Overloaded by all the “new music” options you keep hearing about? We’re here to help. Here’s four songs we think you should fucking know (this week). Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments too.
- Mansions On The Moon – Desert Island
Mansions On The Moon is another discovery courtesy of article-friend Corbin Cones’ The Hygenic website (their new website design goes up later today, so congrats to them). The four kids out of LA (via Virginia Beach) broke onto the scene with a mixtape called Paradise Falls presented by Benzi and Diplo (because that’s normal, right?), and since then, they have been crafting stunning electropop that borrows elements from hip-hop, shoegaze, and I’m going to say folk? (In an interview with Sauce Hockey! they claim to write all their songs on guitar first and then throw in the electronic production, which is pretty rad when you hear the final product).
But once you’ve had people like Diplo unveiling your debut mixtape, you’ve got to ratchet it up for your next release. And that’s exactly what they did with their EP Lightyears, nabbing Pharell, as in “I’m dropping vocals on Daft Punk tracks” Pharell, as executive producer (Slightly random, but for those of you that may be playing out “Get Lucky” already, check out Daughter’s cover it. Wow.). Pharell’s influence isn’t immediately noticeable, but when you’re made aware of his presence, it makes total sense.
The stand-out track, “Desert Island”, is simultaneously swooning and bombastic. The heavy bass is glittered with shimmering synth lines and bells, which gives immense depth to this swaying pop song. It’s sonically loose but technically incredibly tight, beaming with complex melodies that take multiple listens to fully appreciate.
The rest of the album is a diverse mix of intellectually composed pop that’s pretty hard to pinpoint because no two songs sound really similar. I guess when you’ve worked with people as varied as N*E*R*D, Xaphoon Jones, Washed Out, Deadmau5, and Big Gigantic, that’s what happens.
“Take A Look” helps give credence to the Silversun Pickups comparison, a fellow LA band that dabbled in aggressive shoegaze (before becoming whatever they are now; I lost them after the first few Swoon singles). But the beautiful “Rest Of Your Days” could be a Simon and Garfunkel B-side and is a nice follow up to their acoustic cover of “Walk On The Moon“, one of my favorite Arthur Russell songs which should be heard by everyone ever.
While I probably should have written about “Radio“, their most recently released song, I actually think it’s one of their few missteps, as I can’t stop thinking this is a long-lost Guster song, and it’s just been way too many years to start thinking about that band again. Instead, I choose to ignore its existence and wait for another full release by this group who are on the verge of doing something pretty great in the indie pop realm.
- Eye Emma Jedi – Places
Let the name fool you, or at least make you do one of those “Oh, I get it. That’s cute” kind of pleasant snickers. The five guys from England that make up Eye Emma Jedi have a rambunctious levity in their songs that is sadly missing in a lot of rock these days.
Comparisons can be made to Fang Island, mostly due to their “crank it to 11”, melodic guitar riffs and party anthem song structure, but they definitely have a niche all their own. They released their first single, “Crucified“, back in late 2010, and followed that up with an immediately enjoyable self-titled EP that filled the major gap for celebratory, melodic pop-rock that growing up on sugary pop-punk had left in me.
Having said that, Eye Emma Jedi have just as much in common with personal favorites Minus The Bear, as they do to any late 90’s, early 2000’s “punk” kids, using heavily fuzzed guitar breakdowns and post-punk dance rhythms to elevate their sound to something a little more high-minded yet still foot-tappable.
With their newest single, “Places”, they stay in familiar territory, but everything feels a bit more sophisticated. They rise and fall a bit more than other releases which really highlights their choruses, and the vocals, while still anthemic and raw, feel a little more polished and focused. It’s a great first taste of their new album, which was apparently written, produced, and recorded in 100 days by the band themselves, and is scheduled for an early autumn release.
- Chance The Rapper – Acid Rap
Back in February, I wrote about a track from the surprisingly young and astoundingly talented Chance the Rapper, “Juice”, but the meat of what I wrote was actually centered his amazing #10 Day mixtape. I said it was, “one of the best debut mixtapes I’ve heard in a long time, and considering I’m pretty sure he still can’t legally buy alcohol, I’m chomping at the bit to see just how much excellence this kid might have in him.”
With Acid Rap, the mixtape he just dropped yesterday, we get a chance to see a little more of that excellence I mentioned. I don’t know if it’s because I’m writing this while I’m watching the Clippers/Grizzlies game, but it seems as if Chance is like a college player who’s hitting his prime college years. With #10Day, we saw flashes of brilliance and raw talent that made saw him as a big presence in a small room, like when you see a great high school player look like a man among boys. Now, on Acid Rap, Chance, to quote myself, “has become even more confident in not only his technical abilities but his range as well. [He] oozes a battlecrying self-assurance,” and his “natural talent for flow is being raised up by a burgeoning maturity.”
While that was only about “Juice”, it applies to the mixtape as a whole. Every song on the album contains an air of fun, or maybe excitement; or maybe it’s just sincere gratefulness. Think of one of those “great athlete, great person” college stars that we love to root for. They’re comfortable enough in their skin to flex their skills, occasionally to a fault, but we always support them. Maybe it’s because of that sincerity that’s so apparent on every track, whether if it’s the cheeky “Favorite Song” which includes a verse from Child Gambino that I didn’t know was coming and especially enjoyed because it gave the witty 30 Rock-writing, Community-crushing Donald Glover a chance to be goofier than I think he’d let himself usually be with his Gambino persona or if it’s the heartbreaking “Lost” that makes me both hate and love the idea of doing drugs and hooking up, it keeps every song captivating.
Even less-than-stellar tracks like “Cocoa Butter Kisses”, which is fairly unmemorable, contain bursts of talent that snap you out of whatever possible lull you might have slipped into.
Judging from the hype this got pre-release, I can only imagine what the blogosphere is going to be like in the next couple of days in regards to heaping praise on this album, and it’s rightfully deserved. But to finish off the basketball player analogy…
Acid Rap, which you can download here proves that given the right resources, Chance can make a pretty fantastic album on his own, like a college player that has a competent coaching and training staff at his disposal. He’s won a fairly large prize (critical acclaim and inevitable commercial success) on the back of his own skill; but the next step is seeing what he’d be like in the pro game (aka playing with some of the other big boys out there). I want to know what he’d be like on a Kanye beat. I want to know what a collaboration with Earl Sweatshirt would sound like.
With his talent, it’s inevitable he’ll get there, so for now I’m going to keep listening and re-listening to a great sophomore mixtape from a kid who is going to help shape the future of hip-hop.
- Wet – U Da Best
It almost feels like the Brooklyn trio of Wet is cheating with their debut single, “U Da Best”. Every piece of the minimalist pop song, whether it be the heavily layered, vocodered folksy vocals, the hypnotizingly sparse instrumentation, or the eventual xx-style rhythmic kick-in, fits so smoothly into the overall landscape of the song, that it’s almost too good to be true.
The B-side, “Bad Idea”, is an interesting follow up to “U Da Best”, as it aligns the band more with Rilo Kiley (another band, like Portugal. The Man, that is on my list of bands I know I would love if I spent the time getting to know them) than Purity Ring, with its southern guitar and drawling vocals.
I’m excited to learn about and hear more about this group, and I have hopes for whatever’s next from them.