State In The Real – Penn State Music Scene

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ICYMI: Wyndwood Releases “Be Something”

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At the very core of the punk genre is the jaggedly beautiful mentality to create solely for yourself – to disregard conventional standards and adopt a self-fulfilling path. A little over a month ago, Philly-based artist Bill Magerr (AKA Wyndwood) released a 5-song EP that adopts this purist approach to writing, using both gritty vocals and reflective lyrics to convey a journey of self-discovery. Laced with folk undertones, “Be Something” possesses a sense of awareness. The confessions and realizations of Magerr are familiar ones we can all identify with and hear coming from the lips of our closest friends and loved ones.

It’s the product of 1+ years of modestly writing and recording in various basements, bedrooms, and attics across the Philadelphia area. Relatively speaking, he didn’t make much of a fuss about its release, so it easily may have undeservedly slipped under your radar. The nonchalant nature of its presentation to the world reflects the man behind it in full. Magerr, for all intents and purposes, appears to be your average guy. Decked out in blue jeans and a t-shirt, his down-to-earth demeanor causes initial shock once he takes the stage. His musicianship has a presence that begs to draw attention to it.

With the exception of mixing/mastering (credited to Philadelphia’s QQQ),  Magerr’s multi-faceted skills were in full display throughout the creation of “Be Something.” Not only is every aspect of the vocals/instrumentation all him, the lyrics involve personal subject matters, so by the end of the last song, you’re left with an unresolved intimacy. Whether that derives from an empathetic understanding of the emotions outlined in the lyrics or from a respect for the honesty-cradled words, listening to it just feels right.

In a brief interview with the 20-something, I felt as though I got to see a snippit of just how impassioned he actually is about his work: “I work on my songs like persuasive essays or something. I feel like I have to get this point across to you in the best way possible so maybe I can help you feel something like I feel if only for a minute.”

As his comforting raw voice sings soulful self-convictions over the steady guitar, it’s impossible to deny Magerr knows how to speak to an audience on a personal level.  He admits that the songs featured on this EP are happier-sounding than older ones, but that this new stylistic direction still complements the apathetic and melancholic emotions that have always driven his writing process.

“I make this music to understand and accept myself . . . I don’t concern myself with trying to write something “new” or “fresh” I just want to write stuff that I like to play and stuff that I like to hear.”

Wyndwood will be performing these lovely songs at his upcoming cassette release party (under the wing of Milkbeard Records) this Sunday, January 31 in Philly. Click here to join the event.

“Be Something” is currently available for streaming/downloading/purchasing on Bandcamp.

Album Review: Tell Me I’m Pretty

Cage the Elephant, its been a minute. It have been three years since the release of Melophobia and the band seemed to have taken the time to figure out exactly the direction that they wanted to go with their new album. With Tell Me I’m Pretty Cage the Elephant took a more somber and serious approach than their previous albums. Before Tell Me I’m Pretty I would have put them into the category of Alternative Metal Rock. But with this album they take a more stripped down approach and go mostly acoustic on the album. Those looking for the Cage the Elephant that has the same feel as “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” or most of the songs from Cage the Elephant can expect to find a very different band from the one that skyrocketed onto the scene eight years ago.

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Right off the start of the album, there is a distinct tone that Cage the Elephant sets with the album. The tone is that of regret and longing. This is an album that comes from a place deep in the band’s heart. There are themes of heartbreak and potential love. At the end there is a more hopeful tone and a bit more of a sense of a brighter future for the “character” of the album. But for the majority of the album there is a sense of sadness and tragedy. The songs that really seem to stand out is that of “Too Late to Say Goodbye” and “How Are You True” both of these have the general sense of a classic Cage the Elephant song, but with a more unplugged sense to it. Both are very slow for the band, in general, and both seem to have a more somber feel to it than their previous songs.

 

Where my biggest gripe of this album comes is that of its length, as I found myself just getting into the album, and really starting to vibe to the new tone of the album, it was over. I found myself very audibly saying “Is that it?” when “Portuguese Knife Fight” ended. It seemed to just be hitting its stride when it ended. Most albums seem to either go on too long, and their sound becomes monotonous or too short, and leaves the audience wanting more. I guess the latter is the better option, but there needs to be more substance to an album for people to really have it stick in their mind. My only exception to this is that of I Don’t Like S**t. I Don’t Go Outside where the incredibly brevity of the album makes you want to go back and see what you have missed. But with Tell Me I’m Pretty would have been the perfect length if it was two songs longer.

 

If you are a fan of Cage the Elephant, or like a more Alt. Rock sound, than this is a good album to start your year off right. It has a little bit of everything for most Alternative music lovers, and the slower tone of the band is a nice break in sound while still maintaining the sound that helped them get the notoriety that they deserve.

Album Review: Boots Aquaria

For many people, Boots is not a name that they instantly recognize, but anyone who has listened to music in the past two years have probably heard a song that Boots has produced, whether is be a Beyoncé song or his guest vocals on Run the Jewels, Boots is a master of knowing what sounds should go together and what sounds work well for radio play. He just gets music, but he is a man that seems to thrive on being in the shadow, but with his latest venture, the time has come to step into the spotlight and let people know that Boots has arrived. In his “debut” album Aquaria Boots is on his way to show everyone that he is more than just a producer.

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In Aquaria Boots takes the reins, and does not give up this control to anyone else, with the small exception of Deradoorian in the song “Aquaria” this album is all Boots, and it is all his sound and his production. On the surface level, this is very atmospheric sound and his vocals are effected out the ass. But I have to say that I enjoy this, but towards the end of this very long album, I started to get tired of all of the effects and filters on his voice, and I was hoping to hear more of his pure unaffected voice, hearing it in Run the Jewels excellent song “Early” I know this dude can sing, and I wanted to hear him show off his vocals a little more than this album allowed him to do. I do like the decision to have this album be as minimal as possible with very little, really only one, guest features on the album. I would just be curious to hear what the album would be like if he had some bigger name guests on this album, lets say that Beyoncé came on and had a verse or two or even Run the Jewels or hell even Killer Mike or El-P. I would just like to hear what a deeper album would have been like.

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I think that Aquaria is a solid showing for the long time producer, but I feel like it is just missing something, there are definitely some really great songs, but as a whole I just feel like this is the framework for something that could have been so much more. Boots is almost at a level of being huge, but he needs to find that balance of being his own artist and being someone who works well bouncing off of others.

Album Review: A Great Big World When the Morning Comes

A Great Big World, the dynamic duo from New York, are back with a newer sound and some more upbeat music that more people can relate to. With When the Morning Comes A Great Big World seem to have found a stride that they were so close to hitting on their breakout album from two years ago. “Say Something” is a song that most people nowadays have probably heard, and its a great ballad. The song is what the group needed to show the talent that they have. The two singers are incredibly talented and their musicianship should never be doubted, but their first album seemed to lack some luster to make them stand out from the crowd. With their sophomore album they turned their sound to something more fun and exciting and one of the best songs on the album is something that is completely out of left field for the group.

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With When the Morning Comes A Great Big World seemed to have found the perfect combination of sad and happy for their songs. The best example of how their sound is developing is on the track “Hold Each Other” this upbeat song is A Great Big World at their best, but it also juxtaposes rap with the alternative music group in a way that seems so natural and fitting, where I have never heard of FUTURISTIC I have to say I am a fan of his sound. But I would love to see A Great Big World go further with this combination, working with some more alternative rappers like Lupe Fiasco or J. Cole could put together a sound that would be the next trend in music. I feel like they are on the verge of becoming a household name for most people, and not just because of one song, but because of their talent as a whole. The album is a fun record and just one that isn’t trying to take itself too seriously, it is an album that is a good solid pop album and one that most people can find at least one song that they enjoy.

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A Great Big World seem to have finally found the perfect place for them in music, but there are a few stumbles along the way, but I feel that A Great Big World are incredibly close to making it huge that they are still growing as a band and still trying to find their voice in the music world. Their ability to seamlessly combine rap and alternative music is something that I find very exciting about the band, but I would like them to team up with some more veteran rappers to more finely tune their sound.

Album Review: A Tribe Called Quest 25th Anniversary

 

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First off, let me make a few things clear, we here at State in the Real do not usually make a habit on covering reissues, but this one seemed to be a little too important to let go. 25 years ago, the sound of hip hop and rap changed. Three men from New York decided to change how people thought about hip hop and rap, this group, A Tribe Called Quest, consisting of Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Jarobi, and Ali Muhammad, these men were apart of the rap collective known as the Native Tongues. Where most rap was still in its infancy, A Tribe Called Quest, along with other Native Tongues members, push the boundaries of what it meant to be a rapper, it was no longer a lifestyle filled with violence and anger, like N.W.A. were providing. A Tribe Called Quest were rapping about social issues and more light hearted issues. Their sphere of influence basically knows no bounds. Pharrell, Questlove, J Cole, Kanye West all cite A Tribe Called Quest as their influence. Hell Questlove even got his name from the band. In their album People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (moving forward we will call it PITPR). Their first studio album, and from the get go, one can see why they are such a special band. In 2013, the Tribe performed what Q-Tip referred to as their last show, but you can’t keep a Tribe down. Recently reuniting on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, the rap group reaffirmed why they are still needed in the rap world. In a time when trap music, hooks and rapper feuds are what is fueling the rap industry, we need songs that ask the simple questions like “Can I kick it?” or “Do I eat eggs?” to the latter the answer is “I don’t eat no ham n’ eggs, cuz they’re high in cholesterol” A Tribe Called Quest just reminds me of summer, and this album, among their best, is one of the most upbeat and happy albums. In the best way possible it embodies everything that is great about New York, think of it like the happy parts of a Spike Lee movie, you see the bright colors, and feel the warmth of the summer heat.dotherightthing_boogie


Now to get to the meat of this album, what does it sound like? At this point, if you have not heard it or have any interest in getting into a Tribe Called Quest, than I just do not think that Hip Hop is the genre for you. This is honestly one of the greatest hip hop album of all time, and the 25 years have done it very well. It does not seem dated, when I hear about  classic albums getting reissued I usually roll my eyes (Yes Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin I’m looking at you) most reissues are just slightly cleaned up audio versions of classic albums with slightly more modern album covers. I do not usually fall for this trap in music, but for this what really caught my eye is the three remixes capping the album. These remixes come from the hands of Pharrell Williams and J. Cole. There is also a remix of “Footprints” featuring a new verse from Cee Lo Green, and this is Cee Lo at his best, like good old Gnarls Barkley Cee Lo. As for the Pharrell remix, it is sexy, like really makes you feel Q-Tips love for his “Bonita Applebum” Pharrell brings this love rap to the next level, like a Marvin Gaye level, and brings the seduction to the house. As for J. Cole’s remix of “Can I Kick It?” I would say that it is the weakest of all three remixes, but that is mostly because the other two are just so strong. Also it is worth noting that this is a remix and does not include verses from Cole. These remixes do make it worth the re-listen. The album is a classic, and the 25th anniversary shows why PITPR deserves the credit that it gets. It is a cleaner sound than 25 years ago, and the remixes are definitely worth checking out.

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A Tribe Called Quest comes back 25 years after their studio debut and remind us all they are the ones that had a hand in changing the sound of rap music. From Q-Tip to Phife Dawg to Jarobi to Mr. Muhammad, A Tribe Called Quest brings the fun back to rap, in a time when rap is becoming inundated with club bangers. This is music to walk around the block with your boom box. The remixes from some of the biggest names in hip hop make this reissue worth checking out. And as an added bonus here is the group reuniting to perform “Can I Kick It?”

Shawn Fox Releases “Apricity”

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Earlier today, sophomore Shawn Fox released his anticipated freshman album, Apricity. It made its debut only a few hours ago; however, it’s been making waves since it was announced last month. Following the release of well-received singles, curiosity skyrocketed after Fox announced that 75% of album sales would go directly to the Four Diamonds Fund. While his dedication to the cause is a good reason all on its own to invest in the music, I do want to focus more on why you should support it because of the pure talent evident in the piece. He’s only 19, but his instrumentation and composing skills are completely beyond his years.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Shawn since his high school days. Writing with his talented brother, Ryan Fox, allowed me to get introduced to Shawn’s music, and being able to watch him grow as a songwriter gives me such a feeling of pride, as if he were my own little brother. He’s 4 years younger, but I will always look up to his remarkable ability to leave listeners feeling excited and fulfilled.

Something Fox has always been good at is writing catchy vocals that will get stuck in your head for days, and that gift is extremely evident throughout Apricity. His Brendon-Urie-esque vocals are powerful; however, what’s really impressive is how he uses dynamic instrumentation to take the pop genre in so many different directions. It’s a feel-good album – full of catchy vocal/synth lines and positive, reassuring lyrics – that makes you want to cruise down a tree-lined, fall-embellished highway. While each song gives off its own vibe (folk, beachy, rock, electronic), they all complement one another and create a sound that is solely owned by Shawn Fox.

A few months back, I asked Shawn what the inspiration for Apricity was, to which he responded:

“At the end of the day, I strive to write authentic and memorable songs that resonate with
people of all ages. I think music connects people in ways that merely talking does not.
Throughout the next couple years I hope to further develop myself as a musician and share my
music to the world. If one of my tracks can make you feel something and tap into that innate
sense of emotion many of us have, then I’ll know I’ve done my job.”

Well, Shawn, I can safely say that goal was met because I am one person who hears that lyrical authenticity and the emotional cohesiveness between the instruments and the lyrics. Some songs speak to the highs in life; others to the lows, but they work as a package to reflect the wonderful ride we can all relate to. So, hey, go and support a fellow Penn Stater, and support a lovely cause while you’re at it!

Apricity is now available for purchase on iTunes and for streaming on Spotify.