Arik Miguel

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Making an Impact

Elissa Miller

If I’ve spoken to you in the past two years, there is a 99% chance I have mentioned the television show “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” to you. It tells the story of Rebecca Bunch, an unfulfilled attorney in New York City who happens to run into her first boyfriend on the street. She subsequently quits her job and moves to the suburban mecca of West Covina, CA in an attempt to win his heart. However, that doesn’t even begin to grasp the emotional depth and skill behind this masterpiece of television. I’ve completely fallen in love with it and was nervous to see how it would pull off its fourth — and final — season this year. Operating at such a high level and finding a satisfying conclusion can be hard.

Image courtesy of The CW

However, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” completely nailed it. Its final season was just as funny, heartfelt, musically-gifted and special as before. Its final two episodes left me utterly speechless. Over the course of four seasons, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” tackled a number of story-lines and themes, from coming out to abortion to mental illness to women’s sexuality. All were treated with incredible empathy and respect. I’ve never seen a show that featured a character coming out as bisexual in the form of a massive song and dance number. I’ve never seen a show that focused, essentially, on the main character’s journey to loving herself and overcoming mental illness (especially one that told her “Anti-Depressants Are So Not a Big Deal”). I’ve never seen a show that was so obviously created by (and understanding of) women. “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” also truly nailed the concept of character growth. The show built a city and a cast that I completely cared about; it gave even the smallest of characters a personality and a story-line (and often, a song as well).

“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” was a unique, special and innovative show. I feel lucky to have even been able to witness it. I’ll miss you, Rebecca Bunch. I hope you’re thriving out there.

Image courtesy of Nintendo

Noah Howell

Since its full reveal at E3 in 2018, “Super Smash Bros Ultimate” was at the forefront of my hype up until its release in December. Despite releasing at the halfway mark of the school year, much of my first semester was spent speculating over who would be added as newcomers which made me keep up with the Nintendo Directs that showed off all the new stuff coming. “Smash” is a culmination of some of gaming’s biggest and longest running franchises, and not just Nintendo’s either. The game is great both as a party game with friends and as a title to be competitive in. Through my classes in computer science and at some of the school’s tournaments and meet-ups, I have met a lot of cool people through “Smash” as well. Even as I dove deep into the competitive scene at UNC Charlotte with some intense singles tournaments, I am continually reminded each time I’m hanging out with friends that “Smash” is at its best when simply played as a group.

Image courtesy of BANDAI NAMCO

Aaron Febre

As a long time fan of the “Tales of” series, I was looking forward to buying this new remaster of “Tales of Vesperia.” I finally got around to buying it during Spring Break and I was glad I played it this semester. Playing this game was a reminder of an amazing time period of JRPGs (Japanese Role-Playing Games) in the 2000s. This was the same era of games such as “Tales of the Abyss,” “Kingdom Hearts II,” and “Persona 4.” Yuri Lowell is one of the best protagonists in the series. His snide yet caring personality was relatable that complemented an amazing cast. Combined with a solid story, a great combat system and the iconic art style from Kōsuke Fujishima‎, “Tales of Vesperia” has quickly become one of my favorite video games of all time.

Image courtesy of Heist or Hit Records

Tyler Trudeau

While I could’ve just as easily put something like “Avengers: Endgame” as one of the most impactful things I witnessed this semester (as it surely was), the first thing that came to mind was the band “Her’s”. With the Liverpool-based pop duo of Stephen Fitzpatrick and Audun Laading first piquing my interest last year when I stumbled upon their vibrant 2016 singles, “Marcel” and “What Once Was,” I was introduced to yet another phenomenally dreamy pop group to follow along. It was in March of this year unfortunately that the duo’s musical talents were cut short, as both Fitzpatrick and Laading, as well as tour manager, Trevor Engelbrektson, were killed in a head-on traffic collision in Arizona. With their sudden deaths, I was encouraged to turn my ear to their music again. As their 2018 sophomore album “Invitation to Her’s” perfectly encapsulated the duo’s love for peculiar, sardonic lyricism and off-kilter craftsmanship, Her’s represents yet another budding talent taken from this world much too soon. Some of my favorite tracks include “Harvey,” “Breathing Easy” and “Speed Racer.”

Arik Miguel

Image courtesy of Warp Records

Every once in a while, some piece of media will come along that stops me in my tracks and forces me to reassess my understanding of music or cinema. Yves Tumor’s 2018 release, “Safe in the Hands of Love,” is a series of experimental songs that are fluid but at the same time incredibly abrasive. These songs are tied together by elegantly crafted threads, but at the same time, these songs are often decorated with ugliness. The first time I listened to this album I was left gasping for air, I had never heard anything like this before. All of my preconceptions about music were ripped to shreds, doused in gasoline, and set aflame. Thematically, the album deals with the concept of freedom, but it is the albums freedom from music norms that has brought me back to it again and again, and changed my understanding of what music can and should be.

Image courtesy of Netflix

Jeffrey Kopp

The zombie genre is nothing new. There have been countless takes on the un-dead over the years, but people are still fascinated and moved by the dead rising and taking over the world. Back in January, Netflix released “Kingdom,” a zombie outbreak story set in Korea during the Joseon dynasty. As someone who loves history, politics and zombies, this was right up my fit and quickly became my favorite discovery of the year. It is terrifying, gripping and emotionally powerful, and is definitely worth a binge.

The Beautiful Absurdity of Barbara Schreiber’s “Domestic Disturbances” Exhibit

Friday, March 22nd marked the opening reception for “Domestic Disturbances: Pictures from home, 2008 – present” at UNCC’s own Storrs Gallery. “Domestic Disturbances” is the latest exhibition from Barbara Schreiber, a Charlotte-based artist. Unlike many exhibition openings on campus, the event was not solely populated with Arts and Architecture students but featured many students and staff from other disciplines at UNCC, as well as many people from the greater Charlotte community. The diverse makeup of the reception crowd was a testament to the compelling nature of Schreiber’s work and the enchanting yet mysterious narrative that defines it.

Schreiber was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and says that she has “always been making art.” She studied art in her home state at the Maryland Institute of Art, and also at the Atlanta College of Art. In 2004 she moved to Charlotte with her husband. Since then, she has become a prominent figure in the Charlotte art scene.

In Schreiber’s exhibit, a few ideas popped up repeatedly. Each painting was defined by minimal-but-distinctive color palettes, and usually featured muted colors. Many paintings used repetition (either within the painting or between a series of paintings) in interesting ways. However, the most important thing was that throughout all of the works featured, there was a specific mood that was depicted. It occurred in a variety of scenarios with slightly different focuses. These pieces depicted picturesque places, but featured some fairly disturbing elements, like roadkill. Schreiber herself said that her work focused on “pretty pictures and ugly subjects.” The world Schreiber painted is one where flaming couches reside inside otherwise perfect ranch homes, a world where a young girl might be playing with both a bomb and a teddy bear The juxtaposition of elements was absurd in the most mesmerizing way.

Photo by Niyathi Sulkunte.

The centerpiece of the exhibit in Storrs Gallery was the series of paintings that centered around the image of a ranch home with an attached carport. Coupled with subdued color palettes, these paintings perfectly encapsulated suburban America. Schreiber said that these paintings were inspired by the suburban homes in Florida where her parents retired, along with the landscape of Phoenix, Arizona. Schreiber described “driving around Phoenix, and stopping to just look at the houses”.

The art exhibited initially seemed simplistic in composition, but upon examination, it was clear that each object in a given image was meticulously curated. Many of the paintings seemed cryptic, like there was some level of understanding that was just slightly out of your grasp. For Schreiber, that was kind of the point. She said that “Very generally, the exhibit is about human encroachment on nature, and nature’s fight back.” This is certainly not all that is depicted. There was an emotionality to each image that was hard to define exactly, but that was what made the exhibit so affecting. There was a beautiful balance between longing for something that once existed and trepidation for the future.

Schreiber revealed the key to unlocking part of the liminal identity of the art pieces: her husband. In 2017, Schreiber’s husband died in a bicycle accident. “Two animals,” she explained, “have become symbolic of me and my husband. If you look across these pieces and see a weeping lamb, that’s me, and the jackrabbit is my husband.” Knowing this, the sense of loss in the paintings became more impactful. The nature of these idealistic suburban homes became more tense.

“Domestic Disturbances” will be on exhibit until April 18th in Storrs Gallery on campus. Barbara Schreiber will also give a lecture on April 11th at 6:30 in the Storrs Lecture Hall.

The Velvet Underground – “The Velvet Underground” 50 Years Later

No, this not about that self-titled Velvet Underground album with the banana on the cover. This is the other self-titled album that was released two years after that infamous record. By the time of this album’s release in 1969, the band was pretty well known in the underground music scene. They already had two large, aggressive albums that went against everything that defined music at the time. In between the abrasive walls of noise and generally rabid instrumentation, beauty always flitted through the cracks. In this 1969 release, this beauty finally took center stage.  

The album opens with the excellent “Candy Says,” a gentle song that describes Candy Darling with a beautifully hypnotic guitar part. Candy Darling was a transsexual actress from the Andy Warhol Factory scene. This was extremely unique subject matter at the time and pushed the boundaries of what musicians were allowed to talk about. The opening lines, “Candy says ‘I’ve come to hate my body/And all that it requires in this world,’” are just as compelling and emotionally affecting as they were 50 years ago. Candy Says” sets the pace for the calm (at least by Velvet Underground standards) album that follows, and also for the earnest lyricism that Lou Reed excels at. Lou Reed’s lyrics have always been incredibly poetic, describing precise emotions with a few profound details. The Velvet Underground” contains some of his most heartbreaking and memorable lines. I’m Set Free” describes Reed’s past addiction to heroin and features the slyly devastating line, “I’m set free to find a new illusion.” This album might be less abrasive, but the raw emotionality of the music makes it just as effective as anything else in The Velvet Underground’s discography.

Beginning to See the Lightis a personal favorite of mine. The guitars chug forward and bring out a frantic passion in Reed’s voice. Lou Reed has always had a high degree of honesty in his voice, partially because of his lyrics, but also because of his delivery. The delivery is what undeniably sells the song. You can hear the hope in his voice. You can hear him attempt to free himself from the cycle of drugs and dismay that consumed his life up until then. For four and a half minutes, you are cheering him on as he tries to find stability in his life. In the outro, Reed repeats the phrase, “How does it feel to be loved?” and manages to make it feel almost cathartic rather than cheesy.

Of course, it would sinful to talk about this album without mentioning “Pale Blue Eyes.” Everyone who has ever owned a pair of Doc Martens has probably given or received a mixtape with this song on it. There is, however, good reason for this song’s lasting presence. It is an infinitely beautiful song. When it’s played, time and space are suspended. Lou Reed’s candid letter to his first love (who married someone else) is as powerful as any of the thundering twenty-minute-long noise-rock-blueprint songs that The Velvet Underground has made. There is strength and beauty in honesty. Few songs exemplify this better than “Pale Blue Eyes,” with its sickeningly sweet lyrics and a guitar solo that slowly creeps up through the arrangement like the sun rising after a long night spent out.

The last two songs, “The Murder Mystery” and “After Hours,” showcase the true range of The Velvet Underground. The former is nearly nine minutes of competing voices speaking at the same time at different speeds. All four band members contribute vocals in different capacities, each competing for the spotlight in the classically chaotic Velvet Underground way. The last song was described by Reed himself as being “so innocent and pure” that he felt he couldn’t sing it. Fellow band member Maureen Tucker approaches the song with a certain childlike grace that creates a moment of universal clarity. All complexity and chaos is lifted, and maybe that’s the point of the album. To describe the clarity that comes with hitting rock bottom. To soundtrack when you first climb out of the rubble and you can finally start to see the light.

100 Artifacts from SoA Faculty

At the start of the fall semester, UNC Charlotte’s School of Architecture displayed 100 artifacts of student work. The exhibit encompassed everything from first-year students all the way up to the graduate level. On Jan. 7, the school unveiled a counterpart to this exhibition. Until Jan. 18, Storrs Gallery featured a wide array of models, drawings and other architectural artifacts, all created by the School of Architecture faculty.  

During the opening reception, both Adam Justice, the director of galleries, and Greg Snyder, associate professor and curator of the event, spoke about the exhibition. They likened the event to a “kunstkabinett.” Kunstkabinett is a German word that translates to “cabinet of curiosities” and was used in the 16th century to refer to large collections of art, historical artifacts and other intriguing collections of objects. One of the most popular objects in these places was a narwhal horn, which was exhibited as a unicorn horn. In many ways, the exhibit on campus was like this faux-unicorn horn. Many of the works presented take fairly normal objects and elevated them to something extraordinary. Things like a ceramic bowl or a video of a subway train are presented in incredible ways and their basic ideas are exposed in a way that pushes the act of designing art and architecture. The result is a collection of fascinating items that blur the line between what makes something mundane and what makes something profound.

A “cabinet of curiosities” is also an adequate metaphor simply because of the variety of objects that were on display in Storrs Hall. I expected to find myself analyzing architectural drawings and diagrams, but instead I found myself equally captivated with linoleum prints from associate professor Jeff Balmer’s studies in Rome and a virtual reality map that shows changing demographics in Mecklenburg County. Every artifact on display provided a small window into the lives of individual faculty members and the many different ways they have chosen to explore the field of architecture over the years.

The objects on display were an important reminder that our professors and faculty at this school do not spend all their time grading papers and writing lesson plans. They are always working on different projects, writing books and participating in research conferences. The things that they spend time on are not meaningless and use the same foundational ideas and methods that they teach us in class.

As a follow up to 100 Artifacts from the students, this event showed a progression of ideas, a clear relationship between the things that we are taught and tested on and the manifestation of these things in everything from Master’s theses to actually working in the professional field. These ideas are not present just in architecture, but the exhibition on display is an exquisite testimony to the growth we can achieve as students and the rewards that await us if we are willing to put in the time and effort that our instructors did. I come back again to the mystical metaphor of the unicorn horn because of the power many of these objects hold and the way they may feel otherworldly or unattainable. We must remember that the curation of the unicorn horn began with the narwhal, a real animal with strange yet somewhat humble roots.

Best Songs of 2018 as Selected by A&E Writers

Album art courtesy of Tessa Violet.

Elissa Miller

4. “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” by the “Mary Poppins Returns” Cast: If there was a machine that you could throw your interests in to create a new product, the entirety of the movie “Mary Poppins Returns” would be my result. A sequel to one of my favorite movies? Check. Lin-Manuel Miranda as a character reminiscent of Bert the Chimney Sweep, my first childhood crush? Check. London as a backdrop for musical theater? You got it. While the movie is not a perfect film, “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” is a practically-perfect song and dance number. Clearly mirroring “Step In Time” from the first film, this is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s (and the movie’s) biggest number. It absolutely screams classic musical theater in both sound and design. Honestly, this felt extremely cathartic, because while I’ve loved the recent resurgence of musical films, they’ve generally failed to truly recapture that signature style. The dancing is absolutely breathtaking. The song is catchy and upbeat. Lin-Manuel Miranda looks like he is literally made of sunshine. I cried.

3. “Burn the House Down” by AJR: AJR crafted a perfect album with “The Click” in 2017. It was hard to imagine that adding anything could improve it, yet “The Click (Delux Edition)” somehow managed to do so when it included four new songs. While I’m a fan of generally every new addition, this the absolute best of them. It is a loud, angry anthem that reflects on Twitter and modern-day protest culture, while still being able to function as a dance track. The band allowed it to be used in conjunction with the March for Our Lives movement earlier this year. Everything about it, from the musical style (the horns in this are GREAT) to the lyrics, is compelling. More songs like this in 2019, please.

2. “Bad Ideas” by Tessa Violet: While Tessa Violet made waves with her other release, “Crush,” this year, I’m quite partial to this second song. One of many musicians to first find their audience on YouTube, Violet has continuously grown as an artist to create a signature style. This is incredibly clear with “Bad Ideas,” which stands out among indie-pop releases for its unique sound. Lyrically, it explores the concept of falling for someone you really don’t want to, while sounding upbeat and light as a musical piece. The music video for this is also a great time and uses color in one of the best ways I’ve ever seen. Violet will continue releasing her new album as singles in 2019; I’m incredibly excited to see how it evolves.

1. “Everybody’s Lonely” by Jukebox the Ghost: I definitely link songs to specific times and places in my life. “Everybody’s Lonely,” off Jukebox the Ghost’s fifth album, “Off To The Races,” was the distinct soundtrack of my study abroad trip in the spring. I listened to it during bus commutes, while stuck in airports and when typing papers at the very last minute. It is extremely fun to listen and sing along to, yet it is also complex musically. It uses a number of instruments and vocal layering; soundwise it is largely reminiscent of the band Queen. I cannot recommend it enough.

Photo courtesy of Sony Classical Records.

Noah Howell

4. “Spidey-Bells (A Hero’s Lament) by Chris Pine: “Into the Spider-Verse” was one of my favorite films of the year, and is easily the best animated feature of 2018. The whole ride is a spidey-bonanza, and waiting into the credits was worth the wait for this song alone. Chris Pine is hilarious here and he gives me the Spider-Man Christmas song I never knew I actually needed. This song, along with the album I discovered on Spotify after the movie, will be a staple in my Christmas playlist for years to come.

3. “Shockwave” by Elena Siegman: Easter egg songs are a staple within every zombies map in the “Call of Duty: Black Ops” series, and many of these, like “Shockwave,” are written by Kevin Sherwood and performed by Elena Siegman. There is a reason for this: simply because the duo is fantastic. Siegman’s vocal performance is always stellar, and while the lyrics take a bit to wrap your head around, her job on the song here is no different. I don’t usually find myself listening to much heavy rock/metal like this song, but perhaps it’s just a great backdrop to the actual gameplay of killing zombies that makes it work so well.

2. “That’s The Way it is” by Daniel Lanois: The score within “Red Dead Redemption 2” is already phenomenal, but the best moments of the game are the long, reflective horse rides which come after key story beats and feature songs from a variety of different artists. This song comes towards the game’s climax and is the perfect beat to go alongside the penultimate moment of the player’s journey. I can’t give away too much without risk of spoiling the game, but the song is right at home at this particular moment and is one that will stick with me for a while. 

1. “Kitster’s Song” by Trevor Moore: When a friend first suggested this song to me, I was on board right from hearing the title. A song about Anakin Skywalker’s somewhat obscure friend in “The Phantom Menace” who had only a handful of lines? Count me in. The song straddles the line of being outright hilarious and emotional all at once, with Moore singing from the point of view of Kitster years after his appearance on-screen, reminiscing on what his childhood friend — now Darth Vader — is doing these years later. I had never listened to Moore before this, but one thing is for certain, he knows his “Star Wars.” Parodies of “Star Wars” songs usually rely on simply changing up the lyrics of an already popular song, but Moore creates an entirely new song on his own for Kitster and it is a great one.

Album art for “EVERYTHING IS LOVE” courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment.

Breanna Herring

4. “Sauce All On Me” by CoCa Vango: Another song to contribute to my high self-esteem! This song raps about containing the sauce. “Sauce” is used to describe someone who has a style, confidence and attraction about them.

3. “Nice” by The Carters: Let’s be honest, The Carters are black royalty. This song serves as a confidence boost for me and motivates me to be successful. Some of the lyrics highlight how African Americans are told that they can do anything in America, but racism and inequality challenge the belief.

2. “Wasted Love Freestyle” by Jhené AikoThis song hit close to home for me. The song describes how sometimes our energy and love are not reciprocated back to us in a relationship. We find ourselves realizing that we wasted our time and energy on someone who was incapable of loving us the way we wanted to be loved.

1. “CPR” by Summer Walker: I adore Summer Walker and can completely relate to her and her music. The song “CPR” is a metaphor describing the artist’s lover. She characterizes his love as air bringing her back to life because she’s been misunderstood and alone for so long.

Album art for “Let’s Go Sunshine” courtesy of Lonely Cat Records.

Tyler Trudeau

4. “All the Stars” by Kendrick Lamar, SZA: As Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’ erupted onto the screen as one of 2018’s biggest movies, the soundtrack, curated by hip-hop icon Kendrick Lamar, also made waves as it brought some of the top names in hip-hop together to showcase the massive influence of the superhero hit. Featuring the likes of The Weeknd, Travis Scott, 2 Chainz and Future, the song that comes to my mind first lies in the Lamar and SZA team-up “All the Stars.” With it kicking off the end credits for the blockbuster film, the rhythmic ballad of SZA mixed with Lamar’s rap inklings remains one of the top tracks from the soundtrack.

3. ”Holy” by King Princess: One of the most enigmatic new artists I uncovered this year was Brooklyn native Mikaela Strauss, or as her fans know her, King Princess. A multi-instrumentalist with soulful vocals to match the atmospheric synth melodies that run behind her, Strauss has already made a name for herself as the next bold revolutionary in the queer-pop genre. As a proud member of the LGBTQ community, the artist has expertly carved her way to the top as one of the most promising new artists out there. While her early hit “1950” might have won the hearts of fellow artists Harry Styles, Halsey and Mark Ronson, her somewhat haunting track “Holy” off her debut EP echoes with sonic nuance and cinematic flair.

2. “No Pressure” by The Kooks: After grappling onto other alternative rock groups like Arctic Monkeys and The Strokes, the unique sound of English band The Kooks quickly drew me into a similar fascination into their more recent releases. While their hit 2006 track “Naive” made for a worthy song to lodge itself eternally within my brain, I didn’t initially pick up their later records until this year’s “Let’s Go Sunshine.” With the rest of the record offering a foot-tapping catalog of drunken nights and unrequited affections, the closing number of “No Pressure” perfectly captures the ease and joys of a new relationship.

1. “Superposition” by Young the Giant: Easily one of my most anticipated albums of the year, the latest record from indie rock outfit Young the Giant kicked off with a trio of sensational, cinematic and undeniably catchy tracks. Escorting us effortlessly into their newest collection of soul-searching tunes of lost love, adrift ambitions and super-sonic melodies, the best of the trio in ‘Superposition’ shows off the band’s talented and atmospheric instrumentals, as well as the dreamy vocal nuances of frontman Sameer Gadhia.   

Album art for “Joy As An Act Of Resistance” courtesy of Partisan Records.

Aaron Febre

4. “One Point Perspective” by Arctic Monkeys: It was pretty difficult to pick one track off the new Arctic Monkeys album as I was thoroughly impressed with the overall product. This song takes the cake due to the wonderful layering of instrumentation, Alex Turner’s witty and observable lyricism as well as one of his best vocal performances. Plus, this reminds me of the 1970s for inexplicable reasons.

3. “Baby I’m Bleeding” by JPEGMAFIA: Released in January, JPEGMAFIA’s “Veteran” is one of the most exciting and intense albums of the year. “Baby I’m Bleeding” shows JPEGMAFIA’s fierce flow that is backed-up with an abrasive production that will leave your jaws dropped. Go ahead and play this, you won’t find another hip-hop track (or album) of this year that as fierce as this one.

2. “Dilemma” by Death Grips: As if all of their music wasn’t crazy enough, Death Grips returned with an even crazier album that made their previous work look more accessible. Out of my favorites from “Year of the Snitch,” “Dilemma” is my favorite for various reasons. Spoken word by Andrew Adamson (the director of “Shrek”), MC Ride screaming “DILEMMA!”, the video-game synthesizer and too many things that are incomprehensible to digest even for a fan of Death Grips.

1. “I’m Scum” by Idles: English Punk band Idles returned with a new album (“Joy As An Act of Resistance”) that is catchier and angrier than their 2017 album, “Brutalism.” This track encompasses the overall sound of the new album: Joe Talbot’s gruff voice, the steady and danceable rhythm, dirty guitars, a chorus that drunk soccer (or football) fans can sing along to, and the theme of “say what you want, I don’t care” in the lyrics make this song a favorite.

Artwork for “TINTS” courtesy of Aftermath/12 Tone Music LLC.

Cecilia Whalen

4. “Bring Me Love” by John Legend: Yeah, it’s a Christmas song. I get it; Christmas is over. But I love John Legend, so I take what I can get. He definitely has one of the most beautiful voices of this generation, and this song is upbeat, well-arranged, and of course, well-sung.

3.“TINTS (feat. Kendrick Lamar)” by Anderson .Paak: I don’t think there’s anything smart I can say about this song, but it’s just fun to sing along and dance to, OK? Plus Kendrick Lamar is featured on it, so you know it’s gotta be a win.

2. “1985” by J. Cole: I love J. Cole’s voice and basically every song he’s done. This song is kind of a diss track to all those who have come out dissing him, but Cole doesn’t just cuss them out and be done with it. Cole warns them about the harm their attitudes and their lifestyles are causing themselves and others — and he doesn’t sound like a bully or a punk defending his own pride. Really, he sounds like a big brother looking out for the hip-hop community, while peppered with the occasional big brother boast.

1. “Brackets” by J. Cole: J. Cole knows how to use rhythm. While a lot of rappers tend to repeat a similar rhythmic pattern, triplet and sixteenth after triplet and sixteenth, Cole masters syncopation. This matched with his poetry creates a whole album of reflection and creativity, and “Brackets” is the climax of both of these musical attributes.

Album art for “Love” courtesy of Reprise Records.

Mayra Trujilo-Camacho

4. “Taki Taki” by Selena Gomez, Ozuna, Cardi B and DJ Snake: It’s a song I can dance to that has a mix of Spanish and English.

3. “Money” by Cardi B: I just think it’s a very catchy song and even a good workout song. It’s very hype.

2. “Scripted” by ZAYN: This song comes from his second album “Icarus Falls,” after leaving One Direction in 2015.  It is a love song with a creative melody and nice chill R&B background.

1. “Love You Anymore” by Michael Bublé: From his new album “Love,” which was released two years after his son was diagnosed with liver cancer. “Love You Anymore” is a very beautiful song. It’s more of a song to forget your ex, but it just has a very nice melody and aesthetic.

Album art for “CARE FOR ME” courtesy of Saba Pivot, LLC.

Arik Miguel

4. Shoota (feat. Lil Uzi Vert)” by Playboi Carti: When I listen to this song, I know that half of what I’m singing is my incorrect decipherings of Uzi and Carti’s mumble rapping. The other half of the lyrics have about as much depth as the line “money on the floor just like some shoes,” but maybe that’s not a bad thing. “Shoota” is fun just for the sake of being fun, and that’s really all we could have asked of these two besties in 2018.

3. “Hunnybee” by Unknown Mortal Orchestra: This is one the most gleefully infectious songs I have heard in a long time. “Hunnybeehas the power to evoke the childhood joy that comes from somersaulting down a grassy hill.

2. “PROM / KING” by Saba: “CARE FOR ME” is Saba’s greatest album yet, and “PROM / KING” is its emotional peak. The seven and a half minute song builds up slowly until Saba is rapping at breakneck speed, describing his cousin’s untimely death. Saba has always had an incredible gift for storytelling, but he’s never told his story as breathtakingly as this.

1. “Noid” by Yves Tumor: Yves Tumor intertwines beauty and violence in an incredibly jarring and exciting way. “Noid” is unlike any song I have heard in my life. Almost as if you asked an alien to compose a song about police brutality.

 

Listen to the music featured in this article via the Spotify playlist below!

Album Review: ‘Oxnard’ by Anderson .Paak

Anderson .Paak first rose to some level of fame when he was featured heavily on Dr. Dre’s 2015 album “Compton.” A year after this high-profile recognition, .Paak released his second studio album, the critically acclaimed and Grammy nominated “Malibu.” This is where .Paak really found a voice for himself. With “Malibu,” we found a distinctly smart and soulful post-Kendrick artist, as well as a rising star. With his 2018 follow-up, “Oxnard,” .Paak pulls through with his special brand of playful funk. Most of the album contains the type of songs that mimic a summer drive with a group of close friends. There are, however, a few moments where Anderson .Paak comes off as a little too cocky. An entire song about road head is one thing. The 30-second skit at the end of “Headlow” that consists of little more than .Paak moaning while getting into a car crash is something else entirely.  

Noname – ‘Room 25’ Album Review

Chicago rapper Noname has been a mysterious figure in the music industry. First appearing in the public’s eye through featuring on a few Chance the Rapper songs as well as releasing a debut mixtape in 2016, Noname has since developed a strong cult following. “Telefone” was a playful sounding, airy debut anchored by non-stop stream of conscious bars that unapologetically described Chicago life. It sounded like we were listening to a young woman trying to find and assert her place in music.  

“Room 25,” Noname’s 2018 follow up and first studio album, reveals an artist who is even more honest and candid than before. The rapping is denser and more confident. “Room 25” is the sound of a woman who knows exactly what type of music she wants to make and refuses to shy away from any topic. Honesty and openness are what make “Room 25” such an interesting and enjoyable listen. Compared to other female rappers who populate pop culture, Noname is a breath of fresh air. She avoids anything that could possibly be seen as gimmicky or trendy and instead relies on clarity and sincerity. “Room 25” is the perfect antithesis to the slew of Cardi B guest verses and whatever beef Nicki Minaj has that made it into Buzzfeed articles this week.  

Opening track “Self” finds Noname exploring her hopes for her album and the new self-confidence she has found since “Telefone” was released. Paired with a warm, sunny beat, Noname’s confidence comes through in her lyrics and her distinctly delicate delivery. The following track “Blaxploitation” shows her more politically charged, and her rapping becomes more tightly packed and more urgent. This track perfectly sums up the beautiful contradiction that is Noname’s music; politically minded lyrics and fast paced delivery that still feels playful and comforting. Darkly tragic tales are paired with a myriad of sounds that are almost unimaginably bright and comforting.

“Room 25” uses this same balance and employs it wonderfully. Album standout “Ace” employs frequent collaborators Saba and Smino, and the trio expertly find the perfect mix of lighthearted lines and quick but honest snippets of each artists’ real life. The song sounds like you got the chance to listen in on three close friends catch up with one another.

Noname has always prided herself on being an independent rapper, but in 2018 it is difficult for independent artists to gain recognition or popularity while still releasing their music for free on sites like SoundCloud. Spotify recently tested a new feature that would allow individuals to directly upload their music to the site for free, erasing the necessity for record labels or distributors. Noname’s “Room 25” was the first album allowed to use this feature. As an artist, Noname has always made it clear that artistic freedom and independence is important to her, and by being the first person to release music in this way on Spotify, she has set the stage for other independent artists to potentially do the same.

There has also been controversy surrounding the artwork of “Room 25.” The Chicagoan artist who created it, Bryant Giles, was arrested on October 8th on charges of domestic battery. Noname’s response was swift as she announced that she “will be working to replace the cover artwork of ‘Room 25.’” Both of these stories only add to the growing biography of one of the most interesting voices in music right now. Noname remains a fiercely independent force, certain in what she wants and how she will get there, but maybe more importantly, she knows what her listeners want in terms of artistic integrity and honesty.

Featured image provided by nonamehiding.com