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Carrie Lane – California Freaks

I had quite the successful thrift-store haul yesterday; Fergie’s Dutchess, Lindsay Lohan’s A Little More Personal, Rihanna’s Loud, Shakira’s Pies Descalzos, and Hillary Duff’s self-titled record – all for under $10! My lifelong quest to obtain every piece of pop content continues to go smoothly, and with today’s digital discovery of Carrie Lane, that trend only continues as her debut EP California Freaks is a concise package of pop bliss.

The standout single of the EP is undoubtedly “Florida Keys”, a summery bop with modern dance-floor production that’s complemented by bright ukulele work, all working in tandem alongside Lane’s arresting vocals. It finds the perfect balance between contemporary pop sensibilities and tropical stylings that bind the album together as Lane has already conceived a consistent sound through which she confidently navigates from various angles. While “Florida Keys” occupies the steamy dance realm,”Think About It” is the low-key R&B jam and “If I Can’t Be With You” is the pure pop outing just waiting for radio and commercial placement. With that presentation of genuine diversity woven through a defined aesthetic, Lane has an impressive introductory work on her hands that I’ll be spinning on repeat as LA’s summer heat continues to swell.

RYDYR – If This Is Love

As a music critic there’s a place deep down in your psyche that conceals a bleeding heart romantic — it’s unavoidable, too many songs we listen to are written about love. And regardless of how apathetic and cynical I’ve become as a jaded millennial I can’t entirely kill the enchantment.

…But FUUUUCK why do I always write about it?!

Other things in my life are so neat and tidy — business, family, fitness…even sex…I’m relatively on point. Yet the love situation remains bewildering. This idea that ONE person out there will complete me seems so esoteric, so out of reach. I don’t pretend to have a solution, or know where this elusive love can be found. But the beauty of listening to love songs is they keep us feeling positive, hopeful even. They keep the dream alive.

And in that spirit, shout out to Cole Pendery aka RYDYR for the jam that inspired my rant above. Swagged out young boy from Texas with a sweet croon. Not typically my style but something about his tone on that first verse caught me. Look out for the kid.

Autumn In June – Can’t Stop Doubting Myself + Magenta LP

I’ve seen Autumn In June’s name floating around blogs for a while now and have heard singles here and there, but with his debut album MAGENTA out I finally took the time to sit down and give the South Central kid a real listen. After 45 minutes of synthesizer heaven, my days of growing up around my mom playing new wave came rushing back while my ear as someone who writes about music in 2017 was excited beyond belief. His vocals have that authentic sound to them that’s hard to quantify but was so prevalent in new wave, but at the same time they’re laced with autotune that makes them an unmistakable product of the now. And his songwriting? Calling it diverse would be a serious understatement; this guy can write an introspective r&b track that’s driven by keys, a melodic indie ballad, and a funky 7 minute epic all within 3 songs, all of them sounding like the best of their respective styles.

I always talk about the “it” factor for artists that sets them apart from their peers and there’s no doubt Autumn In June has that “it” factor and then some. Not only does he make me feel nostalgic, but he makes me feel like I’m listening to the future as he’s making music that you just can’t compare to any other artist on the scene today. Every song on MAGENTA feels like a unique journey yet they all fit together perfectly for one of the most exciting debut albums I’ve heard in a long time. It’s probably selfish of me but I already want to hear more where this came from!

Thoreau – Bronze Whale x Popeska – Imagine Ft. Tom Aspaul (Thoreau Remix)

This song reminds me of being about 19 or 20 years old and partying at the Rockstar mansion in Los Angeles. My days of clubbing and partying like that are way over, unless of course someone invites me on a special Vegas trip or something similar then I might just have to say YES!  I like to live a life of YES but I think as you grow up a world of saying YES to everything can get pretty complicated.  So now a days I like to “imagine” what it might be like to say yes to everything, do everything sexy smile that comes my way, to every party invite, every adventure.  Wouldn’t that be nice?!

I have to actually remind myself that I need to spend less time imagining and more time doing, doing all of the things my little heart desires.  I don’t believe that there should be anything in this world that holds you back but I think sometimes we all get stuck in the moments of our “priorities.”  I put the word priorities in quotes because sometimes we really just need to rearrange about every few weeks or so before we get so stuck in a routine that our imaginations get lost in the consistencies of life, and that’s no fun!

I am going to put this one on repeat and start living in my imaginations and making them reality, enjoy!

Alexander Lewis & Brasstracks – All of the Lights

I’m usually not a fan of people reinterpreting the work of artists that I see as seminal, but Alexander Lewis & Brasstracks have a gem on their hands with their take on Kanye’s “All Of The Lights”. It’s a (naturally) brass-led jam that could very well be heard pouring out from an SEC college football stadium during halftime or echoing around Bourbon Street on a Saturday night. It sounds phenomenal on a pair of headphones, but this is a joint that feels communal, its overwhelming sense of joy best experienced around a swathe of other people searching for the same level of elation.

There’s something special about a mass group fueled by a shared energy; I can’t help but think about connecting with the raucous crowds when UGA would play Georgia Tech in the fall during my youth, or when bliss permeated through the audience as Big Gigantic had every body in the Tabernacle moving in unison. Whether it would serve as the background noise to the former or the centerpiece of a concert like the latter, “All of the Lights” has the ability to incite a level of dynamism that I hope to experience in the near future.

Dalona – Lovely

I can’t claim to know much about rap in Sweden outside of Yung Lean, but I do know that the country is a straight up factory for pop-music writers and musicians (I swear there’s a new Swedish pop import every season of the year…Skott, Sigrid, it’s hard to keep up). I’m not sure if it’s in their genes or what, but the Swedes know how to write music that sticks in your brain like glue and that’s been the case since ABBA was dominating the charts with “Dancing Queen” during my younger days.

After hearing rap newcomer Dalona’s “Lovely”, it seems like that rule doesn’t just apply to pop though. His debut single combines a super natural, swagged out flow that takes cues from the new generation of American rappers like Travis Scott with melodies that only a Swede could deliver. The beat’s icy synths and his auto-tuned sing-song vocals are a hypnotic one-two punch that’s more infectious than anything I’ve heard stateside. I may be a hip-hop old head who was right in the mix of LA’s 90s underground sound, but I have a serious appreciation for what the younger crowd is doing and know talent when I hear it, and Dalona is a massive one in the making. Sweden just might have their next major export on their hands!

LCAW – Nobody Else But You

I’m an unabashed pop fan who will go to the ends of the Earth to find serotonin-stimulating singles and digest all of the content that surrounds them. Sometimes that shows itself in the form of tearing through John Seabrook’s The Song Machine, rapidly taking notes and earmarking every other page to better understand the overarching process behind the music I love. Other times it involves walking down the street to Amoeba and dropping a cool $60 on a cornucopia of pop material that includes (but is not limited to) a Madonna Advocate cover issue and Hard Candy boxset, Kylie Minogue’s quintessential Fever, every Max Martin assisted CD in sight, and a Britney Spears covered magazine in a language which I most definitely don’t speak.

Through all of that obsessive collecting and information processing pop music’s vast range, I can assure you that I know a good bop when I hear one. Such is the case for LCAW’s “Nobody Else But You”, a funk-and-disco channeling single that beams with rays of joy and has urged me to hit the repeat button on more than one occasion. There’s no point in the song that isn’t infectious as it perpetually operates between “catchy” on its verses and “absurdly catchy” on its chorus (which is owed not only to LCAW’s production, but those utterly intoxicating guest vocals). It’s the perfect summertime soundtrack that will be making more than one appearance on beach days and coastal drives over the coming months.

Bella Mer – Loaded Gun

Bella Mer’s artwork for “Loaded Gun” finds her wrapped in a seemingly celestial glow, teetering between the earthly and the otherworldly; it’s a fitting visual approach to a track that’s best described as grandiose. Commenced with glimmering guitar-work, subtleties give way to a grand hook as the guitar-work goes gritty and its low-end swells underneath. While the instrumentals anchor the track, Mer vocally marches atop them with a blend of poise and potency that commands attention.

“Loaded Gun” undoubtedly thrives in its dramatics, yet it never strays away from pop music’s key element of perpetual forward momentum. So is that what defines the future pop banner it’s billed under? I’ve always mentally notated the PC Music sound as future pop, but you won’t find me arguing semantics with a song as tightly knit as “Loaded Gun”. Either way, its visuals and sound makes me think toward the future.

Gianni & Kyle – Jealous

In my experience, there’s two sides to jealousy in a relationship: anger and sadness. It doesn’t matter which one is the initial emotion, but they feed off of one another until it’s impossible to avoid turbulence. Gianni & Kyle carry that sentiment on “Jealous”, a brand new joint from the buzzing duo that finds them trading sung vocals with bars as they strike a delicate balance between rap and r&b. It’s a perfect sonic approach as the crooned hook of “when you don’t pick up the phone, I get jealous” feeds into the softer side of resentments, while the rapping in the song’s latter half is all about unadulterated frustration: “Under influence and booze and liquor is the only time I’m coming through, yeah; how you manage, what your plan is? Fucked around and got my heart where your hand is.”

Driven by dramatics that harken back to the ’90s stylings Gianni & Kyle previously invoked on Backstreet Boy Meets World, the song is melodramatic in the best way possible through its lyrics and sound. There’s enough tension going on here to warrant a sequel, so I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for an update (and maybe visuals with a ’90s r&b aesthetic to match).

Golden Vessel – Shoulders (ft. Elkkle & Mallrat)

When I listen to music for the purpose of reviewing it, I try to hone in on the minute details and mentally notate the track piece-by-piece. After hearing “Shoulders” and deciding I wanted to give my thoughts on it, though, that process shifted on its own terms. As I listened to the track, I began to zone out and discern my senses; the delicate warmth of the California air, the sunlight beaming through my windows, all wrapped into one lucid experience by the groovy atmospherics of “Shoulders”.

It’s a song that positively delivers during isolated listens, there’s no doubt about that, but my drift toward a wholly vivid experience is one that I’m inclined to pursue again. I have an urge to lay out on a quiet beach with a blanket with “Shoulders” coursing through my headphones as I fall asleep, the sounds of the ocean interlaced with Golden Vessel’s music as I approach a personal zen state.

I think I might have just figured out my weekend plans.