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What we’re listening to

Avett Brother's latest album Magpie and the Dandelion. Photo used under the Creative Commons License.

Avett Brother’s latest album Magpie and the Dandelion. Photo used under the Creative Commons License.

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Carson Rolleri.

The latest album by the musical quartet the Avett Brothers provides plenty of sweet vocals and glowing melodies that have come to define the group. From start to finish, the album is full of “youthful wonder,” as the band describes.

The single, “Another is Waiting,” epitomizes an Avett Brothers’ song: It’s sweet, upbeat, filled with warm strings and a strong vocals, while the lyrics focus on moving past an inherent shallowness in being an entertainer. The playful melodies move into a much deeper meaning found in the band’s most famous songs “I and Love and You” and “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise.”

“Morning Song” takes on a more solemn tone, with vibrant but haunting guitar and piano harmonies complementing the song’s message of loss. “Open Ended Life”, the album opener, works to counterbalance these slower songs with an upbeat, Americana instrumental background that supports the album’s overarching call to live out of one’s comfort zone.

By “Clearness is Gone”, the album achieves a well-balanced dynamic that includes both fun youthful melodies but also touches on issues of everyday intimacy.  As NPR’s Stephen Thompson puts it, the album, “feels like a calmly loving missive from friends who offer wise counsel, but know well enough to interrogate their own motives along the way.”

“Magpie and the Dandelion” provides some of the Avett Brothers’ classic raw roots that were polished in the Grammy-nominated album, “The Carpenter”. But Dandelion is able to keep the same self-explorative messages and honest songwriting woven into each track. Overall, it’s a more than a satisfying follow-up.

This post was updated on Oct. 15, 2013 to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the Avett Brothers’ last album, “The Carpenter,” won a Grammy. It was just nominated for one.

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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, Dec. 8, 2012 11:39 a.m.

What We’re Listening To

 

Rihanna, whose latest album, “Unapologetic,” was released this November. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons License.

Hatchet reporter Priyanka Pardasani shares her latest musical obsessions.

Loveeeee Song
Rihanna feat. Future

Barbadian babe Rihanna released her seventh studio album, “Unapologetic” on Nov. 19 – and this has to be one of my favorite tracks on the album.  Rihanna is known for her blunt and headstrong personality, carrying an invincible air. But the singer reveals more of her mortal side through this song. Many celebrities, Rihanna included, are often considered to be larger than life, but the singer displays that she’s human and that she just needs “love and affection” like everyone else. Her sultry voice hits the track after Future’s catchy and autotune hook starts the song. Both singers do an incredible job of expressing a caertain pain in their voices that make this ballad even more genuine and stirring.

New Day
Alicia Keys

Amidst a generation consumed by electronic music and synthesized sounds, we are blessed with the presence of Alicia Keys.  From her debut album, “The Diary of Alicia Keys” – arguably one of the best female R&B albums since “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” – to her latest released album “Girl on Fire,” Ms. Keys never fails to mesmerize.  Her timeless voice is crystallized on the track “New Day,” where she confidently sings about a new day and about the beauty of life. Her voice is so powerful on this track that it even rises above the slamming drum line in the background. The singer talks about boldly pursuing dreams and overcoming fears, a personable theme that gives listeners an idea of where Alicia Keys is right now, besides being on top of the charts.

Lessons in Love
Kaskade feat. Neon Trees (Fareoh Remix)

Usually, I’m not a huge fan of remixes on my favorite songs. But up-and-coming DJ Fareoh, who toured with Kaskade earlier this year, is impressive. Kaskade’s album “Fire & Ice,” which dropped late this year, was among my most frequently played albums freshman year.  Although I feel as though I should be morally opposed to modifying my favorite songs, it is hard to ignore the incredible job that Fareoh has done on this track. “Lessons in Love” is one of the most lyrically rich songs on “Fire & Ice,” but Fareoh’s remix doesn’t dilute the quality of the songwriting at all.  Instead, he makes the song more danceable and enhances it melodically while providing a killer rhythm.  It is a must-download, and if you enjoy Fareoh’s performance on this song, check out his remix of “Buy My Love” by Wynter Gordon.

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Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012 11:13 a.m.

What We’re Listening To

Rapper Action Bronson. Photo courtesy of Flickr user thecomeupshow under the Creative Commons License.

Hatchet reporter Daniel Stelly shares his latest musical obsessions.

Shiraz
Action Bronson

Since rising to prominence in 2008, New York rapper Action Bronson has brought a new flavor to the rap game in every sense. A former gourmet chef, Action often references food in his rhymes, adding a refreshing twist to raps about urban life and personal struggles. No song sums up Action’s style and tastes more than “Shiraz,” off of his first album, “Dr. Lecter.” The track meshes a cool jazz flute sample from “Brother” Jack McDuff with a laid-back beat from Clarence Reid, resulting in a smooth instrumental. Action’s flow, on the other hand, is extremely raw, but his unpolished delivery actually complements the jazzy beat. As he rifles though topics like relationships, drug use and his neighborhood of Queens, he repeatedly ties culinary items into his flow. Although it may be a little strange hearing “roasted peppers” and “sweet tomatoes” from a rapper, Action makes it work and gives listeners a new style to enjoy.

I Need You
Mayer Hawthorne

Known for his heavy Motown influences, Mayer Hawthorne has helped bring back the soul of legends like Marvin Gaye and the Four Tops to a younger audience. Hawthorne’s soul is evident on his cover of Otis Leavill’s 1969 track “I Need You,” as he teams with producer Nottz to take listeners back to the golden days of R&B. Everything about this song is smooth, from the fluttering strings to the backing chorus and especially Hawthorne’s soaring vocals. While a heavy hip-hop beat gives the song a modern edge, the track is unmistakably Mayer — a love song with simple chords and structure. Hawthorne again unexpectedly nods to the past when he opts to whistle the melody rather than sing it. Yet he returns to crooning for the finale, rising above the chorus, orchestra and percussion to end this R&B tune. Once again, Hawthorne successfully puts his own spin on a classic track from a bygone era.

How Long Must I Wait?
Dr. Dog

Philadelphia rock band Dr. Dog has slowly polished its sound since its first release in 2001, becoming a mainstay of today’s indie rock scene. The band’s most recent album, “Be the Void,” features some of their best work, including the catchy track “How Long Must I Wait?” Opening with a riff that becomes the centerpiece of the song, lead guitarist Scott McMicken takes us on a romantic pursuit that never really pans out – thus, how long must I wait? The lyrics are simple, the chords are full and the guitar work is great – all signs of Dr. Dog at its best. While the band may be pushing for a more complex sound, this song reminds me of their earlier self-recorded work and stripped-down beats. For Dr. Dog, less is more, and McMicken’s vocals stand out above the simple riffs and laid-back attitude of “How Long Must I Wait?”

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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

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. 20, 2012 7:22 p.m.

What We’re Listening To

Hatchet reporter Andrew Avrick shares his latest musical obsessions.

Kanye West. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons License.

New God Flow
Kanye West, Pusha T and Ghostface Killah

Music crew GOOD Music’s new collective album, “Cruel Summer,” has Kanye West’s fingerprints – or at the very least, production credits – on every song. A standout track on the album, “New God Flow,” plays off a classic Wu Tang Clan song called “Mighty Healthy” and features Wu Tang member Ghostface Killah as a guest rapper. West and his new protégé Pusha T speak on top of the tense beat, invoking God as a comparison for their positions in hip hop. The first words Pusha T utters set the tone for the entire cut, as he boasts, “I believe there’s a God above me, I’m just the God of everything else.” The rappers compare their achievements in the rap world to events of Biblical and historical proportions. “Did Moses not part water with the cane?” Kanye asks us. “Did Yeezy not get signed by Hov and Dame?” These gentlemen are on top, and “New God Flow” epitomizes their supreme status in the kingdom of hip hop.

Who
David Byrne & St. Vincent

Current indie sweetheart St. Vincent (Annie Clark) and David Byrne, the new wave legend of the Talking Heads, have collaborated on one of the year’s most intriguing albums, “Love this Giant.” The album’s first track, “Who,” best exemplifies the sonic fusion these two musicians have crafted. The chemistry between Clark and Bryne appears peculiar, and at times a bit awkward, but when the two trade vocals, the arrangement is flawless. Byrne’s engaging inflection and St. Vincent’s wispy, melodic vocals combine for a one-of-a-kind duet. Part of the tune’s magic lies in the extensive and well-implemented use of brass and saxophone throughout the track. Above all else, it simply sounds like the duo thoroughly enjoys their musical partnership in this thoughtfully composed and refreshing track.

Windshield Smasher
Black Moth Super Rainbow

If you’ve never experienced Black Moth Super Rainbow before, the band’s newest single, “Windshield Smasher,” one of their most accessible tracks in years, serves as a strong introduction to the obscure band’s catalog. Led by the mysterious frontman Tobacco, BMSR creates psychedelic experimental music, with heavy use of vocoder – an electronic musical instrument which imitates the human voice – and multiple synths. “Windshield Smasher” has a fuzzy kick with Tobacco’s dreamy and detached vocoder. The varied, unorthodox instruments featured on the track never detract from the song’s tone, successfully introducing listeners to the eccentric and experimental style of BMSR.

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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
Wavves

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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