Tag Archives: A&E

Fans have fallen in love with Lover

By Scarlett Hatton

Taylor Swift’s recent album reflects her old style of music while showcasing new, unexpected elements. This experimental and care-free approach made for a diverse tracklist. From her very first self-titled record in 2006 to her newest just released, highly anticipated album Lover, Swift has been a groundbreaking artist.

Like any other title track, “Lover” represents the underlying theme of her entire album by displaying a beautiful, enduring love story. In stark contrast from her last album Reputation, this new album is a breath of fresh air. Reputation’s dark and rebellious themes have been exchanged for Lover’s light and romantic ideas. From snakes to butterflies, it shows the complete change in her personal life. Swift has been open about her past struggles with her sour reputation and struggling love life. However, her happy relationship with Joe Alwyn has switched her life around. In “Lover” she says, “My heart’s been borrowed and yours has been blue. All’s well that end well to end up with you.” After listening to the entire album, it is clear that Swift has a full heart and a new, positive outlook on life.

Swift’s unique ability to tell her story through songwriting is what sets apart a Taylor Swift song from that of most other artists. Truthfully, everyone is guilty of listening to her songs to find out the latest gossip, whether it is of the boyfriend she just broke up with or a new fling in her life. Swift writes her songs as the story of her life and has no shame in doing so. “It’s Nice to Have a Friend” and “Miss Americana and The Heartbreak Prince” bring fans back to her iconic storytelling such as her lyrics in her old albums Speak Now and Red. Because Swift writes all of her songs, each phrase is honest and sentimental to the listener. She is able to make songwriting seem so effortless yet so beautifully precise like no other.

Many of the songs from the album, such as “The Archer” introduce an 80’s style of pop music. This came as a surprise to many fans seeing that this is completely new for her. Although these songs are a new style for Swift, they have their bases in an older sound. The ’80s is famous for its dance music and synthesizer tracks. This sound appeals to the older generation, and the new generation interested in retro. Most importantly, it proves that she can embrace a variety of sounds. As Swift’s music capabilities expand, so does her audience. 

Lover does an amazing job of including diverse styles. However, not every song is for everyone. “Death By A Thousand Cuts” does not even compare with some of Swift’s better songs. Although the lyrics are beautiful and well written, the production was not. The song has too many background samples and the melody is hard to follow. In this case, the music distracted and took away from her vocals instead of adding to and enhancing them. This track had so much potential but might have been better as an acoustic.

After staying silent about political issues for so long, Swift took this new album as an opportunity to speak up about her views. During the 2016 election, spectators criticized her for not using her platform to speak out about politics. However, in 2018 Swift took to social media and said, “In the past, I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now.” Not only has Swift been vocal about her views, she has also included them in her lyrics. Songs like “You Need To Calm Down” advocate for love and equality. The song says, “And control your urges to scream about all the people you hate. ‘Cause shade never made anybody less gay.” Swift was able to show her support for LGBTQ rights in a positive and tasteful way. 

“The Man” is one of the best tracks from the album. Swift wrote the song to speak out against gender inequality as she describes how her life would be different if she was a man. This song is particularly great because it points out double-standards in society with meaningful lyrics but remains a happy, pop song. She did not sacrifice the quality of her song with the message she was trying to portray. All of the songs from the album do a nice job of balancing these factors.

While many songs from the album were upbeat, some of them were real and raw. Sad songs are customary to many of her albums. In Swift’s album Speak Now, the song “Back to December” was written about her 2009 break-up. However, in Lover, she focuses on a different type of heartbreak. The song “Soon You’ll Get Better” was written for Swift’s mother who fought cancer. This album reveals serious topics that her fans might be able to relate to. By steering away from her usual breakup songs, listeners can connect with her new, mature message. 

 For the past 13 years, Swift has used her unique songwriting abilities and storytelling techniques to engage her listeners. With her new, mature era, Swift is able to become unfiltered and expand her audience. After landing her sixth No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart, it is safe to say that fans continue to love Lover.

Album:

  1. I Forgot That You Existed 
  2. Cruel Summer
  3. Lover
  4. The Man
  5. The Archer 
  6. I Think He Knows
  7. Miss Americana & The Heartbreaker Prince
  8. Paper Rings
  9. Cornelia Street
  10. Death By A Thousand Cuts
  11. London Boy
  12. Soon You’ll Get Better (feat. Dixie Chicks)
  13. False God 
  14. You Need To Calm Down 
  15. Afterglow
  16. ME! (feat. Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco)
  17. It’s Nice To Have A Friend
  18. Daylight

Lyrics: A+

Vocals: A+

Instrumental: A-

Final Grade: A

Favorite Song: The Man

Least Favorite Song: Death By A Thousand Cuts

 

Fear Inoculum Makes the Pieces Fit Again

By Daniel Anderson

For so long, it seemed like a distant dream. Yet, here we are.

Right from the start, the L.A-based band Tool stood as a complete anomaly. In a time where nearly every metal act being spun about on MTV was fusing the genre with an alternative radio-rock sound or even, heaven forbid, hip-hop elements, Tool practically tossed conformity out of the window.

Throughout the mid 90s to the 2000s, they gained notoriety for releasing songs with ambitious, complex structures, ever-shifting time signatures and numerous instrumental switch-ups and passages—all while still having a knack for keeping it all relatively accessible.

Combine that with their abstract and hypnotizing artwork and animated music videos (courtesy of guitarist Adam Jones and artist Alex Grey), and you have the most unlikely combination for success. Though brief in number, Tool’s practically untainted discography has been celebrated to a point that most bands, let alone progressive and alternative metal bands, can only dream of.

With millions of albums sold and accolades from MTV Music Video Awards and Grammy nods galore, it seemed as if time would forever be on this band’s side. Or so we all thought.

After the release of their last studio album, 10,000 Days, in 2006, Tool fell completely silent on new releases from then onward. Even despite the band remaining contractually together, they remained quiet on new material. As the years went by, a new album from them became something of a musical equivalent to a Half-Life sequel: something that would never happen.

That is, until recently.

Earlier this year, it was announced across all social media platforms that the silence would come to an end; their new album was in the works. The months after became a Tool frenzy. Further developments built up even more hype.

Streaming finally became available and album art and the release of the lead single followed suit. Soon enough the time had come—the silence was no more. Tool’s fifth studio effort, Fear Inoculum, had arrived.

With such immense shoes to fill, I had doubts that this group could truly live up to my expectations. To be perfectly honest, this is Tool’s least impressive album thus far. But given their usual standards, I would be remiss if I did not say that there are some fantastic things about it.

For starters, the most blatant elephant in the room is the tracklist: numerically, it is the shortest in their career, yet most of the tracks either border or surpass the ten minute mark. See, Tool are no strangers to long-winded songs, but they are usually reserved for pivotal spots in their tracklists (Third Eye and Wings for Marie being great past examples). With that in mind, it is easy to make the assumption that this was done so to make the album a grand statement.

Upon further inspection, however, this is not so much the case. The opening title track brings just about everything I expected out of a Tool record. From the soft-spoken intro with bongo drums, to the well-balanced production between every member’s instrumental work, to frontman Maynard James Keenan’s blissful yet firm vocals, nothing is out of place here. Best of all, the qualities of this track are blended together in such a way that it makes for a consistently engaging listen. It is a ten minute track that feels nearly half its length.

But in another breath, I do find it somewhat disappointing that Tool doesn’t go too far out of their comfort zone. Slightly worse than that is how the relatively safe songwriting comes at the cost of this track’s memorability, which is something that Tool is normally excellent at incorporating into their progressive metal forte.

Despite these hindrances, I suppose they do not drag down this record’s overall quality that much. In retrospect, two of their most celebrated works Lateralus and the aforementioned 10,000 Days do share a considerable amount of similarity in production and group dynamic, but both still maintain enough nuance to keep themselves unique—such as Lateralus’ tracklist structure being based on the Fibonacci Sequence.

Looking at their progression through that lens, I can tolerate the seemingly meat-and-potatoes approach that this album takes in comparison to its predecessors. Having said all that, I curiously find that nearly every pro and con that I observed on the opener applies to the majority of the tracklist.

Tracks like “Pneuma,” and “Invincible,” despite being decent and enjoyable tracks on their own, do not really lend themselves all that well to inclusion on the album. Even with their compositional difference, they are grounds that this band has tread several times over.

Also, it does not help that the brief, albeit over-abundant interludes on the digital version of this record waste potential room for more decency. Even when there are somewhat memorable moments occasionally (such as Danny Carey’s slick drum soloing on the absurdly-titled “Chocolate Chip Trip), I cannot help but feel that these interludes tainted so much of my enjoyment of the rest of what is offered.

Least of all, without these filler tracks, the album still runs at about 80 minutes in length; they make the experience even more bloated than it already is.

Still, even with the shortcomings, this is not to say that there is nothing of substance here—most of it is practically the opposite. The seventh track “Culling Voices,” serves as one of the more subdued and meditative moments on the album and still manages to stay interesting for its length. The fourth track “Descending,” despite seeming like another standard track, brings about some of Maynards best vocal performances on the record.

Then there is the final track (not including the interludes), “7empest.” This track is essentially the kind which everyone familiar with previous material wants to hear. It is the longest at fifteen minutes, and not a second is wasted. You name it: infectious riffs, Carrey’s fiery drumming, aggressive vocals, compositional finesse—this track has it all.

To sum up, Fear Inoculum manages to keep the discography of Tool nearly uncontested by their contemporaries. For the amount of flaws it has, that is not to speak of the tremendous qualities it has. Sure, gone are the days of more iconic tracks like “Forty Six & 2” and “Schism”, but at the very least, I can be grateful that it is still a solid release.

This record plays like a love-letter, and fans such as I are certainly receiving it as one.

 

Following Highlander Band: Highlanders hustle through Lawrence Central

Photo by Brock Kennedy 

Story by Gracie Vanover

After a successful weekend at Columbus North High School, the Highlander Band set out again this past weekend to Indianapolis to battle some of the biggest bands in the nation. Facing off against top bands like Avon High School’s Marching Black and Gold proved to be a challenge, but our Highlanders pulled through with an excellent performance. 

On Saturday the band rolled into Lawrence Central High School and performed SynchroniCITY for the second time in the competitive scene. Although the competition was harder, many still had high hopes for the performance.

“Before every competition I make sure I go into it knowing no matter what happens I tried my best,” said eighth grade guard member Graysen South. “I always try and think we are gonna do pretty well but we are going against top bands so it’s sometimes hard to keep hype. I try and focus on keeping my part of the show as best as I can and worry about ranking after we perform.”

Many of the members thought this was one of the better performances of the season. 

“Overall I think we had a good performance, as always there is always room to improve,” 

said sophomore baritone Kent Vitale. “Personally I didn’t see any catastrophic failures.”

Even other bands and their spectators were blown away by the power of the Highlander 

band and their show. 

“I felt accomplished because like people we don’t know liked [our show],” said eighth 

grade mellophone Robert Munoz. “Parents of students that have new uniforms every year and usually step up due to the size and the funds of the band applauding for a band half the size makes me happy cause like it means you did something right.”

Although the band did not place in the top three of their class or win category awards 

they made great progressions in the show. 

“The sound was much much better than last week. Many people were out of tune last 

week and the front ensemble completely messed up,” said freshman percussion member Lizzie Floyd. “This week we completely changed it and blew it out of the water. The front ensemble did amazing and the winds were in time and completely in tune. It’s grown a lot and I can’t wait to see how it changes over this next week for BOA.”

Next week, the Highlanders plan introducing more props and performing the fourth movement of their show which has been highly anticipated by the band’s members. 

“[I’m] definitely [excited for] Preston’s trombone solo and the trombone feature,” said 

sophomore trumpet player Charlie Roution. “Our stopping point right now isn’t a great one but once the 4th movement is introduced the show will be 10 times better.”

This weekend the band heads to Bands of America Louisville Regional at Cardinal 

Stadium. To follow the Highlander band and their journey through ISSMA and Bands of America be sure to check back weekly. To find their performance times and information on the band you can go to their website floydcentralband.org. 

 

Anchored in Quality

Art by Sam Haney

Story By Daniel Anderson

As stated in the previously published review, progressive metal has been taking over independent labels recently due to the intricate and pristinely-made sound that bands of the genre typically produce. Bands such as Meshuggah and Periphery set a bar for the genre, known as djent, that many bands have since tried to copycat.

But as is for many genres, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Take Baroness for instance.

While still labeled as a progressive metal and rock act, this Savannah, Georgia based band has taken an opposite approach to the genre than most current prog acts. Instead of attempting to make their sound as clean and precise as possible, Baroness (as well as other contemporaries like Mastodon and Torche) combine the genres of sludge metal, alternative rock, and heavy psych into their sound.

It would seem that they have reaped the benefits from this. Since 2007, every new Baroness release (all color-coded, by the way) has been celebrated by the hard rock and metal communities. Their first two outings, The Red Album and Blue Record, were highly praised for their combination of heavy and compressed production of sludge with the technicality and finesse of prog rock.

In 2012, their double-album Yellow and Green, saw the band going in a more accessible direction. Despite still being well-received, these two remain a bit divisive among fans for going on that route. One could release the single “Take My Bones Away” in the mid-to-late 90s and it would be seen as another Foo Fighters-esque radio rock tune.

With their next release in late 2015, Purple, Baroness almost had a return to form. It served as a middle ground between their first two hard-hitting releases and the accessibility of Yellow and Green. The album was a tremendous success for the band, earning great sales, the adoration of fans and critics, and even a Grammy nod for the lead single, “Shock Me.” 

Because of this, it was no surprise that many, such as myself, were anticipating their newest release, Gold and Grey. And, unfortunately, opinions on the results have been split once again.

Like with Purple, it would seem Baroness is once again attempting to meld heaviness and accessibility. However, the accessibility has been slightly turned up a notch, perhaps not to the same level as Yellow and Green, but it is still a bit noticeable.

Should their approach be slightly tweaked, tracks such as “I’m Already Gone” and “I’d Do Anything” could probably released as pop rock ballads in the early 2000’s. 

Not to mention, there is also the tenth track, “Emmett – Radiating Light,” which comes across a Baroness’ attempt at an acoustic singer-songwriter track (like the poor man’s Mount Eerie or Sufjan Stevens). Yet the boring, deadpan vocals, and its inconsistency compared to the rest of the tracklist could make the listener question as to why the band would include this in the album at all. 

Speaking of which, one of the most irritating detractors of this record are the absurd amount of short, mostly-instrumental interludes it contains. Not only do most of them sound lazily composed, but they contribute nothing to this record in terms of pacing. If anything, these tracks all but kill the flow of the album.

Be not mistaken, this record may be laced with flaws in its tracklist, but that does not mean that Baroness went into this project without bringing some quality to the table.

Tracks such as “Tourniquet” and “Borderlines” demonstrate the fantastic songwriting, soaring vocals and tight instrumental composition that most people associate with this band. The thirteenth track, “Broken Halo,” which is a typical song by Baroness standards, is executed well enough to where it could be placed on the tracklist of Purple.

The eleventh track, “Cold-Blooded Angels,” particularly stands out among the other tracks by showcasing the band at their most dynamic. The track goes through numerous passages and transitions while still keeping up a top-notch vocal performance from frontman John Baizley.

Despite this, the most major misstep on this record prevented me from enjoying this album any further: the production.

For most, if not the complete duration, this album is absolutely plagued with a jarring amount of technical flaws. On the opening track, “Front Toward Enemy,” the guitars and the bass are mixed together in such a way that they sound as if they are falling over one another. Also, the drums get so lost in the mix that the cymbals are really the only parts that are noticeable.

Even worse, the vast majority of these tracks suffer from the same or similar issues in production. Perhaps the worst case of these drums comes about with the final track, “Pale Sun.” Not only is it unfulfilling for an album closer, but the cymbals near the end of the track border on being white noise.

On some tracks, the opposite issue is also present. With the third track, “Seasons,” the drums finally become noticable, but that comes at the cost of the guitars and bass, which are consequently buried beneath them. The latter is also drowned out significantly on “Borderlines.”

Issues with this album’s production could potentially continue for another few paragraphs, but underlying all of this is the most frustrating aspect to me: 

Baroness has never been known for being the best-produced band out there. The difference here is that the muddy and compressed mixing of previous efforts was a part of their charm. Purple, for instance, has a level of production that is almost as messy as what can be heard on Gold and Grey. But unlike this new release, Purple at least had a slightly gruffer approach in overall composition, so the mix compliments the album well enough.

Sadly, this is not the case for Gold and Grey. To have decidedly grimy production is one thing, but to dial it to a higher degree for a selection of songs that simply do not fit well with it is completely unnecessary.

This album could have been good, maybe even great when accounting for its highlights. What a shame that its greatest fault is something that could have been so easily prevented.

Standout Tracks:Tourniquet,” “Cold-Blooded Angels,” “Borderlines”

Score: 6/10   

Tracklist:

  1. Front Toward Enemy
  2. I’m Already Gone
  3. Seasons
  4. Sevens
  5. Tourniquet
  6. Anchor’s Lament
  7. Throw Me an Anchor
  8. I’d Do Anything
  9. Blankets of Ash
  10.  Emmet – Radiating Light
  11.  Cold-Blooded Angels
  12.  Crooked Mile
  13.  Broken Halo
  14.  Can Oscura
  15.  Borderlines
  16.  Assault on East Falls
  17.  Pale Sun

Listen: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_kqi3ECPn2xHvZh4_pKWD-DxvdQAKcT3QQ

 

Just because Twitter said it does not mean it is true

Art by Sam Haney

Story by Gracie Vanover

Social media can be both a blessing and a curse. However, for some male Marvel fans, it appears to be the latter. With the new movie Captain Marvel being released on March 8, many have something to say about the male opinion of this movie. Feminists across platforms like Twitter seem to have the strongest say in what they think about their male peers who dislike the new female lead superhero movie.

After the new movie was in theater for a few days, talk around our school and social media grew with likes and dislikes of the movie. The issue of “men being sexist” against the movie came to my attention one day at my lunch table as it was the discussion topic. One of my peers said he did not entirely care for the movie, as it just was not as good as others to him. His real issue with sharing his opinion, however, was the fact that many female friends took what he was trying to say the wrong way. They felt as if he was saying what he said due to the lack of “sexualizing” a woman hero. In his defense, that was not the cause for dislike, but many insisted on that as the base of his dislike.

With many women in the Marvel fandom adoring the movie and female lead Brie Larson, it is somewhat reasonable to see how they incorrectly interpreted what these men are saying. In the movie, Captain Marvel does not appear as the average woman hero, as her costume is more “bland” compared to others. I think with the change of her costume many assume the dislike is solely due to “non-sexualisation” of  Larson. Although many men have clearly stated this is not the case for their dislike, some women keep pushing to say it is when it truly is not.

When it comes down to the actual costuming of the women, Marvel is actually very respectful in making them feel comfortable. But in doing this they also are decently consistent with the comics and their design. To bring the original example back, Larson and her producers agreed on how the original comic book suit would not fit for the movie style but they did not completely obliterate any connection to the comics. When it boils down to the fans as well, no one is angry because she was not shown in sexy spandex. In specifics, not just male fans but many fans were displeased with mainly the plot, according to reviews from metacritic.com.

It seems like many are quick to attack male viewers when it comes to female superheroes and their opinions on them. However, as mentioned beforehand, the dislike is never due to the lack of sexualization. With the world we live in now, many ads in media are meant to sell as sex appeal. Of course with brands like Marvel, DC, or other productions, that is not the intended case. These brands are dedicated to the viewers and bringing them quality content over the basic and easy sex appeal that most everything is branded with.

The fanbase has no right to be mad at the lack of sex appeal because that style of branding is never the focus of the Marvel brand of movies. The idea of male viewers being angry at the lack of sexualization is a false accusation on other viewers’ parts. For other fans or outsiders to accuse the fanbase of that is unjust and a false accusation. Not only is it making that part of the fanbase look bad, but it makes the entire fanbase as a whole look worse as well.

Overall, people use media to claim statements that a lot of time are not true. Even though in this society sex appeal sells content, this is not always the case. Marvel fans were the most recent target of the “only care about sexualized content” facade but it will not be the last. So before people accuse others of this, they need to take a step back and look at the whole picture.