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The Independent

Review: “Reverse Order ” Shows Strong Potential

Review: “Reverse Order ” Shows Strong Potential

April 12, 2013

Rating : 4 stars The view of the golden gate bridge, boats on the water and bakeries making sour dough bread shaped like anima...

Review: Hot Steel and Cool Ukulele

Review: Hot Steel and Cool Ukulele

April 11, 2013

  3 stars Beat Chicago’s icy winter by chilling with Erich Sylvester and the Hapa Haole Hit Parade’s album, Hot Steel and Cool Ukulel...

Review: Gintenkai – Tsukasa Taiko Drumming

Review: Gintenkai – Tsukasa Taiko Drumming

April 11, 2013

  The beat and rhythm of a drum is a viscerally powerful motivator and one of the oldest form...

Review: Atoms for Peace – Amok

Review: Atoms for Peace – Amok

March 26, 2013

  4 out of 5 Stars Looking back on Radiohead’s Pablo Honey, their (sometimes dreaded) first record from 1993, it’s no surprise that the band as a whole explored and exper...

Michelle Cross and Joe Frawley- Dolls Come To Life

Michelle Cross and Joe Frawley- Dolls Come To Life

March 6, 2013

5 stars   Northeastern Illinois University’s own Michelle Cross has conveyed to those who attended the 2012 annual talent show back in September, tha...

Deadmau5 – Album Title Goes Here

Syed Ahad Hussain, Senior Staff Writer

October 3, 2012

Filed under Music Reviews

  Dance music enthusiasts rejoice. A new record from Canadian electronic music prodigy Deadmau5 is out now. Just like his previous records, >album title goes here< is another feast for the ears featuring some of today’s big names from various genres, including Wolfgang Gartner, Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance, Cypress Hill, Imogen Heap and Chris James. Joel Zimmerman aka Deadmau5 merges dub step with progressive house, electro house, trance and hip hop, resulting in a surprisingly delightful blend of genres. The album opens with “Superliminal” and “Channel 42” (featuring house music producer Wolfgang Gartner), the track which reminds listeners of Deadmau5’s earlier dub step gems such as “Ghosts N Stuff.” Next on the track list is “The Veldt (8 Minute Edit),” featuring Chris James; the soothing and trance oriented track seems influenced by the works of German producer Paul Van Dyk. “Fn Pig” is another pure Deadmau5-esque dub step track destined to become the next dance floor craze. Gerard Way appears in “Professional Griefers,” a solid electro house track with alternative rock elements that proves to be the best and strongest of the album. “Maths” is a brilliant track—not as boring as its name might suggest. The next track, “There Might Be Coffee,” redefines Deadmau5 as a serious and efficient electro house producer rather than a mere dub step DJ. “Take Care of the Proper Paperwork” brings Zimmerman back to the strong dub step sounds reminiscent of his earlier singles like “Sofi Needs a Ladder” and “This Noise.” “Closer” and “October” are examples of tracks with strong European, particularly German, electronica influences with trance veterans such as Van Dyke, Armin Van Buuren and ATB. The new progressive house direction Deadmau5 has taken with this track is quite impressive and should be applauded. The following track, “Sleepless,” is a haunting, subtle, and hypnotic single which comes across as quite a surprise because with this track, Deadmau5 ascended towards ambient electronica with heavy drums and synthesizers. The track reminds the listener of the down tempo and dream pop sounds of French electronic duo AIR and British trip hop and ambient veterans Zero 7. Next is a hip hop oriented track called “Failbait” featuring Cypress Hill; with gangsta-rap influences, this song will remain on the track lists of radio stations for some time. The album concludes with “Telemiscommunications” featuring Imogen Heap. The track is reminiscent of Deadmau5’s earlier chartbuster “Raise Your Weapon” with a similar structure and layout. With >album title goes here<, Deadmau5 attempted to redefine dance music yet again after 2010’s 4x4=12, and he has succeeded. Deadmau5 should be known and recognized more as a producer of an album like >album title goes here<, rather than of his earlier records because this record surpasses them all with its variety of genre bending and exceptional sounds. The album seems like the celebration of electronic and dance music....

A Doubtful Push and Shove

Aaron Massey, Staff Writer

October 3, 2012

Filed under Music Reviews

  Electronic dance fans who are eagerly awaiting the next crisp album should wait no longer. The queen of bubble gum pop has once again delivered a new menu of bouncy tunes to put some glitter into one’s day. Coming back from a career centered on songs about being a rich girl touting pirate hooks and rubies, Gwen Stefani has made quite the name for herself amongst the teenage music junkies of our day. A few successful hits and a few sold out tours later, Stefani is eager to make more music with her old band, No Doubt, to make a musical granola bar of rock, ska and pop. For those unfamiliar with the band No Doubt, don't be alarmed, they haven't churned out an original piece of work in over 11 years. Despite all this, the band has kept a steady fan base and their reputation for mediocrity, thus producing their newest album. Push and Shovemay actually be the way this album was intended for you to feel while listening to it, pushed and shoved. While listening to the album one cannot help but notice the constant change between styles and themes as it merges into more than one genre. Push and Shove showcases Stefani’s vocal ability as she belts out pop electronic tunes that she’s known for. The album starts off with their new hit single "Settle Down” an instant radio gem, keeping the hips moving and bass bumping like it should. In a deviation from disco-pop, Push and Shove drops you into a confusing world of fast reggae beats and loud thumping bass kicks, which makes for quite an enjoyable moment. Or to put in the words of bassist Tony Kanal, "Push and Shove is our ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’" After a few more fist pumping dance jams punctuated by a few mediocre love lullabies, the album is over, and a listener is forced to justify the last hour-and-a-half of their life. While the album does have some truly fun moments, it seems to wither away into the back shelves of musical has-beens. Gwen Stefani says it best, "Push and Shove is a series of accidents and mistakes."...

Review: Bloc Party of Four

Jon-Paul Kreatsoulas

September 19, 2012

Filed under Music Reviews

One of England’s most favored indie rock quartets, Bloc Party, released their fourth studio album, Four on Aug. 20. This is Bloc Party at their loudest and most cut-throat state of being. This is Bloc Party in the pain they needed to be in after four years. The vocals of Kele Okereke, lead guitar man Russell Lisack, rhythmic bassist Gordon Moakes and technical percussionist Matt Tong gathered to produce a different release in comparison to their former 2008 release, Intimacy; a record in which electronic elements were easier to come by as opposed to the traditional guitar band set up that made Bloc Party the post- punk go-to act that put them on the map in 2005 with their debut album Silent Alarm. With the band returning from a four-year hiatus, each member being formerly preoccupied with their own creative side project, Four isn’t necessarily a “back to basics” record. There are familiar nods to fans but there is also a wave of dabbling in things that are of the bands own potential as a collective. A standard release of 12 tracks in just over 43 minutes, Four opens with “So He Begins to Lie,” a heavy drum and guitar piece that whirrs in with feedback to introduce the band after a long absence, followed by “3x3” that is a supernatural sadistic treat. The next track, “Octopus” the album’s first single, seems like filler aside from Lissack’s trickery with his tremolo and delay pedals. “Real Talk” is Okereke’s moment as he exclaims “you’re my one and only friend” with emotion and honesty. It is the album’s simplest song, musically and lyrically and it’s the most enjoyable. “Day Four” will send Bloc Party fans back to when they first discovered Silent Alarm, as memories of “So Here We Are” are made up with Moakes’ strange bass arrangement that fits perfectly. Typically, if someone is familiar with Bloc Party, they could point out a song from the vaguest of riffs or drum improvisations, but “Coliseum” changes all of that. It begins as a western soundtrack, dusty spurs, gun holsters and all, until the lyrics “In time you’ll see/ The Empire never ended” trigger a heavy metal onslaught as it transcends to “Pain is hopeful/ Pain holy/ Pain is healthy/ Pain heals.” And “The Healing” is the band’s collective achievement as far as the album is concerned. It’s a reverb-y, slow jazz lounge burn that gives Matt Tong room to breathe around his drum kit as he is relieved of any sign of tension as listeners envision loose limbs clashing the hi-hat just over the heavenly string arrangement. Four isn’t a perfect album and it will never share the same light as Silent Alarm, but there is always room for growth. It is a project that shows the cramped joints of a band itching to play music together after a long hiatus. With the finished product thoroughly absorbed, the album has legs of its own to stand on without question. If listeners are expecting a second experience of an extended Intimacy phase with samples, synthesizers, bells and whistles, Four will seem like a bust....

Norah Jones – Little Broken Heart

Syed Ahad Hussain, Opinions Editor

September 19, 2012

Filed under Music Reviews

    “Would you please let me go now?” is the plea of Grammy-winning songstress Norah Jones to her ex-lover in her fifth studio album, “Little Broken Hearts.” Breakups are painful when they are least expected. Jones’ fifth album has a somber and personal feeling like a journal she wrote after her eventual breakup. But don’t let this anecdote misguide you. Little Broken Hearts is one exceptional album with some strong and heart-touching lyrics for the masses, including those like myself who are not die hard Norah fans, to feel and appreciate it. The album marks Norah’s first ever collaboration with Producer Brian Burton, better known as Danger Mouse. The album is Norah’s departure from a jazz and blues sound present in her first two albums ascending more towards ambient and pop sounds. The album’s opening track ‘Good Morning’ is reminiscent of Norah’s Grammy-winning debut record ‘Come Away with Me.’ This song literally moves one to break- fast. The following track ‘Say Good- bye’ is the heart of the album, summoning its themes of breaking up, letting go and realizing that you are better off alone. With cautionary lyrics like “I know that you’re dyin’ to come back, please come on back/ Well it ain’t easy to stay in love, when you tellin’ lies/ So I’ll just have to take a bow, and say goodbye,” the single comes across as a promise to one’s self to move on with life and leave all the miserable memories of love behind. Next is the titular single, ‘Little Broken Hearts’ a dark, haunting track ideal for a long midnight drive. The song’s beats and higher tempos sound like British synth- pop band Goldfrapp’s earlier re- cords. The song has fantastical, surreal and metaphorical narration of a warrior’s struggle to make a dying relationship work with his princess despite constant failure. “Trying to pick up the pace, trying to make it so I never see your face again, time to throw this away, wanna make sure that you never waste my time again...how does it feel, Oh, how does it feel to be you right now, dear? You broke this apart, So pick up your piece and go away from here, please just let me go now?” The lyrics of chartbuster “Happy Pills” are powerful and heart- touching. Funky beats and haunting chants (Out, I’ve gotta getcha, out of my head, get out!), and an amazing and well constructed accompanying music video make ‘Happy Pills’ the year’s most exceptional and epic song. The final track, ‘All A Dream’ and the last page of Norah’s journal declares her ex-lover her enemy: “Enemy teases every minute in my mind, he’s in my mind, enemy throws all my money away, enemy knows how to make me always pay, I always pay” Norah makes a promise to herself to never see him again and be strong, “to fight off this weakness, and tell him to guard me ‘cause god knows I’m sorry.” She looks forward to what the next morning brings. With Little Broken Hearts, Norah reinvents herself as a classier, elegant, and genre-bending artist. Two things are certain- Norah never disappoints her fans, and secondly, she always accepts the challenge of sounding unique and different in all of her records but still managing the subtlety, smoothness and purity in her songs, a classification that created a league of devoted and loyal fans ever since 2002’s Come Away with Me to this day....

Ocean’s 1 – Big Splash

Joseph Daddario, Staff Writer

September 6, 2012

Filed under Music Reviews

  Frank Ocean has made a splash, pun intended, with his debut studio album “Channel Orange.” This R&B/neo-soul album does not disappoint. With the advent of iTunes and the ability to buy a single song off of an album, I feel artists have ditched the idea of having an album full of great songs and now focus on dropping an album with 2-3 great songs with the rest as just filler. Ocean’s album does not follow that rule. Overall, the album has 3-5 songs that are just amazing. “Thinkin’ Bout You” and “Crack Rock” are my personal favorites. Although I suggest not singing the chorus of “Crack Rock” while walking down the streets like I have- you may get some pretty strange looks. This is the type of album that you could put on repeat and listen to while doing some chores or cooking, or just relaxing, and never have to worry about skipping a track or hearing that one song on the album you don’t like, all the songs on this album definitely raise the bar for his next album. Frank Ocean has made a splash, pun intended, with his debut studio album Channel Orange. This R&B/neo-soul album does not disappoint. It mixes different styles such as jazz-punk, pop-soul and electro-funk to give it an original one-of-a-kind sound. The album covers subjects such as unrequited love, spirituality, desire, and decadence. Ocean’s songwriting integrates empathic lyrics, dreamlike imagery and descriptive narratives to really draw the listener into his songs. With the advent of iTunes and the ability to buy a single song off of an album, I feel artists have ditched the idea of having an album full of great songs and now focus on dropping an album with 2 to 3 great songs with the rest as just filler. Ocean’s album does not follow that rule. Overall, the album has 3 to 5 songs that are just plain amazing, Thinkin’ Bout You and Crack Rock being personal favorites. Although I suggest you don’t sing the chorus of Crack Rock while you’re walking down the streets like I have. You’ll get some pretty strange looks. This is the type of album that you could put on repeat and listen to it while you’re doing some chores, or cooking, or just relaxing. You never have to worry about skipping a track or hearing that one song on the album you don’t like. Compared to his previous work, Ocean still delivers a smooth sound and great beats. All the songs on this album definitely raise the bar for his next album. To learn more about Frank Ocean, visit him at: https://www.facebook.com/thefrankocean...

Garbage Emerges With Genre-Defying New Album

Joshua Mueller, Contributing Writer

September 6, 2012

Filed under Music Reviews

  Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Garbage, the post-grunge electronic pop rock team of producers and one fiery front-woman has been through a lot. After making their hay day in the ‘90s with their self-title debut and their sophomore album Version 2.0, Garbage has seen more than one near-breakup, a sluggish third album sale, a few lengthy gaps between albums and their share of label conflicts. So how does a band that has survived so much make their return to the music scene? By writing an album tailored specifically for the fans that gave them their initial success. Not Your Kind of People is Garbage’s fifth album, but one would be forgiven for mistaking it for their earlier work. Garbage’s third and fourth albums were considered a departure from their first two albums; first venturing into the pop realm with their third album, then into a low-tech rock environment with their fourth album. Not Your Kind of People brings Garbage back to their roots with their signature dirty-production rock and their sound is as refreshing as their debut 17 years ago! Fierce, tender and as unique as ever, Not Your Kind of People is a firm testimony that Garbage hasn't suffered any loss of style in their absence. The album opens with the fast-paced and far-too-catchy Automatic Systematic Habit. A thick groove is pumped into Control. Sugar offers up a vulnerable vocal performance and a sexy bass line. Battle in Me channels Garbage’s famous rocking femme fatale side. And the album is punctuated by the touching and uplifting Beloved Freak. Steve Marker’s unique riffs are refined and rich. Duke Erikson’s siren-like guitar work is irresistibly charming. Shirley Manson’s smoky and sultry vocal work offers up the same seductive appeal that has made her a regular name amongst the great female vocalists in rock. But the most admirable performance comes from legendary producer/drummer Butch Vig, who has ventured away from the rock and roll beats that we are all familiar with and has evolved into new territory. His updated arsenal helps set the band apart from the new generation of bands that Garbage helped inspire more than a decade ago. My glowing admiration aside, the album is not perfect. The heavy-production value serves as a double-edge sword that will serve to make Not Your Kind of People difficult to perform live. Shirley’s vocal work finds itself drowned out in some of the more intense moments of the album. But the biggest mark against the album is probably found in the mid-album song Felt, which comes off as a phoned-in effort at a ‘90s grunge salute. Not Your Kind of People is a rock-solid album, with few holes and even fewer dull moments. The band that can survive anything has shown that they can take it all in stride, and do it with style. Whether you were a fan of their youthful efforts or their more recent projects, you will not find yourself disappointed with their new album.    ...

Cab Drivers and Dream Chasers

Desiree Dylong, Assistant Arts and Life Editor

September 6, 2012

Filed under Music Reviews

  Cab drivers. Where would city folk be without them? A heaping amount of New Yorkers rely on taxis for transportation, and even the Chicagoan hails a cab from time to time. But what does someone get when they go to Seattle and their Taxi driver is a hippy who goes by the name of Ted Narcotic? You get handed a copy of Because I Like to Do Nice Things for You. No, seriously, that’s what happened to two fellow staff members of the Independent. This random circumstance makes for an interesting story, but what makes it even better is that Ted Narcotic’s album is an experience within itself.  At first listen, his off key sing-talk vocal style is reminiscent of musical figures like Lou Reed and Jonathan Richman. His use of power chords and the audio that sounds like it was recorded in his garage is also what gives the album its nostalgic proto-punk/garage rock sound from the ‘60s. But after fully listening to tracks like Because I Like to Do Nice Things for You, and I Want You Feel You, listeners can experience how Narcotic is not just an imitation of those who came before him. His lyrics are what really set him apart as they lend a sense of humor, but also a fresh take on song writing. In Because I Like to Do Nice Things for You, he expresses his desire to do nice things for someone he cares for. One line in particular goes, “If your car was all dirty and it was covered with bird poop and alcoholic puke, well I’d go ahead and I’d get some soap and some hot water and I’d wash it down/ I’d wash it up and clean it, and I’d do it just for you/ ‘Cause I like to do nice things for you.” At first listen, the phrases of “bird poop” and “alcoholic puke” may bring forth a chuckle and may even make you wonder how sober Ted actually was while writing the song. Sober or not, Narcotic manages to write a new and refreshing type of love song. There are countless love songs that express the same sentiment of how one would go leaps and bounds for their significant other. Yet few songs reach the random yet creative lyrics that Narcotic accomplishes. How many songs out there talk about a guy cleaning up puke and bird poop for a girl simply because he likes doing nice things for her? It’s a fresh take on the expected lyrics one hears in love songs. Anyone who likes to wonder, “How does he come up with this stuff?” when they listen to music, will enjoy Ted Narcotic. Other than his lyrics, it’s also what Ted Narcotic represents that makes the album. Ted is a man who works hard driving a cab but still pursues his music. He’s among the everyday people who brave it out and try their hardest to achieve a goal despite any risk of failure.  Whether or not Ted Narcotic ever achieves any fame is not important; what’s important is that he attempted to.  To learn more about Ted and to hear his music, go to www.tednarcotic.com. Rating : 4 ½ Stars...