A Mini Rant That Could Probably Be a Twitter Thread.

A Mini Rant That Could Probably Be a Twitter Thread.

I don’t like ranting online. Mainly because my words are stuck here forever, and if I say something stupid, it will most likely come back to haunt me. But here goes nothing.

I’m seeing a lot recently about news media and news outlets not “letting us know” about things that perhaps should be talked about more.

Example: this morning, I got on Twitter and saw where a police officer from my hometown reached a plea agreement in admitting to raping three women who were in his custody. Disgusting, horrible, etc. BUT the person who tweeted the story said, “Why am I just now hearing about this?!”

That’s a great question. Why are you just now hearing about it? I heard about it last year when the investigation started. I read articles about it, even on Twitter.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the media has a great responsibility and power to choose the stories that get covered in the news. It is crucial that journalists are precise and balanced in their coverage of topics. It does matter.

However, I’m in the school of thought that we each have a personal responsibility to seek out knowledge and information, even when it may not be convenient or “available.” Because let’s face it: in the Information Age we live in, we have so much stuff at our fingertips. Save for classified government documents (and even those sometimes get leaked), you can research pretty much anything and find it. Public records are available all across the internet. We can even diagnose ourselves with some life-altering disease on WebMD in minutes. (Okay, that last part was a joke. But we all know some of us do that).

People just don’t look for information partially because we are lazy and partially because it is so overwhelming to sift through all of that.

Hence, journalists. We come in, find the information and sift through it, find the holes and where things don’t line up, and attempt to reconcile all of that into one cohesive story. We are not perfect. We don’t always get it right. But we don’t sit around trying to cover up certain “types” of stories. It’s more so a matter of determining how often to cover stories/investigations and where they are placed in the newspaper (and online).

In short, I guess my point is this: don’t blame journalism/reporters/news media for your complacency in seeking out information.

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Music Moment: Paper Kites

Music Moment: Paper Kites

It’s after midnight, and you’re driving down the highway. The windows are down and your hair is almost (but not quite) blocking your view. The wind is warm and sticky, and you know summer is coming. You could drive for hours and let your mind wander because these are the days you’ll miss the most when they’re gone.

Can you tell I’m ready for summer? Not to mention I’ve already found the perfect album to accompany it. Today’s music moment is about On The Corner Where You Live by The Paper Kites.

On The Corner Where You Live album cover. Photo courtesy of The Paper Kites.

I found this album by accident one day, and I was shocked to find out it was by the Paper Kites. I had only ever heard their single “Bloom,” which was very very indie folk. But unbeknownst to me, they had released two entire albums in 2018. The first album is titled On The Train Ride Home and was released on April 18, 2018. Just five months later, the band released On The Corner Where You Live.

On The Train Ride Home is a good album, but On The Corner Where You Live really got me. It is infused with lo-fi and synth sounds, pays homage to the Blue Nile (where are my ’80s indie pop fans?!), and epitomizes heartbreak in the 21st century.

The album opens with “A Gathering on 57th,” an instrumental track that combines city sounds and a saxophone. It smoothly follows up with tracks that detail two lovers hopelessly striving for the perfect relationship in a postmodern society. Sam Bentley and Christina Lacy switch out lead vocals throughout the album to make it feel like a sort of dialogue.

Though it is stylistically different than their other albums, The Paper Kites made sure to keep a folk track in there with “Midtown Waitress.” They also included “Does It Ever Cross Your Mind” as a nice, introspective piano ballad. The album ends with the soothing yet emotionally charged “Don’t Keep Driving,” leaving the listener unsettled and longing for more as Bentley’s and Lacy’s voices trail off singing

Don’t push me, push me away (Don’t leave me).

Music journalist Thomas Hocknell describes it as “the sort of album you’d marry were it a person, although it would probably break your heart just to improve its context. It’s a delicate, yet muscular beauty of an album.”

The entire album just ebbs and flows in a way that is perfectly intricate. A cascade of emotions hits me every time I listen to it. The main critique I have is that it doesn’t seem to have a climactic song. However, the album flows so well that you get lost in the songs and don’t even realize when it’s over.

Favorite track: Deep Burn Blue or Does It Ever Cross Your Mind

Least favorite track: Red Light or On The Corner Where You Live

Overall, I give this album a 9/10. I simply adore the nostalgic sound mixed with the modern dilemmas. It feels so raw and real and true to life. And I love it.

Music Moment: Mumford & Sons

Music Moment: Mumford & Sons

Happysad. One word. A weird conglomeration of liberating joy and nostalgic gloom. The feeling that inspires you to travel the world but also isolates you to the cold depths of your heart. That’s the only way I know how to describe Delta, Mumford & Sons’ newest release.

After a three year hiatus, Mumford & Sons returned with Delta on Nov. 16, 2018. It’s no secret that this album is quite different than their previous ones. The folk aspect of Mumford & Sons is now embedded in heavy drums and electronic beats as though it’s begging to get on the Top 40 charts. 

While many critics said that the album was their worst one yet, I truly think it may be one of their most progressive. After switching producers, the band incorporated more indie sounds into the album to give it a modern vibe.

I love how Pitchfork’s Larry Fitzmaurice described it: “Delta is also the strongest collection of songs Mumford & Sons have released to date; the cool-handed atmospherics and dreamy melodies here simply suit them better than any other sonic guise they’ve worn.”

The album begins with “42”–a tribute to their 42nd single–and continues with a journey through the mind of Marcus Mumford. The climax of the album is revealed in the transition from “Picture You” to “Darkness Visible.” With an extremely smooth ride from bittersweet love to a contorted poetic reading from Milton’s Paradise Lost, the instruments crescendo until your heart feels as though it’s going to burst. 

While there are some amazing songs on this album, there are definitely a few weak points. Parts of the album lull, putting you off to the next song. I found myself skipping quite a few songs after listening to it a few times.

Favorite song: 42 or Forever

Least favorite song: Slip Away

Overall I give this album a 9/10. This is a super high rating, I know, but something about this album really spoke to me. Ultimately, I don’t think this album is a sell-out. Sure, the band has continued to blend into the mainstream. But it’s clear that Marcus Mumford is using this album to reflect on some very deep and troubling issues in his life, simultaneously causing me to do the same. (Thanks for the existential crisis, y’all.)

Check out Delta by Mumford & Sons on Spotify. 

A Small Reminder (to Myself Mainly) as Winter Approaches.

A Small Reminder (to Myself Mainly) as Winter Approaches.

One of my favorite songs right now is Seasons by Hillsong. I just love hearing it. I love singing it in church.

And it’s exactly where I am right now. If we’re being honest, it’s what I’ve been trying to run away from for so long. I don’t want to use the Christian clichés of “being in a valley” or “the winter of my life,” but it’s so true.

I’m convinced God created seasons to remind us of the ever-changing facets of our own lives. And with every passing season, He is always faithful to reveal to me what I need to learn and how I need to grow.

My favorite line in the song is the following.

Lord I think of Your love
Like the low winter sun
As I gaze I am blinded
In the light of Your brightness

It may be freezing in my heart, but the blinding light of Christ reminds me of His warmth. May I never lose that gaze.

Music Moment: Arctic Monkeys

Music Moment: Arctic Monkeys

A concept: a retro, Kubrick style hotel. A red silk dress glistening at the bar. Gold earrings reflecting in the dim light. Arctic Monkeys’s Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino playing softly in the background.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I think this album is pretty dreamy. Released on May 11, the Arctic Monkeys ended their five year hiatus with Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. Compared to their other records, this one takes a whole new face. The groovy guitar riffs transport me to space. Turner’s melodic, humming voice accompanies me as I gaze at the stars around me.

This album has been received with very mixed reviews, and I’m just going to add my thoughts into the mix with my very own Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino review.

I’ll admit I was hesitant upon first listen. This album hardly sounds like their previous grungy rock albums, such as AM or Favourite Worst Nightmare. But after listening to it three times through (my rule of thumb), I fell in love with it.

Pitchfork says the album is “a song suite documenting a futuristic moon colony and the exodus that spawned it, told by an assortment of unreliable narrators who can sometimes barely string a sentence together.” Rolling Stone describes the new album as “a lounge-pop concept record set in a casino piano bar on the moon.” What does all that even mean? It seems just as existential as it sounds. While some critics view those descriptions as a pretentious or lazy excuse for a crappy album, I think it’s more than that. Turner knew what he was doing with this album. It has a pretty political undertone and lyrics that can’t be ignored.

Star Treatment kicks off the album with a commentary on celebrity culture and its influence in the world. The album quickly flows through a series of songs highlighting dystopian future, monster trucks, taquerias, and even Donald Trump. Four Stars Out of Five calls the taqueria the Information-Action Ratio, pointing out the juxtaposition of having the world at our fingertips and not knowing what to do with it all.

The album itself is a giant paradox. It’s full of subtle and witty politicized lyrics soaked in a nostalgia that reeks of the 1970s. It’s grungy and gross while also extremely sleek and modern.

Favorite Song: Batphone

Least Favorite Song: Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (ironically enough)

 

Overall, I give this album a 8/10. This album is a shimmering work of art, and it really can’t be compared with their other albums. While stylistically it’s certainly not my favorite album of theirs, I really appreciate what they did with it. Despite all the negativity, I think it’s an interesting commentary on modern society (and what better way to do it than with some space lounge music?).

P.S. 8/10 is actually 4/5… See what I did there?

“You can be young and bitter. Just maybe not as bitter as I’m gonna be ten years from now, but I’m bitter. Anyway, don’t tell anyone.”

“You can be young and bitter. Just maybe not as bitter as I’m gonna be ten years from now, but I’m bitter. Anyway, don’t tell anyone.”

One year ago today I said goodbye to the best year of my life. I cried while boarding a plane because I knew I was leaving a piece of my heart in the French Alps. To reveal a bit of my perspective, here are some excerpts from my final days in France.

June 3, 2017.

It’s my second to last day in France and my heart shatters with every beat… As I packed, I couldn’t help but think about how funny it is to fit one’s entire life in a suitcase. (Talk about compartmentalizing.)

June 4, 2017.

I never thought this day would come. I can’t believe we’re already here… We all caught a glimpse of the sunset and ran outside to see the most beautiful view I’ve ever laid eyes on. Genève looked stunning and the whole valley reflected orangey pink hues. An extremely prolonged admiration of the sunset made us realize it was time to begin parting ways… We looked at the glittering lights of the city as I held my breath… I felt the desire to cry choking me. I was happy and sad at the same time and didn’t even know how that was possible… I am perfectly at peace.

 

I look back on those journal entries as though I’m reading someone else’s diary. The girl writing this post does not feel like the girl who spent an entire year traveling France, indulging in the beauty of their language and culture.

Bitterness has been one of the few words to describe how I’ve felt since being home. Even thought I joke about it now, I spent the entire summer (and most of this past school year) in a gloomy headspace which seemed to provide no way out.

I just recently came to a realization that much of my sorrow is self-inflicted. I can’t stop living in the past, and that’s what’s torturing me. So no, I will probably never stop talking about France. It was the most influential year of my life thus far. But I will also no longer live in the past, reveling in the romanticized reality of my mind.

KV

(P.S. Title is from Season 3 Episode 17 of Seinfeld.)

Music Moment: Superbody

Music Moment: Superbody

A mullet comparable to that of John Stamos. A crew neck paired over a collared shirt. A single cross earring dangling from his left ear. This is Robert McCurry, frontman of Superbody. He walks through the door of our local coffee shop, looking like he stepped right out of a DeLorean before walking in.

Funky synth beats and electronic voices blare into my headphones as I sip coffee, waiting for him to walk in. I’ve been listening to his album on repeat for the past 24 hours. Expecting to see the 23-year old clad in typical college kid attire, I blink multiple times in disbelief as he walks through the door.

Small Town, Big Dreams

Superbody is the creation of Robert McCurry and Caleb Dills, two kids who made their music debut in the rolling hills of Chattanooga, Tenn. As an eclectic mix of Tears for Fears meets Joy Division, Superbody epitomizes the revival of the ‘80s maximalist. McCurry describes his upbringing as typical, suburban, and middle-class. “But I started, of course, playing in different punk and rock bands when I was in middle school, like everybody else.” Bass guitar is his instrument of choice, noting that a lot of his favorite music “actually has bass lines on it as opposed to synth bass lines.”

The duo released their first album, Hades Land, in 2015 and featured a lo-fi vibe. “We didn’t even know what we were at that point. We had no idea how to mix, so we ran a bunch of stuff through tape machines. We were scared of people calling us out for doing everything with software because we didn’t know how to work the software that well.” This explains much of the experimental sound incorporated into their first album.

“I’m not scared of that anymore,” says McCurry, “like, that’s so pretentious that I would think that anyone would do that. But at the time, we were so scared of people calling us out because we never produced something.”

The days of hesitant music production were long gone after Hades Land was released. Technology and software quickly became integrated into their newest album, Youth Music. Once this album dropped, a few national magazines, such as the Office Magazine and The 405, picked up on Superbody. They went on tour up the East Coast and into Canada.

From the looks of McCurry, you would never guess he was a pop artist in the 21st century. In fact, you might assume the exact opposite; he resembles someone from an 80s movie. When it comes to his appearance, McCurry shares a funny story about how the mullet came to be. “We started recording, and I started singing with that weird, deep voice, and I was like, ‘No one’s gonna even believe that this is me.’ I looked more freaky with the fact that I just looked normal. So for the first record, I grew the mustache and bleached my hair. We started writing the second record, and I was like, ‘I have to grow a mullet for this.’”

McCurry’s whole persona is an antithesis of the DIY punk artist. The entire “I-look-lazier-than-you” personage is the exact opposite of what he wants to portray. “I just wanted to be expressive in whatever way I can because the music is extremely expressive and bright.”

From Indie to Pop

After being in countless punk and indie bands, McCurry has developed a very distinct pop music philosophy. “Caleb and I just set out with this: we wanted to make the most creative, accessible pop music that we can stand by. That anyone can listen to and anyone can have an opinion on as well.” After seeing how indie music can play it a bit too safe, McCurry ran to the opposite extreme with his music.

His drive for distinctiveness led him to create Youth Music. The opening track, Real Luv, is a conglomeration of techno vibes and robotic ‘80s voices. The entire album flows in this manner: extremely pop dance and extremely ‘80s. “It was very intentional for the rhetoric and everything to be, like, oh-so-80s because that’s what we were obsessed with. Maximalist early ‘80s music. Everything about that. That’s the explosion of creativity to me.”  

Though Dills recently left the band to pursue other endeavors, McCurry is still prepared to take on the pop scene with fresh ideas and content. McCurry labels himself a poptimist– someone who spread positivity through pop music. “As soon as I started trying to actually write pop songs, I was like, ‘This is the highest form of art. Period.’”

With the release of Youth Music, the return of ‘80s pop has never been more apparent. McCurry drew much of his inspiration from the ‘80s hit band Wham! “They just found a way to affect youth culture with pure positivity,” McCurry says. “The fact that there were high school kids walking around with ‘Choose Life’ shirts and ultimate positivity in their lives when most of the youths, especially boys, seek out darker things almost always.”

Modern Love: Synth Pop in a Digital Age

The fact that ‘80s pop is making a comeback is actually very significant. Music production has completely changed in the past 30 to 40 years. From analog to digital, some artists are still adapting to the process. Many prominent “indie” artists– BØRNS, Bleachers, LANY, and The 1975, to name a few– are re-inventing this ‘80s sound in the modern music world. “We [Robert and Caleb] were so obsessed specifically with one hit wonders. All of that early ‘80s pop and dance music still stands up today, and they didn’t have computers. They were doing all of that shit on a tape reel. They didn’t have any of the software that we have right now.”

Another aspect that makes ‘80s music stand the test of time was the pure quality with which it was produced. With the rise of MTV, it was almost impossible to get on the charts without a music video. Ironically enough, even with the rise of social media, music videos are on the decline. Many #1 singles on the radio don’t even have a video to accompany them. “[With] things like Instagram stories and Snapchat, I try to stay away from it as much as possible. Actually, with the small fan-base I do have, surprise people. I like that.”

McCurry admits that the shift in music is continuously changing. “In this day and age, people can arrange and compose without barely even knowing how to play music. When you’re sending stuff off or recording, you just leave someone to work on it for weeks and then you get it back. There’s no excuse for that anymore. You need very minimal money, minimal experience to produce music on your own. Now you can make anything sound like anything with just the software.” McCurry is somewhat of a paradox: he loves the vintage sound and the modern technology.

 

For a hint of Superbody’s style, check out their hit single Patricia or their Instagam. Featured image by Juniper Jeffries.