From Breach’s creative standpoint, his new single is alright but not too moving. But if he can fully produce a Flesh Tone dance-pop follow-up for Kelis, that’d really awesome. Kelis doesn’t fully open up here, staying more reserved as she similar did on her latest album, Food. That’d be nice if she put herself more out there like “Acapella” and tried the dance gig again especially now with talented straight-up house producers left and right.
Can you call the videos accompanying Jamie xx’s recent singles “music videos”? They are kind of like lyric videos, isn’t it? Floating in this nebulous middle of video-not-video. “Sleep Sound” actually has an official video, though I encourage people to watch these instead because it’s way more dynamic and engaging.
It’s so simple; it’s just bunch of squares changing shape, each square assigned a reaction to a different sound. But this is definitely a favorite video from this year so far for me because his is basically how I mentally visualize music when I come in contact with them. I take attention to each individual part of the production and imagine its physical makeup and movement. So for someone to visually interpret it so creatively, I can only give praise to the work.
A mixtape titled Hoop Life could’ve gone a very cliche route, flexing the obvious “ballin’” narrative. But no, this is Lil B we are talking about here. If anyone’s gonna flip the script and write inspirational basketball-themed anthems about ambition or turn Bball-court-set club bangers, it’s going to be The Based God. I return to this title track the most from the tape because, well, listen to it. This is Hoop Life defined — putting in the hard work for glory and triumph. And if this doesn’t spell out #based, then I don’t know what does.
I’m such a sucker for long-running prog disco bass lines like the one in this Juan MacLean track. This is a synth noodle away from turning into a beard-stroking disco-pade — just check out those screeching electric guitar solos, though. But then Nancy Whang steers the thing back into the golden dance-pop it’s meant to be as she eventually steals the show once again, like the past Juan MacLean singles. I dig the album version more than this single version, but this will do.
The Juan MacLean drops their long-awaited full-length In a Dream on Sep. 16 via DFA Records.
"Best Mistake" by Ariana Grande (ft. Big Sean) [Republic]
"Best Mistake" is not a perfect song. Some parts sound like Ariana Grande is playing R&B dress-up, accentuating her vocal delivery with an extra unnecessary push to appear more grown and stylish. But I’d say about two-thirds of this sound painfully sincere in translating heartbreak and regret, which makes her impulse to big herself up comes off as a slight disappointment. Oh, and the more we forget about Big Sean’s clunky verse, the better. My heart goes to "Problem" as my favorite song from My Everything by far. But “Best Mistake” is sure a close second.
Her last record, Yours Truly, flexed her theater kid tendencies, switching from tried-and-true contemporary pop and retro, late-’90s grabbing R&B without breaking a sweat. While she let her chops in theatrics play best to show breadth in style, “Best Mistake” is the best example of Ariana Grande fully living in an emotional space in character. She knows what this incredibly grey, destroyed production demands. And she responds with a performance driven by incredible restraint and control while putting on a naturally written face of a broken heart — it’s telling that she lets her quiet hush land as a heavy weapon instead of her usual skyward falsettos.
Ariana Grande shows her artistic growth by pulling off her best in a more traditional context — no assistance from Zedd’s booming EDM or horn-driven drops with an Iggy Azalea verse. This is all her, making every drop of drama count. Big Sean might topple the carefully built tower of a pop song, but even with a tone-deaf verse, she regains control to make it the heartbroken ballad she aimed it to be.
"Mundo Bizarro (DJ Q Remix)" by BFlecha [Arkestra]
To lighten up the mood, here’s an awesome DJ Q remix of BFlecha’s brilliantly fun single “Mundo Bizarro,” from her criminally overlooked 2013 record Beta. The remix definitely sounds like it has the touch-up from DJ Q with its clean, airy synths and sleek structure. I discovered both last year, and they ruled my 2013 so I’m happy they got to somewhat work with each other for one more great dance track. DJ Q’s album Ineffable from this year is out by the way.
If you follow electronic or pop music, you may have heard of PC Music lately. If not, cool. The label headed by producer A. G. Cook deals with a particular style that’s now their signature at this point. Artists on PC Music deal with bright pink, practically saccharine, high-energy dance-pop, and the vocal-led pop tracks sometimes feel eerily artificial thanks to monotone vocal delivery and disconnect in tone with the otherwise sugar-high energy surrounding it. There’s definitely precedent for this, mostly tapping into the more kitschy realms of electronic pop music, but it’s rendered kinda alien and surreal to remain something intriguing as a piece of music.
The signature music is singular enough to be easily imitable. As I did some weekly digging for what’s new in music, I stumbled across a few other non-PC Music artists (who I’m not going to name) tapping into the similar realm in sound — the distinctly bright tones, super-fast rhythms and helium-fueled vocals. The thing about them that made me step back was the fact their sources were presented fairly straightforward. You can take a phrase off the chorus, run it on Google search, and find the source they took to build the track.
So that’s what I did, because couple songs seemed like just sped-up versions of the original with only little touch-ups in production. Sources pointed to mostly obscure cheesy pop. I don’t mind sample-led production, but there’s a conflicting disconnect here regarding the borrowed sources and the resulted product. The latter is something perceived as stylish and presumably forward to taste, while the former is nothing a lot of people would go near or proudly claim as something they admittedly like. The new tracks have this deceptive irony to it, intentionally or unintentionally, that mistakenly approves one’s taste by poorly dressing up its root source as socially tolerable music in the perception of the listener. It reminds me why I hate trap-rave music and its poor appropriation. Honestly, it’s tasteless and ignorant.
Red Bull Music Academy Presents: Diggin’ in the Carts (Trailer)
RBMA has been splendid giving insight to producers and scenes who put out some of the most intriguing music. They have a documentary coming out, Diggin’ in the Carts, chronicling Japanese video game music, its the big-time composers, and the current-day producers who has been influenced by the synthesizer music.
More and more I dig into synthesizer-based, technology-exploring music (electronic music, I guess), the more I realize that interest in electronic sound and its infinite amount of dreamy textures come from my youth, filled with video game consumption. So I’m looking forward to this at both with an nostalgic eye and a very curious ear to how it shaped the present-day forward-thinkers — this doc features people like Flying Lotus, Kode 9, Joker, Fatima al Qadiri, Just Blaze and more.
The doc is a six-part series. The first episode premiers on Sept. 4 on the RBMA website. Check out more info from the academy there.
I’m basically a Donky Pitch stan at this point. All releases I listened to from the label this year so far have been amazing, and this Starfoxxx debut is no different. It’s shiny music as Lockah or Vespertown from the label so if you’re into them, you’d like this.