Author: mattpcampbell15

The Ultimate Summer Nights Playlist

The Ultimate Summer Nights Playlist

A colorful, warm sunset in the stillness of dusk is the perfect comedown from a bright, hot summer day. I’ve been building a collection of songs from many genres that capture this mood. These are songs just upbeat enough to grab your attention but mellow enough to make you want to drive with your windows down under the streetlights. The playlist has popular hits you’ll recognize as well as some of my underground favorites. Here are some of my favorite lesser known songs that really capture the spirit of the playlist.

Be sure to check out the full playlist here!

Manic Focus – Travelin on My Mind

Genre: Dance, Electronic Funk

Spotify

I’m really digging Manic Focus’ album “Cerebral Eclipse”. It’s full of funky, stankface-inducing beats as well as a tasteful amount of wub. As soon as I heard the bass riff in the intro of “Travelin on My Mind”, I knew I had found a gem. This track has a more organic feel than the typical kick-snare dance track thanks to collaboration with The Coop, a unique electronic-infused jam band. The result of this collaboration is a song so smooth it just oozes out of my speakers. The uptempo beat is punctuated with little “wubs” and is just energetic enough to nod along to without being too overwhelming.

 

Intuition & Equalibrum – Weight Is Gone

Genre: Hip hop

Spotify

As you can tell from my recent feature of Haiku D’Etat, I love some lyrically driven rap. Intuition has a laid back, effortless flow that pairs perfectly with Equalibrium’s minimalist production. The beat in “Weight Is Gone” is little more than some background drums and keys and makes it feel like Intuition is speaking directly to me. This song is a unique delight to kick back to because not many rappers flow in such a relaxed style while still hitting the beat.

 

Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra ft. Nino Moschella – Kiss the sky

Genre: Alternative

Spotify

A unique track from the moody and mostly instrumental album “Voices and Choices”, this song starts off with a keyboard riff that makes me think of a decrepit carnival. Nino Moschella’s soulful falsetto pairs nicely with the twangy notes to create a beautiful sound that’s simultaneously uplifting and melancholy.   

 

Madvillain – Monkey Suite

Genre: Hip hop

Spotify

I can’t talk about smooth music without bringing up MF DOOM and Madlib. A renowned lyricist, DOOM delivers bars in a raspy voice where every syllable feels carefully planned to create a hypnotizing cadence and rhyme while Madlib’s lo-fi production creates a moody atmosphere that leaves the lyrics in the spotlight. “Monkey Suite” is a gritty journey through DOOM’s mind that makes me feel like I’m cruising through a seedy city at night. If you like this track, you should check out “Madvillainy”, one of hip hop’s most beloved albums.

 

BoomBox – Stereo

Genre: Dance

Spotify

“Stereo” kicks off BoomBox’s first album, “Visions of Backbeat”. The light, poppy beat is accompanied by gentle vocals to make a palatable dance track that works in a club or in a car. The BoomBox duo was strongly influenced by house music, or in their own words, “That heavy, full on the floor, hypnotic, minimal just tracks that made you groove.” “Stereo” certainly fits the mold of groovy hypnosis, but you can also hear the influence of rock and blues in the guitar and saxophone licks throughout the song.

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.

Essential Rainy Day Playlists

Essential Rainy Day Playlists

The rainy spring afternoons inspired me to create a playlist to capture their mellow mood. This playlist is your companion for those days that are nice enough to open the windows but grey enough to make you want to stay inside and relax. This is a living playlist and I’ll be adding albums as I come across them, so I encourage you to comment your suggestions.

Spotify Playlist

Outside Spotify there’s still plenty to hear. I highly recommend the YouTube channel STEEZYASFUCK. Steezy introduced me to the minimalist downtempo sound and I save my favorite albums that are not on Spotify on this YouTube playlist.

Songs of the Week – March 19

Songs of the Week – March 19

Image: junodownload.com

Rap is not typically an avenue for intimate emotional expression, but using the power of words to drive a song gives artists a chance to create uniquely personal reflections of their own minds. This week I picked apart a couple of songs that stood out to me as well-written windows into the artists’ souls.

Lady Paradox – When The Weather Fades
Released: 2009
Genre: Rap
Spotify

“Kind of Peace” is a soothing, almost meditative, album. Lady Paradox sets a melancholic tone through her lyrics in the early songs by describing the lonely disconnection the walls of depression create. “Dreams” is the first song to introduce positive imagery in the form of Lady Paradox’s fantasies about a brighter world. The song ends with jazz legend Johnny Griffin describing his relevant quotation – “Jazz is made by and for people who have chosen to feel good in spite of conditions.”

Jazz is an emotional genre and its roots in blues give artists the ability to express feelings beyond the range of words through the primal language of music. Lady Paradox takes this emotional nature of music a step farther in “When The Weather Fades” by personifying it as an exciting new lover. She draws on my favorite imagery between music and weather I described in my first post as she describes how music can shine through the haze of her depression.

“I try and listen to fill in empty spaces
Sounds are my brightness when the weather fades”

Lady Paradox continues to describe her beloved relationship with music as a constant source of support and the tone of the entire album changes. The remaining songs are upbeat and confident, culminating in “Summertime”, a joyful song filled with imagery to delight all of the senses with the sights, smells, and flavors of summer.

The journey of self discovery on the album reminds me a lot of one of my all-time favorite albums, Kid Cudi’s “Man on the Moon: The End of Day”. I highly recommend listening to the whole album cover to cover for the full experience, but I think this transitional song does a great job of capturing the purpose of the album.

 

 

Richie Cunning – Pure Imagination
Released: 2015
Genre: Rap
Spotify

This is a perfect example of a track where well-done production turns a good rap into a great song.

The audio clip in the beginning is from the 1993 crime drama “A Bronx Tale”, a story of a young man at the intersection of a law-abiding life and a life of crime with the mafia. This theme of polarity is echoed in the rest of the song.

The beat in the verse features a sample of the introduction to the song “Pure Imagination” in the 1971 film “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory”. This is the song we hear as Wonka introduces the Chocolate Room. The haunting chimes build a sense of anticipation as we see the fabled room for the first time. In Richie’s version, the chimes are slowed down to match the march-like cadence of the beat as he raps about the monotonous grind of his life. We still feel that sense of anticipation; surely there must be something more to all of this.

Our patience is rewarded in the chorus where a symphony of strings invokes a sense of elation as Richie’s tone shifts from defeated to dreaming and hopeful. The first time I heard this song I didn’t even realize how much the mood had changed until I was completely grounded again at the end of the chorus as the music cuts out and Richie says “But there I go letting my mind get ahead of me/Swimming in a rainy day reverie.”

One subtle touch I love in this song is after the second chorus, the last line changes to “Drowning in a rainy day reverie”. His dreams have gone from a casual fantasy to an all-consuming escape from reality.

Songs of the Week – March 12

Songs of the Week – March 12

For you Spotify users, I’ve made a playlist where I’ll be adding the songs I feature each week.

This week I’m celebrating the longer evenings of daylight savings time by sharing some easy listening tracks that’ll make you want to roll the windows down.

Drapht – Jimmy Recard
Released: 2008
Genre: Rap
Spotify

Here’s your spring break pregame song. In this Australian hit, Drapht excitedly introduces us to an extraordinary man with an extraordinary name: Jimmy Recard.

The guitar and flute in the opening immediately give this song a playful atmosphere. When the song takes off, Drapht’s lyrics glide over the hot beat with a swagger that I can’t resist nodding along to. This track hits the sweet spot on the hype meter – it’s energetic, but lighthearted enough that you can enjoy it in almost any setting.

Brenton Duvall & Tayyib Ali – Pretty Little Penthouse
Released: 2011
Genre: Chill Rap
SoundCloud

I got into “Pretty Little Penthouse” because of its simplicity. I found it in high school when I was first experimenting with rap and I loved how the song was bright, easy, and perfect for playing with the windows down. It was actually one of the first rap songs I burned to a CD so I could do just that.

Brenton Duvall’s work has a signature warm, friendly sound that’s easy to binge. His SoundCloud has plenty of songs with the same sunny vibe. Tayyib Ali’s smooth, positive bars vibe perfectly with the beat to create a perfect bite-sized song that’s kept me hitting the replay button for years.

Louis The Child ft. Elohim – Love Is Alive
Released: 2017
Genere: Modern Dance
Spotify

Louis The Child has a delightful sound that is lively enough to dance to but also mellow enough to unwind to. The way they blend vocals with their tropical beats creates addicting friendly and melodic tracks.

Elohim’s ethereal singing style vibes perfectly with Louis The Child’s sound to create an intimate, modern dance track that almost feels too delicate to play at full volume. The atmosphere in the chorus feels like a warm embrace that melts away my worries.

Souls Of Mischief – 93 ‘Til Infinity
Released: 1993
Genre: Rap
Spotify

The Souls Of Mischief were a young group of rappers fresh out of high school when they dropped their most popular album, “93 “Til Infinity”. The entire album has a youthful energy and is tied together by the fantastic chemistry of the four rappers. Two of the members started writing rhymes together when they were just eight years old. While many rappers are influenced by the styles of those who came before them, it’s a rare treat to hear a group who actually developed their styles together. They each have a unique flavor but their flows share a lot of rhythm and inflections, making natural and seamless transitions between each other’s verses.

In the title track, the group takes a break from spitting battle rap disses and gritty pictures of Oakland to rap about some of the positive things in their lives with a casual, lively flow. The beat is satisfyingly simple and the way the group jumps between verses so easily makes me feel like I’m in the booth chilling with them.

These refreshing tracks will hit you like a crisp spring breeze, so crack a window and let them in.

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Songs of the Week – March 5

Songs of the Week – March 5

Image: vanillabeats.bandcamp.com

Summer beers are filling the seasonal shelves, charcoal is on sale, and soon daylight savings time will give us a chance to finally enjoy our evenings outside. Just as nature sheds brown grass and grey skies for vibrant green growth and deep blue skies, we replace our muted earth tones with an energetic pallette. Our taste in fashion is echoed in our taste for music as the cozy sounds of winter become the banger anthems of summer.

In these last weeks of winter, I’ve been both savoring the cold weather vibe as well as building hype for grilling season by enjoying a mix of downtempo jams and upbeat anthems I just can’t resist dancing to. Here are some of my favorites:

Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf – Methods
Released: 2003
Genre: Chill Rap

Spotify

A record player’s soft crackle and a warm keyboard notes embrace you and invite you to listen carefully. Charizma’s soft voice compliments the atmosphere, but he raps with a cadence, emphasizing syllables on the backbeat.

Once you pick up the pattern in Charizma’s flow, you can feel the beat there. The first time I heard this song, I found myself nodding along to just the words over the imaginary beat. The beat kicks in right after Charizma says “Dreaming of the usual/A rap beat” and it is IMMENSELY satisfying to feel it fill that gap where you just know a beat belongs. I found his choice in wording there to be very interesting too, because I was definitely dreaming of a rap beat at that point in the song.

Vanilla – Golden
Released: 2015
Genre: Electronic Jazz

I can’t get enough of Vanilla’s Origins mixtape. It’s warm, jazzy, and strong enough to dance to, but not too invasive, making it the perfect background music for anything. I chose to share “Golden” specifically because I think it has one of the most engaging vibes on the album.

A soft blanket of strings with a hint of accordion makes me feel like I’m floating through the canals of Venice on a warm evening. A saxophone sample then dominates the song with so much attitude it transforms the atmospheric sounds into a groovy jam. If you like what you hear I highly recommend giving the entire mixtape a listen.

Shad – Rose Garden
Released: 2010
Genre: Rap
Spotify

On the more upbeat end of the spectrum, “Rose Garden” has an unexpected story. The bright sample we hear in the beginning is from a song of same title performed by the girl group, The Three Degrees. Here’s where it gets interesting–The Three Degrees’s song is actually a cover of a pop country hit, “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” by Billy Joe Royal.
Give this a listen and try to imagine it fitting into a rap song.

The worlds of country and rap rarely collide, and when they do, the results are hit or miss. Sometimes you get Yelawolf, but sometimes you get Kid Rock. Thankfully, “Rose Garden” is one of the winners. The bright, bouncy beat and uplifting lyrics raised my spirits on many long walks across campus during my undergrad.

GRiZ – It’s All Good
Released: 2015
Genre: Electronic Funk
Spotify

I’m a huge fan of GRiZ’s sound. It’s loud and energetic, but what makes you dance is that funky swing he’s able to capture from his samples. After hearing his “Say It Loud” album, I watched his behind the scenes video and was impressed to see that he actually tracked down funk musicians to jam with him and record all of the samples he used. His hands-on approach to making sure his samples all captured the right sound gives the album a polished, cohesive sound that forces me to dance along.

“It’s All Good” checks all the boxes for an electronic funk track. Soulful vocals over a piano cadence build with wind instruments and occasional wubs into a groovy dance anthem. The second drop, however, is where the true beauty of this song lies. Just when you think you’re safe in the funk, GRiZ reminds you that you’re supposed to be dancing and hits you around the 2:35 mark with a drop that barely gives you a chance to react before your body is moving. 

Umphrey’s McGee – Booth Love
Released: 2013
Genre: Jam band
Spotify

Umphrey’s Mcgee is difficult to categorize. According to Wikipedia, UM experiments with many musical styles, including rock, metal, funk, jazz, blues, electronic, bluegrass, and folk.” I would file Booth Love under funk.

The word of the day is smooth, and in that regard “Booth Love” is just buttery. My headphones actually slipped off my head the first time I heard this. Beautifully harmonized lyrics, a low, funky beat, and tastefully intrusive horn responses result in a versatile track that you’d wanna dance to in a bar but would also add to your mattress music playlist.

As excited as I am to get outside for concert season, I like to balance my musical diet with plenty of relaxing tracks to savor the precious few cozy weeks I have left before I put my sweatpants away for the summer. I’m eager to share the sounds of spring with you as they come and I encourage you to check out the other work of the artists I post if you like what you hear.