Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Take Care Of You

I'm listening to this song on repeat while doing my best to find some kind of background on the producers.  Apparently, it’s a duo comprised of Mazego and Vitesse, two Parisian fellows with a few remixes to their respective names.  Combine them and you get Saje, the moniker under which this song was released.  The Saje Soundcloud dates back 6 months, while Mazego the solo artist seems to have been on the Facebook game since 2011. Despite this short timeline, the sounds these two are churning out are far from novice. With two songs to Saje’s credit, they’ve already been able to create a unique, recognizable sound in a musical climate of copycat-regurgitation.
To try and describe their music is to study the constant redefinition and meshing of electronic music genres.  Deep-Electro-Trap-Chill-Dream-Step, if I may.  Take Care of You is a hybrid of Tom Misch’s guitar-centric beats, with Odesza’s lingering synths and massive drops.  Saje is now 2/2 with an uncredited male vocalist, whom I can assume is either one of the two, or simply an unnamed, golden vocal vessel.  Regardless of genre definitions or background story, these guys are damn good.  It’s refreshing to see two relative newcomers coming out with completely original material, while providing surprising well-written and appropriately themed vocals.  I’m sold, and methinks you will be as well.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Wicked Waters

High—maybe number one—on my list of “new artists you should know” is Benjamin Booker. Baby, he’s a firework. A force of nature. Fantastic.

The Florida native purveys a mishmash of blues, soul, and garage rock with sprinkles of punk on top. His sound harkens to a point in musical history when rhythm & blues connoted heavy kicks and jazzy guitar licks, before it morphed into the watered-down, vocal-run driven R&B we hear on the radio today. But while his influences are firmly rooted in the past, his delivery is wholly 21st-century. Booker’s inflection reminds me of a harder-rocking Connor Oberst: angry and angsty, spitting across story lines about starting families and skipping town. Like Oberst, his voice can hardly be called beautiful, and many of his lyrics are spoken on-key rather than truly sung. But like Oberst, the garbled timbre of his voice allows him to effortlessly translate raw emotion into song. When he really wants to drive a point home, he wails—as though he’s moments away from bursting into angry tears. It’s grating; it’s glorious.

The roughness of Booker’s voice and overall sound is what makes him such a delight. This isn’t one of those “revivalist” records meticulously crafted in a Nashville studio….looking at you Auerbach. It’s the kind that could have been hurriedly taped in the back of a car for a next-day release. (Indeed, Booker recently told Aquarium Drunkard that he cut his latest cover on an iPhone in a hotel bathroom.) Take the rollicking Wicked Waters as a shining example. A plugging organ crafts a vintage feel, but the frantic, relentless rhythm guitars lend the song a tightness that’s decidedly more rock n’ roll than blues ditty. It’s raw and urgent, and that urgency is what makes Booker’s music indispensable. So when he howls “I am what I am, I’ll make it on this run,” I’m quite inclined to believe him.

Booker is currently on a world tour, fresh off a string of dates opening for Jack White. I skipped his set when he opened for White in Chicago. I’m the worst. Don’t be me. Don’t be the worst. Catch Booker when he comes to a city near you, before he blows up and starts playing mainstages at every music festival from here to Australia. Listen to Wicked Waters below and BUY or stream his debut self-titled album NOW.

Wicked Waters - Benjamin Booker

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Human Sadness

One of my most-hated music ticks is when people insist that a song/album “gets better with repeat listenings.” 99% of the time it just means the song is objectively terrible. That said, I'm going to take my foot out of my mouth and tell you that this song genuinely begs more than one listen, if only in order to fully wrap your head around its sonic surfeit.

At 11 minutes long, Julian Casablancas & The Voidz' aspirational Human Sadness certainly reads like an exercise in rock excess. But if you can learn to anticipate the jolting, distorted scream at 2:40, you might just grow to love it (seriously though that thing made me jump out of my skin no less than three times). It won't click for most people at first. It's too weird, too meandering, too "wait this is The Strokes' Casablancas?" But sit with it for a couple days and come back to me—I promise the payoff is worth it.

The thing is, Human Sadness is just a couple steps away from genius. And I mean genius. Not really good or the song of the year, but transcendent. The caveat, however, is that it’s not quite there. (Though honestly had Ariel Pink released this, Pitchfork probably would have hailed it an art-rock triumph.) It wanders, dropping a theme before its had a chance to fully establish itself. It undermines absolutely riveting progressions with distracting, Nintendo-esque bleeps. But through the haze of noise-for-noise's-sake are prolonged moments of brilliance: rays of a discernible melody peeking out through clouds of distortion. It's a track that wants you to love it for what's inside and not what's on the surface. Which, in this Max Martin era of music, is quite a rare bird.

Listen to the track below once, then come back to it in half an hour and listen to it again. Just trust me.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Pre Game Chillout

As summer winds to a close, we’re all struggling to find a way to hold onto the dream. Suff Daddy makes it a little easier with this little number, Pre Game Chillout.

The Berlin native captures the sound of 90s West Coast rap oh-so-perfectly A straightforward beat, simple synth melodies and jazzy bassline makes a man want to cruise around in his 6-4. The guitar riffs only add to mixture, a throwback to a simpler time when a producer only needed a few instrumental tracks to cook up something special. It’s refreshing to hear such a minimalist approach to beat making, and it goes hand in hand with the song’s title: chill out.

Check out more of Suff Daddy’s instrumental hip-hop on his Souncloud.