Another year beckons and with it an amazing selection of new songs and talented artists to provide with the soundtrack it will need.
As has been the case with past years, the artists stepping forward to give us these songs are a diverse bunch but one thing remains clear – they’re all insanely talented, have something to say and thanks to the big new digital world out there, can get it to everyone across the world in record time.
That means, of course, that if you’re paying attention, and yes away from the bright lights and big budgets of the Top 40, you still need some time devoted to perusing music blogs and Twitter feeds, you can discover some amazingly impressive music.
Then all you need to do is sit back, hit play and let the mood take you where it will.
“So Good” by Nao
People like this song.
I mean, really, REALLY like this song.
According to Hillydilly, who brought Nao, “a London-based-songstress” to my attention (for which I remain deeply thankful), “nearly a million plays on SoundCloud in less than six months” like this song.
And it’s not hard to see why with its percolating R&B vibe, Nao’s sweet, joyfully-understated vocals and a trippy synth beats that meander along with a sultry swagger.
Produced with Jai Paul’s brother A. K. Paul, it is the sort of song that, though it grooves along in a fairly relaxed manner, insinuates itself in the best possible way into your head within seconds of the opening bar.
If you like “So Good”, and the chances are good that you will, then check out Nao’s recently-released EP of the same name which is as beautiful, seductive and electronically R&B perfect as this gem of a song.
Heavy As My Dreams EP by Totemo
Tel Aviv-based artist Totemo (real first name Rotem), who acquired her Japanese-sounding artistic moniker (it is, in fact, the word for “very” in that language) while dreaming one night – “I dreamt it up .. In that dream, somebody, I’m not exactly sure who it was — you know, how in a dream sometimes you see a figure — but he addressed me as Totemo” (Huffington Post) – is one those supremely-gifted music artists capable of taking retro influences and making them wholly her own.
While as HungerTV correctly observes, the influences are unmistakably there:
“Totemo’s revival of the dark and sultry sounds of 1990s trip-hop is just beginning. Produced by Roei Avital, Totemo’s labelmate on Tel-Aviv based BLDG5, her EP Heavy As My Dreams channels Massive Attack’s ethereal, atmospheric soundscapes and layers them with brooding lyrics that are redolent of Portishead’s best work.”
Totemo uses all deliciously laid-back retro energy in ways beguilingly and uniquely her own with all the songs, written over five years in her apartment’s small studio then re-recorded with Avital for the EP, coming together to form a sound Totemo describes as “both creepy and sexy at the same time”.
It is really remarkable music, chilled and serene and suffused with all manner of intelligent ideas and beautifully-wrought lyrics, the result she tells HungerTV of an incredibly eclectic reading schedule:
“I read a lot. I think books are a great source of inspiration and ideas. I love Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood, Yoel Hoffmann… I also read a lot of non-fictional, currently “I am a Strange Loop” by Douglas Hofstadter.”
It is beautiful, pleasing the spirit and the mind all at once, and you can only hope that she gets her wish to play “EVERYWHERE”.
“Asleep” by Lade
Back in the good old US of A, Los Angeles to be exact, singer and producer Ethan Edenburg is attracting quite a bit of attention with his new project which goes by the name Lade.
The music he has released so far, with single “Asleep” the most notable (from The Flood EP) example is mesmerisingly peaceful electronica, music that wafts and washes over you, pervaded by a chilled but nonetheless intense emotional resonance that lends the song real humanity and impact.
I particularly like the way Chad Hillard at Hillydilly describes it:
“… with what atmospheric, reverb-heavy, percussion-infused, and seductive, pad-laden electronic he uses, he allows his velvety, Fyfe-esque vocal tone to shine.”
The key is the way Edenburg lends his music, which astonishingly beautiful though it is is so fey it could easily flutter away to nothing in less-talented musical hands, an emotionally-profound edge which grants it the power to move in ways that you might not immediately expect.
It is humanised electronica guaranteed to soothe the soul as much as the ear.
“Stand in Line” by Banff
Time for some Australian talent in the form of Brisbane-based singer/songwriter Benjamin Forbes aka Banff, lead singer of surf-pop band Little Casino who is trying his hand at some solo musical creation.
And behold it is good, very very good.
His vocals alone are worth the price of admission, a divinely-appealing mix of ethereal otherworldliness and emotionally-rich plaintiveness and beauty; they are joined with music that bubbles gently along, punctuated in gently dramatic fashion by breaks that allow this artist’s gorgeous voice to once more come to the fore.
It is indie-folk as it’s finest, suffused with what Chad Hillard of Hillydilly perfectly describes as “heart-warming vibes” and makes the prospect of his impending EP Future Self a warmly-welcomed one indeed.
Let’s hear it for striking out on your own!
“Symmetry” By Stax Osset
Further south on the Great Southern Land, specifically the creatively fecund environs of Melbourne, Stax Osset, the artistic pseudonym of self-described “Melbourne electronic producer and vocalist Megan Kent.”
Her first official fully-fleshed out song release after a number of enticing demos, “Symmetry” surges with an otherworldly ambience, which is appropriate given this delightful quirky rapper labels her music “alien dream pop” and a whole host of other enticing influences according to her bio at Australian national youth broadcaster’s triple j’s Unearthed site:
“Sonically, the Melbourne native sits confidently among the new guard of Australian electronic artist/producers flying the flag overseas but beneath the glacial melodies that fuse Britney-esque bubblegum at its best with something decidedly extra-terrestrial her lyrics reveal oblique references to cultural symbolism and transcendence of human life.”
Drawing both “from childhood nostalgia (The NeverEnding Story featured heavily) and a fascination with the universal human experience (love, loss, happiness and despair)”, Stax Osset is crafting music that is beautiful but raw and highly, cleverly original in a way that so few artists are. (source: triple j Unearthed)
If you’re looking for music that is a step away from the usual, check out “Symmetry” and pray it is joined soon by more music from this most remarkable and talented of artists.
NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!
Fresh from her contributions to the soundtrack of Tim Burton’s latest movie Big Eyes, Lana Del Ray has revealed she’s well advanced in the recording of her next album, the follow up to Ultraviolence which will be called Honeymoon.
According to music blog Pigeons and Planes, “Lana revealed … that she has written nine songs for it. For four of those songs, ‘the production is perfect; I’m looking for a few more songs to tie everything together.’ Lana also described the new album as having a ‘more noirish feel’, and sounding more similar to Born To Die than Ultraviolence.
No word on a release date just yet.
Death Cab For Cutie, possessed of one of the most unique, quirky and brilliant names in pop (yes I am fan) are also on the new album trail, their first since founding member Chris Walla left the band.
Titled Kintsugi, the album, which is out March 30, is going to be the litmus test of how the band has moved since Walla’s departure, something that frontman Ben Gibbard is all too aware of as he told Rolling Stone (quoted by NME):
“I completely respect and understand why people love Transatlanticism or We Have the Facts… or Narrow Stairs,” said Gibbard, “And I would hope that as we move forward, people listen with as little prejudice as they can and try to hear the music for what it is and not what they want it to be.”
So many new albums, so little time alone with my iPod.
Sufjan Stevens has announced he will releasing a new album on March 31, a return to the “folk roots” sound which he is best known for, which will address “life and death, love and loss, and the artist’s struggle to make sense of the beauty and ugliness of love.”
It comes, notes SPIN, after a very busy period indeed for the creatively eclectic artist:
“After releasing copious amounts of Christmas music, working on experimental side projects, and scoring a rodeo documentary, folk multi-instrumentalist Sufjan Stevens has revealed that he’s going to release his first real album in five years. Carrie & Lowell, named after Stevens’ mother and stepfather, is said to be a return to his “folk roots” after the more outlandish and out-there The Age of Adz and The BQE.”
And lastly, Django Django, who burst onto the scene with the infectious earworm song “Default” back in 2012, have released a new song “First Light”, the precursor to an album of new material.
It is being hailed by NME, appropriately enough in this “Blink and they’re gone” frenetic digital age, as a “comeback”; that may sound an odd term to use to use but given how quickly bands come and go these days, and how many there are releasing music all the time, it is essentially what Django Django are doing.