Categories
Music

Disclosure – Help Me Lose My Mind (feat. London Grammar)

A caveat: words can’t fully express how much I love this song. By the end of this post, I will have written a couple paragraphs that (hopefully) capture why I think it’s great, and why I think it’s worth your time. But I’ll be no closer to conveying how my heart swells when I hear it.

There’s a couple things about this song – the last track on Disclosure’s incredible debut LP, “Settle” – that stand out right away. The first and most obvious is the rich, evocative voice of London Grammar’s Hannah Reid. The first time you hear it, the song’s first verse, she sounds warm and familiar, like an old friend inviting you in:

Talk to me and watch me crumble
You will see me come undone
Faithfully I will look over
There I’ll find what you’ve become

It’s a beautiful introduction to the song, largely because it sounds so real, so conversational, so human. Reid imbues these lines with a perfect mix of vulnerability and strength. The “me” and “you” instantly feel like characters, people you might know, maybe even yourself and someone you really do know, rather than abstract fictional constructions. You’re invested in this song’s story right away. And then the chorus hits – the song’s other obvious selling point, incredibly lush and blissfully funky – and the subdued emotion of the verse explodes into a devastating confession:

You help me lose my mind
And you believe something I can’t define
Help me lose my mind, make me run back
What about before?
Keep biding my time,
How much longer?
Who I’ve been waiting for

But what really makes this song special for me is what happens in the spaces between Reid’s voice and that soaring chorus. Namely: nothing. Seriously, several times in this song, nothing is happening. You hear one instrument – the kick drum, the high-hat, a synth – or maybe even literal silence. These gaps sound like the song taking a breath, or the tide receding before the next wave, and for some reason I find them utterly transcendent. I could talk about how the dynamic contrast between the verses and the choruses heightens the impact of the latter and deepens the melancholy of the former, but it goes beyond that. This is just one of those moments you get in music sometimes where everything comes together in a way that’s truly ineffable. I never thought I would consider silence my favorite part of a song I loved, but in “Help Me Lose My Mind,” my heart stops along with the music.

Disclosure – Help Me Lose My Mind (feat. London Grammar)

Categories
Music Remixes

Beat Connection – Silver Screen (Dreamtrak Diamond Sound)

beatconnection

If I’m being honest, Seattle quartet Beat Connection‘s original “Silver Screen” strikes me as a pretty lame track. It shuffles around with its hands in its pockets, tentatively moving from one dopey section to another. It’s too slow and timid to be a good dance tune, too busy to be relaxing or blissed-out. The synths never come together into a coherent sound, and the drum track can’t decide what it wants to be when it grows up. Even at a relatively brief 4:30, by the time it ends, it feels like you’ve been listening to it forever, and yet when it’s over, you find that it’s made almost no impact whatsoever. There are some saving graces – the charming vocals, a wistful pan-pipe melody – but all in all, they’re overshadowed by the song’s indecisiveness.

What we have here, then, is a master class in remixing, courtesy of London’s dreamtrak.

Remixing a track can be a lot like editing someone else’s writing. You approach it with a critical, objective eye, take note of what works, identify what doesn’t, and start cutting. In the end, if you did it right, you’re left with the core of what made the work good in the first place, stripped of all the stuff that was holding it back. You build a new scaffolding around that foundation, and voila, you’ve given something new life.

Gone, in this case, are the busy drum track and schizophrenic synths, replaced by a punchy kick, colorful auxiliary percussion, funky horns, and a fantastic bassline that reminds me of Baltimora for some reason. The wandering, emotionally flat structure is out too, in favor of a more traditional-sounding verse/bridge/chorus setup with higher highs and lower lows. But the original vocals and that great pan-pipe melody are given new prominence, and elevate this track above your average neo-disco/electropop dance tune. Turns out that Beat Connection were on to something with “Silver Screen” – they just needed a little outside help from dreamtrak to get there.

Beat Connection – Silver Screen (Dreamtrak Diamond Sound)

Categories
Music

Joel Compass – Astronaut

astronaut

It’s been a pretty hectic week. Picking up your life and moving to a new city will do that, I guess. I want to fill every spare minute I have with some kind of activity – half because I know I should keep myself busy, and half because I want to try, finally, all the things I’ve been meaning to do for years. And the soundtrack to that kind of week has been what you would expect: fast-paced, high-energy, go-get-em stuff. Every day is a new adventure, and I’ve found myself gravitating towards music that expresses that excitement. A little Revocation, a little Oakenfold, a little Angel Haze. Stuff that won’t let me sit on my butt for too long, cause I’ve always got somewhere to be.

But sometimes you need to slow down a little bit, and sometimes you don’t realize that until you hear the right song.

I went into this post looking for a hyped-up track to fit this week’s mood, but this one caught my attention and wouldn’t let it go. I was hooked as soon the first words hit the speakers: “Living like an astronaut, outer space you can see/It hasn’t happened how I thought, but at least I see clearly.” Joel Compass, all of 20 years old, has a mature, confident presence that belies his youth. The beat trips along behind his soulful, understated voice, slow, placid basslines weaving through sprinkles of high-hat and half-time drums. The lyrics evoke yearning, distance, and perspective, emotions and ideas that go hand-in-hand with the track’s wistful sound. I listened to it all the way through, and then I listened to it again. It was the perfect antidote to the part of me that always wants to be running ahead to the next thing. Take a minute out of your day, slow down, and enjoy.

Joel Compass – Astronaut

Categories
Classics Music

Ebo Taylor – Atwer Abroba

bonfire

You know what no one has said, ever? “This song has too many horns in it.” Or “Hey, this is great, but could we turn the horns down a little?” Or “Why does it have to be a horn section? Couldn’t it just be one horn?” Horns are great, always, period. Case in point: This awesome 1977 track from Ghanaian guitarist and composer Ebo Taylor. Taylor, who’s still recording and releasing new music at the sprightly young age of 77, is a pioneer of the Ghanaian highlife genre, which favors “jazzy horns and multiple guitars” (thanks, Wikipedia!).

I love how lively and seductive this track is. It’s the soundtrack for a party that’s tipped past the point where people are still behaving themselves; this is a song for the loosening of inhibitions, clothes, and hips. A lot of summer music is great because it sounds like the waves, the sun, and the warm wind in your hair. This particular track is great because it sounds like the waves, the moon, and the cool sand under your feet as you dance. Find that – or the closest thing to it you can – and let the horns lift you up.

Ebo Taylor- Atwer Abroba

Categories
Music

HAIM – The Wire

Via http://www.pbase.com/venicepix/

There’s so much good summer music flying around right now that it can be hard to keep up, but I’ll always make time to check out a new track from HAIM. I’ve been a fan of the LA sister trio since catching them at POPSHOP018 last year in NYC. I’d never heard of them, but the crowd was buzzing with anticipation, and by the middle of the first song, the anticipation had turned fully to joy, and I was swept up. Individually, they’ve each got charisma and energy to spare, and collectively, I saw a confidence and a unity among the three of them that quickly drew me in. (I guess growing up together will give you that. It can be easy to forget that a lot of bands don’t really know each other, despite the hours and hours they spend together.) But I became a true convert somewhere around the time Danielle ripped into the dirty, bluesy guitar solo halfway through “Let Me Go.

A childhood spent listening to their parents’ collection of 70s LPs in the San Fernando Valley gave HAIM a Fleetwood Mac-jams-with-Led Zeppelin-at-a-SoCal-beach-bonfire vibe. There’s something old-fashioned about their music, but not in a retro or nostalgic way; maybe “timeless” is a better word for it. A lot of the elements they incorporate into their songs – strong harmonies, great guitar parts, simple verse/chorus song structures, tried-and-true chord changes, handclaps (can never have too many handclaps), lyrics about love and heartbreak – have been around forever because they never get old. The three sisters’ affection for the music of the past doesn’t cloud their youthful energy; I think it enhances it, makes it more nuanced. To me, HAIM is the perfect musical embodiment of the young person/old soul archetype.

So, the song: it’s called “The Wire,” it’s been kicking around as a demo and in HAIM’s live sets for a while, and it’s great. Bouncy, upbeat, propelled by a smooth bassline, anchored by a simple, driving kick/snare rhythm, and wrapped around a catchy little repeating phrase: “I know, I know, I know, I know/that you’re gonna be OK anyway.” The lyrics describe a relationship gone sour, but the music suggests that the protagonist is moving on, rather than wallowing in self-pity or moping around. It swings breezily through its verses and soars up into prime sing-along territory in the choruses – a perfect summer song. HAIM finally announced that their debut LP will be out on September 23, and I can’t wait.

HAIM – The Wire

Categories
Music

St Lucia – Elevate

It’s a beautiful, breezy, blue-sky day in Portland, the kind of summer day you always fantasize about when it’s February and you can’t remember the last time you didn’t feel cold, wet, or hunched over. It’s the kind of summer day that makes every experience seem memorable or important, even if it’s the same routine you’ll be grumbling about in six months. There’s something about the light, the warmth, the colors of the sky, the smell of the warm air, the sound of leaves rustling in the night wind – it adds a layer of beauty and fantasy to everything you do. Sometimes it’s enough to remind you that the long summers of your childhood are still within reach, and the excitement and adventure of your teen years can still be found if you seek them out.

St. Lucia has always been able to evoke those same feelings for me. They’re one of those bands that have the power to transport, to dig out old memories you’d forgotten you had, to conjure images of places you haven’t been: dark blue saltwater stretching to the horizon, sun-warmed rocks, heavy green palm trees casting shade on white sand. Their music is dreamy, buoyant, and wistful, all at once. It makes you long to go back to something you never had in the first place.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting a full-length follow-up to last year’s flawless self-titled EP, and it looks like I’ll finally get my wish. St. Lucia just announced that “When the Night” will be out on October 8, and to whet our appetites, we also get “Elevate,” a funky, upbeat, reverb-drenched single in the vein of “Closer Than This” and “We Got It Wrong.” Jean-Philip Grobler’s strong, unique voice shines on both the mellow verses and the danceable choruses; check out the complex percussion throughout and the funky, “Sussudio”-esque bassline at 3:15. Recommended listening with the windows down, the wind in your hair, and the sun on your face. Preferably with a hint of ocean breeze in the air.

St. Lucia – Elevate 

Categories
Music Remixes

Busta Rhymes – Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See (Mosey Remix)

I don’t think Busta Rhymes gets nearly enough credit for his voice. And I don’t mean his “artistic” voice, or his “media” voice, I mean his literal “words-coming-from-his-mouth” voice. It’s one of the most versatile sounds in all of rap. When he turns it up, it’s a ferocious, primal, rapid-fire roar – see “Break Ya Neck” or “Fire” – and when he turns it down, as in “How We Do It Over Here,” it rumbles slowly and smoothly, like a tiger purring. It becomes hypnotic and seductive. If rap has a Barry White, it’s Bus-a-Bus.

Which is why I think this Mosey remix of “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See” is so perfect. It takes a classic Busta banger and reimagines it as a post-club-3-AM-sipping-cocktails-on-the-roof track. And Busta’s voice is the reason that works, even though it shouldn’t; it’s versatile enough to handle the new context just as well as it handled the old one. Spacey synths and a laid-back, stripped-down drum track replace the percussive aggression of the original. Throw it in your after-party (or after-after-party) playlist tonight and watch the hips sway.

Busta Rhymes – Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See (Mosey Remix)