State In The Real – Penn State Music Scene

Author - Ben Rappaport

Album Review | Smallpools- LOVETAP!

 

The indie-electric band of youth, Smallpools, has just released their first album titled LOVETAP!. Riding the success of popular hit “Dreaming,” their album picks up right where they left off. A 14 track EP, with their signature up beat style, combined with some more instrumentals leaves you pondering the lyrics as much as it does the unique style of beats. Influences from other bands are dripping off of their work. Smallpools is the creation of the band Phoenix having a baby with the band Two Door Cinema Club, with Passion Pit and Vampire Weekend right there acting as uncles.

They start out with an interesting song in “American Love.” Thoughts of how Two Door started out with “Cigarettes in The Theater” in their album Tourist History cannot leave my head. As the track progresses it doesn’t seem as uplifting as I had come to expect from Smallpools. This quickly changes as “Killer Whale” starts up. You really hear the Passion Pit influence in this song. The synthesizers are regularly heard along with the intense drums. In the usual third spot goes their single and biggest hit: “Dreaming.” This track takes from everybody. The high pitch voice just shouts out Passion Pit, but really as much as I like comparing them with other bands… “Dreaming” is the essence of their individuality.

Smallpools-Dreaming

“Karaoke,” “Streetfight,” and “Mason Jar” throw out a solid middle with two really excellent dance songs. “Mason Jar” brings up the rear with a song that takes a bit to build but eventually carries you right through with just as much strength as the two tracks right before it. “Over & Over” is very Vampire Weekend feeling. Obviously, the lead singer of Smallpools (Sean Scanlon)  is no Ezra Koenig (seriously though who is?) but he brings a nice slow jam into a song with an uplifting chorus and amazing hook. LOVETAP! hits a bit of a recess with songs like “LOVETAP!” and “What’s That A Picture Of?” but you get over these two fast with one of my personal favorite tracks off the album: “Dyin’ to Love.”

The album cover of LOVETAP!

The album cover of LOVETAP!

“Admission to Party” is weak but again you get over it. This album is filled with a couple of songs that make you scratch your head but considering it’s the bands debut album, it doesn’t surprise me all that much. “9 to 5” again throws me that Vampire Weekend vibe. The sound of that guitar at the beginning and the soft background instruments that highlight the voice just bleeds Vampire Weekend’s style. I love it because their next song completely reminds me of their one parent: Phoenix. “No Story Time” is a pure alternative rock hit. It has the interesting voice mod that can be parralled with Phoenix so well. “Entertainment” by Phoenix is a good comparison. The album ends with an interesting song. “Submarine” seems very out of place but that doesn’t make it necessarily bad. It ends the album on a softer note. A nice beat, but not many lyrics results in a dream like sequence ending out a terrific album.

Smallpools is growing. They are still developing their individual sound and for now the influences they have taken from other bands still shine through a little too brightly. This will change though, and when it does look for this young band to be a headliner in the next generation of the alternative rock genre.

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.

Concert Announcement: Diplo is Coming to Penn State

Diplo is coming to Penn State. Diplo is coming to Penn State. Diplo is coming to Penn State. He is coming on January 18th, 2015 @ the BJC and tickets go on sale Tuesday, Dec 16 at noon! Everyone should get excited. I’ve been lucky enough to see Diplo live before and he did not disappoint. His songs are filled with strong bass drops and catchy beats. He is trickier than other EDM artists in that he doesn’t “drop” the beat at the times you would expect. His songs are the best to dance to, and that’s what everyone should get ready to do at his concert. His act is made for large festival venues, and the BJC will be perfect. He will sell out (or come close to it) and with his light show mixed with the large crowd; the BJC will explode in EDM glory.

Diplo is the people’s champion. He allocates obscure local music styles from around the world and incorporates them into his absorbing, electronic, dance beats. He has been around for a while making music. One half of the electronic collaboration Major Lazer, Diplo is just as good teaming up with his peers (like he did with popular EDM artist Skrillex, in their collaborative venture, Jack Ü) as he is performing alone. Diplo has five albums, his most recent one being Random White Dude Be Everywhere, which was just released this year. His remixes also kill it just as much as his other stuff does. He’ll bring all three types of his music to this concert.

Diplo's newest album: Random White Dude Be Everywhere

I like EDM. I’m not what someone would call an EDM fanatic but I’m no amateur when it comes to seeing these artists live. I’ve seen Calvin Harris, Deadmau5, Diplo, Dillion Francis, Pretty Lights, etc. all at different concerts and festivals. Diplo stood out. He somehow combines really soft vocals into his music and then adds a ferocious drop like in his popular song “Crown.” He throws you headfirst into his music but doesn’t leave you drowning. His songs don’t sound all the same, a problem I find a lot of EDM artists to have. Diplo mixes everything up and all his songs have a key unique feature to them that he gets by mixing wildly different genres into dance favorites.

Many were disappointed with Billy Joel as the choice for the big concert during Fall semester (I was not one of these people), and will feel Diplo is an exciting event to open the Spring semester with. He comes at the pinnacle of the country’s EDM craze and everyone will want to get tickets and go out and rage with him. Hopefully Diplo is only the beginning of what will be a strong concert run for Penn State. They have a lot to live up to after the Kanye West/Jay Z shows last year. So far, after booking Diplo, they seem to be on track.

Prepare everyone: Diplodocus is almost upon us.

Five Reasons to Get Excited About Kanye West's New Album

So everyone should know by now that Kanye West has a new album dropping soon. As a rather large Kanye fan myself, I thought it would be fun to write about five things that everyone should be looking forward to when the album is released. In no particular order here they are:

1.)  Evolution– Kanye West is never satisfied with creating the same old thing. As he once said himself, “more than an artist, I’m a real person, and real people grow.” Kanye loves to shake things up. We saw it in his albums 808s & Heartbreak and Yeezus. He keeps on revolutionizing his music and creating something new that people will look back on in two or three years and be like damn, Kanye was right about how good this sounds.

2.)  Regaining the Crown– As much as it pains me to say this right now, Kanye is not currently the best rapper alive. He may have held that title in the past but as of now Kendrick Lamar sits at number one, closely followed by Drake. Ye did not appease the general public with his last album Yeezus, and even he conceded the top spot to Drake (although let’s be real for a second, KDot is the current king). Look for Kanye’s new album to have more hits like Stronger, All of the Lights, and Jesus Walks while also maintaining his next level, futuristic, Yeezus sound.

3.)  Tour! – Just confirmed by Rihanna, Kanye is planning another tour in 2015. His Yeezus tour was a religious experience. It was perfectly produced down to every last element of the show, only comparable really to a Broadway production. Everyone should be especially excited for another Kanye West tour since he hadn’t gone on a solo tour for five years before this last Yeezus tour.

4.)  Guest Appearances– Many rumored guests are apparently dropping in on songs for Kanye’s new album; ranging from James Blake to Ye’s protégé, Travi$ Scott. No one actually has any idea who will be on this album. The usuals, Jay Z and Pusha T, will make appearances of course, but don’t overlook wildcards like Lorde and maybe even Sir Paul McCartney joining in on the fun. Kanye is the same dude who once auto tuned Justin Vernon’s (lead singer for Bon Ivor) voice. Anything is possible with him.

Kanye and his daughter North

5.)  North West– The influence of being a father changes everyone. It will be interesting to see what this does to Kanye’s music style. Also a North West guest appearance on the album, much like what Beyoncé did at the end of her album with Blue Ivy, would be incredible.

Well these are just some ideas and reasons to get excited for Mr. West’s new album. Yeezy season is fast approaching.