Album Review: The Weatherman

The Weatherman by Gregory Alan Isakov (Suitcase Town Music, 2013. 41 minutes) Gregory Alan Isakov is a singer-songwriter. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, he immigrated to the United States as a child, and was raised in Philadelphia. He began touring with a band at the age of 16 and has been influenced most by the music of Leonard Cohen, Kelly Joe Phelps and Bruce Springsteen. He now resides in Colorado.  Heavy Mellow I was sitting in my car driving down the road in the middle of the night. I knew there were a few albums that I needed to get into, so I put on Isakov’s newest release, The Weatherman. I found it a suitable audio journey as I braved the dark freeways of the night. At the same time, I found that Isakov’s… Read More →

Album Review: Amok

Amok by Atoms for Peace

Amok by Atoms for Peace (XL Recordings, 2013. 44 minutes) Atoms for Peace is an experimental rock super-group consisting of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea, Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, Joey Waronker of Beck and R.E.M. and Brazilian instrumentalist Mauro Refosco. Still Ok Computer It all started with Ok Computer, perhaps the most iconic and acclaimed record of the 90s. In an era where the Internet and computers in general began to emerge as a dominating force in everyday life, Radiohead and Thom Yorke embraced technology with open arms. They said “ok” to these advances and their music reflected that response. Where the band used to record music in the general style alternative rock, everything post OK Computer… Read More →

Album Review: Trouble Will Find Me

Trouble Will Find Me by The National

Trouble Will Find Me by The National (4AD, 2013. 55 minutes) The National is Matt Berninger, Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner, Scott Devendorf, and Bryan Devendorf. The band has released 6 full-length albums. Let It Be When you find yourself in times of trouble, what comes to you? What speaks words of wisdom? Where do you go? In those dark places where trouble might find us, we all seek our buoys, those things which speak truth to our soul. Perhaps it’s a book. Maybe a painting. Potentially a collection of songs? While I personally won’t go so far as to say Trouble Will Find Me is my muse, its content and production make it a front-runner. In short, this album sticks… Read More →

Album Review: Rachmaninov: All-Night Vigil

Rachmaninov: All-night Vigil, “Vespers” by The Latvian Radio Choir (Ondine, 2013. 62 minutes) The Latvian Radio Choir, founded in 1940, is regarded as one of the top professional chamber choirs in Europe. The choir gives at least sixty concerts annually in Latvia and abroad, and regularly appears in theatrical and multimedia events. Latvian Gold The small country of Latvia is around the size of West Virginia. But, surrounded by other Baltic neighbors, it boasts over a 1.2 million Latvian folk songs. With such a rich heritage in song, the country holds regular choir festivals, where twenty thousand or more singers show up to participate in song together.  Among the many choirs in the country, the best is most likely the Latvian Radio Choir. I… Read More →

Album Review: Modern Vampires of the City

Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend.

Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend (XL, 2013. 42 minutes) Vampire Weekend is an American rock band from New York formed during the member’s time at Columbia University. The band has released 3 studio albums to critical acclaim. We All Change Whether Evangelical, Catholic, Buddhist, agnostic, or atheist, it seems as if the belief tradition in which you grew up changes with age. Some completely shift from one side of the spectrum to the other; others discover a more nuanced change, keeping the root beliefs but applying them differently. What was once blindly accepted due to parents’ beliefs now becomes something worth testing. Is this belief true? Does it withstand scrutiny and a critical eye? On the other… Read More →

Album Review: Watch the Throne

Watch the Throne by Jay-Z and Kanye West

Watch the Throne by Jay-Z and Kanye West (Roc-A-Fella, 2011. 46 minutes) Born in Brooklyn, Jay-Z is an American rapper, record producer, and business mogul. He has won 16 Grammys. Kanye West is an artist, producer, fashion designer, and film director, born in Chicago, Illinois. He has won 22 Grammys. Liberation Means Money Liberation: a major theme in literature from marginalized groups. When you don’t have choice, when the institutions and structures seem to operate in opposition to you, your goals, and your culture as a whole, then freedom becomes the cry. Freedom to make decisions without external repercussions. Freedom to practice beliefs, customs, and rites in the open. Freedom to make a living, equal to or better than those… Read More →

Album Review: The Beast in its Tracks

The Beast in its Tracks by Josh Ritter

The Beast in its Tracks by Josh Ritter (Pytheas Recordings, 2013. 44 minutes) Josh Ritter is an American singer-songwriter born in Moscow, Idaho. A graduate of Oberlin College, Ritter sang open-mic nights and worked odd jobs until he was discovered by Glen Hansard. Ritter has released 7 full-length albums and numerous EPs. A Gig, Most Difficult In my opinion, the hardest gig in show business is that of the singer-songwriter. Typically alone on stage without much accompaniment, the singer-songwriter can’t hide behind anything. When you have a band, the focus of the audience wanders from member to member. A backing band can bring energy to a mundane song; it can hide meaningless lyrics. But when you are alone on stage,… Read More →

Album Review: All the Times We Had

All the Times We Had by Ivan & Alyosa

All the Times We Had by Ivan & Alyosha (Dualtone Records, 2013. 43 minutes) Ivan & Alyosha is a Seattle band founded by lead singer, Tim Wilson, and lead guitarist, Ryan Carbary. Later, the band added Pete Wilson on bass and Tim Kim on guitar. Aside from All the Time We Had, the band has released multiple EPs. In Search of a Masterpiece We’ve all heard a masterpiece record. We might not agree on exactly what makes a masterpiece, but it always seems to transcend genre, each second contains pure gold. More than just a collection of songs, the album is a collective piece of art. But how does an album become art? And how does a band attain a… Read More →

Album Review: The 20/20 Experience

The 20/20 Experience by Justin Timberlake (RCA, 2013. 70 minutes) Renaissance Man A recent episode of Saturday Night Live was hosted by none other than Justin Timberlake, a man who can sing, joke, act, and do it all. He is today’s renaissance man. He is a performer. The 20/20 Experience marks Justin Timberlake’s first release in seven long years. Justin Timberlake spent the better part of the decade acting, being funny, and trying to escape the negative attention that he was “trying to be black”, which, curiously enough was one of the jokes of the last Saturday Night Live episode. The success of The 20/20 Experience has everything to do with Saturday Night Live, as it is Justin Timberlake’s ability to be a performer, not just a musician,… Read More →

Album Review: Boys & Girls

Boys & Girls by Alabama Shakes (ATO, 2012. 38 minutes) Alabama Shakes formed in 2009. The group includes Brittany Howard on guitar and lead vocals, Zac Cockrell on bass, Heath Fogg on guitar, and Steve Johnson on drums. The band earned 3 Grammy nominations in 2013. An Inquiry on Vocals What makes a voice? Is it only about hitting all the right notes? Certainly pitch matters. We’ve all heard a tone-deaf rendition of a song; it’s not pretty. But what if you’re too perfect? Many have descried the emergence of auto-tune—a synthetic correction ensuring perfect pitch to a voice. Auto tune forcefully alters the blue note, a note sung both with conviction and sung intentionally off-pitch. Sometimes, these blue notes… Read More →