Sometimes when I listen to submissions it feels like I’ve wandered in to a musical word salad. Musicians are drawing influences from so many different genres, cultures and scenes that at times it can be hard for them to accurately describe on paper what becomes more obvious on listening. We live in a hyper-connected culture where the need to bond immediately, through words, pictures and sound has sidelined the actual content, for me at least. What really matters at the end of the day is how good the music is, how it makes you feel and where it takes you; and I’m pleased to say that the tracks in this week’s roundup have taken me to my happy place.
Isserley tags herself as ‘the saddest girl in Australia’ – maybe that has an influence on her sound but this track particular doesn’t feel the least bit sad to me. Advent is both lyrically and musically dark and brooding. Disquieting lyrics hover menacingly over a song that draws in elements of trip-hop, trap and a pummelling dubstep inspired bass that overwhelms the senses at times. I like it a lot. I think you will too!
NYIKO (born Nyiko Beguin) is an American record producer and multi-genre artist based in Los Angeles, California. While his latest release You Know I Loved It deals with heavy themes of depression and heartbreak, he does it in a very upbeat way which almost belies the darker edges of the lyrical content. The track reminds me of Prefab Sprout or a more muscular version of The Postal Service. Fairly heavyweight comparisons there, but You Know I Loved It is a strong enough track to take being mentioned in the same breath as such worthy musical antecedents.
Meant for You by Anahita Skye perfectly echoes what I was speaking about early about drawing from different genres and cultures. Skye grew up in small town Utah with Iranian heritage, and uses elements of both cultural backgrounds to create a lovely pop fusion. It’s a beautiful mid-tempo pop song, but the use of Persian instrumentation and lyrics really takes the song to a higher plane. You can view it as a catchy pop song, or something more esoteric, but either way it certainly works.
Cobra Starship alumni LEFTI (bassist Alex Suarez) follows up his debut EP with the track City Heart. It’s an upbeat electronic disco number which nods to DFA and Fenech-Soler. Featuring vocals from Louis Epstein, City Heart boasts crisp and clean synth leads, dreamy vocals and a nice line in arpeggios. It’s a real piece of mood music, and the crow sample had me looking round the first time I listened to the track!
Cold is a blistering electro rock song by Italian musician Giungla. It’s got a drum machine beating out a scuzzy rhythm, some distorted vocals and a guitar sound that you wouldn’t like to meet in a dark alley at night. It’s bright and brash and sure to go down well with indie kids and electro fans alike. London label Some Kinda Love really have picked up a gem here.
Liverpool band The Baltic States have served up a treat in the track Brother. It has the feel of an English folk song that has absorbed the rhythms and attitude of trip-hop, lyrics which come have come from a dark fairy tale giving the song an almost claustrophobic, electronic ambiance. For me, it evokes a sense of loss and uneasiness, so much in fact that I’d say that Brother owes as much to an author like Susan Hill as it does to other bands.
White Night is an alternative electro-pop band based in both Berlin and San Francisco. Their track Snow is a beautiful mix of classical and electronica. The members, Willi Leinen and Elizabeth Boardman, in addition to being songwriters and producers, are classically trained musicians who perform on guitar and viola/baroque viola respectively. This mix of styles works brilliantly, and the track glides along slowly, becoming more intricate as it progresses, and Boardman’s vocals lend an other-worldly and sublime feel to this haunting piece.
It must be hard for electronic bands from Bristol to escape the legacy of Massive Attack and Portishead, but Caged White Felines do it very well on Let Me Go. It does tip its hat to the Bristol trip-hop sound, but it is a very different beast –incorporating soul and ambient vibes in to the mix, and with gospel infused vocals to die for it really is a standout track. Keep an eye on this band.
Salvation by Molina is a great take on 80’s art pop. Think Kraftwerk at their commercial peak, or Propaganda around the time of A Secret Wish and you’ll get a hint of what this track is about. Vocally there’s hints of Grimes but Molina’s voice is certainly her own. She pulls off blending a lot of influences in to a unique sound that engages the listener immediately. She cites the likes of Martin Dupont, Philip Glass, Kate Bush and Aphex Twin as inspirations and you can very much hear that in this clever melange of pop and personal politics. Copenhagen is another one of those cities that produces the most amazing electronic acts and Molina is a worthy new addition to that club.
Finishing us off this week is Chicago based act XLVR and their track Naked. This dream pop ballad has a lovely emotional feel to it, with the group creating an accessible and immediate track that you think you’ll have known for years, such is the timeless quality it exudes. The vocals have an open touching quality to them that really draws in the listener. Their Move Slow EP is well worth checking out if you like upbeat and hooky laden pop. XLVR have a great future ahead of them, that’s for sure!
See you next week!