State In The Real – Penn State Music Scene

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.

Album Review: Forest Hills Drive Live

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Last week, J. Cole celebrated his birthday with a very surprise album release. It seems like everything connected with 2014 Forest Hills Drive defies convention, the first platinum album without a single, as Cole points out in the beginning of this concert. With J. Cole, it can easily be said that he is one of the three kings in this new generation of rap. With his seminal album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive Cole showed that he can craft a perfect story and is the exact reason why he is the mind out of the three best (Drake and Kendrick Lamar) he is introspective, whether that be a story about how lost his virginity in “Wet Dreamz” to the racial disparity at the Gammy’s in “Fire Squad” Cole knows how to make people think. With the live experience, and yes I am going to call this album an experience, you can put yourself in the crowd of the concert. With most live albums, I feel a disconnect between the performer and audience, and just feel like I missed out on something, there are a few live albums where I can actually go back to and listen to, and let me say this album is immediately one of those. First off, rap is an incredibly hard genre to perform live, with most sounds coming from a DJ, it is hard to really connect with the audience, but Cole clearly knows this is an issue, and brings a full backing band and really connects with the audience, telling stories and making sure that they  know they are being appreciated by the rapper.

 

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There really isn’t too much to be said about this, if you enjoyed 2014 Forest Hills Drive than this is the perfect way to keep that emotion flowing. You can feel how Cole feels with each song. Cole brings out some special guests at this concert and it makes it feel like more of a party than it is a concert. You hear how honest and genuine Cole is and how far he has come from his childhood at 2014 Forest Hills Drive. What makes this album and concert so special is that Cole is finally back to the place that he calls home, he is back to where it all started, he knows that anyone in this audience could be him. J. Cole is an artist in the truest sense of the world and caters to the deepest and truest of his fans, during the “Intermission” he goes back to his roots of his mixtapes, and performs the hell out of his deep cuts. J. Cole paints pictures in a way few rappers are able to and he creates an energy that clearly the crowd vibes off of.

 

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If you like J. Cole, really if you just appreciate rap and a good live performance, than there is no reason not to check out this album. It is one of the best live albums that I have heard, 100% the best in the last three years. If you cannot get enough of J. Cole check out his Docuseries on HBO.

 

 

Hey vinyl junkies, want to hear J. Cole scream at you from the grooves of the wax? The answer is who doesn’t, head over to J. Cole’s website to check out and grab an exclusive vinyl copy of the live album.