One listen to this, and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve stumbled into Woodstock ’69: UMO successfully combine bits of Jimi Hendrix and heaps of original R&B (yes, there were eras before the 80s, try to contain your shock) with modern influences such as Zero 7 into a fantastic package.
Gentle, easygoing and yet slightly psychedelic, the verses pack in blues-inspired guitars, steady percussion and dream-like, feminised vocals that combine and come coated in a slight distortion that only serves to enhance that retro vibe. Those factors all carry over to the hook, and though the instrumental change is only subtle, the vocal work there is incredibly addictive and really carries that step up from verse to hook, giving the track a distinct and highly-replayable anchor point. It’s a beautifully simple, perky and delicate song, yet there’s an overarching sadness in the lyricism that plays off the engrossing backdrop excellently, and is certainly masked well by the sharp, distinct cadences throughout. A very enjoyable listen, and it will findsa home on UMO’s II album, due out on 5th February, and I’m sure many will be looking out for that on the back of this track.
Easily the standout track from their Stomping on the Phantom Brake Pedal EP, the remix to one of their more popular tracks in recent times (listen out for the original as the theme tune for Wrestlemania 29), and now the second visual from the aforementioned EP.
The original’s bright, energetic instrumentation made for a real highlight of Love: Part Two, with Tom’s vocals matching that backdrop step-for-step in terms of raw positivity, and hence the direction of this remix was surprising. It’s dark, a little experimental and much sterner than its origin piece, with a mixture of deep, booming synths, filtered percussion and a collection of distorted effects that swaps out the infectious hopefulness for an uneasy, futuristic instrumentation that would feel at home backing a sci-fi film. It gets a little gentler for the hook courtesy of some soft guitar work, but it’s still a much harsher soundscape than the original.
The video clearly takes cues from the sci-fi film style, looking as though its filmed in some kind of power plant or weird space vehicle and viewed elsewhere on a control room screen. The picture-in-picture shots of the other band members playing their instruments is a nice touch, particularly for the guitar sections, and it’s again a dark, slightly unsettling creation that matches up with the audio as a result. EP is available here.
I’ve taken a real interest in, and liking to, Toro’s music in recent months and it’s with great anticipation that we get this official album preview, a week before its due for release.
The singles released to date have been excellent, whilst his past works are the measuring stick for the chillwave movement, and hopefully that’s all going to culminate in a fantastic 13-track LP on this third go-around for Toro. Thanks to Pitchfork for putting this stream together; you can check out the entire project for yourself below, pre-order the album here, or buy the thing on iTunes next week.
Toro’s impressive string of releases continues with the follow-up to So Many Details, both of which are taken from the Anything In Return album, due out 22nd January. Two for two, as this single is every bit as likeable as the first, and a significantly more positive and upbeat effort than it too.
That vibe emanates predominantly from the production, which combines verses of perky synths and head-nodding melodies with a fantastically funky bass and vocal sample driven hook, both underpinned by a nicely paced percussion that keeps the energy rolling. Toro’s vocals are airy enough to blend well with the synth work, whilst being soft enough to prevent overshadowing the beat too heavily, and the combination of the two makes for a fantastic listen.
The video is a direction most wouldn’t expect of this type of track, yet is exactly what you’d expect from the creative mind of Chaz Bundick, with shots of rather glorious landscapes making up the bulk of the footage, and Toro himself being placed within them in his geek chic attire as he cuts some brilliantly awkward dance moves. A clip that adds plenty to the atmosphere of the audio, and another superb audiovisual from Toro.
The Haunted Man has garnered near-unanimous praise since its release, and this video is a strong close to a great year for Bat For Lashes.
The story behind the album (read it here) and it’s accompanying artwork give the album an incredibly visceral feel before you’ve even listened to the music, and of course that does then extend into the music on giving it a play. This track is a great demonstration of that, with raw lyricism full of inveterate feeling and a production with a nice touch of diversity: the verses are minimal, supported mostly by a relatively lively percussion and the occassional burst of melody, whilst the hook explodes into life courtesy of bright synths and a plethora of electronic sounds and samples. Of course, those distinctive vocals match up to each section excellently, scaling up the emotion for the hook and keeping the verses more muted to throw in a darker, more contemplative vibe for those segments.
The video represents the lyricism well, with her cohort being almost entirely submissive throughot as she essentially leads him through their every encounter. It reflects the ‘you see a wall, I see a door’ hook in an engaging, physical manner, whilst the removal of the blonde wig seems to unveil both a busier, more active portion of the video, and a less controllable and unpredictable side of the male lead. An enjoyable watch, a great listen and be sure to grab that album.
The xx are really doing the rounds, presumably to promote their Night + Day European festival tour, and their latest live performance involved a cover of this Wham! classic.
Truthfully, this is a little bizarre. Their usual aquatic, delayed guitar strums are in, but they’re joined by a piercing percussion and synth work in styles that aren’t usually found in The xx’s music, to add the necessary dose of energy to keep some connectivity to the original. I’m not sure it entirely works though, as it comes off as a little scattered and unorganised, in particular the synth work which seems to change every so often, and the general sharpness of the instrumentation doesn’t quite work with their vocals. With that said, the vocals themselves are excellent, sticking true to the downbeat xx style whilst injecting a good level of emotion to at least attempt parity with the beat. As a package, I’m just not sure it comes off, but credit to the trio for giving a song so far from their style a try.
I wanted to do SOMETHING for the victims’ families. I wrote this song because I didn’t know what else to do.
Borrowing a sample from Ed Sheeran’s Let It Out, Posner to dedicates a little something to the victims and families of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Of course, I’m sure many tribute songs will be pouring out, and it’s good that someone of his stature has taken the time to do this. The slightly positive vibe of the track is a nice touch too, and rather than making something too downbeat, the lively guitars and hopeful lyricism attempt instead to raise the spirits of listeners. There’s only so much a song can do and there’ll never be enough to fill the hole those families have in their lives, but it’s genuinely good of Posner to put this heartfelt release out, and our thoughts here at OTU are with the very same people this is dedicated to.
Dido returns in 2013 with her first album in 5 years and here’s one of the songs that’ll drop from that, a surprising collaboration with hip-hop’s man of the moment Kendrick Lamar. Let Us Move On is a fantastic song reminding us all what a great voice Dido has, particularly against a haunting but reflective backdrop, which is tailor-made for Kendrick to assist with a great verse, continuing on his fine form in 2012. Her album, Girl Who Got Away, is set for release March 4th 2013.
Toro’s been one of those acts in that grey area between underground and mainstream success for quite some time, and with this single he looks ready for an assault on the mainstream side of things.
Far more accessible than some of the more experimental works that litter his back catalogue, the remix to this track surfaced a little over a month ago to a good response, and rightfully the original single gets a push on the back of that. As stated in the remix review, there’s a pop undercurrent that gives this song a great deal of structure and solidity, with Toro’s emotional vocal layer keeping the electronic, semi-experimental backdrop in check, and capitalising on the atmosphere it creates excellently.
The video gives Toro some much-needed face time, whilst the progressively more colourful, busy environments throughout combine well with the increasingly frenetic production. Also notable is the slow deterioration of the relationship between Toro and his accompaniment, who become seemingly less enamoured with one another to the point of near-desperate expressions. Potentially, this could be a very popular single for Toro; either way, it’s a likeable audiovisual that’s worth a go.
The xx have set such a stripped-back, barely-there baseline with their production that any slight increase in activity their music has makes it sound lively in comparison. That’s never more evident than here, as they take Womack and Womack’s throwback anthem for a spin, and come up with a typically xx take on it.
The original is famed for its empassioned, high-energy nature, and yet this darker, significantly more relaxed take on the track works worryingly well. The guitar work is a highlight, with the bass increasing in activity and bordering on unadulterated funk as the track progresses, whilst that trademark distorted (and somewhat aquatic? No?) string effect that they’ve utilised previously adds a more obvious layer of bright, sharp melody. Romy’s vocals are once again pitch-perfect from start to finish, whilst the sporadic inclusion of Oliver’s deeper and complementary tones are a lovely addition to create further depth. To my surprise, a studio version of this cover was released on a bonus disc that accompanied their debut album-couldn’t tell you where to find it, but I hope someone does as I’m desperate to own this. Phenomenal cover.
Their style is already superbly mellow, but you take that sound into an acoustic environment and it’s an overload of brilliance. Their minimal nature translates beautifully to the format, and this performance is indicative both of what fans can expect on their live tour (taking place right now) and just how good a band they are outside of a studio environment.
The latter point is important-many acts can do great things when they’re fine-tuned by an audio engineer and producer, but few can recreate that in a live setting as accurately and skillfully as these guys. The instrumentation is on point, those characteristic melodies gentle yet bursting with atmosphere, whilst Romy’s work achieves the same vibe with a delicate and hugely engrossing vocal performance. There’s nothing to dislike here: this is a live performance of the absolute highest order. Give this a listen below, and look out for one more track from this session to be posted momentarily.
He’s a multi-talented act, and has really risen to prominence in recent months thanks to some strong remixes and good productions served to other artists. Amidst all of that his solo work went somewhat overlooked, and this is a good opportunity to acquaint yourself with his capabilities.
The production is hugely atmospheric, the moody soundscape built up of glum string plucks, ghostly vocal samples and doses of strong synth work, and it gives JMSN a platform to maximise his vocal work. The whispery, haunting style of his singing is amplified considerably by the surrounding production work, whilst the beat’s intermittent inclusions of percussion and additional samples throw unexpected yet likeable elements into the mix. Admittedly, the 5+ minutes the song stretches for starts to become a touch repetitive towards the 4 minute mark, but smartly he brings in some powerful synth work to revitalise the listening experience.
I’m a little short on room to do the video justice, but the dark, spiritual direction he’s chosen is a near-perfect fit for the audio, and you can read his own rather philosphical explanation of the video here. Download the Priscilla album here.
Marmite. You’re either going to love or hate this.
Fusing the classic M.I.A. formula of frenetic experimentalism with a little injection of electro sensibility, this is one that’s either going to annoy you or get you feeling pretty lively. Vocally, it’s nothing incredible, with M.I.A. putting focus on the word ‘tent’ (and similar sounding words) through what sounds like an Autotune filter, but this is more a feat of production than anything.
The sheer dynamism and ever-evolving nature of the beat gives the impression that the track could just change track or surprise you at any minute, and it does so throughout-from the soft vocal opening, the track explodes into an upbeat production with distorted samples, wonderfully chunky bass and undergoes a little metamorphosis for the hook (if you can call it that), changing into an dub-style heavy low end and doing away with M.I.A’s vocals. It’s one that you’ll keep discovering new elements in with every listen, and I’d recommend giving it a go. You’ll know fairly quickly if you hate it.
I’m almost disappointed this video trilogy is over, as it probably means they’ll stop making clips for songs from the fantastic Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming album. I’ve said it about pretty much every video they’ve released from the LP, but this again is one of my favourite songs from the album, though it’s significantly different to most of the offerings on there. Much calmer and significantly more contemplative, the track is a slow roller that avoids the common ‘explosive’ climax, instead captivating and hypnotising you with its rhythmic, chant-esque vocals, and progressively adds in subtle elements to the production for that strong finish.
The organic build means it doesn’t feel like a forced ending, and that’s also true of the trilogy-ending video content. Continuing with the theme of powerfully gifted children, this clip takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting that contrasts rather eerily with the youthful characters: the numerous dead bodies, prowling wolves, greyed filter and unsettling skylines combine for an otherworldy visual with an element of realism, and one which gives this a visceral impact. That’s met by a more futuristic style towards the final third, as we see another of the trilogy’s star children return in amidst lasers and reflective pyramids, and again contrast comes into play with those flashes of colour juxtaposing favourably with the more earthly scenes that surround them. Another stunning audiovisual from M83, and I sincerely hope more new material isn’t too far away.
Day by day, there’s less room on that HAIM bandwagon. I’ve said it before, but they’re perfectly primed for mainstream success, whilst remaining talented and versatile enough to garner appreciation from those who don’t need our tastes dictated to us.
I gave this song a warm response on its release, but repeat listening has thoroughly infected me with its positivity. That combination of alternative with a little R&B funk gives their music a smoothness around the edges that makes repeat plays much easier, and this video will certainly add to that appeal.
There’s nothing particular new happening, with the clip divided between performance scenes and a basketball game, but the inherent charisma and confidence of the trio comes across through each shot, whilst the dark lighting throughout tempers the bounce of the audio and complements the attitudinal lyricism. There’s a lot to like about these guys, and with each release they’re going from strength to strength. You can grab this one on iTunes right now.
Considering I’m a big fan of both acts, you’d be well within your rights to assume I’d checked out their collaborative Zulu Guru album. Yet, I haven’t and not only that, I had to skip their album release show recently. Mum, if you disown me, I’ll understand.
Jesse’s soulful yet ever-experimental style seems a natural fit for MeLo, a producer who blends and transcends genres seemingly with ease. It’s that category-bending style that comes to the fore here, mostly provided by an offbeat production that’ll throw you initially, before gathering more solidity as the track progresses-the clunky percussion is first joined by Jesse’s whispery voice, before keys, synths and plenty more are added to the mix. It never loses that unusual aspect, but the latter additions add just enough regularity to keep this one listenable, even if it does become quite hard work after the full 4 minutes or so. Surprising to hear Melo rap on this one too, and he does a good job of keeping his delivery consistent over a production that would frighten most rappers. One that’s worth a couple of plays, but with the abilities these two possess you’d be forgiven for expecting something as eclectic but slightly more polished.
So, unfortunately the last contest we did had to be pulled as the concert got cancelled. A shame, but I’m assured that won’t happen this time: Last.fm have secured the incredible God Is An Astronaut, MAYBESHEWILL and Nordic Giants to play their very special Christmas Live in London gig.
Hell of a lineup to be honest. The atmospheric, wintery work of GIAA alone will be an incredible experience live in person, and I expect you all to have clammy hands at the prospect of winning these.
Nothing complicated. Just email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and tell me you want in. I’ll draw someone out randomly to win a pair of VIP tickets to this event. Feel free to get creative.
Artists: God Is An Astronaut, MAYBESHEWILL and Nordic Giants
Address: Heaven, Under The Arches, Villiers Street, London, WC2N 6NG
Tickets available from: http://www.ticketweb.co.uk/user/?region=gb_london&query=detail&event=516802x
Ticket Price: £14
Doors Open: 7pm
Everyone that I’ve spoken to about Catching Flies’ brilliant EP from a short while back has been overwhelmingly positive about it, and it’s with much pleasure that we get something new from the upcoming producer.
He’s got hold of Jill Scott’s infectiously positive Golden (can you believe that was released in 2004?! Frightening), and as the genre of the track suggests, he’s turned it into a soft dreamscape that’s opts for a much gentler approach than the original. Delicate hits of bass, atmospheric synth touches and the occasional inclusion of other instrumentation combines with the distorted vocals for a beautiful slice of production work. Laidback, relaxing and original enough to completely seperate it from the original, it’s another excellent working from Catching Flies. Stream below and download available from his Facebook page.
I forgot just how good this song was. I’ve not returned to it for quite some time, and hence this makes for a lovely refresh of an excellent track.
On to business. The clip’s a rather unusual yet interesting one. It’s difficult to tell whether the effects, mannerisms and general layout are deliberately old-school and slightly corny, or whether that’s an unfortunate situation-given that the video leaked rather than being released, and Cudi seemingly had no problem with that, it muddies the waters somewhat in terms of its intentions. Nonetheless, it’s a fun clip that’s basically an enormous tripping out session, as Cudi and Dot play instruments in front of a space projection, whilst the former displays some decent emotion for the hook performances. The lighting style of the video is very likeable, as a mostly dark backdrop is frequently illuminated by bright flashes of colour, the aforementioned projection and much more, reflecting the bittersweet nature of the audio rather well. Enjoyable watch, even if it is slightly confusing as to its intented seriousness.
Rancid’s frontman is along for the assist on the latest clip from Travis and Yela’s recently-released Psycho White EP, and the ska heads are going to thoroughly love this one, if only for the bouncy instrumentation.
Drawing on mid-90s punk, ska and early 90s reggae (so basically…ska), the production has a summery, laidback quality that infuses the entire track with positivity and plenty of funk. You add that to the three artists involved and it’s a recipe for success right? Wrong. It just doesn’t come off here, largely because the lyricism doesn’t seem to fit the upbeat nature of the instrumentation, and once you’re over the novelty of the throwback beat, the reptitiveness becomes rather annoying. With that said, there are several positives. Whilst Yela’s lyricism isn’t the ideal fit his raps ride the beat comfortably, particularly in his angsty, razor-sharp closing verse. The Tim Armstrong hook has a nice anthemic feel to it, and may help this track get a little wider recognition for sure, but generally there isn’t enough going on to give this any longevity.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll go through a few stages with this one. At the start, it just seems like a direct cover with no real unique elements, besides a slightly minimalised production, and that’s a fair assessment initially. However, just shy of a minute in things really step up and it’ll begin to completely take a hold of you. The soft sample the track opens with is joined by a stuttered synth and a sharp percussion, amongst several other layers, for an experimental yet controlled production with plenty of replayability.
On top of that is Zola’s near-hypnotic voice. It’s not pitch-perfect, it’s not technically outstanding, (criticisms that can be levied at the original’s creator, of course) and hence its natural qualities contrast favourably with the electronic production. Her vocals are packed with passion, alongside hints of sadness and regret, and somehow, it all comes together and becomes both rather addictive. A cover that gets better with every listen.
Good to see HAIM dropping off their second new track in as many months. Their alternative, pop and R&B crossover generally makes for very easy listening, and much like their last release they’ve opted to lean slightly more toward the pop side of things as they seek to really cement their breakout.
The instrumentation combines heavy, almost dark electronic elements with sprightly percussion and vocals for a contrast that ultimately ends up sounding rather lively and positive. I’m not totally sold on the production as it feels repetetive and a touch too intense, but credit for switching things up a little. A recurrent theme in their music is the use of somewhat bittersweet lyrics, and here they’re used cleverly to build toward a beautifully harmonic bridge and ultimately a catchy melody-heavy hook, and both combine to anchor the song well. Likeable, but maybe not quite on par with some of their other work.
One of several exciting projects being released this week, and potentially one of the better collaborative works in the hip-hop game in recent times.
Their first single was an excellent listen, combining frenetic production with energetic raps, and whilst the second wasn’t quite as memorable, there’s still a sense of synergy between the two that promises much. They’ve even recruited Rancid’s Tim Armstrong for a feature on one of the tracks, in what is a clear demonstration of their intention to infuse as much punk styling into the expected hip-hop works as possible, and even if the execution doesn’t come off its good to see them trying to blend the two genres. Stream it below, and be sure to buy it tomorrow.
Ed’s choices for singles from his debut album + have been nothing short of excellent so far, and he continues rattling out clips for his strongest tracks with this release.
It’s a rather leftfield one too, in contrast to what is arguably one of the more lyrically ‘direct’ songs on the album. The video works backwards to a degree, opening up with a series of visceral images of an apparent murder victim, and moving to scenes of her contemplating use of various torture instruments. The video then takes a slightly surreal twist as the once-afflicted character turns first into what seems to be an angel and then into a cupid-style being, albeit one with clear troubles. Her targets become increasingly random and less thought-out (compare the considered sniper shot at the start to the frenetic chaos towards the end), and that eventually leads to her ‘falling on her own sword’, until the moment arrives to cause the offending arrow to disappear. It’s a very enjoyable clip that adds a dark, gritty edge to the mere idea of cupid and angels, and of course the song it’s set to is a great backdrop for it all. Another superb video from Ed, grab that album if you haven’t already.
Born in Sweden, Sebastian Mikael moved to Los Angeles in 2008 to attend the Musicians Institute, before continuing his studies at Berklee School of Music. He was signed to Slip-N-Slide Records and in late 2011 released his first mixtape, J’Adore, to rave reviews. His “Beautiful Life” video caught the ear of Sylvia Rhone, who partnered with Slip-N-Slide to sign him to Vested in Culture, her new label with Epic Records.
A nice slice of acoustic work to start the weekend. There’s a ton of potential in this upcoming singer, and this first exposure for many of us will probably not be the last. This performance of Speechless is packed with emotion and delivered with plenty of skill, as Mikael demonstrates a command over melody and atmosphere that belies his relatively new status, via the diversity of vocal deliveries, the soft supporting guitar work and the sheer presence of his voice makes that empty room seem considerably fuller. Many do acoustic performances well, but most do so by opting for a sombre, more moody vibe. Sebastian’s positivity radiates throughout this one, and it’s an infectious feeling that’s surely going to gain him plenty of fans over the coming months.
At over 8 minutes long, most AVA fans will rightfully expect another Star of Bethlehem situation. That’d certainly be a good thing given it’s a superb piece, and whilst this is a rather different proposition it’s no less impressive, even if it is far removed from their usual material.
The notable factor is how little this focuses on vocals, and instead is really driven by the instrumentation. It’s rare the band do that at such length, and usually save that for interludes or extended intros (such as Star), and it’s certainly a welcome change given how consistently excellent their instrumental work is. Dedicated to their late friend Critter, the clip opens with nearly 3 minutes of minimalism via soft key notes and little else: it’s a chance to focus on the video, which stays true to the Diary title. It’s made up of behind-the-scenes and live footage, and the grainy, stuttering filters applied give it a ‘hazy memory’ vibe that definitely adds a personal feel, before the music evolves with crashing percussion and more lively keys. The next 2 minutes keep this up, before switching down to soft synths and a vocal sample, and back up again to instrumentation but with distorted vocals layered on top. It’s a track that really works in clearly divided segments, and hence makes for the type of diverse listening that makes an 8 minute track just fly by. This features on the Stomping on the Phantom Brake Pedal EP, due for release on 18th December.
Many know Bryan for his work on How To Make It In America, whilst some will also know he works dilligently as a musician. We’re a little slack on keeping up-to-date with his musical output (here for the last time), but this was certainly a worthy cause as he attempts to (impartially) encourage today’s American youth to vote.
Whilst that has no real impact on us British citizens, the execution is excellent. Bryan opens with an atmospheric yet minimal backdrop, his echoed vocals supported by muted guitar and percussion work, before the track slowly builds into a more emotional style with the aforementioned elements increasing in intensity and impact. It builds towards a strong final third with crashing percussion, lively synths and guitars, and empassioned vocals that match each of the upscaled production elements with a captivating rawness. Great slice of alternative music, and let’s hope there’s more to come.
Always a pleasure to have new material from Matt Martians and Syd Tha Kyd (who appear to have dropped ‘The’ from their name), and they’re gearing up to release their first project since dropping off the excellent Purple Naked Ladies album just under a year ago. The laidback soul stylings of that album made for excellent listening, and their upcoming Feel Good EP will hopefully provide more of that next month.
This track is much livelier and more positive than the chilled, sometimes downbeat approach their LP took, and the title of the forthcoming EP could suggest a shift towards this style. It doesn’t sacrifice their natural smoothness, but instead layers it up with a more summery vibe courtesy of perky guitar plucks, sharp and bouncy percussion, and vocals that operate much more in the foreground than their previous works. The lyricism still has hints of bittersweet qualities, creating a nice consistency with their regular produce, and this is one that definitely feels like a step forward for the duo without detracting from what they’re good at.
Another of the legitimately superb tracks from M83′s most recent album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, and the video comes courtesy of a competition with Genero TV for aspiring videomakers to helm this one.
One of the many reasons I give this track so much time is for its immediacy, with the opening utilising no lengthy intros like plenty of their other music, and instead kicking things off with a lively, energetic vocal sample. It’s built on excellently with further vocals, uplifting synths and pulsating percussion work for a thoroughly feelgood track with so much positivity that it’s quite difficult to get the video wrong.
Thankfully, the rookie directors have done a great job here, and stick to M83′s favoured theme of childhood innocence with a supernatural twist courtesy of a fresh-faced kid performing for himself in his garden, interspersed with bright and fun animated scenes of electronics that suggest he’s possibly more scientifically than supernaturally gifted. It’s a video full of colour on a nighttime backdrop, and the high level of activity makes for a great accompaniment to the audio. Grab the album now.