Take a listen to what our contributors and editors have been playing this week.
Hanni El Khatib
By Marty Gatto
The mediocre songs are few and far between on Hanni El Khatib’s new album Savage Times. The album is a collection of Hanni El Khatib’s five separately released Savage Times Volumes, along with a handful of other new songs, and it is without a doubt one of the best alternative rock albums I’ve heard this past year. Savage Times bases its overall sound on Hanni El Khatib’s previously defined simple song structures with clever hooks, guitar riffs, and raw, gritty vocals. However, Savage Times also includes a fair amount of successful experimentation and stretching of the genre through innovation. Hanni El Khatib opens the album with “Baby’s Ok,” an energetic track that heightens the pace right from the beginning and is a great opening for the rest of the album. Following is “Gonna Die Alone.” It includes crisp, hard drum beats, a nice light guitar backing, and interlocking hooks that rarely show themselves in better form. The next track is “Born Brown,” an intense, short, EDM track about Hanni El Khatib being “born brown,” and although it is a large departure from what we’d expect from him, it’s a great change of pace as well as subject matter and tone. Hanni El Khatib continues with some upbeat alternative rock tracks such as “Paralyzed” and “Come Down,” some intense, abrasive tracks such as “Savage Times” and “So Dusty,” and some bluesy, slower tracks such as “Miracle,” which succeed quite impressively at integrating his gritty, catchy style into a slower, more serious sound. There is an endless amount of positive things to say about Savage Times but only one critique, which is that some of the tracks towards the end of the album veer too far from Hanni El Khatib’s style for him to master the sound, like he does with a good two-thirds of the album. Other than that, it is an amazing album and we all should be listening to it right now.
Listen to the album below.
Our First 100 Days
By Luis Gomez
If the election has caused anything other than widespread fear and lots of sleepless nights on Twitter, it’s collective organizing. Some people protest, some call their congresspeople, and one group of artists has come together to create Our First 100 Days, a song-a-day project for the first leg of the Trump administration. The collection costs a minimum of $30 on bandcamp, with proceeds going to a variety of organizations that advocate for climate, reproductive, immigration, and queer justice as well as an Indiana voting rights nonprofit and an artist-facing nonprofit that helps recording artists become full-fledged activists. So how have the first thirty songs been? So far, fantastic. With artists like Toro y Moi, Tim Heidecker, Angel Olsen, and PWR BTTM providing songs, the music has been a mix of down-tempo reflective material and fast, angry, shouty stuff. Plus, Mitski and The Mountain Goats are signed up to eventually release material, so Our First 100 Days still has a lot of upward momentum in store. The danger with an album like this is that eventually, over the course of 100 songs, one will crop up that’s outright crap. That might still happen, but of the thirty that have come out so far, it’s been good work. Maybe not stuff that I’d like personally, but it’s all good. If you’re looking for a an easy way ton get involved, or if you just want to hear some dope tunes, Our First 100 Days isn’t a bad pickup.
Listen to the current tracklist below.
Active Bird Community
By Caroline Bojarski
Active Bird Community, an indie rock band that played a Thursday night show at Tinkers just two years ago, is now streaming their recently released third album on Billboard. Stick Around is consistent with ABC’s earlier releases, featuring authentic, hinting-at-emo, vocals, driving rhythm and bass, and standout guitar riffs.
The album’s opening track “QB Sneak” enumerates the negative realities of being in your early twenties like an uncannily accurate horoscope. If the track’s opening lyrics, “I’ve had two weeks of bad dreams/Now I’m living on caffeine” don’t make you think about That One Time, I want to know your secret.
While it is true that the pitfalls of young adulthood have been the muse for countless musicians before ABC, the album avoids feeling cliched thanks to unpretentious songwriting and casual instrumentals. “Newbie” exemplifies this chemistry by offering straightforward lyrics, a refreshing change within a genre (indie) that infamously glorifies obscurity. ABC refrain from taking themselves too seriously on Stick Around, an accomplishment evidenced on tracks such as “Drank the Water” and “Melancholy Paper Drum”. Although it often feels like some of their tracks end prematurely, leaving the vague impression that there should be more, this can be a blessed relief from the other indie rock blight of the six-minute atmospheric jam session.
With vocals that lace apathy with a glimmer of hope “Dead Legs” is definitely the album’s standout track. This anthem could be a tired friend group’s mutual consolations after a night out in which some serious shit went down.
From start to finish, Stick Around feels like being just the right amount of drunk at a basement party with friends and strangers. Sure, there are problems and you can’t afford to Uber home, but it’ll all work out in the end.
Listen in on the album below.
Chained to the Rhythm
By Claire Nunez
Attention Katy Kats: our queen, Katy Perry is back with a new single, “Chained to the Rhythm.” As an avid Katy fan, I was ecstatic to hear that she had surprised her fans with a new song this past week, but her song featuring Skip Marley is nothing but a basic party anthem. It leaves a lot to be desired. Perry is a great vocalist, but the song is just reminiscent of her album Prism. The song’s rhythm reminds me a lot of “This is How We Do.” It is almost as if she took her past album and ran it through the wash a few times to get whatever this is. I am not a fan and am rather disappointed to get this cookie cutter crap from one of my favorite artists. It is just kinda lame. I can’t even imagine dancing to it because it is too slow. It is as if Perry is trying to break out into more clubby music, but her old stuff is a bit more dance-invoking. I really do not understand the lyrics; they’re really boring. Teenage Dream was an incredible album, and Katy Perry would be much better off if she stuck to writing about experiences that her fans can relate to. I really don’t want to “dance, dance, dance to the distortion” because I am not entirely sure on what that means. I feel betrayed by her new song, but I have to say that I will always love you, Katy.
Listen to the new single below.
Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
Zombies on Broadway
By Sarah Loftus
Like any good album that claims inspiration from New York City, Zombies on Broadway opens with the rushing sound of a subway coming into the station (apparently it’s the L train). The second solo album by Andrew McMahon performing under the name of Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, Zombies on Broadway showcases McMahon’s clear vocals and rapid piano playing against poppy drum beats fairly well. Described as indie pop or “adult pop,” Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness is probably best known for his hit “Cecilia and the Satellite” off of his self-titled 2014 album. McMahon then gained substantial traction last summer as he opened for Weezer and Panic! At the Disco‘s joint tour across the country. As a result, Zombies is a strong continuation of McMahon’s career, although, in my opinion, not the best of it.
Before the release of this album, McMahon released five of its songs as singles, the most exciting being “Fire Escape” and “Brooklyn You’re Killing Me.” As great as that was, I felt as though there was nothing too new to discover once the album was released. The best songs were released early, leaving little else to enjoy on the short 38-minute album. Arguably, this could be said for many albums, but I just expected something else from Andrew McMahon and was quite disappointed upon my first listen. Highlights of the album are “Shot Out of a Cannon,” “Walking in My Sleep,” and “Island Radio,” all of which are quite catchy. But to be honest, are just the three most distinct songs off the album as the rest of the tracks blend together in a mix of piano and repetitive lyrics.
Highly personal and largely just a reflection of McMahon’s thoughts about missing his girlfriend, missing his girlfriend-now-wife, and/or missing his infant daughter while on the road, Zombies is not exactly inventive with its lyrics in any of its songs. As a result, no matter how lively the beat or how happy the piano in the song, McMahon’s vocals always sound kind of hammy and homesick, creating a mood any 20-something can relate to in a “Wow, that’s deep and literally describes me, I should call home” sort of way. Zombies brings nothing new to the table and seems quite safe and manufactured in my opinion. It seems less colorful and energetic in comparison to 2014’s Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness which had strong synth and drum driven tracks.
In the end, the album will probably do well for itself but fade quite quickly from any chart it makes it to as well as my playlist, unless, of course, I manage to nab tickets for his sold-out April 11th New York show (no pressure to send a ticket my way or anything.) But overall, Zombies on Broadway is a solid album. I find it easy to listen to and can see it as the perfect backtrack to a dance party around a bonfire on a Californian beach.
Listen to the album below.