LP Giobbi – Light Places: Review

I often come across artists that capture my attention to the fullest, furthering my pursuit to listen to their discography or a short collection of songs before an impending release. Recently that has been the case with LP Giobbi, a Piano House star in the making, precisely as she continues to establish an identity beholden to who she is and more. As noted through her Instagram and interviews, Giobbi grew up a Dead Head, i.e., a core group of superfans who used to travel just to watch The Grateful Dead perform, and that has stuck with her today, specifically in her craft. As Evan Sawdley of PopMatter.com noted, “The idea of mixing the music of the Grateful Dead with contemporary dance trends sounds sacrilegious on paper, but for LP Giobbi, it is nothing short of a dream.” We’ve heard LP make remixes of the music of The Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia’s music and deliver Dead House sets, blending the music of the former with house; now she’s giving us her debut solo album that continues to highlight her strength as a pianist and electronic musician.

There is no denying the limelight from the effervescent piano notes aligned throughout LP Giobbi’s debut, Light Places. It’s a secondary protagonist on this journey that sees Giobbi channeling Deep House and Jazz notes as she buddies these sounds together with pure rhythmic bliss. It’s like she’s transporting us back to when House and EDM weren’t constrained on particular scales to get magnetic energy from the chorus-drop combo. As it progresses, you hear how focused Giobbi is at weaving the production where you can forgive the two moments the featured vocals aren’t as gripping. Though slightly glaring hiccups, it has a continuous streamlined consistency within the sounds, which gives us a smoother passage that funnels its themes through these interesting starting points, like with the only interlude. “All I Need” begins as this piano-driven interlude that establishes the feeling of support, wherein one’s confidence remains high and focused, knowing each corner of the ring has someone to have your back. When it gets to the actual song, we see those barriers break as Giobbi performs vocally, which isn’t as common here. 

With the occasional guest vocalist, LP Giobbi has an album that tackles consistency considerably. It’s why these featured vocals from Sofi Tukker, Caroline Byrne, and Monogem, the latter two are independent vocalists who get their talents bolstered by Giobbi and her co-producers work, have an emotional consistency with the trajectory of the production. As fantastic as these collaborations are, it’s moments Giobbi takes a step back and works around developing something intricate and mesmerizing with pure instrumentals. On “Follow The Loop,” as told to Apple Music, “I started with one note from a Grateful Dead guitar line and repitched it and replaced it until this loop happened, which I just couldn’t stop playing and following through the song.” And that loop takes Giobbi through interesting avenues that show rich world-building, keeping it far from one-dimensional, like how the varying layers of Post-Disco, House, and Techno are beautifully entwined as it gets a little funky with the bass and piano keys and letting the rest establish it further. The same goes for the smooth cadence of “Georgia,” as it brings in heavy drum patterns to boast the elegant and nostalgically nuanced house synths and bass lines.

Light Places isn’t without faults. As noted earlier, there are two moments where the features aren’t as great, even when the production doesn’t fall flat. After a strong opening two tracks, the album takes a vocal down pivot with “Can’t Let You Go,” which does feel more one note, specifically in the chorus. This similarly reflects in “All In Dream,” where featured artists DJ Tennis & Joseph Ashworth don’t help give the track more than a rudimentary EDM direction that loses focus the more it gets into the weeds of being slightly more tropical and intimate. It doesn’t stand out, specifically with its piano rhythms, carrying a constant motif that we hear a few times – on the following track, “All My Life,” it starts with similar keys but gets explored further as featured artist Sofi Tukker brings this melancholic and melodically blissful performance. Sometimes the vocals carry contrasts to the production, burgeoning this hypnotic trance where you can get lost in the details and forget the subtleties that make the music danceable.

I’m not the most privy to the Electronic/Club scene, primarily because of the financial limitations I’ve imposed on myself, where you won’t find me at a set on a Wednesday night at the Brooklyn Mirage or traveling to Europe just to party, I have a 9 to 5. But I know about music, and as I’ve spent a lot of time digging through more archives and exploring emerging DJs/Musicians, I’ve come to find greatness in the spacious array of sounds getting created. And I can say LP Giobbi’s debut is one of these emerging artists I couldn’t recommend more. What she does with the piano envelops into these luscious overtures that steer her debut album greatly. It is a fantastic musical journey that truthfully lets the sounds keep you zoned in and focused from start to finish.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Avalon Emerson – & the Charm: Review

Explorative and melancholic, Avalon Emerson takes what she has learned via making music and performing music since first tapping into it at an early age, eventually leading to her delivering a fantastic debut with & the Charm. It isn’t a reflection of histrionics and more so a tempered and expansive POV into the mind of someone who aims to take that next step in musical creation, furthering from the more House/Dance aesthetics of past EPs – fewer vocals, more dance grooves – tapping into the corners of varying sub-genres of Electronic music. In doing so, Avalon Emerson continues to dig deeper into the performative aspect of creating an album, one where she doesn’t have to thoroughly rely on the production to form a sense of being as a means for the listener to get instantly catapulted into a positive stupor emboldened by vibes. As you hit play, you get lost within this wormhole of Electronica, some Trance, and Ambient, that Avalon Emerson weaves, allowing us to dig deeper into the complexions of her artistry and sense how poignant her songwriting is.

& the Charm isn’t your ordinary electronic album. It’s composed within this world where the cross-fading mixture isn’t as important as letting the music smooth over as it reflects its themes beyond a danceable mode through viscerally moody vocal performances. It isn’t so much this curated, eclectic mix of songs that fits the specific flow conjectured between genres, whether going from pop or funk to some form of spacey House music or just a mix of tracks that only have an underlying dance motif instead of something viscerally thematic. It takes a more realized approach to a direct conceptual journey you embark on but never truly tire of. When it comes to albums that are the opposite, like from more producer-driven musicians, it can sometimes feel overly hokey, and more often than not, its misses standout out more than the hits. It’s a fundamental distinction that allows Electronic music to have clearer blank canvases to weave their instrumental technical magic from all corners and create something that sounds everlasting, and that’s what we get with & the Charm.

Avalon Emerson doesn’t try to hide within the production despite a few instrumental breaks. She’s letting her vocals become a potent piece of the puzzle – something that envelops the route she set up for herself to through, particularly setting up a melancholic consistency where the vibes become a potent strong point. It’s one thing to get lost in the vibe of the music, almost forgetting that certain parts don’t work entirely, but it’s another when it hits the proper parameters toward what works and doesn’t work for the listener. Though more of something that’s deriving from a personal vibe, it’s very much universal with its sonic appeal that one mustn’t take away from the best element within & the Charm: the live instrumentations, which brings a grounded sense of reality, especially as you heard Emerson sing and create these songs that feel more confined to the roots of intimate pop music than the more esoteric, colorful dancefloor vibe we’ve gotten from various artists, like Nia Archives and Pretty Girl. The eclectic bass grooves bring an emphasis to the subtle dance notes guiding the chillness of the songs, and the music benefits highly from it.

Lyrically, Avalon Emerson treads some familiar thematic territory we’ve heard countless times, but she takes it upon herself to take a differentiating approach instead of being too straightforward and simple. It’s like listening to her perform out of a journal filled with poems that beautifully capture emotional depth within more drawn-out and stylistically atmospheric melodies that boast these notes emphasizing loneliness, love, relationships, and time, particularly how it can shift perspectives on the needs and wants of oneself, through the vocals and production. However, some songs feel more played down and derivative to a fault. It’s like she’s trying to find equilibrium within certain textures, that it rarely dips towards new vocal territory – for the most part, Avalon Emerson finds ways to make it have character, unlike the slightly repetitive  “Hot Evening.” Despite this, running at nine songs, and 40 minutes, it’s more compact as it finds meaning within the conjectures of sound and emotionally resonant performances, whether behind the boards or the microphone. In doing so, it helps build a clear distinction between effectiveness, specifically with its stylistic approach to the melancholy vibes of the final product. It’s what makes “A Vision” more of a standout than “Hot Evening” and “Karaoke Song,” such a hypnotically smooth and empathetically curious performance.

Going into & the Charm, I knew little, having only heard Avalon Emerson’s DJ-Kicks album, but as I kept digging and exploring the caverns of these nine songs, there wasn’t a moment I was bored. It’s captivatingly consistent in vibe and tone, circumventing genre exploration for a direct flow. It’s nontangential, but that isn’t to say it lack depth. There is a lot moving with greatness, from the lyrics to the performance; it opens the door for it to become realized with a sense of personable relativity. I couldn’t recommend this more than the score I give. It was a significant surprise for me, one where I didn’t want to press pause, so there is no denying this is staying in my rotation.

Rating: 9 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.

Yaeji – With A Hammer: Review

Growing within the electronic music sphere, Yaeji has continued to amass fans through bilingual performances on EPs and Mixtapes and wicked mixing behind the boards, evident with her 2017 Boiler Room Set. It continues to be the case with her debut album, With A Hammer, even though it tiptoes a safer line between house and pop, instead of what we’ve gotten on previous records, which brought in more hip-hop elements. Though it rarely makes turns, Yaeji’s craft continues to shine through as her more lo-fi, softening vocals bring it all together into this unique cohesion of sounds that start to fit more of an aesthetic instead of being expansive. The moments we get these capricious pivots, they offer this renewed sense of being that fit who Yaeji is, where her sound is less streamlined like “Ready Or Not” compared to that of “Michin,” which uses some fantastic glitch-influenced notes. As you sit back and hit play, you’ll notice some fantastical elements that make the music twinkly, almost like the antithesis of what one would produce with a metaphorical hammer, i.e., less bombastic.

With A Hammer left me underwhelmed as some typical Electronic Dance Music notes weave more apropos dance complexions sounds into their construction, making anything that could add a lavish layer, feel like a second-class citizen as it rarely gets a moment to speak. That isn’t to say it lacks directions to get there; it seems that Yaeji is teetering between her iconographical style/techniques and driving home more pop flavors, especially in the vocal performances, which have a distinct cadence towards the approach. To say the music is one-dimensional or lacking focus is incorrect; however, from what has gotten heard, Yaeji’s music isn’t taking some different, hard-on approach to establish a sense of lo-fi grandeur. In turn, she’s keeping itself tightknit between occasional components from the synthesizers, yet it excels when it gets a little bombastic. While trying to incorporate different sonic palettes overlapping each other – often, sounds grip you by the ears and reel you in through a sonic fishing line. It gets you swiftly in the opening track, “Submerge FM,” which beautifully brings forth unique choices like the flute-synth one-two combo that make better ones stand out, like “Pass Me By.”

As the music begins to fluctuate and shift layers, sometimes gripping you with “For Granted” or losing you with “Fever,” Yaeji’s artistic direction gets reflected poignantly as the vocal performances relay that icing that doesn’t get molded well on top. Sometimes you’ll get this extravagant slice with “Ready or Not,” and other times, getting a slightly melted piece, where Yaeji’s performance isn’t as refined as with the title song, “With A Hammer.” It has this fierce, mystifying production which lets the electronic components breathe efficiently, keeping it in toe from start to finish; however, once you get to the vocals, the dronish performance, though seemingly purposeful, doesn’t land as she probably expected. Unlike “Happy,” there are songs like “With A Hammer,” where the vocal melodies don’t always feel connected with the production, making the abstract feel slightly but minimally forced. Tracks like “Fever,” “With A Hammer,” and “Be Alone In This” don’t help round out the rough edges certain ones may have with their in-song transition. It then becomes unfortunate that the vibe getting presented isn’t that cohesive, middling the fascinating contrast between its directional theme and final product.

Despite having these middling moments, With A Hammer contains a more safe throughline for the musical range that keeps Yaeji focused on parameters set for herself. In doing so, she works around a base stream of music where different sounds get tacked on, building these fantastic soundscapes, like the more intimate “I’ll Remember For Me, I’ll Remember For You” or the more lively and fun “Done (Let’s Get It).” What makes her music more captivating is the flow of the vocal performances as it balances the different notes overlaying it, like the flute and trumpet, which reinforce the visceral strengths of Yaeji’s production. Sometimes subtle, sometimes overt, they play along with the beat, growing it more and more within its aesthetic, like “I’ll Remember For Me, I’ll Remember For You.” The trumpet leads a triumphant lead-in and closes with a contrasting down pivot where Yaeji’s modest, angelic vocals keep the electronic ballad zoned in and subtly vibrant. 

Plenty of tracks fit within this model, though slightly more elevated; it’s like this rejuvenating sensation that comes from hearing aspects from the past see growth with new releases where the synergy between percussion and synthesizers as they take on different sonic contexts. In most cases, the synths make a grander stand as they deliver oodles of electronica bliss, like on “Away X5,” where Yaeji’s minimalist vocals flow smoothly through the kinetic synths. But as it treads through these unique directions, the quality of its artistic direction shines through the rough patches, adjudicating a different side than her more colorful and lively nature on What We Drew, her debut Mixtape. You’ll find something here to love, that’s for sure, and maybe more so as they hit a safe zone for the sounds of the genres instead of being more expansive.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Raye – My 21st Century Blues: Review

Raye is a reminder that music is starting to transcend beyond getting defined by a monochromatic-core genre. We’ll still see artists releasing genre-specific albums, but Raye delivers an impactful review that is off in varying lanes on her debut, My 21st Century Blues. It goes through various avenues of styles, and often, you’ll get caught by surprise. One minute you’ll hear Raye rap – the next, she’s delivering a stellar dance-pop – then some trip-hop or house, it’s a treasure trove of limitless possibilities, and it gets boasted by a poignant personal narrative she takes us through. She sets up this intimate setting – we hear her get up on an old club stage, speaking to an audience before embarking on a significant musical journey that makes us dance, feel, and witness harmonious brilliance in effect. Creating this visual allows the shifting sounds to come with a positive punch, further making you love how fantastic this album is from front to back.

My 21st Century Blues has innate consistency, weaving through contrasting and detailed styles that expand beyond pop. The first few tracks have this gripping sense of musical grandeur, which boasts the impact of the songwriting, like the trip-hop heavy “Hard Out Here,” which sees Raye reflecting on her bleakest moments and weaving infectious confidence about making it out here. So it’s safe to say I was immediately mesmerized by the production; it bolsters Raye’s performance to showcase the emotional density she brings. It reflects in Raye’s melodies, which shift from the more atmospheric Dance-Pop aesthetic of Euphoric Sad Songs to unearthed complexions within and adding some hip-hop flows. We’re listening to that lyrical potency from Euphoric Sad Songs growing into naturally seamless synergy between the beats and performance, creating this larger-than-life book with each page centering on the blues. Raye isn’t sugar-coating the lyrics, coming at it directly while being able to paint the scene for the situation or story she chooses to tell. 

On My 21st Century Blues, Raye sings about varying topics like relationships, getting spiked at the club, body dysphoria, mental escapism, environmental awareness, sexual assault, etc. The songwriting is cognitively steering conversations about situations that happen to many while retaining that essence of sad dancing that artists within pop try to navigate but sometimes fail to deliver. Artists like Ava Max and Madison Beer tend to follow this wave without making something profound, but Raye aims to let their distinct styles flood the stage effervescently. It’s through this tenacity to build a foundation before settling into the story that allows these themes about consent, maturity, doomed relationships, etc., within the complex structure of the production. We hear a clean separation between the sound and vocals, and you sense Raye’s musical aptitude – she co-produces many tracks, predominantly with Mike Sabbath – producer of songs like “Don’t Go Yet” by Camilla Cabello and “Hurts Like Hell” by Charli XCX.

When it comes to the unique contrasting routes Raye takes, “Black Mascara” and “Escapsim” come to mind, or “The Thrill is Gone” and Environmental Anxiety.” “Black Mascara” and “Escapsim”  embody two different zones while seamlessly transitioning, despite the separation in style. The former illustrates this centralized Deep-House core while Raye overlays these luscious pop and trip-hop-influenced flows and melodies. The latter centers more on Electro-Pop and Hip-Hop, using more drums and letting them create this captivating pattern that stabilizes the electronic overtones, and the way they transition is smooth. The way “Escapism” blends into “Mary Jane” opens up the room to strings, which then get elevated on the following track, “The Thrill is Gone.” It goes the same for Raye’s more subdued ballad-like performances with contrasting styles, like the summer disco and funk-influenced “Worth it” to the piano-pop, singer-songwriter approach of “Buss It Down.” It’s awe-inducing.

Unfortunately, it isn’t all fluid. Though the track “Environmental Anxiety” is snug in the tracklist, it feels distant compared to the more personal elements of others. Raye does sing about anxiety, but she relegates most of the subject within the confines of climate change. I’m not a climate change denier, but the content doesn’t totally align with the depth of the others. That isn’t to say it’s a poor song, but it doesn’t hit me with that kind of oomph like “Hard Out Here” or “Ice Cream Man.” Without it, the album would be more well-rounded and let the visual of an intimate stage performance setting come off flawlessly. It’s a song (where in this setting) that feels panderish instead of natural.

My 21st Century Blues is fantastic, for lack of a better term. It weaves varying stories and production fluidly that the performance feels more profound within the atmosphere created by the spoken vocal at the beginning and end. It left in awe, swiftly yearning to hit replay and let it sway me all over again. It would have been perfect if “Environmental Anxiety” didn’t get included, but I can’t harp on it when it isn’t even that bad as the album moves from start to finish without as much of a halt in sonic cohesion.

Rating: 9 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.

Beyoncé – Renaissance: Review

The hype behind Beyoncé’s new album Renaissance matches and, for many, has exceeded expectations. Though it’s to no surprise, as Beyoncé has always directed her vision with bravado, incorporating varying subtle notes within the shrouds of the surface genres it imbues. Taking on the current nostalgic disco trend, Beyoncé evolves past certain standard genre constraints today and takes new approaches, like shifting the dynamics between eras of evolution–Disco–House–Dance. With streaming, Renaissance contains subtle crossfades, which delivers a more cohesive mix without the DJ. Using this direction, Beyoncé develops her craft to fit the mold of what she’s giving, and specifically, with the help of her producers, Renaissance is a powerhouse. It isn’t perfect, with “America Has a Problem” becoming entwined within the confines of the style and losing itself in the immersion right before a barrage of great tracks to close.

When we were given a taste with “Break My Soul,” a part of me knew something special, and as you continue through the album, it’s just that. From the beginning, you’re in a skyrocketing trend upward with clearer transformative grooves. It has varying transitions that formulate this essence of being on the dance floor, letting the sounds reflect the kind of dance we do. From “Alien Superstar” to “Energy” and again between “Church Girl” and “Virgo’s Groove,” it aligns the album to such greatness, and it’s in the finite details. It isn’t to say there are stunted transitions surrounding them, but they exhume the distinct identities that let them work solo or within the near seamless play from start to finish. We get varied factions–from the clean-cut dance track to something more structured toward core-House sounds, like the sonic structure of “All Up In Your Mind,” which bridges House with Bass within the vocal complexions. It’s to ease yourself into the energetic synths and heavier percussion that it envelops.

But Beyoncé brings more to the table than seamless transitions, provacious lyrics, and contextual understanding. We get some thorough tracks assembled with more standard structures, like “Summer Renaissance” and “Move” with Tems and Legend/Icon Grace Jones. They get incorporated into the refrain, chorus, and interlude, creating remarkable synergy between the three; it allows Beyoncé’s words on “Church Girl” to ring proper. Those words: “Me say now drop it like a thottie, drop it like a thottie (You bad)/Church girls actin’ loose, bad girls actin’ snotty (You bad).” Spoiler alert; it does, and as you keep the moves going, you start to hear more engaging sound shifts within the beat. It’s an attractive constant keeping you on your toes, especially if you aren’t a Beyoncé fan. Another example is the standout “Alien Superstar,” a House/Dance-Pop hybrid that shifts focus based on section; we hear it when Beyoncé flips between House-centric melodies before shifting to more Dance and Pop with the choruses.

Albums these days aren’t concrete with the genres they are exhuming, and the elements that get incorporated into them deliver fantastic blends that excel its prerogative. Similar to how “Alien Superstar” shifts, others do so within auspicious tangential touches that evolve the surface layer of the sound. The range can be subtle, often more apparent, like “Energy,” where we get shifts between House and Afrobeat subtexts, evolving the contextual bravado we are already hearing. With Beyoncé’s focus and strength at weaving empowering notions in between some flexes and offering a more triumphant output–they carry a duality that allows you to envelop uprooted themes of self-worth, sex, and hedonistic undertones within the pleasure of having it all. It’s potent on “Thique” and “Pure/Honey.” 

Unfortunately, Renaissance isn’t perfect all the way through. It doesn’t necessarily stumble, but one track becomes lost within the confines of the mix at first, and when you return, it turns out to be more of a redundant dud, and that is “America Has a Problem.” It contains an intriguing idea: Beyoncé goes meta, bringing an understanding of her pull in pop, adding a parallel to cocaine, where its popularity resided within clubs that played Disco and later House/Dance/Post-Disco music. It isn’t lyrically strong, often feeling like Beyoncé is retreading past tonal sentiments over an electrifying beat that simply overpowers it. Through flows and melodies, it mirrors elements of “Thique” without enough emphasis on its themes. It’s the only straightforward blemish amongst the 16 tracks, though there are little ticks that didn’t suitably acquiesce with my sense; it most likely will for you, the adequate barebones consistency of “Church Girl.” On the plus side, the latter had me drop it low like a thottie like Beyoncé tells us to.

Renaissance is a fantastic body of work that shows Beyoncé’s own understanding of the genres/sounds she works with and creates auspicious synergy. For the longest, you’re vibing, grooving to these energetic and captivating percussion patterns, and then you take a slight detour down an alley before getting an incredible send-off. It then repeats, and you continue to strive off these sounds, making the most out of your summer now that self-empowering booty popping music is getting new dishes on the menu. I know I’ll be indulging the rest of the summer, as I know you will too, after listening to Beyoncé’s Renaissance a few times.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

We Vibin’ – Live DJ Sets To Listen, and View.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard and read conversations on house music and its re-emergence into the mainstream, highlighting Drake’s latest album and Beyoncé’s latest single as primary examples. And I get it, but house music is far from really breaking that mainstream barrier again like it did in the late 80s and early 90s. They are at a peak where they can make the sound trendy, and once it kicks, the singularity will continue since it’s hard to orchestrate a tangential mix like Dua Lipa’s Club Future Nostalgia. But Drake and Beyoncé are on a hierarchy, especially compared to artists who have made or featured over dynamic electronic and house productions. Drake made it work on his album, and Beyoncé delivered a powerhouse Dance-House hybrid that oozes 90s nostalgia, specifically in the percussion. And despite their status, I have doubts; doubts that it will push to exponential heights as its peak during the 80-90s transitional period. But I hope I’m wrong.

See, it’s a genre with uniquely fantastic quirks that artists of Drake’s caliber needed to bring out styles influenced by House–Jersey Club, Hip-House, and Techno–to sustain transitional fluidity within the pop-sphere and the groove. Most of the time, the tracks were fantastic that they showed Drake’s appreciation for the nuances of the genre. These hybrids or transitional sub-genres have allowed artists to create something unique and wonderful. They often get their biggest hits remixed, but this isn’t a genre that will find itself in the trenches of Hot 100 Radio, specifically with new hits monthly. It’s a tight-knit community that is more than just the production; it’s creating an atmosphere and mixing in real-time.

What’s different for Beyoncé is that she has shown that sense within her new single, “Break My Soul.” I’d love to get into the nitty-gritty, but it’s contextually deep. Albeit my doubts, maybe Beyoncé could, as we’ve seen her bridge genres prior. I just have to wait and see. Charlie Harding and Nate Sloan of Switched On Pop delivered an eloquent and thorough breakdown on their podcast, which you can listen to here: Beyoncé’s House. I’m in a different lane. I love the singularity it can take, but nothing hits like a clean mix. House isn’t singular either, as it has branched into varying subgenres and new stylistic directions, like Trance, Dubstep, Techno, and more. The unique talent of DJs is unbound, specifically due to the more real-time, time-sensitive focus to allow for smooth transitions and an ongoing vibe. Here are some of my favorite sets to check out.

Drake – Honestly, Nevermind: Review

You got to love it when artists experiment or expand beyond a comfort zone, where they deliver ambitious sounds that shift the parameters of what’s to expect as fans. Drake consistently does so, but we’ve never heard him embrace a genre fully and construct an album out of it until his surprise 7th studio album, Honestly, Nevermind, where he delves into the world of electronica, with influence from dance, Jersey Club, and house music. It’s a refreshing direction that avoids some lyrical Drakeisms, like name-dropping locations as a flex, which adds to the intrigue even if it reaffirms Drake’s limitations as a singer. It underwhelms the tracks with lush production from Black Coffee, DJ Carnage, 40, and Vinylz, to name a few. Drake may not always keep us on our tippytoes with complex lyricism in the singing-heavy tracks, but the melodies keep us in a groove, especially with a few rap verses to switch it up.

Teasing us with a clean 37-second intro, Drake delves into what the sound of Honestly, Nevermind will be. The drum machine starts to orchestrate mid-tempo hypnotism with catchy rhythms before the overlays of trancey synths. It’s a recurring motif that gives the best production on the album the best characterizations, like the shift in percussion styles from the ore house-focused “Falling Back” to the Jersey Club-focused “Texts Go Green” and “Flight’s Booked” or the dance-infused “A Keeper.” There’s a constant evolution in each track–whether apparent or subtle–in the second half, Drake enthralls on both ends. Unlike the first half, Drake’s limitations don’t halt him, and its inclusion of slick rap verses offers proper diversity. When “Sticky” plays, the momentum shifts, and the consistency mounts on with tremendous force.

As “Sticky” closes, Honestly, Nevermind continues its slick transitions within and between tracks. Drake flips from a stone-cold Hip-Hop banger to a House-Dance banger in “Massive,” which sees Drake fully engulfing the production and giving us remarkable melodies and sequencing. It fits the characteristics of the kind of House style it wants to embody. Instead of blending it with the other sonic complexions, Drake and producers, Carnage, Klahr, and Zastenke bring a constant rhythm with significant gaps between verses to let the sound breathe. It continues to retain that momentum before shifting back into some lush hybrids. However, these hybrids don’t contain slightly detaching Drake vocals; he blends into the rhythm, giving us a connection we can attach to. He’s crisp, delivering great melodies and making up for the abundance of perspectives about relationships with women, amongst other subjects. It levels my view of Drake’s ability to create meaningful singing-centric verses. 

Drake’s talent for creating extravagant and catchy choruses is unbound–sprinkled throughout the album, he creates a gravitating pull that makes you vibe with the production. Despite the not-so-captivating verses, they fade into a range of melodies, specifically beneath some jarring decisions. In the first half of Honestly, Nevermind, producers Black Coffee and DJ Carnage have a great base they are working from, but their choice of adding rusty bed springs of a $50 Motel bed on top of it drowns out Drake’s writing. In “Calling My Name,” the production starts slow; it’s plain for a dance record, but it shifts in the second half with livelier and more gravitating sounds. Unfortunately, it left me wanting a little more, as it only runs for 2 minutes and 10 seconds. It felt like there could have been more both Drake and the producers could have done to round it out and give another banger.

Drake is riding it solo–save for the final track–an antithesis of Certified Lover Boy, which is flooded with features that it lacks some cohesiveness. But Drake riding it solo has made the issues on Honestly, Nevermind more apparent; however, it doesn’t hinder how it’ll ultimately affect you. It’s an album that guides the listener through a distinct era where he’s evolving his production and vocal choices. It allows the album’s only feature, 21 Savage on “Jimmy Cooks,” to feel fresh and impactful, especially as a closer. The two flourish on the trap-heavy sounds from Tizzle, Vinylz, Tay Keith & CuBeatz, relaying bars that encompass their dominance in the rap game. Drake plays with his past using a double entendre in the title, which acknowledges his time as Jimmy Brooks at Degrassi. It adds to the brevity getting delivered throughout.

Honestly, Nevermind is another definitive turning point for Drake, one where he embraces and grows with the sound of today, giving us an essence that usually never misses–think “Passion Fruit” or “One Dance.” It’s vibrant, oozing moods ranging from the loungey to more dance-vibey while retaining a sense of identity. It makes it an album that’s better than it should have been, especially after Drake’s myriad of mediocrity between Scorpion and Certified Lover Boy. And for that alone, it’s given us something that feels slightly groovier through a different lens, making it a more replayable Drake album.

Rating: 7 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.