Show Review: Rex Orange County, 02.24.20, Stubb's
As Rex Orange County was about to move into the chorus of his hit song, “Best Friend,” he peered out into the crowd of cell phones ready to record him sing these famous few lines. He paused, cut the band, and said, “Before I start the chorus, I need to see every phone in this crowd disappear. I want this to be an experience between you and me, nobody else.” He did not start the chorus until there wasn’t a single phone in sight. I think this experience that those in the crowd, including myself, were able to have demonstrates not only the message Rex’s music tries to emphasize but also the type of person he is. There is a clear authenticity in his personality and desire to not only immerse himself in the lyrics he writes and the performances he puts on but also connect with those listening to those lyrics and performances. In addition, there was an authenticity in his voice, as every song he performed sounded like it came straight from the recording, demonstrating how truly talented he really was. Not a single mess up, voice crack, or note he couldn’t reach that I heard when listening to the song on my streaming service. After seeing Rex in concert, the music he produced was truly never the same.
Right now, the world is living in a lot of uncertainty and sometimes having faith in the fact that there really is a light at the end of this dark tunnel can be pretty difficult. However, Pony and Rex’s music sets a tone for any music lover or even just an average listener that naturally puts you in a good mood. There was a vibe from this artist, album, and concert that I personally have never felt before. I also find it difficult to categorize the genre that Rex’s music can fall into, mostly because the music fits in to so many. Some may say indie, some say pop, some even say rock. This also goes to show the wide variety of audience members he is able to appeal to. Though the album, Pony, came out early in September, I only saw Rex in concert late February, a few weeks before self-isolation began. I don’t necessarily believe in coincidences but I never knew how much I would need Pony as my own motivation during these trying times. It’s almost as if Rex was trying to preserve the last time for a while where we could all be together physically, in the moment, before cell phones were really the only way to communicate, or see artists perform. Those looking for an upbeat, yet understanding group of songs right now, Pony is “10/10” the album that can show that even though “it’s not the same anymore,” and quarantine can really make you “stressed out,” let’s all remember, “it gets better.”
EP Review: 'Christian Paul' by Christian Paul
Most of us at Euphoria ATX are just recovering from rona-inflicted “March Madness” and this invariably entails unearthing new releases that slipped under the collective debris. Pop singer-songwriter Christian Paul’s debut EP is one of these gems that shines brightly past our abrupt present realities. Since last year, the 20 year old found-talent has quietly issued a steady stream of singles and videos flaunting his razor-sharp intuition and industry-winning voice. His self-titled EP culminates an identity search for an old-school brand with contemporary mass appeal. This is Shawn Mendes with an unapologetically classic soulful twist and we’re gonna fill our guilty little hearts with it.
Local fans have followed Chris’s adolescent success since his 2013 X-Factor audition followed by the short-lived boy band experiment Far Young. The gifted artist played his first drum kit at the age of four and subsequently learned guitar and piano. Early influences such as Sam Cooke and Curtis Mayfield are immediately apparent in his voice whereas hints of Prince and D’Angelo make their way into this EP’s production, bolstered by the likes of producers Ebenezer (Ty Dolla $ign, Craig David) and Bibi Bourelly (Rihanna, Lil Wayne).
“Chapter” is a translucent and vulnerable track affirming love as something you return to like the ear-marked pages of a well-worn book. Chris’s silky baritone arpeggiates into a reverberating falsetto and leads us into a buoyant hook that will surely make you blush. The songwriting is flattering and optimistic all the while veering into melodious, flowing raps. In “Maria,” the searing club tune transforms into lust-at-first-sight, transcending inhibitions and dialing the sexual tension up there with stratospheric trap beats. Guitar hooks recur obsessively throughout, as in “Here Tonight,” a versatile take on the bedroom-producer sound. The message is all about reconciliation, insecurity, and romantic optimism facing incertitude.
While these first three tracks show us Chris at his sweetest, the second half of the EP delves into the artist’s most vulnerable side. “Dead Beat” speaks for itself with its heavy trap ambience full of anguished vocals and disfigured guitar riffs. Likewise, “Bad Manners” builds the yearning mood with a stuttering guitar riff and deep-toned sub-bass. The lyrics are remorseful and resentful, treating us to an authentic view of this sensitive, generous songwriter. The final track lifts the spirits and declares that “We don’t settle / from nothing less.” The vibe is relaxed and under-stated, ending Chris’s EP on a confident, redemptive note. This song, much like the rest of the EP, keeps its cool. Curiously, it’s also the only track ending in a fade-out, effectively teasing what the future may hold for this young, promising artist.
Skeptics may see an underground pop star gambling on music trends, but this air-tight EP speaks to Christian Paul’s pure potential. Every vocalization and beat lays testament to the artist’s charisma, a scarce musical intuition that doesn’t just rest with his iconic mid-fade or bomber leather jackets. We’re excited to hear Chris’s music age like fine wine—a musical output that just keeps getting better and better. Christian Paul is a ticking time bomb waiting to blow up on America’s fans and music charts.
Revisiting 'The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill' in Quarantine
Like most of the world, I’ve been spending the past five weeks inside. My realization of the situation’s severity and transition to a new lifestyle have been simultaneous, making life feel like a game: a little out of my control. Within a week, school was moved online, all future plans with my friends were cancelled, and, perhaps most bitter to me, my perfect internship with a music booking agency was paused indefinitely, as the world of live music and concerts is now unclear. In this time of uncertainty, for not only music but for humanity, I’ve decided to explore the albums that made me who I am. Making the effort to listen to an album all the way through can be difficult or unappealing in a busy life, but when the world goes silent, turning on a beloved album is the purest method of reflection. For me, Lauryn Hill’s 1998 debut and only album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is the quintessential album for isolation, dealing with deep-rooted, intangible motifs of the black, female, and human experiences. The lyrics and production of each track tilt the metaphorical balancing scale between pain and pleasure -- the strongest internal conditions of human emotion.
Maybe it's the effect of living at home with my parents, or talking with my little cousins on FaceTime about their day in online classes, or maybe it's simply my discontent with Zoom University, but the past weeks have made me nostalgic for elementary school. It comforts me to listen to the classroom skits of Miseducation and hear the voices of children, reminding me of my former free-spiritedness and curiosity as a child (especially as the teacher’s pet I was in elementary school). Hill includes these young students for several reasons: as representation of a past self, as visualization of her future child(ren), as a metaphor for the political intention of the album in educating young black girls and boys in the school of life. In my mind, however, I most fruitfully envision Hill featuring these young voices as a communication of ourselves as eternal children. To feel the emotions illustrated by Hill throughout the album with such intensity and understanding, the listener must transform from their adult struggles and thoughts to a childlike state of experiencing — not bringing any former opinions to the issues, letting your mind be completely open and loving.
Weighing down the scale of pleasure, Hill discusses her experience and joy as a black mother in “To Zion.” In Dorothy E. Roberts’ book, Killing the Black Body, she states, “The belief that Black procreation is the problem remains a major barrier to radical change in America.” In 1997, Lauryn Hill was coming off Fugees fame, seemingly at her peak of fame and artistic creativity, when she became pregnant with her first child. Hill recounts her difficult decision to keep her child against the suggestions of her peers in the song’s lyrics:
I knew his life deserved a chance
But everybody told me to be smart
"Look at your career," they said
"Lauryn, baby use your head"
But instead I chose to use my heart.
While Hill does not mention this disagreement maliciously, focusing her song on the beauty and holiness of black motherhood, it is important to note that the suppression of reproductive freedom for black women, due to concerns of how “fit” or respectable the mother will be, is inescapable, even for Hill.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the hurt of Lauryn bares its face throughout Miseducation. On “Lost Ones,” Hill digs into her resentment towards ex and former Fugees bandmate, Wyclef Jean. In this track and in countless other moments on the album, Hill slides into a sharp perspective comparable to the words of Audre Lorde’s 1981 speech, “The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism.” Lorde says, “We have learned to use anger as we have learned to use the dead flesh of animals, and bruised, battered, and changing, we have survived and grown and, in Angela Wilson’s words, we are moving on.” Hill frequently features the universal emotion of pain fuelled by anger or hurt in order to proclaim her solidarity with her listeners, her hurt black women and the curious minds of children learning how to love. But the inclusion of pain is only truly purposeful in one sense: to set against her growth. From pain we grow — we tip the scale to pleasure and love, even if only momentarily.
To conclude with a fleeting moment of pleasure in a world devoid of human touch, let’s dive into “Nothing Even Matters.” Between the smooth vocals of D’Angelo and Hill’s authentic understanding of love, this song is flawlessly sexy even beyond sex. The chemistry of the singers brings sexuality to the forefront of pleasure; the touch of love is the most powerful force in reaching life’s nirvana. In Miseducation, Lauryn Hill has achieved the balance of realizing her pain against Joan Morgan’s explained “erotic power,” ascending from her musical self-reflection and finally balancing the scales of the internal human experience.
Single Review: "U" by Noah North
Well, in the midst of the recent pandemic I feel like it’s safe to say no one’s plans are going quite as expected. It’s been a beautiful spring, but many of us find ourselves locked inside, unable to soak up the hints of sunshine.
As grim as reality is, I really just want to listen to some music that reminds me of simpler times in life. I need out of this room, and out of my head.
I’d like to thank Noah North for releasing a song that came just in time to save me from the quarantine blues. His single, “U”, is a vibrant and danceable hit that makes me want to get up and move after so many days stuck inside. The single’s lighthearted nature transports me to nights of shenanigans with good friends and sunny days spent out on the lake.
Noah’s vocals are extremely expressive and subtly show off an impressive range of notes. His easy-going, but skillful lyricism blends excellently with the beachy and ambient style of production. Moreover, his agility to jump from lyrical verses to rap keep you listening closely throughout the song.
Things may be different, but I know I can add “U” to the list of songs that will get me through this unpredictable time.
Album Review: 'Future Nostalgia' by Dua Lipa
I dislike most music. “Surely this admission should disqualify you from your esteemed role on the Euphoria content team!” you protest. But I’ll bet that you’re the same way; some songs you like enough to add to a playlist, but most you’re fine with never hearing again. When faced with the reality that music streaming is oversaturated, many artists resort to adding to the cacophony, releasing 17-track albums twice a year in a desperate plea for attention. Dua Lipa’s approach has been wholly different. Her latest offering, Future Nostalgia, is exactly what an album needs to be to stand out in the age of streaming: a sugar cube, where every song has hit potential.
The fifth track, “Levitating,” is the quintessential example of the album’s method, serving a dizzying barrage of hooks that gives the listener something new every nine seconds. The sheer density of melodies makes the song confusing on first listen, but immensely satisfying the second time around. It’s a case study of trimming fat. This emphasis on brevity permeates the entire record, with almost every song getting to the chorus in less than forty-five seconds.
The best song on Future Nostalgia? “Pretty Please,” and it’s not close. The effectiveness of the song is due in no small part to its producer, Ian Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick, known for his work on “Don’t Start Now,” “New Rules,” and Selena Gomez’s “Back To You,” is quickly making a name for himself as a hit machine. With “Pretty Please,” he masterfully crafts an arrangement that blossoms from a stripped back groove to an all-you-can-eat buffet for the ears. This song simultaneously has the cheap thrills we’ve come to expect alongside the slower payoff of a larger musical narrative reminiscent of a bygone era when pop music could breathe.
Now, I have some grievances I would like to air. The pre-chorus of “Hallucinate” is not good, and what I mean by that is it sounds bad. This is incongruous with the rest of the record, which mostly has a pleasing sound. Thankfully, the verses are quite strong, but apparently too strong, as “Break My Heart” inexplicably plagiarizes them in its chorus. While I don’t predict the “Hallucinate” writing team will sue over this, the least that could have been done is separate the songs by more than four minutes to make the interpolation less glaringly obvious.
You can imagine how mad I was upon finishing “Break My Heart” only to immediately hear “Good In Bed” rhyme “bad,” “mad,” and “sad” in its chorus. And not in a clever way, either. The line is literally, “it’s bad, we drive each other mad, it might be kind of sad…” It’s in moments like these that Future Nostalgia falls victim to one of the classic blunders of pop music, relying on formula over creativity. Thankfully, the album’s brief detours into the banal are so few and far between that they are mostly forgivable.
In order to spite every writing teacher I have ever had, I am not including a conclusion. However, I will take a moment to address the elephant in the room. Many of you are wondering why I’m not writing about the new Strokes album, or The Weeknd’s album, or even the Toosie Slide. Why Dua Lipa? Is it because Future Nostalgia is full of prodigious innovation, ushering in a new era that will change the definition of music as we know it? Or maybe it’s because this idea of “future nostalgia” is so deeply poignant and relevant, symbolizing the yearning for a day when the world opens back up and we can return to work, gather in public, and hug our loved ones. It’s not. I just really like dance pop.
Album Review: 'Powerslide' by Soleima
Denmark’s latest electro-alt-pop phenomenon is here to stay with an assured and thematically epic debut. After a string of acclaimed singles and EPs, the long-anticipated album crowns Soleima’s relentless search for a raw, emotional, and off-kilter sound brandishing mass pop appeal. Powerslide (2020), as the title suggests, is all about regaining control—interrogating the psychological duality behind losing one’s self while reevaluating personal priorities and exploring more vulnerable domains. The artist’s half-obscured visage on the portrait cover could not make the statement clearer. Soleima’s ambitiously larger-than-life writing and defiant electronic aesthetic culminates in this genre-bending celebration of inner calamity and redemption.
The emerging Danish star is as eclectic as her music promises. Her training ranges from being the only female in a 7-piece Danish hip-hop collective (learning from urban “greats” such as Wu-Tang and The Roots) to immersing herself in anthropological field work in Nepal. The music in Powerslide resists categorization, relying instead on a colorful patchwork of international influences imbued with a wonderfully sardonic edge. Fans of FKA Twigs and Lykke Li will recognize the avant-pop sensibility of Soleima’s music amid its brash, unapologetic, and maximalist soundscapes. U.S. audiences will inevitably feel drawn to its R&B, P-funk, and house infusions.
The guitar-riff-driven opening track “Roses” makes for a strong anthemic highlight, setting the scene for Powerslide’s nebulously optimistic tone. Soleima’s vocal hooks are smooth, melodious, and intoxicating, as if drenched in red wine; meanwhile, the track invokes crunch distortion, dirty trap beats, and brassy choruses, each creating a sonorous analogy to the problem of the conflicted psyche. It’s verifiably a bop—something you’d easily find on hit-maker Max Martin’s writing desk—each verse seeping with attitude and veering into precarious “diss track” territory. It’s a winning aesthetic combination that characterizes Soleima’s acerbic lyricism on this album.
“Grind” complements the upbeat opener with a slow contemplation of a troubled romance. Soleima sings about the conflicted desire to recede into the touch of an old lover, at once lamenting that physical touch is “not enough” to redeem the relationship. The lustful track is so deeply, irrevocably human. A feature verse by LA-based electronic artist Yoshi Flower dramatizes the concept, instigating a tense dialogue between lovers presumably stuck in a stalemate.
Many avant-pop twists and experimentations are introduced throughout, as in “We’re Going Home,” reclaiming a difficult love as a homecoming. Smooth synth pads evoke an ocean bed swelling under the moon’s gravitational pull in an extraordinary feat of narrative tone-painting. Soleima’s desire to transcend mainstream pop conventions clearly rewards listeners with revitalizing, courageous timbres supporting fresh themes and narrative approaches.
Soleima’s fluid identity in alt-pop, alt-electronic, avant-pop, and more rivals the scope of even the most respected, overseas, pop-experimentalist aristocrats such as Björk or Fever Ray. Alongside Powerslide‘s moody core is an impressive range of emboldened attitudes and ideas. Soleima’s talented songwriting showcases an artist eager for catharsis and recognition. Her first US tour recently concluded in February, finding the artist uniquely geared for international domination with the help of her refined debut album release.
Artist Spotlight: Lainey Gonzales
Listening to Lainey Gonzales is an enchanting experience. From her hauntingly-sweet voice to lyrics that pull at your heart, she evokes a feeling of nostalgia in her listeners. Her music is a graceful balance between bitter and sweet, managing to address some of the harsher parts of life with a sense of ease.
The Austin-based artist has been writing music since her early years of high school. Although the UT graduate has been writing for quite some time, only during the last two years has she been gigging more frequently. Gonzales has graced some respectable stages in Austin including Stubb’s BBQ and Barracuda; quite the change from the small coffee shops she used to play.
After spending some contemplative time interning with a record label in New York, Gonzales decided her love for music could wait no longer. She decided it was time to actualize her growth as an artist and since then has released several songs on streaming platforms including a personal favorite, “Up In The Air."
As of now, Gonzales aspires to work as a full-time musician, but admits life at the 9-5 and school are often inspirations for her music. In the day-to-day flow of life she discovers the stories and feelings that could be another great song in the making. We can’t wait to hear what remarkable songs she writes next!
Just For Fun…
What is your dream venue?
What’s your favorite animal?
My senior-citizen cat, Bob
Album Review: 'Teethed Glory and Injury' by Altar of Plagues
I’ve been on a bit of a noise rock and metal foray recently and about a week ago I had the pleasure of listening to Irish black metal band Altar of Plagues’s third and final album, Teethed Glory and Injury. So I’m going to talk about it (and other things).
Teethed Glory and Injury is a phenomenal album. It’s definitely metal, with its screeching vocals, guitars, and drums, but that’s not all it has to offer. With tons of interesting sounds, glitchy synths, and deafening basses along with stretches of atmospheric sound envelopment, the album delves into ambient and drone territory, truly living up to it’s ‘atmospheric’ genre description. With its energetic and overwhelming sections, TGaI presents a soundscape that is both massive and terrifying.
It’s hard to find a dull moment. Every track offers some new experience, whether it be the slow atmospheric intro on “Mills”, the weird guitar lines on “Reflection Pulse Remains”, or the slower interludes in “Burnt Year” and “Scald Scar of Water”. The crowning jewel of the album is “A Remedy and a Fever”, an 8 minute long epic featuring an amazingly glitchy intro, driving vocal section, a more subdued choir section, an amazing climax, and a drawn out glitchy outro. Of all the tracks, the weakest is probably “Twelve Was Ruin” which, while not a terrible track, is a bit of a lackluster lull in the track listing.
Sometimes the more normal people I hang out with ask me how I enjoy listening to this sort of album. I don’t really have anything revolutionary to say about the music itself, so I thought I’d talk about this instead. Honestly, you can just listen to it on your own time.
Recently, as you may be aware, there has been a massive global pandemic sweeping the world. The perpetrator is COVID-19, a strain of the coronavirus. Currently sitting at 175,000 cases, it’s become quite a large problem. I, unfortunately, had to fly during this ordeal. Turns out, there’s not really much as terrifying as being trapped in a small metal box several thousand feet in the air with a bunch of coughing people in the midst of a pandemic. And the turnout shows it: no security line, plane at 33% capacity. As it turns out, the plague has done the impossible. Stopped travel during one of the busiest times of the year: spring break.
The plague has stopped a lot of things really, concerts, sporting events, business trips, etc. It has completely halted plans and lives and everything.
I think the pandemic is in some sense a god. Not the type of god that’s nice and listens to your prayers, though. Not one that deserves worship or praise or even respect. One that just tramples everything in its path indiscriminately. Something truly horrifying.
And I think it’s this horror that albums like Teethed Glory and Injury strive for. Something massive and godlike. Evil? Maybe. Is a plague evil? Not really. Something that’s horrifying in its indiscriminate envelopment. That swallows you whole without needing any explanation for doing so.
Of course, this is merely an Altar of Plagues. A sort of plague-worship if you will. At the end of the day, it’s just people on instruments making sounds. No matter how massive and great the music, there’s a sort of... camp in the center of it all, however small.
And that’s where the enjoyment comes from. The horror’s not real. It becomes what Burke might describe as the sublime. It becomes a knock-off horror, one that’s easier to swallow. One that helps a little when the real thing hits.
Like a vaccine.
Concert Review: Illiterate Light
There’s more to blues-psychedelic rock duo Illiterate Light than the small farm ethos they fully embrace in blue denim overalls and flower-print crop tanks. Their live show isn’t just the high-energy demonstration of two virtuosic front-men, Jeff Gorman (guitar and foot-activated synth bass) and Jake Cochran (drums)–it’s the spirit of a millenial’s age of anxiety transfigured into a timely, dazzling, and eco-conscious anthem.
The Virginia-roots band got their start touring the east coast three weeks at a time on bike, sustained only by their music and peanut butter. Illiterate Light’s folk influence–namely, Neil Young’s humanitarian lyricism combined with Fleet Foxes’ indie sensibility–infuse the duo medium that’s been popularized by the likes of White Stripes and Black Keys with something a little more personable and organic, as in non-GMO, yet totally unpretentious (think of your friendly neighborhood Wheatsville Food Co-op).
“In the Ground” kicked off the band’s live set at Barracuda on February 24th. The medium-tempo rock ballad constitutes an ode to willful ignorance as an empowered act of self-care. Jeff’s sleepish vocals shimmered over a brew of powerful subtones, snare hits, and swinging rhythms, immediately submerging me into a trance. I felt lulled by ribbons of atmospheric guitar only to be stirred awake by a powerful arena-rock build up that shook the venue. A final reprise of a head-banging riff seamlessly transitioned into a hard-rocking reflection of political angst, “Nuthin’s Fair”, off the band’s 2018 debut E.P.
Halfway through the electrified set, Illiterate Light stayed true to its fossil-fuelless mission and shut the PA off, leaving room for an acoustic rendition of “Sometimes Love Takes So Long”. The intimate setting of this wilting yet hopeful heartbreak tune easily became the night’s most memorable moment; Jeff and Jake delighted in their unplugged stage presence. After sincere banter describing their musical influences, Illiterate Light played one more tune sans power: the deliberately-timed Neil Young tribute, “I Wanna Leave America”, about political restoration and optimism post-Nixon.
Having satisfied their acoustic performance, the band leaped into the second half of their set featuring impassioned anthems such as “Better Than I Used To” and extended instrumental jams such as the grotesque, southern gothic “Vampire Blues”. For their last number, the duo invited show opener and Nashville artist Shane T to the stage where they cadenced on “Growin’ Down,” a feel-good embrace of all things uncertain.
Illiterate Light’s show is Rock Escapism at its finest. Their sound is a conscientious force that seeks to emancipate “light” from all its shackles–corruption, anti-environmentalism, even adulthood–and free us to feel like children playing in the mud. Whether it’s through sensible folk rock lyrics, psychedelic hard rock thrashers, or form-defying solos, Illiterate Light sets out to reaffirm the intrepid optimist inside all of us; they’ve demonstrated quite clearly that they don’t need the electric powerhouse to inspire and charm their audience.
What will this eclectic duo do next?
Clearly, bicycle-powered sound systems.
Illiterate Light has just announced their participation at WXPN XPoNential Music Festival this summer in addition to their current northeast U.S. tour. For concert dates, check them out at https://www.illiteratelight.com/.
Ya Like Jazz?: A Mini Mix
7 jazzy songs to get you through a gruesome 7 days waiting for Euphoria ATX’s The Roaring Twenties show at The Block on Leon
Picture this: the year is 1920. You just finished glamming yourself up for a night out with friends -- a glitzy gold dress or a sleek suit and fedora hat, with a pipe in hand. You’re waltzing over to the hottest speakeasy in town, when you are taken aback by the most beautiful sounds your young ears have ever heard. That’s JAZZ music, baby! Here’s a few of my favorite jazz tracks, old and new.
Modern Sophia - "Help You"
Starting us off strong, we have singer/songwriter Modern Sophia with “Help You.” This lo-fi ballad showcases Modern Sophia’s jazz and R&B influences with an impeccably romantic touch, striking comparisons to the styles of Kali Uchis and Amy Winehouse.
Duke Ellington - "Haupe"
Let’s bring it waaaay back now to the sweet sounds of 1959. Slow dance with your sweetheart to the charming piano of Duke Ellington and the growling croon of Bubbler Miley’s trumpet harmony.
Nara Leão - "O Barquinho"
A true jazz mix would be incomplete without the Musa de Bossa Nova (Bossa Nova’s Muse), Nara Leão. Leão and the Bossa Nova genre of Brazil have been pivotal to the past fifty years of music, not only in jazz but across all genres (see: “Already Dead” - Lil Boom).
Chucky Blk feat. Soul Food Horns - "Get That"
Our next featured Austin artist is rapper Chucky Blk. In “Get That,” Chucky’s poetic flow, pulsing percussion, and a breezy guitar progression put a modern spin on traditional jazz music.
Esperanza Spalding - "I Know You Know"
Ms. Esperanza Spalding has pioneered the world of contemporary jazz in the past decade with her infectiously dynamic vocals and fascinating musical creativity. Try to listen to that funky bass line without catching a vibe.
Louis Armstrong - "La Vie En Rose"
I know music is completely subjective, but this is the best song ever created. Louis Armstrong just makes everything better.
Clunis - "I’ll Learn Someday"
Closing off our mix is the effortlessly dreamy “I’ll Learn Someday” by UT Austin’s own Clunis. Injecting indie pop with the grooves of jazz standards, Clunis has filled a unique and lovely niche in the world of music.
Honorable Mention: John Wasson - "Caravan"
Don’t miss Modern Sophia, Chucky Blk, and Clunis next Friday, February 28th at Euphoria ATX’s The Roaring Twenties showcase at The Block on Leon!
We Need to Talk About the 2020 GRAMMY Nominees.
A completely objective look at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards’ Record of the Year nominees
"Hey, Ma" by Bon Iver
To be honest, I haven't listened to this song.
“Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish
Every time I heard this song on the radio, I couldn’t help but feel that something about it was just…off. The kids have simply lost the spirit of the opera. Should Eilish ever find herself playing the role of Lucia in the iconic Cavalleria Rusticana, her tender voice would not be audible over even the most pianissimo orchestral passages. I doubt she even speaks Italian. While Eilish may never achieve the same beautiful, piercing clarity of a trained castrato, it would do her well to work on improving her theatrical stage presence.
“7 Rings” by Ariana Grande
Now this is music! The beautiful melodic contour of a Rogers and Hammerstein classic made new for the younger generation. While I don’t care much for Ms. Grande’s new chorus, and would have much preferred the original, more edifying lyrics, I am pleased to see musical theatre live on.
“Hard Place” by H.E.R.
I haven’t heard this one either.
“Talk” by Khalid
The last time we were talking about Khalid was when Ed Sheeran made him sing on that one song about being ugly, so I think he deserves a break this time. Although a win in the Record of the Year category would technically be awarded to the producers and engineers of the record and not Khalid himself, it would still be a symbolic victory over bullying.
”Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X feat. Billy Ray Cyrus
This was a meme, right? Why is this being nominated? I like the song, but once again, this is Record of the Year we’re talking about. Didn't Lil Nas X buy the beat on BeatStars or something?
“Truth Hurts" by Lizzo
YAS QUEEN! This track is litty AF. I like this song because it has piano!
“Sunflower” by Post Malone & Swae Lee
A sentiment I’ve heard expressed by many is that this song was better in the movie. Visual storytelling coupled with good music can often compel an audience more than either medium could individually. Unfortunately, this track may not hold up to Spider-Verse viewers’ memory on second listen. Also, I have no idea, because I didn’t listen to the song or see the movie.
My Defining Songs of 2019
“Häagen Dazs” - Ghetto Sage
If I was an electorate for the XXL Freshman Class of 2019, I simply would have chosen Noname, Saba, and Smino. In the most anticipated crossover event of the century, the three rappers explode onto the rap collaborative scene as Ghetto Sage, uniting their distinctive flows into a well-blended and bouncy hit that is perfect to drive around to.
“Soulmate” - Lizzo
Forget the year of the pig, this is the year of Lizzo! While most of Lizzo’s 2019 hits were actually released three years ago, her award-winning album Cuz I Love You features tracks such as “Soulmate,” that celebrate love, and more importantly, self-love. When I attended Lizzo’s unforgettable ACL performance—which brought in the largest crowd of the weekend despite being placed at one of the smaller stages—the pop queen emphasized her movement of positivity by leading her thousands of devout fans in a chant: “I love you. You are beautiful. You can do anything!” And yeah, I cried, what about it?
“Nicknames” - Dayglow
Our local Austin boy, Sloan Struble, a.k.a. Dayglow, epitomizes the 2019 trend of viralness in the music industry. Just a year ago, when he was still a student at UT, I saw Dayglow at Spider House Ballroom, where he performed his impressive debut album to a crowd of about 20 fellow students. Fast-forward to now, and Dayglow is fresh off his first nationwide tour, including a packed show at this year’s ACL Festival. “Nicknames” is the perfect indie anthem of the year; it’s a song that unashamedly celebrates Struble’s musical influences through an irresistibly upbeat tune.
“Female Energy, Part 2” - Willow
We’ve come a long way from “Whip My Hair.” Willow is simultaneously at her tenderest and strongest in her eponymous album, WILLOW. “Female Energy, Part 2” is the standout anthem of the LP, presenting an easy-to-swallow radio hit with the artistic depth and feminist intention that Willow has strived for throughout her career. Her vocals are kick-ass and make me proud to be a woman alive in the same era as the Willow Smith.
“Are We Still Friends?” - Tyler the Creator
Tyler the Creator’s IGOR was the soundtrack of my summer. It’s a standout album in Tyler’s discography which combines the dreamy tones of Flower Boy with a hint of chaos from his Cherry Bomb era. “Are We Still Friends?” is not only my favorite song off the album, but is also possibly one of my favorite album closers ever. The perfectly-chosen sample taken from Al Green’s “Dream” adds to the tangible romanticism of Tyler as he approaches personal closure for a lost relationship.
“Hatin” - Rico Nasty“listening to rico nasty does anyone want to get robbed” - @leahkatelynrose
I think Anger Management changed me as a person. Every song on the album is impeccable and adds to the musical myth of Rico Nasty. Her flow is uniquely biting and vengeful, and like no other rapper’s in the game currently. Ms. Nasty and her frequent collaborator, Kenny Beats (a.k.a KENNYYYY!) have set a new, higher standard of production quality for hip hop bangers.
“Flower Moon (feat Steve Lacy)” - Vampire Weekend
Father of the Bride is a dense album, to say the least. It’s a project stuffed full of genre crossovers, large-level production, the ghost of Paul Simon albums past, and even the sounds of contemporary pop-rock outfit, HAIM. “Flower Moon” in particular, has especially intrigued me since the release of the album. There’s endless analysis to be done about the song, but to put it plainly, the song’s shift in texture and tone from the tried-and-true anatomy of a Vampire Weekend song is measurable and, in my opinion, a step in the right direction.
“What Can We Do? (feat Nate Dogg)” - Anderson .Paak
Remember earlier when I mentioned my favorite album closers? Here’s another one for y’all that stuck this out until the end. While Ventura didn’t receive as much critical acclaim as .Paak’s former two albums, Oxnard and Malibu, I fondly remember listening to and enjoying the entire album twice over at 1am the morning it came out as I finished homework. When the album concluded with “What Can We Do?,” I was impressed with how .Paak’s signature jazzy soul had evolved into this dynamic and nostalgic call to action. Long live Nate Dogg.
Artist Spotlight: Jane Ellen Bryant
Jane Ellen Bryant is a rising talent in the Austin music scene with years of industry experience under her belt. Although the native Austinite has roots in country and rock-and-roll, her style is one that speaks to many genres: a refreshing sound evident in her songwriting abilities. Her voice is controlled with an enviable grace and beautifully sharp around the edges. Moreover, Jane’s skill and creativity have earned her the “Best New Band” and “Best Female Vocalist” titles at the Austin Music Awards as well performances at Austin City Limits Music Festival.
Jane has been making music since a young age; after attending a rock music summer camp as a child, she knew that there was no other path for her. Bryant has played piano since eighth grade and demonstrates talent with the guitar as well. She recalls “Angel from Montgomery” and “Desperado” as being some of the first songs she learned to play. During her time at college in Nashville, Bryant studied voice and music business whilst simultaneously pursuing her career in songwriting and performing.
As a 90s baby, Jane is inspired by the likes of Sheryl Crow, Shania Twain, the Dixie Chicks, and AC/DC, among other country and rock artists. Like her muses, Jane’s songwriting is distinct and instantly recognizable. Through her music, Bryant hopes to capture moments in time and create unique and special experiences.
It’s no small feat to stay motivated in the music business. The tides are always turning and it’s often difficult to predict the outcomes of any career endeavor. Bryant says that her self-accountability and passion drive her, despite the tumultuous industry. On top of being an artist, Jane is also savvy in personally managing her music, bookings, and branding. Simply put, this renaissance woman is not afraid to get the job done.
When I asked Jane what advice she would give to her younger self, she replied, “stop being such a rule follower; stop worrying about what other people think.” Although Bryant’s music is already breaking the conventions of genre, she hinted that the new music she is in the process of producing will be even truer to her spirit. We can’t wait to listen!
Artist Spotlight: Hanna Barakat
Strength, vulnerability, honesty: these are some of the words that come to my mind when I hear the voice of Hanna Barakat. With Middle Eastern influence and dark, driving tones, her music whirled me away into an emotional soundscape. Hanna is not one to shy away from controversial topics nor daring changes in melody and rhythm. Her debut album, Siren, produced by John Moyer, bassist of Disturbed, showcases her exceptional songwriting and storytelling abilities. Much of the album is colored with traditional Middle Eastern instruments like the oud, which complement the staples of modern rock that underpin the LP: drums, guitar, and bass.
I first had the pleasure of listening to Hanna Barakat this summer when I stumbled across her music in an Austin Facebook music group. A Berklee College of Music graduate and seasoned live performer, her attention to detail and musicianship stood out to me immediately in videos of her performances. I had to know more about the women who had arranged, written, and recorded such an intriguing album; I interviewed Hanna on August 23, 2019.
The inspiration behind the title track of Barakat’s album, “Siren," is one that has evolved with time. Initially, Hanna explained, it served as a stance towards individuals in her life and the need to express her will and ambitions. With time it would grow into an empowering song that represents claiming her life as one that she is destined to determine. The song features several time signatures and melodic changes. The Lebanese influence over Barakat’s album is especially apparent on the fifth track of the album, “Cycle."
“Cycle” beautifully combines elements of rock music with traditional Lebanese instruments. Partially inspired by the Palestinian-Israeli conflict Barakat personally witnessed while living in Lebanon, the song’s themes of war, violence, and repitition transcend the piece as a global plea: “we must break down these walls between us, constructs of fear, the unknown,” Hanna demands. An Arabic verse later in the song echoes the want for peace.
For Hanna, music is both therapy and a means to deliver messages to the world. Barakat hopes to deliver her thoughts honestly, avoiding sugar-coating difficult topics like love and loss. Moreover, her music marks a stride toward the inclusion of Middle Eastern music in America. I look forward to seeing her impact in the Austin music scene and beyond.
My Most Anticipated Artists of 2019.
Men I Trust
Hazy instrumental texture, soft-spoken lyrics, and intangible nostalgia all work in favor of Montréal-based trio Men I Trust. The electro-indie band has been around for a hot minute, releasing their first independent, self-titled album in 2014. However, with the announcement of an upcoming album Oncle Jazz to be released this February, Men I Trust intends to stay in the indie spotlight through 2019. Several singles—nine to be exact!—released within the past two years display a growth of artistry and reflect a wide array of musical influences that are anticipated to make an appearance on the group’s forthcoming album. The new and mighty Men I Trust departs from the band’s typical sound: grandiose bass and guitar licks are supplanted by atmospheric lulls layered atop their electro-heavy production, adding a greater depth of emotion to their songs. As I peel back the layers of Men I Trust, I am constantly surprised and impressed by the band’s emotive potential.
Favorite Tracks: “Seven”, “Lauren”, “You Deserve This”
Syracuse undergrad Charlie Burg has infiltrated the ranks of bedroom pop armed with dreamy teen pipes and technical prowess. His vast musical range is fully expressed through his latest project—a three-part EP series whose subject celebrates the emotive poetry of Ralph Waldo Emerson. The final release in the collection, Three, Fever (released January 2019), steps away from the more thoughtful ballads of 2017’s One, Violet and 2018’s Two, Moonlight, embracing a new artistic sphere that lies somewhere between funk and house and is intentionally explored to compliment Burg’s tender vocals and romantic chord progressions.
Favorite Tracks: “Moog Jam 1”, “To Dance Is To Love” from Three, Fever, “Art History, Pt. 1” from One, Violet
One of my absolute favorite discoveries of last year was Luna Luna. A reincarnation of 1970s Puerto Rican boy band Menudo for cool indie teens, the group hails from Dallas, Texas and finds their sound in dreamy reverbs, soulful vocals, and retro school dance vibes (consider this free promo for their 80’s Tune music video). By fusing elements of bolero ballads, chillwave instrumentals, and Motown R&B, Luna Luna oozes a sexy sense of self in their first EP, For Lovers Only. As I experienced firsthand at their Hole in the Wall show last month, seeing Luna Luna live in concert will always leave you wanting more—each member’s passion for performance is completely on display for the crowd. Like fellow rising Latinx artists Cuco and Kali Uchis, Luna Luna fully embraces their Hispanic roots in a largely non-Hispanic music space. As the band hints at a full-length release that will likely feature unique singles such as their New Year’s release “Commitment,” 2019 seems like Luna Luna’s year to take over the indie scene.
Favorite Tracks: “For You” from For Lovers Only, “Dance With Me” (Danny Bonilla solo feat. Luna Luna), “Fierra”
Welcome to the Euphoria ATX blog!
We are a student organization based at the University of Texas committed to keeping the UT and Austin music scenes vibrant by engaging students with campus events, introducing members to local industry professionals, maintaining a diverse blog, and giving back to our community.
We have lots of great ideas in store for our blog: event recaps, album and concert reviews, editorials, and member features are only a few kinds of posts we’re thrilled to share with you on our site. Our team currently consists of two members: Leah Rosenberger and Hunter Chemelli.
We’re excited to share our thoughts with you and are always open to hearing your feedback on what we’re posting!