SoundTextVision

Month: July, 2016

Father John Misty: “Real Love Baby”

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Coca Cola in a glass bottle. Lennon and Yoko. The Free Love Movement. Nixon and Ford. The Anti-War Protests. Disco fever. The 1970s. Father John Misty has crafted for us a summer song that mixes pure vintage sounds with a nostalgic trip back to that bygone era. “Real Love Baby” acts as a soundtrack to that lionized decade of flower crowns, circular shades and bike handle ribbons. This is a song that could be easily found in the My Girl soundtrack or in a throwback commercial for a household product harkening back to its glory days. That is to say there is a certain jingle to the way “Real Love” plays. The feedback-laden vocals and the repetitious chorus motivate a contagious bout of finger snapping and feet tapping. It’s a song that sticks itself into your head and buries itself in there like a welcomed audible host.

But there’s an effervescent cheeriness to “Real Love Baby” that I can’t just shake. It’s actually shocking in an odd way. And that’s because the song’s temperament is a huge departure from the meandering and sometimes raw, emotional core of Father John Misty’s most recent album, I Love You Honey Bear. In this song, Tillman achingly coos, “I’m a flower, you’re my bee/It’s much older than you and me/I’m in love, I’m alive/I belong to the stars and sky”. That sense of nirvana-like affectation seems so disconnected from the dark, brooding bodies of his previous work. Yet, that dissonance would be more jarring if the song wasn’t so damn good to begin with. “Real Love Baby” is the definition of an infectious summer montage tune, with just enough hints of instrumentation in the light drum beat, guitar licks, and tambourine taps that keeps the pulses of this song kicking to life from the very beginning.

Yes, “Real Love Baby” is a gentle rock ballad that calls back to a supposedly idealized moment in time. But I also have to mention Tillman’s evangelical background because “Real Love Baby” sings like a Sunday hymn. The layered choruses praised throughout and the repetitive nature of its song structure lend some credence to this argument. I could almost envision myself standing in a pew, belting out these lines with a rousing congregation, feeling right at home. And maybe that’s what Father John Misty was going for with “Real Love Baby” – a transcendental distraction that is trojan horsed into the structure of a ’70’s love ballad. That, or maybe I’m reading into it too much. Just give the damn song a listen already and decide for yourself.

What I’m Listening To: Week 9

1. Cold Water – Major Lazer (Feat. Justin Bieber, MØ)

Say what you will about the Canadian Ken Doll but he sure knows how to pick his features. After collaborating with Diplo on the monster hit “Where Are Ü Now”, Justin Bieber lends his pipes to a Major Lazer single entitled “Cold Water”. The song itself is another strong entry for the electronica pop pantheon. As the beats echo and vocals warble, they give off some respite from the damning Heat Dome of 2016. It’s an invited distraction for our senses, keeping focus on our ears and relieving our sweat glands in the process. The title itself and the rippling visuals in the lyrical music video further reinforce that “cooling” effect. With a soaringly sonic tune and an addicting hook, “Cold Water” keeps you listening all the way through. It’s another pop anthem with a stadium-minded presence, bound to be a massive (yet late) summer hit for Bieber, Lazer and MØ.

Watch the lyrical music video for “Cold Water” by Major Lazer below: 

2. Hyper Dark – Sleigh Bells

Sleigh Bells returns with a moody, industrial sounding single entitled “Hyper Dark”. The song plays in a restrained manner while holding just enough audible tension to keep us listeners interested. A direct descendant of noise pop, the distorted whirrs, random clicks and feedback sounds that pervade “Hyper Dark” seem random at first. Then after a few listens, a faint pattern of seemingly randomized noise emerges in the song’s progression. There’s a slight trickle of tunes, a subtle flicker of effects, something there that’s meant to be just barely noticed. It’s a far departure from their more enthusiastically sounding singles but something to be enthusiastic about nonetheless.

3. If I Ever Was a Child – Wilco

Wilco recently announced a new album titled Schmilco. And I’m excited. I’m excited because I’ve listened to “If I Ever Was a Child”, their newest single and I want more. Right Now. “If I Ever Was a Child” paints a poignantly nostalgic picture of one’s childhood. It’s a dark song, carefully sifting through one’s past haunts and current pains. Being caught in a state of reminisce, Jeff Tweedy, the lead vocalist, sings pointed lyrics such as, “I never was alone/Long enough to know/If I ever was a child”. And that there is the wistfulness of adulthood we’ve all faced succinctly expressed in just three short statements. Moreover, the country/indie influenced tune here is subtle yet powerful. And it’s catchy too. There is life coursing in the song’s verses and choruses, a streak of audible optimism in spite of all the darkened emotions expressed within the lyrics. Wilco’s newest album, Schmilco, is scheduled to drop on September 9th.

4. 7/11 – Tate Tucker

There’s a distinct split in Tate Tucker’s newest single “7/11” that caught me off-guard. But I have to say that it just barely manages to work. The first half is 100% rap with Tate Tucker unleashing a torrent of verses extolling the party life. The introductory chorus sings, “Stop drinkin’ at 7/Woke up at 11”. What follows shortly after is Tate Tucker’s aptitude for wordplay. He deftly raps, “Cordially/Informally/Informing me/Of the formalities/That’s sure to be”. Now, I’m not exactly sure what all of this means but it sure sounds nice coming off rapid-fire from the rapper’s mouth. Then cue the break and transition into a more soulful and electro-dance influenced phase. It’s a off-kilter song, a bit unsure of what it wants to be. Yet, it’s still as catchy as hell and a fun summer listen from the up-and-coming artist.

5. Tiimmy Turner – Desiigner

And so it goes the way of Desiigner’s break-out hit, “Panda”, where there are only one or two decipherable words (“Timmy” and “Turner”. Go figure) in the entirety of his new single, “Tiimmy Turner”. Yet, we all know that won’t stop us from actually enjoying the song. There’s a controlled cadence in here, less frantic and more flow-oriented than “Panda”. It’s good to know that Desiigner can show such restraint in his delivery. And as he starts to show us his true range, “Panda” will always be the springboard that cemented his audience. But in that case, “Tiimmy Turner” then becomes the first decent attempt (Sorry New English) at creating a sound for his fans that is fresh, entrancing and exciting.

6. Bleeding Heart – Regina Spektor

Believe it or not, I was a fan of Regina Spektor since her “Begin to Hope” days. Sure, this was most likely due to my sister’s tyrannical control over the car stereo during family trips. Back then, similar artists such as Sarah Bareilles, Paramore, Ingrid Michaelson, and KT Tunstall reigned supreme. So, it’s pleasantly surprising to hear Regina Spektor back with the new single “Bleeding Heart”. The song starts of whimsically as if one were caught in a fairytale atmosphere. But then at the chorus, the song really kicks in, sending itself into an unforeseen frenzy. It’s a song of duality (like Tate Tucker’s “7/11”), not in a profound philosophical sense but in the way that it listens. Soft then hard. Light then heavy. Switches like these are difficult to pull off in a song but Regina Spektor manages well here in “Bleeding Heart”.

7. Not Nice – PARTYNEXTDOOR

Tropics influenced “Not Nice” single by PARTYNEXTDOOR listens like the more dancehall influenced cousin of Drake’s “Controlla”. The song is incredibly simple, just a steady drum beat and a steelpan metronome guiding the vocal delivery all the way through the song. The vocals pine, “Girl you’re not nice, you’re rude/Want me to feel like I’m new/Want me to watch you do you.” With a finger-gun aimed at his exes, PARTYNEXTDOOR fires vocal shots at them one by one, calling them out with ease on the state of their true characters. It’s the sonic version of character assassination, the best part being how well the song distracts from those sentiments through its cool, comfortable and sleek melody of sounds.

 

 

Bad Movies with the Girlfriend: “Me Before You”

Me Before YouPhoto by Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The first time the Girlfriend and I tried to catch a showing of “Me Before You”, she was personally invited to an AMC advanced screening. It was scheduled for 7 pm sharp, a week before the wide release and she was, for lack of a better term, HYPED. However, there were just three obstacles that stood in our way. One, it was first-come-first-serve. Two, the theatre was in Central Jersey. Three, I work full-time in NYC. But there I was, a young professional unwilling to let down his gal-pal during her life-defining moment. I tried my absolute best to get us there on time. But by the time we arrived at the box office, all of the tickets were claimed and the movie was well under way. Lesson learned. Don’t underrate the combined viewership power of teenyboppers, soccer moms and elderly cliques. There are good reasons why movies like these manage to defy expectations by still getting made. Anyways, we were offered vouchers as consolation prizes. I quickly promised her we’d see it when it was in theaters. We got dinner at the local pub. 

The second time the Girlfriend and I tried to watch “Me Before You” we were strolling around her neighborhood after dinner. With no plans, we gave a half-hearted attempt at being ‘spontaneous’ and dropped by the local theatre. Now, this theatre is one of those places where you choose your seats in advance. While we saw that the showing was packed other than the very front row, we still opted to purchase the last two seats way in front. No, I had no idea what we were thinking. Maybe it was the sheer look of joy on her face. Maybe it was because I let her down on our first attempt. But I knew we had to try and SWEET JESUS was it such a mistake. Lesson learned. Never ever pick the front row for anything other than roller coasters. Not the front row in classrooms. Not the front row in SoulCycling sessions (Did it once. Never again). And definitely not the front row for movie theatres. Our eyes were so strained that we booked it out of there in the middle of the “Bridget Jones’ Baby” trailer.

The third time the Girlfriend and I tried to watch “Me Before You” we streamed it online. Yes, I understand. Illegal! Shame! But the time/gas/energy we expended in our pursuit to watch this godforsaken movie seemed economically equivalent to two regular priced adult passes. And moreover, our passes expired in the midst of our failed conquest. We were fully intent on using them for another movie. So instead, we turned to the dark annals of the internet and I’m happy to report that it did not let us down. But while the stream had large Chinese subtitles and a pesky blurred out box in the top right corner, we refused to let these minor nuisances ruin the experience. We were both going to see this movie if it was the last good thing I’d do for her on this earth. But actually enjoying the film? That’s another story entirely.

Rain - Me Before You.jpgPhoto by Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The film opens on sexy, shirtless Sam Caflin as Will Traynor, a young, rich British aristocrat living in a city that looks like London. It’s morning and he’s headed out to work after a quick shag with his fiancee. As rain pours outside, she pleads for him not to take the motorcycle (classic misdirection here). So he begrudgingly obeys and walks out the front door only to get hit by motorcycle… To be completely honest, I have no idea what they were going for here. The irony behind Sam’s paralysis is so palpable that it almost seems appropriate to laugh. Almost. I mean, I nearly did. But come on! Are you kidding me? The dude just got Mad Max: Fury Road-ed by the exact same vehicle he was supposed to drive? And now he’s paralyzed from the waist down? Just look at that photo right above. Those were his last minutes before his life would change. Wearing a nice suit that is that soaked is just the worst. Those writers did Sam Caflin dirty.

In the next scene, we meet a dragon-less, dothraki-less and unsullied-less Emilia Clarke as Louisa “Lou” Clark, a quirky 26 year old gal who just got laid off from her waitstaff job and still lives with her parents. Cue the easiest job search ever filmed for the big screen and Lou manages to take on a well-paying gig as an emotional caretaker to a fully paralyzed Will. And yes, I meant emotional caretaker because Will already has a male nurse looking after him. He’s getting his physical needs met, now he just needs an emotional partner, a forced adult play-date if you will. And so Lou is simply there to provide moral support and emotional enlightenment to the foil that is Will’s despondent state. His black clothing and dungy hairdo only cements the true state of his emotions. Will has essentially gone emo. All that’s missing is a tee from Hot Topic, a lip ring and a pair of Doc Martens. So, for the next half hour, Will broods, grumps and harumphs as Lou toes the wire between cutesy, klutzy and kooky all while performing her duties. I get it. It’s not supposed to be easy but it’s supposed to look cute. Mission accomplished.

But then it happens. The two finally find flickers of affection by…. bonding over a foreign movie and then attending an orchestral concert together???

….

…..

……I mean, COME ON, are we really going to do this again? A pivotal part in the main character’s relationship catalyzed by attending a music show or watching a film together? The opera in Pretty Woman? Waiting in line at the movies in Annie Hall? The Graduate matinee in 500 Days of Summer? The 90’s movie marathon in Pitch Perfect? Tripping on molly while at Coachella in We Are Your Friends? Need I go on? This is a tired old Hollywood trope that’s been dragged out and beaten to a pulp for the umpteenth time. It needs to die a short, sweet merciful death. People find other ways of falling in love. Wake up Hollywood! Sometimes they’re actually nice to each other from the start. Other times they actually try asking the other person out on a date. Couples don’t share a cathartic experience like watching a movie or attending a concert BEFORE they’re interested. That usually happens AFTER the fact. Get a grip. Whatever. I’m nitpicking. Yes, I’m done. It’s fine.

Me Before You SistersPhoto by Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Eventually, the main conflict of the movie takes shape when Lou finds out Will plans to die via an assisted suicide program in Switzerland. So Lou takes this as a challenge and plans out an excursion to a horse race, a wedding and a birthday dinner. This feels like one of those instances where you know a character goes in with the right intentions but the actual objective is completely off-mark. But! It seems as if Will is happier. As if he’s actually changing his mind about, well, kicking the bucket. He appears to be enjoying the time he’s spending with Lou. He starts to allow himself to be caught up in the whimsy, wonderful and “romantical” (as the Girlfriend would say) whirlwind of these meticulously planned adventures. And yet, on Lou and Will’s final trip to the island of Mauritus, Will reveals to her that he’s still intent on dying. Lou storms off devastated. Will pensively stares out into the dark ocean. Their relationship is in ruins. Cue the waterworks for the Girlfriend.

Full disclaimer, I fell asleep around this part. It was 1 am and I had a late night dinner that was kicking in real hard. But apparently I didn’t miss much! According to the Girlfriend’s abridged summary, Lou made it in time over to Switzerland to speak with Will before his final moments. They made up. He also wrote her the most “romantical” letter that she reads while exploring Paris. There, he writes to her, instructing her to buy a perfume, eat a croissant and most importantly, to live well. Random but I’ll allow it. Cue credits. And just at that moment, I remember that I sleepily nodded right into the Girlfriend’s tear-stricken face. The wetness of her cheeks surprised me. I hadn’t realized she was crying! And just at that moment did she also realize that I was asleep for the last 30 minutes of this movie. After a few quick punches, in a quick lie to appease her justified annoyance with me, I told her I liked the movie. But I actually didn’t. And I fully expected to go into this review expounding upon why I didn’t enjoy the movie. But in retrospect, I would be lying if I said such a thing.

To be completely truthful, Me Before You was a sweet yet fleeting film. It hits its emotional beats when it needs to and quickly steps out your mind once the credits roll. It won’t change your life or your perspectives on love, life and death. But now that I think about it, the movie’s fleeting quality is kind of a great metaphor for what Will emotionally did to Lou throughout the movie… But anyways, that is to say that there was no grand concept or noble theme the film was trying to espouse. And I can appreciate that. Real experiences will always trump cinema (the exception being Mad Max: Fury Road, The Godfather I & II and The Sandlot). All it was doing was telling a story about two people crossing paths for a brief moment. One can respect that without having to enjoy it. I actually liked that it provided an affecting experience for the Girlfriend. It tells me that there’s value to be found in the film, it’s just that I’m the wrong person to go about it.

So somewhere in there, utterly invisible to my eye and intangible to my senses, is some legitimacy in the film’s emotional resonance. Or it may be that the Girlfriend just has terrible taste in films. But since she reads this website regularly, I’m prone to go with the former. But in all honesty, it would be too immature and easy of me to chalk it up to gender norms and movie preferences. So we just won’t go there. Ultimately, Me Before You was NOT a bad movie. It was an OK movie. A satisfactory movie. A “thanks for your participation” movie. I know. Shock, shock, horror, horror. How could you possibly review a movie in an article entitled “Bad Movies with the Girlfriend” but not say it is a bad movie? Well. I’m pretty keen on taking the L on this one and moving on. I thought Emilia Clarke’s eyebrow acting was on par and Sad and Rich Finnick makes for someone I can partially sympathize with. So there it is. I officially pronounce the inaugural issue of a “Bad Movie with the Girlfriend” to be a complete and utter failure of a write-up. DEFCON 5. We have a mediocre-at-best film on our hands. Nevertheless, I promise to make it up to you all. The next installation will feature a horrific, nightmare-fueled vision of a film that’s been etched into my mind’s eye…

Mother’s Day.

Mr. Robot: “eps2.0_unm4sk-pt1.tc” & “eps2.0_unm4sk-pt2.tc” Review

robot_s2ep1_elliotbasketballPhoto: Peter Kramer/USA Network

The sky is falling. The end is nigh. The day of reckoning is here. Take a look around at the state of our modern world and we find ourselves wrapped in an ever-growing presence of bleakness, despair and bloodshed. Uncertainty over our futures. Chaos becoming normalized. Violence settling into our day-to-day routines. It seems to me that with the two-part premiere of Mr. Robot’s second season, showrunner Sam Esmail and his writers have taken a good hard look at this current landscape and have chosen to slop that sentiment thick and heavy onto their own show. Like Mr. Esmail promised last fall, Season 2 is supposedly going to get “really fucking dark“. And after viewing Episode 1, it seems like the show is well on his way towards getting there.

But it’s the method by which Mr. Esmail and his writers fold in that darkness that allows the show not to devolve into a vignette of shock value scenes but rather steer towards a nuanced social critique. And they do that by adding in thought, concepts and beliefs into the show in a way that’s not too on the nose. The church group that Elliot attends. Therapy sessions with Krista. The solipsizing monologues by our main protagonist. The book of Revelations recited at the episode’s end. Nietzsche once famously wrote, “If you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back.” Here, Mr. Robot encourages its viewers to gaze into its pit of despair and brokenness. In return, the show channels back a furious and biting commentary on the state of our broken existence. The imagery and themes are thick and heavy. The visuals of a flaming pile of money just barely lapping away at a pristine One World Trade Center in the background. A quick economic rehash of the 2008 Financial Crisis led by E Corp CEO Phillip Price. A flash of a Nancy Grace segment as a character flips through morning TV programming. These are less-than-subtle hints. Flickers of an American pastime marred by crisis and fear. And it breaks down any happy thoughts for our character’s futures.

robot_s2ep1_elliotrobotroomPhoto: Peter Kramer/USA Network

We find Elliot at the beginning of the Season Two in a state of self-regression. He has gone radio-silent. Quit cold turkey. Disconnected if you will (mind the pun). Enrolling himself into a rigid existence that involves meal-based meetings with his new friend Leon (portrayed by Joey Bada$$), shacking up with his über-austere mother and most importantly, no interaction with any electronics or the internet whatsoever. And we get it at this point. He’s trying to extract the tumor that is Mr. Robot from his consciousness. But it won’t be as easy as a bullet to the cheek. No, this goes much deeper. There is something truly, deeply and frighteningly wrong with Elliot’s mind. From the visceral hallucinations of self-inflicted wounds and the chronic sleepwalking bouts. Elliot is far more fragile and volatile than the last time we’ve seen him. And most importantly, with him being the unreliable narrator of the show, this only heightens our distrust of what appears on the screen.

Meanwhile, Gideon, Darlene and Angela are all still contending with the fallout or direct consequences of their actions from season one. Gideon finds himself under the crushing scrutiny of the F.B.I. in relation to the E Corp hacks. Darlene still is mentally distraught by the little progress her hacks have achieved in the grand scheme of things. And Angela faces a existential crisis, trying to find meaning in work or sex or self-affirmation but ultimately failing to do so. So, the chessboard is in place with our main players for this season. Their arcs are visible. That is, until the most innocent of those three gets their brains blown out. With Gideon’s murder, a critical moral core for this season is lost. Earlier on, when he pleaded for Elliot to tell the F.B.I. the truth about the hacks, it felt like the show’s certain desperation for ethics and order before it’s final plunge. Elliot refused Gideon’s pleas but felt bothered enough by the Gideon’s hopelessness. Now, the show is free to spiral downward into a complete tailspin with the remaining three. Elliot, Darlene and Angela. I suspect that this season will see how far it can push these three characters into the darkness without any appropriate guardians or blowback victims to remind them of their moral straying, responsibility or guilt.

robot_s2ep1_elliotrobotPhoto: Peter Kramer/USA Network

“Unmasked” is the key word in the title of the first episode for Season 2. Elliot muses throughout the episode, saying pertinent things such as, “How do I take off the mask when it stops being the mask” and “What mask do you wear?”. He fights with his alter-ego Mr. Robot, a malcontent specter of his father intent on getting him back in “the game”. Throughout the first episode, they struggle back and forth. In conversations with strangers. In the bedroom alone with an imaginary gun, fake threats and hallucinatory bullet wounds. Elliot thinks he’s in control. The strict regiment is working for him. Until, he realizes it isn’t. Mr. Robot has found a loophole. Sleep. And during times of Elliot’s supposed slumbering, Mr. Robot awakes and begins to sow technologic chaos a la Tyler Durden and Project Mayhem. The mask is being placed back on. And this time its seems to be permanently affixed as Mr. Robot slyly declares to Elliot, “I’m gonna make you realize…that they see me”.

Losing battles. All of the characters in Mr. Robot are facing them in one way or another. Their futures seem personally apocalyptic in a sense. The readings from Revelations 21 at the episode’s end only further accentuates those feelings of Armageddon. There is no exit from this “infinite loop of insanity” as Elliot notes. That sense of bleakness for the future can also be seen in a seemingly out-of-joint scene in Part 1 of the first episode. The smart home of Madam Executioner that Darlene hacks is reminiscent of a short story by Ray Bradbury called “There Will Come Soft Rains”. In the story, all characters have died via nuclear war. All that remains is a smart home in California that slowly erodes into nothingness. That decay is relatable to the chaos that unfolds in Madam Executioner’s hacked smart home. Alarms blare. Sound system roar. Lights flash. It’s a reminder that our faith in technology is a fake promise, a lie, a con in “con-fidence” as the CEO of E Corp notes.

robot_s2ep1_ramiPhoto: Peter Kramer/USA Network

Therefore, moving forward, there is no shred of trust and goodwill we can give Mr. Robot in the upcoming episodes. As Elliot further descends into madness, the reality of the show becomes more complex and deceptive as his alter-ego. And while we cannot trust the storyline, there is a profound sense of fun and intrigue for us viewers due to that type of narrative uncertainty. Moreover, the moral culpability of Elliot’s actions are incredibly damning. Gideon’s blood is on Elliot’s hands. And with Gideon being a forced player in Elliot’s hacking scheme, he is simply collateral damage. His end was to muse about his failed existence over a neat cocktail and then bleed out on the floor of some random Manhattan bar. For every action, there is a reaction. And Gideon’s death shows that this show is more than willing to exhibit the consequences of its main character’s madness. But the question remains, just how far down does Elliot’s rabbit hole of insanity go?

Watch Mr. Robot Season 2 on USA Network at 10/9C on Wednesdays. 

What I’m Listening To: Week 8

*Apologies about the delay on Week 7’s installment. I was in Iceland for a week but we are now back to our regularly scheduled programming.*

1. Go Off – M.I.A.

M.I.A. is back with an electrifying single called “Go Off” featuring beats by both Skrillex and Blackstar. There’s heaps of energy found in this song, shoveled in exuberantly by all three artists involved. But here, M.I.A.’s rap delivery stands out amongst the rest, even when paired up against Skrillex’s chaotic synth production. Drum beats, echoing vocals, and alien-like sound effects pervade the sound space. However, M.I.A.’s vocals remain first and foremost here while sounding laid-back at the same time. There’s an incredibly deft comfortability in the way that her written words are spoken. They don’t impose their presence on the listener’s ears. They rather slink past smoothly in tandem with the beats and sounds. This is an addicting hit of a single, one that’s sure to boost the hype for her upcoming (and reportedly final) album AIM, out on September 9th.

Watch the music video for “Go Off” by M.I.A. below: 

2. Superlove – Tinashe

Listening to “Superlove” by Tinashe is like taking in a compressed hit of all the top songs from pop stars such as Katy Perry, Fergie and Nicki Minaj. Cop that with a quick dash of early 2000s R&B and you have “Superlove’. There’s an alluring feature to be heard here as Tinashe keeps the song’s tempo fast, the lyrics bubbly and the aura super sweet. This is a song undeniably oriented towards a female audience, meant for the ladies to proudly karaoke to. It’s an “celebration to happiness” as the artist describes herself and a solid attempt at nabbing a radio hit single for the summer. But who can blame her when she’s this good at crafting a mix as light and sugary as the pop idols who’ve come before her?

3. Silhouette – Goldroom

I’ve categorized dozens of songs throughout these past eight weeks as quintessential songs for the summer of 2016. Goldroom’s newest installment “Silhouette” should be proudly shelved amongst those already labeled and stocked. There’s a hipness to the single, in the way that it makes your body parts move to its graceful and electro-pop beat. There isn’t much thematic material or grand ideas to dive into here. Just a few repetitious lyrics, “Without you I’m a silhouette” and “Without you”, draped in an cloyingly fresh beat that’s prime material to be driven, partied or danced to. “Silhouette” is another textbook example of songs that’ll carry you through the long and hot summer nights.

4. Fever – Roosevelt

One of my favorite songs off of this week’s playlist. “Fever” by Roosevelt is just a cool-sounding song . But there’s nothing too extraordinary or out of the norm to be found here. It’s just that the song contains all the trappings of a solid take on summer electronica. Soft beats, light vocals and cresting synths. Try to not get addicted to the repeat button as the song fades into a light, airy and all-too-quick conclusion.

5. Library Magic – The Head and the Heart

Simple and melancholy. “Library Magic”, The Head and the Heart’s newest single plays like an up-tempo Simon and Garfunkel track. The self-reflective tone of the voices singing here only further cement that sentiment. Moreover, fans of the band will be delighted to hear the folk genre still running strong with this band. As the paired vocals insist on some vague hope for the future. Lines such as “There will always be better days” and “It’s easy to begin and hard to end” signal that longing for something better and yet a ways before they’ll reach that point.

6. Welcome To Your Life – Honne

“Welcome To Your Life” by Honne is a controlled take on an electronica song. There’s a certain level of restraint exhibited here even as the chorus vocals climb higher and higher. That aural hold-back keeps the listeners locked in and waiting for the moment until that restrictiveness is released. The push and pull between the verses and chorus displays a nice dynamic in vocal delivery. Muted then loud and back again, that pattern induces a soothing effect, keeping us hooked into its roller-coaster-like flow of plateaus, ups and downs.

7. Catching On – Elephante

Elephante has gifted her listeners with a sleek and catchy EDM single called “Catching On”. The song features beats crafted by Nevve that features an excited house tinge to its sound. That combination of the heavy percussion, a slight tropical vibe and the catchy hook makes Elephante’s  “Catching On” worth listening to during the hot season.

What I’m Listening To: Week 7

1. Friends – Francis and the Lights (feat. Bon Iver)

My ears deceived me as I listened to Francis and the Light’s single “Friends”. I was so unsure of whether I was listening to the artist himself or the song’s guest feature Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver, Volcano Choir and The Shouting Matches fame). And that’s because the two sound so damn similar to one another. The auto-tuned vocal layering, the song’s wave-like electro-rhythms and the soft celestial beat that pulsates throughout. All of it just further added to my confusion. Nevertheless, “Friends” is a hauntingly good song. Wholly reminiscent of “Beth/Rest” on Bon Iver’s self-titled album with a bit more pep in its step. This is a song you can slowly groove to, as seen by the synchronized dance by both artists in the music video below. Lyrics-wise, there’s a pleading that’s happening here. As the two artists sing, “We can be friends/Put your head on my shoulders”, “Still waiting on your sunshine” or “I can’t remember what it’s like/To never let go”, there’s a desperation that’s vocalized. But all of that is hidden behind the positive sheen of the music itself. While the vocals seamlessly splice in and out, the longing remains palpable and obvious. The song’s emotional pull showcases the human need to be heard and the ineffable desire to be seen.

Watch the music video for “Friends” by Francis and the Lights featuring Bon Iver and Kanye West below: 

2. Weekend – Louis The Child (feat. Icona Pop)

“Weekend” is assertive, almost cocky in its delivery. It immediately draws you with its jig-jag tunes and punctuated lyrics. Chalk it up to the vocal swagger of Icona Pop and Louis the Child’s chaotically hypnotizing beats. It’s a fun song, one meant to be played in heavy rotation at weekend house parties and late night dive bars. That’s because there’s a fleeting quality found in “Weekend”, which perfectly fits the nature of its namesake. Just clocking in at under 3 minutes, the song’s fast paced nature zips through and finishes without a hint at its sudden conclusion. And just like the weekend journeys we stumble upon and their half-forgotten memories by Monday, “Weekend” provides us with a good reason to hit that repeat button over and over to start re-remembering all over again.

3. Best To You – Blood Orange

Last week I wrote about Blood Orange and his single “Augustine”. This week I bring you “Best to You”, another standout track off of his new album Freetown Sound. Remember the song “Nothing Better” by the Postal Service? The lyrical pleading and denial delivered by Ben Gibbard (from Death Cab for Cutie) and Jenny Lewis (of Rilo Kiley fame). “Nothing Better” is essentially a break-up conversation told via lyrical delivery. Here, “Augustine” takes that same concept in “Nothing Better” and flips it to the perspective of the female. This is a vision of unrequited love told from the female perspective. Here, Dev Hynes sings “Do you really want to?”, showcasing his half-hearted response to the sung pleas of Lorely Rodriguez (from Empress of). She coos off lists that exhibit her conflicted affection when singing, “I can be the only one”, “I can be the best to you, best to you”, and “I feel my bones crack in your arms”. Here, she reveals the pain caused by her love while continuing to chase after that feeling, unwilling to let it go. And in a devastatingly simple way, Dev Hynes closes out the song by rhetorically asking, “Did he even notice?” Incredible.

4. Higher – The Naked And Famous

The Naked and Famous is a mainstay from my college days. Their singles “Punching in a Dream” and “Young Blood” fueled my ears for tireless nights as I stayed up late writing essays and studying for finals. If I could send them a piece of my diploma without my parents finding out I totally would. And now I’m delighted to find out that the band has returned with a new single called “Higher”. It’s a cleaner and controlled song compared to their earlier works until that chorus. And then the nostalgia washes over me all over again. The cresting vocals cry out, egging each other on as the band sings, “Higher, higher/Tonight we raise the debt/Tonight we bury this in fire”. It’s a return to form for what works for this band A welcomed throwback to the type of songs that slithered into the ears of its fans from the very beginning. The Naked and Famous’ new album Simple Forms is set to be released on October 14, 2016.

5. Rising Water – James Vincent McMorrow

James Vincent McMorrow makes his return with an light electronica (!) single “Rising Water”. The song is a cool, soothing track that assuages all initial trepidations just as the moody bass kicks in with the twangy synth. Artists are humans. They grow as they take in life experiences and then use the medium of music to express that intake process. “Rising Water” is a prime example of what happens when an artist excels at that form of creative “exhale”. There is a subtle R&D type flow in “Rising Water” as the pace keeps kicking at a higher tempo. There is life to be found in the song, a sense of activity that hooks you in while the subtleties of the instrumentation ease your ears into a sense of comfortability. If “Rising Water” is a sign of the evolution of James Vincent McMorrow, I’m excited to hear what else he has in store. His upcoming album We Move is scheduled to be released on September 2nd, 2016.

6. WHateva U Want – ScHoolboy Q (feat. Candice Pillay)

Schoolboy Q just released a new album titled Blank Face LP. It’s good. Really good. And “WHateva U Want” is a standout track amidst an incredibly stacked tracklist. The song breathes a vivid nastiness with its lyrical twists and turns that Schoolboy Q pulls off with a certain finesse. Candice Pillay, a standout feature from Dr. Dre’s Compton, coos in on the background, acting as the foil to the jagged edges found in “WHateva U Want”. This track bumps and grinds. The beat selection in intriguing with a heavy electronica vibe coursing throughout. Then there’s the actual lyrics, a monument to the sheer fun of an excessive existence. Lyrics such as “Cribbo in the Hills/Table full of bills”, “Take my debit and go cray/Spend, spend every dollar, all way” and “Benz, Benz, want the rims on the truck” all but help reinforce that sentiment. Schoolboy Q’s new album Blank Face LP is available for purchase and streaming now.

7. Sinner of the Week – Daniel Wilson

“Sinner of the Week” by Daniel Wilson takes a promising mix of various musical influences, ranging from gospel, R&B, electronica and pop, and neatly packages it into a hit-ready single. Effortlessly catchy and seemingly cool, Daniel Wilson’s voice is the hook, line and sinker of this track. There’s a bit of Gnarls Barkley in his delivery, the way that his voice crests up and down according the song’s cadence without any hint of effort expended. The beat is vaguely MJ-esque and I’m talking the “Bad” Michael Jackson era, which, in my opinion, will always be his best years. A solid entry for the summer season, “Sinner of the Week” is a promising indication of things to come as the release date of Daniel Wilson’s upcoming EP, Sinner of the Week, approaches.

What I’m Listening To: Week 6

1. Augustine – Blood Orange

There’s a beautiful subtlety to “Augustine” by Blood Orange. Maybe its the bare bones rendition of the instrumental tracks, the whispering delivery by Dev Hynes or the echoing chorus reminiscent of a church choir. It’s hard to pinpoint all of these varying factors when listening to “Augustine” for the first time. The track plays with such a light and liberated quality that it glides through your headspace with such effortless ease. And the thematic vision of the song partners up with feelings of inevitable passage or ancient self-campaign (see St. Augustine, who inspired the song’s title). Lyrics such as, “My father was a young man/My mother off the boat/My eyes were fresh at 21/Bruised but still afloat” further cement those visuals of idealistic and youthful wandering while showing that they come at a cost.

Freetown Sound, Blood Orange’s new album is available to listen to now. Watch the music video for “Augustine” below: 

2. You – Brika

The first thing that strikes you about Brika’s new single “You” is the elliptical quality of her vocals. They elevate and descend without betraying any effort in their motion. The electronica tunes and sound effects that outline this single are kept simple to a fault. It’s a deliberate act, so as to emphasize the weaving passage of her singing voice. It guides you, and tries to convinces you to move with the beat, whether it be a beating finger, a head bop or a foot tap. Simple and seductive, “You” by Brika avoids the error of complicating things for its audience and leaves you with a fleeting zephyr of a song.

3. Second Nature – Stalking Gia

By far the most addictive song on this week’s list: “Second Nature” by Stalking Gia uses its pulsating beat and sultry vocals to hook its listeners in immediately. There’s a nightlife quality to this song. It’s something you’d want to listen to while cruising through the emptied streets of a vast metropolis. It’s a quieted anthem, if you will, that keeps pushing its head bobbing tunes until the very end.

4. Imad Royal – Bad 4 U

With a light touch of the tropical, Imad Royal has crafted a summer single in “Bad 4 u” that’ll remain under the mainstream radar but shouldn’t. The song has all the trappings of a hit radio song. From the text abbreviations in its title to its repetitiously simple chorus and the trendy use of its brass horns. There’s nothing to be said here other than “Bad 4 U” is exactly what you’d hear on the local radio, perfectly crafted for seasonal use and long forgotten about after the warmth fades away.

5. Bad Suns – Disappear Here

Is there such a thing as post-pop punk? As in the shattered musical remnants of my teenage years reanimated for the succeeding generation? Just recently, bands such as Sum 41, Blink 182 and Yellowcard have released new singles or albums. It seems like they’re catching onto a new trend that I’m just not seeing. But I’m willing to chalk it up to “being out of touch”. It’s the easy way out I suppose. Anyways, “Disappear Here”, the new single by Bad Suns, is what I’d categorize under that newly coined genre. The sound is undeniably reminiscent of my high-school glory days. The catchy hooks, guitar riffs and shouting vocals in “Disappear Here” are timeless in the sense that they bring me back to my Walkman-CD-player-in-my-cargo-pants-pocket era.

6. Melt – JONES

Digital soul. (I’ll admit, I found that term on JONES’ Spotify artist page) These two words perfectly summarize the sound “Melt” provides for its listeners. Cherie Jones’ vocals here are powerful without ever over-staying its welcome. There’s an aurally resonant quality to the single, a vocal warmth in the song’s delivery. “Melt” provides not only a lush overflow of sound but also a synesthesic quality of colors that fill in each note and tune.

7. Come with Me – ISLAND

Easily my favorite track from this week. Like being caught in a cool undercurrent, “Come With Me” by Island courses through your ears in refreshing fashion. It’s a short song, clocking in at just under three minutes. But I’ve always preferred the Irish goodbye over overstaying your welcome. Overall, “Come With Me” is moody, breezy and non-committal in tone. You can’t really grasp what it’s really saying because it doesn’t want to be understood. Moreover, the guitar interlude with the ringing tremelo is a nice touch. A simple yet alluring tune for the extended holiday weekend.