When people think summertime music most people will probably think melodic house or tropical house, but sometimes those late summer nights call for a change in atmosphere, and Irish producer EMBRZ absolutely delivers on my needs with his new single “Breathe”
If you know EMBRZ well, you probably expect a laidback downtempo release, but EMBRZ absolutely goes above and beyond. Compared with his previous singles, “Breathe” is most definitely EMBRZ’s most danceable track to date. Judging by the lyrics, you’d almost expect the track to be a cold sort of record, but EMBRZ burns bright with vivid production driven by some warm synths in combination with even warmer vocals – definitely a track for one of those late summer nights.
New Zealand has always been a hub for exciting new sounds, and undiscovered (but not necessary new) act Little Oceans is the latest conjuring slow, smooth effervescence with his latest piece. With a catchy, repetitive chorus, low-tempo percussion, and rich vocals to top it all off, the act brings a pop spin to the alternative-rock sound described on the track, and we like it a lot. “Peace” is the first track Little Oceans have released in over a year, and with our ears glued to it (and hopefully yours as well), we hope to hear more from them soon.
Swedish producer Johan Wedel is the musical mastermind behind WDL. With two EPs and countless singles notched to his belt, WDL has now entered the home stretch to the release of his debut album ‘No Wings Airline’ (early-mid June). Teaming up with fellow Scandinavian singer-songwriter Roads, “Cashmere” comes as the final piece of WDL’s colourful puzzle. Tender piano chords usher in Roads’ heart-warming voice as he calmly croons over measured beats and screwed vocal samples, keeping to the cut’s simple melody. The release of ‘No Wings Airline’ could not come any sooner…
Auckland outfit Leisure has let loose new track ‘Nobody’ featuring American rapper Goldlink. The group connected with the Virginia native at the beginning of the year when he was in the country for Laneway Festival, and based on a mutual appreciation of one another’s music, the two acts headed into the studio together, as Leisure explain on their Facebook page: “We were long time fans of GoldLink and it turned out the feeling was reciprocated. On his first ever visit to New Zealand, and the day before we both played Laneway Festival NZ we got into the studio and vibed together to create something special.”
The background: There was a year in the 1990s when indie band The Wedding Present released a single every month, a business model/gimmick adopted most recently by indie duo Oh Wonder. But 10K Islands, who describe themselves as an LA/Miami label-cum-writing house, with shades of a latter-day Brill Building, make them seem meagre and unambitious by comparison. Their scheme for 2016? A new release from the collective’s artists every Friday. We’re not sure when the project started – let’s assume they began the year with a bang, or pop, on 1 January – but if they are as good as this week’s Extraordinary by Bad Wave, then we’ll to want to catch up on the previous releases.
Bad Wave, which comes from a Chilean phrase meaning “bad vibes”, are a duo who surf the interface between bubbly indiepop and sumptuously sad synthpop. They offer something for fans of both Foster the People and New Order and display the cleverness and craftsmanship of Phoenix. The pair used to be in LA surf-rock outfit Nicky Blitz and share a love of Weezer and other 90s nerd-pop bands. The gadget fiends, who describe their relationship as “a tech-inspired bromance”, are prone to mooning over analog synths and their favourite plug-ins. Despite being neighbours in the same apartment block, they are rarely together when they write and apparently collaborate via email: they were in their own bedrooms when they knocked out these wan, wonderful songs.
Nardwuar: how a tartan-hatted geek became ‘the Paxman of pop’
Taken at face value, Nardwuar is probably the last person on Earth you’d expect to get an hour-long interview with Drake. The latter is a global superstar who hates interviews; the former is a funny looking middle-aged white bloke in a tartan hat – born John Ruskin – who calls himself “The Human Serviette”. Yet the pair did meet just this month, when Drizzy talked about his shrine to Biggie Smalls and his uncle who worked with Al Green to promote his latest album, Views From The 6. In fact, an interview with this most un-hip-hop of journalists has become a rite of passage for young rappers, as essential as getting a pave set diamond grill.
Nardwuar has broadcast from CITR 101.9, the University Of British Columbia’s student radio in Vancouver, every Friday afternoon since October 1987, delivering his proudly geeky take on good music. But since the rise of YouTube he’s found a new audience for his gonzo brand of video interviews. In them, he grills performers of all stripes with a style that veers between goofy, charming, insightful and confusing, with varying degrees of success.
In particular, Nardwuar has a reputation for being persistent, like the Paxman of pop culture. Oddly, such tactics go back to an encounter with Courtney Love. After a cringe-inducing interview when Hole toured in Canada in the early 90s (she threatened to leave after the third question), Nardwuar was sent out again when she came back to town, this time with a cameraman.
He waited for hours outside the venue and was eventually confronted by Love, who not only remembered him but called him a “fucking pig”. He won her over by offering her some cigarettes in exchange for an interview. More often than not, most of his video interviews have come out of similarly on-the-fly doorstepping.
A warning: this essay is written in Canadian. It is riddled with U’s and “er’s” turned to “re’s”. It places definitive periods outside of quotation marks. It makes reference to small towns and obscure historical figures. It makes reference to songs you don’t know. It talks about hockey. It talks about our band.
There was a time when, for a certain generation of Canadians, The Tragically Hip was everything. The band from Kingston—a quintet of lifelong friends—was the soundtrack of our youths. The Hip scored our May Two-Fours, curated July 1 celebrations, and filled out the aural landscape at hockey games, weddings, and out at the speedway. They were played in every bar from Cornerbrook to Tofino. More than just a band, The Hip belong to Canada like nothing has before and nothing ever will again. Their music, their lore, their humility and their grace, too—so wonderfully Canadian in its reserve—promised they would be with us forever.
Nothing corrupts promises like cancer.
Tuesday morning we awoke to the news that the band’s frontman, Gord Downie, has terminal brain cancer. The weight of that news can’t possibly be understood without an appreciation for what The Hip have come to mean to a country whose musical heroes tend to seek out a greater fame in the United States. From Neil Young and Joni Mitchell to Tegan and Sara and Drake, Canadian musicians have moved their focus south for a kind of stardom the Great White North can’t provide. But, whether by design or circumstance, The Hip have remained distinctively Canadian. Only Downie moved from Kingston to Toronto, and their music remained just as honestly rural as it was raucously urbane. So, as a country processes the heartbreak of a disease that doesn’t care about fame or nationality, we struggle to come to terms with the fact that one day sooner than we imagined, Gord Downie will leave us all, lost in the barrens.
DJ Shadow on Endtroducing’s legacy and embracing the beat scene he helped create
Artists should be able to create free from the grip of any perceived legacy, yet as fans we often demand they abide by it.
When Josh Davis released his debut album, the seminal Endtroducing, 20 years ago, hip-hop was gifted the sample-based compositional masterpiece it had always deserved. But when its creator, Josh Davis, followed it with albums attempting something new or different, fans began to ask why he wouldn’t (or couldn’t) simply give them more of what his instrumental debut had hinted at.
Over the years, through interviews and his public statements, certain qualities were attributed to Davis, regardless of fact or intent. “It all became a bit odd,” he says, speaking over the phone from his California home. “Some people think I’m a vinyl purist, others that I think all good music was made 500 years ago. It got to a point where I found people dictating to me what they thought my values were.”
Endtroducing came to signify something important in hip-hop, a shift in aesthetics and an unavoidable statement on the producer as artist, but it was only the beginning of DJ Shadow’s legacy. And he never intended to let it end there.
This month, Davis returns with The Mountain Will Fall. It’s his fifth solo album, the first in five years, and the first to be released outside of a major label deal. Despite being one of the select few producers from the 1990s era of independent hip-hop to have built a lasting career, Davis has always seen himself as the provider of “an alternative”, a cog in the machine that can move in the opposite way. Speaking in the careful and deliberate tone he’s known for, Davis describes his approach to releasing an album as “almost like a DJ saying, ‘Here are the things I value in music right now.’” What Davis values in music today originates partly from a period of extensive touring and travelling following the release of 2011’s The Less You Know, The Better.