Monday, December 30, 2013

Favorites of 2013

  1. The Preatures - "Is This How You Feel?"
  2. Kat Dahlia - "Gangsta"
  3. Lorde - "Team"
  4. Lissie - "Further Away (Romance Police)"
  5. Everything Everything - "Cough Cough"
  6. Haim - "The Wire"
  7. Sam Smith - "Lay Me Down"
  8. Disclosure feat. AlunaGeorge - "White Noise"
  9. Beyonce - "Partition"
  10. Ry X - "Berlin"
  11. Paramore - "Still Into You"
  12. Dan Croll - "Home"
  13. James Vincent McMorrow - "Cavalier"
  14. Asgeir - "King and Cross"
  15. Charli XCX - "SuperLove"
  16. Made In Heights - "Death"
  1. Everything Everything - Arc
  2. Lorde - Pure Heroine
  3. Disclosure - Settle
  4. Kacey Musgraves - Same Trailer, Different Park
  5. AlunaGeorge - Body Music
  6. Beyonce - Beyonce
  7. Haim - Days Are Gone
  8. Lady Gaga - ArtPop
  9. Lissie - Back To Forever
  10. London Grammar - If You Wait
  11. Kanye West - Yeezus
  12. Tegan and Sara - Heartthrob
  13. Ariana Grande - Yours Truly
  1. Banks - London
  2. Smallpools - Smallpools
  3. Scoop - Yours Faves Could Never
  4. Made In Heights - The Woods
  5. Shy Girls - Shy Girls
  6. Conway - Conway
  7. X Ambassadors - Love Songs Drug Songs
  8. Betty Who - The Movement
  9. Gems - Medusa
  10. Wet - Wet

Monday, August 19, 2013

Introducing: Max Frost

Back in 2005, Aaron Bay-Schuck, 31, found Peter Hernandez, better known as Bruno Mars. The two worked together under the radar for four years until 2009, when Mars was signed to Elektra/Atlantic. It wasn't until that year the label saw the vision and put their support behind Mars. Bay-Schuck tells Billboard: “From the outside world, it looked like [his ascent] happened quickly, but it really is an artist development success story in every way."

Since being promoted to Senior VP of A&R at Atlantic Records back in September of 2012, the exec has signed acts Sublime With Rome, Francesco Yates, Trevor Jackson, and Max Frost. Two of these acts are dead on arrival, but the most-promising of the four (and by that I mean mass appeal), is 20-year-old Max Frost.

Frost is a singer/songwriter/producer from Austin, Texas. After a summer of writing in Venice proved to be fruitful, he left the University of Austin on his return to the states. Speaking with The CW: Austin, he says finding new management lead to making the decision to leave school. "It was a definitely a calculated decision, but there's still risk."

A high risk with an evident high reward: he secured a major label deal with one of the most high-profile young execs in the music industry this past June. And as proven with his history and years of close development with Mars, Bay-Schuck knows talent when he hears it.

The dark-electro-60's era fusion track "White Lies," reached No. 1 on Hype Machine back in May, which catapulted Frost into the radar of the industry-at-large. Since its debut online four months ago, the song has gained more than 442,000 plays. The Gnarls Barkley/Mayer Hawthorne love child of a song is instant and that is all that needs to be said.

The second track on Frost's Soundcloud is the aptly-titled "Nice and Slow." The sonic identity of "White Lies" is still there, less poppy, but just as intoxicating. There are two other tracks, but they do nothing for Frost, do not fit within the genre identity of the first two whatsoever, and serve as a step back for Frost. These will most-likely be disappearing online soon as his first official release is eminent.

I expect Atlantic to closely follow Mars's rollout plan: EP release months ahead of a single, the classic 'secure guest hook features on more prominent artists' singles to familiarize audiences' (and having the EP available when they go looking), and culminating with the debut of a massive single while radio is (hopefully) buzzing with a new pop male wunderkind.

An EP is slated for release on October 8th. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Introducing: Bear Mountain

Bear Mountain's electro/dance style blends syncopated bass lines and arpeggiated synth chords with live instrumentation and soaring vocals to produce a style that is unmistakeably fresh and captivating. With a vocal timbre reminiscent of Ray Lamontagne, and an emotive, spacious sensibility in the vein of Damien Rice, Bear Mountain performs with powerful release and vulnerable honesty.

"'A hopeful utopian future' is how one of our friends best described our sound," Ian Bevis, frontman of the Vancouver-based band, explains. Born and raised in Vancouver, Bevis’ affinity for experimenting with sounds and beats on his MPC grew quickly. He left Vancouver for the University of Victoria where Bevis became friends with, then Entomology major, guitarist Kyle Statham and the two began collaborating on various styles of music.

A few years and a few bands later, Bear Mountain was officially born as the bedroom project of Bevis and Statham in 2011. With their name drawing reference from the Jack Kerouac classic "Dharma Bums," the two set out to find an alternative sound that blended live instrumentation with a dancing heartbeat. Soon after the recording of their first bedroom demos, the duo felt their sound was lacking a strong backbone and enlisted the help of Bevis’ identical twin brother, drummer Greg Bevis.

Bear Mountain’s tight live performances and eclectic blend of sounds caught the attention of, now band member, Kenji Rodriguez. Flipping the traditional role of "band member" on its head, Rodriguez serves as the band’s visual and creative director. Also a collaborator at Tangible Interaction, one of the world’s premier trailblazers in interactive visuals and lighting, Rodriguez manipulates projections and lights live right from the stage bringing a unique look and experience to every Bear Mountain performance.

The band's debut album XO is a collection of unmistakably fresh songs that manages to capture the feeling of the infinite and the impossible all rolled into one. A striking, well-crafted debut that warrants repeat listens.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Introducing: Smallpools

Smallpools have seemingly came out of nowhere. Prior to their show last week at Bowery Ballroom opening for San Cisco, they had never even played live. 

Their self-titled EP released two weeks ago is Alternative-Pop bliss filled with four colorful and hook-filled tracks.

As of now, the quintet is keeping hush about how they formed and what led them to securing a major record deal. Something really interesting going on behind-the-scenes with this Passion Pit offspring concerning their management's plan of attack and how RCA Records is working their impact. Looking forward to see how this plays out.

I have a strong feeling Smallpools will be popping up everywhere very soon and more details about them will come to light. Expect the LA-based band to play every major stop on the 2014 summer festival circuit.

Friday, July 12, 2013

My Top Tracks of 2013 - So Far

With artists dropping new material without notice and others taking unprecedented risks like having an album exclusively premiered by a brand, this year has had many of "firsts." Adding in the early makings of the mainstream audience's musical pallet shift with the rising acceptance of a non-dance-oriented sound and 2013 has been a very exciting year in music.

Now halfway through the year, here is a list of my favorite tracks released in the last six months. Ranging from bubblegum pop to rock melancholia and from superstar to newcomer, none of them were included for any reason other than they are what I've been digging so far. And yes I love that basic Britney song. Sue me.

A*M*E - "Heartless"
AlunaGeorge - "Attracting Flies" (Baauer Remix)
Ariana Grande feat. Mac Miller - "The Way"
Azealia Banks feat. Pharrell - "ATM Jam" 
Betty Who - "High Society" 
Britney Spears - "Ohh La La"

Capital Cities feat. Andre 3000 - "Farrah Fawcett Hair"
Ciara - "Overdose" 
Chloe Howl - "No Strings"
Disclosure feat. AlunaGeorge - "White Noise"
Duke Dumont feat. A*M*E - "Need U (100%)"
Dutch Uncles - "Flexxin"

Ellie Goulding - "Burn"
Elliphant feat. Ras Fraser Jr. - "Music Is Life"
Everything Everything - "The Peaks"
Gallant - "If It Hurts"
Haim - "Falling"
Iggy Azalea - "Work"

Jessie Ware - "Imagine It Was Us"
John Mayer - "Paper Doll"
John Newman - "Love Me Again"
Josef Salvat - "Hustler"
Kacey Musgraves - "Follow Your Arrow"

Kanye West - "Black Skinhead"
Kat Dahlia - "Gangsta"
Kate Boy - "The Way We Are"
Kim Cesarion - "Undressed"
Laura Mvula - "That's Alright"
Lorde - "The Love Club"

Matt Corby - "Resolution"
Mausi - "Move"
Mayer Hawthorne - "Her Favorite Song" (Oliver Remix)
Miguel feat. a Diva - "#Beautiful"  
Mree - "Into The Well"
MS MR - "Bones"

Mutya Keisha Siobhan - "Flatline"
Phoenix - "Entertainment" (Testudo Remix)
Quadron feat. Kendrick Lamar - "Better Off"
Robin Thicke feat. Pharrell and T.I. - "Blurred Lines"
Robin Thicke feat. Kendrick Lamar - "Give It 2 U" 

Sam Smith - "Lay Me Down"
Selena Gomez - "Slow Down"
Tom Odell - "Hold Me" 
Truls - "Out of Yourself"
Vampire Weekend - "Diane Young"
X Ambassadors - "Unconsolable"

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Introducing: NoNoNo

NoNoNo have us saying yes, yes, yes. Composed of producers Astma & Rocwell and singer/songwriter Stina Wäppling, this Stockhold-based trio has released four songs in the past few months and considering their origin. their music is pop perfection - something listeners have come to expect from the Danish, Norwegian and Swedish hit factories.

"Pumpin Blood" is an underground pop hit waiting to happen and their most commercially appealing record, while "Like The Wind" shows a more mysterious and demure side of the group. With the recent major success of Icona Pop and the rising stars of bands like CHVRCHES and St. Lucia, NoNoNo are sure to find themselves a place within the pop bloggersphere.

Introducing: Laura Welsh

Laura Welsh has gone through different pseudonyms in the past few years like Laura and the Tears and Hey Laura, but it’s in her latest incarnation – simply her birth name – where she is most poised for success. The British songstress debuted new material four months ago with her subtle and simple “Unravel,” produced by Dev Hynes, who has enjoyed a spectacular year with critically acclaimed releases – and personal favorites – from Solange and Sky Ferreira. With the latest rediscovery of down-tempo R&B, the subdued number is very of-the-moment, especially with traces to another English starlet - Jessie Ware, whom herself has various Sade elements.

Welsh has quickly received a major push, most likely thanks to other labels looking for their own Ware, all while her production offers a more modern production soundscape than that of Devotion – proven by her most recent release “Cold Front.” And thanks to the rise of Disclosure and Rudimental, the track has received the deep house remix treatment, which is more palatable to a wider audience than its counterpart.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Introducing: Kacey Musgraves

Country music as a whole is harder for me to enjoy than other genres. Whether it's because of the same rehashed lyrics, the same faces repeatedly representing the entire genre, the faux-monopoly that is Music Row, or the fact that you cannot tell many of the vocalists apart from one another, it has not been one of my favorites. Fortunately, there's one artist who is set on telling a different story with a unique voice of her own, breaking many of country's clichés in the process.

Kacey Musgraves is that artist. Repeat her name twenty more times in your head to not forget it because by 2013's end, she will be one of country's most-talked about individuals and one of its biggest female stars; a strong statement I do not take lightly and one in which I'm not alone in thinking.

The singer scored three Academy of Country Music nominations two weeks ago, including one for Female Vocalist of the Year, putting the relative newcomer in competition with Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood. She's also up for Video of the Year (Artist and Producer) for "Merry Go Round". All before her major label debut album Same Trailer, Different Park is even heard by the public.

Same Trailer, Different Park is due for release on March 19th via Universal Music Group's imprint Mercury Nashville. Signing the 24-year-old was a coup for the small imprint as Big Machine's Scott Borchetta, among many other majors, were in a bidding war to net the star. The million-dollar deal secures Musgraves for three full-length albums of new material with an option for a fourth.

The contract was a longtime coming for the Texan as she had self-released three albums prior and had a stint on the 2007 season of Nashville Star, a now defunct American Idol-style competition. Since then she's written for numerous country stars (Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride), found placement on Nashville, she's found her identity as a recording artist and sculpted her personal narrative; proven by her stunner of a single "Merry Go Round", co-penned with Josh Osborne and Shane McAnally. From the opening lines, it's obvious she's knocked it out of the ballpark.

If you ain’t got two kids by 21
You’re probably gonna die alone
At least that’s what tradition told you
And it don’t matter if you don’t believe
Come Sunday morning you best be there
In the front row, like you’re supposed to 

The homonym line of "Mary-Kate, mary jane, Mary" marks one of my favorite lyrics of recent memory. The single has received lots of radio attention, pushing it to No. 63 on the Hot 100. It's declined in the past week, but once press begins to pick up and she debuts at the awards shows, I think we'll see the song make its way back up again.

Her label has plans for releasing "Follow Your Arrow" as the follow-up to "Merry Go Round", but it's a decision many are regarding as a bold move. Musgraves serves up her own "Born This Way", "Firework", "Raise Your Glass" - you get the idea. It's a clever mid-tempo that advocates equality and smoking a joint. The lyrics are so refreshing and are more nuanced than the highly romanticized anthems offered up by many of her male counterparts.
If you save yourself for marriage you're a bore
If you don't save yourself for marriage you're a horr...ible person
If you won't have a drink then you're a prude
But they'll call you drunk as soon as you down the first one

If you can't lose the weight then you're just fat
But if you lose too much then you're on crack
You're damned if you do
And you're damned if you don't
So you might as well just do whatever you want

So make lots of noise
Kiss lots of boys
Or kiss lots of girls if that's something you're into
When the straight and narrow gets a little too straight
Roll up a joint, or don't
Just follow your arrow wherever it points

If you don't go to church, you'll go to hell
If you're the first one on the front row, you're a self-righteous son of a...
Can't win for losing, you'll just disappoint them
Just cause you can't beat them, doesn't mean you should join them

Thanks in part to executive producer Luke Laird bringing in the right people, the lyrics of "Merry Go Round" and "Follow Your Arrow" are some of the best country craftsmanship has to offer. The honesty is something I think country radio is ready for. Look at the reaction the latter receives from audiences here and here. Now imagine that multiplied.

Using her VEVO channel, the label is doing a fantastic job of portraying her as the girl-next-door and putting her humor, open-mindedness, and candidness in the forefront. That winning persona, well-crafted image, and resonating music is without a doubt going to win people over.

Jody Rosen of Slate put it best: "Let’s hope she keeps it up: honoring Nashville’s grand songwriting traditions while—gently, viciously—tipping its sacred cows."