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Soundscapes of Spain: The BIRN Preview

In this BIRN Podcast , Contemporary Writing and Production professor Jerry Gates, Berklee faculty, Olivia Perez, dancer and choreographer, Sonia Olla, and vocalist, Ismael Fernandez, preview Soundscapes of Spain: From Flemenco Roots to Fusion, a concert at the Berklee Performance Center on Thursday, January 30, 2020. For more information about the show, please click here.

 

Kelsey’s Prime Slices of the Week (1/20-1/24): Bag Raiders, José James

Bag RaidersHorizons – electronic

Bag Raiders‘ album Horizons is a bold and modern development in the world of electronic music. The Australian duo’s latest release smoothly blends pop and house, acoustic and electronic. Tracks like “I Need You” illustrate Bag Raiders‘ eclectic influences, as layered harmonies float over an electronic beat, acoustic guitar, and synths. Aside from featuring various musical techniques and styles, Horizons also does an amazing job of highlighting different moods throughout. While tracks like “Back To Myself” take a slightly darker and edgier tone, tracks like “Lightning” contrast with a cheerful, major sound. Overall, Horizons is overflowing with creativity, and it’s quite an exciting find for listeners. Give it a listen below!

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Singer-Songwriter Ryan McMullan Visiting Berklee Tomorrow!

Don’t miss Irish singer-songwriter Ryan McMullan‘s live performance and interview on BIRN Alive tomorrow at 4PM on BIRN1! Also, he will be playing a show at Cafe 939 with special guest Ken Yates. Get your tickets here: https://www.etix.com/ticket/p/7915048

One of Ireland’s brightest upcoming talents, Ryan McMullan is a singer-songwriter blending folk and pop. Recognized for his captivating voice, described by Ed Sheeran as a “rare jewel to find” and “the voice of an angel” by Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol, McMullan is one to keep an eye on in the contemporary folk world. Within the last year, he has achieved many successes including playing the Glastonbury stage, joining Gary Lightbody on his headlining tour, and the release of his highly praised single “Rebellion”.

Kelsey’s Prime Slices of the Week (12/23-12/28): Wye Oak, Ollie

Wye Oak – “Fortune” [single] – indie rock

Indie rock duo Wye Oak are here to shake up the indie rock genre with their latest single “Fortune”. Jenn Wasner’s captivating vocals and catchy bass lines matched with Andy Stack’s unfaltering drum grooves give the track a mysterious feel. The lyrics further establish the mystery of “Fortune”, as they take a dark and enigmatic tone. Wye Oak did an outstanding job of creating a sound that transcends the typical indie rock borders; “Fortune” is alluring in every aspect, and listeners are bound to sing along. Simply put, it’s a great song from a great band. Check out Wye Oak‘s “Fortune” below!

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BIRN Album Review: yikes! by Silver Sphere

Bedroom pop artist Sophie Cates (known as Silver Sphere) has released her first eight-track full length album yikes!, a unique culmination of heartbreak songs. With a stage persona that’s described as not from this earth, Silver Sphere is a being of magic that has yet to come to the forefront of pop.

With songs like “drinking games” and “boys r dumb! duh!”, Silver Sphere paints a picture that makes your heart ache for her, utilizing parties as a theme to show the listener how different the guys in her life act around others versus how they act around just her. Further describing the meaning behind the song, Cates has stated:“‘Drinking Games’ to me is a song about knowing you’re wasting your time with someone but continuing to see them because the person is so captivating that you don’t even care if you’re feeling used. It’s about realizing that it’s more important to value yourself than playing a silly game with someone that doesn’t have the best intentions.”

As the album progresses, Silver starts to become more wary of the boys that keep breaking her heart, and rightfully so. This new found self discipline is shown on the song “boys in bands” which is about falling victim to the same type of boy (musicians in her case) so often that she realizes she needs to stop letting herself go down that path. Her newfound confidence and fed up attitude is shown in the lines, “The second you walk in with tattoos and problems / I can’t help but think I’m the one who could solve ‘em / I can’t do that again.” The catchy chorus and dance-able unique techno sounds make “boys in bands” a song that’s scream-able by anyone, especially Berklee students who can relate.

When it seems like she has taken a stand against the boys that waste her time, Silver backtracks to the same mentality she had previously in “drinking games” and “boys r dumb! duh!” with the song “waste my time”, the epitome of her internal struggle. Although the title maintains the heartbroken tone of the album, the sonic vibe of “waste my time” isn’t as sad as the listener would expect. This song is a romanticization of boys that are bad for you and will never commit which Silver is clear about in the beginning, saying: “You are never gonna be the type to commit / one day you’re in love then you’re over it / But I can never get tired of chasing you / Even when I know what you’re gonna do.” If you have ever read Silver’s “about” page on Spotify and not understood what “I love pop music and breaking my own heart” meant, this song makes the statement clear.

The last song “sucks 4 u” is about finally overcoming a breakup and realizing that you’re going to be okay, giving the listener closure and resolution. When describing this song, Silver explained, “Writing this song helped me look past those negative things looming from my last relationship and focus on the positives in my life at the time, and I hope it does the same for everyone listening.”

As a whole, yikes! allowed the listener to learn and grow with Silver, feeling the heartbreak, independence, and love she experienced throughout her journey.

BIRN Album Review: Grains by Little Monarch

Little Monarch‘s EP Grains is lighthearted and lovable. With strong indie and pop influences, Grains takes a relaxed tone that’s easy to enjoy. The album starts off with the song “Got Me Good”, a carefree and content love song. The track is full of smooth melodies, claps, and snaps that give the song a laid-back West Coast vibe. Being the first track on Grains, “Got Me Good” sets the tone for the EP, and tracks like “See You” and “Bloom” solidify the sound that Little Monarch so carefully creates. One of the features that stands out on “See You” is the vocal harmonies. They are extremely well-written, as they bring listeners ears to new heights and fill out the sound of the chorus. While “Got Me Good” and “See You” are slightly more upbeat, Little Monarch creates a contrast with their slower-paced conclusion to the album, “Bloom”. Catchy electric guitar loops are the name of the game in “Bloom”, as they form a steady baseline for the lead vocalist’s voice to shine. The combination of electric beats, guitars, and synths give the track an ethereal sound that contrast with the more focused sound of the vocals.

Little Monarch made a great contribution to the indie genre with Grains. The EP is full of upbeat lyrics and catchy melodies that create a fresh and optimistic sound. In short, Grains is a great listen for fans of any genre. Kick back, relax, and enjoy Little Monarch’s Grains below!

Lola Kirke plays BIRN Alive

Check out our video of Lola Kirke performing “Shoulda Cheated” and “Seeds and Stems” on BIRN Alive!

Lola Kirke is a singer, songwriter, and actress writing country-rock inspired music. Kirke stopped by the BIRN studios in September while touring in support of her EP, Friends And Foes And Friends Again.

BIRN Album Review: MAGDALENE by FKA twigs

Avant-pop artist Tahliah Debrett Barnett (better known as FKA twigs) has made a memorable comeback with sophomore album MAGDALENE–one of the BIRN’s favorite albums of 2019. After the release of her debut album LP1 in 2014 and touring the world, she went on a lengthy hiatus, followed by surgery removing six fibroid tumors from her uterus, among other sudden life changes. During Barnett’s time in recovery, she began making many self-healing realizations about her own womanhood, and rebuilding confidence in her femininity–resulting in MAGDALENE, a thoughtfully produced experimental-pop masterpiece that speaks volumes to women today.

Barnett had hit a rough patch while working on the album–but the heightened emotions she was experiencing only strengthened her artistic vision and enhanced her writing. She took inspiration from Mary Magdalene’s story, resonating with her inner turmoil as a woman who struggled to be accepted in society. Barnett decided to embody the character of Mary Magdalene as a symbol of empowerment, encouraging other women to take control of their own narrative. Although MAGDALENE isn’t quite a concept album, its powerful themes, biblical references and religious imagery might easily fool you–thanks to Barnett’s skillful attention to detail and intentional placement of each track, lyric, beat, and rhythm. MAGDALENE’s sound delves deep into experimental territory, a bit more so than Barnett’s prior more “accessible” works–with subtle additions of church choir-like background vocals and cinematic swells of a string orchestra. Many aspects of the production draw comparisons with other experimental art-pop artists like Bjork, Grimes, and SOPHIE. 

Kicking off with the haunting “thousand eyes” and closing with “cellophane”, a fragile and emotion-filled ballad, the album progresses from eerie, dark and complex to soft and vulnerable slow-tempo tunes with truthful words like “A woman’s work, a woman’s prerogative, a woman’s time to embrace she must put herself first”. This contrast seems to represent that there are many more layers to a woman than what may be seen or expressed on the surface–just cause one may appear to be gentle doesn’t mean she can’t also be assertive and aggressive, and vice versa. MAGDALENE does a clever job at expressing how society has misrepresented women to be only one thing or another for ages, and FKA twigs’ courageous self-expression is incredibly admirable.

Kelsey’s Prime Slices of the Week (12/16-12/21): Ian George, Palace

Ian GeorgeKingdom of My Youth – folk

Ian George‘s Kingdom of My Youth is the pure, down-to-earth folk album the world needs this Winter. George stands out among other artists in that his music is extremely true and authentic to his artistic voice, which is clear throughout Kingdom of My Youth. Mellow fingerpicking, lovable vocals, and atmospheric harmonies give the album a peaceful, optimistic, and upbeat character and highlight George’s artistry. One of my personal favorite tracks off the album, “The Wild & The Untamed”, is full of long phrases that flow over complimentary guitar lines and drum grooves. The lyrics of the song are personal and touching as they tell a story of love and identity. Overall, “The Wild & The Untamed” feels incredibly honest, and it’s hard to not get lost in George‘s story. There’s so much more to be said about Ian George, but the best way to experience his album is to listen to it for yourself! Check out Kingdom of My Youth below!

 

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Ryan’s Prime Slices of the Week (12/9 – 12/14) Aunty Social, Basement Revolver

Aunty Social – “Crack A Deal” [Single] – indie pop

New comer, Aunty Social is surprising the world with her newest single “Crack a Deal”, with a pop centric and unique sound, Aunty social is sure to be the artist everyone is talking about in years to come. Starting this track off with an A cappella vocal and layering in spacey synth, this song builds slowly but has such a deep, rich and satisfying sound to it, you’re only waiting to see where it could go next.  Her emotive modern vocal styling, lyrics and delivering are entrancing and bring you right into to the story that Aunty Social is weaving before your eyes. The accompanying music video is also a colorful, slightly dystopian piece of art and if you haven’t seen it, check it out now below!

 

 

Basement Revolver – “What Are You Waiting For” – indie rock

 

Also new to the scene, Basement Revolver with their own unique and intense style. Their music is reminiscent of soft rock from the early 90s and with the smooth vocal styles of Big thief. This track just is mellow,  full of emotion and is just a great tune to sit back and unwind with. Basement Revolver is an underrated indie gem that has an entire library of great songs, and that really shows in “What Are You Waiting For” These guys are fantastic and they just released a new EP  Wax and Digital, check it out below and see for yourself!