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Classic Album Review

Album Review: Coastal Grooves by Blood Orange

ALBUM: “Coastal Grooves” by Blood Orange

RELEASE YEAR: 2011

LABEL: Domino Recording Co.

RATING: 9/10

BEST TRACKS: “Sutphin Avenue”, “Can We Go Inside Now” and “Champagne Coast”

FCC: Clean

Devonte Hynes, otherwise known as Blood Orange, is arguably one of the best composers of our generation. His experimentation with synths, falsettos, and dance music paired with compelling, emotional lyrics makes his music truly unforgettable. Through his songs, he tackles topics like sexuality, race, and gender identity.

The first time I heard Dev Hynes’ music I was a surly 14-year-old, rarely impressed by anything. However, I was obsessed with this indie movie called “Palo Alto,” which he produced the soundtrack for. Something about that score really stuck with me. It was so beautifully reflective of the nostalgic and free-spirited feeling of the movie.

“Coastal Grooves,” his first full-length album, is a masterpiece. Released in 2011, it has a distinct ’80s energy. Combining all of Dev’s strengths, it’s a powerful fusion of pop, indie, R&B, electronica, and post-punk. Dynamic, hard-hitting drums echo behind synth keyboards. His signature falsetto voice flows across each song in whispers rather than belts. Influenced by the New York night scene, Dev draws his inspiration for “Coastal Grooves” from drag clubs and gay bars. What I love about this album is his surfy plucking on the electric guitar; In songs like “Sutphin Boulevard” and “Are You Sure You’re Really Busy?,” the groove part of “Coastal Grooves” really stands out.

Above all else, this album is sultry, lush, and soulful. Though “Negro Swan” (2018) and “Freetown Sound” (2016) tend to get the most press out of all his discography, to me “Coastal Grooves” is a true gem. If you haven’t heard it already, give it a listen!

Stay tuned in!

– DJ Butter

Categories
Classic Album Review

Album Review: Punisher – Phoebe Bridgers

ALBUM: “Punisher” by Phoebe Bridgers

RELEASE YEAR: 2020

LABEL: Dead Oceans

RATING /10: 10 – an emo-folk masterpiece

BEST TRACKS: “Moon Song”, “Halloween” and “ICU”

FCC: (none)

Phoebe Bridgers got nominated in March 2021 in the Spotify Awards as “Best New Artist of 2021”, and as someone who’s been a fan of her music ever since her first album came out, I thought I’d write something about her second album “Punisher”, which led her to slowly but surely rise to the success she’s always deserved. If I had one dollar for every time I’ve cried listening to Phoebe Bridgers, I’d be filthy rich by now. If you’re not familiar with her music, let me try to describe it metaphorically for you. While Phoebe’s first album “Stranger In The Alps” sounded like a quiet whisper coming from the French mountains, “Punisher” sounds like a mellow cry for help coming from the nocturnal abyss of the desert. That’s the closest I can get to describing her style, which fits into the folk, indie and emo genres all at the same time. Each song off the album perfectly renders her emo-folk apocalyptic universe: low reverbed notes, a slow strumming of the guitar and Phoebe’s soft voice as an echo — that’s how “Punisher” sounds like as a whole. The only songs that are not quite like the others are surprisingly “Kyoto”, which has been her most famous single off the album, and “Graceland Too”. While every other song makes me want to curl up under a blanket and stare endlessly at the ceiling, “Kyoto” is more on the upbeat and fast-paced side, and the banjo in “Graceland Too” makes for a really great country-folk ballad.

That being said, if you really want to appreciate Phoebe’s music, pay attention to the lyrics. As far as I’m concerned, I could spend hours reading about “Punisher”’s lyrics on Genius. If you look into it, you’ll quickly realize that what sounds like your regular sad folk song actually depicts obscure stories about drugs, death, dead relationships and Phoebe’s existential crisis – all at the same time. The album cover matches perfectly what she writes about: Phoebe is standing alone in the desert in a skeleton suit, bathing in bright red light, while the world around her is engulfed in dark blue.  In an interview with “Our Culture Mag”, Olof Grind, the Swedish photographer behind the cover, describes Phoebe as “standing completely still, waiting to be beamed up by aliens” and it reminded me instantly of “Chinese Satellite” where she mentions wanting to believe in extraterrestrial life: “I look at the sky and I feel nothing / You know I hate to be alone / I want to be wrong”. Phoebe is desperately looking for “a new place to be from” (“I Know The End”) by staring at the stars in the sky, but can hardly bring herself to believe in anything supernatural.

What fascinates me most about Phoebe is her ability to incorporate contemporary poetry techniques into her songwriting, by bringing together completely unrelated themes in a way that feels oddly normal. “Always surprised by what I do for love / Some things I never expect / They killed a fan down by the stadium / Was only visiting and they beat him to death”. These lines from “Halloween” correlates codependent tendencies with the literal murder of a hooligan after a game, and while it doesn’t really make sense, it somehow does. Passion and death always seem to find their way back to each other in Phoebe’s universe.

I firmly believe you have to listen to “Punisher” as one long poem to truly get its essence. If this is your first time listening to this album, I would recommend playing the songs in order and listen to each one of them until the very end. It’s the only way you’ll be able to fully indulge in their melancholy. However, if you’re looking for a specific song to drown your sadness in, “Moon Song” struck me as one of the most heartbreaking song on the album. “You couldn’t have / Stuck your tongue down the throat of somebody / Who loves you more / So I will wait for the next time you want me / Like a dog with a bird at your door” – these lines crushed me instantly when I heard them for the first time, and they still do even after my 100000th time listening.

 Saying that “Punisher” is one of my favorite albums of all time would be an understatement. Listening to Phoebe strumming the guitar and singing about dead relationships, supernatural entities and the end of the world strangely makes me feel safe, like I’ve found a home in her peaceful yet dark post-apocalyptic universe. If you haven’t listened to “Punisher” yet but plan to, let this be your final content warning: you can let Phoebe sing you to sleep, but you must expect her to come haunting your dreams afterwards.

  • Lise Nox

Categories
Classic Album Review

Classic Album Review: Sixtape

ALBUM: “Sixtape” by Bino Rideaux and Blxst

RELEASE YEAR: 2019

LABEL: Evgle/Out The Blue Records

RATING: 9/10

BEST TRACKS: “Bacc Home,” “Selfish” and “Savage”

FCC: Explicit Album

Imagine this scenario. You are driving down the street with your windows rolled down. The sun is out but a cool breeze creates the perfect temperature for outside. You cut the radio on and you are looking for an album that fits this feeling. Sixtape is the album that does just that.

Hailing from Los Angeles, California, Bino Rideaux and Blxst are two quickly emerging artists that are gaining a buzz for their alluring sound. Sixtape was an opportunity for these two seemingly different artists to come together and show how well their styles mix with ease. With all six songs from the project produced by Blxst himself, each song offers smooth rhodes chords coupled with hard hitting drums that create a euphoria similar to the first day of Summer. Stacked on top of this includes witty bars from Blxst and Bino’s butter smooth vocals and hooks. The album tempo even provides high energy and relaxing sonics that make it easy for someone in any mood to begin bobbing their head the moment the radio gets turned up.

This project can easily be considered a classic and is a great starting point for a listener who is trying to get more into either artists’ music. It certainly grows on you the more you listen and has definitely found its way into my daily soundtrack. A potential sequel has also been teased for fans who are watching these two artists grow to stardom. What is in store? We’ll have to stay tuned.

-Nate

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Classic Album Review

Album Review: 3.15.20 by Childish Gambino

ALBUM: “3.15.20” by Childish Gambino (Donald Glover)

RELEASE YEAR: 2020

LABEL: Sony Entertainment

RATING: 10/10

BEST TRACKS: “Algorythm,” “12.38” and “42.26”

FCC: Not Clean

This album was gifted to Childish Gambino fans when we needed it most. Released right at the start of quarantine, this album was largely forgotten because of the unfortunate timing. But as I mentioned before, it was a real treat for those of us craving some much-needed musical escapism.

“3.15.20” is largely comprised of a mish-mash of unofficially released singles, the most notable being “42.26,” otherwise known as “Feels Like Summer.” However, there are a handful of songs that were made specifically for “3.15.20.” “Algorhythm,” a terrifying electro-funk ballad, is my personal favorite. It really shows Glover’s tendency to manipulate sound in unique ways. On the more poppy side of things, “12.38” featuring 21 Savage and Kadhja Bonet is an absolute masterpiece. I am in love with 21’s part, with its hitting lyrics and striking snares. Kadhja’s interjecting vocals add an element of depth to the upbeat track too.

The sound that Childish Gambino creates in this album transcends anything he’s done before. His use of autotune and layering makes each song feel so atmospheric. Sometimes when artists rely on autotune it can feel forced and unoriginal, but the way Donald uses it only adds to the vocal talent he naturally has. For example, in “24.19,” his ability to switch seamlessly between his pure voice and a more synthesized sound is impeccable.

“3.15.20” has all of the soul that “Awaken, My Love!” does, but with a darker twist. It’s clear that Donald’s experimentation reached new levels in this album. If you haven’t heard it already, give it a listen!

– DJ Butter

Categories
Classic Album Review

Album of the Week: Metallica – Metallica (1991)

Metallica (aka “The Black Album”) was released by the metal giants, Metallica, on August 12, 1991 by Elektra Records. It was the band’s fifth studio album – Kill ‘Em All (’83), Ride the Lightning (’84), Master of Puppets (’86), and …And Justice for All (’88) – and the second in the series for Elektra Records (Justice). Of course James Hetfield mans the helm as singer and guitarist, Kirk Hammett plays lead guitar, Lars Ulrich is on drums, and the wildman Jason Newsted plays bass (he started with the band after the death of Cliff Burton, during the Master of Puppets tours). 

Metallica is fundamentally far removed from everything that came before it. The band, known for its speed and mastery of the Thrash Metal genre, began to separate from that era on Justice; but they came totally apart from it for this record. The incredible riff writings of Hetfield are definitely still here, and thrash has been replaced by bone crushing heavy metal of the highest order. The epics of the previous albums, with the multiple, twisting, layered riffs and extended length songs are replaced by quickly-to-the-point power chords and hooks. I think the most interesting development is (comparatively speaking) how slow the songs are on this record! I mean, they are certainly heavy, but far slower than the thrash of old. Though the band says it was never a goal for this album, the new direction was a HUGE commercial success. In my opinion, this record serves as a clear dividing line, that stands on its own, between the “old” Metallica and the “new.” 

Metallica is the band’s best-selling record. It debuted at #1 in ten countries, and spent four consecutive weeks at #1 on Billboards Top 200. The record is one of the best-selling albums worldwide, and one of the best selling in the United States. In December 2019, Metallica is the fourth album in American history to spend longer than 550 weeks on the Billboard Top 200. It is certified 16× Platinum by RIAA as of 2012, and has sold over 16 million copies in the US to date. 

Favorite songs: Sad But True (will bash your brains in) ; Don’t Tread on Me (is a bop) ; Enter Sandman ; My Friend of Misery

Rating: 10/10!! 

Stay Metal,

THE SAW

Categories
Band/Artist Profile Classic Album Review Miscellaneous Music Education New Album Review

New Music Alert: 666

Warning: listening to this music may cause a significant increase in heat. Your body may feel hot and you will feel an overwhelming sensation of “fire.” The Sugar Candy Album “666” is a unique style of music that was perfected by the cross-section of the passing of early 2010’s Psychedelic Rock and the popularization of more mellow Indie Pop. All pretentiousness aside, 666 is a really good album. It is probably Sugar Candy Mountain’s best music that they’ve put out since they emerged back in 2014 with their first full album “Mystic Hits.” 

While “Mystic Hits” was undoubtedly a hit, “666” showcased the band coming into their own unique sound. Most of their songs tend to follow a similar pattern. The beginning starts out with a lackadaisical, relaxed beat that goes on throughout the entirety of the song while multiple layers slowly get added on as the song goes on. Moreover, the songs steadily flow into each other, making it easy to listen to all the way through. 

However, if you’re in a rush and don’t have time to listen to the whole album, I would suggest starting with the first three songs and ending with the eighth and ninth. “Windows” and “Change” make a good impression of the album and “666” is definitely going to be one of my most played songs of the year. With it’s echoed guitar and dreamy lyrics, the song can change around my mood on even the most stressful of days. 

Well that’s about all I have to say for this album, would definitely recommend with a score of 9/10. 
Hope you guys enjoy the music, 
-The DJ Formerly Known as Chippypants 

Categories
Classic Album Review

Classic Review: Soviet Kitsch by Regina Spektor

A smirking Regina Spektor drinks vodka amid a background of Russian nesting dolls on the album cover of Soviet Kitsch

Regina Spektor has gotten the short end of the stick in terms of early 2000’s indie. While her contemporaries like Amanda Palmer and Fiona Apple have developed a ride-or-die fanbase, Spektor is probably best known today for… writing the theme song for Orange Is the New Black? Don’t get me wrong, that theme song is one of the best things about an already good show, but there is so much more to Spektor’s music than just a killer pop song, so let’s look at one of her weirdest and most endearing albums “Soviet Kitsch.”

“Soviet Kitsch,” is, at its heart, a set of piano ballads. A simple form that makes an excellent showcase for just how freaking strange this woman is. She grunts, coos, belts, oohs, and ahs her way through almost every song on the tracklist, weaving these vocal ticks in with melodies organically to entrancing effect.

Her skills as a pianist are equally singular (indulge this classical piano-loving nerd for a moment if you will). She plays the usual notes of her songs in the most unusual of ways. The chords form familiar progressions, but she accentuates them with unexpected dynamic changes and staccato hits on off beats. The notes come not as a smooth melody, but as a flurry, unlocking the percussive potential of her instrument in ways Fiona Apple wouldn’t until last year.

However, for all its musical strengths, the true value of Soviet Kitsch is in the lyrics. Spektor takes her background as a Russian immigrant as a perspective, not subject matter. She frames familiar topics from the unique Eastern-bloc worldview that will be familiar to anyone who has had an extended conversation with an older Russian person. Social issues we think of as trite and incomprehensible- refusing treatment for cancer, nostalgia for a long-gone political order- are portrayed empathetically, though not always flatteringly, by a woman caught between two worlds. The lyrics find old ways of saying new things; classical forms used for subversive ends.

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Classic Album Review

Classic Album Review: Zentropy

Written by Miranda

Frankie Cosmos, also known as Greta Kline; a well-loved indie artist, has been making incredible music since “Zentropy”, her first studio album. Not only is this album well-done for a 19-year-old independent artist (at the time), it remains one of my favorite works. “Zentropy” helped set the stage for future success for Kline in subsequent years and helped establish her within the indie pop scene. 

The album begins with an ode to the dreariness of school and ends with the sadness of a dog’s passing away. It’s strange, girlish, experimental, but simple. The beauty of this album is highlighted in its simplicity. A mixture of mediocre electric guitar and drum beats are all that makes up the melodies on the album, but sweet-sounding vocals entice the listener. Frankie Cosmos gives a solid look at the life of a nineteen-year-old girl. Issues of love flings, loss of pets, and disinterest in school make up most of the album. Her ability to use simple lyricism to convey these ideas gives an easy glimpse into her life and what is most important to her. The emotional depth of this album and its catchyness as an indie pop-adjacent style of album makes it one that is so easy to return to again and again. Even seven years after its release, I find the lyrics stuck inside my head while I go about my daily life – thinking of lyrics like “I’m the type of girl/Buses splash with rain” or “This is when I say my I love you.” Surprisingly (or not), “Zentropy” ended up gaining 

Frankie Cosmos has come a long way since this first studio album, since creating three more albums and dozens of music videos. Her latest album was released in 2019, and she has teased fans throughout quarantine with Instagram performances of her music and hopefully a new album coming soon.

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Classic Album Review

The Saw’s Choice Cuts: Three Albums for Your Consumption

How’s it going, Butcher Crew?! Today I have collected for you three albums that are heavy on my rotation lately. All three records were released during 2020, and all three were released by Unique Leader Records. Watch these three bands. And enjoy the madness of these three albums that made The Saw’s Choice Cuts. They will surely pound you into dust! 

Where Only Gods May Tread (2020, Unique Leader Records) is the 5th studio album from the British Brutal Death Metal band, Ingested. Now, I’m here to tell you, this band delivers the beat-downs in quick order! Jason Evans utilizes many different forms and types of vocal techniques – most notably, screams and gutterals in a more DeathCore fashion. In fact, IMO, Sam Yates and Sean Hines (guitars), Lyn Jeffs (drums), and Brad Fuller (bass) masterfully deliver the beatings in a sort of Brutal DeathCore/Technical Death Metal assault that will leave you gasping for air. Formed in 2006, Ingested have some miles on their carcasses! As an example of their crushing abilities, they’ve toured with the likes of Black Dahlia Murder, Carnifex, 3 Inches of Blood, Aborted, Disentomb, Enterprise Earth, I Declare War, Kublai Khan, Despised Icon, and Cryptopsy to name a few. 

Favorite Songs: Follow the Deceiver; The Burden of Our Failures; Leap of the Faithless

Rating: 9/10! This one will beat your brains in, for a long time! 

Revive The Throne (2020, Unique Leader Records) is the 7th full length album from the German GrindCore/Brutal Death Metal band, Stillbirth. This band is as old as me, forming in 1999! Now, here is what I like about these butchers, they strongly incorporate the CORE (as in HardCore) aspect into their efforts. With multiple tempo changes, mid-riff (the GrindCore aspect), and crushing, gurgling gutterals, this record will give you whiplash. Lukas Swiaczney is the vicious vocal master, Dominik Konig also gutterals, and plays bass, Martin Grupe is banging, smoothly and quickly on drums, Jens Strack and Simon Sturmlinger slay the blistering dual guitars, and Lukas Kaminski is like a steam roller on the 2nd bass. Double gutterals and double bass players?! You know the beatings are life threatening! 

Favorite Songs: Degraded to Mutilation; Panem et Circenses; Dethrone the King

Rating: 8/10! Skull splitting frenzy!! 

Nuklearth is the newest album (2020, Unique Leader Records) by the German band, Cytotoxin. Right from the start, I’ve got to say that this band is like the WhiteChapel of Technical/Brutal Death Metal (and you already know that I love some WhiteChapel!). But this record… what an incredible piece of work we have, here! The arrangement, style, and structure of the powerful music by Fonzo and Jason (guitars), Stocki (drums) and Vitalis (bass) is nothing but pure, “Chernobyl Death Metal” (as Cytotoxin, themselves, refer it), and Grimo’s vocal delivery is nearly perfect – brutal gutterals and growls (reminding me of Phil!). Cytotoxin formed in 2010 and Nuklearth is their fourth full length album. 

Favorite Songs: Soul Harvester; Coast of Lies; Nuklearth

Rating: 10/10!! This record will bang for MANY years to come!!

Stay Metal,

THE SAW

Categories
Classic Album Review

Album of the Week: All That Remains – This Darkened Heart (2004)

The second studio album from All That Remains, This Darkened Heart, was released on March 23, 2004 (Prosthetic / Razor & Tie). The band’s debut record, Behind Silence and Solitude, as well as its third release, The Fall of Ideals, are very good records in their own rights; but it is their sophomore release that stands in a category all its own. 

So, All That Remains was first listed as a “Heavy Metal” band, with This Darkened Heart listed in the genre of “Melodic Death Metal.” Later, the band would come to be known as one of the first bands of an evolving sub-genre known as Metal Core, while the vocal style of This Darkened Heart is a perfect example of very early “Death Core;” though, the music (and its composition) is very much Heavy Metal, leaning toward Death Metal. Today, this combination of styles would be considered a band’s way of breaking out of the various “Core” genres. But in 2004, this is the expression of a band forging an entirely new brand of Metal. 

Philip Labonte (Shadows Fall) is the founder and lead vocalist of All That Remains. He is one of the visionaries of the, then, forming new genre of Metal. His first band (in the mid-90s) was a Death Metal band called Perpetual Doom, where he also played guitar. He left the band to join Shadows Fall as the lead vocalist, recording the band’s debut album, Somber Eyes to the Sky, in ’97. He left Shadows Fall the following year due to “musical differences,” and formed All That Remains. In 2010 Labonte filled in as the touring vocalist for Killswitch Engage. And in 2016 he filled in as lead vocalist for Five Finger Death Punch. Labonte had a great band with him for This Darkened Heart with Mike Martin and Oli Herbert on guitars, Matt Deis on bass, and Michael Bartlett on drums. 

I understand This Darkened Heart to be a bridge between Metal genres. While All That Remains went on to be more Metal Core, this record, with its combination of styles, really helped the logic of the evolution of sub-genres. My dad (The OG), as an Old School Death Metal head, remembers when this record dropped. “Oh, I loved the riffs of the songs, and Philip’s vocals were incredible. But I also recognized that there was something different being developed, here. The structures of the songs were departing from the style of pure Death Metal, while the riffs were very Old School. And the vocals, while delivered with “gravel,” were more melodic, but not like Melodic Death Metal. We knew that something new was happening.” 

There are exactly 0 wasted songs on This Darkened Heart. This is truly a great record that still, today, speaks to the struggles and suffering of life lived in community; the darkness of loneliness and the light of friends and loved ones. This record, itself, is a light in that darkness. 

Favorite Songs: Focus Shall Not Fail; Tattered on My Sleeve; This Darkened Heart 

Rating: 10/10!! A perfect record at the perfect time 

Stay Metal, 

THE SAW