Cast in Steela-ha Review

Out of all the bands I know of, none are as confusing to me as a-ha. Everyone has heard “Take On Me,” and it seems like half as many artists have covered it. If you ask a random person on the streets of any city if they’ve heard of the band a-ha, the chances of them saying yes are unbelievably high, whether it’s because they saw the video for “Take On Me” on MTV in the mid-’80s, or because they heard the Weezer cover of that same song. If they’re American, though, they probably couldn’t tell you much else, myself included. In fact, until recently, I thought a-ha was little more than a one-hit wonder from over 30 years ago, but they’re anything but.

Fig. 1. a-ha, Cast in Steel – This album cover is the first since Memorial Beach in 1993 to use the original a-ha logo.

Since 1985’s “Take On Me,” they’ve released several studio albums, written and performed a James Bond theme, and held the record for biggest paid rock concert attendance at one point, according to the 2001 Guinness Book of World Records (Guinness World Records, 156). Their most recent studio album, Cast in Steel, was released in 2015. I’ve wanted to listen to this album from the moment I heard of its existence, and I figured this music review was a great reason to do so, as well as to look into it a little deeper than the average listener. And, after listening a little deeper than I usually would, I found Cast in Steel to be one of the more vocally and harmonically beautiful collections of music I’ve heard in quite a while.

I have to be totally honest: my first impression of Cast in Steel was not so stellar. I did notice some mild, pleasing similarities to Coldplay’s sort of “epic” sound, namely in my favorite track, “Under the Makeup,” though it’s probably mostly in the instrumentation (it’s pretty hard not to sound epic with french horns and orchestral strings). However, past that, I was not particularly pleased on my first few listens. The non-orchestral instrumental parts that were performed by humans didn’t sound particularly difficult or interesting. The synth bass/drum machine combo heard in tracks like “Mythomania” and “Shadow Endeavors” sounded cheesy and, for lack of a better term, lame, at first. This couldn’t be the “Take On Me” band, could it?

Then I listened deeper, and everything changed. I must have been setting myself up to dislike Cast in Steel because once I dropped all my biases and let the music speak for itself, I fell in love. Once I stopped looking at a-ha as the

“Take On Me” band and looking at the music as just its genre, I really started to realize how beautiful it was. Harmonically, it sets itself apart from pop music with a little bit of complexity, but it’s not so unbelievably complex that it’s unlistenable. Chord progressions don’t particularly go anywhere odd, but they do go places that they don’t always go, and it helped to create something beautiful. It isn’t quite the crazy jazz-fusion chord structure I usually enjoy, but it’s still wonderful to me.

Morten Harket’s vocals are just as beautiful as they were in the ‘80s, that’s for sure. The man really makes a-ha what it is. He may not exercise his range as much as he has in past albums, but he doesn’t need to do so to sound wonderful. Every word he sings sounds like it comes from the heart. While it never ruins a song, I occasionally hear some vibrato that’s a bit too extreme for my tastes, though. I don’t generally listen to the lyrics of songs all that closely, but I’d consider them a mixed bag for this particular album. Some are very good, while others are far from that. But even when they aren’t particularly poetic, Harket’s singing makes up for it, to a degree.

As for the instrumental parts, I realized the simplicity is a good thing. Not every song needs crazy fast bebop licks to be good. I don’t even know why that was one of my complaints at first, I’m usually really into simplicity in music. Like I said earlier, I must have been setting myself up to dislike Cast in Steel because the instruments do their job of backing up the vocalist quite well. And the similarities to Coldplay’s sound may be because the lead singer of Coldplay, Chris Martin, is apparently a fan of a-ha. Perhaps it was Coldplay that borrowed the sound from a-ha in the first place? I’ll have to listen to some of their earlier albums to find out, which I’m certainly excited for if they’re anything like this one.

Now, mind you, this album isn’t quite a masterpiece, and it’s certainly far from perfect. The song “Door Ajar” is practically the antithesis to every compliment I’ve given this album. It has some interesting vocal work, but is otherwise the worst track on the album, in my opinion. Most of the singing, both melodically and lyrically, was just not as interesting to me as the rest of the album. This is also the one song whose backing instrumentals did not grow on me at all. Some other songs still don’t sound great to me, in that regard, but for the most part, I at least learned to tolerate them and appreciate the good parts. It takes a lot of self-restraint not to skip to a different song when I hear the beginning of “Door Ajar,” though. I’m not going to let one song ruin an album for me. After all, most albums I listen to only really have a handful of songs I actually enjoy. However, I would be lying if I said I enjoyed every track on Cast in Steel.

Overall, despite some trouble enjoying it at first, Cast in Steel turned out to be one of my favorite albums. It’s harmonically interesting, Morten Harket did a wonderful job singing, and the relative simplicity of most of the album’s instrumental parts lets the vocals take center stage, as well as make the more “orchestral” tracks stand out. I would definitely say it’s also one of the more consistently good albums I’ve heard, with only one song I can say I truly do not want to listen to. More than anything, this album makes me want to hear even more a-ha. It makes me want to listen to old albums to see how they got to where they are now and makes me want to pay attention to what they do in the future.

Works Cited

a-ha. “Cast In Steel (2015) | a-ha.” a-ha,

a-ha. “Stay On These Roads (1988) | a-ha.” a-ha,

a-ha. “a-ha.” YouTube, YouTube,

a-ha.” Music Norway EN,

Footman, Tim, editor. Guinness World Records 2001. Bantam Books, 2001.

“Take On Me – a-ha.”, On Me.

World Entertainment News Network. “Martin: ‘I’m A Big Fan Of a-ha‘.”, Ltd, 23 Jan. 2015,

“Stop Trying to be God” Travis Scott Already Is

        The song of the winter and fall has been “Sicko Mode”, a song featuring artist Travis Scott. Scott’s musical journey has taken him from R&B to trap and mumble rap, where he currently resides. Travis Scott is a young man hailing from Houston, Texas, born with the name Jaques Bermon Webster II. He was a strong student throughout his academic career and graduated at the age of 17, promptly being accepted into the University of Texas San Antonio. He was successful in his freshman year of college but ultimately decided to drop out his sophomore year in order to chase his dreams as a musician. He moved to New York City, promptly being cut off by his parents due to dropping out and moving away. In New York City, he joined two separate groups with friends, before moving to Los Angeles just four months after his move due to frustration. Upon moving to LA, he signed as a solo artist to Epic records in early 2012 but signed to G.O.O.D. Records, headed by Kanye West, in November of the same year. Scott notably writes his own music, playing a tremendous part in the production as well as being an artist. After several successful albums, Scott released his most recent album, Astroworld, on August 3, 2018. Travis Scott’s album Astroworld skillfully executes musical transitions, rhythm, and inclusion of other artists in order to develop a masterfully written piece.

        With any genre, the musical transitions allow for the musicality of any song to shine through. These transitions can stem anywhere from within a song to transitions between songs across the album. Travis Scott’s active participation in all songs on the album, allows him to skillfully use lyrics and beats to transition between different musical ideas within songs. For example, “Stargazing”, the album’s first song, begins with a slower beat in almost a hypnotic pace. Roughly halfway through the song, the beat picks up and creates a different sound within the song. Not only does he skillfully transition within songs, but there is also a notable lack of dead air between songs. Normally, albums have several seconds between different songs, but Astroworld lacks dead air between songs. The most notable lack of space is displayed between “Carousel” and “Sicko Mode”. “Carousel” transitions into the same beat that backs up “Sicko Mode”, causing the songs to roll into the other without there being an obvious beginning of the next song. This lack of dead space makes the album pleasing. With constant music, the songs are more enjoyable and not rough around the edges. The transitions between songs are often strong enough to go from mumble rap to a song that feels just like the title. This transition occurs between “Houstonfornication” and “Coffeebean”. The song “Houstonfornication” is a slower rap, the beat not as fast but heavily involved. Whereas “Coffeebean”, is a slow, rhythmic song. The stark contrast between the two songs allows Scott to develop multiple styles. Finally, Scott professionally transitions between songs in order to make sure that no two songs sound alike. “Yosemite” is a notable change of pace amidst several songs with heavy, driving beats. The song starts with a panflute riff, creating a peaceful beginning before the beat drops. The beat simply adds to the calm within the song. This softer song allows Scott to transition his songs skillfully, offering the reader more than one song style. Along with brilliant musical transitions, Scott utilizes rhythm in order to strengthen his music.

        Specific rhythmic features are the driving force of any genre. Trap music is most commonly characterized as highly rhythmic, driven by syncopated drum beats, and a dark or heavy ambiance. Scott commonly uses his lyrics or vocals in order to strengthen the heavily prominent beat in his music. Scott’s strong suit is the ability to transitions between songs and use beats to make them very different. For example, as previously mentioned with “Stargazing”, within a single song, there are two very distinct moods of the song. The beginning portion is darker, heavier. The beat may give the feeling of floating around in space as Scott uses the lyrics and beat to create a calm environment. During the second half, the beat picks up with a notable change in tempo. As stated previously with “Coffeebean”, the rhythm allows for a laid back, chill mood to be conveyed. When listening to the song, one may picture being in a quaint coffee shop as Scott is participating in a slam poetry contest in the corner of the room. The mood or ambiance of the song is strongly held in order to give it a coffee shop feel, much like its title. Then, in “Stop Trying to be God”, Scott has a smoother, hymnal feel to the track. The organ and harmonica in the background have a very similar sound as to what classical church music would be. The ability to bring in a familiar sound into the song adds to the irony of the song. Scott pleads with people to stop pretending that they are above God, meanwhile the instruments accompanying the lyrics strongly resemble church music. He even finishes the song with a hymnal sounding verse in order to let the name of the song shine through. Many of the songs successfully showcase Scott’s ability to choose rhythm in order to convey a certain emotion. Scott’s album perfectly exemplifies the goal of trap music in order to create a beautiful piece. Not only does Scott execute rhythm, but he includes various artists on each track in order to showcase his musical ability.

      The most enjoyable feature of Astroworld is the various artists incorporated on the album. Scott skillfully chooses artists from several different genres and fanbases in order to make the album pleasing to all audiences. The majority of the songs features an artist, whether they are popular or lesser-known. The second song on the album immediately features Frank Ocean, a popular alternative rhythm and blues artist. “Carousel” executes Frank Ocean’s musical ability by featuring him on each of the choruses, where his soulful and bluesy voice is showcased. Ocean’s presence allows Scott to have a musically different piece, where the verses are rap and the chorus and pre-chorus offer smoother tones. Then, “Stop Trying to be God” has the most surprising artist featured. Stevie Wonder is featured on the song, playing Harmonica throughout the majority of the song. Scott’s ability to collaborate with a legendary artist allows him to reach an even different crowd in the slower, soulful song. Wonder even participates in the outro with lesser known artists Phillip Bailey and James Blake. Blake also has a soulful verse at the very end of the song, where Scott skillfully adds a hymnal sound to the piece. Similarly, “Astrothunder” and “Skeletons” feature John Mayer, a pop singer with a soulful voice, and Tame Impala, a psychedelic rock group. The contrast in Scott and the featured artists’ genres allow Scott to showcase his ability to incorporate multiple genres within a single album. Scott does not only feature artists from other genres but has multiple songs with artists that have a similar style to him. The most notable feature being on “Who?What?” with Quavo. Quavo’s ability to reunite and collaborate with Scott once more showcases how strongly Scott’s music has impacted old friends. Scott also chose two up-and-coming artists, Juice WRLD and Sheck Wes, to be featured on “No Bystanders”. This collaboration is wholesome, as Scott allows for his fans to hear the voices of other artists that are climbing their way up the charts. He skillfully selects artists that can compliment his voice in order to make the album enjoyable for fans of any genre.

        Overall, Astroworld executes transitions, rhythm, and inclusion in order to create an interesting, well-written album. Trap music and mumble rap may not be for everyone, but Scott attempts to create multiple styles and flavors in order to ensure that there is something for everyone to enjoy in some fashion. Although I have never been a fan of trap music or Travis Scott, listening to Astroworld really did open my eyes to a genre that I had overlooked for so long. Trap as a genre is very interesting and musically intricate, making for an enjoyable experience. Scott’s ability to seamlessly create trap music is an extension of his musical ability, as he writes and produces his own music. The album brilliantly executes what trap music was meant to be along with many other styles to make a cohesive album enjoyable for anyone willing to give the album a listen.



Works Cited

Grand Hustle Records. (2018, August/September). Astroworld[Photograph].

Scott, Travis. Stop Trying to Be God (Official Music Video), YouTube, 6 Aug. 2018,

Travis Scott. Astroworld, Epic Records, 2018. Spotify

Review of Here’s to You

Montgomery Gentry’s album Here’s To You is an album that was released on February 2nd, 2018 and it grabs the attention of the listener from the very beginning. With a suspense sound for the beat of the first song.

Figure 1: Here’s to You. Great album to listen to no matter what mood you’re in.

The first song that I would like to mention is called “Shotgun Wedding.” I feel this song is a song that from the beat of the beginning grabs the attention of the listener. Mainly because of the picture the sound of the beat can create in the mind(s) of the listener(s). The song can also teach younger listeners on why you shouldn’t be fooling around if you’re not ready for a wedding or kids.

The next song that I would like to mention and talk about is a song called “Better Me.” This is a song that seemed to paint a picture in my mind of always trying to make something better and, how by that thing being improved can improve other people’s days. Basically, from how I’m understanding the song is to constantly make yourself a better person.


The second to last song I would like to talk about is called “Feet Back On The Ground.” This song paints a scenic picture of someone visiting their mother just after she finished cooking a pie. Then catching up with each other and talking about how everything is going. Instead of being in a rush all the time sometimes we just need to slow down. Basically what the song describes is to not always be in a rush and needing to slow down and take your time and to enjoy what little bit of time you have left on earth. And looking back on your life is another way I could describe this song.

The final song I would like to talk about is the song called “That’s The Thing About America.”  This song creates a picture like a house by an open field with children playing in the yard and then they go inside for a meal. The song also hits me as a song that really describes what America should be like. ‘“That’s The Thing About America” celebrates all the great things that are present in America and grounded in the patriotism that has permeated Eddie and Troy’s music through the years.”’ Says Roughstock.

Works Cited

Average Joes Entertainment. “Needing A Beer – YouTube.” Youtube.Com, 14 Apr. 2018,, Roughstock-. “Album Review: Montgomery Gentry – ‘Here’s To You.’” RoughStock, 3 Feb. 2018,


Catfish and the Bottlemen – Making Grumpy Sound so Good

Lorynn Hackert



10 April 2019

Catfish and the Bottlemen – Making Grumpy Sound So Good, One Record at a Time

Image result for catfish and the bottlemen the balcony
Catfish and the Bottlemen’s debut album, ‘The Balcony.’

Catfish and the Bottlemen, a gang of young angsty Welshmen, belong to a genre that falls between the lines of rock and roll and indie alternative. With their debut album, The Balcony, the group delivers an impressive introduction into the musical world with anthemic songs such as ‘Cocoon’ and ‘Kathleen,’ both holding chorus’ that could rattle any arena. Still grasping this torch, Catfish and the Bottlemen expand further into their musical flexibility in their second studio album, The Ride. With the inclusion of intimate ballads that highlight heartbreak, along with requiems that allow listeners to let go and look forward, this budding band is beginning to compare to their inspiration, Oasis. The Ride incorporates a mix of heavy electric and acoustic guitar, chaotic drums that replicate the beat of your heart while listening to the record, along with lyrics that can make any sunny afternoon turn grey. This album will make you feel as if you have woken up in London the day after you lost a lover, missed the Tube to work, and are now following the wet English pavement to wherever it may lead you.

Image result for the ride catfish and the bottlemen
Cover of Catfish and the Bottlemen’s second studio album, ‘The Ride.’

This album is brooding. Beautifully dark. It has entered it’s teenage years. Catfish and the Bottlemen’s frontman and songwriter, Van McCann, commands, “Larry, call a load of smoke in / I wanna disappear for days” in the opening track ‘7,’ subtly highlighting the fact that he is unhappy in what has been handed to him.  ‘Oxygen’ leaves McCann entranced, yet confused, by a love interest who “tends to obfuscate when it’s black and white,” while “she puts love in the back of her mind / and rips it out again when she’s back at mine.” McCann’s lyrical world revolves around a life filled with nights crawling from pub to pub, picking up girls, and performing. The music is edgy, and this same energy carries over into acoustic melodies on the album, in songs such as ‘Glasgow’ and ‘Heathrow.’

Van McCann, songwriter and lead vocals for Catfish and the Bottlemen, performing for a Glastonbury crowd.

Van McCann not only appeals to his audience lyrically, but he is able to further impress listeners with his vocal sound. Due to the genre of music the band belongs to, it is no surprise that McCann’s voice holds the same raspiness seen in those who have smoked a pack of Marlboro’s daily for the greater part of their life. Despite this, he is able to revert to a place in his range that is delicate and soft, only emphasized in quieter moments within the record. During the band’s live performances, McCann will often take an opportunity to showcase his vocal talents by singing a section of song without backing instrumentals from his fellow band mates. In times where he is overtaken by the energy of the crowd, McCann will divert his focus on playing his guitar in order to move on stage, toy with the mic stand, or encourage the audience to move a certain way. As far as the band’s overall stage presence, it is something that is yet to be considered unique or memorable. They are purely just performing their music.

The band’s use of instruments dances along the line of special and ordinary.  Catfish and the Bottlemen stick to the basics – guitar, bass, and drums. Although the band has chosen to work with foundational instruments, this does not stop them from creating exciting music. Throughout both The Balcony and The Ride, Catfish and the Bottlemen make a point to include electric guitar riffs wherever they are able to fit them. Although some listeners may find these riffs to be overkill, many consider it something that the band will be eventually remembered for. The use of the acoustic guitar is something that was absent on the band’s debut album that they decided to introduce in The Ride. Acoustic guitar has allowed Catfish and the Bottlemen to create ballads that touch on self-doubt as well as romantic heartbreak. Although they are acoustic ballads, they still harbor great energy, but at a softer and slower pace. When looking at the band’s instrumental musicality as a whole, they are able to produce an intentionally chaotic sound, along with unhurried emotional melodies, with the use of basic instruments that will make any audience want to throw their hands up and dance.

With The Ride, Catfish and the Bottlemen have proven that they are not only musically and lyrically talented, but they are also well versed in the art of pouting. A factor that may potentially add to the overall mood of The Ride is the influence from English band, Oasis. Catfish and the Bottlemen consistently refer to Oasis as a group that has inspired their sound. Although Catfish and the Bottlemen is surely capable of  turning their grumpiness into snappy, honest music. Many argue that the band has yet to create a tune that holds the same comparable catchiness, as Oasis’ ‘Wonderwall’ or ‘Live Forever.’ It is undeniable that as the band blooms, they continue to take the necessary steps to create a song that will be known as a bona fide classic around the world.

Cover of Catfish and the Bottlemen’s third album, ‘The Balance.’

The next big thing for Catfish and the Bottlemen is the release of their third studio album, The Balance, dropping on April 26th of this year (2019.) Many speculate that this album will be a product of the band’s perfected sound, which they had explored in their previous albums. When considering both Catfish and the Bottlemen and The Ride, there is a single characteristic that distinguishes them from other artists and albums from their genre — they are genuine. They are completely confident with the music they create, their sound, and outward appearance. Through their impressive instrumental musicality and use of storytelling lyrics, The Ride will make it’s listeners feel something in a world that too often feels numb. Catfish and the Bottlemen lead by the beat they create, and accept those who follow.


Works Cited

Safar, David. “Album Review: Catfish and the Bottlemen, ‘The Balcony’.” The Current, 12 Jan. 2015,

Stubbs, Dan. “Catfish & The Bottlemen’s Glastonbury Crowd Boos Mention of Kanye West’s Name.” NME, NME, 25 July 2016,

“The Ride by Catfish and the Bottlemen.” Genius, 27 May 2016, 

Whelan, Addie, et al. “Catfish and the Bottlemen Release ‘The Balance’ Album Details.” Beyond The Stage Magazine, 26 Jan. 2019,




Pulling Weval’s Weight

Alex Pearson

Professor John Wolff

English Comp 1

04 April 2019

People from all walks of life listen to all kinds of different music. Music speaks to us in many ways, and we all get something different out of it. For those that like electronic or dance music, here is an album for you. The two talented musicians from the Netherlands Harm Coolen and Merijn Scholte Abers started the group Weval.

They mix sounds from a soundboard and instruments to create this electronic/dance music. They are not the only ones making this type of music. One of the more popular and closer related artists to Weval is the Brazilian Gui Boratto. Gui Boratto has some experience as he has been making music since 1994. Weval has been making this electronic dance music since 2013. The style of Weval’s music in their latest album,
The Weight, has the listener engaged and tense through unique, well-crafted beats and sounds; some of which are beautiful and pleasant and others are rigid and rough.

Image result for the weight weval
Album cover for “The Weight

In March of 2019, Weval came out with The Weight, their third full album. This album is one of the most unique ones I have listened to. Throughout the album, the artists create a lasting tension that is repressed by neatly flowing tunes which present themselves in multiple parts. While listening to the songs, I have noticed that the listener has no idea of where Weval wants to lead them. For example, in “Look Around” there are at least three tempo changes that cause confusion. This is because the listener will fall in love with one of the changes, and then soon it changes, leaving behind the listener. Because of this, every time I listen to it, I have tuned into something that was eluding me the time before.

The lyrics of most songs in the playlist also create tension. As an instinct, when a person hears a song, they will try to understand what the lyrics are saying. In The Weight, the lyrics ride the fence of being understood. The electronic overlay that coats each set of lyrics causes tension within the listener as he or she tries to decipher them.

In addition to the tension that the lyrics bring to the songs, they also serve as another sound that would have the same purpose as an instrument. This is a less common way to use the words and that is one of the main reasons why Weval is so unique.

The sounds that are used in developing these songs are used in other artists’ songs, but the effect they instill is different. Underlying most tracks of the album are calm and melodic beats that wrestle with some of the crazier tunes. This calming sensation is caused by sounds that are mainly organ-like and steady. The steady change in tone or pitch that rises and falls like the mercury in a thermometer—smoothly and slowly.

The two best examples of songs that have this calming effect are “Heartbreak Television” and “Who’s Running Who.” The background music of these two songs is very similar. The sounds that make up the music are wonderfully constructed, well thought out, and relieve stress. Unfortunately, “Heartbreak Television” has awful foreground lyrics that sound like a dying animal at certain times in the piece of music. But thankfully, that is not the case with the last song in the album, “Who’s Running Who.” In this song, the lyrics and the computer-generated music complement each other to create cohesiveness, and the lyrics don’t mess up the flow of music.

There is also another type of cohesiveness that is found in the second song, “Roll Together.” In this song, there is an electronically produced sound that holds the song together from the beginning to the end. It is marked by gradual changes in pitch that bind it. On the other hand, “Someday” has many sounds that are in conflict with each other. Half of the sounds have a calming effect while the other half of the sounds does the opposite. About half the lyrics are decipherable while the other half is not decipherable. The second part that is non-decipherable is the part that holds the conflict. This depends on how the listener interprets the lyrics. For example, Weval may mention something in the lyrics about dying, yet maybe not (more conflict).

All of the songs seem to be a part of the album in some way or another.
The whole album plays with human emotions. Some songs increase endorphin levels and other songs increase the cortisol levels in the body. One of the best examples of a cortisol-increasing song is “Heaven, Listen.” With no real structure or path that the song should follow, the purpose of this song is to create more conflict and stress within the listener that would get replaced by the happiness hormones, endorphins, later in the album.

The style of Weval is unique. Their songs are rich with splendor, and at the same time, rough and ridged. When I first listened to the album, I did not enjoy the songs because the sounds Weval made were so unique. As I continued to listen to them, the new sounds began to grow on me and I started to appreciate them more. If you have listened to Gui Boratto in the past or happen to like music in the electronica genre, I suggest you listen to the album. If you don’t like it during the first time you listen to it, I challenge you to listen to The Weight two more times. Most likely, you will learn to enjoy the well-crafted beats and sounds as I did.


Works Cited

Weval. “Roll Together.” The Weight. Kompakt Records, 2019. Accessed 12 April 2019.

Weval. “Look Around.” The Weight. Kompakt Records, 2019. Accessed 12 April 2019.

Weval. “Someday.” The Weight. Kompakt Records, 2019. Accessed 12 April 2019.

Weval. “Heartbreak Television.” The Weight. Kompakt Records, 2019. Accessed 12 April 2019.

Weval. “Who’s Running Who.” The Weight. Kompakt Records, 2019. Accessed 12 April 2019.

Weval. “Heaven, Listen.” The Weight. Kompakt Records, 2019. Accessed 12 April 2019.

3voor12. “Weval-Live at 3voor12 Radio.” Figure 1. Accessed 12 April 2019.

Rezz’s Certain Kind Of Magic Music Review

Kaleigh Kamaloski

Prof. John Wolff


4 April 2019

Certain Kind of Rezz

Isabelle Rezazadeh, better known as Rezz, released her album Certain Kind of Magic only a short year after the release of Juno Awards best electronic album of the year in 2018, Mass Manipulation. The Canadian DJ began her career at the age of sixteen, inspired by Deadmau5 to create music of her own. She attended festivals for artists such as Bass Nectar, Pretty Lights, and Zeds Dead to spark her own creativity in electronic music. In 2016, her second EP released reached #19 on the top billboard chart. With only two official albums out there, Certain Kind of Magic is definitely holding up a solid name for Rezz as she continues to create more and more beats for Deadmau5’s record label, Mau5trap.

The sophomore album clocks in with eight tracks and promotes collaborations with 1788-L, Deathpact, and Kotek. These collaborations are not what holds up the strength of the album, though. Rezz is perfectly independent and expresses her own originality and quality, making this album sound like a breakthrough if a person didn’t know her career before listening. Certain Kind of Magic brings its own fresh energy that her fans, known as “The Cult”, have come to love. The album shows off a new and addicting realm of bass-meets-techno that Rezz has not created before.

Each track brings a new and rejuvenating flavor to Certain Kind of Magic. While the techno-vibe music all seems to blend together in my head, each song is a new experience each time I listen to it. “Witching Hour”, the first single of the album, definitely incorporates some gritty bass and seems to have a mysterious, lurking undertone to it. “Flying Octopus” begins with a child-like xylophone melody that leads into more of a zippy, techy beat. To me, it sounds like the soundtrack that would play while flying through the galaxy in a spaceship while avoiding missiles being shot at you. The tune transitions through the space battle through simple yet repetitive background melodies that blend both techno and electronic sounds. While not everyone may enjoy it as an everyday drive to work song, it definitely brings diversity to whatever you may be listening to. Another appealing track, “Spider On The Moon”, sounds like the final song being played at the alien techno club on a Friday night. While the tune is short, it goes from being a laser gun shoot out to a trench through a mysterious cave on LSD. Mysterious zaps and an eery high pitch undertone blend together a slightly minor tone that is only heard in few other songs on the album. Scattered throughout the end, the wind chimes can even be heard faintly in the background a couple of times, which I found very neat. “Toxin” has to be my favorite of the album, a collaboration with Fytch that actually incorporates more lyrics than electronics beeps all over the place. The lyrics “I just can’t take you no more” and “you drag me down” speak to the title, implying that this person being spoken of is a toxin. I like the calm vibe to the song and the fact that there is more of a structure, such as a chorus with verses.

“Toxin” does a good job of blending Rezz’s electronic taste with a more subtle, soft lullaby with a deeper meaning, which I appreciated. Electronic music typically does not incorporate many lyrics or meanings behind it, and Rezz does not stray away from this trend. Aside from “toxin”, no song has more than a few words scattered throughout. I feel that by using “Toxin” as the last track to the album, Rezz did a good job of incorporating something new and exciting that blends well with the rest of the tracks while also ending with on a positive note. As if to say, who knows what in store for Rezz’s future collaborations or style of music, and definitely makes me wonder (and hope) as a listener if she will continue to collab with other artists to incorporate these foreign styles to her musical portfolio. Lyrics in a Rezz song are a definite yes from me, keep it coming, Rezz!

Through the changes of tone, from cyborg attack to discovering the depths of the sea in a submarine, Rezz keeps each track just the right amount of excitement to the point where listeners don’t get bored and also don’t get too overwhelmed. Overall, as a non-usual Rezz listener, I can definitely say that this album is not for everybody after listening to it. I enjoyed listening to the different depths of music that Rezz creates through a variety of bass, electronic sounds, and energizing melodies. This assuringly will not be the last hit album from Rezz, as it is only her second and her work is increasingly rising on the charts. The self-made artist has many places to go in her career and is founded by the fact that she has carried herself so far already. Even if electronic and techno music isn’t your forte, Rezz made a hit off Certain Kind Of Magic and it’s a sound you will only hear on this album. While I originally am not a huge fan of Rezz’s style of music, I absolutely suggest this album to anyone looking to broaden their playlist. Whether it be working out, studying, or even just driving to school, Rezz’s Certain Kind Of Magic will bring you to an interesting, almost hypnotizing, new dimension that I promise you’ve never heard of before.

Works Cited

Mau5trap. “Flying Octopus” Youtube, 5 December 2018,

Rezz. Certain Kind Of Magic, Mau5trap, 2018. Spotify,


Taylor Swift’s Divergent Album: 1989

Compared to her previous albums, Taylor Swift takes a different approach on her fourth album, 1989, named after her birth year. Swift’s usual genre is country, however, this album is a whole new style. According to Biography, Taylor started singing at a young age and she moved to Tennessee to pursue her country music career. She was just fourteen years old while she sold many award-winning country albums. Her country songs reminded me of Carrie Underwood because of the values they each wrote about, such as love and men. Both artist’s albums were well known to many country lovers, including myself. Taylor’s new album, 1989 was unfamiliar to me for quite a while, because I do not listen to pop very often. With Taylor’s new style, this album reminds me of other popular music that is over-played on the pop-hits radio, rather than Taylor’s country music that I was used to. Because of its genre-breaking new style, strong lyrics, and new musical elements, Taylor Swift’s album, 1989, is a significant turning point in her career.


Figure 1. Taylor Swift’s 1989 Album Cover

Overall, this album really shows a change in Taylor’s thoughts through her personal and love life. Listening to this album, I realize that this style of music is very catchy, and Taylor does a great job of adjusting to her new sound. Some of her most known songs from this album include, “Blank Space,” “Shake it off,” “Bad Blood,” and “Wildest Dreams.” With the release of a new style of great music for Swift, 1989 won three Grammy Awards including Album of the Year in 2016.  Of the thirteen songs in the album, there are only three that are not well known to many. This may be because of the lyric choice, the style, and for the melody. However, this album became popular very fast and was a significant change for Taylor and all of her fans.


Figure 2. Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” Music Video.

The lyrics and music videos created for this new album are significantly different from her past country albums, including Taylor Swift, Fearless, and Speak Now. Her older albums told a story where she was desperate for love and a man who would feel the same about her. In her 2008 album, Fearless, the song “You Belong With Me,” is known for Taylor wanting to be in a with another teen that was already in a relationship. “If you can see I’m the one who understands you/ Been here all along so why can’t you see/ You belong with me” In the song, Taylor attempts to convince this boy that he belongs with her rather than the other girl.


Figure 3. Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” Music Video.

In contrast, Taylor Swift’s more recent album, 1989 seems to be a response to the haters of her seeming “desperate for love” style in previous albums. Her lyrics are strong and self-confident in the way that she feels. In the song “Shake It Off,” she really emphasizes the carelessness she has towards her “haters” and the people who judge her. “I go on too many dates, but I can’t make ’em stay/ At least that’s what people say…/And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate/ Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake/ I shake it off, I shake it off.” Taylor Swift’s old albums seemed to be focused on self-pity, sadness, and love, but this album is more about confidence and love. The lyrics in 1989 vary through different stories but are all very empowering and they boost the self-confidence of young women going through the same love struggles.


Taylor Swift’s voice is one to constantly be stuck in my head like a broken record. From listening to her country music when I was a child, to discovering her newer pop albums, there is something special about Taylor’s voice that will always interest me, no matter the lyrics or style. Since she started singing when she was a young teen, her voice has changed a lot because of puberty and the genre change. Overall, her voice has an appealing timbre and she is very good at matching her voice to the moods of the music.

With the types of instrumentals that I was used to, 1989’s instrumentals really hooked me and brought me to enjoy something different. In her country music, she was very guitar and drum-heavy, using mostly acoustics. However, this album is based around a pop synthesizer, voice layering, keyboards, and automated drums. I enjoyed listening to this album because it was Taylor’s first album that included these so heavily. Swift and her producers did a great job at making this album sound instrumentally pleasing to the ear and did not cease to impress me. This instrumentally diverse background music was a great help to the overall sound of the song.

Taylor Swift’s album, 1989 was an impactful turning point in her musical career by successfully transitioning from the country to pop genre. This album changed in style, emphasizing on lyric focus, instrumentals, and vocal change. The lyrical change was significant and empowering because she sent a different message in this album than she did in the previous albums. Her voice changed with puberty, as well as with the change in style. She uses a more powerful voice to send her message and her instrumentals changed a lot for the good of the songs. I predict that Taylor Swift will continue to pursue her pop music career. I would rate the 1989 album a 9/10 because it was really good for it being her first pop album! I really recommend listening to the progress and journey of her career so far. In conclusion, this album was a great start to Taylor Swift’s new genre of music through changing the instrumentals, vocals, and lyrics.


Works Cited


Sands, Nicole. “Taylor Swift’s Album Covers Through the Years.” People, People, 25 Aug. 2017, Accessed 31 Mar. 2019.

Taylor Swift Biography, A&E Television Networks, 13 Feb. 2019, Accessed 31 Mar. 2019.

Music Review Essay- Kassie M

A Look Inside Conan Gray’s Album “Sunset Season”

The astounding musician Conan Gray, had released his latest album titled Sunset Season in the year of 2018.  The album totals with five soulfully blended songs that all smoothly link together. Even though this is Conan’s first album release, it has been a huge money-maker for him; nearly every show for his 22-stop tour was completely sold out. With over a million subscribers on YouTube, it’s no shocker to see this indie-pop bedroom artist making such a dramatic rise from the ground up. Conan Gray’s style of music can be similarly compared to that of Billie Eilish, Troye Sivan, and Girl in Red, all well-known artists that have made it big in the music industry over the past three to four years. Conan Gray’s 2018 album Sunset Season perfectly captures the feeling of youthful nostalgia with the use of catchy and relate-able lyrics, dreamlike rhythms, and blended layering of tones.

The angelic album starts off with the song titled “Idle Town,” a tribute to Conan’s home town, high school, friends, and the memories he had made when he was younger. Conan captures this feeling of high-school bliss with lyrics, “Making life a spinning arcade (in our idle town) And curfews at midnight, we watch the sunrise,” as well as “everybody’s trying to escape, killing time at the yellow cafe.”  The use of these lyrics combined with the soulful rhythms entwined throughout the song, helps to capture the youthful feelings and memories Conan Gray intends for the listener to comprehend. While he uses lyrics to present this blissful nostalgia, he also uses the repetitive and faint sounds of chorusing, the light sound of bike gears shifting (in the music video he is often seen riding a bike), the crisp taps of percussion, and the soothing rhythms that come from piano. This specific song happens to stick out in the most important ways, because it is the song that has set off Conan’s musical career. For further explanation of why this song is so important, it is good to know that although the album was released in 2018, this song was released as a single in March of 2017, and was written in his makeshift studio located in his bedroom. The original release of Idle Town earned over 11 million views, sending Conan Gray into stardom.

Following Idle Town comes the songs titled Generation Why, Crush Culture, Greek God, and Lookalike. Each song showcases a calming vibe that can be compared to the feeling of young and careless bliss. Generation Why is the second song on the track, flowing into the moody tone that resonates throughout the whole album. The lyrics in this song dwell into the pressure of growing up as a millennial and capture what it truly feels like as a teen in the twenty-first century. A lazy repetition of “why,why,why” carries out through the song and later fades into a simplistic beat that flows with Conan’s voice. This repetitive chorus combined with the lyrics “Cause we are helpless, selfish, one of a kind/ Millennial kids that all wanna die,” and “Something that I’ve heard a million times in my life/Generation why” seizes Conan’s realistic message of what it is like to be an anxious and struggle-filled teen in today’s world.

The next two songs Crush Culture and Greek God emphasize on the constant battles with love that teens find themselves falling into, some love battles that Conan himself had most likely fought through. Crush Culture starts off with a melodic, breathy, and booming whisper of “crush culture” that is said in a way that reminds me of young kids saying teasing phrases to each other. This rhythmic whisper carries out through the entire song and repeats as a background layer for other lyrics to soar over. Crush Culture fights against the ideology that you need to be in a relationship, and that when you find yourself having a crush you must confess those feelings. Conan contradicts this concept and rather appeals to his audience by idealizing the happiness that can be found when you are alone.

Following Crush Culture, Conan shifts into the song Greek God which expresses the feelings of love and frustration that can come from old relationships and seems to be based around someone from Conan’s past. The following lyrics express a great deal of pent up emotion that work to emphasize on Conan’s frustration. “I don’t care about your little threats, all the kids in your clique are pretend. I don’t mind when you play with my head. I flip around, play with yours instead.” Conan combines these anger filled lyrics with his melodic and carefree voice, to showcase how he truly feels. Throughout Greek God Conan continues to keep his audience entertained by spewing out lyrics full of resentment, and by continuing to make steady and swift changes in the rhythms, in which helps him keep his listeners on the very edge of their seats.

The album ends with the final track titled Lookalike. A song that manages to wrench at the strings of your heart and draws out old memories, bringing you back in time. The overall theme is based around an old-relationship that didn’t last, but continues to live on in the memories of each individual.“I hope in your head you see me instead ’cause you’ve been in mine every day since then.”  The slow, melancholic lyrics leave the listener with a feeling of heartache and a sense of longing to move forward, but ultimately being stuck in the past of what had once been. Conan further expresses his pain through the use of bold piano, anguished rhythms, and emotional performance. With the combination of gut wrenching lyrics, and expressive instrumentals, this song will leave the listener in tears.

Sunset Season will bring you into a nostalgic and euphoric state of mind, which Conan Gray successfully does through the catchy lyrics and soulful rhythms that he artistically displays in each song on the album. Anyone who listens to Sunset Season will undoubtedly be wowed by the raw artistic talent Conan pushes into the music industry, an industry that I predict he will continue to thrive in. This is an album I highly recommend all readers to listen to, so you can relive the beautiful memories of youth through the momentous musician that is Conan Gray.


Reference Page

  1. Gray, C., Official Merchandise store. (n.d.). SUNSET SEASON-CD [Digital image]. Retrieved April 7, 2019, from
  2. Gray, C. (2018, October 03). Retrieved April 7, 2019, from
  3. Stuff, C. G., Tumblr fan account. (n.d.). [Image from Conan Gray’s music video of Generation Why]. Retrieved April 7, 2019, from
  4. (2018, October 03). Retrieved April 7, 2019, from
  5. Gray, C. (n.d.). Crush Culture [Digital image]. Retrieved April 9, 2019, from
  6. (2018, November 15). Retrieved April 9, 2019, from


Meet Rickeshia Simpson

Hello, my name is Rickeshia Simpson. I am 19 years old. I graduated from Baldwin High School. I work full time, attending West Shore Community College part time doing my general classes this fall semester.  I’m looking to pursue a career in the nursing field, starting off with CNA.

Vance Joy: More Than a One Hit Wonder (Jonah Scouten Music Review Essay)

Jonah Scouten

John Wolff

English Comp 1

18 March 2019

          When Vance Joy, the brand new indie pop and folk songwriter, released his five-song debut EP, God Loves You When You’re Dancing in 2013, he never expected that one of his songs, “Riptide,” would be such a hit that it persisted on the ARIA Chart top 100 songs for over 107 weeks (Brandle, 2015). This massive success allowed Vance to release his full album in 2014, Dream Your Life Away, which includes “Riptide” and “From Afar” from his EP along with 11 new originals. Similarly to the EP, Dream Your Life Away follows an indie folk theme akin to Fleet Foxes, with a soothing batch of instruments and prominent vocals that perfectly fit a long road trip or an evening snuggled up in a blanket by the fireplace. But after all of his sudden success from “Riptide,” does Dream Your Life Away live up to the hype? Is it even worth buying? Vance Joy’s album Dream Your Life Away is, in fact, a fantastic album as it effectively uses the placing and pace of its songs to affect the listener’s emotions, while its spare, yet energetic instrumentals let the audience focus on Joy’s powerful lyrics.

Vance Joy.

Dream Your Life Away does something that not many other artists are able to do well nowadays, it really makes you feel. His songs perfectly embody emotions of comfort, loss, sadness, and regret. Dream Your Life Away’s very first song, “Winds of Change” immediately sets the level of excellence for the rest of the album as Joy uses very soft strums of his guitar that evokes a homesick feeling, a shaker to keep the beat that nearly forces you to tap your foot alongside it, and the soft lull of a trumpet in the background that makes the whole piece flow and feel smooth. By the end of the song I just wanted to go on a long road trip with the people in my life that I am close with and never let them go. The next song in the album, “Mess is Mine” uses just about the very same instruments as the previous song, allowing for a very smooth transition from song to song, which is what Joy intended. While “Winds of Change” leaves the listeners with that homesick feeling, “Mess is Mine” ups the speed and volume of the guitar and percussion to make the audience feel at home, giving the album a strong and satisfying start. The album sets up for another strong connection with the third and fourth songs, “Wasted Time” and “Riptide.” “Wasted Time” starts off with similar instruments, but it is obvious that there are some more string instruments present, which both connect to the previous songs with the guitar but also makes it different. As the song goes on, it speeds up and slows down at certain points until it hits the end of the song at a speed in the middle. “Riptide” begins at the exact same speed, easily connecting it to the previous song. The rest of the album follows a similar format where each of the songs has similar instruments but their own unique and interesting take on said instruments.

          This allows Joy to not have to use a large collection of instruments, but instead use a collection of interesting instruments that he builds upon over the album. Like in “Riptide,” Joy started the craze of the ukulele by having it be the most prominent instrument in the song when before it was an instrument that was not used very often. Joy used the ukulele for its association with Hawaiian culture, which  correlates with the gorgeous beaches in the Hawaiian islands, which has obvious ties with the title of the song, “Riptide.” Joy makes sure to put a lot of time and effort in each and every one of his songs, as “Riptide” was over 5 years in the making before it was published. This effort is even more obvious with the actual most prominent instrument in his songs, his own vocals. Joy has a very appealing and soothing voice that he uses to evoke all kinds of emotions, all the way from sadness and grief to happiness and contentedness. Joy manages to perfectly sew his voice and the other instruments together that doesn’t take the listeners out of the music and also allows enjoyment without even having to pay attention to the lyrics. But Joy does want the audience to hear his words, and due to the few amounts of instruments Joy employs, the listeners are encouraged to pay attention. And Joy’s lyrics are really what make the songs stand out. While the instruments like guitars and drums get the listener caught on hooks, the actual meanings behind the songs are what make them really pop. In “Red Eye,” the slow melodious strumming of the guitar gets the listener enticed into listening to the song over and over again, and the seemingly happy tone of the song quickly turns to bittersweet when the audience pays attention to the lyrics. The song is truly about a relationship in which a boy keeps trying to please a girl but is afraid that she will leave him, as he is going through a dark time in his life that he needs someone else to “hold up a candle” while he is “stumbling in the dark.” Every single one of Joy’s songs employs this format in different ways that allow the audience to notice different things each and every time they listen to the song.

          Vance Joy, with his slim but powerful instruments that draw its audience in and highlights the meaningful vocals of the song, has successfully transformed himself from a ‘one-hit wonder’ to an artist with an album nearly as good or even better than his major hit with “Riptide.” Joy never let all of the success go to his head and instead focused his time on creating a great album, with many great tracks to enjoy over and over again. While Joy may have a lot of competition from other composers, he has already placed himself on the map of the indie pop and folk world with “Riptide” and now a full album to collect a slew of his work. I would rate this album a B+ and I look forward to his work in the future where he might cover more topics with his catchy instrumental and his meaningful lyrics, and maybe even hit another ARIA Chart record.







Works Cited

Brandle, Lars. “Vance Joy’s ‘Riptide’ Sets a Chart Record in Australia.”  Billboard, 11 May 2015,

Joy, Vance. “Vance Joy.”, Atlantic Records,