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Declan McKenna’s New 80’s Sound Compliments His Political Lyrics: ‘Zeros’ Album Review

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“What do you think about the rocket I built?” cheekily asks a 17-year-old Declan McKenna on the opener of his new album “Zeros.” In his sophomore album, British singer-songwriter, McKenna strays away from the indie rock as seen on his debut album and produces a concept album that explores dystopian 80s rock sounds. He becomes experimental with this album and most importantly, he showcases his political critique, but in rock style. 

In an interview with NME magazine last year, McKenna claimed he “[wouldn’t] really describe [himself] directly as a political musician.” “I think I have an opinion on a lot of things, and I guess I’m someone who wants to share that and wants to make a point about certain things I think are right and wrong.” “Zeros” leaves the current indie tunes behind for something less radio pop and delivers futuristic-dystopian lyrics. Even with funky retro tunes, McKenna finds a manner to make political songs sound upbeat, creative, and fun. 

On “Zeros,” McKenna highlights weightier topics such as climate change, online radicalization, and surveillance capitalism. Song “Sagittarius A*” criticizes industrialists for their deluding thoughts of avoiding climate emergency and fleeing to Mars. “You think your money’s gonna stop you getting wet. Noah, you best start building.” In recent years the melting of the glaciers has become a major world occurrence that intensified during the 20th century and has left the world iceless, and rumor has it that those with money don’t have a care about these issues. But, those with wealth are also affected deeply, and this song is a cry for help for people to become more aware and cautious of saving, taking care of, and knowing what is happening to our earth. McKenna is expressing his concerns for the planet and is telling everyone to listen and take care. 

Following “Sagittarius A*,” comes another political rock anthem and the first lead single off the album, “Beautiful Faces, which is a song about surveillance capitalism. McKenna Describes this song as a “brave new anthem for doomed youth,” wherein he sings of the modern day struggles young people are facing. He emphasizes the idea that people are constantly being watched and the notion that technology is impacting inequality. This preconceived notion of always being watched through social media and the way technology is rapidly improving and is getting more savvy is going to harm the youth even more than it already is. “Beautiful faces smiling over us, lift your hands up and lead us back home,” highlights the way attractive people are portrayed in reality TV and social media. It’s almost condescending in the sense that the phrase “smiling over us” feels threatening in nature. It’s a metaphor for the “power dynamics between the general population and the celebrities as well as the power they hold ‘over us.’” McKenna stresses his worry in this song that the “beautiful faces” will hold even more power to the point that we cannot get away from their looming presence. “Beautiful Faces” is a personal favorite of mine and in my opinion the best track off of the album.

In “Zeros” Declan McKenna has more to offer as far as storytelling goes. McKenna produced a solid second album and is bursting with new, creative, inventive images and sounds that are enough to entertain the youth. Albeit, the album couldn’t have been written without the ill’s of today’s society, but underneath all the glitter and glam, McKenna is still able to master a beautiful melancholy masterpiece.

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Michaela Coel’s “I May Destroy You” is the Most Honest Show on Television

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As soon as I watched the first episode of “I May Destroy You,” I knew that I wanted to write a review of it. The initial reasons are simple: it’s incredibly well-written, the cast is impeccable, and it’s beautiful direction proves that Michaela Coel, the show’s creator and star, is a force to be reckoned with. But after finishing the first season last week, I realized that there’s something unique happening with this show. Despite dealing with a topic as hard to wrestle with as sexual assault, “I May Destroy You” shows every moment of true trauma, from the dreary and grey to the odd moments of joy weaved between.

“I May Destroy You” shows a glimpse into the life of Arabella, a millennial writer with everything she could ever dream of: a bestselling book, a hot Italian boyfriend, and endless love and support from her friends. Nothing could possibly go wrong- until she finds her drink spiked at a club on a night out with friends. The day after, she begins slowly recounting memories of what happened, piecing together that she was sexually assaulted by an unknown man. 

Throughout the series, Arabella finds herself questioning everything: her career, her lovelife, and the friends that she thought she trusted. She buries everything under her bed, both metaphorically and literally, with her evidence bags containing the clothes she wore that night being hidden away and ignored.

But Arabella doesn’t sit still with her trauma, she pushes it into corners and under covers because she doesn’t know where else to put it, and ends up struggling to deal with herself and the trauma. In one episode, she accidentally becomes a social media figurehead for survivors of sexual assault, with thousands of people finding hope in her, sharing stories, praising her for speaking up. And yet, it doesn’t help Arabella at all. She has hardly learned to grapple with her own assault and hardly learned the right avenues of “coping” to walk down. 

In the second half of the show, Arabella continuously goes back to the club in which she was raped, convinced that “criminals always return to the scene of the crime.” She needs to find him, the split-second picture of the man who assaulted her at this bar in order to come to terms with her trauma. And in some endings of the show, she does.

In the finale, Arabella sees the man of her visions and confronts him, enacting a plan of revenge with her best friend, Terry, and the leader of her sexual assault support group, Theo. The girls lure him into the bathroom and inject him with the drug he used against Arabella. He’s left a stumbling mess on the streets, and the girls follow him in order to rid any evidence he may have on himself. He eventually passes out in an alley, and Arabella, in all of her rage, beats him to a bloody pulp. A dead man, she takes his body home with her, shoving him under her bed with the rest of her trauma.

But we quickly realize that this isn’t the only ending, as Arabella herself continues to rewrite different ways to end the story, with each scenario even more complicated than the last. They are dreamlike and idyllic, but also coldly, intensely realistic. It’s the complex weaving of these stories that prove that there is no one ending that helps Arabella deal with her trauma. This is something that she has to learn to deal with on her own; she is the only one equipped to drag the secrets out from under her bed and face them.

What Michaela Coel depicts is more than complexity, it’s truth. Trauma isn’t a one-size-fits-all, it’s messy and unusual, it’s quiet and loud. Perhaps what makes “I May Destroy You” so interesting and praised is the process of Arabella going through it all: every unheard moment of trauma that doesn’t always get shown in the media. She attempts to get her old life back, and in the process realizes that going back to the past won’t fix anything for her. She also messes up several times and does things that hurt the people that she cares about, including herself. But, despite her flaws, she learns. She acknowledges the pain she feels and the pain she gives to grow to be better. And really, isn’t that the best that we can do?

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The Killers Inspire Hope When We Need It Most: “Imploding the Mirage” Album Review

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Las Vegas born band, The Killers, returned after their long awaited mini hiatus since the release of their last album “Wonderful Wonderful” with their new record, “Imploding the Mirage.” Introducing a new album with their absent founding guitarist, Dave Keuning, the band released a record that epitomizes The Killers’s sound and brings a sense of hope during these awful and abnormal times. “Imploding the Mirage” is an album that takes The Killers back to their roots as seen on “Battle Born,” and it has their audience roaring with excitement. 

After the release of “Wonderful, Wonderful” and allegations of sexual misconduct from a crew member back in 2009, The Killers delayed the release of “Imploding the Mirage” even more than what the coronavirus already had. But despite the awful allegations and the hardships of an ongoing global pandemic, The Killers have returned, and they returned with a BANG.

During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and even before that, we have experienced and been fed wonderful music content, but nothing is as good as The Killers “Imploding the Mirage” and its message behind it: hope. Introducing new 80s synth sounds with a mixture of their classic unique rock styles, the album created an entirely new sound. 

The album kicks off with the single “My Own Souls’s Warning,” starting off with an epic drum beat and followed by a lead synth that screams eighties arena concert. Lead singer Brandon Flowers sings the chorus, “cutting up the nights like a goddamn knife/And it got me thinking, no matter how far I just wanted to get back to where you are.” This song is a metaphor for Flower’s resilience and his struggles with faith, and introduces the theme of welcoming challenges. “I tried going against my own soul’s warning/But in the end, something just didn’t feel right,” Flowers sings, showing the story of himself struggling with faith and how he strayed away from God, thus causing him to feel some sort of void. 

Other highlights from the album include “Blowback,” “Caution,” and “My God.” The song “Blowback” is about a girl who is facing a battle with her inner self. However, optimistic lyrics appear, such as “it’s just a matter of time” before she is “going to break out” of the torturous cycle she is in. “Caution” is about a woman leaving her hometown seeking a better life. The song narrates Flowers’ own life through the perspective of a young woman who is having a hard time finding a career and struggling with depression and boredom: “If I don’t get out, out of this town I just might be the one who finally burns it down. I’m throwin’ caution.” Eventually, the young woman ends up taking a risk by leaving her town just how Flowers did. 

The track “My God” is probably one of the most religious songs on the entire album and it features American singer Weyes Blood. The song takes the listener on a spiritual journey of one becoming enlightened and establishing a strong relationship with God, singing, “My God, it’s like a weight has been lifted.” The person who was stuck in an unfavorable rut has now been relieved from the weight that was “dragging [them] down.” It’s a song that highlights Flowers’ growth as a man and within the band. At one point, Flowers’ strayed away from God as shown in “My Own Soul’s Warning,” but went back to God because he couldn’t stay away, it was a wrong decision choice and “My God” is about him finding divinity and becoming a more enlightened person. “My God” is a modern day gospel.

“Imploding the Mirage” is an album that is definitely worth the listen. The hope that the album displays is enough to give the nation some faith to look beyond all the hardships and struggles we have witnessed and are currently experiencing in 2020. “Imploding the Mirage” encourages people to keep on running and striving. The Killers have outdone themselves again with their new album, but this time they took a leap forward into a new generation of alternative rock.

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The Album We Didn’t Know We Needed: Taylor Swift’s ‘folklore’ Review

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Taylor Swift’s eighth studio album was announced only 12 hours before its release on July 24th, taking people all over the internet by surprise. The singer was supposed to be touring music from her last album “Lover” this summer, however, due to COVID-19, she was not able to do so. Evidently, she took full advantage of the time at home, working hard to create her newest album, “folklore.”

Now on her eighth studio album, Swift has long since established her preferred music style as pop-inspired. Over the years, this is what the public has grown accustomed to hearing from her. Needless to say, it came as a bit of a shock that she had chosen to make a shift from that style. Falling back on her country roots, most of the songs on this album have a folky sound. Coming off of the high praise from her last album, this change in sound might come off a bit abrupt or odd. However, Swift enters this new era with so much grace and innovative artistry that it is almost impossible to question it. 

The album’s first single was “cardigan,” a beautiful song highlighting a relationship that didn’t work despite strong efforts. This song, along with “august” and “betty,” gained quick attention from fans for their suspected connection. The theory goes that hidden within the album is a “teenage love triangle.” Each of the songs takes the point of view of a different character, a risk that might not have worked if Swift’s talent for pushing the boundaries of songwriting wasn’t so remarkable. 

Throughout the album we see her move away from the traditional form of the first-person writing, a technique which adds another layer of depth to the album that might not have been there otherwise. Each song adds to the album’s overall plot and allure, coming together like chapters in an old book. They hold their place in time, while seamlessly coming together to tell her story. Some of my favorites from the album are “mirrorball” and “this is me trying,” for precisely that reason–they tell us her story. 

Swift has always been a natural storyteller, someone who effortlessly brings her memories and dreams to life through song. Over the course of her many years in the industry she has grown and adapted in a million ways, and we get to see that growth for ourselves in this album. Her ability to take risks with her style and pull it off is a testament to that like no other. Swift has been maturing in her music for years now, slowly growing up before our eyes, but it is in this album that we can see that maturity without a veil. She shed that layer of defense in the name of art, and what a beautiful thing that is. 

For me, these songs feel like reliving a faded dream. It doesn’t matter if that dream is fantasy or memory, nothing could make it less real. Her ability to make her listeners believe what she is saying is her power. Her ability to capture her humanity in words is why the album resonates so deeply with people. Swift used this power to give us her version of a storybook, one filled with fantasy and memory alike. The end of the album marks the end of this story, or perhaps the end of another chapter, leaving the possibilities endless for what is to come.

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Troye Sivan Drops ‘Easy’ and ‘Take Yourself Home’ Off Upcoming EP

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Four months into quarantine, Troye Sivan came to rescue us all from our boredom with new music to match our low moods, while also catering to our want to go out again. This new era of music brought us a bright red hairdo, sad dance songs, and whispers of more new music to come. 

In April, Sivan surprised everyone with his new song, “Take Yourself Home.” The song itself did not veer too far off from Sivan’s usual theme of melancholy, yet upbeat songs–though one might say it seemed more candid than anything we have heard from Sivan before. The lyrics discuss his fear of looking back on his life to find only regrets and missed opportunities. Though the lyrics are well thought out, what I appreciate most about the song is the overall simplicity of Sivan’s vocal choices. This song highlights his voice in quite a beautiful way, while simultaneously creating a slow-building tension with a somber club beat. It set the stage for Sivan to release more new music, creating a buzz among his fans over what is to come. 

A few months after his release of “Take Yourself Home,” Sivan released his second song “Easy,” on July 15. Following the theme of sad lyrics with an upbeat sound, this song compliments his last single rather seamlessly. “Easy” is a dance song through and through. It’s use of autotune and a funky beat keep it from becoming just another ballad about a failing relationship. Telling the story of a crumbling relationship, Sivan once again finds a way to dive headfirst into a rather sad topic in a way that doesn’t feel forced. 

These two songs fall in line with Sivan’s long collection of synth-pop songs that have less than happy lyrics. Sivan has mastered the ‘sad at a party’ vibe that is becoming increasingly popular among young adults today, and he knows it. Why fix what isn’t broken, right? He does this by creating music that feels almost too personal, like the listeners are reading the lyrics right out of his diary, and it works for him. His sincerity and ability to open up in such a way surely helps him create music that continues to capture audiences all over the world. With promises of a new EP to be released on August 21, “In A Dream,” I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us.