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Checo – Superpowers

Somehow each season always creeps up on me, even though the same thing happens four times a year, every year. Couldn’t be much more clockwork than that, yet I’m always surprised when the weather changes a little and the nights get a little longer or shorter. I often feel like I don’t realize it’s a new season until I hear a song that ushers in the change. There always seems to be a perfect song for each season, and the song almost announces the coming change in energy/vibe/climate/etc. Well, I was just smacked in the face with the reminder that summer is all but here thanks to the sounds of Checo’s new single “Superpowers.”

The melodies, the horns in the chorus, it all sounds and feels like long summer nights and that feeling of freedom that those months bring. Checo sings “This is your love song baby, I hope you know the words” and it feels like those younger days when you spent the summer chasing after your crush – and it was the only thing you “had” to do. No job, no bills, no major responsibilities. You just really had to make sure you kissed this girl by August or else the whole summer was gonna be in ruins.

This song has a great blend of modern electronic production mixed with a live band/live instrumentation feel. The snares reverberate through the track and has the feel of hearing live drums during the day outside at a festival. More of that sunshiny, summery feel. It’s smooth, satisfying and thoroughly relatable. Cheers to the summer months, coming in hot!

VALENTINE & 4AM – Us (ft. Naji)

Due to their combination of uplifting music and eye-popping aesthetics, I quickly developed a special affinity for Moving Castle when I first discovered tracks from Chet Porter and Manila Killa a little over a year ago. Every addition to their roster since then has seemed like an organic extension of their brand and identity, likely in part due to the familial ethos that shines through each move they make whether it’s in interviews or Twitter interactions. I thus can’t say I’m surprised in the least that Valentine, 4AM, and Naji have brought forth a thrilling sound on “Us” that’s simultaneously fresh and quintessential Moving Castle.

“Us” combines airiness with urgency as the track’s soaring synths alternate in a stop-and-start motion that should equate to plenty of frenzied, sweaty, and utterly elated audiences. It’s truly hard to imagine Valentine and 4AM’s collaboration playing anywhere less than in front of the mesmerizing lights at a club like Los Angeles’ Exchange, and while their name recognition isn’t there just yet, their talents combined with the beloved family they’ve found should lead them to that promised land sooner rather than later.

Joe Hertz – Simple ft. JONES (Chris McClenney Remix)

I usually don’t have a burning desire to dress up and get down, but Chris McClenney’s “Simple” remix has me searching for the nearest velvet-covered club. JONES’ soulful vocals sound immaculate as they build up to the track’s euphoric release of stuttering lounge stylings before reconvening with its newfound direction; it’s a collision between music’s past and present that has me nostalgic for a time period I never experienced.

I can’t dance, yet this track suddenly makes me feel like I could hit the dance-floor. I don’t aim to be suave, yet it makes me feel like I could make someone else’s night with nothing more than a wink. Music that soundtracks reality is important, but music like this that fuels some pleasant escapism can be even better. It’s nice to get outside of yourself and embrace some consequence-free freedom, and who knows? It might even lead to more freedom in your day-to-day reality. Now put on your dancing shoes and get out there.

Aftrparty – Hold Me Down

“Hold Me Down” is a balancing act. Gritty yet melodic, infectious yet subdued, the Aftrparty production constantly shifts gears with precision as one form gives way to another. It’s not just the broad transition from PB Kaya’s emotive r&b to Rawch’s charming bars, though – peep how the guitar is incorporated into the drop piece-by-piece before being deconstructed and reincorporated as a weight-bearing layer, or better yet, how the rubbery synth-line peaks the moment the drop hits before quickly diverting into a complimentary sound.

It’s details like these that set apart the men from the boys, so to speak. They may not be noticed by every listener, but they function as the groundwork that keeps the song engaging no matter how much or how little attention is being paid to the song. For a production duo formed only last year, Aftrparty have a seriously fine-tuned method to their music that I hope they maintain moving forward.

While on the topic of musical structures, I’d also like to take a moment to suggest reading Di’s fascinating interview with Max Martin. Its insight into his creative approach has spurred me to pursue better understanding what makes songs like “Hold Me Down” tick.

Point Point – Hands (feat. Denai Moore)

A car floats 1,000 feet above the earth’s surface and the city around it continues to stretch beyond the stratosphere with a decadent silver-and-white glow. A glass platform leads into the nearest building and minimalist décor equates extravagance. In the middle of the entrance stands a pedestal upon which a thixotropic set of hands rests. They shimmer with a subtle ebb and flow that feels human – so obviously synthetic yet, as nuanced as an organic composition.

Maybe it’s because I was reading up on Blade Runner 2049 last night, but the artwork for Point Point’s “Hands” immediately took my mind to a place of pure imagination. Once I digested the music itself, it only elevated my futuristic fantasy further as the track balances such urgency in its lead-synth with lounge-leaning relaxation in Denai Moore’s vocals, each diametrically opposed approach consuming one another in a circular motion like the balance of organic life and its synthetic constructions.

It’s only right that self-proclaimed future pop initiates forward-thinking.

Ben Phipps – Don’t Wake Me Up (ft. Mike Ruby)

“There ain’t no shadows, cause all the lights they glow” is a line that immediately captured my attention while experiencing “Don’t Wake Me Up” on first listen. It specifically conjured up cherished memories of going to New York for the first time as a teenager, a period when I was infatuated with the idea of life in the heart of a metropolis.

In the midst of a blizzard, I was able to experience that heart to the fullest as I trudged through a snow-covered Times Square that provided one of the most dazzling displays of my life. All of the wonderfully colored electronic billboards were magnified through their reflections upon the snow, snow that froze every inch of my body as I stripped my gloves off to text my romantic interest so I could share the moment with them. I’ve yet to experience a moment since then that inspired a comparable awe to that intersection of the technological and the natural.

Mike Ruby’s voice combined with Ben Phipps’ uplifting production makes for the perfect vessel to have taken me back to that moment. Hopefully it’ll inspire similar journeys through the past for others.

Bronze Whale x Popeska – Imagine (JLV Remix)

I’m an absolute sucker for house music that takes it back to the basics, so it’s no surprise that I’m infatuated with JLV’s remix of “Imagine.” Its rubbery lead-synth is an absolute head-nodder while the wonderfully simple percussion conjures up images of feet quickly moving on the dance-floor as strobes flash along in tandem. I love most avenues of electronic music, but tracks like this hit somewhere deep in my stomach and induces flutters like few other genres can, an effect that can be traced directly to an overwhelmingly uplifting energy.

If you’re in a room full of people on the same wavelength, there’s few comparable feelings to watching everyone around you shuffling along with a smile on their face. I’ll never forget hearing cuts like “Work Your Body” drop in a packed venue after an excruciating build-up that releases into pure bliss. In the future, I can very well see JLV’s “Imagine” remix directing audiences into moments of absolute jubilance too.

EMPT Classic: Kanye West – Welcome To Heartbreak ft. Kid Cudi

We posted this track a while back, like way back, normally we would post the original and write something above it, but we are in the future now and I am doing things a little differently with this  EMPT Classic because I really dig the video which we never featured.  The title of the original post was “Say Goodbye to Hollywood.”  Funny enough I am in Los Angeles for a day and a night with my Little Bear and all I want to do is say goodbye.  Don’t get me wrong I am not hating on LA, but this place has too many memories that are still so fresh in my brain that bring me right back every time I am here and I don’t want to think about those memories.  LA and the memories are like a wound that has healed but now I am waiting for the scar to go away too, and as we know, scars don’t always heal.

Thankfully I am staying on the beach in Malibu and I don’t have to be in the heart of Hollywood where most of the ghosts of memories past still lurk.  It’s a beautiful view where I am at and the ocean is right in my ears so I need to go soak it all in before I have to jet in the morning.  Press play on this oldie but goodie.

Grace Mitchell – Now

Grace Mitchell straddles boundaries of sonics and style across time and space without invoking the vapidness that inevitably comes from rehashing a foregone era’s artistic approach; she has the aesthetic of a Woodstock-era rock star alongside a grungy musical ethos, yet I don’t sense pastiche in her that I feel in so many others. That’s likely owed to her ability to filter various modes through the lens of off-kilter pop music that always manages to find itself at an infectious conclusion, one that I can’t imagine another artist in 2017 reaching with such precision.

“Now” is an illustration of her natural versatility as she transitions from quirky pop-rock to an arena-rock cadence before suddenly shifting gears into utterly anthemic pop vocals that send chills down my spine with every listen. Combined with a music video that alternates between Brady Bunch vibes and modern pop sensualité, I’m fascinated by the timelessness she conveys. I’m not usually one to make brash declarations, but her delving into the past just might be a vision for the future.

SIRMA – Free Fall

I have vague memories of listening to Imogen Heap’s “Hide And Seek” by my lonesome late at night during my teenage years, generally overwhelmed with amazement at the piercing chill of her vocoder-laced vocals as woman merged with machine. On the flip-side, I vividly remember the ice-cold nature of LIGHTS’ “February Air” as my breath condensed with every frigid exhale. Both songs and the experiences associated with them were defining moments for my fascination with pop music’s marriage to modern electronics.

SIRMA’s “Free Fall” seems to be the result of foremothers like Imogen Heap and LIGHTS as she injects utterly ethereal vocals into instrumentals that flourish with synthetic life, from the layers of twinkling keys to the programmed, arena-ready percussion featuring fluttering hi-hats aplenty. In an attempt to define this track, even atmospheric would be an understatement as she devises a soundscape that mixes nuanced composition with instantly infectious melodies to borderline perfection.

I’ve listened to “Free Fall” throughout recent LA nights, and while the track is new to the grand scheme of my life, I feel the importance of “Hide And Seek” and “February Air” in its very fibers. I’m ecstatic to see its meaningful potential fulfilled.