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King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard’s ‘Changes’: Yet another idea

“We wanted to see how far we could take a single idea.”

The words that introduced King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard’s 23rd studio album are some of frontman Stu Mackenzie’s most profound and, arguably, self-exposing. 

The concept of distance surrounds so much of the band’s work; their prolificacy is only one facet of it. Their first two albums circled the genres of surf and garage rock but took a sharp turn with the far more psychedelic, spoken-word involved third album, “Eyes Like the Sky.” For the next several years, it would expand its sound, trying its hand at various genres, specifically jazz fusion, rock and folk.

What would become the defining experiment for King Gizzard, however, would not arrive until 2017. They promised to release five studio albums that year, a feat almost unheard of for the average band, and held fast to its word. After that challenge, the band became most known for their constant output: two albums in 2019, one in 2020, two in 2021 and now five already in 2022. 

The newest release, therefore, does not exist as an island, even one of astroturf. I felt some of the psychedelics of previous albums reverberating through “Changes.” Still, compared to those previous albums and the plethora of others this will no doubt be compared to — “Nonagon Infinity” and “Flying Microtonal Banana,” certainly — something about “Changes” seems unusually toned down. 

To begin with the opener, the nearly titular “Change” packs relatively few punches. No stranger to the long song, the band here opts to stretch “Change” to a robust 13:03. Even within the song, various genres are explored at length, and the melody teases tastes of styles to come. “Change” operates as the starting loop to the whole album, oscillating abruptly as if to say that “Changes” will not be one thing; there is that all-important “s” that conveys a plurality of form for every piece. 

The second track of the album is also its lead single: “Hate Dancin’.” It is significantly catchier than “Change” from the get-go, adding drums and lyrics to the synth opener within a minute. The chorus claims something about the singer “hating dancin’,” an ironic claim considering the very danceable nature of the song. By the end, the band “feels like dancin’,” and so does the listener, enveloped in the carefully crafted yet carefree synth beats that pepper the song with the most upbeat of elements. 

Though the whole album was professed by the band to exchange simply between the keys D and F# major, “Astroturf” remained distinctly different in sound from the other five songs. I was delighted to hear an amazing instrumental emphasis in the song that was lost to me on most of the others. Saxophones break up dissonant sound, lending warmth and depth to equally compelling lyrics. During the jazz flute solo following the lyric, “Six butterflies fluttered by, looking horrified,” the flute too flutters forth, those flutters and trills forming a captivating extended technique.

If “Changes” stands out in any way as a 23rd album, it’s the maturity of the idea that King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard stretched to its limits. On a modern psychedelic rock (at times) album, the band finds a consistent and thoughtful sound that refuses to conform while still remaining accessible. Among its siblings, “Changes” isn’t anything over-the-top, but it still performs with the reverence and experimentation that listeners of King Gizzard look for. Even if the idea leads here, to an understated and largely unoriginal album, it’s still as beautiful as everything the band has done.  

Artist: King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard

Album: “Changes” 

Label: Flightless Records

Favorite tracks: “I Hate Dancin’,” “Astroturf”

If you like: Neutral Milk Hotel, Mild High Club

Shamrocks: 3.5 out of 5

Contact Annie at abrown38@nd.edu.

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Dear reader, Taylor Swift has triumphed once again

Taylor Swift has done it once again.

Anticipation over the singer’s 10th album release has only built since its announcement at the 2022 VMA Awards. Part of that anticipation is largely due to the lack of a single being released prior to the album drop date. Audiences were unsure what to expect from Swift, especially since her prior two albums, “Folklore” and “Evermore,” strayed from the typical sound associated with the artist.

Because of this, the initial listen to “Midnights” was rather jarring. However, by the second and third time, I was in no small way reminded that Swift is both a pop artist and lyricist, first and foremost. This album delivered both in spades, reminding the world that while she might have taken a break from the pop charts, she is as on top of her game as ever.

In a message from Swift to fans, she described the album as “the stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout [her] life.” Frankly, there is no better way to describe it. Swift is widely popular for creating albums representative of a period of time in her life, each one
containing a consistent vibe, creating what fans have dubbed as “eras” for each album. What makes “Midnights” so incredible is that it manages to take each of her albums, throw them together and still preserve a cohesive sound throughout the album.

The album features no shortage of lively, brazen songs that are purely modern in their production. Songs like “Karma” and “Vigilante Sh*t” fit right in with the “Reputation” era, their slow tempos with deep bass chords bringing attention right back to Swift’s long standing drama with rap artist Kanye West and his now ex-wife Kim Kardashian, as well as former manager Scooter Braun.

In addition to the vigorous “Reputation”-esque tracks, Taylor reveals some insight into her relationship with longtime partner Joe Alywn in a way fans have not seen since “Lover.” In “Lavender Haze” Swift comments on how Alwyn handles the lifestyle that comes with dating one of the most popular women in the world. “Sweet Nothing” is the only track on the album written solely by Swift and her partner, and it is the quintessential love song of the album.

One standout difference in this album is the quiet introspection combated by a busy production that it offers, so different from the vulnerability of “Folklore.” In a message released on Swift’s social media platforms about track three, “Anti-Hero,” the singer says, “I really don’t think I’ve delved this far into my insecurities in this detail before.” Not only can it be found in “Anti-Hero,” with powerful lines such as “I’ll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror,” but in many other tracks as well. In her fifth track, Swift shares the message, “You’re on your own kid, you always have been.” “Midnight Rain” features heavy synth influences, which pairs perfectly with the message of wanting pain and passion over comfort. In one of my personal favorites, “Labyrinth,” Swift discusses being “lost in the labyrinth of my mind” and shares the message “Breathe in, breathe through, breathe deep, breathe out.”

Personally, I found that the contemplative tracks had a more profound effect, but that in no way takes away from the musical mastery that makes up some of the lighter songs of the album. However, regardless of personal favorites, this album is a triumph, a sign to the music world that Swift is fully capable of embracing her titles of “singer-songwriter” and “pop star” at the same time without sacrificing either.

Contact Ashley at ahedge@nd.edu.

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‘Entergalactic’: A taste of happiness

On Sept. 30, Kid Cudi released his eighth solo album, “Entergalactic,” alongside a Netflix animated rom-com of the same name.

A Cudi fan since middle school, I’m glad to be afforded the opportunity to check in on my fellow Clevelander while carrying out research for this review.

Out of the album’s 15 tracks, “Livin’ My Truth” and “My Drug” best capture the polar themes of independence and love that Cudi develops in this work. You hear Cudi latching onto these two avenues toward happiness from within the structure of loneliness and alienation that underlies all of his music.

I am thrilled to see Cudi, a man who has struggled like the best of us with mental health troubles and addiction through most of his life, finding that elusive fulfillment inside himself. Right off the bat, tracks two and three of the album, “New Mode” and “Do What I Want,” acclaim the joys of a humbly confident worldview. One hesitation Cudi’s new mindset may warrant is its predisposition toward carelessness. I’m not saying that the guy shouldn’t party, but only warning about the piled-up mental burden that unrestrained indulgence in freedom lends itself to. All I hope for is Cudi’s happiness, that this newfound independence is grounded in Cudi’s recognition of his worth as a human being rather than in others’ perception of him as a celebrity.

The second theme, love, is the more dominant thread of the work. It’s a win for Cudi fans that this love seems to be for an actual human being in contrast to the love of marijuana that so dominates Cudi’s earlier discography. As heard in the songs “Angel” and “Can’t Shake Her,” the love Cudi has for a presumed girlfriend takes on a messianic component. Amidst the throngs of perhaps decades-long depression, Cudi has regained his will to live life to its fullest thanks to the deliverance by the hand of some lucky woman. Again here, I see a danger in Cudi’s music that possibly stems more from my own aversion to the virtues lauded by the 2022 music industry than something Cudi has done personally. Due to the sensual nature in which Cudi describes his love, I’m worried that Cudi may become too dependent on his love for his girlfriend and that he might even be conflating love with a chemical drug. I wish Cudi’s love life as much success as I would any man.I just hope that he found a well-ordered type of love that’s good for him down to the soul.

The animated movie is worth a watch for Cudi fans, but I wouldn’t recommend it to the standard Netflix viewer. The themes from the album — love and independence — play out in a colorfully animated New York City. A street artist and a photographer, neighbors, fall in love despite the best efforts of that toxic ex-girlfriend. A good dose of the new album, former Cudi music and kaleidoscope visuals makes the film more of a psychedelic musical more than anything else.

Though I don’t imagine myself blaring any of Cudi’s new music on repeat as I still do today with songs like “Soundtrack 2 My Life,” “Just What I Am” and “Erase Me,” I’m so happy that Cudi put out this multimedia project. I think it’s got to be hard for an artist like Cudi, who has founded his career on themes like sadness, to break out with a positive ideology both personally and professionally. Cudi’s creativity will forever be his greatest appeal, and that the reason why I have always resonated with his music. In “Entergalactic,” this hallmark shines brilliantly through.

Artist: Kid Cudi

Album: “Entergalactic”

Label: Republic Records

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5

Contact Peter at pbreen2@nd.edu.

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‘Hold the Girl’ dropped the ball

Rina Sawayama is ambitious. She’s a Cambridge graduate. She’s a musician. She wants to raise awareness about the struggles of being mixed race and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, all while embracing her inner child. She’s trying to out-do her critically-acclaimed debut album with her newest release “Hold the Girl.” 

Following up “SAWAYAMA” would be a daunting task for any artist. Sawayama’s hit single off the album, “XS” is a musical masterpiece. The song satirizes excessive modern-day consumerism at the expense of the climate, all while accomplishing one of the most interesting feats of production I’ve come across in the past couple of years. She marries modern day pop with trap beats and heavy metal riffs, completely blowing away listeners within the first 20 seconds. (Trust me, just listen to it.) Other fan favorites like “STFU!” and “Comme Des Garcons (Like the Boys)” have a similarly stunning production quality. Sawayama simultaneously carved out a niche for herself musically and garnered a loyal fanbase. Basically, she was a huge success.

Her new release, “Hold the Girl,” does a lot of things well, but it doesn’t meet the bar Sawayama set with “SAWAYAMA.” Generally, it’s been pretty successful with singles “This Hell” and “Hold the Girl” generating nearly 16 million streams on Spotify. The album’s songs address everything from anti-Asian hate, Sawayama’s complicated relationship with her mother, perfectionism, healing her inner child and accepting herself. In short, this album is all over the place. It lacks a lot of the cohesion and creativity that made “SAWAYAMA” stand out in 2020.

The most popular song of the album, “This Hell,” is a queer anthem that released just in time for Pride Month. It’s the song off “Hold the Girl” that sounds most like “SAWAYAMA.” With gnarly guitar riffs galore and Sawayama’s rockin’ vocals, she grapples with feeling unaccepted by the Church as a LGBTQ+ person. She sings a lot about this religious tension throughout the album, but it ultimately feels like a passing thought in the chaotic blur of themes Sawayama addresses. “This Hell” feels like it’s pandering to Sawayama’s loyal LGBTQ+ audience.

On the other hand, you have “Send My Love To John,” a heartfelt stripped-back guitar ballad that tells the story of an immigrant mother apologizing to her queer son for not accepting him. It’s not like “SAWAYAMA” at all. It isn’t angry and there’s no killer heavy metal riffs, but it’s sincere. It’s the only song on the album that made me feel anything. 

“This Hell” rightfully spits in the face of bigots, but “Send My Love To John” also shows that hateful people have the capacity to change. Sawayama’s introspectiveness isn’t apparent in her pop ballads, but her personal growth shines more when she isn’t focused on creating stadium anthems. She sings in “Phantom” about her tendency to people-please, crooning “Once upon a time / There was a girl pleasing the world / Dying to be liked.” Clearly, this problem still exists.

“Hold the Girl” reaches for inspiration in places other than Sawayama’s journal, though. “Minor Feelings” is named after a book by Korean-American poet Cathy Park Hong. “This Hell” tips its five-gallon hat with a classic Shania Twain “Let’s go girls!” ad-lib. She pays homage to the pop-punk ballads of Avril Lavinge in “Hurricane.” 

Sawayama spends so much time trying to please her audience and emulate other artists, she ultimately loses what makes her music so special — herself. As a queer, intelligent, British-Korean woman, Sawayama has a lot of valuable things to bring to the table. I was blown away by the creative production on “SAWAYAMA,” but that doesn’t mean that she needs to rely on gimmicks to be successful. I just want Rina Sawayama to “Gimme just a little bit (more!).”

Album: “Hold the Girl”

Artist: Rina Sawayama

Label: Dirty Hit

Favorite track: “Send My Love To John”

If you like: Charli XCX, Grimes, M.I.A.

Shamrocks: 3 out of 5

Contact Claire at clyons3@nd.edu.