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deelanZ – Snake In The Grass

I generally wouldn’t associate Salt Like City with forward thinking rock music, but the beauty of the internet age and its democratization of music makes it possible for artists like deelanZ to transcend their regional constraints. Thus we have “Snake In The Grass”, a raucous blend of urgent synth sounds (at least I think that’s what they are!) with apocalyptically groovy guitars – they’re super smooth but they feel like the eye of the storm which is pretty fitting considering what this song is apparently about. deelanZ’s vocals continue that trend with an effortlessly cool factor to them that makes being left by his lover after emerging from a coma sound like a fucked up incident he takes in total stride. What’s cooler than being cool? Ice cold.

The coolness of this song also provides a pretty nice framework for how to deal with resentments. Rather than enveloping yourself in anger until it breaks you, you can feel those emotions healthily and then pragmatically channel them into a productive outlet. And hell, what’s a more productive outlet than killer music? Make your point, make it sound awesome, and then move on. That’s a formula I can get behind.

ZEKE BEATS – Devastate EP

I have a longstanding appreciation for heavy electronic music. Those roots in my music taste are easy to trace; I came up on metalcore and deathcore with bands like Float Face Down, Lorna Shore, and the like. I’ve always been a sucker for breakdowns in particular – there’s no experience like feeling the bass from a moshpit initiator buzzing through your body from head to toe (there’s also nothing quite like being punched in the face and blacking out during said moshpit).

The title track on ZEKE Beats’ Devastate EP gives me that same visceral thrill. It’s a thunderous piece of work that’s better suited for headbangers and hardcore dancers than it is for a dancefloor. That notion runs through the entirety of the record as piercing synths and apocalyptic wobbles seep from its every pore. Go ahead and turn up the low-end on your speakers and rock Devastate on repeat.

WNTALN – Way Out

Have you ever heard a record that absolutely defies classification? I’m pretty damn good at filing songs into sub-genres with almost a decade of reviewing music under my belt, but WNTALN has gone and made me feel utterly clueless. Their new single “WAY OUT” has a trap influenced beat with a thunderous low-end, ska horns that would sound right at home on a Streetlight Manifesto cut, guitar-work that would fit on a Santana track, and vocals that alternate between casually sung and intensely rapped.

It’s an utterly unique track that offers an exciting proposition – in my 22 years of living, I’ve literally never encountered a song like “WAY OUT” before. That means music still has the ability to totally stop me in my tracks – I’ve heard harsh noise, I’ve heard 20 minutes of reverberating bass guitars, I’ve heard ear-piercing black metal, and yet WNTALN was able to surprise me beyond belief. My work requires me to understand trends, so much so that I’m sometimes forget about all the experimenting musicians are doing at the fringes of the scene. I can only hope that “WAY OUT” brings WNTALN from the fringes to the forefront.

Cape Lion – Week One

There’s no correct timeframe for making music. Some of the best songs are recorded in mere minutes (see: Young Thug’s “Danny Glover” which took 8 minutes to be exact) while other efforts are in development for years (see: Chromatics’ recorded, then totally scrapped, then re-recorded Dear Tommy that I’m still anxiously awaiting). There’s something particularly fascinating about writing a wholly finished product at a sprint’s pace, so it makes sense that I’m enamored by Cape Lion’s Week One EP. Recorded between February 5th and 12th (literally last week!), it’s an album so nuanced that I would’ve totally believed it to be a long-awaited passion project.

Let me reiterate that nothing on Week One feels rushed. It’s such an effortlessly cool collection of songs that hits all the right sonic pockets. Where “Call Of The Void” circulates through a winding house groove with ease, “Be So Bad” taps into euphoric vocal effects for pure ’80s, outrun inspired bliss. The album is bookended by a driving, slightly hip-hop influenced beat on “Moped” and a grandiose, horn-draped display on “The Open” – in other words, there’s no rehashing of ideas. Cape Lion has delivered four unique tracks that’ll all have a place in my regular 2018 rotation.

Veronica Bianqui – Sunday Cups

Veronica Bianqui’s new single is tagged as “garage pop soul” and I couldn’t agree more. Complemented by kaleidoscopic artwork, it’s a psychedelic swirl of cross-genre influences that siphons the raw edge of garage rock, the infectiousness of pop, and the intrinsic dramatics of soul. There’s so much here to digest; I particularly love the simplicity of the snappy beat and grungy bass-line, but I also love the horns break and reverberating guitars after the chorus. It’s impossible to choose a favorite element, especially when the track seems to reveal a new touch with every listen.

Living in Los Angeles is a blessing because an artist like Bianqui with limitless potential lives a few neighborhoods away. It’s so inspiring to be in a city where creators whose impact has the potential to be felt nationally and globally walk among us. When you cut through all the traffic, through all the noise, through all the excess, there’s burgeoning visionaries developing their craft. We have the privilege of discovering them and watching them every step of the way – I’ll try to not take that for granted today.

Ugly Boys – Bad Language

Fuck toxic relationships. What’s the point of keeping someone in your life who’s going to weigh you down? We have a finite amount of time on this earth – freedom to love and explore should be maximized, not restrained. Look up at the stars and into the universe, hold hands and soak up the rays of our giving sun, stay up late and talk about the great beyond. There’s no time to be wasted arguing, living in regret, or anything that involves speaking bad language.

Ugly Boys get this on their debut single. They’ve left toxicity behind and are emanating pure positivity that’s audibly visible through every second of “Bad Language”. It’s the sonic equivalent of throwing your hands up in the air and saying fuck it – she speaks that bad language, but so what? It’d be perfectly rational to write a melodramatic song driven by introspection, but Ugly Boys have responded with a funky, groovy track that feels like a celebration of embracing the past for what it is and moving on into the future with your head held high. Onward and upward we go.

Ghasper – Mima EP

The ability to situate experimental musical approaches in a digestible framework is a fine art (see: PC Music, Sidechains, etc.). Las Vegas based producer Ghasper masterfully walks that line on Mima, an EP (available here) infused with glitchy vocal chops, erratic percussion, stabby synths, and worldly touches that all settle into an overarching plane of electronic bliss. The tracks operate across a wide sentimental spectrum ranging from organic euphoria (“Pipa”) to synthetic drama (“Brazil”) with each and every approach providing an extension of human expression mirrored by the record’s fascinating artwork.

It’s an extensive release that even challenges the definition of what constitutes an EP as eight essential cuts and six bonus tracks populate its runtime. For a postmodern product, I don’t think the classification even matters, though – it simply prescribes a lens to view the album through rather than traditionally dictating an album’s length. While it’s valuable to challenge artist’s intentions at times (such as Migos’ bloated playlist masquerading as an album), it feels appropriate to go with the flow that Ghasper has set forth and simply appreciate the journey that is Mima.

warner case – upsidown

warner case (who was previously known as Jay xero) has kicked off his journey under a new name with a fucking doozy of a track. “upsidown” is a super fitting title since it feels like a twisting and turning rollercoaster ride seamlessly transitioning from sparse spoken word atmospherics to an insane house instrumental that’s like a gritty call for everyone to get on the damn dancefloor stat. The reverberating vocals during the hook (my personal favorite moment of the song) conjure up a woozy experience that’s like the soundtrack to a hazy party POV of spinning around the club in circles between drinks.

I also love the intangible confidence and swagger that runs through this track’s veins. It’s a commanding presence that makes it impossible to turn away from “upsidown.” I also realized that this could make for killer runway music which makes sense considering warner case is also a model. Tthe dude has his finger on the pulse of multiple artistic scenes where coolness is key and it shows through his music’s catchy sensibilities. Considering how dope this track sounds on a pair of headphones I can’t wait to hear it in a proper setting through some killer speakers surrounded by good people for a night full of good times.

Restless Modern – Haunted

Restless Modern’s newest significantly shifts gears from his recent single “Chasing” without sacrificing the nuanced groundwork he’s laid out as an artist. “Haunted” is a dark, moody dive into the visceral horrors of real life as lines like “It’s 4 am and the winds feel cold/Why are you standing out in it anyway” paint a desolate picture of a relationship gone awry, all the while its dark electro drop drives the sentiment home. It’s worth noting that it’s not a song to spin in the background – this one requires an attentive ear to appreciate the pain that makes up its very essence. 

In my humble opinion, it’s important to have music that touches upon uncomfortable topics rather than perpetually operating in the realm of a false reality based around eternal sunshine. Just like a controversial painting disturbing psychological thriller, music should challenge us through an unflinching reflection of the world we live in, through the good and the bad. Tracks like “Haunted” crucial to experiencing the endless layers that art can provide.

Honors – Valleys

The alpha and the omega. Darkness and light. Birth and death. All essential binaries to human existence, their collective ethos is visually represented through the stark contrast of Honors’ brand new music video. Featuring the band performing in black and white next to a wealth of natural images overflowing with color, they work together while simultaneously remaining wholly separate entities. It’s pure atmospheric wonderment that makes so much sense for a song grounded in hazy, visceral sounds.

It’s insane to think that black and white visuals are essentially a human creation. We see in color yet we created devices that interpret the world through a binary spectrum (or lack thereof). This notion makes the coexisting images even more special as the manufactured contends with the organic, each vying for your limited attention. Where will you look? Which perspective will you choose? Those answers await.