State In The Real – Penn State Music Scene

Author - Larisa Golovko

Sunday Spin: Blood Pressures

Welcome back to another musically indulgent week of Sunday Spin! I hope September has been treating you all well!

Time to sit back and better acquaint yourselves with another album from our masterly curated selection of Sunday Spin faves. This week? Blood Pressures by The Kills.

Here are the basics: The Kills are two members- Jamie Hince (British) and Alison Mosshart (American), who met in London while living in the same apartment building. Apparently, the story goes, Alison overheard him playing some music he was composing and approached him to work together. It was the beginning of a beautiful partnership. Since then, much has happened. They got signed immediately, went on to play countless gigs around the world, Jamie got married to Kate Moss, Alison collaborated with Jack White…but the release of Blood Pressures in 2011 was proof that their mojo hadn’t worn out. The Kills still had magic to share.

Also most importantly, this will serve as a short introduction to my favorite badass woman in music. For those who are not familiar with her impressive CV: Alison Mosshart has been on the rock music scene for over 2 decades, as well as (more recently) collaborated with Jack White in a side project called The Dead Weather. Basically she’s an unstoppable force with an amazing voice and great taste in all things; truly a renaissance woman.

So the have been around for quite some time; their first full album  Keep On Your Mean Side came out in 2003! But in my view, Blood Pressures was a turning point in both visibility as well as critical success. It pretty much solidified their standing as a duo to be reckoned with.

The reason why it’s my favorite particularly is because I think it has the perfect level of polish while also retaining the gritty feel of their earlier work. But on an emotional level, it makes you feel really powerful and intimidating which admittedly is something I look for in rock music. All of the tracks have weight to them and are lyrically stimulating, something The Kills are pros at.

I picked my five favorite tracks from the album to give you a little taster of what to expect.

“Future Start Slow”: And after all God can keep my soul…England have my bones. But don’t ever give me up, I could never get back back up when the future starts so slow… The first song on Blood Pressures is a masterpiece, honestly. That guitar riff lays the groundwork for the rest of the album and really starts it off on the right note.

“Heart is a Beating Drum”: Send your love on a rampage, Giver her everything you’ve got. And when you come to hate her, show her more than just a spark. Pretty simple lyrics on this one but for some reason the beat really lifts it up and keeps it from becoming boring.

“DNA”: Fate, with a single blow, has custard-pied me now. This song is fearless in its measurement and really hits you straight on, even with the first note. It’s heavy instrument-wise, but Alison’s vocals balance it out.


“Baby Says”:  Baby says she’s dying to meet you, take you off, and make your blood hum and tremble like the fairground lights… Features some of their best lyrical work on the whole album, in my opinion. The words speak for themselves.


“The Last Goodbye”: The slowest song on the album. Very melancholy and stripped down, which just shows how talented The Kills are in sensing that less can be more, both lyric-wise and in terms of sparse instrumentals. Watch their rendition on David Letterman and try not to stare at Alison’s hair…

“Pots and Pans”: Ain’t enough salt in the ocean that cares enough to keep you floating…I ain’t a drop left in my tank, to move move move your dead weight.  This is the last song on the album but maintains their classic contrasting dynamic of heavy/light sound. A great choice to close the album with a long instrumental play-out.

Overall Blood Pressures just solidifies my love for The Kills as a band that absolutely refuses to minimize their sound or bend to what people think their music should sound like or give in to the pressure of releasing a tame and typical record. The Kills set an example in other ways as well; they have time and time again stated that fashion and how an artist crafts their own image in terms of appearance is deeply important to them and that looking the part should always be stressed. They both place importance on matching the power of the music to an effort in terms of style.

Recently I finally got to see them live at Governor’s Ball music festival in NYC, which was quite the event. Mainly because of how long I’ve waited to experience their live show but also because directly preceding them was Tyler the Creator which led to a sort of strange mix of demographics…but nonetheless they put on a mesmerizing show. You could definitely tell that even those who were not standing around to see them were impressed by what they were witnessing, which in my opinion is the mark of a talented artist(s). And the chemistry between Jamie and Alison has not even simmered a little bit; they really do play off of each other even when so much of the singing is in unison!

To wrap it up, Blood Pressures is such an important album to me because it really shows how far the band has gotten in fine-tuning their sound but also not compromising the personality of The Kills, which is what any artist in any medium should strive to accomplish.



Sunday Spin: Humbug

It seems to me that we in the vinyl-owning community all have that one special album that must glide over our turntables before we can move on with our musical hunt. An obsessive need to find that specific record instinctively takes over upon entering any record store.This melodious game-changer is what I will henceforth call the “Holy Grail LP”. When it’s held in human hands, the world seems to pause, only for reality to be restored as the first notes ring out from a turntable.

For me, that sweet victory was the 2009 album Humbug by Arctic Monkeys. My incredible love for this band has been years in the making but this is the album that truly sealed the deal, way back when I was just figuring out that I landed on a goldmine. This happened to be at the same time that some of my music tastes began shifting to heavier stuff. It also holds a lot of sentimentality for me because it got me seriously thinking about the poetry of lyrical writing, which is something I try to pay attention to quite a lot now. I’d say Alex Turner (lead singer) is one of the most clever poets in music currently.For a pretty picky listener it’s insane that I can go through an entire track list without even once getting the urge to skip a song but that’s what this album means to me.

And yes I will admit that I jumped on the kairos of their newfound American success with AM to write this post so let’s harness that love and throw it towards Humbug!

Album Cover- very moody

The Search: Tragedy and Redemption

 We can also probably agree that there’s something romantic about stumbling upon your favorite album while casually browsing the aisles. The notion of organically finding a lesser-appreciated Arctic Monkeys album before Summer 2013 was unlikely to come to fruition so the scene in my mind did not play out until much later.

 Wish I had a more glamorous story to share with you but the soul-crushing truth is we live in an era of the Internet and I couldn’t find this damn thing anywhere.

Don’t get me wrong, I searched far and wide. From the east coast (Princeton Record Exchange) to the west (recruited a friend to check Amoeba Records) but it just was not in the cards. Desperate times called for desperate online purchases and here we are a couple years later. But even though I didn’t get that oft-dreamed-about moment until randomly finding a copy in Philly last year (at a place called Long in the Tooth. Props for stocking this beauty), let me assure you that the quality is good regardless.

I love you PREX but you broke my heart.


The Technical Stuff

 Humbug’s vinyl edition comes with a standard lyrical “booklet” with some band photos on the inside and also a free digital download; killing two birds with one stone. Nothing really major going on in the sleeve but simple can be nice!

 Sound-wise, I don’t know if vinyl sounds better or worse than digital (or maybe it’s just my cheap Crosley?) but no one can deny that the experience is much more sensory.

Holding the record in your hands. Carefully setting the needle down. Waiting for that scratchy crackling sound to stop and for the song to begin. Finally hearing it play out in front of you and seeing the mechanical workings as they happen.

Even what would seem to be a hindrance in that you can’t really skip songs feels like a nostalgic waiting game and serves to build up suspense. A listener hears the songs in the exact order that they were meant to be experienced.

Digital doesn’t even begin to compare.


 The Soft Chewy Center

 But let’s get into the actual album. It’s Arctic Monkeys’ third and what I consider to be the best of their repertoire. Palpably darker than its predecessors and lyrically more mature, calls it “post-punk revival”. If you’re like me then that doesn’t give you very much to go off of.

So stay with me while I briefly break it down, song by song:


1. My Propeller- Two words: Spooky Delight.


2. Crying Lightning- Crowd favorite…and for a good reason. Music video features boats, inclement weather, giants, and is directed by Richard Ayoade.


3. Dangerous Animals- A personal favorite. Features lots of C-o-r-r-e-c-t S-p-e-l-l-i-n-g AKA indie rock’s answer to “Hollaback Girl”.

4. Secret Door- “She swam out of tonight’s phantasm, grabbed my hand and made it very clear. There’s absolutely nothing for us here”. A melodic sensation and lyrically impeccable.


5. Potion Approaching- “If I could be someone else for a week, I’d spend it chasing after you”. Enough said.


6. Fire and the Thud- “If it’s true you’re gonna run away…tell me where, I’ll meet you there”. A tune to swoon.


7. Cornerstone- Another fan favorite. If you’re craving a moody ballad about projecting obsessive romantic affection onto others, you’ll love it.

And now I have a reason to bring up this ridiculous music video (can I even call it that?)


8. Dance Little Liar- A cheeky gem with a slow build but the instrumentals at the end are worth it.


9. Pretty Visitors- Definitely the fastest track of the bunch. Features one of Alex Turner’s first forays into what could be considered “rap”. I have a personal connection to this one particularly since it was the song they opened with when I saw them perform for the first time. Also what I believe to be their only song featuring an organ…


10. The Jeweller’s Hands- Easily the underdog here, however a friend of mine recently rediscovered its low-key genius. Moral of the story: even if you think you don’t like an Arctic Monkeys song, you actually do…  🙂


 Please Accept This Holy Grail LP Into Your Life

 To be blunt, Humbug is exceptional. If you like an album that’s pensive but doesn’t take itself too seriously then get your hands on this treasure of auditory delight. You can thank me later.

Humbug Shrine w/candles on a constant burn


You Should Know About Deap Vally

The sunny oasis of Los Angeles has been consistent in producing a plethora of game-changing musical acts lately and this female pair can consider themselves part of the pack. If female rock duo Deap Vally aren’t on your musical radar yet, here’s your chance to become better acquainted.

Meeting by chance at a crochet class, singer/guitarist Lindsey Troy and drummer Julie Edwards hit it off and formed their own band, quickly garnering a critical buzz for their engaging live performances. An EP and full length album came shortly after, to the delight of fans. Vibrant guitar and drums are tied with powerful vocals as the standout qualities of their first album Sistrionix (2013)

(“End of the World” from the album Sistrionix“)

The blues-infused spirit of these pioneering ladies runs through their whole catalogue of tunes. Clear creative influences range from the White Stripes to the Black Keys but definitely retain their own lively and unique sound. The raw “End of the World” packs a punch as song number one on the album. And the evocative “Baby I Call Hell” brings yet another rousing layer to the mix. But take your pick of the bunch; all are well crafted and perfect for getting your energy up. So if you’re interested in fun music that’s best played loud and unapologetically, Deap Vally is your go-to selection.

(Deap Vally perform “Baby I Call Hell”)


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You Should Know About Temples

English ensemble Temples has made waves recently for their exciting take on psychedelic pop. Their catchy and nostalgic tunes call upon the sounds of a different era, drawing from iconic bands like The Beatles in terms of lyrical form and melody. This type of familiarity mixed with innovation might be why they’ve been received so well in the musical community, playing several festivals (SXSW, Latitude, Rock en Seine, etc.)

(Temples perform “Colours to Life” from the album Sun Structures)

Their debut album Sun Structures (2014) features a solid share of sugary tracks like “Colours to Life” and “Shelter Song” but don’t be fooled; there are surprisingly gloomy songs in the mix. “The Golden Throne” shows a side of Temples all their own and incorporates a slightly spooky instrumental base. The otherworldly Thomas Warmsley (bass, vocals) and James Bagshaw (lead vocals, lead guitar) transport the melodies of the ‘60s into our present day. Every song has a hypnotic effect, making you want to close your eyes and soak it in. The album’s dream-like quality certainly allows for a stimulation of the senses, but at the same time doesn’t require several listens to be acquainted with.


Temples’ radio fame is still to come so get on the bandwagon and don’t hesitate to give Sun Structures a listen, as well as early singles like “Keep in the Dark”.

(“Shelter Song” from the album Sun Structures)

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You Should Know About The Orwells

Known more for candid “garage rock” and electrifying performances than surreal political commentary, Chicago area rock quintet The Orwells may not occupy the literary realm but take another stage entirely. Guitarists Dominic Corso and Matt O’Keefe, bassist Grant Brinner, drummer Henry Brinner, and singer Mario Cuomo put out stirring songs that hit the nail right on the head. The youthful pack creatively defies their respective ages (ranging from 18 to 20) by harnessing restlessness into a polished work that revives rock n’ roll.

Their energetic album, 2012’s Remember When, is a nostalgic anthem of adolescent discontent and rebellion. Themes include melancholia and suburban malaise while more common tropes of heartbreak and desire take on a surprisingly fresh tone, due in part to Mario Cuomo.  The peculiar lead singer captures the mood with purposely rough-around-the-edges vocals that often drift into wails and howls. The Orwells skillfully incorporate mature lyrics but contrast them well with the sheer power of their instruments and a transfixing stage presence. If loud and honest is your musical preference, The Orwells are not to be overlooked.

(“Halloween All Year” from the album Remember When)

Even though it’s been a year and a half since the release of their first album, their widespread public recognition is quite recent and likely connected to an auspicious opportunity to be the opener on part of Arctic Monkeys’ recent North American tour…as well as a memorable appearance on David Letterman performing the song “Who Needs You”. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing these guys live and loved every minute of it, so definitely go check out the album as well as their more recent EP releases: Other Voices (2013) and Who Needs You (2013).

(The Orwells perform “Who Needs You” on David Letterman 1/15/14)

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