Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Music Mayhem at Webster Hall

Friday, February 24th, 2012

This past weekend, I had originally planned to spend time relaxing at home. But on Friday night, my sister asked me if I wanted to go to a concert Saturday night and I had to give her answer within an hour. Now, over the years, I have found that planning too far ahead for enjoyable activities (not projects, jobs or work) allowed too much time for things to go wrong. But at the last minute, I agreed. The ticket was twenty bucks, which is very cheap considering the venue was Webster Hall, the artist has tons of adoring fans, and usual concert ticket prices usually start at $30.

The performer was Zola Jesus, an old school goth, classical, industrial, electronic influenced band whose lead singer, Nika Roza Danilova, sports an amazing opera trained voice. I went to the concert knowing only one song called ‘Night’, which I had only half listened to. But since the band is a favorite of  my sister, who happens to have great taste in music, I knew it would be $20 well spent.

Doors opened at 6pm but knowing Webster Hall, the concert itself didn’t start until 6:30 and even then there were still opening bands who were also scheduled to perform. This was all fine because we arrived at 8th and Astor Place late and forgot where Webster Hall was anyway, a problem that was quickly solved with the help of my smartphone.

We finally arrived at around 7:30pm and we caught the last two songs of the first opening band Talk Normal, a punkish female duo who sounds like a mix of Sonic Youth and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. There was some noise-rock flair to their rhythmic drum beats and I loved every second of it.

The second band was Liturgy. This was definitely different from the normal tastes of the crowd since they right away into a  mix of noise-rock, black metal, and the classic metal man’s screech into the mic. I am not a metal-head but I love metal music so this was a pleasant surprise for me. However, many people in the crowd were not used to this type of music scene and I could see them getting restless.  Later on they went into new territory by going out of conventional metal sound with an added electronic mix. The first 3/4ths of their set was the best. But overall, they brought joy to the little metal fan in me.

Finally…the one we had all been waiting for. ZOLA JESUS! By far, one of the most amazing bands with a lead singer who can actually sing. She has a deep, passionate voice that has a crazy range probably attained from her opera training days. The music was both haunting and moving. While singing, she would dance sporadically and jump on stage to the beat of her own music. She really felt her music throughout her body and soul. About halfway through the concert, she performed a song called ‘In Your Nature’. In the middle of the song, she went to the edge of the stage and jumped into the crowd with fans and she traveled through it and danced with everyone while still singing. I have never seen an artist to that.

Her performance of the song ‘Night’ was truly moving. I saw fans sing every word and throw their hand in their air, while they moved to the music.

She had some truly passionate fans in the crowd. We all cheered and shouted their appreciation and love for this artist. She came out for her encore where she played on the piano with just her violinist and sang the song, ‘Skin’. It was a beautiful song that nearly brought tears to my eyes. The sound of her voice resonating throughout the room was something truly magical.

I have been converted and am now a Zola Jesus fan. I love her for her music. It has moved me deeply and she brings a lively spirit on stage. Thankfully, she performs in New York often, so next time she comes I’ll be sure to buy the ticket right away.

The post concert excitement is the best part. If you are like me, coming back from a concert makes you really hungry. I was lucky and the show ended  at 10:30 which is very early for a concert. The options of food dwindle from little to none as time goes by. If you are in the Village area late at night, delis are your usually your only reliable option.

Sophia, Rochester Institute of Technology

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Beyoncé: 4 Album Review

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Beyoncé Knowles’ fourth studio release, aptly titled 4, hits shelves this week. Beyoncé has been hard at work since her last album release. Her productivity has been cited as “overwhelming” to Columbia, her record label. Beyoncé continues to be one of the most talented and hardest-working singers in the world. It is because of this fact that fans are sure to be pleased with her latest project.

The album opens with a beautiful number in ‘1+1’, a ballad that finds Beyoncé crooning in a way other artists simply can’t (and at times maybe in ways others don’t want to). What’s impressive, however, is the soulful feel that the track possesses. Beyoncé delivers real R&B, or what today’s popular radio stations have made old R&B. ‘I Care’ takes a turn towards showcasing Beyoncé’s vocal intensity while still being a meaningful song with old-school production value as the drums boom and the synth keys vibe.

The third song, ‘I Miss You’, changes the pace without changing how enjoyable the album is. The song feels sappy because of simplistic production and generic lyrics. Anyone could have performed this song and have made it decent, but as Beyoncé often does, she makes it her own. From here, we move into one of the singles of the album ‘Best Thing I Never Had.’ Though it has pop appeal, there’s more to this song than meets the ear. It’s radio-friendly, but still manages to contain a wealth of compositional appeal with unwavering piano play and significant lyrics.


Beyoncé's '4' deluxe edition album cover.

At this point, 4 takes a hip-hop intermission with ‘Party’. Accompanied by Kanye West and Andre 3000, Beyoncé does nothing special, allowing doubled vocals to fill out the simple-but-effective ‘Ye produced beat. Keeping in line with the album’s old-school appeal, however, the beat samples Slick Rick’s ‘La Di Da Di’ and sounds more like a classic rap party jam than today’s club-centric rap music.

Next on the agenda is ‘Rather Die Young’, debatably Beyoncé’s finest moment on 4. It includes everything we expect from Beyoncé vocally and continues to back-track through musical generations compositionally, sounding very inspired by The Supremes, particularly during the chorus. Then there is ‘Start Over’, the first song that doesn’t possess the same classic influence as everything else on the album thus far. Beyoncé attempts to make-up for this with a high-volume performance which you can hear here.

The volume doesn’t turn down as 4 presents us with ‘Love On Top’. This is a very fun song and once again very throwback R&B melodically. The album stays fun and light with ‘Countdown’, a track laden with brass horns, prominent percussion and even steel drums. Also very interesting is the “countdown” chorus that goes, “My baby is a 10/We dressing through the 9/He pick me up in 8/Make me feel so lucky 7/He kiss me in his 6/We be making love in 5/Still the one I do this 4/I’m trying to make a 3/From that 2/He still the 1.” The horns don’t disappear as the album continues with ‘End Of Time’. The song has a repetitive chorus and doesn’t stand out vocally, but it keeps the album balanced by maintaining the fun, fast-paced attitude that characterizes the middle of 4.

Beyoncé delivers a strong finale with ‘I Was Here’. Though emotional in its own right, it lacks something that the rest of the ballads on 4 seem to own: uniqueness, classical influence and a bit of experimentation. ‘I Was Here’ is very by-the-book and though an excellent way to wrap things up, not quite a show-stopper.

Ironically enough, the show doesn’t stop with ‘I Was Here.’ For whatever reason, ‘Run The World (Girls)’, a song that would fit better with the up-tempo middle section of the album, appears as the final track on 4. If ‘Run The World’ needed to remain last, ‘I Was Here’ should have been moved to better serve the continuity of the album that way it could really go out with a bang.

Overall, fans of Beyoncé and fans of R&B will be very pleased and pleasantly surprised considering the fact that the singles used to promote the album don’t highlight the things that really make 4 an impressive body of work.

–Christopher Cusack, Hofstra University

Photo Credit: © Copyright Columbia Records – 2011

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Simple Plan: Get Your Heart On! Album Review

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Simple Plan's 'Get Your Heart On!' album cover

The Canadian collective Simple Plan releases their fourth studio album today titled Get Your Heart On! This is their latest release since their self-titled album, Simple Plan, dropped in 2008. As expected, the band sticks to the blueprint that has made them successful—creating catchy pop-punk tunes for the masses. However, the album isn’t without its missteps.

From the onset, the album shows a lot of promise with a well-balanced opener in ‘You Suck At Love’. It’s a smooth song with a lively chorus that establishes the fact that Simple Plan isn’t trying to break the mold with this album. But it shows that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing either.

The album keeps the fun-loving mood alive as it moves into ‘Can’t Keep My Hands Off You’, a song about a musician’s love for his guitar, no matter how much he (or she) may think they can keep away from it. The track features Rivers Cuomo of the legendary rock band Weezer. His presence on the track is not only fitting, being an inspiration to rock artists everywhere, but it’s enjoyable.

From here, the album is somewhat of a toss-up as far as what works and what doesn’t. Songs like ‘Jet Lag’, ‘Loser Of The Year’, and ‘Freaking Me Out’ keep the energy of the Get Your Heart On! up and represent Simple Plan for what they are: a band that wants to write catchy songs that keep the show rocking. But the album is brought down by its attempts to slow things down. ‘Astronaut’ is an interesting composition that is fine musically, but falls short lyrically and feels forced conceptually. ‘Anywhere Else But Here’ is another slow song that tries to play itself off as a rock anthem, but ends up sounding more like a boring ode to lengthy, road-trip car rides that you don’t want to be a part of anymore.

Luckily, the album doesn’t end there. ‘Last One Standing’ is the kind of song fans buy concert tickets for (listen to it here). It shines because of its simplicity and its high-energy, no frills necessary, coming-at-you feel. Songs like ‘Gone Too Soon’ and ‘This Song Saved My Life’ show what Simple Plan is made of when it comes to pop-punk ballads. If all of the slower songs on Get Your Heart On! sounded like these two, it would be a solid album. Unfortunately, they don’t, and this deters from the album’s overall feel because although it opens and closes strongly, every good track in the middle of the album is interrupted by songs that don’t work.

‘Summer Paradise’ is a curious song made in collaboration with K’naan, a well-known Canadian rapper. I had high hopes for this song going in, thinking that Simple Plan would be able to show a little diversity with this number. Though it isn’t a bad song, it doesn’t stand out the way I hoped it would.

Knowing that the band completed 70 songs to choose from for this release, it’s a little upsetting that everything doesn’t feel picture perfect on this album. Putting its few faults aside, there is enough classic Simple Plan on Get Your Heart On! to make it a worthwhile purchase.

–Christopher Cusack, Hofstra University

Photo Credit: © Copyright Atlantic Records – 2011

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