Showing posts with label tropical house. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tropical house. Show all posts

Sunday, November 12, 2017

video review: 'kids in love' by kygo

My god I'm bad at remember to cross-post these videos... whatever, the record is still a lot of fun, enjoy!

Friday, November 10, 2017

album review: 'kids in love' by kygo

So I rarely talk about other critical opinions in my reviews, mostly because I don't tend to read many other reviews before my own and I don't want bias creeping in. I'm going to make an exception to this here, specifically in reference to Cloud Nine, the debut album from the Norwegian DJ Kygo that I reviewed last year. You might not know this, but it was one of the more critically derided records of 2016, certainly accruing lower scores than many would expect for a lightweight tropical house debut. And believe it or not, I'm not surprised by this: mainstream critical outlets need some punching bags, so instead of taking it out on inept bro-country or endlessly regurgitated trap or - god forbid - an act that other critics actually liked - why not go after a tropical house DJ little known stateside who can serve as an easy trendy target that won't fight back?

And let me make this clear: some of the criticisms of Cloud Nine are valid - it's overlong, the quality of guest stars is all over the place, it can feel incredibly thin at points, and overall the individual songs don't stand out as much as they should. But on the flip side it was a record that grew on me a fair bit throughout the summer of 2016, and most of that goodwill came down to Kygo himself: a sharp producer with good tastes in tone and groove that knew how to build a breezy likable vibe, which by the low standards many judge this genre was all he was looking to do! Hell, the fact that it managed to get a passable performance from Julia Michaels on 'Carry Me' should be worth noting at least - but then came 2017 and the Selena Gomez crossover that showed Kygo sharpening this talents. Not to spoil too much, but 'It Ain't Me' is one of the best hit songs of 2017 easily, and if Kygo could bring that talent for hooks to his new record, with guest vocals from John Newman, OneRepublic, Ellie Goulding, and plenty more, I was actually excited, especially as it seemed like he tightened things up, even despite including all the songs from his Stargazing EP from earlier this year. So what did I get with Kids In Love?

Monday, July 24, 2017

video review: 'mura masa' by mura masa

I need to be better at updating all these sites... or maybe just have an automated procedure that does the social media blast for me... need to research there.

Anyway, now onto that contentious movie review...

Thursday, July 20, 2017

album review: 'mura masa' by mura masa

Okay, I'm going to walk you all through the strange series of events that led me to wanting to cover this record. As many of you know I'm a big fan of Shura, whose debut album last year Nothing's Real was one of my favourite records of 2016, easily, and when I saw she was going to be featured on an upcoming project from a British DJ named Mura Masa, I was really curious and excited on what she would bring to the table. It's the stage name for Alex Crossan, who may have started off in punk pivoted towards the sleeker, trap and tropical house-leaning sounds that have been popular recently, and once he got signed to a major label he started pulling together a murder's row of guests that included Charli XCX, A$AP Rocky, and even Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz... but Shura's collaboration was nowhere to be seen.

And I have to admit, I found this pretty frustrating, as I'm not normally the type to seek out this style of music if I don't see strong names on the tracklist - I mean, you kept a song with Desiigner, who I'm fairly certain will never have a stable career in the near future, and you pitched the Shura song after filming a video for it and everything? Maybe it was because that single was released back in October of 2015 in order to drive buzz, but still, it struck me as a misspent opportunity. But hey, it was on my schedule this long and it got to the top, and the reviews have been decent, so what did we get from this self-titled record?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

video review: 'layers' by kungs

Well... okay, I was expecting more from this, but overall, it's decent. Breezy to a fault, but like with Kygo, it doesn't really stick with you, and probably would have benefited a late-summer release.

Eh, whatever - next up is Little Mix and then I've got a BIG announcement over the weekend - so stay tuned!

album review: 'layers' by kungs

So it's been fairly well established that the flavour of electronic dance music that was popular this year was tropical house. Reggae lilts in the guitars, hollow synths, textured percussion, a very breezy, languid vibe, it was all over the place this year. And since most of it seemed to forget that adding some actual colour to your instrumental tones help them stand out, it also led to a listless haze that did nothing for me for the majority of the year.

Now it wasn't all bad, especially if you drifted away from the United States where brighter tones managed to seep through - hell, look at Kygo - but there was one song that fell into interesting territory: 'This Girl', a collaboration with French DJ Kungs with an Australian funk band called Cookin' On 3 Burners. And while I definitely liked the song, one thing I noticed is that it really was on the border of tropical if that - despite sandy percussion, the guitar rollick, the soulful vocals and blend of horns reminded me more of the house trends that crossed over throughout the 90s. Some have called it a leftover of the deep house that dominated 2014, but the tones here were nowhere as saturated and dark. In other words, it was a good song, and it really should have done better on the Hot 100, but it seems like nobody wanted flair in their music in 2016, so other EDM songs that should have done well, it had momentum and then crashed pretty hard.

But I was still curious - after all, Kungs hadn't even reached twenty yet and he had a hit that had been huge worldwide, I was curious if he had more up his sleeve. So I checked out his full-length debut album Layers - what did we get?

Sunday, November 6, 2016

video review: 'collage' by the chainsmokers

Well, this was junk - but to be fair, I wasn't expecting this to be good. But on the other hand, I wasn't expecting something this cynically mediocre, so I'm not exactly surprised here...

Next up, though, something great that I missed from earlier this year, so stay tuned!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

album review: 'collage' by the chainsmokers

There will be no way to talk about pop music in 2016 without talking about The Chainsmokers - even if you desperately don't want to talk about The Chainsmokers.

And here's the funny thing: I'm starting to get the impression that the people who don't want you talking about The Chainsmokers in deeper detail includes the duo themselves. They'd probably prefer that you don't reference their atrocious faux-ironic sketch comedy beginnings, or the fact they were responsible for inflicting that viral marketing trash 'hit' '#SELFIE' on the world in 2014. In other words, right from the start I had a certain distaste for these guys, especially in their attitudes towards pop music, which can be aptly summed up in a quote they made in an interview with Billboard: 'even before success, pussy was number one'. Fantastic, all the proof that the attitudes typically associated with the 'white guy with acoustic guitar' stereotype can cross over: the guys who never made music out of any sort of artistic impulse, just to pick up chicks. Follow it up with an awful live performance with Halsey at the VMAs, their slagging of the band Weezer as 'thirsty', and their much-covered insults at Lady Gaga and Rihanna for either sucking or having 'no work ethic', and you can see why legitimate artists both in and outside of EDM treat The Chainsmokers with at best disinterest and at worst outright contempt.

But look, we've had assholes in music forever, I'm not holding The Chainsmokers to any sort of moral standard. No, what I find more corrosive is how it feels like so much of their music feels like an extended con run on the mainstream public, abusing the pass that's now common for pop in the cultural conversation to make some of the most cynical and hollow music imaginable. You might not like Lady Gaga's artifice or The Weeknd's nhilism, you might think Taylor Swift is thin-skinned and vindictive and Drake is overexposed and creatively stagnating, that Meghan Trainor can't back up her ego and Shawn Mendes is way over his head, but when I listen to their music, there's an artistic impulse that I might not like but is at least there. Even, who I used to loathe for his 'music-as-marketing savant' approach at least took the music with artistic integrity - even if he couldn't always execute, there was at least something. The Chainsmokers, meanwhile, freely admit in public to being inspired by Jeremy Piven's character from Entourage and seem to treat music more as a marketing gimmick to enable hedonism rather than any sort of art - so no wonder they've said they've never considered releasing a full-length debut album, because that would enable critics to drag them into a serious conversation they aren't prepared or willing to have. And that's the reason why I'm covering their second EP Collage in detail - call it a review, call it an expose, what did this Collage deliver?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

video review: 'i remember' by alunageorge

Not going to lie, I may have chosen to cover this just to avoid Shawn Mendes for another day, because yikes

But no point wasting any more time... stay tuned!

album review: 'i remember' by alunageorge

Let's talk about female vocals in pop music.

Now I recently heard a comment from one of my close friends that she's exasperated with so much of modern pop because nearly every female singer is trying to imitate Rihanna, or at least a similar sort of mid-range nasal, husky tone. And really, I can't fault her on that, but I did start thinking where that trend came from. After all, Rihanna's been around for over a decade now on the radio, and yet this trend has been much closer to the forefront over the past few years, so what's changed?

Well, the argument could be that with the advent of autotune, less refined voices have been allowed to proliferate in the mainstream, but I think that's only a small part of this story. What's much more likely is that refinement in vocals goes in and out of style in pop, just like any other trend. Right now, it's more common to hear vocals that have a bit more of a rasp or bite to them - give it five years and I predict we'll have another subset of angel voices dominating the radio, mark my words.

So why bring this up? Well, in preparation for AlunaGeorge's sophomore album, I was struck by the odd contradiction of their sound: vocals that were clean and cooing, perhaps only a shade rougher than the pop princesses around the turn of the millennium, but production that was straight out of UK garage and modern, offkilter electronica. It's not a new phenomenon - two years before AlunaGeorge dropped Body Music Purity Ring dropped their debut, which was considerably stronger, but thanks to a fortuitous remix, AlunaGeorge actually got popular in the mainstream and was one of the acts responsible for elevating DJ Snake. As such, I was definitely curious to check out their sophomore album - they had delivered a pretty slick collection of R&B tinged electronic pop in 2014, what was their plan for 2016?

Saturday, August 27, 2016

video review: 'brave enough' by lindsey stirling (VACATION REVIEW!)

You know, this is one of those cases where I'm not sure if I'm disappointed or just kind of frustrated that I didn't like this more. I get the odd feeling that Lindsey Stirling just isn't evolving enough as an artist, and as a fan, that really does frustrate me - I think she's got the potential for real greatness, but it's not materializing yet... GAH.

Anyway, on the topic of disappointments, next up is Atmosphere - stay tuned!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

video review: 'cloud nine' by kygo

Truth be told, I was reticent about covering this record, but really, it turned out to be rather nice. Good listen.

Next up, Chance The Rapper, White Lung, and finally Ariana Grande, so stay tuned!

album review: 'cloud nine' by kygo

So let's talk a little about tropical house.

Because in mainstream pop, you can't go that far on the radio without hearing its influence, and yet in comparison with most house music, it's relatively new. An offshoot of deep house that got its origins in the mid-to-late 2000s, it has become huge in the mainstream thanks to big pop crossover singles, or pop artists like Justin Bieber hopping on the sound. And really, it makes sense: the dark hollow tones of deep house could work in the right environment, but it didn't have the same sort of festival ready vibe that the lighter, more liquid tropical house tones did. And with the inclusion of a broader and brighter instrumental palette, it's the summer-ready material that might not have the bombast of the EDM of the first few years in the 2010s, but it definitely has more groove.

And yet I would make the argument that, like with so much electronic music, the US charts barely reflect the world-spanning scope of the genre. And one of the biggest cases of that is Kygo, a Norwegian producer who first smashed onto the scene with 'Firestone' in 2014 that finally crept onto the bottom of the Hot 100 late last year. But even though the United States may have forgotten he exists, the rest of the world hasn't, with multiple massive singles and as of yet the fastest artist to hit one billion streams of Spotify. Obviously there is something to this guy who has grabbed everyone's attention - along with the fact I've been getting requests for months to cover this album - and his debut album did have an impressive array of vocal talent, including John Legend, Foxes, Labrinth, and plenty more. That being said, I was a tad skeptical how well the tropical house formula would hold up over the entire record, or if Kygo could keep things interesting beyond the singles. So I hopped on Cloud Nine - what did I find?