It's been warming up rather quickly here in Los Angeles, and spring break made summer feel even closer than the climate itself did. Whether you're still buried under snow or have been lounging on a beach recently, here's a mix to make you feel like you're driving down Pacific Coast Highway with the top down.
Until I heard "Diane Young" I thought the few good things about Vampire Weekend were Ezra Koenig’s ice blue Gretsch and Miike Snow’s remix of “The Kids Aren’t Alright.” The hyperproduced percussion, which may be a flat out drum machine at a some points, no longer sounds like a toddler with questionable rhythm. This slightly grungy yet undeniably groovy precision wouldn’t have worked on their debut album or follow-up Contra, where it would have sat alongside of an equally prepubescent sounding lead singer and his annoyingly shrill guitar tone. Not that this change in my opinion has any bearing on their music’s merit, in either a positive or negative sense. It is, however, pretty solid evidence to me that this just doesn’t sound like the same band anymore, and it's awesome. For what it's worth, I've gone back and re-listened to their past albums, and I still think they were pretty terrible before ...
Though I’ve featured "Diane Young," the real gem I discovered was "Step," another great, though subtle, example of what’s changed for Vampire Weekend.
I've always had a particular affinity for female guitar players and vocalists, but there haven't been too many all female rock bands that I'm crazy about. Maybe it's just because I need to be introduced to other bands, but that doesn't diminish Savages' singularity among all rock music I've heard, whether male or female written and performed. The instrumental intro captures a punk rock aggression that belies the band's absorption and tasteful blending of several decades of Brit rock sound. There song's female protagonist either knows no boundaries or emphatically disregards them, and like Savages, will "get your heart a little kick." I say much more than a little ...
Rilo Kiley recently released RKives, a collection of previously unreleased and unheard material that suggests the band might not be retired forever. "Let Me Back In" is a fitting title for an invitation to the band's fans to revisit their relationship with the band, but as the song's working title, "I Love L.A." suggests, it's as much a reflection of the band's relationship with the city out of which they were based, and which saw them rise to prominence. Even if you aren't an RK fan, if you've got an opinion on Los Angeles, this song is likely to resonate with you, but it's definitely a song written for the band's notoriously affectionate Los Angeles fanbase.
Daughter's If You Leave contains the nostalgic lyrics and indie pop meets post-rock song structures that originally put them on the map, but like before, the formula doesn't always equal a successful song. "Still" is easily the album's best song, demomonstrating that even if listeners have put a ceiling on what Daughter can get out of their trademark sound, the band hasn't, and is rising to the challenge of maintaining their identity while pushing the limits of their musical comfort zone.
Shlohmo's beats are defined by a slow-motion stutter that seems to shine a strobe light over the listener, but the introspective listening experience the robotic precision of his productions inspire obscures their deeply sensual character. Though Jeremih's vocals aren't nearly as melodically interesting as Shlohmo's chopped vocals samples, the presence of the bedroom oriented vocalist seems to have inspired a particularly smoldering instrumental, and makes the usually haunting quality decidedly sensual.
If you've heard anything from Black Sands, you were probably as anxious as I was for the release of Bonobo's The North Borders. The British beatsmith stands out among his contemporaries for his incredibly melodic arrangements, and the attention others pay to the rhythmic complexity of their beat is matched on every Bonobo production, but he foregoes rhythmic manipulation for its own sake, using rhythm to craft sequences that champion their melodic and harmonic elements. With "Jets," he treads on the hallowed production ground of masters like J Dilla, keeping it beautifully simple and simply beautiful.
Chaz Bundick, the man behind Toro Y Moi gives us a laid back, gorgeous disco house cut under his other moniker, Les Sins. If anyone could put vocals to such a relaxed groove it would be Bundick, but his own voice, perhaps the trademark to his "chilled out" productions, wouldn't fit on a tune that moves and shakes enough to be appropriately called "Grind." It may be low key, but it's dance music, and it's damn good.
Though elements of this newly popular deep-house, U.K. dance, tech-house hybrid have been around for a long time, the traction it has gained recently has resulted in producers churning out an impressive number of songs in the style, and they just keep getting better. Either way, this is dance music.
No matter how you're going to feel about this song, you've got to turn up the bass. Please, just turn up the bass.
I hope you've been listening to this song on repeat for the past week, as I have. If not, I'm pretty sure you'll be spending the next week doing so. His mark is all over top 40 charts for as long as I can remember, but he's still respected enough within the rap community to feature on tracks with Kendrick Lamar and A$AP Rocky. Though you might be tempted to interpret this as another hip-hop boast track, there's a lot to appreciate here.
As he cleverly tells us on "5AM in Toronto," in the genre's current state, boasts are inherently hyperbolic - all that matters is results, and he's got more than enough of them. It's like he finally understood that his identity as a rapper wasn't contingent on how much he tried to outwardly and superficially emulate gangster rap's behaviors (because he most certainly isn't hood), and he's finally been liberated to revel in the imprint he's left on the music industry. The King James line draws a telling parallel - neither his nor Lebron's abilities have never really been in question, but their body of work has finally allowed them both to transcend criticism.
For anyone at Ultra Music festival over the past two weekends - I hope you got to hear this monster. For the rest of us, use in case of imminent dance party!