Month: May 2017

Songs of the Week – May 21

Songs of the Week – May 21

Image: music.dopapod.com

This week I have four irresistibly catchy songs from a few different genres. Each of these songs has a unique energy that draws me back for more and I hope y’all enjoy these tracks as much as I have. Don’t forget to follow the Songs of the Week playlist to impress your friends with your repertoire of underground hits.

 

Neroche – The Departure

Genre: Trip Hop, Chillhop

Spotify

“The Departure” kicks off Neroche’s moody and hypnotizing album “The Crooked Mile”. This album is actually on the Beat Tapes playlist I recently featured but I want to give it the recognition it deserves. Neroche takes us on a crooked mile through the dark world created by atmospheric songs with just enough of a beat to nod along to.

The album as a whole is an immersive experience extending beyond just hearing the music. The combination of ominous song titles with the grey, uninviting album art inspires mental images of a journey through a sinister fantasy world. In the music the minor notes over downtempo beats create a feeling of gentle tension strong enough to notice but not overly intrusive.

 

 

Zion I ft. The Grouch – Silly Puddy

Genre: Rap

Spotify

This is another song that derives beauty from simplicity. A simple kick pattern punctuates the starry synth notes to create a soothing, spacey beat that Zumbi and The Grouch tightly rap over. “Silly Puddy” comes from the 2000 album “Mind Over Matter”.

“Mind Over Matter” has an old school flavor with well-delivered rhymes over simple boom bap beats. The beats and the rhymes do not overshadow each other and instead work together to create lyricially-driven easy listening songs. This relaxed style gives “Silly Puddy” great crossover appeal – my friends who don’t normally like rap will even request this song.

 

 

Dopapod – Present Ghosts

Genre: Psychedelic Rock

Spotify

“Present Ghosts” came out in 2014 but sounds like it’s from the peak of psychedelic rock. The introduction of the song is summery and enticing with a catchy synth lick that’s impossible to ignore as it continues through the first verse. The ringing synth notes in the chorus remind me of the famous Tannerin in the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations”.

Like any good psychedelic rock song, “Present Ghosts” breaks down into an indulgent, groovy bridge with peaks and valleys before crescendoing into the rocking chorus one last time. Longer songs can be intimidating in this day where it’s easy to skip around and listen to songs one minute at a time, but “Present Ghosts” is an engaging journey that keeps me wanting more.

 

 

Haiku D’Etat – “Mike, Aaron, and Eddie”

Genre: Rap

Spotify

As their name suggests, Haiku D’Etat (haiku + coup d’état) has a poetic style and puts a strong emphasis on lyricism. “Mike, Aaron, and Eddie” is an introduction to the group and one of the most unique rap songs I’ve ever heard. I first heard this song in Boreta’s crunchy banger of a remix. I admit the first time I heard the stripped-down, almost spoken word sound of the original I felt like something was missing, but the song has a special energy that kept bringing me back.

On the surface this song is very chill. Lyrical delivery is effortless and the beat is so relaxing you barely even notice it. However, if you listen closely there’s a punchy energy created by the stuttered lyrics. Like poets, the rappers rely on their words and delivery to bring life into the song. Tongue twisters like “M-M-Michael Michael mo Michael, bo feeble fible bo fichael” are easily thrown around in this showcase of syllable juggling.

Three Concerts That Exceeded Expectations

Three Concerts That Exceeded Expectations

Live music is like going to a nice restaurant. We can cook at home, but the skill and presentation of a master chef allows us to experience a dish in its highest form. In the same way, live music allows artists to share their music in the way they intend it to be experienced. With festival season now in full swing I want to highlight some of my favorite performances I’ve seen. These were engaging shows that went beyond just watching someone play music and really struck a chord with me. I’ve added the songs featured here to my Songs of the Week playlist.

Slowdive

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Genre: Shoegaze

Spotify

Air is the most basic human need. Most of us have never stopped breathing for more than about a minute. When we say something was breathtaking, we are saying that for a brief moment we experienced something so profound that our most basic human need became secondary. By this definition, Slowdive was absolutely breathtaking live.

The signature of shoegaze is instrumentals and vocals that blend together to create a cocoon of sound around concertgoers, who end up just gazing at their shoes as the music takes them for a ride. Slowdive’s powerful but gentle sound and stunning stage visuals made me forget that I was standing on a field in Fort Worth. I felt like I was being lifted in a colorful tractor beam and I never wanted the journey to end. Between songs we gently fell back to the ground and turned to our neighbors to try and find the words to capture what we had just experienced.

So much of the music I listen to thrives on contrast – from a wailing, soulful guitar jam over structured instrumentals to smooth rap bars dancing around a banging beat. This contrast is great for highlighting a solo or creating a stage for vocals, but it can also make other layers of a song easy to ignore as we tune into one sound. Slowdive was the first band I’ve seen that based their sound on oneness. The unison between the vocals, bass, guitars, synth, and drums forces you to constantly hear the entire song as one sound instead of a collection of instruments. This sound blanket is beautiful to experience live and I still get goosebumps from songs I heard at the concert.

“When The Sun Hits” stood out to me because the light show on the stage flashed with blinding energy during the outro. It felt like my soul was a dark room on a sunny day and someone had ripped the curtains open, filling me with radiant light. The rest of the “Souvlaki” album is a must listen and so is the recent self-titled album.

 

El Ten Eleven

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Genre: Post-Rock

Spotify

Live looping has been a staple of street performers and small groups for some time now and the success of artists like Ed Sheeran has brought more attention to the style. El Ten Eleven manages to create the sound of a full jam band with just two members thanks to Kristian’s skillful guitar and bass loops. Their sound is beautiful and addictingly catchy even when three or four layers deep.

I’ll also award style points for their audience work. I love seeing shows in smaller venues because the artist gets a chance to talk with the crowd instead of at them. The duo engaged us with jokes and made me feel like I was listening to a couple of my friends jam instead of actually attending a concert. It was a relief to get a break from the typical script where the artist asks us how we’re doing then guilt trips us about how the previous city on their tour was louder.

“Fanshawe” is one of El Ten Eleven’s most popular songs for good reason. It beautifully captures their sound from the delicate intro to the rocking climax. Check out the rest of their debut album, “El Ten Eleven”, then keep listening through to 2015’s “Fast Forward”. It’s all worth hearing.

 

Lettuce

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Genre: Funk

Spotify

Lettuce drew the most age diversity I’ve seen at a concert. The funk was alive in both the teenagers and the parents that brought them. Funk ditches rigid structure in favor of effortless grooving that you can’t resist dancing to, and Lettuce definitely made it look effortless with their merry, casual style. They come off as the kind of people who could show up to a formal job interview in shorts and still get the job.

“The Force” is the first song on Lettuce’s 2015 album “Crush”, which has some of my all-time favorite album art. If you like it I highly recommend checking out the rest of the album. Even if you don’t like it, the album has enough variety to please anyone. Prefer something  you can sing along to? He Made A Woman Out Of Me. Psychedelic funk? Phyllis (my personal favorite).

 

 

What live music lacks in polished studio sound it more than makes up for with energy, emotion, and a feeling of community with your fellow listeners. I enjoy the unique challenge of capturing the feeling of concerts in words and I look forward to going to more concerts to write about this summer.