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Highschool Jacob – E Flat

Vocalists these days don’t seem to have the swagger I came to expect from straight up stage stealers like Michael Jackson and Pete Burns. You might think I’m talking about how they look on stage, and you wouldn’t be totally wrong there – have you seen how awkward The Weeknd (this decade’s supposed response to Michael Jackson) looks trying to channel his idol? But the swagger I’m talking about is the kind you can hear in their voice. Every note they sang had an edge to it and a dramatic feel that made their music so much more captivating.

You just don’t find that sound in the mainstream anymore (maybe Lorde is the exception?), but it’s apparently been hiding in the underground with a serious talent in Highschool Jacob. His new single “E Flat” finds him singing with a variety of inflections and approaches that only an ultra confident vocalist could pull off, going from understated to show-stopping within milliseconds. The instrumentals are the cherry on top here as they go the route of gorgeous, modern indie-pop with as much nuance as Jacob’s vocals. I’m not sure if his dancing skills match those of seminal ’80s icons, but he damn sure has the vocal chops to rival the best of them!

LondonBridge – Best Friends

Space Yacht is a consistently positive space that finds a colorful group of Angelenos going hard every Tuesday night for a revolving door of rising and established creatives alike. Resident ringleader LondonBridge is not only one of the brains behind Space Yacht, but also a producer that thrives on absurdly groovy house tunes with a playful edge. Case and point: his brand new Best Friends EP. The title track is an ode to best friends in the club for keeping each other company (physically, and when the drugs hit, mentally), and much like the Pez on the artwork, it’s a sugary-sweet approach that’s just plain fun.

Its follow-up, “Can You Feel It”, is a rallying cry for “big booty bitches in the place right now” that’s likely going to incite waves of ass shaking in Sound and clubs beyond. Standing in the outside patio as a haze of smoke and loud conversation washes over, while the dance-floor swells with hypnotized dancing, bodies moving solo and with one another while “Can You Feel It” pumps through the speakers…I can see it all now. In fact, I’ll probably see it next Tuesday! Here’s to LB for knowing how to work crowds with not only killer lineups, but killer music!

Finis Mundi – Lose It All? (What If)

Have you ever found yourself hypnotized by the cyclical events of a metro underground? Have you watched people circulate from train to platform, platform to train? Have you watched the trains come and go? Have you stepped onto that train before departure? Have you snapped out of it? Has summer heat permeated through the packed train’s every crook and cranny as nightfall approaches? Has a portable speaker blasted a song ’til it echoes from wall to wall?

What if it was Lose It All?

Smiles, dancing, and loud conversation abound – that’s what would happen. I say that without a semblance of doubt because Finis Mundi’s newest builds up layers of tension that cascade into a satisfying release of vocal samples and sharp synths intertwined. For a track whose narrative is wrapped up in personal relationships, its sound brings a communal vibe that just doesn’t feel right being enjoyed in solace. It’s a track that deserves to be shared and experienced with friends, strangers, and everyone in between – maybe on a summer night where heat permeates through a packed train’s every crook and cranny as nightfall approaches, all the while a speaker blasts Lose It All ’til it echoes from wall to wall.

Truitt & Light House – Tokyo

With attention spans for digesting music shorter than ever, artists have been forced to diversify their sounds at risk of spreading their sonic palate too thin. As a direct result, I’ve found myself saving hoards of songs for a brilliant 30-second run surrounded by less impressive content that unfortunately feels forced. There’s of course still tunes that outright stun, though, and this new one from Truitt & Light House is one of them. “Tokyo” incorporates melodic, synth-pop sourced vocals with a delectable electronic hook whose stabby synths flow seamlessly from one verse to the next. The highlight of the track is undoubtedly the second run of the hook as Brigetta’s vocals soar atop the beat while it suddenly transitions into pure house percussion, yet unlike so many songs I’ve come across, this one is supported by a fantastic structure from start to finish.

Since I’m an unabashed fan of album artwork, can we also take a moment to talk about how perfect the visual for “Tokyo” is? Between the romantic red tones, mysterious blue that makes up the skyline, and inspiring light green of the night sky, it sets a mood before one even presses play on the track. It devises a world that I want to slip into and explore while soundtracked by Truitt’s wondrous, starry-eyed music.

Saukrates – The Underground Tapes

Well, we’re officially old. It had been knocking on the door, but when a rapper about the same age as you can re-release a classic album about 20 years after it’s initial release, well, now said door has been torn off it’s hinges. I can vividly remember when “Father Time” dropped, probably in 1998. I had never heard of Saukrates before that song, but I never forgot about him afterwards. At that moment, Toronto, and Canada in general didn’t have much of an international presence in the rap scene yet. If any presence at all. I remembered seeing a video from Maestro Fresh Wes on Yo! MTV Raps when i was a kid and that was the extent of my exposure to Canadian hiphop.

Saukrates was memorable for a lot of reasons, namely his tough, gruff voice that still somehow flowed like hot butter and ridiculous beats that were filled with classic drum breaks and smart samples. There was an East Coast feel to his music and style but he didn’t come off like another NYC rapper at all. There was something distinctly different about him and the underground hiphop world definitely took notice. Everytime I tuned into Friday Night Flavas (the wildly popular “underground” hiphop show that ran on Friday nights on LA’s massive urban/dance station Power 106) I’d hear “Father Time” or “Hate Runs Deep” or something else featuring Saukrates. Or maybe a track from his TO contemporaries Kardinal Offishall or Choclair. Whatever the case, Toronto was making it’s presence felt in hiphop for the first time, and it would only be 9 or 10 short years later that would Drake drop “You Da Best” and begin the process of finishing the job that Soxx and crew started.

As much as i tend to think like an “old head,” I can appreciate what the kids are doing with hiphop right now. I can’t really listen to much of it, but I get it. And I know they probably feel about 90’s hiphop/boom-bap the way I felt about Sugar Hill Gang and Kurtis Blow when I was a kid – I couldn’t get into it no matter how much I was “supposed to.” I think there’s a specific DNA of a generation, and if you’re born into that time, you have a bit of that DNA wired into you. I’m laced with the boom-bap DNA and I always will be. I don’t expect a 20 year old Lil Uzi Vert fan to spend too much time with our “classics” but I do really hope that a re-release such as “The Underground Tapes” can sneak into the kids consciousness. Everything about the album represents that late 90’s hiphop DIY aesthetic, in sound, style and presentation. It’s an album that would help anyone gain a new appreciation for a very vital moment in hiphop history.

NOTNO – Body (Feat. Freda James)

As someone who grew up during the end of disco and peak of new wave, I’ve been loving the recent revival of ’80s influenced synth-pop. There’s something about music in that period of time that felt like the last organic pop moment. That could just be me feeling nostalgic about the music I listened to as a kid, but it makes sense! The modern pop songwriters started coming about during the ’90s, a time where pop started sounding a whole lot more methodical (besides the little wave of grunge at the decade’s beginning of course). Now compare that with the ultra catchy songs from artists like Madonna, Phil Collins, Duran Duran, etc. a decade prior…their music was gripping but there was still a rawness to it that went missing with songwriting being taken over by a small core group.

I’m not sure if it’s a reaction to overproduced pop or a natural cycle of artists tapping into older sounds for inspiration (or even a whole new product of internet nostalgia…woah), but hearing songs like “BODY” in 2017 is just amazing. Besides its super sleek production, you could’ve told me this was an ’80s hit and I’d believe you. The drum machine percussion, the twinkling keys, the male-female duet, it has it all! I almost wish that Miami Vice was on TV, women were using enough hairspray to make a hole in the o-zone, and Reagan was president again (okay, maybe not the last part) just to complete the return to the ’80s! I think a pregame with neon lights and this song blasting will do the trick though!

Adam Snow – From __ With Love (ft. Fiftygrand)

An Adam Snow and Fiftygrand collaboration? Say no more. I expected an ethereal journey and that’s undoubtedly the case on “From __ With Love”, a modern ballad that fuses pitched-up vocals with quaint keys woven through clattering hi-hats and snares. Much like its gorgeous purple-fading-into-pink artwork, the track is subtle yet accentuates all of its most pleasant elements with such grace. Its sonic palette specifically reminds me of lonely summer nights spent listening to Misogi and wondering where melodic, hip-hop influenced music would go next – I’m sure the past me would be pleased with present results.

On the topic of loneliness, I’m naturally an introvert who learned over time to romanticize the condition. Listening to brooding music across the spectrum, I’d lay in bed while artists reflected that feeling of isolation and allowed me to retreat further within myself. While loneliness is an interesting topic to engage in, it’s not a mode of existence that’s productive or preferable; it slowly envelops you until it swallows you whole, leaving you to wonder how it happened in the first place. I went through the entirety of the process, and while I was broken by the end of it, I’m at least able to look back and see where I went wrong, now cognizant of the fact that I have a deep desire to isolate until I self-destruct. I can’t change my intrinsic nature, but I’ve acquired the knowledge and tools alongside the friends and lifestyle that prevent me from letting my impulses take me down that path once more.

Shawn Wasabi – Otter Pop (ft. Hollis)

Holy fucking cuteness. If the energetic tunes of PC Music are manufactured happiness, then Shawn Wasabi’s newest is pure, unadulterated joy. All the rainbows and sweets in the world couldn’t begin to describe how jubilant the intersection between his buoyant production and Hollis’ beaming vocals is – but fortunately for us, Wasabi has provided visuals for the track that are picture perfect.

Look at the matching pink shirt, shoes, and keyboard. Look at the massive smile on Wasabi’s face. Look at the pastel animations that naturally glide across the screen and the neon lights of Wasabi’s own Midi Fighter 64. Look at Wasabi eat sour gummy worms with chopsticks. It’s happiness in its most pure form, happiness that seeps through the screen until you’re smiling too. It’s what happens when you pursue your passions to the fullest extent and see your dreams unfold in front of your very eyes. It’s such a gratifying way of living and I’m glad that Wasabi has found his own bliss.

Lui Peng – Nocturnal (feat. Che Lingo)

Between electronic music and Soundcloud rap’s domination of my daily playlists, I thought I had finally transcended music with guitars – a truly exciting notion so that I don’t become dusty in this lifetime. Alas, Lui Peng has swayed me away from my stalwart stance against string instruments with a groovy new cut called “Nocturnal”. Featuring rapper Che Lingo, the two show off genuine synergy as Peng’s atmospheric singer-songwriter work seamlessly transitions into Lingo’s agile flow (that’s made even more catchy by his unmistakably British accent).

It’s fitting that my last post concerned my love of intersection between genres; one rare blend that’s always received eye-rolls from me is rap and rock-based music, yet it’s now obvious that the formula just needs a talented songwriter to tie it all together. Thus, my admiration for Peng’s skills are furthered as I consider how he pulled off a sound that I’ve never felt worked. Here’s to more impressive cuts from an artist that I’ll be keeping my eye on.

Darci – Seeing Colors

Darci delivers, no disappointments, thanks Darci!  I always look forward to a Darci track, this one sways a bit different then some of the rest but it immediately had my body moving as I sat at my computer opening music submissions. It’s indie pop, but I am definitely feeling an R&B vibe as well, it’s mixed in so well that you may not notice upon first listen but listen again and you will see what I am saying, FIRE!

I am seeing colors more and more these days.  Obviously in NYC you see colors all around in terms of everything, the people, the lights, the buildings, etc. etc.  But I am talking about colors in the sense of the world just becoming more vibrant for me, more exciting, not dull at all, it’s been a sensory overload since I got back to NY with my daughter and I am embracing it as I find that fucking rainbow with all it’s colors and that damn pot of gold, I am gonna get it I swear, just watch me.  I am staring straight at it and I am not breaking my stare.

It’s crazy that Summer is more than half way over, sorry for reminding you all, not going to lie Fall is my favorite season but this track has me thinking back to beginning of Summer and I’m driving through the memories like a speed racer to where I am right now.  Really feeling this track, I know you will too, so press play and enjoy the weekend!