Beyond the Books

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music review

Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013 5:06 p.m.

What We’re Listening To

Hatchet reporter Dan Stelly shares his latest musical obsessions.

Miracle Mile
Cold War Kids

After a two year hiatus, California rock band Cold War Kids recently released “Miracle Mile”  in anticipation of their next album. While we’ll have to wait until April for the whole album release, I’ve been enjoying this return to the band’s soulful roots. Starting with a catchy piano riff, the song maintains a simple but vibrantly energetic feel with straightforward percussion. Frontman Nathan Willet’s soaring vocals soon enter, lifting the song’s emotions even higher. At its core, it’s a song about putting past mistakes behind and looking for new inspiration, poignant for the band’s musical return. With the energy building, Willet wails, “come up for air” repeatedly, a desperate plea for a return to the surface and perhaps a return to the band’s old style. “Miracle Mile,” with its tight guitar work and infectious groove, is an example of the Cold War Kids at their finest, and I’m expecting great things come April.

When I Dream
Ra Ra Riot

Much like Cold War Kids, Ra Ra Riot is back in a big way. The indie rockers just released “Beta Love,” an album that shifts the group’s style from baroque pop to synthpop while maintaining the band’s orchestral feel. “When I Dream” is one of the best examples of this mixture, a blend of synthesizer and strings with Wes Miles’ floating vocals on top. The song begins with a soft electric piano as Miles laments, “Wanna be there, could have been more, try to erase pieces own I’m hoping for.” It’s a sorrowful song, but the interchanging riffs of synthesizer and violin create a beautiful sound as the harmony grows. The band hasn’t abandoned its baroque roots in adding these electronic effects, thankfully. Although the song lacks the energetic drum fills of old, it still conveys Ra Ra Riot’s new style in a smooth, melancholy way.

The Jody Grind
Horace Silver

When it comes to hard bop jazz of the 1950s and ’60s, no artist is more noted than pianist Horace Silver. His 1966 recording of “The Jody Grind” exemplifies the genre, which combines rhythm and blues with gospel and soul for a groove unlike any other. Silver opens the song with a piano introduction of the 12 bar blues, and Woody Shaw on trumpet and Tyrone Washington on tenor sax enter with the melody, a riff-based pattern that doesn’t step on Silver’s toes. Washington then takes the first solo, combining staccato notes with smooth licks for a one-of-a-kind sound. It’s a tough act to follow, but Silver’s ensuing solo is a masterpiece. He builds the excitement by switching from simple phrases and repetition to beautiful flourishes, and when the horns come in to riff behind him, the song hits its peak. This is hard bop, and this is quintessential Silver.

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Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013 5:01 p.m.

What We’re Listening To

Justin Timberlake. Photo courtesy of Caroline Bonarde Ucci under the Creative Commons License.

Hatchet reporter Priyanka Pardasani shares her latest musical obsessions.

Suit and Tie
Justin Timberlake ft. Jay-Z

As someone whose password for the last 12 years has been some variation of the word “N’sync,” it’s easy to admit how excited I was for Justin Timberlake’s new single. But I’m currently in the process of crying him a river because I can’t help hide my disappointment.  For someone who can dance, act and sing, “Suit and Tie” doesn’t do a worthy job of showcasing Mr. JT’s outstanding talents. This song marks a change in the singer’s style, as he transitions toward a more sophisticated, retro sound. If listeners should take away anything after hearing this track, it’s keeping in mind how truly gifted a producer Timbaland is at crafting beats. Although this song is in no way a bad one, I expected more from Timberlake’s debut, and am still nonetheless excited to hear the rest of his album. “The 20/20 Experience” is scheduled to release later this year.

I Come Apart
A$AP Rocky ft. Florence Welch

The debut studio album by rapper and fashion enthusiast A$AP Rocky was released earlier this month, and ‘I Come Apart’ is unequivocally one of the album’s stand-out tracks. Not only does the track capture the rapper’s more vulnerable side, but it also features the incredibly talented Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine fame. This song is packed with some catchy lines and some sweet flows, but without question, Welch’s vocals dominate the track. Some would argue that this isn’t the first time that someone featured on one of A$AP’s songs steals the show, as Lana Del Rey was praised for her performance on her collaboration with the rapper in “Ridin.” All in all, keeping in mind the quality of rap music released today, this Harlem native should be given credit for putting out a memorable freshman album.

It All Began with a Burst
Kishi Bashi

This song leaves me absolutely speechless in the best way possible. Kishi Bashi is a founding member of the band Jupiter One, and is a true modern virtuoso, with skills as a violinist, beat-boxer and songwriter. This song incorporates splashes of synthesized sounds, flashes of electronic shades and rhythmic claps. On an uplifting track sure to maximize your spirits, Kishi Bashi sprinkles in his violin chops to add a touch of musicality rarely found in popular music. The nuanced violin makes the track even more well-rounded in its use of acoustic and electronic sounds. A must listen.

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Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013 10:43 a.m.

What We’re Listening To

Hatchet reporter Andrew Avrick shares his latest musical obsession.

After collaborations with a medley of upcoming artists, from SBTRKT and Sampha to Katy B, British singer-songwriter Jessie Ware has gained a formidable following. As she launches her first tour in the states this month and positions herself as a rising artist of 2013, The Hatchet checked out a few tracks off of her recently released album, “Devotion.”

British singer-songwriter Jessie Ware. Photo courtesy of Rene Passet under the Creative Commons License.

110%/If You’re Never Gonna Move

Due to a dispute with rapper Big Punisher’s estate over a sample, Jessie Ware changed the name of “110%” to “If You’re Never Gonna Move” for her newest EP. But don’t let the revised track title leave you dismayed: It’s identical to the previously released album version, and still beaming with Ware’s musical style. The singer’s soft vocals ride along the quiet clicking beat. It is here that the hip-hop influence of Jessie Ware’s productions pervades the track, where a heavy percussion drives the single forward. She’s incorporated varied musical influences, but is not controlled or defined by them. It’s a balance most artists struggle to manage that Ware harnesses with ease.

Wildest Moments

In “Wildest Moments,” we hear Ware more forceful than in the rest of her material, as she channels her inner diva strength. This track makes her sound like another Leona Lewis or Adele, poised to conquer the charts in the States after reaching fame in England. While the magnitude of her vocals is certainly at a high, the song is pretty standard for the genre, lacking the uniqueness of her other singles. It’s obvious why this is her highest charting single abroad: It’s a ballad that mixes bells, chimes and synths with powerful but somewhat subdued vocals. She exhibits an impressive level of control over her voice, sounding collected while at the same time belting out her lyrics. Hearing it makes it easy to see why Jessie Ware gaining a real mainstream presence.

Sweet Talk

“Sweet Talk” exudes a humble innocence not frequently found in this type of music. It’s fitting that the official video for the single shows a child version of the singer-songwriter in the studio putting the track together with a production crew of similarly young children. Her vocals blend in with the cool retro 1980s-style production, another testament to Ware’s embracing musical versatility. Prominent guitar propels this fast-moving jam forward. Her humble youthful tone matches the production’s dreamy synths, making the song one of her best singles.

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Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012 8:18 p.m.

What We’re Listening To


California musician and producer Flying Lotus. Photo courtesy of Simon Fernandez under the Creative Commons License.

Hatchet reporter Andrew Avrick shares his latest musical obsessions.


Putty Boy Strut
Flying Lotus

If you have ever been up too late watching Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block of programming, chances are you’ve heard one of Flying Lotus’s beats between commercials. “Putty Boy Strut,” from the artist’s new album “Until the Quiet Comes” puts his electric jazz stylings on display. This recent single oscillates between a warped squeaky vocal sample that almost mimics strange horns, and the dreamy digitized voices that hum underneath and around.  The track is grounded by a constant pounding clap that invokes African influences, until it blends with the low, deliberate plucking of a jazzy guitar.  FlyLo’s production is elaborate and layered, with both natural and distorted samples.  And in the end? We’re left with a beautiful outro of violins and harps that twinkles then quietly stutters into silence.

Come Up and Get Me
Death Grips

When Death Grips and their label, Epic Records, found themselves at odds, the band released their newly finished album for free, with the title “NO LOVE DEEP WEB” haphazardly scribbled on the cover in Sharpie. It’s this rebellious tone that’s carried on through the album’s opening track, “Come Up and Get Me,” where lead vocalist MC Ride contemplates suicide at the top of a building. Ride’s shouts are loud and aggressive, incorporating hip-hop flow with a trashy punk attitude. The pounding, schizophrenic deep bass sets the unsettling mood as MC Ride strains himself to be heard over it. Simultaneously, the beat is fighting against him, a reflection of his combative tone. The song is an aggressive challenge to the band’s label, their enemies, and most importantly, us. If taking Death Grips off that eight-story building would cease their loud breakdown of rap and electronic music, then we shouldn’t be coming up to get them any time soon.

Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe
Kendrick Lamar

The expectations for Kendrick Lamar’s frustratingly punctuated first LP, “good kid m.A.A.d. city,” were unequivocally high, but the Compton rapper met the challenge with ease. One of the standout cuts, “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” feels like an old school west coast cruiser. Kendrick raps over a cool guitar sample that sets the mood of the song. The song has a catchy beat, but the real star is Kendrick’s varying flow, as he switches the rhythm of his voice throughout the five-minute track. Kendrick speaks to the state of the rap industry and reflects on his own life, expressing gratitude for whatever success he’s earned. His words are genuine and subdued, absent of the typical cockiness that usually fills hip-hop singles. With songs like this, Kendrick Lamar is setting himself up to be a staple in the future of rap music.

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Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 10:22 p.m.

What We’re Listening To

Hatchet reporter Priyanka Pardasani shares her latest musical obsessions.

Dave Matthews. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons License.

Snow Outside
Dave Matthews Band

Fan favorite Dave Matthews Band released their eighth studio album earlier this year on September 11.  I think most would agree that DMB music reminds them of summer days, but on this track you can finally picture yourself listening with a winter backdrop. Dave paints images of building fires for his lover and brings warmth into the room immediately with this romantic track. This band never disappoints with their meaningful lyrics and catchy, moving melodies.  The entire “Away From the World” album is a delight and is sure to remind many fans why they continue to listen to Dave Matthews Band and why they might never stop.

Skippin’ ‘n’ Trippin’

Blackmill is an up-and-coming dubstep artist who brings melody and softer sounds to a genre known for its intense drum and bass lines. This track is absolutely mesmerizing, blending reggae and a variety of electronic sounds. Blackmill includes a melodious piano riff and horn line in this tune, presenting a variety of appealing and eclectic sounds to the genre. “Skippin’ ‘n’ Trippin’” is a departure from most of Blackmill’s laid-back, relaxed songs, with an upbeat tempo sure to get people dancing.

Raise Your Head/Epic
Swedish House Mafia

Powerhouse DJ elites Swedish House Mafia released their final studio album as a group,“Until Now,” on Oct. 22, just after releasing dates for their highly anticipated last tour.  This incredible track combines the great lyrical effort with “Raise Your Head” over the backdrop of “Epic,” which may arguably be the best modern EDM record to date. “Epic” is a track that is frequently mixed in live sets and makes people absolutely lose their minds once it’s dropped. These EDM stars clearly knew how to incorporate an amazing lyrical piece onto this track, making it an ultimate classic. Long live Swedish House Mafia.

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Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012 5:39 p.m.

What We’re Listening To

Hatchet reporter Asha Omelian shares her latest musical obsessions.

no doubt

Gwen Stefani of No Doubt. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons License.

Push and Shove
No Doubt

There is no argument that No Doubt’s sound has changed since the band’s 1986 debut. No song better exemplifies this than their latest single, “Push and Shove.” It is dramatically faster and more energetic than the typically ska-driven No Doubt catalog, the tune parallels the band’s pop-driven, radio-friendly “Hella Good.” But “Push and Shove” pushes No Doubt’s musical boundaries, featuring electronic artist Major Lazer and dance-hall reggae artist Busy Signal. One of the latest string of artists to collaborate with electronic musicians, the band manages to use this fusion to its advantage, including a noticeable but not overpowering electronic touch. Busy Signal’s reggae vocals are reminiscent of No Doubt’s early style and add a signature trademark to the song.

Hippies is Punks

In “Hippies is Punks”, Wavves boasts a nostalgic beach sound characteristic of the California-based band. Although the sound deviates from the style of classic, older Wavves songs such as “King of the Beach”, the upbeat mix of pop and surf rock in “Hippies is Punks” takes the band in a promising direction. The lyrics are catchy, as lead singer Nathan Williams’ lines, “So get me out of your head, and I’ll get you out of mine. Get me out of your head, it’s just a waste of time” provide listeners with a relatable situation in lyrical form or just a set of memorable words to sing along to. The guitar is uncharacteristically denser and thicker than in other Wavves songs, but retains the band’s notoriously chill feel.

It’s Time (Passion Pit Remix)
Imagine Dragons

The Passion Pit remix of “It’s Time” makes an already fantastic song even better. The remix adds pronounced percussive and bass sounds to the previously mellow tune, lending it a laid-back summer music festival vibe. Still, these dominant drum and bass beats are in no way overpowering. Rather than completely altering the structure of the song, they provide a dreamy, trance-like feel to the piece. Front-man Dan Reynold’s unique voice perfectly meshes with Passion Pit’s eclectic sound to create this unforgettable piece of music.

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Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012 9:50 a.m.

What We’re Listening To

Hatchet reporter Angelica Florio shares her latest musical obsessions.

Frank Ocean. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons License.

Forrest Gump
Frank Ocean

Forrest Gump by name and Forrest Gump by nature, this song provides listeners with a feel-good, comfortable vibe much like the iconic character does. Frank Ocean has come a long way from his Odd Future days, where his smooth, soothing and cool vocals were largely out of place. Now, with his debut album “Channel Orange,” Ocean has a chance to grace listeners with his distinctive raw voice and his unique electro-soul-rap style. This song is one of the most lighthearted on the album, a combination of idiosyncratic sounds from the electric guitar and organ, all backed by a catchy beat.  On top of all this, we hear a more vulnerable side to Ocean, as he sings, “If this is love, I know it’s true.” The lyrics are sweet and the sound is fresh – who can resist that?

Beach House

Beach House’s dream-like sound provides listeners with the perfect escape from reality. Whenever you find yourself pining to forget about the stresses of real life, listen to Beach House’s recently released “Myth.” The tune pairs repetition of electronic keyboard melodies with the airy voice of lead singer Victoria Legrand, who thoughtfully muses, “You can’t keep hangin’ on/To all that’s dead and gone,/If you built yourself a myth/You’d know just what to give.” Although the majority of “Myth” sounds eerily futuristic, halfway through, the repeating melodies cease and the song briefly becomes reminiscent of ’80s dream pop. Beach House’s combination of both forward-thinking and vintage sounds allows listeners to zone into a different time, forget about the present and just enjoy the music.

A Father’s First Spring
The Avett Brothers

This song is all about its heart-warming lyrics and waltz-like beat, proving that sometimes simplicity is more. The Avett Brothers know how to perfectly combine elements from folk, rock, country and bluegrass music with truly poetic lyrics. They exemplify these qualities in their lullaby like song, “A Father’s First Spring,” written about lead singer Scott Avett’s daughter Eleanor. The brothers effortlessly harmonize to the words, “I never lived till I lived in your light,/And my heart never beat like it does at the sight/Of you baby blue, God blessed your life/I do not live less I live in your light.” There is a certain intimacy to this song, evoking the sense that it was written and recorded with love. The translation of such powerful emotion from artists to listeners distinguishes this tune.

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Friday, Sept. 14, 2012 8:31 p.m.

What We’re Listening To

Hatchet reporter Zoe Lipner shares her latest musical obsessions.

Alicia Keys

Alicia Keys. Photo used under the Creative Commons License.

Girl on Fire (Inferno Version) [feat. Nicki Minaj]
Alicia Keys

Alicia Keys blows listeners away once again with her sonorous voice in her newest single. This song is distinct, smooth and will definitely get stuck in your head. Keys is known for her jazzy vocals and empowering songs. “Girl on Fire” lives up to – if not surpasses – her past work. Nicki Minaj is also featured in this fiery new single, adding spice and ferocity to the tranquil pace of the song. The Keys/Minaj duo is perfect for this version of the song because it adds a visceral edge not found in the original single. “Girl on Fire” will be burning bright at the top of the charts for months to come.

Taylor Swift

It seems as if Taylor Swift has returned to slow ballads after a brief interruption of Disney-inspired pop songs. Her newest single, “Ronan,” tops the iTunes charts at No. 1, but remains a soft and sleepy tune that lacks the catchiness of her previous single, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” While Swift’s new single is incredibly poignant (it recalls the story of a four-year-old boy, Ronan, who died of cancer in 2011), it does not capture the 22-year-old singer-songwriter’s true talent. Swift is known for her cute, upbeat songs about ex-boyfriends and sweet country ballads, and this song does not fall in either category. But if you are a dedicated T-Swift fan, I suggest you buy this song on iTunes as all proceeds are donated to cancer research.

This Kiss
Carly Rae Jepsen

Carly Rae Jepsen has proven this past summer that she is definitely not a one-hit-wonder. Her first two singles, “Call Me Maybe” and “Good Time,” were top summer hits and “This Kiss” will follow in their footsteps. This upbeat, pop-love song is admittedly quite cliché, but is still addictive and catchy at the same time. As a new breakout artist, Jepsen is succeeding in creating her own musical sound. “This Kiss” has the same foot-tapping, head-bobbing beat as “Call Me Maybe” and “Good Time” and will certainly climb the charts as her album, “Kiss,” drops Sept. 18. Whether you like to admit it or not, Carly Rae Jepsen has yet to disappoint.

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Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 10:51 a.m.

What We’re Listening To

Hatchet reporter Dan Stelly shares his latest musical obsessions.

It’s Not Impossible (Boys Don’t Cry)
Ben Sollee

As a growing fan of folk rock, I was hooked by cellist Ben Sollee’s debut album, “Learning To Bend.” Not only is Sollee a virtuoso cellist, but he also has a distinct voice and the ability to write catchy songs like “It’s Not Impossible (Boys Don’t Cry)” Here, Sollee blends banjo, cello and saxophone into an upbeat groove after opening with a more classical-sounding solo. While the banjo riffs behind him, Sollee’s lyrics take on something stoic, as the singer explains, “Boys don’t cry,” even if they’re dealing with heavy issues. The bridge features an impressive saxophone solo, and the instruments continue to jam while Sollee closes out the song. The folk-inspired piece is short but sweet, and definitely an uplifting tune that puts Sollee’s talents on display.

Constant Conversations
Passion Pit

On Passion Pit’s summer album release, “Gossamer,” the band’s dance beats and shimmering vocals are back and better than ever. On an upbeat, energetic album, the song that stands out is actually the slowest one and perhaps the most heartbreaking. “Constant Conversations” takes listeners on a trip through lead singer Michael Angelakos’ internal demons. These devastating lyrics are wrapped in a droning beat and the ambient backing chorus Passion Pit is famous for. Angelakos’ voice floats above everything else, completing the pulsing melody that could easily be mistaken for a feel-good tune. But in listening closely to the lyrics, one can recognize his struggles. That juxtaposition – and the song’s ever-present dreamy beat – make this song so addictive and notable.

Driftin’ Blues
Sam Cooke

I always love a classic blues tune, but finding this one by the great Sam Cooke was especially exciting. “Driftin’ Blues” starts with a sultry tenor saxophone solo, followed promptly by Cooke’s golden voice, lamenting how he’s “driftin’ like a ship out on the sea” and hoping that his “baby would take [him] back again.” Even with these simple lyrics, Cooke’s emotion carries the song forward while the piano accompanies his voice. The intensity builds as the band starts swinging a little harder and Cooke starts losing the enduring hope with which he began the song. Finally, he realizes there’s no more he can do, and the band’s emotive sound echoes his defeated tone in a perfectly-crafted peak of emotion. Cooke is at his finest as he ends triumphantly, “This time you be the one to cry.”

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Friday, Aug. 31, 2012 8:01 p.m.

What We’re Listening To

Contributing features editor Karolina Ramos shares her latest musical obsessions.

Settle Down
No Doubt

No Doubt returns to it ska and reggae roots in this energetic and rowdy single, resuscitating the edgy pop style that put the group on the map over two decades ago. Fusing party pop and reggae, the single teeters with the tension between chaos and control. As Gwen Stefani muses, “You can see it in my eyes, you can read it on my lips, I’m trying to get a hold on this,” the listener is never quite convinced the notoriously edgy singer has it all under control. But the commotion of “Settle Down” is what makes it so inviting, and Stefani’s vocal chops remind the music world why her commanding presence is to be respected.

Jeff the Brotherhood

Jeff the Brotherhood don’t reinvent archetypal punk. They relish in it. The band’s summer release, “Sixpack,” draws on droning, distorted guitar and unenthusiastic vocals to recreate the apathy and leisure of original punk rock the likes of The Ramones. With only one verse, Jeff the Brotherhood describe the ideal summer: road trips, friends and, of course, booze. The simple riffs mirror the easygoing nature of the vacation the band envisions, and the vocals serve as the soundtrack for a laid back summer cruise. With “Sixpack,” Jeff the Brotherhood don’t reinvent the wheel. They just keep it rolling.

I Don’t Know
The Sheepdogs

Classic rock is alive and well, if you ask The Sheepdogs. The Canadian blues rock group revives the passion and roots-soul of ’60s and ’70s rock and roll with a sense of refreshing contemporaneity, reviving blues riffs with crisp guitar. To the listener unfamiliar with the musical stylings of Lynyrd Skynyrd or Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Sheepdogs could be taken for granted as generic southern rock. But their nuanced genius shouldn’t be overlooked: “I Don’t Know” is an indication of a band on the rise, whose poignant sense of rock history and enlivened sound have the potential to sweep listeners off their feet.

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