REVIEW: Beach House – Once Twice Melody

The music of the American duo Beach House is a vessel for dramatic and cinematic feelings; anything but simple, the deeply layered synthesizers and breathy vocals of the band create a soundscape so dreamlike and meditative that listening nearly becomes an out-of-body experience. Often labeled as “dream pop”, a genre combining pop melodies with dense effects and experimentation reminiscent of 90s shoegaze, Beach House’s distinct psychedelic sound has achieved incredible commercial success. The enchanting melancholia of “Space Song” earned the track 300 million streams on Spotify. In 2022, they return to the world of music with a highly anticipated eighth studio album, Once Twice Melody.

The album is divided into four chapters–– or discs–– which are released periodically. The second chapter was released on December 8th, and the upcoming two chapters are set to be released by February. Judging by the half of the album that is already available, containing stellar tracks such as the surreal title track “Once Twice Melody”, the album is set to be one of Beach House’s best–– both conceptually and production-wise. The introduction of each track is reminiscent of a film score set in space; layered strings and experimental glimmering sounds evoke an atmosphere rich in color, existentialism, and a deep longing for the past. The vague and breathy lyrics, when decipherable, suggest deep retrospection and romantic tragedy. The lyrics of “Pink Funeral” on Disc 1 mirror the poetic artistry of the sound itself:


“Once was a fairy tale
Then it all went to hell
Swans on a starry lake
Hearts that were made to break
Tears through a white lace veil”


From the relatability of lost love in “Runaway” to the inevitable end of whirlwind fling in “New Romance”, Beach House balances their experimental sound with accessible themes and messages. Their most powerful messages, however, are found less in the lyrics than in the outros and instrumentals; marked by the slow build of reverberating sparkling melodies and fuzzy echoes, the sound of Beach House only seems fitting for observing the uncompromising mysteries of space and embracing the beauty of the unknown. The theme of love paired with the dark magical ambiance creates a stark contrast; while singing about the fallibility of humanity, the music explores a celestial landscape that transcends human matters.

Whether pondering the paradoxes of existence or lingering on a failed love story, Beach House’s ethereal release Once Twice Melody has a track to accompany your introspection. The excitement has just begun–– fans of the first two discs can eagerly await the second half of the album, offering a slower process of enjoying the art form. The first two discs of the EP are currently available on Spotify, Apple Music, and other streaming platforms.

Just one day after the planned release of the last disc, Beach House comes to Detroit to perform at the Royal Oak Theatre. Get tickets while you can to enjoy the music in person on February 19th–– or, if Once Twice Melody speaks to you, consider exploring the rest of Beach House’s discography.

REVIEW: Blue Bop Jazz Orchestra Winter Concert

When a band says they only rehearsed their set for two months, I do not expect the level of quality and pizzazz that I heard at the Blue Bop Jazz Orchestra’s Winter Concert last week.

The Blue Bop Jazz Orchestra is a student-run swing band at UM! As they warmed up in the Hussey Room at the Michigan League before the concert, I marveled at how they got the whole band to fit in such a tiny space, music stands and elbow room and all. The rhythm section was tucked away behind the piano so sadly from my seat I couldn’t see them very well. The advantage was that their sound truly filled the whole room.

They alternated between classic jazz pieces and holiday songs, lending each one a great interpretation of swing and mood. Complicated, syncopated rhythms are one of the trickiest parts of playing jazz music. The student leader/conductor of the band was also playing guitar, so the players only got a quiet count off at the beginning and then had to find their own way without a conductor for the rest of the piece. They did a fantastic job of it and had such a strong sense of rhythm with each other.

Improvisation is another defining element of jazz. I could never do improv but it’s one of my favorite things about jazz. It involves players spontaneously coming up with melodies over the chord progressions and accompaniment lines played by the rhythm section. It’s basically music composition on the spot!

The improv soloists were all so impressive. When a player was about to solo in the middle of a piece, they would stand up from their chair and rock the room for anywhere from a few seconds to a minute while the other sections backed them up, then sit back down to wild applause from the audience.

Overall I’m so glad I discovered this group and I cannot wait for their next concert. Their last piece of the evening was my favorite. I included a short clip of the beginning of it down below…let me know if you recognize the tune in the comments 🙂

REVIEW: Viola Senior Recital by Kirsten Riggs with Pianist Naki Kripfgans

Before we dive in, a disclaimer: I played the cello in an orchestra in high school and therefore am hopelessly biased toward the superiority of that instrument.

HOWEVER! I am here today to begin to build an appreciation for the thousands of other instruments out there, starting with….the viola.

The viola gets made fun of a lot. Often mistaken for a violin, it’s actually slightly larger with a deeper sound and often plays the “inner voices” in a symphony. They’re crucial for harmonies in music composition but their voices are harder for the ear to pick out when playing in a symphony in between the deeper voices of the cello and bass and the melody voice of the violin. Over six year of playing in an orchestra, I can remember playing exactly one piece where the violas had either a melody or a solo part. They were very under-appreciated by music composers until the 20th century when more viola soloists came to prominence and people realized they should really write better music for this beautiful instrument!

Suite No. 4 – Johann Sebastian Bach:

Sonata for Piano and Viola in E flat major op. 5 no. 3 – Johann Nepomuk Hummel:

Sonata for Viola and Piano op. 11/4 – Paul Hindemith:

The performance venue was the McIntosh Theatre in the Earl V. Moore music building. The recital hall had a lot of seating and was acoustically resonant. Kirsten Riggs, the violist, had a great stage presence and seemed completely absorbed by the music. A stand with sheet music was set up in front of her but she hardly seemed to need it and often closed her eyes while playing. Something I noticed was that she would sometimes breathe in the pauses between phrases or at the very beginning of a piece before she played the next note. I thought it was interesting because it’s the same thing I was taught to do as a cellist when I played in an ensemble to help with keeping rhythm and synchronizing with the other players.

My favorite was the very last piece by Hindemith. It was so INTERESTING and dark and twisty, with a mood and tone that seemed to gain new dimensions every minute. Give the part from 10:25 to 11:30 in the video linked above to see what I mean. The piano part played by Naki Kripfgans paired gorgeously with the viola, and both musicians coaxed such a variety of moods out of their instruments. I loved their interpretation of the emotions.

I’ll be honest and say I don’t understand some of the stage mannerisms for classical music performances. For example, between each piece the performers would walk off the stage to a side room. Then a different person would walk out, remove the sheet music from the stand, and walk back. Then after a minute the performers would walk back on stage, set up their new sheet music, and resume their positions to start the next piece. It seemed like a lot of unnecessary walking to me! If there’s some important history behind this ritual and I have offended every classical soloist on Earth, please educate me so that I too can be in on the secret.

Tune in next time for when Himaja appreciates even more non-cello instruments! Up next….harp? tuba? kazoo? You decide!

REVIEW: PandemoniUM presented by Amazin’ Blue

Going to see Amazin’ Blue and State of Fifths rock the (very orange!) Rackham Auditorium was the perfect way to spend a Saturday Night.

If you don’t believe me about the orange part, just take a look:

It’s gorgeous. I wish the world had more monochromatic auditoriums.

ANYWAY, Amazin’ Blue is an award-winning a capella group at UM founded in ’87, and it is the only university-sponsored a capella group on campus. They try to create innovative music!

State of Fifths is an award-winning a capella group at MSU founded in ’08. They arrange all of their own pieces and perform a wide variety of music!

All of the singers and soloists from both groups were phenomenal and had me wishing I could sing because they made it look so easy! And best of all, every single one of them looked like they were having the time of their lives up there. They were grooving and bopping on stage the whole time looking like there was nowhere else they’d rather be. It made it impossible to not have fun down in the audience too.

Every so often in between songs someone from Amazin’ Blue would take the mic to introduce one of the “newbies” who had joined the a capella group recently! They read out fun, teasing bios for each newb and then asked them to mimic a certain sound on the spot. Some of the interesting ones were the sound of a vending machine, ripping off a piece of tape, and a plane taking off. All in all I loved their camaraderie on stage and how they made it clear they really think of Amazin’ Blue as a found family.

At the end they sang their alumni song and invited any Amazin’ Blue alums from the audience to come up and sing it with them. An alum jogged up to the stage and took over the percussion and absolutely DOMINATED it. It’s never too late in life for me to learn how to beatbox right? If I do I’m going to add it to my resume.

Something I didn’t know is that both Amazin’ Blue and State of Fifths release studio albums! You can check them out on Spotify here and here. Support your friendly neighborhood a capella groups!


REVIEW: Sa re ga ma pella

Sa re ga ma pella by Maize Mirchi featured 8 songs, an intermission with Indian snacks, a dance performance by Michigan Taal and a really really excited audience.

The acapella singers did a good job harmonizing and it was nice to know some songs were independently set up by students. The introductions of the new members between songs was one of my favorite parts. The introductions were short, sweet and really funny. We got to know a lot about the companionship shared between the members of Maize Mirchi. The audience consisted of parents and friends of the performers and they were really engaged with the performances and cheering their loved ones on.

A point I would like to highlight is the cultural fusion of this group. They are an acapella group with a touch of Indian culture. I would say their group shows a kaleidoscope of Indian American culture. Less than half of the songs were in an Indian language and some of these were half English half Hindi. The western Indian mix was well carried by the performers. Their coordination really hit the sweet spot!

The soloists showed a very authentic image of Indian American culture and by the excitement of the audience it was obvious their supporters liked it. I think the song selection could have been improved to show more diversity but it was an entertaining show regardless.

The performance after the intermission by Michigan Taal was short and sweet. The size of the stage was very small but they did not let it hinder them. They had an exciting diversity of dances and their energy was infectious.

Being at the acapella concert was like being at an intimate event for family and friends where everyone knew each other and supported performers.

If you like Indian American culture and acapella then Sa Re Ga Ma pella can’t hit it more on the head than anything else!

REVIEW: Zero Grasses by Jen Shyu

I confess that I don’t quite know how to review Jen Shyu’s Zero Grasses performance piece. I’m a beginner to performance art. I don’t see it very often, and when I do most of it goes over my head. It’s true that I didn’t understand all of this performance, but what I can say is that I am so, so glad I went to it regardless because it connected with parts of my identity that I didn’t expect it to.

This artist residency was made possible by the Center for World Performance Studies (CWPS) at UM! They connect with students, artists, and scholars all across the globe to advocate for the power of performance for research and for public engagement. They work with lots of great artists, and center on underrepresented, non-Western, and diasporic voices, bodies, and acts. Check out their website to learn more, their next event is coming up on December 8.

Jen Shyu is a vocalist, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and dancer. She graduated from Stanford in opera and has


classical violin and ballet training and has studied traditional music and dance from numerous cultures around the world. I went into Jen Shyu’s performance knowing none of this and came out thinking one thing: She is fully, imperfectly, human.

In Zero Grasses, Jen Shyu explores parts of her past that are, as she described in the post-performance Q&A, “icky.” She reenacted the moment she found out about her father’s passing while working abroad. The news came from an email message, cold and stark and impersonal, screenshotted and projected onto the stage. She danced and sang through the story of a relationship she had with a man twice her age. She read a diary entry from her childhood about the time she was called a racial slur as she stepped off the bus. She lay on the floor in grief when, after a lengthy and expensive medical procedure, the doctor only extracted one viable egg.

The performance was not neatly separated. She skips back and forth between chapters of her life, showing how messy they are, showing how a page written in a diary journal when she was 8 has parallels with her job as a salsa dancer at age 23. The creativity of it all blew me away. Numerous different instruments (most of which I can’t remember the names of) were strategically placed around the stage. Jen would fluidly move between them, coaxing music out of each to back up her rich singing like it was as easy as breathing. The main props used were giant cardboard boxes, each with artifacts from her past. At times she would paw through the boxes, fling them across the stage, or stack them on top of each other as a makeshift wall to project media onto.

The projections of pictures and videos that she had taken on her phone made it so REAL. I was looking at history but I was also looking at something that was continuously being created, a picture that could have been taken yesterday. I think it was the perfect way to capture Jen’s journey with grief, how she felt it anew each day. It was very alive.

In the Q&A, I asked how she was able to explore these vulnerable parts of her past and portray herself in a light that isn’t so great while still protecting her mental health. She responded that she is always thinking about who she could be helping with her art. She feels she would be doing more harm if she DIDN’T talk about these uncomfortable topics because they’re already taboo and it’s hard for people to find a safe space to process them. She does this in an attempt to have that connection with somebody in the audience who thinks “You’re not alone, I was there too at one point in my life.”

I really admire that courage.