State In The Real – Penn State Music Scene

Top 10 Albums that Changed My Life

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Before everyone gets up in arms about the albums that I have chosen, please remember that this list is of those albums that mean the most to me, the albums that I look to as old friends, as a comfort blanket. These are all albums that once I start listening to them, I have to listen to it all the way through. These are albums that I have purchased more than once, some of them more than twice (no shame), and it is because these albums mean so much to me. I remember where I was the first time I heard these records, or they remind me of a time in my life. Yes I know my life is far from a time to be looking back but these albums have, in one way or another, shaped me as a person. They have changed how I look at the world, and how I challenge the status quo, whatever cliche you want to use. So before you get on me for saying “Where is Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band?” or “How can you call this list what you do an not have Brand New on here?” Well its cause this is my list and this is my opinion, this is not a list of the “Best of…” So with that let me get down to it.

Honorable Mention:

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Gorillaz – Gorillaz (2001)

Kings of Leon – Only By the Night (2008)

Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory (2000)

The Killers – Sam’s Town (2006)

Shocking I know, but I had a hard time completely narrowing this list to 10. These three albums are ones that I look back at fondly, but just for whatever reason, I just don’t hold them in the same regard as the other 10. With Hybrid Theory it was mostly one song, I very rarely listened to it all the way through, but I still remember annoying the hell out of my parents with that CD in our car. I would always track right to “In the End” and then keep playing it for the majority of the car ride. One time, I had played the song at least five times, my dad had finally had enough and made me turn on the radio, but what song should come up but “In the End” it was at that time that my dad admitted defeat. For Only By the Night this was the last physical CD that I had bought for a really long time, “Sex On Fire” hooked me, but “Notion” and every track kept me coming back. This album was just something that I hadn’t heard in a really long time, and definitely not in the music I was listening to at the time. It was a throwback to the 70s, the lyrics were raw and the sound was tight. Finally, one album got me hooked on one of my favorite bands of all time. This is the album that made me stop and go, “Wow” The Killers are this generations Bruce Springsteen, drawing on the Boss for inspiration, and it can be felt in every track of Sam’s Town and it is just something so special.

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Album Review: Jeff Buckley, You and I

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Where you may not exactly know who Jeff Buckley is by name, you have almost definitely heard his music, or at least one of his songs. His cover of “Hallelujah” is one of the most famous versions of the song. With his “new” album, Buckley is bringing his raw sound back into our minds in nearly nine years. With You and I Buckley is showcasing unreleased music and the sound is something that resembles a good time with good friends.

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The album is simple, it has a very stripped back feel. Buckely keeps the sounds simple, the music even more simplicity. This is the strength of the album, it focuses on Buckley’s writing skills and the simple sound of the songs. Like I mentioned earlier, this is an album that can feel like time spent on Sunday mornings with your friends, just hanging around telling stories. It is something that is not too often felt from people that are not in the public light too often. His voice is raw and heart felt, and the guitar sounding like it crawled out of a smoke filled bar the night before. It is soothing and a good way to start your day or end your night.

 

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The issue with this album is that it can sort of start to feel like the same thing over and over again. But if you want an album to relax you and help you have that coffee house feel for about an hour, than this is the album for you.

 

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Jeff Buckley returns to the public spotlight with a raw and stripped down album that makes everyone feel like they are watching a live performance with great friends. It is warm and comforting. These are songs that I am surprised took so long to be released to the public, but the timing does not feel wrong, its perfect to play as you lay outside on these beautiful spring days.

Album Review: Ray LaMontagne Ouroboros

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Very few names can I generally relate to a sound or style of music; Jam Bands and Phish, Heavy Metal and Slayer and Coffee House and Ray LaMontagne. In his most recent album, the singer song writer is back with possibly his most ambitious album to date. With Ouroboros, LaMontagne breaks his album up into two different parts. Part one significantly more upbeat than part two, but that is a good thing, and a thing that I have come to expect from LaMontagne.

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This album does a lot of things right, and that is sticking to the sound that has made him the staple in coffee house music. The first half is more upbeat and has a sound closer to rock than acoustic coffee house. But that is ok it is a harder sound than I am used to, but when the second part comes on this is where the album shines and everything seems to flow together.

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The issue that I have with this album is the first half, it is too harsh, and the sound does not flow well. The chords are too simple and everything seems convoluted. It sounds like he just lazily threw together some songs and slapped it on half an album. It could have been a little better, the idea was there but the execution falls way short, making this album very forgettable.

 

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Outoboros shines in the back half, but you have to suffer through the first half to get to the coffee house sound that we have come to expect from Ray LaMontagne. It is a sold album to throw on when you want to sip your latte and write your screenplay.

Album Review: This is Acting

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Okay, at this point, we all know who Sia is and we have all heard at least one song from the vocal chameleon. 1000 Forms of Fear was a game changer for her, we were introduced to this new sound, this incredible showmanship and a vocal range that can shatter glass. But with This Is Acting we seem to get more of the same thing. Sia has become a huge star, and people now have expectations for her, she is no longer that girl with the powerful voice who is also a ghostwriter. Sia is a bonafide pop star now has a certain expectations to meet.

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With This Is Acting, it starts out strong, very strong, and peaks somewhere around track seven. But each song seems to start to sound exactly the same after that. Sia belts into the microphone, pause, and come back to the chorus. It is very repetitive, it drags out too much. There is too much similarity between songs. Sia, you can do better than this, you have, in my humble opinion one of the best voices in music. Let you vocal chords stretch, but you don’t have to do it on every song. Each one is as powerful and jarring as the last, but I just can’t help but shake the feeling like she is being complacent in her sound.

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I am not going to harp on the negatives of this album, because if you like Sia and are a fan of her style, this should be the album you have been waiting for. And who am I to complain she has, with this new album, brought us Jimmy Fallon AND Natalie Portman in Sia wigs. On top of which, I will always tune into a Sia performance, for they are always unforgettable.

Album Review: Matter

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It seems to be a recent trend in music to go back to an 80s style. With the new 1975 album, their sound is distinctively 80s. But one band that seems to have taken this to the next level is St. Lucia. In their follow up to When the Night St. Lucia takes the sound that made them break out and polished it off and made it shine brighter than any diamond that Rihanna was talking about. Every song seems to have been produced to perfection. But before we get into the album, it needs to be noted that St. Lucia are not just a one trick pony, their sound changes noticeably with each song.

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With each song seeming to build on the other, the band really makes it known that they are here to mean business. The album flows seamlessly into itself. St. Lucia encapsulate the 80s in each song, from Glam Pop to Pop Rock, they have it all covered. The most noticeable reference to the 80s being “Rescue Me” a clear homage to Duran Duran and “Stay” drawing heavily from Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing” the album is fun, you want to get up and dance it all out.

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Find a dance-floor, and turn up the St. Lucia, Matter brings back the nostalgia and brings it into the future. Matter is a fun album and has some pretty awesome tributes to the best of the 80s.

Album Review: Don’t You

Let me preface this by saying, DO NOT always trust the reviews that you read. Pitchfork gave Wet’s Don’t You a brutally honest review, but let me be the first to say, it is not as bad as they claim, in fact it is pretty dope. Wet is an atmospheric electronic group with a powerful female lead vocalist. Their sound really isn’t similar to too many artists that I listen to. It is very calming, in fact as I was walking to the IM building, I was jamming out to this album and found myself drifting off to sleep, please do not do this. But it is just a very relaxing and chill vibe that is always a good break from the upbeat and heavier music that I listen to.

 

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With an album that is mostly flying over the radar, and in the alternative music spectrum, Wet is really taking their time to shine through on this album. The theme is definitely that of overcoming a loss, whether that be a bad break-up or something a little more macabre. The lyrics are powerful, they show strength of the writer, and the way that Kelly Zutrau sings the lyrics is incredibly moving. It has a tone, and keeps that tone throughout the course of the album, and it clocks in at 42 minutes, a good length for a debut album, and it feels like you are getting the most out of the album.

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My biggest complaint with the album is that it does seem a little too repetitive with its sound towards the end of the album, but take that for what you will, because if you really like that slow melodic tone, than you will not get sick of it through the course of the album. But other than that I felt that this album changed pace and message in each song enough to keep me thinking about the progression of where the band can go next.

Wet is definitely a band worth checking out, at the very least they might have one of the best album website domain names I have seen KanyeWet.biz, absolutely fantastic, and I am still laughing about it. Their sound is unique and calming, perfect for these cold and dreary days.