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LINDSEY STIRLING: BRAVERY IS ENOUGH
September 1, 2016 6:35 pm

 

Lindsey Stirling was a sensation and novelty act years ago, with dancing, dubstep and epic violin solos she broke the mold. Being one part of EDM dubstep, one part classical and one part pop, Lindsey has no fear to be who she truly is. However, like most impressive and creative acts, they can be one hit wonders and terribly repetitive after awhile, lacking creativity or diversity.

I am happy to say, Lindsey Stirling is not like those others and she shows her powerful ability and innovation in her new album Brave Enough.

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I actually saw Lindsey Stirling years ago in a quiet auditorium in at the Visitors Center of the Mormon Temple in Washington DC. She played Shatter Me with such beauty and grace being only accompanied by a man with a drum box and a piano. Her passion was unreal and the whole audience was in awe afterwards. If you ever get the chance to see her, I absolutely recommend it.

Brave Enough is a beautiful and strong example of her abilities to collaborate with others while still emphasizing the special talents of each artist. From Rivers Cuomo (Weezer) to Christina Perri and ZZ Ward to Lecare, Brave Enough is so packed full of artists it’s almost hard to keep track of them all. It is great to see her fame being put to good use bringing them all together in one cohesive piece.

Her strongest point in her music is also a bit of a weakness though. Fast paced violin work mixed with dubstep and drums is a wonderful mix and I love it even more in this album, the songs sound clear and individual, never repetitive. The only thing I would want from her would be some more relaxed and slower song. “Gavi’s Song” is fantastic, and I would love to hear more of this style. but it is only a minor complaint, the album and each track is honestly very good and totally deserves your time and money.

I am happy to see this album exceed my expectations. I thought it would be a set of familiar sounding songs that featured some mediocre singing here and there, but I was wrong. It is a variety in writing and collaborations make a wonderful album filled with enough energy to fuel your night drives, video game marathons or morning workouts. Check it out and love every moment of it.

BRIANA MARELA: SWEET ELECTRO LULLABIES
August 15, 2016 9:43 am

 

Briana Marela makes moody, ethereal music. Layered vocals pierce through rhythmic ambiance, washy and compressed, like an ice queen in a steel canyon. Marela self-released two albums before getting signed by Jagjaguwar records, who sent her to Reykjavik, Iceland to work with Sigur Rós producer Alex Somers. The result is All Around Us, a collection of emotionally charged, heavily processed, ambient electro-crooning that put me right to sleep upon my first listen.

And of course I mean that in the best possible way. I was quite content to doze off to her dulcet love songs, whisked away by the aforementioned ice queen to slumber in peace atop her steely canyon of sound. I picture myself melting in a vat of butter, only the butter is covered in ice crystals and I’m made entirely of liquid nitrogen, which is poisonous when consumed so don’t even think about it. Excellent music to nap to, or to study to or to do anything mindless that can be accompanied by ambient music. Not great for long car rides or roller coasters or to be playing from an ice cream truck. But hey, that’s just me.

Briana Marela continues to live in Seattle and perform throughout the Pacific Northwest.

ARON MCFAUL: JUST GETTING STARTED
August 9, 2016 11:43 am

Aron McFaul is a Swedish DJ/producer currently repped by West Coast Recordings. With only one 4-track EP to his name, McFaul is a relative unknown in the sea of electronic/EDM. With fairness given to him as a new artist in a field that is tough to break through, there is clearly more work and change needed before McFaul makes a decent impression. His album Pallas Garden is uninspired and redundant to a fault, with glimmers of a solid musical ear shinning through every once in a while. If there was more work to comb through I might be able to put together a better first impression, but with only four tracks to base him on, McFaul comes up lacking.

In first and second tracks on the album (Intronational, Jam in Circles), I discovered to be entirely placeholders for the other songs. Granted, McFaul’s music may sound completely larger and magnificent through headphones (which I was not using at the moment) due to his style of layering many, many small teeny bleeps, bloops, and chrips.

Take for instance From Love, his most popular song so far with just under 9K listens on his SoundCloud, it essentially gathers all the different kinds of sounds you can use to notify yourself of a new text message on your iPhone, and mashes them together into a semi-cohesive ensemble. While absolutely creative, it’s just not my thing. Which may in part be due to the difference in nationalities; across the pond, the brand of music affectionately titled Eurotrash is wildly popular throughout. For the uninitiated, Eurotrash is more or less EDM, high BPM dance beats traditionally played in the discotheques with flashing lights and ecstasy. McFaul’s version is much more low key with less of a party atmosphere, but still borrows some of the same concepts: repetitive beats that loop and crescendo until they climax, and slowly decrescendo back into nothingness.

The final track, Taverna Times, was my favorite on the project. It features a guitar and drum-n-bass beat, the most melodic sounding song on the entire project. That being said, the song is still relatively sleepy, most akin to what you would listen to if you’re Ubering home from the club in the morning and still want to quietly rage.

Overall, I see tons of potential in Aron McFaul, I will be keenly looking to what he does next.

ORTHY DANCES INTO THE HEART
August 8, 2016 12:08 pm

Ian Orth is an Austin, TX songwriter and producer. His dance project Orthy is a perfect example of the wide variation of music coming out of Austin. Besides the more well known acts such as Spoon, Okkervil River or Explosions in the Sky there is another side to the Austin music scene that Orthy well represents.

The project was inspired by a combination of events. A weekly dance party hosted by Orth in Austin went by the name of Learning Secrets. This was an event that Orth and others would host to try and introduce people that were typically fans of rock music to the electronic dance music scene. They would bring in the best DJs around to try to expose the crowd to a night of good vibes and stellar beats. Orth had been writing music for a good period of time, but never felt the urge to share the music with anyone.

That all changed when he met his soon to be wife. Orth said in an interview, “…Then I fell in love with my fiancée, and I know it’s kind of cliché or easy to say, but I just started writing all of these songs and all of it sort of started coming out.” After that, the music had to go somewhere. It came out in the form of Orthy’s first EP in 2011 called Suenos. The three tracks on the EP have a very organic feel to them, as far as electronic music goes. There’s a bedroom production quality to the tunes that is undeniably attractive. The track “City Girl” is a standout cut.

Orthy came back in 2014 with another EP called E.M.I.L.Y that garnered the band a little bit of critical success. They were featured on NPR’s World Cafe later that same year. Most recently, in 2015, the act released yet another EP titled Listen to Her Heart after the Tom Petty classic. Orth reworked the Petty song into a slow pulsing electronic groove. The EP also contains remixes of a few tracks that appeared on 2014’s E.M.I.L.Y.

Orthy will be playing at the Sound on Sound festival in Sherwood Forest outside of Austin with a killer lineup featuring Courtney Barnett, Run the Jewels and Phantogram to name just a few. Keep an eye out for Orthy in the future as they have to be poised to release a full length record at some point.

BAAUER DOES MORE THAN SHAKE
July 29, 2016 6:38 pm

Have you ever seen the movie That Thing You Do!? A great movie about a 1960’s boy band who grew to national stardom with a “one hit wonder.” This happens pretty often in our world, a song is born and it will become insanely popular and then the artist will leave the spotlight as fast as he or she got there. But out of the many “one hit wonders,” few inspired countless online videos and dances quite like the Harlem Shake has.

Now if you don’t know what “The Harlem Shake” is, please watch this. Baauer made this song in 2012 and it became a phenomenon, you could watch different Harlem Shake videos for hours on end and still have more to watch. But at the time, I frankly didn’t even know who made the song, I just knew it existed and people made videos from it.

The artist Harry Bauer Rodrigues, better known as Baauer, is behind the infamous song and has come out with a new album called Aa filled with club blasting EDM tracks with a lot more complexion and depth than the Harlem Shake.

He has put a lot of work into this album, with the first half of the album being instrumental and the second half primarily featuring other artists including M.I.A., Novelist and Future, it is a much more well balanced album compared to long list of sporadic singles from the past few years. I was pleasantly surprised at the diversity in the tracks.

Songs like Sow and GoGo! are his classic club anthems, but it’s a good thing to have these. He knows how to write fun songs that have good synths and pull the audience in, but sometimes they do lack deeper talent and composition that you hear in Deadmau5 and The Chemical Brothers.

On the other hand, his songs that involve other artist’s production and singing are strong and show real evolution in his abilities as a DJ and writer. Day Ones and Temple are powerful songs that make the album worth picking up at the store. Future is actually one of my least favorite artist on the album, but here with Pusha and Baauer, I can even enjoy him.

At the end of the day, the album shows some minor echos of the Harlem Shake, but don’t let that dismiss listening to Aa, you could find some good stuff that you’ll want to listen to for the next few years.

A NIGHT OF CHOCOLATE AND CHEVAL
July 28, 2016 6:50 pm

When walking into any small time club, you can expect some loud popular music while waiting for a band to go up on stage to have fun and play some cool tunes. But last night at U Street Music Hall in Washington DC, a small club turned into a musical hot box.

20427_620380401430800_4122135562059143816_nStarting the night with some cool DJ work from local artist Dirty Chocolate, he pumped out some of his own music while playing club hits with elegantly twisted remixes. From metropolitan city Gaithersburg, Maryland, he taught himself how to make music while going deep into the internet. From humble beginnings (graduating the same high school that I did) to sick clubs, Emmanuel Osemene has a strong future ahead of him. I had a minute to chat with him about his experiences with music after the show:

I’ve always been a huge fan of music…I love discovering music and finding people who push boundaries. It’s cool to see talented people use their imagination to make music better. You wouldn’t hear it in my music but Pharrel, Timberland, Daft Punk, Juicy J, Kanye West, Justice, Radiohead, Pink Floyd, and Tame Impala have been some of my biggest influences.

After him, the crowd turned around to the main stage and there were so many switchboards and keyboards that I honestly had no idea what to expect. Then the band started to play and I was immediately blown away as the four of them played musical hacky sack, taking turns on solos and bits of the song while perfectly supporting each other.

Their name is Club Cheval, they live in Paris, France are in the states for a bit to tour. Theyed play song after song of fantastic electronic sound and mixing with a superb drummer in the back who ended the show with the gnarliest drum bit I had ever heard. I had a chance to talk to Panteros666 (the drummer) right after their set list.

Tell us about yourselves…

We live in Paris, but we we are from a little city called Lille…We have a lot of influences there from Britian and Belgium so we have that kind of culture where we just mix everything together.

Where do you get you unique sound from?

Literally everywhere. We don’t put any genres on any pedestal and have no hierarchy with our music. We listen to stuff like Hip-Hop, Balie Funk from Brazil, Slow Jam and experimental stuff. I’m into trance and lots of other stuff. Each one of us has our own certain sound and we like to mix it to create something different. It doesn’t really work well in France though, so that’s why we’re here, we can relate better with the people. Sometime we are just too powerful for them and that’s probably why we are bigger here.

How did you guys meet?

To cut a long story short, we were all doing our high level studies which actually including political sciences, sound engineering and other areas. But we got together in our small city and were really obsessed with making a new breed of electronic music. We did well in our little city and then moved to Paris and met a lot of people and now were here playing music.

It was amazing how humble and relaxed Dirty Chocolate and Club Cheval were. It was a fantastic show, great start and great end with happily ringing ears all the way home. Check out more Dirty Chocolate here and Club Cheval’s tour dates here and new album here.

MARIAN HILL IS ONE BEAUTIFUL ACT
July 27, 2016 7:15 pm

Have you ever watched The Music Man? A brilliant film from the era of great musicals. The soundtrack is inspirational and it is quite the timeless movie. The main characters, Harold Hill and Marian Paroo, are a wonderful duo and bring a lot of life to the movie. Production artist Jeremy Lloyd and vocalist Samantha Gongol are huge fans of The Music Man and took the main characters’ names for their electronic and R&B duo band calling it Marian Hill.

The sound that comes from songs like Lips and One Time may sound very generic at first, almost bland, but if given time to really soak in, the are many surprises. There is a lot of talent here between the two and the also often get the help from their jazz friend Steve Davit.  There is something really special here.

It is not special because of the powerful lyrics or good beats alone, it comes from the beautiful mix of them together. Gongol has a sweet voice that give the appearance of innocence, while piercing the ears with deep emotion that surpasses the normal filters and can mean so much more if carefully listened too. Lloyd compliments her perfectly. His production capabilities rivals OK Go and Flume in my opinion, simple and creative on level that only those who carry music in their blood can wield.  

I can’t stress enough how bland I thought their music was at first, I listened to it in the background of my other work and playing games and was totally unimpressed. BUT after listening to it more, the true beauty and power manifested itself. Their debut album ACT ONE is a demonstration to the world what true creativity can and should be, like the master duos The White Stripes and Matt and Kim, creativity is their most powerful tool.

I highly recommend “I Want You,” “Lips” and “I Know Why” to really see these two at work. I hope you’ll enjoy their music because I know I’ll be listening to it for the rest of the year. Here is “Down,” another great example of their stunningly amazing talent.

HANNAH GEORGAS: NOT JUST FOR EVELYN
July 26, 2016 6:02 pm

For those who haven’t heard, Hannah Georgas is a singer-songwriter based in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Her newest album For Evelyn was released on June 24th of this year. Eleven tracks in length, For Evelyn deals with feelings of maturity, inadequacy, and the role of generations play in our psyche. Named after her grandmother, the album is an enjoyable listen that blends melancholy with smooth dance production.

Georgas first came up on the indie pop scene in 2009, when her first EP The Beat Stuff was picked up by Hidden Pony Records. After a few tweaks, the record was put out and was quickly licensed for commercial use by companies like Starbucks and Wal-Mart. That’s about as good as it gets for a fledgling artist, landing corporate behemoths that play their music on a loop throughout the week. Before long, Georgas was being featured on television shows and Canadian radio leading up to her full-length debut in 2010. This Is Good was responsible for Georgas nabbing nominations in Best New Artist of the Year as well as Songwriter of the Year at the 2011 Juno Awards. Riding the momentum, Georgas toured internationally up until 2014, dropping a second self-titled album and building credence as she went.

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Flash-forward to 2016, For Evelyn is a wandering, all-over-the-place record that flits from high to low throughout the project. Standout tracks that peaked my interest include “Waste,” “Evelyn,” and “Crazy Shit.” “Waste” rides along a groovy synthesizer beat, infectious to the ear and inducing self-inflicted head bobbing. Georgas croons along in her signature sing-song voice, nonchalant and cool as a ‘cuke.

Leading up to “Waste” is “Evelyn,” a song which fits my oh-so favorite vibe of beats that sound like they belong in the TRON universe. The hook, verses, chorus, synthesizers; all work together in just the right way that tickles my fancy. As someone who definitely appreciates good synthesizer production, For Evelyn is chock-full of alterations and atmospherically attractive rhythms that suit Georgas to a tee.

Last but not least of my favorite three tracks is Crazy Shit. In the bottom half of the album, Crazy Shit is an all-around fun dance tune that works well whether you’re dancing in your room or out driving in the fresh night air. Much of For Evelyn imbues a nocturnal feel; from the production to the subject matter, this is an album that is better suited to periods of self-introspection and reexamination.

Georgas has released an overall catchy and fun album that continues her series of musical success’s and successions. Be sure to pick up a copy on iTunes, or listen for free on Spotify. With so much to say, put simply, Georgas is worth listening to.

FLUME GETS UNDER YOUR SKIN
July 22, 2016 4:20 pm

Electronica, Dubstep, Trap, House and Dance are some of your standard groupings for modern EDM. Flume seems to achieve a transcendence of all this while mixing in some profoundly experimental sounds and strong hip-hop elements. His newest album Skin is this great achievement. Suffering from a handful of small issues throughout the album, Flume still brings new life to the genre.

Born in Australia, Harley Streten began making music with a basic production disc found inside his cereal box at 13 years old. At the age of 21, his first album, self-titled Flume, was put out through Future Classic and the next year, 2013, it had a strong US release. With songs like Some Minds that came out in 2015, tours and popular remixes, Streten has been one active young man.

This brings us to Skin. I’ll be upfront, it isn’t my favorite of all his music, but this does not mean that it doesn’t have some seriously impressive tracks that will find their ways to my personal playlists.

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From the beginning of Skin, songs like “Helix” and “Numb & Getting Colder” really show off his deep dedication to EDM and the art of music. He throws out the standard formula of builds and drops on many tracks for progressive pieces that feature very unique sounds and samples. Just like Skrillex and Daft Punk have explored what sounds can be made inside of software programs, Streten brings some surprisingly new sounds to the world. Listen to “Lose It”, “Free” and “Innocence” to better understand this impressive creative nature he has deep in him.

This is the main strength of the album, the ability to meld different sounds and use various samples in odd and interesting ways you’ve never imagined would work so well together. Flume is also a master of bass, seriously, your subwoofer probably hasn’t worked this hard in a long time. With pounds of drums and ambient bass lines, I haven’t heard songs with beautiful bass lines like this since Deadmau5’s 4×4=12.   

He also mixes in a lot more hip-hop than I expected and it makes his music even more appealing and more addictive. You Know is such a progressive hip-hop/rap dedicated piece, if it weren’t for the other similar songs, you wouldn’t believe it was actually on Skin. My favorite on the album is Smoke and Retribution featuring Vince Staples and Kučka, its rhythm is so strong and the pauses with light synth parts is downright powerful.

Skin takes some dedicated time to understand and appreciate. It does something that I haven’t seen anywhere else using very different tones and genre melding tracks even including the infamous Beck. It is a hit and miss though, some tracks are great and appeal to everyone, but others might be only attractive to a select few. But if you like any kind of EDM, you’ll find a new favorite song from Flume.

WAKING UP NEXT TO JON BELLION: THE HORROR
July 12, 2016 6:04 pm

Jon Bellion is a singer songwriter hailing from Lake Grove, New York. When I first came across Bellion, I admit I did not know quite what to think. Heavily tattooed with perfectly stylized hair, Bellion easily resembles the female adolescent standard of beauty; dangerous on the outside, sweet and sensitive on the inside. Within that curated image however, lies an individual deserving of critical acclaim for his hard work and true talent.

Suspending disbelief long enough to dive into the actual music, I was careful to not jump into the position of “overly critical.” After all, the most lauded critic is still well below the worst artist. What are my qualifications to raise up or bring down someone desperately trying to be heard and to find like minded people to empathize with? None at all, besides being a person with strong opinions and an old Macbook, really.

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Nonetheless, I admittedly did not like Bellion at first take. Between the heavy pandering to his fan-base in terms of appearance and musical content and the pop vibe that comes across stronger in his later works, Bellion is up there with N*SYNC and One Direction on the list of artists catering to the mainstream. But even saying that while looking at Bellion’s entire discography, he has always held strong onto his own individual core. He was more acoustic early on, as well as mixing in some hip-hop and electronic. Talking with my friends and colleagues about him, both male and female instantly recognized his name as well as his place in pop music history. While he may not be the number one crooner floating off the radio waves (never say never, stranger things have happened), Bellion has solidified himself in a position of authority and minor prestige.

Bellion initially rose to fame in 2013 when he wrote the chorus for the 2013 hit song “The Monster by Eminem feat. Rihanna. After that, he snagged two lengthy tours playing shows and building a name for himself. After four mixtapes, he was ready to release his first album this year.

It cannot be denied that Bellion has a sickeningly nice voice. He rides and flows over the beat, whether it be cotton candy pop, EDM, or hip-hop. The disappointing aspect of that is listening to his 2016 album The Human Condition, and bearing witness to Bellion’s prodigious use of auto-tune and tools of that ilk. It screams inauthentic in my eyes to blend a powerful voice like that in order to appeal to the many instead of the few. While his choice of song naming might not win any awards (lead singles being “All Time Low,” “Maybe IDK,” and “Woke the Fuck Up“), the actual content is easy on the ears. Incredibly catchy and rhythmic, Bellion has great studios and producers backing him.

With all this, Bellion’s music does not appeal to me due to the fact that I am not his targeted audience. Among those chosen by him, his producers, or whatever other sonic mastermind lurks in the dark corner of the studio, Bellion is wildly popular. That is my critique as well as my lament: I can’t relate to him because he chose to present himself in such a way that only those mirroring his minor Twitter trials and tribulations can relate to.

The Human Condition was released June 10th of this year. Pick it up off iTunes and give it a shot for yourself.

*Last minute edit and embarrassing confession: After writing this review I found myself repeatedly listening to “Woke the Fuck Up,” despite my feelings that it has a subjectively stupid name and sample in the hook. Its frustratingly catchy.