All posts by Elise Nelson

About Elise Nelson

Music journalist. Radio DJ. Editor.

Student band builds fan base on campus

Written for a class. Publication date: February 14, 2017.

Albright College is one of the rare places on this earth where girls swoon over the idea of being a “hot dad,” thanks to the college’s very own Hot Dad Calendar. This is not your stereotypical calendar featuring middle-aged men with bodies of 20-year-olds posing next to white picket fences and grills. Hot Dad Calendar is a student musical group on the rise with a dedication to the “dad” motif: bold-patterned polos, khakis above the waist, and songs about angst-ridden teenagers.

The idea for Hot Dad Calendar formed when junior Savannah Peck, junior Jack Duncan, and sophomore Jordan Santiago took a music business management class together during this past fall semester. According to Santiago, their class was assigned the task of fictitiously managing a band, and the three decided to work together. “It was a concept I had in my head last semester, and once we got the assignment I knew immediately that we had to make it a real thing. ‘Hot Dad Calendar’ is actually a song title, so that’s where I got the band name from. I thought it would be hilarious,” he said.

Peck, Duncan, and Santiago each have their own extensive roots in music. Duncan, who now plays guitar for Hot Dad Calendar, has been playing guitar since he was 10. At age 12, he joined his first band and has been searching for the best one ever since. Hot Dad Calendar’s vocalist, Santiago, participated in his high school’s musical theater and choir, and practices guitar today. Both Santiago and Duncan are members of Albright’s Mane Men choir group. Peck is a self-taught guitarist and drummer; she has mostly performed as a solo act in the past, but she was a member of her high school marching band as well as a faculty band.

Here at Albright, the three students are music business majors and members of Lion Enterprises, and they have the same eclectic music tastes. “It’s a lot harder than many people think to form a band. You have to find people you agree with musically. Luckily, when we’re together it all just comes easily,” said Peck. Duncan added, “We all have the same goals, so we’re always on the same page which is so important.”

Over the past six months, Hot Dad Calendar has performed at campus events when invited by student organizations, such as ASTEP’s First Friday in January. They also hold shows at The Musty Basement, a small music venue located in the basement of the Music Affinity House. One of their biggest performances, however, took place at Lion Enterprises’ Albright Idol last semester. Peck, Duncan, and Santiago took the stage dressed in their best “dad” attire, complete with bright patterned socks paired with brown loafers and oversized button-down shirts.

Before performing their most popular indie song, “PBR Light,” Santiago ensured the crowd that “anyone can be a hot dad.” The echoes of fans shouting along the lyrics roared through MPK Chapel, and energy filled the room as soon as Duncan struck the first chord on his guitar. Hot Dad Calendar ended up winning Albright Idol that night, which earned them a recording contract with Lion Enterprises.

Junior Kaitlyn Kirkpatrick attended Albright Idol solely because Hot Dad Calendar would be there. “I just love how confident they are on stage. You can tell that they know what they’re doing and that they love every second of performing, and that energy circulates to everyone in the audience.”

“Albright Idol was definitely a different kind of performing experience for us. We were pretty nervous, but we had the comfort of each other to get us through it. It was more of putting on a performance and less of just playing the music,” said Peck and Duncan.

The trio cannot stress enough how important it is to have a good attitude towards performing. “You have to really be into it and have good energy,” said Duncan. “Crowd involvement and reactions is such an important factor. We really love to build the confidence in our fans, so I always tell people that they’re hot dads, too,” added Santiago.

Recently, Hot Dad Calendar has been working to record a demo of their first single, “PBR Light.” The song tells a story from the perspective of a father reminiscing about times when he and his son drank PBR Light together. The son has become distant, cutting off his friends and staying in his room. “PBR Light” boasts unique lyrics, such as “Stop following porn stars on Snapchat,” which makes the song memorable and humorous.

According to Santiago, “PBR Light” and most other Hot Dad Calendar songs were created entirely by spewing random lyrics and riffs until a solid idea was formed. “Jack was writing a riff one day, and I was ad-libbing lyrics. I was kind of combining two songs. We both looked on the table across from us and saw a case of PBR Light, and it all aligned. Savannah came in and bridged the gap between the two songs, and that’s how ‘PBR Light’ came to be.”

A busy Spring semester has put Hot Dad Calendar on a bit of a hiatus. However, they will continue to record whenever possible, perform at The Musty Basement, and inspire everyone to become hot dads.



Sia’s This is Acting offers a new blend of genres

Is it really possible to compile a bunch of rejected songs and create a hit album? Australian singer-songwriter Sia Furler thought so. In the past she has written songs for A-list artists like Adele, Shakira, Rihanna and more that ended up being rejected by the artists themselves. Sia’s plan was to record the rejected tracks that she felt were potential chart-toppers. Her latest album entitled This is Acting, released on Jan. 29, 2016, was the end result of this interesting experiment.

At 40 years old, Sia is responsible for penning hits like Beyonce’s “Pretty Hurts,” Rihanna’s “Diamonds,” and Jessie J’s “Flashlight.” With that experience under her belt, This is Acting was highly anticipated by her fans. The album definitely has some hits, but it also has some misses, and many could-be-but-not-quite-great singles. In all honesty, it isn’t so hard to see why some of the songs were rejected, but there were a few that surprised me.

One of the singles worth noting is “Bird Set Free,” which was rejected by Rihanna and “Pitch Perfect 2.” Adele recorded it, but decided to drop it from her latest album. “Bird” is very confident and easily resembles what Sia stands for. She sings, “I don’t care that I sing off key/I found myself in my melody.”

That line is definitely a punch at those who criticize Sia. The song probably would’ve fit well in Adele’s album, as it is underscored by a piano melody. Similarly, the leading single on This Is Acting, entitled “Alive,” was also recorded and rejected by Adele because its ragged high notes weren’t fit for her.

This is Acting contains one song that was only ever meant for Sia’s voice: “One Million Bullets.” This is another high point in the compilation, as its verses are reminiscent of her last album 1000 Forms of Fear. The chorus emphasizes a sense of hazard when she sings, “I got a feeling that danger is coming.” By far, this is the song that seems to have the most personal emotion.

Of the twelve songs on This is Acting, there are three that could fall under the category of “party” music. There’s “Move Your Body”, originally meant for Shakira, or “Cheap Thrills,” meant for Rihanna. The third song, “Sweet Design”, is the most playful of the three, and my personal favorite.

With a fast and remixed beat, “Sweet Design” is refreshingly different from her usual seriousness. It shows her confidence, as she sings “News travels fast when you’ve got an ass like my sweet design…baby got back.” It’s funny and fresh-sounding, and could be a hit if Sia really wanted it to be.

The bad news is that, with the exception of these unique songs, much of the album sounds the same due to the huge choruses and hard beats in every song, which were all of course meant to be singles. Besides “One Million Bullets,” none of the songs seem as personal or as fit for Sia, but that has to be because they were never written for her to sing in the first place. They were meant to match their A-list singer.

Overall, This is Acting doesn’t top the very emotional 1000 Forms of Fear at all. However, with the potential seen in “Sweet Design”, “One Million Bullets,” or “Bird Set Free,” all of the A-listers that turned Sia down could be proven totally wrong.

Cedar Green’s Planet Trog concert leaves fans in awe

On Feb. 27, local alternative-punk band Cedar Green performed at Planet Trog in Whitehall, Pa. Vocalist Joey Volpe, guitarist/vocalist Ryan Holzer, guitarist Harley Butz, and drummer Mickey Fernandez took the stage at 7:30 p.m. to perform for a crowd of devoted fans.

Hailing from Bethlehem, Pa., Cedar Green began in 2013 after the four musicians met on social media. Their fan base grew quickly through local performances and weekend shows in Pennsylvania’s neighboring states.

Soon after their start, Cedar Green released an album entitled The Tale of Two Wolves and opened up for bands like Sleeping With Sirens, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, and Alesana. Volpe couldn’t believe how successful they had become.

“There are parts of performances where we don’t have to sing because the fans do it for us. Some bands never get their music out there and we’re just fortunate that people love our songs,” said Volpe.

Fans gathered close to the stage at Planet Trog and cheered before the music even began. Cedar Green invested all their power into the performance, with passionate singing and crowd engagement that made the music so much more enjoyable. T-shirts were launched into the audience’s open arms. Volpe and Holzer frequently stood on the amps, elevating themselves above the crowd and showing off their guitar and vocal skills while the fans worshipped them in amazement.

At one point, Volpe noticed a fan in front of the stage recording the show and took the phone to give her some better angles in the video. “I like when people are up close. Interacting with the fans makes it so much more fun,” he said.

The band’s performance was one of five that night. Their set followed music from punk-alternative bands known as Teenage Bottle Rocket, Centennials, and For Our Lifetime; they preceded the final act, Trophy Wives.

Due to the limited time that Cedar Green had on stage, their set list consisted only of two songs from their album, “Akron” and “Chutes and Ladders,” and one single, “Hit the Deck.”

“‘Hit the Deck’ is my favorite to perform because the lyrics really connect with people. It’s fast and fun to sing. It also has all these ups and downs during the song where it’ll be a punk song for thirty seconds, then a pop song and then break down to a slow jam. It’s fun to play with and dance to on stage,” said Volpe.

Volpe sang as hard as he could, despite the fact that just a week before the show he underwent vocal cord surgery. He has polyps on and above his vocal cords, making singing a difficult task. Despite his medical obstacle, Volpe and the rest of Cedar Green united their talents and positive attitudes to create a vibrant sound similar to that of All Time Low.

“It hurts pretty bad,” said the singer after their performance, “but everyone wanted to be so close to us and sing along, so it was worth it. Playing on stage with your best friends and having the time of your life is the most exciting thing.”

Along with performing at local venues, Cedar Green has been working on a new album to be released on Apr. 22, entitled The One You Feed.

If Cedar Green’s new music is anywhere near as good as the performances they put on, it definitely will not disappoint.








The digital age: a blessing or burden to music critics?

Final project for a communications class. I was to write a 1200-1500 word feature article on a topic of my choosing.

Publication date: December 5, 2015.

Once upon a time, you waited months for the day your favorite band released a new album. Then you waited even more until you got a chance to run to the music store and buy a copy. However, there was one group of people standing in between you and that CD−people with journalism degrees and loud opinions that needed to be shared. The most experienced of these people could make or break a musician’s career. These ruthless writers were known as the music critics.

The prominent figure Continue reading The digital age: a blessing or burden to music critics?

Artist spotlight: Marianas Trench

Publication date: November 19, 2015.

Marianas Trench is more than just the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean. In the music world, Marianas Trench refers to the Canadian pop-punk band, formed in 2001 in Vancouver. With lead singer Josh Ramsay as the band’s front, other members include Matt Webb on guitar, Mike Ayley on bass, and Ian Casselman on drums.

Ramsay had been singing since Continue reading Artist spotlight: Marianas Trench

Say “hello” to Adele’s new song

Publication date: November 5, 2015.

“Hello” was not only a greeting last week. On Oct. 23, British singer Adele released her latest single titled “Hello.” This is her first song release in three years, so it’s kind of a big deal for her fans.

The single is a part of her long-awaited third album entitled 25, a reflection of her age when the album was recorded.

So, where has Adele been Continue reading Say “hello” to Adele’s new song

Andrew McMahon brings wilderness to Reading

Publication date: October 1, 2015.

Center-City Reading was anything but quiet on Wednesday, Sept. 23. Berks County residents of all ages gathered together on the 500 block of Penn Street to see Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness perform a free show as part of the “Downtown Alive” concert series. Striking Matches performed the first concert on Aug. 5, and Gin Blossoms will perform the third on Oct. 23.

“Downtown Alive” features Continue reading Andrew McMahon brings wilderness to Reading

Music or lyrics?

Publication date: September 17, 2015.

Listen to your favorite song and really focus on what you hear. Which musical element hits you first, the instrumentals or the lyrics? Which one do you connect with more? For years people have debated over the importance of lyrics to music and vice versa.

Earlier this week in his Writing about Continue reading Music or lyrics?

Festivals to hit this summer

Publication date: May 7, 2015.

It’s finals time again, and summer is fast approaching. This can only mean one thing to die-hard concert lovers: music festivals.

March brought the SXSW festival in Texas, followed by California’s Coachella Valley festival in April. While these popular events may have passed, never fear. You still have plenty of opportunities to pack up your car with your friends and your favorite playlist and road-trip it to these summer 2015 music festivals.

The Gentleman Stopover Continue reading Festivals to hit this summer