Kelsey’s Prime Slices of the Week (2/17-2/22): Àsgeir, flor

Àsgeir Bury The Moon – folk

Àsgeir is here to give listeners a little taste of Iceland with Bury The Moon. The album is a stunning folk homage from beginning to end, as Àsgeir gracefully unites traditional folk influences with modern, electronic folk influences. His pure voice and poetic lyrics shine in each song, enhancing the album’s beauty. The first track on Bury The Moon, “Pictures”, stands out among the rest (although, they’re all incredible). Beginning with simple piano, brushes, acoustic and electric guitar, Àsgeir establishes a cold musical scene that sets up his incredible lyrics perfectly. Although the track takes a darker tone, it features wise lyrics that assert a positive message of unity. The lyrics of “Until Daybreak” offset “Pictures” in a pleasing way; they work to tell a more concrete image about uncertain love. The track also features eclectic contemporary sounds that give the song a cool, modern edge. In short, Àsgeir is an extremely talented artist with an amazing album. Give Bury The Moon a listen below!

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BIRN Album Review: Petals For Armor I by Hayley Williams

Hayley Williams may be best known as the frontwoman of highly influential alternative rock band Paramore, but with the long awaited release of her solo album Petals For Armor I, the powerhouse vocalist and songwriter is carving her path to becoming a legendary rock icon herself.

For dedicated Hayley Williams fans that have stuck around for years, Petals For Armor I may have been taken as a bit of a surprise, but nevertheless a thrilling one. It’s no shocker that Hayley Williams has surpassed the alternative rock world’s expectations again. She has a knack for effortlessly reinventing herself musically, as evident with the development of Paramore’s sound from teenage pop punk to acclaimed contemporary rock with funk, soul, and alternative influences. But don’t be fooled–Petals For Armor I doesn’t rely on Paramore nostalgia to shine. It’s a deeply personal work of Williams created in a different universe.

Petals For Armor I introduces unique electronic and experimental elements to Williams’ hard-hitting rock based sound. Produced by fellow band member and longtime collaborator Taylor York, the complex arrangements, production and song content are vastly different from Williams’ former discography, but doesn’t veer so far that it feels forced, or completely foreign. The album begins with its lead single and arguably most accessible tune “Simmer”. The first few seconds include a haunting synth loop and sporadic unsettling breath samples–right before launching into a catchy, fast moving bass and drum groove with subtle additions of synths. And as per usual, Williams’ powerful vocals fail to disappoint, bringing life to truthful lines like “rage is a quiet thing” and “nothing cuts like a mother”. In contrast, The album’s second track “Leave It Alone” is a mellow, slow paced ballad with odd chord changes, echoing similarities with many of Radiohead’s works. “Cinnamon” and “Creepin'” introduce even more offbeat material to the album, featuring layers of Williams’ voice filtered through a megaphone-like effect, often repeating as a hook. The album’s words feature detailed visuals like “we bleed holy water” and “don’t you know that I’m a moon in daylight?”

The title “Petals For Armor” is a lyric pulled from “Simmer”, revealing quite a bit about what inspired Williams’ writing. In her own words, Petals For Armor is essentially “the idea that being vulnerable is a shield”. We get a glimpse into Williams’ ongoing struggle with depression through Paramore’s 2017 album After Laughter, but Petals For Armor I offers an even closer look–as her lyrics explore personal themes like family and relationship issues, and being at war with oneself.

As dark as Petals For Armor I gets, Hayley Williams unapologetically wears her vulnerability like armor. With or without Paramore, her empowering presence in contemporary rock won’t be fading away any time soon.

New BIRN Alive Videos are up!! (Featuring Ryan McMullan and more)

Check out our brand new BIRN Alive videos up this week from three amazing singer-songwriters performing of various styles including folk, pop and indie rock!

Irish folk pop singer-songwriter Ryan McMullan gave a beautiful performance in the studio for our first BIRN Alive of the semester:

And in December, Boston based indie rock artist Paper Citizen:

Powerhouse vocalist and Berklee alumnus Nathalie Hernandez:

 

Ryan’s Prime Slices of the Week (2/10-2/15): Papooz, Mapache

PapoozNight Sketches – indie rock

This new album by indie rock duo Papooz, is a great mellow new find to add to your music collection. The upbeat arrangement which is reminiscent of Supertramp, and has smooth breathy vocals which add a certain unique quality that only this duo could provide. My personal favorite is  “Good for Nothing” which is somewhere in-between soft rock and something coming out of the indie-lofi scene. The clear understanding of production and space by these two is something to be heralded and adds so much to what may fall flat if left in the hands of lesser artists. Papooz is blowing up all over and becoming a fast favorite so give them a listen below and check out their new album Night Sketches!

 

 

Mapache – Life On Fire [single] – folk rock

 

This folk rock duo Mapache just released their newest single “Life On Fire”, and these two take you back to a time where 8 track was king, denim on denim,  and long hair was the style. This ambitious duo with a throw back sound bring the best of the 70s folk rock movement into the modern age. Though their sound may be from forty years ago but the lyrics certainly reflect the modern age, and don’t spare any gory details.  The warmth of this track is perfect to keep you company all winter long, and is a great song overall! This track is light and fun, with a Allman Brothers-esque vocal style that is sure to have you singing along! Give “Life On Fire”by Mapache a listen below!

 

 

Ryan’s Prime Slices of the Week (2/3 – 2/8): Marcus King, Nathaniel Rateliff

Marcus KingEl Dorado – rock

New comer Marcus King from Greenville, South Carolina brings classic country inspired rock into the modern age with El Dorado. Produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, and is easily the newest jewel to come out of Easy Eye Sound, Marcus King brings a 70s inspired  heavy but gentle sound into the 2020. King’s vocal style is raspy and warm, and when paired with a gritty distorted guitar and warm tapey acoustic it completes the entire sonic imagine that is so reminiscent of classic country mixed with modern blues rock. The songwriting of Marcus King is masterful and well restrained proving his mastery of his craft. The entire album is a collection of gems and is a fantastic album to kick off the new year! This album is already #1 on the Top New Artist charts, and multiple others, so if you haven’t checked El Dorado out yet, give it a listen below!

 

 

Nathaniel Rateliff – And It’s Still Alright [single] – americana

 

 

The newest single by americana artist Nathaniel Rateliff  reflects the true nature of modern folk songwriting with his title track off his upcoming album  “And It’s Still Alright”.  Nathaniel is obviously inspired by the soft acoustic nature of 70s country and brings in the contemporary flare of modern lyric writing and production to his music. This track is reflective and melancholy with a level of songwriting that only comes with the wisdom of age and the lessons learned along the way. Recently performing this tune on Fallon, Its safe to say that Nathaniel Rateliff will be the next big thing in Americana and Folk music and we’re all excited to see how high he can go! His new album “And It’s Still Alright” come out February 14th but you can listen to his single below!

 

 

Kelsey’s Prime Slices of the Week (2/3-2/8): Bombay Bicycle Club, Transviolet

Bombay Bicycle ClubEverything Else Has Gone Wrong – indie rock

Bombay Bicycle Club is back from its hiatus, and the indie rock group is better than ever. The band has returned with a glorious reintroduction and album, Everything Else Has Gone Wrong. The album features lovable indie grooves and a current sound with synths, loops, relatable lyrics, and even some tambourine. Simply put, the album has a sleek modern sound with something for everyone, and the lyrics stand toe-to-toe with the album’s sound. The title track of the album reflects the importance of music in unsettling times. It’s a very self-aware song, and Bombay Bicycle Club‘s writing definitely stands out against the background of today’s sound. The sixth track on the album, “Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You)”, also does a great job of highlighting the band’s incredible writing. In less than four minutes, the group uses untraditional song forms and distinct lyrics to create a work of art that is both intriguing and exciting. Overall, Everything Else Has Gone Wrong is exhilarating from beginning to end – there really is no group quite like Bombay Bicycle Club. Be sure to give them a warm welcome back to the world of music and give Everything Else Has Gone Wrong a listen!

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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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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.