New Album Review

88.1 WKNC Pick of the Week 9/8

Whitney “The Voice” Houston delivers with new album

Released 8/31/09
4.5/5 stars

When Whitney Houston first burst onto the scene in the mid 80s, she was the pinnacle of musical perfection. Modelesque looks, catchy songs, style, poise, undeniable stage presence and most importantly, a voice with limitless potential. Success surely followed, as Houston eventually sold more than 170 million albums, broke #1 records set by the Beatles and Elvis, earned more than $500 million worldwide at the Box Office, influenced a generation of singers and became the most awarded female artist of all time.

In the seven years since Houston’s last album Just Whitney, the musical landscape has changed a great deal. Record sales are at an all time low, the digital era has become even more dominant and vocal talent is no longer required to have a hit record, auto-tune and nakedness are. Just as the record industry has changed, Houston’s personal life has not gone without its share of transformations as there was the end of a tumultuous marriage to bad-boy Bobby Brown and stints in rehab.

With the release of Houston’s long-awaited “comeback” album, I Look To You, critics and fans alike have asked the question, “is there room for Whitney Houston in this new age?“ The answer is quite simply, yes.

I Look To You begins with the catchy first single “Million Dollar Bill,” produced and written by Alicia Keys and Swizz Beats.  "Million Dollar Bill" is an up-tempo, bass driven track, with a retro-disco vibe and is one of the albums best.

Next is the Danja produced, up-tempo, synth-driven “Nothing But Love.“  Houston shares how she has nothing but love for those who have hurt her in the past, while accepting responsibility for her own actions. Other up-tempos include the club worthy Euro-pop “For the Lovers” and the Leon Russell penned classic, made famous by Donny Hathaway, “A Song For You” which starts out as a piano-driven ballad, but soon turns into an electronic techno-smash.

With I Look To You, Houston sings some of the best mid-tempos of her career including the R.Kelly written, Tricky Stewart produced, “Salute,” “Worth It” and the Johnta Austin penned Stargate produced “Call You Tonight.“ "Salute” is the ultimate brush-off anthem done with class, while “Worth It” is the perfect love song reminiscent of Mary J. Blige’s “Be Without You”. The Stargate produced, contemporary “Call You Tonight” has Houston singing to a potential love interest that she doesn’t have to time connect with.  Any of the aforementioned would be viable singles.

Houston, known for her ability to interpret songs, rather than writing, pens two of the albums island-influenced mid-tempo’s, along with R&B singer Akon. The duet “Like I Never Left”, sounds as though it could be directed to the a past lover or the to public in a plea to love her like she never went away. With “I Got You”, Houston talks of love and loyalty and how neither distance nor time can separate loved ones.

Houston is a self-described “balladeer’, so naturally an album from the legendary Icon wouldn’t be complete without a couple of power ballads. With both “I Look To You” and “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength,“ Whitney comes from a spiritual place, sharing that when she was lost, it was her faith that brought her through.

Houston covers all bases with an album that will make you want to dance, cry, make love, feel inspired and everything in between. Vocally, the highs may not be as high and the lows are lower, but Houston still delivers and is able to convey each song with the feeling,  power and emotion as only she can. If you are expecting “The Bodyguard” era vocals, you will be disappointed. Whitney’s voice has undergone its share of changes, but is still better than the majority of who you’ll hear on the radio.

Houston and "industry father” executive producer, Clive Davis have managed to blend experience with relevance, in keeping with tradition of the classic Whitney we know and love, while remaining fresh and current. Overall, I Look To You is the perfect blend of ballads, mid-tempos and up-tempos from arguably the greatest female vocalist of all time. Welcome back, Whitney.

88.1 WKNC DJ Pick of the Week is published in every Tuesday print edition of the Technician, as well as online at and

“Saturday Night Soul and R&B” with host airs weekly from 9 to 11 p.m.

New Album Review

88.1 WKNC Pick of the Week 8/31

Hear Here: The Triangle Various Artists Flying Tiger Sound, Terpsikhore Records, and WKNC
Drew St. Claire

I’m going to level with you. We write these CD reviews to tell you if something’s good or bad. Whether the stuff in it works or it doesn’t work. Who it sounds like and who it doesn’t sound like. Yet this one, Hear Here: The Triangle, is a different animal. It’s quite literally my baby, our baby actually, seeing as you fund the student radio station that compiled it.

So how can I just pick this thing up with some stylized tweezers and plop it into a genre’s zip-lock bag? I can’t.
It’s too diverse and too unique to its creator. Like the old adage says- you never think your kid’s ugly. Well, I guess I’ll have to abandon the normal objectivity and just tell you how beautiful this kid is.

Fitting to geographic location, the album features three solid hip-hop artists. Kooley High’s track “Can’t Go Wrong” speaks for itself. With beats reminiscent of hip-hop’s golden age and smooth rhymes how could you go wrong?

I bet if you crank this up while cruising down Hillsborough Street you’ll enter a time warp back to L.A., circa 1993. Blount Harvey’s “the Three” is an ode to big, beautiful women accompanied by soulful female vocals and Inflowential’s contribution, “Sherriff”, is a rendition of Marley’s classic reggae hit.

Keeping things particularly intense on the hard rock front are Colossus and Static Minds. With guitar virtuosity that’s taken straight from the Valient Thorr playbook and vocal power that rivals the late Freddy Mercury, Colossus reminds you exactly why they have a copyright on such an epic band name.

Not to be left out is Static Minds. Essentially, they’re the best proto punk band you’ll ever hear, the only difference is they’re from 2009, not 1969.

Here’s a rundown of the other local talents. The Love Language combines the best aspects of I’m From Barcelona and the Beach Boys.

Never’s “Littlest Things” is a crooning acoustic ballad, like a modern version of the Beatles’ “Because”. Despite the grisly implications of Kingsbury Max’s “Custer’s Last Stand”, the song feels very bright and shimmery.
It’s almost like you’re taking a whimsical monorail made of sunlight through a happier version of Dark Side of the Moon. And although Americans in France may give a nod to European aesthetics with their band name, the fuzzy chaos of “No Love For a Prophet” is pure grunge-era Sonic Youth.

I racked my brain over how to typify the other bands, most notably the Rosebuds, Hammer No More the Fingers, and Birds of Avalon. But then, I came to a realization.

Would the Sex Pistols have been punks if they grew up in Topeka? Would Johnny Cash have been the man in black if he lived in Manhattan? Would the B.I.G. be Notorious if he came from the suburbs? No. The fact of the matter is that local bands are great because they are ours.

88.1 WKNC DJ Pick of the Week is published in every Tuesday print edition of the Technician, as well as online at and

New Album Review

88.1 WKNC Pick of the Week 8/24

Engineers’ latest release a dull effort
Jon Gomes

Shoegaze, in a nutshell, is theme music for dreaming. In a semi-conscious drift, substance gives way to texture. Emotions are established rather than statements. The sound can bloom from a whisper into a wall of reverb-drenched guitars, awash with frothy vocals and crash cymbals. It’s difficult to take it all in, but shoegaze is meant to sweep you away. Sometimes the experience is breathtaking. Other times, it all seems like haphazard noise. The sophomore effort by the British post-rock group Engineers, Three Fact Fader, finds itself vacillating between these two extremes.

Four years have passed since the release of their stellar self-titled debut in 2005. Since then, Engineers have focused on further developing their sound: a meld of ambient post-rock, shoegaze, and psychedelic influences. Though still sonically distinct (especially with the pillow-soft vocals of lead singer Simon Phipps), the end result is a lukewarm album that lacks substance.

Three Fact Fader comes on strong but cannot sustain itself. The opener, “Clean Coloured Wire,” establishes a swirling, smoldering sound which harkens back to their previous album. The song’s latent energy makes it an excellent prelude for the next track.

The album climaxes all too soon with the glorious “Sometimes I Realise.” The first lyric captures the dreamy essence of the song: “Time works slower in red / Flowing back to the start.” The driving bass line of the verse escalates up to the chorus, an afternoon thunderstorm of distortion and drums — easily the best moment on this album.

The cloudburst excitement of “Sometimes I Realise” is quickly dissipated by the next track, melancholically titled “International Dirge.” Slightly somber and flavored with psychedelic flourishes, it’s a decent song but does not mesh well with the established sound of the album. Fader begins to wander at this point with two more slow and sedated tracks.

Thankfully, the energy begins to rise again with “Hang Your Head,” an upbeat number with an insistent beat and huge swaths of guitar chords. Engineers also achieve a similar sense of liveliness with the title track, “Three Fact Fader.” But the sound changes, for the worse yet again, from animated to anemic for the next song.

With the possible exception of the final track, the back half of Three Fact Fader consists of decent yet forgettable songs. There are a few successful moments here and there: the string orchestra section at the end of “Emergency Room,” or the sudden transition in “The Fear Has Gone” from calmness to calamity. Yet overall, these tracks fail to provoke any emotions. Despite the tidal waves of droning guitars and cascading drums, there’s no feeling of majesty that groups like M83 or Sigur Rós accomplish so well.

In the end, Three Fact Fader loses itself in the ennui of shoegaze. Tracks like “Sometimes I Realise” demonstrate what Engineers are capable of, but the album as a whole fails to reach its potential — a disappointment considering some of the excellent parts in some songs. Fader sounds like a dream but it never awakens from its comatose state.

88.1 WKNC DJ Pick of the Week is published in every Tuesday print edition of the Technician, as well as online at and

New Album Review

88.1 WKNC Pick of the Week 7/29

Megafaun’s Gather, Form, & Fly Earns 5/5 Stars
Mike Alston

“I can read a painted picture;
Of life as it was in the past;
Why did I think it would last?
When all the colors keep on shifting.”

As Megafaun acknowledges in “Impressions of the Past,” the colors have certainly shifted since Wisconsin band DeYarmond Edison moved to North Carolina just a few years ago. They parted ways in 2006, and member Justin Vernon achieved national renown under the name Bon Iver. The three remaining members started a new band, calling themselves Megafaun.

Their first release—2008’s Bury the Square—was remarkable but also remarkably short, at just six tracks. So for a while, a Megafaun live show has been an experience in extrapolation, the band performing songs that are uniquely their style, but haven’t been available in recorded versions until now. And the word “style” is far more applicable in this context than “genre” would be. As has been explained in virtually every other piece written on Megafaun, they have no easily definable genre. Megafaun is ostensibly a folk band, sure, but saying their music is informed by folk music is akin to saying modern man is related to monkey. Somewhere along the line, we received opposable thumbs; somewhere along the line, “freak folk” was born.

“Freak folk” might best be explained anecdotally. Before I ever saw the band perform live, I saw banjo player Phil Cook perform Duke Ellington’s “The Single Petal of a Rose” on piano at an event in Chapel Hill. On the way home, I found out Megafaun was playing in downtown Raleigh and drove straight there to find Cook helping his band set up to perform and then bring the house down. The next time I saw them, guitarist Brad Cook played with the rest of the guys before handling bass duties for the Rosebuds in the very next set. Those nights spoke volumes in terms of the talent and dedication this band possesses. Their musical influences and tastes are all over the map, but they channel them to make ground-breaking music. They are so talented that writing and performing a verse-chorus-verse radio single would likely be mind-numbingly boring to them.

Anything but mind-numbing, however, are the unique and strangely beautiful touches on this album. All thirteen tracks bring something different to the table, including but not limited to the sounds of crickets chirping on one track and water dripping on another. Those along with beautiful harmonies and all sorts of musical exploration make Gather, Form, & Fly less a vehicle for a few songs and more a coherent (dare I say it) masterpiece. As with all of the best albums, the work should be experienced as a whole rather than as individual parts with an assigned track listing. Christy Smith of the Tender Fruit makes a guest appearance on “The Longest Day,” where her words ring true with respect to DeYarmond Edison’s split: “Cause I ain’t never seen a night that didn’t have a dawn.” The dawn has come for Megafaun, and what a bright dawn it is.

88.1 WKNC DJ Pick of the Week is published in every Tuesday print edition of the Technician, as well as online at and

New Album Review

88.1 Pick of the Week 6/11

Phoenix’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix earns 4 out of 5 stars
May Chung

The French quartet’s fourth studio album rips off not only Mozart’s name sake but also his unadulterated style. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is a composition of catchy ballads, orchestrated with dance pop ditties and heavy synths. The throwback to German romantic composers is the sort of puckish impudence that moves a limb or two. As it should.

Arguably, the album’s opener, “Lisztomania” is this summer’s belting roll-down-the-car-window hit for the Vampire Weekend crowd. “Darling I’m down and lonely” Phoenix’s front man, Thomas Mars croons in his ever-disaffected manner. Gloriously infectious, it is this kind of melodious case of the travesties that defy (or perhaps reinforce?) the Stokes comparisons. It only takes one spin to know why.

The use of falsettos (none more prevalent than in “Fences”) doesn’t seem to hurt either. They seem to be very popular in recent indie releases (think MGMT, Passion Pit). Still, they didn’t just land an SNL on high octaves alone. “1901” and “Rome” add to the ridiculously vivid guitar melodies. Both warrant continuous plays: the first, grandeur of hooks and likely successor to the season jam; the second, complete with snare hits and a riveting outro. So encouraging, it almost seems a shame not to live it up.

But the album’s best hit yet is “Lasso.“ From a whole album devoted to the eternally lovelorn, this one tears a new heartache. Where would you go with a lasso?” Mars inquires, “Could you go and run into me?” Is he wooing a cowgirl? No matter, the nostalgia is enough to encourage any silly old unpretentious fool to try his hand at love—only to be left listless and unfulfilled.

“Love Like a Sunset” has a reminiscent Air-like quality, which not surprising since it was Mars who was the voice behind “Playground Love.” (Incidentally, the song was used in The Virgin Suicides, directed by Thomas’s domestic companion and baby’s momma, Sofia Coppola). Over three-fourths through, the song diverges into a dreamy territory, though it is quite satisfying. It’s actually the sultriest bit of fun to come from the French since Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Dance me, Amadeus. Though Phoenix have been a staple in indie rock for quite some time, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is an innocently new beat, and is a craft in its own right, having been already labeled by many as one of the best records of the year.

Reports of their death have been greatly exaggerated. This Phoenix refuses to die.

88.1 WKNC DJ Pick of the Week is published in every Tuesday print edition of the Technician, as well as online at and

New Album Review

88.1 Pick of the Week 6/18

The Black Crowes’ Warpaint earns 4 out of 5 stars
Tyler Haggard

With 2008’s Warpaint, The Black Crowes redefined their already hazy musical parameters with a country/blues/hard rock release that broke a seven-year studio silence for the Georgia boys. With the addition of slide guitar virtuoso Luther Dickenson (North Mississippi All-Stars) filling the shoes of fan favorite Marc Ford, and keyboardist Adam MacDougall stepping in for long-time member Ed Harsch, the new Crowes sound succeeded in hitting that difficult mark of inventive roots rock.

April’s Warpaint Live confirms what die-hard fans (and band members) have preached throughout the Crowes’ 20+ year stint of making the good noise: The Black Crowes are a band to be experienced live. Members have honed their improvisational chops to a razor’s edge, and almost every track on this release outshines its studio doppelganger.

Recorded on March 20th, 2008 at the Wilhelm in Los Angeles, Warpaint Live catches one of the many shows the Crowes played immediately after Warpaint’s studio release, featuring the new album in its entirety followed by a set of covers and selections from the Crowes’ back catalogue. Singer Chris Robinson’s vocals are noticeably grittier than on the source material, adding a raw texture that perfectly compliments the lumbering blues trudge of “Walk Believer Walk” and the rock’n’roll gallop of “Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution.”

Brother Rich Robinson’s guitar plays the same role it always has: blurring the line between rhythm and lead, a term Keith Richards dubbed “the ancient art of weaving.” The second thread in that tapestry, provided by Dickenson’s velvet or molten (depending on the song) slide licks, sounds just as home with the psychedelic, Zeppelin-esque “Move It On Down the Line” as it does with the feel-good dijembe trot of the studio closer, “Whoa Mule.” Hearing how far Dickenson had come in the short interval of the studio recording and this live offering shows the new guitarist quickly establishing his niche in the band.

The album isn’t without flaw. Just as on the studio release, “God’s Got It,” a cover of an old Reverend Charlie Jackson staple, is too repetitive in lyric and structure to be redeemed by hot axe play. Likewise, the lyrics of “Evergreen” seem cliché and stifled- “Evergreen, evergreen, prettiest thing I’ve ever seen” smacks of bad high-school poetry, not Robinson’s usual eloquent stanzas. Thankfully, all is forgiven with “Oh Josephine,” boasting some of Chris’ finest ballad lyrics to date coupled with the most soulful solos of the entire album.

The second disc holds a few stellar covers, stand-outs being a dead-on rendition of The Rolling Stones’ “Torn and Frayed” and a kick-in-the-teeth romp through Moby Grape’s “Hey Grandma.” Rounding out the auxiliary disc is the never-released Crowes original, “Darling of the Underground Press,” a better version of which is tough to find, even in the Crowes’ leviathan live archives.

If Warpaint was a wry smile from the ever-changing Black Crowes, Warpaint Live is that same smile, sans brushing for about a week. All the more reason to don your Warpaint and join the jubilee.

88.1 WKNC DJ Pick of the Week is published in every Tuesday print edition of the Technician, as well as online at and

New Album Review

88.1 Pick of the Week 6/25

God Dethroned’s Passiondale
Rich Gurnsey

The Dutch death-metal band God Dethroned has been producing dark, heavy music since their formation in the early 1990s. Traditionally, most of their lyrical content revolved around anti-Christian sentiment, but recently they have found new inspiration for their music: a war-torn Belgian village called Passendale.

God Dethroned’s eighth studio album, Passiondale, is a ferocious concept album that plunges the listener deep into the mud-filled trenches of one of World War I’s bloodiest battles. The album begins with the foreboding intro track, “The Cross of Sacrifice,” complete with ominous guitars and the muted sounds of marching soldiers and distant artillery fire. The relative calm is soon broken by the explosive, blackened death metal blockbuster “Under a Darkening Sky,” which definitely gets the adrenaline pumping. This is one of the best songs on Passiondale, and the perfect track to set the tone for rest of this intense and emotional album.

“No Man’s Land” keeps up the furious pace with help from returning drummer Roel Sanders, who played on the band’s Grand Grimoire and Bloody Blasphemy albums. Sanders’ mad machine-gun-blast beats are the perfect complement to guitarist and singer Henri Sattler’s enunciated growls, which detail the atrocities of combat via ghastly lyrics such as “Only the rats grew fat on attrition, glutted with the flesh of dead soldiers.”

The highlight of the album is “Poison Fog,” a harrowing account of comrades being exposed to deadly mustard gas, told from the perspective of a surviving soldier. The bombastic music and vocals create an atmosphere of deep fear and panic. Likewise, the addition of clean singing and melodic breaks with swelling keyboards and melancholy guitar solos add to the music an element of sympathy that is rarely seen in the death-metal genre. These thoughtful moments contribute to the overall sophistication of the album.

By contrast, “Drowning in Mud” is a fast, brutal auditory depiction of trench warfare that has singer Sattler cautioning, “Don’t stick your head out. The sniper never sleeps.” Things slow down a bit for the mid-tempo title track, which is haunting and melodic, but the speed is immediately regained with “No Survivors,” which features more blast beats and blistering guitar solos.

The album nears its end with two fine examples of melodic death metal: “Behind Enemy Lines” and “Fallen Empires,” both of which showcase God Dethroned’s expert musicianship. Ultimately, the 38-minute album comes to a close with a mournful instrumental, “Artifacts of the Great War.” This moment of sensitivity nicely bookends this hard, bullet-riddled album.

Although Passiondale doesn’t serve as a history lesson, God Dethroned seems to have come awfully close to capturing the raw emotions of combat. The band has also come awfully close to recapturing the level of quality songwriting that was attained with its Bloody Blasphemy album. Fans of God Dethroned should be pleased because,with Passiondale, the band has reached yet another peak.

88.1 WKNC DJ Pick of the Week is published in every Tuesday print edition of the Technician, as well as online at and

New Album Review

88.1 Pick of the Week 7/9

These Times Old Times, 4.5 out of 5 stars
Jake Mueller

Lonnie Walker: if you haven’t heard of them by now you should have. This local band has recently dropped their debut album, These Times Old Times, through Terpsikhore Records and it does not disappoint. Their effortless mix of Americana with indie rock has gained quite a following and the local music scene is taking notice. This one-time Greenville solo project from front man Brian Corum has evolved into a five piece messenger of rock with a style that falls somewhere between folk and roots while not forgetting to add that hint of twang every North Carolinian knows and loves.

Songs draw you in, lulling you into a comfortable complacency, then seem to fire into a high energy surge of distortion and rhythm before dropping out and leaving you wanting more. Tracks like Grape Juice and Wider than White bring a more conventional rock feel, or at least as conventional as you can expect from this band, while others, Ships and Pendulum’s Chest, crescendo into emotional songs leaving you with an almost helpless feeling before bringing you back to where they started. Compass Comforts is a rambling tune rolling in and out of crashing vocals and wild guitar. Needless to say one can feel the energy through their speakers.

The album itself seems to flow almost like a book with the songs being its chapters, seamlessly moving from one to another. Each song has its unique hook and distinctive sound yet the album as a whole share a common theme and direction. As each song ends I was egger to find out where the music would go next. All of this combined with their lo-fi style gives the music a sense of instant credibility, naturally fitting in with many styles of music while remaining original. Perhaps one of the most original qualities of their music is Corum’s vocal style. Try to imagine Bob Dylan on speed and you can get a feel for what the band sounds like. It is almost as if every word is being pushed out, adding a special sincere edge to his lyrics.

I suggest you get hip and listen in on the new sound Lonnie Walker brings to the triangle. With their local roots and instant listening appeal they are surely here to stay.

88.1 WKNC DJ Pick of the Week is published in every Tuesday print edition of the Technician, as well as online at and

New Album Review

Chrisette Michele defies the Sophomore Jinx

Chrisette Michele: Epiphany
Released 5/5/09
4.5/5 stars

For many artists, the sophomore album is a crucial one. If its predecessor was a hit, the bar is set high, but if it was a flop, this album could feasibly make or break their career. Many artists have fallen into the curse that is the “sophomore jinx,"  but Chrisette Michele manages not only to meet the bar, she exceeds all previous expectations with Epiphany.

With Epiphany, Chrisette’s traditional vocal stylings have evolved into a more well-rounded R&B sound, retaining the jazz influences from her debut album,  I am, yet adding more of a modern, urban, youthful vibe. Epiphany mainly focuses on the joys and sorrows love brings from the viewpoint of a strong, independent woman, with a fragile heart.

 The first single "Epiphany,” bearing the albums title, begins with “It’s
over.” The Ne-Yo-produced piano driven single describes how Michele has
finally come to an important realization and decides that it’s time to
leave an unhealthy relationship. It is the perfect opening to a stellar

Following “Epiphany” is the beautifully written ballad “Notebook,”
describing how Michele is afraid to tell a prospective mate that she has
a crush and instead opts to confide in the pages of her notebook.

The album hit’s its stride with “Blame It on Me,” in which Michele
is at her finest vocally, confessing that she doesn’t care who takes the blame
for a failed relationship “as long as it’s over.”

Next is “All I Ever Think About.” Its old school R&B vibe, heavy bass and impassioned vocals make it the album’s best, as Michele bares her heart and soul over an imperfect relationship, which in fact is quite perfect.

Epiphany successfully moves from soulful melodies to urban-pop with
the acoustic guitar-ridden “Playin’ Our Song” and “On My Own.” The
former has Michele convincing herself that she’s fine after a breakup, but in reality she’s heartbroken, while the latter has Michele acknowledging its time to claim her independence and transform into a woman.

Many of the albums standouts were written and produced by R&B singer Ne-Yo, including  “Porcelain Doll, "Another One” and “What You Do.” Chrisette is a modern day Billie Holiday on the feisty empowering, “Porcelain Doll”, proclaiming boldly that she is no one’s trophy. “Another One” echo’s the sentiments of the aforementioned, as Michele confesses that she’s a “grown woman, dealing with grown woman things”. And with “What You Do”, Michele makes it clear that actions speak louder than words. 

The majority of Epiphany consists of ballads and mid-tempos, but “Mr.Right” and “Fragile”, prove Michele she can successfully tackle up-tempo’s as well. The Doo-Wop, Hip-Hop and Lauryn Hill influenced “Mr. Right” finds Michele explaining how she has found the perfect person for her. “Fragile” and “I’m Okay” expose Michele’s vulnerabilities and express how love has hurt her.

Epiphany encompasses all the qualities needed to produce a classic album, with its colorful production, catchy melodies and complex vocal arrangements, thoughtful lyrical content and unique, edgy vocals. Chrisette Michele has truly reinvigorated the world of R&B music, as Ephiphany is one of the years best.

For more on Chrisette Michele click here.

88.1 WKNC DJ Pick of the Week is published in the print edition of the Technician, as well as online at and

New Album Review

Jon Hopkins


Jon Hopkins is a British musician who writes and performs his own music, melody-led electronica. His album Insides is definitely worth listening to.

For someone who has recently supported Coldplay on tour, co-produced a couple of their tracks and has co-written the soundtrack to the forthcoming Peter Jackson film, The Lovely Bones, you wouldn’t think that Jon Hopkins would have any time or energy left to release his own solo album.

Fortunately, he did. And the composer, pianist and self-taught studio wizard provides another impressive album packed full of lose-yourself electronica mixed with beautifully haunting piano, synths and a pulsing bass. Insides, his third album offering, rollercoasters from track to track going through the gloomy, the upbeat and somewhere indescribable in-between with almost every song seamlessly interacting with the next.

Commit yourself to seeing the whole album through in one go and you’ll find the hypnotic rhythms will take you deep into Jon’s delicately created world. In ‘Vessel’ you just begin to understand the album’s title as the distant-thunder sound of pulsating waves merges into the dawn-breaking piano that transports the music deep into your consciousness before it’s suddenly regurgitated back up by some intense bass and awakening energetic synths.

‘Autumn Hill’, ‘The Low Places’ and ‘Small Memory’ are stand-out tracks due to Jon’s use of piano. Clearly a master of the instrument, it is never overdone, as he creates dark, occasionally balled-esque melodies on top of basslines that wouldn’t feel out of place on a dance-floor. ‘Wire’ has an industrial feel that continues to grow in volume until it reaches an intensive peak, before gradually and symmetrically slowing down and returning to beginning.

Messy-sounding ‘Colour Eye’ is the exception on the album. The track’s etching, scratches and crackles seem a bit too congested and it doesn’t quite connect with the rest of the album’s gentleness like many other of the songs. What makes Insides great is that it allows you to open your mind and let the atmospheres he’s created come in and take over. Jon’s in full control here: he’s had no remit or strict deadline, resulting in a carefully crafted collection of perfect escapism.

It isn’t particularly ground-breaking; in fact, on the grand scale of things it’s just another little slice of musical uniqueness. The fact that it comes from someone who understands music in a deeper and more personal way than most in this genre is what makes Insides stand out from the rest.