Memories…Do Not Open by The Chainsmokers

MusicThe Chainsmokers just renewed their debut studio album, Memories…Do Not Open.  Their previously recorded EP’s include Bouquet and Collage. I’ve recently become obsessed with The Chainsmokers, ever since I heard “Something Just Like This” playing on the radio. The DJing/Production duo consists of Andrew Taggart and Alex Pall. They have an intense electro-pop dance vibe that adds another dimension to their music. Primarily a DJ group, a lot of their music doesn’t feature their own vocals, which has its pros and cons. It’s great to explore the different sounds of other artists, but I also enjoy the moments where you can experience the vocals of Andrew Taggart, like in “The One.”

I love the majority of the tracks in this album, which is pretty rare for me. I think that’s mainly due to the variety of themes/moods and main vocalists. The Chainsmokers frequently feature other artists, while providing the electronics-pop acoustics. This is definitely one of my favorite things about the group because I get great music recommendations.

For a calming influence, I always default to “The One”, and “Bloodstream.”  When I’m looking for some pumped-up beats, I turn to the last four tracks of the album: “Honest,” “Wake Up Alone,” “Young,” and “Last Day Alive.” The “Last day Alive” to me feels a bit reminiscent of “715 CR∑∑KS” by Bon Iver and “Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap. Both of these artists use synthesizers to alter their music, creating a very unique electronic sound that give their voices an almost robotic resonance. It reminds me of the voice-changer that is used to protect someone’s identities in a criminal investigation. A lot of the Chainsmoker’s music possesses this style; I’m eager to see how that transfers over to their live performances.

 

 

Divide by Ed Sheeran

Music CD – I’m a longtime fan of Ed Sheeran, and was pretty stoked for the release of his newest album, Divide.  Overall, I think this is a really strong album.  I love classic Ed Sheeran songs like “Photography” and “A Team,” in X and + [Plus sign], easy listening tracks that are perfect for zoning out to.  In Divide, we get a good mixture of soft-spoken Ed as well as a collection of more powerful, intense tracks that I think really show off Ed’s full vocal range.  You can hear him rising from his comfort zone, reaching out for those higher pitches and playing around with his vocals.

There are some great pumped-up beats for your morning drive to work, my favorite being “Castle on the Hill”. On the other hand we also get some good ‘ole smooth-talking Ed Sheeran in “Happier” and “Perfect”, songs for when you need some music but have a headache looming. Ed is a folky kind of musician in general, but I can’t stop obsessing about the swingy, Irish jig feel of “Galway Girl” and especially “*Nancy Mulligan” (*Unfortunately this track is only available on the Deluxe Version).  The acoustics are just beautiful and the music makes you want to get up and dance.  It’s a nice compilation of music.  I also just adore “Castle on the Hill;” it’s about missing where you’re from, and returning home to all the places and people you’ve missed.  It can sound like a love story, even romantic depending on the mood you are in whilst listening, but overall it’s a feel good, nostalgic song. You really get to hear the full range the artist has to offer in this album and those high notes are a real treat.

 

 

The World From the Side of the Moon by Phillip Phillips

phillipphillips-album-cover-400x400Music – Country to me has always been a difficult genre to nail down, with music ranging from classic country legends, to rock pairings, and ventures into the pop scene with just a twang of country accent.  I’ve even heard country rap!  It seems there is something for every music lover in this ever evolving genre.

For a minimum of two months at least, The World From the Side of the Moon by Phillip Phillip’s was my sole music provider.  I’m the kind of person that will listen a CD to death until I can’t bear another track, and Phillip Phillips was a great contender.  He has a folky, almost rock tone.  As a whole, I think this album is a great listen from start to finish.  The live tracks at the end of the album were also a nice bonus.  Having first heard Phillip Phillips as a contestant on American Idol, I was impressed with his solo voice outside of studio recordings, and his premier album did not disappoint.

The World From the Side of the Moon is a simple collection of songs that share a similar tone and rhythm.  It’s easy to pass through the whole album without really noticing how many songs have really gone by.  While some may find the album to be a bit monotonous, I enjoyed the constancy of the CD as a whole, which is great for as both background and avid-listening music.

All the Little Lights by Passenger

All-the-little-lightsMusic– I’ve recently begun expanding my collection of folky-alternative, easy listening music.  My first soft-spoken love was The Fray, followed by Coldplay, and the sweet acoustics of Mumford and Sons I’d been binging on the beautiful angst of  Ed Sheeran for awhile and knew it was time for a fresh sound.

Enter: All the Little Lights by Passenger.

Singer Michael David Rosenberg hails from Brighton, England and All the Little Lights is his third solo album.  His music has an indie-pop vibe mixed with a mellowing dose of acoustic folk (At least, that’s how I would describe it).  There is a certain intimacy about his music, a solo singer who produces his own acoustics, and for this reason (I’ve been told), his live performances are incredible.

Passenger is probably best known for the hit single, “Let Her Go,” but feel like his  other tracks are often overlooked due to the popularity of this one song.  A few of my favorite tracks on this album are: “Things That Stop You Dreaming” and “Holes.”  “Things that Stop You Dreaming” is about dealing with the difficulties in life, learning to appreciate what you have and continuing to pursue the things you love.  It’s a bit melancholy but also uplifting.

“Holes” is a quick paced  song with a strong beat that shows Passenger’s inclination towards lyrical songwriting.  There are two storylines introduced in “Holes”: man who has lost everything, left with no money in his pocket, and a woman abandoned by her husband, left to care for four young children.  The song talks about the holes we bear in our own lives–things we’ve lost, struggles we deal with, hardships–but ends on an uplifting note, that through all the troubles we experience, life goes on, and we carry on.

The Lumineers by The Lumineers

41ZsWDiEvfLMusic–It took me a few listens to really get into the music of The Lumineers.  Their self-titled album, The Lumineers is a blood-pumping anthem of songs that requires a higher volume for listeners to truly appreciate.   To me, the singer’s voice tends to fluctuate between soft and loud, creating a kind of high-low echoing effect.  I believe that the band is best enjoyed at high volumes, preferably played loudly whilst one sings along on the open road.  It’s also worth noting for this artist that the more you listen to the songs, the clearer their meanings become.

The Lumineers top hit single, “Ho Hey,” is one of the bands most well-known hits, but there are so many other songs deserving of love.  My favorite tracks on this album are “Submarine,” “Stubborn Love,” and “Charlie Boy.”

“Submarine” and “Charlie Boy” both make references to war in their lyrics.  The former is about a boy who spots a Japanese Submarine.  He rushes home to tell the townspeople, who laugh and say he’s seeing things.  This storyline may be addressing the attack on Pearl Harbor during WWII.  In “Charlie Boy,” references to the Vietnam war appear in the lyrical  heartbreak of watching a loved one go off to war.  These are just a few interpretations of these lyrics.  Though sharing somber themes, “Submarine” has a powerful force that makes you want to jump up and dance, while the sweet, slow melody of “Charlie Boy” is great for winding down after a long day

“Stubborn Love” follows a man who can’t stop loving the woman who keeps letting him down and breaking his heart.  It’s a love song, but the story creates a relatable experience of the ups and downs of love.  Ironically, this is one of my favorite feel-good love songs.

 

 

 

Hamilton: The Original Broadway Cast Recording

Music – If you’re into musical theater (or, indeed, if you watch late-night talk shows), surely by now you’ve heard of Hamilton, the outrageously popular hip-hop musical about Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. If you haven’t: It’s a hip-hop musical. About Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. It is, in a word, amazing.

The story follows Hamilton (played by writer & composer Lin-Manuel Miranda) from his arrival in New York City in 1776 through the Revolutionary War, George Washington’s presidency, and to his death in a duel with Aaron Burr (spoilers!) in 1804. Burr, played by Leslie Odom, Jr., narrates, offering a little distance from Hamilton’s own relentless enthusiasm. The music is a brilliant mashup of theatrical flair and the past several decades of hip-hop, quoting both lyrically and musically from sources as diverse as Les Miserables, Beyoncé, Company, Kanye West, Gilbert & Sullivan, and Biggie Smalls.

This show is so dense, complex, and uniformly strong it’s hard to pick out favorite pieces. General Lafayette’s (Daveed Diggs) rap in “Guns and Ships” is a huge amount of fun; Burr’s statement of purpose in “Wait for It” is outstanding; Thomas Jefferson (also Daveed Diggs, in a great piece of double casting) never gets his own showstopper, but he steals every piece he’s in anyway. When it comes down to it, though, it’s Angelica (Renée Elise Goldsbury) and Eliza Schuyler (Philippa Soo) I love best – their songs, particularly “Satisfied” and “Burn,” are some of the best depictions I’ve ever seen of strong women constrained by their place in history.

If you get hooked, there’s plenty of American history to keep you busy, from Ron Chernow’s biography that formed the basis of the show to new titles like War of Two: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the Duel That Stunned the Nation and Lafayette in the Somewhat United States.

Castor, The Twin by Dessa

castor the twinMusic Dessa is a 33-year-old rapper and writer from Minneapolis, a part of the cerebral indie hip-hop collective Doomtree. Her style is much more musical than most rappers, but her skill with words is outstanding. (And fair enough – she graduated from the University of Minnesota with a philosophy degree at age 20.) She and the rest of Doomtree appear regularly on “most-underrated” lists of modern artists, but despite all this critical acclaim, she hasn’t yet made it big. It’ll happen one of these days, because Dessa is just too fantastic to ignore.

Castor, the Twin is a remix album of many of her more highly-produced tracks from earlier albums, False Hopes and A Badly Broken Code. What that means is that this is a hip-hop album with a singer-songwriter feel. If Joni Mitchell did hip-hop beats, she might sound like Dessa. There’s not a bad track on the album, but my favorites are “Dixon’s Girl,” a sympathetic shout-out to under-appreciated and abused women in the music industry, and “The Crow,” which borrows the symbol of Edgar Allan Poe’s avian nemesis for a soul-baring song about loss and survival.

The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood

The Bellwether RevivalsBook – Oscar is doing pretty well for himself. He’s found his way to Cambridge, working his way through his degree as an aide in a nursing home, where he meets the most interesting characters. He never loses his head, though, until he meets Iris Bellwether at one of her brother’s church services (he plays the organ). A little light church music isn’t all Eden Bellwether is interested in, though, and before he knows it, Oscar is drawn into Eden’s circle of admirers, accomplices and experimental subjects. Eden believes that his music has the power to heal. He might be right.

This spectacular Gothic novel by debut author Benjamin Wood sucked me in from the wonderful two-page prologue. It’s been repeatedly compared to Donna Tartt’s The Secret History and Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, but as I’ve read neither of those, I couldn’t tell you how accurate the comparison is. I can tell you that I fell in love with all the characters, who are by turns symbolic and wonderfully genuine, and that the tense, surreal atmosphere was sustained well throughout the book. I’d recommend it for a book club – there’s lots to talk about.