Category Archives: Arts & Entertainment

From Flying to Jiving: Ornithopera, AVIARY’s Final Migration

By Karyn Danforth / Lifestyles Editor

Set up in one corner of Maloney Hall’s second floor art gallery were four tables of piano harps: the gutted insides of the giant grand instruments.

“It’s a pretty amazing invention,” said Wesleyan University graduate student Max Heath. As his hands rested upon a large block of glass, Heath moved it across the piano strings as a camera projected the glass and strings onto the wall behind him. “I hardly have to move the glass to create sound,” Heath said.

This was only an element of Michael Pestel’s multimedia installation, Ornithopera, a closing performance of his exhibition Aviary, which drawn upon the lost voices of endangered and extinct bird species is also a celebration of the ones still alive. In the orchestrated event, it is scored for a minimum of 31 sound and a couple movement performers with additional participating members of the audience.

Students and faculty from Central Connecticut and Wesleyan were aligned against each side of the galley with different instruments, the majority being handcrafted by Pestel. Opposite to the piano harps was slate drawing tables and an upright piano; the other two contained of a row of typewriters and slate writing podia, which consisted of a board of holes with a mixture of stones in each.

The audience lay inside these four walls of sound and eight performers with assorted string and wind instruments are inside of them centered around a bird cage atop a circular moving platform.

Explaining the background of Ornithopera’s significance, Pestel spoke to the audience outside the center of the circle he’d eventually step foot in. “The most important thing about this is listening to the lost voices, the voices of extinct birds species that have disappeared,” he said. “These species have been eradicated since the 1500s by the United States. Fifty percent of all animals will be endangered and extinct by the end of the century.”

Pestel urged audience participation with slates and chalk to create their own additional noises. The slates weren’t ordinary however. Dan Yashinsky, a Toronto based storyteller, told the audience a tale of his mother and the slates were saved from her roof; they were perched on by eight decades of birds.

Two Butoh Slowalkers (movement performers) slowly made their way around the perimeter of the room; as they crossed an instrument, it signaled the noises initiated by each student. On the upright piano Brian Parks, a concert pianist and composer, pounded down random patterns of notes at the same time; each note represented a letter in the Latin spelling of the species of birds.

Briskly typing away bird proverbs into the old-fashioned typewriters, CCSU art history professor Dr. Elizabeth Langhorne’s eco-art class also chanted little utterances under their breath.

And just like that, Pestel was moving back and forth, using various instruments as he strolled around the room; his two-year old daughter Josey dawdled around holding a baby doll, ran to Pestel and, still playing his instrument, swiftly scooped her into arms and carried her around.

He then stepped to the center and sat down with the eight performers, which was the invitation for the audience to partake. Chalking it up, some did rhythmic beats with straight lines, some went more free-form and curvaceous onto the slate. While the performers inside the circle kept to one instrument, Pestel used several bite sized items; mixing the melange of noises in the air. Pestel pulled out a traditional flute, Josey crawled into his lap with a doll still clutched in her hand.

All of the different sounds did seem a little intoxicating, enhanced by glancing at the videos projected on the walls of Pestel’s various close up experiences with birds; playing an instrument as the bird chirps back at him.

The sounds lasted for a couple Butoh Slowalkers rotations; about 20 minutes worth of ears ringing with high, low and clinky-clanky noises. For what was seemingly a grand finale of sorts, Pestel arose from his seat, walked over and stood next to a gong, and shot an object out of his flute, symbolizing the end.

Magician Pulls In Audience, Hits Big At CCSU

By Jason Cunningham / Entertainment Editor

Loud music is booming, a full house is chattering away, filling the Torp Theatre with a hurricane of energy. Then, all of the sudden, Norman Ng bursts onto stage, smiling bright and ready to perform.

What is it exactly that Ng will be doing? Magic of course. Before you get ready to sigh and yawn, know that Ng isn’t the typical magician we’re all used to. His philosophies on magic are far different than that of shock magicians like Chris Angel or the slick tuxedo wearing gimmicks of the Las Vegas magic scene.

“Most guys in Vegas are too flashy and guys like David Blaine are douchey,” said Ng jokingly after a well-received performance at Central Connecticut State University.

So what kind of magician is Ng? Well, first off, he’s a good one. The audience had nothing but enthusiasm for the young performer. If members of the audience didn’t have their jaws dropped in amazement at his illusions, they were laughing at his hilarious stories and improvised jokes.

“I would say that 70 percent of my tricks are original, the script however is all me, 100 percent. I write all of my own material,” Ng said. “That’s because for me it’s all about relatability. Some of my script is about my life; it’s easier for the audience to get into it when you share yourself with them. What I’m going for is conversational magic, I like to get the audience as involved as possible.”

Ng accomplished involvement right at the beginning of his act by offering up some cold, hard cash to audience members in exchange for assisting him in his tricks. He did the same later on in his on-stage game show.

Participation also seemed high because the audience really seemed to like him. There’s a certain amount of charm in his act that other magicians lack. He injects many stories about his life and his own personal interests into his act.

“I’m an artist. My art comes all from me, my story. The best way to derive emotions from people is to relate to them. That’s why I have the stories about Maine and the restaurant chain and hockey,” Ng said.

As most artists know, doing what you love isn’t always an easy gig. Most people entering a career in the arts face tough times, old and young.

“It’s wasn’t easy. Right out of school, when I was 18, I moved out to California with only $500 in my pocket and started my own entertainment company. I was living in Oakland, in poverty,” Ng said. “I would recommend magic as a career to people who have a passion for it, but let me says this, it’s hard. There are under 20 magicians who make a good living touring and doing what I do.”

Ng knew how to work the crowd. It seemed like making people happy was the most important thing in the world to him. There’s a certain type of passion we attach to soul-singers and actors, people who perform for a living.

Even comedians can often capture our hearts. Rarely would you think that a magician puts every ounce of his heart and soul into a performance – on Ng’s face it can be seen from when the lights go down to when the lights come up.

Instead of exiting, leaving his crowd satisfied and separate from him, he dives into the audience instead, offering answers to their questions and spending as much time as possible talking to them. Someone this passionate has a mission and Ng’s is clear, unlike the tricks behind his illusions.

“The new wave of magic is coming. It’s got to be brought back, magic is cool. So spread the word, because it’s my mission to help make it mainstream again. I want people to be inspired by magic,” Ng said. “After all, making someone truly amazed is what magic is all about.”

Kindle Fails to Light Fire to World of Text

By Charles Desrochers / Staff Writer

The online mega-store, Amazon.com, has released Kindle 2.0, a follow up to last year’s successful e-book reader of the same name.

Instead of letting buzz snowball to a climactic exhale like many other gadget’s ad campaigns, Amazon chose to release its new device merely months after its announcement.

Why did Amazon do this? One reason could be because they didn’t need the publicity, since the original Kindle was still on back order at the time of the Kindle 2.0’s announcement.

Much to the delight of those waiting for their Kindle 1.0, Amazon automatically updated their order to the newer device, making them the first to receive it. The new Kindle sports several new features but at this point most of them are labeled as “experimental.”

The feature that has attracted the most attention as of late is the Text-to-Speech feature. Unlike traditional audio books, the Kindle generates audio without a prerecorded narrator. The result isn’t the smoothest speech but does get the job done for listening to the New York Times on the commute to school or work.

The reading aspect of the device is good, not great. The standard of quality for these devices isn’t set high. Eyes don’t strain while looking at the screen and the matte finish deters most glairs. But the screen isn’t back, front or any kind of lit. The Kindle requires an outside source of light. But this is all intended to ease the reading so the result feels very natural.

Offering 13 shades of grey, the Kindle can accurately replicate most newspaper pictures. This statement sums up the Kindle 2.0 perfectly: It’s hard to imagine anyone who would get excited over 13 shades of grey, let alone pay $350. The device does have an online feature under its “experimental” category, which works great if you like the slow Internet.

Another “experiment” Amazon ventured was MP3 playing capability which seems pointless considering most people own an MP3 player or don’t plan on buying one. Amazon.com offers an extensive E-book library along with subscriptions to popular newspapers and magazines. Kindle’s wireless capabilities, now running on a 3G network that requires no Wi-Fi hotspots to update, sets it apart form other e-book readers like the Sony e-Reader.

The rate at which the Kindle changes pages isn’t very fast, but it’s supposed to simulate a book – take that fact with a grain of salt. Also the Kindle offers checkpoints in books and periodicals so a large amount of flipping isn’t necessary.

The buttons are simple, minimalist, offer a Qwerty keyboard and the whole thing is as thin as a pencil. Doesn’t it seem like every gadget is thriving to be as thin as a pencil these days? The best way to utilize the keyboard would have been to type full rich text files but the user is limited to only typing Post-it type notes in the digital pages.

So what does the customer get for $350? Well, that’s a tough question to answer and it depends on how much it’s used. Here in lies the main problem with the Kindle, and other e-book readers. In order to get your money’s worth the customer has to buy and house several books and periodical subscription at once. The Kindle 2.0 is a means to spend more money. The books are cheap with many costing around seven dollars and there is no shipping or sales tax attached to them.

But without the books the Kindle does nothing on its own. The customer’s are paying for the opportunity to pay money. You could buy the iPhone and pay $20 for a data plan and get everything the Kindle offers making it seem obsolete if one can put up with looking at an illuminated screen for an extended period of time.

The last complaint about the Kindle is that it seems to be marketed towards someone who has to buy books semi-annually and has to carry them around. College students fit into this demographic perfectly. Yet there are no college textbooks offered on Amazon’s digital library. Imagine carrying all your text books in one light, easy to read device that seldom needs charging.

I can’t recommend buying the Kindle 2.0 to anyone who reads less than two books a month. Newspapers, like the Washington Post, are much easier to read than their real life counterparts. This, and the possibility that Amazon.com will realize that there is a huge market for E-textbooks, would lead me to strongly recommend it. It’s a gamble though. If you honestly don’t have anything to do with your tax return, then buy the Kindle 2.0.


Tapes ‘n Tapes: Still Kicking Out the Jams

By Jason Cunningham / Entertainment Editor

Tapes n’ Tapes has been pretty busy. Though we haven’t heard much about any future releases from the band, we’ve seen them push through quite a few tour dates in support of their second LP, Walk It Off, which was released in April of 2008.

Fans had mixed feelings about Walk It Off, but initially supported the band’s effort and flooded venues to catch their infamously fun live shows. I was one of those fans, making sure to catch the April 18 show back in 2008 at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston. Though he had a throat cold and could barely sing through most of the set, Josh Grier pumped up the audience all the same, and the crowd appreciated his humor and intensity on stage. The set was long, the place was jam-packed, and the feelings of support were through the roof.

A little more than ten months later I returned to the Paradise Rock club for their show on Feb. 24. The venue was about half full this time around, with fans’ enthusiasm cruising at mild at best.

What was the deal? Wasn’t anyone excited to hear what new stuff the guys had been working on? Didn’t they want to hear Grier with a full, healthy voice? I was nothing but confused. When they took the stage you could almost see their disappointment at the turnout.

So what did we get? That night we were treated to a fantastic performance. Though the crowd was small, Tapes n’ Tapes still gave it their all, and blew my mind away.

There wasn’t a spectacular light show; there weren’t any corny antics, only a rock band, playing rock music. There’s a certain amount of honesty presented when we see a band play a fantastic show with nothing helping them along except their talent and personality.

The set was a tad shorter than the rest of the previous dates on the tour, but what we got in exchange was some new material, tight performances and a band who clearly enjoys playing their songs to an extent beyond the crowd’s satisfaction. I appreciate that their solider of soul attitude pays off big in a live setting. This allows most of their studio material to translate into fantastic live shows.

My head is still filled with excitement even now for what Tapes n’ Tapes will give us with their third release. It’s a shame more people didn’t make it out that night.

If you get the opportunity and you love live music, please check Tapes n’ Tapes out. It’ll be a worthwhile investment of your time. Personally, I can’t wait till they come back this way, I’ll be encouraging as many people as possible to make it out and support them.

Cool Kids to Play Toad’s Place Friday

When the Mikey Rocks and Chuck Inglish, also known as the Cool Kids, popped up on The Recorder’s radar back in the winter of 2007, they had just released their Totally Flossed Out EP and had never played anywhere near Connecticut. A few months later they were the opening act for Wesleyan’s Spring concert and ready to release their now-acclaimed The Bake Sale EP.

What do two twenty-somethings from Chicago have to offer that makes them so popular with no full-length albums recorded? The Cool Kids have pure talent and a flare for throwback rhymes with infectious beats. After getting their name and music out to the public via their MySpace page, tons of people starting seeking out their presence. Pitchfork Media booked the duo to their 2007 Pitchfork Festival and they were also book for performances at the College Music Journal Music Festival in New York City.

With two high profile appearances, the Cool Kids blew up to their current status of the premier indie hip-hop group. Throughout 2008, the Cool Kids continued to tour lightly and start making fans across the country. During 2008, the group also became one of the most popular to mix and mash amongst DJs and mashup artists. Girl Talk, E-603 and The Hood Internet all mixed the Kids’ songs amongst other Top 40 and hip-hop tracks.

This week the Cool Kids are hooking up with Kid Cudi, a Cleveland-based electro-hop artist who has been featured on Kanye West’s Sky High Mixtape as well as his video for the track “Heartbreak.” Their show at Toad’s Place in New Haven starts at 9 p.m. and tickets are going for $30.

It doesn’t look like either act is playing any more shows in the area according to their Web sites, so it’s a no-brainer that heading to the Elm City for this show is a great way to spend a Friday night outside of New Britain. Oh right, get ready to dance too, because this will become a party before you can finish your first drink.

-Edward Gaug, Photo editor: ccsurecorder.photo@gmail.com

Interview: Making Music and Growing Older with Thursday

When I saw that the band Thursday was back out on the road and playing a show at the Webster Theater in Hartford, I knew I had to get in touch with them. Everyone has a bond with a band that will never separate throughout the years. Thursday is my band. They were the first band I ever photographed live, which led to my interest in photojournalism. Their pure emotion and energy on stage gave the perfect sense for what anyone could look for in a live performance and they did it so effortlessly. Six years later, Thursday continues to release records and is finally back on the road after a short hiatus.

For Tucker Rule, Thursday’s drummer, playing music is all about having fun and doing it with your friends.

Edward Gaug: Let’s start off with the album because that’s the biggest thing right now. You just released Common Existence and are beginning to tour with it. How has this experience been compared to your past albums?

Tucker Rule: It’s been cool man, there’s not a whole lot of pressure on us right now. We wrote a record we really love and we really believe in, so it’s just more fun. We’re back on the road for the first time in a little while, so it’s nice to be back out here and supporting this record.

EG: It comes through when you listen to the album that this is definitely something that you guys did for you. Not to make it sound selfish, but this is an album that you wanted to make rather than the record label wanting you to make.

TR: Absolutely. Thankfully with our label, they didn’t put any pressure on us. They were just like, “We love you guys and whatever you are going to do is going to be cool.”

EG: I got word from a friend of mine who got to see you in San Jose, Calif. this past weekend and he said that you guys haven’t missed a step, even though you haven’t toured in a couple years. Touring now, do you see a difference from when you put out Waiting or Full Collapse in your twenties and where you are now in your thirties?

TR: Yeah definitely. It’s a lot different because everyone is getting older with us. We’re still seeing the same faces; everybody’s just a little older now. You definitely have to take care of yourself a little more on the road when you’re older. Those wounds don’t heal as quickly and bones are getting a little tired.

EG: You must be having a lot of fun, because in an age where bands go through changes and you guys have been the same group of friends since 1999. There’s not a whole lot of movement in Thursday.

TR: No, there’s no movement, no turmoil. We’re all on the same page and when you’re in a band for over 10 years, you have to be on the same page to stay that long and I feel like I’m with a bunch of dudes that understand me and we understand each other. It’s not about fads or fashion phases with us. It’s all about writing music and having a fun time.

EG: One thought that came to mind when listening to the new album was that if you had released this album 10 years ago, do you think you could have put out an album like this and do you think people would have listened to it?

TR: That’s a hard question. I don’t think we would have been able to put out an album like this, as far as our technical prowess at actually playing. This stuff is a little more intricate – it’s faster, so I don’t think that these songs would have translated back then either. I think having that whole movement start, it had to come from a more raw place. This album is a little more technically advanced for us. I think that comes with time and age.

EG: You definitely see that progression from where you started with Waiting to where you are now. You start off the new album really strong and then you hit all the levels that you would want to hear in a Thursday album. You definitely hit everything that people look for. It has to be tough to put out albums and have people always look back to Full Collapse and have that as your judging point considering that was your second album.

TR: It is tough and I noticed a lot on this tour that people are coming up and saying, “I can’t wait to hear you guys play, it will be like going back to my childhood.” It brings back a lot of good memories and that’s really cool. I feel like Thursday, especially around the Full Collapse era, had a time and a place. It had sort of an impact on the people who listened to our band. It’s kind of rad.

EG: The same people who were getting through high school with Full Collapse are now graduating college and starting careers with Common Existence. Your fans are getting to that age now. I think the music is really evolving with your fans, as well as yourselves.

TR: That’s what the hope was. This record is everything we ever did, in one record. It has the experimental shit from A City by the Light Divided, it has the energy of Waiting and Full Collapse and it also has the melodies from War All the Time. I think we smashed it all into one record and I think people who liked our band way back when, they’re still hear the nuances in our record and remember that. The experimental shit might seem toned down. They’ll see it’s a mix of everything.

EG: As the band progresses and members are having kids, does this affect the way you guys are writing music and the way you’re going about the band?

TR: For sure man, we have a dude in our band that has two kids now and it’s hard. Touring gets a lot harder because there are some tours that he might not be able to go on in the future because obviously he wants to spend time with his kids and help his wife, so it is difficult, but it’s the best thing for him and the best thing for the band. It gives us a human perspective on how to not kill ourselves on the road. We have the capacity to do eight or nine months out of the year, but when you take a step back and think we’re all getting older and have people at home that care about us.

EG: To move the topic a little bit, you just came out with a split with Envy, this huge band out of Japan that maybe not all your fans knew about. So I guess the question is, what was it like doing a split with a band that people don’t automatically relate you guys to?

TR: We always try to reach out to bands we like and there a bunch of dudes in our band that like Envy a lot and it was just really cool that we had the time and they had the time and there was a point in our career where we could do something together. For the past couple of years we have been trying to get a tour with them, maybe in Japan, or bring them over to the States, but it never logistically worked out, so this was the next best thing. Hopefully some of our fans will hear their stuff that say, “That band’s the shit,” because they really are a fucking powerful band. We’re stoked and couldn’t be happier with that split.

EG: I think it got a lot of recognition in a time when people weren’t really on the look out for it and snuck up on them. I don’t think it surprised them, but it really worked out for you guys.

TR: Definitely. We hadn’t put out anything since the DVD [Kill the House Lights] and we knew we were going to be touring again soon and writing a new record, but we had a few songs bouncing around and the opportunity just came up and we had to do it. It was good to be on a split with them and it was good for us to get a couple new songs out for people. Like you said, it might not be on people’s radar, but then it just shows up.

Thursday will be playing at the Webster Theater on Friday, February 28 as the headliners for the Taste of Chaos tour. The doors open at 5 p.m. and tickets cost $23.25.

 

-Edward Gaug, Photo Editor

Spinning in the Fish Tank

Walking through the student center of Central Connecticut’s campus, a large glass window draws curiosity to each passerby.

Peering inside, guiding one’s eyes around the room of expansive radio equipment, there in the center sits a brown banged petite girl with headphones on. As a song ends, she fiddles with the soundboard, presses a button, and puts her mouth next to the microphone.

“You’re listening to WFCS 107.7,” said a calm, serene voice. “The name’s Kait Jensen, and welcome to my show, Strange Sounds,” she finished.

Immediately after the last syllable, Jensen punched another button, and the first notes of a song began to resonate through the station. As a junior majoring in English, Jensen has been working at CCSU’s radio station for over a year. Currently sporting the title of Alternative Director of WFCS, Jensen hosts her own radio show on Wednesday nights from 8-10 p.m.

Heavily involved in the station, Jensen is also currently training to become the Director of Development, as well as the treasurer position for next semester. Jensen enjoys the power she possesses as she switches from song to song.

There is more freedom in college radio than [in] commercial,” she said. “Students can listen to music they wouldn’t hear anywhere else.”

With a heavily influenced mélange of indie favorites like Neutral Milk Hotel, Caribou and The Pixies, Jensen fills the airwaves with unique sounds.

“I get phone calls occasionally,” she said. “But they’re generally from people asking me to play Coldplay,” she said, as she usually tries to steer away from mainstream favorites. As Jensen frequently stops to give the tag line and play public service announcements, she doesn’t seem to get nervous about her voice reverberating through the hallway of the Student Center – where hundreds of students and faculty stop to curiously peek inside as they scamper back and forth from classes.

“Sometimes I get reactions through the window,” Jensen said, referring to the fish tank. “I like to press buttons when people walk by and I get weird looks,” she laughed as she demonstrated by pressing a button that let off a screaming noise.

Outside of the station, Jensen is also currently attempting to organize shows to take place on campus, trying to bring bands in an effort to get students more involved in supporting their student organizations, and to just have fun. Presently, the station is undergoing a lot of improvements, as they hope to use another vacant room adjacent to the main station to showcase local bands, treating their listeners to live performances.

With many individuals currently working to keep the station afloat, WFCS is constantly putting their heads together to explore new ideas to revamp the studio and keep radio alive. “It sounds like such a cliché thing to say, but we’re like a family,” Jensen laughed, “ – an interesting one, at that.”

 

-Karyn Danforth, Lifestyles Editor: ccsurecorder.lifestyles@gmail.com

CCSU Insomniac

[MAP]

New Britain Diner . 1130 Corbin Avenue . New Britain, Conn. 06053

This diner has to be a staple for any CCSU student’s late-night excursions. With easy access from Central (a five-minute drive) and a relatively cheap menu, the positives certainly outweigh the chances of running into a noisy crowd of post-club goers who usually frequent the diner around 2 or 3 a.m.

Regardless of the crowd, New Britain Diner serves as the perfect end to any night, whether you’ve spent the majority of the last few hours showing your friends how to run the BP table – or losing – or just finished a 12-page paper due tomorrow morning. There is nothing quite like the satisfying combination of old-school steak fries and a greasy cheeseburger with a milkshake. At 3 in the morning, it’s probable that anything would taste good (if you can, in fact, still taste), but sobriety can’t exactly alter the way a large portion of thick steak fries satisfies the stomach, or keep you from finishing a chocolate milkshake before your actual meal arrives.

Other tasty options include your usual eggs, toast and what looks like a whole pound of bacon, some orange juice and coffee. Scrambled, sunny side-up, the not too greasy over easy or in omelets, eggs are one of the things New Britain Diner does best.

Bowl-O-Rama . 2143 Berlin Turnpike . Newington, Conn. 06111

Some have said that the way Bowl-O-Rama waxes their lanes makes it easier for novices to win. With that said, I’ll usually welcome the idea of a challenge; even though I’m no pro and am unable to consistently bowl above a 90, the idea that I may be able to out-score my friends on a fluke at this alley keeps me going.

This 24-hour bowling alley is situated on the Berlin Turnpike, a straight drive down Rte. 175 through Newington. At 1:30 a.m. on a Thursday night/ Friday morning, the crowd was sparse, the bar had already closed its doors and my size 6.5 rental pair of shoes still retained the warmth from the feet of all the people with small feet who wore them during the day. Luckily someone in the group had a coupon that night for “buy three games and your partner bowls three for free”. Otherwise, games cost $3.37 per person per game, shoes are free when you flash your BlueChip. On a side note, one pair of socks costs $3 from a vending machine; while the price high, at least they are kind enough to consider girls who wear ballet flats everywhere.

Gold Roc . Diner 61 Kane Street . West Hartford, Conn. 06119

Another quick trip, this time up Rte. 9 to I-84 East, will bring the hungry late-night traveler to Gold Roc Diner, a ‘50s- inspired mess protruding from the left side of 84 in all of its glowing red glory. Though, in all fairness, the exterior doesn’t accurately represent Gold Roc’s appeal.

In comparison to New Britain’s, this diner fares pretty well; the French fries are of a thinner cut, service takes slightly longer and their Heinz ketchup bottle caps aren’t screwed on as tight (do not turn a bottle up-side down and shake it unless you are 100 percent confident the cap is secured), but overall not the worst choice for a late-night dining experience.

You won’t notice minor unpleasant details anyway as you are probably more concerned at this point whether your meal of a large stack of chocolate chip pancakes will go well with previously consumed Jagerbombs. Like every diner most of the food is affordable but you get what you pay for.

There is a chance you’ll have to deal with a crowd during your latenight weekends because everyone else will be looking for a place to sober up, but Gold Roc will do if it’s the first place you see.

 

-Melissa Traynor, Editor-in-Chief: ccsurecorder@gmail.com

Album Review: Lily Allen’s ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’

British pop star Lily Allen has done it again – no, not another paparazzi-filled night out, but a sophomore album release.

This time around the lyrics remain explicit but are cleaned up nicely to fill in the blanks. They are still risqué and unfriendly for easily offended individuals. Yet, the level of maturity in topic is noticeable in comparison to Allen’s introductory album, Alright, Still.

Allen’s freshman album was a combination of ex-boyfriend attacks, a dark sense of humor, heartbreak, dealing with a lazy brother who smokes too much and sex. So how does she go from risqué to even better and riskier? Allen does not seem to have much trouble completing this task. “I’ll take my clothes off and it will be shameless, ‘cause everyone knows that’s howyou get famous,” – Allen’s lyrics to “The Fear” her first single off It’s Not Me, It’s You, set the tone for her second album.

The album has a more personal insight of who Lily Allen actually is. She still gives her listeners the sarcasm and rebellious attitude with appealing lyrics such as, “But you and I have come to our end. Believe me when I tell you that I never wanna see you again. And please can you stop calling cause it’s getting really boring,” found in track number seven titled, “Never Gonna Happen.”

It is obvious that the petite lady known for her door-knocker earrings comes off as a very self-assured artist. If by chance the confidence is lacking, it’s difficult to see through the show she’s putting on – you would be too distracted by her unique style and lyrical freedom. Allen’s new album does not take the listeners through a standard trip down memory lane or a predictable girlie love-and-heartbreak album. Instead she hits controversial topics such as politics and religion.

But of course the album is not too serious to bore you she also throws in a song about Chinese take-out with TV watching, a small dosage of love lyrics that can’t be measured tremendously, but only in “Who’d Have Known.” She also moves onto the topic of family matters, some about her brother, some reaching out to her father.

Love or hate Ms. Allen, she probably wouldn’t care either way as long as she is doing what she does best and that’s to create her own music.From Britain? Yes. Funk swagger? Yes. I’m sure we can make space for her in the United States – maybe even demote Amy Winehouse who seems to have gone M.I.A. or simply gotten stuck in rehab and let a new British native take the throne.

Capitol Records

-Ariana Valentin, Asst. News

Album Review: Blackout Beach’s ‘Skin of Evil’

Blackout BeachBack in late September of 2008 Carey Mercer sent Pitchfork Media a letter in regards to his sophomore release under his solo project Blackout Beach.

“I wrote this record because I desired to make something that stays on task. I picked an easy task: desire, longing, flight, the sorrow of absence… the DNA of most good songs,” wrote Mercer in the brief letter’s opening sentences.

As a fan of Frog Eyes and Mercer’s other projects, I thought I knew what to expect from Skin of Evil. I imagined something similar to the feel of the first release, Light Flows the Putrid Dawn, or possibly something reminiscent of his songs on Swan Lake’s first album Beast Moans. Instead of hearing a tidal wave of instruments break against Mercer’s dramatic and often times fierce delivery we hear something more focused and ultimately more intriguing this time around.

The differences between Skin of Evil and Mercer’s other work are vast and appealing. With Light Flows the Putrid Dawn we saw that Blackout Beach was the darkest of his projects. That darkness remains, but rather than acting as a rough commentary that wraps up the human experience in a blanket of fog, it instead reveals itself as a clear and powerful force. The album doesn’t push you through the music like other albums with a similar approach; it acts more like a guide delicately leading you through your journey.

The journey itself is a story about a temptress named Donna. She is the ideal notion of what classical Greek society would’ve considered the perfect woman.

Eight of the songs on the album belong to former lovers, all still consumed with their love for Donna. The other two songs belong to Donna and her current lover- William. The results of each individual’s story equate to a musical triumph.

The combination of Mercer’s close attention to language and detail with his newfound minimalistic musical approach are the secret behind his brilliance. The drum machine sounds vintage, providing a fuzzy lo-fi familiarity to the songs, as if they were beats a friend was showing you in his basement. The guitar hits you like raindrops against a pond, crashing against the surface of the songs and rippling outward over the music.

His vocal delivery is much more straight-forward, confined within the songs. Added to this is the presence is a female vocalist, possibly playing Donna, to help some of the tracks along.

This atmospheric and gripping album only spans a little over thirty minutes, but it remains constantly strong, building up the experience, making every minute matter to the listener. Mercer’s stage is set, we can only hope for a tour to be announced so that audiences can be pulled into the theater of his work. It would be a shame if we couldn’t share this experience with Mercer in a live setting.

Soft Abuse Records

-Jason Cunningham, Entertainment Editor: ccsurecorder.entertainment@gmail.com