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From start to finish, 2019 has been a whirlwind year for music. It has been a year of innovation and excitement in nearly every genre, whether it be hip-hop, folk, pop or any other. While there were dozens of albums that could be recognized for their brilliance this year, I’ve had to narrow it down to only 10 for this list. These 10 albums have all introduced new ideas into their respective genres while still being an enjoyable listen from start to finish. In a way, all of them manage to reflect the issues of the time while still sounding distinctly human.
On June 14, Iranian-Swedish singer-songwriter Snoh Aalegra released a new song, “Find Someone Like You,” in anticipation of her sophomore album coming in August, “-Ugh, those feels again.”
With the release of her new single “ME!” this past April 26, Taylor Swift has evolved once again. A bubbly and bright pop song, “ME!” marks Swift’s departure from the mood of her previous album, the inspired and aggressive “reputation,” and her persona’s transformation to the glaringly upbeat and pastel imagery of “ME!”
This past January, Toro y Moi (also known as Chaz Bear) released his sixth album, “Outer Peace.” Inspired by the electronic dance music of Daft Punk and Wally Badarou’s synthpop, “Outer Peace” is a breezy 10 tracks, spanning just over 30 minutes. As a whole, the album is very easy to listen to — the tracks are generally composed of low-fi, low energy, yet upbeat beats and melodies — and none of them are longer than four minutes. On the surface, Toro y Moi has produced a fun, and at times quirky, album full of hits that can be played at a wide range of events, whether it be at a party that’s about to hit its peak or at a study table that needs a pick-me-up. A deeper dive into the album with closer listening, though, reveals that Toro y Moi has also subtly inputted his own little touches of tongue-in-cheek ironic flair and his sense of pessimistic disillusionment to which millennials and Gen Zers can definitely relate.
We are so concerned with what is new and exciting in music that we often forget the artists we’ve lost, the artists that even from the grave figure prominently in our collective imagination. Big names have died in the last few years — Tom Petty, David Bowie, Aretha Franklin — and it feels like time is running out for the musicians who inspired popular music today. Leonard Cohen is one such artist. Cohen passed away in November 2016 at 83, but still inspires people with his not-quite-music-not-quite-spoken-word pieces years later.
If you’ve been out of the obscure and cultish garage punk loop, you have probably never heard of the indie rock band Superchunk. Formed in 1989 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Superchunk exploded onto the counterculture scene of the early ’90s, producing seven albums over the course of the decade. The group took a brief hiatus soon after the turn of the millennium, eventually producing only two albums between 2002 and 2014. After releasing its tenth album, “I Hate Music” in 2013, Superchunk returned last Friday with the politically charged and triumphantly subversive album “What a Time To Be Alive.” At a time when punk music seems to be increasingly dwarfed by the allure of hip-hop and electronic music, “What a Time to Be Alive” is a collection of catchy and energetic songs that simultaneously presents a commercially agreeable message and returns to the genre’s roots in counterculture. Moreover, it’s a visceral and sincere reaction to our country’s recent escapades.
The Barbary Coast Jazz Ensemble’s winter concert will be Saturday, Feb. 24at 8 p.m. in Spaulding Auditorium at the Hopkins Center of the Arts. Director Taylor Ho Bynum invites eight jazz leaders to play alongside the student musicians: Ken Filiano (acoustic bass), Tomas Fujiwara (drums), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Jim Hobbs (alto and soprano saxophone), Ingrid Laubrock (tenor saxophone), Bill Lowe (trombone and tuba), Tomeka Reid (cello), and Stomu Takeishi (electric bass guitar). The concert will feature an array of contemporary music, including Bynum’s own compositions.
Last Friday, alternative rock band MGMT released “Little Dark Age,” its first album since 2013. With refreshingly catchy psychedelic-pop tracks reminiscent of the group’s first album, “Oracular Spectacular,” “Little Dark Age” also thematically reveals the band’s development. However, the presence of a few severely convoluted and borderline unpleasant tracks prevent the album from truly demonstrating the band’s potential.
Most Dartmouth students know from watching a cappella performances at showcases and Greek houses that we have many talented singers on campus. Especially for such a small school, it’s truly impressive how many great a cappella groups exist — in fact, there are nine. But there is a lot of talent and work that goes into the creative process of arranging that is not always recognized. Music director emeritus for the Brovertones Graham Rigby ’17, who has been arranging for the all-male for nearly five years, said arranging music is like creating an “inspired original composition” based on the framework of another person’s piece.
Friday Night Rock hosted a concert this weekend featuring soul artist Madison McFerrin and rap artist Deem Spencer in a continuation of its efforts to bring live music to campus. Founded in 2004, FNR began when a group of Dartmouth students, frustrated with the absence of live music at the College, came together in a collective effort to fill the void. As of 2013, Friday Night Rock shows take place in Sarner Underground, a venue with a 300-person capacity and professional staging, audio and lighting capabilities.
The start of 2018 means the beginning of #NewYearNewMe routines and looking forward to new beginnings, but there’s also no better time than now to reminisce on the year that just ended. Even if 2017 wasn’t a particularly amazing year, it definitely saw the release of some amazing music and the rise of great new artists. Here are my top songs from 2017 for you to nod (or shake) your head to.
In “The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power,” Black feminist writer Audre Lorde critiques the ways in which Western patriarchal societies have suppressed and falsely encouraged women’s sexual expression. In the piece, she asserts that “the erotic offers a well of replenishing and provocative force to the woman who doesn’t fear its revelation, nor succumb to the belief that sensation is enough.” With these words, Lorde calls for a full-bodied praxis regarding the body, one which acknowledges sexuality as a basis for reclamation and degradation.
If I had to bet on a song that every Dartmouth student knows, I would pick “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers. What they may not know, however, is that “Mr. Brightside” came out over a decade ago in 2004. Along with “Human” and perhaps “Somebody Told Me,” it seems like people are more than happy to sing along to the Killers’ old songs, which means that either the music is really good or that the band has not followed up with anything better. With The Killers, it may be a little bit of both, but their new album “Wonderful Wonderful” stands to change that and hopefully give their fans some new songs to enjoy.
I know that Taylor Swift is a bad person. She lied about Kanye West, she tried to fight Nicki Minaj via Twitter and she probably voted for Donald Trump. Furthermore, I know that her music is bad. You don’t have to tell me that “I can’t say anything to your face / Because look at your face” is not a good lyric. I am an English major. I have picked up on this already.
With the end of fall term approaching, the theater department’s fall musical is right around the corner. Anyone passing through the Hopkins Center for the Arts can see the activity bustling in and around the theater. “Cabaret,” this year’s musical, promises to be a timely response to the current political climate.
Comprised of 11 performers from Portland, Oregon, jazz group Pink Martini, which was founded in 1994, artfully merges music from around the world, infusing it with its own unparalleled style. This worldly appeal is partially a result of Pink Martini’s commitment to embody what bandleader and pianist Thomas Lauderdale described as the house band the United Nations would have had in 1962.
The Emerson String Quartet returned to the Hopkins Center for the Arts Sept. 30, bringing to Dartmouth adaptations of music from 18th century Beethoven to emergent 21st century composers. Renowned for their insight and innovative sound, the Emersons hoped to transport audiences to musical realms unlike even past performances at this venue.
This weekend on the bustling streets of downtown Hanover, the Skinny Pancake will be hosting Montreal-based acoustic blues player Adam Karch and the New Hampshire-based group Sensitive Men.
As a fan of discovering new artists early and often, I always get excited when I find albums or tracks that hit all of my ideal music criteria: catchy, complex and really, really easy to replay incessantly. “Shades of Grey” by up-and-coming electronic DJs Oliver Heldens and Shaun Frank and featuring Delaney Jane is exactly that.