So I made this promise to myself to blog all summer. Well that was clearly a lie.
I started out doing really well. But then something happened?
I kind of fell out of music. I wasn't listening to much. Some things happened this summer. So all in all, I just fell off the face of the earth.
But alas, here we are. Below are all the main highlights of what I did not post about in the past two months. It's a bit soundcloud/video heavy, so you're forewarned.
Two sisters give me a slight Cocorosie-vibe in their haunting and gorgeous track 'River'. The track is incredibly soulful and spiritual, devoted to the Yoruba Orisha, Oshun. Broken beats and carefully plucked instruments waver throughout the track complementing the sister's voices who invoke the listener and the unknown. (The video is, I'm assuming, a baptism. Though it could be a bit trigger-y for some.)
Sophie first came to my attention last year with the sugary and energetic 'Bipp'. Here we are again, this tim it is 'Lemonade' that is deliciously hypnotic. The track opens with a sample of liquid being poured and proceeds to the "chorus", "lemonade, luh, luh lemonade." As soon as you're used to the trance-like lyrics it breaks into a verse that is equal parts jpop-sound, 80s-sugar pop and grime. 'Hard' is similar to 'Lemonade', spastic semi-familiar vocals quickly bounce around industrial metal clangs with twinkling synths that break down into grinding waves of sound. Sophie's work is practically witchcraft.
Speaking of jpop... I feel that this video partially made some rounds on the internet because of the video itself but the song itself demands attention. Femm has a whole plethora of tracks on youtube from the past 5 months or so and they've easily set themselves apart from comparison to any other jpop group or artist. The highlight of the track is the chorus, a lightning fast delivery of a he said, she said kind of narrative. Surely this track will get stuck in your head, you'll find yourself mumbling "I wanna be like her, wanna look like her, wanna act like her." Don't be afraid to check out their other tracks too because they are all absolutely perfect (especially 'Fxxk Boys Get Money').
Grimes Ft. Blood Diamonds- Go
I feel that everyone thinks of a collab between these two fondly, considering the success of their last tag-team effort. This time the narrative of the track seems somewhat mythological, spiritual (this is furthered by Grimes' fondness for strangely symbolic videos). The biggest surprise of the song for me was the drop into a trap-inspired beat (this specific drop reminds me of M.I.A.'s 'Double Bubble Trouble' just a touch). Grimes' vocals are beautiful on the track, lilting with the rising aural synths and then eventually obliterated by the beat.
La Roux- Trouble In Paradise
I've been a die hard fan of La Roux since the near-beginnings of this blog. Trouble In Paradise is a significantly matured project from her debut. Not only is she now a solo project but she also doesn't fly into her shrill upper register in every track, don't worry it is still there but she commands the listener from a somewhat new place. (I've posted about all the singles released prior to the album, so I'll avoid over commentating on them.) The newness of the La Roux's sound lies mostly in the production, it is still heavily synth but less so. Trouble In Paradise is more 70s than La Roux was and it seems that the strongest notes from her debut (such as tropical/reggae elements of 'I'm Not Your Toy' and the cathartic feel of 'Quicksand') grew into this album. Moments in the album live up to the title, Trouble In Paradise with tracks that are remarkably warm and enveloping yet lyrically sparse or downcast. Considering the direction pop-music has headed towards in the past couple of years I was sort of worried about where this album would fall. I was beyond wrong, Elly has crafted another unique, fantastic album, one of the best of 2014 (so far). That should come as no surprise.
Kate Boy- Self Control
Kate Boy has returned after what seemed to be a long break. 'Self Control' is a huge track from Kate Boy that breaks away, a bit, from their past efforts. Their past singles began to seem a bit formulaic in their structure and while 'Self Control' fits perfectly into their discography, something is a bit different. Industrial-themed sounds are still present, powerful vocals are right at the forefront but this time it seems their working in ways that are more simple and more vocally diverse. Maybe I'm just crazy.
TALA- The Duchess EP
Such a perfect marriage between electronic influences, R&B and pop. It seems the whole "wow a new band with R&B and pop influences" trend has died down a bit but this allows more experimental tastemakers like TALA to shine every more brightly. The Duchess is sonically gorgeous, a fantastic amalgamation of samples, select uses of vocals and incomparable atmospheric environments. Many try to develop sound-scenes the way TALA does and many more fail, she just does it so well. My favorite track is 'On My Own In Hua Hin' with its much more upfront percussion, foggy-melodic vocal samples and soulful lyrical presentation by TALA herself (or so I'm assuming).
FKA Twigs- LP1
The meteoric rise of FKA Twigs was always expected. Simply, she's made a name for herself by embracing a new brand of subtlety and nuance. LP1 boils down to the fact that FKA Twigs is thoroughly embodied in her work, often most in moments where all that remains is her wavering voice and a heavy, brooding beat. Singles Pendulum and Two Weeks may strike the strongest chords, in terms of popularity, but they're are merely two awe-inspiring tracks in an album of successes. A personal favorite of mine 'Video Girl' references her career as a dancer in music videos, the inward directly lyrics are powerful and enthralling. 'Video Girl''s lyrics are not only worth commenting on as lyrics throughout the album refer to the self and contain momentous laments and quips of soft dismissal. Twig's vocals and lyrics are fluid throughout the album, sliding between tracks and solidifying long enough to admire until they've shifted into a new pose, in a new place. There is nothing derivative about LP1 and that is a rarity enough in itself. As a debut, there could be no brighter a moment for a sound as dismal and minimal as Twigs'. I already want more.
TIAAN- 'Devil's Touch'
TIANN's 'Devil's Touch' is such a smooth slice of the intersection where R&B meets pop. Apparently the song was inspired by choices made in ones life and how they could either turn out marvelously our could soon turn sour, ergo 'Devil's Touch'. The track is super sensuous, airy like a soft whisper. Instrumentally, the track is heavy on synth beeps and the occasional auto-tune. My favorite moment though is the delivery of the chorus, particularly the end "...and maybe I don't mind if you're looking at me like that, you can keep looking at me" it all feels so smooth and yet it hooks you in, like the song's namesake.
I read somewhere that F(x) is the "most hipster kpop group". In some respects I can see it. Between their "half-makeup" concept for this album and the video for 'Red Light' and the general strangeness of this track, it is a believable hypothesis that they are 'hipsters'. At least, 'hipsters' compared to the typical uniformed, bright colored status quo that pervades kpop. 'Milk' is strange because it is an incredibly subdued track that strays from the trend for high-energy, pop-dance tracks. 'Milk' is quirky and maybe a bit off-putting at first but the Bhangra beat, uniqueness and smoothness of the track will have you hooked sooner than you can imagine.
Nicki Minaj's Remix of Beyoncé's '***Flawless'
You may think that I was going to mention 'Anaconda'. 'Anaconda' is great but not as monumental as the '***Flawless' Remix. On the remix, Nicki seems careful and collected. Her delivery opens slowly and is incredibly sharp. Soon enough Nicki breaks into her famous quick-versed style full of innuendos, profanity and lines you'll be listening to over and over again. Obviously Beyoncé deserves mentioning (duh), her verse is much more rap inspired than in the past and the use of autotune on her changes her swagger a bit. Of course can't forget the whole "of course shit goes down when there's a billion dollars on an elevator" lyric because damn...
Robyn & Röyksopp- Do It Again EP
It comes as no surprise how high quality this ep is. While the namesake track 'Do It Again' is the breakaway store with it's club-filling sound and Robyn at her best-club-queen form, the rest of the ep is enthralling. 'Say It' falls into the droning electronic style of Röyksopp where syncopated beats change slowly over time, Robyn's contribution is little but her vocals evolve into an eerie-chic conversation between her and a robotic voice. 'Monument' is careful, subdued and atmospheric. The range of this ep is one of the most compelling elements: from atmospheric to club-bound, subdued to full fledged and from droning to euphonious, there is never a dull moment in this collaboration.
Shamir- 'If It Wasn't True'
Upon first listen I instantly drew comparisons from Shamir to Deptford Goth, Hercules & The Love Affair, Jessica 6 and Azari & III. Shamir's vocals are deliciously androgynous, appealing to all. The bass is the heaviest element and imbibes an inevitable danceable feel to the track. Lyrically the content seems biographical, the narrative carries throughout and never feels dull. Interestingly, the vibe of 'If It Wasn't True' is heavily disco with the thumping bass, androgynous vocals and emotional lyrics. That is, until the track melts down into a slurry of phasing synths, maybe it is symbolic? Probably not but nonetheless 'If It Wasn't True' doesn't sound exactly like anything else out there and that's a great thing. (Check out his whole ep
A.G. Cook Remixes Zinc's 'Show Me'
The video for 'Show Me' was, in all earnestness, a revelation for me. But that is another story.
Zinc's track is one of my favorites from this year and not just because the video. Another new favorite of mine, A.G. Cook, decided to remix the track. The resulting mix isn't as pc music as some may expect but no worries, it still fits into the repertoire of pc music. 'Show Me' becomes slightly more twee with bright strokes of percussive synths, in the background you'll hear some breakneck d&b-snaps but on the whole the remix relies on moments of simplicity and ambience. Pitched up vocals feel atmospheric amongst hazy production, however this lasts only a moment because right away the track falls into place as a club-inspired twee rave track.
Karen Harding- 'Say Something'
The sound of the summer had to be UK house, or some derivative thereof. So while the production of Karen Harding's debut 'Say Something' may fall a bit into the mainstream, her vocals soar beyond. Upon first listen, she strikes a chord similar to Whitney Houston and it makes sense as she's quoted as saying she wants to do to 90s era music what Whitney did to 80s music. The wobbly beat vibrates below while Harding's gorgeous vocals evoke soul, disco-influences and shrill emotionalism. I'd be surprised if Karen Harding wasn't snatched up to do vocals for some heavy house dj (or djs) sometime real soon.