From the Ears to the Heart: Halsey

Halsey is one of my favorite artists, and two years ago, I wrote a blog post about her new album at the time, Badlands. Last fall, Halsey actually came to Austin to perform her latest album, Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, which I had the opportunity to go see.

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forget about our problems for a little while

Every year after Spring Break, UT hosts its 40 Acres Fest, where a number of local bands and a few nationally known ones perform at a music concert held right on campus, and a number of orgs table in front of the tower. The event lasted almost all of Saturday, with a bunch of free food and T-shirts (best part about being a college student, right?) This year, Hunter Hayes was headlining, along with Capyac, Future Thieves, The Mardy Bums and some other local bands.  I only remember Hunter Hayes for one song back in 2012 (I think it was Wanted?), and I’m not particularly a country music person, but it was definitely pretty lit!

From the ears to the heart: Tower of Power

On January 17th of last year, a legendary brass player passed away. Mic Gillette, who joined the Gotham City Crime Fighters (which later evolved into the Tower of Power) at age 15, played a variety of instruments — from the trumpet and trombone to the baritone and tuba. Tower of Power is an American R&B-based horn section and band from Oakland, California that has been performing since 1968. Its horn section has often performed separately, but Tower of Power is best known for their funky soul sound highlighted the horns and bass-guitar lines. Among their most highest-charting songs is “Soul with a capital S,” though Gillette was on hiatus during the production of this album, T.O.P.

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From the ear to the heart: The Neighborhood

I was just re-listening to The Neighbourhood’s Wiped Out when I re-realized just how beautiful the album is. So here’s a review that I wrote almost half a year ago (the album was released in Oct. of 2015), and maybe you might (read: you really should) check out this collection of wonderfully haunting songs as well. (The songs were written as a way for the lead singer to cope with the death of his father.)

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From the ear to the heart: DΞΔN & K-R&B

I’ve done a couple of these music review posts now, but I’m thinking I’ll do more, since my iTunes library has over 2000 songs by hundreds of different artists from different genres. I may not necessarily have the best taste in music, (at one point in my life, the only songs I knew were the 127 Taylor Swift songs, haha) but I do think some of the artists on my playlists deserve a listen (or maybe a few hundred listens) from us!

DΞΔN has become my latest musical muse; he’s absolutely amazing and his voice is just so soothing, beautiful and wonderful.

Born Kwon Hyuk, DΞΔN is a singer-songwriter from South Korea who made his debut first in the U.S. with the single “I’m Not Sorry,” which features Eric Bellinger (and for those of you who don’t know Bellinger, he’s an equally amazing R&B singer who’s won a few Grammies for his work on Chris Brown’s album F.A.M.E. By debuting in the U.S. first, DΞΔN took an different route than most Korean singers: he sought to enter the mainstream U.S. music scene without a solid Korean fanbase. He also became the first Asian artist to perform at Spotify House at SXSW.

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From the ear to the heart: Florence + The Machine

All of Florence + The Machine’s songs are perfect, but here’s my favorite, Never Let Me Go. Written by Florence Welch, Paul Epworth and Tom Harpoon, the  song is the third song off of Florence + The Machine’s second studio album, Ceremonial, released in 2011. The song speaks of succumbing to (or maybe being overwhelmed by) an emotion, perhaps passion, love or depression.

The best thing is, not only is Florence an amazing singer, her lyrics are incredibly deep, and even her MVs are so meaningful!

Florence Welch has such a powerful voice, and her ballads truly speak to the soul. Take a listen yourself (and if you have time, check out Cosmic Love, too; it’s another one of my favorite by F+tM).

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From the ear to the heart: Halsey & Electropop

tumblr_ntaz9jGAUC1spwufeo1_1439943176_coverHalsey, whose stage name is an anagram of her real name Ashley Nicolette Frangipane, is a 21-year-old electro-pop singer from New Jersey. After gaining attention for both her covers and original songs on SoundCloud, she signed with a record label and released an EP (Room 93) on October 27, 2014. Fans fell in love with her unique voice and Room 93 established her as a dynamic and honest singer. Her debut studio album, Badlands, was released on August 28, 2015, and that’s when I first fell in love with this little gem.

Badlands is actually based on a fictional dystopian society called The Badlands, which was inspired by movies such as Blade Runner and The Fifth Element, Halsey said in an interview, and became a metaphor for her mental state and real life struggles, which indeed, heavily influence her songs. The album opens with “Castle,” and from the beginning we see Halsey’s emotions manifest themselves within her songs. Dubbed “an angry female record” by Halsey herself, she sings about the “old man sitting on the throne that’s saying that I probably shouldn’t be so mean.” 

“New Americana,” the second single off the track, is the song that brought Halsey the most attention as a member of the new generation, the generation whom the public and society see as “a mess.” This album essentially captures the feelings of growing up in this age, and from “Drive” to “Control,” Halsey explores the confusion and tells the uncensored tales of the youth. With soft vocals that seem to express her unspeakable pains, backed by a dark and defiant instrumental, “Colors” is, like its name suggests, colorful. Graphic colors and images paint a grim picture of love: “You were red and you liked me because I was blue/You touched me and suddenly I was a lilac sky/And you decided purple just wasn’t for you.” The album ends on “I Walk The Line,” a slow and dreary track, reminiscent of the sounds of Portishead, that concludes with the line “I find myself alone when each day is through.”

Loneliness. Depression. Confusion.
Sex. Drugs. Dreams.
This is Halsey’s diary filled with her deepest secrets and fears — the voice of the troubled youth — and though her vocals aren’t particularly spectacular, this album is so beautifully raw and emotional.

Find the album on iTunes or Amazon. 

From the ear to the heart: Portishead & Trip-Hop

Trip hop? What even is that, you ask? 

A really good genre for your homework playlist, for one. (Also, a jewel that I stumbled across while surfing YouTube videos at 3 a.m.) And according to Wikipedia (I’ll trust it on this one), it’s a genre of electronic music that originated in the early 1990s in the United Kingdom, especially Bristol.

Eight miles west of Bristol is Portishead, an English band named after the town located there. Their first album, Dummy, was first released in 1994, and won the Mercury Music Prize in 1995. In 2003, the album was ranked number 419 on Rolling Stone’s magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Basically, you should listen to it. (Yes, that’s one creepy looking album cover. But you should still listen to it.)