While the world of stringed instruments is expansive and can satisfy curiosities and cravings of many types, it’s highly regarded that one of the most expressive accessories since the invention of the pick itself: the slide. They can be glass, brass and a whole lot else in between. Despite how beloved the sound can be, it’s generally reserved for luaus and country ballads, with little else taking advantage of the unique and unmistakable sound. Stranger Things by Hypnova finds featured vocalist DR King enjoying an electric pop song that’s lead by none other than a sliding hook that’s bound to get people moving in a way that they’ve never done before.
Aside from the excellent hook, Hypnova managed to keep a great beat and finds time for finely-mixed piano parts that underscore DR King’s soulful performance. This is a brief track that doesn’t need to spend time exploring or evolving. It knows what it is and it delivers what the people want. This not only provides an excellent addition to our pre-gaming needs, but gives us two great names to follow (if we aren’t already). There’s plenty to look forward to as far as sounds from Hypnova and performances by DR King. Maybe we’ll even see more collaboration in the future. Stranger Things have happened…
Soft and strong aren’t always words that you’ll hear next to each other, but it would be harder to find better descriptors of The Answer by Troy Kaszas. This track brings back fond memories of adult alternative at the turn of the century and dips playfully into the more colorful elements of modern pop. Amidst a dense mix that never feels overcrowded, Kaszas displays a penchant for intimate, piano-driven verses that explode into guitar layers that might surprise local rock musicians. Beyond this, there is even time found for filtered electronic touches that really help the song stand out among anyone who would liken it to many groups in the alternative scene
The Answer is more than a sing-along for fans, it’s an emotional expression that shouldn’t be overlooked. In an age where hits can be about anything from what drugs we’re taking to literally describing dance moves in-time with a beat, Kaszas serves as an example of what many aspire to when they think of music as a medium of communicating things that won’t always translate from words alone. The Answer is a track that could grace a shopping mall speaker with its ease of tone one night and then erupt as echoes from a distant arena the night after. Whether you’re looking for something soft or something strong, this song may be The Answer.
In genres where beat-making is so strongly emphasized, it can sometimes be antithetical how homogenous the available beats are. So many drums sound the same and so many arrangements are made just like so many others. For anyone with fatigue towards generic beats, TyC has a new track just for you. Get To Know Ya is an invitation to get to know what music could be like if artists were willing to take more chances on current trends.
From the ground up, this track is unique. For starters, the percussion section is varied and never seems content to fall into a simple loop. Dancing above are samples that are inspiringly designed and masterfully mixed to make sure that an active listener has the option of getting lost while traversing the densely-layered mix. Luckily, we’ve got dual vocals that can lead you through vocoded lines and a myriad of melodic instruments in a playful and inviting manner.
The mood of this track isn’t as easy to grasp as one might think. The vibes definitely are positive and it’s easy to say it feels happy, but the word eager might be more appropriate. This song may not have enough low end to make a club bump, but it certainly has the mood you want to feel between dancing. Picture that person on the dancefloor. You can’t take your eyes off them. They smile back. You want to…well, get to know them.
Micah Metje is a singer and songwriter whose music has a very multi-dimensional attitude. On one hand, his vocals are as appealing as the work of he best pop stars, but on the other hand, his music also has some rock energy and electro oomph that really adds something special to the mix. His studio single, Breakaway, has got an explosive concoction of EDM beats, chunky rhythm guitars and R&B-laced vocal hooks.
The work of this artist reminds me of performers such as Jason DeRulo, Frank Ocean or The Weeknd – there’s a lot of soulfulness in his voice, yet it is also energetic and dynamic, making for a truly unique balance. This song also stands out for its earnest personal lyrics. On Breakaway, Micah sings openly about living, loving and dreaming, while bringing so much energy to his audience.
I love how the chorus really opens up with stunning electric power chords and great rhythm sections. Combining rock and pop is not always as easy as it seems, but this talented young artist certainly got the mix just right.
There is a wonderfully simple ethic at the heart of Tribal Saints… “If it doesn’t groove, it won’t move you.” This writing and production team are dedicated to making music that falls into the pop and dance realms but which is built on beat and percussion, groove and pulse and whether they playing with rock guitars, pop synths or dance samples there is always an infectiousness at the heart of the music.
My Heart Bleeds is both radio friendly and stadium ready, equally at home blasting from the car stereo as from festival speakers and with the song featuring America’s Top Model breakout star Cory Wade, this song has all the right elements to catch the cultural zeitgeist of the moment.
Illustrada is a project with a very understated and intimate way to combine indie-folk with pop. Their recent single, Wide Eyed Tigress, is a track that blends in lush shoegaze textures with earnest folky guitars and beautiful vocals that remind me of the work of artists such as The Tallest Man On Earth, Ben Howard or Fleet Foxes, just to mention but a few. While the acoustics strum gently, electric guitars create beautiful textures that make me think of the work of artists such as Sigur Ros.
The arrangement of this song is simple and not too cluttered, yet the tune has a rich and deep sound, full of beautiful ambiance. The vocals are present, seamlessly cutting through the mix without overpowering. Wide Eyed Tigress certainly stands out for its simplicity: the song is elegant, classy and understated: this simple formula goes a long way, serving the project well. I love the playfulness of this song, as well as it’s sweet and delicate overtones.
Electronic music has fused with pop in myriad ways and for all but the most avid listeners, the endless variety of labels and subgenres can be daunting. For many, there’s simplicity under the umbrella of pop. Even when influenced by other scenes and sounds, there’s never a need to dedicate oneself to fitting into a singular box of what fits the cultural image. Fairy Tale by Chris Martines is a great example of pop music staying true to simple, catchy structures while decorating them in a variety of electronic inspirations.
While the song may not be a major dance number, there’s a hint of R&B sway that finds itself in a comfortably slow tempo. This lets the vocal performances breathe and be as expressive as they need to be, without resorting to a backing of monotonous minimalism. The synths might be the most notable elements of the track. They stand out for their brightness, lending some of the charm from synth pop into a much more intimate song than you’d expect. Fairy Tale breaks some rules without treading into Avant-garde territory and proves to be an easy listener for anyone with a curiosity towards pop and beyond.
If the term jazz-fusion is one which conjures thoughts of avant-gardist musical mayhem or worse, genres being forced against their will to break new ground, then you definitely need Francesca Mondi in your life. Yes, it is jazz being given a pop make over, but rather than a conflict of genres and the toning down of the key elements which define each of them, Francesca manages to bring out the best of both.
Devil’s Door has a meandering jazz groove and a soulful heart and the pop approach brings an accessible, not to mention commercial, vibe to the proceedings. Throw in some classic 60’s girl group harmonies and Francesca’s own sensuous tones and you have the perfect meeting of musical minds.
Aurora Vice are nothing less than a redefinition of pop for a new age. Drowning contains all the hallmarks of the classic pop track, clever dynamics, infectious chorus, pace and accessibility, but it also channels so much more. Somewhere between the slick production and the deft song crafting there is room for drama and atmosphere, an air of melancholy and the snap of clever instrumentation and even cleverer sonic choices.
They may flippantly describe themselves as “two kids running about with noise makers” but that wonderful self-deprecation actually masks a duo who make expert and ecstatic gothic-pop, who are both torch bearers for a more eloquent musical past and leading the charge to a more elegant future.
If you’re not an avid follower of steel drum music, you might find them to only be appropriate for bright, happier music. Before the sun goes down is a track that sprinkles the hope and reverence of gospel and over a deeper narrative of blues. Lending tropical flavors to such a wide array of themes feels as natural as it is creative. Picture Sufjan Stevens in a Hawaiian shirt. You can hear the resonant bells and vocals pitched in every direction already, can’t you?
Adam Prince King tackles this track with ambition as he builds layers and layers that really do require multiple listens to gather everything that’s going on. Despite an odd lack of low end to the music, the track treads on, never wasting a moment. This could even be a conscious decision, having a thematically broken foundation with a desire to change and find redemption. It’s always a pleasure to hear pop music step out of the clubs and arena stages to give a spotlight to those who are down in the dumps. Before the Sun Goes Down may not be a feel good song, but that doesn’t mean it can’t make you feel better.