Unknown Mortal Orchestra at 9:30 Club

Photo By (Jesse Benitez/WGMU).

Photo By (Jesse Benitez/WGMU).

Right off the bat, I could sense that this wasn’t going to be just like any ordinary show.

By: Jesse Benitez

Following the release of their fourth studio album, Sex & Food (2018), New Zealand-American psychedelic rock band, Unknown Mortal Orchestra (UMO for short), embarked on a full-length international tour with London-based, electro-dance artist, Makeness. On Friday, April 27th, the musicians stopped in the nation’s capital to play an electrifying show at the iconic 9:30 Club. Right off the bat, I could sense that this wasn’t going to be just like any ordinary show. My anticipation for their performance stemmed from my previous experience back in 2016 during their Multi-Love (2015) tour, and let me just tell you, these guys don’t fool around when it comes to stage presence. Every euphonic melody makes an impressive statement on its own, but along with the band’s magnetizing energy, Unknown Mortal Orchestra is indisputably remarkable.

A feature that’s worth noting about UMO’s takeover of the club Friday night was how they managed to visually encompass the whole aesthetic of their latest album. The venue’s stage was constructed to have a personality of its own, complete with white faux fur rugs, a mod plastic swivel chair for frontman Ruban Nielson, and a minimalistic, achromatic turntable sitting atop a sleek, coffee table. Beneath a couple of bookshelf speakers sat one of their long-play, instrumental SB-01/SB-02 vinyl records, ready for a spin on the groovy player. The stage itself embraced all the good things of my low-key fascination with modern/retro-inspired living space fusions, and my slightly pretentious dream of hanging in a contemporary abode listening to strictly analog recordings-

Good thing the song that started it all, “Ffunny Ffriends,” off their first and self-titled album, Unknown Mortal Orchestra (2011), snapped me right out of my grandiose daydreams and back into the nostalgia of UMO’s humbly memorable beginnings. The band continued with some fan favorites, featuring delicate tunes like “Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark),” from their second studio album, II (2013), and “Necessary Evil,” the eighth track from their critically acclaimed, third studio album, Multi-Love. I have to give credit to the amped crowd as well, for just flat out being incredible and going wild for Ruban when he produced shrilling riffs along the neck of his guitar. The electric lo-fi solos were notable in “From the Sun,” and “So Good at Being in Trouble,” both of which are featured in II (2013). From there on, the band continued with blasting energy, powering through “Nerve Damage!” off their self-titled album, and into a personal favorite of mine, “American Guilt,” the sixth track off Sex & Food (2018) that was released as a single prior to the official album release. The illumination on stage went from kaleidoscopic to fiery, misty reds, thematically appropriate for “American Guilt” and reminiscent of the cover art on the single itself.

I still cannot believe how engaging UMO was with the audience. Drummer Kody Nielson revved up the fans during their performance of “Not in Love We’re Just High,” the eleventh track from Sex & Food (2018), while frontman Ruban Nielson sang the song from within the crowd- all while perched on a fan’s shoulders! The sense of community and love in the crowd manifested itself even more so in tender tunes of the night such as, “Chronos Feasts on His Children,” and “If You’re Going to Break Yourself,” the final track from their latest album. The show could not have been complete without an opalescent version of “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone,” a hypnotically dance-inducing jam off Multi-Love (2015). I looked around hoping nobody was actually checking their phone because not only would that be painfully ironic, but Unknown Mortal Orchestra is the one band you wouldn’t want to miss a second of.


Album Review: The Voidz’ Virtue (2018)


Julian Casablancas, the man who wrote arguably the best album of the 2000’s, now might have a two-decade streak.

Top Tracks: Leave it in My Dreams, QYURRYUS, ALieNNatioN, Lazy Boy…… All the songs.

Rating: 9.8/10

By: Mikey Bamarni

If you’ve ever looked up anything on Google about The Strokes you know how much Julian Casablancas is and especially was their leading creative force. Their first two albums, the ones that have achieved the most critical and commercial success, are basically 100 percent credited to Casablancas. The music, the melody, the lyrics, are all his. Except for one co-writing credit with Albert Hammond Jr on “Automatic Stop”. Album three saw Julian allowing a little more bandmate input, but due to its drastically darker sound (thanks at least partially to changing their producer), did not sell as well or receive the same response from critics or fans at the time.

Now what ends up being of The Strokes afterwards can be argued on both sides. The other members were getting better and better as artists, and with that came the desire to be more involved in the music making process, but on the other side Julian was also improving and wanted to have the band stick to the same writing routine that brought the first two albums such acclaim. This led to a minor break and some solo albums from the NYC five-piece. Two more solid Strokes records followed that were now made as a “band” (All five member have songwriting credits here or there), but Julian never got his chance to be the artistic strong force he once was.

No promotion was done for that last record and within a year Jules decided to release his second non-Strokes album credited to Julian Casablancas+The Voidz. At this point they still weren’t together, just seeing each other. It was an album that was super ambitious, but also not very accessible. It was a crazy record full of loud sounds and beautiful melodies so buried in the mix that dissecting lyrics was nearly impossible. Then after a Strokes EP which many critics and fans thought was a step in the right direction, the Voidz returned this year for album number two. Now it can be said…… Julian Casablancas is a genius.

This album is not perfect or linear, but that’s its greatest appeal. In interviews prior to the release, Julian stated that this album was meant to be more accessible than the last JC+Voidz outing. He also made it clear that there would be a song on it for everyone. This is true. The record basically sounds like 15 different bands all with the same lead singer and consistent lyrical content, almost solely centered on the issues facing 2018 America.

It starts off with “Leave It in My Dreams”, the most Strokes sounding on here, but with enough strange guitar work and textures to make it unique. “QYURRUS”, arguably the best song on the record, is crazy. Self-described as Arabic-Prizon Jazz with a cult-like chant at the end, it will lead to an overwhelming first listen, but go back for more listens and you will see all of the appeal. To think that this man also wrote Last Nite is mind blowing.

Then you’re again put in the ring with “Pyramid of Bones”. This track is heavy, loud, yells, and bites. Almost coming across like a Black Sabbath/System of a Down track. Then comes “Permanent High School”, a song that wouldn’t be too out of place on the last Strokes record Comedown Machine.

Two tracks that I can’t fully give a perfect score to are “One of the Ones” and “Black Hole”. The later one only because it is meant to sound super loud and raw, not something that appeals to me. When you try to appeal to everyone you’re bound to not get a perfect score, and that’s expected but also should be commended.

I could do a track-by-track here, but that would take forever. This album is required listening, it is a tour-de-force that only gets better with repeated listens. The only sad thing about this album is that it ends. This is not it for Julian. He is still breaking ground and pushing the limits of what an artist can do almost 20 years after introducing a new style of music that has brought artists like Arctic Monkeys, The Killers, and Kings of Leon to the mainstream. Never question his qyurryus mind.


Lit&Live with Mason Day Performers

WGMU’s deejays interviewed 2018’s Mason Day performers prior to their shows on April 27.

By: Jesse BenitezChristian Hernandez, Jonathan Ibarra, Kate Klajbor, Saige MacLeod, Jackie Reed, and Fielder Wise

WGMU’s deejays interviewed 2018’s Mason Day performers prior to their shows on April 27.

Mason Some Noise: masonsomenoise.com/
Rare Fruit: @rarefruitmusic
WusGoodTJ: www.youtube.com/channel/UCbhMuvxc-rvQ3b1SatMqVVA
Chud Music: @chudmusic
A.S.K. (King Khalafalla): @kingkhalafalla
Ray Maj: @callmemaj
ÁVON DESÍAR: @avondesiar
Apprehension Engine: apprehensionengine11105.bandcamp.com/
StormmxTony: stormmxtony.bandcamp.com/releases
Timberbrooke: timberbrooke.bandcamp.com/

More information can be found at si.gmu.edu/masonday/. Feature Photo By (Student Involvement/Official Website).

Lit&Local with Twin Shadow

Dominican-American singer and producer George Lewis Jr. (Twin Shadow) talked with WGMU’s Jesse Benitez to share insight about his most album Caer (2018), out April 27.

By: Jesse Benitez

Dominican-American singer and producer George Lewis Jr. (Twin Shadow) talked with WGMU’s Jesse Benitez to share insight about his most album Caer (2018), out April 27. He will be performing at U Street Music Hall on April 27.

For more information, go to http://www.twinshadow.net/.
Feature Photo By (Twin Shadow/Official Website).

9:30 Presents at U Street Music Hall: Twin Shadow

Featuring Yuno

GA: $30


Fri, Apr 27

Doors 7:00pm // Show 7:00pm

U Street Music Hall // Washington, DC

WGMU Exclusive: Opioid Crisis Symposium

On April 19, a slew of researchers, scholars, and politicians visited George Mason University to propose solutions toward ending the opioid crisis in Northern Virginia.

By: Jackie Reed

FAIRFAX, VA – On April 19, a slew of researchers, scholars, and politicians visited George Mason University to propose solutions toward ending the opioid crisis in Northern Virginia. At 8:15 a.m., panelists, researchers, and politicians gathered in Dewberry Hall to begin the all-day symposium.

Opening the dialogue was William Hazel, senior advisor for strategic initiatives and policy at Mason. As former Virginia Secretary for Health and Human Resources, Hazel is greatly familiar with initiatives that fight against the opioid crisis. First speaker after Hazel’s introduction was David Wu, the university’s provost and executive vice president. Wu emphasized Mason’s commitment to developing “trans-disciplinary research” – starting at the collegiate level can have an impact on public health issues today.

After Wu’s introduction, governor of Virginia Ralph Northam presented his call to action to eradicate such an epidemic, by defining it as the “largest challenge” Virginia faces today. He stated, “we lost 1,227 – 1,227 Virginians to opioid overdoses in 2017. And I would like to tell you that the numbers are going down but they are not.”

As a governor and a physician, Northam explains how attainable narcotics are, whether prescribed or sold otherwise. “Access to heroin is not difficult in this day and age, and as you know, that heroin is now often laced with either fentanyl or par fentanyl, which is about 100 times as potent than fentanyl,” Northam said. Once consumers have access to these drugs, even after one use, they can become addicted.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.” Wilson Compton, deputy director of NIDA, considers the market increase of drug usage and exposure as “an extraordinary situation.” Compton noted, “Dr. Hazel and the governor reminded us that this did start with over-prescribing. That was the spark that started this fire – through a really well-intentioned desire – treat pain more effectively. That is our goal. We need to make sure that we do a good job of taking care of patients with pain.” Because of the easy access and prone nature to drug addiction, physicians and pharmacists have an integral role in educating patients and preventing misuse of such prescriptions.

Prevention, acute management, and general management are the main takeaways from the symposium. Programs hoping to eradicate the epidemic require innovation, collaboration among several perspectives, and dissemination of backed and current statistics.

Feature Photo By (Sasha Toophanie/WGMU).

Lit&Local with Crashing Hotels

Brooklyn-based dark electro-dance duo Crashing Hotels talked with WGMU’s Christian Hernandez and Jesse Benitez to share details about their most recent album, Exploration Exploitation (2018).

By: Christian Hernandez and Jesse Benitez

Brooklyn-based dark electro-dance duo Crashing Hotels talked with WGMU’s Christian Hernandez and Jesse Benitez to share details about their most recent album, Exploration Exploitation (2018). The artists added insight about redefining band merchandise and future endeavors.

For more information, visit www.crashinghotels.com.
Feature Photo By (Crashing Hotels/BandCamp).

WGMU Exclusive: Patriot Activities Council (PAC)

By: Christian Hernandez

WGMU’s Christian Hernandez hosts an interview with Regine Victoria, director of programming for GMU’s Patriot Activities Council (PAC).

PAC hosts a variety of events and programming. Their active student leadership team works to lift spirits and bring the Mason community together.

More information can be found at si.gmu.edu/pac/.

Feature Photo By (GMU Student Involvement/Official Website).

Thirdstory at 9:30 Club

Photo By (Rhema Johnson/WGMU).

Photo By (Rhema Johnson/WGMU).

“Tell me you want me, tell me you need me to love you. I’ve been searching everywhere!”

By: Rhema Johnson

“Tell me you want me, tell me you need me to love you. I’ve been searching everywhere!” Those memorable lyrics were written by an American band entitled Thirdstory who consists of artists by the name of Ben Lusher, Richard Saunders, and Elliott Skinner.

Thirdstory graced the 9:30 Club on April 12 at 9 p.m., a month after releasing their 11-track debut album Coldheart (2018) on March 9. Thirdstory is almost complete with their latest US tour with six shows remaining! The band is known for their remarkable harmonies and unique, electric blend of different genres which was very much shown throughout their performance that night.

At 8 p.m., the show opened with an artist named Grace Weber out of New York who made a fiery entrance with one of her tracks titled, “Through the Fire”. She was accompanied by her drummer, Alvin and keyboardist, Brandon Butler. Weber was very active with the crowd encouraging everyone to sing along with her while she showcased her dynamic vocal range. In addition, Grace premiered a song from her upcoming album with The Social Experiment called, “Water’s Edge”.  Finally, Grace ended her opening set covering Daniel Caesar’s “We Find Love” and incorporated an epic call and response with the crowd while creating a segue to the headliner of the evening.

Thirdstory began their set with “Hit The Ceiling” which is one of my favorite tracks from the album. The group’s harmonies were truly indescribable, and it is awesome to me how they found one another and their voices blend so well along with their notable instrumentation. Along with performing songs from their album, Thirdstory also took the crowd back to their youtube days by doing an amazing live acoustic rendition of Drake’s “Hotline Bling” which was definitely a crowd favorite. After paying a tribute to one of their inspirations, “Adrienne Lenker” and performing more songs from the album, Thirdstory ended the night with their beautiful song entitled, “Searching For a Feeling” which moved the audience into wanting an encore after they concluded. So, the band returned to the stage and performed their well-known song “Still In Love” ending the show in high spirits.

I recently just started following Thirdstory thanks to a good friend of mine and I cannot stop singing their songs especially after experiencing them live. Their lyrics, their harmonies, and their instrumentation is breathtaking, and I encourage each and every one of you who reads this review to listen to Coldheart and tell your friends!

Album Review: Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Sex & Food (2018)

UnknownMortalOrchestra+SexFoodIt’s one of those albums that made me wonder, how am I just discovering them now? 

Top Tracks: A God Called Hubris, Major League Chemicals, Hunnybee, Not in Love We’re Just High

Rating: 7.5/10

By: Jackie Reed

What a trip. Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Sex & Food (2018) is one jammer after another. These New Zealanders manage to fuse atmospheric jazz undertones, grunged-out guitar, and crisp drum samples into a master setlist.

“A God Called Hubris” is a quick slurred intro, acting like an open call for all ears. Then the second song, “Major League Chemicals” transitions with full force. This jazzy rock collaborative intensifies with reverbed guitar and complex drum riffs, even with a delayed first verse.

Songs “Ministry of Alienation” and “Hunnybee” follow. Though they don’t administer the same energy as previous songs, they do attain a chilled-out, catchy vibe. “The Internet of Love (That Way)” and “Not in Love We’re Just High” share a similar mood. Their experimental vocals and abrupt instrumentals are worth sticking around to.

As a new fan of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, this album made me wonder, “how am I just discovering them now?” Sex & Food is an admirable collection of psychedelic rock out to push musical thresholds, blow minds, and cultivate a greater following.


Album Review: Kali Uchis’ Isolation (2018)

kaliKali Uchis masters the art of collecting her thoughts in a lush jazz soundscape, typically an intangible skill to reach.

Top Tracks: Flight 22, Dead To Me, In My Dreams, After The Storm

Rating: 8.5/10

By: Jackie Reed

On April 6, Kali Uchis released her debut album Isolation (2018). The Columbian-born singer shines above her Alexandria, Va. upbringing. Instead of hiding her identity in the suburbs, Isolation remains as a vulnerable narrative characterizing what Uchis has, what she wants, and what she’s capable of.

Thundercat-produced single “Body Language – Intro” is a flute-heavy jazz number that initially invites listeners to dive in and hear Uchis out. Following the intro is fourteen other tracks, posed as either a memory, a full feature story, or a temporal feeling.

“Miami” feat. BIA is a sensual piece lathered in textured drums and a soulful attitude, similar to singers Lana del Rey and Amy Winehouse. However, the dark soul mood falls short and is instead replaced with more empowering tracks. Singles like “Just A Stranger” feat. Steve Lacy and “Tyrant” feat. Jorja Smith embrace emotions that are rather fleeting and in the moment.

Uchis succeeds in balancing short-lived pleasures with reflective anecdotes – take the velvet audio piece “Flight 22”, the remixed “Dead To Me”, and Tame Impala’s production “Tomorrow”. She juxtaposes raw lyrics with meticulous synth action and a generally upbeat pop tone.

Along with vocalizing her thoughts on running away, dealing with family and lovers, and monetary needs, all of this is intended to be reasons for moving forward. “After The Storm” feat. Tyler, The Creator and Bootsy Collins reinforces the idea that life goes on. For Uchis, this hopeful bop addresses how temporary distressing matters really are.

All in all, Kali Uchis produced a collaborative album that deserves immense recognition from music critics today. An ultimate step up from her mixtape Drunken Babble (2012) and Por Vida-EP (2015), it’s a mesmerizing album driven by bi-lingual lyricism, genre-bending undertones, complex soundbites, and an offbeat-yet-glamorous style. The fifteen-song listicle is easy listening to the ear, yet challenging to the mind.

Feature Photo By (Kali Uchis/Facebook).