Regardless of the fame they might have achieved, different artists reconcile their musical and personal identities in different ways. Like Daft Punk, some attempt to hide their identities entirely. In other situations, like with Kanye West, we wish they would obscure themselves a bit more and stick to the music. Here are 12 songs from artists whose musical and personal mythologies result exist in delicate symbiosis, producing rivetingly original and passionately committed music.
Tous pour moi.
Weight begins like a marketable production – the repeating piano figure, the tambourine and characteristic rhythm section and, of course, the acoustic guitar – with all the staples (the repeating piano figure, the tambourine and characteristic rhythm section and, of course, the acoustic guitar) of a gimmicky made-for-TV commercial or Zooey Deschanel movie sound. Combining those elements doesn’t necessarily result in a bad or boring song, but more often than not ... that’s the case. I’m almost ready to discount the song when the pre-chorus drops everything but Cronin’s voice and gentle guitar strums (it’s all part of the formula), and out of nowhere a massive wall of fuzzed-out electric guitar catapults "Weight" into punk, garage, pop, and indie rock territory all at once. From that point forward, it’s downhill for this gem and its unstoppable groove. It’s certainly worth featuring on television or in a film, but not just because you need something there.
Dev Hynes (aka Blood Orange) has a knack for slow-burning, delicate, and minimalistic production, and when I saw the source material he was using for his latest remix I wasn’t sure how he would handle Phoenix’ infectiously energetic entertainment. As the video for the original shows, the song isn’t short on drama, something with which Hynes is certainly familiar (Sky Ferreira’s "Everything is Embarassing" and Solange’s "Losing You" come to mind), so what better place to start the remix than the musical and structural peak of the original’s drama – the chorus. Pure, slow-motion bliss.
When you’re dealing with releases from Deep Medi Musik you can pretty much count on top notch, dark and brooding bass music production. Even for their high standards though, new artist A/T/O/S is a standout. The group’s moniker doubles as the title of their first release, speaking to the artistic considerations behind their musical identity as well as the song itself. At least on their first release, the artistic concept is executed flawlessly, with music, lyrics, and artwork all hovering around and struggling with the fragmenting and disconcerting difficulties encountered in life’s moments.
The first single from Beacon’s The Ways We Separate (forthcoming on marvelous Ghostly International) is a spectacular example of the tenderness and passion of which electronic music is capable. A quote from the press release puts it better than I can, but the words aren’t lofty ideals poorly executed – a rarity amidst the endless hype produced by the internet era. As Jacob Gossett says of him and the other half of Beacon, Thomas Mullarney: "The production on this album is much more expansive than anything we’ve done thus far. We spent a lot of time exploring new gear and experimenting with how to pull a wide range of sound out of various instruments. Some of the key sonics that shaped this LP are analogue synthesis, lots of heavily processed guitar work, and vocal layering/processing."
They’re baaaaaaaack!!! After pioneering, refining, and stretching their brand of post-rock formula to its limits, it didn’t look like Sigur Rós had anywhere else to go. Their most recent effort Valtari only confirmed these worries, an aimless and uninspired rehashing of their earlier work. I’ll let the song do the talking on this one.
IRL Grime and Salva might not have quite the same sampling savvy as Bauuer, but when considering the whole package, I think I’d take the former duo. Their music relies as much on the sheer sonic power fundamental to trap music as on an overall song arc and subtle production tweaks, meaning less gimmick (lion roar samples) and more music (Jamie Lidell is pretty good song material.
If you listen to Top 40 or rap at all, you’re as likely to have an opinion on Lil Wayne as you are on any political issue. Whether you love him or hate him, his incredible level of commercial success is undeniable and has allowed his brand to survive such travesties as "Rebirth" and increasingly poor press. Still, critical support for Weezy has drastically waned, and with good reason. The ridiculous flow has been replaced by almost stuttered lines, brilliant wordplay with trite and uninspired puns referring to his genitalia, and you’re glad his verses as of late have been few and far between. For all but one song on I Am Not A Human Being II, Wayne drives the nail deeper and deeper into his career’s coffin, and it’s an impressive but sad reminder of what he once was. Here is that song.
Though the song came out with A$AP Rocky’s latest mixtape, the awesome video for the track came out just this week, and is worthy of a premier. Here are two figures taking their respective genres by storm taking to the Dominican Republic. Their success is precisely because they refuse to adhere to the confines of those genres, something cleverly conveyed by their "running" the streets of the Dominican Republic, like your most lovable gangsters might – on scooters, followed by hordes of kids.
The deep groove throughout "Back From the Dead" shuffles around typical house song structures, providing for endless mixing possibilities, but the song’s real achievement is how that structural flexibility is equaled by the stylistic variety of those sections. From tribal sounds and samples to things you’d hear in electro or progressive or even tech house, there’s no shortage of surprises in this song.
Moguai churns out progressive house bangers with incomprehensibly consistency, but usually avoids the happy house sound associated with more mainstream acts like SHM or Alesso. Released on Steve Angello’s Size Records, "Champs" sees Moguai cover new territory in an example of what popular, stadium sized dance music can (and should, perhaps) sound like.
This has been up on SoundCloud and circling the blogs for months, but it’s finally been officially released. If you haven’t heard the song yet, you really should. More Pop than The Knife, less Witch House than Purity Ring, and as emotionally charged as both bands, Chvrches flat out rules.
I don’t know whether the song was written exclusively for The Host original soundtrack, but if Stephanie Meyer’s movie had absolutely anything to do with this song being written, we all have at least one thing to thank her for. Active Child (aka Pat Grossi) stands high above many other acts for the beauty and ardor of his electronic compositions and their appeal – Ellie Goulding’s "Hanging On" was originally written and far superiorly performed by Grossi – but he reaches a whole other with the ritualistic sobriety and reverent treatment of love on "Evening Ceremony."