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The Music Note

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david bowie

Artist Spotlight: David Bowie

Review by Alana Jordan


     This year marks what would have been Bowie’s 75th birthday, and I could not resist making the first Music Note all about his music and the many phases he went through during his musical career. Anytime I talk about his music, I always like to tell people that his work is so diverse that if you aren’t really liking one album, then you may like the next one because they’re all so unique and have their own personalities. 


     The first album of his that I listened to all the way through was The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars that was released in 1972, and this album was what made me curious to listen to even more of his work (and eventually become a big fan of his). When I listened to this album for the first time, I kept thinking about how ahead of its time it sounded and how I could not compare it to anything else I had heard before. I think it can come off as a little cheesy by today’s standards, but I still think that it is such a cool album regardless, and it features some of his most well-known songs like “Moonage Daydream” and “Starman'' which are amazing songs that also really helped him become more famous early on in his career. 

     I went back and listened to his 1971 album Hunky Dory after I finished listening to Ziggy Stardust, and this one features even more well known songs on it like “Changes'', “Oh! You Pretty Things”, and “Life on Mars?” all of which I think sounds very pretty especially because of the piano featured in all three of these songs. The two albums share a lot of similarities regarding his usual sound and style, and they are both still really fun to listen to today.

     Although he released many more 70s albums that I love too and became what people usually think of when they think of David Bowie, including Aladdin Sane (1973), Diamond Dogs (1974), Young Americans (1975), Low (1977) and Heroes (1977), I’d have to say my most listened to Bowie album out of his entire discography would have to be Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) which was released in 1980. This album (and David Bowie in general) is pretty weird–which I absolutely love–and the electric guitar featured in every song is always what I imagine first when I think of this album. Every song in this album has a lot of personality and I always keep coming back to it. I think that the instruments go so well with Bowie’s vocals, and this album feels a lot more punk/alternative than most of his other works. 


     Let’s Dance from 1983 features many of his big radio hits that are still played regularly, like “Modern Love”, “China Girl”, and “Let’s Dance”. This album sounds really upbeat hence why it has gotten lots of radio play, and I would recommend this album to most people as a pretty good starting point for anyone interested yet unfamiliar with his work and are wondering which album to start listening to first. Tonight, which was released in 1984, is an album I listened to later on and I never see it get much appreciation. I think it features some really nice sounding instruments and vocals throughout it; it is similar to Let’s Dance in a lot of ways, and songs like “Blue Jean”, his cover of “I Keep Forgettin’”, and “Loving the Alien” stay stuck in my head pretty often. 


     Bowie experimented a lot with his music and style and he covers a pretty wide range of genres and sounds, and I think his works have really helped influence a wide variety of artists because of how unconventional and unique he was and still is. Some people may not know that he also made traditional art and acted in several films including the fantasy film Labyrinth (1986) – which features some more really great songs that Bowie had written like “Magic Dance” and “As the World Falls Down”. He has stated that he thinks of himself as a canvas for his audience and every listener is going to and is meant to interpret his works differently, and I think that and his willingness to stand out in every way is a big part of what makes Bowie and his art special.

Album Spotlight:

Black Pumas’ Self-Titled Album

Review by Alana Jordan


Black Pumas are best known for their song “Colors”, which appeared on their self titled album that was released in 2019. The rest of the music from this album is just as wonderful to listen to as “Colors”, although the album itself isn’t very long. Each and every song on this album is full of beautiful instruments and vocals–I especially love the electric guitar that appears in most songs which sounds like it was heavily inspired from the 60s and 70s. 


This album is very calm and slow and all of the songs have beautiful lyrics and messages in them that have a relaxed and dreamy vibe. It always makes me feel at least a little bit happier just to listen to any song from this album, no matter what. I can really hear that every song is packed full of so much genuine passion and soul from the band, and that they truly love making music.


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“Old Man” is my favorite song from the album, and I think that the guitar performed by Adrian Quesada sounds absolutely perfect here with Eric Burton’s vocals. This song has a really lighthearted vibe to it, and the lyrics are very uplifting and carefree. The album begins with “Black Moon Rising”, which sounds a lot like blues and soul combined; I always make it a point to listen for the violins that play during the chorus especially.


“OCT 33” also has lots of lovely violins parts in it that are prominent all throughout the song, and at one point towards the end of the song they are accompanied by an electric guitar which sounds very satisfying to listen to. “Fire” features a guitar riff that reminds me a lot of Johnny Cash, and the song then transitions back into a soulful love song after most of its appearances. 


In the middle of “Touch The Sky”, there is an awesome electric guitar solo that gives the song even more of that retro 60s/70s energy to it, and it also features lots of acoustic guitar, keyboard, and horns that play throughout the song that also give it even more emotion than it already had just in the vocals. “Sweet Conversations” is the final song on the album and the most calming song on the album for me, especially because of the sounds of birds in the background and the acoustic guitar playing throughout the whole song. 

This entire album is gorgeous and mellow, and if you like “Colors” then I promise you definitely won’t be disappointed by the rest of the album! 


Link to the whole album on Spotify: Album by Black Pumas | Spotify

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Artist Spotlight: Hozier

Review by Alana Jordan


Hozier’s eponymous debut album is always incredible to hear, and it will never get old no matter how many times I listen to it. All of his music is smooth, flowy, and passionate, and each song of his brings up unique experiences that any listener can appreciate and enjoy. The way he sings and his voice is truly fantastic, but the piano, guitar, and drums draw attention to that fact even more. His 2019 album “Wasteland, Baby!” is another work of art as well, although the instrumentation of each song is a bit less varied than in his first album. Each of his songs truly display his talent for creating incredibly unique imagery and lyrics, and he is an artist that everyone should listen to at least once.


“Take Me to Church” is his most famous song, and it is an incredible blend of the blues, soul, 


and rock to start his first album off with. It’s also one really great example of the smoothness, darkness and moodiness that he’s known for, and all of the instruments–including his voice–shift between being dim and soft to intense and powerful so effortlessly. I tried to pick what my one favorite song from this album would be to focus on and discuss for this review, but I just could not pick between “Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene”, “Jackie and Wilson”, or “Work Song”. All of his music sounds very strong and passionate, and his music explores a wide range of topics that are very personal yet relatable to the majority of people at the same time.


“Wasteland, Baby!” begins with “Nina Cried Power”, which is the most popular song from this album, and Hozier and Mavis Staples’ voices sound beautiful together in this song. This song is definitely the most intense and it instantly caught my attention, although the rest of the album did not disappoint me at all either. My personal favorite songs from this album are “Be” and “No Plan”, especially because I really love how all the instruments used sound. These two songs also sound more like rock and alternative music than he usually sounds, but they both fit into this album and reflect his style so perfectly.


In my opinion, there is no such thing as a bad Hozier song, and I think the majority of his songs are incredibly underrated! He is an incredibly passionate and talented artist, and I think anyone would be able to tell that about him just from listening to at least one song of his. 


Hozier playlist on Spotify

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Album Spotlight: Halsey’s If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power

Review by Louisa Parrish

     I have been a fan of Halsey (she/they) since their debut album, Badlands, was released in 2015.  While I respect the gamut of music they have released, If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power (IICHLIWP) is my favorite album by them.  

     IICHLIWP starts with “The Tradition”, where Halsey introduces the main themes of independence and the empowerment of women, and the feminine experience. This song is stripped to the basics, going back to tradition. It is just Halsey’s haunting vocals and a melancholic piano. In the chorus, they sing, “Ask for forgiveness, never permission/ Take what you want, take what you can/ Take what you please, don't give a damn/ It's in the blood and this is tradition.”  

With women's empowerment being a central theme, this song talks about how it is tradition for women to be overlooked and used. It is a phenomenal and chilling opening to the album.  

   “Easier Than Lying” is the third track of IICHLIWP, but one of my favorites from the album.  There is anger in the lyrics that Halsey is expressing. The drums beat in a way that has you ready to release your pent-up anger.  The people that made them what they are, hate them for who they’ve become.  The first verse builds this tension as Halsey expresses their frustration. “I'm only whatever you make me/ And you make me more and more a villain every day/ But you don't know, you reap, you sow/ Whatever you give to me, from yourself, you take/ Well, if you're a hater, then hate the creator/ It's in your image I'm made.” Halsey’s vocals in the song make the listener feel her frustration like it’s their own. 

     “Lilith” is another track from IICHLIWP that deals with women's empowerment, especially as the song title references Lilith, a figure from Judaism, who was Adam’s wife before Eve but was sent away when she did not obey Adam.  It is a song that gets most of its sound from the guitar, bass, and light drums underneath the bass sound.  

     “1121” is a song Halsey wrote after they found out they were pregnant.  It is a personal song for the singer.  They wrote this song as they came to terms with the pregnancy while commemorating past pregnancies they lost, hoping they wouldn’t lose this one as well (they didn’t). It is a take on a lullaby as the song is softer than most on the album, but it builds as the song plays, like Halsey’s worry and anxiety over their pregnancy.  It is a beautifully intimate song that I never skip when it plays. 

     “I am not a woman, I’m a god,” is the lead single of IICHLIWP.  This track deals a lot with how Halsey identifies and how difficult it is to fit into simple categories. It has a synthy beat, which is usually not my type of song, but I cannot help but enjoy it. While not one of my personal favorites from the album, I love the lyric progression through the song as it goes from “maybe I could be a different human in a new place” to “maybe I could be a better human with a new name.”

     The twelfth track of IICHLIWP, “The Lighthouse,” is my personal favorite from this album.  From the perspective of a siren that deals with abusive relationships that leave the siren stranded, the siren learns to survive and thrive after abuse. It features Halsey’s siren-like vocals, a distorted guitar, and percussive beats.  It gives the listener a representation of the siren, distorted but firm in their movements as they lure men into traps with their voice. One of my favorite lyrics is from the bridge, and it says, “that should teach a man to mess with me/ He was never seen again and I'm still wanderin' the beach/ And I'm glad I met the Devil 'cause he showed me I was weak/ And a little piece of him is in a little piece of me.” Even though this siren has suffered, they recognize that they have at least learned how to better protect themselves in the future.  

     Halsey’s albums and how much I like them vary, but If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power easily takes first place for my favorite album they have done to date!

If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power

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Album Spotlight: Pretty Hate Machine

Review by Alana Jordan

     Nine Inch Nails is made up of Trent Reznor and a revolving cast of musicians that has been releasing music since 1988, and they are still releasing music today with their most recent album titled Ghosts V: Together, which was released in 2020. Pretty Hate Machine is their debut studio album, which was released in 1989, and originally featured 10 songs. The album is overall very anxious and aggressive, and that is very clearly portrayed through Trent Reznor’s vocals but also through the synthesizer and electric guitar as well. 

     The album begins with “Head Like a Hole”, which is very fast-paced and one of their most popular songs besides “Closer” from their third album, The Downward Spiral, which was released five years later.

     The post-chorus from “Head Like a Hole” is the catchiest part of this song for me, and it is always the part I immediately think about when I see this album. The synthesizer switches back and forth between sounding rough and calm to match the intensity in Reznor’s voice, and it consistently sounds metallic and industrial. The song fades into “Terrible Lie”, which also has an extremely catchy post-chorus, but it is overall a bit of a slower song than “Head Like a Hole” is. These two songs, in particular, always grab my attention and were the two that made me want to dive even deeper into the rest of the album.

     The drums, guitar, and synthesizer throughout the album help to portray the hopeless and angry feeling that all of the songs on this album carries, although I could definitely see how the heavily used synthesizer can make the album feel a bit dated, I think most of the songs sound mesmerizing. “Sin”, “That’s What I Get”, “The Only Time”, and “Ringfinger'' all heavily feature the sort of cheesy synthesizer sound, but I think they all still hold up and can be enjoyed just as much today as they were when they were originally released. I personally still like to hear the synthesizer and heavy sounds from this album, and I think its cold-hearted electronic sounds are great combined with Reznor’s mocking voice. Most of these songs can sound a bit shaky and awkward but in a truly interesting and spicy kind of way. 

     Something I Can Never Have,” in particular, stands out on this album because of how Reznor’s vocals gradually build up and become more dynamic each time the chorus comes around, while the piano and mechanical noises are much softer, quieter, and more dismal than the rest of the album. “Kinda I Want To” features a muffled-sounding electric guitar mixed in with the synth right in the middle of the song just before the song returns back to its cold and unapproachable vibe that the rest of the album also has along with the heavy electronic sounds and Reznor’s angry vocals.

     This album is full of brutally honest lyrics and emotions, and it also seemed to really help Reznor find his sound as the band continued to grow, and all of the songs are full of anger and anxiety while still sounding catchy and dark. I would recommend anyone who is interested in alternative music to listen to this album if you haven’t already, but I’d also recommend The Downward Spiral and The Fragile as well, especially since those albums sound a lot more mature than this one does. For those who are interested in their new releases, all of the songs from his series of Ghost albums are purely instrumental, with some of the songs sounding calm and smooth to some being harsh and heavy, similar to the songs from PHM. The debut album of his amazing band was really cool and memorable for me when I first experienced it, especially just before listening to the rest of his albums afterward and noticing how much more secure Reznor became in his music and sound.

You can listen to the whole album right here!

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