Music

Hopscotch Music Festival 2014: A Review

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By Nathan Smith

In 2014, it seems like every city has a music festival. When compared to big-time players like Bonnaroo, most of these festivals fly pretty under-the-radar for out-of-towners, their audiences consisting mostly of dads fresh off work. However, if there’s one thing I learned from Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina, it’s that being a hometown festival doesn’t mean you have to skimp on quality. The weekend may have started with a longer-than-anticipated drive to Raleigh and a ridiculous amount of rain, but the music quickly made up for it. For a festival as seemingly isolated as it is, Hopscotch boasts one of the most impressive and diverse line-ups of any festival I’ve ever seen, from scuzzy punk to banging trap. In fact, what drew my attention to Hopscotch in particular was its slew of hip-hop acts, so let’s start there.

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Music

Smash Cut Presents: The Pitchdork 100, Part 1

A few weeks ago, Pitchfork released three strangely-timed lists of what their staff believed to be the best songs, albums, and music videos of the decade “so far.” It’s impossible to say what made the music media giant decide August 2014 to be a good time for such a list, but with little hype or fanfare, Pitchfork sent them off into the wild, letting the internet decide their fate. Like almost everything Pitchfork does, it generated quite a bit of online babble; to some, it was just another list, one we shouldn’t take too seriously, but for others it seemed like blasphemy of the highest order. Although I had my share of disagreements with the list, I felt a little disappointed in the way many of my peers responded to it. Pitchfork brought out the heavy artillery for the list’s “blurbs,” giving a little bit of work to some of the best folks in music journalism today, but all anyone paid much attention to were the numbers besides the album’s name. Granted, it’s always this way with such lists, but it got me thinking. I thought we might respond with our own list of the best albums of the decade so far, not as some brash declaration of our being right and Pitchfork being wrong, but rather to propose an alternate way of thinking. I brought on board some of the young folks most knowledgeable about music that I know, and I think we did an interesting job of it. Yes, this list is ranked, but that’s only because people pay more attention to a ranked list than an unranked one. Besides, inciting a little bit of controversy on the internet is fun. Additionally, even though we’ve ranked the list, this isn’t supposed to be in any way a definitive list of the 100 greatest albums of the decade so far. There are plenty of phenomenal and ground-breaking albums that didn’t make it onto the list, and that’s the point. You shouldn’t take lists so seriously, because they aren’t meant to tell you what you should like or listen to or enjoy the most. They’re meant as a starting point in whatever subject they entail, and that’s what ours is: a starting point. Nothing more, nothing less. There’s plenty of good music out there, we’re just here to tell you about a little bit about the stuff that matters most.

What albums would you include on your own list? Let us know in the comments.

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Music, Playlist

smash cuts: bopscotch

hopscotchBy Nathan Smith

Just because school’s in session doesn’t mean festival season has ended; in fact, one of the year’s best lineups is just around the corner. Hopscotch Music Festival takes flight in Raleigh, North Carolina this weekend, and I’m beyond excited to have the opportunity to cover the festival this year. Spread across three days and located at a number of venues in downtown Raleigh, Hopscotch tackles numerous genres, from the experimental hip-hop of Clipping, Ka, and Smash Cut favorite Open Mike Eagle to the garage rock stylings of White Lung, Diarrhea Planet, and Ed Schrader’s Music Beat. Although not quite as out-there as Knoxville’s own Big Ears, Hopscotch embraces music’s full spectrum, blending experimentation and accessibility. In addition to big-name headliners like Spoon, St. Vincent, Thurston Moore, and De La Soul, you’ll also find Hopscotch’s line-up heavy with local North Carolina acts like Tow3rs, Well$, blursome, and Deniro Farrar. Whether you want to play like you’re spending the weekend at Hopscotch or if you’re just looking to familiarize yourself with the line-up before you go, our weekly playlist has got your back. Few festivals seem as devoted to good music of all genres as Hopscotch does, and I can’t explain how excited I am to cover it this year. Maybe we’ll see you there?

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Music, Playlist

smash cuts: feelin good again

bombay

By Nathan Smith

As of today, my sophomore year of college has been in session for one week. The stress hasn’t kicked into high-gear yet, but it will soon; I’m taking 16 hours of coursework (5 classes in total) and 3 of my classes have extra sessions in addition to their normal meeting times. I’m living with someone I don’t know in an apartment I’m still not completely used to, and overall, the experience of becoming an adult- or at least pretending to become one- is pretty weird. As you might have noticed, my schoolwork has prevented me from engaging with the activities that keep me sane, namely watching movies and writing for this site, but there’s one thing that helps make the day a little bit easier to swallow: music. Whether I’m hanging out with friends, writing papers, or walking to class, music helps fill the various voids that the stress of school leaves. We’ve had education-themed playlists in the past, but I’d like to think this one doesn’t just have to apply to college kids- it’s just about feeling good and leaving your worry behind. So let the music melt your troubles away.

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Music, Singles

Throwback Track of the Week: Lions’ “Stuck in Our Small Town”

Picture via Lions’ Facebook page

By Jack Evans

Two days ago, I moved into my college dorm room. That in itself has a pretty major cultural significance, but I think it’s an even bigger deal for me than it is for some people: I’m living six hours away from my hometown, Knoxville, Tennessee, the city where I spent the first 18-and-a-half years of my life (the last 14 in the same house). Over the past few weeks, I’ve made it a point to spend lots of time with my friends and family and to visit my favorite local businesses and restaurants. I got particularly lucky that the night before I left to drive up to Indiana was also the night of a house show headlined by my favorite local band (and one of my favorite bands, period), Lions, in what was, ironically, their homecoming show after a three-week tour.

I’ve seen Lions play somewhere around ten times since I first saw them last winter, in places from the hot, beat-up Longbranch Saloon to the inside of a brand new Urban Outfitters. And while seeing the same band that many times may seem excessive – or obsessive – to some, it’s one of the things that made my last year in Knoxville so special. I think that’s because, aside from being with friends and family, one of the best ways to find happiness is to find something amazing in the community and latch onto it, and because a Lions show, where dozens of people cram into a small living room to scream lyrics along with a band playing on the same floor space, is the definition of a community experience.

On Monday night, Lions closed with “Stuck in Our Small Town,” a track from their excellent 2012 EP MTNZ. I’d been hoping that they’d end with it, not just because it’s one of my favorite Lions songs but also because its lyrics (“I care about all of the people, but I’ll box up my favorite things”) have been resonating with me a lot lately. Even so, it was better than I ever could have anticipated: the song is always great with a crowd, as its bridge provides a top-notch sing-along moment, but at that moment, everybody near me locked arms around shoulders, and at the climax, someone jumped off a couch and crowd-surfed. It was a display of pure energy and community, two of the things I’ve associated with Lions from the beginning. And it was the perfect way to say goodbye to Knoxville.

Lions MTNZ EP is available on their Bandcamp, wearelions.bandcamp.com.

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Music, Playlist, Tape Swap

smash cuts: tape swap (the playlist)

shmoney dance

Alright, so we’ve already done a best of 2014 playlist- but that doesn’t mean we covered all the great music that’s been released this year. To help fill in some of the gaps, Tape Swap contributor Malcolm Baum has put together a playlist of the year’s best in rap and R&B. From Shabazz Palaces to Bobby Shmurda, Cam’ron to Kool A.D., the playlist takes you on a 50 song, 3 hour and 20 minute-long journey that covers the full breadth of both genres. Since so many of these tracks are only available in mixtape form, we’ve also got an exclusive download for you, instead of our normal Spotify link.

Download this week’s playlist here. Peep the tracklist below.

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Film, What We Watched

What We Watched: 08/16/14

Mother

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This week I moved into a new place to gear up for school starting soon; in other words, I didn’t have the chance to watch much. However, in addition to a few of Robin Williams’ films, which I talked about in our commemoration of the late and brilliant comic, I was able to round out Bong Joon-Ho’s filmography and catch the last of his widely-available films that I hadn’t seen, Mother. Although it shares the most similarity with Memories of Murder, Joon-Ho’s 2003 thriller and only other straight-up crime genre, Mother deals with elements that appear in some form or the other in almost all of his films, particularly parental duty, mental illness, and memory. After her mentally challenged son is arrested on faulty evidence for the murder of a schoolgirl, the mother in question goes to extreme lengths to exonerate- and protect- her boy. It’s probably the slowest burn of all of Bong Joon-Ho’s films, but still deftly paced and gorgeously composed in such a way that doesn’t call to much attention to itself. As proved by his more straight-up genre films, The Host and this year’s Snowpiercer, Bong Joon-Ho can more than handle quick action and complex set-pieces, but as Mother proves, he’s equally comfortable taking a longer look at his subject matter. – Nathan Smith

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Music, Singles

Track of the Week: Code Orange’s “Dreams in Inertia”

By Jack Evans

When Code Orange Kids formed in 2008, they were literally just kids – well, teenagers – but by their 2011 EP Cycles, they were already releasing impressively mature and complex hardcore informed by classic aggression and horror-movie doom-and-gloom, a combination they nearly perfected on their excellent 2012 debut LP, Love is Love // Return to Dust. Earlier this year, the Pittsburgh-based outfit dropped the “Kids” from their name and began a semi-mysterious marketing campaign for their follow-up, the upcoming I Am King.

Based on the songs released so far, the name change isn’t just a move to a more “serious” aesthetic; it’s also a signifier of how the band is expounding on what they did two years ago. Both of the first two singles have been heavier than anything on Love is Love, and “Dreams in Inertia,” the third, makes something new of a different approach. The track amplifies a moody atmosphere that the band explored both on Love is Love and on their 4-way split with Tigers Jaw, Self Defense Family, and The World Is… and pairs it with abrasive, slow-paced heaviness (appropriately, the creepy, grainy Max Moore-directed video recalls 90s metal offerings) that also allows co-vocalists Reba Meyers and Jami Morgan’s disquieting cleans to succeed. “No boxes. No boundaries. No fear.” has been the slogan surrounding the marketing campaign for I Am King; musically, Code Orange seems to be able to take its own advice without going overboard.

Code Orange‘s I Am King comes out September 2 via Deathwish, Inc.

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Film

Robin Williams: A Commemoration

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Note: This piece was originally going to be a Kids’ Stuff about one of the author’s favorite films, Dead Poets Society. However, due to the school year beginning, Kids’ Stuff is now a bi-weekly series. The author also felt it more appropriate to regard Robin Williams’ career in full, instead of through the lens of just one film.

By Nathan Smith

It seems like whenever someone well-known and important passes on, we misremember how much they affected us. You may not have appreciated them while they were alive, we say, but I did. So let me be brutally honest for a moment. I don’t want to pretend like Robin Williams was my favorite actor while he was alive; to do so would be to unfairly lay claim to his memory and legacy. Although he was without a doubt an actor and comedian whose presence I cherished, I don’t know if I ever really thought of Robin Williams as one of my “favorites.” But let me say this: rarely have I seen an outpouring of emotion and affection over the loss of a public figure so heartfelt, so genuine, and so sincere as I saw Monday night after the death of Robin Williams. It may have had in part to do with the way he went, but I know it’s mostly because Robin changed lives, for people of all ages.

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Music, Playlist

smash cuts: good grades

higher learning

By Jake White

It’s nice to finally be at the age where I’m not in a constant state of frustration around this time of the year. I remember when I was a child I hated every bit of going back to school, but it’s not that bad now. Here in about 3 weeks I will reunited with the rest of my best friends, partake in, um, after-class activities, and, of course, study. The playlist I have created is great for writing papers, studying written material, and even napping. So far I’ve only actually used it for napping, but I am prepared to put it to good use as soon as we all go back to school. I suggest you should too. Some of these artists have already helped me study. I cited John Fahey on an English paper, finished an entire 25-page thesis to Boards of Canada, and would not have passed my Journalism 200 class without Knoxville natives Best Friend. I really hope it gives the rest of you the same results.

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