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Album Reviews

Apocalypse Soon: Major Lazer
★★★★☆ Apocalypse soon

Diplo is back at it again, after his first album with the Major Lazer group, Free the Universe that Millions partied and raged hard with last year, brings a new vibe to the music fans mixing reggae with electro-dob step beats. This 5 Track EP is a blend of different feeling mixed into one track. The first track on this EP, “Aerosol Can” featuring Pharrell Williams, instead of singing as he usually does on his features, instead he raps showing that he can do it all in music, Rap, sing, and make sick beats. The beat is fast and matches his voice, although some of the beats are different from the previous album Free the Universe, it still has the Major Lazer style implemented in the EP. The second song on the EP called “Come on to me” featuring Sean Paul is a true reggae dubstep song that encapsulates the whole Major Lazer movement. This song is a club song, with the build up during the songs. I felt like this EP had a mixture all the Caribbean themed music under electro beats. Track 4, “Sound Bang” featuring Machel Montano, is my favorite song on the album because of the Soca artist from my country Trinidad & Tobago on the song. The song starts up like the intro of Bob Burgers but once the song continues you get this Soca/ Electro beat that is truly unique. Overall this was a good listen, Diplo and Major Lazer did it again, bringing fans what they want to hear. The last song on the album was a strange choice for the EP but I didn’t put it past them having a reggae artist on one of his Jamaican style dubstep beats. I’m looking forward to what Major Lazer has in store for us fans in the future.
Review written by: Nigel Blair

Sail Out: Jhene Aiko
★★★★☆ sail out


Sail Out is the first I have ever heard of Jhene Aiko but I was impressed. She has a style and flow that is all her own. At just seven songs I would have liked to hear more from the EP, but no reason to worry because her debut album is expected May 2014. Regardless, Sail Out is packed with features from Childish Gambino, Kendrick Lamar, Vince Staples, and Ab- Soul. For those of you that don’t know these are some of the well-respected names in the Rap genre and for good reason; Jhene is extremely talented. The songs have a similar sound and feel so I am excited to hear what the album Souled Out will be like. I would like to see her experiment more with her sound but this is just an EP. Every song on the EP is worth a listen but the stand out for me is “Bed Peace” featuring Childish Gambino. “Bed Piece” is not only catchy but I guarantee you will be moving to the beat by the end of the song. With many artists the best songs are arguably the ones featuring other artists but here they add to the songs instead of distracting from Aiko. “The Worst,” is a song that she performs alone and does a fantastic job with. This is not the last you will be hearing from Ms. Jhene Aiko because as EPs go this is a good one.
Review written by: Brandon Kasprzyk

The Late Registration Of A College Dropout...: Jon Connor
★★★★★ American Authors


Aftermath’s most recent signee Jon Connor has released a new mixtape cumbersomely named: The Late Registration Of A College Dropout Who Had A Dark Twisted Fantasy Of 808s And Heartbreak. I can honestly say that the mix tape successfully lives up to its title. This mixtape clearly has a strong Kanye influence at its foundation, and Jon Connor does well in paying homage to Kanye using some of his most recognizable instrumentals. Therefore you can already be assured that the production on the tape is pleasing to the ears. Connor makes his own version of Kanye classics ranging from songs old as “Jesus Walks” all the way up to most recent Kanye songs such as “Bound 2”. On the surface most of the songs are simply a cover of Kanye’s most popular songs, however it’s the subject matter, Connor’s delivery, and his flow that really sets him apart from most artists who cover popular songs. The subject matter and Connor’s storytelling on Kanye’s beats make this mixtape great enough to be an album. He talks about all the struggles he faced as your average man with seemingly unreachable dreams, betrayal, oppression, family members who don’t support him because of his success, and many more subjects. Mixtapes that include genuine and uncommonly spoken perspectives on life possess a great amount of novelty that strengthens the quality of the project. Therefore this release definitely impresses. Some of my personal favorites that even I can relate to are “Doin My Job”, “Blame Game”, and “New Slaves”. However not one song on this release isn’t worth listening to. Connor does really well holding his own and features were not necessary. The mixtape features Justin Daye, Mickey Wallace, and Kap Kallous. All in all this mixtape is nothing short of impressive; easily a 5 out of 5 stars. (Be wary of profanity)
Review written by: Tylre

Pulses: Karmin
★★★☆☆ Do Not Engage

Nick Noonan and Amy Heidemann give Pulses an attention grabbing introduction with “Geronimo Intro,” a 40 second acapella track. A lot of attention is drawn to Nick’s voice in “Pulses.” Nick manages to outshine Amy’s rapping in this song. Their first single for this album, “Acapella,” has a more unique style than many of the other tracks and incorporates humor. At one point over halfway through the song, it is only Amy’s voice and she jokingly switches keys then says “never mind, bring the beat back.” The beat-driven track “I Want it All,” begins with enticing vocal harmonizing and then leads into a disco-like vibe. This song steps away from the rapping and instead focuses more on the melody even though it borders on being repetitive. Despite “Night like This,” being a party song about drinking, it is not as exciting as one would expect and doesn’t carry much of a beat. “Neon Love,” is a more realistic and emotional song about Nick and Amy’s love being “destined to die.” This track really highlights Amy’s impressive voice. “Drifter,’ is a very radio-friendly song with a catchy beat, but at times Amy’s rapping at times sounds like it was taken from a Nikki Minaj song. “Tidal Waves,” gives another realistic look into Nick and Amy’s relationship. Their voices blend well together and create beautiful sounding harmonies. “Gasoline,” isn’t their most exciting track and has the same chill-party vibe that “Night like This,” had. It has catchy moments, however when Amy and Nick sing together. Amy’s vocal talent is really showcased in “Puppet.” At times, however, the track tends to be anticlimactic, especially after moments when the beat builds up. The fun-pop song “Hate to Love You,” is one of their catchier tracks on the album. The song has a good amount of singing from both Amy and Nick, with snippets of Amy’s rapping that enhance the track rather than take away from it. Not on par with the previous track, “Try Me On,” is slightly taken over by more Nikki Minaj-like rapping. The album ends anticlimactically with “What’s in it for Me,” which has a decent beat but lacks a strong chorus. Pulses definitely has catchy moments, but it is unclear as to what Karmin’s desired image is since there were several style changes throughout the album. They may be trying too much to blend into the mainstream pop culture instead of focusing on their unique qualities.
Review written by: Melissa Feola

Mania: Aim Your Arrows
★★★★☆ Silversun Pickups

Pop-punk music has a new band on the horizons that should be on everyone’s list of bands to listen to: Aim Your Arrows. This group of 4 people fronted by a female singer with yellow hair, a guitarist with blue hair, a bassist with green hair, and a drummer with a red Mohawk, has been making waves not just in their hometown of Detroit, but within the punk community. Their style of pop-punk that is popular today fused with teenage-angst filled lyrics and sung by a girl, which is only really heard by bands like Tonight Alive and Paramore, is really entertaining to listen to. With their previous EP “Reflections,” that was co-produced by lead singer of Chiodos, Craig Owens, they have been gaining more and more recognition as a force to be reckoned with in the music industry as a local band. Their newest seven song album, “Mania,” has been put on iTunes and has been receiving some great reviews, which are rightfully given because these guys are a real talent. The opening song, “The Act of Forgiveness,” kicks the album off the right way with heavy guitar riffs, in your face drum beats, and passionate singing about the pain that an ex-boyfriend brought about. The album from this point on does not slow down one bit; with songs like “I Can’t Wait,” a song that was released as a single, and “Hell Is Nice This Time Of Year,” this album has a sound that can pump a person up right before a big game, and has breakdowns that will make anyone who loves a mosh pit go absolutely insane. This band, while still having the contemporary punk sound that is popular in this time, has a very authentic vibe about them that will draw more than just one group of listeners.
Review written by: Nick Winger

Recess: Skrillex
★★★☆☆ Schoolboy q

After the success of 2010′s Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, thousands of amateur producers spent sleepless nights attempting to become the next Skrillex. By 2011, the entire landscape of electronic music had shifted, the mechanized bass-quake and distorted vocals in half-time infiltrating everything from trance to rave techno. As bass music kept pushing for the filthiest drops and mosh-worthy builds, Skrillex (Sonny Moore) spent his time on the road developing recording relationships and broadening his production palette. His latest release, Recess, reflects those influences. Opening the album, “All Is Fair In Love and Brostep” featuring the Ragga Twins hits the bass hard much like a lot of Skrillex’s past works. While most of album strays away from the popular formula of a dubstep song, this one stays to the roots and does it well. 1950’s sci-fi samples are dubbed over the track, giving a cool science-type vibe to the song. Nothing too special in terms of dubstep, but still a decent song. Fatman Scoop should be a fixture at every EDM festival after this exposure on the track “Recess.” Aligning with Skrillex and Kill The Noise on the upbeat funk of the album’s title track, you get a party starter that blends those leftfield melodies and fills with a hype hip-hop vibe. A nice blend of high energy genres that makes for a very listenable song that has potential outside of dance clubs. “Coast Is Clear” is one of the true curveballs of the project. During an interview on Reddit, Skrillex said that he actually got to sample Chance The Rapper’s band, The Social Experiment. The inclusion of the horns at that pace bring a jazzy vibe that blends perfectly with Chance’s vocal styling. Many might not categorize this as rap or even dubstep, but still this drum-and-bass heavy songs is catchy, unique, and definitely the most radio friendly song off of Recess. The Niki & The Dove-featured “Ease My Mind” is a surefire anthem. Those vocals don’t ask for anything more than huge festival speakers. Paired with a Middle Eastern-tinged melody in the drop, this one will have dubstep fans raising their arms in the air, hoping they can touch the sun in the middle of whatever festival they’re standing in. One of the biggest problems with this album is in terms of replay-ability. While some songs like “Coast Is Clear” and “Ease My Mind” are unique songs that are worth multiple listens, too many tracks like “Ragga Bomb” and “Doompy Poomp” just do not have a certain factor to it that makes it a standout. To outsiders of the world of EDM music, these songs may be good, but to the average radio listener, these songs are not so interesting and are worth a skip. With that being said, Recess is a move forward for the formula-heavy SKrillex, who does experiment with many elements in this album. Those experiments are very intriguing and are worth listens over and over again both in the dance clubs, but also on the mainstream radio.
Review written by: Joe Yanuelvich

A Voice Within: Intervals

In a single word, thegreatestalbumIhaveeverlistenedtointhepastdecade. There I said it in a single word. Intervals’ new album has both raw power and such sweet tones for your little ear holes. This is Intervals first album with vocals and it has absolutely blown myself and a lot of others out of the water. I mean the band was amazing to begin with, but lead singer Mike Semesky turns it up to eleven in this new album. Let’s start with the guitars. Throughout the whole album, it is just back in forth amazing riffs and melodies. On many tracks both guitars are perfectly in sync with each other playing the same riff, it is just beautiful. Aaron Marshall’s Strandberg guitar looks absolutely stunning and also can light your ears on fire with its sound. If we go to the drums, their drummer, Anup Sastry, has beats people haven’t even heard of before. Sastry has a solo album that is crazy to begin with, but put him behind a set and add everyone else in Intervals, you get this masterpiece. Finally, if we move to the singer, Semensky’s voice has been handed down to him from the music lords. His voice is one of the greatest in this genre and beyond. The bassist is amazing as well, if they had a real bassist. They used Marshall’s bass playing skills on the album, but live they play with a pre recorded bass. But again, this is the first album with vocals so it makes up for the fact there is an imaginary force playing their bass. Just recently I saw them play the majority of this album live and it was one of the best live performances I have ever seen. They were great to watch and I had the opportunity to meet them all. This album reflects all their abilities to just really live up to their musical skill. I honestly have not heard an album this good in a very long time. It has everything you could possibly want in every song. From head banging, neck breaking riffs and beats to nice smooth clear vocals from Semensky. This is an amazing album for anyone who wants to explore some great new music. Don’t worry skeptics; there is no screaming in it, just heavier sounding music. It is an album that everyone should listen to and I’m sure millions will like.
Review written by: Addison Hurlburt

Gleesh: Fat Trel (Explicit)

Metalcore has always been a strange mix of a lot of interpretations of music from a lot of random bands. So many in fact, my brain could possibly explode from the sheer amount of music this genre has created, but sometimes there are these strange occurrences, where one band actually makes an impact on the whole of metalcore itself and that just happens to be Architects new album “Lost Forever//Lost Together”. This album isn’t for anyone who picks their bands by looking into hot topics metal section; it’s for the people who can appreciate a heavy metalcore album. The whole album is pushed on by lead vocalist Sam Carter’s hardcore raspy voice with his screams and also his clean vocals shown in most of the songs. Cart’s voice has never been one of those whiney voices that so many metalcore singers have. They are short and concise working into their songs extremely well. Another thing that stands out throughout the album is Architects ability to put out extreme thrash and in your face guitar riffs, but then transfer that right into melodies that demand attention from you. The guitar riffs are just so amazing on this album that they really speak volumes about the bands ability themselves. Architects boldness to journey to places that metalcore hasn’t yet gone really makes them stand out in a crowd. One of the greatest things that I haven’t heard in metalcore in a long time is a simple deviation from the normal verse/chorus/verse/chorus/solo/chorus. That alone makes me want to listen to the album, even though I’m not into metalcore. All of these things make me want to give it another try and that’s why this album is so great. It has the power to change someone’s opinion about a whole genre. It’s not just me either, this album is changing a lot of things in metalcore and for that reason give it a listen and hear how it sounds.
Review written by: James McDonald

Slow Me Down: by Sara Evans

Slow me down
Oh boy oh boy, “Slow Me Down” by Sara Evans. It pains me to say this but the album was horrid. She sounded amazing as always but the songs were all very generic and similar. Only two songs stood out in particular. If you are really bored one-day maybe they’d be worth youtubing. Oddly enough they are both Sara Evan’s featuring someone else. The first is, “Better Off” with Vince Gill. I do like this song a lot; if it didn’t come as a part of this album I’d like it a whole lot more. The lyrics tell a woman to let a man walk away if he is leaving, because someone could love you better and in the end you will be better off. It is a fantastic post break-up, feeling sorry for yourself, while inhaling Ben & Jerry’s song. However if you are just getting out of a relationship and finally starting to be happy, DON’T LISTEN TO IT. Trust me, it’ll only make you sad again. Perhaps I didn’t like the album for that reason, Sara Evans recently went through a divorce and I think this is the outcome of said divorce. The second semi-noteworthy song is her remake of Gavin DeGraw’s Not Over You. I am a fan of DeGraw so I do like the song. He also put in vocals, so the song isn’t half bad. But it continues with that depressing post-divorce theme. I am a huge Sara Evans fan, and I am deeply saddened at this album. But I guess as long as it helped her get over this troubling time in her life, its not too, too terrible. However, don’t listen to it if you are just out of a relationship and trying to move on.
Review written by: Micelle Voorhees

Shakira: Shakira

Shakira has had a long and successful career from “Whenever, Wherever,” to “Hips Don’t Lie,” to “She Wolf,” to becoming a judge on the Voice. Her tenth studio album is self-titled and for good reason, it has some new sounds and some old but is undoubtedly very Shakira. At twelve tracks Shakira features two Spanish language tracks that although hard to understand depending on what language(s) you speak are still thoroughly enjoyable. This album is also Shakria’s first under Jay-Z, and this is noticeable when you look at all the “hits” the album has. The album begins with the hit “Can’t Remember to Forget You,” which features the always sexy Rihanna and a very catchy chorus. Next is “Empire,” a hit from beginning to end, it has a sound that is very Shakira but at the same time unlike anything currently on the radio. The best part of a Shakira album is without a doubt her voice and it remains stellar throughout, “You Don’t Care About Me,” features a nice vocal performance. This album really does have some of everything. If you want to dance and move along give “Dare (La La La)” a listen. If you’re looking for a great ballad then look no further than “23.” One of my personal favorites is “Medicine” featuring fellow The Voice judge Blake Sheldon, although it can be considered a country duet, as a non-country fan I still found it gratifying. Whether you’re a Shakira fan or not I would absolutely recommend giving this a listen.
Review written by: Brandon Kasprsyk

Strong Museum of Play