DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE: Narrow Stairs
BY Mindy Gee, 18, Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies
Death Cab for Cutie’s most recent album, Narrow Stairs, is another artistic success for the band. Like the band’s previous work, Narrow Stairs has a soothing effect on me, making it a great album to start the summer. It is the perfect escape from everyday music for those in search of relaxing, yet catchy songs that not only sound great, but also have lyrics that can be mistaken for poetry when read on their own.
The first single, “I Will Possess Your Heart,” runs for an unusual eight minutes. Half the song is devoted to an instrumental opening that gradually builds up to the point where the voice of lead singer Ben Gibbard is finally introduced. The repeating bass line accompanies Gibbard’s repetition of “You gotta spend some time, love/ You gotta spend some time with me/ And I know that you’ll find love/ I will posses your heart.” The catchy rhythm makes it easy to sing along to, and got stuck in my head after the first listen.
One of my favorites, “The Ice is Getting Thinner,” serves as a contrast to the more upbeat songs like “I Will Possess Your Heart” and “Long Division.” It beautifully captures the grief of two lovers growing apart, and concludes the album on a reflective note. “We bury our love in the wintery grave/ A lump in the snow was all that remained./ But we stayed by its side as the days turned to weeks/ And the ice kept getting thinner with every word that we’d speak.”
I love that every track is a great example of the band’s poeticism. While many bands lose much of their original sound after a few albums, Death Cab for Cutie definitely proves their dedication to maintaining high standards for its music through Narrow Stairs.
LUPE FIASCO: Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool
By Francisco Sandoval, 16, Nogales HS (La Puente)
Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool is unlike most other hip-hop albums. It doesn’t include senseless swearing or songs about girls. Instead Lupe raps about some of society’s toughest issues—wars, poverty and fear of the streets—with an infectious flow and fast beats.
The album starts off with “Free Chilly,” a tribute to his friend Chilly, who is in jail. The song is only a minute long but Lupe clearly demonstrates how much he wants his friend back. The song has a very dramatic feel to it, with elaborate production and background singers, and it sets the tone for the rest of the album.
“Streets On Fire” is Lupe’s perspective on how seductive street life can be. Lupe depicts the streets as a seductive female: “Death is on the tip of her tongue and danger’s at the tip of her fingers.” Perhaps the most powerful track on the whole album is “Little Weapon,” a song about child soldiers in South America and Africa. Lupe gives us insight into how kids only in kindergarten are exploited. “Well I’m like 10, 11 been fighting since I was 6 or 7.” And when Lupe raps “And AK-47’s that they shootin into heaven,” I had no idea that kids were being used as weapons of warfare. It’s disgusting; why would you abuse a kid in such a way?
Lupe Fiasco is the conscience of the issues facing humanity right now. We need more rappers like him.
MGMT: Oracular Spectacular
By Nadine Choe, 16, Notre Dame Academy
In an age when indie music no longer means bands that are unsigned or on a small independent label, bands are creating whole new genres by incorporating several influences. MGMT, a band fairly new on the indie music scene, meshes grungy riffs, synthesized melodies and a psychedelic sense to create Oracular Spectacular.
If you listen to Indie 103.1, you may have heard MGMT’s (pronounced “management”) catchy single, “Time to Pretend.” Lead singer Andrew VanWyngarden croons about youth and the rock star lifestyle, “I’m feeling rough, I’m feeling raw, I’m in the prime of my life/ Let’s make some music, make some money, find some models for wives.” The anthem is relatable because it talks about feeling young, fresh and newly independent.
The title of the funkadelic “Electric Feel” describes the song accurately. It’s catchy, electronic and makes me tap my feet. With lyrics such as “Ooh girl, shock me like an electric eel,” VanWyngarden sings about attraction, a concept anyone can understand. The 70s disco feel and the tribal drums on this track create a surprisingly compatible concoction. “Weekend Wars,” another popular single on Oracular Spectacular, has a more mellow melody. In contrast to the other synthy, electronic-esque songs on the album, this song is more raw and relaxed with its acoustic guitars and scratchy vocals.
Oracular Spectacular is the epitome of up-and-coming indie music. MGMT takes cues from older psychedelic bands such as Spiritualized and creates a sub-genre that is unique and eccentric (in a good way).
PANIC AT THE DISCO: Pretty.Odd.
By Lauren Corona, 18, Garfield HS
Panic At the Disco is back. They’ve lost the makeup, the ruffles from their clothes, the tongue-twisting song titles and lyrics and even the “!” from their name but thankfully, not the quality of their music. They have matured and become better musicians since their first album and Pretty.Odd. is the proof. The album can be listened to from beginning to end without having to skip songs.
While the melodies on this album appear to be happy, the lyrics aren’t. “Folkin’ Around” with its bouncy, country-like melody reminds me of love gone wrong. I think most of us can relate to that feeling of loss and heartbreak. “Where summer’s lasted longer than, longer than we do/ And nothing really mattered except for me to be with you/ But in time we all forgot and we all grew.”
The majority of the songs have great imagery, such as “She had the world upon a string/ But she didn’t ever hold me/ Spun the stars on her fingernails” in the song “She Had The World.” The band has described this song as something out of a Shakespeare play, which is completely different from the raunchy burlesque sound the first album has. The songs on this album are a good combination of classical instruments like violins and trumpets, guitars, sweet melodies and catchy choruses. They feel like pieces of art.
The band has said that the new album was a group effort unlike their first album, which was written solely by guitarist Ryan Ross. They have most definitely made a classic.
MARIAH CAREY: E=MC2
By Brandy Hernandez, 17, Hawthorne Academy
This album is one of Mariah Carey’s greatest CDs. The first two days I had the CD, I pressed repeat over and over. I wanted to listen to the whole CD because I like every song, but I also couldn’t stop listening to my three favorite songs.
I like “Cruise Control” because she adds a reggae twist. Damian Marley sings on it. I like when she sings, “I’ve been told so many sagas/ He brings the drama, six baby mamas.” I laughed at that one because that’s so many. But she says she still can’t resist him.
I like the softer beat on “Side Effects” and that she featured Young Jeezy. I’m not too into rap but I like Young Jeezy because his lyrics aren’t “shake your a** b****” stuff and his beats are all different. It’s one of those songs I keep listening to. She sings about letting go of a boyfriend. “You were too much to handle, hanging like a chandelier in the private hell that we built.”
My favorite slow song is “Bye Bye.” I love this song. She’s singing about the people who have passed away. “This is for my peoples who just lost somebody/ Your best friend, your baby, your man or your lady/ Put your hand way up high/ We will never say bye.” It makes you sad thinking about the people you know who passed away, but it makes you feel better because you think about how you’re going to see them one day. I thought about my grandpa and my dad.
Mariah doesn’t hit as many of the high notes as she does on her other CDs, but her voice still sounds powerful. At the end of “Touch My Body” she hits high notes and that’s the part I like to hear. That’s when her voice really comes out. She also hits the high notes on the last song, “I Wish You Well.” When her voice gets high and the piano plays, it reminds me of a church song.
I really like that Mariah can sing and that her lyrics are what people can relate to and fall in love with. I encourage everyone to go out and buy this CD. You will NOT be disappointed.
LILY ALLEN: Alright, Still
By Katie Havard, 18, Beverly Hills HS
OK everyone, let’s play pretend. First, imagine that you are a girl (actual girls may skip this step). Now imagine that you have a boyfriend (aw!) who has just dumped you hardcore (gasp!). You are distraught. Who do you call? Obviously, your best friend.
So, Lily Allen comes over and you’re all depressed and listening to Radiohead and you’re like “Oh my god, what am I going to do, Lily? My heart is besquished!” And she’ll let you mope for a while (track 8 “Littlest Things”) but then you guys will start talking about your ex and pretty soon she’ll have you rolling on the floor laughing at him because he’s SUUUUUCH a loser, right? And she’ll come up with some embarrassing nickname for him (track 5 “Not Big”) that somehow gets out and “accidentally” replaces his name in the yearbook.
Then, that weekend, she’ll take you out and make sure you look really cute so that you get hit on a lot and you realize “Psh, I don’t need that loser ex, I am supafoxy!” A few days later, you guys are having lunch and she’s telling you all these hilarious stories about her stoner little brother (track 11 “Alfie”) and somewhere in the middle of the conversation you realize, “Whoa, I haven’t thought about ex boy all day. I am totally over him!” (track 1 “Smile”). Then, at that EXACT moment you get this text from him that’s like BABY TAKE ME BACK. And you’re like “Haha … no.”(track 7 “Shame for You”).
Alright, Still is like that, but in album form. It is the musical equivalent of the Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging books grown up. With her cute British accent and sexy, poppy sound, Lily Allen is infectiously cute without being sugary sweet. She’s fierce, her lyrics are clever and savvy and Alright, Still rules.