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Album Reviews

Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool

Caden Marchese

by Brian Kearney

Radiohead album releases are always an enigma in themselves. In the past they have allowed fans to pay whatever price they like, have created strange companies before release dates, and with their ninth release, A Moon Shaped Pool, they took a retroactive approach by erasing their internet presence and resorting to the mail. After removing themselves from social media and dissolving their website into a blank, white page they mailed strange letters to fans in the UK, saying "Burn the witch, we know where you live."

Yet even the biggest band in the world is not bigger than the Internet.  When videos for Burn the Witch and Daydreaming were released, the Internet was buzzing with feeds and links leading to these wonderful works despite the bands efforts of Internet anonymity. Fans of the band know that any video they make is an extension or addition to the feel of the album. They tend to mimic the anxiety and tension of the songs while delivering a visual component or representation through a specific character that allow new insight into the bands psyche, that or they're just messing with us. 

A Moon Shaped Pool feels like the most complete album Radiohead has done since Kid A.  Each song starts off simple and progresses into lush, orchestral soundscapes that manage to soothe or twitch depending on where they decide to take you. Johnny Greenwood's composer chops are at full effect on this album, as they enlisted the London Contemporary Orchestra and Choir to help provide the necessary flourishes and string accompaniment that really take this album to stratospheric levels.  One can only hope that they will be touring with the orchestra!

A bass player friend of mine once said, "Radiohead is one of the funkiest bands there is,"  (see the end of Optimistic on Kid A for a prime example of this). There are several moments in this album where drummer Phil Selway and bassist Colin Greenwood get into the pocket and really do find the funk.  There is even a guitar solo at the end of Identikit (!), coming from a musician (Johnny Greenwood) that has transcended traditional guitar concepts a long time ago. 

Which brings us to Thom Yorke, who is as good, crisp, and paranoid as ever.  Having left his partner of 23 years, it is interesting to find a studio version of True Love Waits to close the album out, with Yorke repeatedly chanting "don't leave" until a piano note fades to nothing. It is a striking finish that leaves the listener sad, yet comfortable and at peace because the album is so beautiful and complete from start to finish.  It is both simple and complex, disarming and inviting, large and small. It is Radiohead, and they know where you live.

Kweku Collins - Net Love

Adam Sputh

  Kweku Collins and I are the same age. We both grew up listening to Weezy and T-Pain, and we both grew up with IPods. That being said, I left Chicago at fourteen and he stayed, and it shows. Nat Love is a synthesis of many wonderful things; hip hop, social consciousness, insecurity, weed, and soul. This album reminds me of being stoned, lying in the grass at the park in high school. This album comes from a man acutely aware of himself, and his environment. His whiny singing sounds childish, but it comes from a very mature mind. 

  Kanye West and Chance the Rapper are the two big names these days when talking about Chicago hip hop, and Kweku absorbed the best of these guys. There are gospel sensibilities found in songs like “Death of a Salesman” and “Everever (Oasis1)”. Like Chance, he’s in touch with where he comes from and you can hear it in “The Outsiders”.

Can’t you see the sunset real good on the North side?

You can see it on the South side too

  Lyrically this album covers a lot of ground, all from the perspective of a highly self-aware nineteen-year-old. In “Stupid Roses” he talks about his love/hate relationship with cannabis; personifying it as though it were a beautiful temptress. His relationship with weed is not unlike that of many high schoolers. It’s a great distraction from the growing up you’re supposed to be doing, but if you let it, it can become a crutch. In more ways than one, it’s a great love song for people of all. 

  He brazenly criticizes the powers that be in his native Chicago. He talks about being asked to serve a country that thinks he can only be a rapper or a soldier, but he doesn’t get ahead of himself, and doesn’t ask for favors from anyone. Additionally, motifs of fading love and big aspirations pervade this album, all set to a comfortable hip hop/trap instrumental. 

  Serious subject matter is backed with slow, pulsating instrumentals. The tempo on this album never changes and suggest a contemplative mood. Piano and acoustic guitar color the backdrop of the beats, and remind me of blues and soul records from the ‘50s and ‘60s (a la B.B. King and Etta James). The music doesn’t overpower the lyrics, instead it does a wonderful job of enhancing their effect. 

  Nat Love is Collins’ sophomore album, and a more developed sound compared to his debut Say it Here, While it’s Safe. And while I’m impressed by the mature sound that this man has cultivated, I still get the feeling that the best is yet to come from Kweku Collins.

By Charlie Hindman