Category Archives: Music Reviews

Album Review: Speak Low If You Speak Love – Nearsighted

At the start of a new year, one can’t help but reflect on what’s going on in their life. I’ve got a fairly long drive to get to work, which means a lot of time every day to just listen to music and let my mind wander. Several weeks ago, I added Speak Low If You Speak Love’s Nearsighted to my library for these drives, and since then it has been an essential part of these gloomy winter commutes. I was already familiar with Ryan Scott Graham’s songwriting from Speak Low’s previous album, Everything but What You Need, but that didn’t prepare me for this album, which took what we already knew Graham could do and elevated it all into something truly special.

Nearsighted is an example of how self-reflection can help you to make sense of yourself and how to move forward from difficult feelings. The album opens with “Have I Changed,” a song in which Graham is trying to figure out why it is that he feels so skeptical and apathetic. The song opens with ambient synthesizers rather than the familiar acoustic guitar of his previous work, already signaling a departure from his previous sound. As the song goes on, the instrumentation builds, adding guitar and piano before stripping itself back for the song’s thesis, “I cannot put my thumb on when I went so numb.” From there, he spends the rest of the album trying to figure that out.  Continue reading Album Review: Speak Low If You Speak Love – Nearsighted

Album Review: The Smith Street Band – ‘More Scared of You Than You Are of Me’

Fans of The Smith Street Band, and their vocalist/lyricist Wil Wagner, are no strangers to having their hearts broken through music. Wagner has a habit of penning lyrics in a way that is somehow both intensely personal and profoundly relatable. The band, however, has outdone themselves with their latest release, More Scared of You Than You Are of Me. This record finds The Smith Street Band going bigger, bolder, and darker with their art.

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Hamilton Mixtape Roots Musical in Real-World Struggles

On December 2nd, Lin-Manuel Miranda and his army of hip hop, pop, and R&B contemporaries dropped the Hamilton Mixtape. The release, while planned well in advance of political controversy, came mere weeks after Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended the musical and was treated to a stern but emotive speech courtesy of the cast.
The musical has never been shy about its goal to illuminate modern race relations in America. Using rap and hip hop to propel itself into the mainstream, Hamilton draws connections between the Founding Fathers’ working-class rhetoric and the racially- and ethnically-diverse backbone of the present-day American workforce (“immigrants: we get the job done”). It brings to light the all-white version of the Revolutionary War taught in history classes by insisting on a cast of minorities (the original leads were Latino [Lin-Manuel Miranda], Black [Leslie Odom, Jr.], and Chinese-American [Phillipa Soo]). What’s more, the use of rap and hip hop as the lyrical theme to the musical serves purposes beyond just adding unique texture and replicating the speed of the Founding Fathers’ thought processes. When theater audiences (which, as many have pointed out, are predominantly white) hear actors of color rap, it requires them to connect the actions of the Revolution with the every-day lives of the Black and Latin@ artists who populated rap and hip hop’s political beginnings.

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