State In The Real – Penn State Music Scene

Review: Topher's Debut EP: "Best Heard With Headphones"

Looking for an escape from the endless projects and exams, the last week of the semester, it’s 2:30AM and I’ve just opened a brand new pair of Apple Headphones.  I grab my laptop and eagerly open the link to hear Topher’s debut EP, “Best Heard With Headphones”.  Topher, a 21-year old student at The Pennsylvania State University, breaks into the music scene at full-force with this diverse compilation of tracks, highlighting the talents of the university’s best.  Not entirely new to the music scene, Topher has gained over 11,000 views on YouTube, a contributor to Penn State’s music source, StateintheReal, and a seasoned guitarist.  His talent and true passion for his music is conveyed throughout most of this notable debut.

(Click the image about to hear/download the entire EP for free!)

The EP opens with the track, “309”, an acoustic guitar and drum loop is heard, reminding one of a chill summer day song.  However, this is not the true intension of the track.  Topher’s unique voice makes its first appearance on the EP, the lyrics swiftly telling the story of a suffocating relationship through the assimilation of a highway named “309”.

Taking the EP to a slower and softer side, “Coffee in Cold Weather (Corbin’s Song)”, exhibits strong vocals with harmonies contributed by Ethan Parkinson.  A heart-breaking track with lyrics such as “I can’t feel the sun, it’s too cold”, explain the loss one feels for a “son and a friend” who touched the lives of many and clearly went too soon. The song leaves the listener with a sense of hope – “The air is getting warmer” and we all grow older and move on.


Shining a bright spotlight on Topher’s beautiful acoustic guitar tone, “Trapped In An Airport” is a romantic ballad, bringing you to the heart of the EP. Maura Westerlund, sounding like a young Emily Haines from Metric, makes a great addition to the track.

Introducing the band Clay-Dix; Jason DiBlanco, Eddie Haupt, James Frydrych, and Ozzie Clark, on their track, “Naturday”.  Their garage band sound matches well with Topher’s indie lyrics and vocals atop. However, the overall sound is generic and feels out of place on this collection of songs.

A cool synthesized drum loop puts you into a trance with the track “Rainstorms.” Drifting away with Topher’s guitar and vocals, Joseph Sawa’s guitar, Ty Hooker-Harring’s bass, and Harry Zobel’s infectious beats, this track is easily the freshest and most unique track on the EP.   There’s a surprisingly inventive guitar solo by Joseph Sawa, the only instrumental break on these songs.

Closing with a track that blurs positive hip-hop and indie vocals, “Today My Day,” mixes over Michael Buble’s “Haven’t Met You Yet” and introduces talented Penn State hip-hop artist “NewNew”.   The track embodies all that is Penn State, living-up your life and not letting anyone hold you down, a wonderful way to close the EP and my favorite track.

The EP being so diverse, blending indie, acoustic, and hip-hop, a smart move for a new artist.  Along with Topher’s passion, we see his true range of talent, as well those of his talented musical partners; Harry Zoble, Jon Markson, Ty Hooker-Harring, Joseph Sawa, Maura Westerlund, Ethan Parkinson, and the band Clay-Dix.  They are also an important part of the talent behind this strong first effort.

Hear more from Topher on



and Youtube

A Review By: Melissa Navarro