Living Decent - 'Living Decent' (ep review)

Living Decent – ‘Living Decent’ (ep review)

Fall in Florida is weird. One day, you feel like you’re floating in the middle of a PSL, nuzzled-up watching trees slowly die. The next, that unforgiving bitch summer shows her nasty head like the ex you can’t get rid of. This back-and-forth, bipolar game of love can stretch throughout winter, and can suck the holiday spirit out of old Santy Claus himself. On their debut EP, Living Decent encapsulate this feeling with a release that soundtracks both the cool breeze of fall, and the hot hell of fall. Enjoy.

At first glimpse — or whatever the auditory version of a glimpse is — Living Decent seems like a full on summer EP; it was released back in July and the guitar often sounds like soft swells, running onto warm sand. But on the intro, “Close Enough to Keep You Close,” Victor Alvarez’s voice sparks a sentiment that thrusts me  into the cool isolation of autumn. His ghostly tones engulf the release in a sense of longing — hauntingly abundant on the hook of “Borrowed Bike”: “You feel like home.”

This theme of nostalgia as pain is further exemplified in the song’s video. In it, we watch an old home video, a flashback to a time where the American life was simpler, more pure. Although the instrumentals in their openness create the sensation of freedom, the EP as a whole tries to recapture a lost feeling. “Bad Collections” cries, “Your glowing lights are now receding.” Like a Floridian longing for jacket appropriate weather, Living Decent look at the skeletons in their closet and wish they were still flesh and blood.

Take me back
Back before the day we met
Back before we had any consequence

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Album Review: Karen O – “Crush Songs”

Karen O is best known for her work in the art punk band Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but has also sang on a number of film scores, and wrote, directed, and starred in the musical Stop the VirginsCrush Songs is Karen’s first solo album, and is comprised of a collection of songs written and recorded in 2006 and 2007 at her NYC apartment. Enjoy.

karenz

I have adored Karen O ever since the first time I heard Fever to Tell. I knew Crush Songs wasn’t going to be Karen at her most bombastic, but the other side of her voice, the gentle, sometimes comforting, sometimes heartbreaking side that we first fell in love with on “Maps,” shines throughout the album. “Rapt,” “Beast,” and “Other Side” showcase Karen’s somber coo that is both eerie and touching. When we do catch a tiny glimpse of her animalistic self, at the zenith of “Body” or on “Native Korean Rock,” the juxtaposition feels explosive.

Most of the pieces on Crush Songs’ are incredibly brief; they feel like quick diary entries that we have sole pleasure to read. Although the majority of the album consists only of Karen’s voice and light guitar, this incredible closeness makes up for any lost elements.

Of the 15 small sketches, my three favorite appear in the middle, one after the other. “Days Gone By” is a moving picture of everything that is love. “Body” has a love-yourself-before-loving-someone-else message that climaxes with primal screams directed at our world’s heinous view of body image. Finally, “King” is beautiful ode to Michael Jackson containing charming lines like, “Is he walking on The Moon? I hope I don’t find out too soon.”

The album’s closer “Singalong” evokes the part of any memorable evening in where everyone’s feeling more than a little drunk, and way more than a little sentimental. A metaphor I find fitting for the entirety of this album. Because Karen’s Crush Songs’ home isn’t an extravagant discotheque, nor is it a sleazy basement party, instead the album’s aura is like the cluttered New York loft in which it was made. And although it’s no massive event, it still feels great to be invited inside.

Album Review: Mac DeMarco – “Salad Days”

Mac DeMarco is a Canadian lo-fi indie rock musician, who has just put out his third full-length album, Salad Days. This is my first taste of DeMarco, and his latest work came highly recommended. Let’s explore Salad Days together. Enjoy.

Slacker rock at its most comfortable

The first thing that I notice on Salad Days is DeMarco’s laid-back approach to just about everything. From the first few seconds of the self-titled track, DeMarco has pretty much shown you his method to music. If you listen to “Salad Days” and absolutely loathe everything you hear, don’t bother listening to the rest of the album. You will hate it. DeMarco’s not throwing a change-up any time soon. DeMarco is a 20-something, pot smoking, PBR drinking, chill-out-at-a-barbecue kind of guy. And his mid-tempo, soft strumming, relaxed vocal aesthetic reillustrates what you knew from first glance.


Salad Days is chocked full of these slow burning, gentle beachy indie rock tunes. Unlike other sand-infused artists Ty Segall and Mikal Cronin, DeMarco never shifts gears. Song after song we are met with extremely minimal change. Where Segall can have an album with both metalesque guitar riffs and poppy acoustic tunes, DeMarco is unwavering.

On short and sweet songs like “Blue Boy” and “Brother,” DeMarco’s burnout life feels enticing. You’re entranced into his fluid world, the guitars smooth as silk, and the vocals whisper hooks in your ear. In contrast however, the four minute long “Let My Baby Stay” drags on and on, without ever really going anywhere. By the tenth track “Go Easy,” you’re exhausted of DeMarco’s ever-present slacker mystique, and you suddenly feel the urge to hand-in an application at your local Walgreen’s Pharmacy.  On these songs, DeMarco sounds lazy and uninspired; hell, on “Jonny’s Odyssey,” the album’s closing track, he can’t even be bothered to write lyrics.

But I’m not condemning. DeMarco’s haze-filled universe; I’m just saying I don’t want to live in it for an entirety of an album. But, when Salad Days changes things up, even in just the slightest, it’s revitalizing. “Passing Out Pieces” introduces these catchy synth lines, that are fantastic, and sound like something off an early MGMT album. DeMarco himself sounds rejuvenated by the addition. Unfortunately, after the taste of something new, returning to the original formula in “Treat Her Better,” sounds dull and aged. It’s not a bad song, but pales in comparison to the synth glory of “Passing Out Pieces”.

Thankfully, the synthesizer returns for “Chamber of Reflections,” my favorite off of Salad Days. The track evokes an R&B groove with a cool performance from the rhythm section. DeMarco’s vocals are sly as he repeats the song’s hook “Alone again…” But like “Passing Out Pieces,” the element that really pushes this song to greatness, are the poppy synth lines. And if I had my way, all of DeMarco’s future releases would be loaded with similar infectious melodies. They add depth to his slacker rock mannerisms, and help shake up the album’s slower points.

In all, I’m feeling pretty lukewarm about Salad Days. There are tracks that I enjoy, but the album’s overall monotony has me weary about coming back to DeMarco. If he changes his game up a little more, I’ll be happy to give him another listen. But, if I get another album weighed down by lackluster tunes, than Mac DeMarco will have to sit on his couch and listen to Black Sabbath without me.

Classic Albums: Soulja Boy Tell Em’ – “Souljaboytellem.com”

I’ve been wanting to do one of these for a long time now. Here’s an album that I (and hopefully to you) consider to be a classic. These are albums that have tremendously impacted the way I look at music, and need to be shared with everyone. I do not take this stuff lightly. Enjoy.

We won’t stop until we crank the world.

DeAndre Cortez Way, known better by his moniker Soulja Boy Tell Em’, is a rap artist that burst onto the scene in 2007 with his debut-single, “Crank That (Soulja Boy)”. After appearing on the award-winning HBO series Entourage, “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” encapsulated the ears of every listener, eager to learn the 17-year-old’s signature steps. Less than seven months later, Way released his career defining debut-album Souljaboytellem.com.


“What are we going to do today Mr. Collipark?” “Same thing we do everyday Soulja Boy. Try to crank the world.” With this goal in mind, we are thrust into the world of Soulja Boy Tell Em’. But, Soulja Boy’s world isn’t solely about himself. He exists because of the people who love him, and throughout Souljaboytellem.org, Soulja Boy exclaims this with an empowering, “YOU!” Whether he’s motivating you to move in “Crank that” or condemning violence in “Let Me Get Em,” he fights to stir a change in society. In “Snap And Roll,” he YOU’s until he “Can’t no mo’.” This backbreaking determination is what pushed Souljaboytellem.gov into the spotlight.

“Crank That (Soulja Boy)” was released during my freshman year in high school. At this time, my naive tween self was overwhelmed by the wave of change that was new realm of George Jenkins High School. But among this confusion, something big hit. Something that unified me with the rest of the student body. A dance. And not only did one dance help me gain acceptance to an unfamiliar territory, it pushed me forward as a human being altogether. When a upperclassmen would approach me calling me “freshie” or “fresh meat,” I would take the knowledge I learned from Soulja Boy Tell Em’ and use it to my advantage. “Yahh trick yahh!”


Soulja Boy’s captivating influence continues on the track “Report Card.” The song is a narrative depicting the all-to-real struggle of a young, African American man working to gain the education he so rightfully deserves. He explicitly demands his educator to “throw some D’s on the that bitch.” Here lies the power of Souljaboytellem.tv, it not only motivates it’s listeners, it berates it’s critics.

The music throughout Souljaboytellem.net is most closely associated with trap music, but does incorporate distorted guitars, steel drums, and horns. Soulja Boy himself produced a majority of the album’s tracks, and his upbeat, quick personality shows through. Trap music has gained much more momentum in the recent years, and through his producing, Soulja Boy predicted and helped shape popular rap music today.

Although Souljaboytellem.edu does look forward in many ways, it perfectly captured the time it was made in. The song “Sidekick” plays with the idea of yesterday’s emerging “tek-nology” and it’s grasp on an unsuspecting culture. Myspace, the leading social network website at the time, is mentioned numerous times as a sign of gratification to the website that helped him become successful. Later in “Bapes,”  Soulja Boy raps about the fashion trends of 2007.

Whether through it’s empowering anthems, trend setting dance records, or catchy cultural choruses, Souljaboytellem.com stands as a landmark album of the 2000’s.

Peace Treats Records – “Greetings from Orlando” PART FIN!

Sorry about the lapse in time for this last part, but the wait is well worth it. For our final installment we have Thee Wilt Chamberlain, The Pauses, and Luscious Lisa. Thanks to all the people who supported this run-through, it succeeded my expectations ten-fold, and I couldn’t have done it without all the help from the bands. Greetings from Orlando proves that this Central Florida city is worth much more than a corporate mouse. We have some of the best music in the country, and by the far the best music blog. Stay tuned in for more, because Orlando’s got much more to give, and I’ve got much more to write. Enjoy.

READ PARTS ONEDEUCETHIRD, AND NEXT TO LAST NOW!!!! THE FATE OF THE WORLD DEPENDS ON YOU!

Thee Wilt Chamberlain – “Breakfast at Taco Bell”

Thee Wilt Chamberlain produce the only pure instrumental on Greetings from Orlando. “Breakfast at Taco Bell” is fitting for the tail end of the compilation: a smooth cool comedown, relaxing in the shade, and sipping on something refreshing. Thee Wilt Chamberlain are a trio you want to party with. These guys have been around for a while, and they’ve become a pretty strong presence in the Orlando music scene. They’ll be playing at the Greetings from Orlando release show this on Wednesday @ Uncle Lou’s! Get yo damn ass there.


Yearning for more? Thee Wilt Chamberlain provide all you need on their Bandcamp.

The Pauses – “The Beginnings of Things”

The Pauses‘ fresh sound breaths new life into Greetings from Orlando. On “The Beginnings of Things,” the band manipulates guitar riffs, synthesizer melodies, and other sonic marvels to create a flurry of sound. There’s a lot going on here, but this track doesn’t seem out of place on the compilation. The distorted beats fire with as much intensity as any guitar-driven song, and the veil of fuzz that cloaks the track cements The Pauses’ garage sensibilities. They’re playing on March 22 @ Will’s with Five Eight and The New Lows. Don’t miss out.


The Pauses keep things rollin’ on their Bandcamp! Satisfaction guaranteed.

Luscious Lisa – “Cocksuckers (Uh Huh)”

I’ll go ahead and say it: I’ve never been a big fan of white girl rap. But, Luscious Lisa seems like she would beat Eminem (yes I’m calling Marshall Mathers white girl rap) in a bar fight, and for that, I love her. Although the song isn’t my flavor, I think it makes a great closer to Greetings from Orlando. “Cocksuckers (Uh Huh)” blindsides you, and by the end you have more questions than answers. But, I think those were her intentions.

Album Review: all boy/all girl – “Tiny Iglesia”

all boy/all girl is an abstract chamber-pop act based out of New York CityThe band recently contacted me, asking if I could review their debut album Tiny Iglesia. I was floored when I received a beautiful green marbled LP and a lovely hand-written letter from the band (they were obviously after my heart). So here my friends is all boy/all girl. Enjoy.

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This band is neither all boy or all girl, they are a collection of both.

With a total of seven members in all boy/all girl, the band incorporates a vast amount of different instruments and sounds on Tiny Iglesia. Viola, cello, trombone, trumpet, ukulele, bongos, and upright bass all have their moment to shine, but together create an interesting pallet for vocalists Danielle Lovier and Jessie Rogowski to harmonize over. The tribal like drums on “Animal” fit nicely with the song’s primal theme, and the plucking viola strings on “Burundi” make the song pop.

On songs like “Fall” and “Algorithm” the instruments seem to play around with each other, morphing the progression of the tracks, surprising the listener with the numerous changes. In “Algorithm,” the song starts with smooth jazz guitar and trumpet, but quickly evolves into a punchy hook that could have come out of the musical Chicago. It’s a definite highlight on Tiny Iglesia. 

However, what Tiny Iglesia has in musical dynamism, it lacks in other areas. For instance, the vocals on “Animal” don’t match the intensity of the lyrics or the music: they’re more of a purr than a roar. With “Fall,” the vocal melody during the chorus is slow and repetitive. Unfortunately, that’s a recurring theme on Tiny Iglesia. On “Dirt” the lyrics seem to drag on and on, “After all is said and done, dirt is what we all become. After we have had our fun, dirt is what we all become.” I find myself waiting for the chorus to be over so we can get back to the interesting melodies like in the first verse.

“Summertime,” “Water,” and “Nightingale” all have similar problems. The vocals are drowned out by these layered instruments, and sound weak in comparison. Each of these songs do have appealing parts in them, but the stuff in between doesn’t keep me coming back. The three songs were previously released on all boy/all girl’s self-titled EP, but featured more stripped down instrumentals and reverb laden vocals. I wish more of Tiny Iglesia sounded like this. The vocals seem more potent and sincere.


Lyrically, Tiny Iglesia deals with themes of childhood, aging, changing, and longing for the youth that seemed to have rushed right by. The line “This is the place from whence we came.” from the opener “To A Flame” is alluded to again in the closer. The phrase is fitting tagline for Tiny Iglesia, and throughout the course of the album we see the narrator develop. Unfortunately, it’s not always a smooth ride. Along the way there are some cringe-worthy lyrics.The worst comes in “Summertime”. The theme of the song is nice: the long days of summer, playing with friends, and having adventures. But, I’m just pulled out of that mindset by cliches “rain, rain, go away, come again some other day,” and “April showers bring May flowers.”

Overall, my problem with Tiny Iglesia is that most of the songs leave me apathetic. There are interesting moments musically and lyrically, but it’s too spotty. There aren’t enough catchy, fun moments to appeal to the pop side of chamber pop. And conceptually the themes aren’t existential enough to appeal to the artsy side of chamber pop. Most of the story is just played out in front of you, and you’re not left with anything to ponder. So if Tiny Iglesia doesn’t make me dance, and it doesn’t make me think, then what am I supposed to do? Hopefully, all boy/all girl will incorporate one or both in future releases. That’s something I would love to listen to.

Hear more from all boy/all girl on their website, Facebook, and Bandcamp.

A Cultural Manifesto of Lady Gaga, and a review of ARTPOP

My fascination with Lady Gaga began in high school. I went to the poppiest of pop high schools, where I wasn’t bullied, but always viewed as a little different, an ultimate goal of mine. Being known as the music guy, people often asked me what kind of music I was into. Now, most classmates wouldn’t have heard of something as rudimentary as the Black Keys, but everyone knew Lady Gaga. Most opinions of her were this, “I like her songs, but the way she dresses is too weird.” I’ve never hated pop music as much as most (insert term for cultural elitist here), and I genuinely liked Lady Gaga. Both The Fame and The Fame Monster, were Lady Gaga saying, “I’m a pop star, but I like high fashion, and I’m different.” So by saying that I liked the way she dressed or her music videos, my peers could gain more insight into who I was.

With her second full-length, Born This Way, Lady Gaga presented herself as more of a gay activist than a pop star. Although not as commercially successful as her previous work, I liked Born This Way because it was Lady Gaga transforming herself into something other than “weird”. In a sense, Born This Way is an album that symbolizes gay-rights movement.

The concept of ARTPOP, as described by the Lady herself, is reverse-Warholian. Being that this is The Vinyl Warhol, and I love Andy Warhol, I was intrigued. Where Andy took what was popular and made it art, Gaga is doing the opposite. Her goal with ARTPOP was to take the lucrative world of fine art, and put it into mainstream music. But was she successful?

The Gallery of Gaga is an expose of everything, kitchen sink included. This album is nothing if ambitious. “Aura” starts with Spanish guitar before diving into a grimy electronic beat cloaked with a burqa of synth pop. “Aura” is a solid opener. The hooks are catchy, and Gaga delivers lines like, “Enigma pop star is fun, she wear burqa for fashion,” with sly gripping vocals. As the album continues, you realize that the dear Lady isn’t shooting for number one singles on ARTPOP. She’s doing what she wants. With “Swine,” the experimentation works. The beat builds as Gaga sings, “I know, I know, I know, I know you want me, you’re just a pig inside a human body,” and climax with an erupting pig squeal. “Fashion” is another one of my favorites. The disco shimmer on the track takes me to Studio 54. The synth lines are more infectious than the coke lines, drawing inspiration from Daft Punk as Lady Gaga sings about glitz and glamour.

However, other times on ARTPOP Lady Gaga’s all-over-the-place sound falls flat. “Jewels & Drugs” is without a doubt the worst song in her whole catalogue. She tries for trap music. But, the beat doesn’t work. The verses suck. “Don’t want your jewels, I want your drugs,” makes me cringe. Everything is a disaster. I can applaud (pun intended) her attempt, but next time try getting someone who can spit a decent verse (Too $hort, really?!). “Dope” is another song I have issues with. Gaga debuted the song at the Itunes festival, under the name “I Wanna Be With You”. I loved the song, but she changed it into a song a about a relationship being like drug addiction. The song lost its backbone, and she still hasn’t written a ballad that can live up to “Speechless”.

With ARTPOP being 15 songs long there were bound to be songs that didn’t live up to others. But, there are really only a few songs, “Mary Jane Holland” and “Jewels & Drugs”, that don’t do much for me. “Sexxx Dreams” is pop gold, it’s dirty, and I love it. “Manicure” is infectious, and the guitar solo that ends the song is awesome. In “Donatella”, a song that slowly grew on me, Gaga sounds like Meryl Streep in The Devil wears Prada, as she talks about the evils of high fashion. “Do What U Want” is one of the album’s best, and R. Kelly is hilarious. Overall, I thought ARTPOP was much better than Born this Way, and I enjoy the album thing more than The Fame.

If you can’t look at ARTPOP as a well-done piece of music, try seeing it as a representation of our culture. Because, as my Art History professor states, “Art is a reflection of the culture that created it.” If ARTPOP is the combination of art and culture, then in your opinion, what does that say about our culture? This has been a review. Good day.

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