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Album Review: Cayetana – New Kind of Normal

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“Sometimes it’s hard to say when you’re just having a rough day.”

These are the first words Augusta Koch sings on Cayetana’s new record, New Kind of Normal. They’re objectively true; it is hard to say when you’re having a shitty day. Not because words are tough to come by or because it’s literally difficult to speak (though, these very real and consequential challenges exist). Rather, it’s addressing the fact that we’re encouraged to internalize, compartmentalize, and quiet down instead of speaking out, expressing, and connecting. The pendulum is, subtly and gradually, swinging away from an unhealthy culture of silence; mental health stigma, while still embedded and pervasive, is being challenged and rejected. Koch, bassist Allegra Anka, and drummer Kelly Olsen deliver a blow in that fight with New Kind of Normal, an expansive, charged record that rejects the idea that we need to suffer alone. It forwards the idea that feeling weird and abnormal is normal. These aren’t revolutionary phrases; what’s remarkable isn’t so much the words but the utterance of them.

It speaks volumes that Cayetana are one of the most celebrated acts in a swollen Philadelphia music scene, despite only having one full-length out. Their 2014 debut, Nervous Like Me, sat nestled among a handful of EPs and splits, including one last year with Melbourne’s Camp Cope. “Mesa”, the breath-of-fresh-air first single off New Kind of Normal, was on that split. Like the rest of the record, it’s raw, pure, assured, and exasperated: “We can only hurt ourselves for so long,” Koch pleads on the chorus. It’s a wake-up call.

The clarity and confidence of New Kind of Normal are absolute and uncompromising. Desiring total control over their work, they created their own label, Plum Records, to release the new album, ensuring its integrity and voice. Longtime producer and friend Matt Schimelfenig explores ambient sound across the record, detailing closer “World” with street sounds and the kind of background Keep Reading

Album Review: Slowdive – Slowdive

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It’s no secret that shoegaze finds itself in dire straits these days due to a lack of innovation. While the genre’s roots are alive and evident, contemporary artists are electing to show flashes of it in their pop or metal rather than playing a traditional shoegaze sound. Creating ethereal dream pop in the style of Beach House or channeling punishing metal riffs through delay pedals like Alcest is about the extent of forward thinking that the genre has seen over the last 20 years. Indisputably, Slowdive contributed significantly to both of these extremes in the early ’90s. While it would be largely unfair to expect the British quintet’s comeback record (their first in 22 years) to provide shoegaze with its much needed jolt of innovation, the eponymous album does serve as an excellent example of what a great shoegaze record should sound like.

Slowdive has all the poppy, incandescent guitar tones and beautiful, eerie melodies that have long made the band fairly accessible. The new record also does away with the Eno-esque ambience they experimented with on their last album, 1995’s Pygmalion. Instead, Slowdive have crafted an offering that has more in common with their classic 1993 sophomore effort, Souvlaki, and yet the album refrains from being simply a banal imitation of the past. No, Slowdive captures a renewed outfit effortlessly crafting deep atmospheres and trance-like dream pop qualities with a unique nod to their past discography.

The two lead singles, “Star Roving” and “Sugar for the Pill”, feature Rachel Goswell’s angelic falsetto over a shimmering, dreamy Keep Reading

Live Review: Ryan Adams at New York’s Beacon Theatre (5/2)

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Photography by Killian Young

Completely seated venues can be tricky business, especially for a rock show that would also skirt into the quieter territories of folk and country. This was Ryan Adams’ first challenge as he took the stage in New York City’s historic Beacon Theatre, a grandiose, three-story venue. The stage is flanked by resplendent 30-foot-tall gold statues of Greek goddesses. Intricate murals line the walls, and a beautiful chandelier hangs from the vaulted ceiling. With sumptuous, red velvet curtains and seats, the venue feels fit for an awards ceremony. But a rock gig? As the lights dimmed, it remained to be seen whether the crowd would stay down or rise to the occasion.

As Ryan Adams emerged, a handful of fans stood. He almost immediately erased any worries of a complacent audience, with the punchy opening riff of Prisoner standout “Do You Still Love Me?” serving as a fitting wake-up call. Through a combination of some killer reworkings of his studio tracks; a simple, gorgeous visual setup; and some witty banter, the veteran singer-songwriter earned his standing ovation song after song.

As the first track ended and transitioned to the rollicking “To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)”, nearly everyone jumped to their feet. The crowd was polite overall, clapping heartily at the end of tracks, but remaining stationary during songs. (This also meant that Adams didn’t need to humorously chide anyone for talking or using flash photography.) And despite some other louder cuts like “Outbound Train” and “Gimme Something Good” in the early going, the crowd’s first big reaction surprisingly came during the quieter “Dirty Rain”.

ryan adams killian young 8 Live Review: Ryan Adams at New Yorks Beacon Theatre (5/2)

The slower tempo and pared-down instrumentation let Adams’ voice shine, as it cruised through the captivated audience. The backdrop to the stage mimicked a starry night, which fittingly lit up blue for this track. The other major component of the stage setup was a series of retro televisions that played in Keep Reading

Album Review: Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog

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Despite his unkempt attire, love of fart jokes, and the term most often used to describe his music, Mac DeMarco is anything but a slacker. Since 2012, he has put out two critically acclaimed albums, a less-than-stellar mini-LP, appeared in the upper-middle half of every festival lineup poster, and produced a couple of sweet covers of his heroes (James Taylor and Prince). Despite this massive output, DeMarco still seems to have his credit deflected by his often ridiculous off-stage persona. Half-serious interviews and a grotesque sense of humor have caused Mac to morph into a walking meme, with critics and fans alike waiting for that ridiculous sound bite with every interview he does. When would the music become the primary narrative? On This Old Dog, DeMarco’s third proper LP, the fans finally get their answer. With more daring songwriting and cleaner studio sound, Mac DeMarco has created the most polished version of his signature sound we have heard to date.

Musically, Mac gives the listener a crash course on the genres and sounds that have influenced him across his catalog. The wonky acoustic guitar is still there, as on tracks like the somber “This Old Dog”, but there is an expansion of sound that we have not seen from DeMarco. On “A Wolf Who Wears Sheeps Clothes”, Mac does his best Jimmy Buffett impression, with harmonica and lead guitar fighting for center stage. “One More Love Song” shows his funkier side, with rolling bass and a falsetto chorus hearkening Keep Reading

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