State In The Real – Penn State Music Scene

PS-U Oughta Know Artist: Julie Bouchard

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Photo: Zoë Kushlefsky

Meet junior Education major Julie Bouchard – a young woman with a voice to rival Hayley Williams and modesty to rival…well, probably everyone.  She’s only 20 years old, but the long list of musical involvement and achievements that adorn her resume is on par with that of someone twice her age.

Prior to even arriving at Penn State, the Oyster Bay native had been playing piano since the age of 5, writing songs since middle school, and to top it all off, by her senior year of high school, Bouchard had already published an orchestral piece and interned with the competitive Oratorio Society of  Queens (an audition-based classical choir.)  This kind of classical training, no doubt, provided the stable foundation for her current  successes.  At Penn State, she composed and performed music for the School of Music’s productions of “Little Town Blues” and “Once,” performed with the Oriana Singers for two years, and won “Best Female Songwriter” and “Best Acoustic Act” at the Penn State Music Awards for two consecutive years.

Impressed yet? (If yesjul5, keep reading. If no, keep reading.) How about  once I tell you that, despite the talent she possesses as a songwriter and  singer, she has no interest in being in the spotlight?  In a statement, the  songstress revealed, “I like the idea of assuming a behind-the-scenes role  when it comes to music.  I love writing and I love putting my songs out  there, but I don’t think I’d mind putting my songs out there for other  people to sing.  I could still release my ideas into the world, but while also  maintaining normalcy in my own life.”

There’s no question that twenty-somethings as level-headed as Julie is a  rare breed among college populations.

Julie’s ear for catchy vocal lines transfers well into the acoustic pop genre  she typically represents in her songwriting. You can clearly recognize the way in which her #1 influences (Ed Sheeran, Mariana’s Trench, and Adele)  help to craft the way she plays guitar, attacks notes, and structures songs.  While she may draw upon other artists for inspiration, her voice is all her own.  Its spherical sound is booming, rich, and raw, and it engulfs you when you hear it.  She utters the most impressive vocal runs and jumps among any of the many singers I personally know, but all the while making it look absolutely effortless.

Already, she has a staggering 30+ original songs written, with each one coming to life in just under 10 minutes. She insists that if she likes a song she’s working on enough, then writing it should feel natural and fluid.  If she ever feels like she’s struggling to connect to the content in that moment, then it’s not worth it for her to keep pursuing. “I’ll throw out the idea and move on to the next one.”

If you want to catch one of Julie Bouchard’s jaw-dropping performances, keep your eyes peeled for open mics on and off-campus, as she’s a regular attendee.  In the meantime, though, settle your anxiousness by listening to her Soundcloud and Youtube channels.

 

Recap: Penn State Music Awards 2015

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Yesterday, Open Mic Penn State held its 2015 Penn State Music Awards in Heritage Hall.  The night, designed to highlight the year’s most active and deserving student artists, featured musical performances of varying genres, improv dancing, spoken word pieces, and, of course, trophy distributions to the new generation of winners (listed below.)

Each one of the performers (also listed below) had something special to showcase.  There’s no denying that we have some truly talented artists here at Penn State, many of which unfortunately go unnoticed by the vast majority.  However, I will say that, in my mind, there were a few artists who truly resonated and showcased a unique style that’s all their own:

Keegan Tawa
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Photo: Jonny Rabbit Photography

This electro-house musician is by no means a stranger to the spotlight, but for those of you who are only familiar with the name and not the music, I highly encourage you to attend one of his frequent Chome/house show performances. Keegan Tawa truly has an ear and brain for music.  Pushing the limits of a genre is almost second nature to him.  Tonight’s performance is just one example of this ability, as he creatively incorporated jazz saxophone and featured spoken word monologues into the mixes of his original electronic tracks.

Penn State Fanaa
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Photo: Penn State Fanaa Facebook Page

Admittedly, it took me until the second song to realize it, but Penn State Fanaa introduces an entirely new dynamic to the organized mess of a cappella groups found on campus.  They describe themselves as an ensemble of South Asian singers who employ members’ diverse backgrounds to bring together a “fusion of cultures,” and I have to say that they achieve this mission rather nicely.  There was one girl in particular who blew me away with her beautiful, haunting vocal trills – a singing technique that characterizes a lot of Indian music.

David Gaines
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Photo: David Gaines Soundcloud

Ohh myy David Gaines! You may remember seeing him perform at THON’s Got Talent last Friday night, but you may not remember what exactly he said in his spoken word performance.  Believe me when I declare that Gaines is probably one of the most articulate students we have here at Penn State. He is able to poetically piece together real, raw societal commentaries and set them to a rhythm.  As he’s performing, he makes you think, reflect, and feel.  I truly hope he gains more traction because he has a gift that deserves to be shared more widely.

 

And without further adieu, your 2015 winners of the Penn State Music Awards are:
Best Singer: Olivia Price & Shawn Fox
Best DJ: Keegan Tawa
Best Producer: Keegan Tawa
Best Songwriter: Julie Bouchard & Louie Petrone
Best Performer: Olivia Price & Daniel Wells
Best Dance Group: R.A.M. Squad
Best Poet: Jerrie Johnson & David Gaines
Best Rapper: Louie Petrone
Best Mixtape: Louie Petrone
Best Band: Mute Cities
Best Acoustic Performance: Julie Bouchard
Best A cappella Group: The Pennharmonics
Artist of the Year: Louie Petrone

Complete List of Performers:
Keegan Tawa (electronic)
Penn State Fanaa (a cappella)
Daniel Wells (r&b/jazz)
David Gaines (spoken word)
R.A.M. Squad (dance)
Andros Kalos
Ashadeep (spoken word/rap)
Julie Bouchard (acoustic pop)
Cecil Blutcher (rap)
Louie Petrone (rap)
**Moosh & Twist (hip-hop/rap)**

 

Congratulations to all of this year’s winners, nominees, and performers!  Each one of you is an integral part of Penn State’s developing music scene.

Album Review: Dark Sky Paradise | Big Sean

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Big Sean, the Detroit, G.O.O.D. Music rapper, known by most as notorious rap super star Kanye West’s right hand man, has dropped his latest album Dark Sky Paradise. Many had very high hopes for this album. With huge singles featuring big names being released prior to the album, everyone was expecting a huge, game-changing effort, which would bring Sean’s game to the next level. In the end, Big Sean does bring the heat, but not in the game changing way most thought. His flow and rhymes have definitely been brought up a level and the production of the album as a whole is a beautiful work of art. However, Sean Don has not progressed really in the slightest when it comes to the content he raps about. He still is consumed by slanderous rhymes that have to do with taking advantage of women and spending ridiculous amounts of money. Not to say that Sean isn’t the only one who raps about things like that. There are countless rap moguls who talk about very explicit material in their rhymes… But they would also throw out some real content about different moments in their life. This is sort of concept is lost on Sean’s most recent work. He does mention his sadness in finding out the poor receptions to his sophomore album: Hall of Fame, but even those more vulnerable sections only show a bit of growth in Sean’s lyrics.

Going into the album, Sean Don comes out strong with a great first three tracks. “Dark Sky (Skyscrapers)” shows off his intense flow even reaching close to mach speed at times . He comes out looking for blood and rattles off some impressive rhymes. “Blessings” is next and it showcases some big talent in Drake. Drizzy slays his verse and adds a great line:

 “Blessings on blessings from me and my n****s from the 6. Look at what we did, yeah.”

I love this line because it exemplifies Drake and his OVO team so well. They brought a sound to Toronto, and however you feel about Drake, that is important. “Blessings” is a “good verses evil” type tune that resonates with you hours after listening to it. From the slow build of “Blessings” emerges an intense track that comes next. My personal favorite song on the album, “All Your Fault ft. Kanye West”, is perhaps a look into the next generation. Sean and Kanye go back and forth on the song until the last verse where they Watch the Throne style hash things out. It is an awesome give and take where the pupil shows he can hang with the master. Mix in a little bit of fellow G.O.O.D. music youngin’ Travi$ Scott’s signature “STRAIGHT UP” and you have yourself a complete banger.

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Master and Disciple

Although, maybe the signature song on the album: “I Don’t Fuck With You” shows Sean at his best. He kills this track and if it wasn’t for him early releasing it, people would be bumping to this everywhere you look.

As the album winds down the weaker tracks are shown. Sean is seen slowing down a bit and the disappointing middle-end of the album surely turned a lot of people off. Yeah gems like “Paradise (Extended)” and softer track “One Man Can Change the World” help to recover the album. Most of the middle ground showcases old, Hall of Fame Sean which is a bummer. In the end Big Sean is seen to grow in ways that we only hope help to true develop the rapper many people still have large expectations of for the future.

CONCERT ANNOUNCMENT: Movin’ On Brings the Flames

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Movin’ On, the free, student run, mini music festival here at the Pennsylvania State University has out done themselves this year. The lineup is loaded with talent and is offering up some huge names. Headlined by popular Indie Electronic band Passion Pit, with strong supporting acts by notable G.O.O.D. Music artist Big Sean and weird EDM-type-group Big Gigantic, will lead to what might be their biggest turn out by students to date.

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Passion Pit will be coming by right after dropping their newest album Kindred which is set to release in April. Already appearing with popular DJ Madeon on a new track called “Pay No Mind” you can see that Passion Pit is back stronger than ever. Mostly known for their hits “Sleepyhead,” “Little Secrets,” and “Take a Walk,” Passion Pit will bring their up-tempo, mega falsetto, sound to the IM Fields this may to lift everyone’s spirits. Lead singer, Michael Angelakos, is scene with a much more mature, almost happier tone of voice that has sparked a new fire in Passion Pit fans’ hearts. Just listening to their newest single,“Lifted Up (1985),” will have you dancing your heart out already. Passion Pit will surely bring favorites from their last two album as well,  look for there to be a crazy dance party and light show happening once their performance starts.

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Big Sean is next and the Kanye West protege will not disappoint. Just coming off his new album: Dark Sky Paradise’s release, get ready to bump some intense beats when Sean hits the stage. Popular songs like “I Don’t Fuck With You” and “Blessings” should have Penn State student’s excited for Sean’s show. He’s going to bring a ton of energy and look for him to blast through everyone’s expectations.

 

 

 

Big Gigantic, an unusual electronic group that combines saxophone and other live instruments into their music. They sort of give off Girl Talk vibes although in the end they have very large differences that separate them. Still another great band to dance to, that will have everyone pumped up for the headliners that will be next to come. Movin’ On did great booking these guys as they will be the perfect compliment to get Penn State warmed up and moving.

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New Politics, an up and coming Danish alternative band, is hear to uplift everyone’s spirits and add a nice exciting act to Movin’ On. They offer popular hits “Harlem” and “Yeah Yeah Yeah” to the mix and will bring energy to their performance (you see a common theme here yet?). A nice way to help start the day and a strong fourth band for sure.

Although Atmosphere might not be the most recognizable band being shown at Movin’ On this year they are still a force to be reckoned with. Having gained a slight cult following they will definitely bring their fans from Happy Valley out to Movin’ On this year. This hip hop group from Minneapolis, Minnesota, although not huge is definitely a big opening act to kick of this years festival.

All in all, Movin’ On has absolutely killed it booking awesome bands sure to make this 40 year anniversary definitely a special outing. It is a must go for all Penn State students looking to have a great weekend right before finals week. So come out and dance on May 1st with the rest of us. The music will be good and there is nothing else anyone could possibly ask for.

State In The Real Interviews Silverstein Guitarist Paul Marc Rousseau

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State In The Real got the chance to talk to Paul Marc Rousseau, lead guitarist of the band Silverstein. The band is currently on their Discovering The Waterfront 10 Year Anniversary Tour, which is celebrating the band’s successful album Discovering The Waterfront. The Paul Marc is younger than the rest of the band, and joined the band a number of years after the album was released, he still have a very interesting perspective on it. He came from the band’s hometown, and being a fan since the band started, he attended the CD release show for Discovering The Waterfront. A few years later, he joined the band’s road crew as a guitar tech, and eventually joined the band as their guitar player. We talked with Paul about making his place in the band, his opinion on the album, the band’s legacy, and much more.

 

I’m here with Paul from Silverstein. How’s it going man?

Good man, how are you doing?

 

Pretty good. To start, you guys have a new album coming out called I Am Alive In Everything I Touch. Do you want to explain the title for the new album?

Yeah sure. We’ve got our new album I Am Alive In Everything I Touch coming out May 19th on Rise Records. The title is something we’ve toyed with for a long time because you want to name the record something good. It’s actually a quote from a Timothy Findley book, who’s a Canadian author, and I’m pretty sure a native of Toronto, which is pretty important to us because we’re all Toronto guys. It helps out with the concept, which I don’t want to get too much into, because we want people to explore that and connect with it in their own way. But it’s the idea of having a legacy through everything you’ve influenced and everything that you’ve been a part of, living on past your own human mortality. It’s something that’s a cool version of the afterlife that we think is lesser talked about and more important, even.

 

That’s definitely an interesting concept. So you personally have a very unique perspective on the band because you joined the band, which was already an established, veteran band in the scene. They already had a number of successful albums under their belt. So how have you tried to make your place in Silverstein on the last few albums, coming into a band that was so established?

Yeah it was interesting for me. I had been around Silverstein for a while. As soon as I got out of high school, I didn’t necessarily want to go to college right away, and they gave me a job touring with them. That was in 2008. I’ve been around ever since, so I’ve been a part of the family, I guess you could say. So when they needed a guitar player and they asked me I was like, “Yeah, of course.” They were re already my best friends, and I had already toured with them. It was cool because right away, they gave me the keys to the place and said “If you have any ideas you want to write, go for it. If you don’t feel comfortable, that’s totally cool too.”  I did feel comfortable, and I thought that, because I had seen them for so long and been a fan of the band, because we’re from the same hometown and they’re hometown heroes, moving forward and working for them and hearing all these songs, that by the time it was my turn to step up and write a song, I felt that I had a sort of unique perspective from outside to inside of what I thought was never tried that would do well with their sound, or things that had maybe been hitting too hard. It was really cool that they let me bring things to do the table. This Is How The Wind Shifts was received critically really positively, which was a huge relief because I was terrified for the month before that record came out. I was like, “Fuck, did I just ruin the best band from Burlington? What did I just do?”

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So now you guys are on the Discovering The Waterfront 10 Year Anniversary Tour. I read that you were a fan of the band back in the day and that you saw them perform the album right after it came out when you were 15 or 16. What did that album mean to you back in the day, since that was such a huge album in that scene, and a number of kids that age enjoyed it or were impacted by it?

So I’m 25 now, and that record came out when I was 15. I remember that they did a CD release show, back when a CD release show was a thing that every band did, at the local YCMA in the big gym, 1000 people in our small hometown. I was at that show, I remember. I don’t tell everybody this, but I wasn’t really a fan of that record when it first came out. I just sort of felt like they had just gotten too big, since they started as a local scene band, and this record was enormous and I couldn’t believe how big it was. I was young and I was like, “They sold out. Forget this.” But I quickly came around on it and it’s obviously such an influential record. It carried our local scene, which is a really important thing to me. I think it inspired a lot of people moving forward in different parts of the world. So to be a part of this tour now, as a fan of the record, to play these songs for people who are also fans of the record, I feel like I’ve got an even deeper connection for the fans at this point, because I went through what they’re going through- I get it.

 

First of all, your original feelings about the album are really funny. Second, that’s something I was going to touch on- how is it performing these songs? You were a fan, and now you’re performing the songs to fans that this may have meant a lot to. Or maybe they didn’t like it at first, and then became fans of it. But that’s certainly an interesting role to have.

Yeah, I mean we’ve got meet and greet packages on this tour, which we’re really happy to do. We love talking to and meeting fans, especially in this context, to see just what made them love this record so much. And nobody has ever told me that they hated this record and then loved it, so maybe I’m the only person in the world. It’s possible.

 

The tour is about looking back at the past 10 years and how the album and the band have had an impact on fans and the scene. What is your personal opinion on the band’s impact on the scene, since first you were a fan, then a crew member, and now a band member. It may be a little biased since you’re in the band, but you also have the perspective of watching the band from the outside for years. So what is the impact that you think the band has had, and will continue to have on this music scene?

That’s a good question. To me, the impact, without making too grand of a statement, the impact is almost immeasurable. I know that Silverstein wasn’t necessarily the first band to do this type of music, but they certainly were the “crest of the wave” with a couple other bands. Victory had a lot to do with that style coming up over a decade ago. But, we’ve definitely toured with so many bands, even in my short time touring with them since 2008. I mean that’s not that long, but I remember we had tours where A Day to Remember opened the tour, and then one where The Devil Wears Prada opened the tour, and Pierce the Veil opened a tour. These bands are enormous bands now, and I feel like we helped give them one of their first tours. Even that right there is kind of a crazy thing. I don’t know, it’s neat.

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And especially since you were saying that you guys may have not been the first to do this, but the band itself has been one of the longest lasting bands in the scene. A number of bands that were doing this back in the day have broken up, or took some time off and are now back together. But Silverstein has been pretty consistent over the years, which is pretty crazy.

Yeah, like clockwork Silverstein puts out a new record every two years. We basically do 6 months off to record, then tour for 18 months. I’ve only been doing that for 3 years now with being a part of the whole process. It’s exhausting. I’m just really proud of my friends. It’s an incredible thing to be doing this for so long because it’s not an easy life and you’ve got to work so hard at every turn just to keep yourself relevant in the scene, and just to keep yourself on tour. It’s an expensive and exhausting life.

 

Something else that you mentioned I wanted to touch on. A number of the bands that you’re bringing on this tour are younger, or at least not as well known. Is that something that the band likes to do? Do you like to bring younger bands on the tour and either help get them more well known, see what they’ve got, or try and teach them anything, or does it just happen that way?

We definitely hand pick all of our support on every headlining tour. That’s something we care a lot about. So it’s a lot of things- you hear good things about the people. You’re going to spend 40 days or 45 days with them. You want to spend those 45 days with people that you get along with, and you want to believe in the band. Especially on this tour, as it’s so heavily rooted in nostalgia, but we’re also looking ahead to the future because we’ve got this new record coming out. So we don’t want to just pick a bunch of bands for the tour that were popular 10 years ago and that’s it. We’re moving forward so we’ll give you a taste of the old stuff through the whole record, but let’s not forget about the future, you know?

 

Is there anything else you want to say?

Nope. It’s been a pleasure, thanks.

 

Catch Silverstein on their Discovering The Waterfront 10 Year Anniversary Tour, pick up their album I Am Alive in Everything I Touch, out May 19th on Rise Records, and check out their new single below! 

Kendrick Lamar Amazes with “The Blacker the Berry”

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Oh Kendrick, how do you do it? While some diehard fans were somewhat displeased with Kendrick Lamar’s last release, “i”, the superstar rapper dissolved all doubts about his new album with his newest single, “The Blacker the Berry”.

As usual, Lamar delivers on all levels: lyricism, delivery, subject matter, beat, you name it. However this track doesn’t necessarily seem like it would fit on good kid, m.A.A.d city. On “Blacker the Berry”, Kendrick Lamar is more violent, more accusatory, and, most importantly, angrier.

The beat of this track perfectly matches the subject matter, an aspect that Kendrick has developed and perfected throughout his short career. From the beginning, the piano is eerie and the synthesizers are tension-filled, resonating almost like sirens. The drums are deep and commanding. The scene is set for Kendrick to work his magic.

While the beat of “Blacker the Berry” is fantastic, but the real showstopper is the lyrics. Kendrick starts his first verse (and every subsequent verse) with a striking claim: “I’m the biggest hypocrite of 2015”. From there, his lyricism is at its best as he growls heart-stopping line after line about racism, black pride, and an ambiguously blamed “you”. At times, Kendrick’s flow is so over-the-top that it seems like he is ranting rather than rhyming.

As if it couldn’t get any better, the last verse changes the message of the entire track, and possibly stands as one of Kendrick Lamar’s best verses of all time. When the beat virtually drops out, Kendrick states various black stereotypes, and claims that none of these matter if “Gang banging make me kill a n***a blacker than me”. Instead of blaming others for racially profiling blacks, Kendrick looks inward at his own community and claims that they support these stereotypes with violence that he illustriously described on his last album. Suddenly all of the aforementioned hypocrisy makes more sense.

Lamar doesn’t just impress with this track, he sets the bar. “Blacker the Berry” presents some of his most socially charged and emotional work yet, and subsequently, one of his best works of all time.

Ladies and gentlemen, King Kendrick is back.

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