Album Review: Dear Evan Hansen

If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

You’d initially think the answer is yes, but what if I asked you to search for a deeper meaning? What if the tree represented a person? Does it matter whether it makes a sound or not if no one’s there to hear it?

That’s the premise of the new Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen. With music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, it tells the story of Evan Hansen, a high school senior with social anxiety disorder who gets himself involved in a tragedy that he has no right to be part of. When his classmate, Connor Murphy, kills himself, Evan lies to Connor’s family about having been his friend. His lie leads him to develop a close relationship with the Murphys (especially their daughter, Zoe, who he has a crush on), achieve popularity, and feel loved and self-confident for the first time in his life… until everything comes crashing down before him, forcing him to fix the mess he’s made.

Poster for Dear Evan Hansen, which was just nominated for 9 Tony awards, including Best Musical.

Poster for Dear Evan Hansen, which was just nominated for 9 Tony awards, including Best Musical.

The songs are remarkable. The orchestra consists of guitar, strings, drums, and piano, giving the soundtrack a contemporary feel. The heartwarming ballad “If I Could Tell Her” seems like it is just that, but it’s actually pretty manipulative–Evan essentially uses Connor’s death to admit his feelings for Zoe. He tells her all the things he loves about her, but claims that Connor was the one who said them. Still, it’s a sweet song, and it gives us insight on both who Zoe is as a person and just how infatuated Evan is with her. The Act 1 finale “You Will Be Found” is a soaring anthem for anyone who has ever felt alone or unloved. It tells us that there is always a way to find light if you are stuck in darkness. All you need to do is ask for help, and someone will hear you and reach out. Then there’s “Good for You,” in which Evan finally gets admonished for everything that has happened, primarily by his mother, Heidi. Heidi lashes out at Evan for rejecting her to spend time with the Murphys. As a single mother, she has worked so hard to support herself and her son, and she deserves more than for him to make her feel like she’s not good enough. Meanwhile, Evan starts to realize that his lie has spiraled out of control, and he wonders frantically how he can fix the situation, fearing there is no solution. Other great songs include “For Forever,” in which Evan tells a false account of a day he and Connor spent together; “Requiem,” in which we see each of the Murphys individually react to Connor’s death; “Only Us,” a love song between Evan and Zoe; and “Words Fail,” in which Evan finally confesses the truth.

But the true standout of the album is “Waving Through a Window,” which takes place at the beginning of the show. In it, Evan reflects on how he’s spent his life watching from the background, always observing and never experiencing. He never speaks up lest he get noticed and judged by others. But now, he starts to realize that because he never gets noticed, very few people know he even exists. Evan broke his arm by falling out of a tree before the events of the show (hence its logo of an arm in a cast), but what we don’t know yet is that the fall was actually a suicide attempt. The fact that no one want to sign his cast only worsens his loneliness. “When you’re falling in a forest and there’s nobody around, do you ever really crash or even make a sound?” he sings, and repeats, until he escalates to, “Did I even make a sound? It’s like I never made a sound, will I ever make a sound?” To question whether you matter to people is one of the most depressing things one can experience, and this is a question that has been circling around in Evan’s mind for months at least. It’s heartbreaking and honest, but also hopeful. The musical truly understands what it’s like inside the minds of people who feel lost and unseen, and so it reaches out to them and reminds them that they are not alone and that they matter.

The amazing thing about the show’s soundtrack is how much you can empathize with the characters. What Evan does is definitely wrong, but he isn’t portrayed as a completely bad person; rather, he’s shown as a teen who longs for understanding and connection and who finds himself in a situation he feels he can’t get out of. He still isn’t excused from what he’s done, but one can understand why he does it: he doesn’t want Connor’s family to know how isolated their son was, and he’s never gotten this kind of attention and affection from anyone before. Ben Platt, who plays Evan, perfectly captures the character’s inner turmoil and yearning for being heard. His performance feels authentic; oftentimes it seems like he’s not playing Evan, but he’s being Evan. And Rachel Bay Jones, who plays his mother, has incredible range. She displays so much strength in her performance that it’s a pity she’s not in more songs. The entire cast is superbly talented; though it only consists of eight people, everyone fits their role perfectly and together they make a great ensemble.

My one complaint about the soundtrack is that there’s a lot of information that it leaves out. If someone listens to the musical but can’t afford Broadway tickets, there’s a lot that they will miss out on. Nowhere in the album does it mention that Evan tried to kill himself, and it leaves out several other important plot points as well. While the soundtrack is 57 minutes in total, the full show lasts two and a half hours, so we miss out on more than half of the show’s content, which is unfortunate. But the content that we do get to listen to via the album is quite memorable and there’s no doubt it’ll get stuck in your head.

Dear Evan Hansen is a perfect starting point for people who are interested in listening to Broadway soundtracks but don’t know where to start. It doesn’t have as many songs as most other musicals, the music is catchy, and it’s incredibly relatable. If you’ve ever felt like an outsider longing to fit in, this is a great musical for you.

Rating: 9/10

Album Review: “The Black”, by Asking Alexandria

 

Metalcore band Asking Alexandria recently released their highly anticipated fourth full-length album, The Black. It’s their first album with new vocalist Denis Shaforostov (AKA, Denis Stoff), who replaced Danny Worsnop when Worsnop departed in January 2015. On May 26, 2015, Stoff was officially announced as the lead vocalist.

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When asked if he had considered anyone else for the role, lead guitarist Ben Bruce stated “it has to be Denis.”  He then went on topraise Stoff’s vocal range, which is much better than Worsnop’s. Stoff also had been a fan of the band and so was familiar with the earlier material. However, when Stoff himself was asked about how he would distinguish himself from Worsnop, he said that he wouldn’t make any comparisons, since they are two completely different people.

Asking Alexandria opens up their album with a pure banger, “Let it Sleep”. The song kicks off with some distorted guitars and when the whole song kicks in, it pummels its listeners with fast guitars, double kick drums, and screamed vocals. Some other highlights of this album are the heavy songs, which is what the band is mainly known for. Some of those songs are ‘The Lost Souls”, “Undivided”, and really cool and unique songs like, “The Black.”

The band also recorded some major throwback songs, which happen to be my personal favorites, such as “Circled By The Wolves” and “Just A Slave To Rock ‘n Roll.” While a great album in all, there two “eh” moments. Some of the lyrics were kind of cheesy and overdone. Although the songs show off Stoff’s vocal range (which is immense and really beautiful), the song “Send Me Home” was just so over done. It comes off as an attempt at an anthem or a radio-friendly song, but doesn’t quite work. They definitely pulled off the other softer songs like, “Here I Am”, and “We’ll Be OK.” Overall, this album is a definite 9.5/10.

Click below for links to the album stream, the band’s website, and their label’s site and channel:
Asking Alexandria website
Asking Alexandria official twitter
Asking Alexandria Facebook page
Spotify
Sumerian Records
Sumerian Records You Tube channel

The Story Behind C-3PO’S Red Arm

C-3PO ...AND HIS RED ARM

C-3PO …AND HIS RED ARM

If you saw the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, you may have wondered why C-3PO’s arm is red. The movie was officially released to the public in the US on December 18, 2015. C-3PO #1 a one-shot ( a single issue in the series) comic book, was originally set to be released around the same time as the movie. However, the comic was delayed multiple times until Marvel got approval from J.J. Abrams, director of The Force Awakens.

Admiral Ackbar

Admiral Ackbar

The story told in the comic is as follows. Right before the events of The Force Awakens, Admiral Ackbar was taken hostage. A team attempts the rescue mission, but the ship crash lands and all life aboard the ship is lost except for the droids. The droids need to make it to a beacon. The beacon will tell the droids the location of Admiral Ackbar.

All of a sudden, these unnamed animal-like beings attack the droids. They try to fend them off, but there are too many of them. All of the droids are completely destroyed except for C-3PO and Omri. C-3PO’S arm is ripped off.

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Omri

Omri and C-3PO escape the beasts and journey to the beacon, but it starts to rain. Acid rain falls from the sky. Omri sacrifices himself for the beacon and for the mission. The paint wears away from the acid rain of Omri’s arm, which reveals a red colored primer underneath. C-3PO is eventually rescued because a rebel pilot receives feedback from the beacon. Omri’s red arm is used to repair and replace C-3PO’s missing arm. Omri’s arm is used to serve as a reminder of the friends that C-3PO had made and lost. Omri, who was a prisoner on board the ship, decided that saving a new friend was more important than whose side of a war one is on.

The comic had a very serious tone, unlike the usual ones that make fun of C-3PO.

Artist Spotlight: Being As An Ocean

Being As An Ocean playing live.

‘Being As An Ocean’ playing live.

Being As An Ocean is a post-hardcore/melodic hardcore band from Alpine, California. The band was formed in 2011 and is currently still active and making new music under the record company, Equal Vision. They were originally formed when Tyler Ross, Ralph Sica, Joel Quartuccio, and Shad Hamawe left their previous band, Vanguard, because they were looking for a different sound. The demo versions of two songs, “The Hardest Part Is Forgetting Those You Swore You Would Never Forget”, and “Humble Servant, Am I” that appeared on their debut album, “Dear G-d”, were streamed as two singles on the band’s myspace page on January 4, 2011.Originally, they had their guitarist write the entire album as soon as they formed. Later, it was fully tracked in an old hotel called, “The Palms”, and was then later sent to Brian Hood to be mixed and mastered. “Dear G-d” received overwhelmingly positive reviews. After its release, they toured over 20 countries including Canada, Germany, Austria, the United Kingdom and Australia.

The lyrical content of this album in particular is arguably very Christian. While many critics assert that the band is a Christian band, the band has said several times that they’re just Christians who love to make music. In 2013, Shad Hamawe and Jacob Prest left the band due to personal reasons, and their desires to step away from the intense touring schedule. The members who still remained started to record some material and also held auditions to recruit new members. The band recruited Connor Dennis, the former drummer of the hardcore punk band, Sleep Patterns, and Michael McGough, guitarist of the band of post hardcore band, The Elijah.

With these two new band members, they released their second album, “How We Both Wondrously Perish”.  Lyrically, musically, and vocally, this album surpasses the last one. They recorded the album in Atlanta, Georgia at “Glow in the Dark Studios” and it was released on May 6, 2014. McGough was the biggest addition to BAAO in all the best ways from his playing to his singing. Quartuccio’s vocal delivery on this album drastically improved, but over all, he is very well known for his passionate, yelled vocals and the spoken word poetry usually infused with the band’s music. Shortly after it’s release, the band stated they were working on a new album to be released later in 2015. They released the main single, ‘Little Richie” and soon after they released their self- titled album.

On this album, the lyrics rip through listeners’ hearts: ‘We still defile and abuse the innocent/Like items to be sold or owned/Slavery and prostitution is no place for a nine year old”(Death’s Great Black Wing Scrapes The Air, “Mediocre Shakespeare”, 2014) and “A loving marriage from the outside, but oh,/ how ferociously he’d hit her/Richie stood by the bleach white bedside/Ma held his face in her hands while he cried”(Little Richie, “Being As An Ocean”, 2015). Overall, this is possibly the best and most authentic band in the music scene today. Check them out; you won’t regret it one bit.

Here are some links to their social media outlets and music outlets:
http://www.facebook.com/BeingAsAnOcean
http://www.twitter.com/beingasanocean
https://www.instagram.com/beingasanocean/
https://myspace.com/beingasanocean/music/songs
https://invoguerecords.bandcamp.com/album/being-as-an-ocean
https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/being-as-an-ocean/id492982354
Merch:
http://merchnow.com/catalogs/being-as-an-ocean
http://www.impericon.com/en/being-as-an-ocean.html
http://www.merchconnectioninc.com/collections/being-as-an-ocean

Three of the Biggest Fails of the 2016 Oscars.

Fashion Fails

Heidi Klum

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Can you spot the difference between these two pictures?

  • Heidi Klum’s dress looks like it came out of Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother’s closet but there was nothing magical about this dress other than that. Sorry, Heidi.

Amy Poehler

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Are those my grandmother’s curtains?

  • Nope, it’s Amy Poehler in a dress made out of my grandmother’s curtains. The only thing to do to help this dress is to burn it.

Stacy Dash’s unnecessary cameo

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Looks like we’re gonna have to make a cameo at the Val party”- Cher, Clueless

  • The Clueless star should’ve just stuck to cameos at valley parties with her on- screen bestie. Dash was recently in the news for wanting to end BET and Black History Month. So, when she walked on stage as “director of minority outreach” as Chris Rock said, the only funny thing about this joke was Chrissy Teagan’s reaction.

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And now for the only thing the Oscars got right……

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After six nominations, Leo finally won his Oscar!!!

 

 

Album Review: Bring Me The Horizon’s, “Sempiternal”

BMTH_SempiternalBring Me The Horizon is a band from Sheffield, UK.  The band has five members: lead vocalist Oliver Sykes, lead guitarist Lee Malia, bassist Matt Kean, drummer Matt Nicholls, and keyboardist Jordan Fish.  Bring Me The Horizon is known for originally being categorized in the genre known as Deathcore. Deathcore has either been upgraded (or downgraded, depending on who you ask) to a mixed genre that is known as Electronic Metalcore. As their sound has evolved, they have found success with each new release, causing each album to be better than the last. They are a band that has one of the most dedicated fan bases to date. Sempiternal was released in 2013,  and followed three previous studio albums and an EP.  On each album, Oliver Sykes’ technique continues to improve and the band’s execution and lyrics show growth and maturity.

Though it isn’t their most recent album ( That’s the Spirit was released in 2015), Sempiternal serves as Bring Me The Horizon’s all-around most diverse record, with softer to heavier songs. This album is the first with Sykes singing. The opening track ‘Can You Feel My Heart’ is arguably their most experimental track they’ve done over the span of their career. Sykes’ vocals were almost Linkin Park-esque, sounding like he was both singing and screaming at the same time, which is of what most of the album consists. His voice soars through the chorus with intensity and passion. To add to it all, the glitchy vocals throughout that whole song adds another layer, as do the harmonies and the many electronic parts.

There are more experimental songs similar to this song such as ‘Sleepwalking’. In it, crazy, clean, and screamed vocals combine with melodic electronic elements and little breaks of soft singing, showcasing Sykes’ maturing vocals. There are also songs to please their fans of their previous albums.

The album features some memorable but really provocative, anti-religion lyrics in this such as, “And when you die, the only kingdom you’ll see is two foot wide and six foot deep.”  These lyrics are screamed on a track called “The House Of Wolves,” a song that has a very memorable breakdown after that line is delivered. Some other parts in a track called “Go To Hell For Heaven’s Sake” seem to mock and really question the hypocrisy of Christianity in lines like, “I’m burning down every bridge we make/ I’ll watch you choke on the hearts you break/I’m bleeding out every word you said/Go to hell for heaven’s sake.” 

These lines mock God and Jesus and the lies the Bible imposes on us as well as the sheer hypocrisy of thinking they (God/Jesus) are above mistakes. It was put very bluntly and quite sarcastically in the song (one of my personal favorites) “Crooked Young” when he screeches the lyrics, “Believe in the one/ Hallelujah, well I’m saved/
Just a dozen steps and 28 days/It’s a miracle, I’ll be born again/As the Lord as my Shepherd I will find a way,”which makes a stark contrast to the lyrics at the end of this song when he screams,“Hallelujah/ I say it’s a miracle, thank you Jesus/ Hallelujah, I say/ — your faith, — your faith.”

Overall, Bring Me The Horizon has really outdone themselves with this album. It’s diverse, it’s heavy, and it’s all over the place. Sempiternal is their best and most mature album to date in all aspects. I’d give this album a solid 10/10.

 

The Many Flavors of Zac Brown Band

imageOn April 28th, Zac Brown Band came out with their new album called Jekyll and Hyde. The name of the album has to do with the book called a Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

In the book Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are actually the same person. One is a sane doctor and the other is a crazy man and the album is set up the same way. There are many different types of songs like Castaway, which is an island-type song about drinking and having fun. Then, there is Young and Wild which is an nostalgia song where Zac sings about when he was younger and the things he used to do. Lastly, there is the song Homegrown which is a country song about a small town that feels like he was born there and he wants to die there.

The album is very good gift for someone If you don’t know their taste in music. And if you are trying to get into country music, you should start with buying this album because it has many different sounds and styles.

Check out the lyrics video below for Homegrown, the first single off the album.

Album Review: Lost Isles

Ocean Ate Alaska

Lost Isles, the new album.

In the latest album from Ocean Ate Alaska, it is quite apparent that the music from the band has evolved a lot since the beginning of their career. In their older songs such as “Clocks” or “To Catch a Flame,” compared to a newer song like “Blood Brother” or “Linger,” the difference between the lyrics as they put meaning into the songs is very apparent: “If you fell down we would fall together/ Like a sinking ship in stormy weather/ You’re the bones to our flesh and skin/ But now that you’re gone/ It’s time to rethink without you.” But even coupled with such lyrics, the music doesn’t get any softer; it actually gets heavier with additional tones to the song.

Even though the band has been working on the album for two years, they finally made it and finished satisfied saying, “We hit so many brick walls during the process of creating this album, however to now hear it start to finish we literally couldn’t be any more proud.” My favorite songs from them were the ones I discussed from before (Clocks, To Catch a Flame, Blood Brothers, Linger).

In my opinion, I think it is a better album just because it’s a little heavier and that’s kind of the type of music I like personally prefer. For a newer type of band, I think Ocean Ate Alaska are going in a good direction and will hopefully expand their fan base throughout the years.

Comic Review: Saga (#1)

WARNING: NOT FOR YOUNG CHILDREN (Violence, Nudity, Colorful Language)

WARNING: SPOILERS

Saga, Chapter One

The comic series Saga seems to be a great series that I may get into. After reading the first issue, the abnormality of the theme took me by surprise. Unlike most comics, the narrator wasn’t some some disembodied voice; she was an actual character involved in the plot-line speaking about the past. She was the child of a foot soldier from the planet “Cleave,” a man with ram’s horns, and a woman with wings on her back who was assigned as a guard in the prison where he was being kept. They escaped together and had a baby: the narrator, whose name had not been decided yet.

The first aspect to look at is the story. The circumstances in which the reader begins reading are intense; there’s been a heated war going on for a long time, and a couple who have just had a child and two runaway soldiers from opposite sides in the war are trying to escape. The scene opens at a warehouse in where the woman is giving birth to a child. After the child is born and a few touching words are exchanged between the couple, robot soldiers come bursting through the door. There’s shooting, smoke, and deaths, but the couple and child survive. A dying (speaking) ape, whom the couple seems to have known from somewhere, was the one who reported their location to the monarchy of robots. Now apologetic about his decision, he gives the couple and child a map to a rocket, so they can use it to escape Cleave. At the end of the first issue, the couple discovers the bridge marked on the map. As the robots hunt them down, and they wander through the night, trying to avoid the horrors of the dark (vicious creatures known for killing wanderers in the night) without picking up a blade, they find hope that they can escape for the sake of each other and their brand new child.

The overall tone of the comics is very mature. With graphic illustrations and some nudity that isn’t really relevant to the story, the series isn’t for the immature or young. It’s obvious that these comics are for adults; the vocabulary, themes, and plot would be hard for children or people with no knowledge of comics to understand, so this isn’t a good series for someone who’s not familiar with comic books.

All in all, if you’re looking for a good series to get into, Saga has my endorsement.

B4.DA.$$ Review

By Ben Varughese

Joey Bad's Latest Project

Joey Bad’s Latest Project

The Badmon himself has managed to further the Pro Era vibe he has worked so hard to build up with the drop of his album B4.DA.$$. Dropped January 20th, he manages to combine his thoughts and his story with a good number of hard-hitting tracks. Some argue that Joey gets repetitive, saying his style never changes. But personally I believe his consistency is what makes his game so solid. Tracks like Belly of the Beast (feat. Chronixx) go into depth about life in Brooklyn, and just his point of view in general, as exemplified in Hazeus View. He also upholds the 95 till Infinity hustle in tracks like Big Dusty and Christ Conscious, stating he won’t stop spitting hot until he reaches Christ Conscious. He also

Big Poppa Swank Been At It

Big Poppa Swank Been At It

outlines some of his more personal aches and pains in tracks like O.C.B., where he expresses the loneliness of being an only child, hence Only Child Blues. Arguments have been made that the Beast Coast rapper’s most recent project fails to reach the same heights as his former mixtapes. I will not lie, tracks like #LongLiveSteelo off of Summer Knights will always make me feel a type of way. However, I personally believe that Joey Bada$$ continues to make solid growth, and being only 20 years old, not even in his prime, he is no doubt destined to continue to be successful and identify with Classic hard-hitting vibe New York rap has always personified.