Album Review: It Is What It Is by Thundercat

Last year, I asked a friend to give me some music recommendations. One artist he recommended I look into was Thundercat. Thundercat is a bassist, collaborating with many artists from Gorillaz to Kendrick Lamar. I decided to check out his most recent (and popular) album It Is What It Is. It blew my socks off.

The album cover of It Is What It Is

The album consists of 15 songs and lasts for around 37 minutes. The songs themselves are definitely on the shorter side, not that it’s a bad thing. It Is What It Is can be described as jazz meets R&B with a bit of electronica joining the mix. The bass is incredible which it should be, considering Thundercat’s a bassist. My favorite track has to be “Funny Thing”

“Funny Thing” might just clock in at right under 2 minutes but it’s a very cool song. The bass is very playful and so are the lyrics, describing the peak of a party. It is also a very spacey song with it having an ethereal feel to it. Not only is it my favorite Thundercat song but it’s his most popular too, with “Funny Thing” currently having around 138 million streams on Spotify.
This album was definitely something I didn’t expect to sound the way it sounded. The jazzy, spacey vibe it gave off was incredible. I give it a 9/10, with It Is What It Is being one of my favorite albums that I’ve recently listened to. Give it a go. It’s 100% worth it.

Album Review: Daydream Nation by Sonic Youth

In the 1980s, music was quite commercialized and accessible in addition to being very synth heavy. However, a thriving underground scene would emerge in places like New York City, giving us the Sonic Youth band. Sonic Youth started out as a highly experimental “no wave” band but would soon transition into making more “normal” alternative music after releasing their first two albums. After two new albums, they’d reach perfection with their fifth album, Daydream Nation.

The album cover of Daydream Nation

Daydream Nation can be described as one of the premier alternative rock albums of its time. It’s very noisy, features decently long instrumental introductions, and has unorthodoxly tuned guitars. Daydream Nation is also on the longer side with a run time of around one hour and 10 minutes. The best song on the album is easily its opener, “Teen Age Riot”.

Like nearly all the songs on the album, “Teen Age Riot” starts off with a layback, minute-plus-long instrumental introduction. We then get a very fast, fun piece of music. Thurston Moore’s guitar part is very cool. While his vocals are somewhat deadpan and spoken, I feel like that really helps to make the song.

Daydream Nation has gone down in history as one of the best alternative rock albums of the 1980s as well as one of the best albums ever made. This album is easily a 10/10 with all of the songs being great, although the album isn’t for everyone. It’s 100% worth a listen though!

Album Review: Slowdive’s Self-Titled Album

Out of all the bands that came out of the UK’s shoegaze scene of the 1990s, Slowdive has to be my personal favorite. I decided to look at their self-titled album for this review. Released in 2017, Slowdive is on par with the famed Souvlaki with it having all the sounds a modern shoegaze album should have.

The album cover of Slowdive

Like Souvlaki, Slowdive is a shoegaze album. It features beautiful, ethereal vocals from Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell, two of the band’s founders. The guitars on the album have been heavily distorted and altered through the use of effect pedals. My favorite song from the album has to be “Sugar for the Pill”.

“Sugar for the Pill” starts out with a touching guitar part drenched with reverb. The bass line is very cool as well. While the vocals do show that Neil Halstead’s voice has aged since the 1990s, his voice is still able to touch the heart. It is less noisy than “Star Roving”, my second favorite song from Slowdive, yet that makes it more beautiful in my opinion.

Slowdive is a great album for those who want to get into shoegaze, especially modern shoegaze as its sounds are more updated than the ones in Slowdive’s works from the 1990s. I rate this album a 9/10. Please check it out when you get a chance. It’ll make your day

Album Review: Disintegration by The Cure

I am not a big fan of the popular music of the 1980s. However, the Cure has to be one of my favorite bands of all time. With frontman Robert Smith, the band’s music went through many phases from the dreary, borderline gothic “dark trilogy” of the early 1980s to its poppy phase in the mid-80s to a middle ground in the early-90s. Between the later two phases, we find the album Disintegration, a beautiful work of art.

The album cover of Disintegration

Disintegration represented a return to the Cure’s “goth” phase from the early-80s with Robert Smith having fallen into a depression not long before the making of the album. The album has songs with somewhat long, yet stunning instrumental openings. Out of all the songs on the album, “Pictures of You” and “Lovesong” are my favorites.

“Pictures of You”, like many songs off of Disintegration, starts with a lengthy slow, instrumental opening. It’s a beautiful one either way. This beauty is amplified by Robert Smith’s unique voice which tells us a tale of love. A happy sadness looms over the song, but it’s a good one. “Lovesong” is similar to “Pictures of You” in this regard, although it is more melancholic in my opinion. The song’s 30 second long instrumental opening sets the stage for Robert Smith to show his love which he does in a beautiful fashion.

Nearly everything about Disintegration is perfect. The production is great, the singing is incredible, and the band was playing better than ever at the time of the recording of Disintegration. It’s a 9/10 and would be a 10 if some of the songs didn’t sound somewhat similar. Check it out. It’s the perfect album to listen to while doing homework on a rainy day.

Extended Play (EP) Review: You are Dreaming by Elliott Fullam

It’s only been a month and a half since Elliott Fullam released his debut album What’s Wrong and he’s back at it again with a 4 track extended play (EP) named You are Dreaming. Fullam does a great job further developing (and even expanding) the sound he created in What’s Wrong.

The cover of You are Dreaming

You are Dreaming goes beyond Elliott Smith meets Duster, especially with its instrumentation. Don’t get me wrong, he sounds somewhat similar to his influences in terms of vocals and production respectively, but Smith is much more original in this release. We can see this originality on the track “On and On”.

“On and On” features acoustic guitars, Fullam’s signature wispy vocals, a Duster-esque drum (in terms of production), and a keyboard. The addition of a keyboard especially differentiates him from his influences which are quite obvious if they’re listened to before or after listening to Fullam.

It’s a great thing that Elliott Fullam was able to release You are Dreaming. His original plan was to release a single but due to issues with Spotify, he ended up releasing an EP as an apology to his fans. The EP is a pretty good indie rock album. I give it a 7.9/10 as I find it to be somewhat of an improvement over What’s Wrong, but still quite similar to it. Give it a look; it’ll make your day!

Album Review: Bleach by Nirvana

Nirvana has to be one of the most influential bands of all time, changing music forever with their breakout album Nevermind. Nevermind wasn’t the trio’s first work, with Bleach being their freshman album. I love Nirvana so I naturally had to check out their debut album.

The album cover of Bleach

First of all, Bleach is a much different album than Nevermind and In Utero (Nirvana’s final studio album). It’s much more sludgy and metallic with it being comparable to the music of The Melvins, another grunge band from Nirvana’s neck of the woods. The best track off the album, in my opinion, is “Downer” which perfectly captures the vibe of Bleach.

If you listened to “Downer” and “Lithium” back to back, you’d think that Kurt Cobain had some sort of Temple of Dog-esque deal with the former track having different musicians than the latter (David Grohl didn’t play on Bleach but the guitar and bass are where some of the largest sonic differences come from). The song is on the faster side and has more in common with metal than the alternative rock of the 90s. Cobain has a strong vocal delivery and Krist Novoselic has an incredible bass line.

Kurt Cobain said not many people own Bleach while on MTV’s Unplugged program. His statement mostly holds up after his death, with Bleach being Nirvana’s least streamed album on Spotify. I personally think it’s the album’s weakest but it’s still a decent album in its own right. I give it a 7/10. You should definitely check it out when you have a moment.

Album Review: Ambient 1: Music for Airports

One influential, yet fairly unknown album that has been under my radar for a while is Ambient 1: Music for Airports by Brian Eno. Today, I decided to finally give it a go, and, for what it is, it’s quite a good album.

The album cover of Ambient 1: Music for Airports

Ambient 1: Music for Airports is made up of 4 very long songs. The songs are extremely simple and minimalistic in nature, with the album goal’s being the defusing of the tense, anxious environment of a busy airport. Simultaneously, their production was complex with spliced tape loops being used quite heavily. Personally, my favorite song is 1/1, the opening track on the album.

The song is very piano heavy with piano loops making up the song. Apparently, the loops come from two pianists who couldn’t really hear each other well improvising, leading to different melodies that complement each other being played. The song meets the album’s goal, with it being a relaxing piece of music.

Ambient 1: Music for Airports essentially created the ambient genre of music. A large number of musicians would begin to consider the sonic textures of a work after the album came out.

This is a great piece of music to relax and play in the background while doing homework. Unfortunately, it doesn’t play well in other settings. It’s still good for what it is. I rate it a 7.5/10 and would recommend giving it a look.

Album Review: Illegally Acquired Cheese by Ralphie and the Flies

At school, I was informed that one of my peers had recently released an album with his band Ralphie and the Flies. I was intrigued by the news and decided to check out their debut album, Illegally Acquired Cheese. I was not disappointed by the work and was rather quite impressed.

An embed of Illegally Acquired Cheese

Illegally Acquired Cheese has 12 songs on it, containing a variety of influences and genres from disco to rock to electronic music. One such piece is “blåhaj (where have you gone?)”, my personal favorite from the album.

It is stylistically very similar to Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” with disco considerably influencing the song. The production is also quite similar. Either way, it stands up on its own with the vocalist having a strong voice and the saxophone being a nice touch on the piece.

Another great song on the album is “Alien” which recalls electronic video game music from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. It is an energetic, fun song that anyone can get into. That has to be my second favorite piece on the album after “blåhaj (where have you gone?)”.

Illegally Acquired Cheese is definitely worth a listen with its variety. While it’s not one of my personal favorites, it’s still a fun, self-aware album. I rate it a 7.4/10. Go check it out when you have a minute. It’ll be worth it.

Album Review: Midnights by Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift’s tenth studio album, Midnights, was released on October 21, 2022, barely over a week ago, and is already shattering world records. Midnights is a lyrical pop album with 13 tracks, which she has shared are the stories of 13 sleepless nights throughout her life. These beautifully written songs are deeply personal, and Taylor sings about emotional struggles in a raw and honest way.

Let’s get into some of the songs on Midnights:

Track 2: “Maroon”

“Maroon” tells the story of a failed relationship and the powerful emotions she felt throughout it. Taylor sings of many different shades of red, a color that symbolizes passion. Taylor has said that “red emotions” are the most powerful; with affection, love, and warmth on one side and jealousy, frustration, and miscommunication on the other; which are shown in “Maroon.”

“The burgundy on my t-shirt / When you splashed your wine into me / And how the blood rushed into my cheeks / So scarlet, it was / The mark thеy saw on my collarbone / The rust that grew bеtween telephones / The lips I used to call home / So scarlet, it was maroon”

Track 5: “You’re On Your Own, Kid”

In “You’re On Your Own, Kid,” Taylor sings of waiting to be noticed and loved. She tells of how she still felt alone after reaching fame; and how she hosted celebrity parties and struggled with an eating disorder, waiting for love to save her, but ultimately realized that she is on her own.

“From sprinkler splashes to fireplace ashes / I gave my blood, sweat, and tears for this / I hosted parties and starved my body / Like I’d be saved by a perfect kiss / The jokes weren’t funny, I took the money / My friends from home don’t know what to say / I looked around in a blood-soaked gown / And I saw something they can’t take away / ‘Cause there were pages turned with the bridges burned / Everything you lose is a step you take / So, make the friendship bracelets, take the moment and taste it / You’ve got no reason to be afraid”

Track 12: “Sweet Nothing”

“Sweet Nothing” is a sweet and beautiful song about finally meeting someone who feels like home and just being comfortable around them. Taylor sings about how her romantic partner isn’t constantly demanding more from her and loves her unconditionally.

“They said the end is coming / Everyone’s up to something / I find myself running home to your sweet nothings / Outside, they’re push and shoving / You’re in the kitchen humming / All that you ever wanted from me was sweet nothing”

Track 13: “Mastermind”

In “Mastermind,” Taylor confesses to her partner that she was determined to win him over from the moment she saw him, so she “masterminded” a plan to make him fall in love with her. She confesses that she only manipulated him because of feelings of anxiety, because she cared so much. In the end, she realizes that her partner knew the entire time and played into her trap because he saw who she truly was and loved her anyways.

“No one wanted to play with me as a little kid / So I’ve been scheming like a criminal ever since / To make them love me and make it seem effortless / This is the first time I’ve felt the need to confess / And I swear / I’m only cryptic and Machiavellian / ‘Cause I care”

Also, 3 hours after the release of Midnights, Taylor surprise released 7 more tracks on what she called Midnights (3am Edition). Her lyrical genius clearly shines through on this album, and I loved every minute of it! Give Midnights a listen!

-Lam T.

Album Review: Adore by The Smashing Pumpkins

The Smashing Pumpkins can be described as one of my favorite bands with their first three albums not having a single bad song on them (in my opinion). Naturally, I decided to check out Adore and was surprised by its content and craft.

The album cover of Adore

In the 90s, were one of the world’s largest bands. Riding off of the success of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, they had achieved their high position. When they released Adore in 1998, listeners were divided. Many were expecting a rock-oriented album; instead, they got a variety of electronic, piano-driven, and acoustic songs, quite a shakeup from their previous album.

Even though I knew that Adore would be a different listen than their other albums, the Smashing Pumpkins 4th album still took me by surprise. The songs on the album were unlike anything we had seen from them, with the sole exception being “1979” off their previous album. The song “Perfect” really shows this change.

“Perfect” has a heavy focus on synths as opposed to guitar. Additionally, a drum machine is present in the song, a change that can be partially attributed to the group firing their drummer after the release of Mellon Collie. Either way, the changes are positive, culminating in a great synth-pop song.

While this is, in my opinion, my least favorite Smashing Pumpkins album from the 90s, it is still a good album in its own right. I give it an 8.25/10. Go give it a go; it’s worth a listen.