All Posts By Lilly Milman

The Playfully Dark Musical Nostalgia of The End of the F***ing World

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Netflix’s newest hit show, The End of the F***ing World, is a wonderfully bleak take on the traditional Bildungsroman storyline that combines a muted color palette, fresh-faced actors, and a tragic twist to create something entirely new. What really ties the show together, though, is the playfully dark musical nostalgia in the soundtrack choices.

When confronted with the question of what music to include in the show, director Jonathan Entwistle might have had just a few too many answers; the playlist that he had spent years curating alongside Charles Forsman, the creator of the comic book on which the show is based, included no less than 700 songs. In order to hone in on the right sounds, Entwistle and Forsman had to set a few ground rules for themselves.

First and foremost: stay away from the contemporary. This decision ended up becoming crucial for the aesthetic of the show, as the creators began pulling tracks mostly from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s‒Entwistle called this “the saddest music in the world.” This especially rings true when placed within the context of the show. In reality, it is always a bit crushing when a teenager attempts to enter the adult world and is quickly‒yet unsurprisingly‒cast out. In Entwistle’s depiction, the consequences are far graver than a slap on the wrist and a heartbreak.

Without including any spoilers, it is safe to say that this show falls comfortably in the realm of tragicomedy. From the start, the protagonists James and Alyssa are outcasts, not sure how to function normally in their world. Their blunders‒with each other and in general, everyday life‒are relatable in a way that makes you want to cringe, cry, and maybe even laugh a bit. The music follows a similar trajectory. The largely doo-wop era tracks at some points seem overbearing, and at others seamlessly integrated. It is clear that this move was intentional, and mirrors the various high and low points of an adolescent life. The show takes this idea one step further; it turns the melodramatic tropes of teenage drama on their head by making it clear that, sometimes, it really is the end of the f***ing world.

The Playfully Dark Musical Nostalgia of The End of the F***ing World: Image courtesy of Netflix/Vulture

Image courtesy of Netflix/Vulture

The way in which the show comments on itself, all the way down to its musical choices, shows that this is no regular teenage drama. Entwistle and Forsman were in no way attempting to create the next Skins, the effortlessly cool UK mini-series known for its non-judgmental portrayals of young hedonism. Instead, they were trying to do what hasn’t been done in a long time: create a show about teenagers, for adults. Using recognizably nostalgic music was the key to tapping into this genre.

Although not all of the tracks are as recognizable as others, they all work to build a similar effect. The melodrama of the 1950s, the bouncy rock of the 1960s, and even some of the seedier sounds of the 1970s all blend together to create a soundtrack that’s just as nomadic and self-searching as the show’s protagonists.

There are no current plans to officially release the soundtrack, but all of the tracks are available on Spotify for streaming. However, the guitarist Graham Cox did write an original score, which is currently available digitally and will be out on vinyl in March.

Read more Music Articles on ClicheMag.com.

The Playfully Dark Musical Nostalgia of The End of the F***ing World: Featured image courtesy of Netflix/Billboard

What Spotify Going Public Means for The Music Industry

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For a few years now, the rumor mill has been churning out stories about Spotify going public. The Swedish streaming giant has finally put an end to all the talk by filing the necessary paperwork with Securities & Exchange Commission in late December of 2017. The catch? The company, which is currently valued to be worth around $19 billion, has forgone a traditional public offering in favor of a direct listing‒an unprecedented move for a company this large.

Typically, a company’s initial public offering (IPO) is greatly influenced by an investment bank, which is hired to issue shares and then subsequently sell them. In this scenario, new investors are able to get involved with the company, and there is the potential to raise an immense amount of capital. However, by filing for a direct listing, Spotify has decided to skip this process. Once their company goes public‒which is set to occur in either March or April‒they plan to simply list their shares on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and allow trading amongst their private stockholders.

This has been met with equal amounts of awe and suspicion. So far, Spotify has been commended for its power play, which turns traditional investment banking on its head. By cutting out the middleman‒the investment bank‒the company will potentially be saving upwards of $300 million, according to Wall Street Journal. For reference, that’s the same amount of cash that ad revenue brings in annually from the roughly 70 million users that choose not to pay for the service.

At the same time, seasoned investors are skeptical about the company’s (possibly baseless) display of confidence. For a direct listing to be successful, especially one of this scale, the company operates on the assumption that investors are already keenly aware of its value and do not need to be convinced by an investment banker. This could prove to be a risk.

While it is financially leaps and bounds ahead of streaming competitors like SoundCloud, who was recently bailed out, Spotify still remains an unprofitable company. The funds brought in from users alone pales in comparison to what running the service actually costs, and Spotify has yet to enact its plans to break into lucrative worlds of podcasting and multimedia news. That, combined with the price of several high-profile lawsuits regarding licensing in 2017, could be enough to lure in cloudy skies over the company’s parade. Although Spotify’s growth has been highly anticipated, its future still remains uncertain.

However, if successful, Spotify’s move will undoubtedly have a ripple effect on all other streaming services and, ultimately, the music industry as a whole. At this point, it is safe to say that Apple and Amazon are Spotify’s biggest competitors on the music streaming market (sorry, SoundCloud and Pandora!). What is giving Spotify the edge it needs to stay afloat is the fact that it entered the world of music streaming‒which now dominates overall music consumption‒earlier than its competitors, and has more paying subscribers than competitors. Unfortunately, that’s not all it takes anymore.

In order to become a more profitable company, Spotify is going to have to diversify its services and work in between the artists and their fans by offering services like artist development and promotion, which are traditionally left to record labels. Unsurprisingly, labels aren’t too pleased with this notion and likely won’t be jumping out of their seats to cooperate with another iTunes level monopolization of the industry. Consequently, the company won’t be relying on the music business for any favors.

Other than the IPO, Spotify has used the last year to take a few dramatic steps towards turning a profit. Most notably, paying users will now have earlier access to certain albums than their ad-listening counterparts. Basically, unless a user is willing to shell out the $9.99 monthly fee, they will be restricted from new albums for up to two weeks after a release. On a less abrasive note, users may have also noticed the appearance of the Merchbar on an artist’s page, signalling the beginning of a partnership with the merchandise provider.

Speculation about what move the company is going to make next is currently at an all time high, especially as investors anticipate the coming IPO. It is clear that Spotify isn’t going anywhere, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t going to have to make some concessions. While the company is adamant about continuing to provide its free features, it still has a lot of obstacles to cross‒specifically, navigating the competition while avoiding the alienation of record labels. Going public was just one way of doing so.

Read more Music Articles on ClicheMag.com.

What Spotify Going Public Means for The Music Industry: Featured image courtesy of Toru Yamanaka/AFP/Getty Images

Dolores O’Riordan, A Legacy That Lingers

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On January 15th, news that The Cranberries frontwoman Dolores O’Riordan was found dead in a London hotel room shocked the world. While the cause of death is still unknown‒and likely will be until April, says a London coroner‒it is being described as sudden, but unsuspicious. The singer had been dealing with multiple health issues, including bipolar personality disorder and chronic back pain so intense that it led to the cancellation of the band’s 2017 reunion tour. Her death has left a silence in its wake‒one that lingers‒as fans, friends, and family alike struggle to find proper words to describe her monumental impact on alternative rock.

A feminist, fashion icon of the 1990s, O’Riordan’s influence is undeniable. When her Irish lilt first began cracking over the U.S. radio waves in the form of hit singles “Dreams” and “Linger,” it became clear that the zipper of popular culture had snagged on something unusual, but big. When they embarked on their first U.S. tour in 1993, O’Riordan was a 22-year-old firecracker with a pixie cut standing alongside her three ‘Cranboys,’ who L.A. Times called “unfailingly polite” at the time. Her life had not been easy up until that point‒with a younger brother who had died at birth, alleged sexual abuse, and strict rules that discouraged participation in an all-male rock band.

Yet, it was a classic adolescent heartbreak that inspired the band’s first big hit, “Linger,” the airy pop ballad that can still leave goosebumps on your arm over a decade after its initial release. This was the beauty of Dolores O’Riordan, especially in her earlier years. She was not afraid of honesty, even when it required putting her own emotions on the line. Even when other Irish acts were attempting to mask the accents in their voices (think Bono during the 80s.) The frontwoman, who bandmates described as initially shy, knew how important using her frenzied and fantastic voice was.

This is exactly what she did on “Zombie,” the croony and complicated breakout track that solidified The Cranberries in the alternative rock canon. The single, which came from sophomore album No Need To Argue, describes a terrorist attack that resulted in the death of multiple children in her native country. Perhaps one of the most groundbreaking moments of her career, the visceral tone that she takes in the chorus as she belts out the repetition of the word “zombie” is still being remembered and praised today; it was only recently that Eminem sampled the track on his newest album Revival.

Although the peak of The Cranberries’ commercial and critical success came to them early in their career, they recorded three more studio albums together before taking a break in 2003. While some of her more politically-charged lyrics failed to wow in the same way that “Zombie” did, her voice never wavered. She recorded two solo albums during the band’s break‒Are You Listening? and No Baggage, released in 2007 and 2009, respectively‒and had a brief stint as a judge on Ireland’s The Voice. She never stopped being the harsh, harrowing beauty queen that showed women they could be feminine and fatal in the same glance. Delicate and dangerous, in one breath. Throughout her career, O’Riordan fought for a woman’s right to express her anger‒at her government, at her partners, at herself.

When the band reunited in 2009, they tried to capture the same bolt of lightning that had ignited their career in 1993. O’Riordan’s vocals were still striking; this fact was inarguable, but life was still proving to not be so “lovey-dovey” for her. In 2014, she ended her 20 year marriage to former Duran Duran tour manager Don Burton. A year later, she was charged with “air rage,” for which she later apologized. It was only this year that she began publicly discussing her diagnosis of bipolar disorder, which she said she had been diagnosed with two years prior.

According to her bandmate and lifelong friend Noel Hogan, she was disappointed about canceling the reunion tour and was looking to record new music. He told Rolling Stone that when he had spoken to her the Friday before her death, she seemed “great” and excited about the future. That Sunday, she had emailed him new tracks she had been working on. Hogan wrote, “Dolores’ legacy will be her music. She was so passionate about it.” Anyone who has heard her sing even just a few bars would agree; her’s is the type of legacy the lingers in the air for long after she’s gone.

Read more Music Articles on ClicheMag.com.

Dolores O’Riordan, A Legacy That Lingers: Featured image courtesy of Carolyn Cole/LA Times

The Most Influential Album Releases of 2017

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No matter how much hype an album gets in the moment, it’s easy to forget about it once the next one comes out. But here at Cliché, we are firm believers in giving credit where it is due. As 2017 comes to an end, it’s important to remember that in the midst of all the madness, we were truly blessed with some amazing releases in every genre from hip-hop to rock to pop. To make choosing your favorite album of 2017 just a bit easier, we rounded up a list of all the most influential album releases of 2017.

 

January

I See You by the xx
Genre: Indie Rock/Dream Pop

The third studio album from the dream-pop power-duo, I See You marked the return of the band after a four-year hiatus. After years of uncertainty, I See You ushered in an era of creative stability for the xx, exploring countless new sounds to much critical acclaim.

Year in Review: Top Singles of 2017

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One of the best ways to remember a certain period in your life is by listening to music from that time. As the year comes to a close, it’s inevitable that we begin reminiscing about the past and planning for the future. All in all, 2017 was a great year for popular music; we saw new faces, old favorites, and new twists on classic pop conventions. We’ve rounded up a list of the top single from the first week of every month to help you remember the good, the bad, and everything in between from the past year. Enjoy the newest installment of our series Year in Review: Top Singles of 2017.

 

January

“Starboy” – The Weeknd ft. Daft Punk

The titular track of The Weeknd’s third studio album, “Starboy” started the year off on a soulful note, with his signature electro-pop R&B tones and catchy lyrics.

The Biggest Music News of 2017

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The past year has been a whirlwind of news, both good and bad. We’ve seen career-launching debuts, established artists moving in completely new directions, and artists stepping in and speaking out to make a difference. Unfortunately, we have also suffered the losses of truly influential artists who helped shape the music world that we know today. It’s hard to keep up with so much going on all the time, so Cliché is here to help you out. We’ve compiled a list of the biggest music news of 2017.

 

January 19: Planned Parenthood Benefit
Common and The National co-headline the Planned Parenthood Benefit called Show Up! It was intentionally planned to take place the night before the presidential inauguration. The stars choose to take a stand for reproductive rights and justice for women.

January 25: Big Sean Raises $100k for Flint
In an appearance on the The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, Big Sean announces that his foundation raised over $100,000 for Flint, Michigan in an attempt to help the city during its water crisis. He also reveals that the Flint Chosen Choir will appear on his upcoming album, I Decided.

The Biggest Music News of 2017: Image Courtesy of Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Image Courtesy of Christopher Polk/Getty Images

February 12: Grammy Awards
Adele breaks her Grammy award for Album of the Year, which she won with 25, and hands it over to Beyoncé, citing Lemonade as a dominant force of cultural change.

February 15: Musicians Come Together to Oppose Texas Bathroom Bill
Dozens of musicians, including Jack Antonoff, Wilco, and Lady Gaga come together to co-sign a letter addressed to state senators that opposes a bathroom bill in Texas, which would ban transgender people from using the restroom of their choice.

February 22: Jay-Z is Elected for Songwriters Hall of Fame
Among other inductees, Jay-Z stands out as the first rapper to be elected into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. This marks a transition for rap, as it becomes more accepted as part of the popular music scene.

February 28: Academy Awards
Justin Hurwitz takes home the award for best original score for La La Land, and the motion picture’s original song “City Of Stars” takes home best original song as well. Justin Timberlake kicked off the night with a performance of “Can’t Stop The Feeling,” which was also nominated for an award.

March 7: SXSW Changes Artist Contract
SXSW releases a public apology and promises not to escalate issues of safety at the festival past local authorities. The festival had been experiencing extreme backlash regarding an artist contract that stated the festival reserves the right to contact immigration authorities about foreign artists who may or may not be legally attending the showcases.

March 10: Either/Or Is Reissued
In honor of its 20th anniversary, the legendary lo-fi album Either/Or by the late songwriter Elliott Smith is reissued. This deluxe set includes rare tracks, live performances, and a never before heard song.

The Biggest Music News of 2017: Image Courtesy of Michael Putland/Getty Images

Image Courtesy of Michael Putland/Getty Images

April 16: Allan Holdsworth Passes Away
The revered guitarist was found unexpectedly dead at age 70. Cited as being as influential as other legends like Chuck Berry, Holdsworth never stopped touring. Some of his musical projects include Soft Machine and U.K.

April 22: Record Store Day
An annual event celebrating the vinyl record, Record Store Day is a time where music-makers and music-lovers alike can come together within safe spaces to do what they love most: listen to amazing records.

May 10: PWR BTTM’s Ben Hopkins Accused of Assault
A victim’s stories about an alleged sexual assault by Ben Hopkins begins circulating on social media, causing a widespread attack on the once beloved Brooklyn power-pop duo. The band releases a statement claiming this is a misunderstanding, but they are dropped by their label and their albums are removed from streaming services.

The Biggest Music News of 2017: Image Courtesy of Ethan Miller/BBMA17

Image Courtesy of Ethan Miller/BBMA17

May 22: Billboard Music Awards
Drake is the star of the hour, taking home multiple awards, including Top Artist, Top Streaming Songs Artist, Top Rap Tour, and more. The event is hosted by Ludacris, who has hosted previously, and Vanessa Hudgens.

May 22: Manchester Bombing at Ariana Grande Concert
Tragedy struck as an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester was bombed, endangering thousands, injuring dozens, and killing 22, most of whom were children. Regarded as one of the biggest tragedies in the history of concerts, this event led to Grande penning a letter about staying strong and facing fear. She announces she will be returning to Manchester for a benefit concert.

The Biggest Music News of 2017: Image Courtesy of Kevin Mazur/One Love Manchester/Getty Images

Image Courtesy of Kevin Mazur/One Love Manchester/Getty Images

June 4: Manchester Benefit Concert
In the wake of the Manchester Bombing, Ariana Grande, Katy Perry, Coldplay, Miley Cyrus, and more celebrities return to the city in order to perform at a benefit concert that will alleviate the burden of the victims. Attendees of the concert in May are offered free tickets.

June 7: Site of Woodstock Joins Registry of Historic Places
The home to one of the most famous music festivals of all time, the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is added to the National Register of Historic Places. This venue hosted the Woodstock Music Festival of 1969.

June 8: Taylor Swift Returns to Spotify
After criticizing the streaming service and removing her entire music catalog, Taylor Swift decides to make amends with Spotify. She tweets that she will be returning her entire discography to the platform.

The Biggest Music News of 2017: Image Courtesy of Walter Bieri/LA Times

Image Courtesy of Walter Bieri/LA Times

July 20: Chester Bennington Passes Away
The lead singer of Linkin Park, Chester Bennington, is found dead at age 41 in a Los Angeles house. It is suspected to be a suicide. His death is a shock to the music community as a whole, and he is mourned widely and celebrated for his contributions to alternative rock.

August 8: Glen Campbell Passes Away
It is announced that the country music legend has passed away in a care facility after a long and public struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease. He is remembered for his songwriting, which blurred the lines between country and pop.

August 17: Spotify Removes Racist Music
In response to the violent white supremacy rallies in Charlottesville, VA, Spotify begins removing racist music from its databases. This includes any artists that are openly neo-fascist or racist, or those that incite violence against certain groups of people.

August 28: MTV’s VMA Awards
Katy Perry hosts MTV’s annual Video Music Awards show, which features performances by Miley Cyrus, Lorde, Kyle, and more. Taylor Swift premieres her video for “Look What You Made Me Do” at the show, and Kendrick Lamar receives the coveted Video of the Year award for “HUMBLE.”

September 7: Spotify and Hulu Announce Streaming Bundle
In an effort to face competitors in the streaming world, Spotify and Hulu teamed up to offer college students a new discounted bundle; they can receive both for only five dollars a month.

September 26: Chance the Rapper Performs New Song Live
After a busy few years of touring and raising awareness about problems in the Chicago Public School system, Chance came back with a new original and unrecorded song on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. It is one of his most personal songs to date.

The Biggest Music News of 2017: Image Courtesy of Richard E. Aaron/Redferns

Image Courtesy of Richard E. Aaron/Redferns

October 2: Tom Petty Passes Away
Amid a few confusing news reports, it is announced that the rockstar and voice behind Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers is officially dead at age 66. He fell into cardiac arrest in his Malibu home and was rushed to a nearby hospital, but he passes peacefully surrounded by friends and family.

October 10: BET Hip-Hop Awards
Eminem performs a cypher at the BET Awards, directly attacking President Trump and his work in the office. He receives high praise from fans, and even Colin Kaepernick tweets at him in solidarity.

November 8: THE CMAS
The 51st annual Country Music Awards take place in Nashville. They are hosted by Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley.

November 19: THE AMAS
The American Music Awards take place in Los Angeles at the Microsoft theater, with Bruno Mars taking the highest number of nominations. Diana Ross receives a lifetime achievement award for her contributions to music.

Read more Music Articles on ClicheMag.com.

The Biggest Music News of 2017: Image courtesy of Walter Bieri/LA Times

Winter Albums For When You’re Tired of Christmas Music

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If you’re like me, then that means you don’t start listening to Christmas music until the week of December 25th. Unfortunately, that also means you may run into a few moments here and there where you just really can’t think of something new to listen to. There isn’t one specific formula for what makes a good winter album. For me, anything that makes me feel warm usually does the trick. To make your life a little easier, I’ve rounded up a list of winter albums for when you’re tired of Christmas music. 

 

For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver
Often regarded as one of the best breakup albums of all time, Bon Iver’s debut record isn’t meant for rocking around the Christmas tree. Written in a cabin in the woods of Wisconsin, this album was Justin Vernon’s way of dealing with his breakup from a longtime girlfriend and his band, all while recovering from health issues. This icy take on what it means to start anew in the midst of what feels like an avalanche is perfect for snowy days where you don’t feel like stepping into the windy, outside world.

Why We Still Need SoundCloud

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When SoundCloud was founded in 2007, it was not necessarily the first streaming service of its kind. Before, there was YouTube and Napster, but what made SoundCloud different was its devotion to creativity. In its initial form, not only was streaming completely free, but also entirely user-friendly. Laissez-faire copyright laws made it easy for unsigned artists (specifically DJs) to post original remixes of popular tracks, which allowed listeners to fall for the romantic notion that maybe music can be free. Now, after a decade, the Berlin-based streaming service has taken quite a few blows—a few of which have steered it away from this original idea of free creativity. However, a closer look at its original values shows why we still need SoundCloud. 

 

At its best, Soundcloud was an avenue for musical discovery. Made up of mostly lesser-known artists, the service allowed users to scratch beneath the surface of popular music. Artists were allowed to make music without the burden of conventionality weighing on their shoulders while they recorded tracks.

SoundCloud was not about making money or recording instant hits. It was about self-expression within a community of like-minded individuals—a huge deal in the music world, considering major labels and record producers were busy cultivating a harsh climate of cutthroat deals, limited contracts, and perfectionism. This is what made SoundCloud as a platform so liberating: It freed artists from this pressure cooker of artificiality.

This isn’t to say, however, that SoundCloud artists were fated for a life outside the realm of the mainstream. Take SoundCloud’s poster child Chance the Rapper. In 2011, after having his musical aspirations mocked by peers and teachers, he spent a 10-day school suspension recording his first ever mixtape, 10 Day.

In his own words, he chose SoundCloud because it was the only platform that allowed him to upload his work without asking for a subscription payment. As a result, free, accessible music became his purpose (he doesn’t make songs for free, he makes them for freedom). Later came Acid Rap and Coloring Book, two mixtapes that have received wide commercial success despite the fact that he remains unsigned. At the young age of 24, Chance remains one of the most conventionally successful rappers of his time, regardless of the fact all his albums are available for free download.

Chance isn’t the only rapper to find fame through free streaming. More recent overnight sensations include Ugly God, who just dropped his debut album following the instant success of SoundCloud hit “Water,” Post Malone, Lil Pump, and Smokepurpp, among others. It would be nearly impossible to list all the rappers who have benefitted from this free platform because, when it comes to SoundCloud, fame isn’t the only indicator of success. There’s something to be said about a song you recorded in your bedroom being labeled art, even if it’s just by one person.

The community aspect of the service fosters a positivity that is missing from the critical “real” world. In this way, SoundCloud operates as a sort of escape from the unforgiving industry. It is a microcosm of the larger industry—one without all the “X out of 10” album reviews, Hot 100 charts, or sale numbers.

Rap isn’t the only genre to flourish under SoundCloud’s guiding hand, either. Perhaps the most unique aspect of the SoundCloud platform was its freedom from copyright infringement laws, which allowed DJs to elevate electronic music to new heights. Unlike YouTube (a competitor with SoundCloud for best free streaming service), SoundCloud allowed DJs to post remixes of pre-existing tracks without fear of their content being removed.

For instance, look at Kygo, whose remix of Ed Sheeran’s “I See Fire” received over 50 million plays on SoundCloud. This was his jumping-off point, and it resulted in his release of “Firestone” on the streaming service, which led to critical and commercial acclaim. His personal success snowballed after this, as did the legitimization of house and electronic music as an artform. In 2016, he became the first house music producer to perform at an Olympics closing ceremony.

It is no secret that this is a very idyllic look at a corporation that has strayed very far from its roots. Since its creation, SoundCloud’s intentions have become much foggier. The corporation has negotiated deals with major labels and artists, allowing at least a portion of contributors to make money on advertisements (a move that betrays the idea of “all music is created equal” in its entirety).

In 2016, they introduced SoundCloud Go, a paid subscription service. Ironically, all of this failed them financially. They had almost gone under this year, but their saving grace was emergency funding. But just because the company is safe financially does not mean that everything that made it great is. It’s quite the opposite; SoundCloud does not only need a bailout, they need to return to the values that made them great. Otherwise, free music is doomed, and they’re going down with it.

Read more Music Articles on ClicheMag.com.

Why We Still Need SoundCloud: Featured image courtesy of SoundCloud

Yoke Lore Discusses His New EP ‘Goodpain’

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New York native Adrian Galvin has worn a few different hats throughout his musical career: First as a member of Walk the Moon, second as one-half of folk duo Yellerkin, and third as the semi-electronic indie pop solo project known as Yoke Lore. Describing his life as “busy” would be an understatement, especially considering the artist has been playing shows and touring almost nonstop for the past year, all while recording and releasing a new EP. In this interview, Yoke Lore discusses his new EP Goodpainhis musical background, his tour life, and more.

 

Cliché: You’ve been a part of many bands in your life, yet you still manage to find a distinct sound with every new project. Tell us about your musical history. Are there any projects that stick out the most in your memory?
Yoke Lore: I have been in more bands than I can count! I think each one has been a pretty natural progression for me. In most other bands I’ve been in, I was the drummer. Being the frontman recently is a really different experience. I was in a band called Motley Shrü. We played Mötley Crüe covers and wore some pretty revealing outfits. That one stands out.

How has this musical journey influenced your solo career and the music that you make as Yoke Lore?
I am lucky to have had a really rich crucible. I am privileged to have had music in my life growing up. I created a band the moment I realized I could and have been doing it since. I have had time to make so many mistakes, wrong turns, and pitfalls that have cleared the way for the work I do now. I have always had supportive and loving parents and peers to encourage and speed me on. The music I make is the culmination of my history, and I think if you listen closely, you can hear how I got to where I am. You can hear the music I grew up on. You can hear the drums leading every song. It’s those things that make the music dynamic and important.

I’ve read a lot about your parents’ artistic careers and how they ushered you into the world of artistic expression. Do you agree with this statement? How did your upbringing contribute to your life as an artist?
My parents being artists for sure didn’t deter me from the trade, but it wasn’t as if they forced art classes on us. They encouraged whatever we did. They had the wherewithal to encourage our curiosity. They let me take a painting class because they loved that I wanted to paint, but they also took me to wrestling practice and skate camp. The most important thing they did was to instill in us the radical notion that what we make, what we say, and what we do create the world around us. All the kids in my family are artists and are trying to embody that idea. I think we are all trying to almost live up that idea: to live in a beautiful world, one has to live beautifully.

Your name is a reference to stories that bind things together, but what does this mean to you on a personal level? What binds you together?
That’s the point! I’m not sure. Or maybe I am sure and I want those holds to be stronger and better. I think of it a little bit like Marx’s levels of alienation. He said that in industrialized capitalist society, because of the cost-efficient forms of mechanical labor, modern man was becoming alienated from the products he makes, the people around him, the meaning of production itself, and finally himself. Marx held the belief that the things that bind a man to what he makes define him. He thought that the things, feelings, and experiences that bind people to one another define those people. And finally he thought that without a purpose driving a man toward a meaningful goal all men can and have the freedom to share in, men will become despondent and abject. I agree with Marx.

You just got off a two-month tour with Overcoats after they discovered you at SXSW, which must’ve been an insane experience. Can you tell us about that?
We were at an urgent care taking care of a mishap and we called them to make a brunch date. They were at a different urgent care across town dealing with an unrelated mishap. Tour life.

What is one thing you know now that you wish you knew before the tour started?
If there aren’t carpets on the floor of a hotel room, don’t stay there.

You recently released Goodpain at Baby’s All Right in July. What was it like playing a release show in Brooklyn? Can you describe the night?
It was an amazing night. It was a fantastic show. Had some really good friends open for me. I’m just starting to headline and it’s a very different experience than opening. Playing later, playing longer, more of the crowd is for you. It’s a much more involving way to play a show, a bit more stressful, and a bit more rewarding.  

What has been your favorite track off Goodpain to play live and why?
When I play “Goodpain,” I put my banjo down and just sing like a pop-star, and that’s super fun.

Who have you been listening to recently? Are there any artists who heavily influenced your sound on Goodpain?
Lately, I’ve been listening to lots of Tears For Fears and this guy Dorando. I love Nas, too.

Besides touring, what’s next for you? Do you have any future plans made for yourself or your music?
I have all sorts of plans. I want to write a book about liberation theology and the modern body politic. As for music, we head back out on tour in a couple weeks with Overcoats, and then we go out with Aquilo in October. We may hibernate for a bit before some new music in the new year. All good things.

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Yoke Lore Discusses His New EP Goodpain: Image courtesy of Shervin Lainez

Female Rappers on the Rise

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In a genre defined by hypermasculinity, profanity, and the sexualization of female bodies, it’s not surprising that there has never been a historically high concentration of women in rap. When it came to hip-hop, women were always tied to the role of “featured” artist, or contributing harmonies and hooks, but rarely verses. However, things are finally changing in the rap world and we have many genre-defying female artists to thank for that. We rounded up a list of the most up-and-coming female rappers on the rise that you should not be sleeping on this year.

 

CARDI B
If you haven’t heard Cardi B’s breakout single “Bodak Yellow,” then you must be living under a rock. The overarching message of the song is obvious from the first few lines: Cardi B thinks she’s better than you, and she wants to be the one to tell you. The song takes cues from classic rap culture surrounding money, glory, and celebrity. It also subverts the classic rap narrative because Cardi is a woman—the antithesis of the tough, black male rapper stereotype. She’s effortlessly breaking boundaries, and she’s doing it in a way you can dance to.  

NONAME
Starting out as a slam poet in Chicago, Fatima Warner (Noname) broke out onto the rap scene when she was featured by Chance the Rapper on the Acid Rap mixtape. Since then, she and Chance have collaborated a few more times (Surf, Coloring Book), but she was also busy recording her own debut album, Telefone. An uncompromised look at the experience of growing up a black woman in Chicago, this album is a triumph. Not only does she experiment with unconventional jazz-influenced beats, but she also uses her background in spoken word to craft extremely smart and personal verses.

YOUNG M.A.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Young M.A. (also known as Katorah Marrero) has rap running through her veins. Beginning to rap as early as age 9, the 25-year-old has accomplished a lot in her short life thus far; she’s released more than a few viral tracks (“Brooklyn Chiraq,” “Body Bag”) and two mixtapes (Sleepwalkin’, Herstory,) and the latter two received critical acclaim. Her single “OOOUUU” has over 100 million streams on Spotify alone, and it was featured on basically every party playlist in the country for a few months. Her songs aren’t just mindless bangers, either; she also uses her music as an outlet to discuss social issues and her identity as a black lesbian woman.

KAMAIYAH
Called “Oakland’s Best New Rapper” by MTV, Kamaiyah is definitely one to watch. Her debut album A Good Night in the Ghetto is a cross-section of everything she represents as a rapper: confidence, clarity, and charisma. Her verses are sharp, but they’re also fun. Heavy bass lines and catchy hooks make the tracks perfect for parties without compromising who she is. She’s not a singer, she’s a rapper—and she’s not afraid to say it. If you’re still unconvinced that she’s the next big thing, just remember she also shared a feature with Drake on the YG track “Why You Always Hatin’” in 2016.

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Female Rappers on the Rise: Featured image courtesy of CardiB/Faceboook

Brockhampton’s Album ‘Saturation II’ is Their Declaration

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Their second release of the summer and part two of their trilogy, Saturation II, is L.A. rap group Brockhampton’s follow-up to their overnight sensation Saturation. The 16-person self-proclaimed hip-hop boy band (they reject the use of the word ‘collective’ and all comparisons to Odd Future) has been making waves in the rap scene ever since they packed up their lives and moved to L.A. together to pursue their dreams of being musicians. Made up of misfits, the members of Brockhampton met each other through KanyeToThe.com, a forum dedicated to fans of the rapper. Feeding off the momentum of a successful first release, Brockhampton isn’t wasting any time. If Saturation was their debut, then Saturation II is their declaration; they are here to stay, and they aren’t following any rules.

 

From the first few measures of opening track “GUMMY,” it’s made clear that Brockhampton isn’t the type of group that is going to fly under the radar. The use of orchestral strings sets up the track in an almost fantastical way—that is, until the de-facto group leader Kevin Abstract’s voice chimes in and effectively cuts it off. His clever opening verse is simultaneously a celebration of the group and a critique of himself. Although this track (and, frankly, the whole album) jumps from theme to theme, one concept remains consistent throughout: The group comes first. This idea is seen in Abstract’s first verse (“Keep my heart with my dogs”), Dom McLennon’s (“Don’t go no friends in the game, it’s me and my brothers alone”), Matt Champion’s (“Me and all my boys jet, swervin’ like a donut”).

The focus of this album is not one overarching theme; Brockhampton is not here to give you any answers about the meaning of life.

The reason why this album tackles so many different ideas is because each member has a distinct style and background. Kevin Abstract, Matt Champion, Merlyn Wood, JOBA, and Ameer Vann all met in high school in The Woodlands in Texas; Bearface is from Belfast, Ireland; Dom McLennon, from Hartford, Connecticut. This doesn’t even cover half the group. The rest of the team (producers, photographers, engineers, web developers), who also hail from all over, influence the sound, style, and brand of Brockhampton just as much as the artists. Abstract delegates himself to the catchy, often poppy M.I.A.-inspired hooks and verses about his sexuality. He jokes that he’s “Making out with Zayn in a lawn chair” in “JELLO” and calls out his critics in “JUNKY” with the lines “Why you always rap about being gay? / ‘Cause not enough n***** rap about being gay!” Vann is known for his confessional, aggressive verses about his past life, which usually focuses on drugs, like in the opening lines of “SWAMP”: “My daddy taught me how to sell dope / turn grams into elbows.” Merlyn is a vocal shapeshifter, JOBA can hit any high note, Bearface adds unexpected ballads to break up the album.

With so many different personas working together on one project, it’s not surprising that critics of the album have called it unfocused. It’s certainly true that this album does not flow in one clear direction—it’s a zigzagging frenzy of anger, surprise, relief, regret. The only clear path it does follow is that of human emotion, especially during young adulthood. So, what more does it need? The focus of this album is not one overarching theme; Brockhampton is not here to give you any answers about the meaning of life. They’re just a group of outcasts who found their peace with each other, and they’re here to tell you their story. The track “QUEER” allows the members to explore what makes them weird; Champion opens it up with “Skinny boy, skinny boy, where your muscles at?” Wood mentions being Ghanian; “CHICK” gives them the opportunity to declare their mission to stay true to themselves and remember their origins, unlike other, popular rappers who let money make them selfish. The list goes on.

It would take pages and pages to go through each verse in this 16-track manifesto of an album, and spelling it all out would take half the fun out of listening. Despite the sometimes harsh, rough-around-the-edges feeling of this work, what really sits at the root of this album is fun. What did you expect? Brockhampton is a bunch of guys who are currently having the time of their lives, and they want to let the world (and especially all of their doubters) know that. Saturation II has allowed them to solidify their reputation as hip-hop bad boys with a knack for invention and has made their fans (and foes) even more eager for their next release.

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Brockhampton’s Album ‘Saturation II’ is Their Declaration: Featured image courtesy of Question Everything, Inc

Sleep Well Beast: The National’s “Goodbye to All That”

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It becomes clear from the first few minutes of Sleep Well Beast that this is not just another record by old-timers The National. Of course, there is no replacing Matt Berninger’s signature croon or Aaron Dessner’s hypnotic songwriting. But this album captures a side of The National that we only see glimpses of during live sets—one that is wide awake, sweating through the setlist with a passion that can only come from experience. It is no surprise that they were inspired by love (and the tests it must endure with age) yet again in their music. However, this record was truly their wake-up call to a changing world: a world in which they are expected to be older and wiser instead of young and carefree. Their first album in 4 years, Sleep Well Beast is The National’s “Goodbye to All That” and hello to a new, repurposed energy.


At the risk of sounding pretentious, I will defend the Joan Didion reference in the previous sentence. Not only because The National love to reference literature in their songwriting (anyone else notice “John Cheever” in the refrain of “Carin At The Liquor Store”?) but because the subject of middle age comes up often in writing and is often executed very, very poorly (cue the sad violin music and melodrama). Joan Didion—and, as of now, The National—are of the few to do it right. There’s a quote in her famous essay about moving to New York, entitled “Goodbye to All That,” that reads: 

“One of the mixed blessings of being twenty and twenty-one and even twenty-three is the conviction that nothing like this, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, has ever happened to anyone before.

The essay is essentially her goodbye to her old life in New York, the one where anything was possible, and her understanding that it is “a city only for the very young.” The National explore very similar themes in this album, right down to the disillusionment with New York; in opening track “Nobody Else Will Be There,” Berninger croons “It’s getting cold again, but New York’s gorgeous.” Only a few songs later, in “Born to Beg,” “New York is older / And changing its skin again / It dies every ten years / And then it begins again.”

It is possible that New York isn’t the only cyclical force in this life. This album makes it clear that love operates in much the same way, with its predictably catching anyone who thought they were different off guard. The overall tone of the album is a deep-rooted melancholy, created by heavy realizations—most of which involve finding out how incompatible two people in love can really be. In “Day I Die,” the narrator reveals “I used to put my head inside the speakers / In the hallway when you get too high and talk forever,” but the chorus of “Born to Beg” tells a different story: “I was born, born to beg for you.” This back-and-forth is inevitable. It only becomes an issue when you feel you’ve reached your wit’s end. This happens in one of The National’s most forceful songs to date, “Turtleneck,” where Berninger tunes into some of his raucous live show energy to deliver a full-on alternative rock track—a far step away from the moody indie tracks of The National’s previous release, Trouble Will Find Me.

It is not enough to say that what goes up must come down, though. When it comes to the mature, adult love, there’s always some force that brings everything back up, even if just for a moment. This is exactly what happens in the penultimate track “Dark Side of the Gym,” a love song in its purest form. The chorus reads like an extremely romantic (albeit a bit excessively so) version of what love feels like when you feel you have finally found the ‘right’ person: “I have dreams of anonymous castrati / Singing to us from the trees / I have dreams of a first man and a first lady / Singing to us from the sea.”

The last, and titular, track is perhaps the most Didion-esque part of the album. For lack of better words, it describes what happens after everything hits the fan (“I’m at a loss / I’m losing grip / The fabric’s ripped”). But Berninger himself admits that the “beast” he talks about isn’t necessarily something negative; It’s just scary. It’s the future (perhaps the very near future) that you don’t want to deal with. It’s the long day of work that ends with a fight before bed. It’s the love of your life, who really isn’t who you thought they were. It’s the goodbye to the easy, carefree life you let yourself get used to. But, most importantly, it’s the process of picking the pieces back up and moving on.

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Sleep Well Beast: The National’s “Goodbye to All That”: Photographs courtesy of The National/Facebook