P.O.S. Is Enriching My Life

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P.O.S. isn’t your typical rapper. He doesn’t drop lines about material wealth or about how he’s the best in the game. He hails from Minnesota. His background is not as a hip-hop fan, but rather as a punk rocker (and no, he’s not white). However, his eccentricities are what make him unique and one of the best emcees in modern hip-hop.

On his latest album, Never Better, P.O.S. attacks the mic with a genuine fierceness that is a cross between vintage Wu-Tang Clan and the D.C. hardcore punk scene (ala Minor Threat).

P.O.S. makes it a case to not fit in with the norm. For example, the beats on “Optimist (We Are Not For Them)” were created by stacking and banging plastic cups on a table. And what other emcee would reference Mitch Hedberg jokes and Fugazi?

But what really separates P.O.S. from the pack is his emotions. Emcees are not usually opening up their souls and pouring out. It’s not “cool” to show vulnerability in hip-hop, but he clearly does not care about what his peers think. He rattles through 15 tracks that touch on the personal, political, and a whole lot in between. On each track the man expresses not just the rhymes, but the feelings that are attached to the words.

As good as Never Better is, P.O.S.’s previous album Audition is even better. While it might not have the same level of ferocity, it’s a bit better balanced, offering a bigger range of tunes. The fantastic “De La Souls” is a perfectly crafted anthem of uniqueness while sampling “Argyle by The Bouncing Souls. “Safety In Speed (Heavy Metal)” even features fellow Minnesotan Craig Finn of The Hold Steady dropping rhymes.

If you’re a hip-hop fan looking for a change of pace or a punk fan who is convinced there is no good rap music, take a listen to P.O.S. At the very least, it’ll be a new experience.

*Published in today’s issue of The Gonzaga Bulletin*

Bo Fo Sho – Bo Burnham

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Bo Burnham is a musical comedy prodigy. Taking advantage of the all-powerful YouTube, Burnham was able to take video of him singing his own songs and turn it into internet and stand-up fame. Now he’s only 18 is getting his own Comedy Central special. His debut album, a digital EP entitled Bo Fo Sho showcases just why the kid became a whiz-kid.

While the “I’m so white but I’m rapping hardcore, get it…it’s ironic” thing has been done to death (and for the most part poorly), Burnham pulls it off with style. This is because he has exquisite wordplay. Really, it’s borderline ridiculous at times (which I guess is kind of the point…). It’s reminiscent of the master of musical stand-up, Stephen Lynch, with a pinch of Andy Sandberg thrown in for good measure.
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We’re Still Here Missing You – Kaylee Cole

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The indie singer songwriter market is ridiculously oversaturated. The all too earnest troubadours are a dime a dozen these days, so it takes something special to actually stand out.

We’re Still Here Missing You by Kaylee Cole stands out.

Cole, armed with nothing more than her finger strokes on keys and a soulful voice, guides the listener through nine tracks that are beautifully dark. The melodies and lyrics don’t force the issue, instead choosing to brood gently in the corner. To call the album simple seems unfair, instead it’s an example of brilliance through brevity.

Cole’s sound is anchored by her brooding piano lines that seem are amazingly atmospheric. The feelings they evoke are ones of impending dread and bleakness. The lyrics also contribute to the overall mood, but being so carefully chosen. There seems to be a conservation of words, only telling the story with the ones that make the most direct emotional impact. The pain and darkness isn’t conveyed by laying down every minute detail, but by choosing the big strokes to paint the broader picture of just how everything stings so much.
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The Evening Owl – Bright Light Fever

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I’m a sucker for two things when it comes to music: darkness and interesting variety. Bright Light Fever is a band that combines these two aspects together seamlessly and the results a couple great albums, including 2006’s The Evening Owl.

The key to Bright Light Fever is lead singer/guitarist Evan Ferro. His voice is so unique and wonderful. It’s a deep and powerful bass baritone that has something that just makes it seem slightly sinister. The best way I can describe it is that Ferro sounds like he would have been Vincent Price’s favorite singer. His vocal lines add ambiance and mood to the music, something that few singers can fully pull off.

While the voice is enough to carry the The Evening Owl to some degree of success, the sheer assortment of musical arrangements brings everything together. It seems so many bands try to stay keep similar instrumentals in order to keep their own sound in tact, but Bright Light Fever is able to use tremendous variety and still have the songs retain a sense of unity.
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Spokane’s Special Ks

Cole & Fairbanks

Cole & Fairbanks

Believe it or not, Gonzaga students, Spokane has a music scene (you should check it out sometime). While many of the local artists are more hit than miss, a few are simply fantastic. The cream of the crop are two singer-songwriters (and former living mates) Kaylee Cole and Karli Fairbanks.

Cole is a pianist with a beautifully emotional voice. While she carries herself with a youthful bubbliness, her music often touches on somber, sad feelings. A former Gonzaga dropout, she re-taught herself piano just a few years ago after not playing since childhood. It’s difficult to tell that she’s relatively new to the instrument. On her terrific debut album, We’re Still Here Missing You, she effortlessly flows through tunes that range from peppy pop ditties (“The Hills”) to emotionally gut-wrenching tunes (“Baby’s Blood”).

Karli Fairbanks plays a brand of indie folk that has a soft country feel about it. She gently croons over fingerpicked melodies. The music is almost perfectly subdued, making it great to put on when wanting to unwind for a bit. A Spokane native, Fairbanks is a multi-instrumentalist who also plays accordion in the Spokane outfit Power and Beauty. Her first EP is available for free at karlifairbanks.com, and I’d highly recommend taking a minute to download it.

The two will be playing shows together on Saturday. April 4 at the Caterina Winery and Wednesday, April 8 at Bing Crosby Theater. The duo’s concert at Bing Crosby is the album release show for Fairbanks’ second full-length The Breaking of Our Days. If you can’t make that show, both ladies play numerous local gigs. Make sure to check them out before your Spokane days are done.

*Published in today’s issue of The Gonzaga Bulletin*

Album Hierarchies By Artist – Vol. 1

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I’ve been incredibly busy with school the past few weeks and have still been having to churn out articles for my school paper, hence the lack of recent posting.

To get back in the swing of things I’ve decided to start a series where I’ll rank all the albums by some of my favorite artists in order of just how good (or bad) they are. The best is listed as at the top and it goes down from there. Simple enough. We’ll start this in with 5 in alphabetical order…

Against Me!

Reinventing Axl Rose
The Acoustic EP
Crime [EP]
New Wave
Searching For A Former Clarity
As The Eternal Cowboy
Death Before Disco (EP)
Americans Abroad!!! Against Me!!! Live In London!!!

Alkaline Trio

Goddamnit
Alkaline Trio
Good Mourning
From Here To Infirmary
Maybe I’ll Catch Fire
Remains
Agony and Irony
Crimson

Blink-182

The Mark, Tom, and Travis Show (The Enema Strikes Back)
Take Off Your Pants and Jacket
Cheshire Cat
Dude Ranch
Enema of the State
Blink-182
Buddha

Brand New

Deja Entendu
Your Favorite Weapon
The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me

The Clash

London Calling
The Clash
Combat Rock
Give ’em Enough Rope
Sandinista!