Thursday, July 30, 2015

Are You Onto Júníus Meyvant? Listen to His Gorgeous Debut EP

2015 is the year of many big things; some of which include a massive hip-hop revival, Rihanna and the rise of Scandinavian superstars.

There's been no shortage of discussing the latter on here, but it's usually centred around progressive Scandinavian female pop stars and their bridge into North America. In this case, the Nordic star worth praising is Júníus Meyvant (or, 32 year-old Unnar Gísli Sigurmundsson) - who, for some reason unbeknownst to me, no one else is really talking about. Seriously, what is going on? This guy is brilliant.

In late 2014, I stumbled across Sigurmundsson's breathtaking first single "Color Decay" (which I promptly added to the top five of my 'Best of 2015' list) and then began the patient wait for more. More music, more critical praise, more uprising around his soulful folk balladry that keeps up with the big likes of Bon Iver, Jose Gonzalez and The Tallest Man on Earth. Two weeks ago, new music was finally released in the form of a four-song, self-titled debut EP - but I find myself still waiting for that aforementioned chatter. I'm more than happy to do the talking until others hop on the wagon.

Hailing from the Vestmann Islands, the Icelandic father of two speaks little English - but that doesn't stop him from stringing together poetic lyrics about romance, which are more often than not delivered via nature similes. Instrumentally, his melodic odes are the musical equivalent to 'everything but the kitchen sink' - piecing together horns, robust string sections, percussive odds and ends and his distinct, haunting guitar plucks (most perfectly heard on my favourite new track, "Singles"). His voice, either barely there or endearingly husky, could be one of the strongest new voices out there - so, here's hoping it spreads further soon.

Have a listen.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Get in there, Nicki.

I love Twitter. A lot.

I can't speak for other industries or subject matter, but most people who work in music or write about music are constantly engaging in open, hilarious, honest Twitter dialogue on everything that's happening. It's a never-ending goldmine. A few minutes perusing Twitter each morning and I'm not only up to date on what's going on in music, but I've likely formed a strong (hopefully pithy and funny) opinion along with hundreds of other music writers.

One thing that's been seemingly plaguing a lot of us lately is Nicki Minaj, or a lack thereof. 

Last week, Meek Mill, Nicki's fiancé, accused Drizzy, Nicki's good friend and labelmate, of having ghostwriters. Also last week, Taylor Swift took Nicki's accurate Twitter criticism of primarily white, female VMA nominees to heart and responded. Save for a few quick social responses, one of rap's indisputably most talented females has remained musically mum.

Quite frankly, it's killing me. Common assumption is she's waiting for the right time - when Drizzy cools it on his (quite dope) surprise diss tracks or when her man Meek (a talented artist who's yet to musically respond post-accusation) has the chance to fire back himself. But, Queen Nicki is nothing short of vehemently opinionated, and although she's in the middle of her (already praised) The Pinkprint Tour - there's been a lot of sh*t happening in her world lately, and she's just got to have some fire brewing. 

For those of you wondering why anyone is waiting for anything, there's really no explanation other than, at different points in history, this is hip-hop. It's personal, fast-moving and impossible to look away from. In this genre, filled with real writers, there's no need to craft the perfect instrumentation or package music before releasing it. They just have to get in front of a mic, wait for the sun to go down and hit us with the real talk. So, please, Nicki - drop it. Drop it now and put the whole thing to rest.

Below, my favourite tweets from the Twitter discourse.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Best New Track: Drake's "Hotline Bling"

After getting charged up earlier this week over Meek Mill's accusations that he didn't write his own lyrics, Toronto ambassador Drake has decided to do a little more of what he does best - drop unsurprisingly amazing surprise tracks.

Last night, Drake pushed another new track onto maybe the world's coolest remaining (honestly, how has the OVO crew not sprung for a different URL?) titled "Hotline Bling." If the island-y sample sounds familiar, it's because Drake has pulled from D.R.A.M's groovy "Cha Cha," which dropped in March.

In what might be 2015's sing-rap response to "Hold On We're Going Home" or "Tuesday," "Hotline Bling" has Drizzy laissez-faire crooning about yet another hometown hunny who no longer booty calls him on his cell phone, leaving him wondering where she is and who she's with. Poor Aubrey; it seems the higher (way, way) up he gets, the more down girls he loses.

So far, all of Drake's recent exclusives have been premiered on his must-hear Beats 1 OVO Sound show. If you want to get to these hot new tracks before they hit the aforementioned blogspot, you should probably tune in.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Best New Album: Tame Impala's 'Currents'


I just did something that I rarely do - I took a substantial vacation. And, unlike Christmastime, when I take vacation but also count down (daily) the best songs of the year, I vowed to not do any blogging. Which at the beginning felt nice, but then drove me slowly crazy, because I love it and feel like my hands are tied when I'm not sharing new music.

And let me tell you, a week away from the music wire amounts to so. much. new. stuff! I considered us in a little bit of a 'new music drought' prior to my leaving (which really meant, like, one slow week of new releases), but, man, things revved up once I left. 

Mainly in the form of the new Tame Impala album. My goodness, what a perfect place to start.

Currents, Aussie mastermind Kevin Parker's third release, was staged in my mind as one of those releases with so may exceptional singles that the filler bits might sound mediocre or much more understated compared to the first tastes. Let me tell you - there is no filler on this album.

With this glittery new release, Parker unabashedly embraces the power of pop, and the power of admission, on each disco-laced track. He strips the reverb, allowing that strong falsetto narrative to shine while he admits his relationship wrongs. On "'Cause I'm A Man," he blames his masculinity for love lost. On "The Less I Know The Better," the 70s-reminiscent "Yes, I'm Changing" and "Past Life" (my two favourites of the non-singles) he comes to term with his old self and moving on - promising nothing and so much more all at the same time. Painted with bright patterns of psychedelic keyboard and muscle-moving percussion, the deep soul found within Parker's softer side amounts to his greatest work yet. And, quite likely, the album of the year.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Best New Music: The Internet's 'Ego Death'

If you know anything about my oh-so-deep love for Odd Future (RIP) and its members' burgeoning solo careers, you'll know that love encompasses all OF spin-offs, including The Internet - the alt-R&B project founded by members Syd Tha Kid and Max Martians.

On the six-piece collective's new album Ego Death, they've accomplished what several Odd Future solo projects have this year (albeit, two releases later) - their most focused album yet. The minimalist experimentation is welcome on the full band-backed album, as it sways between jazzy downtown hooks and sticky soul. Although led by fearless female vocalist Syd Tha Kid, punchy cameos by Vic Mensa and OF mastermind Tyler, The Creator add some zest throughout. Similar to others dabbling in the alt-R&B genre (cough, Miguel), The Internet doesn't shy on intimate, sometimes explicit declarations of love and betrayal, but they're so caked in smooth, sultry instrumentation it likely won't even faze you.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

On The Rise: LÈON's "Tired of Talking"

'Tis the season for female vocalist-led tropical house jams that leave you wanting to pour an easy drink and watch the sun go down or groove the night away in a sweaty bar.

Enter LÈON - the latest instalment in a seemingly never-ending round-up of up and coming Scandanavian singer-songwriters - whose chart-climbing single "Tired of Talking" has all the right, accessible ingredients to be that summer night staple. The delightful neo-soul tune shows off the newcomer's laidback croon and apparent knack for ticking off the laundry list of likeable production bits: a funky bassline, some finger snaps, whistling and horns. If making feel-good songs comes this easy to LÈON, I hope we hear more from her soon.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Are You Onto Christine and the Queens?

If someone were to tell you or any of your English-speaking North American friends that one of the most interesting up and coming artists hails from France and includes her native tongue in most songs, chances are you might be a bit disillusioned.

But, it looks and sounds as if French electro-pop artist Christine and the Queens is going to be the exception to that. Already certified platinum (three times) in France, 26 year-old mastermind Heloise Letissier has landed a deal with Neon Gold Records, embarked on a cross-continental tour for her debut EP and raked in a number of A-list admirers, including Mark Ronson, Lorde and Madonna (who was so impressed with CATQ's stunning "St. Claude" video that she enlisted the directors' help on her own promo). 

Although there aren't physically any "Queens" ons stage with her (she explains them as her "fairy godmothers"), Letissier is more than enough on her own to become music's next it girl. Outside of the studio, her edgy, masculine sartorial sense has scored her the cover of French ELLE Magazine and front row at multiple fashion weeks.

A now-staple in my daily rotation, Letissier's music is perfectly uncomplicated, yet sonically lush - blending beautiful bilingual lyrics and melodic retro beats that captivate when delivered by Letissier's dynamic voice. Although a third of the time you might be unsure what she's singing, you'll be enamoured enough to find out, and hear more.