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Bill Withers – Ain’t No Sunshine (Lido remix)

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Leave it to up-and-coming Norwegian producer Lido to execute such pure, unadulterated magic. His rework of Bill Wither’s classic is synth-punchin’ / trap slappin’ / symbol crashin’ thunderous bliss. It takes some balls to attempt a remix of such a timeless soul classic… Lido’s got balls and creativity to boot — this is the freshest, dopest remix of one of the most enduring (43 years old) anthems of the 20th century. New school meets old school, this is the future: fierce, elegant, and totally bangin’.

Here’s a bit of backstory: Lido’s unofficial remix of Disclosure’s hit single Latch was so fly that Universal pulled it from Soundcloud less than 24 hours of its inception on the interwebz. Lido retaliated by making more music, and this is it. Ain’t No Sunshine is jammy enough to tide us over until his forthcoming album’s release on Pelican Fly Records (June 9th, yeeee!!).

This track exudes the kind of fearless brilliance that fuels the current tides of change in the music industry. Producers and musicians who embody this vision are an inspiration to all of us— true innovation and balls to the wall creativity are not a thing of the past, nor will they ever be.

Moral of the story: when in doubt (or not), make more music.

And I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know…

Bill Withers – Ain’t No Sunshine (Lido Remix)

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Vic Mensa — Down On My Luck

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At first listen, Down On My Luck by Hip Hop recording artist Vic Mensa takes me back to Hollywood. Being a native New Yorker my life has always been full of fast-paced hustling and bustling no matter where I go. A few years ago I took that attitude and energy to California and had the most memorable 4 years of my life. Parties in the Hills, running around from club to club in speeding Ferraris and Maseratis, make-out sessions with beautiful chicks, walk-of-shame mornings straight to brunch with the crew, dance parties in supermarket parking lots, bonfires on private beaches, and frequent road-trips to 3-day parties in Vegas and San Diego. I can say that I made the most out of this life I have, and that if my life in Hollywood was counted as an entirely different one, then I made the most out of that one as well. It’s exactly that fast-paced flow of Down On My Luck that brings me back there, and it’s exactly what kept me listening and wondering more about who Vic Mensa is.

When I get down on my luck I hide behind my eyes in Hollywood”

Hollywood is a place that can quickly get lonely much like NYC if you don’t know the right people. I’ve heard people say this in NYC and LA, and it has taken me some time to understand why. But, more important than anything else, Hollywood is a place where people go to become part of “Hollywood”, aka where they go to become famous. Somewhat like the music industry, the allure of Hollywood seems mythical to most unless they can tap into the right crowd. By “right crowd” we mean the crowd that is in the know and can make moves, or at least get you five steps closer to who you need to be, within those six degrees of separation that elude almost everyone.

They say ain’t what you know but who you know
You need to know someone to know no one”

But, it seems, from watching the video for this tune that Vic is figuring it all out for himself as time goes on. If you catch the video you can see how the same scene plays out and progresses over and over as he figures out what to avoid and how to make headway in a room full of people doing their own thing, with their own agendas. It’s the struggle that many artists face with most giving up and the select few making it through.

Down On My Luck is a song about making it through the obstacles of the life and lifestyle that you want to live. It’s pieced together with lyrics that illustrate one specific individuals journey, and production that makes everyone else watching around it, dance. The actor on stage being Vic Mensa, and the audience watching and dancing underneath being us with the assistance of producer Stefan Ponce.

Cause they told you to, why you listen to ‘em?
Hands up, middle finger to ‘em
Fuck that, get down”

Enjoy! #MDW

Vic Mensa — Down On My Luck

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2Pac – Old School (Cookin Soul Remix)

“What more can I say? I wouldn’t be here today if the old school didn’t pave the way.”

Original hip-hop always seemed to pay respect to those who influenced them. Calling tributes and references to those who came before, the people who they looked up to or the people who were always there along the way. It is interesting — you generally don’t see that in any other genre of music. Influences are usually noted in style rather than a literal call out. Even with so many forms of connection now, there is a growing distance between people and more of an internal focus it seems. But that’s what’s special about the old school hip-hop. They always had time for a call.

An argument was made recently that hip-hop, which used samples from older tracks like doo-wop or classic jazz, was able to bridge that divide that some people first had with the rap. The roughness of it, was once thought of as something that most people couldn’t relate to. But those little snip-its in tracks or a familiar sound backing up even the roughest of vocals, in this case jazz to 2Pac, somehow creates that connection.

This track from 2Pac, remixed by Cookin Soul is a power song. The jazzy beat by Cookin Soul is inspiring. The Spanish DJs have been producing tracks since 2005, but this (and there is also a great one they did with Guru‘s Lifesaver) has to be one of the best productions like this for a hip-hop track. Starting with the horns and punchy percussions, they have somehow made the original jam even sexier.

The verse that comes up around 2:28 is it for me. The opening as well. But at that moment in the track, the vocals are rough. You feel the passion. It is like the original power ballad. And when it seeps in through your headphones, you feel energised.

At this moment, I would like to make a call out to good productions. This is the kind of must that inspires me and keeps me hungry for it. I would rap that if I could.

2Pac – Old School (Cookin Soul Remix)

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Missy Elliot vs Martin Brew – Work It (DJ Soo’s Hopscotch Blend)

Are you ever in the mood to hear a song you used to listen to in high school? Sometimes I’ll put on a “Y2K” or “Millenium Hits” playlist and jam out to songs that were prevalent during my adolescence. The familiarity is nice; this nostalgia feels good every so often.

Missy Elliot’s “Work It” is one of those songs that brings me back to childhood; to riding (remember those pre-driving days??) to soccer practice with a teammate and her mother singing along. “Get your hair DID” was the line that cracked me up the most. Growing up in England, I had never heard this lingo! It was a whole new world to me- especially since this was music my parents probably wouldn’t approve of. A few years down the road, in my teenage years, I still enjoyed the song. And I could finally understand the lyrics. ‘Shave my WHAT’?? I thought. And what’s, “It’s your phenemwithernyeathyna”?? So I did some research and experimented with voice-manipulation software. Long story short- turns out that gibberish she is saying is, “Put you thing down flip it and reverse it” IN REVERSE!

This mashup by DJ Soo tones down Missy’s vocals and emphasizes Martin Brew’s instrumentals. His use of bells are reminiscent of the winter holiday season; of songs that speak of Santa and his reindeer. But this is far from a Christmas song. Soo takes the focus away from Missy’s rhymes and quintessential classic hip-hop record-scratching, and adds a mellow drum beat. This, along with the subtle bass and keyboard, take the original song down a detour. I’ve had mixed feelings about mashups in the past, but this song makes me want to be open to how DJs are manipulating songs in drastic ways. For those of you familiar with the original, prepare for DJ Soo to create a whole new mood for your listening experience.

One interesting thing I noticed is that Soo mixed in a clean version of “Work It”. This contrasts the original greatly, which is quite… filthy. This version is the one I’d rather my teenager daughter listen to! I hope you feel some positive nostalgia upon listening to this track. Who knows what random memory it’ll bring you back to.

Missy Elliot vs Martin Brew – Work It (DJ Soo’s Hopscotch Blend)

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Chromeo – White Women

If you did a dance remix of Hall and Oates with Daft Punk and added a dash of Duran Duran, you’d get something like the hot new album “White Women” by Chromeo. Before you accuse the artists of racism, take a breath because the title has a double meaning.

What was the inspiration behind the album title?

The musicians admitted that the name “White Women” is actually an intentional tribute to one of their favorite photographers: Helmut Newton; this photographer published a famous series of black and white erotic portraits under the same name in 1976. This provocative album cover photo imitates Newton’s classic style of posing powerful women in risqué settings that push the boundaries of their audience. Thus, the album cover of, “White Women” is a tanned woman with deliciously long legs in a tight, ultra-mini bridal dress few would dare to walk anywhere in, and the Chromeo duo of David Macklovitch and Patrick Gemayel, also known as “P-Thugg,” escort the “stolen” bride down an empty street rather than the infamous aisle. How’s that for a conversation starter?

Not only that, you can see in the music video of, “White Women’s” latest hit, “Jealous” that the phrase is also a general pun about women of all different races, sexual orientations and cultural backgrounds in white wedding dresses. All in all, the pun of “White Women” shows the playful, cheeky nature of Chromeo that fans have come to adore.

What can you expect from this record?

With familiar beats pumping along, the playful layers of synthesizers blend in to create something totally new, fresh and upbeat.  The duo that is Chromeo never take themselves too seriously, but that doesn’t mean the songs lack in quality, wit, wordplay, and beats that will make you dance in your office desk chair.

The first popular track, “Jealous,” has everything you need in a top summer hit single: fun, beats that build, humor, sex appeal and breaks with heart-filled lyrics that will bounce you through life with a smile. “Jealous” is a song with enough glamour to take women down a runway, enough flirtation to help you catch the eye of your latest attraction on the dance floor and enough punch to make that long highway drive an enjoyable one.

Songs like “Over My Shoulder,” a séance of a groovy, lost track of the late 70s disco craze is just the type of track that we expect from Chromeo, one that tackles serious topics with a twist of witticism and fun.

With lines like “even though you have small breast, to me they look the best, I confess, I want take you home and get you undressed. You see your problems of self-esteem can be self-fulfilling prophecies, so probably, your best policy is to talk to me,” they tackle self-esteem, the Hollywood image, and the sex-driven world that women have to traverse their entire life without being heavy handed.

This 12-track “electro-funk” album also features Ezra Koenig from Vampire Weekend as he shines later in the album in the song “Ezra’s Interlude” and Toro Y Moi on the track “Come Alive.”

“Come Alive” doesn’t just encourage listeners to take a break and dance; it’s urging you to get out of your static state in life. With undertones of social equality—”we got something so real, however they feel, doesn’t really matter no more”—the song is a statement about true love and not hiding in the shadows anymore. One can see how this still applies to present times.

If the song isn’t enough to make you a fan, the funny music video features sexy department store mannequins literally coming to life to dance as our hero struts and sings down the aisle. The final scene when both David Macklovitch and Chazwick Bradley Bundick (Toro y Moi) are caught making out and sexing mannequins in the storage room by Patrick Gemayel’s department store security guard is priceless and will surely win you over.

Overall, it’s another win for Chromeo.

Where did they come from?

A Jewish and Lebanese duo from Canada who met in the mid ’90s, Chromeo first got worldwide attention after the song “Needy Girl” hit clubs in 2004 from their debut album “She’s in Control.” The Reese’s candy company later used the song “Needy Girl” in a 2007 television commercial for the Reese’s peanut butter cup where the words, “The perfect three-way: milk chocolate, Reese’s peanut butter and you,” flash over the image of the candy. That wasn’t the only song to gain them more exposure either; audiences heard their song “Mercury Tears” in the 2004 snowboard movie “Chulksmack” by Mack Dawg Productions. A few years later, the next big hit, “Night by Night,” showed their growing potential as they smoothed a “Miami-Vice” flair into a more modern sound that continues to gain sophistication and popularity to this day.

Chromeo hits the road:

The Come Alive tour is keeping them busy until the first week of June in 2014 all across Europe with live shows in London, Amsterdam, Paris, Barcelona, Berlin and more. After that, they’ll crash Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheater in August, followed by a special feature at the Brooklyn Bowl in Las Vegas, Nevada a few days later.

Jason Kane is a music connoisseur and an avid record collector. He bought the new Chromeo from SoundStage Direct, his go-to place for all turntables and vinyl equipment, and played it on his VPI Turntable.

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La Roux – Let Me Down Gently

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It’s about damn time!

When I first heard a static-y leaked version of “Fascination” in ’08, I knew La Roux was going to be big.  Their arrival onto the scene coincided perfectly with the rise of blog and remix culture, and their sonic combination of pop, soul and forward-thinking synth music in fact prefaced the rise of today’s electro-pop craze.

“Going in for the Kill (Skream Remix)” led to Purity Ring; “Bulletproof” to CHVRCHES. And many of the unheralded tracks on La Roux’s eponymous 2009 debut, like “Armour Love” and “Cover My Eyes” set the stage for Lorde and similarly simmering female vocalists. La Roux contemporaries – Little Boots and Ladyhawke especially – haven’t gained anything near the popular acclaim and staying power.

What I’m trying to say is that, by my measure, Ellie Jackson is the co-queen (along with Robyn) of modern pop vocals. I was lucky enough to catch a La Roux live set last year (my second overall). Jackson’s stage presence is elite, and the audience clearly knew every song. The was also chock full of killer new material that fit into their canon without being repetitive, and I left feeling pumped for a new album. Then, nothing. The wait continued.

Now, finally, after 5 years, La Roux will release their second album, “Lost in Paradise,” stateside on July 8th. “Let Me Down Gently,” the lead single from the album, is an instant classic for La Roux fans, but surely will not be the lasting impression from the album. It’s a fine taste of a sound that’s been imitated over and over but not yet matched, delivered, despite the layoff, without missing a beat.

The tracklist has been released, and includes songs titled, “Sexotheque” and, “Tropical Chancer.” The band played the latter at the show I attended, and let me tell you, it will bring the house down when released. I’ve been singing it to myself for over a year, not knowing the title or lyrics…“t-t-t-tropical chancaaaaa.” I can’t wait.

La Roux hits the road in June, and will tour the US (both solo and as New Order’s opener) through July before heading back to England. If the swing passes through your town, don’t sleep. Pop mastery is rare, and strong live performance of their caliber even rarer.

Welcome back La Roux.

La Roux – Let Me Down Gently

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EMPT Exclusive: Interview with Corsica Arts Club

Corsica Arts Club

EMPT gets a ton of emailed songs from up-and-coming artists, most of which we regretfully do not get to post. However, once in a while we find a gem and reach out to the performers to learn a bit more. Today, writer Nicky DePaul catches up with Corsica Arts Club, an emerging band out of Los Angeles who captured our ear with their blissful take on summertime rock, “California I Follow.”

EMPT: You guys are as new as they come. Tell us, who are Corsica Arts Club?

CAC: Corsica Arts Club is Brendan and Arash. We’ve been friends since we were teenagers and we’ve been making music together for over a decade.

EMPT:  What are your artistic goals? Are they the same as your career goals?

Arash: We try to write the best songs we can write, songs that we would enjoy listening to ourselves. There’s nothing we’d love more than to make a career out of it.

EMPT: How does your long-term friendship impact your writing and recording process?

Brendan: There’s a bond, an inherent understanding. It’s very easy to communicate both creatively and personally – our feelings, our aspirations, or how we’d like a song to sound.

Arash: We grew up liking the same music, discovering the same artists and albums together, so we have the same references for anything from melodic ideas to production ideas.

EMPT: “California I Follow” is very much an LA song, in the recent tradition of early releases from Best Coast or No Age: lo-fi, laconic, washed out. Does a sense of place infiltrate your music purposefully?

Arash: Not necessarily, though we can’t help but be influenced by our environment on some level.

Brendan: Whether in the narrative we’re telling or in the palette of sounds we’re using. At the same time, we strive to make music that’s universal, that can be appreciated regardless of the fact that we’re from LA.

Arash: If anything, we hope to evoke a feeling more than a specific place. All of our friends that we’ve played it for say it sounds like summer. That being said, I’d hope that someone who has never been to LA, but has a romanticized idea of it from films or television, hears the song and feels like they’ve been transported here. I love songs like that.

EMPT: If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing?

Arash: I literally have no idea.

Brendan: I’d say the same. I’d feel like something was missing. The absence of music in my life sounds like an incomplete life.

EMPT: Your Facebook lists some prominent influences: Bowie, Iggy Pop, Kraftwerk, The Beach Boys. What does it mean to you to be influenced by an artist? How does influence appear in your art? Are there any current acts you’re drawing from or would recommend to our readers?

Arash: There are certain songs or albums that elicit such profound excitement when we hear them, that strike such a chord, we’re almost immediately thinking about how to recreate those feelings. David Bowie‘s”Low” for example. When we discovered that album it felt like finding the secrets of the universe. We’re enamored by everything about it – obviously the songs, but also the story behind it, the production techniques, the album art. It’s hard to pinpoint all the ways our favorite artists have influenced us, but I’ll tell you that we keep Bowie and “Low” in mind when we think about sounds or instruments we’d like to use in a song.

As far as current acts go, some of our favorites include Radiohead, The Strokes, and Phoenix. The guys from Dawes, who we knew back when they were called Simon Dawes, have had an influence on us in the sense that they turned us on to The Band and Big Star. We can’t thank them enough for that.

EMPT: Nice. I remember the Simon Dawes days. They played at my high school battle of the bands contest. Next question: What are you ordering at the bar?

Arash: A Death In The Afternoon. That’s champagne and absinthe.

Brendan: *laughs* I don’t drink. Arnold Palmer. Or water.

EMPT: You get to plan one perfect day. What does that day look like?

Arash: I’d want to spend the day on some beach, probably somewhere on the French Riviera, with a good book or two, then have a party at night with all my family and friends.

Brendan: My favorite place is Cinque Terre in Italy. I’d love to go back there.

EMPT: Any future plans you’d like to share?

Arash: We’re constantly writing and recording music. Beyond that? There are some things in the works. Keep an eye on us…

Many thanks and good luck to Corsica Arts Club. Find them on Soundcloud, Twitter and Facebook for more music and updates.

Corsica Arts Club – California I Follow

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Young Thug — The Blanguage

Metro boomin’ want some more nigga”

I never know what Young Thug is saying until I head on over to Rap Genius and read… and even then I’m not sure that I get it. But, sometimes music is our guilty pleasure simply because it’s happening on its own, in the background. Sometimes we don’t need to know the words to enjoy the vibe of a tune. Sometimes all we need is to hear those great piano chords masterfully played by intense finger pounding like what you will hear at the three minute and fourty-two second mark on this cover of Drake’s “The Language ” titled “The Blanguage.” Then, on the repeat listen you will desperately await those same piano strokes as you mindlessly enjoy the tone and Versace flow of Young Thugger’s chants.

Voodoo is an idea. It is the idea that with enough power you can control the outcome of any situation. Its powerful chants have killed before, they have inspired before, they have made people rich and broken others dry, yet the one thing nobody can deny is how enchanting they can be. Maybe not enchanting in a way that is always welcomed, because I do believe that the chants can sound pretty creepy, but nevertheless, they capture your attention, and they make you listen regardless of what is being said. That’s how I see this cover. It captures me from the beginning because of the familiar production. It manages to keep my attention because of its familiar flow, and finally, it gives me a much better reason to appreciate the production details than Drake ever could.

It’s sunny enough in New York City right now to rock some shades, cool enough to throw a leather on, and nice enough to enjoy this tune all day. It’s mellow, it’s bouncy, and it’s so Hip-Hop in a day and age where Hip-Hop you can play on repeat is a scarcity.

Young Thug — The Blanguage

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Sam Smith – Stay With Me (Black Space Remix)

This song feels like a gospel. And this is the time for a gospel. A saving grace in music. Some reassurance that the music industry is not just filled with foxes who sound ‘really great’ when auto-tuned or spewing words that resemble more of what we wrote to our crushes in passed notes from our training bras and back seats.

You half expect this song to come with a choir in the back singing behind him smoothly, resonating emotion and hope and praise. Dawning hair which is reminiscent of  doo-wop singers, the singer’s English upbringing clearly oozes from his dapper and polished attire and presence. I appreciate this though. Bring back the days of the Rat Pack and tailored suits.

Sam Smith, a somewhat newer face in the past year, was been awarded top honours this past year for being the bright rising star in the UK. He has been breaking hearts with his music and moving us to dance and to breath in his sweet voice with each release of a new track or mix. His debut album will be released at the end of this month titled, “In the Lonely Hour” and can only promise to deliver more.

This edit is nothing to look over from Black Space, a 19-year old producer from Geneva, Switzerland. Influences for this young lad stem from the musical styles of Kygo (clearly heard in this mix). What gives me chills in this song is when you hear the flutes come through with the consistent piano. The tone feels almost like that of an Arcade Fire track simply filed with a sound which I can only describe as “hopeful”.

Praise.

Sam Smith – Stay With Me (Black Space Edit)

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MC Solaar – Obsolète

Passé, dépassé, obsolète?

MC Solaar est un grand nom du rap français jouissant d’une notoriété indiscutable. Il a fortement participé à l’instauration du rap dans la culture française grâce à des textes très réfléchis et engagés. Il a su attirer un publique plus large avec des chansons moins provocatrices que ses confrères. Le morceau Obsolète montre à quel point le MC était à l’avant-garde de ce mouvement. 20 ans après la sortie de Prose Combat (album sur lequel figure Obsolète), à l’encontre du titre de la chanson, le texte n’a rien de désuet, au contraire.

Ce texte toujours d’actualité 20 ans plus tard, induit une comparaison entre le passé et le présent. Il y a quelques jours, j’ai rentré mon deuxième pied dans la vingtaine. Comme à chaque anniversaire, un regard en arrière s’impose, et à l’heure du bilan je me rends compte qu’on dit souvent que c’était mieux avant. « Nous ne sommes pas nés à la bonne époque, sérieux c’était mieux avant, aujourd’hui on va droit dans le mur ». Les paroles d’MC Solaar nous montrent finalement que ce n’est qu’un éternel recommencement.

Oh shit, à la télé y’a plus de speakrines

Y’a des films de séries B que j’estime à quatre centimes

Alors qu’MC Solaar regrettait la disparition sur les écrans des speakrines, (des femmes ayant pour rôle d’annoncer les programmes) pour l’authenticité qu’elles apportaient, et n’adhérait pas au nouveau genre de séries B américaines ; nous aujourd’hui, regrettons ces séries cultes de notre enfance et déplorons la téléréalité qui les remplace. A force de regarder en arrière constamment nous sommes peut-être dépassés par ce qu’il se passe aujourd’hui ? La technologie évoluant de plus en plus vite sans vraiment connaitre ses effets sur la société, les médias faisant de moins en moins la distinction entre l’information et le divertissement et de nombreux autres changements nous pousse à regretter le passé.

Mais finalement, qu’est ce que notre époque a de si regrettable ? Pourquoi pas ne pas positiver et dire : « Ça sera encore mieux demain ! » ? Ce morceau donne envie de lever la tête et de regarder autour de soi ce qui est essentiel, une démarche assurée jouant des épaules afin de trouver la ferveur nécessaire pour assumer cette évolution constante!

MC Solaar – Obsolète

 

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