Finals Week? The 80s Have You Covered

Audrey Avril ’19

Freaked out about finals week? Too many exams to study for? Pages and pages of papers to write? A seemingly infinite amount of work to accomplish in a painfully short timeframe? Living in the library? Sustained on coffee power alone? Ready for this cruel two week stretch to end?

Luckily, we have just the playlist that will turn you, a panicked student frantically struggling against the clock, into the cool, savvy, totally-on-top-of-things 80s action hero you always wanted to be. Here is a playlist of 80s classics that will have you montaging your work away in no time.

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Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros “PersonA:” The Sadness and Clarity of Losing a Zero

By Charlotte Freccia ’19

In 2014, a calamity struck the California-based indie-folk collective Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros in the loss of their only female member, Jade Castrinos. Fans of the group lamented: gone were Jade’s soulful vocals, whedwardsharpepersona.jpgich added wonder and whimsy in duet with Alex Ebert, the band’s frontman and main vocalist, in infectious and iconic tracks like “Home” and “That’s What’s Up” and her significant feminine presence. Without Jade, ESMZ is just a group of eleven bearded, suede-hat wearing white dudes. Distinctly less inclusive, and less interesting. Even worse, the separation of Jade from the band became very messy and very public, complicating the twelve-piece wannabe-psychedelic pseudo-folk cult’s image of harmonic melody-making and free love. Real hippies don’t have occupational disputes, am I right?

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A Cool Concert: Clarkson’s Comps

By Tom Loughney ’16

Andrew Clarkson, ’16, is one of Kenyon’s resident music majors. As a member of many on-campus student musical groups, he has become one of our most recognizable guitarists. It’s quite likely that you’ve heard him play. Maybe you walked into a humid New Appt. – thick with the sweat of your peers – as Trix and the Kids brought the funk to your moistened ears. Maybe you stumbled into the VI one hazy evening, and danced to Motown so hard you accidentally beaned that cute boy you have a crush on. Beaned him right in the mouth. Or, maybe – like me – you went to Rosse Hall on April 2nd in the Year of Our Lord 2016,[1] and heard him play his comps recital.

Clarkson and co. (Sam Graf, Harrison Montgomery, Thomas Cox, Graham Hughes, Jeb Backe, Carolyn Ten Eyck, and Noah Weinman all contributed some fantastic performances as well) certainly didn’t take the easy route, with a set list that was ambitious as it was    . Some names: J Dilla, Charlie Parker, Richard Rogers. Some facts: these men are all deceased, these men are all legends, these men are all men. Oh and One More Fact I forgot to mention: Andrew Clarkson and crew absolutely crushed it.

Randy, Sam, and Harrison all walk on stage. Guitar, Drums, Bass. It begins, and it begins with a confident intro from the aforementioned Mr. Dilla. Next up is some Richardson, and then Parker, and then the next, and the next and the next. It’s all really quite good. Any visible nervous tension dissolves within 20 seconds. Tops. Harrison is positively grooving on the bass. It’s great! The bass is just as much about the physicality as it is the music, and Harrison’s got this down. Swooning, swaying, never sweating. He’s having fun playing this instrument, and – as a result – I’m having just as much fun watching/listening. Graf is having a ball, shooting his fellow performers positively massive grins. He’s got the look of a man who’s locking it down on the drums – and that’s because he is. There’s a law in this universe – an irrefutable mechanism by which the matter and space we all share behaves, like gravity – and it is this: the sound of a perfectly executed drum fill instills the greatest internal elation a person can ever know. I would trade every earthly object in my possession to hear another perfect live drum fill right now, and I would then walk naked before you knowing that I made a choice that was 100% worth it. Nasty, BUT: music is good, drums are good, and – also, sometimes – so is being naked. It seems like a fair trade.

Another pertinent element I should mention – as it is his comps recital, after all – is Andrew. Note: he’s a friend of mine, but nepotism be damned. Damn it right to heck. He’s easily the best guitarist I’ve ever known,[2] and he gave the closest thing to a flawless performance that I’ve ever seen. Go listen to your favorite song by your favorite artist right now. Do it. Listen close to the performance. Each (non-computerized[3]) recording will have a flaw in it. In fact, it will have several.

In FACT:

It will has several more flaws than I heard in Clarkson’s performance over the seven separate – incredibly difficult – tunes he performed. That – in and of itself – is an accomplishment worthy of praise. I have suspicions that he may actually be a robot that has decided to play guitar amongst us flawed human beings. Andrew? Are you reading this? Are you a robot? You can DM me your answer, it’s cool.

Actually, he may not be a robot – Andrew brought some real soul[4] to the table, particularly during the performances of My Favorite Things and Junk House Time (an arrangement and a Clarkson original, respectively). I was a particular fan of the MFT arrangement – Backe, Ten Eyck, and Weinman blew some mighty fine brass – and JHT was just as masterfully arranged. Frankly, I’m mad nobody took video of the event. It woulda made my job – as a ‘concert reviewer’ – much easier, but it also woulda made your job – as a ‘consumer of content’ – much easier as well. You could have real, tangible, digital interpretation of what occurred on that day – now gone, so long ago. Written word is not sound. This is a fact. Yet One More Fact I forgot to mention. Oops.


While there’s a charm to experiencing something that most other shave not, I’d encourage you to make an effort to see your friends’ outputs – creative or otherwise. We belong to a campus that’s a lot like the jazzy arrangements I heard at Clarkson’s performance. Beautiful. Moving. A little surreal. This characterizes the intelligence of many of our peers, and you should move Heaven and Earth to experience it.[5] You’ll never regret it – I promise.

This was comps, so I suppose I have to give a grade, and here it is: 100%[6]

 

[1] Nursing a fading – but in no way gentle – Saturday morning hangover.

[2] I say this as someone who has known and played with many musicians for almost 7 years now. This guy is the real deal. Watch the throne, yo.

[3] Btw, I don’t mean this as any sort of curmudgeonly, ‘ugh computer/synthetic music’s not real music’ sorta way – it’s just much harder to leave in ‘mistakes’ with computerized music is all. By the by, if ‘comp. music isn’t real music’ is (somehow, in 2016, still) your opinion, then you should talk to literally anyone who listens to this type of music. They will be able to prove you wrong and inform your artistic worldview.

[4] Yo okay so I know robots and AI are basically people at this point but I needed a transition, okay??? Let me have this.

[5] For real, this school is a murder of geniuses. They roam these streets in packs, y’all. You folks are so unbelievably stupid smart, and it humbles me every day. Keep making your A+ content.

[6] Does not affect GPAs, grades, or résumés, unfortunately.

Down with the Past Playlist

By Erin Delaney ’16

I planned to write a playlist that would have one song per decade by a woman artist. Then I realized that I hate the past! It’s terrible for most people but about 0.1 percent of people on the planet. We can start listening to music in 60 years when we have figured out how to fix that. That being said, the following are a mix of tunes I will smuggle in when all our previous media is burned or repurposed as household decorations.

  1. Only Loved at Night – The Raincoats – Odyshape

This album is from 1981 and I don’t believe it is from 1981 because a) you know how I feel about the 1980s and b) it still sounds like it is from that utopian time 60 years from now. Unapologetically female band (with some queer members even, which is another reason that I do not believe this is from 1981) making unapologetically female post-punk. Their music is all one free-wheeling and sprawling detour. You never get where you expected to go but you always wind up somewhere different with each listen.

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OMG! SPIDERLAND TURNED 25!

By Adam Brill ’17

79094827-18f8-4987-ab3b-dcbe058bd9d6.jpgBack in “the day,” (around 11th grade), I thought I was so cool because I bought CD’s. It was such a contrarian move in the days of digital media, piracy, and streaming. Looking back, the compact disc is such an odd form of music distribution. Aesthetically, it has none of the charm of the vinyl. Functionally, its much more fragile than a tape. The casing is frequently two brittle and right angular pieces of plastic, which will automatically break if you drop them. The dimensions don’t provide artists much room for clever or artistic booklets. Rather than be hindered by this strange medium of distribution, Slint used it perfectly on their CD release of “Spiderland.” My CD copy of “Spiderland,” frankly, annoys the shit out of me. The case features the now iconic black and white photo of the band treading water in a lake by a quarry. Once you open the case, there is simply a sheet of paper with the song titles and a black and white photo of a spider crawling over a light. There is absolutely zero color or pizazz to the album art. The CD itself has literally nothing on it. The reason it annoys the shit out of me is that the front and the back of the compact disc are completely indistinguishable. Many a time I have popped that disc into my car CD player and my car flashes the error because I have put it in upside down. Just thinking about these minor inconveniences causes me to think “fuck you Slint being all dark and angsty and shit.”

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Dancing in the Dark: A Night Out with the Boss

bruceby Julia Waldow ’17

While some kids relied on cartoons or PopTarts to get through childhood, I relied on rock-and-rollers three times my age. Forget about Britney Spears or Shakira — it was all about “dad rock.” From belting “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones at my fifth-grade talent show to coasting around in my dad’s car and blasting the Beatles with the top down, my earliest and fondest memories involved a ’60s and ’70s culture I never originally experienced firsthand, but very much loved and appreciated.

Naturally, the second I heard that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band would be playing a tour based on the 1980 smash album The River, I knew I had to go. Here was my chance to listen to the music I grew up on, the music that shaped so many of my days and weeks and months. I admired “The Boss” for his meaningful lyrics, powerful musical hooks, and good-natured personality, and I knew that if I didn’t see him live at least once, I would regret it.

So I grabbed my tickets and drove on over to Columbus with the wonderful Erin Delaney ’16. We knew we were in for a treat when we stepped on the parking lot shuttle bus and were the youngest people in attendance. There were tall dads and short dads, big dads and small dads, dads with bandanas and dads with beards. I knew I had found my people.

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Mogwai Journeys Back to the Bomb in Atomic

by Audrey Avril ’19

Earlier this month, Scottish post-rock band Mogwai released their new album, Atomic. Technically, they released a collection of songs off the soundtrack they produced for a documentary, but if you’re a Mogwai fan, you take what you can get. In this case, what you get is a pretty good album.

Tied loosely to the history of the atomic bomb, Mogwai manages to encompass destruction and creation, the past and the present, despair and hope, all in a mere 50 minutes. From the first track to the last, Atomic sends you on an otherworldly journey while keeping you tethered to the humanity of it all. Buckle up.

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The Lumineers in 2016: We’re All Big Kids Now

By Charlotte Freccia ’19

I know it’s like the Number One Commandment of How To Be Good At Liking Music — Thou shalt not listen to, much less actively like, a band that got famous for having its song accompany an earnest, heavily light-leaked montage of a barn wedding on a Bing commercial — and being Good At Liking Music is very important to me but goddammit my soft, soft indie-dudebro-loving heart just can’t get enough of The Lumineers. I’m not even sorry that I’m not sorry. I liked them when they came out with their self-titled debut in late 2012, but back in those days we were in the thick of the (sadly) short-lived era known as “folk revival” during which it was a bit more socially acceptable to express admiration for bands that made liberal use of the banjo. I guess even then I understood, though, that The Lumineers were a little gimmicky and I imagined that their influence and playability would be short-lived. Nonetheless, I unexpectedly got pretty heavily back into the band this winter after The Stairwells performed an appropriately unironic cover of their cover of The Talking Heads’s “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” which I not surprisingly loved and which inspired me to take another listen (or 12) to the Deluxe Edition of The Lumineers and to get excited for the release of a second album by the Denver-based band.

I was happily surprised that this band subverted my expectations in the production of a––so far as I can tell––mature and nuanced sophomore album, Cleopatra, which was released last week. The leading single from the album, “Ophelia,” echoed the band’s breakout hit “Ho Hey” down to the dominant sounds of upbeat, Ragtime-esque piano and tambourine and the rhythmic group chorus. “Ophelia” remains a standout on the album, but make no mistake: on Cleopatra, the old blissfully ignorant, Americana-devoted Lumineers who sang of college-bar flirtation are gone and in their place are three disillusioned and vaguely existential twenty-somethings who make music with lots of spaces, lots of distance. The endearing group vocals of The Lumineers are gone; here, singer-guitarist Wesley Schultz sings alone and frequently of foreboding Shakespearian leading ladies who, like himself, are not quite sure what to make of their lives despite ostensible distinction and success.
Something I’ve long admired about this band is that their music seems crafted not for production but for live recording, and that holds true on this album. Its draftiness, its imperfection, feel newly melancholic and powerful on Cleopatra.  A friend of mine told me that this album makes her feel weary and grown up, and she doesn’t know if it’s because the last time she seriously listened to this band she was a sophomore in high school, but I think there’s something to that: the opening song, “Sleep on the Floor,” is a sunrise, certainly, but one that wakes you up alone and much too early. “Gun Song” is reminiscent of another yearning, slow-burning ballad by another Band That I Loved In High School To Which I Remain Unironically Devoted Though It Has Become Less Cool To Be So that was released this year with the word “gun” in the title: “Hold No Guns” by Death Cab For Cutie. Both seem to ruminate on the futility of love in the face of infallible sincerity. The album’s title song, “Cleopatra,” is thematically similar to “Gun Song” in that its hapless heroine, a beautiful and relatively successful actress, spurns a would-be lover despite her premonition that she will “die alone” (!!!). (Side note––I was disappointed with this band when I first glimpsed the cover art and saw there a notably white woman dressed in ancient Egyptian garb, but that the song is about an actress playing Cleopatra rather than the formidable (and distinctly African) empress herself makes this bit of cultural appropriation slightly more acceptable if eye-rollingly predictable from a band that would surely make Sun Kil Moon’s master list of “Whitest Bands I’ve Ever Heard”). The album closes with “Patience,” a simple minute-and-a-half wordless piano coda that sets the weary sun on this bittersweet set of songs that are musically and emotionally resonant and herald the emergence of the somber, disillusioned band that once made, so innocently, the song “Flowers In Your Hair” and now must acknowledge the hard truths of the life on the road.

Cleopatra is hard and heavy and much more complex than The Lumineers’s first attempt which is to say that it might be slightly more cool but a hell of a lot less fun to like the band in 2016 than it was in 2012.

Album Review: Slime Season 3-Young Thug

by Adam Brill ’17

Feel that? It’s oozing and coagulating in your head. It’s running and dripping out of your ears and down your spine. You think, either I’m on Nickelodeon’s “Slime Time Live” or Young Thug has dropped his tight new mixtape, Slime Season 3. Due to the fact that it’s not 2003 and you probably aren’t famous, you assume Thug’s up to some shit.

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Horn Gallery Spotlight: Teen Suicide

bal-teen-suicide-on-signing-to-run-for-cover-records-rereleasesBy Jacqueleen Eng ’19

Horn Gallery goers, you are in for a packed weekend. Not only do we have Jlin throwing down Saturday night, but one of my favorite bands right now, Teen Suicide, will be performing on Friday. Hailing from Silver Springs, Maryland, Teen Suicide (who are undergoing a name change) formed in 2009 and amassed a cult following after their brief breakup in 2013. The band formed when the members were young, and their recent album It’s the Big Joyous Celebration, Let’s Stir the Honeypot will be the last album released under their current name, inspired by the 1988 cult classic Heathers. (According to the band’s overactive Twitter @fugazi420, they may be now called the Hot Sloppy Joe Boys. I tweeted at them to find out. Me: @fugazi420 excuse the mayb dumb q but are you actually now called the Hot Sloppy Joe Boys? Them: @yung_sangria im trying to get the rest of the band on board w/ it lol – sam)

Teen Suicide has released many projects, including the album i will be my own hell because there is a devil inside my body, and the EPs DC snuff film and waste yrself. To call Teen Suicide an angsty band might be sort of a cop-out, but it’s probably the best way I can describe them. Singer and guitarist Sam Ray has been open with his past drug habits and depression, and these themes are found in the band’s music. I’d say the reason for the band’s mass following is related to their exploration of experiences teenagers can identify with. Ray’s social media presence probably helps, too. Aggressive? Sarcastic? I’m not entirely sure, but I’ve been following him for a while on various media outlets and he’s entertaining, to say the least.

Definitely try to catch this show if you’re into that whole DIY-lo-fi-sad-boy-angst-maybe-trash-maybe-moshing-but-not-too-hardcore-moshing-basement-Baltimore-Julia-Brown-Ricky-Eat-Acid-etc.-Elvis-Depressedly-Foxes-In-Fiction-ambient-cool-cool-cool sound like I know most of you are.

Doors open at 9 p.m. Show time TBD with openers Sedna’s Not Alone and Kenyon’s very own Peter Hardy!