Categories
Classic Album Review

Paula Cole Lives Rent Free in my Head

I’m sorry, this is going to be way too long an article over way too niche a topic, but this song has latched into my brain, and I think the only way to get it out is to write entirely too many words explaining why I’m so fixated on it. Paula Cole is an artist who’s likely unfamiliar to you, and I’m not going to encourage you to check her out, but you might have heard exactly one of her songs, “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” It is a weird quasi-feminist attempt at…something, I’m not sure what. The song, despite its name, is not a country song. In fact, Cole’s music fits squarely into the Lilith Fair style. If you aren’t familiar with that term, I’m writing an article about the scene soon, so stay tuned, but for the moment, it’s effectively mid-90s feminist folk-rock. Think Ani DiFranco or Tori Amos, but most musicians under the heading were not as brilliant as those two. Case in point: Paula Cole.

“Where have all the Cowboys Gone?” is a song about a relationship, told from the woman’s point of view. It starts with sultry promises to do all of the cooking, cleaning, child-rearing, and feminine activities if her masculine John Wayne will do the same. The chorus “Where is my happy ending, where have all the cowboys gone,” begins as a lament of the loss of “real men” who press their wives into domesticity and control everything. As the song progresses and her husband becomes distant and unfeeling, it becomes a lament at a lost relationship, revealing her faithful cowboy to be an emotionally isolated bro only interested in drinking with his friends.

So, why does this song bug me? Well, it’s so almost good, it so nearly works, but Cole seems to intentionally steer the song away from any resolution or point. The song starts as a light satire of women who long for family stability and an indictment of men who tether themselves to toxic tropes without putting in the work. It’s a little preachy, but okay, there’s a way to make that work, you make something like “Cowboy Take Me Away,” by the Dixie Chicks. But then, the song takes a hard turn for the sad, which is a choice that, in isolation, is not an issue. Songs about men who do the bare minimum are common, and the second section owes a lot to “Did I Shave My Legs for This?” which was released just a year earlier.

The problem is that Cole leaves out the punchline to both jokes. In a standard ‘I miss the real men’ song you’d throw in some tongue-in-cheek wink to the camera at the end indicating that the song isn’t taking itself too seriously and that the singer does not actually want a return to the gender roles of another century. In your standard men-are-trash song, you’d end the song with the narrator having a come to Jesus moment and leaving the man for dead (Sometimes literally). Cole opts to do neither; what results is a song that is only resolved by association. I’ve heard a couple dozen Lana Del Rey songs, so I know how this old Hollywood glamour song is supposed to function and can assume that Cole does not actually long for a man-child to mother. Similarly, I’ve heard a couple dozen country songs about a failing marriage, so I know that the woman is supposed to walk out the door at the end and leave that no-good man behind. Leaving out these assumed details makes the song feel like all set up for a payoff that never comes.

The only catch is that this is a song with a really strong setup. The spoken-word monologue at the beginning is great, the melody is extremely catchy, and her performance is so good that it took me like five listens to figure out that I didn’t like this song as a whole. Even the shifting meaning of the chorus would be brilliant if it weren’t in service of a song that never starts. This is to say, if we have any aspiring musicians in the audience who really want to fix a 25-year-old song for some reason, take a crack at this one, because you have a lot to work with (Also hit me up because I really want to hear a version of this song that works).

Okay, that’s 900 words in my word document, maybe now I’ve infected you all with whatever bug I caught by obsessing over Paula Cole, hopefully, I can sleep in peace tonight.

Categories
New Album Review

L’Imperatrice – Tako Tsubo Album Review

Alright, this one is from the boards. L’Imperatrice is a disco fusion group from France, who is bubbling under American success. Their new album “Tako Tsubo” has gotten some attention and Reddit and the like as a raw slice of European dance cheese. They are firmly entrenched in some of the most passe styles of pop from the ’70s. The two genre tags alternatively used to describe them are Eurodisco and space rock, two colorful genres that fuse surprisingly well on their new album.

With lyrics mostly in French and a focus on funk, this album leans towards “vibe music” rather than deep listening. It’s not strictly ambient, the music is not crafted exclusively for the background, but as I write this it’s raining beside me, there’s a cat on my desk and this album is making me feel like I live in a YouTube playlist thumbnail. The grooves are expertly crafted, so the vibes don’t wear out as fast as you’d think, but they definitely do wear thin eventually.

I do not speak French, so I’m working off what other people say the lyrics are about. Supposedly this is a feminist band with lyrics focusing on misogyny and violence. I say ‘supposedly’ because their English songs are pretty boilerplate disco and dance cliches. They may be better poets in their native tongue, but I assume most of you can’t really work with that. The music makes up for it though, so if you need some hi-fi Nu-disco beats to study/groove to, give L’Imperatrice a shot.

Categories
Miscellaneous

“The Anthropocene Reviewed,” Reviewed.

“The Anthropocene Reviewed” is a series of essays written by John Green, reviewing “different facets of the human-centered planet on a five star scale.” What originally started as a podcast produced by Complexly and WNYC studios in January of 2018, eventually became John Green’s first non-fiction book in May of 2021. It debuted as the number one New York Times bestseller.

Anthropocene is a word that describes the modern era, or the current geological age, where humans are affecting everything on the planet. Green credits his brother, Hank Green, in the introduction of the book with saying, “As a person… your biggest problem is other people. You are vulnerable to people, and reliant upon them. But imagine instead you are a twenty-first-century river, or desert or polar bear. Your biggest problem is still people. You are still vulnerable to them, and reliant upon them.” I quite like that definition of anthropocene.

“As a person… your biggest problem is other people. You are vulnerable to people, and reliant upon them. But imagine instead you are a twenty-first-century river, or desert or polar bear. Your biggest problem is still people. You are still vulnerable to them, and reliant upon them.”

— John Green quoting his brother Hank Green in “The Anthropocene Reviewed”

This accessible series of essays includes various excerpts, often-times vulnerable, from Green’s life up to this point. Several of the essays include mentions of his struggles with faith, OCD and depression. I think it’s best to go into the book somewhat blind, but also to be on the lookout for hidden reviews throughout. 

Despite having listened to the podcast regularly before reading the book, it still felt fresh and honest, not recycled or contrived. The book excludes some previous podcast episode topics, and includes brand new essays. My favorite essays? “Harvey,” “Super Mario Kart” and “The World’s Largest Ball of Paint.”

Summed up in three words/phrases, “The Anthropocene Reviewed” is honest, charming, and thought-provoking.

Green ends each essay with a rating of the topic on a five-star scale, so I’ll do the same for this review. I give “The Anthropocene Reviewed” five stars. 

Until next time,

Caitlin

Categories
Classic Album Review

Album Review: COWBOY BEBOP by SEATBELTS

ALBUM: COWBOY BEBOP (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

RELEASE YEAR: 1998

LABEL: SUNRISE Music

RATING: 8/10

BEST TRACKS: “Tank!,” “Rain” and “Space Lion”

FCC: Clean

*Spoilers Ahead*

“Cowboy Bebop” by Shinichirō Watanabe is one of the most well-known and respected anime of all time. The story follows Spike Spiegel, an intergalactic bounty hunter, through various adventures alongside his teammates. While at first, the series seems lighthearted and action-packed, it quickly takes a darker tone. Throughout the anime, topics such as death, drug addiction, and struggle with gender identity are explored making “Cowboy Bebop” far more than just an action series.

While the plot is unlike any other, it is only a small part of what draws people to this series. Fans of “Cowboy Bebop” are often captivated by the complexities of the characters, its visually stunning art style and most importantly, the soundtrack.

The soundtrack was composed by Yoko Kanno and performed by SEATBELTS, a group Kanno created for the purpose of the series. Overall, it is jazzy, free and chaotic, creating the perfect atmosphere for the story of Spike Spiegel to unfold.

“Tank!” is hands down the most iconic song on the soundtrack as it is the opening track for the series. It is upbeat, jazzy and sets the tone for the fast-paced, action-packed plot of “Cowboy Bebop.” Its sound is almost reminiscent of early James Bond films.

“Rain” is a much more somber tune as it is played during Spike’s reunion with Vicious, a former comrade turned enemy. The vocals on this track are truly haunting which fit perfectly in with the eerie setting during this reunion.

“Space Lion” is my personal favorite track on the album. The way the song builds over its seven-minute runtime is truly captivating. When listening, it feels like the song is telling a story as it layers drums over saxophone over keyboard. It plays at the end of Episode 13: Jupiter Jazz, Part II which is one of the most complex and loved arcs in the series.

In a word, “COWBOY BEBOP (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)” lives up to the hype. Even if you are not a fan of the anime, this album is absolutely worth the listen. All that’s left for me to say is “3, 2, 1… Let’s Jam!”

Categories
Music News and Interviews

Eurovision 2021

Eurovision is an annual “American Idol” style song competition where each European country submits a song to fight for the yearly crown. It brought us Abba, an Israeli woman bucking like a chicken, a C-rate male Adele, and an endless supply of memes. There are 40 songs per year, which is far too many to cover in a single article, so I’ll hit the highlights for you here. These are my opinions, so check the songs out and come to your own conclusions.

The Good

Italy: This was the official winner. The rare rock victor, this band sounds like if Limp Biskit were a ’70s glam rock band, and also good. They have officially been cleared of drug use during the competition, which is kind of disappointing.

Ireland: This year’s Irish competitor suffered from a camera malfunction during the performance, which sucks considering that a queer woman representing Ireland of all countries is a milestone. I promise you she doesn’t sound like Sinead O’Conner

Malta: This is probably the most fun entry from this year. The artist, Destiny, has more energy in her than France, Switzerland, Spain, and Britain combined. The song feels like it could have used a second pass, but the singer more than makes up for it.

Latvia: This song is objectively awful, and I love it. It’s the kind of loud, incredibly weird, shameless pop music you expect from Eurovision.

The Bad

United Kingdom: Britain qualifies for the finals automatically because they’re one of the big five music markets in Europe. That is the only reason this song qualified. Props to the continent for giving this zero points, which is exactly what it deserved.

Switzerland: Falsetto singing is really hit or miss. A good singer can sound like an absolute train wreck if they don’t have enough breaths or hit the note a little off. On a related note, I really didn’t like Switzerland this year.

France: How did this get second place? It’s so boring I accidentally changed the song at the halfway point just to make it stop.

The Ugly

Germany: Ostensibly a song about trans acceptance, any positive messaging is overwritten by the painfully insincere lyrics and horrifying performance by Jake and Logan Paul’s long-lost younger brother. It’s really bad y’all.

San Marino: Sorry Europe, Flo Rida is your problem now.

Categories
Weekly Charts

Chainsaw Charts 6/1

ArtistRecordLabel
1SIEGE COLUMNDarkside LegionsNuclear War Now!
2CADAVERIC INCUBATORNightmare NecropolisHell’s Headbangers
3CANNIBAL CORPSEViolence UnimaginedMetal Blade
4PATHFINDERSAres VallisSelf-Released
5WINTER ETERNALLand Of DarknessHell’s Headbangers
6VOIDWOMBAltars of Cosmic Devotion [EP]Iron Bonehead
7SENSORY AMUSIABereavementLacerated Enemy
8BURIED REALMEmbodiment Of The DivineSelf-Released
9CARTHAGODSThe Monster In MeFDR
10SHED THE SKINThe Forbidden ArtsKyle Severn
Categories
Weekly Charts

Underground Charts 6/1

ArtistRecordLabel
1TIERRA WHACK“Dora” [Single]Interscope
2NAVY BLUESong Of Sage: Post Panic!Freedom Sounds
3PINK SIIFU AND FLY ANAKINFlySiifu’sLex
4STEVE LACYN Side3qtr
5BILLY DEAN THOMASFor Better Or WorseSelf-Released
6BUTCHER BROWN#KingButchConcord Jazz
7FAT TONYExoticaCarpark
8PLANET GIZADon’t Throw Rocks At The Moon [EP]Self-Released
9SHYGIRLALIAS [EP]Because
10BLU AND EXILEMilesDirty Science
Categories
Weekly Charts

Afterhours Charts 6/1

ArtistRecordLabel
1MAGDALENA BAYMini Mix Vol. 2 [EP]Luminelle
2JESSY LANZAAll The TimeHyperdub
3SMERZBelieverXL/Beggars Group
4AVALANCHES, THEWe Will Always Love YouAstralwerks
5BUSCABULLARegresa Remixes [EP]Ribbon
6CARIBOUSuddenly RemixesMerge
7CFCFMemorylandSelf-Released
8DOSS4 New Hit Songs [EP]LuckyMe
9GEORGE CLANTON AND NICK HEXUMGeorge Clanton And Nick Hexum100% Electronica
10KLLOMaybe We CouldGhostly International
Categories
Band/Artist Profile Classic Album Review

Is Sheryl Crow Actually Cool?

Most people our age remember Sheryl Crow from when we were kids. She was pretty popular in the early 2000s, I was born in 2001, so that means her last hits were around five years old when I first started hearing the radio. This is the perfect interval for music to feel nostalgic, new enough that we remember it, but old enough that we had absolutely no critical eye to determine who a song was by or whether it was good. When I was old enough to think about music critically, I personally filed Sheryl Crow away in a category I now describe as “Mom Rock.” Yes, we have dad rock, and if no one else has come up with this joke yet, I know claim inventorship of mom rock. This category entails bluesy, spiritual rock music by middle aged white women that was all the rage from around 1996 to 2004, and artists like Crow, Kelly Clarkson, Nelly Furtado’s folky output, Liz Phair’s self-titled album, songs like “Bubly,” “Unwritten” and that one song about feeling the rain I can never remember because it came out when I was like two.

Now, I have personally been reevaluating a lot of mom rock. Partially because a lot of this music was dismissed specifically for appealing to middle-aged women, and I want to give it a fair chance, and partially because it’s a warm wave of nostalgia for me (and most other people our age). So, imagine my surprise when I find that Sheryl Crow was uh… actually really good? Okay, obviously Sheryl Crow was a good artist, she has plenty of classic hits, but Crow’s ’90s discography is good an entirely different dimension than I expected.

As it turns out, all of the songs I remember were from her 2002 album “C’mon C’mon,” which was something of a change in direction. That was a pop-rock album, I might call it a sell-out if it weren’t filled with front-to-back bangers. We aren’t here to discuss that today because you probably already know “Soak up the Sun,” “Picture” and maybe “Steve McQueen.” We’re here to talk about her first two albums, which were, to my eternal shock, alt-rock.

To be clear, Sheryl Crow was not making grunge. She fit in more with the rootsy acoustic side of alt-rock, with her auditory aesthetic being more akin to a pumped-up Hootie and the Blowfish or a less dense REM. Crow’s take on the genre is still recognizably her own though, mixing in her country fusion, eccentric songwriting, and an eye towards pop hits with the typical REM formula. Her first two albums had a combined 4 hits, none of which I have ever heard. Maybe I’m alone in never hearing Crow’s ’90s output, but I suspect that a number of you haven’t either, so check out her self-titled album. The music isn’t just good, as a lot of her music is, but was, as the title suggests, actually kind of edgy and out of the ordinary. She went way too hard for even the alt-iest of alt-country, but too grounded and feminine for alt-rock, so I do not know how much credibility she had at the time, but to me, it sounds pretty awesome.

Categories
Miscellaneous

Yearbook: Seth Rogen’s Hilarious Autobiography

Comedian, actor and writer Seth Rogen is one of those people that always manages to make a film funnier. Whether it be through his early work in “Freaks and Geeks” and “Superbad,” or in his more recent films like “The Interview” and “An American Pickle,” he is endlessly endearing. You get the feeling that he’s not an extravagant, ridiculous celebrity, but more like a “normal” person. His new book, “Yearbook,” proves this.

As final exams ended and summer began, I found myself craving a nice read. I’d heard that Seth Rogen was releasing a new book, and I was super excited to get into it. I decided to listen to the audiobook, which I highly recommend. It’s narrated by Rogen himself and features over 80 different voice actors including Snoop Dogg, Nick Kroll, Sacha Baron Cohen and Billy Idol.

I know I said “Yearbook” was an autobiography in the title, but I lied for the sake of conciseness. It’s more of a collection of essays about Rogen’s childhood and acting career. He touches on growing up Jewish, his early comedic flops, the insane drama behind “The Interview” and tons of other horrifying, hilarious stories. Read in his signature wit, he dives into the delights and challenges of adolescence, being famous and drug-fueled escapades.

Each essay is wonderfully engaging and ridiculously funny. My personal favorite is the time when he, as a 14-year-old, had to perform standup right after Jerry Seinfeld at a comedy festival. Another great part is when he tells about how Kanye West forced Rogen and his wife to sit in the backseat of his limo with him while he freestyled for two hours. The book ends on a spectacularly dramatic note as he recounts a near-death camping experience from his childhood.

It’s truly one of the best audiobooks I’ve had the pleasure of listening to in a while. If you’re looking for a laugh, give “Yearbook” a read (or a listen).