The Decaturian is Millikin's student-run newspaper. The opinions reflected may not be those of Millikin as an institution.

The Decaturian

The Decaturian is Millikin's student-run newspaper. The opinions reflected may not be those of Millikin as an institution.

The Decaturian

The Decaturian is Millikin's student-run newspaper. The opinions reflected may not be those of Millikin as an institution.

The Decaturian

3 New Albums You Should Listen To


James Blake – “Playing Robots into Heaven”

Even though I’ve been listening to this guy for years now, it seems like I get reintroduced to James Blake every time he releases a new album. “Playing Robots into Heaven” sees Blake return to his electronic and breakbeat roots, while still honing in on pop song structure and his signature voice we all know and love.

Though this is the first solo release from Blake this year, there’s a chance you may have already heard from him on other artist’s projects like Don Toliver’s “Love Sick,” Travis Scott’s “Utopia,” or even on the “Across the Spider-Verse” soundtrack. Blake has always been a great bridge for collaboration in a variety of genres.

His last two records have dabbled much more in pop and R&B style tracks with a plethora of guest appearances. This time around he is his own sole collaborator. The entire album feels desolate, atmospheric, and despondent and the opener “Asking to Break” perfectly encapsulates that feeling. Bleeding perfectly into the track “Loading,” which I’ve already heavily praised for its use of space and effects, these two opening songs engulf you right into this world or “heaven” that Blake’s created.

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The following track “Tell Me” is when things really start to amp up. This song brings in more edm and even dubstep vibes with a driving beat and drop that could light up any nightclub. The next few tracks are more-or-less instrumentals but still add so much to the overall experience. “Fall Back” is probably my favorite of this 3 track run, with its cascading synth and vocal layers, but they’re all so different that it’s hard to choose. “He’s Been Wonderful” has some great sampling and gospel elements, while “Big Hammer” first sounds like a stealth sequence in an action movie then turns into a reggaeton reminiscent breakdown.

Around the midpoint of the record things start to simmer down and Blake’s voice comes back to the forefront. “I Want You to Know” may be the catchiest song on the entire album, with synth arpeggios flowing left and right and Blake’s voice coming in and out like an echo. “Night Sky” is a complementary continuation as well.

The final 3 songs are easily the most somber and vulnerable sounding here. “Fire the Editor” kicks it off with beautiful vocal and synth layering, gentle drum patterns, and themes of giving into oneself and overcoming fear and anxiety. The final songs are tranquil moments of peace and reflection. “If You Can Hear Me” is an ode to looking back on all you’ve accomplished scored by this gorgeous piano melody. The title track closes things out with only a modular synth disguised as a pipe organ, making you feel like you’re truly playing it as you ascend into heaven.

Blake has outdone himself once more, while still staying true to his roots. It has truly been amazing to witness just how much he’s grown as an all around artist. I’m eager to see where he goes from here.


My rating: 10/10


Olivia Rodrigo – “GUTS”

Pop sensation Olivia Rodrigo recaptures the magic of her debut, yet fails to go much beyond it. “SOUR” took the world by storm back in 2021. Rodrigo was nothing particularly new for the industry but her way of writing from the heart and about relatable topics pretty much every teenanger goes through really helped her stick out. She also tried her hand at a couple of different genres, from more acoustic singer-songwriter cuts to full-blown pop-punk bangers. Now in 2023, Olivia and Co. try to recapture what made “SOUR” the most talked-about album of that year.

From the start, “GUTS” already feels like a rinse and repeat. Though, I will say the first couple tracks are probably my favorite part of the whole album. “all-american bitch” is a fantastic hook for the record and reminds me of 2000s era Avril Lavigne or Paramore. “bad idea right?” has grown on me a bit since I first heard it. I love the driving bassline and I think Olivia’s personality really shines through. I also appreciate it even more now as looking back over the tracklist, it’s easily one that feels the most original and truly new for her. Once we get to the album’s lead single “vampire,” the lingering shadow of “SOUR” begins to rear its head.

I’ve never been super keen on “vampire.” The song’s entire metaphor just doesn’t deliver for me and some lyrics feel forced and even corny. It really just sounds like she’s trying to write another “drivers license,” except not as personal or memorable.

Then songs like “making the bed,” “logical,” and “the grudge” fail to stand out to me in any way. Even if you put a gun to my head I couldn’t tell you if these songs are on this album or “SOUR.”

Though, there are a few more flickers of eccentricity like “ballad of a homeschooled girl,” “lacy,” and even the closer “teenage dream.” They’re still not as memorable as the opening tracks to me but still offer some much needed variety in the tracklist.

The rest of the tracks I honestly just don’t feel any certain way about to even mention. I wouldn’t say there are any downright bad songs here by any means, a lot of it just feels like they went with what worked last time and barely tried to change it up. Instead of reinventing herself, she catered to a demand. “GUTS” is like an extension of the past era rather than a brand new one. 


My rating: 6.8/10


Teezo Touchdown – “How Do You Sleep at Night?”

Rapper, rocker, wildcard Teezo Touchdown finally makes his full-length introduction and doesn’t fail to spark conversation. Teezo has created quite the limelight for himself these past couple years. While making guest appearances for high caliber acts like Travis Scott, Lil Yachty, and even Tyler, the Creator, he has also been hyping up his own music, especially this debut album, and saying how the world “isn’t ready” for what he’s about to release. To an extent, I think he was right.

“How Do You Sleep at Night?” takes numerous twists and turns during its 40 minute runtime. You’ll hear splashes of blink-182 style pop-punk, crooning R&B, and maybe even a nursery-rhyme type beat or two.

Highlights for me include “UUHH,” “Neighborhood,” and the single “You Thought” even if it feels like two tracks stuck together. Everything else on this project is either a mishmash of ideas, lacking direction, or just a cornball of a song.

Take the opening track “OK” for example, sure it’s brief, a lot of intros are, but the track still fails to go anywhere meaningful. The guitar riff is the same for the entire song and Teezo’s overall message will soon be played out by the time the album hits its halfway mark. A major theme of the album is about being yourself, not letting other people put you down, etc. Which is great, self-love is very important and always a needed message to hear, but a lot of the time on this record, the way Teezo goes about addressing it feels very childish and phoned-in. It’s like the musical equivalent to one of those inspirational signs at TJ Maxx. Tracks like “Impossible,” “Too Easy,” and “Stranger” are prime examples of this.

Some of the instrumental decisions also don’t pan out super well. By the end a lot of the rock riffs sound the same and manufactured. Though the crown jewel of musical corniness has to go to the closer “The Original Was Better” where the last 30 seconds of the song are consumed by this bright, awful synth-pop breakdown. Think “Everything Is Awesome” from “The Lego Movie” but without any of the charm.

Overall I do think there are some fun tracks and ideas on this album and Teezo is still a very charismatic and exciting presence in the industry right now, but there is still a lot of room for improvement I’d say. 


My rating: 5.9/10

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About the Contributor
Eli Bland
Eli Bland, Arts Editor
Eli Bland is a Multimedia Communications major with a minor in English. Eli has had a passion for music and the arts since a young age and writing has always been his favorite way to express that. Being the Arts Editor at the Decaturian, his main focus has been on new album reviews, listicles and keeping up with Millikin's many art programs. He hopes to continue his journalism journey after graduation.

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