no gold – no gold LP

A few weeks ago, I got to go and adventure through Vancouver for just under a week, as a kind of  test run to see if I’d want to live in the city next year. It was the first real trip I’ve taken on my own and I spent the majority of time roaming through the streets listening to music, as per usual.

The music scene there seems very promising. On one weekend, Beirut and Gold Panda were doing separate shows in the city, and quite a lot of acts go through Vancouver on the regular. It’s kind of a necessity that whichever city I end up choosing to live in (a toss up between Vancouver, Tokyo, or somewhere in California), it must have some sort of vibrant music culture to satisfy my craving for live music.

I try to acquaint myself with artists in cities all over the world mainly because there are so many fantastic, untapped sounds to choose from. For Vancouver locals, I really only know of Grimes and Felix Cartal so I was pretty pumped when Mapzzz highlighted a trio called No Gold, who happen to be from the same city. After listening to “Hollarp” I decided to take a look at their bandcamp page and bought their self-titled LP.

 

FIRST LISTEN

1. Rainforce

We open with an onslaught of synths, noise, and Kevin Shields-esque production style. It reminded me of a mix between two of my favorite songs from the Lost in Translation soundtrack – “Goodbye” and “Sometimes” (I realize “Sometimes” is a My Bloody Valentine song). It sets the stage for a dramatic, avant garde album.

2. Rainforts

This opens as a clean transition from the intro track, continuing the rainy feel to the album. “Rainforts” is a strong track off the album because even though it opens with undercurrents of sad tones, this song introduces warm elements the previous song was missing. It’s a good song for a live performance where I think No Gold can alter it based on crowd appeal. The guitars and beat are head bobbable, for sure.

 

3. Weird Week

DANCE TRACK. I want to see this group perform live because of this specific song – it’s catchy, has a driving beat, with such happy sounds that you want to boogie down. The lyrics are funny to boot, making you miss college and being young. It’s short, sweet, and perfect.

 

4. Council Jam

“Council Jam” takes a bit of a detour from the vibes set by “Weird Week.” From the beginning of the song, there’s a reminiscent quality to it, with quieter vocals and a prominent bass line. The ‘hoos’ and ‘haas’ also help set this mood in motion, even as the song picks up within the first two minutes. Buck up though, because like the title suggests, it’s a jam song making the over all running time sit at eight minutes.

5. Mood Hut

This track is noiseish as it opens though it quickly breaks into a deconstructed melody. It has really cool vocal play and an interesting synth/guitar overlay. They do a good job of featuring every instrument in the band with the drummer having a sped-up spotlight than the other instruments.

 

6. We/Be/Do

I feel like I’m on an off-kilter safari listening to this song. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad track – quite the opposite, actually. It does a good job of keeping a flow going for the overall LP but still slows down the album to push it into a more ambient, funkier direction. It’s shorter which adds a nice flavor change from a few of the longer tracks the LP has to offer.

7. Resolver

We’re back to an alternative, noise pop song à la Kevin Shields/MBV. It’s complete flip flop from the beginning vibes of the LP even though it’s a nod back to “Rainforce.” One of my favorites overall ’cause the beginning guitar and synths are darker but it still keeps a finger snapping beat. I can’t say the bass line is sexy, even though we know how I love the sexy bass lines. It’s dirty in a funk sorta way, which is the best kind of dirty.

 

8. Puluti

No Gold’s closing track has a fun feel to it, keeping with the quieter vibes of the latter half of the album while still tying it together with the earlier, upbeat songs of the LP. I’m a big fan of the guitar conversation and the ‘real-life’ sounds of normal life with developing synths coming just underneath it.

 

SAS

After thinking about what ties the album together, I came to the conclusion that the drumbeats make this a cohesive album. Usually, having the same beat drives me up a wall from extreme boredom, but in No Gold’s case this works out fine. They do a good job of vocal play, synth work, and poppier guitars creating a well-constructed album. “Rainforts,” “Weird Week,” and “Resolver” remain to be my favorite songs off the album, while “We/Be/Do” is probably the most interesting track the band put out for No Gold.

Overall, I’d sit the album at a 7. “Hollarp” is a solid example of the growth and potential No Gold has for the future, so I’ll keep them on my list of groups to watch out for. Good job, Vancouver.

-jo.

k.flay feat. felix cartal – rest your mind

This year’s summer weather has made me so angry, not only because of the incessant heat, but also due to it depriving me of my favorite pastimes – night drives in the rain. It’s one of the only times I’ll willingly go outside, take a walk, then drive around for a couple of hours listening to music. For some reason, music in a rainy car has a bittersweet, romantic quality to it. Maybe I stand alone, but next time it’s raining, do yourself a favor and grab your keys, a coffee, and a few  playlists and take a solo drive.

Something about K.Flay reminds me of summer nights and long drives. It’s not because she delivers that type of music all the time, but from the vibes I get from the girl, she just seems like a chill person who digs driving around listening to music.

The first time I saw her perform was a couple of years ago when she did a college tour with Passion Pit. I always get to venues early to catch the openers because if I like the headliner a lot, I’m bound to dig whoever they chose to tour with them.

I remember watching her get on stage, put down a few beats, and rap the crap out of the microphone. One of the best friends had an instant crush on her, only to turn into all out fervor when he discovered she studied psychology and sociology at Stanford. This girl is a complete bad ass.

She recently collaborated with Felix Cartal for their song “Rest Your Mind” which was released yesterday.

FIRST LISTEN

It opens with some heavy bass and “whoops” seamlessly seguewaying into K.Flay’s husky rap. There are still some distinct Cartal synths he throws in, making for a sexy hip hop beat. It showcases K.Flay’s flawless rapping style with cutting lyricism and clear delivery. She’s got mad wit. Cartal uses elements from popular hip hop composition to create a catchy  as all hell instrumental for K.Flay to rap over. Good god I’m geeking out.

SAS

I’ve already started dropboxing this to friends of mine who aren’t as familiar with either artist as it’s such a killer track AND promotes dental hygiene. It’s going on my next fall mix for 8tracks, that much is a certain. I kind of gauged how much I liked the song based on the amount of time I spent smirking throughout it. The longer I have a slightly sadistic look on my face the more I like the song. What? I never said it would make sense.

Link to download is in the picture above. Grab her free EP as well, titled Eyes Shut.

-jo.

shortcircles – remember me EP

My sister recently asked me if I considered myself ahead of the curve when it comes to finding music to listen to. It made me quiet for a moment and I told her it was kind of difficult these days to be truly ahead of the curve with music, what with social media and the easiness of sharing songs. As a rule, I try not to think about those kinds of things because it makes for a more narrow-minded music listener. Even three years ago I would have labeled myself as a music elitist – the moment anyone listened to an artist who had been around for ages I’d be quick to call them out on it and say, “I listened to this way before you knew who they were.”

In the last couple of years, though, I’ve made a concerted effort to listen to, literally, all types of music. Even the genres and artists that I usually can’t stand, I will give every song a chance. I’ve noticed that with my most music obsessed friends, only two or three of them have overcome the dismissing-music-genres phase and have instead worked to listen to everything. It’s a hard move to make, but I think that’s what has made me a better music listener. Now I don’t care about being ahead of the curve – at the end of the day it’s about the songs themselves, amirite?

That being said, I still feel so much joy when I find an artist or song very few people have listened to – how can I not? All of us get that giddy feeling over finding gems.

This ties in perfectly to my love for the Oakland producer, shortcircles, who is a master at genre blending. He released a brand new EP just under a week ago called Remember Me.

FIRST LISTEN

1. Remember Me (feat. Miss Kia from Parentz)

It opens with a trip into space and distorted vocals repeating “remember me” with Miss Kia adding her actual lyrics. The initial vibes of the song reminded me of Rimar and an overall nostalgic element to it. The best songs are the ones which are most familiar to you, and this was an instant pleaser. There are some truly dirty synths on this track creating a very rich sound.

2. Take Flight (feat. Tiana Vallan) 

At first the song reminds me of an elevator, well, a very sexy elevator. The drum lines and bass are sensual beyond belief. This is a perfect late summer jam – makes me want to DJ so badly. It’s not dancey by any means, but for those who have DJ’d before, you’d understand what kind of gig this would be perfect for.

No, it is not lounge, stop saying that.

3. Find You (feat. Tiana Vallan)

This has some serious Asian vibes to it. The opening guitar and subsequent strings make me feel like I’m in a salon in old Kyoto. Gorgeous. Vallan’s vocals pair so well with the instrumental and makes it a stand out track.

4. Love My Man (feat. Miss Kia from Parentz)

From the get go, this feels the most like a traditional shortcircles track with the bassline and drums. It’s got a glitchier feel to it mixed with his penchant for melodic buildups. This was easily my favorite track off the EP because of it’s quieter, humbling elements to it. I love nighttime, and this was the first song that made me want it to be dark out. It’s got a similar Asian feel to it tying it well into the previous track. There’s a definite flow to the EP as a whole which makes me love this song even more.

5. Searching for a Reason (Glenn Jackson remix)

HOLY CRAP. In the first twenty seconds I fell for this song, hard. It’s sexy, glitchy, and has undertones of a darker melody. It’s a perfect late-August, summer drive kind of song. Damn. This is going on repeat for awhile.

SAS

Like I mentioned before, “Searching for a Reason” is still going strong on repeat. After putting the EP on shuffle, I noticed that “Remember Me” reminds me of the LASERS song, “3027” (this is a different LASERS than the one I blogged about before). In general, I have to say that all of these songs can stand on their own and work well in context. In most EPs and albums, that I’ve noticed at least, it’s hard to get every song to work cohesively and still be okay on their own. shortcircles once again proves himself as a competent and diversified producer. Keep this guy on your radars, please.

-jo.

submerse

It’s not uncommon for me to have crushes on inanimate objects, cartoon characters, cities, or anything which cannot be turned into an actual relationship (like a flesh and blood human). Back when I was a kid, I went to Georgia and fell so in love with the state (not that weird – I used to also run around saying I was a reincarnation of a T-Rex to my first grade class) that I told my parents I was going to marry Georgia.

Georgia is not a person. Georgia cannot give me any physical love in return. Georgia can, however, give me peaches and Forrest Gump quotations.

Fast forward to 2012 and you have a somewhat older and better traveled 20-something who now has a massive, all-consuming crush on Tokyo. This doomed love affair encompasses people who have a similar affinity for the city and Japan, especially musicians.

Cue in submerse. Around half a year ago, Rob Orme, the mastermind behind fusing Japanese pop, garage, and an onslaught of various sub-genres moved from his home country of the UK to Tokyo. Some, like myself, would say it’s one of the smartest moves he could have made.

Since the move he’s released vinyl EPs through Apollo and Project: Mooncircle. His songs are full of life, from sampling day-to-day sounds of the high-pace Tokyo lifestyle and the breath of the city, you can feel what Orme is experiencing as his music plays in your headphones.

Having been to Japan a couple of times now, I’m right there with Orme. I walking through Yoyogi Park, meandering through Shibuya, ogling the shufflers in Akihabara, and spending hours riding on the subways.

I’m not that well versed on garage music as a whole but from what I’ve heard out of this guy (young man, rather) is impressive. The female vocals are fairly common in garage from what I’ve read and heard in the past, but they’re familiar to me in all the haunting music I have in my library. One of the best examples I can think of is Myrkur’s “Why,” with its brooding, terrifying video game quality to it. Not necessarily bleepy, just the vibe of it – kind of like going into the End of the World level of Kingdom Hearts, y’know?

“Never Again” has a very different feel from a typical submerse track because it’s more of a sub-genre than a garage-centric track. This song has been a long time favorite of mine by submerse because of its depressing quality (noticing a trend here?) and of how lush it is. He really is a Midi wizard and you can hear how much time he puts into each song, even if they come off as something fairly simple. Brilliant.

Submerse started popping up on my radar after Nakata Yasutaka released “Pon Pon Pon” by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. Submerse remixed it on his soundcloud page and I found myself bobbing along to it and began hunting through various tumblrs trying to pick up more of his heavy-handed Japanese inspired music. I quickly discovered, however, that his darker music was equally entrancing. His “Mix About You” made me cry immediately after he opened with one of my favorite Stars of the Lid song, “A Meaningful Moment Through a Meaning(less) Process.” It’s not too often a mix tape is so well done that I listen to it over and over again, especially at night.

I realize this post is not as heavily focused on the breakdown of individual submerse songs as I typically do with other artists. This is mainly due to Orme’s extremely well-executed production style. One soundcloud comment remarked that his drums were so clean that you can eat them. Yes, it’s absolutely true. You can literally taste how beautiful each part of a submerse track is on its own, and as a full product. Delicious.

I recommend hitting up his soundcloud page (linked in the image above) and listening to more of the songs he’s put out this past year while he’s in been in Tokyo. Even if you’ve never been there, any appreciator of night walks and introspective cities will find a comrade in his music. I’m looking forward to hearing more city oriented tracks from him  – he’s going to be in Tokyo for another year before heading back to the UK, and by that time, you’ll be able to hear his growth and thoughts on living abroad spread out in all of his releases.

An interview Orme did with Factmag, which is a personal favorite he’s done so far, can be found here. It’s one of the best written interviews I’ve read in a long time, and does better justice in explaining Orme’s thoughts on J-pop, garage, and what his music actually is than I ever could.

Also, for added reference, here’s a link to Myrkur’s “Why” so that you may add an older, glorious song to your night drive playlist.

-jo.

mister lies

There’s something about summer nights in Chicago that puts me in a funk. Maybe it’s my distaste for the heat mixed with perfect circumstances for night walks that makes me all moody yet excitable for music.

Such is the case when listening to Mister Lies.

This kid (yes, a child, he is only 19) is a wizard with ambient music, down tempo, and something he and Different Sleep coined ‘ambient gospel.’ He’s a Chicago local with a penchant for dream making.

This past Wednesday was his official debut in Chicago as a producer at this dive bar/music venue in Wicker Park called Empty Bottle.

Holy goodness.

That kid knows how to build a solid set list, not to mention listening to any Mister Lies song on massive speakers is a very humbling experience. The music has a cascading effect on your body – my friend and I didn’t speak for the entire set. That’s a very rare occurrence for us. The only qualms I had about his live performance is the amount of time he spent fiddling with effects. I get that for this kind of music it’s difficult to throw curve balls, but it would’ve been cool to see him deconstruct his songs and put them back together on stage. Baths, Nosaj Thing, Daedelus, Star Slinger, among others, have a similar MO as trigger artists. Having DJed a decent amount and seeing enough electronic shows, I can say that just messing with the effects and EQ’s isn’t enough for me to stay interested.

I’m being hard on the guy, he’s only done a few shows. He’ll figure out a solid groove for himself soon enough.

Earlier this year he released his Hidden Neighbors EP which is absolute gold. I can’t tell you how many nights I spent walking all over my campus at night, or laying in bed losing myself in thought to “Cleam” and “Morgan.” The Jessica Blanchet vocals on “I Walk” are ethereal and yet grounding in the way Mister Lies messes around with them. The music surrounds you rather than something you only listen to.

I don’t know, this kid makes me act a damn fool when a track of his comes on.

Overall, Mister Lies has a very clean production style. It’s minimalistic (which I adore – how very Japanese of me) yet still lush and dynamic enough to keep interest. A friend of mine and I had a long conversation about the way Mister Lies makes music, in that, while it is heavily ambient, the bass lines and drums he sneaks in makes for a more musically rich experience. I find that, while being a big fan of ambient music, songs tend to get wrapped up droning instruments that the song loses itself. It becomes repetitive, boring, and overall a general waste to listen to multiple times.

“Cleam” comes dangerously close to doing this, with it being roughly six minutes long. It’s such a gorgeous composition though, that listening to it alone at night keeps it from falling into the stereotypical down tempo trap. The song has, wait for it, an unbelievably sexy bass line. The vocals make you want to sleep with someone in a destructive way with a man saying to “make a move.” How can you not?

The kid has a gift for composing his music. From the pianos, synths, drums, and especially the bass lines, he proves himself as a natural musician. He recently tweeted that he was heavily considering not making music anymore, not even three months ago, but holy damn is the music community glad that he did not partake in said decision.

We’re just over halfway through the year and Mister Lies has an impressive array of releases on his bandcamp and soundcloud pages. I hope he spends some time working on his live sets ’cause I know there is a lot of greatness coming from this kid in the near future. My spidey senses are going off non-stop about it.

-jo.

empty pockets

I’ve always wondered what kind of criteria someone has to have to become a crayon/ice cream flavor namer. It’s a job I’ve always coveted because equating colors and flavors to unlikely material is one of my favorite past times. Clearly I have too much time on my hands, but in any case, it would be a bomb job to add to my LinkedIn account.

Some of these people, I think, are on the song-naming circuit. Sometimes song names make zero sense when you listen to a song, kind of like a good portion of modern art. Dance music, especially, can piss me off with names. Making the repetitive vocal track as the name of a song is really clever, you know? It never gets old.

That got slightly side tracked, my bad. Back to the main point of this post which is highlighting one half of the beloved James & Evander dyanmic duo, Adam Myatt, also known as Empty Pockets. He branches off from his usual dream pop production pair to create a melancholic downtempo medley of delicious songs. Gosh, nothing makes me happier than downtrodden, depressing beats.

1. Can’t Decide

Like the bandcamp page described, the murky vocals and slithering acoustic guitar is a perfect blend of sunny rain. Not the annoying kind with rainbows and crap, but a constant transition between the two. This had an Iron & Wine feel to it (probably with the vocal bending) but not in a twangy way that can annoy me about the band. This song is riddled with nostalgia and coffee, making for a well balanced early morning tune.

 

2. Jan. 25th, 1982

Sad song. While there’s no clear indication of what the date means to Myatt, there’s clearly an overwhelmingly melancholic quality to the song. It wasn’t as big of a stand out to me as far as the EP goes, but it does make for a song I enjoy thinking to.

Screw grammatical errors.

3. Shipwrecked Shell

The first thing I thought when listening to this track is a Postal Service esque feel to the rhythm and timing of the song. It brought me back to middle school and listening to their music on bus rides home. Maybe I was one of those typical angsty teenagers, but it did bring an onslaught of memories one late night while listening to this song. It’s got this gritty feel to the synths and drums which, not only makes you depressed, but also angry. It’s an interesting composition with the perfect name to go with it. It makes you feel empty and lost just like a shipwrecked soul.

 

 

Listening to all of this James & Evander music, as well as shortcircles and other Oakland based producers makes me want to move out to that city. Who knows – it may join the list of prospective cities I move to after Vancouver and Tokyo.

You can download the free Empty Pockets EP off Myatt’s bandcamp page which is linked to the photo above. Go have fun and stuff.

 

-jo.

thrupence – voyages EP

Does anyone else here judge music by its album covers? As much as I try to avoid doing such a rookie move, it’s kind of hard not to with everyone and their left foot having means to make killer graphic designs. There is an abundance of absolute crap for album covers which can sour a mood to listen to a new artist – what can I say, pretty things are pretty for a reason. Work with it.

This past spring I fell for Thrupence, not just because of his music (though he is a favorite producer of mine these days), but for the cover of his Voyages EP. It feels like the moon destroyed itself with flowers and dripping paint. Oof. It’s a winner. Voyages is a perfect example of a seasonal album meeting the soul of a person to create a masterpiece. The overall vibe of the EP is darker, with interjections of “brighter” songs to balance out the troubled disposition of the release.

1. Voyages

Holy crap. Talk about setting the mood for a depressing EP with the title song having the only lyrics say, “right before I left my mom sent me a text message that said, ‘are you having a good day?’ …that was the last thing I saw.” While spring tends to be a rough season for me in general, I distinctly remember dropping my pencil when I heard that line which leads into such a tangled climax. The synths layered over piano is emotional to the point where you can’t help but tear up.

2. Folds

Thrupence follows “Voyages” with a less distressed, downtempo track focusing on glitchy drums and surrealistic vocals with flutes. It carries on the sadder vibes of the first song by making it suitable for a rainy spring afternoon. A strong track to follow the previous one, though on its own it may not hold as much character.

3. Winston

Initially, this song didn’t really cut it for me. It was a song I zoned out to quite a lot but it had one great advantage – it serves as a transition song in the most perfect way possible. “Voyages” and “Folds” are so overwrought with emotion that Thrupence, in a brilliantly subtle way, introduces brighter elements to “Winston” with a faster pace and tighter drums. There are fewer drawn out synth lines which segue ways seamlessly into the following track.

4. Synchronous Bloom

This was the song that put me on the Thrupence kick in the first place, after tammyszu posted it on her YouTube channel (you gotta check out her playlists, she’s one of my secret arsenals for music hunting). This is, by far, the loudest and most upbeat track on Voyages. I couldn’t help but bounce to classes and through the city to this song on a sunnier, yet cold day.

5. Parlay

The upbeat vibes don’t last for long since Thrupence takes us back to a very eerie place, almost like an ethereal ocean. It’s water drifting music, where if I could physically do it, I’d be floating around on an ocean and losing myself in mermaid voices. The bass line is pure sex. Diggin’ it.

6. Swashbuckle (Seabed Stroll Redo)

This is the song I include in the mixes I made for spring. As the title suggests, it’s a strolling song, especially in a city park. People watching to this little number is a gorgeous experience, because it makes everyone (even the grossest of the gross) have a bit of a glow to them. It’s dreamscape music and I’m absolutely in love.

7. Everforever

Another favorite of mine. It’s the “hopeful” song of the EP with a promise for something “good” to come. In a life sense I couldn’t stop listening to this on my bed with a cup of tea. It pairs well with an early morning and a lot of time on your hands to mill about.

8. Kickshaw (Bonus Track)

This is a very sweet song – it’s the kind that you ride around on a bicycle dreaming of someone you’re interested in. It’s short, to the point, and clean. There’s also a head bobbing, knee drumming quality to this track which makes me grin a lot. Nerding out a bit, don’t mind me.

9. This House is Full of Water (Bonus Track)

This is one of the glitchiest songs off the EP and is addictive in the spaciness of the synths. It’s got a similar dark undertone that nods to production similar to “Winston” and “Folds.” It’s another favorite of mine and despite it being a bonus track, it fits in well with the overall vibe of Voyages.

 

 

I’d strongly encourage anyone to buy this EP due to the sheer amount of ace tracks Thrupence put out. It’s depressing, for sure, but the production is so on point and clean that it’s bound to impress anyone who’s a fan of downtempo. Buy it. Support the guy.

As a bonus, you guys need to listen to a song off his mixtape Unfinished Business. There’s a track called “Ducky” that, if you grew up watching Land Before Time you will be instantly drawn into nostalgia overload.

 

-jo.