GALE – Lo Que No Te Dije

Since late 2022, Puerto Rican singer-songwriter GALE has been on the come-up, and music publications have become wary of such. Safe to say, I was also on that delayed hype train quietly amassing for GALE like a Karol G co-sign and a significant spotlight/interview with Rolling Stone. Whether early or late, getting to listen and explore Gale’s artistry has been nothing short of refreshing. She doesn’t try to find herself pushing weight through meandering notes in the ever-growing popularity of Latin-Trap and Reggaeton. Instead, she’s finding footing in pop and weaving styles that fit the artistic vision on her new album, Lo Que No Te Dije, translated to “What I Didn’t Tell You.” For GALE, It doesn’t matter how effective the song may be, as evidenced by the fun cheekiness of some songs, like “D Pic,” a mild-mannered tune that aims at the immaturity of dick pictures through texts – as you dive into the album, for its faults, it’s a refreshing listen, especially as she makes something out of the tried relationship-context for pop songs.

What’s unique about Lo Que No Te Dije is its self-reliance on trying new sounds while leaving an empty slot for GALE to bring vocal subtleties through her melodies, giving us to hear a more rounded product. It makes the transitional sequencing feel fluid, like when it shifts from the electronically bombastic “Problemas” to the smooth cadence of the percussion-driven “La Mitad,” which takes influence from Reggaeton in the drums that adds oomph to keep overtures balanced. It then shifts to this excellent acoustic pop song (“Ego”), where GALE flexes her independence from an egotistical and possessional ex. Here, we hear a defining aspect of GALE’s artistry – following the same strength of song-to-song transition, “Ego” sees a similar cadence in language transitions. Many things are working for Lo Que No Te Dije, specifically the energetic and natural catchiness of varying songs, buoyed by solid production from DallasK and Josh Berrios. They bring a transparent layer between sounds, allowing the vocals to feel the importance of backing sounds, heartening the emotional poignancy in the songwriting. 

Lo Que No Te Dije is conceptually thematic, focusing solely on relationships and deconstructing the varying characteristics one experiences, or many times, more personal. It wears its heart on its sleeve, and if it kept that sonic and tonal consistency, GALE could have delivered something more profound, but she takes unique turns that bring forth a vaster range of relativity. GALE can shift the context of a song and make it fit a specific tone without feeling overly hokey. We hear it with “D Pic,” where she takes an empowering and sardonic tone when bashing her man for sending a dick pic in the middle of the night – we hear it with “Killah,” where GALE feels the power, knowing what she loves and the control she wields, using a metaphorical gun and bullet to express it. As standalone tracks, they still show GALE’s talent as a songwriter but don’t feel entwined with the emotional complexities of other songs, especially the dynamite “Problemas” and “Nuestra Cancion.”

Taking into account the varying angles GALE tackles the sounds of this album – one can readily feel disappointed by the slight disjointedness of these cheeky but explorative pop songs that take an inconsistent pivot from the emotional complexities of others. As I’ve noted, the tracks “D Pic” and “Killah” slightly fit the album’s focus on deconstructing a relationship through this vast worldview on living, but these songs don’t bring much to contain that establishment. They are more so there to reinforce GALE’s self-reliance and confidence. “D Pic” is a fun pop romp that wants to focus on the guitars but forgets close to halfway. “Killah” is another Tropical Reggaeton/Pop song that doesn’t feel that ambitious or colorful, reminding me more of a throwaway that’s added so the album doesn’t land below 30 minutes. Fortunately, there are other reasons to enjoy the album, like some of its reference points and influences within the soundscapes.

As it’s been with pop and music in general, use of influential references becomes more apparent within the soundscapes, like the disco flavors in synth-pop or the electronic elements in Latin Trap. It’s this evergrowing way of building and exploring new foundations, shifting how we hear them sonically, like when Melanie Martinez interloped the melody from “If You Had My Love” by Jennifer Lopez on “Brain & Heart.” Here, those moments, at first, become bewildering and then refined and beautifully resonant with outer notes within the progressional melody. The standout moment comes on “Problemas,” which beautifully incorporates aspects of Justin Beiber’s first verse melody on his powerhouse hit “Baby.” It’s subtle but brings an impactful punch, like the EDM synths on “Nuestra Cancion” or the timid but pertinent consistency of the synth-pop rock sounds of the late 2000s on “Triste.” It’s just this prevailing trip to listen to and get lost in as you feel powerful emotions and dance.

Though “D Pic” and “Killah” are slight “blemishes,” they don’t fully take away from the great stuff going for the album, especially its catchiness, which will definitely have me returning again and again. It didn’t strike a chord initially, but as it kept looping, I heard the luscious details imputed into the tracks, bringing forth something multi-dimensional. It’s a fantastic reintroduction to GALE, but it still doesn’t have the strongest landing. It comes with direction and a sense of being – individualization – yet, the hiccups do stand out, and it lessens this to another solid pop album that will stand the test of time, or so I hope.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

SBTRKT – The Rat Road: Review

It’s been seven years since the release of English DJ/Musician SBTRKT’s last project, Save Yourself, and now, he’s back with The Rat Road. Though the music has been there, fans have eagerly awaited a follow-up to the former, and who could blame them? Save Yourself was a push away from many soundscapes that aligned Wonder Where We Land, specifically its pivot from bombastic layering. It doesn’t push SBTRKT from getting creative and finding ways to let the sounds glimmer beneath vocals from the featured artists. He did so graciously and remarkably with The Dream on a few tracks on Save Yourself, and that consistency mirrors with a few artists on The Rat Road. For lack of a better term, it’s more melodic and focuses less on a need for drum patterns to define the rhythmic trajectory, pushing his creativity to new levels. That isn’t to say it’s devoid of drums, or rather percussion latent, but what SBTRKT does with The Rat Road is bring forth new dimensions to his craft, allowing for a stellar and mesmerizing journey that comes with a few setbacks, primarily with pacing; yet, I couldn’t recommend this more.

SBTKRT’s absence from music has been known by fans and music lovers alike, and he has been missed. He was privy to that, as he motions to it with the first few tracks that speak on waiting and patience through varying perspectives. However, it’s here that we hear SBTRKT assimilating to the complexions of his featured artists, like Toro Y Moi, whose two songs sound like some cut tracks from an older record, specifically around the time of Moi’s fifth album Boo Boo. The Rat Road is SBTRKT’s most personal album, bringing to life the value of patience as it’s pertinent with themes of perseverance and happiness within music, which hasn’t given SBTRKT the best platform to feel free. As he would tell DJ Mag during an interview, “This album has been my most sonically ambitious record to create – following my own musical path – which isn’t based on other. The Rat Road’’s title is a play on the concept of ‘the rat race’. It’s partly based on my own challenging experiences within the music industry and life generally – though I realised the idea is not isolated from a much wider feeling of exhaustion.”

The Rat Road comes through with the means to keep a flow – finding new ways to build and get to the end with an understanding of his artistry and more. As you sit back and press play, The Rat Road begins to embody and emboldens these sentiments SBTRKT has felt, like angst, isolation, and depression, which we hear with the instruments, especially the piano keys on some songs, but more notably on “Go to Ground.” Through melancholic performances and these whirlwind-like moments after an interlude where the music takes on a new form, using the language of instrumental sound to help build parallels to mood getting expressed throughout the rest of the album. Unfortunately, it stumbles because the little sidesteps to interludes add little to the complexities of SBTRKT’s thematic direction – it’s more so this bridge between tracks, establishing a wide path to dissect, except it lacks some nuance and becomes forgettable in the long run. Some interludes or shorter songs bring emotional connectivity between production styles, building this sonic world further through intricate sounds that don’t incorporate vocals, like “Rain Crush” or “Saya Interlude.”

Though vocals give you a more direct feeling of what the artist wants to say, having instrumental-focused tracks brings a proper space between the directness. It provides listeners this break where we’re hearing SBTRKT’s authentic voice instead of a secondary body that is verbally accentuating what wants to get said. Disappointedly, it doesn’t know how to deliver a proper balance, as some get lost within the progressional fixtures of the album. “Coppa,” “Palm Reader,” and “Creepin’ Interlude,” whether it has vocals or not, feel transfixed in this world where it’s sense in adding unnecessary depth, unlike “Rain Crush,” which sets up some sound motifs, specifically with the piano and synths. After “Coppa,” we are given a three-track run of 90-second or shorter tracks that come and go swiftly, making the album feel meatier than it should be. It stunts the transitional fluidity we’ve gotten between longer songs, like from track 11, “You, Love,” to “Forward,” where it’s at a similar peak as the first four of the album, and most tracks with a featured artist, like phenomenal “I See Stairs” with Little Dragon.

The Rat Road gets centered on making it to the end, like the previously mentioned rat race, which SBTRKT noted it was. Think about the film from 2001, Rat Race, and the zaniness that took place while getting to the finale; SBTRKT follows this trajectory, except the music isn’t zany, instead more creatively fluid, extending beyond and finding new ways to incorporate instrumental layering with the songwriting, especially on “No Intention.” On the song, we continue to hear the strength between SBTRKT and Leilah in this beautiful cohesion of vocals and production, even when elements of the melody or harmony aren’t the most creatively astute. It’s the case with “No Intention” and “Forward;” the way Leilah deconstructs the emotional fortitude allows one to feel that tumultuous relationship SBTRKT has had with music and the music industry. What gets conveyed gets heard beautifully through melodically rich performances from featured artists, Sampha, Leilah, Teezo Touchdown, and Toro Y Moi. For the most part, they bring a sense of vibrancy – more so, the former artists as Toro Y Moi keep it simple and direct, almost leaving one to be a fan to get the most out of his performance.

SBTRKT wears his heart on his sleeve, and it shows, specifically through the unique instrumentations that burgeon through as their own character, making songs feel like duets. At first, it’s an album you could get lost in, but as it replays and replays, you begin to sense where it could have gotten tightened, leaving a more modestly paced progression. Though who am I to complain, since the music is fantastic and the performances – for the most part – elevate it further. For non fans, I couldn’t recommend this more, especially since it’s far from your typical dance/electronic album, bringing more emotional complexities to the fray and hitting it on the money. Also the vibes are great for a summer night.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Yuné Pinku – Babylon IX: Review

Yuné Pinku has been slowly making splashes in the Electronic music scene. Though not as transverse on her debut EP Bluff, she rearranges her landscapes, flattening the sonic terrain to allow the synthesizers and percussion to flood and elevate the unique world she creates on Babylon IX, her latest release. Like burgeoning producers from the UK area getting influenced by the constructive and vibrant club scene repopulating in prominence as more and more continue to make grander splashes within the Electronic Music and Pop scenes. Like those already on the forefront – Nia Archives, PinkPantheress, and Shygirl – Yuné Pinku has found opulence within her melodically driven construction; it keeps listeners engaged with the music on a level beyond the club floors and into our brain waves. As it’s been with various Electronic musicians, that bridge between club pop appeal and introspection has been the dividing factor towards where I lean, and that’s why I got hypnotized by the detailed construction, notes, and influential references Pinku weaves together.

Babylon IX is as esoteric as one could expect. Its foundation for its electronic base is more simple than it is complicated, but Yuné Pinku builds over it beautifully. It keeps a consistent cadence in the production, where percussion and synth changes feel more nuanced compared to additional programming work within some songs, like the more pragmatic “Heartbeat,” where it plays with breakbeat notes in tempo. Though delicate with its sounds, there aren’t many avenues Yuné Pinku isn’t willing to go; since she was younger, she played around with soundscapes, learning to build songs around her vocals. In an interview with NME on the 29th of March 2022, she noted, “I’ve always really liked writing, but I wasn’t making music to go anywhere. So I just started adding bits and bobs.” Ben Jolley continues by writing While she originally only utilised her vocals as a backing to her music, over time Yuné’s voice came to the forefront of her creations: “I think you can carry what you’re trying to say or what the feeling is [in your music] a bit more when there’s words to it.” 

As mentioned in the NME writer/interview with Ben Jolley, he makes this note about the song “DC Rot”: “built on piano house keys and a steady kick drum before Yunè’s nonchalant vocals chime in, an unexpected rumbling breakbeat then engulfs the atmosphere and sends the song spiralling into a different direction, before it’s then pulled back on course.” “DC Rot” is a song off her Bluff EP – as great as it is, it doesn’t have the profound nuance of Babylon IX, where the production feels more centralized and pivots to new areas to stay captivatingly smooth. Whether it’s the House percussion of “Sports” or the Trance-like nature within the non-instrumental breaks on “Fai Fighter,” the music doesn’t get lost as swiftly in repetitiveness, becoming more of a non-factor in keeping consistency. Additionally, “DC Rot” carries a specific melodic gear Yuné Pinku uses that’s audibly resonant with individual patterns, like the percussion on “Blush Cut” or subtle sub-portions of melodies within “Fai Fighter.”

From a songwriting aspect, it’s more intimate and personal, reflecting these internalized notions we harbor, like longing or the trials and tribulations of a relationship as it progresses. It’s modest and austere, with its depth coming from Yuné Pinku’s vocal performances, which have this abstentious sense of reality as it never opts to get glitzier than the production suggests. She works around the complexions of the song’s aesthetic as she finds new avenues to get enveloped in, like the Deep House notes of the opening track “Trinity” or the twinkly and glitchy EDM spirit of “Night Light.” The more you listen, the more you get hooked by its beautiful complexities, which boast the nature of Pinku’s mental progression in creating music. Like Pinkpatheress, she’s a producer/singer who’s come out of the bedroom woodwork; the approach to music is more expressive and chill, allowing the vocals to become these poignant layers that do more than just keep you entranced with the same melodic dribble. It’s what separates DJs like Shygirl, Yuné Pinku, Porter Robinson, and Yaeji from those who mastered the tried and true method like Tiesto and David Guetta.

Babylon IX is one of the more well-rounded EPs I’ve heard this year. It meets in the middle, where both sides of the construct excel beyond expectations. It’s one of those things where even if certain core aspects of the performance or its nuanced writing seem to feel lesser, you aren’t wrong for thinking so, as Yuné Pinku takes what works and uses its strengths to make sure what we hear is what was intended. Its hypnotism is at a peak; at 24 minutes, it doesn’t feel like a quick breeze in the park but more spaced out and ingestible. I’m excited to hear where Yuné Pinku goes next in music, but one thing is for sure, if she ever tours the States, know I’m going to try hard and be there.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Skrillex – Don’t Get Too Close

When news came of Skrillex dropping two albums within the calendar year, hype was real, but we never knew when the release date was. Then, the second album became more of a topic of conversation once the announcement came of a release date for Quest For Fire, with some believing he’d pull something akin to Future, who dropped HNDRXX and Future within a week of each other. His second album, Don’t Get Too Close, was released the following day, and unlike the former, it brings depth beyond its more approachable textures that sift between EDM and Dance-Pop. It radiates via potent production, occasionally poignant delivery of thematic inflections, and melodic bliss. It drives a different path, where catchiness comes from the vocal performance underlying the synths to keep you engaged, as opposed to the enigmatic and archaically fantastic production, leaving you engaged on Quest For Fire. Unlike it, Don’t Get Too Close is blissful consistency that continues to shape Skrillex’s artistry beyond being known for making dubstep too BRO; it has some more standard tracks that fit the flow but aren’t as captivating as others.

Quest For Fire builds dynamic intensity within the pores of its percussion notes. A type of intensity that your typical club flair couldn’t capture the energy amassing from the hard-gripping percussion that you’ll just want to mosh instead of relaxing to some crisp melodies that fit a wider audience without thinking lesser of its listener. Quest For Fire is like a rave, a fantastic time, and uncontrollable. Don’t Get Too Close is like having your moment under blue lights, sometimes neon, and vibing more loosely to the sounds instead of grooving chaotically. Quest For Fire has a few danceable moments, like “Butterflies,” “Ratata,” and “Leave Me Like This,” but beneath that aesthetic, the percussion loomed over the synths and bass; it becomes more defined through its individuality. It kept the album centered on a resounding sonic theme, while Don’t Get Too Close does so with its approach to delivering the vocal melodies and keeping its tones consistent. The individual performances wane, some shine, and some hit the nail perfectly while acquiescing with the production fluidly. 

As its main defining contrast, Don’t Get Too Close lets the drums act like a balancing beam that keeps the other instruments afloat as they guide performances, like on “Painting Rainbows,” with frequent collaborator Bibi Bourelly, which shifts vocal styles in song. Skrillex, however, can’t help himself with the drums, but he beautifully incorporates more bombast with the cheeky sequencing from tracks two to five. But within that drum-loaded track three (“Selecta”) and five (“Real Spring”), BEAM and Bladee add excellent complementary vocals to counteract the insane and wicked-great beat drops, which come from equally great melodic-driven drum patterns. Don’t Get Too Close takes influence from Dance/Pop/Trap overture; we see a finite balance that keeps it on a steady, consistent path of harmonious bliss. It’s an antithesis to the more bombastic and lucratively detailed range within its sonic construction. Though some tracks wane because the production doesn’t take an extra leap, it blends with its rich atmosphere.

“Summertime” with Kid Cudi or “Don’t Go” with Justin Beiber and Don Tolliver are the two that don’t land well. They don’t have the same bravado as tracks like “Selecta” or “Mixed Signals,” taking unique directions, which leaves some production feeling more typical. The former delivers a satisfactory vocal performance, but it can’t save it from some bare flairs of its EDM synths guiding through mundane drum beats, but they supplement it with some catchiness. The latter has brought more R&B elements, relaying bland melodies from the two artists. It doesn’t have the slight sazón in “Bad For Me” with Corbin and Chief Keef or the melodically driven jungle-electronica of “Way Back” with PinkPantheress and Trippie Redd. Like them, Don’t Get Too Close has featured artists bringing multi-dimensional bliss within their vocal performances, especially BEAM, Bladee, and Yung Lean, who naturally shine on the production, creating these powerful performances.

More so, unlike the first release, Skrillex and Swae Lee deliver an atmospherically vibrant performance, boasting my enjoyment of this more. It’s swift but richly ingraining a vibe that hits you like a calm spring night beneath the stars with a joint and noise-canceling headphones. It has a clear direction sonically, and it’s better for it. It keeps you focused on a vibe without taking too many distinct heel turns with the production. Its construction is more homogenous, comparatively, but rich creativity gives it new dimensions that shape it beyond your typical EDM and at least has more identity than a posh pop hit from Zedd. It’s on par with Quest For Fire in terms of delivering to fit an aesthetic narrative, but it is just a little tighter.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Skrillex – Quest For Fire: Review

It’s been nine years since the last Skrillex album, but he has had a presence throughout music since, whether from his influence or a series of beats and singles spread out. So when Skrillex announced two albums getting released this year, his fans rightfully rejoiced, especially with singles amassing hype through the sheer visceral multidimensional production they have. Quest For Fire, the first of two albums, delivers on that hype, despite floundering with a few subpar tracks. On it, Skrillex takes us through varying directions, going from EDM to Trap, House, and Drum-N-Bass, all with clean transitions that don’t make the lesser tracks feel like outcasts, more just middling disappointments, comparatively. The blaze of Quest For Fire ignites fiercely, only to quickly taper thrice, but growing again with powerful sequences that keep you engaged with its atmosphere and vibe. It allows listeners to feel immersed through curiosity in this electrifying world filled to the brim with creative shifts from his co-producers and captivating performances from its featured artists.

As Quest For Fire shifts between genre complexions, we get a taste of Skrillex’s evolution within the electronic music genre. Though Skrillex, at first, was seen as a dude-bro DJ/Producer who made dubstep for a specific crowd. Yet, Skrillex has shown amongst releases some great depth in his musical production, like “Stranger” off Recess or “El Chapo” with The Game on The Documentary 2. Continuing on Quest For Fire, we hear a series of monstrous tracks with visceral depth in how it blends different elements to create the whole. The beats are hectic and rooted in these bombastic overtones like on “A Street I Know,” “Rumble,” and “Good Space,” which, like many, have a big focus on hard-hitting multi-layered drums patterns that create a flow with the featured artist. It gives us these eloquent tonal shifts that aren’t constantly pounding and keeps a consistent feel for the percussion’s importance in guiding this listening journey, made more so by its transitions.

When “Rumble” transitions to “Butterflies” or “Supersonic (my existence)” into “Hazel Theme,” the production leans toward more melodic-driven drum patterns, giving the external electronic notes like synths in the former, the guitars on “Supersonic (my existence)” or the piano notes in “Hazel Theme.” “Hazel Theme” and “Leave Me Like This” become pivotal as the former transitions into the closer, and the latter has to keep the hypnotic drum beats with contrasting success. The tempos between each keep it engaging, and its transitions don’t deter you as it’s cleanly boasting the engagement had between tracks. It’s the same when it shifts into the somewhat irrelevant skit, a quick interview with Skrillex (Sonny Moore) and Pete Wentz at Warped Tour ‘05, which has more to do with nostalgia than the focus of the album. Positively speaking, it’s how Skrillex keeps surprises in between tracks that weren’t released prior, like the dance and trap-laced “Good Space” to the experimental-bass “Supersonic (my existence),” a remix of the song of the same name by Josh Pan and Dylan Brady.

Though its production is the inherent strength of Quest For Fire, sometimes songs miss the mark because either vocal samples in certain ones aren’t as potent or the remix isn’t as gripping due to the original being less so. It shows with the contrasts between the less refined delivery in “Tears” to that of the energetic and melodic “Inhale Exhale” and the effectiveness between “Supersonic (my existence)” and “TOO BIZARRE,” his track with Swae Lee and Siiickbrain. Though “Tears” has slick production, the vocal samples don’t keep you engaged, almost wanting something to match that of Aluna’s (of AlunaGeorge) vocal samples on “Inhale Exhale” or with the potency of the final track, “Still Here (with the ones that I came with).” “Still Here (with the ones that I came with)” eloquently blends vocals and sounds from three different records, like “Time” by Snoh Alegra, while incorporating more live instrumentations. However, the original vocal performances have the most impact on the album.

We get fantastic performances from Bobby Raps, Flowdan, Starrah, Beam, and Eli Keszler, ranging in style as they keep the listener engaged. From Starrah’s house-influenced melodies, Flowdan’s rap flows over the dubstep/jungle/drum-n-bass “Rumble” or Bobby Raps’ poppy vocals on “Leave Me Like This,” its constant stylistic transitions don’t alienate you from the musical modus operandi. Quest For Fire is more bombastic; it’s an album filled with wicked club bangers that make the percussion a secondary artist to Skrillex, as they serve us these vibes reminiscent of a massive rave, even with the modest introspective “Hazel Theme.” Fortunately, his co-producers bring forth an understanding of it, whether it’s Fred Again… on “Rumble,” Noisia with “Supersonic (my existence),” or Joyride on a few like “Leave Me Like This,” it’s a consistent balance. It is how one can seamlessly get through it with ease.

Quest For Fire is triumphant behind the boards and lacking in specific departments; however, it’s a beautiful stream of musical consciousness that keeps you devoid from hearing these mediocre moments instantly. It’s bombastically astute and creates an encapsulating synergy that hits harder when you remove some weaker songs like “TOO BIZARRE” and “Tear,” as well the skit that is neat but oddly placed within the album. Skrillex fans will have a lot to indulge in and like, and relative newcomers will see the dynamic range in his craft as the music takes hold and leads you on a journey through luscious synths and various drum patterns.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Skrillex – Back With Bombastic Range

Between live performances and singles, Skrillex has been floating around producing for artists, delivering these intrinsically riotous sounds, which continuously define his artistry as one of dubstep’s few hitmakers. We’ve heard his signature boastfulness in the bass when infusing varying percussion notes to create each beat. It’s recognizable, but Skrillex has been able to blend it with other genres, giving us luscious songs with artists like Don Tolliver, J Balvin, and Ty Dolla $ign. It’s been nearly a decade since Skrillex delivered an album of original work. Hopefully, 2023 will see that change, predominantly because of the hype his two new songs, “Rumble” and “Way Back,” brings. Though we’ve heard Skrillex create tracks within different electronic genres, like EDM and House, we hear this new evolution where drum-n-bass is slowly finding its influence in the mainstream (within EDM and Pop), and I’m all here for it!

The hype for Skrillex album, for me, is wild; maybe it’s why I’m giving this a lengthy post, but I digress. The last time we got a Skrillex album was in collaboration with Diplo as part of the duo collective Jack Ü in 2015. It was an open field for Skrillex to continue to grow beyond brostep, especially when there’s someone to balance a tenacity for slightly overindulgent drum drops and mid-leveled bass. With Jack Ü, it showed how well they complemented their expressive production styles, delivering a luscious whirlwind of sounds, shifting from their sonically spacious dubstep sounds to luscious House/Dancehall hybrids. As I grew, that negligence has since gotten tossed out, and as I’ve heard the range getting produced, there was no option but to return. It’s mainly potent when Skrillex gives us varying musical releases, like the luscious future bass sound of “Face My Fears, with Hikaru Utada or when given the space for the dubstep/drum-n-bass sounds to go nuts, like on “Killa” with Wiwek, a Dutch DJ, or “Mind” on the Jack Ü album.

Though he’s worked alongside different producers, he still tends to let some of the natural bombastic Brostep/Dubstep sound, which can get a little one-note. It can get heard on songs like “Take Ü There” and “Make It Bun Dem;” the latter feels like it never takes a chance to do anything beyond the shifty reggae-dubstep hybrid, while the former finds balance with Diplo’s house sensibilities. Sometimes Skrillex receives weaker outputs from the featured artists, but he can still fill the void with excellent production, like with “Don’t Go” and “In Da Ghetto” or vice versa with the track “Purple Lamborghini.” I’ve been following Skrillex’s career since the release of “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites,” some duds early on, and since, we’ve gotten many fantastic collaborations. He teamed up with Game to release one of his best tracks of the 2010s with “El Chapo,” or the captivatingly starry “Butterflies” with Starrah and Four Tet, amongst others like the aforementioned “Killa” and his new singles, “Jungle” and “Way Back.”

2023 will be huge for Skrillex; his craft has beautifully evolved, now confidently using different electronic sonic complexions, like synths, to take it to new levels. Like some electronic songs that build luscious vibes, I can harp on length; for “Way Back,” featuring PinkPanteress and Trippie Redd, Skrillex beautifully produces smooth connectivity between Pantheress melodies, which are Jungle/EDM-influenced, and Trippie’s more hip-hop sing-flows, creating something mellow, comparatively, to dance along. It blends smooth House textures with crisp, low-level drums that emulate elements of breakbeat and drum-n-bass.

“Rumble” sees Skrillex, along with co-artists Fred Again and Flowdan, propelling the bass grooves, amplified to keep a consistent stream of consciousness as the percussion and synths create a wave for Flowdan to flow over. Though it’s bombastic and boisterous with the transition, you get that instant click in the ear drums that will make you keep this on a loop without realizing it. It’s crisp, riotous, smoothing over rough textures and letting the cornerstone aspects of Dubstep/Drum-N-Bass to envelop us and bring forth significant grooves. It definitely leaves this guy excited for his new album in 2023, which hopefully brings the best from everything he’s learned and made throughout the past decade.

Rauw Alejandro – Saturno: Review

After delivering an exuberant delicacy of sounds on Vice Versa, Rauw Alejandro returns with new and expansive soundscapes that shroud over typical reggaeton tracks mixed within. There is no denying Alejandro’s allure of the electronic genre as a whole; from sounds that evolved from regions and eras, Alejandro is using it as an influence during this ascension as a master of the dance floor. He’s finding himself amongst the stars, taking us inside this futuristic hive where reggaeton grows beyond the perreo and dembow, allowing itself to be something grandiose. Saturno, or Saturn, is taking us through varying levels, or rings, surrounding the core aspects of the album and delivering many danceable heaters. Though it’s easy to understand the lyricism you’ll get from reggaeton artists: danceable, flavorful tunes focusing on love, relationships, sex, and seduction, amongst similar themes within that realm – it isn’t all black and white, and the depth brought about by luscious melodies and fruitful choruses and verses make it a bewilderingly fun ride with a few missteps along the way.

Saturno, by all accounts, aims to deliver futuristic overtures and undertones, whether through the production or from the vocals, to take us to the stratosphere of his mind, where we see how he musically thinks. It excels at that and some; it’s an album where the essence of reggaeton isn’t lost, but the electronic avenues he takes are astronomical, no pun intended. Sometimes you’re getting hints of dancehall, sometimes Miami Bass or EDM, but the overall vibe leaves you in a trance where you aren’t noticing your body grooving. Though I can’t speak to how you motion per tempo, the transitions between tracks are smooth – save for the interludes/skit. But the lavish futurism expressed through the eyes of a reggaeton artist getting past conceptual pop norms and taking his music to new heights. We’ve heard it done before with the disco and funk elements of Rauw Alejandro’s last album, Vice Versa. Here, he’s taking that influence from the transitional period where Disco became more Post-Disco/House/Electronica with an essence of life with his vision as he runs the pop gambit. 

It predominately flows like a steady river with no rapids; however, that isn’t to say there are bumps along the way, with certain rocks (tracks) spotting up that make you shift, aiming to avoid it, even though it’s still there. But the way these sounds continuously expand and express visual splendor – you hear it from “Verde Menta,” “Corazón Despeinado,” and “Dime Quen?” – it’s an electrifying EDM track, resonant of the late 80s, early 90s Eurodance, an adequate but rudimentary EDM/Reggaeton hybrid, and luscious Miami Bass, respectively. But with that more standard track in the middle, the surrounding songs keep it afloat as Alejandro’s melodies continue to capture that futuristic aesthetic.

Unfortunately, Saturno sometimes retreads particular rhythms and sounds in reggeaton that doesn’t grip you, like on “Lejols Del Cielo” or “Ron Cola,” which barely grows beyond the straight line it follows. Additionally, there is a moment that feels like off-choices in the tracklisting – the skit near the end doesn’t add anything toward the overarching futuristic theme, more so acting like a hype-centered bridge between sections of tracks. It doesn’t fit like two previous interludes with viscerally pungent beats. Its translucent nature allows it to absorb these dark yet luminous synths into its ecosphere, where the engagement is high, and its futuristic tech shines through. In “Más De Una Vez,” we hear these laser synths shoot in the backdrop and through the stars of its Electronic/Reggeaton core. We get the essence of this through varying tracks, as his producers use it to envelope more than its core genre complexions, like on “Dejau,” which adds notes of Afrobeat or “De Carolina,” and its use of light industrial electronica. It isn’t like Vice Versa, where the influx of pop grandeur laid a smooth path of consistency, where you couldn’t help but keep it on a loop. 

Saturno is lavish and inspiring, though it’s a little far from perfect. Rauw Alejandro carries an identity he vigorously puts forth as producers eloquently build these electrifying beats with him. Though that isn’t to say it’s perfect, a few issues here and there causes it to lose traction as this steady locomotion of dance bravado. But most times, Alejandro is winding up and delivering a fast one, melodically, almost allowing for the sidesteps to become afterthoughts. They are still there and ultimately take away from the levels this could have reached. It makes a splash and is ready to fire us up as winter dawns, even if it isn’t to the highest temperature, like a 2000s Sean Paul song.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Flume – Palaces: Review

Flume’s production styles fluctuate and replicate a sense of competency, sometimes extending beyond and giving us a wider world of great electronic music. It is evident with past releases, Skins and Hi This Is Flume, and is similarly the case on his new album, Palaces. Unfortunately, it’s poorly conceived, confining itself in experimental lanes of industrial and pop complexions. Flume doesn’t extend beyond his reach. It leaves you feeling empty due to Palaces keening in too much on developing atmosphere and less on constructing something more elevated and vibrant. Getting lost in its sound, it stumbles over poorly constructed tracks with some featured artists and poor cohesion, but a few stood out amongst the 13-tracklist.

Flume is known for creative shifts in production, sometimes creating these dynamic sounds that elevate the plateau his music gets placed. We hear these shifting styles fluctuating core elements of pop and experimental/IDM (intelligent dance music) electronica without great contrasts and instead becomes jarring and off-putting. It’s more so within individual tracks, which it tries to create these unique hybrids without much of a payoff. Occasionally working with certain features, it’s heightened, working more fluidly when Flume comes at these tracks working solo. He offers a sense of nuance to the styles getting incorporated, specifically with how it’s deconstructed to give you a natural feel of the instruments. We hear this beautiful crescendo through tracks like “Jaspers Song” and “Go” while maintaining a grounded sense of musicality. 

But there is nuance to these solo tracks as Flume feels right in his element. He leaves you with this unique pacing that allows you to break apart the layers and straddle onto them as the music whisks you away. The ethereal weight of the sounds is keen on Flume’s strengths instead of creating an overbearing presence with flummoxing styles. Instead of wrought techniques like on “Only Fans,” we are given elegant cadence in the sequencing of tracks like “DHLC.” It isn’t unlike some with features that lose sight of the bigger picture, specifically as Flume tries to emulate without effect.

From the beginning, Palaces doesn’t offer much with the featured artists. There are moments of grandeur where it doesn’t stifle smooth transitions, but it predominantly left me waning on a vibe with distorted IDM that doesn’t fit the tonal direction. It separates the greatness of “Hollow” from the poorly constructed “Highest Building.” “Hollow” has smooth transitions between drops, while “Highest Building” shifts between these starry pop vocals and a slightly off production. Adjacently, there are tracks where its production feels to be mirroring styles from other artists without coming across as natural. “Only Fans,” in particular, tries to bring that energy and virtuoso of an Arca record, failing to do so on various ends, especially with its weak concept. And “Say Nothing” feels like a typical Tiësto track without a captivating progression of sounds. There are mediocre moments that never stood out, becoming just distant memories.

Some of the features on Palaces come and go, like its lackluster production. They don’t come with oomph despite meshing beautifully with the sounds. As they align with the style, the artist becomes complacent since they don’t make but break the track as it turns it into an empty, substanceless plate. Though four of the eight features come and boast the production, creating great tracks that beautifully encapsulate the vibe Flume is spearheading. Including “Hollow,” there is “I Can’t Tell,” “Escape,” and “Sirens” are others that try to break the mold and create these larger than sounds, albeit not being that special. “I Can’t Tell” and “Sirens” bring an overwhelming sense of creativity as Flume tries to stray far from the norm. “Sirens” does something spectacular with the IDM qualities that it transfixes you in a world of wonders. Similarly, “I Can’t Tell” properly blends EDM and IDM qualities as they transition between each other. It adds depth to LARUEL’s elegant melodies.

There isn’t much to Palaces to recommend, albeit the few tracks highlighted. The highs are exponentially high, but the lows feel like being stuck in a broken half-empty pool. It’s astronomically low. It isn’t as concise or constructively intuitive. It’s just there, something you can push off to the side while checking out other electronic artists like Dezza.

Rating: 5 out of 10.

Swedish House Mafia – Paradise Again: Review

When it comes to supergroups in music, as fans, you won’t always get what you expected. Talent is derivative when you have multiple great minds working together, and they still deliver an album or song that is forgettable. Unfortunately, that’s how it is with Swedish House Mafia’s debut album, Paradise Again. Though one could forgive giving a benefit of the doubt, Until Now mix of remixes and originals never felt like it had a concrete direction. They had the hype and great music and continue to do so, but in the end, unless bias flows through veins, Paradise Again is another collection of forgettable music. So for every few great songs we get, there are momentous duds that sound half-written. Prior to its release, thoughts lingered, like are we getting a similar flop like Until Now or something refreshing for 2022? Unfortunately, so. Paradise Again has some solid songs, but a predominant lack of energy to grow beyond the standard keeps it from being anything more than an alright album.

The three artists who make up Swedish House Mafia, Axwell, Steve Angelo, and Sebastian Ingrosso, have two sides to their artistry, and both on the craft side. As live mixers and performers, they are some of the best, but as producers and writers, they tiptoe a line between blandness and an illusion of dreary-shadowy ambiance coded in this style of Electronic/House music. As producers, they are 50-50, usually hitting when they create a lavish pop coating, like on 2012’s “Don’t You Worry Child” and or 2021’s “Moth To A Flame.” Paradise Again isn’t devoid of them, and of the ones we get, most end up being great. Some include the vibrant EDM track “Heaven Takes You Home” and the darkly nuanced electro-pop “Another Minute.” The earwormy vocals match the energy–and elevate–the production’s impact.

Of their four singles released in anticipation for Paradise Again, “Moth To A Flame” and “Lifetime” are two that left an immediate impact. “Lifetime” blends melancholic R&B drum beats (subtle), and vocals, with contrasting dreamy and dreary synths. It shifts from some boorish sounds not too far back or forward in the tracklisting. Similarly, “Moth To A Flame” builds a beautiful synth-pop foundation and finds home within bleak overtures that Swedish House Mafia weaves together with The Weeknd’s ambient vocals. Despite hearing and understanding the context of their soundscape, the quality of music is rarer. Sure, parts of the album are grand and progressive; however, it slips with the one-dimensional like “Mafia” or lacks energy, like A$AP Rocky on “Frankenstein.” This lack of energy gets heard during the last third; you get entwined with conservative House and EDM, and you are left feeling underwhelmed–like other singles, “It Get’s Better” and “Redlight” with Sting, which came and went without leaving a burning sound bite in my head. 

“It Get’s Better” gets finicky with the percussion. It’s too warped into this need to get progressive that it loses touch on what was working for the first minute. It’s a rough EDM track with dronish snares and a stop-gap of jarring cowbells midway. However, “Redlight,” which follows suit, also has a similar shift mid-song, but it’s smoother as it retains its sonic motif of dreary ambiance. Interloping the first verse and chorus of “Roxanne” by The Police, Sting’s rerecorded vocals diminish its effectiveness. It has this essence where it would have worked better as an instrumental, like “Paradise Again,” which perfectly delivers a darkened ambient progressive house core. For “Redlight,” it could have had a little more life, and instead, I’m left drowning out Sting or skipping further down the tracklist. 

Swedish House Mafia, as producers, don’t bring many unique ideas into the fray, often showing both hands: one where all plain linings of EDM/House running through their veins, and another that offers more to build off. Think of it like Poker, where one of their hands contains a set of pairs, while you have a classic straight flush in the other. It’s evident how perplexing the differences between what works and what doesn’t are when it comes to the soundscape they give us. But when it comes to the good, and sometimes lavish, songs, they are shifting away from the standard complexions of EDM, like on “Can U Feel It,” or the wrought-house track “19:30,” and shift to production stacked with these various elements from other genres. Upon listening, you’d wish they had consistent energy flowing through their veins, and we’d get more stuff like “Lifetime,” but unfortunately, we’re left shuffling between a few half-assed ideas and superb works of music.

Like the final song, “For You,” the length of Paradise Again is overlong. The 67-minute album could have gotten trimmed down for a fluent progression in sound, but it’s disjointed and underwhelming. Though there are a lot of great tracks on here, and “Lifetime” will see an “exhausting” amount of replays, I won’t find myself returning to it from start to finish anytime soon.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10.

The Weekly Coos Presents: A Retro Dance Party

When it comes to Dance music two definitions come to mind. It is a genre. It is a label for a song’s specific vibe and correlation to the dance floor. It started with Disco creating a new atmosphere for club-goers, stretching far and wide until it stripped down to sonic style with more synths and bass grooves. It has now become nuanced, along with the second wave of European dominance in the club scene with early House and Eurodance, as we see with the influx of pop stars coming from overseas today.

As people, we have this innate reaction when a recognizable hit or, as some put it, one-hit wonders, starts playing. We start tapping our feet to the groove that comes from our core, leaning into mingling and escaping our comfort zone. Everyone will have their niche taste or the music that will get them grooving; for me, it is Dua Lipa and others, who may listen to Heavy Metal, may still throw down when “Cosmic Girl” or “Virtual Insanity,” by Jamiroquai starts playing. But the dance floor is for all types of music, despite pop trends weighing in what would be a dominating force in clubs.

The variety of trends that have dominated the pop-sphere have waned and dissipated as new ones arise; however, the influence remains in new trends. I emphasize new trends because they aren’t necessarily new. They are refurbished, slightly better, and catchier variations of what there was in the 90s and early 2000s; this includes more staying power with the trove of singles that became monster hits. But unlike these new artists, the kind of dominance and perseverance these songs have had to stay relevant.

Some of these notable songs and artists include: “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” by Eiffel65, Darude’s “Sandstorm,” and “Rhythm Is A Dancer,” by Snap! One could go on and on about how many of these artists we have had in that time frame, but it’s easier for you to tunnel down that rabbit hole filled with awe and whimsy; the kind of whimsy that Whigfield’s “Saturday Night” brings. That whimsy delivers on other occasions, like the memory of a certain song’s peak on mainstream and hearing it on car rides that played Hot 100 radio.

Some of us remember them for that one song, while others have had a continuous appreciation for their later work; particularly those in Europe. The same goes for other artists, like A Touch of Class or Alice DJ. They leave isolated hits that can turn up the dance floor at any themed party, with an isolated few aging gracefully to stay in the rotation with today’s music. Fortunately, these European artists benefited from the influence it had on American pop stars like Madonna, Cher, and Brittany Spears, with the latter of the two releasing pure Electro-Pop/House albums. I could go on and on about the kind of stimulation this music brought the club when the wavering punk rock scene started to slowly begin its hibernation. And like a bear, we fortunate enough to have them keep waking up and delivering detailed memories of the past.

These songs eventually became epitomized with social trends like Throwback-Thursday and more. With the massive reach from these social media platforms, it has allowed for natural growth in that intoxicating feeling nostalgia delivers. It’s a syndrome filled with intoxicating electronic sounds and swinging grooves. And there is no cure, except for dancing it out. So come dance with me, as we listen to dance songs throughout the years.