Tag Archives: Pop

Tilian – The Skeptic

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Good pop music is very hard to come by, in my humble opinion, and every time I do stumble upon an artist, or even just a record, that peeks my interest I savor my new discovery as much as possible. Because, like it or not, pop music is very accessible music and every now and then that is just what you need. Today’s review isn’t about a new discovery, per se, since I’ve been aware of Tilian‘s solo career for quite a while, but The Skeptic marks his third record under his own name and it might just be my favorite. Continue reading if you want to find out why I think so!

What sets Tilian‘s music apart from the typical run-off-the-mill pop that you hear on the radio, is the fact that it’s not only written and performed by him, except the drums, but it also holds intelligent and meaningful lyrics. However, that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily overcomplicated and without a hook; on the contrary: on each and every one of these ten songs, I sang, or at least hummed, along to the chorus the second time it came around.

Instrumentally speaking, I would say that it moves in a similar hemisphere as its predecessors, meaning that it ranges from synth pop, over “soft post-hardcore”, to something close to dubstep. The latter is featured on the song Drunken Conversations, and it’s honestly the only song on The Skeptic about which I don’t know how to feel: while the lyrics have a lot of gravitas, I simply can’t warm up to the beat or the electronic-sounding vocals in certain parts.

Going back to the lyrics, and also the overall feel of these thirty-seven minutes, there is definitely another thing I dig about Tilian‘s style: each song has a happy-sad note to it, be it in the form of actually sad lyrics over a happy melody, or serious topics sung about in a self-ironic tone that almost makes them seem light-hearted. While this is his trademark writing style, it is elevated to a new level by his, in my opinion, strongest performance on his solo material to date. Right Side would be my go-to track if I had to pinpoint a highlight of his vocal prowess.

To sum things up, I can definitely recommend giving The Skeptic a thorough listen on September 28th, even if you’re not necessarily into pop music, because I have no doubt that Tilian will continue to impress non-believers. You can get an idea by checking out his Facebook page and especially by watching the video below…while trying not to go on a feels trip.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1e6C6mYVR4]

Orchards – Losers/Lovers

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Public service announcement: simplicity is underrated and I have a feeling that many musicians these days try to write complex music, for complexity’s sake. While I am a sucker for technically demanding and outside-of-the-box music, I also love putting on a record and being familiar with it after my first listen; or at least feeling that way. Orchard’s have managed to achieve just that, because their debut EP Losers/Lovers is a pure joy to listen to on repeat.

If I had to describe their sound in two words I’d call it authentic pop: the quartet’s songs could be straight off a pop radio station, because of their catchiness and recognizability, but the fact that everything is actually played by hand, instead of coming out of a machine, gives them a lot more credibility.

While I did call the Brightonians’ music simple, by no means was I implying that it was primitive, because the instrumentation and arrangement of the eight songs are all top notch. A clearly audible and groovy bassline is omnipresent and accompanies the driving drum tracks, while the effect-heavy guitar plays dreamy riffs that all pack a punch and will be stuck in your head after the first go. Yet, no song is ever overcrowded and you can clearly discern everything that is going on, allowing you to absorb them in their entirety.

Orchards do have another secret weapon though: harmonies and canon singing! The singer does a fantastic of reeling you in with her lyrics and her performance can be truly felt throughout the twenty-eight minutes. The cherry on top is the additional vocals, in select passages, by the guitarist that are either sung in perfect unison or slightly delayed depending on the various songs. This small detail lends the ensemble a whole new layer of depth and, having seen the band recently, I can tell you that they deliver that incredible power in a live setting as well!

For now, Orchards are a fairly small band still, but I can without a doubt say that they will be gaining momentum with this release and I hope that they will go far. So make sure to jump on the train of good music early and check out Losers/Lovers when it’s release this Friday, July 6th! You can get a first impressions in the video below and by checking the band’s Facebook page!
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpF-XDXRwDw]

Kali Uchis – Por Vida

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Kali Uchis is an exciting Colombian artist raised in the USA who has been around since 2012 when her first mixtape dropped, but has only moved into the spotlight in 2014 following the release of the first single off her first LP Por Vida. The album came out in February this year and since discovering it a bit late I haven’t been able to free myself from its spell.

Kali’s musical style is an interesting mix of influences that I haven’t heard in this form before. Her voice is all sultry and soulful and is backed by a sound that can be best described as an experimental cross between vintage bubblegum pop and R&B combined with some serious hiphop vibes (not least because she’s had really cool and well-known support coming from hiphop backgrounds for this album, such as Tyler the Creator and BADBADNOTGOOD). She also flirts with reggae elements, most notably in Know What I Want, and her Latin American roots definitely take hold in her music. It’s all over the place but blends in together so nicely!

Lyrically, Kali’s moments of sass are irresistible: “Fuck me over, I’ll fuck you worse and take off to Japan”. She also has a knack for analogies, which is evident in Melting, Lottery and Loner, the slower numbers on this record.

In rough outlines, Por Vida is composed of saccharine love ballads, smooth hang out jams and bouncy late night tunes to feel like a million bucks to. While still decidedly making up an accessible pop album, every single one of the 9 tracks is unique and strays from the usual boring recycled mainstream pop formula. I sure love a well-crafted pop record – definitely don’t miss this artist if you feel the same! Find her on Facebook and stream the album on Soundcloud.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Srfe453YePI]

Cristobal And The Sea – Peach Bells

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In my book, there is nothing more enriching to music than pure, unadulterated fun and soul. The London-based boys and girl of Cristobal And The Sea have both of these qualities down to a science, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been as fervently enamored with a recent release as I am with their 5-track EP Peach Bells, which was digitally released on November 3rd.

It’s impossible to describe this band without mentioning bossa nova and tropicália. As a huge lover of Brazilian rhythms, those elements were what hooked me instantly — there is a distinctly southern Mediterranean warmth to their music. Appropriately, the lyrics to Violet Tear are actually a Portuguese poem by the 17th century Brazilian poet Gregório de Matos and the chorus to My Love (Ay Ay Ay) is in Spanish.

The voices of João and Leïla flow together in beautiful harmony and blend into the dazzling psychedelic whirlwind that is their instrumentals smoothly, adding another layer of richness to the colourful soundscape. I can’t help but draw parallels to the sounds of Animal Collective (whose album Sung Tongs was produced by the same guy who recorded Peach Bells, Rusty Santos) when it comes to CATS‘ creativity and experimental approach, especially in the final track Zorro, which is just a complete, slowly unraveling trip of a tune.

There is not much left to be said, as Cristobal And The Sea is a band well worth discovering on your own. Their ardent tropicália pop is the sonic embodiment of a safari through a tropical forest, laced with surrealistic imagery in fantastic colours and shapes. Peach Bells is a blast; don’t miss it.

While you wait for the vinyl 12″ to be released on December 8th, you can pay the quartet a visit on Facebook, listen to Peach Bells on Spotify or Soundcloud and watch the trippy video for My Love (Ay Ay Ay) below.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZpV6mzsS2E&feature=youtu.be]

Natas Loves You – The 8th Continent

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Fellow lovers of good pop music, rejoice! Seven months and three days following the release of the Skip Stones EP that whet our appetite for more, the Paris-dwelling outfit Natas Loves You came out with their debut LP entitled The 8th Continent. To begin with, it is safe to say that the past two years have been fruitful for the five-piece band. Their lush indie pop/rock has been met with increasing popularity and they’ve had the opportunity to work with reputable people, like Chris Zane who produced their album and none other than Larry Clark who directed the video for their most recent single Got To Belong, and I have a feeling that we will watch this quintet skyrocket even further.

After the delightful foretaste that was Skip Stones, I was expecting 40 minutes of good vibrations with some profound and philosophical touches from the LP, and that’s exactly what I got. Natas Loves You have a knack for catchy melodies and lyrics that are irresistible to dance and sing along to, so unsurprisingly their 8th Continent is fraught with accessible and upbeat compositions that float somewhere between soulful pop, disco and psychedelia. In addition to the four tunes featured on Skip Stones, they delivered seven more songs that all have single potential and could stand comfortably on their own outside of the context of the album. Even so, there is a thread that runs through The 8th Continent that connects the songs and makes the overall recording an entity in and of itself as opposed to just a collection of individual songs: the whole is dunked in an airy, dream-like quality and there are recurring themes of feeling lost and disconnected, finding your place, and, of course, love and sensuality.

The album features a series of songs that could be interpreted as anthems for a lost or emotionally degenerate youth, most notably Got To Belong, Game Of Tribes and Go Or Linger. Got To Belong has decidedly motivational lyrics and evokes that euphoric “fist in the air” kind of feeling, the other two tracks seem more about catharsis and venting frustrations whilst still retaining an energetic, uplifting tone. One of the music’s defining characteristics are the three vocalists who do a lot of harmonising and take turns with the lead, which contributes to the infectious dynamic of the songs. Natas Loves You definitely isn’t the band to turn to if you’re looking for mopey and melancholia-laden music — even when tackling somewhat sombre topics, they seem to be dedicated to releasing positive energy out into the world first and foremost. You can take away a sense of hope or inspiration from every part of this sonic journey.

Natas Loves You have an active online presence on Facebook, an official website you can lurk, a couple of sweet videos up on YouTube including the one I embedded below, and The 8th Continent is available to stream for free on Spotify. If you dig what you hear, you are welcome to support the band financially by buying the album off iTunes. Enjoy and God bless!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEO2MMah8zM]

LIGHTS – Little Machines

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Let’s get one thing out of the way before we start: I don’t like pop. Generally-speaking, the pop industry is filled with one-hit-wonders that perform songs they had no input in and desperately try to appeal to the masses…just not my cup of tea. There is, however, one exception that goes by the name of LIGHTS. The talented Canadian singer has just released her third full length called Little Machines and proves yet again that pop can be highly enjoyable, diverse and, for the most part, self-written.

Three years after her second record, during which she got married and became a proud mother, the young singer has further evolved her trademark synthesized sound and reduced the dubstep elements that were predominant on Siberia. The genuine-feeling drive and the dreamy vibe that, to me, made her music so agreeable in the past is still present and, frankly speaking, it feels good to have new material.

The eleven song record opens with the song Portal which achieves a feeling of full immersion due to its hypnotic rhythm and softly sung vocals. And after that you are greeted by mostly upbeat songs that will not let you off the hook until the album is over. I do have to admit that on the instrumental side there are less passages that will be imprinted in your memory from the get-go, as was the case on the predecessors. But then again, I believe that the aim was not to necessarily create “hit material” but rather an authentic listening experience.

Truth be told, my personal selling factor about LIGHTS‘ music has and will always be her brilliant voice. Despite the usage of slight vocal effects and minimal pitch correction, they sound real and heartfelt…and if you’ve ever checked out her acoustic material, you know that the girl can sing just as perfectly without any computer help. On her previous records, I was always able to identify with most of the lyrics in one way or another and this is still the case, even though it’s not as strong as in the past. However, I dare you to find lines as cleverly written as during these thirty-eight minutes on any other pop record.

There is not much more I can tell you other than: even if you’re not a big fan of pop, or actually have a strong aversion to it, Little Machines is worth checking out because it’s not your run off the mill pop record. Watch the video to get an idea of what her music is all about and head over to Facebook for more information. And, even though I’ve said it before: always give music a chance, even if it’s not your home turf, because you never know what can touch you.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFl7DhdGGzo]

Natas Loves You – Skip Stones

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Natas Loves You is a five-man band residing in Paris. Their musical origins go back to Luxembourg, where four of them met and started what would eventually become their most ambitious project. On the 10th of March, the “pop stellaire” collective released their third EP entitled Skip Stones, which marks an important milestone in their promising career.

The opening and title track leaves no question as to what Natas Loves You’s mission is: the quintet wants to make us dance, or at least encourage toe-wiggling in the reluctant dancers among us. The breezy tune sets the mood for the impending summer days and comes with a fun video clip that is reminiscent of Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited. I would loosely describe their sound as synth-heavy rock with a slight retro flair that they preserved from their early days and that comes out particularly clearly in the remaster of an older song called Scarlett Brown. Zeppelins is another song I remember vividly in its previous version and that I might enjoy even more now that it’s been reshaped into an ocean of groovy psychedelic delight.

Go Or Linger stands out in the small collection as a song with a decidedly pensive streak. It’s still dancehall-worthy, but in an apocalyptic-mood type of way: when played at the right part of the night, it would probably get you in that zone where you pretend to dance your soul out without any inhibitions one last time before the world ends. The highly singalong-friendly lyrics portray a sense of feeling lost that hits home with most millennials. I generally consider the songwriting to be one of the band’s strengths and commend their knack for simple, yet poignant compositions of words.

In conclusion, this release shows that the guys of Natas Loves You have polished their sound to a shiny finish and carved out their own niche along the way. The harmonies, jiggy rhythms and dreamy soundscapes make for good, organic pop music with a distinctive factor that sets the band apart from other indie pop/rock acts currently floating around the musicsphere.

If you enjoy the juicy four-track EP (which is available on iTunes for 2,99 €), you’ll be excited to hear that it’s a teaser for the first full-length Natas release due later this year: The 8th Continent is a concept album produced by Chris Zane, who’s worked with bands like Passion Pit, Holy Ghost!, Friendly Fires and many others. In the meantime, you can keep up with the boys on Facebook and watch the video for Skip Stones below.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsQXnxzD0j8]

Like Lovers – Fire

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“No Strings Attached!”, this could have been the alternative title for Like Lovers’ newest EP Fire. The mastermind behind this little gemJan Kerscher seems to write music with an unattainable ease, which makes every aspiring musician / songwriter burst in utter jealousy; and I’m not even exaggerating. Recording 2 EPs within one year whilst simultaneously producing / recording bands in his studio is something that deserves my biggest respect and I guess this guy enjoys doing several full-time jobs at the same time.

The opener “Easy” is an easy-listening indie pop piece that gets you from the first second on with its catchy guitar riff and edgy structure, something completely different from the atmospheric opening track “Again” on this year’s first EP Former Selves. Speaking of no strings being attached, this was the first thing that came to my mind when I first heard Easy; as the song funnily reminded me of The Beatles’ approach in songwriting after they left their boyband image behind and started experimenting on a new sound and attitude, with no coercion or preconception of what could be wrong or right. The only right thing to do is start jamming and to me Easy obviously is a track that started as a guitar jam.

Luckily though, this short EP does not get boring in terms of songwriting, as the next track Satellite could not be more different from the first track, which is a good thing. Variety is a must in singer / songwriter music and Satellite is the proof of how it has to be done. What begins with an acoustic guitar and Jan singing about the desire of love (which could easily drift into a sticky kitsch love song) turns into a decently impulsive groove combined with a memorable vocal melody. Satellite could be the key track of this EP if it wasn’t for the next track Fire, which definitely is my favorite song. The fragile, almost minimalistic structure of the song, the dreamy vocals and the chimes are backed with 2 pumping drum tracks offering the right balance between atmosphere and dynamic.

The last track Nowhere is the most driving track with its rhythmic bass line and would almost suit for dancing. Again, the chorus melody is pure catchiness that is topped with the berzerk sounding guitar at the end, making it a very pleasing pop song and I have to admit that I am positively surprised by this EP. Writing music is an unthankful task demanding perfection once you decide to do it seriously. Jan breathes music and he’s got what it takes to write and produce memorable and enjoyable music. I jokingly ask myself if he’s got something to hide under all his talent, be it a reading disability or maybe an irrational fear of complicated mathematical tasks; because he’s brilliant and devoted at everything he does so there must be something he’s not good at. Maybe football?

You can get the EP on Bandcamp for free, but I would appreciate if you would pay for it! As I already mentioned several times before, independent artists do not live of love and air alone. Thank you!

Trash Monday XCIII

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There’s a fool here at El Gore who once thought these guys would become the new ABBA or something alike. He couldn’t have been more wrong, could he?
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3oknt9K3BM]

Bosnian Rainbows – Bosnian Rainbows

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The Mars Volta are dead, time for Omar Rodriguez Lopez to start another of his numerous personal projects. However, Bosnian Rainbows is a band in which he leaves the foreground to others, first of all Teri Gender Bender from Le Butcherettes, escorted by keyboarder Nicci Kasper and the one-arm drummer-while-keyboarding-with-the-other-one, Deantoni Parks. All together, the quartet plays a very hypnotic mixture between pop, synthpop, postpunk and progressive rock, although the “jamy” character of the last one apparently is way more present on stage than on this self titled debut.

The playfulness and creativity in which the front singer is covered during the whole album certainly defines the band’s character. Furthermore, the love for details provides many different spaces to discover synthetic and hypnotic secrets for the lovers of the genre, not to forget beats, sound walls and effective guitars. Still, the songs always have a clear line from the beginning to the end as a base frame, even though one sometimes misses a certain step to craziness. However, this may be due to my personal love considering The Mars Volta’s unpredictability. One obviously shouldn’t compare those two bands.

Rodriguez Lopez, as already stated, pulls the strings in the background, but never loses presence at any moment. In songs like I Cry For You one can even hear a certain will to break out and let the rock guitar beat the synthies, making the song sounding like a relationship crisis between guitar genius and electronic superiority. This may sound negative at first, but in fact this is one of the strongest songs of the LP.

In others however, as already suggested, a certain courage to go further is highly missed in my ears. The songs sometimes lose themselves in synthpop hymns that every one of us has already heard over the years. Nevertheless, Omar Rodriguez Lopez has never operated a really bad project, which is still the case in 2013. For lovers of the genre, Bosnian Rainbows will certainly deliver much joy with this first album and hopefully also with future outputs.