spring awakening recap

A couple weekends ago I hit up the first Spring Awakening Music Festival in Chicago. It was a standard, douchey electronic festival with a lot of bros, women who were in their thirties dressing like 17 year olds, and and far too much neon in all the wrong places.

Ladies, remember how you look and what your body type can handle before you dress yourself. My roommate and I remarked on how, at music festivals, girls treat it like Halloween: you can dress as scandalously as you like, and you can get away with it. Trust me though, you should really reevaluate.

Rant over and out.

SATURDAY

I dunno if you guys heard about the hellish heat that hit Chicago that weekend but it was an inferno of humidity and sweat. The sister, who accompanied me that day, and I decided to forego seeing Bart B More and wait until the A-Trak set to arrive at the festival. Despite Spring Awakening having a bunch of well-known DJs and producers performing, it was still a relatively empty event. Even 150 feet away from the main stage during A-Trakky Trak’s set, I still had room to tribal dance with myself.

That’s impressive.

This was the second time my sister and I have seen A-Trak perform and he absolutely killed it. His had to be one of my favorite sets at SAMF based on his varied set (dance, hip hop, quirky electronic stuff), energy, mad scratching after his final song, and epic posing on the amps.

After his set, the sister and I ran over to see Dillon Francis perform (no pictures, it was awkward lighting) and the cutest thing happened – after A-Trak finished on the main stage, he high tailed it to “Da Equinox Stage” (<– seriously SAMF? Weak) and hung out with Dilly. He hung back side stage where my sister and I just stared at him, seeing as that A-Trak was now 30 feet away from us. Crazy. Made awkward eye contact and continued Bernie-ing around the field.

It was also the second time catching Dillon Francis, when, the first time, he made a guest appearance at the Skrillex/Dada Life show back in November. That was a high energy performance if I’ve ever seen one. Haven’t felt that lively since I saw The Hives back in high school.

Grabbed sushi after Dillon Francis finished since we had no desire to see Skrillex (well, not again at least) and the sister had to prep for her flight to San Fran in the morning. Solid first day, overall.

SUNDAY

I was mad pumped for Sunday, mainly because I could finally see Felix Cartal live, which I’d been waiting to do for just under two years. This time, my best friend came with me since the sister decided to ditch me to go across the country (she actually left to go bike from San Fran to Indiana – pretty baller), and after a filling brunch at Sunda we made our way over.

Felix Cartal was the first set of the day, and he started and ended his set strongly. The middle was pretty boring, for a live setting. As a fluid set it made perfect sense, but when I’m at show I want surprises. Throw curveballs, take risks, because that’s the whole point of live performances – the messiness of it all.

The best part of the FC was his hair. Have you seen his hair? It should be illegal. I got a shot of him trying to act cool by playing with his stupid hair.

He finished up, we sat off to the side during Datsik’s set, then headed back to the Equinox stage for Diplo.

I’ve now seen a Major Lazer performance (which Diplo did – does anyone know if Switch ever does ML sets?) and a solo one by Diplo and can say, without a doubt, that if given the opportunity to see either show, go for the Diplo one. He had all the parts that FC’s set was missing and more.

It was a mix of weird Diplo finds with ML tracks, old school Snoop, and playing out many tracks I’d never heard of. Frequent dance festival goers will know just how exciting it is when you can’t recognize a song a DJ plays.

The best friend and I got mad sweaty at his set since everyone had turned into the best kind of raging monsters while I went into straight animal dancing. Madness.

Diplo at SAMF

Spring Awakening scheduled Sunday like complete turds. They decided that it would be a good idea to put Laidback Luke, Wolfgang Gartner, and Moby on at the same time. Seriously, guys? Luckily, I’d seen Laidback Luke a couple of months back down in Urbana, so we high tailed it to the main stage to catch Moby’s set which was so nostalgic. His style is classic DJ. The guy actually plays out his tracks. We got into our dance grooves and I nerded out over his older stuff.

It’s a mild pet peeve of mine that most DJs think they need to be ADHD with the way they play sets. Only getting 30 second snippets (if that) of songs doesn’t let me feel out how I want to dance. Nowadays it’s all about the drops and less about the melodic buildup. Thanks brostep.

We saw half of his set then ran over to some other crappily named stage to catch the second half of Wolfgang Gartner’s performance. It was a wave of sweaty air and drugged out dancers everywhere, but he also put on a great show. My inner nerd may or may not have freaked out a ton when I saw all the Japanese on his shirt.

This was the last guy the best friend and I were going to catch so we gave it our all in dancing, and befriended the security guy who let us into the VIP section just for being friendly. We had no desire to actually be in there but he seemed to like our old school moves: definitely busted out the sprinkler and shopping cart numerous times.

Gartner finished his set out strong, then the best friend and I parted ways and headed back to our respective apartments for the night. I could hear Afrojack’s set from the high rise I was in a good fifteen blocks away. Intense.

Gotta say it was a pretty fantastic weekend for SAMF. I’m assuming that next year’s will be more packed, but that’s the advantage for having an under advertised music festival for the first one. Wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s nice having that intimate of crowd interaction between most of the performers and the audience since it’s an uncommon occurrence at these big festivals.

Next one on my list is Pitchfork. Bring it.

-jo.

hoodcats – hoodcats EP

You will quickly come to realize that by following this blog, I will be posting on James & Evander and shortcircles. A lot. It’s inevitable, seeing as they’re a couple of my new, favorite producers. I go through phases, but over the last six months I’ve consistently loved everything both have released.

You can only imagine my excitement when I found out about Hoodcats which is a collaboration between the two. Every track on its own, and as an overall EP, is absolutely perfection. Ugh. I twitch every time one of the songs comes on – it’s impossible to skip a Hoodcats track. It’s also a good sign if I continue to play an EP on most playlists, at parties, and any lengthy drive for five straight months. A sign from the heavens, actually.

Even better is all the vocal samples from the 90s. Brandy or Christina Aguilera, anyone?

1. Streed Fung

The opening track starts us off with a catchy drum beat going, with layering vocals of various “hey’s” and “boy” going along. When I listen to this I always want to drive around LA, on side streets, and groove. That’s the overall sentiment with this whole EP. Initially, this song wasn’t as strong to me as “One Pacifico Swing” or “Jeans Colliding,” but in the overall flow, it makes sense. It’s definitely a favorite of mine now, though no one Hoodcats song stands out over the other for  me. Each one is sexy in its own right.

2. One Pacifico Swing

Juuuuuke. God. These drums. The vocals. The friggin’ horn samples. How can you not fall in love to this song? It’s so sexy with lyrics like, “even though you know I’d die for you/ yes I’d die,” and then glitched up to make for such a charming song. This is that absolutely perfect summer jam to surprise friends with. And for more surprises, read below for “Jeans Colliding” where I will nerd out for quite awhile.

3. Jeans Colliding

It’s a really slow buildup. Pianos, synths, and snippets of vocals. It’s a “comfort” track because of how recognizable everything is in the makeup of the song. From the get go, I was entranced by the sounds. It’s a six minute song and, honestly, I wouldn’t have it at any other length. The first time through listening I did the standard head bobbing along while practicing kanji. Then, you have the break. Oh my god, what a surprise! You hear the vocal samples for the first time and instantly think, MY 90s CHILDHOOD! Come on, who else couldn’t resist turning up the volume when you caught the “Genie in a Bottle” vocal sampling? Hm? HM?

The accelerated pace of the song, with jukin’ drums, and an absolute sex-dominated beat makes me drool. I’m also looking up photos of cupcakes so that doesn’t really help the situation. This song is on my Top 10 Songs of 2012 and we’re only halfway through. It’s that good.

James & Evander and shortcircles released their EP for free off their bandcamp page. If this doesn’t make you a fan of the producers I don’t know what will.

Always remember, dear readers, to never toss a dwarf.
-jo.

8tracks – summer nights

Made a mix on 8tracks. A number of the tracks on the mix are featured in some of my blog posts. Hope ya’ll enjoy.

TRACKLIST

  1. 3027 – Lasers
  2. Labyrinth – Zomby
  3. STADE 3 – Mr. Oizo
  4. Magic (feat. Gary Go) – The Knocks
  5. Black to White – Felix Cartal
  6. Poly Poly – The Sneekers
  7. Moon and Stars (instrumental) – Clams Casino
  8. Constellating – James & Evander
  9. Get Free (feat. Amber of Dirty Projectors) – Major Lazer
  10. You’re So – Bondax
  11. Jeans Colliding – Hoodcats
  12. I Walk (feat. Jessica Blanchet) – Mister Lies
  13. Ducky – Thrupence
  14. Vermont (Baptism) – Mister Lies & Different Sleep
  15. Let’s Go – James & Evander
  16. Turbulence – Different Sleep
  17. Cleam – Mister Lies
  18. Marriage (Halls Remix) – Gold Panda
  19. This House is Full of Water – Thrupence
  20. Swervin’ (instrumental) – Clams Casino
  21. S’eteint Le Soleil (Ridu remix) – Yelle
  22. Departure – Baths
If you want me to review any of the artists just show me a comment.
-jo.

donnis – nippon sounds

Summers always make me nostalgic for Japanther. The last two times I’ve been there during summer months to rival Chicago’s heat index, have been life changing. Seeing the boy band who changed my life for the better, finding myself (or some BS like that), and meeting new friends has resulted in a large scrapbook (if I did scrapbook, that is) of fond memories.

Did I really just say fond?

In summer 2011, Donnis released a mixtape with a bunch of Japanese producers, Nippon Sounds. Onitsuka Tiger took the initiative by creating a cross-cultural sound for his mixtape featuring three different DJs/producers from Japan: De De Mouse, Joe Iron, and Taku Takahashi. De De Mouse, one of my favorite Japanese producers who also makes some of the happiest electronic music around, put Donnis on my radar. His rapping style is clean (not in a Will Smith, Miami, sorta way) and very biting. Not too hard but still witty enough to make me smile throughout any of his songs.

This was on repeat constantly last summer. It’s catchy as all hell, with dancey jams, summer afternoon drives, and even playable for poolside sexy time.

1. All I Need Freestyle (Baby Star’s Jam remix) – Produced by DE DE MOUSE & Luke Walker

This song makes me feel like a badass. It’s riddled with references to living that “high-class” life but there’s almost a mocking tone to it. Donnis doesn’t rap as harshly as Danny Brown, like in “Radio Song” where he’s openly looking down on rappers who make songs solely for the money and fame. Following Donnis on his Academy Black Hearts blog, you know he appreciates fashion, every type of music, and legitimate artists. The production of “All I Need” is stunning. De De Mouse’s original song, “Baby Star’s Jam” is upbeat and meant for smiles. I like how Luke Walker slowed down the vocals, and took a darker tone with the remix. Solid song.

 

2. Roll Up Poe Up (Freestyle) – Produced by Joe Iron & Luke Walker

Honestly, I didn’t really focus on Donnis’ rap on this track because I was so focused on the overall musicality of the song. That’s not to say I think any rapper could be put on top of the instrumental and make it well, because Donnis compliments the song well.

3. Gone (Before Gone Japan Mix) – Produced by DE DE MOUSE

Here we have a perfect example of classic De De Mouse production. Only he can take a song about drugs, partying, and egoism and turn it into something you bounce along to and giggle constantly. He uses as a DAW a combination of Cubase and HALion, which, as a software, makes very little sense to me. It suits his tweaking personality and production style – he’s always screwing around with his sounds and layers to create a really diverse sound. The distortions on Donnis’ vocals can get overwhelming at times if you are a fan of listening to his rap in a purist sense. However, what De De Mouse does is tough – gorgeous composition.

 

4. Ring My Bell (Invader Moon Assault Japan Remix) – Produced by TakuTakahashi

 This is the third song off the tape featuring a Japanese producer as a remixer. The song itself wasn’t a favorite of mine, but after a few listens, all I wanted to do was blast this and roll around on the floor doing primal dances. So great to drop on a hard dancefloor night, where people are willing to get sweaty and turn into disgusting individuals in the name of a good time. I’m distracted writing about this track due to the dance breaks. Sorry, be back in a bit.

Biggest bonus to this mixtape – Nippon Sounds released it for free. That’s right. Link to download is in the cover image above. Enjoy.

-jo.

different sleep – be my center

Posting about Different Sleep twice in a week – what can I say, the kid has talent. He has a new release, “Be My Center,” and it makes you want to have jungle dreams.

This guy has mad skills. For one, the production itself is more complex than his previous single, due to the drums. You can tell he’s growing as a producer by the spectrum of sleep-based music he’s creating. It sounds like a lover desperate to keep the attention of his/her significant other. There’s something very primal to the sound: the drums underneath the piano parts gives the overall flow of the song a gut-wrenching pain. So sexy. We can make out the vocals saying something along the lines of, “I keep screaming for you.” How can you not fall into a destructive love to this song?

This is going on my “Surreal” playlist right now. I suggest you do the same.
-jo.

lasers – lasers EP

There are two different “LASERS” I listen to – one is made of three people and the other is a solo, Portuguese beat-maker living in the Netherlands. His name, which I have no hopes in pronouncing, is João Lobato and holy damn, is he a wizard at mood music. His debut EP, released two weeks, ago is a solid 4-track release, followed by seven remixes from various artists, with each title being a city in Europe. Based on the little research I’ve done on the guy, these cities hold a close place to the guy’s heart – “Amsterdam” and “Porto,” are cities where, one he’s basing his life out of and the latter being part of his motherland, makes for a very personal EP. You can find a link to download his free EP from the label itself.

FIRST LISTEN

1. Amsterdam

<blank stare> This made my jaw drop. Maybe it’s because I’m slightly obsessed with glitch, electronica, and dark melodies in general, but I was floored with this opening track. Amsterdam as a city has always seemed to me to be a place of disillusioned dreams. That’s most likely due to its drug-ridden stereotype, but this is a song that describes the city from an outsider’s perspective. You can he loves it there, feels a deeper connection to the place, but it’s still not quite home. The drum lines, haunting vocals over synths… oofoo. I can’t get enough of it.

2. Paris

I’ve spent a fair amount of time traveling in Paris when I was younger and this song makes you want to grab a pain au chocolat from a patisserie and stroll down the River Seine while listening to it. “Paris” is what you want Paris to be – sweet, bubbly, and everyone wearing fashionable hats with long jackets in the fall. I just see colors listening to this, with the bouncing piano break, and giggle-worthy synths.

3. Porto

This makes me homesick. I know nothing of Porto, but listening to this makes me want to drive around my own hometown and quietly go through memories of living there. You can feelhow much he loves the city just on the pace of the song. The distorted vocals are what does it for me. Pretty beautiful overall.

4. Berlin

“Berlin” did not stand out to me as strongly as the first three tracks. I zoned out until I heard the droney, pseudo-sitar like line he has going about two minutes into the song. It’s has the most “live” sounds to it, which suits the bustling, urban aspects of Berlin. It felt the most cityish out of the entire EP, but didn’t cut it for me.

5. Amsterdam (Blac Koyote remix)

Creepy. So creepy, haunting, and ghost-like that it’s absolute perfection. Definitely play this late at night with the lights off. It’s an out of body experience. The bass lines alone are jarring as all hell.

6. Amsterdam (Ruddyp remix)

This feels very Star Slinger esque, with the more “in your face” production of the drum beats, synths, and layers overall. I have nothing against it. This particular remix makes me want to be yelling off a bridge and maybe have a breakdown. If I had to put it in a movie, it would be when the main character is driving through a dark tunnel and the movie suddenly cuts out into credits. I dunno why, it’s just an instinct.

7. Amsterdam (Sun Glitters remix)

This particular remix is reminiscent of HEALTH production. It keeps the overall melody of LASERS’ original track, adds old-school synth lines, and creates a new, slightly disturbing song instead. It’s cool in its own right, and stands out beautifully among the three “Amsterdam” remixes.

8. Paris (Elite Athlete remix)

“Am I in a video game?” was the initial reaction. It felt like I was playing a hip version of Midnight Club II, which I have nothing against – it put Felix da Housecat on my radar back when I was a tween. It keeps true to the upbeat feel LASERS pushed towards in the original version. Kind of reminds me of Postal Service in its punchy delivery of drum beats. Recommend it for a late summer drive.

9. Paris (Stereoboy remix)

More video games. Lasers! PEW PEW PEW. Then we get a fade away into a very broken down remix. It’s the kind of song you’d listen to on a bench and stare out at the River rather than walk down it. I want to smile and cry at the same time when it’s on. The lack of drums will do that to ya. The intricate layering Stereoboy puts into the various piano lines is so interesting to hear. After multiple listens I’m still finding new parts to enjoy.

10. Porto (Daily Misconceptions remix)

Such a sweet remix, and I mean that in the sugary way. I want to fall asleep to this sound due to it’s lullaby qualities. I love the revs up and down in distortions throughout. It sounds like Wall-E looking through his collection of human treasures. The ending is so cool ’cause the song seems like it’s going to fall apart, but doesn’t.

11. Berlin (Sam A La Bamalot vocal remix)

Obviously this remix, and track for that matter, stands out the most since it’s the only one with legitimate vocals and lyrics. The vocals themselves don’t do it for me, but I like the ideas presented. I feel like it’s missing something despite all the added goods to it. Dunno, not a huge favorite – too disjointed but not in the right way.

SAS

The LASERS only portion of the EP is addictive. “Amsterdam” is still my number one off of it, with “Porto” and “Paris” being tied for second. Listening to the latter makes me feel happier, whereas Amsterdam satisfies that darker sound I’m always seeking. “Berlin” finally started doing it for me after listening to it through a few times. Overall, it’s a great debut EP for LASERS. Well executed, gorgeous artwork for the cover, and with excellent supporting remixes.

Having a nightcap and reading Game of Thrones now. Cheers, good people,
-jo.

james & evander

Starting this blog off on a West Coast foot. Based out of Oakland, CA we have the producer pair James & Evander making a stronger footing in the downtempo/electronic/synth pop field(s). I’ve been downloading their music in a frenzied fashion and have yet to be disappointed. After sifting through their archives on their bandcamp page, their two EP releases, Constellating and Let’s Go, made waves in mixes I’ve made. I’ll talk about their latest album, Bummer Pop, in a later post, I promise.

FIRST LISTEN

1. Constellating

It opens with a blend of piano lines setting the stage for a sentimental track but still poppy enough for a quiet late-evening summer drive. From the get go, with the layering vocals, it adds for a very introspective foundation for the lyrics. It’s a song of loss but the melody helps bring in a more “hopeful” feel to the track, making for a complex composition for the song. The track, is reminiscent of California pop-rock from the mid-2000’s. They vaguely remind me of the days when I’d listen to The Fictions on repeat and wish there was an oceanic beach around for me to bum around at.

2. Slap Bracelets

After a strong opening with “Constellating,” this has an almost throw-away quality to it. “Slap Bracelets” has this fantastic chorus though, with the a strong drum line, making you bob your head along to it. The EP continues to have this constant desire to drive around and be blasted from a convertible. In terms for a flow of an EP, the song makes sense, in context: without a track like this, there wouldn’t be a flow going for it. I’m all about the flow.

3. Really Real

We end the James & Evander only portion of the EP with an instrumental. Continuing with the evening-vibe already set in motion, they made a future-pop heavy track to create that disjointed, hyperactive head bopping they led into with “Slap Bracelets.” This is definitely the happiest song off the EP and it makes me want to run around outside. That is, if I actually liked the outdoors.

4. Constellating (Ander remix)

This was the first track that put me on the James & Evander wagon. On some random night of YouTube music hunting, I stumbled upon this remix to add to my glitch/downtempo playlist I had going. Addictive. So addictive. What makes this such a killer remix is when compared to the original, this is the vibe you’d expect the song to have based on lyrics alone. Ander did a beautiful rendition of the song with interesting breaks, a haunting melody, and much creepier vocals.

4. Slap Bracelets (shortcircles remix)

I’m a huge shortcircles fan. After I heard his “iwishthatyouwould (pleaseloveme) off some random mixtape a friend of Giraffage made, I loved all of his dreampop heavy tracks. Uwaa, I love drifting off to sleep to this song. He makes “Slap Bracelets” a lot sweeter of a song, where James & Evander actually created a more “piss-off” sentiment with their lyrics. Damn, whoever that girl is, she really dicked someone over.

SECOND AND SHUFFLE (or, SAS)

This is the part of listening to an album I love. Usually, the first time through, I’m doing something else when listening to a new EP, album, single, whathaveyou. Based on the amount of times I look up while going straight through said music piece, I judge that on how fluid of a production quality it is. After that, I listen to the entire thing again except on shuffle. That is where my full judgement lies.

So for this EP, “Constellating” continued to be a favorite of mine. Everything from the lyricism, to the melodies, and sub-melodies made me grin. “Slap Bracelets” was a pleasant surprise. I think it was the part where it goes, “And I read all your letters, but I never wrote you one back/ I knew you were doing better, with your Facebook facts(?)/ and now I’m glad that you know I was wrong, but this is not a love song.” I’m about 99% sure I botched those lyrics but that was the best part of “Slap Bracelets” for me. The vocals are so distorted that you have to struggle to make out what they’re saying. Always loved a mysterious man.

This EP I’m going to do a bit differently, mainly because I haven’t been able to pull  myself away from the title track. “Let’s Go” is one of the reasons I love electronic music to begin with. Being the music nerd that I am, the first five seconds of this song had me freaking out. Like, legitimately running around like a guillotined chicken.

Where did I get my excitement from? No, not from my mama, but instead from James & Evander’s keen sampling. They took the main melody from one of my favorite songs, “Sunshine Luv,” by Korean hip hop producer, The Quiett, and used it as the building block for this here track. They thought they could be tricksy, but HAH, I bested them (not really though, that’s not a thing).

They slowed down the main melody and added poppier drum lines, along with second and third melody lines for a much fuller sound than The Quiett originally gave us. James & Evander makes an effort to use their recordings of live instruments (like the drums and pianos) mixed with electronic production to make a less perfect-sounding track. Sometimes that gets on my nerves, despite how much of an electronic geek I am. Uwaa, love their stuff so hard so fresh so good so clean. Another huge perk – this EP is a free download. Who doesn’t love free shit?

If you enjoyed any of the tracks, the images link to their bandcamp pages for the EPs. They have a monsterload of free downloads so make sure to check them out.

Till next time,

-jo.