State In The Real – Penn State Music Scene

Category - Mainstream Music

Dive Into This Shark Week Playlist

But seriously. What are you doing? If you have yet to catch an episode of Shark Week on Discovery Channel, at least celebrate with a shark week inspired playlist. The new playlist, released by Columbia Records, includes a variety of songs like Pharrell’s new track “Freedom” and Calvin Harris & Big Sean’s hit “Open Wide.” The playlist is sure to have you jammin’ out on the beach like Katy Perry’s Left Shark, so take a listen for yourself.

Jam on left shark. Jam on.

Los 5 Has The Perfect Summer Jam

Los 5 has made it to the top without even being signed. This is a credit to their infectious sound. The Latino pop group, all born in Mexico/Argentina, began making their mark in the U.S. after releasing their single “Manaña.” If you haven’t caught Los 5’s music bumpin’ on SiriusXM yet, you have probably heard them playing live shows and opening up for large artists like Fifth Harmony. Their ear catching music and good looks are even gaining them serious fan girl attention, which is well deserved. “Manaña” is easily the top-pick jam that will be hitting all the summer playlists faster than you can say “Me encanta!

In a sure fire summer song, check out their latest single, “Manaña” from the Latin pop group. Also we put together a small summertime playlist to get you in the mood for lounging out by the pool sipping on refreshing beverages.

Los 5 members

Los 5 members

 

 

Album Review: At.Long.Last.A$AP

 

Unknown

At.Long.Last.A$AP is A$AP Rocky’s first album as an established rapper. In the obvious sense of that statement, the album is Rocky’s second major label LP, and first after a breakout 2013 that featuring a hugely successful album and a monster single. In another sense, this album serves as Rocky’s chance to prove that he’s not like other rappers classified under trap rap, a genre that’s hit or miss at best.

A$AP Rocky knows this, and addresses it through the first track of the album. On “Holy Ghost”, A$AP spits “Satan’s givin’ out deals, finna own these rappers, the game is full of slaves and they mostly rappers”, setting himself apart from the obvious materialism that’s associated with mainstream rap today. “Holy Ghost”, along with the next three tracks on the album, open the listener up to A$AP’s hazy, acid-soaked world; his rise to and subsequent embracement of newfound fame. “L$D”, an honest love song to a drug that heavily influenced the album, also acts as Rocky admitting his love for his new life without obnoxiously boastful lyrics.

Throughout the album, Rocky balances out this new life by addressing his past, an angle that’s becoming more and more common in hip-hop (most notably through Kendrick Lamar). The one-two-punch of “Max B” and “Pharsyde” slows the album down to a thoughtful pause as the listener wades through intense lyrics and live instrumentation. The latter, one of four tracks produced by hip-hop and rock genius Danger Mouse, features some of the album’s most intense imagery. Rocky raps “back in my younger days or razor blades with gangs who bang and never stood a chance” over an eerie beat like an aged war veteran, but as he states, “If you seen the s**t that I’d have seen in 26 years of livin’, that’s how many f**ks I’ve given”.

A.L.L.A does offer a few less-introspective and club-focused tracks. “Electric Body”, which features an intense Schoolboy Q verse, and “M’$” contrast the albums slower moments with faster and louder ones. But At.Long.Last.A$AP isn’t complete without a few missteps. A rare subpar Kanye verse on the Ye-produced “Jukebox Joints” ends a song with beautiful production and great A$AP verses on a less-exciting note. Weak tracks include “Everyday” and “Excuse Me”, which interrupt a couple of great track-runs.

Unknown-1

And of course, it’s hard to think about A$AP Rocky without taking a moment to consider the recent death of A$AP Mob founder, A$AP Yams. The final track of the album, “Back Home” features a postmortem Yams monologue that ends with a proud, yet slightly bittersweet “A$AP B***H!”. Both a fitting end to the album and a necessary final goodbye, Rocky honors Yams’ life without focusing too much on his death.

On this album, Rocky does exactly what he needs to in order to remain relevant: he distinguishes himself and his sound, uses heavier subject matter, and continues to work with and learn from a group of legendary features and producers. While it’s not perfect, At.Long.Last.A$AP proves that Rocky is one of the more interesting mainstream rappers today, and one who’s best years are hopefully ahead of him.

Unknown-4

Album Review: Suffer in Peace by Tyler Farr

1035x1035-UnknownTyler Farr debuted his new album, “Suffer in Peace,” this past week and it sits for anyone who’s had a broken heart. The title track, “Suffer and Peace” and “Withdrawals” are two other standout tracks.

Four of the eleven tracks on the album cover heartbreak. “A Guy Walks Into a Bar” is often just one of the heartbreak songs that appears frequently on the radio.

I’ve been told by many that I am one to choose sad, slow songs, but with summer approaching I’m not completely sure how an album like this will stick out.

Farr is a classically trained singer that shows off a high rock end most fans are not aware of. With country-pop songs often climbing the charts, Farr sticks out with his rough sound. He is often compared to other artists like Eric Church and Brantley Gilbert.

Not too surprisingly, “I Don’t Even Want This Beer” stumbles and staggers around in anguish and depression. It even makes reference to getting drunk on a Tuesday… “Here I am getting tore up on a Tuesday.” But in all, the song features lyrics that definitely hit a cord for any guy who’s ever screwed up.

“I wonder if she’s alone tonight
Thinkin’ ’bout all I didn’t do right
Or is she out on the town in my favorite dress
With some ol’ boy tryin’ his best
To get her buzzin’ just enough she might say yes”

However, he does take a break from the heartbreak tunes to a more playful sound with two of his tracks, “Better in Boots” and “Poor Boy.” The album definitely needed to take this shift to what would have been an emotional roller coaster of an album. “Poor Boy” tended to be my pick of songs to continue to listen too overall.

Two hard rock country anthems sit on each end of the album. “C.O.U.N.T.R.Y” is a rough tune and is set to a pace that is not seen again on the album. “Why We Live Here” pays tribute to the military, but not in outright blaring way that many country listeners are used to. Farr makes it clear that he is a strong supporter of the U.S. military, but many of the tracks also steer toward the edges of what people consider country these days. Overall all the songs, even the more upbeat ones, swing low and sharp.

Album Review: Untethered Moon by Built to Spill

Unknown

Oddly enough, 2015 is a very appropriate year for a new album from the 90’s indie lo-fi group, Built to Spill. Modest Mouse, their northwestern indie contemporaries, recently released Strangers to Ourselves after an eight-year drought, while Death Cab for Cutie, the heavily Built to Spill influenced indie pop group, released Kintsugi last month. Unfortunately, both of those albums were extremely average, and further proved that these artist were past their prime.

So, it’s perfectly natural to be skeptical about Built to Spill’s Untethered Moon. But if there’s one thing Built to Spill should be commended for, it’s their consistency. While many remaining 90’s and early 00’s group have drastically changed their sound in an attempt to stay relevant, Built to Spill have only made minor tweaks, retaining the lo-fi characteristics that helped establish them as an indie staple.

built_to_spill

Their consistency, however, acts as both their greatest asset and their greatest weakness. Untethered Moon is a fairly safe album, and while there are a few interesting tracks, Built to Spill rarely steps out of their comfort zone. Busy drums, cosmic vocals, and reverb soaked riffs are just as prominent on Untethered Moon as they were on previous albums like Perfect from Now On. Because of this, the album becomes too comparable with the band’s earlier albums, and enters into a contest it’s bound to lose. That being said, tracks like “Never Be the Same” and “So” are definitely worth a listen, and prove that Built to Spill can still do what they’ve been doing best for years.
Keeping all of this in mind, Untethered Moon is still an entertaining listen. Existing fans of Built to Spill should enjoy it, but newcomers are better off starting with the earlier albums. Untethered Moon does, however, prove that Built to Spill belongs on a short list of dated indie rock bands that are capable making interesting music today, at that alone is something to applaud them for.

A Song that’s “Ours to Own”

[TL;DR: Graduation feels, I know Tawa, his music is good, scroll down for review of “Ours to Own“]

At the end of a long journey, we usually reflect on the time it took us to get there and the big events that shaped us along the way. My own 5 years at Penn State, much like DJ Keegan Tawa’s, are ending soon, and though I won’t bore you with my personal anecdotes about meeting/working with him since we were both lowly, self-assured sophomores, I know I can’t separate my review from my experiences.

2015-03-21 22.01.50-1

[right to left] Zach Kramer, Keegan Tawa, Olivia Price, Myles Billard at Battle of the Bands

When thinking about this man’s collegiate music career, I reflect on the songs he released throughout his years here. Because of Songwriters Club and our close mutual friendship with his lyricist, Myles Billard (seen here acknowledging the crowd with a wave), I’ve often gotten sneak previews of Tawa’s music and Myles’ lyrics during their various stages of production, and I’ve even given feedback and suggestions at points. Inviting critique of one’s art is probably one of the most vulnerable things you can do as an artist, so I’ve never taken the privilege lightly. Beyond that, I consider myself very lucky to have had even a minor role to play in how Tawa’s music has been shaped these 4 or 5 years. Garnering support for him by spreading the word about his songs has been my passion because I truly believe in this guy’s music.
As artists, we inevitably read our songsScreen Shot 2015-04-28 at 3.58.03 PM like headings from the chapters of our lives, because so often it’s the work we were putting into our music between those papers and lab reports that was our real focus all along, the stress of school and homework seeming more like a minor distraction than our true reason for being here. Those songs aren’t made in a vacuum. What I mean is that we put every ounce of ourselves into our music, every bead of sweat, every drop of time, every direct/indirect – intended/unintended influence of those around us is written in the synths.

ACTUAL SONG REVIEW STARTS HERE

This final song from Keegan is the reflection on those chapters he and the people he’s lived and worked with have written together. “Ours to Own” draws on the words and major themes from nearly every previous song Keegan has put out here at Penn State. At no point does this song hide from what it really truly is: a goodbye.Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 11.15.16 AM

In his lyrics, Myles Billard has represented the sort of collective experience that is Penn State as a relationship to someone that we must say our farewells to. The metaphor is poignant without any of the easy corniness that usually gets tacked onto such themes.

Rather than a clingy montage of black and white images screaming angst and nostalgia, the lyrics sing like a mature parting of the ways. Zach Kramer croons smoothly as the opening chords strike, his always excellent vocals gracing our ears with the familiar titles of Keegan’s past songs as it pushes inexorably forward like the march of time itself.

And the harmonies? Damn. Just damn.

Without giving too much away about the song, to me it’s really about moving on, not necessarily being ready for that, and doing it anyway; after all, “time never waits for goodbyes.” It’s about leaving that relationship with Penn State knowing she’s prepared you for what the world is going to throw at you, and seeing those horizons knowing you’re heading for great things because of the past that brought you here. And we will carry every second spent in this town knowing “we’ll never walk alone,” knowing “I’m never on my own” because of it.

But like I said, I can’t separate my review from my experiences here. Maybe these words mean something else entirely to you.

The whole reason I started this review with all that touchy-feely crap about journeys and whatnot is really because the sonic journey Keegan and Myles have been taking us on since their first fateful collaboration has been leading them and us up to this moment, this song, that could not better represent all of our collective odysseys if the Nittany Lion came on the track to spit a verse himself. And of course I’m not limiting the experiences that this song encapsulates to Penn Staters alone, but as a soon-to-be-graduating student, I do declare this song to be ours. Sorry Keegan and Myles, but this is one jam whose possession is undeniable: it is Ours to Own.