Pleasant Living: Tiny Moving Parts

Tiny Moving parts

Tiny Moving parts is a emo-revival band from Fargo, North Dakota made up of brothers Matthew and Billy Chevalier on bass and drums and singer/guitarist Dylan Mattheisen. Pleasant Living is the band’s sophomore album and its by no means a sophomore slump. Pleasant Living is an album full of catchy songs about Mattheisen’s life back home backed by amazing musicianship. Songs such as “Sundress,” “Always Focused,” and “Movies” beg to be played while driving around. Pleasant Living remains engaging throughout, thanks to dynamic songs that are executed with technical prowess yet maintaining punk passion, a skill that makes Tiny Moving Parts stand out in the emo-revival crowd. For all that Tiny Moving Parts has going for it though Pleasant Living has one glaring flaw. Emo music is known for having whiney or screamed vocals with emotional lyrics, that’s part of what makes an emo band an emo band, however there’s a fine line between whining and catharsis. A line Tiny Moving Parts at times misses by miles and come off as embarrassingly melodramatic. Songs like “The Better Days” reads like bad teenage poetry. The lyrics, while cringe-worthy at album and shown progression from their debut, This Couch is Long and Full of Friendship, which is all you can ask for from a bands sophomore album.

Rating: 8/10

By: Charles Pfaff 

Syro – Aphex Twin

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Fewer artists command the degree of prestige amongst critics and musicians that Richard David James, better known as Aphex Twin, does. His twistedly beautiful electronic works have been ludicrously influential in electronic music and in 21st century music as a whole. Despite this influence, Aphex Twin is far from a household name. However, in August of 2014, a series of cryptic images and hints were released in a dramatic fashion that one might expect from a more mainstream figure. Perhaps it was the blimp bearing the Aphex Twin logo or the symbol adorning the sidewalk outside of Radio City Music Hall but the return of Aphex Twin was dramatic to say the least.

Does the music justify the means? I’d certainly say so. Syro is many things, but none of them dull. The songs vary between ominous synths and off-kilter programmed drums that hypnotically weave in and out throughout the songs. Throughout the record there is an underlying sense of restraint and deliberateness, a sharp contrast to the bombastic, overloaded works of many of today’s contemporary electronic artists. The album’s flow is commendable as well. With track names like “PAPAT4 [155]” (pineal mix)” or “4 bit 9d api+e+6 [126.26]” it’s hard to pick out a favorite song yet it helps to strengthen the idea of listening to the album as a whole. The ending’s a nice change as well, a solemn four minute piano piece that adds an emotional, cinematic conclusion to the album.

All in all it’s a great return for Aphex Twin. Many artists struggle to return to their former glory when returning from an absence but Syro hits the ground running, returning back to form as good as ever. It may not be as groundbreaking as some of James’ earlier works but still sounds fresh and original thirteen years after his last album. Syro showcases James’ rhythmic command and deft ability to create soundscapes that never feels overindulgent. A fine effort, Richard David James has cemented his spot as a titan of electronic music.

 

Me. I am Mariah: Mariah Carey

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Review by Janeal Downs

Yes you, you are Mariah. We know that. Mariah Carey started off her 2014 album with a song titled “Cry”. Until she started hitting her notes, it sounded a little boring and resembled a gospel song that never had the beat drop. However, as it is only the intro, I did not want to jump to conclusions. For her next song “Dedicated” I believed it was an ode to the past of hip hop and I did enjoy the sound bites of her talking with someone in between. The song was cute and I did like the fact Nas was featured.

Following this song was “Beautiful” with Miguel which is very radio friendly and I enjoy the song overall. Miguel and Mariah’s voices harmonized together very well. By this time in the album I began thinking perhaps she just started off slow, and the album still had some potential.

However, my spirits dropped once I heard “Thirsty.” This song was Mariah’s attempt to please the new generation and what I am assuming she wanted to serve as another radio hit for the mainstream music lovers. It was not bad, but I would not download it if it was a free ringtone. The song made me imagine a mother who is trying to prove to her teenage children that she is still “hip” using words like ‘thirsty, ‘boss’ and ‘Instagram.’ However, Mariah, your kids are not teens yet so you did not have to do that song. I did get discouraged after “Thirsty,” but then came “Make it Look Good.” I liked this one! It was a fun song and I absolutely love the instrumentals in the back. The song was kind of a combination of R & B with some hip hop and some country elements and it was just shy of being lovely.

“You’re Mine (Eternal)” was an okay song but I just felt like I wanted more. I needed a real love song and I feel like Mariah is, or was, married with children and I thought it should be easier to convey the love she had for her family into a song. So I was just left hoping a real love song would come later. The next song “You Don’t Know What To Do” however was not a love song. But all I have to say is “You betta sing, sang it sang it sang it!” Is that the lovely Mariah I hear? Is that Wale I hear? Now we have got a song. This song took me back to the 90’s and I loved it.

I will admit, for some reason I really do not like songs titled supernatural, but “Supernatural” finally gave me the love song I wanted to hear. It was a love song for her children and I hope that was really their voices. I could just imagine her singing this to her twins and them giggling with glee. Whose baby voice was that at the end though? It was painfully adorable. The next couple of songs “Meteorite” and “Camouflage” had a tough act to follow, and they failed. They were okay, but nothing was too great or too bad about them. Then came “Money” with Fabolous. How many songs is he in with the word money in the title? The song was okay but I just did not like the fifty “showty’s” Fabulous put in the song.

For the next song “One More Try,” I cannot remember much but I surely will not forgert “Heavenly,” one of my favorites from the album. Mariah when did you go to church? Yes! I loved her version of the gospel song “Can’t Give Up Now.” It gave me goose bumps imagining a Mariah Carey gospel album. She hit all of her notes and made me want to raise my hands to Heaven myself. I absolutely loved the acapella ending with the choir.

After I heard “It’s a Wrap,” Mary plus Mariah, no one would dare say this is not a great combination. However, the lyrics of the song were talking about leaving a man. Although I know it was probably just for entertainment reasons, I hope this song was not Mary trying to convince Mariah to leave Nick.

Anyway, I would love to see a video for this song and “Heavenly.” While I am just loving these two songs up next comes “Betcha Gon’ Know” with none other than R. Kelly. It was great. This is when I realized, excluding Fabulous, the best songs of the album are when she is not singing alone. She had Wale, Mary J. Blige, R. Kelly, even her kids. It is concerning for a woman with such a strong voice to have to rely on others to make her songs good.

“The Art of Letting Go” was decent though it had some weird mixing of beats toward the end. The album ended with “Me. I am Mariah” and I will admit the song was cute. “The elusive chanteuse.” I have no idea what that means or who is the “they” who have been calling her that, but I like it and the picture which went with the song was adorable.

Once the album ended I am left wondering, where are the love songs about your husband who is soon to be her ex-husband. This album came out before the divorce, but were there issues during the creation of this album? The only love I could hear was to her children. This album definitely did not top “The Emancipation of Mimi.” Because I had mixed feelings throughout the whole album, I would give “Me. I am Mariah” a 5 out of 10.

5/10

Alvvays – Alvvays

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Review by Jamal Stone

An album’s true test comes once it’s burned to a CD-R, branded with a Sharpie, and added to the driving collection. On a whim, I burned Alvvays’ self-titled debut in 5 AM stillness. I’d had a two-hour drive ahead of me, a round trip from Richmond to Emporia, and I needed something to sing along to. Alvvays certainly has the it factor, although its hard to place. It is not structural. The songs are framed innocuously enough – 8 bar intro, refrain, breakdown, refrain. Nor is it strictly melodic. The hooks here are catchy, but they demand a few listens to take hold. It isn’t rhythmical, either. The drumming is misplaced, falling flat next to the deep bass guitar and tangy guitars. It wasn’t found behind the boards. Chad VanGaalen’s production on the album is notable for its invisibility. The mastering is subtle; this album could conceivably be a pristine live recording found on a tape deck. In a sea of contenders, Alvvays doesn’t necessarily stand out. Alvvays’ closest peers, bands like Beach House, or Dum Dum Girls, similarly approximate the 80s through a modern lens. And yet, it was there. I was belting Alvvays up and down the beltway.

If anything in Alvvays’ repertoire feels especially contemporary, it’s front woman Molly Rankin’s lyricism. Her insights squirt established pop tropes with a wedge of cynicism. The commanding “Archie, Marry Me” seems like a straight-forward love song, but Rankin lends voice to the financially bent, post-adolescents that drew headlines during the Occupy Movement. “You’ve expressed explicitly your contempt for matrimony/You’ve student loans to pay and will not risk the alimony,” she considers, before buckling and yelling out, “Hey!/Marry me, Archie!” Clocking in at less than 35 minutes, the album addresses issues such as alcoholism, abandonment, and drowning with a wink and a nod, while staying within the framework of indie rock.

Alvvays is an album that will rest comfortably in my sun visor’s CD pouch, ready to mourn summers past – to discover what Rankin calls the “comfort in debauchery”. “We never get it on the first try,” Rankin later admits on the track “Dives”. Her humility might be unwarranted – Alvvays oozes confidence from every pore, and stands as one of the defining indie pop albums of 2014.

8/10

Review: Next to Nothing – Rittz

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By Dylan Reddick

Just a year after releasing his debut album, The Life and Times of Johnny Valiant, Rittz has returned with his sophomore effort, Next to Nothing.  After a debut that garnered significant buzz thanks in part to some high profile endorsements from the likes of Yelawolf and Mike Posner, and being signed to Tech N9ne’s independent label, Strange Music, the pressure is on to avoid the dreaded “sophomore slump”. After a short intro track Rittz launches into what he does best; a machine gun paced vocal assault. The track, aptly titled “Explode”, features a slick chorus, a bass heavy beat, and verses delivered in a rapid-fire style reminiscent of his mentor, Tech N9ne. However, that’s not to say Rittz’s style isn’t unique, it builds upon the speed, developing a signature bounce that separates Rittz from other motor-mouthed MC’s.

The rest of the record features several stellar moments. “Turn Down” offers a rebuttal to the popular party anthem with Rittz while “Crown Royal”, a tribute to the popular liquor, serves as one of the album’s primary party anthems. Mike Posner lends his lackadaisical style to two tracks, “In My Zone” and “Going through Hell”, complimenting Rittz’s staccato lyrics brilliantly. The production on the album is polished and straightforward, allowing more room for Rittz’s lyrical wizardry. Some tracks feature bluesy embellishments and guitar solos, giving the album a darker, grittier vibe.

Unfortunately a few songs in the middle of the album, such as “Call 911” or “Blow”, drag on a bit and failed to garner the amount of replays as some of the album’s highlights. Despite this, the record finishes strong. The second to last track, “White Rapper”, is an emotionally charged track featuring one of the album’s strongest performances and lyrics concerning Rittz’s struggle to prove his musical legitimacy. The album wraps up with “Turning Up The Bottle” a song that showcases Rittz’s storytelling ability as he deftly weaves a tale of alcohol abuse around a somber chorus.

Next to Nothing improves much upon Rittz’s debut, tightening up some of the slack and featuring some of his best songs thus far in his career. As the buzz grows, perhaps this will be the release that catapults Rittz into mainstream, perhaps even some radio play. Only time will tell but with such a solid performance and growing hype it’s unlikely Rittz will stay Next to Nothing for long.

9/10