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Non-Music News

Oak City Move 19 pt. 2: Technician

Sara and Jenaye sit down with Johnathan and Connor from Technician, NC State’s student newspaper. Topics range from the life of a student journalist in 2017, balancing digital and print media, and their favorite moments from working at the paper.

Listen to Episode 19 pt 2 Here.

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New Album Review

“Charity Starts At Home” by Phonte

Hip-hop fans have been waiting. Ever since the split of North Carolina hip-hop group Little Brother, many have eagerly anticipated the moment when Phonte would step back in the limelight, grab the mic and start to rhyme again. But the past few years have witnessed Phonte forging his path as a successful R&B crooner with Grammy-nominated act The Foreign Exchange, with all thoughts of rapping in the back of his mind, appearing once in a blue moon. So when it was mentioned that Phonte was set to finally release his debut solo album, anticipation hit the roof. And when it was revealed that Phonte and 9th Wonder, the producer of Little Brother fame, had reunited earlier this year, Little Brother fans rejoiced. Everything seemed ready for the debut of Phonte Coleman. The question was who would take front and center: “rapping Tay, four-and-half-mic honoree/Or singing Tay, first-time Grammy nominee”?

While each side of Phonte appears on the album, it’s the rapper that takes center stage here, tackling themes that don’t stray far from the material he has been putting out over his career. The themes of the common man are heard, stories of ourselves at our worst and best. “The Good Fight” is a song about money woes, uncertainty of keeping the job and all the frustrations of a 9-5 that the majority of Americans face, especially in the midst of an economic downturn. “Ball and Chain” weighs the pros and cons of marriage, specifically the suffocation that occurs when love dies out in the house. And of course the album has its fair share of lyrical wizardry, such as the back and forth wordplay of Phonte and Pharoahe Monch on “We Go Off” and the opening track “Dance in the Reign.”

Lyrically, Phonte is better than ever. His album combines the rawness and honesty of his Little Brother persona with the maturation he achieved with his recent work as singer of The Foreign Exchange. Having written for himself and other artists since starting his adventures with The Foreign Exchange, Phonte has clearly polished his skills as a lyricist and now, on this debut album, he brings that experience and writes verses like a “pro with the prose/what a concept.” Even with his weaker punchlines, Phonte’s wit and charisma pulls him through, making the lines seem as if he’s delivering them with a wink and a sly smirk.

The production, for the most part, is solid. Nothing stands out, however, and it serves more as backdrop for the lyrical wordsmith to pick up his mic and paint images with words. 9th Wonder provides the same repetitive drum patterns and looped samples that he has become well-known for (whether that is for better or worse). Swiff D introduces the album on “Dance in the Reign” with a church organ and takes it to the church with a synth and Phonte preaching to the congregation. S-1 and Caleb bring a modern production to the quiet-storm sound with hard-hitting drums and an atmospheric sound that allows Phonte and Carlitta Durand to get musically romantic on “Gonna Be A Beautiful Night.”

Overall, Charity Starts At Home features mature, honest, and raw songs from N.C.’s top-notch spitter and crooner Phonte Coleman. It may not feature a breakout song, hold mind-blowing production, but it holds plenty of love and humility that hip-hop seems to have lost in recent years. The last line of the song “Who Loves You More” sums up the album perfectly: “I got a room and a microphone and a family I ain’t seen in months. And I played this record a million times just hoping you would play it once.” Phonte is one of us. He works hard at his job and goes through the struggles in life and love, just like any of us, hoping that someone will take notice at least once. “Let that boy saute!”

Categories
Non-Music News

Shack-a-thon 2011

It’s one of my favorite weeks of the fall semester – Shack-a-thon! Shack-a-thon is a week-long event, running from Monday, September 19 at 8:00am – September 23 at 5:00pm. Student organizations build a shack in NC State University’s Brickyard and live in it for the remainder of the week, with the goal of raising money for Habitat for Humanity. Last year alone, more than $17,000 was raised.

WKNC has teamed up with the rest of Student Media to host the Student Media Bamboo Shack (you can even check in on foursquare!).  Constructed out of bamboo, zip ties, WKNC banners and biodegradable polyurethane, our shack is one of the most environmentally friendly shacks that has been built. Each organization came up with their own set of activities to fuel donations. Student Media, for Habitat donations, will be doing photoshoots (thanks Technician!), musical instrument lessons (guitar, accordion, harmonica and singing saw), bake sales and raffling off prize items. These prize items include gift cards, T-shirts and pair of tickets to see Widespread Panic this weekend. The drawings will be held Friday, September 23 at noon.

 

Categories
New Album Review

Bon Iver comes back strong with sophomore record

88.1 WKNC’s Pick of the Week 7/7

Coming off of the success of his self-released debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago, Justin Vernon, lead singer of Bon Iver, had a lot to live up to. Where he could have relied solely on the success of his debut, Vernon decided to evolve out of the cold, isolated feelings of the debut, and move into a world of sound that is optimistic yet grounded in reality, and colorful in its production.

The execution of tracks is quintessentially different. While in For Emma, Forever Ago the instrumentals were consistent and to the point, Bon Iver have produced a sound that is complex and varies multiple times within any given track. “Perth,” the opener, starts with drums that drive the song forward. Then come along Vernon’s vocals that push the forward. Then both come together for what is an extremely powerful moment within the opening track.

Bon Iver’s self-titled album is muddled in its beautiful and tragic compositions—the mixture of sounds and paces transforms what could have come off as another tragic album into something that has hints of hope.

Although grounded in reality, the guitars are precise and add a level that compliments the lyrics in ways that introduce overall depth of the record overall. They are precise and the intensity of the guitars alongside the vocals helps dictate the overall feeling of the album.

It is the range within the vocals that also stands out within this work. In songs like Minnesota, WI, Vernon’s ability to go from a somewhat unexpected low sound to the normal higher pitch makes a stunning difference in the delivery, and his ability to transition between the two sounds works seamlessly within the emotion Bon Iver projects. While the deeper vocals accentuate this very blunt meaning, the higher vocals emphasize the vulnerability of the subjects in the tracks.

Timing and precision are some of this album’s greatest qualities. While in moments that feel similar to the dark and cold Bon Iver of before, Vernon and company construct these little moments that capture everything the listener needs to understand about the emotions that are being expressed, without weighing the listener down.

The perfect example of this comes in “Wash.” As the track begins with a very simple piano intro followed by Vernon’s vocals, it then picks up additional orchestral elements that fade in and out in a flash. Yet, as they seem to linger in the background, they provide for one of the most piercing moments in the album. The violins provide a brief, striking whirlwind that emotes all of the anxiety that builds up until Vernon sings with appropriate punctuation, “We finally cry.”

Even in moments that seem completely unexpected, Bon Iver is able to tap into the dreary themes that won over so many earlier. In the final track “Beth/Rest,” all the emotional sadness and intensity of any Bon Iver track are dominated by this 80s sound filled with vocal correction, saxophone and funky synth. However, they are all twisted brilliantly to work well within the arsenal of Bon Iver’s catalogue.

If there was one thing that could have potentially got in the way of Vernon and company with their sophomore release, it would have to be the immense hype and anticipation following the critically acclaimed debut. In using the tragic tones of previous works and in expanding the musical arsenal of Bon Iver, Vernon has not only met the benchmark set by his first, but also raised it to a whole new level.

Bon Iver will come to Raleigh July 29 to tour with local band The Rosebuds, at the Raleigh Amphitheater.

88.1 WKNC Pick of the Week is published each week during the summer in the print edition of Technician, as well as online at technicianonline.com and wknc.org.

Categories
New Album Review

Panda Bear releases ’emotive’ album

88.1 WKNC’s Pick of the Week 4/13

Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion was the apogee of 2009 music. The first time I heard the album, I was filled with absolute intrigue – complex and subtle melodies evolved from thin, scaly, harsh textures in unexpectedly delightful ways. I was carried to heights I didn’t before know existed.

The music was horrifying, yet it was wondrous, much like the first time I witnessed an eclipse or experienced a roller coaster. Its mystique drew me in and captured my attention in an unusual way. I didn’t know how to approach the organized sea of harmonies, but I sat with my earbuds tightly in and listened. For the first time in years, modern music had me captivated. Today, I attribute Animal Collective with having turned my musical perception inside-out.

Noah Lennox sings vocals for Animal Collective and plays drums and guitar for the band as well. Yesterday marked the release of his fourth solo album Tomboy, much anticipated since its titular single dropped in the middle of 2010.

Previous releases by the artist who goes by the moniker of Panda Bear spanned into the deeply abstract as scarcely-changing tones droned on for minutes. However, Tomboy is an interesting change in pace as what is easily his most accessible album release yet.

Stylistically, it mirrors Animal Collective’s 2009 release in its patterned intricacies. Sound fills every track’s crevices, expanding to include percussive beats and crunches. The experience is practically religious, though in his April 4 interview with music journalism website Pitchfork, he hesitates to let it be labeled as such.

“It’s not serious in a heavy-handed way – and I really hesitate to say it has any sort of religious or sacred feeling – but it’s in that direction to me,” Lennox told the website. He continued to describe the conditions of the recording studio – dimly lit, uncomfortable, isolated and in a basement in Lisbon.

Despite its studio recording setting, this album is anything but claustrophobic.

In “Slow Motion,” depth is portrayed with every reverberating beat. This piece is the impressionism of modern music; every meticulously placed, painstakingly perfected stroke of tone is visible under the microscope and up for interpretation. The listener is likely to get lost while attempting to sift through the multitude of layers.

“Alsatian Darn” plays with vocal inflections. Lennox himself fades into his music, becoming another instrument in the mixture. “Say, can I make a bad mistake? Say what it is I want to say to you, say what…” These lyrics loop into a cyclone of emotional confusion and somehow, the line between the listener’s psych and that of the creator fades into obscurity.

Tomboy is Panda Bear’s most recent release and one of the most emotive albums that this reviewer has ever heard. It’s mastery of riveting textures is matched by the unique mood it creates. It is the perfect example of this generation’s innovations in genres, and every listen-through is guaranteed to uncover previously over-looked details.

88.1 WKNC Pick of the Week is published every Wednesday in the print edition of Technician, as well as online at technicianonline.com and wknc.org.

Categories
New Album Review

N.C. band blends past and present on new EP

88.1 WKNC’s Pick of the Week 4/6

There are few bands as unique as local North Carolina legend Between The Buried And Me.

Time has seen this band shift from a pure metalcore band into prog-metal masters. Every album of theirs has shown a shift and change in not only the band’s talent, but also in their songwriting skills. This EP, while it only contains three songs, holds a wealth of material contained in them.

From beginning to end, he Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues will take more twists and turns that 24 does in an entire season. What truly sets this album apart from the band’s previous endeavors, however, is the seamless blending of past and present elements.

We get a sense of what is to come from the start of the record as Thomas Giles ominously plays his keyboards, as if he were summoning the ferocious beast Godzilla from the depths of the ocean for “Specular Reflection.” Just as the piano crescendos into a climax, the guitars and drums kick in, pummeling you with frantic riffs and erratic blast beats.

All throughout this barrage, Giles’s vocals berate us with a harshness seen in many death metal bands. As he screams his heart out, the guitars take a gradual change from intense pummeling to a firm massaging, blending intricately with the harshness of the vocals, before breaking down completely into a serene progressive interlude.

Giles’s vocals adapt to this change as his vocals take on an ethereal aspect, seeming to float over the air, as guitars hold a sustain over a constant drum beat, that slowly builds up into a melody that would make Muse jealous.

Seamlessly transitioning from the first song, “Augment of Rebirth” sweep picks its way into BTBAM history as being quite possibly the heaviest song the band has ever written. Constant stop-go guitar riffs litter the song from beginning to end, as keyboards seem to sneak in ever so slightly, intertwining themselves with the riffs and gutteral vocals.

Seeming to draw inspiration from The Dillinger Escape Plan with regards to insanity, the band constantly switches between intense fast playing and heavy breakdowns that seem to beat into your very soul.

But true to BTBAM style, they refuse to stay constant as they inject a polka interlude reminiscent of the bards of old as they entertained kings, before merging into a polka metal fusion blasting its way through your speakers.

In what could be my favorite song written by the band, “Lunar Wilderness” encapsulates everything that makes BTBAM, well, BTBAM.

It starts off beautiful and chill before suddenly kicking in with harsh vocals and catchy guitar riff that sticks with you for the rest of the day. The vocals take on a dual aspect as they shift between gorgeous clean vocals and harsh yelling.

Known mostly for their intricacies in guitar work, the band spares no expense as they unleash solo after solo, sometimes undercutting the vocals and creating a vacuum of intensity. Suddenly, as if the heavens decided to part and spare us from this destruction, the song drops into a peaceful ending interlude, letting the listener down from the chaos.

Combining all these songs together into one long, conceptual piece, these North Carolinians show they can fuse the beauty with the brutal and the calm with the chaotic, forming a tornado that will sweep you off your feet before putting you back down.

88.1 WKNC Pick of the Week is published every Wednesday in the print edition of Technician, as well as online at technicianonline.com and wknc.org.

Categories
New Album Review

The Dodos fourth album catchy, attention-grabbing

88.1 WKNC’s Pick of the Week 3/30

The San Francisco indie-rock band The Dodos released its fourth album, No Color, March 15. The duo Meric Long and Logan Kroeber teamed up with ex-member Keaton Snyder and tour mate Neko Case to create what is arguably the best album released this year.

Fast-paced minimalist percussion and rhythmic vocals drive the nine-song album. Neko Case of The New Pornographers contributes backing vocals for five songs. Despite being the vocal powerhouse she is, Case adds just the right addition of harmonies as to not overpower The Dodos, but simply make a great supplement to the album.

The album’s opener, “Black Night,” begins with attention-grabbing drums and melodic guitar. A distinctive trait of The Dodos is its lack of bass drum. Instead, Kroeber swapped it out for a tambourine. This is an unconventional route to take, but it generates a unique formation of songs.

Songs like “Going Under” and “Good,” which both feature Case, are very catchy. Influences of The New Pornographers are evident, but not subduing The Dodo’s style. The drums pound in an exciting cadence, balanced by the guitar work of Long.

Four songs in, “Sleep” continues the up-beat folk-rock, utilizing repetition and harmonies. Case echoes in the background, adding depth to the song.

“Don’t Try and Hide It” is a little different, starting out with acoustic guitar and vocals only. The drums sneak up after the first minute. The rise and fall of the vocals works well in this song, especially with the notes Case can hit. She harmonizes with Long, singing “You are nowhere/you are nothing vacant.”

“When Will You Go” offers a mix of fast and slow beats, along with sections of both jam sessions and single-instrument solos.

“Hunting Season” is similar to The Dodos’ earlier work, like their big hit “Fools,” off of Visiter. The Dodos found something that worked and stuck with it in this song. The lyrics are a little wittier, such as “this is what I’ve been waiting for, and the red light/you go be a girl I’ll be leaving tonight.”

“Companion” begins by dancing around classical guitar-picking and ethereal vocals. The album’s closer, “Don’t Stop,” reverts back to the quick and choppy drum beats and steady vocals. The song finishes with a concluding crack of the drums, leaving the listener with a racing heartbeat and wanting more.

The raw and rackety drumming is the pulse of this album. The simple strumming and fastidious finger picking add spirit and bring the album to life. The chemistry between Long and Kroeber emulates that between members of a jazz band, in which each person plays off what the other is doing.

The Dodos are not afraid of experimentation, which is easy to see as the music floats between pure indie rock and folk rock with elements of psychedelic.

This album is a good follow-up to their 2009 release, Time to Die. The Dodos were on point, setting the bar high for the many new releases to come this year.

88.1 WKNC Pick of the Week is published every Wednesday in the print edition of Technician, as well as online at technicianonline.com and wknc.org.

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New Album Review

Unsigned artist makes it on his own

88.1 WKNC’s Pick of the Week 3/23
By John O’Neal, WKNC DJ Buck Nasty

There’s a lot of hip-hop knocking on people’s doors nowadays, from little-known artists like Yelawolf to full blown show-stoppers like Nas. But nothing draws attention like having a lyricist who can wow you with his smooth flow while also injecting heartfelt emotions that leave you wanting more.

That person is Shawn Chrystopher, who hails from Inglewood, California. His latest album, You and Only You, is available free for download on www.youandonlyyou.com and features more hits than any album you would buy.

Shawn Chrystopher starts by using his real name as his rap label, which is surprising. He also sports no label, so he has the creative authority over all his own sounds.

It’s OK if you haven’t heard of him after three mixtapes, three albums and two singles. I first heard of him after watching The Reason’s music video on YouTube, which is a dry showcase of what hip-hop should be.

What you don’t expect is for his main song to be so raw. “You and Only You,” the first song on the album, is spoken word. It reminds you that rap is only poetry over a beat, which a lot of artists forget. He talks about the material wants his girlfriend wants, and how he wants to make it big in the business for his mother.

I give a quick listen to songs on little-known rapper’s albums, not because I don’t think they don’t have anything to say, but because the first 20 seconds make or break a song to me.

“Emergency Broadcast” will have you still listening for all one minute and two seconds of it, with your head bobbing. With the ripe trumpets and the melodic voice he presents, you wonder why rappers don’t stay this fresh.

Another song that had me pressing repeat was “The Hangover.” Many movies and songs have tried to embody this feeling, but Chrystopher captures it with ease. You can visualize the scene he is painting, and the beat’s feel complements the message very well.

The image that a rapper is living well is a message that’s put out too much. I thought Shawn Chyrstopher’s “Sold Out Shows” featuring Cameron Wallace was another song like this. But his verses embody what he actually feels and how he puts so much effort behind making it.

You may not love hip-hop for whatever reason, but Shawn Chyrstopher’s self-made sound is refreshing and worth the download, especially because it’s free. He’s at the South by Southwest festival right now without any label backing promoting his music, and I wish him the best for it.

88.1 WKNC Pick of the Week is published every Wednesday in the print edition of Technician, as well as online at technicianonline.com and wknc.org.

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New Album Review

Alex Winston delivers charming sound

88.1 WKNC’s Pick of the Week 3/16
By Alexandra Adams, WKNC DJ Alex

Alex Winston’s new album, Sister Wife, is characterized by Winston’s fresh pop sound, clever lyrics and unbeatable hooks that you’ll be humming after the first listen.

In 2009, she released Basement Covers, an album featuring covers of Mumford & Sons, The Rolling Stones and three others. It was literally recorded in her basement with Winston playing every instrument, and caused record labels to start paying attention. Her latest, Sister Wife, at just over 21 minutes long, is a perfect primer in Winston’s unique style that has her poised to become an indie darling.

The 23-year-old Detroit native and classically trained opera singer wrote all of the album’s songs, in addition to playing all of the instruments on the recordings.

Most of Winston’s songs stay in her signature high-pitched, almost girlish tone. Her Joanna Newsome-esque sound may seem like it could be unappealing to some, but she does it all so well that it’s incredibly charming and highly addictive.

“Locomotive” starts off the album with a driving beat and Winston’s characteristic undeniable hook that gets in your head and stays there. It features a slight twinge of electro-pop while still avoiding an over-produced sound.

Next, the title track, “Sister Wife,” is an irresistibly catchy song and a twist from the usual “love gone wrong” theme of many songs. Her play on the term “sister wife” is  easily understood by the listener and is like a cultural time capsule of America’s current fascination with the members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who have a bunch of wives.

She hilariously declares with gumption, “Hey there, Sister Wife / Get the Hell out, it’s my night / You don’t know the way to his heart like I do.” The song shines as one of Winston’s best.

“Sweet James” is reminiscent of She & Him’s 60s girl group-influenced love songs. It’s a bouncy tune similar to Zooey Deschanel’s cheery, clever songwriting.

“Sweet James” is a modern cousin to the Motown-style tunes about innocent affection between girl and boy, complete with Winston’s endearing “ooh oohs” and loving declarations that this James fellow is “nice as nice can be” and “true blue.”

The one blunder of the album is “Don’t Care About Anything.” It seems to be meant as an emotional, stripped-down change of pace from the rest of the album. However, the track mostly comes off as strangely saccharine wailing until the relief of a somewhat redeeming chorus and violin solo.

“Choice Notes” is the album’s second single and is upbeat with great production that isn’t too over-the-top. Its fresh sound and happy beat has helped the track get grabbed up for some commercials in the UK, where Winston already has a dedicated following.

Sister Wife is a strong release full of charm, originality and authentic talent. From the strong songwriting and the fact that she plays every instrument on the album herself, Winston has quickly proven that she is a talent to look out for.

It is obvious that as she heads this week to perform at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Festival in the music mecca of Austin, Sister Wife is only the beginning for Alex Winston.

88.1 WKNC Pick of the Week is published every Wednesday in the print edition of Technician, as well as online at technicianonline.com and wknc.org.

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New Album Review

“Dye It Blonde” both familiar and new

88.1 WKNC’s Pick of the Week 3/2
By WKNC DJ Margot

Musically, my parents and I do not agree on much. They raised me on ABBA, Moody Blues and everything 70s. By high school, I had dropped everything oldies for the indie music that is so prevalent in our generation.

But, after giving them a good listen of the Smith Westerns new album, Dye It Blonde, I had the whole family agree on a band that didn’t hit their peak in 1978. And if you haven’t been listening to indie music, the Smith Westerns provide a great starting point.

The band doesn’t throw you through the hoops of obscurity that many people feel indie music is, but reminds fans of the early rock they grew up listening to as kids.

Dye It Blonde is the second album that the band has produced and was just released in mid-January. Their 60s-inspired Beatlesque sound is both familiar and new, compelling listeners to keep listening through the end of the album.

Their lyrics are honest and simple, and complement  their traditional yet somehow experimental instrumentation well. Expect strong electric guitar, pop keys and soft vocals that are oddly mesmerizing. Also expect a lot – and I mean a lot – of electric guitar solos.

The band hails from the Windy City and consists of vocalist Cullen Omori, guitarist Max Kakacek and bassist Cameron Omori. Before this album release, they toured with some of the big names in the business – MGMT, Florence and the Machine, Belle and Sebastian and Passion Pit. The band was named band of the week by Rolling Stone Magazine after their release of Dye it Blonde on Jan. 18.

For a first listen, check out the tracks “Fallen In Love” and “Only One.” These two songs are both different, but are connected by minor chords and melancholy rock that makes you want to take a road trip – just in time for Spring Break. So, grab a copy of Dye It Blonde, get in the car with some friends and book it.

If you are already a fan of the Smith Westerns or didn’t like them the first time you heard them, expect cleaner, softer sounds and clearer vocals – an overall improvement from their self-titled first album in 2009.

Dye It Blonde is the band’s graduation album, from teenage garage sound to a more polished, grown-up sound. The band leaves behind the harsh, quick vocals for slow melodic echoes.

Check out the song “Smile” for something clearer and dreamier than their original sound. The song features a chorus that is unexpected compared to the rest of the album, making the song stand out compared to the rest of the tracks.

Dye It Blonde provides a great transition, both for the band and for the 60s sound that seems to be coming back in great demand. I would recommend the album to anyone who’s been looking for a Beatles rebirth or is a fan of the Dum Dum Girls. Imagine a masculine, louder Dum Dum Girls and you have the Smith Westerns.

88.1 WKNC Pick of the Week is published every Wednesday in the print edition of Technician, as well as online at technicianonline.com and wknc.org.