Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Best Album You Haven’t Heard

I attempted to clarify what genre Youth Lagoon would be categorized under to one of my friends, only to catch myself rambling off everything from indie-techno to “like a futuristic-motivational-rock-kinda sound”. I’ve never had such difficulty defining a sound before, mainly because I feel like Youth Lagoon’s LP, The Year of Hibernation is far too intricately diverse to fall under just one genre. I tried not to let my instant enthrallment with the LP overtake my rationality, and mandated myself to listen to its entirety as much as I conceivably could before making a judgment. After weeks of scrolling directly to the Y’s when I turned on my iPod, I can genuinely say this is one of the best albums I’ve ever listened to.

Honestly, the first few times through The Year of Hibernation I could barely understand any of the lyrics, as the majority of them are presented in a tantalizing whispered pitch – but that somehow didn’t weigh down my contentment for the songs. If anything it seemed even more remarkable that I was moved by music I didn’t entirely understand. The only other instance I can think of a band subtly fashioning such a distinct sensation through their music is Radiohead (specifically the Kid A album). Showing a parallel to arguably the greatest band of the 21st century isn’t too shabby for a debut LP.

Throughout various moments the sound of this LP hits you as a resilient nous of nostalgia would. At other times the symphonic, serene rise of the thumping pace provides a sanguine boldness that feels more like a sentiment than composition. This LP is a musical flight that causes you to reminisce shortly, and then proceed on the inquisitive exploration into the world you have yet to uncover.

The Year of Hibernation is best when played loudly. The delicateness of some songs can be treasured only when your speakers are on full blast. It’s like taking binoculars to already decent seats at baseball stadium – you’re just increasing the delight. The absorbing keyboard mixes flawlessly with the parading drums and faint echoes to create anticipation on every song. On ‘Afternoon’, which is my favorite of the eight tracks, Powers luminously blends a whistling-like plunge between drum throbs and melodic synths. The build-up of the song is especially buoyant, yet never overextends itself.

Powers bound together this masterpiece of a debut with essentially no experience in recording or producing, and his motivation was merely an attempt to find remedy to his distress.

“My whole life I’ve dealt with extreme anxiety,” said the twenty-two year old Boise State student. “I sometimes feel like I’m literally being eaten up inside. So I started writing these songs. Not just songs about my anxiety, but about my past and my present. Songs about memories, and all those feelings that those bring. I know that if I can be honest about what is inside my mind, there will be others that will be able to relate to it”.

I don’t find this particular sentiment to be that unique among artists, but I do believe Powers’ ability to relay his own vindications to such imperious, and universally felt sounds is absolutely marvelous.

We all assume our strangest personal demeanors are exclusive to ourselves, when realistically there are countless others who have the same exact habits or sensations. Discovering your strange motives and sentiments aren’t really that outlandish is (and will always be) a very pleasing insight. I get a definite consciousness of this perception when I listen to The Year of Hibernation. It’s like the music says, “hey, you’re normal, everything is going to be okay”.

Powers was an ordinary college student before Pitchfork gave his LP an 8.4 Maybe that’s why his music sounds so authentic to me – because it absolutely is. Nothing on The Year of Hibernation was produced to please anyone other than Trevor Powers. The tracks are his confusion with the world, his childhood anguish, his curiosity about the unknown, and his ongoing endeavor to keep his chin up. I incline every kid in their late teens or early twenties to give this LP a listen, even if it doesn’t sound like your cup of tea. It’s probably not desirable to play beer pong to, and it might not make your favorite radio station, but it’s music crafted by a kid that we can all slightly see in our own temperaments. Embrace the outcast in yourself.

–Noah Fish

***This story, along with other WSU related stories is available in this weeks’ WINONAN- available at every campus newsstand.

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Welcome to the Cole World

Amidst the mass hype and skepticism, J Cole’s debut album respectively hushed the skeptics and introduced a renewed, humble bravura to the rap game.

Cole’s inclusion into hip-hop’s elite seems appropriate, as he’s got the imperative endorsement of the man watching over hip-hop’s throne, Jay-Z. The endorsement isn’t a necessity for the 26-year-old rapper though, as Cole convincingly implies with this album that he plans on governing his own ascent in the music industry. If he continues to produce authentic music like Cole World: The Sideline Story, that ascent will ultimately lead to him to becoming one of the heavyweights in hip-hop. Not bad for a kid who was working as a bill collector two years ago.

There is no difficulty accepting Cole as officially removed from the mixtape world. The Sideline Story is an authentic account of success at an early age. His rhymes are swollen with truth flowing dynamically from his rasping tone. It’s evident he’s an adept storyteller. From infidelity to his rise to fame, Cole is not reluctant to expose his character. The sounds on this album penetrate symphonically, using piano plucks and subtle flutes to reiterate the sensibleness of Cole. Don’t let the traditional style fool you though, as plenty of tracks on this album supply the necessary bump. The tracks ‘Can’t Get Enough’, and ‘Mr. Nice Watch’ come at you firm, and Cole’s flow on both is impenetrable.

The Sideline Story is compiled with Cole’s personal deprecations mixed luminously with his newly affirmed egotism that comes with the rise to fame. The contradictions in this album are remarkable to watch play out. Cole gushes over topics like young pregnancy and his relationship with his father who was non-existent during his childhood. The track ‘Lost Ones’ is a vivid depiction of the tussles over pregnancy options, and the qualm surrounding a low-income couple raising a child. He graduated with honors from St. Johns, but no structured education can teach him the drawstrings of life.

Putting a spotlight on divisive issues like single-mother households is an enormous step for the progression of hip-hop. No other similarity seems to be more universal in rappers nowadays, even if the majority of rappers choose not to cover such personal topics. Jay-Z is 41-years old and still confesses his life was adversely affected by not having a father figure around. Hip-hop is culture music, and issues like this are issues that are prevalent all over poverty-stricken areas in our country. Instead of preaching the importance of packing heat and pushing drugs, we are now seeing artists dig deeper into their roots.

Cole’s wistfulness is essential for the evolution of rap because it fosters self-reflection over self-acclamation. Mainstream hip-hop has recently crept towards the pop median. Instead of spreading a message with depth, rappers resort to meaningless but catchy lyrics and metaphors. There are far more complications behind these MC’s than determining which champagne to purchase, or which supermodel to take home from the club.

The Sideline Story is a stupendous debut album for the North Carolina native, and the beginning to a fascinating climb to mainstream eminence for Cole. Authenticity weighs more than anything in hip-hop, which is something Cole emulates through his music. Instead of using the spotlight merely to exhibit his endowment, he’s using it to piece together his clouding demeanor. Before you judge his integrity because some of the crudeness material on this album, remember that different backgrounds provide a different scrupulousness for us all. Examine The Sideline Story as the first atomic look into the life of a young, illustrious MC. You cannot differentiate just because his beliefs may seem less pure than yours.

J Cole unwraps his character genuinely, without erasing the awareness that he has a distressed personality. As Jay-Z once rhymed, “If you can’t respect that your whole perspective is whack”.

***This story, along with other WSU related stories is available in this weeks’ WINONAN- available at every campus newsstand.

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Don’t Jump the Gun on Labels

Adja Gildersleve had essentially no idea who I was when I asked if I could ride along with her to Rochester for a ‘National Coming Out Day’ event. She had a head filled with burdens, as she was asked last minute to learn a couple different guitar pieces, as well as compiling together a set list for her show. Oh and, she desperately needed an oil change. This was all apparently insignificant though, as she quickly replied to my Facebook message with an enthusiastic ‘definitely’.

I saw Adja perform a couple weeks previous to our car ride when she was at Acoustic, and again one early Saturday morning when she was spryly jamming away with a group of friends outside of ZaZa’s. I was captivated with her unique stage presence (she performs barefoot) and charismatic sounds. So clearly, I was eager to formally meet this lively young lady.

As soon as we left I swiftly began spilling out handfuls of questions, each in which she had a highbrow reply followed with a kindhearted “What about you?” directed back at me. We chatted enthusiastically about how much race should play into Obama’s campaign, the nebulousness of the constitution, and how the suggested path of education can sometimes be problematic. Adja, a political science major, offered me insight in virtually every topic we brushed on. I appreciated her uprightness, even when she could see me precipitously jotting down quotes in my notepad. I was convinced I was going to be writing a piece on the event in Rochester, but realized halfway through the car ride that Adja deserved her own piece.

What I discovered to be most insightful of my conversation with Adja was her discernments on how society influences us to choose a label. The subject was triggered by my lethargic attempt at unfolding our discussion to the event we were en route to.

“So umm, are you gay then?”

I instantly cringed; wishing I could reach out and snatch my tactless words and put them back in my mouth. But to my surprise she smiled, and let out a lighthearted chuckle. Adja explained to me why she believed it wasn’t as black and white as I presented it to be, and I immediately understood what she was saying.

We are crammed with multifaceted sensations as we incessantly undergo complex stages of establishing our disposition. During these stages of figuring out who we truthfully are, what if we don’t know which gender we are attracted to? Are we supposed to dimly choose one, and go with it? What if we’re wrong? All these questions clogged the notion that we all settle under one defining orientation.

“Labeling makes it easer”, she explained, “Our culture expects you to choose one side, even if you feel like you don’t know.” Adja informed me of the Kinsey scale, which was created in 1948 by Alfred Kinsey in order to resolve the bigoted division between heterosexuality and homosexuality. Instead of declaring one or the other, the Kinsey scale describes a person’s sexuality by examining their sexual history at a given time. A person’s position on the scale can change; due to whatever lifestyle is being practiced at the given time. This made a lot more sense to me, and seemed to emphasis the importance of everyone being a counterpart more than isolated, concrete classes.

The event, which was held at the Civic Center Theatre, was much more intimate than I expected it to be. The program sincerely released me into a new perspective. Along with a delightful performance from Adja, youth performers, and keynote speakers were at hand. It didn’t really concern me if the people on stage were gay, or straight – their stories were all exceptional to their independence.

Gale Julius, a Rochester resident, had the packed theatre on the verge of tears as she presented her hardships of being a homosexual woman. The bullying done to her in high school brought her close to suicide, she was barred from teaching CCD classes at her local church when members found out she was gay, and she was even made an experiment by a California church that continued to ‘pray the gay away’ every Sunday mass. You could sense the ache in her voice from the endless onslaught she faced. Gale is now the president and founder of the gay-straight alliance at the high school she was once bullied at.

As we look back at a successful ‘National Coming Out Week’, it’s important to remember the impact each one of us can make. Stop forcing labels, and start digging deeper into dialogue to unravel the authenticity of individuals. Gay, straight, bisexual, whatever– everyone is remarkable, and deserves to be listened to.

–Noah Fish

***This story, along with other WSU related stories is available in this weeks’ WINONAN- available at every campus newsstand.

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