Welcome back to another year of The UCSD Guardian sitcom, except there are no laugh tracks…or studio lights over your head…or celebrity guests for the most part…this really ain’t much of a sitcom…I don’t know where I was going with this…enjoy reading about what we thought were summer hits.
“Hellfire” – Black Midi
Black Midi’s third studio record “Hellfire” is not only the perfect way to describe the California heat this summer, but is also a standout example of a band reaching their initial potential. Since their first record in 2019, Black Midi has consistently pushed the barrier of what could be considered post-punk. For their most recent outing, Black Midi decided to not only reinvent themselves again, but completely master their newest take on progressive rock, channeling the likes of legendary acts like Primus, King Crimson, and even Miles Davis.
What lies beneath the bubblegum pink album cover is a consistent sonorous wall of sound that could entertain even the most cynical old-head rock purist. The record is split into two distinct sides, the first half refining the punky chaotic sound they’ve come to be known for. It also just so happens to feature the most remarkable three-track run of the year. From track two, “Sugar/Tzu,” to track four, “Welcome to Hell,” each song is back-to-back greatness. The second half of the record opts to move toward a more jazz-oriented approach, no doubt inspired by their friends from fellow European rock band Black Country, New Road. Much like the first half, each track exceeds all possible expectations and will likely define the inevitable legacy of Black Midi.
Each member brings their A-game to the project with some of Geordie Greep’s best vocal performances. With that said, the group’s drummer Morgan Simpson just steals the show throughout the record, absolutely dominating a majority of the tracks. His ridiculous chops are especially undeniable on singles like “Sugar/Tzu” and the album closer “27 Questions.”
“Hellfire” has solidified itself as one of the finest records of the year, released during a time already crowded with high-profile releases from the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé. Despite this, it still stands tall among the greats and has no chance of losing the spot of most memorable record of the summer.
– Fabian Garcia, Senior Staff Writer
“The Summer I Turned Pretty”
It isn’t often that I think a television adaption is better than a book series. However, Amazon Prime’s adaptation of “The Summer I Turned Pretty” has passed that bar. The show follows Isabel “Belly” Conklin and her summer at Cousins Beach. She and her family go to the beach every year alongside her mother’s best friend and her family. We have the moms, Laurel and Susannah; as well as the boys, Belly’s brother Steven and Susannah’s sons, Jeremiah and Conrad. There are a couple of main things that contributed to the overall success of the show. The first is that the book’s author Jenny Han was heavily involved in the creation and filming of the show. Han is most notably known for the “To All The Boys I Loved Before” trilogy. This is another teen, YA hit. However, TSITP was Han’s debut series, and no debut is perfect, but because she was so involved with the storyline, she was able to make changes that benefited the show for the better which doesn’t happen often. With adaptations, changes can feel out of place or out of character, but almost every single change added something and helped audiences understand the characters and their dynamics better.
Additionally, the show did a wonderful job at creating an atmosphere for audiences to fall in love with. Whether it was through the perfectly curated soundtrack, the inviting nature of Cousins Beach, or just the simple story of a wonderful summer, it just worked. It was easy to fall in love with the characters. We got to watch Belly grow into herself, grow more comfortable in her own skin, and find a sense of independence. We empathized as Conrad struggled with his emotions all on his own. We covered the connection between Susannah and Laurel, the purest love in the show.
“The Summer I Turned Pretty” is a coming of age story. It’s a love triangle and it has its cheesy moments. However, it feels grounded. It brings us an Asian protagonist and an ensemble of new charming characters. It’s a welcome escape into the waves of Cousins Beach, wrapped in the comfort the town brings. I cannot wait to see how the show continues as I eagerly await for season two and another summer in Cousins.
– Laila Del Rio, Staff Writer
“Top Gun: Maverick”
Does this box-office smash hit need an introduction? Probably not, as it seems the trending question this summer was “Did you see ‘Top Gun: Maverick’?”. If you didn’t, or your parents didn’t string you along to see it in theaters — no worries! Grab some salted peanuts and hop into the cockpit while I tell you why it’s amazing.
It’s two hours of flying goodness. There’s action, aviation, friendship, family, romance, and teamwork. You’ll laugh and cry and feel like you’re part of the squad. Tom Cruise graces the screen once again as the cocky-yet-lovable Navy pilot Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell. Miles Teller plays foil to Maverick as purposeful pilot Bradley ‘Rooster’ Bradshaw. Rooster ties the past to the present as the son of Maverick’s fallen friend, Nick “Goose” Bradshaw. It’s certainly poignant to see how the two interact, with brilliant and emotional performances, from a mentor-student relationship to one as close as brothers.
Amongst all the intensity between the two main protagonists, there’s also some fun and games. Maverick strikes up a relationship with bar owner Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly) and often banters with the younger pilots. After all, you need some attitude to fly with the best of them.
Of course, no movie is ever gold-standard without the music of Hans Zimmer, truly capturing that high-flying feeling of aviation. Then, paired with the vision of director Joseph Kosinski, the film brings the audience a sense of wonderment, yes, but also authenticity. It feels real, sounds real, looks real. The audience gets a glimpse into the world of the U.S. military, as well as what it takes to train as a fighter pilot: a LOT of bravery.
So buckle up and hold tight, because “Top Gun: Maverick” is worth your time.
– Kayla Swartzberg, Contributing Writer
“Renaissance” – Beyoncé
One of the summer’s most anticipated and awaited albums that did not disappoint was Beyoncé’s seventh studio album, “Renaissance.” Since its release, many fans, including myself, have not been able to stop listening to it on repeat. The album features 16 songs that vary in different genres spanning from Pop to Afrobeats. Although the album’s songs each sound different, they all give off the same free-spirited vibe and sound that makes it sound like a cohesive project. “BREAK MY SOUL,” the lead single released ahead of the album’s July 29 release, sets the mood for the entire album in a way that is not clear until you listen through it, serving as a strong opening for even better songs on the album. Standout songs such as “ALIEN SUPERSTAR,” “CUFF IT,” and “ENERGY” all showcase Beyoncé’s impressive vocal range. The songs make me very excited to see what she will do when she performs them on her “Renaissance” tour in the summer of 2023. “Renaissance” feels like a timeless, classic album due to the many samples she and her producers incorporate into the songs. Some of these samples include “Get with you” performed by Tommy Wright III & Princess Loko, “Explode” performed by Big Freedia, “Center of Thy Will” performed by the Clark Sisters, and “I Feel Love” performed by Donna Summer. Using these samples in the way she does is an art form of its own, and I think she does it masterfully. Overall, “Renaissance” is the album of the summer. It’s happy, fun, and makes you want to go out and enjoy life to the fullest. Listening to this album with the knowledge that Beyoncé will release two more albums in tandem with “Renaissance” makes listening to it that much better.
– Kamiah Johnson, Senior Staff Writer
“Pre-Pleasure” – Julia Jackin
Contemplative indie-rock from an observant songwriter coming to terms with the past in order to blossom into the person she desires.
Julia Jacklin’s 2019 album “Crushing” was an emotionally intensive, stripped-down album that showcases her ability to capture the morally gray lover she tries to give herself to, and then does her best to claw herself back from. Her 2022 release “Pre-Pleasure” is more centered around self-reflection. The album cover, inspired by the stand-out track “I Was Neon,” displays a blown up portrait of her face as a smaller version of herself paws at the frame. The song is guitar heavy and incredibly upbeat relative to her previous music, and it dissolves into repetition of the phrase, “I don’t wanna lose myself again.” It reads as a thesis for the entire project. As she picks the pieces of fractured relationships out of her skin and reveals the depths of the love she has to offer to herself, she sounds entirely self-assured in maintaining the person she is at her core. The track “Magic” encapsulates this idea most deeply. It’s a play by play of everything that might lead up to sex: the preparation, psyching herself up, wearing her favorite clothes, and leading her lover to the bedroom. As the song builds and seems to come to an explosive climax, it dissipates into a plea to wait until she’s ready. It takes self-understanding to know what you truly want, and it requires self-worth to ask for it. The album is incredibly enjoyable as Jacklin makes strides with her rock-influence, but doesn’t entirely abandon her singer-songwriter beginning through songs like “Less of Stranger” and “Too In Love To Die.” It’s clear by the end Julia has a clear understanding of herself and her capacity to love, and if there’s any longing, it’s aimed at finding more security within herself.
– Jonathan Shlesinger, Staff Writer
Yung Bae’s “Continental Groove” Tour
Yung Bae’s “Continental Groove” Tour’s two-day stop in Los Angeles was arguably the best two days of my entire summer. Day one, Sept. 8, featured a pop-up shop event at LA’s iconic Catch One venue. This pop-up might as well have been an entire concert of its own. Not only did the event feature the general pop-up show offerings like artist merchandise and meet-and-greets, but it also featured a nine-artist performance lineup featuring: Discoholic, Fibre, Mere Notilde, Pad Chennington, Dan Mason, Engelwood, Matt Watson, FrankJavCee, and Skyler Spence (also known as Saint Pepsi). Although I had to miss Fibre’s set as I was in line for merchandise, if the other sets were anything to go by, then his performance must have also been amazing. Each artist brought a huge piece of their personality into their sets. For example, Discoholic, wearing his signature disco ball helmet, would often go around to the front of the stage and begin pointing at several physical PowerPoint slide cards he had, each having a random image. However, the highlight of this event was finally getting to meet all of the artists I had been following since high school. I got to meet Yung Bae, Skyler Spence, Moe Shop, Vantage, Macross 82-99, Night Tempo, George Clanton, and Flamingosis — all of whom would perform the following night.
Day two, Sept. 9, featured all eight previously mentioned artists performing at the Shrine Expo Hall. To say I had been waiting for this show would be quite the understatement. Although I had been in attendance at Yung Bae’s last LA show in November 2021 at The Novo, which also featured Vantage, Macross 82-99, and Night Tempo, this show just felt different. The concert felt even more energetic than the last one, even when an artist like George Clanton would slow down the pace significantly with his deep, electronic pop. Night Tempo, who in his last outing in LA had a rather shy stage presence, just completely went all out this time, jumping around and even asking for audience participation by having attendees take out their phones and wave their flashlights during his set. All the other artists brought their own form of energy to the show; Macross, Vantage, and Moe Shop all had a hyped presence during their sets, Flamingosis laid down some of the best dance moves I have ever seen, and Skyler Spence possessed a laser focus with each musical decision having surgical precision (a carry over from his set during the pop-up as there too he performed with such determination in his face). Lastly, how could I not mention the main star of the show: Yung Bae. From when I first saw him perform in 2017 at The Roxy in LA to now, his growth as a performer has been immense. He knows how and when to raise the energy of the crowd and how to maintain that level throughout the entire set. And just like Yung Bae didn’t want to take his foot off the gas, neither did the audience, with the entire venue jumping, dancing, swaying, and singing along to every artist that was there.
These two days were something that I will always remember for the rest of my life, and I look forward to Yung Bae and company’s next visit to LA.
– Hector Arrieta, A&E Editor
Images courtesy of Helix Creative Solutions, The Banner, The Guardian, Black Midi, TV Insider, Pitchfork, and Choose Chicago