Miscellaneous Music Education Non-Music News

Shaken Nerves and Rattled Brains – “Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble in Mind”

Every rockstar has their peccadillos and predilections, but very few have eclipsed the trouble conjured by Jerry Lee Lewis.

From drunken rages, pill-induced furies, mysterious deaths and all around rambunctious activity — Jerry Lee Lewis was a man possessed — in every sense of the word.

Released in 2022, “Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble in Mind” presents Ethan Coen’s attempt at reconciling the man’s frankly tricky legacy with his indelible, foundational rock and roll.

A scant 73-minutes long, the documentary is entirely comprised of archival material: television footage, photographs and recordings all championing the wild man of rock. In other words, it’s one hell of a highlight reel.

Beyond the obligatory 70s Johnny Carson appearances, Coen keeps the private and intimate life of the Lewis house just that — private.

There’s no mass-reckoning with the man behind the piano and there’s no unmasking of “Killer” — it’s a portrait of Jerry Lee Lewis as the piano shaking, party making pioneer — no more and no less.

Honestly, I expected more from Coen on his solo debut, a tricky story told by a filmmaker who seems to revel in the trick.

The juxtaposition between the sane and insane — or rather, the insane and mundane — that makes the Coen Brothers’ films so enticing is noticeably absent in this first-person portrayal of Lewis’ meteoric rise, fall and unlikely return from the ashes time and time again.

If anything, Coen seems to pull his punches towards Lewis, falling back on the routine excuse: “It was a different time.”

In conversation surrounding the scandalous marriage to 13-year-old cousin Myra Brown, Coen and his team seemingly absolve Lewis of fault.

By the age of 22, Lewis had already been married twice, the first of which happening just after his sixteenth birthday.

While there’s no blanket statement absolving Lewis of his sins, the inclusion of the factoid is eyebrow-raising in comparison to his child bride.

Similarly, his notorious temper is treated with similar grace; a violent feud with Elvis boils down to nothing more than career misgivings and undo praise no different than Little Richard and James Brown with no mention of Lewis’ drunken threat to shoot Presley while on a visit to Graceland.

Similarly, one of the many incidents of gun violence against his band members is only mentioned in a brief talk show appearance and largely written off as just another legendary quirk.

For a man of such scandalous, tabloid-type character, Coen seems to skirt much of it for reason’s I’m not quite sure of.

It’s a good film and a highly entertaining watch, but that’s where the buck stops with “Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble in Mind.”

Coen isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel or run a mass expose on Lewis; he’s simply spotlighting the tour-de-force of the pioneering rocker.

For fans willing to brush aside their personal quibbles and those who are new to the spectacle of Jerry Lee Lewis, Coen’s documentary is a wonderful, cursory glance at the life of a legend.

– Bodhi

Music Education

What is Sasscore? A Genre Field Guide

It’s been a while since I’ve jumped into another genre that sounds made up.

A kaleidoscope of influences — hardcore, post-hardcore, metal, new wave, disco, etc. — consistently infused with cheeky irreverence and borderline-effeminate vocality, sasscore is a truly magnificent musical monstrosity that spits in the face of hypermasculinity. Hipsters before hipsters were uncool.

The Compendium of Sass

A “compendium of sass” posted to the now-defunct website “Stuff You Will Hate” described sasscore as “all about tight pants, pink, snotty attitudes, sweaty dance parties, keyboards, androgynous Asian band members and explicit homoeroticism.”

According to the compendium’s anonymous author, sasscore is, plainly put, “Hardcore for the angry skinny boys full of sexual tension and a great collection of skinny ties and thrift store slim-fit suit jackets before those were even a thing that cool people wore.”

Scathing commentary aside, sasscore seems to perfectly encapsulate a highly-specific and lamentably short-lived era of late 90’s and early 2000’s aesthesis.

Screamo band Ostraca performing live in 2015. Licensed CC BY-SA 4.0

Just as “twee” describes a brief-but-irrefutably punctuating period of Moldy Peaches-listening, Oxford-wearing, tote bag-carrying proto-hipsterism, sasscore highlights the intersection of “hipster-scenester” male sexuality, “femme arthouse stuff,” and alternative music long before “hipster” became a derogatory term.

And it was polarizing, for sure. People either loved sasscore or absolutely hated it (evidently enough to psychoanalyze its fans on troll websites).

Why Hate Sass?

The anonymous author speculated that one reason the genre was met with such fervent resistance was due to the “latent discomfort hardcore has always had with male sexuality, be it heterosexual or homosexual.”

While there are certainly some points in the author’s manifesto that strike me as conjecture rather than analysis, I do agree that sasscore seems to find its roots in its opposition to the hegemonic masculinity of the hardcore scene.

Cover for “Black Eyes” by “Black Eyes”

As we’ve seen with other genres like riot grrrl, queer/homocore and egg punk, the “boy’s club” atmosphere of the hardcore scene is, to put it plainly, highly divisive. While nonconformity is the alleged crux of punk ethos, the veneration of hypermasculinity overshadows the scene’s diversity.

In a way, sasscore is the antithesis of the hypermasculine. While still majorly male-dominated, sasscore artists never shy away from the “feminine,” dressing somewhere between punks, hipsters and scene kids and infusing their instrumentation and stylistics with audacious and experimental styles.

The Emergence of Sass

Sass rose as a movement in the early 2000s with the work of bands like The Crimson Curse, Orchid, The Blood Brothers, Black Eyes (one of my favorite sass bands) and The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower.

Cover for “Dance Tonight! Revolution Tomorrow!” by Orchid

At the same time, other bands such as Destroyer Destroyer, Tower of Rome and many others excluded sasscore’s post-hardcore influences, instead fusing sasscore with mathcore and grindcore. The resulting genre became known as white belt.

Some newer white belt bands that mix hardcore, slam, grind and metalcore revival include SeeYouSpaceCowboy, The Callous Daoboys, and .gif from god (who I saw live last year)

The Sound of Sass

According to Phillip Stounn of DIY Conspiracy, sasscore incorporates elements from genres within and outside of punk and is generally considered a post-hardcore style.

Key stylistic features include an “over-the-top, spastic edge, dissonant, chaotic guitars, occastional dance rhythms, synths and blast beats.”

In 2017, writer Ellie Kovach (influenced by “the compendium of sass”) described the genre’s “lisping vocals shouting incredibly erotic lyrics over chaotic guitar runs and keyboards” and “flamboyant, homoerotic clothing and behavior” as being primarily directed at hardcore’s “tough-guy” culture and “the PC crowd’s stifling lack of ability to have fun.”

Final Thoughts

I’m always a sucker for a genre that counters counterculture, and I always jump at the opportunity to elicit some early-2000’s nostalgia.

While sasscore certainly isn’t for everybody, I find that it’s my particular flavor of so-weird-it’s-almost-bad music. Would I play Black Eyes for my family? Probably not. But have I listened through their self-titled album more times than I can count? Absolutely.

If you’re someone interested in music with a “spastic edge,” then perhaps you should check out sasscore. If you like things a bit on the heavier side, check out white belt.

Classic Album Review Music Education

Power on Dylan, or: The Power of Dylan

A look at “Cat Power Sings Dylan: The 1966 Royal Albert Hall Concert.”

By 1966, Bob Dylan and his apostolic audience were at odds and that tension boiled to a head during one pivotal set at Manchester Free Trade Hall, not the misbilled Royal Albert Hall.

In 2022, Cat Power brought Dylan’s words back home, this time in the right venue.

Power, the notorious alternative folk songstress of ’90s acclaim, while known for being obtuse and inaccessible, feels remarkably accessible in this recording.

Released in 2023, as far as cover albums go – which she is no stranger to – this one is almost painfully straightforward.

Equal parts faithful reconstruction and self-aware reimagining of Dylan’s last supper, the album playfully tugs at the frayed edges of folk’s second death knell – Farcically, Dylan had already “killed” folk alongside Mike Bloomfield the year before at the 1965 Manchester Folk Festival.

Following the set song by song right down to the acoustic/electric split half-way through, Power effortlessly waltzes between her own delicate, ghost-like phrasing and Dylan’s nasally-spoken slide.

But as a listener, I’m not entirely sure what keeps Powers back from the precipice of empty pantomime she teeters on.

If anything, “Cat Power Sings Dylan: The 1966 Royal Albert Hall Concert” feels reverential to the point of becoming defanged.

Whether it be the mix or the crowd, there’s a heavy silence that hangs over both the acoustic and electric portions of the album, miles away from Dylan’s caustic bite and his audience’s simmering discontent.

Warning: This Clip Contains Explicit Content.
Bob Dylan’s 1966 “Judas” Incident from YouTube.

It’s a beautiful album and a wonderful showcase of both Power’s vocal stylings and Dylan’s lyricism but it feels empty above all else.

The moment is too self-aware, too self-referential.

Her audience sits in rapt attention, intimately acquainted with each dip and turn of the score, even attempting to recreate the “Judas” moment…only for it to be on the wrong song.

It’s Power’s response to the Judas heckle that says everything about the auspices this project was conceived under; “No, Jesus,” she responded dryly before launching into a haunted rendition of “Ballad of a Thin Man.”

We all know what that moment meant for the future of music, for the folk messiah to betray the movement he helmed…it changed everything – and that is the albatross that hangs around Power’s neck throughout the set.

Because we know now what that concert meant and what he means to music, we can’t possibly recreate it in earnest – it’s holy, now…it’s larger than us.

But it shouldn’t have been.

“Cat Power Sings Dylan: The 1966 Royal Albert Hall Concert” is a wonderfully accessible foray into Bob Dylan’s discography and the stylings of Cat Power. But beyond a well mixed, well arranged reproduction, Power doesn’t bring anything new or fresh into the conversation.

A good cover album, which, technically this is, should expand upon the material or revive the energy that captured audiences originally – and from where I stand, Power dropped the ball on both.

When in doubt, play it loud – Bodhi
Music Education

The History of Horror Music

When I was younger, I would cower at the thought of silly campfire stories, checking under the bed and in closet corners before I went to sleep. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve sought out more and more scares. 

Some of my favorite experiences with film have been in theaters — jumping so hard that I spill my popcorn — or with a friend, peeking out nervously through our fingertips. Further, some of my favorite music is from horror soundtracks.

Through the use of music, or the lack thereof, a director can build tension, anticipation and cue the audience as to what might be around the corner. They can also heighten the horror of the mundane, making empty hallways or creaking floorboards suddenly terrifying. 

One of my most cherished horror soundtracks comes from the 2016 movie “Raw.” Its protagonist, Justine, is a vegetarian whose first year at veterinary school is interrupted by a new and insatiable craving for human flesh. The film utilizes the bloody terror of cannibalism as a metaphor for coming of age as a young woman.

In the background of each highly troubling scene is Jim William’s beautiful and sweet synth score. The music swells and sweeps, grand and dramatic and yet highly empathetic, filled with droning, repetitive sounds both low and high.

Williams spoke in an interview about how he tried to write a score that followed Justine’s journey as a character, starting out with “naive children’s music” and ending somewhere with “visceral rock.”

It’s clear in listening to the album how much depth is there in each song, with tracks like “Lust,” propelling themselves forwards with the energy of a ballerina’s crazed dance. Then, on “Finger Scene,” the piano is light and lighting before growing heavier and more urgent, conveying an escalation in mood. 

Williams also mentioned how some of his inspirations included Ennio Morricone and Bernard Herrman, two extremely accomplished film composers. While Morricone created orchestral symphonies for films like “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly” and “A Fistful of Dollars,” Herrman worked on projects like “Vertigo” and “Taxi Driver.”

William’s idols are particularly relevant to the history of horror, as before the advent of the synthesizer, most music made for films had to be orchestral and in the vein of Morricone. His work just happens to be a genius combination of the two.

In fact, it was Herrman who composed one of the most famous early horror soundtracks for Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.”

The movie, which came out in 1960, was revolutionary because of its use of music. At first the score starts out as very subtle, suggestive of a possible catastrophe, before peaking at the infamous shower scene with shocking harsh string tones that come across as fingernails scratching down a chalkboard. 

Herrman’s score in this scene serves as the catalyst of the jumpscare, electrifying viewers through its violent orchestration.

One of the next revolutionary film scores in horror came from John Carpenter’s “Halloween.” The iconic, yet simple, repetitive track only took three days to compose and record. Its heavy use of the synthesizer marked a huge departure in the music of horror, more like the screeching and uncomfortable “Psycho,” soundtrack and less like classical Hollywood instrumentation.

The “Halloween” score is heavily credited in transforming an otherwise anticlimactic slasher with high amounts of tension. Empty suburban streets were suddenly full of murderous potential, back to the idea of turning the mundane into the horrible. 

In an interview, Professor Neil Lerner of Davidson College discussed how “Halloween” did not come out of a void. He directly cites “Psycho” as an influence, noting the shower scene that utilizes only two pitches in comparison to the repetitive sounds of “Halloween.”

Further, this innovation was partly motivated by budget. Lerner discusses how the “Psycho” budget was so low that Hermann did not have the money to pay for a full orchestra, only the strings. Similarly, Carpenter only had a 300,000 dollar budget for “Halloween,” motivating the director himself to sit down and compose the piece.

The theme of limited budgets continued throughout the 1970’s and 80s with the next great horror movie, “Jaws,” also focusing around two uncomfortable and repeating tones. Composer John Williams recalls how Steven Speilburg thought he was pranking him when he proposed just E, F, E, F, E, F, D, F for the theme of the shark.

So, what makes these soundtracks so scary? How do they work? And why do they continue to persist throughout pop culture? As someone who loves music but struggles to understand a songs’ complicated inner-workings, these questions fascinate me. 

Firstly, it seems there is the principle of dissonance, or an overall lack of harmony in music. There are typically major and minor chords which comprise any given track, with the former being associated with positive emotions and the latter conveying sadness or darkness. 

This is where dissonance comes into play. In each of these tracks above, there are two or more minor notes combined together at once, which simultaneously sounds unpleasant and works to elevate feelings of fear and natural discomfort. This is highly present in the “Halloween” theme.

Building on this, the combination of sounds in any given musical landscape helps in creating an overall mood or feeling. It’s like a garden of several plants and flowers, growing together, intertwining and sustaining from the same soil. 

In the “Halloween” theme, dark, shattering notes thrum together at lower pitch. In the “Psycho” theme, high-pitched strings are paired not only to build that dissonance, but every note is accented at a higher pitch, making it almost feel like it’s imitating the stabbing knife. 

Going back to the work of Jim Williams, what stands out about his soundtracks is that he seems to combine all aspects of dissonance and an uncomfortable musical landscape with a complex instrumentation that builds a sense of security before delving into the uncanny. His fusion of Morricone-style orchestral scores with the preceding horror legacy of droning notes and underlying fear makes for a highly effective and intense listening and viewing experience.

Another fantastic modern horror score is that of Disasterpeace, aka Rich Vreeland, a well-known video game composer who worked on the movie “It Follows.” 

The track “Title” is tense and somehow lush. It feels like you’re walking home late and night, looking over your shoulder, feeling a cold breath on your neck and back as the music intensifies. 

When the stronger instrumentation kicks in around the one minute mark, it so perfectly captures that horrific, striking moment of fear in your heart during a jumpscare. Maybe there was someone there following you all along. 

In a Pitchfork review of the score, author Jeremy Gordon writes that Disasterpeace’s “’Title’ sounds like an update of Carpenter’s Halloween theme, as a lonely piano line is slowly enveloped by gothic dread.” 

And clearly, the inspiration is there. There are the same dual, pulsing notes. 

In this way, horror music seems to build on top of each other, like stray seeds that have blown in and settled in the already-grown garden, populating the old landscape with new vines and fruits and flora.

The landscape of horror soundtracks now is ripe with influence and integration of old and new, growing scares with two-tone dissonance and homages to the past. I look forward to all the scares to come.

Miscellaneous Music Education

The Walkman Effect and the Current State of Music

In his article “The Walkman Effect,” researcher and musicologist Shūhei Hosokawa outlines the innovation and the inner and outer effects of the new listening device. He claims that the Walkman was the beginning of the personalizable listening experience that created the personal autonomy of choice. 

Rather than alienation from the world, the Walkman was solid as a sort of self-enclosure for people. To Hosokawa, the Walkman represents a symbiotic self that affects the transformation of the outer urban environment and the inner environment as both a strategy and device.

Music is generally both public and involved with noise, including street musicians, the cacophony of cars and construction, portable speakers and open car windows. But the Walkman is private. Walkman owners listen to music in a hidden mental sphere, removed from outer sounds. The Walkman is not a technological revolution, but a social one.

Music Education

A Short Dive Into the History of Zamrock

The country of Zambia saw it’s population’s culture shift in a such drastic way more than one could imagine at the time and big reason for this was the birth and rise of Zamrock. But what exactly is Zamrock?

Well, the short answer to that question is a genre of music that originated in Zambia during the early 1970s that combines the sounds of local music, psychedelic, and garage rock sounds into the mainstream of the country’s music scene at the time. However, to truly understand the reason for Zamrock’s creation its important to know the history of Zambia during this time.

Official flag of Zambia
The official flag of Zambia

From Liberation to Creation

In 1964, Zambia gained its independence from British colonial rule and was fortunate enough to gain full control of the copper mining industry in the country which led to an economic boom. The first elected president of Zambia was Kenneth Kaunda and in an effort to create a national identity to further itself from its past colonial rule, Kaunda decided to invest heavily into the entertainment industry, specifically, the music industry.

As a result many young Zambians at the time became more and more musically inclined while taking influence from popular bands at the time like Black Sabbath, The Rolling Stones, Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix, and The Beatles.

Also, its worthy to note that during this time, all Zambian radio stations were required to play at least 90% Zambian music as this was an order given by Kaunda himself.

This gave many musicians an incentive to create music as making a song or an album essentially meant getting airtime on the radio. Thus, Zamrock was born with its first ever release in 1972 being “Introduction” by W.I.T.C.H.

Zambian rock band WITCH in concert (2021)
Zambian rock band W.I.T.C.H in concert (2021)

Notable Bands/Musicians

  • Salty Dog
  • W.I.T.C.H (We Intend To Cause Havoc)
  • The Boyfriends
  • Paul Ngozi & and The Ngozi Family
  • Amanaz
  • Rikki Ililonga
  • Musi O Tunya
  • Keith Mlevhu

The Decline of Zamrock

Unfortunately, Zamrock did not last long after its creation as the country went into a decline in many ways. First, it was the global decrease of the copper industry at the end of the decade which was 95% of Zambia’s export at the time. This was a major blow to the economic state of the country and sadly this wasn’t the only problem Zambia faced.

In 1984, an HIV/AIDS epidemic took place in Zambia. This event killed a significant amount of the adult population and this included many musicians. This not only was a huge loss for the general population of Zambia, but it ultimately was a large reason for the end of Zamrock.

Zamrock From Today’s Perspective

The music from Zamrock did not gain much traction outside of the country until much later on. Recently, thanks to the likes of Eothen “Egon” Alapatt and Now-Again Records, many bands and songs have been rediscovered by many all across the world through re-released and compilation albums of many Zamrock bands.

Zamrock has even managed to influence recent artists such as: Yasiin Bey (fka. Mos Def), Travis Scott, Yves Tumor, and Madlib through the use of samples.

On a Final Note

Looking back, The story of Zamrock is certainly a special one as this is something many people today not knowledgeable about it wouldn’t believe after first hearing about it. Seeing as how Zambia is a South Central African country who had not gained it’s independence up until relatively recently.

A picture of Victoria Falls
A picture of Victoria Falls, one of the 7 natural wonders of the world located on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe

Nonetheless, Zamrock is an event that deserves to be remembered and seen as more of a movement than a genre as it served as a great part of Zambia’s liberation story.

Thanks for reading and learning with me!

– MJ :p

Music Education

The Metal Minute: Death Metal

Do you hear it? Just over the horizon, clanging and rattling like a thousand empty soup cans?

It’s the Metal Minute. Last time, we discussed doom metal, a slow and more articulate version of metal. For this installment, things are getting grotesque and growly as we explore the world’s most brutal musical genre: death metal.

What is it?

Death metal can trace its roots to the 80’s, with major stylistic influences derived from early black metal bands like Venom and thrash bands like Slayer and Hellhammer.

Cover for “Realm of Chaos” by Bolt Thrower

Early death metal bands were inspired by these sounds, but wanted to create something harsher — more deathlike — and began to experiment with heavier instrumentation, more abrasive vocals and increasingly grotesque subject matter (see: “Frantic Disembowelment” by Cannibal Corpse).

What’s it Sound Like?

According to Chris Krovatin of Kerrang! magazine, “When a non-metal person describes metal by making a growling noise, they’re thinking of death metal.”

Cover for “The Enduring Spirit” by Tomb Mold

The genre features fast-paced tempos, overdriven guitar, blast beats on double-bass drums and abrupt changes to tempo and time signature. The resulting sound is heavy, distorted and aggressive. Combined with guttural, often inhuman-sounding vocals, the genre presents an intense and expansive listening experience.

Subgenres Within Subgenres

Like many other subgenres, death metal has several sub-subgenres. They include:

  • Brutal death metal

Pretty self-explanatory, brutal death metal favors faster, heavier and more brutal playing styles. The death metal nesting doll continues, as a sub-sub-subgenre called slam death metal has emerged from brutal death metal, infusing hardcore punk and even hip-hop elements into its sound.

  • Deathcore

The “deathification” of metalcore. I.e., the collision of hardcore punk, metal, and death metal. Like metalcore, deathcore is a label often rejected by metal dudebros who see the subgenre as “inauthentic.”

  • Death doom

The marriage of doom metal with death metal. Slower tempos and a more broody atmosphere with the growls and blast beats of death metal.

  • Melodic death metal

Pioneered in Sweden, leaning closer towards mainstream metal with a more melodic style.

  • Technical death metal

Also known as tech-death or prog-death, presents progressive metal with a death metal slant. Time signatures, rhythms and instrumentation becomes more complex — or, some would say, progressive — within this sub-sub-genre.

Who Makes it?

The death metal scene is robust. Here are several genre heavy-hitters:

Music Education

The Metal Minute: Doom Metal

We’re back this week with another installment of the Metal Minute. Many moons ago, I covered progressive metal, an artsy and psychedelic interpretation of the genre.

This week, we’re exploring the despairing world of doom metal.

What is it?

Doom metal is a subgenre of heavy metal that casts a gloomy, despondent shadow. If Edgar Allan Poe was a metalhead, this would be his genre of choice.

Cover for “Dehumanizer” by Black Sabbath

The genre can be traced back to the 1980s influence of Black Sabbath, a band that’s blues-infused style laid the groundwork for what would eventually develop into its own scene.

What’s it Sound Like?

The subgenre features slow, almost laborious tempos that compound an overarching tone of dread, despair and neurosis.

It’s common practice for guitarists and bassists to detune their instruments in order to achieve maximum heaviness. This effect leads many to describe the genre as “sludgy.”

Cover for “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus” by Candlemass

The lyrical content of doom metal songs tends to center around several core themes: depression, paranoia, despair and occasionally the occult. While other subgenres, such as black metal, lend themselves towards extreme vocal distortion, most doom metal vocalists sing in a clear fashion.

Thus, it’s all the easier to pick out a song’s bleak themes. For example, “Solitude” by Candlemass represents clear doom metal ethos in its lyricism.

I’m sitting here alone in darkness
Waiting to be free,
Lonely and forlorn I am crying
I long for my time to come
Death means just life
Please let me die in solitude

“Solitude” – Candlemass

Subgenres Within Subgenres

Not only is doom metal a heavy metal subgenre, but is possesses several subgenres itself. Sub-subgenres, if you will.

Doom metal subgenres include drone metal, epic doom metal, gothic doom metal, sludge metal (also known as sludgecore), progressive doom, and many others.

Cover for “When the Kite String Pops” by Acid Bath

Each subgenre retains the core elements of doom metal but with the integration of qualities from other styles. For example, sludge metal is a combination of doom metal and hardcore punk.

Songs like “Finger Painting of the Insane” by Acid Bath feature the loping guitar rhythms characteristic of doom metal with the screaming vocals and “punch” of hardcore.

Who makes it?

There are numerous bands operating in the doom metal scene. Several major players include Type O Negative, Trouble, My Dying Bride and Candlemass.

Cover for “Bloody Kisses” by Type O Negative

Some of my favorite doom metal tracks are:

  • “Christian Woman” by Type O Negative
  • “Tripping a Blind Man” by Type O Negative
  • “Bewitched” by Candlemass
  • “Plague Bird” by Novembers Doom
  • “Nightfall” by Isole
Music Education New Album Review

Faye Webster’s “Underdressed at the Symphony,” Is A Quintessential Breakup Album

Relationships are often marked by the music shared with people. There are songs I can’t listen to without remembering certain points in time, points in relationships, or points in states of mind, whether it brings pain or pleasure. 

The worst breakup of my life left me turning to the grounding capacity of music. Japanese Breakfast’s new album “Jubilee,” had just come out, and I spent all my free time wallowing and projecting onto the song “Kokomo, IN.” 

To this day, I can’t listen to that song, or a myriad of others without thinking about that specific person and stretch of time. I think of “Kokomo, IN,” as a capsule holding all of my emotions towards that relationship. They’re placed there for me to return to whenever I want, or to discard with appreciation for how it helped me process a difficult moment. 

It was empowering for me to mark the song as a memorial for my relationship. I never considered that it must be even more empowering to create your own album as a form of remembrance, and Faye Webster’s new album feels just like that. 

With her smooth voice and beautiful accompaniments, Atlanta based singer-songwriter Faye Webster quickly became a household name for indie music lovers. While I knew her new album would be good, I didn’t expect it to resonate so hard with my past experiences. 

Her highly anticipated new project “Underdressed at the Symphony,” is full of nostalgia and lost love. The album is lush and graceful, featuring Webster’s recognizable crooning and lengthy jam sequences. It is, unmistakably, a breakup album.

Music Education

A Brief History of Lobit Music

Everyone loves a good intentionally low-quality effect for nostalgia reasons. The sensation ranges from posting movie screenshots run through VHS filters to pressing modern albums onto vinyl to those people on Twitter who post pictures of anime on CRTs. In more recent years, this phenomenon has created a trend of lobit music, made to replicate an era where YouTube uploads were low quality and waiting for your music to download took forever. 

The term for the effect applied to music is called bitcrushing, and it’s a pretty simple filter to put on your music. Combined with Gen Z having nostalgia for 360p YouTube videos and now being old enough to put out music, it makes sense why there’s been a surge of it recently. 

That said, it’s also existed for as long as people have been able to do it, leading into this brief history of one effect.