Spotify has become an essential part of so many of our lives – it’s a relatively cheap/free way of listening to music for a start. For the price of a CD or a few adverts you can get access to so much music from the 1940’s to the current day. It’s made it possible for smaller bands to get their music on a worldwide platform with relative ease and to make a bit of money from doing what they love. But as with everything there is a hidden price. If you have a free account, Spotify are now trialling inserting tracks in to your playlist, for which they’ll get paid by the band or  label.

On the surface, it doesn’t seem such a bad thing, but there’s two things about it that don’t sit well with me. Firstly, there’s the fact that you create your playlist and they’re monetising it, which seems rather unfair even if you have only an advert supported account. You do they work, they reap the reward – very much the Silicon Valley model of how the internet should work! Let’s face it the free accounts aren’t actually without some cost as you have to engage with the advertising on Spotify to continue listening. The second point is that they will be passing off tracks as yours and if you share playlists, blog or have people that follow what you post then you’ll be seen as affirming the inserted song as one to watch, listen to or just even that you like it.

Spotify lost a lot of money last year and it’s a business at the end of the day, so at some point it needs to turn a profit even though it has a multitude options at its disposal already. At present, it seems you can turn off the sponsored song option in the trial version so that’s a positive aspect of this but things can change. It’ll be interesting to see how this turns out! And now, on with the playlist!

Jerk are a Houston-based trio have come up with something special with Socotra, the follow-up to their self-titled Jerk EP of last year. Whereas the latter release could be described as ‘Muse at the space disco’, Socotra takes elements of trip-hop, rock and psychedelia, then catalyses them in to track that’s overwhelming and ominous but very listenable.

The Lost Hills are a bit of a mystery, with very little media presence other than a few tracks on Spotify and Soundcloud. They want to let their music speak for itself and on the basis on Take It Slow and the other tracks the band have made publicly available then they’re right to be so cocky! The most soothing male vocals glide like honey over synth and guitar lines that are chilled, mellow and very classy. I suspect we could be hearing a lot about this band – if they want us to!

From Denver Colorado, Unknower makes a sound that would appeal to fans of Mr.Kitty  and Crystal Castles. On Vampires, you can hear everything from rock to electronica breaking through, all mixed up with a sense of the dramatic but oddly it all contrives to give the track an oddly downtempo feel.  This is one of those genre-defying songs that people might find difficult to get into, but I can imagine rock and electro fans liking it for very different reasons!

Muscovites Sintipon score high on originality for their track Volna. Another hard to categorise track, it’s heavy on arpeggios and brings to mind futurepop as the nearest comparable genre, but the ethereal vocals, elements of motorik grooves and the more experimental sounds give Volna a unique and original feel. You can check out more of their music on Spotify.

Étude en Cours is the B-side on the latest single from Houstonites Children of Pop – it’s left field dance at its best, to my ears owing a debt to early house and techno, but with a stuttering beat that can catch the listener/dancer unaware. The pitch-shifted vocals really work on the sound, adding to the overall sense of dancefloor dislocation. The track will be on the flipside of their track Poids on a limited edition vinyl single to be released via Very Jazzed.

Newcastle (UK) trio Twist Helix are making a name for themselves with their high energy take of synthpop with a rock edge. On Little Buildings they effortlessly add a very anthemic feel to their sound – thanks in part to the amazing vocal range of Bea Garcia – whilst still keeping true to the addictive synthrock sounds of their previous releases.

Based in New Orleans, Rathbone’s This Time has a very effective lo-fi electronica sound, with lyrics he says that were inspired by the poetry of W.B. Yeats. It’s deceptively simple on a first listen, but the more I played This Time, the more I picked up on its’ subtle mix of sounds referencing everything from Beck to Lambchop to 80’s synthpop.

Australian multi-instrumentalist and producer LANKS has followed up his stunning Viet Rose EP, with Comfortable which sees him expand on the tight almost trap sound of that release by accentuating the melancholic and emotional feel to his sound.  The track comes is a tribute to a friend and the work they do – he says the track is written from the perspective of that friend who works in mental health and focuses on the work she does to help others. The embracing nature of the lyrics is complemented perfectly with an arrangement that makes you feel you the song is giving you a great big hug!

ShyBoy cites the likes of Scissor Sisters as an influence and you can hear some of that in He and She. It’s a pop track first and foremost, heavily influenced by 80’s synthpop but with vocal harmonies that bring to mind the likes of 10CC at their height. It results in a song that is poppy and arty at the same time and very catchy! Lyrically the song carries a serious message, focussing on individuality, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Last up this week is the frankly left-field but amazing I’ll Wait by Master Servos – Matt Auxier and Ian Mausoleum take a sound inspired by the likes of Jarre and Kraftwerk but add icy synths and heavily layered and altered vocals to create a track that’s brings a warmth to  a sound that would fit in well within the cold wave genre.  The track is from the EP The Veil which is available on Bandcamp.

Getting to hear so many different takes on the electronic sound from all over the world is a real privilege for us, I hope you enjoy the playlist as much as we did when compiling it! Until next week!