Review: ‘Younger Now’ by Miley Cyrus

In the decade-plus since her major pop culture debut, Miley Cyrus has proven herself to be a walking, talking identity crisis. Following her rise to fame as the tween pop icon Hannah Montana and her subsequent post-Disney success with singles like “Party in the U.S.A.,” Cyrus underwent the inevitable attempt at maturation every teenybopper pop star goes through in an attempt to keep up with their aging base. The end result was Bangerz, a quasi-rebellious attempt to display just how far she’d strayed from her Mickey Mouse origins. And though Bangerz shot her to the height of her popularity, Cyrus went from childlike to outright childish, bragging about her sexual exploits and newfound marijuana habit as if society viewed these acts in the 2010s with the same degree of taboo it did in the 1950s. During the Bangerz era, Cyrus sounded less like an adult and more like a teenager demanding to be treated like an adult; it culminated in some of her worst mainstream music to date, as well as the infamous VMAs twerking travesty that garnered plenty of criticism for her alleged appropriation of Black culture.

It seemed she took the criticism to heart. After a four-year hiatus with no major music (outside of the unlistenable 90-minute SoundCloud release Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz), Cyrus has once again rebranded herself, this time as a wholesome, folksy pop-country singer on Younger Now. But despite transforming her musical aesthetic for the third time in her career, Cyrus is still highly lacking in imagination; like her past works, Younger Now is resigned to being a pale imitation of its genre, and ranks among the year’s worst albums as a result.

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The Editorial That Never Was: Graham-Cassidy

As editorial editor for The New Paltz Oracle, I have to come up with weekly pieces taking a stance on one issue or another. I’d planned and written an editorial discussing the many problems with the Graham-Cassidy legislation, but when Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy decided not to take it to a vote earlier this week, I was forced to scrap the editorial and write something else. Not one to waste a perfectly good piece of writing, I present to you now an editorial that didn’t get a chance to see the light, simply because the GOP couldn’t wait another day or two to decide their bill was a hot mess.

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Review: BoJack Horseman, Season 4

Netflix’s original series BoJack Horseman is the kind of show that sneaks up on its audience, playing with the expectations raised by its core conceit then furiously plucking at the viewer’s heartstrings when it’s least expected. BoJack Horseman was never going to be lighthearted—its eponymous lead character’s drug-addled fall from grace assured that—but the show’s anthropomorphic characters and heavy use of whimsical wordplay seemed to suggest that, though dark, the show would remain comedic in essence. And yet, over time, BoJack Horseman has cemented itself as perhaps the single most harrowing portrait of mental illness currently on television. In its fourth and best season, the show continues to deftly straddle the line between clever farce and tender tragedy as it explores in further depth the manifestations of melancholia.

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Review: ‘Sleep Well Beast’ by The National

Upon listening to Sleep Well Beast, I recalled Roger Ebert’s memoir Life Itself, in which he refers to cinema as “a machine that generates empathy.” Music generates empathy in much the same way, generally on a more personal scale. Considering how intrinsic sadness is to the process of empathy, most music artists will, at some point or another, bare the moroseness of their soul for the sake of their art.

But some artists can outright weaponize melancholy. It’s something The National have done for years, and against all odds, it’s always managed to work in their favor. The band’s songwriting has consistently struck a powerful balance between despair and heart; even at its lowest emotional depths, their work is as animated as it is devastating. The result is a discography that, though not entirely heterogenous due to its repeated emphasis on themes of heartbreak and anguish, wholly explores dysphoria’s every angle, theme, and sound. It’s how The National have remained relevant all these years, and it’s why, even on their seventh album, they haven’t lost any steam in their empathy machine.

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An Asexual Experience

Featured image courtesy of AsexualityArchive.com

Perhaps I should’ve noticed something was off when I was in high school. I remember the distinct discomfort that ran through my bones whenever I would try to flirt with a girl. It wasn’t that I was necessarily poor with words — I have the best words — nor was I awkward around women. I did, however, feel as if my speech was hollow; that kind of socialization was almost mechanical to me, something I did because that’s what boys my age were supposed to do.

I had zero sexual interest in men, so I assumed I was heterosexual by default. It wasn’t until 2014 that I even realized that there were options beyond the three orientations — heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality — of which I was aware. During my annual checkup that year, I mentioned to the doctor my general lack of sexual attraction. There are many medical explanations for such a thing, including hypoactive sexual desire disorder and hypothyroidism, so I wanted to know for sure what was wrong with me. The doctor agreed to test for any possible medical explanations, but also offered up an alternative theory: I was asexual. When my hormone levels came back normal, asexuality clicked for me as an answer to my confusion.

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Review: ‘Are You Experienced’ by The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Note: The tracklist discussed in this review is based on the 1997 compact disc re-issue, which included songs from both the original UK and U.S. versions as well as the band’s first three UK singles.

The opening eight notes of “Purple Haze” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience are enormously crucial. For those eight or so seconds, a guitar chops through the surrounding darkness before diving into the boisterous body of the song like a cold, crystalline lake. Following that brief prologue of steady simplicity, Are You Experienced may adjust pace, but the album never drops its frenetic juggling act. As a debut, it’s an audacious, busy piece of psychedelic rock that finds a lot of breathing room in its loose structure, its constant sense of locomotion keeping it from becoming stagnant. Not only is Are You Experienced an earthshattering debut, it’s a high bar that no psych rock band has equaled in the fifty years since the album’s release.

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Review: ‘Humanz’ by Gorillaz

For a period of time, it appeared as if The Fall would be the Gorillaz’s final outing following the April 7, 2012 announcement that the band had split. It would’ve been a somewhat gloomy end for the virtual band, as The Fall was little more than a pet project recorded on an iPad during the American leg of the Escape to Plastic Beach World Tour, hardly the swan song Gorillaz fans wanted or deserved. That period of time, however, only lasted between two to three weeks, as by April 25, 2012, co-founders Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett had mended their relationship and were confident a fifth Gorillaz record would be in their future.

In the years following Albarn and Hewlett’s reconciliation, Humanz (then untitled) felt like a foregone conclusion, which made its absence all the more frustrating. But over the last two years, while we were waiting, they were hard at work—Humanz sports twenty tracks plus six on the deluxe edition—collaborating across the musical spectrum with some of the industry’s most interesting artists: old, new, and soon-to-be-discovered. Albarn’s ambitions transcend genre, and Humanz explores a lot of different musical ideas and guest combinations; unfortunately, Albarn doesn’t always use these guests correctly, nor does he explore many of these ideas in any sort of depth. The result is an album that can’t help but occasionally feel half-baked, even when it works.

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