Archive for the ‘Appreciation’ Category

Music Mayhem at Webster Hall

Friday, February 24th, 2012

This past weekend, I had originally planned to spend time relaxing at home. But on Friday night, my sister asked me if I wanted to go to a concert Saturday night and I had to give her answer within an hour. Now, over the years, I have found that planning too far ahead for enjoyable activities (not projects, jobs or work) allowed too much time for things to go wrong. But at the last minute, I agreed. The ticket was twenty bucks, which is very cheap considering the venue was Webster Hall, the artist has tons of adoring fans, and usual concert ticket prices usually start at $30.

The performer was Zola Jesus, an old school goth, classical, industrial, electronic influenced band whose lead singer, Nika Roza Danilova, sports an amazing opera trained voice. I went to the concert knowing only one song called ‘Night’, which I had only half listened to. But since the band is a favorite of  my sister, who happens to have great taste in music, I knew it would be $20 well spent.

Doors opened at 6pm but knowing Webster Hall, the concert itself didn’t start until 6:30 and even then there were still opening bands who were also scheduled to perform. This was all fine because we arrived at 8th and Astor Place late and forgot where Webster Hall was anyway, a problem that was quickly solved with the help of my smartphone.

We finally arrived at around 7:30pm and we caught the last two songs of the first opening band Talk Normal, a punkish female duo who sounds like a mix of Sonic Youth and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. There was some noise-rock flair to their rhythmic drum beats and I loved every second of it.

The second band was Liturgy. This was definitely different from the normal tastes of the crowd since they right away into a  mix of noise-rock, black metal, and the classic metal man’s screech into the mic. I am not a metal-head but I love metal music so this was a pleasant surprise for me. However, many people in the crowd were not used to this type of music scene and I could see them getting restless.  Later on they went into new territory by going out of conventional metal sound with an added electronic mix. The first 3/4ths of their set was the best. But overall, they brought joy to the little metal fan in me.

Finally…the one we had all been waiting for. ZOLA JESUS! By far, one of the most amazing bands with a lead singer who can actually sing. She has a deep, passionate voice that has a crazy range probably attained from her opera training days. The music was both haunting and moving. While singing, she would dance sporadically and jump on stage to the beat of her own music. She really felt her music throughout her body and soul. About halfway through the concert, she performed a song called ‘In Your Nature’. In the middle of the song, she went to the edge of the stage and jumped into the crowd with fans and she traveled through it and danced with everyone while still singing. I have never seen an artist to that.

Her performance of the song ‘Night’ was truly moving. I saw fans sing every word and throw their hand in their air, while they moved to the music.

She had some truly passionate fans in the crowd. We all cheered and shouted their appreciation and love for this artist. She came out for her encore where she played on the piano with just her violinist and sang the song, ‘Skin’. It was a beautiful song that nearly brought tears to my eyes. The sound of her voice resonating throughout the room was something truly magical.

I have been converted and am now a Zola Jesus fan. I love her for her music. It has moved me deeply and she brings a lively spirit on stage. Thankfully, she performs in New York often, so next time she comes I’ll be sure to buy the ticket right away.

The post concert excitement is the best part. If you are like me, coming back from a concert makes you really hungry. I was lucky and the show ended  at 10:30 which is very early for a concert. The options of food dwindle from little to none as time goes by. If you are in the Village area late at night, delis are your usually your only reliable option.

Sophia, Rochester Institute of Technology

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For music junkies on a tight budget

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

For a music junkie, the NYC music scene is an extremely potent form of opium. From record shops to restaurants that feature live music, concerts at MSG to hidden gem musicians performing in the subways for spare change, being in the city that never stops the music is the ultimate destination.

It may seem that in order to get the full music experience in the city would cost a fortune but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. For those living on the cumbersome college budget like myself, half the fun is the adventure that comes with finding cheap musical entertainment. The other half of the fun is the part where you discover your new favorite artist at a show in Brooklyn that you only paid 20 bucks to see, not including the 5 bucks for the subway trip there.

But even the subway systems provide cheap entertainment and good stuff too. Struggling musicians constantly perform on subway platforms as people wait for their trains. I once gave a couple dollars to one musician and he played “Hey Jude” for me, totally giving The Beatles a run for their money.

Those who prefer hard cover CDs and vinyls (yes, people still sell those) in this digital age, don’t have to search very far to run into a record shop in NYC. For true music lovers, having a hardcopy version of an album is like having a piece of their favorite artists. MP3 downloads and an MP3 player makes any subway ride and doing homework a lot less tedious.

But to have a small piece of your favorite artist in the form of a CD or a vinyl record (if you’re lucky enough), which often times include some clever artwork and lyrics, makes the music more personal to you as the individual listener in a world where digital makes everything, literally everything, less personal.

Depending on what you’re looking for, artists ranging from The Beatles to the Spice Girls and maybe even some Scandinavian folk pop can be found in vinyl and CD format any good, hole-in-the-wall NYC record shop. The Scandinavian folk pop might require a bit of research and phone calls but you get my point.

Tons of treasures can be found in these mini musical sanctuaries where rummaging through the stacks and shelves can result in finding some pretty cool keepsakes.
If you’re looking for CD’s, vinyls and more music memorabilia, stop by Village Music World on Bleecker Street and print the coupon below to save $2 when you purchase a CD!

 

Janet Reyes, College of Saint Elizabeth, 2012

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So You Think You Can (Learn To) Dance?

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Ok, sorry about the cheesy title but I just couldn’t resist. I wanted to highlight the fabulous deal Piel Canela Dance Studio has for Campus Clipper followers – it’s really too good to pass up if you’re interested in learning any of the Latin dances. They’re offering an Unlimited Dance Card for 30 days for only $30! What makes this deal great is that the regular price is literally 5 times the sale price. That’s right: regular price is $150 for an Unlimited Dance Card. So if you think you can learn to dance then you shouldn’t pass this up!
What makes Piel Canela a great place to learn or polish your moves is the diversity they offer. Not only can you learn beginner or advanced levels of Salsa, Bachata or Cha Cha, (just to name a few of their offerings), but you can also take Spanish language classes, audition for their dance company, attend social dances or even take music lessons. They truly offer a full immersion into the Latin Culture. The inspiring music is sure to have you moving, and you may find it hard to resist signing up for other events Piel Canela participates in: vacation plans to exotic places like the Dominican Republic or Machu Picchu, Salsa Cruises or expos during the half time of Knicks Games. This wonderful deal is too good to pass on if you have ever considered tripping the light fantastic!

 

 

Kristen, Salem College ’11

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Golf Wang 101: an OFWGKTA Primer

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

If you’ve never heard the phrase Odd Future, you probably don’t spend a lot of time reading about music on the internet. Which in this case is lucky, since the good- or badness of this group of teenagers from LA has been debated, discussed, and reblogged ad infinitum over the past few months, without necessarily including any real consideration of their music. Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All is a rap music and art collective, composed mainly of teenagers, with the twin goals of making art and making you talk about them. That second part has surely been achieved faster than even Tyler the Creator, the group’s leader, could have hoped. Luckily for us consumers, the music is almost as good as the controversy, and should last a lot longer.

A few of the members of Odd Future

Over the last year and a half, Odd Future has put out about a dozen mixtapes, all available for free on their website. [Beware: the content behind these links might be offensive, but it’s not meant to be taken too seriously.] Incredibly, almost every track has been produced by Tyler, an impressive show of prolificacy from an artist who can’t yet buy alcohol legally. Several of the wolf gang-ers were still in high school while the majority of their corpus was recorded, and the group’s online promotion is even more aggressive than the music itself. Which is plenty aggressive. Beyond making good, original music at such a young age and marketing it well, the key to Odd Future’s appeal is their angry, silly, violent, playful, and above all, provocative ethos. Members of Odd Future love skateboarding, fire, and upsetting you, and not necessarily in that order. They want to make you uncomfortable, and they want to enjoy themselves while doing it.  In other words, their effect is basically that of a classroom full of class clowns. Or full of teenage Eminems.

The Odd Future media blitz was (of course) not accomplished solely through posting tons of good free music (which they did). In a week of brilliantly targeted internet manipulation and branding, Tyler released his first music video, “Yonkers”–a real showstopper, and maybe the best video of the year–hours after making an appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, the first TV spot for a group that had yet to tour the east coast. Tyler’s energetic performance with fellow wolf Hodgy Beats was everything that late night TV usually is not: electric, exciting, and bursting with wild energy. A few days later, the internet was abuzz.

All of which is introductory to what I really wanted to talk about, the hundred or so songs that Odd Future’s put out so far. To this point there are eleven mixtapes, three albums, and dozens of youtube videos that constitute the body of Odd Future’s work. Odd Future Tape and Radical feature all of the (rapper) members of the group, and are a good place for the uninitiated to get acquainted with the whole gang (Radical is better). The biggest OF release so far is Goblin, Tyler’s first solo album and the first real material OF album. It’s strange, long, self-referential, kind of spooky, and very personal–to the point that it’s the rare album that can be described as confessional shock rap. I’d also recommend Nostalgia, Ultra, which is somewhat of an anomaly in the OF catalog. It’s the debut of Frank Ocean, the only R&B singer in the group, and its appeal is definitely not tied to the balls-out OF aesthetic: it’s just an album of buttery smooth love songs that both your mother and your hottest friend might like.

Earl Sweatshirt, age 16

My favorite wolves are Tyler, Hodgy, and above all, the mysterious Earl Sweatshirt. Earl is the youngest member of the group, and after recording a phenomenal mixtape and a handful of other songs in 2010, he disappeared. Tyler began a FREE EARL campaign, while refusing to answer any questions about his bandmate’s whereabouts. As his music blew up on the internet, Earl was MIA. By far the best lyricist in the group, Earl ranks as either one of the most exciting new voices in hip-hop or the greatest sixteen-year-old rapper ever, depending on who you ask. None of which will matter much unless he decides to make some more music. A couple of months ago, Kelefa Sanneh of the New Yorker found Earl, improbably, at a boarding school in Samoa. Through emails with the writer, the young rapper urged OF fans to leave his mom alone. Tyler has challenged the accuracy of the New Yorker story, of course.

I love Earl, and a lot of the OF catalog is really good stuff. Odd Future’s music is very raw, roughly equal parts clever and stupid, and pretty inconsistent, but most of all it is new and exciting, like a child is new and exciting. Through all of the background stories and internet hype and overheated controversy, it’s very easy to lose sight of the only good reason that anyone should care about Odd Future, which is for their music. But that’s clearly how Tyler wants you to come to the music, and the important thing is that you enjoy listening. Just don’t think about it too hard. Click through and check it out for yourself!

—Aaron Brown

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So why lo-fi?

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

lo-fi band Best Coast of California

In today’s music world it can seem like every popular song is terribly artificial, overly processed, and unforgivably marred by auto-tune. Is there no room for humanity in a business that’s dominated by pitch-perfecting, high-tech, expensive machines? Is there any form of originality in pop music? Song after song is practically the same. Live shows are nothing but overdone moments of hyperstimulation. In many ways, it appears that artistic merit is a thing of the past in today’s pop. But hi-fi doesn’t dominate every realm of music—except many people wouldn’t know that, since they’re completely unaware. And it’s not necessarily their fault; after all, such bands and artists receive very little attention from television and radio stations.

In the world of indie and underground music, bands have experimented with lo-fi for decades, and the fuzzy sound has become very popular lately. Lo-fi, for those of you that don’t know, is a recording style that is not intended to sound particularly crisp. In other words, lo-fi music is meant to sound homemade and inexpensive. Don’t get me wrong, it probably sounds a lot better than a karaoke night at Karaoke Boho fueled by student discounts! But there’s no gaudy flash to lo-fi, which is not the case on the billboard charts or on your friend’s Lady Gaga-heavy iPod. Lo-fi has transitioned from being a simple recording technique to becoming a genre in it’s own right. My suggestion is, if you’re bored with the monotony of popular music, then try listening to some lo-fi indie acts.

Four bands I’d recommend checking out are: Smith Westerns, Wavves, Yuck, and Best Coast. Smith Westerns are a young trio from Chicago whose glam-tinged 2011 album Dye it Blonde has garnered a lot of attention from music journals like Rolling Stone and Pitchfork. I’ve seen this band live and I was very impressed by the skill and musical maturity of a band composed of guys my age, yet it was of course wonderfully youthful too. Wavves and Best Coast are probably the biggest lo-fi acts out of California right now (and the two groups’ lead singers are dating!). Best Coast’s debut album Crazy For You cracked the top 40, which is a huge achievement in today’s indie scene, and demonstrates the increasing popularity of lo-fi. I also think it’s pretty cool that this success was realized by a female-fronted band. Yuck’s self-titled album is, in my opinion, by far the best album of 2011, chock full of shoegaze wonder.  Yuck is comprised of musicians from New Jersey, London, and Tokyo, which has an interesting influence on their sound. Many of these bands and other lo-fi acts take their queues from the original kings of lo-fi, the cult 90s band Pavement.

The fours bands I’ve mentioned have been touring extensively, promoting recent albums (I’ve been lucky enough to see all four), so there’s a chance you could still catch them yourself! If you’d like to experience some nostalgia then I highly recommend seeing Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks on Monday, September 26 at Terminal 5. Stephen Malkmus is the lead singer of Pavement, which just finished up a successful reunion tour, and he’s now touring with the Jicks. If you’re bored with what’s playing on z100 you should try listening to these bands and exploring websites like Pitchfork and the music blog Fucking Nostalgic to discover even more. And don’t forget indie darkroom, the only true indie radio station, which is on 87.7 FM!

Anjelica LaFurno (Baruch College)

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Image credit: Pitchfork.com

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Rehashing a Music Debate, or: Someone Stole My iPod

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

music is my boyfriend, music is my girlfriend

In the uplifting whirlwind of my past week (I signed a lease!  I locked down another job!  My parents came to persuade me to go home to North Carolina, and they failed!), I’ve suddenly found myself in another slump, and one that I would’ve expected after I moved to New York, not before: two days ago, someone stole my phone and iPod from my makeshift bedside table while I was walking my friend out to his car.  I’m a txting junkie, so the loss of the phone was, of course, a blow, but what hit me more was the iPod theft.  I love music.  All my friends love music.  We snobbishly listen to our music on big DJ headphones and tweet Starfucker lyrics with #STRFCKR.  At least once a summer I listen to Abbey Road on vinyl with them.  Yeah, I’m one of those people.  I wear v-necks and neon and sunglasses indoors—especially at night.

I Skyped my parents (praise to the Internet for existing), and they reactivated my old phone with the T9 keypad and sticky battery pack and Fedexed it to me (it arrives this morning.  I’m anxiously awaiting the email from my campus mailing center).  So the phone situation is almost fixed.  Now for the iPod.  What to do in this age of music, when losing your mp3 player sentences you to dull, loud train rides and awkward eavesdropping on the subway?  Not to mention, that’s at least 24 gigs of essential music that I’ve painstakingly ripped and downloaded that I’ll have to sync to another iPod… when I can afford one that can store the vast amounts of 320 kbps files that I’ve organized on my external HD.

But enough obnoxious audiophile talk—or maybe not.  The last time my iPod went on the fritz, I was in high school, and I put everything on CDs and wandered around with an old school DiscMan, switching out CD for CD at every opportunity.  It was kind of a drag.  CDs take up space, the DiskMan takes up space, no matter how many mixes I made I’d always want to listen to a song on a different CD next, I couldn’t see the album art, etc.  This time, I’m far from my backup DiskMan and giant case of CDs (both bought and burned).  I have to resort to opening my laptop just to have something playing while I read, clean or pack.  And I’m beginning to notice, perhaps with my snobbily developed ear, that some of my favorite songs are showing signs of wear.  I hadn’t ripped them in lossless FLAC form, or I’d opted for the smaller 128 kbps file size, and now I could tell: there were gaps in the music, in some of the instrumental layers, that flickered or shorted out completely as the song played on.  On other songs, the sound modulated from left to right, but never in true stereo.  I know, I know.  The horror, the imperfect quality of my music!  And how could I fix this, if I didn’t have the original CDs I’d ripped them all from!?  (I could replace them quickly, but I have a personal squick about buying music from iTunes.  It has everything to do with the DRM and overall file quality and nothing to do with the pirate-revulsion at paying for music.  Let’s not get into the debate on piracy, I don’t have enough words.)

And what was worse: how am I going to listen to these soiled tracks on my daily commute—by leaving my laptop open while I read some Bret Easton Ellis?  Don’t be absurd.  That takes up way too much space.  Only grownups open their laptops on the train, and that’s because they have spreadsheets to look at and Powerpoints to polish.  I’m just a student, a youth who doesn’t know how to go anywhere without something in my ears.  If only I had my Walkman and some sweet, CD-quality music piping in through my Klipsch headphones.

I’m not delusional about what this post is roundaboutly advocating.  The fight for physical music isn’t really much of a fight at all, and hasn’t been for a long time, with record stores inexorably losing ground to other dealers like Amazon, which offers non-DRM tracks and almost CD-level quality, and to the entire torrent culture, which can get you or anyone else with an internet connection the FLAC and portable-friendly 320 kbps (or even 192 kbps) versions of nearly any album for free in five minutes.  And admittedly, portable music itself pales when you listen to the same track on a more powerful machine like a laptop, desktop, or amp.  Honestly, vinyl wins the audiophile debate on every front.

But I’d still like to make the case for the humble CD, the technological link between big, fragile, warpable vinyl records and tiny pocket-sized, low-quality mp3 players.  A CD is solid.  It’s material, it takes up some space.  If you’ve bought it new from Best Buy or used from a record store like P-rex (near where I live right now), it doesn’t matter—it’s going to sound just as good in your CD player.  All the layers will be balanced, the bass will have the perfect, intended depth, and the highs will be crisp and clear.  And there’s so much art that goes into an album package: the cover art, the liner notes, the top of the CD itself.  There’s still something to be said for artists who release albums and not just a list of singles.  There’s still something to be said for the feeling of holding a CD and knowing that you own whatever tracks are on it.  If your computer crashes or your external HD reformats itself, you’re okay.  You have the original CD version, which is nicer to listen to anyway.  Plus, no one’s going to steal a five-year-old DiskMan and a six-pound CD case.

If you’re still the type to buy CDs or at least download tracks of CD quality (burn them onto actual CDs!  Burn them now!), then luckily for you and me there are still many record stores around the city that cater to our obsessive audiophilic needs.  While I’m still in New Jersey, I have P-Rex, which deals in many, many used CDs and records as well as blank CDs with enough storage for larger high-quality downloads.  In the city, though, I’ll probably head to Village Music World.  They’re not paying me to say that, they just have a $2 student discount off any CD, and I’m student-poor.  I already have to spend money on another DiskMan.

x
Robin

I tweet while I’m at work. I have yet to master hashtags.
My personal blog: a collection of music and other pop culture things I like.

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