Chvrches, a electronic and independent band from Glasgow, are currently making some of the most enjoyable and most engaging pop and electronic music out there. But sometimes their songs carry with them a darker feeling. Take their new track “Lies.” The music video is both sparse and complex, not unlike the music itself. Here, an artistic take on a post-apocalyptic world is depicted. And the shadowy tone of the video matches with the foreboding, entrancing tunes CHVRCHES are making. Call it synth pop, but it sounds like something harder…and maybe even more sinister. Still, the beat is infectious, with crisp hits and little chirps of electronics that go off at intervals.
Lauren Mayberry is the star here. Her voice, cutting through that thick wall of electronics, reminds me of the sharp vocals of Megan James in the band Purity Ring. But even more than Purity Ring, Chvrches seem to be a lot more on the same page. Whereas James and producer Corin Roddick complemented each other with warring styles, Lauren and the rest of Chvrches seem like they’re on the same page. They’re creating something here that stands at the forefront of where mature, honest pop music is moving. And it’s a lot more than just synth pop.
Frightened Rabbit were always an incredibly solid band, making music in that slickly produced, punchy corner of indie rock; they were that band that broke through in indie circles but maybe never came across with a breakthrough, unanimously adored tune. Hopefully, that streak has now ended. With “Holy,” Frightened Rabbit has created a universally communicable anthem for the lost soul, for someone who may not have their life completely figured out, or are otherwise unsure about the world.
The music video is one of the rare instances where the accompanying visuals actually serve to extend the story from the original song. In tandem, song and video tell an engaging and beautiful story of a woman on a quest to find herself, outside from the normal conventions of office life.
With its thick drums and dynamic guitars, the instrumentation perfectly communicates a feeling of nervous, unsettled energy; you feel the bass in your chest, pulsing along with your heartbeat. We all have passion but we don’t all know what we’re passionate about. That feeling is familiar for a reason.
The alternative pop rock band Phoenix hail from Versailles, France, but their bright and colorful pop sound are universally adored the world over. There’s just something uniquely communicable about the sounds and sentiments expressed in their music.
Though they were always a hit in independent circles, it took the Grammy-winning success of 2009’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix for the band to take on a greater notoriety. That album was special in a great way: like those single-laden records Smells Like Teen Spirit and Thriller before them, every track had an infectious, addictive quality that made the whole record a catchy hit.
Their new record Entertainment is an album of two parts. The first, a familiar, poppy collection of jams, and the second, an experimental and progressive mix with darker, more complex themes. Their new single, the slow-grooving and exotic “Trying To Be Cool,” is in the first half. This is where Phoenix produces its best work, and when Phoenix really hits the mix on the nose, they are simply a sunny, vivid pop band. And as much as Phoenix’s purpose and inspiration may seem to point towards more mature and complex themes, one can be forgiven for just sitting back and letting the colors wash over you. That’s what I do, and it makes for a seriously fun time.
Cults hit it big for a lot of reasons. People like their indie-approved lo-fi sheen, avant-garde approach to marketing, or their strangely dark image. But a lot of people love Cults just simply because of their simple, lovely little pop sound. Madeline Follin’s vocals sound downright syrupy on their new single “High Road,” and when they’re combined with band mate Brian Oblivion (yes, that’s his real name) they take on a new angle: darker, more substantive. Behind their voices is a solid mix of clattering drums and electric guitars. It may not be original, but it’s just so pleasant.
Cults are much more than just a pop band, though. The music video for “High Road” is strange, psychedelic, and a little creepy. Pictures of the main duo depict a happy, if occasionally troubled, pair of people who love their music and love losing control. Honestly, I don’t completely understand Cults. But I love their music. And with luck, their music will help me get them one day.
When he was 13 years old, Porter Robinson, an electronic dance music producer from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, began making music. He hasn’t stopped since then, and now, at the still ridiculously young age of 21, he stands on the precipice of a massive change in EDM, one that he has had a hand in crafting.
I could talk for hours about Porter Robinson’s talent, his respect for music, his technical prowess, or his earnestness and willingness to improve. But most importantly, I don’t think I have ever encountered an electronic artist more capable and brilliant at infusing pure, raw, and beautiful emotion into this purely synthetic genre. It gives me hope that in this age where people are lamenting the death of the singer-songwriter, pure emotion can still be put across.
And in “Language,” Porter’s biggest hit single to date, that one singular emotion that he’s communicating is euphoria. Try not to get a full-face grin listening to this track. Try not to jump up and dance around, your faith in humanity restored. And the music video that accompanies this song is perfectly appropriate in its depictions of fantastical, emotional science fiction adventures.
EDM is in the midst of a massive change. And Porter Robinson is the face of that revolution.
I never listened to Cage the Elephant as much as I should have. There was no reason that I didn’t. For whatever reason, I never looked close enough to find that Cage the Elephant were a loose, jangly band with a whole lot of talent and even more soul. And now that loose, jangly band has turned out, three albums later, to be one of the most consistently good indie bands in the business. And I’m finally paying attention.
I first really looked at them when I heard “Aberdeen.” That song, with its fizzling production and shining bright hook, was the first tune that revealed this band for what they really are: perfectionists. Every pop and click was in its right place. All of the discordance on the outside was really beautiful order on the inside.
“Come A Little Closer,” the first single from their new record Melophobia, is complete with all the bustling drum work and sizzling guitar lines that Cage the Elephant have become known for, with an added boost from some inspired choices in the texture and color of sounds. I’m excited to see where this band will go from here, as they grow and improve within their own boundaries. It’s going to be amazing to watch.
It was a moment in time. Those who were lucky enough to witness it will always remember it. Back in 2007, when the underground rapper Blu crossed paths with the enigmatic producer Exile, lightning was captured. And when Below The Heavens, the first collaborative effort from the duo, began to take shape, those in the know were sure they had something special on their hands.
And they surely did. Were it not for his flighty and mercurial nature, Blu could have been one of the best rappers to ever touch a microphone. His deft wordplay and storytelling abilities are only outshined by his pure ease as a performer. The man was truly made to stand in that studio or on that stage and create poetry. Exile is a little bit less known, but his affiliation with countless solid hip-hop projects is not to be ignored – the man really is a talented producer.
So when the two met, the ensuing product was more soulful, engrossing, joyous, dense, and triumphant than anything hip-hop had seen in years. Blu was marked as the next big thing – a cutting and honest voice when rap needed it most. With Exile’s sample-heavy and dexterous beatwork backing him, Blu had nowhere to go but up. Since then, reality set in. The duo have reunited for another album and shows here and there, but lightning hasn’t quite been caught in the same way.
A lot of us remember that moment in time. And we all pray that it might happen again some day.
I never really paid attention to The Lumineers until I saw them perform on Saturday Night Live. If you’re not aware, the stage at Saturday Night Live is one of the more cursed performing grounds in music. There is something about that stage that makes it impossible for any performer to make a meaningful connection.
That is, until I saw the Lumineers. These rough-around-the-edges folk singers played to that crowd of glassy-eyed New Yorkers as if it was a group of the most adoring, attentive fans in the world. They bore their souls, shouted and sang, and played their music as if it was the only time they would play it. Their earnestness, and their spirit, was truly arresting. They made a connection, and a serious one. And that’s the kind of performance The Lumineers turn in every time, either live or in the studio.
The music itself, an energetic, catchy batch of folk tunes, is beautiful in its simplicity. We’ve all heard enough guitar-and-voice music in our time. That’s why it’s such an achievement that this band has managed to make that style fresh and exciting again. The music video for their song “Stubborn Love” is a cute little stroll through the imaginative mind of a child. It’s heart-on-sleeve emotional, and it’s a tearjerker, sure. But as a story, it’s also natural. It’s genuine, and true. And that is the one thing that the Lumineers have going for them more than any other group out there. They’re the most true to life performers you’ll ever see. And that’s a guarantee every night.
With one look at Bishop Nehru, you could find a lot of things that he isn’t. He’s not an accomplished rapper yet, his beats are still raw, and his wordplay at times is suspect. He puts a dollar sign instead of an “s” in all of his song titles. The video for his song “Light Leak$” looks like it might have been filmed with a Blackberry, and it consists of nothing more than walking down some streets. But there’s one more thing that Bishop Nehru isn’t. He’s not more than 15 years old.
And to make as much headway and progress as Bishop Nehru has, to even be included as an after-thought in a conversation about best rappers at the moment, and to be putting out popular music before he’s an upperclassman in high school? That right there is a massive achievement.
Sure, Chief Keef did it, and that’s a feat as well. But Bishop is in another rap family. His music is conscious, and his flows are more complex. His lyrics, though not perfect, show signs of a sharp mind and a fierce tenacity. And his beats have a dusty charm that I haven’t heard in a while. There are moments on “Light Leak$” where I hear shades of Talib Kweli, Shad, and Earl Sweatshirt. Bishop Nehru has plenty of time to work out his weaknesses. And if he continues on the path he’s on, I think he’s in for an amazing career.
To be honest, I was worried about the Kings of Leon. When a tour was cancelled, and Caleb Followill was furiously denying rehab rumors, I wondered if the band could ever get back to its former glory. But I now know I shouldn’t have worried. The Kings of Leon are back. And now that they have returned, prepped for the release of their new album Mechanical Bull in a few weeks, it seems that this band of four brothers is as relaxed and confident as ever. And “Supersoaker” is a direct reflection of that.
Throughout the music video, the band looks focused, but they’re also clearly having a good time. Caleb Followill lets out a hearty laugh before starting a verse. Drum, guitar, and bass lineup in perfect tandem, just as they always have. And the song is a much-welcomed return to the kind of straightforward, melodic, and rich rock music that this band has become so good at making. The verse, chorus, and bridge are all instantly memorable, and the sentiment behind the lyrics is clear. All in all it’s a simple, catchy, and awesome rock song. It’s a new favorite. And it’s so good to have the Kings of Leon back.