Author: Horacio Lopez

Music on Trial: May 9

One of the main reasons I was interested in coming to St. Olaf was my desire to play music. My high school didn’t have much of a music scene that catered to my taste, so I had high hopes that St.Olaf would. I had just picked up the electric guitar and I was anxious to play house shows and be in a punk band. But when I finally arrived at St. Olaf, I found this dream to be very distant from the reality.

There wasn’t much of a campus band scene, I never attended a house show because I couldn’t find any, and consequently I did not play music for quite a while.

It was a weird time and place for me. But then I was encouraged by my friend Adam to play bass. I saved up about 200 bucks and I finally got back into playing music again. The next thing I knew, I found myself halfway through my junior year and playing shows. Snippets of my original perception of Olaf were slowly coming into fruition. Suddenly, music began making its way back into my life.

While this change was happening, the notion of community at St. Olaf became even clearer for me. I didn’t care much for the word and for what it meant, but somehow I was compelled to act on what I wanted a community to be like musically. I vividly remember the Beck Song Reader Project that happened last year in Fireside. It displayed the potential of the St. Olaf community’s musical creativity. This is what I wanted DNNR PRTY to accomplish this year, and we did it.

As a senior at St. Olaf, I have had the opportunity to see a drastic change in the music community, especially compared to what I saw freshman year. My senior year has confirmed that we are not a school full of jam bands that lack originality – in fact, we are the opposite. Authenticity exists if we push it and creativity will find its way.

These past two weeks, I’ve been proud to be an Ole because it seems we are now entering a new phase of St. Olaf’s musical history. When I was a freshman, I saw Dewi Sant open for Cloud Cult. The contrast between the audience and artist were incredibly disparate. Yet I did not find the same crowd when everyone silenced themselves to hear Appomatox play. There are many things that I dislike about St. Olaf, but campus music is not one of them.

I hope the creativity and originality of the flourishing music scene continues and that we can become a role model for other campuses’ attempts to create strong musical communities.

So to the remaining underclassmen of St.Olaf: over the next couple of years, enjoy what this awesome campus music scene has to offer. You all are in for some treats.

Lastly, I sign off this letter with lots of delight knowing that my dream for St. Olaf may finally be coming true.

Best,

Horacio

lopezh@stolaf.edu

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Music on Trial: the saddest songs, March 14

Alright guys, I’m leaving my identities of Chancho Watson and Hostradamus and putting them to the side for this personal piece on the Best Sad Songs Ever. Valentine’s Day is over, and that one dude or gal maybe isn’t as interesting as you thought they were, and it turns out that a night with them is like spending a night at Abu Ghraib. No worries – Horacio is here to ease the pain with this playlist.

Side story: When I was young, I watched “Toy Story” plenty of times. The song that always got to me was Randy Newman’s “I Will Go Sailing No More,” which appeared in the film after Buzz Lightyear finds out he can’t fly. It made me sad every time, and I’m pretty sure my brother would play the scene over and over as torture.

Some other songs of the downtrodden:

“Skinny Love” by Bon Iver

This dude apparently had a lot of pain when he wrote this. He had girl pain, band break-up pain, was suffering from mono – Justin was dealing with it all. This is the go-to song when that girl you like didn’t wave back at you. It may be because you got wack fashion sense, or because she doesn’t acknowledge your existence. It’s cool though because Justin Vernon gots you. SAD-METER: Basic Level Pain.

“Songs for Richard Collopy” by Sun Kil Moon

If Bon Iver is break-up music, Sun Kil Moon is divorce music or my-wife-passed-away music. I don’t even know who Richard Collopy is, but by the time you listen to the end of this song, you will find yourself crying at his eulogy with snot running down your heart-drenched face. SAD-METER: I don’t even know who you are, but I feel you dawg.

Literally any Bright Eyes song ever

No comments necessary.

“Hate Bein’ Sober” by Chief Keef

This song breaks from traditional, emotional, heartbreak sad and deals with the pathetically sad happenings in the hip-hop scene. Chief Keef provides a gripping account of how much he hates not being inebriated despite the troubles it gives him, including failing to spell the word sober. SAD-METER: I’m too sober to listen to this.

Any song by Sigur Ros

Though this Jonsi dude sounds like a majestic singing elk or the air of a helium balloon going out, he has songs that could put you to sleep and make you cry at the same time. SAD-METER: An elk is singing me to sleep.

“Jerusalem” and “Dopesmoker” by Sleep

These are absolutely tragic records by the stoner metal band Sleep. Sleep was given about 40,000 dollars to record a new record, and sources say that they spent it all on weed and recorded for just an hour while high. Sad on various levels. Or actually not that sad – kind of epic, depending on who you ask. SAD-METER: Empty.

“Started From the Bottom” by Drake

I’m still at the bottom, Drake. I’m still here. It’s cold too. Sidenote: Aleksander, turn up the heat please. SAD-METER: I’m broke. Send help please.

“Dead Flag Blues” by Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Picture this: The world is ready to end by a cr, the bag lunch line has five minutes left and they just ran out of multigrain PB & J’s. Vegetarians are the first to go includes me because the vegetable sandwiches are contaminated with venomous cucumbers. Furthermore, the epidemic somehow sucks in all the baseball caps in the world so athletes at St.Olaf refuse to come outside without one, and we’re only stuck with weaklings also includes me to help us out.

SAD-METER: APOCALYPSE

“All My Friends” by LCD Soundsystem

A song that describes so much of the college experience. It’s a song about letting go and holding on to the memories you’ve created. Somehow it encapsulates those failed weekends and the great ones you’ve had. It’s a beautifully sad-yet-joyous piece that tells us about our past and how much we’ll miss it. It’s about growing up and reflecting on what exactly just happened in your life and where it’s headed. SAD-METER: Holy cow. I’m graduating in two and a half months.

Signing off with some sadness,

Horacio

lopezh@stolaf.edu

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Music on Trial: Not-so-traditional Christmas jingles to jangle the soul

I often listen to Christmas music to get away from the stress of finals and to shine a light at the end of the tunnel during these dark times. Gather around the tree, ladies and gents – Grandmaster Ho is about to take you on his musical journey of holiday music, so listen up.

“Braces and Caps” by Frank Lenz

Opening our musical trip is a work by Frank Lenz from the compilation “The Holidays Don’t Have to Be So Rotten Pt. 2.” I first discovered this song sophomore year around finals, and for some reason it just stuck with me. Clocking in under three minutes, this track offers a good introduction to what’s coming for Christmas which at St. Olaf means that nasty lutefisk stank this weekend with Christmas Fest.

This song somehow reminds me of this one time I got a box set of Lemony Snicket’s “Series of Unfortunate Events.” I felt so smart that I had gotten books for Christmas. Books, everyone. Hoho was going to read for Christmas! Well, read about some depressing little children and their experiences not having parents in a sickening children’s black comedy. Yeah… I don’t know why I was into that stuff, looking back now.

“Christmas in Harlem” by Kanye West

You know, I’m not leaving this playlist Yeezy-less, but I need to be real – I’ve never even been to Harlem. Sounds cool though. I think one of the lines in that song goes, “Right after autumn falls / then we gonna hit tha’ mall,” which is the ONLY thing I can relate to in this song. Malls during Christmas are insane. It’s like the saddest part about Christmas – all those things you’re buying people but wish you could buy for yourself…

“A Love Letter Christmas” by R.Kelly

Legal allegations aside about how he did all those terrible things, Kellz can sing. This is R.Kelly at his classiest, talking about some girl and how she needs to check her mail because he sent her a love letter apparently. To be honest, if I got a letter from R.Kelly, I think I’d leave it alone, too. Sorry Kellz, but I will not read your “Love Letter,” and no, I will not be your snowgirl. Ya weirdo.

“Poprocks and Coke” by Green Day

I asked my family secret santa to buy me Green Day’s “International Superhits” for Christmas one year – and he did. It was awesome. It was one of the first albums I ever got, and it was my introduction to all things Green Day. This song isn’t so much about Christmas, but I remember putting it in my red walkman and listening to the first track of this album on Christmas night. Uncle Juan was the best.

“Bye Bye Bye” by ‘N Sync

This song has nothing to do with Christmas, but Uncle Juan also bought me ‘N Sync’s “No Strings Attached” I think he for some reason assumed I was into any group of singing dudes and thus any CD with a male group on the album cover. As you can imagine, I, a young sixth-grader with utter hate for boy bands, reacted terribly. A flood of tears fell out of my eyes like in Noah’s Ark. I was so hurt that my uncle did this to me that I fled the scene as quickly as possible with tears staining my Dragonball Z dress shirt.

Sorry Uncle Juano, but I hated ‘N Sync and their lame frosted hair tips except you Justin – I thought you were pretty cool, still do. I know that album is still stuck in one of the countless drawers that my Mom hoards stuff in down in the basement I feel bad writing that, but Mama bear knows I love her!. Nevertheless, ‘N Sync will always remind me of the trials this holiday season can bring.

“The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole

I thought this song was by Frank Sinatra for, like, the first 15 years of my life honestly, I thought any dude that could sing well and sounded like he was recorded in the 50s was Sinatra. But bless the Google gods who helped me realize Nat King Cole was touching my soul. Those of you from Chicago know that there is a radio station that plays Christmas music non-stop from after Thanksgiving until after Christmas Day. King Cole’s a station favorite, singing about Jack Frost nipping at my nose which sounds horrifying because the vision I have of Jack Frost is from that 1997 Jack Frost horror film.

Happy finals you all. Just remember that the best holiday is just around the corner.

lopezh@stolaf.edu

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Music on Trial: M.I.A.s “Matangi”: a review in one sitting

This is a first impression review of British Sri-Lankan rapper M.I.A.’s album “Matangi” at least, part of it, written in one sitting.

“Karmageddon”

The first track has an alright synth to start it off. So far it’s nothing crazy, and it’s not too interesting for an intro track. She’s humming and not doing much of anything. I usually expect MIA to do some bangerz since the only songs I like from her are “Born Free” and “Paper Planes.”

“Matangi”

Starts off with explosions like BOOOOOOOSH. I imagine myself dancing to this in some rave club in Dubai with snakes hissing at me while I footwork. She rhymed a bunch of countries, like Mexico and Morocco. I don’t know why, but a lot of people think I look like someone from the Middle East; they think Indian before Mexican.

I searched Matangi online, and apparently it’s like one of these tantric goddesses, and she’s considered the goddess of music. So this might be M.I.A.’s “Yeezus” then? I don’t know.

“Only 1 U”

C’mon M.I.A., give me something I can go bonkers to. I assume anything with the words “only,” “one” and “you” is a straight love ballad. I don’t know what else to expect. So far I’m feeling it. Her rapping is pretty dope, but I have no clue what she’s talking about. I love the energy, but I can’t see myself relating to this at all, which isn’t bad. I kind of wish she had other vocals helping her out, though. I guess it’s hard to enjoying this record while sitting.

“Warriors”

This beat goes IN, but I have no clue what she’s talking about. I kind of feel like M.I.A. is an abrasive Eastern version of Nicki Minaj. Is that fair to say? She says “M.I.A.” like five times and “put them in a trance” a bunch in this song. I’m just looking forward to the track featuring the Weeknd right now.

“Come Walk With Me”

Another song about love? Oh man, she’s singing? This sounds pretty catchy so far. I actually like her singing in this song. I think this is an actual love song though.

WTF. This turned into a dance song halfway through. I don’t know how to feel about this. It went from a coffee date with a girl at the Cage to a sleazy Legion dance. The line “tonight we actin’ like we don’t care” seems very Pause/club appropriate. This song is pretty dope. I think I wanna play this at my wedding. My wedding where my corgi Toki is my best man. Aww man that’d be dope. I could wear my suit then have a corgi backpack with LED lights over his suit too.

“Exodus”

Sounds all sexy and whatnot, but then again, The Weeknd is featured on this one. Yeah, this track is awesome, I love it. Abel from The Weeknd doesn’t even sing. I don’t know what his role was in this, though. Apparently Exodus is something to describe a migration of people and has super-biblical connotations. Then later she has the same song on the record but names it Sexodus. So what I’m getting is that she has awesome sex of biblical proportions? Whoa.

“Bad Girls”

THIS SONG IS PROBABLY DEDICATED TO INDEPENDENT WOMEN.

I CAN TRY TO RELATE. I MEAN, I’M A DUDE BUT I’M KIND OF INDEPENDENT. I PAID OFF MY CAR INSURANCE THE OTHER DAY AND PUMPED MY OWN GAS IN MY CAR. YAY INDEPENDENCE. SUCH A BAD GIRL I AM.

“Boom Skit”

She rhymed Instagram and pentagram. What? I kind of find it hard to relate to M.I.A.’s trash talking lyrics.

“Y.A.L.A.”

The song starts off with these fart trumpets, and she starts yelling “YOLO” and then rhymes it with “polo.” I’m beginning to realize that this is a record that caters to a dance audience. I could see this song playing at a club, or maybe the Pause.

“Bring The Noize”

Halfway into the song and, to be honest, I’m already sick of this record. Good thing I hit my word count. Final say is:

1.2/10

lopezh@stolaf.edu

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Oles win nine straight, claim first round bye

Music on trial: What we lose by calling our tastes “ironic”

The other day I was walking with a friend, and the topic of our music tastes came up. After exchanging tastes for a bit, my friend mentioned a country artist that she liked, but then she immediately explained or defended her taste by saying, “I mean I like it, but it’s like ironic, so not really.” Huh? I understood what she meant, I think. Did I though? Does this conversation sound familiar to you at all? Ironically liking music? What exactly does ironically liking something even mean? I’ve had this conversation countless times, and it’s about time I try to break down what exactly we are trying to say.

To like something ironically means to take part in it for different reasons than those it was intended for. Usually, to like something ironically means to like it on the basis of amusement. A good example of this would be when someone attends a football game because they find NFL fandom entertaining. The person doesn’t care which team wins, nor does the person have any idea of how the scoring system works, so irony drives the fun. These ‘ironic’ actions occur frequently in today’s society.

So, if this is the case, is country music nothing more than a punch line to my friend? The ‘ironic’ label seems to imply something more than simply finding something awkward and comical, though. Labeling a genre or artist you like as ironic only tells us that you like them for a laugh and nothing more – but did my friend really only enjoy the music for that? Many people feel the same need to defend themselves about affection for pop or other genres of music that aren’t commonly enjoyed by their peers.

Of course, this can become confusing when we attempt to understand genres and their audiences, specifically in terms of hip-hop. Usually the audience of underground hip-hop, and, to some extent popular hip-hop, is made up of members of the white middle class. The audience is ironic because usually hip-hop’s lyrical themes aren’t really in line with that crowd. But this group’s enjoyment of the music is not ironic in any way. The pleasure they derive from listening to that music is there, and it is real.

In a world that is becoming more obsessed with anything ‘ironic,’ we are losing something essential along the way by dismissing art as such. That is, we miss out on enjoying something for what it truly is.

Irony becomes blurry when we look into our past and engage with what we used to listen to. For me, I remember watching 106 & Park on BET in middle school when Amerie’s “1 Thing” was on the Top Ten. I loved that song. At that time I considered it ironic because it wasn’t a song that I thought I would ever like, and it did not fit in my narrow pop-punk library. I thought it was funny whenever I mentioned to my friends that I liked Amerie, and usually I covered up my enjoyment of the song by saying something like “I only like the video because she’s pretty.”

Dismissing “1 Thing” as ironic perhaps reiterated what I thought was my good taste in music. It told people that I couldn’t fall for such garbage, that there was no way I could be interested in a contagious tune like that. But now it’s not ironic to me anymore. “1 Thing” was catchy when I heard it, and it still is. So if you play it to me on a Saturday night after 10:30 p.m., you better believe that I can sing along and recite Eve’s verse instantly. It’s just that good.

All in all, this ‘ironic’ label distorts our relationship with music. Being ironic with our music taste is dismissive and cynical and says that we can like something yet keep our distance, that we can laugh at something that creates emotions in other people and yet not be phased by it. It’s like having your cake and eating it too.

But what happens when we stop using “ironic” to describe our taste in music? Well, then we may begin to like music for what it actually is. We may begin to like the rhythm. Then, after that, we may begin to become emotionally involved in it. Then we may just eventually dare I say enjoy it.

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