State In The Real – Penn State Music Scene

Author - Eric Dowling

Album Review: Don’t You

Let me preface this by saying, DO NOT always trust the reviews that you read. Pitchfork gave Wet’s Don’t You a brutally honest review, but let me be the first to say, it is not as bad as they claim, in fact it is pretty dope. Wet is an atmospheric electronic group with a powerful female lead vocalist. Their sound really isn’t similar to too many artists that I listen to. It is very calming, in fact as I was walking to the IM building, I was jamming out to this album and found myself drifting off to sleep, please do not do this. But it is just a very relaxing and chill vibe that is always a good break from the upbeat and heavier music that I listen to.



With an album that is mostly flying over the radar, and in the alternative music spectrum, Wet is really taking their time to shine through on this album. The theme is definitely that of overcoming a loss, whether that be a bad break-up or something a little more macabre. The lyrics are powerful, they show strength of the writer, and the way that Kelly Zutrau sings the lyrics is incredibly moving. It has a tone, and keeps that tone throughout the course of the album, and it clocks in at 42 minutes, a good length for a debut album, and it feels like you are getting the most out of the album.


My biggest complaint with the album is that it does seem a little too repetitive with its sound towards the end of the album, but take that for what you will, because if you really like that slow melodic tone, than you will not get sick of it through the course of the album. But other than that I felt that this album changed pace and message in each song enough to keep me thinking about the progression of where the band can go next.

Wet is definitely a band worth checking out, at the very least they might have one of the best album website domain names I have seen, absolutely fantastic, and I am still laughing about it. Their sound is unique and calming, perfect for these cold and dreary days.

Album Review: Forest Hills Drive Live

Last week, J. Cole celebrated his birthday with a very surprise album release. It seems like everything connected with 2014 Forest Hills Drive defies convention, the first platinum album without a single, as Cole points out in the beginning of this concert. With J. Cole, it can easily be said that he is one of the three kings in this new generation of rap. With his seminal album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive Cole showed that he can craft a perfect story and is the exact reason why he is the mind out of the three best (Drake and Kendrick Lamar) he is introspective, whether that be a story about how lost his virginity in “Wet Dreamz” to the racial disparity at the Gammy’s in “Fire Squad” Cole knows how to make people think. With the live experience, and yes I am going to call this album an experience, you can put yourself in the crowd of the concert. With most live albums, I feel a disconnect between the performer and audience, and just feel like I missed out on something, there are a few live albums where I can actually go back to and listen to, and let me say this album is immediately one of those. First off, rap is an incredibly hard genre to perform live, with most sounds coming from a DJ, it is hard to really connect with the audience, but Cole clearly knows this is an issue, and brings a full backing band and really connects with the audience, telling stories and making sure that they  know they are being appreciated by the rapper.



There really isn’t too much to be said about this, if you enjoyed 2014 Forest Hills Drive than this is the perfect way to keep that emotion flowing. You can feel how Cole feels with each song. Cole brings out some special guests at this concert and it makes it feel like more of a party than it is a concert. You hear how honest and genuine Cole is and how far he has come from his childhood at 2014 Forest Hills Drive. What makes this album and concert so special is that Cole is finally back to the place that he calls home, he is back to where it all started, he knows that anyone in this audience could be him. J. Cole is an artist in the truest sense of the world and caters to the deepest and truest of his fans, during the “Intermission” he goes back to his roots of his mixtapes, and performs the hell out of his deep cuts. J. Cole paints pictures in a way few rappers are able to and he creates an energy that clearly the crowd vibes off of.



If you like J. Cole, really if you just appreciate rap and a good live performance, than there is no reason not to check out this album. It is one of the best live albums that I have heard, 100% the best in the last three years. If you cannot get enough of J. Cole check out his Docuseries on HBO.



Hey vinyl junkies, want to hear J. Cole scream at you from the grooves of the wax? The answer is who doesn’t, head over to J. Cole’s website to check out and grab an exclusive vinyl copy of the live album.

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.

Cage The Elephant FB

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.


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.


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.


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.


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



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.


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?”