La Roux – Let Me Down Gently


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


John Wizards – Lusaka by Night

John Wizards - Lusaka by Night

It’s a wonderful experience when you stumble upon an artist who’s music blows your mind. Honestly, I can’t think of many feelings that come close to those initial sonic induced goosebumps except for a warm bubble bath or a surprise chin tickle (from a masked stranger).

Anyways, entering into the vast musical landscape is John Wizards, an interesting duo that includes South African multi-instrumentalist John Withers and Rwandan vocalist Emmanuel Nzaramba, who combine to create a blend of sounds from genres you may have not thought mixed well together (i.e. electro-pop, reggae, R&B, tropicalia, high speed African dance music, etc.) Currently, the group has finished their forthcoming self-titled debut, produced wholly in Wither’s bedroom that he pays for by producing music for television commercials.

Biographical details aside, this is some next level sh**. This is music for a beach party. Music for a backyard grill session. Baptize your child to this. While your friends are still listening to Vampire Weekend’s new album (which was great), part the longest section of your hair to the side that is most definitively shaved and ask the group if they’d like to go on a journey with you, Lewis and Clark style, into unexplored musical territory. Don’t be ashamed to be that person because I’ve gone there and the milk tastes amazing.

John Wizards, out this September via Planet Mu.

John Wizards – Lusaka By Night


Cassette Club – Don’t Go

The Internet makes it possible to consume a lot of music. Between SoundCloud, Hypem, and everyone and their mothers’ blogs, it’s become something of an addiction. The download era has stricken many of us with a disease that breeds both euphoria and delusion. Yes, it’s certainly great to have so many different sounds, styles, and songs to choose from at the click of the mouse. But at times it becomes really hard to decipher between the good, the bad, and the plain ugly.

Looking back at some of the stuff I’ve “hearted” or “downloaded,” 1, 3, and 5 years ago, some of it just flat out belongs in the trash can. But some of it–the truly excellent stuff–withstands time like the first song, via cassette tape, I can remember listening to (and throwing on repeat) in my mom’s car on the way to Kindergarten: “Black or White” by Michael Jackson.

Awesome pop songs, after 10 straight listens, they still bump. Which really, is the mark of a good song. Whether it’s in the club, the whip, or the sack, the song elevates you.

The kind of music that always has this affect on me is sappy, synth-laden heart-burners in the vein of Passion Pit and MGMT. To get cliche, it’s often described by a term used by every blogger on the sphere: infectious Electropop. And that’s what Cassette Club makes. Fans of Chad Valley and Walter Sobcek, these guys are for you–if Hall & Oates were produced by Daft Punk, it would probably sound something like this.

I was first introduced to their jam, “Number Seven,” about 6 months ago, and it’s at over 20 plays in my iTunes, and another 50 in my car. The London-based duo just gave away all their songs for free, and “Don’t Go,” a ballad about infidelity and regret, stands out as another home run. It’s a package of songs worth a “Like” on Facebook, and it’s one you’ll find yourself revisiting over and over again, like when you used to plug in your only tape and let it loop and loop and loop.

A friend of mine once had this inebriated quote printed in our college newspaper as a prank: “If you’re not looking for love, than what are you looking for.”

Cassette Club are clearly on a mission for love.

Cassette Club – Don’t Go

Cassette Club – Number Seven