PREVIEW: All Too Well: The Short Film

A few months ago, when I initially picked up the ukulele, the first song I decided to learn was “All Too Well” by Taylor Swift. I’m a fan of Swift’s musical lyricism and the chords for the song were easy enough. 

Months later, I would have never guessed my first ukulele song would be given its own short film.

In the Swift fandom, RED’s “All Too Well,” defied expectations and became a beloved classic after its first release nine years ago in 2012. Taylor herself has said before that she never expected the song to become so huge; it was never released as a single and it didn’t have a music video . . . but perhaps it will soon.

Tomorrow, in conjunction with the release of the re-recorded RED (Taylor’s Version), Taylor will be dropping  All Too Well: The Short Film, starring Sadie Sink, Dylan O’Brien, and Taylor herself. The film will be out on YouTube at 7 pm Eastern. Hopefully, it will include the anticipated ten-minute version of “All Too Well.”

I definitely, can’t wait to get cozy this November 12, 2021, with my own favorite red scarf. 

Happy RED-release everyone!

REVIEW: The Results of My Poor Judgement

Olivia O’Brien is no stranger to heartbreak pop – just one look at her flourishing discography reveals the 20 year old’s familiarity with penning infectiously catchy songs marked by the relatable angst that all young romance is home to. Those unfamiliar with O’Brien’s recent work will likely recognize these doleful vocals from her breakthrough collaboration with gnash in 2016, “i hate u, i love u”. With The Results of My Poor Judgement, O’Brien retains that earnest emotionality, yet with greater verve and a more mature outlook on love and heartbreak. According to O’Brien, this “micromixtape” is a set of three sonically consistent songs that should elicit the same emotion, which she commits to in “Was It All In My Head?”, “Josslyn”, and “Sad Together”. The Results of My Poor Judgement, released this year on February 7, follows her 2019 micromixtape It Was a Sad Fucking Summer in an inferred narrative sequence – while It Was a Sad Fucking Summer channels the sweet and sour sentiment of reflecting on a failed relationship, The Results of My Poor Judgement conveys a deeper understanding of post-heartbreak injury. Though O’Brien herself indicates that the contents of her micromixtapes are not experientially bound, as songs can be revived from old sound experiments that don’t fit into a full-length album, I interpret The Results of My Poor Judgement as the flurry of realizations one experiences near the ‘acceptance’ stage of a breakup.

The micromixtape opens with reflection and self-doubt; “Was It All In My Head?” is part straightforward pop, part mixed-feelings. O’Brien berates herself repeatedly throughout the song, “I must be crazy, insane/Get way too carried away/…Been romanticizing/About all these boys who ain’t never gon’ like me” while simultaneously questioning whether the relationship and her partner’s romantic sentiment were as authentic as she had perceived them to be. On the receiving end of mixed signals and desperate for a rational explanation, O’Brien concludes that yes, even in a reluctance “to move on”, the essence of the relationship was a complete mental fabrication.

“Josslyn” is undoubtedly the highlight of the micromixtape – the song is a satisfyingly pounding barrage of “screw-you” sentiment, aimed to evoke guilt in amateur and serial cheaters alike. Galvanized over the fury of being cheated on, O’Brien flippantly asserts “But know we’re off and we’ll never be on again/I hope that it was worth it fucking Josslyn/Don’t wanna fight I just never wanna talk again/I hope that it was worth it fucking Josslyn”. Though fans question the origin of the title and partake in virtually tearing the anonymous ‘Josslyn’ apart, O’Brien expresses clear disapproval over this socially-ingrained practice of shaming the “other-woman” and not the disloyal partner themselves. In an interview with Zach Sang, O’Brien asserts that the anger in “Josslyn” is intended for the cheater and the cheater only – resentment towards the “other woman” is wrongfully displaced and perpetuates placing unhealthy trust in those who have failed you.

Whether you’re in the midst of a messy breakup or ambivalent to relationship drama in general, I would recommend giving The Results of My Poor Judgement a deep listen.

REVIEW: CALM

5 Seconds of Summer released their new album, CALM, on Friday. 5SOS organized a worldwide listening party for the release, which I thought was really cool. On Instagram, they posted a list of times to start listening to the album based off fans’ location, and then went live on their account to listen along with their fans around the world. I’ve listened to the entire album multiple times since then. At first, I couldn’t decide if I liked CALM or not, but it’s really grown on me since then.

Overall, the album plays around with vocal layering and harmonies, something that 5SOS has not done much of before. According to the Apple Music, the album is an homage to their early twenties. Luke Hemmings, the band’s singer, breaks down each track in the album description on Apple Music. Because of this, I could understand many of the songs a little better, and I felt the emotion and passion behind each song. I’m going to go track by track to review this album, since each song deserves its own moment.

Red Desert: The track begins with a vocal chorus, all layered on top of each other, and the result is a haunting sound. The beat picks up as instruments get introduced, and to me, the sound feels like I’m driving a classic convertible car down a long stretch of highway through the desert. It’s not one of my favorite songs, but I can connect with it. The lyrics are about running away from something and hoping that escaping to the “desert” will heal the wounds. The song is a solid opening to the rest of the album, both thematically and musically.

No Shame: This is probably one of my favorite songs on the album. It speaks to being in the spotlight, and the media culture surrounding a band with the type of mass-following that 5SOS has. For some reason, it reminds me of The Police, but if The Police were a pop group in 2020.

Old Me: A big part of adulthood and growing up is making mistakes and learning from them. This song reflects that, with the mindset that the speaker is grateful for his “old me” for getting him to where he is today. I really relate and connect to it, since I’ve been thinking about my past and the choices the got me to where I am today. It’s easily another favorite of mine from the album.

Easier: This track is bass and percussion heavy, giving the music a playful contrast from the higher vocal range that the song is sung in. The song is about being stuck at a crossroads, and having to make a decision between staying with someone or leaving them. It’s one of the strongest sounds on the album, and the first single released from the album.

Teeth: To be honest, I don’t like this song. I feel like this song would be better suited for a fun rock musical. Or a TV show that’s also a musical. When I listen to it, I imagine it being performed on a stage, with the band in full costume. I wish the album had more acoustic confessional songs, and I think these lyrics would be much better for one of those. The music and the lyrics just don’t work well together. The sound is reminiscent of 80s bands like The Police, which is one of the things about this song that I do like.

Wildflower: If the first ten seconds of this song didn’t exist, I would love it. It’s a fun, upbeat, “hey, I like you” song, except the dramatic vocal layering in the first few seconds just don’t match the vibe of the song. Luke Hemmings described it as “big stadium vocal” that has the ability to be “a big, positive, euphoric anthem and not be lame”. I could honestly see this song fitting perfectly as the opener to a stadium set on their next tour.

Best Years: A confessional about recognizing mistakes and wanting to be better for a loved one. It’s not my favorite, but not one of my least-favorites either.

Not in the Same Way: This song is amazing. The harmonies paired with the beat in the pre-chorus is just an audible treasure. The song itself is about a relationship in which two people are trying to figure out what they are to each other. As a result, the music is fast-paced and chaotic, but it works so well. 5SOS found their stride, and this song proves that. 10/10.

Lover of Mine: Hemmings wrote this song with his girlfriend, so of course it’s a love song. The music makes the song seem darker than it actually is. It reminds me of rain, in a way. The best way I can describe this song is that it encapsulates the feeling of lounging on the couch with a lover on a rainy day.

Thin White Lies: The lyrics grapple with the internal conflict of white lies building up until you don’t recognize yourself anymore: “I don’t think I like me anymore / Will someone tell me who I was before?”. I don’t love the song as a whole, but I love the lyrics.

Lonely Heart: I wanted this love this song. The intro and chorus are hauntingly beautiful: just Hemmings singing with a guitar. The chorus picks up and gives the song more of a pop vibe. I wanted the whole song to stay like the beginning, and was disappointed that it did not. It’s still a pretty good song overall.

High: This is finally the acoustic track I’ve been craving from 5SOS. The lyrics are self-indulgent, but in a way that really works: “I hope you think of me high / I hope you think of me highly / When you’re with someone else”. While it’s not an upbeat album, it’s the perfect end to an album about the toils of being a twenty-something year old. It wrestles with the question, what impression do we leave on others?

5 Seconds of Summer, from their Instagram page (@5sos). From left to right: Michael Clifford, Luke Hemmings, Ashton Irwin, Calum Hood.

PREVIEW: CALM by 5 Seconds of Summer

The band 5 Seconds of Summer had their big break when they opened for One Direction on three of their tours, beginning in 2013. 5SOS (pronounced five-sauce) is not to be confused with a typical ‘boy band’ — they are a shining pop rock force to be reckoned with.

Set to be released on Friday, March 27th, 2020, CALM is twelve songs and forty minutes long. The name of the record seems to be a pun, referring to both the definition of the word ‘calm’ as well as an anagram of the band-members’ names: Calum Hood, Ashton Irwin, Luke Hemmings, and Michael Clifford. Four singles have already been released from the album, titled “No Shame”, “Old Me”, “Easier”, and “Teeth”. 5SOS will be releasing another single, “Wildflower”,  on Wednesday, March 25, in anticipation of their album release.

To get a taste of 5 Seconds of Summer’s new record, I highly recommend “Easier”, a song about a conflicted heart. The band juxtaposes layered vocals and pained lyrics with a beat that smoothly pulls the listener in different directions. “Old Me”, a relatable homage to a past-self, is my personal favorite so far. I have high expectations for CALM and can’t wait to indulge my ears on Friday.

Album art for 5 Seconds of Summer’s new record, CALM.

REVIEW: Brett Dennen at the Blind Pig

Seeing any show at the Blind Pig, known for bringing relatively famous acts to Ann Arbor, is bound to be an experience.

Even before the opening act took the stage, the place was filled with people ranging from the minors on one side of me to the thirty/forty something couple on the other side. There were no fans running and little ventilation, so people were shedding outer layers like crazy as we waited.

Then Lily & Madeleine took the stage. As the couple next to me put it so well:

“Are they sisters?”

“I don’t know, but they’re cute as pie”

lily-madeleine

A quick Google search for this blog confirmed that they are in fact sisters hailing from Indiana, and they are definitely Midwestern–from “almost went to U of M” to writing a song about the city of Chicago.

The announcer mistakenly announced the venue as the Ark, and Lily & Madeleine’s music would have been a much better fit for that more relaxed atmosphere. I enjoyed listening to their music–I’m downloading a couple albums Flume as I write this–but the acoustic and piano-heavy set was probably not the way to go opening for Brett Dennen at the Blind Pig.

The audience was one of rudest I’ve ever experienced. As you can probably hear in this video, it was hard to hear the music over the sound of everything talking and making noise. Most people weren’t paying attention to Lily & Madeleine, and one woman next to me kept texting in a phone that was on full brightness. It would have been one thing if the music was bad, but Lily & Madeleine proved themselves to be talented artists that didn’t deserve such a treatment.

Luckily the crowd calmed down by the time Brett took the stage.

Somehow Brett Dennen turned 36 the day of the concert, even though he looks like he stopped aging after 25. Brett’s boyish looks and figure make his music all the more endearing. Switching between two acoustic guitars, his crooned slower favorites like “Ain’t No Reason” and “Where We Left Off.” For the faster numbers, he brought out the electric guitar and shredded the heck out of it.

brett-dennen-jams

The crowd sang along to hits like “Wild Child,” “Comeback Kid,” and my personal favorite “Make You Crazy.” Singers like Brett Dennen make it impossible to stand in the crowd and not shake your head or shake your hips along to the music. Performers like Brett know when to point the microphone out to the audience, when to stand at the very front of the stage and jam with his tongue out, and when to take a break and ask the audience for their birthdays.

I freely admit that I am only a casual Brett Dennen fan, but I could easily become of the devoted fans that sang along to every one of his songs at the concert if I let myself. If you get a chance to see Brett in concert, I highly recommend it.

PREVIEW: Brett Dennen at the Blind Pig

If you haven’t heard of Brett Dennen, the singer-songwriter hailing from Oakland, CA, I invite you to listen to one of my favorite songs from him:

An oddly satisfying blend of pop and folk, right? Brett’s newest album, Por Favor, was released in May, and you can hear it live at The Blind Pig on Thursday, October 27th

Where: The Blind Pig

Time: Doors open at 8

Cost: $25

Satisfaction at seeing Brett Dennen perform live: Priceless