the hearts of young and old audiences alike by reviving the spirit of 60’s rock. Originally from Frankenmuth, Michigan, the band is comprised of three brothers; Jake, Josh, and Samuel Kiska, as well as their childhood friend Daniel Wagner.

One of the most common things you’ll hear when listening to interviews with the group of four is how they deal with being compared to Led Zeppelin, one of the greatest rock bands of all time. It is impossible not to see the similarities. Josh, their lead singer, has the same powerful screech as Robert Plant. Jimmy Page’s prowess on guitar is reborn through Jake Kiska. Even their fringe vests, tight pants, and feathers mirror the Zeppelin era. However, Greta Van Fleet definitely injects a more contemporary feel in their music. Taking inspiration from both classic and modern rock, the blues, and soul, their sound is a mixture of upbeat tones and heavy rock.

Their on-stage performances are fantastic to watch. Instead of definitive breaks between songs like most bands, their set usually just comprises of one incredibly long ballad, made up of bits of their own songs and pieces of covers. A true standout is their 30-minute-long performance of “Lover, Leaver” that can be found on YouTube and Apple Music. Though it begins and ends like the original “Lover, Leaver,” in between you can also hear some of their other songs like “Safari Song” and “Brave New World,” as well as a cover of “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” by Muddy Waters. A great part about their live performances is how you can really see how intuitively connected and synced they are. Maybe it’s because three out of the four are brothers, but I’ve never seen a stronger bond between bandmates. Their guitarist, Jake Kiska, is especially a force to be reckon with when he commands the stage with his insane riffs.

Above all, Greta Van Fleet has made clear that their mission is to promote peace, love, and unity through their music. Their newest album, “Anthem of the Peaceful Army,” is a testimony to these ideals.

Discography:

  • From the Fires (2017)
  • Anthem of the Peaceful Army (2018)

Members:

  • Josh Kiska (Vocals)
  • Jake Kiska (Guitar)
  • Samuel Kiska (Bass & Organ)
  • Daniel Wagner (Drums)

My Favorite Songs:

  • Lover, Leaver (Taker, Believer) [Live]
  • Brave New World
  • A Change is Gonna Come
  • Mountain of the Sun
  • Edge of Darkness

-DJ butter 

Categories
Music News and Interviews

Let’s Find Something New!

I have a horrible habit of listening to the same songs over and over again. I find some songs I like, I put them on a playlist, and I don’t look for new music for weeks. Working as a DJ for WKNC has helped to break me out of this habit a bit more, but with the help of the 2020 quarantine summer, I fell back into the same pattern of repetition. As March, April, May, June, and July all seemed to blend together into one insanely long month, I found that my playlist, which was very fittingly titled “doing nothing,” was not helping me feel productive or creative.

I was slowly growing out of my taste for rap and R&B after finding more of an interest in classic rock and the blues, but the comfort of my old music kept me from venturing into the depths of Spotify to find something new. You know when you watch the same episodes of a TV show or movie, even though you’ve seen them a thousand times, just to decompress? A similar phenomenon was happening to me and my music.

It’s easy to stay with the same music we listened to as teenagers, for these sounds have helped build our identities. We all have (hopefully) grown and changed since high school, but sometimes our music taste stays stuck in the past. Though this is not necessarily a bad thing, I think it’s important to keep discovering music and other new things we like as we get older. I love revisiting “AM” by the Arctic Monkeys every once in a while to get a rush of middle school nostalgia just as much as the next person, but I’m glad that I’ve moved onto new horizons.

It can be overwhelming and time-consuming to dive into Spotify blindly in search of new tunes, but the feeling of emerging victorious with a few new songs that bring you joy is a lovely feeling. Another strategy I like to use is going to the thrift store and finding a vinyl with the coolest record sleeve I can find. Asking a friend to make you a playlist is also a great way of finding new music, as well as listening to WKNC!

– DJ butter

Categories
Band/Artist Profile

Artist Spotlight: Allah-Las

Photo By: Tore Sætre / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

My Discover Weekly playlist has done it again. Allah-Las has become my new favorite band after hours of pursuing Spotify. Call me lazy for relying on the ~algorithm~ instead of my own manual searching, but it works. The last time Allah-Las played in North Carolina was at the Cat’s Cradle in November of 2019. I remember a friend inviting me to their show but having no idea who they were. I ended up not being able to go, but I regret that so much now, especially since there will be no concerts for the foreseeable future (sad).

Being a lover of 60s rock and blues, I love to hear new artists mimicking that sound with their own spin. The California-based surf rockers that make up Allah-Las do just that. Though they definitely reflect the beachy Los Angeles vibe where they call home, they also have a touch of vintage flair that I really enjoy. The sunny yet gritty feeling of their music is similar to bands like The Growlers and The Mystic Braves if you enjoy that kind of sound.

They’ve been on the scene since 2008 but didn’t release their debut album “Allah-Las” until 2012. Before coming together, three out of the four members were working at the Amoeba Record Store in L.A. While their first few albums, “Allah-Las,” “Worship the Sun,” and “Calico Review,” are all very consistent with their garage band sound, their newest album, “LAHS” has a fascinating global appeal from their travels abroad. Instead of imitating sunny California through their music, they instead turn to the deserts of Mexico for inspiration. By mixing Spanish lyrics, electric guitar, and playful rhythms, “LAHS” is a truly unique album. Though I was first drawn to Allah-Las because of their original surf rock style, I find their recent work more interesting to listen to.

If you’re thinking of taking a listen, here are some of my favorite songs and notable info about the band:

Discography:
• Lahs (2019)
• Calico Review (2016)
• Worship the Sun (2014)
• Allah-Las (2012)

Members:
• Miles Michaud (guitarist & vocals)
• Pedrum Siadatian (lead guitarist)
• Spencer Dunham (bassist)
• Matthew Correia (drummer)

Favorite Songs:
• Star – LAHS
• Raspberry Jam – Self Discovery for Social Survival Soundtrack
• De Vida Voz – Worship the Sun
• Catamaran – Allah-Las
• Holding Pattern – LAHS
• Long Journey – Allah-Las

Here is a link to their website.

Stay tuned in!

– DJ butter

Categories
Music News and Interviews

Bossa Nova Delights

If you tune in to 88.1 on Tuesdays right before noon, you may hear the sweet sounds of Stan Getz, João Gilberto, or Antônio Carlos Jobim. I like to end my show on WKNC with a sendoff from one of my favorite genres: bossa nova.

Bossa nova literally translates to “new wave” in Portuguese. Mostly stemming from Rio de Janeiro in the 1950s and 60s, it is a fusion of samba and jazz. The genre is recognized by its steady beats, classical guitar, and light percussion. Popular among the young, growing Brazilian middle class, it gained notability through João Gilberto and his 1958 single “Chega de Saudade,” composed by Antônio Carlos Jobim. The two would later go on to collaborate on several more albums, all laying the foundations for making bossa nova an international genre. Jobim also worked with saxophonist Stan Getz on their most notable album “Getz/Gilberto,” which contains one of the most popular songs of all time, “The Girl from Ipanema.”

Bossa nova also has a really fascinating political history. Under a new military dictatorship in the 1960s, bossa nova was slowly censored and eventually banned. Bossa nova lyrics, which typically focus on light topics such as love and Brazilian beaches, were seen as unfit for the times and therefore left in the past. Out of this social unrest, musicians formed new styles of music that better reflected the feelings of the Brazilian people, most specifically the working classes, based on the sounds of bossa nova, modern rock, and traditional Brazilian music. Some of these include tropicalia and música popular brasileira.

My mom’s side of the family is Brazilian, so I grew up listening to bossa nova. I have fond memories of my grandpa teaching me how to dance while we listened to “Aquarela do Brasil.” It is a comforting sound and something I consider part of my own cultural heritage. If you’re interested in listening, here are some classics for easy listening:

1. Insensatez – Stan Getz & Luiz Bonfá
2. Roda-Viva – Chico Buarque
3. Mas, Que Nada! – Jorge Ben
4. Carta Ao Tom 74 – Vincius de Moraes, Toquinho, & Quarteto Em Cy
5. O Grande Amor – Stan Getz & João Gilberto Quintet
6. Corcovado – Stan Getz, Astrud Gilberto, Antônio Carlos Jobim, & João Gilberto
7. Aquarela do Brasil – João Gilberto
8. The Girl from Ipanema – Stan Getz & João Gilberto
9. Chove Chuva – Jorge Ben
10. Chega de Saudade – João Gilberto

All sources for this blog can be found here, here, and here.

Feliz escuta!

DJ butter

Categories
Music News and Interviews

Creativity in Quarantine

Quarantine got you down? Join the club.

We’re all dealing with our newfound solitude differently. Some make sourdough, some go on long walks, some spend hours in front of their Zoom camera, trying to stay undistracted during online classes (me).

As a designer and artist, I’ve found it really hard to stay motivated over these past five months. I have had crazy bursts of creativity where I’ll spend all day working on a piece, followed by weeks of not even wanting to pick up my sketchbook. Considering freelancing has been my only source of income this summer, it’s been stressful to keep up a consistent schedule amidst feelings of impending virus doom.

I came to the realization that it’s perfectly okay to feel overwhelmed and unmotivated right now. Staying creative in isolation can act as both a way of coping and a burden. Because of this, I also have enormous respect and appreciation for the artists who ARE producing great work despite the circumstances.

Here are some of the highlights from my quarantine playlist, all released this year:

1. Flatbush Zombies: now, more than ever – EP, Afterlife – Single 

Both of these pieces are amazing reflections of the Black Lives Matter movement. They are incredibly powerful and I 10/10 recommend.

2. EARTHGANG: Powered Up – Single, End of Daze (feat. Spillage Village, Jurdan Bryant, Mereba, & Hollywood JB) – Single

End of Daze is perhaps one of my favorite songs right now. A really stand-out lyric that captures this year in a nutshell is “Mask on, mask off/ face the future/ like high noon.”

3. Khruangbin: Moredechai – Album

Mordechai has given me a break from the craziness of the world and a nice background sound to relax too. They are the ultimate masters of smooth tunes.

4. Orions Belte: 600m per minute – EP

Though only comprised of three songs, they’re all equally tranquil instrumentals played by the same band that released “Joe Frazier” in 2018.

5. Thundercat: It Is What It Is – Album

I would like to say that it is absolutely insane that this album came out four months ago; it feels like two years have gone by since April. Nevertheless, Thundercat is at it again with his bass skills.

6. Mike Moon: Radnotsad – Song from jopippin’s album “Digital Native”, Wild West (feat. Renzo Suburbn)

Mike Moon, Renzo Sububn, and jopippin are all Raleigh locals! Otherwise known as being some of the members of Dotwav Media, their unique rap-punk style is fantastic. Vocalist Mike Moon in particular has a real great sound to his solo work.

 Peace,

DJ butter

Categories
Playlists

Moon Music

Music, similar to the reverence we hold for our glowing nighttime goddess, is ancient to humanity. It is natural that they should cross paths. From classics like Frank Sinatra’s “Blue Moon” to more modern works like “Moon Song” by Phoebe Bridgers, the moon has proven itself to be a popular theme in music. Whether by mentioning la lune herself or simply emitting the type of cool, soft beauty that our moon represents, here are some of my favorite songs that do just that:

1. Harvest Moon – Neil Young
Released in 1992 on Young’s “Harvest Moon” album, it is probably my favorite song of all time. In agricultural and historical terms, a Harvest Moon is the moon closest to the autumnal equinox and represents a time for sowing the fruits of the year.

2. Ne Me Quitte Pas (Don’t Leave Me) – Orion Sun
Orion Sun is a newer artist to the R&B scene. She released her first album “Hold Space for Me” in March 2020. Her ethereal voice and warm rhythms make hearing the lyrics “You’ll be in my dream like I’m f—— haunted/ But it’s beautiful you move me, like a moonbeam/ Change the water flow” an out-of-body experience.

3. Moon River – Frank Ocean 
Written originally by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer for Audrey Hepburn’s role in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “Moon River” is covered beautifully by Frank Ocean in his 2018 single.

4. Moonlight Shawty – Fatboibari, Shiloh
Rapper Fatboibari released this single in 2018 with R&B artist Shiloh. The grainy, slow beat is made heavenly by Shiloh’s soft falsetto. This is a fantastic song for anyone interested in the more tranquil side of rap.

5. Midnight Snack – HOMESHAKE
“Midnight Snack” is a cozy, lovely listen. Even the album cover reminds me of the classic children’s book “Goodnight Moon.” I like to see the lyric, “Feelin’ like I’m falling asleep/ Not ready to visit my dreams/ Nothing in the world let me feel/ Alone, while she’s here next to me” as a reference to the moon herself.

6. Moondance – Van Morrison
“Moondance” is another great and lively classic. Released as part of the “Moondance” album in 1970, the song is a romantic mixture of jazz and folk.

Stay tuned in!

– DJ butter

(Photo taken by me)

Categories
Classic Album Review

Retro(ish) Review: Palo Alto Movie Score – Devonte Hynes

English singer-songwriter Devonte Hynes, also known as the artist behind Blood Orange, has risen in fame over the past decade. His earlier albums, “Coastal Grooves” and “Cupid Deluxe” are marked by their mixture of R&B and hazy electronica. From 2016 to 2019, he released three more albums (“Freetown Sound”, “Negro Swan” and “Angel’s Pulse”), all of which explore the Hynes’ thoughts on sexuality, race, and spiritual callings.

His score for “Palo Alto” (2014), written by Gia Coppola and James Franco, is a beautiful compilation that reflects the tone of the film perfectly. Based on Franco’s book, “Palo Alto” tells the story of a group of California teens navigating relationships and what it feels like to grow up too fast. Although the movie is no longer to my taste for a variety of reasons, I appreciate Hynes’ musical contributions. The soundtrack is almost entirely instrumental, made up of soft synths and light tones. Overall, it is a melancholy and sentimental score that is meant to echo the lives of the main characters and how they cope with raging hormones, peer pressure, and their own inner selves.

Here are some of my favorite highlights from it:

1. April’s Daydream
2. Palo Alto
3. Teddy & April
4. Soccer Field
5. Teddy Rides Home

Stay tuned in!

– DJ butter