Editor’s Picks: Top Albums of 2018 (10-6)

BY STEPHEN ATKINSON

2018 saw many artists incorporating eclectic soundscapes–even pop hits took a turn for the experimental through the likes of Ariana Grande and Janelle Monae. Below, I’ve compiled a list of albums that, for one, I appreciate personally, and second, I see as ground-breaking, genre-bending, and fit for the year 2018.

10. 7 – Beach House (Rock)

7

This dream pop duo can’t seem to miss. They’ve released seven great albums in twelve years, each one of them different yet distinctly Beach House. On 7, you hear what defines them—reverb-drenched guitars, fuzzy synths, and mid-tempo melodies—but on a new level: the sounds darker and more confident than ever. As the title indicates, this album isn’t about anything—rather, it transports the listener into another realm, another atmosphere, where unnamed dreams and hopes blend into walls of sound.

Recommended Track: Dive

 

9. Room 25 – Noname (Rap)

Room 25

Fatima Nyeema Warner grew up in Chicago, where, while pursuing slam poetry and freestyle rapping, she befriended local artists Chance the Rapper and Saba, even gaining a feature on the former’s popular mixtape Coloring Book. Since then, under the moniker Noname Warner has pioneered her own take on rap music, combing neo-soul and jazz with referential, thought-provoking verses. On Room 25, her second album, Noname manages to sound self-assured and soothing throughout references to “the Reagan administration,” “globalization,” and radio rappers “wearing adult diapers.”

Recommended Track: Self

 

8. Negro Swan – Blood Orange (Pop/R&B)

Negro swan

With the release of Negro Swan, Devonte Hynes (aka Blood Orange) continues his progression to more experimental R&B. With touches of funk and 80s sophisti-pop, this record’s sound is minimalist, full of synths and sax riffs, and carried by Hynes’ soulful voice. Spoken word interludes praise “doing too much,” but vulnerable scenes from Hynes’ life (“Dagenham Dream” in particular relays a crushing story of merciless bullying) prove that the route to self-acceptance is never easy.

Recommended Track: Saint

 

7. Beyondless – Iceage (Rock)

Beyondless

The fourth release from Danish rock band Iceage is prime post-punk revival. It’s full of energy, scratchy guitar noises, and haunting vocals (think The Strokes, but darker and heavier), and yet it’s not without pop appeal. Nearly all of the ten songs are catchy, with a head-nodding angst that effortlessly propels the listener along.

Recommended Track: Hurrah

 

6. Be The Cowboy – Mitski (Rock)
Be the cowboy

To some, Mitski’s music is an acquired taste. It’s musically complex, sometimes jarring, and often tackles the awkward, less fun parts of love. But Be the Cowboy is polished and poppy, jumping to new sounds on each vignette-like song (the average length is 2:17 minutes), making it a more accessible introduction to the Japanese-American artist. While the melodies are still never quite what you expect, or even want them to be, once you finally catch on to them you feel the full catharsis of Mitski’s ever-lonesome love.

Recommended Track: Nobody

 

Click here to check out albums 5-1

 

Editor’s Picks: Top Albums of 2018 (5-1)

BY STEPHEN ATKINSON

5. iridescence – BROCKHAMPTON (Rap)

iridescence

America’s favorite boy band since One Direction delivers an emotion-packed mosaic of styles in their major label debut. Kevin Abstract’s delicate sensitivity, Joba’s angst, and Merlyn Wood’s humor shine in this first record since Ameer Vann’s departure (he was dismissed after accusations of sexual abuse). Between the “sadboi” songs and bangers, iridescence has so much raw energy and weirdness—goofy sound and voice effects are scattered throughout—that it’s simply irresistible.

Recommended Track: WEIGHT

 

4. Isolation – Kali Uchis (Pop/R&B)

Isolation

On Isolation, her first proper album (after numerous collaborations with the likes of Snoop Dogg and Tyler the Creator), Kali Uchis reaches and even surpasses the level of some of her influences. She incorporates Brazilian bossa nova, Dancehall reggae, and 90s R&B to create a night-time record with a confident, seductive tone. All of the songs are danceable and catchy, and finding a stand-out is a near-impossible task.

Recommended Track: Just a Stranger (feat. Steve Lacy)

 

3. In a Poem Unlimited – U.S. Girls (Pop/R&B)

In a poem

At first listen In a Poem Unlimited is a feminist statement made for the #MeToo era. And in many ways it is, but that doesn’t mean mainstream liberalism is off the hook. Case in point: the catchy disco centerpiece, “M.A.H.” (which stands for “Mad As Hell”), finds its target of anger in Barack Obama. On this danceable, funky record, U.S. Girls use allusions and witty wordplay to criticize the patriarchy in a smart, unique way—which, in a time of many musical attempts at feminism, is quite an accomplishment.

Recommended Track: Pearly Gates

 

2. Dirty Computer – Janelle Monae (Pop/R&B)

Dirty COmputer

After releasing two records critically-acclaimed for their experimental twists on R&B, Monae reaches outside her “alternative” label into a more “pure” pop on Dirty Computer. Prince-like 80s synths, trap beats, and glam rock guitars feature throughout overt political messages and personal stories. Sexual liberation is a common theme, yet in the end Monae’s message is positive and surprisingly family-friendly: self-love and acceptance conquer even the most oppressive regimes (as depicted in her—while not essential—captivating full-album visual on Youtube).

Recommended Track: Make Me Feel

 

1. Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves (Folk/Country)

Golden Hour

Golden Hour is a beautifully produced escape into sun-soaked summer days. Musgraves borrows from radio pop, 70s soft rock, and traditional country in a magnificent forty-five minutes of music. The country clichés are sung winkingly, and the lyrics in all their simplicity paint an authentic portrait of a woman always on the edge between enjoying life and questioning it. Nostalgia runs current-like under bright acoustic guitars, banjos, and dreamy keyboards, and the result is a near-indescribable feeling: “happy and sad at the time.”

Recommended Track: Slow Burn

Abby Davis on her new album, Bonus Room

BY JAKE BRYANT

While you’ve got some free time during this Thanksgiving Break, give CHS Senior Abby Davis’ new album Bonus Room a listen. Bonus Room, Davis’ second full-length album, was released on September 30th, 2018 and combines R&B and acoustic funk with soulful, raw vocals to produce a unique sound reminiscent of rainy-day jam sessions. When she’s not recording and releasing music, Abby gigs all around the Triangle, performing at everything from open mics to music festivals. She’s gotten the chance to work with professionals at the Berkeley College of Music, and has even been nominated for a Carolina Music Award! I sat down with Abby Davis to hear about her process in producing music, her journey as a youth performer, and her future ambitions.

 

Question: How did you get into writing and producing music?

 

Abby Davis: I started writing my own music when I was thirteen years old, at Martin Middle School. Mr. Yancey, the chorus teacher, had his students do a project where we would all write songs, and he would put the best out on iTunes. He ended up releasing some of my songs, and that really encouraged me to keep writing. I got into producing my own music last year, at my old school. Everyone was always talking about recording their own music, but no one really did; so, I decided I’d be the first one to do it! It started out with me just singing into my iPad—that’s how my first album was recorded. Later, I ended up getting my own recording studio.

 

Q: How were you able to put your own recording studio together?

 

AD: My dad has always been into recording music too; he’s in a lot of different bands, being the insane drummer that he is. He told me that I should get my own studio after I had gotten into writing music. He took me to Guitar Center one day, and we got all of the recording equipment. I went home that day, set it all up, and began recording Bonus Room. It feels so good to have my own studio—it makes me feel like the music is really coming from me.

 

Q: How has being young affected your career and musicianship?

 

AD: Being young definitely makes people view me as unprofessional; especially being a part of Gen Z, and being in the hectic climate that we’re in…Also, I want to represent the youth and what they want to say, as well as what I want to say, in my music.

 

Q: Where would you like your songwriting and music career to take you? Do you have high aspirations, or do you view your music as a passion project?

 

AD: My music kind of started as a passion project, but after I released my first album, A Walk In My Brain, I realized that I needed to pursue a career in music. I knew that I wouldn’t be truly happy if I were to pursue anything else.

 

Q: Tell me about your gigs around the Triangle! How did you get started, and how far have you come in terms of local performances? Any favorite venues you’ve gotten to play at?

 

AD: I started gigging when I was about seven years old. I was taking lessons from my uncle at Bamboo Music Studios; he’d set up gigs at places like the art museum or at coffee shops, and have all of his students perform. I started getting my own gigs during my Freshman year; I’d just walk into venues and ask if they needed a live performer! Doing open mics was another way that I got into gigging—one place I’d do a lot of open mics at was the Berkeley Cafe, in Downtown Raleigh. I play a lot of actual gigs there now, usually one every month.

 

Q: Your second album, Bonus Room, was recently released on iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music, and SoundCloud. How did it feel to achieve this?

 

AD: It feels so amazing—to finally feel like an individual artist, who really puts herself out there. It’s probably the best feeling ever.

 

Q: Tell me about your experience at Berkeley College of Music!

 

AD: Berkeley College of Music is one of the most incredible places on Earth; it’s my dream school! This summer, I went up there for a week to do a songwriting camp, and I learned a lot of really eye-opening things about songwriting, a lot of which I had never thought about before. The most important thing I learned was probably that you can’t know everything about music. It was so inspiring to be around so many other people doing the same thing that I am, and we all got super close.

 

Q: Describe your journey in creating Bonus Room.

 

AD: So, I started writing Bonus Room this summer, when I was at a camp at the Berkeley College of Music. I wrote a total of 63 songs for it, and I ended up using 12. With my first album, I kind of just “threw it out there,” but with Bonus Room, I wanted to make sure that it was good, and that I genuinely liked all of the songs on it. I took my time in recording it (I actually started recording during Hurricane Florence). I released it through this collective that I’m a part of, called Oak City Mob—my friend Danny Secor, who started Oak City Mob, called me over to record some hooks for his music, and he offered to help me release my own music.

 

Q: Tell me about your parents’ involvement in music, and how that has shaped your musical career.

 

AD: I grew up in a very musical family. My mom sings, and my dad plays drums; they were in a rock band together in the ‘90’s. The music they wrote for their band has inspired me and has added a Rock ‘N Roll element to my own music.

 

Q: Are there any particular figures that you feel have shaped your identity as a musician?

 

AD: One of my biggest musical inspirations has to be Fleetwood Mac, and especially Stevie Nicks. I’m also really inspired by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Billy Joel. In terms of modern artists, I’m a huge fan of SZA, Georgia Smith, and Tyler the Creator.

 

Q: What advice to you have for those who wish to pursue a career in music/songwriting?

 

AD: These are the exact words my father said to me in a conversation we had the other day: “The more you put yourself out there, the more you’re going to be open to criticism, and the more you’ll end up saying ‘screw you’ to all of the criticism. Please yourself, and the rest will come.”

 

 

Bonus Room by Abby Davis is now available on iTunes, Spotify, and Apple Music.

A Culinary Journey Through the NC State Fair

BY SUZANNAH CLAIRE PERRY

This year’s North Carolina State Fair, now nearly a month past, attracted almost a million folks to the fairgrounds in Raleigh. Some came for the gardens or the old-time cheer, some came for the rides, and some even came for the cows. But most fair goers shared a common experience, or rather, a common meal.

The food at the state fair is a collision of NC classics and new (usually deep-fried) creations, a delicious and relatively affordable dining experience for all. My friends and I entered 2018 fair with one main goal: to eat some local, delicious deep-fried goodness. Join me on this tasty journey through our local history and culture, as I review the North Carolina State Fair’s most iconic foods and hunt for that “Gotta Be NC” flavor.

 

Deep Fried Oreo: 5/10

Fried oreo

I’ve had many deep fried Oreos in my day, and in this time I’ve observed a few quality-determining factors: the balance of the dough, cookie, icing, and powdered sugar; the flavor and texture of the dough; and the quantity of powdered sugar. This dough was, well, too doughy! It was more than twice the size of the actual Oreo and overpowered the other flavors. The powdered sugar and icing were lacking, but the Oreo cookie’s perfect sogginess and the satisfying balance of dense dough and fluffy sugar saved this dish from complete culinary desolation, raising my rating to a (mediocre) five out of ten.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Candy Apple: 9/10

candy apple

When I tried a cinnamon candy apple for the first time last year, it wasn’t my lack of appreciation for its two major ingredients that disappointed me, but the fact that it got stuck in my teeth—and hair! As a result, I was hesitant to try this fair’s apple offerings, but the cutesy allure of one stand caught my eye. I was blown away by the freshness and lack of grittiness of this bona fide North Carolina grown apple, whose bitter skin perfectly complemented the sweet candy. The apple was juicy, perfectly sweet, and perfectly priced, ringing in at only two dollars.  This apple earns a nine out of ten for its delicious taste and well-balanced textures. I can’t wait to eat one next year!

 

 

 

 

 

Fried Green Tomatoes: 5/10

fried green tomato

A delicacy rarely recreated well north of the Mason-Dixon, fried green tomatoes are one of my favorite foods, and I was excited (though unsurprised) to see them being sold at many of the fair’s booths. Alas, I was mostly disappointed by these particular tomatoes’ lack of flavor and their unpleasant texture. The tomatoes were far too ripe to have that classic sourness—almost as if they were straight off a lackluster deli sandwich. The thin, flavorless crust didn’t help, and their blandness even coerced me, a self-proclaimed health nut, to douse them in salt. These disappointing tomatoes were offset by slightly less disappointing ranch, but ultimately, while I appreciate the effort to incorporate vegetables into the State Fair diet, this is not the way to do it. I give these pathetic tomatoes a four out of ten for shaking me to my Tar Heel core.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Corn on the Cob: 8/10

corn on the cob

I love corn on the cob. Something about plowing through the kernels is animalistic, and the fibers between my teeth always trick me into thinking this food is healthier than the calorie count suggests. The pictures inundating my Instagram feed of State Fair corn, char-roasted, dripping in butter and covered in seasoning, had tempted me for a week before I went to the fair. When I finally found corn that seemed high enough quality to buy after a thorough search for kernelled perfection, I ate it with ferocious, blissful speed. Even with just butter (I forgot to add seasoning in my feverish rush), this sweet, salty, and filling snack satisfied my taste buds and my appetite for hours. I give this corn an eight out of ten, and I highly recommend that your next state fair experience includes a freshly shucked treat.

 

 

 

Deep Fried Pickles: 8.5/10

deep fried picklesAlthough I’m not a pickle aficionado, the intrigue of deep fried pickles compelled me to invest in a seven dollar container from a Mount Airy-based barbecue booth by the lake. To my surprise, this exotic food was worth its cost. The crisp cucumber, sour vinegar, crunchy crust and overall pleasant saltiness made for a perfectly balanced evening snack, and despite my love of ranch I didn’t even consider using it to add flavor. This dish will definitely be on my state fair feast list next year, and though my friends’ dislike of it serve warning that it is an acquired taste, I give these fried pickles an eight-and-a-half out of ten.

 

 

 

Frozen Banana: 9/10

frozen banana
https://www.retirebeforedad.com/2016/07/20/theres-always-money-banana-stand/

After eating the fried pickles, which have a wicked aftertaste, I was craving something cheap and sweet to cleanse my palate before I went home. A chocolate-covered frozen banana with sprinkles did just the trick. Ringing in at a mere four dollars, this banana was sweet, cold, and super indulgent, a relatively healthy snack that fulfilled my craving for dessert. I give this banana a nine out of ten, bringing my “fruitful” culinary journey through the NC State Fair to a stupendous (and stuffed!) end.

Nothing Could Be Finer

BY JAKE BRYANT

If you had a chance to visit the Education Building at the North Carolina State Fair, you may or may not have noticed something exciting in the “Arts & Photography” section: Cary High School won a blue ribbon in the High School Art Competition! CHS competed against around thirty schools from all throughout North Carolina, and took home the gold! Art from six students, representing Visual Arts II & III Honors, was featured in the exhibit. Their art required a wide array of materials and styles, including neo-expressionism, realism, and (as coined by Ms. Silver) the “Creative Coffee Rings” technique, in which students create coffee rings on an empty canvas, and must create a full-fledged design from them.

Junior Angel Xelha’s stunning interpretation of the coffee ring technique

Here’s what Junior Abby Lundergan had to say when asked about the journey in creating her piece, and wrestling with a new, abstract style:

“When we originally got the prompt for the project, I was very intimidated by the style of neo-expressionism. However, being encouraged to put weird images and thoughts onto a canvas was really motivating. Creating a self portrait in this style was very freeing and allowed me to create a distinct message; I wanted to portray all the odd perspectives people see others in. Many viewpoints may be out of the ordinary, but it’s our job as a viewer to be open minded. That’s the biggest message I try to reach in all of my art— to simply be open minded.”

Abby Lundergan’s neo-expressionist self-portrait.

And here’s a tidbit from Senior Hunter McCoy on what his piece, and having his art displayed at the State Fair, means to him:

“I think the piece fits the state fair really well. It represents what North Carolina means to me, and I chose to portray that through all of the friends I’ve made and memories I’ve shared. The state, as well as the State Fair, is chiefly about the people you spend your time with. It made me really happy when I was asked for my piece to be brought to the State Fair, and to learn that CHS won first place made this already sentimental art mean so much more to me.”

Hunter McCoy’s captivating depiction of him and his peers

 

Didn’t get a chance to see these breathtaking beauties in person? Don’t fret! These works of art are currently displayed in the glass casing in front of the main office, for all of CHS to admire.

Organized Chaos: Cary Improv at a Glance

BY JAKE BRYANT

Do you have a flair for the dramatic? Are you quick on your feet? Do you really enjoy Whose Line is it Anyway? If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you should consider auditioning for the CHS Improv team! Auditions are after school Wednesday, October 10th and Thursday, October 11th, with a workshop on Tuesday, October 9th. All of these will happen in the Drama Room.

Improv, or improvisational comedy, is acting without a script. At CHS, we practice “short-form improv.” In short-form improv, players learn different “games”; these are scenes in which players have to follow specific rules, such as not being able to use specific body parts, having to talk in a funny voice, or playing a certain character. Audience members are called on to give suggestions that the players then have to incorporate in the scene.

CHS has a robust theatre department, and our improv troupe is no different. The Improv department here is divided up into eight teams of three or four players, each with one  team captain. Improv captains teach, guide, and support the other players, as well as leading their teams. There are six regular season improv matches, one every month, from November to April. These matches are divided into two rounds, with two teams “playing against” each other in the first round, and two different teams “playing each other” in the second round. Each Improv team plays in three out of the six normal matches. In May, there is a seventh All-Star match, where teams of All-Star players are selected to play against each other, and where four captains play against a team of teachers!

Why audition for Improv? Well, there are lots of reasons! First, it builds very strong public speaking and acting skills, as being required to think on one’s feet builds adaptability and comfortability in front of an audience. In addition to improving my theatrical capabilities, participating in Improv has helped me build confidence and become more outgoing. In improv comedy, there is little room for shyness or uncertainty—you have to jump in headfirst! I realized that, if I could do something as crazy as improv comedy, I could go into a room full of people I didn’t know and strike up a conversation. Finally, the greatest reason to try out for Improv is the near-familial bonding that takes place between teams. Throughout the course of a season, players bond with one another, and a small, tight-knit community is created.

Still need more convincing? Here are statements from the other seven captains as to why they think you should try out for Improv!

James Auwn: “Improv is not just a super fun performance art; it’s also a great life skill that helps you think under pressure and respond to spontaneity.”

Ian Bower (the Improv Manager): “Improv may seem incredibly overwhelming, because (seemingly) the only person you can rely on is yourself; however, that isn’t true. Improv at CHS is done with a team that knows your strengths and weaknesses, and everyone comes together to create something beautiful. You aren’t really doing improv for the audience—you’re doing it for yourself and your team.

Gabe Crochet: “Improv is more about the team you bond with than the shows themselves, and you eventually learn to have more fun with those onstage, as opposed to worrying about what people think of the scene.

Abby Lundergan: “Improv creates such a tight-knit community within such a fun and easygoing activity. No one ever knows what they are going to be doing in improv, which makes it such a wonderful thing to be a part of, especially as an underclassmen. Absolutely no one knows what will happen. We are clueless in the best possible way: as a team.

Hunter McCoy: “People know improv for the comedy, when in reality, the structure of the scene itself is more important. A scene composed completely of jokes, without any substance, will fall flat much quicker than a well-improvised, somber scene. That’s why everyone, including those who don’t consider themselves funny, is encouraged to audition.

Gwen Muncy-Champitto: “I think improv is so special because it gives you a place to get out of your head and be silly, whether by adopting crazy accents or rolling around onstage. Laughing and having an outlet to exercise your creativity is so important.

Allie Jessee: “I would definitely not be as outgoing and welcoming as I am now if it had not been for improv. It forces you—in a loving way—to let go of your insecurities and just put yourself out there on stage and with your team members. Performing improv leaves you with laugh-out-loud memories and exciting newfound confidence.

Hopefully, this article was enough to convince those on the fence about auditioning to come and try out, and to even further encourage those raring-to-go. We are so excited for auditions, and for the coming year of inevitably sensational improv comedy.

Shakin’ Up Shakespeare

BY ALLIE JESSEE

 

The theatre department at Cary High has continuously shined through fall plays, spring musicals, and monthly improv shows, showcasing laughter and tears with brilliance. As expected, the 2018-2019 season will be no different! With a hilarious spoof of a play, a talented slate of new improv captains, and a heartwarming classic musical that dazzles on stage, Cary’s excellence can only keep growing.

Let’s focus on one show-stopping performance at a time; this autumn’s feature is The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised]. But don’t be fooled by the title–this wacky one-act show has barely any “real” Shakespeare in it! The original cast was only three people who used minimal costumes, audience participation, and frequent improvisation. Totally fun, right? But if you still need to be convinced, there are so many reasons why you should come see The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised].

The Cary High cast will be ten people with equal amounts of crazy costumes and laugh-out-loud moments. They will not only amaze with their physicality, but also with giant monologues that they’ll spout at break-neck speed! Plus, audience members will have to come up on stage, yell intensely, and make conversation with our crazy cast members. If you’re someone who wants to feel completely immersed in whatever you watch, this is truly the show for you.

Additionally, the cast will actually be performing all thirty-seven of Shakespeare’s plays, so if you really are a Bard buff, you will not be disappointed. But, again, don’t be misled. There are no traces of a traditional Midsummer Night’s Dream or Hamlet–instead, there’s a gender-bended Romeo and Juliet, a legit Old English rap, and a royal football game!

Not only is this comedy for improv enthusiasts and Shakespeare know-it-alls, but also for music and sports fanatics. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised] presents a play for everyone, young and old. Come support your more dramatic classmates and get ready for a belly laugh-filled night!