Entries Tagged as 'Music'

Melodrama is Lorde’s (Successful) Quest for Identity

7.21.2017

By Justin Hermstedt

 

Melodrama is an album of high and low, flight and crash landing, ecstasy and hangover. In the four years since the release of Pure Heroine in 2013, Lorde has accumulated a new trove of source material for her autobiographical songwriting. With Melodrama, Lorde reestablishes her ability to translate her experiences into bittersweet illustrations of young-adulthood. Lorde, along with collaborators including Jack Antonoff (aka Bleachers) and Flume, crafted a comeback that’s too nuanced to be called a breakup album: Melodrama is a quest for identity.

 

The album comprehensively tackles the spectrum of emotions a breakup imposes. Lorde begins by revealing the unhealthy duality of her former relationship, then sifts through the different stages of grief and heartbreak she endured. Lorde begins and ends Melodrama with radio-friendly pop jams, but we’re taken on a visceral journey in the space between “Green Light” and “Perfect Places.”

 

“Green Light” is an energized kick starter to the album that places Lorde in a reckless post-breakup furor. Wasting no time, Lorde tosses a hope-filled key change at the listener after a scathing first verse (to be clear, we’re only 45 seconds into the album at this point). This divergence introduces the identity crisis that a breakup can hurl you into, especially when you’re young. When you love a partner, they become a part of who you are. You’re not yourself without them–you’re not whole. When they leave you, it doesn’t shatter your delicate glass heart; it tears a chunk of flesh from your body. Many-a-songwriter would whimsically say they were “left to pick up the pieces.” Instead, on “Sober II (Melodrama)” Lorde bluntly shares the “terror and the horror” of her “holy sick divine nights” newly alone.

 

The feeling that connects the first ten tracks of Melodrama is uncertainty. Lorde grapples with a number of pressing questions. How do you recover from heartbreak? Who are you without that person, without that missing part? Ultimately, what lessons and memories do you take with you from your failed relationship?

 

It’s difficult to answer these questions for yourself, and harder still to know if you’ve answered them correctly. On the question of how to cope, Lorde has a few strategies, each under the mantle of a different persona. The first Lorde we meet is the deadened ballader of “Liability.” Blaming or hating yourself is a foreseeable stage of grief, but she manages to escape the abyss of total self loathing. She leans on her own shoulder, calling herself “the only love [she hasn’t] screwed up.”

 

“Hard Feelings/Loveless” introduces us to two new shades of Lorde. These personas are like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, if Dr. Jekyll was timid and melancholic, and Mr. Hyde was a bad bitch. As “Hard Feelings” fades out, we start to get the sense that Lorde is going to be okay. There’s still some venting to do (cue “Loveless” and “Sober II”), but she’s given the first indications of inner-peace.

 

Inner-peace and acceptance are the goal from the get-go, (from the green light, if you will) but they don’t come naturally after being dumped. You’re given a few variables–anger, misery, delirium, etc.–and you have to plug them into an equation. Somehow, these terrible feelings are supposed to equate to peace.

 

In the third act of Melodrama, Lorde tries to make it compute. The last four tracks really are a remarkable sequence of music, and they propel the album above the sum of its parts. On the heart-wrenching “Writer In the Dark” Lorde finds strength in her solitude in New York:

I ride the subway, read the signs

I let the seasons change my mind

I love it here, since I stopped needing you

Now that she’s allowed herself to move on, Lorde reflects on what she wants to take with her from her former love. It’s okay, Lorde suggests, to cherish certain memories; they don’t have to be tarnished by the bad ones.

 

The reprise of “Liability” is one final vanquishing of self-blame. Lorde defiantly declares that its his fault, his loss, and his problem. “You’re not what you thought you were. Leave.”

 

“Perfect Places” was tepid as a single. It seemed playful and catchy, but not particularly deep. As the conclusion to Melodrama, it’s triumphant. “Perfect Places” chronologically pairs with “Green Light,” depicting a vignette of Lorde a year or so after the the events of the rest of the album. She tumbles through a cycle of partying, but remains very self-aware. Not all of her wounds have healed, but perhaps they don’t need to.

 

Amid her heartbreak, she rediscovers herself as a balance of those personas and who she was before. The impossible equation that neutralizes heartbreak hasn’t been solved, but it’s been reframed. Lorde processed the hopeless pits of self-blame, the unfulfilling pursuit of revenge, and the crushing weight of uncertainty, and she forged a stronger self. “The heartache, and the trauma, and the fucking melodrama,” have lead her here. The end of Melodrama finds Lorde wandering on, still learning and still healing. Miraculously, she’s able to roll her eyes at the melodrama of it all.

 

Expect adversity, and redirect it to change you for the better. Expect to hear “The Louvre” on season 2 of Riverdale. And expect to someday hear more from Lorde, a prodigious songwriter and voice of a generation.

It’s Spring Break!!

3.21.2017

And to help you celebrate, we come bearing a dope playlist:

 

New Year, New Music

3.07.2017

By Justin Hermstedt

2016 ended over two months ago, and just when you thought you were caught up on that year’s music, 2017 comes around and brings a whole new lineup. There are truly no off-days allowed in the pursuit of good music, but we’ll give you a pass just this once. Here are a few albums you may have missed this year already. Now keep your ears to the streets so you don’t miss any more.    

Process – Sampha

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Sampha built up hype for his debut album through his collaborations with popular artists such as Drake, Kanye West, Frank Ocean, and Solange. Big names, one might say. Released early in February, Process is an intimate introduction to Sampha.

The first few songs reveal the pressure and anxiety Sampha experiences: “It’s so hot I’ve been melting out here / I’m made out of plastic out here.” This feeling builds until the fourth track, “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano,” an endearing ballad dedicated to Sampha’s mother, who died in 2015.

The album has a very special way of finding highs and lows from song to song. The quiet songs build a desire in the listener for something danceable, which eventually comes in “Reverse Faults” and “Timmy’s Prayer.”

Process solidifies Sampha as a pop artist with unrivaled soul.

Plural – Electric Guest

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Plural is Electric Guest’s sophomore album, arriving five years after the commercially successful Mondo.

As in Mondo, the music in Plural is characterized by tight, dancy percussion and synth. Electric Guest seems to draw influence from, say, Depeche Mode and your common elevator music. Plural leans slightly towards the elevator music side of the spectrum compared to Mondo. Plural is notable for its optimistic tone. Songs like “Dear to Me” and “Sarah” are more smiley than we’ve seen Electric Guest in the past.

Although Plural is generally high-tempo, there’s still a hint of the uneasy brooding of Mondo, like in the opening track, “Zero.” The best new development in this album is a more diverse vocal performance, aside from the band’s signature mellow falsetto. Check out the surprising passion in “Back For Me.”

Staff Picks: Albums of the Year 2016

12.30.2016

By Justin Hermstedt

2016 was a standout year for music. New Kanye, Beyoncé, and Frank Ocean barely scratch the surface. What were your favorite albums of 2016? Here are some personal favorites from the staff at Style on the Hill.

A Seat at the Table – Solange

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This album is soulful and spiritual and imaginative. Solange is too often overshadowed by her sister, and this album showcases her incredible musical talents. Her music is powerful.

-Rebekah Swank

Starboy – The Weeknd

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A pretty sexy album. It’s r&b and electronic without being too overbearing. The album seems to flow better when I listen to it as a whole.

-Georgia Hickam

Holy Ghost – Modern Baseball

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I came for the witty, angsty expressions of social hijinks/struggles which highlighted Modern Baseball’s first albums, but I stayed for the honest, introspective stories of surviving in the face of loss and mental illness. This album kicks ass.

-Justin Hermstedt

Disappear Here – Bad Suns

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Bad Suns had an awesome EP a couple of years ago and followed up this year with a dope album; Disappear Here is the perfect amount of peppy and artistic.

-Ellie Milton

Call Him a Doctor – GFOTY

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GFOTY (Girlfriend Of The Year) created the EPOTY with Call Him a Doctor. Rarely does an artist’s magnum opus manifest as an EP, but with Call Him a Doctor GFOTY infuses her signature wit/bombast with an unexpectedly refined pop-punk and PCMusic electronica.

-Logan Gossett

The Ride – Catfish and the Bottlemen

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Their first album was absolutely killer and this followed it perfectly. I honestly just don’t have any words for how great this band is.

-Ellie Milton

Awaken, My Love! – Childish Gambino

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This album is so different from anything Childish Gambino has done in the past, and a lot of people don’t like it for that reason. I thought it was spectacular. I think his voice was made for this kind of music.

-Rebekah Swank

Blackstar – David Bowie

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David Bowie hadn’t died in 2016, Blackstar would still be a top ten album of the year. But nothing exists in a vacuum, so the compelling narrative behind Bowie’s last LP secures an already enchanting album its place as my second favorite album of 2016.
-Logan Gossett

How to Be a Human Being – Glass Animals

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Each track on How to Be a Human Being tells the story of a real person who Glass Animals have encountered in their travels. The unique narratives of these colorful characters coalesce into a uniform anthology, just like how the diverse and whimsical sounds form an awesome, melting pot of an album.

-Justin Hermstedt

Centerfold – MOTHXR

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MOTHXR explored the decadent basin of New Romantic dystopia’s pits and excavated a dark, amethyst gem with Centerfold.
-Logan Gossett

Enslaved by Hip-Hop: A Rant

10.24.2016

By Jaden Nussbaum

 

kanye-and-drake

Retrieved from: diymag.com/2016/01/23/kanye-west-drake-collab-in-the-studio-larry-graham

In case you haven’t heard by now, Kanye West disclosed some inside details regarding his current schemes and come ups in an interview with Vogue magazine back in early September. You can Keep Up With Kanye and read the entire article here, even though I can save you some time and tell you the one truly important piece of information bestowed upon us by our beloved Yeezy: a Kanye/Drake collaboration is in the works. This is not a drill; not enough people are talking about this.

We aren’t talking about some B-list collab. This is Drake, Drizzy, 6 God, AUBREY GRAHAM combined with Yeezus himself. What we did to deserve these blessings is beyond what my lowly feeble brain can understand, but I’ll accept them with no dissent.

The thought of this album really, for some reason, excites the hell out of me. The two most (opinion warning) culturally impactful hip hop artists of the decade are grinding away to grace our humble, undeserving souls with an album that will change the face of America.

Okay, it’s probably not that serious – but it is a really big deal. I know I’m not alone in saying this and I really feel like an entire generation is hinging on the release of this album. We’re hungry. The anticipation makes us all tense; can you feel it? You didn’t know it was there until I pointed it out, but you feel it. We’re all the same.

My point: modern hip-hop has taken the genre and transformed it into a social and cultural empire. Meaning we are putty in their hands. We live our lives in accordance to them, oftentimes unconsciously. These impacts may be positive or negative, but even the fact that they exist confirms the pop rapper’s reign.

Think about it. Rap and hip-hop artists were once treated like thugs and degenerates. They are now treated like royalty – and they didn’t get that treatment on accident. Some of the industry’s biggest stars made some moves, did some low-key “gangsta shit”, and purposely propelled the hip-hop namesake into relevance that can almost be equated to mass worship.

So whether you’re bouncing between music streaming services in an effort to culture yourself with the newest album or mixtape, buying merchandise, or even checking a Kardashian snap story, you are contributing to the ascension to godhood experienced by these artists and their associates.

When did this happen? When did I start separating contrasting portions of my life by album releases? Does anybody remember the exact moment we all fell under the complete control of a handful of pop-rappers? They have us hooked; why else would we obsess over their families, significant others, and personal lives?

I used to always feel indifferent about rappers and the music they produced. Some of it was good, but most of it was repetitive and cliché. None of it gave me that euphoric tingle I sought and expected out of the music I listened to.

While I’ve always been a fan of Drake, I had never considered myself a true hip-hop enthusiast. My taste in music has always aligned with songs and artists that have a ritualistic effect on culture, AKA I’m a basic b!tch. I listen to what is popular. So, as a self-described basic, I can tell you society was totally and completely devoured by the world of hip-hop the day Kanye West released The Life of Pablo.

Hip-hop has always been huge, don’t get me wrong but something changed in the air that day. TLOP struck a chord with the world. It did this by being different, by feeding our collective a need to feel chic, manic, and a little spiritual. Rap and hip-hop are restricted to themes of parties and drugs no longer, and making hip-hop music that can get you in your feels has ceased to be a Drake-specific anomaly. Sorry, Drizzy.

Funky beats and ethereal choruses are cool now, and this trend has no end in sight. Chance the Rapper took advantage of our newfound curated taste for a more spiritual rap experience and slapped us in the face with Coloring Book. Along with that, Drake kept us dancing with Views. Will we ever get a break?

We are now cogs in a machine. Are you okay with it? I think I am. As long as these artists continue shelling out content that makes me want to chug a pot of coffee and get my life together: I’m obsessed. I am the property of the rap industry, and I know you feel the same. Let’s stomp on our dignities, cast away our doubts, and together we will blindly allow hip-hop to drag us into the future.

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