Friday, October 13, 2017

Saturday Night Live Returns

Riley Brennan
Co-Editor In Chief

As September came to a close, and an abnormally hot fall persisted, Saturday Night Live returned for Season 43. The comedy sketch show, which recently dominated at the Emmy’s, the show and actresses/actors alike winning multiple awards, started the season off strong with host Ryan Gosling, and musical performance by Jay-Z. The show’s cold open featured Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump, with appearances by Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (played by Aidy Bryant), and Attorney General Jeff Sessions (played by Kate McKinnon). The three tackled current events, which was a reoccurring theme throughout the show. During the Weekend Update segment, anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che covered topics such as President Trump and his actions towards the hurricane in Puerto Rico, where Che’s strong word choices towards the president earned him a healthy amount of criticism and backlash. SNL however, is known for the strong opinions and stances they take on politics, which this season premiere was not lacking. During Jay-Z’s performance on the show, he made his own political statement by wearing a Colin Kaepernick jersey.
 Politics aside, the show had numerous funny and random sketches and bits. Ryan Gosling reprised some of his roles from his last appearance on the show, and occasionally struggled to hold in laughter. This included his monologue, which revolved around his role in the movie La La Land, featuring a surprise appearance from his co-star, Emma Stone, where the two joked about “saving” the jazz music genre.
 The premiere also featured three new additions to the cast, including comedians Heidi Gardner, Luke Null, and Chris Reed. The three replace ex cast members Bobby Moynihan, Vanessa Bayer, and Sasheer Zamata, all who left at the end of last season.

Overall, Season 43 shows promise, which is a good thing seeing as it has big shoes to fill after last year’s season, earning the title of the most watched season in 23 years.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Head Hunters: The Impact of Hancock’s Album 44 Years Later

Jeremy Pether
Staff Writer

As time goes on, most music is largely forgotten, with only a small selection of popular songs and albums continuing to have a spot as culture evolves. But just because it’s remembered, doesn’t mean it stands the test of time. Is that the case with Herbie Hancock’s 1973 album, “Head Hunters”? As “Head Hunters” approaches its 44th anniversary, it’s a good time to look back and consider its impact. Exerting a notable influence on jazz, funk, soul, and even hip-hop, it has left its mark on the music world. In 2013, Rolling Stone ranked it 498 on their Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and in 2007 it was placed in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry, a collection of “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important”.
 For this album, only one member from Hancock’s previous group returned, as Hancock was looking to take his sound in a new direction. He ditched guitars entirely for the clavinet, and assembled a more R&B focused group. On Hancock’s sleeve notes of the 1997 reissue, he wrote "I began to feel that I had been spending so much time exploring the upper atmosphere of music and the more ethereal kind of far-out spacey stuff. Now there was this need to take some more of the earth and to feel a little more tethered; a connection to the earth....I was beginning to feel that we were playing this heavy kind of music, and I was tired of everything being heavy. I wanted to play something lighter." The album has a calm but groovy sound that appeals to a larger audience than some of his earlier records, and it’s considered to have paved the way for the jazz-fusion movement.
 The album consists of four tracks. “Chameleon”, “Watermelon Man”, “Sly”, and “Vein Melter”. It’s a small number of tracks, but they’re all lengthy, ranging from six and a half minutes on “Watermelon Man” to nearly 16 minutes for “Chameleon”. All the tracks are original for this album except for “Watermelon Man”, which was on his first album, “Takin’ Off”, but was reworked for the album. “Chameleon” opens the album, with a strong bassline leading it off on a funky beat. It’s an engaging, well executed song that at a 15-minute run time stays surprisingly fresh. The track starts with the bassline and then plays around with what meshes well with it. It stays interesting and flows well. “Watermelon Man” is probably the most memorable track, for the opening alone. The intro is comprised of the sound of blowing into a beer bottle to simulate the hindewhu, a style of singing / whistling in Pygmy music. It then breaks into a simple but rhythmic groove that hooks you in. “Sly” is up next, starting with a relaxed intro then hitting breakneck pace in a crazy, chaotic song. Finally, “Vein Melter” (despite it’s title) has a much slower, more relaxed pace, while still having a great sound.

 “Head Hunters” turns 44 on Oct. 13 of this year, and it’s very much an incredible album. It’s influences can be seen in many genres, and it deserves the classic status it holds. “Head Hunters” is far from overhyped, and has left a solid mark on the music world, including spearheading the jazz fusion movement. It’s at least a solid 90 out of 100, with my only gripe being songs get dangerously close to dragging on. It’s available for purchase on iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon, or you can stream it from Spotify.

REVIEW: Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.

Stephen Prager
Staff Writer

At the abrupt conclusion of “Mortal Man”, the closer to Kendrick Lamar’s likely career-defining album, To Pimp a Butterfly, there’s a sense of terrifying closure.  The album is a whirlwind of emotions, featuring Lamar projecting his self-loathing onto the world around him and sharing his rawest and most honest thoughts about the state of his home and his country at large.  
 In the final moments of the album’s epic finale, “Mortal Man,” Lamar shares the album’s central metaphor, the metamorphosis of a butterfly surrounded and institutionalized by a “mad city”, with the ghost of his idol, the late, great Tupac Shakur.  The music swells, and Lamar finds himself frantically calling Tupac’s name, to no answer – the final sound we hear is a pain-stricken “Pac?!” indicating that Lamar’s guiding voice left as quickly as it was resurrected.
 This scene comes at the end of an album of a truly dense piece of artistry that displays so much volatility, mistrust, and anger that it seems at points like a shocking Janis Joplin-like death or Jeff Mangum-like disappearance is looming for Lamar.  It’s the double-edged sword of pouring your heart and soul into a piece of art – what is there left to give when you’ve laid all of your thoughts and demons on the line?
 Of course, Kendrick Lamar did come back, and his fourth LP, DAMN., is about the most logical comedown possible following his magnum opus.  It picks up in the aftermath of Lamar’s meteoric rise to a life of fame, something unimaginable for someone who grew up in an environment as unforgiving as Compton.
Despite its aggressive title, DAMN. is fairly restrained in comparison to its predecessor.  It maintains some of the same quirky production value, with time signature changes, spoken word poetry, and news soundbites that represent Kendrick’s current disillusionment with the world around him.  Yet Lamar raps with an unfamiliar detachment that seems to have manifested in the shadow of his greatest achievement.
 DAMN. simply doesn’t have the energy that was synonymous with To Pimp a Butterfly.  Nowhere on the album is there a song with the swagger of “King Kunta” or the infectious artlessness of “i.”  DAMN. is more of a character study of Kendrick Lamar himself instead of the chaos that surrounds him, and it is by nature a less chaotic album.  Instead of the dense fusion of traditional hip-hop with elements of soul, big band jazz, and rock that made To Pimp a Butterfly appear gritty and representative of the diversity of the city, DAMN. sounds slick, as if it was produced to put Lamar’s voice back at center stage.  “DNA.” is a fine example of this - with a repetitive backing track that sounds like something an amateur freestyler might rip from Youtube, the song can turn its focus to Lamar’s questioning of whether he is defined by the “loyalty and royalty” or the “poison and pain” inside his DNA.  It a fine choice for Lamar to re-calibrate himself and make a more straightforward rap album, especially considering that the subject matter really isn’t conducive to the disorienting bombast that To Pimp a Butterfly mastered.
 If this sounds like an overly safe or cowardly choice for an artist of Lamar’s caliber, it assuredly is not.  The album’s orientation towards minimalism is actually fairly risky because forces his voice and lyrics to carry the weight of the album, to mixed results.  It works on “YAH.”, for example, because Lamar’s slightly slurred vocals meld perfectly with the dreamy keyboard effects that dominate the song.  “GOD.” also uses minimalism to its advantage, as the quiet synthesizers in the backing tracks create a feeling of isolation as Lamar pleads with God to not be judged for his sins.  However, it works less effectively on “HUMBLE.” which encompasses Lamar’s troubled childhood in ways that feel derivative of better songs like “Hood Politics” or “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst.”  And then there’s “LOYALTY.”, which flat-out wastes Rihanna’s talents on hackneyed lines like “on your pulse like it’s EDM” and “gas in the b*tch like it’s premium”.
 As is a general principle with Kendrick Lamar, his best songs are the ones in which he leaves his blood, sweat, and tears on the track and swings for the fences creatively.  DAMN. does have its fair share of songs that break the album’s status-quo.  The best song on the album is “PRIDE.”, a sweeping anthem that features Lamar’s admittedly idealistic and impossible vision of a world that he’s saved by putting aside his pride and greed to truly help the poor and struggling.  “DUCKWORTH.” is a similarly impressive track, telling the story of how one small moment of mercy from a notorious criminal to Kendrick’s father sets off a butterfly effect that allows the criminal to avoid life and prison and allows Kendrick to grow up with his father and eventually find prosperity, instead of dying “in a gun fight” like so many others from his home.  Lamar is not nearly as politically outspoken here as he was on To Pimp a Butterfly either, but DAMN’s “XXX.” at least deals with some of his shock and terror following the election of Donald Trump – with lines like “You overnight the big rifles, then tell Fox to be scared of us” that suggest that Lamar is resigned to the fate of the nation and has no desire to change it, only to weather whatever storm may come.
 That’s a key difference between DAMN. and Lamar’s previous work – it doesn’t have the fighting spirit that defined To Pimp a Butterfly or even good kid, m.A.A.d. city.  Instead, it’s like a one man show where Lamar plays both the hero and the villain.  It actually seems somewhat unusual to have a Kendrick Lamar album that doesn’t feel genre-defining or genre-defying, especially considering the deification he receives from many people who want to see genres getting redefined through experimentation.  But DAMN. is best looked at as an inoffensive transition album more bent on concluding what surely will be looked at as a classic era of Lamar’s music defined by its daring verve. It’s not jaw-dropping or apocalyptic like To Pimp a Butterfly, but nobody is likely to leave expecting DAMN. to drive Lamar off the deep end either.  Instead, it leaves the listener looking ahead at a future era that once again defies every limit aside from Lamar’s ambition.

Grade: B

The Rise of Street Style during Fashion Week

Riley Brennan
Co-Editor In Chief

At the beginning of every September, for most people the school year begins, and for New York City, Fashion Week runs rampant. The season of shows came in a blur of designers, models,  and show stealing street style looks.
 While the motivation for this September’s fashion week was the designer’s display of their Spring/Summer 2018 collections, the people who attend the shows often stole the spotlight. It’s no secret that those lucky enough to frequent the shows throughout the week, dress to impress. Often times the looks the audience shows up in gain more attention than the actual work on display. Vogue magazine’s website even has an entire tab, featured on their homepage, dedicated to street style. In fact, there’s an article with a total of 223 photos, solely made up of “The Best Street Style from New York Fashion Week Spring’ 18.” Among the photos were common themes, warm toned colors, loose fitting jeans and trousers, flare pants, skinny stripes, plaid, pencil skirts, ruffled blouses, denim (x5), draped dresses and jackets, and a variety of fun patterns.
 Photographers line the street outside of show venues to snap photos of the attendees. This is one of the ways press is able to interact with fashion week, as not everyone will be invited to attend the shows. However, this whole concept of focusing on what the guests are wearing rather than what the models are wearing is troublesome. The concept of caring about what attendees wear to a fashion show is expected, but the line between caring and overshadowing is very blurry.

 An increasing interest in what the celebrities and bloggers are wearing to the shows seems to stem from social media, and the theory that anyone can be a celebrity in today’s pop culture. None of this is inherently bad, but with more and more focus going to the people at the fashion show, rather than the actual work on display, the fashion industry has the potential to evolve into one that is purely driven by social media stunts, instead of the artistic vision and talent. As always, it’s the masses that determine the future.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Musing on the Morning News

Marc Verwiel
Copy editor

Max started counting down, Mr. Giorgi asked the room to be quiet, Jacob shuffled the papers, and Chloe sipped her coffee. That's how every day started with the morning announcements. Max counted, Mr. Giorgi asked, Jacob shuffled, and Chloe sipped.
 The first time I joined the morning announcements I was just there to promote the Homecoming dance. However, after the dance came and went, I still found myself walking to the journalism room every morning during homeroom. It just became part of my morning routine to share terrible ideas with Jacob and Max while Chloe looked on with a disappointed look on her face. We tried to come up with the most obscure questions just to see the frustrated replies come across the Socrative. The show followed nearly the same format every homeroom while I was there, only disturbed when the network wouldn't let us stream.
 But in our last week no ideas were thrown out. We laughed constantly about taking the show to random locations or having Max come on the show just to yell at us. We tried to do weirder and more random things as our time on the show came to a close, although some of our ideas were shut down (full day show, broadcast from the roof). Regardless about how it all appeared to you, faithful viewer, I truly loved my time on the morning announcements and hope that the next broadcasting team has as much fun as we did.

NHS Students take on Summer 2017

Parker Miele and Amanda Horak
Staff Writers
NHS Students Take on Summer 2017

While the New Hope-Solebury High School doesn’t have a large amount of students, summer plans are different for everyone. The majority of those polled (38.5%) said that they were going on vacation with their family. The next biggest choice was that they surveyed students were hanging out with their friends (30.8%). Staying home to relax is the smallest category with only 5.1% of students picking this option. The other 25.6% have other plans that weren’t one of the options. Regardless of plans the students of New Hope-Solebury are planning on a great summer and are so excited to see how their plans turn out!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Nativism invades New Hope Stage in 'The Foreigner'

Jacob McCloskey
Staff Writer

Over the weekend of April 28, a studio performance of the Larry Shue play “The Foreigner,” took place, directed by senior Josh Searle. Taking place in rural Georgia, the play follows a very shy man from Britain - played by Jake Perkins - who, after being extremely timid and quiet around the house, gets the excuse of being a foreigner, a man from an exotic foreign country, by the aid of Phoebe Liucci’s character. While this excuse makes it easier to socialize as little as possible with people, not all are pleased. Towards the end of the play, it becomes apparent that Josh Elefante’s character is not too tolerant of foreigners, as the KKK gets involved. Charlie (Jake Perkin’s character), uses a trick to scare off the Klan, and the conflict ultimately resolves.
 The studio performance put on by Mask & Zany was nothing less than exceptional. As a student director, Josh Searle is responsible for overseeing just about everything: directing actors, stage design, costuming, character development, blocking, and more. The final product was impressive in every realm, as the actors came to life while a large draw attended the play on Saturday’s matinee.
 The crowd reacted very positively upon seeing Josh Elefante’s character, Owen, as a Southern accent in combination with a timberland/jeans/flannel/baseball cap brought the character to life. Ben Dupont’s character, David, plays a well dressed family man, finding out that his wife, Catherine, played by Christina Hochberger, is pregnant. Over the course of the play we watch Christina’s character go through many flawlessly-executed crises and towards the end we find that David has actually been an affiliate of the KKK this whole time. Flo Minniti’s character is Betty, a hospitable extroverted southern widow who takes care of the house, with a delivery more accurate and impeccable than anyone in the crowd would have expected. Each actor brought a unique personality to their characters, and together it created something great.

 The play was performed in a manner which exceeded all expectations. The play opened as something humorous, and evolved into something more akin to a historical thriller while keeping a funny and charming tone. The audience left the auditorium shocked and fascinated, but laughing at the same time.