High Five – 02/29/2016

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1. OCEAN EYES :: Billie Eilish :: Alternative Pop

Billie Eilish is a young singer-songwriter from Los Angeles with a smooth, subdued, and unbelievably peaceful voice, and in her breakout single she layers her own lyrics over calming synths and kick-drum beats. She’s only 14 years old (let me say that again: she’s only 14 years old), so she is a veritable goldmine of potential… not to mention a remarkable artist and vocalist to boot. Catch up on her Facebook here. This track was submitted by my partner, Melissa Luen, who you ought to thank if you like what you hear. Also of interest is Blackbear’s hip-hop remix of the same track, which is here. Sounds like: Lana Del Rey’s Lizzy Grant era, Wet backed by soft romantic production

2. ALONE / WITH YOU :: Daughter :: Alternative Folk

I will never get over Daughter and their music. Everything they produce seems geared towards an intense emotional reaction in the listener, and usually they get exactly what they’re aiming for. Every word is mournful and desperate; every beat seems to march onwards as if the strength is being sapped from its bones; every synth note heralds a near-apocalyptic sense of loss. I knew I’d have to blog about them sooner or later– they’re Elena, Igor, and Remi, all from England– but it was hell to pick just one track, so there may be an Artist Feature with their name on it pretty soon. If you dig it, also check out NO CARE, YOUTH, NUMBERS, and, well, basically everything they’ve ever released. Sounds like: Florence Welch losing all hope in humanity, George Maple goes folk

3. ISLANDER :: Robyn Sherwell :: Alternative Folk

This thing came out ages ago so I’m essentially doing this to build well-deserved publicity for Sherwell’s self-titled album that’s coming out on March 25th, which I’m incredibly excited for. In any case, ISLANDER is a beautifully envisioned and intricately layered alt-rock-pop-kitchen-sink track that’s been stuck in my head since 2014. It’s catchy, singable, and thoroughly striking. Congrats to the artist, a London-based songwriter with plenty of instrumental creds– if you don’t believe me, check out an absolutely mind-blowing acoustic cover of ISLANDER here, and watch her Facebook here for more news. Other compulsively listenable tracks include PALE LUNG and LOVE SOMEBODY. Sounds like: Sara Bareilles with epic guitar and percussion, Banks minus all her electronic trickery

4. REMOTE :: Left. :: Electronic

To my intense and undeniable chagrin, I cannot find this track on any online streaming sites, so I’m going to link you to their EP on iTunes, above, and their SoundCloud, here. Anyhow, REMOTE is the most recent in a string of bizarrely catchy electro jams by Sydney duo Left., comprised of Sarah Corry and Jono Graham. They released a gorgeously ambient album, Sirens, in 2015, and now they’re back with a stunning four-track EP. Listen to JUNGLE and FIRE, as well as their earlier work, for an even more intense helping of dark pop. Their name makes them nearly impossible to Google, but they’re more than worth the trouble. Sounds like: a more straightforward Purity Ring, AlunaGeorge with freewheeling and sophisticated material

5. HRTBAQ :: Marz Léon :: Electronic

Honestly, the music industry is so rich and decadent nowadays when it comes to electronic music that I should probably stop being so surprised when a track exceeds my expectations, but Marz Léon (for maybe the fourth time in her enigmatic career, might I add) has managed to do exactly that. HRTBAQ is a tightly-coiled trap-influenced R&B monster of a song, with incredibly unique vocals and a bass-fueled drop like no other. Release something else, soon, please. I’ll pay you. Also check out FIRE and WHITELIONZ by the same artist if you’re into female vocals rocking you to your core. Léon’s Facebook is here, if you’re not satisfied. Sounds like:: FKA twigs at her most impressive and emotional, Ryn Weaver’s vocals over a hard-hitting trap beat

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Author’s Pick – Bishat

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SOBER :: Bishat :: Dark Pop

Well, this track is certainly a kick in the eardrum, right off the bat: a liquid synth beat as adrenaline-fueled and unrelenting as an industrial factory hits instantly, followed by honey-sweet and chant-along vocals. Bishat drops into a triumphant chorus with chilling rejection on her tongue: “Damn you.” SOBER has elements of soul, EDM, trap, and pop, combining into a dark masterpiece that somehow manages to leave a pleasant taste in the listener’s mouth. I’m eagerly looking forward to anything else this Swedish solo artist conjures up; you can follow her career further (like me) on her Facebook account here. Sounds like: Tove Lo’s darkness and dejection with Mapei’s playful vocals

Author’s Pick – Charli XCX

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PARADISE :: Charli XCX feat. Hannah Diamond :: Electronic Pop

Everyone seems to have targeted onomatopoeic title track VROOM VROOM as the standout track on Charli XCX’s new self-made label EP, but it’s the second track– a sweet, wobbly collaboration between Charli and sugar-pop princess Hannah Diamond– that’s truly caught my eye (or ear). It’s an off-kilter party jam with such intense instrumentation that there’s barely room to breathe. I’ve listened to each track several times– I mean, it’s Charli, how could I not– and this one is my personal favorite. Also check out TROPHY; I’m getting some major Gwen Stefani/Iggy Azalea vibes coming off of it. You can find samples of each track on this new EP here, and purchase the EP itself on iTunes here. Sounds like: SOPHIE’s bubbly, complex production over soft Marina Diamandis vocals

Author’s Pick – Stephen

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SINCERELY :: Stephen :: Electro-soul

I am head-over-heels in love with Stephen’s music and I could not be happier. Everything he’s released so far has given me an actual physical reaction, which is rare for me, be it a gasp or a sigh or a raucous fist-pump. His latest offering in a string of vocally stunning and instrumentally beautiful tracks is an inspiring, heartfelt demand for major changes in politics, worldview, and treatment of other human beings. There is nowhere else in the world right now, online or elsewhere, you can find such a powerful and beautiful voice demanding that “no child of ours should have to starve / should have to die for us” before a bone-crushing electronic drop. I hope with all my heart that Stephen catches the eye of the nation before it’s too late. I’m speechless. Sincerely. Sounds like: Made in Heights’ sky-scraping production meets honey-smooth male vocals

Artist Interview: CHRIS CAPE

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WORTH IT :: CHRIS CAPE :: Pop-rap

Chris Cape is a rapper and instrumentalist from Cape Town, RSA. He’s been churning out a potpourri of official and unofficial music for several years now, and his newest single, WORTH IT, featuring vocalist Robsco, just premiered on his SoundCloudI try not to feature comparisons too excessively when working on Artist Features, but this one came to mind too quickly: Cape’s sound possesses snappy wordplay and pleasantly arrhythmic flow laid over strong percussion and guitar, similar to fellow rapper G-Eazy. However (much to many listeners’ relief, I’m sure), Cape opts out of crude and violent content in favor of more intellectual, worldly, and– dare I say– inspirational subject matter. In WORTH IT, the route Cape takes is more akin to that of international phenomenon Tyler Joseph of Twenty One Pilots: he presents himself as a relatable, likable individual with a wellspring of progressive ideas concerning the foundation of musical artistry. The chorus can be read as a declaration of perseverance, either to a doubting lover or– as I prefer it– Cape’s past, present, and future fanbase. This track poses a distinct question: why become an artist if you have no message to send? One striking line proclaims “even if I reach one person out of a hundred, I’m satisfied and glad to meet ‘ya / could it be the purpose for life?”. This reveals exactly what Cape thinks of his work: he’s just like his fans, and they’re just like him. Another line touches on darker themes: “they’re blowing rings to entice the core of the person into thinking, maybe they don’t deserve to be living… maybe winners are losers, but who chooses?”, showing Cape’s willingness to retain the human touch that pervades this track. WORTH IT is compassionate, thoughtful, and catchy rap music. Here’s hoping Cape’s future releases catch a greater audience; given some of the hip-hop I’ve heard in recent years, this is exactly the kind of work the industry is lacking. As the chorus declares, “Just give me time, and you’ll see what I can become.” Given what I’ve heard so far, I’m more than willing to wait. Click the link above to check out the new track, and keep scrolling for more.

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I had the pleasant opportunity to speak with Cape over e-mail. Here’s what we discussed.

Who/what has influenced you during the creative process (in terms of other artists or media)?

Musically, I listen to almost everything, however there are some artists I come back to more often than others. Many of these are 1970’s rock bands. There is something so grandiose, consequential and creative about records like Wish You Were Here, Close To The Edge, A Night At The Opera etc. I have a very eclectic taste and automatically draw inspiration from any music I come into contact with. As with most songwriter/artists I too am a big fan of the late David Bowie.

Lyrically, I often write in a reflective sense. I find that one of the best ways to exercise the demons of my past is to trap them on the page. I also find that saying how I really feel is far easier when I do so with rhymes and beats. Music and lyrics have been a method of cathartic release from the moment they were discovered, I imagine. What a songwriter has is the opportunity to take things from their personal life that are hard to deal with and use that as fuel or even as the building blocks for an artwork, this somehow gives (me at least) a more positive way of looking at that issue. The song is the silver lining…

I don’t believe all songs need to be so direct and personal, I also love simply exploring a concept lyrically for the sake of expanding the imagination. Worth It just happens to be one of those honestly autobiographical pieces.

Worth It is part of an upcoming EP called The Lawnmower EP and the subject matter forms the dark development in the storyline of the EP as a whole.

What are you trying to achieve with Worth It?

Well, first and foremost with all my releases my number one goal is to write a song I love and produce a great record of it. I think we’ve done that here with Worth It. If I work this way, it’s a creative success before even being released!

Aside from those sentiments I, like most artists, want to reach as many people as possible with my art. I want that thing that I’ve worked on for so long to be given a chance at being heard.

Worth It is the start of a year long campaign to give the world a chance to hear my music and get to know me as an artist. The intention is to release a new song every single month this year starting with Worth It. In addition to putting out the record I will also being doing music videos for all the tracks. The idea is that people come on board with one of the releases and stay on board for the songs that follow.

Do you have a personal connection to the subject matter? Any specific experiences that led you to its creation?

As I’ve said earlier this one is very personal. It’s looking back over the last few years wishing I could do it do it all again. Robsco’s line “I’m beaten down by all the things I didn’t do” really sums it up. It’s me choosing to get some of the hurts and regrets of the past processed so I can move on. I’m hoping that listeners will dig deep to uncover the specifics and find their own relationship with the lyrics.

Have you had any experiences performing your work live?

I was raised by two musician parents so have been performing from a very early age. Recently I’ve been gigging around twice a week here in London and intend to continue doing so for the rest of the year.

What are your future plans for other releases, if any?

The next release will be another track from The Lawnmower EP and it’s working title is “Give me love, I won’t bring trouble”. If you like this track then make sure to pick up on that next release!

Author’s Pick (Submission) – Adina E

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ALWAYS :: Adina E :: Alternative/Bossa Nova

“May your dreams come to life and may your life be a dream” Adina E declares on her Facebook page, and her bizarre video for ALWAYS directly reflects this fantastical outlook. This Israeli-born artist has had a long and winding path to musical artistry, not pursuing a professional career until her mid-40’s,  but listening to this particular track, the smooth vocals and new-age production don’t allow you to tell her apart from a much younger artist. Quite frankly, the sexuality and otherworldliness of the video seems more like something Lady Gaga would come up with, especially the costumes and setting. The artist performs with the air of somebody who’s experienced the nuances of musical art for decades, although this isn’t quite the case here. Her self-titled album is out on iTunes today. Sounds like: a calm, jazz-influenced Empress Of

High Five – 02/22/16

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1. LAST DANCE :: Dua Lipa :: Dark Pop

This track (and the accompanying video, see link above) kind of makes we want to pre-order everything Dua Lipa will ever release from this point onward, if that were possible. She makes flawlessly produced, beautifully emotive pop songs that call to mind some of the most powerful vocalists of all time, and LAST DANCE is the very best of them. Also check out her previous single, BE THE ONE, here. Sounds like: Shakira belting over chaotic dance-pop goodness, Jess Glynne suddenly going dark and unrestrained

2. GODDESS :: Cappa :: Pop

Cappa’s releases always leave me feeling sort of dazed. Each song pushes the boundaries of upbeat dark pop just a little bit further, and as of today, I’m delighted to announce that the artist is giving away this whispery, synth-sprinkled tribute to high self-esteem and positive sexual energy for free on her website, which I’ve linked here. Sounds like: Florrie with a duskier tone, Avril Lavigne with indie-electro production

3. RHYTHM INSIDE :: Loïc Nottet :: Alternative Pop

An absolutely fascinating track concerning the nature of human energy itself, RHYTHM INSIDE brags a catchy snap-clap beat and an explosive chorus featuring Nottet’s immensely satisfying vocals. As a runner-up in the Belgian Voice, it’s no surprise that this guy’s going places. Sounds like: MIKA with a shadowy, club-ready outlook

4. RIDE :: Lowell feat. Icona Pop :: Pop

Lowell goes full-on pop in her latest release, which blatantly screams its Icona Pop influence into the sky: its shout-able verses and delightfully profane chorus beg delightful comparisons to 2012 hit I LOVE IT. I’m dying to see what Lowell’s sassy pop-rap inflection will send out next. Sounds like: Charli XCX with lots of yelling, Bjork’s wobbling synths plus Miley Cyrus’ total disregard for common sense

5. MIDNIGHT RIVER :: Vaults :: Alternative Pop

Vaults’ music is multifaceted, stormy, and emotional, and their newest single MIDNIGHT RIVER is no exception. The much-anticipated follow-up to the startling CRY NO MORE, I’m surprised I haven’t seen this London-based trio take over the Internet by now. Sounds like: a softer, more pop-oriented Florence + the Machine, London Grammar plus lots of dense production