Tag Archives: music

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Pretty Lights Concert Review

By Sean Begin

A misperception exists about electronic music that since it’s made with a computer and not live instruments, it must not actually be music.

In reality, producing quality music on a computer requires the same amount of musical knowledge as does playing a guitar or sax or piano.

And when someone like Colorado-based producer Derek Vincent Smith, better known as Pretty Lights, comes along with knowledge of both styles, an amazingly organic blend of music is created.

Over the summer, Pretty Lights released his newest album “A Color Map of the Sun.” All of his work beforehand had been produced using samples. But in his newest project, Pretty Lights brought in live session musicians to record his own samples. These were pressed to vinyl and used as samples for “Color Map.”

Pretty Lights took this concept to the road, putting together a live band, using some of those session musicians, on his current Analog Future Tour which stopped in Wallingford, CT Saturday night.

The tour, which kicked off just under a month ago, is Pretty Lights’ most ambitious undertaking yet.

Two keyboardists, a live drummer, and a brass section consisting of a trumpeter and a trombonist accompany Pretty Lights who even plays live bass guitar on occasion.

The live show was a perfect blend of electronic and instrumental music, the computer controlled music of Pretty Lights complemented by the drums, brass, keyboards, and piano.

Blending songs both old and new, Pretty Lights had the whole of the Oakdale Theater dancing to his beat, all while a well-choreographed light show helped set the mood.

Playing for about two and a half hours, Pretty Lights brought the crowd through a multitude of musical highs and lows, showcasing his ability to play on the emotion of a crowd. The live band moved seamlessly with Pretty Lights, ready to play any song he chose.

He dropped, among others, “Vibe Vendetta”, “One Day They’ll Know” and “Go Down Sunshine” off the new album and classic songs like “More Important than Michael Jordan” and “I Know the Truth,” all seamlessly accompanied by the live instrumentation on stage.

Perhaps in a nod to daylight savings time, he also played his remixes of Pink Floyd’s “Time” and The Steve Miller Band’s “Fly like an Eagle,” both of which had the crowd moving.

The stage set up only added to the show, with each member of the live band getting their own platform to stand on, each one edged in light. As his name suggests, the lights were nothing but pretty, and would darken to red and blue or brighten to purple, green, and yellow depending on the mood of the song being played.

The tour has featured a plethora of artists, but for his stop in Connecticut, Pretty Lights brought along SuperVision and heRobust.

A longtime member of the Pretty Lights Music label, SuperVision kicked the night off with a traditional DJ set, playing an electro funk style of music characteristic of PLM. Using vinyl records and a pair of turntables, SuperVision gave a lesson on where DJ started, showing off his skills at scratching and juggling records.

Following him was Atlanta-based trap producer heRobust, whose affinity for puns is evident in his moniker. Trap originated in Atlanta and heRobust provided his own take on it, breaking up the funky mood of the other two acts with a bass heavy set that had the whole room grooving.

The performance was easily one of the best to pass through Connecticut this year and was a perfect example of how musical electronic music really is, especially in the hands of someone whose passion for it is evident in the show he puts on.

More than just a traditional DJ set, the Pretty Lights live band is Derek Vincent Smith’s vision of a unique electronic dance experience that showcases his unique brand of “electrohiphopsoul” music.

Album Review: Steve Aoki, ‘Wonderland’

By Danny Contreras

After years in the scene with multiple collaborations with the likes of Kid Cudi and Afrojack, Steve Aoki finally released his debut album, Wonderland. The album which features many solo artists on its songs is a perfect mixture of club, electronica and dubstep, with sure fire hits such as  “Emergency” featuring Lil’ Jon; and “Livin’ My Love” with LMFAO and Nervo.

The album runs at about 50 minutes with twelve tracks, the longest clocking in at 6:53 minutes. Wonderland does not necessarily make a splash with its opening track, “Earthquakey People” which features Rivers Cuomo of Weezer fame. The music in the song does not stand out either; it borders between trance and dubstep without ever truly delving into either. It is a song pulled from techno limbo as the staccato leads do not truly stand out from the bass, and the sampled drums feel to have come from a recording of a garage band, not a techno producer.

Aoki, however, redeems himself quickly with “Dangerous.” The track features will.i.am as ‘Zuper Blahq’. The song feels saturated as will.i.am’s auto-tuned voice almost works as vocals and a type of lead. What stands out is Aoki’s ability in dubstep as the bass drums keep coming without the audience feeling overwhelmed. Surprisingly, the song can be quite catchy and definitely one used at parties. It blends well with the rest of the album, and while will.i.am’s saturated voice will be sure to annoy you, the song redeems itself with catchy riffs and chord progressions.

“Emergency” with Lil’ Jon & Chiddy Bang and “Livin’ My Love” with LMFAO & Nervo, are the most entertaining songs on the album. Lil Jon only says “emergency” throughout his cameo, but his traditional “yeaaah,” and “let’s go” makes it fun, catchy and uplifting. His raspy voice resonates throughout the three and a half minute song but never gets old. The following song, “Livin’ My Love” is just another one of LMFAO’s party anthems. The song follows a very basic structure of trance, build up and bass drop, to keep itself going and while it feels old and boring in other productions, in this song it blends as background noise because LMFAO’s silly lyrics are what you are paying the most attention to, not the music itself. Which almost feels like the opposite of what an album does, but honestly, the music does not truly stand out in this song.

The best song in the album, “The 80’s” featuring Angger Dimas, is the eighth track and also the longest song. Here we can here all of Aoki’s current influences, mainly Afrojack and R3hab. It begins with a basic 4/4 drum loop with nothing else backing it up other than white noise. Then following 30 seconds of loops, it goes into a simple arpeggio and staccato combined lead that sounds childish, cute and funny. The drums build up and a dirty-electro bass rips through the song, its pitch going up and down wildly. The song continues with this formula for its six minutes with a combination of lead and bass somewhere in the middle, akin to his Afrojack collaboration, “No Beef”.

Finally, we reach the tenth track of the album “Cudi the Kid” featuring Kid Cudi, the last track to truly stick out from the rest of the pack. Kid Cudi kills it with his pot-related rhymes and stories, but Aoki creates the best drum and bass dubstep song from the album. The first minute contains a 90’s inspired drum and bass loop which builds up to a ripping saw bass that builds up and down as if a tree were being cut. Cudi’s lyrics work extremely well with the song, although his auto-tuned voice may not be one everyone likes. The song then goes into a quick slow break where Cudi repeats the chorus, with the drum and bass loop slowly rising in the back, as it eventually leads to a build up that goes into the dubstep saw bass, with the only difference being the drum and bass loop being mixed into the dubstep.

The rest of the album feels like it cannot follow up with what came before, as it is all ‘bro’step, the annoying cousin of dubstep. It just contains a lot of drops. Rob Roy raps in one of the songs, sounding a little too much like Eminem’s “Slim Shady”-era singing, but it sounds too silly, too dumb to be enjoyed. The album ends soon after without notice, it pretty much ends.

The production overall is not necessarily the best, or a Grammy contender, but it does have its really good ups, however, its down are far too painful to be forgiven. In this case, nevertheless, we must, because the majority of songs are catchy electronica songs that adhere to the formula we know and love. We can expect many of these song to be remixed and used at the clubs, as Steve Aoki’s Wonderland is a fun, and worth buying production.

The Devil Wears Prada Reinvents Itself with ‘Dead Throne’

'Dead Throne' by The Devil Wears Prada

By Danny Contreras

The Dayton, Ohio sextet known as The Devil Wears Prada released their fourth studio album, Dead Throne, on Sept. 4 for online streaming before the anticipated release date of Sept. 13.

TDWP solidified themselves as a serious hardcore act with their 2009 release, With Roots Above and Branches Below, an album that while critically acclaimed, showcased the fact that TDWP could not move away from the more pretentious scene-core. In 2010, however, they release an EP titled Zombies, that truly showed they were willing to break away from the typical harsh vocals to clean vocals formula, and could remain consistent throughout.

Come 2011 and they have broken away from the mold. Taking hints from San Diego compatriots As I Lay Dying, the band produced their heaviest album to date.

The first sign that they broke away from typical hardcore comes in the form of a heavy first track that suddenly begins without any orchestral prelude. The self-titled first track, “Dead Throne,” begins with synths reminiscing the war torn middle ages; the toms marching on as the guitars build up to a heavy drop that sets off the bass grooves. On come the harsh vocals of lead vocalist, complimented by the much faster and drop tuned machine gunning guitars. The synths keep the torturesome atmosphere; Daniel Williams consistently thronging click-blasts fast enough to tire even Ginger Baker (Cream).

The following two songs do not let go, however. “Untidaled” and “Mammoth” sound exactly as they read: massive, scary and relentless. They both contain two clean vocal verses that feel out of place. They cannot distract you, however, from what is going in the background. Especially with guitarists Chris Rubey’s and Jeremy Depoyster’s ability to make simple breakdowns sound so very well composed.

“Vengeance,” the following song, starts off with a fast drum fill that paves the way for note-cut-note guitar work. The clean vocal choruses truly work well in this song, however, because they explain the meaning of the album: fear. “Keep running, keep running away,” a cliché line that TDWP make sound powerful and defines the experience of Dead Throne. More amazing is Andy Trick’s ability to keep up with the guitars with some deep, inter-woven bass patterns that truly compliment Williams and Hranica.

The only weak song in the album is “My Question.” It is too formulaic; too much scene-core. “My questions, unanswered” sung in clean vocals is almost unforgivable given the speed of the previous songs that led to this song. It doesn’t distract the listener though, because “Kansas,” an instrumental interlude, gives the members the chance to redeem themselves by showing off their technical skill.

Furthering the fact that they’re almost a new band, TDWP follows up with “Born to Lose,” the lead single. A song so heavy it almost needs a precaution warning before it begins. It begs to be listened over and over at the expense of your eardrums’ ability to make sound audible and your brain’s capacity to process the rawness of it. But it remains the pearl of the album; a skin-tearing, mosh pit-making behemoth. This is vintage TDWP.

If the album wasn’t loud enough, As I Lay Dying vocalist Tim Lambesis joins Hranica in “Constance.” The track begins on a breakdownesque structure, delivering demonic vocals from Lambesis to dry, vocal chords stressing Hranica. It seems that Lambesis provided some of his writing talents as this song remains the best written track of the album, with layers of meaning hidden behind simple words. If As I Lay Dying and Prada ever make a contributed album, this song is just a sneak peak of what the leading hardcore bands in America can do.

“Pretenders” and “Holfast,” the last two songs, are fast but a little bit forgettable because “Constance” is so powerful. But if these two songs provide anything to the album, it is consistency. Tight drumming and machine gunning guitars cannot be kept up for over an hour, that is an honor bestowed upon the darkest Scandinavian blackened death metal bands; but TDWP truly borrowed from their arsenal as they kept the whole album consistent throughout, truly showcasing their finesse and technical ability.

In a genre where formulaic music is produced, the Devil Wears Prada truly stands out.

It is important to point out the evolution of the band to this point. They have gone from hardcore to post-hardcore (yes, there is a huge difference), and are slowly graduating to a more progressive style; As I Lay Dying did it, and so did Massachusetts quintet Converge. Right now there are at a crossroads: math core or progressive metal. It doesn’t matter; what ever they choose, this album will serve as the missing link between their new genre and their past one.

Album review: Godsmack’s ‘The Oracle’

Godsmack
The Oracle
Republic
May 4

By Kim Scroggins

Even though it’s been close to four years since their last album, Godsmack will always be one of those bands that I just keep coming back to. I’m not sure if it’s Sully Erna’s voice or the way that every song smacks you in the face with a sense of defiance; but their fifth full length album The Oracle is worthy of leaving any Godsmack fans satisfied.

The album is exactly what one could expect: opening with simple yet smooth guitar riffs, lacking lyrical complexity but still maintains melody in a catchy sort of way, and the two minute long guitar solos in the middle of every single track. But for some reason, it works well for them. It distinguishes their sound from all others.

One of the smartest things a heavy rock band like Godsmack can do is open an album with a “tell it how it is” kind of track and end with something instrumental that seems to last forever. The first track “Cryin’ Like a Bitch” was by far the best track off the list to start with; opening with: “Strut on by like the king/Telling everybody they know nothing/And long what you thought you were/Time aint on your side anymore.” It’s surely a single that almost everyone will catch onto.

The band breaks out of their shell with the more laid back “Love-Hate-Sex-Pain.” I’m still not quite sure if I like this one, since it’s not the traditional Godsmack sound, but I guess change is good, right? As the closure, they went with the 6:23 long instrumental (smart move) “The Oracle” which ends the album in just the right way.

At the end of the day, I am still a fan of the older stuff like “Straight Out of Line” and “Voodoo” but overall, The Oracle was an enjoyable listen that all respectable Godsmack fans should listen to at least once.   Whether you like it or not, it’ll have you “Cryin’ Like a Bitch” until their next release…in however many years that may be.

FROSH: Quenching Your Thirst for Central Conn. Entertainment – CCSU Not Exactly a Desert

By Michael Walsh

Shocking, I know, but the central area of Connecticut isn’t exactly a hotbed of sizzling entertainment. Still, this doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible to maximize your free time while being a Blue Devil both on and off campus.

An obvious first choice begins right on campus with the Central Activities Network, the campus programming board. This group is responsible for most of what the actual campus has to offer entertainment-wise. A staple of the CAN lineup includes their film series, which brings students some of the most popular films from the past few months slightly before they’re due to be released on DVD and Blu-ray. Fall 2009’s schedule is highlighted by titles such as Star Trek, Transformers 2 and The Hangover. Reminders are easily found around campus with posters or on CAN’s own Web site.

Over the course of a semester a seemingly random selection of entertainment does come to the campus including an assortment of musicians, hypnotists, illusionists and stand-up comedians, who, even if you’re unfamiliar with them, can deliver some laughs or else they wouldn’t be in the traveling business. I won’t lie and say that any of this is the most attractive type of entertainment, but it’s mostly free and extremely convenient, especially for the students living on campus.

Outside of the campus entertainment featuring performers and darkened theaters, students can find a nightly kind of entertainment right inside their student center. The Breakers Gameroom located across from the mailbox area in the student center offers cheap billiards for all students. And for those who don’t choose to bring a gaming console to school with them, you can still get your hands on the latest Xbox 360 games for just a $1 per playing session.

What must be met face to face is the fact that sometimes the best option for fulfilling your entertainment needs is to leave campus. Well, you’re in luck, sort of. The surrounding area offers a decent amount of things to do, sometimes at a bargain price.

Continuing with the theme of films, local theaters leave enough options for fans of both mainstream and arthouse titles. Anyone who is a local of the area might already know that the National Amusement’s theater off the Berlin Turnpike in Kensington, Conn. offers a bargain price of $6 per ticket all day Tuesday. A fact of shame is that now that the summer is over the theater is cutting back its weekday hours, with only two showings a day per film on Tuesdays, which includes midday and nighttime timeslots.

Those in the mood for something a little more off the radar might be apt to check out both Cinestudio and Real Art Ways in Hartford, Conn. These two independent theaters typically play films you might hear a word or two about, but will never see on the billing for a corporate run cinema. For example, Real Art Ways is the only place to see the critically acclaimed comedy In the Loop, a film I still find to be the best of 2009.

Reporting on the concert venues in the area might seem trite, since everyone who cares already knows where all the acts they’re interested in are playing at. What I will add is that one of the niftiest Web sites for finding this information is www.jambase.com. The Web site neatly compiles all concert listings in a certain location for every day of the week. This should ensure you don’t miss out on a good night of watching one of your favorite bands or artists perform nearby.

Sporting ventures aren’t vacant from the area either. Both Blue Devil football and basketball can put on more than a show and college game day experience. Okay, so it isn’t UConn and it surely isn’t Michigan, but you could do a lot worse than a somewhat accomplished football team and a basketball program that’s been to the big dance. Ever heard of New Jersey Institute of Technology? Yeah, their men’s basketball team didn’t win a game in 2007-08.

Anyone out there crave professional sports? I hope you like hockey. The Hartford Wolf Pack, American Hockey League affiliate of the New York Rangers, put out a good product full of future NHL players every year and does so at a cheap price for college students. Most seats are only $10 on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays with any college ID and students can purchase up to four at a time. Otherwise, adult tickets will once again be $10 in the upper deck for all games. I know, they aren’t the Whalers, but this means they don’t stink up the ice like the Whalers.

Don’t let anyone tell you there’s nothing to do tonight. With enough thought and sometimes a little gas mileage and dough, something can be found on most given nights to entertain your entire posse.

Album Review: Beep Beep’s ‘Enchanted Islands’

Jason Cunningham / The Recorder

Beep Beep offered the intense, gripping and mostly satisfying Business Casual in 2004, diversifying Saddle Creek’s roaster with their intelligent, occasionally pornographic lyrics, and frantic experimental garage rock compositions. 

In 2009’s Enchanted Islands we see their new face: soft, open eyed and still just as mentally deranged. The noticeable change in their approach, their first album a heavy mash of soul, electronic and sex metal; their own brand of spaz rock, is now smoothed down and refined into a truly unique style that only Beep Beep themselves can adequately accomplish. 

In a sense, they’re one of the few bands unbound by that nasty word in the indie-rock world: genre. Without being confined by the clichés plaguing the independent music scene, cheap knockoffs of Conor Oberst, trashy punk-basement rock and sleepy bands like Grizzly Bear, Beep Beep gives listeners a musical experience that’ll leave them wanting to listen to Enchanted Islands over and over again. 

The album’s opening track “I See You!” sounds as if it should be played out of an old Gipsy wagon housing an evil mystic. It creeps up your spine, easing you into the second track, “Mermaid Struggle”, with an erie feeling in your gut. The album carries you, pulling you up and down on a fantastic adventure.

Co-frontmen Eric Bemberger and Chris Hughes sound great together on this album. Bemberger’s smooth voice with Hughes’ angelic and occasionally frightening falsetto make the album as great as it is.

It’s a serious shame Hughes left the band. I couldn’t imagine Beep Beep’s live performances being as good without him.

Nonetheless, Enchanted Islands is a confounding collection of songs waiting to be explored, easily one of 2009’s strongest new releases thus far.