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Music News and Interviews

mxmtoon “Mona Lisa” Song Review

This song has been on my mind ever since I first listened to it.

Oftentimes, when I listen to a song for the first time, I focus on the instrumentation of it, like the harmony and melody or how the instruments work together. But when I listen to Mona Lisa by mxmtoon, an up-and-coming indie-pop artist, the lyrics had my full attention. 

In “Mona Lisa”, mxmtoon writes about how she often takes the place of Shakespeare by creating characters in a narrative instead of living as the main character in her life. As a songwriter, she often hides behind her lyrics and in this song, she highlights how she doesn’t want to just be another story but wants to feel like she is the central aspect of her own story instead of being just the author.

What really hit close to home for me while I was listening to this song was the environment I listened to it in. It was a rainy day and I was walking back from class alone observing everyone around me. The lyrics felt so relatable at that moment because it felt like I could apply them to my life at that very moment. I am a writer too and similarly, I often feel like I spent too much living through my characters instead of trying to make an impact in my own community.

The lyrics “I’m so tired of being a book on the shelf | Tired of stories for somebody else | Think that I’m ready to start a new chapter | I’ve been looking for some way |to turn it around | Looking for someone to give me the crown | I wanna feel like I finally matter | I wanna be a Mona Lisa, ah-ah | The kind of girl that you can dream of, ah-ah” resonated with me.

In a world where we are constantly feeling like other people are living better lives than we are due to all the exposure we get to people’s handcrafted posts on social media, this song really encompasses that feeling of wanting to be an inspiration for someone.

The lines “Who could change my point of view? | The way that Van Gogh uses yellow or the self in Frida Kahlo | I could be that for you” drive home this point.

mxmtoon writes that she wants to be a muse and be known for having a specific purpose in life and she compares that to how yellow is such a distinct feature in Van Gogh’s paintings. The entire premise of the song centers around Mona Lisa who was the muse, a woman, behind the painting of the famous Mona Lisa painting done by DaVinci.

I just love the relatability of this song and especially when you realize that everyone has the same thoughts or feelings and you aren’t alone in feeling a particular way.

In contrast to the rather sad lyrics, the song itself is very upbeat and starts off with a strong ukulele intro that launches the listener of the song into a dream world. It makes you feel like you are inside someone’s daydream. The guitar chord combined with mxmtoon’s wispy dreamlike voice in the chorus really hooks you into the majestic environment that the song creates. In addition to this fantastical world that the song puts you in, the music video has a similar enchantment to it that makes you feel like you are in the fantasy mxmtoon has created of being a muse for an artist.

Sometimes we all have this feeling that there might not be anyone we truly inspire or play a huge role in their lives but, maybe we just might be the Mona Lisa to someone out there after all.

Be sure to check out the music video for “Mona Lisa”.

Categories
Blog

AAPI Artist Spotlight – Dhruv

 

Continuing on with my series of highlighting various AAPI artists, I would like to introduce the next artist, Dhruv.

You might have seen his name if you happen to use TikTok. His song “Double Take” was released in 2019 and was used in over 2.8M videos racking up over 280M views. It was the catalyst for the launch of his career as a musician. 

Dhruv Sharma, known as dhruv, is a 22-year-old Indian-Singaporean R&B artist. He grew up listening to Bollywood music, because of his dad who would sing at family events, and Western artists as well like the Beatles and Amy Winehouse. Growing up he and his sister would make up melodies and songs on the piano and guitar they had in their house. He wrote a lot of music that he uploaded to Soundcloud while he was in Singapore and even gained a small following.

While music was still something he dabbled in during his free time, he was actually a student at Yale studying Data Science and Statistics when he released the song Double Take. Once he released this song, much earlier than his song ever blew up on the internet, he realized that music was something he wanted to formally pursue as a career.

“Double Take” if you don’t know is a dreamy track about falling in love with your best friend. About that moment where you have to do a double take cause you see your friend in a different way than you used to before.

He released two other songs titled “Moonlight”, which I wrote about in this post, and “Vulnerable”.

What I personally enjoy about his music is how light and magical he makes his songs sound. Of course, not everyone is into that type of vibe when listening to music, but it is something that Dhruv has perfected. Each song in his EP “Rapunzel” has this airiness to it but still manages to capture a distinct feeling or emotion pertaining to various aspects of being in love or falling in love.

The Singaporean artist is a self-proclaimed introvert and writing music was a way of how he shared his thoughts and feelings as an observer. Expressing himself through his music was an outlet for all the opinions and thoughts he had brewing in his mind that he was never able to share out loud. He felt alienated growing up as one of the only queer kids in his conservative community and all of that is reflected through the songs in “Rapunzel”, whether it’s about his experience of falling in love with his best friend, overcoming heartbreak, or showing his true self to someone and being vulnerable.

His work puts you right in his shoes. The soft acoustic chords or his guitar or his melodious voice feel like a warm hug and easily raise your spirits.

His music is his coming-of-age story. Not only about romantic love but about self-love too.

A story where he is finally the main character and has control of his own narratives. 

Check out Dhruv’s discography on Spotify!

Categories
Miscellaneous

The Unlikely Sample That Defined a Scene

One of the things that has interested me most in hip-hop is the different regional scenes that spring up in different areas of the country. One of the most unique and influential is definitely the Houston scene. Many artists make up this scene such as UGK or Geto Boys but no one defined it as much as the legendary DJ Screw.

DJ Screw’s signature style was to slow down and chop up different hip-hop records which which was called Chopped & Screwed. This sound gave the songs more of a funky and distorted sound to them and would be a huge hit in Houston. Screw would remix many songs from different rap artists and would even have his own group of rappers he remixed most often called the Screwed Up Click.

Now whats most interesting about this local scene is some of the songs that helped pioneer it. The one song that is the main star for Houston rap is “June 27th“. This song was a 35 minute long freestyle that ever since it dropped has had almost mythical status. The song was actually created in Screw’s living room for the special occasion of rapper D-Mo’s birthday who is on the song along with Big Moe, Yungstar, Big Pokey, and a few more.

Now some of the verses are good and iconic but what really made the song was the signature Chopped & Screwed beat. Now the origins of the beat are very interesting and it first starts with Kriss Kross.

Kriss Kross in 1996 was trying to ditch their “kid rapper” image they had gained with their massive hit “Jump” and with that they released the album “Young, Rich, and Dangerous” which would spawn the single ” Tonite’s Tha Night” which was a small hit. The B-side of this single was a song called “Da Streets Ain’t Right” which would make almost no impact at all. This song would have been forgotten except the instrumental is what Screw would slow down to use for the beat of “June 27th”.

Now this sample is pretty interesting in itself but what is more interesting is what Jermaine Dupri who produced the Kriss Kross songs chose to sample for “Da Streets ain’t Right”. Dupri decided that for the bassline he would sample New Wave/Pop group The Romantics on one of their hits “Talking In Your Sleep“.

Now Screw definitely didn’t know he was sampling The Romantics but when I found this out I thought it was the wildest thing because that means in a way the sound that defines Houston hip-hop and the Chopped & Screwed sound was a New Wave sample that seems like it is the furthest possible thing from the world of Houston rap.

Screw tragically passed in July of 2000 at only 29. But since his passing June 27th would go on to be a staple freestyle beat and has been remixed hundreds of times most notably Drake used the beat on his mixtape “So Far Gone” on the song “November 18th“. The date June 27th has become somewhat of an unofficial Houston holiday and a day to celebrate Screws life.

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Weekly Charts

Underground Charts 5/24

#ArtistRecordLabel
1FLY ANAKINFrankLex
2ILLISMFamily Over EverythingThe CRWN
3INJURY RESERVEBy The Time I Get To PhoenixSelf-Released
4LITTLE SIMZSometimes I Might Be IntrovertAGE 101
5MILAN RINGI’m Feeling HopefulAstral People/PIAS
6BREANNAEpiphanySelf-Released
7EVIDENCEUnlearning Vol. 1Rhymesayers
8JPEGMAFIALP!EQT
9JYROSCOPE AND MONTANA MACKSHappy Medium [EP]Self-Released
10LAVA LA RUE“For You” [Single]Marathon Artists
Categories
Weekly Charts

Afterhours Charts 5/24

#ArtistRecordLabel
1ALICE GLASSPREY//IVEating Glass
2ADULTBecoming UndoneDais
3KEDR LIVANSKIYLiminal Soul2MR
4MAGDALENA BAYMercurial WorldLuminelle
5PENDANTHarpSaddle Creek
6ROSS FROM FRIENDSTreadBrainfeeder
7SEVDALIZARaving Dahlia [EP]Twisted Elegance
8ARCAKiCK iiiiiXL
9MACHINEDRUMPsyconia [EP]Ninja Tune
10JULESDelta Ajax [EP]Happy Life

Afterhours Adds

#ArtistRecordLabel
1KAPSTAAD“Aula” [Single]Filter Label
2BARRY CAN’T SWIM“Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore” [Single]Technicolour
3HORISONE“Distorted Reality” [Single]Alula Tunes
4ELOY HOOSE, BOECLÉ“Vibe Check” [Single]Municipal
Categories
Weekly Charts

Chainsaw Charts 5/24

#ArtistRecordLabel
1ABRAHAMDébris de Mondes PerdusPelagic
2ALUSTRIUMA Monument To SilenceUnique Leader
3ANATOMY OF HABITEven If It Takes A LifetimeSelf-Released
4ANTI RITUALExpel The LeechesIndisciplinarian
5ASTRAGALPonte VedraSelf-Released
6AT THE GATESThe Nightmare Of BeingCentury Media
7BEFORE AND APACEThe DenisovanSelf-Released
8BLACK WOUNDUnending LabyrinthDry Cough
9BLOODY KEEPBloody Horror [EP]Grime Stone
10BOOK OF BLACK EARTHThe Cold TestamentProsthetic

Chainsaw Adds

#ArtistRecordLabel
1CASTRATORDefiled in OblivionDark Descent
2GRAVE INFESTATIONPersecution of the LivingInvictus Productions
3FALSE GODSNeurotopiaSeeing Red
4MOTIONLESS IN WHITE“Slaughterhouse” [Single]Roadrunner
5FRONTIEREROxidizedSelf-Released
Categories
New Album Review

New Album Review: “Behold! I Make All Things New” by Jozef van Wissem

ALBUM: “Behold! I Make All Things New” by Jozef van Wissem

RELEASE YEAR: 2022

LABEL: Incunabulum

RATING: 7/10

BEST TRACKS: “What Hearts Must Bleed, What Tears Must Fall”, “The Adornment”,  “A New Earth”

FCC: None

Jozef van Wissem, I have found, is an interesting character. He composes soundtracks for films, collaborates with directors, and he makes beautiful lute tunes, all while looking like a thrasher pilgrim. 

Behold! I Make All Things New” has a play time of 51 minutes and 41 seconds, and every single moment of it is delicious. 

In the past van Wissem has worked with film director, Jim Jarmusch to create a few soundtracks and album projects. This album, however, is a solo project filled with the plucks, strums, and chimes that could only be made by van Wissem’s delicate fingers.

To start out, the opening of this album is a little darker than it ends, which I love. A transition from dark to light, especially in instrumental albums, allows me to “take shotgun” on the musical journey with the artist. 

The jump from the first track into my favorite track of the album, “What Hearts Must Bleed, What Tears Must Fall”, creates that feeling of transitioning from dark to light. The slow opening of the album creeps and eventually pounces into strong, high notes filled with positivity and light. I know this track is lengthy (13 minutes and 41 seconds), but the gaps of silence between some of the sections give my ears a moment to reflect and soak in the entirety of the song.

More instruments create more layers as the album crawls onward. Unfortunately, I found the middle section of the album to be my least favorite section. The third and fifth tracks slip by and are forgettable, but with “A New Earth” van Wissem regains my attention with faster strikes against his instrument. This track elevates itself from the rest of the album with how short, fast and upbeat it is. 

A lot of what I appreciate about this album is how well everything fits together. I know I lose myself in the middle section, but I can put this album on and completely immerse myself in everything that is happening. 

Another piece of this album that I enjoy is the background drone sounds in “Your Flesh Will Rise In Glory On The Day Of The Future Resurrection”. The whirring of the continuous reverb in the background of this track sits me down at such a strange place. I can’t really place myself in the world when I listen to this track. I do wish he utilized that background noise throughout more of the album in different styles, because I think it helped bring out the power of his normal plucking. 

Through the strengths and weaknesses of “Behold! I Make All Things New”, I gained access to a new appreciation for instrumental artists and some good songs to sit and think to. This album also helps me to know where solo instrumentalists can exist in the music industry today. They have their niche carved out for them, but more artists like van Wissem need to reach out and grab the attention of their genre listeners.

Keep eatin’

-DJ chef

Categories
Local Music

Local Artists for the Summer

When I attended Hopscotch in September of last year, I attended a few day parties to try and learn more about the local music scene since I was a fan of some bigger local artists like Wednesday and Indigo de Souza. I got to hear a lot of great artists, so over the year I’ve made an effort to listen to more North Carolina artists and attend more local shows. Now that it’s the summer I have more time to search for local artists, so here’s what I’m going to be listening to this summer from North Carolina artists. 

First is an artist I’ve been listening to for a while, Melaina Kol, an exciting new independent artist out of Youngsville, North Carolina. The person behind Melaina Kol is Logan Hornyak who first broke onto the indie scene when he released his album Black Bile in 2018. His latest album, “AMOSAT,” was released in November of 2021 and I have not stopped listening since. 

The music is infectious and dives into the genres of indietronica, bedroom pop and indie folk. The album opens with the beautiful track “Mi” which transcends you and immediately hooks you into the album. The opening track is followed by my favorite song on the album, “Little Trees” which reminds me of something off earlier Animal Collective albums like Strawberry Jam. I could imagine listening to this album in a field on a warm sunny day as the songs wash over me. 

The next album I’ve been listening to a lot is MJ Lenderman’s new album “Boat Songs.” The opening track is one of my favorite songs and it’s perfect for a summer drive, as is the rest of the album. “Hangover Game” is a driving tune, and gives listeners a taste for the listening journey they are about to embark on. This fun alt-country, slacker rock and slowcore album will have you laughing at some of the silly lyrics and dissecting the more serious themes on the album like Lenderman’s chase for fulfillment and happiness. The fuzz on the guitars and vocals make the songs feel comforting, like a warm hug. 

Another great band I’ve been listening to is Hiding Places from Asheville, NC. While they only have three songs out right now, the band has amazing potential and I can’t wait to see what they release in the future. Their songs are relatable and have great production which adds an interesting atmosphere to the tracks. My favorite song of theirs is “Heartbreak Skatepark.” The track is a perfect indie rock tune, the end has a great build up that draws you into the story of the lead singer’s heartbreak.
The last artist I’ve been listening to a lot and will be listening to throughout the summer is BEX, also from Asheville, NC. The Asheville-based singer’s new EP, “Move It Or Lose It” is filled with catchy indie rock songs, dreamy guitars and vocals and driving bass lines. If you’re a fan of the indie rock outlet Forth Wanderers, you might like BEX.

– Eilee

Categories
Miscellaneous

“Survivor” and it’s Score

As of January of 2021, I am a fan of the reality TV show/ game show “Survivor.” I’ve watched about ⅔ of the 42 seasons and can’t seem to pry myself away from the forums, podcasts, and communities where fans discuss the abundance of content that CBS has provided in the form of “Survivor.”

There is a subset of “Survivor” fans who are really into the music that is used to score the episodes. In fact, there are communities of people who work really hard to source the music from the episodes, as the score isn’t uploaded anywhere and thus people have to edit out the voices of people talking over the music. 

A few months ago, I discovered the subreddit r/survivormusic. On this subreddit, people create, share, and consolidate the aforementioned score edits. Among this community, there is somewhat of a legend, a YouTube user by the name of survivorfan191. This user is known for having the best score edits in the community, but one fateful day several months ago, copyright struck down these videos and subsequently user survivorfan191 seemed to disappear. 

For a while, there was distress and disarray in the “Survivor” music community. Where had this user gone? Why were all of their videos suddenly gone? How else were they supposed to track down the edits survivorfan191 had created?

Then, around a month ago, they began reuploading past videos and even uploading content from the newest season of “Survivor.” Order had finally been restored to the “Survivor” music community, that survivor191 is carrying on their back.

I love these edits, they’re great study music and remind me of my favorite show. As all good music does, the score tells a story; I am eternally grateful to Russ Landau (the composer of the show’s theme song), the other talented musicians involved in the creation of the score of “Survivor”, and to survivorfan191 (along with other “Survivor” score editors) for allowing me and other fans to enjoy this music.

Until next time,

Caitlin

Categories
Miscellaneous

Book Review – “Neuromancer” by William Gibson

Author Bio

William Gibson is a Canadian Science Fiction author with a crazy talent to prophesize the internet’s future. Not actually, but he came pretty close with “Neuromancer”. 

Gibson’s writing style includes short, descriptive sentences that are able to gather the best angles to view and perceive action through writing. Gibson also is able to make characters that feel fictional and realistic through the way he humanizes them in his stories. 

In “Neuromancer”, William Gibson created new meanings for tech-y words like “matrix” and “cyberspace”. We constantly use these words today, but Gibson was able to create the context and story that allows us to visualize what matrices and cyberspaces are. 

Synopsis (Spoiler Free)

This book starts out with a bang. Case, the main character and lowlife hacker, is given one more shot to make it big with a huge data heist. His nervous system is crippled and most of his organs are failing in the first few pages of the book, but a mysterious employer, Armitage, gives him a chance with this heist. 

Case partners with Molly Millions to prepare for this data heist against Lady 3Jane, the most recent clone from the Tessier-Ashpool company. As Case and Molly explore each other’s backgrounds, they do some data digging on their employer, which involves them with an Artificial Intelligence, Wintermute. 

Racing through the build-up to the big heist, we are able to learn about Case’s losses and mental issues along with the problems Molly and Armitage face. I found that Molly and Armitage are really good support characters to Case, as they each exemplify parts of himself that he needs to fix. In comparing Molly to Case, it is the guilt and love in Case’s past he needs to work through, and in Armitage’s comparison, it is the trust and support of people Case needs to learn from. 

The heist, like many heist books or movies does not go off without a few hitches. Case is able to come to terms with his prior issues through the people he met like Molly. Gibson creates a labyrinth of action sequences that leaves us muddled, confused, yet satisfied up to the final pages of the book. 

Review

I am a big Sci-Fi nerd, so learning about the influences “Neuromancer” had on Sci-Fi writing cultures made me interested in picking this book up. I am extremely happy that I did so. 

The foundations of shows and movies I love have roots in this book, and for that reason alone it makes “Neuromancer” a must read book. But also, this book is a fantastic piece of literature. 

The way Gibson describes technology and the endless expanse of Sprawl (basically a visual internet) without ever seeing anything like it before astounds me. Reading absolutely free thinking people’s crazy fantasies where anything can happen helps open my eyes to the possibilities I can influence around myself. 

I can’t wait to read the two follow-up books that make this into a trilogy. I need to read more of Gibson’s style because of how rapid and free it feels, so please check out his book from a library (or buy it form a local bookstore).

Keep eatin’

-DJ chef