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Lui Peng – What To Say

Whether it’s on a macro scale or micro scale, it’s always exciting to watch the growth of an artist in realtime. There’s something so gratifying about tracking their creative energy as it evolves from a raw state into a focused vision that has the potential to make an impact on those who interact with their art. I’m experiencing that exact process with Lui Peng, an artist who I covered just over a month ago via his single “Nocturnal”, a cut where a singer-songwriter ethos and hip-hop sensibilities collided. On his fresh offering “What To Say”, the rising talent delivers a sound that’s simultaneously more infectious and introspective through a new lens.

While there was a slight division between the blend of musical elements on “Nocturnal”, Peng’s newest is a wholly natural blend of electronic and r&b elements that operate as one utterly smooth entity. As Peng croons “You know what to say to me make me feel like it’s real, when I’m feeling love”, the transition from minimal production to a gorgeous surge of percussion and wavy vocal sample just feels right. In the span of a month, Peng has gone from finding his footing as a genre-bending artist to delivering a seamless fusion that feels outright instinctive. Time to sit back and continue enjoying Peng’s inevitable evolution.

Micky Blue – Good Love

Micky Blue’s “Good Love” is a track that’s all about shedding negativity from a fucked up situation and emerging with a smile on your face. It’s easier said than done, but carrying resentments does our bodies and minds no good. There’s only so much mental baggage that can sit in our conscious and unconscious minds before it saps the finite amount of energy we carry until we’re sluggish and paralyzed with anxiety and depressive periods. One way to approach shedding that baggage is to view all situations without a positive or negative lens – rather than being good or bad, they just simply are. You can truly grow from examining a harmful situation in your past when you set aside internal biases and devise a strategy for the future.

Of course this leads to a freeing experience that feels good, and there’s nothing wrong with that. “Good Love” is a perfect example of the triumph you’ll feel once you step away from the past and toward the future, especially when the past wrongs were courtesy of a romantic interest…and while you might not have Micky Blue’s stunning, melodic vocals and ear for a massive hook, you’ll feel just as good! Now get out there, get to examining your life with an objective eye, and let “Good Love” be your soundtrack!

VNCCII – Wasteland

I’m usually not a fan of heavy tracks but this single from a new Australian talent in VNCCII just blew my mind. From the creepy down-pitched vocals to the frantic pace of the synths before the song’s drop, Wasteland is like an industrial science fiction movie came to life as a song, all before it delivers one of the most exciting dubstep(?) drops I’ve ever heard. The transition from the cryptic vocals declaring “unleash the wildebeest” into gnarly bass wobbles is straight up cinematic and would sound perfect pumping out of Shambhala speakers (I’m unfortunately too old for that crowd) or behind a heart-pumping alien chase scene (much better)!

Wasteland now has me thinking about my favorite science fiction movies…the first one I remember seeing was Aliens when it came out in 1986. It had the perfect mix of heart racing action and terror that I didn’t know I wanted so badly as a kid. The Thing was up there for me too…those scares and stressful actions sequences were second to none. Both movies gave me a thrill that I’ve chased ever since, so I’m happy that those same thrills made it into a three minute song for me to get my fix!

DROELOE – A Moment In Time

I know I can be a bit hyperbolic about the music I review (blame it on being passionate about others’ creative endeavors), but here’s a statement I say with the utmost confidence: DROELOE are one of the most unique electronic acts in the game. I had the pleasure of seeing them live alongside San Holo earlier this year, and with all due respect to their bitbird label boss, they were the undisputed highlight of the night. Not only did their original tunes absolutely slay a packed Exchange crowd, but their visual presence was astounding; backed by towering graphics with an indescribable amount of depth as their signature skull circled throughout various landscapes, they provided a hypnotizing experience usually reserved for established industry juggernauts.

Their debut EP, A Moment In Time, takes the creative conception on display at Exchange and channels it into a subdued yet nuanced approach that fleshes out their ever-evolving world of sight and sound. Led by immediately recognizable synthesizers with a warped edge, the five-track release winds through glitchy, ultra-melodic territory where a sense of wonder is the status quo. Just as DROELOE know how to engage with thousands of ravers in a high-energy Los Angeles club, they know how to engage the sole listener at home with headphones on, sinking away into an audible fantasyland that somehow feels like home.

Disco Fries ft. Great Good Fine OK – Moving On

Disco Fries may be moving on, but I need a moment to digest their fresh single’s artwork – is the guy on top of the building squirting ketchup onto the sign or the fries? Is the guy in the window below eating one of the fries? Where the hell did they get human sized fries and where do I get my hands on them?

Now that those important questions are out of the way, let’s talk music. The Disco Fries’ collaboration with Great Good Fine OK is a super interesting take on pop tropes from across decades – there’s a hint of future bass, stabby synths that feel like mid 2000’s EuroTrance, and of course disco flair that’s found in the track’s irresistible groove and vocal swagger alike. “Moving On” succeeds at balancing all of these moving parts by never taking itself too seriously – it’s a breezy, carefree atmosphere where good vibes are abound. When it comes to the Disco Fries’ newest, I’ll take seconds please!

DEVOTED – Santa Fe (feat. Billionaire)

I’ve never been to Santa Fe but I was supposed to go to Santa Fe but life happened and I shipped my car across the country and I didn’t drive because I needed time after my dog died so I basked in sadness then repressed the feelings too soon then flew from Charlotte to Los Angeles and 8 months later here I am left with residual sadness and still wondering about Santa Fe. No worries, though – for all of the cluttered memories and emotions I have associated with a city I’ve never been to, DEVOTED and Billionaire’s newest washes away the excess baggage and replaces it with a longing for simplicity.

“Oh Santa Fe, I guess I’ll have to stay; I’ll make New Mexico my home”.

“Santa Fe” feels like a modern take on a western ballad that’s concerned with rolling down the ol’ dusty trail, no matter where it takes you. It’s an intricately produced ode to accepting life on life’s terms without hinting at a positive or negative perception of the terms at hand. It’s a reminder I’ve desperately needed after falling into a routine that’s left me jaded upon rating every day, every night out, every moment on the basis of whether or not it’s beneficial to what I want. I’ve become obsessed with controlling every aspect of my life so that it fits my grandiose expectations. I need to slow down and accept the present.

“Oh Santa Fe, I guess I’ll have to stay; I’ll make New Mexico my home”.

[esq] ape – Times of the Season

“Time of the Season” is a conglomeration of my favorite electronic elements; atmospheric vocals chopped up and repeated, an ethereal bridge, and an absolutely grimy bass-line for an ultra-deep drop. Yet for a track that I’ll be repeatedly revisiting, the most interesting element might not even be its sound. I find myself truly intrigued by the concept by its creators, [esq] ape – I initially assumed it was a rising producer, but it seems there’s a much more communal approach to the moniker. Behind [esq] ape’s music is a collective of Los Angeles based producers who craft sounds to complement a forward-thinking clothing line.

Whereas PC Music hinted at the intersection of music and product as a capitalist nightmare on “Hey QT”, [esq] ape feels like its egalitarian foil as the collective’s apparel delivers a cosmic aesthetic that oozes authenticity. From the excess amount of heart emojis <3_<3, uNconvEntiOnaL tYpeFacE, and bright imagery abound, I can sense something here that goes beyond a traditional marketing ploy. And forgive me for sounding like I’m part of the bourgeoisie, but even the prices of their clothing speak to a genuine approach as they provide pieces associated with high-fashion at an accessible price-point – all the while, “Time of the Season” plays in the background. If this is the dystopian peak of enterprise that we’ve been warned of, then sign me up.

Abby Diamond – There’s A Light In My Room

Sleek yet nuanced, the artwork for “There’s A Light In My Room” sits somewhere between fashion magazine photoshoot and art display. Abby Diamond’s first single of the year is thus an appropriately intriguing single that balances rich r&b with disorienting alt-pop instrumentation. Most notably, the fusion of a weighty low-end and quirky stylings à la chopped up chime-samples functions as the song’s hook – a risky move to make its centerpiece its most experimental moment, sure, but Diamond walks the fine line of accessibility and uncertainty with grace.

The audiovisual package of “There’s A Light In My Room” in its entirety has me thinking about the intersection between these two modes of art. There’s obviously the music video, but what about still images and music to complement them? Should album artwork transcend its role as an initial framing device and instead be observed throughout the entirety of a listen? From this perspective, the artist’s vision isn’t sacrificed in favor of listeners projecting thoughts irrelevant to the art they’re engaging with (unless, of course, the artist’s goal is a symbiotic relationship). I’ll have to speak to some artistic minds in my circle about where the visual ends and the audio begins.

Muneshine & DARCYS – Full Throttle (PWNDTIAC Remix)

I love re-releases of old video games that maintain the core ethos of the original while making it more accessible for new audiences. In particular, I’ve been drooling over Nintendo’s forthcoming Metroid: Samus Returns, a newly imagined take on Metroid II for the 3DS. As someone who fell in love with the series through another re-release in Metroid Zero Mission (alongside my personal favorite, Metroid Fusion), I’m thrilled at the opportunity to experience the story of Metroid II without severely outdated graphics and lack of functionality that made it impossible for me to digest.

The refitting of past trends into new experiences obviously extends outside the realm of video games and into other art forms like music, so Muneshine and DARCYS have opted to let the two intersect on PWNDTIAC’s remix of “Full Throttle”. Featuring retro-soaked artwork, Nintendo-referencing logo and all, it features unmistakably ’80s synthesizers that take an exhilarating turn during the flip’s halfway point. Much like the upcoming Metroid, though, it’s part of a genuinely modern vision as it shifts into infectious house territory with an edgy groove. I can’t confirm whether Samus Returns is a success just yet, but I can say for certain that PWNDTIAC’s “Full Throttle” flip is one.

HRDY – Cruel Summer (Feat. Malvina)

I swear I’m not trying to always write about the 80s but it keeps making its way to me even when I’m listening to new music. So when “Cruel Summer” first came out it felt like the cheesier side of the 80s sound…not hair metal cheesy, but the kind of cheesy that would be playing at a hair salon while moms got their hair sprayed up and talked gossip for hours. Maybe that’s just my feelings but regardless HRDY’s take on the Bananarama (sheesh what a name) staple is a hell of a lot cooler. The smooth modern house vibes are super tight and give the track a more direct vibe that goes beyond salon background tunes. And the drop…what a slick and sexy approach, it’s just killer.

As if I wasn’t already amazed by this Cruel Summer cover enough, Malvina’s vocals come in and take things to a whole new level. I don’t want to sound like I’m overreacting, but I’m going to because she seriously has the talent of a top tier topliner. The confidence in her voice is just infectious and when the subtleties of how she lets out “now you’re gone” right before the drop are straight ear candy. And once again, I’ve gotta give HRDY some major credit because the way he blends Malvina’s vocals into his production is seamless. If you had told teenage me that I’d be nerding out over a “Cruel Summer” cover I probably would’ve laughed in your face yet here we are!

One last thought…isn’t it so cool that cover songs can not only reignite love for a favorite like Johnny Cash covering Hurt, but take a song that you never liked and turning it into a new favorite? It goes to show that sometimes the best ideas aren’t always executed in a way that clicks with you the first time around and it takes a genuine creative mind to translate those ideas into something great. And don’t get me wrong, “Cruel Summer” is indisputably a classic, it just never connected with me until HRDY and Malvina came along.