One of Scandinavia’s most intriguing exports at the moment comes by way of Copenhagen — the experimental pop artist known as Kill J. The songstress, aka Julie Aagard composes her music, plays the piano and does much of her own production which is probably what makes her such a unique entity. Although the artist has been on the scene for a few years, she’s had a good buzz surrounding her in 2015, and released her debut EP Quasi last month. Listen to the accompanying single to the EP “Coda” to hear her signature tremolo and striking, eclectic sound, which as stated in a press release “morphs effortlessly between drone-like beats, Bollywood-inspired refrains and bubblegum sweetness.” Her other hit track, “You’re Good But I’m Better” also has a great remix by LA producer Sad Money so scope it out below.
This past September, Youth Lagoon released his third studio album, Savage Hills Ballroom — an effort he’s touted as his most introspective yet. YL, the project of Idaho-born artist Trevor Powers is well known for his boundless creativity and idiosyncratic sound, but the LP’s lead single “The Knower” indeed appears to indicate some kind of evolution from Powers, having recently dealt with loss of a loved one and other major life changes.
The threnody definitely has a dark thread, as Powers reflects on the human capacity for self-deception and self-destructive behaviors: “Oh, everybody wants to think that they’re good at heart, when they’re full of hate,” he sings. The arrangement starts out as with muted keys and skittering percussion, eventually introducing illustrious trumpets, a triumphant horn section and a bevy of synths for a majestic sort of effect. Watch the fiery video for “The Knower” — and for a slightly different mood hear Noah Hyde‘s enchanted remix of YL’s earlier effort “Daydream” below.
I’ve been underneath the canopy, lost in a spell
I shut up every time you look at me, but you can’t tell
In skin, the psyche has a tendency to trust what’s untrue
I’ve been underneath the canopy, wasting for you
Thomas Arsenault, aka Mas Ysa is an interesting dude — in addition to being a composer and musician who’s toured with Hundred Waters, Deerhunter, and most recently Tanlines, he’s also a visual artist whose work has been displayed in various exhibitions across New York. This year the Canadian-bred artist released his debut LP Seraph via Downtown Records (Chet Faker, Electric Guest). Hearing him speak you wouldn’t think he’d be one to reveal all of his interior complexities so readily, but that is in fact Mas Ysa’s M.O. — pouring all of his fervid feelings into his experimental and genre-bending music.
Take “Arrows” for example, an affective track that commences as a ballad with a breakbeat, picking up speed at the 2-minute mark and eventually bursting into a full-on banger. In a press release Arsenault says as much: “’Arrows’ is sort of a Euro club banger, but also a very personal love song. It comes out of me wanting to make a universal, club-ready track but unwittingly giving into emotion.” His distinctive voice reminds us a little of Rationale in that it’s unconventional in tone, but somehow adds to the potency of the song. Stream “Arrows” below.
Flying Lotus’ suite of singles off the upcoming You’re Dead! LP — slated for release October 7 — runs the gamut of diametrically opposed servings we’ve come to expect from cutup savant Steve Ellison. Clocking in at 2:40 and 3:54, “Coronus, The Terminator” and “Never Catch Me,” respectively, are two of the longer cuts on an album comprised of uncharacteristically short tracks. Thankfully, our expectations of frenetic jazz samples and live recordings mashed together with the warmth of Flylo’s signature production are met on Lotus’ latest release, harkening back more to the psychedelia of Cosmogramma than the laconic Until the Quiet Comes.
On “Never Catch Me,” Kendrick’s machine-gun verses nicely ride the wave of Pastorius-like basslines, floating along smoothly with an accompanying piano line and slick drum programming that keeps pace with the track’s overall flow. Lotus has a keen ear for bringing experimental jazz to the fore in what is otherwise a highly contemporary package, and this track does not stray from the format.
As for “Coronus, The Terminator” arguably one of the album’s finest tracks — Lotus significantly dials up the thickness and dials down the BPM. From the opening licks of shimmering triangles and claves (it sounds like those instruments but who knows), this track is lush. Soulful melodies in the vein of an old spiritual drip viscously throughout, fleshed out by a warm lo-fi hiss. For an album conceived around meditations on death, “Coronus” drives home an aspect of weighty, peaceful release in that regard.
If you’re so inclined to see FlyLo live (with support from Thundercat), his upcoming tour should bring him to a city near you.
• 09 Orlando, FL, The Beacham
• 10 Miami, FL, iii Points
• 11 Atlanta, GA, The Tabernacle
• 12 Chapel Hill, NC, Cat’s Cradle
• 13 Washington, DC, Lincoln Theater
• 14 Philadelphia, PA, Tower Theater
• 15 New York, NY, Terminal 5
• 17 Boston, MA, Paradise
• 18 Burlington, VT, Higher Ground
• 20 Montreal, QC, SAT
• 21 Toronto, ON, The Danforth Music Hall
• 23 Detroit, MI, Royal Oak Music Theater
• 24 Chicago, IL, Concord Music Hall
• 25 Minneapolis, MN, First Avenue
• 07 London, The Roundhouse
• 09 Austin, TX, Fun Fun Fun Fest
• 11 Phoenix, AZ, Marquee Theater
• 12 Santa Ana, CA, The Observatory
• 13 San Diego, CA, North Park Theatre
• 14 Los Angeles, CA, Wiltern
• 15 Santa Cruz, CA, Catalyst
• 17 Portland, OR, Roseland
• 18 Seattle, WA, Neptune
• 19 Vancouver, BC, Commodore Ballroom
• 21 Salt Lake City, UT, The Complex
• 22 Denver, CO, Fillmore Auditorium
Australia has not stopped producing quality indie bands the last couple of years. Enter Movement, an experimental three-piece based out of Sydney. Like most of their music released thus far, “Like Lust” is a slow tempo track, defying genre by blurring elements of R&B, electronica and psychadelic rock. The trio signed to Modular Recordings (Tame Impala, Cut Copy) and have already supported Solange and Darkside on tour. Listen to “Like Lust” below.
Yes, Public Service Broadcasting is the name for a band — composed of the corduroy-obsessed J. Willgoose and his drumming companion Wrigglesworth. The pioneering London entity samples from old public information films and sets them to contemporary music. Granted exclusive access to WWII-era archives from the British Film Institute, their propaganda-inspired music is an educational aural affair complete with krautrock guitars, banjo, atmospheric synths, piano and propulsive drums. Experience the spectacular PSB by streaming “Spitfire” — the lead track off their 2012 EP The War Room below.
British producer and songwriter Kwes is used to being behind the scenes, having done production for a myriad of artists including The xx, Damon Albarn and Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard. However, he’s also broken out as a solo artist in recent years, having released his first LP ilp in 2013. As demonstrated on the gorgeous track (“36”) from the LP, Kwes’s art form is a masterful convergence of subtlety and sonic complexity achieved through the use of repetition, layering, and divergent textures. Interestingly enough, Kwes — along with Pharrell, Dev Hynes, Billy Joel and even Stevie Wonder — all experience a phenomenon known as Chromesthesia (sound-to-color synesthesia), a neurological condition effectively allowing them to hear color, or see sound depending on how you look at it. Perhaps it is no coincidence then that these artists’ creative genius manifest themselves in stunning visual pathways as well. Stream “36” and “Bashful” (from the 2012 EP Meantime) below.
Empress Of is the enigmatic new songstress out of Brooklyn with one of the more amusing artist sites I’ve ever seen. With her distinctive and engaging dreampop sound, singer/producer Lorely Rodriguez released her debut EP Systems last year and has been touring around ever since. Stream “Realize You” and “Hat Trick” below, and if you’re one of the lucky ones at SXSW, catch her at the Elysium this Saturday, 3/15.
Props to my Canadian friend Jon Keypour for this one, who introduced me to the Montreal-based indie/art-rock group known as Braids. Their dreampop sound is experimental in nature — akin to Animal Collective if their vocalist were female.
The kaleidoscopic track “Lemonade” is off their debut album, Native Speaker, which while a couple years old is still relevant. The Canadian quartet recently released a new album and is currently on tour in Europe.
Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich’s newest project is a trio called Ultraísta, named after the Spanish literary movement ultraismo. Nigel brings his singular brand of sonic soundscapes to the group’s self-titled debut LP, which was released October this year.
This excellent Four Tet remix of “Smalltalk” highlights the cool vocals of new London artist Laura Bettinson. Another requisite remix to check out (if you call yourself a Radiohead fan) is the Alpines rework of “Bad Insect” below.
so I’m not going out, and I’m not gonna dance
not gonna sing unless somebody’s holding on