Album: Beauty Behind the Madness
Artist: The Weeknd
Unless you lived under a rock this summer, I’m sure you’ve heard of the gloomy, atmospheric R&B soul tracks of The Weeknd. It’s hard to escape the infectious melodies of “Can’t Feel my Face,” a slick bouncing jam with grooving basslines and soaring synths. Now The Weeknd has finally released his second full length album, and the results couldn’t be any better. His new music is reminiscent of a young Michael Jackson meets modern synth. It sounds like a predawn haze that pulls you in with each beat. They feel like a comedown from an emotional high that grips with each note. Soaring melodies clash with lush synths and driving drum tracks. Songs like “The Hills” and “Acquainted” rely heavily on strong production filled with drum tracks and reverb. His songs sing of partying, lust, his growth as an artist, self pity and personal introspection. Although The Weeknd has done a great job crafting his signature sound, each song off the album sounds different from the other. The Kanye West produced track, “Tell Your Friends” sounds like it could have came straight out of the 70’s, with strong soul influences and a grooving piano track to move the song along. Although his influences can be heard, The Weeknd’s music is a unique take on modern throwback music. The song sings of his struggles to make it as a singer from a Toronto and it couldn’t be more interesting. Some of the songs do get boring and fall flat, but the album as a whole works terrifically.The Weeknd comes off with a similar vibe as Drake, yet he adds a level of sophistication and mystery that can only be heard to be explained. Originally only a featured artist, The Weeknd finally has the spotlight. As we all are swept by his dark take on R&B, we can only sit back and listen.
“Losers” ft. Labyrinth (if you like Flume, this is the song to check out)
“Tell Your Friends” ft. Kanye West
”Crew Love” Drake ft. The Weeknd (song off 2011’s “Take Care”)
Album: Yours, Dreamily
Artist: The Arcs
Trippy and Dan Auerbach seem to be going hand in hand on this album. Originally a solo-project by “The Black Keys” frontman, this album slowly morphed into a strong collaborative effort by 6 incredibly talented musicians. Each musician is highlighted on the album with conflicting piano riffs, simple yet powerful guitar licks, dancing drums; which are all tied together by Dan Auerbach’s signature vocals. If you are a Black Keys fan, this album will be both familiar yet strange. If I was to compare this album in similarity to another one of the Key’s, it would be “Turn Blue”. Both have a trippy rock vibe filled with fuzz and distorted vocals. However, this album eliminates all Danger Mouse-esque production and instead fills it with stronger instrumentation. Although the lyrics seem to fall flat, there is no denying this band’s uncanny chemistry. The songs mainly seem to sing about love and desire. As the album title implies, every song feels like a spacey rock dream that you definitely don’t want to wake up from. It’s an interesting change of pace for Dan Auerbach as we can hear him out of his element. Unlike the Black Keys, which only has two members, The Arcs hears multiple musicians all jamming out on this surreal journey. Each song has a different highlight. “Rosie (Ooh La La)” has a bouncing drum track that can’t be missed, ending with a climax of fuzz guitar solos. “Stay in my Corner” dials down the tempo with a slick song highlighted by Dan’s signature playing style. If you’re looking for that Black Keys punchy garage rock, you came to the wrong place. Although there is little excitement and buzz on this album, every song is tight, measured and oh-so trippy. Dan on this album seems to be comfortable out of his element on this acid garage rock album. Dialing down the guitars and turning up the raw psychedelia clearly worked in his favor on this album.
“Stay In My Corner”
“Everything You Do (You Do For You)”
“Rosie (Ooh La La)”
“Pistol Made of Bones”
Album: Inanimate Objects
Artist: Atlas Genius
Two Australian Brothers give a second crack at electro-pop alt rock. On their second record, Atlas Genius follows their trend of keyboard driven melodies. Many of the songs are catchy alt-rock jams that can’t be missed. The first half of the album are filled with swirling dance songs that sound similar to Capital Cities. “Molecules” and “Refugee” are filled with interesting guitar and synth parts that contrast in a unique blend of instrument and machine. As the album progresses, the songs become increasingly ethereal. “Friends with enemies” is disorienting and puzzling as we have to wait to see where the song takes us. Every song is filled with catchy licks that stick with you. Although there was no “Trojans” on this record, the rest of the album holds up well. 2013’s “When it Was Now” saw the brothers explore alt-pop. They had very strong instrumentation with some not-so strong melodies. However, “Inanimate Objects” sees them now in a comfort zone of swirling melodies combined with keyboard driven riffs. Their melodies are a strong point on the album as they both differ and highlight their keyboard driven sound. My only complaint for this album is that little has changed between their first and second record. Many of the songs sound very similar to their earlier work; which isn’t always a bad thing. Furthermore, this album does very little to separate itself from similar artists like WALK THE MOON and Bastille. The slight unoriginality is easily overshadowed by the group’s evolving sound. Although they haven’t changed much, there’s no denying that this album has improved over their earlier works. Atlas Genius has found their sound and they’re sticking to it.
Album: Easy Love (single)
Two things rarely in the same sentence; Jackson 5 and EDM. It’s hard to imagine collaboration between these two, let alone chemistry. Much to our surprise, they gel together fluidly in this upbeat, cheery song. Often, remixes grow old quickly, but this one has an interesting take on the Jackson 5’s “ABC”. This song builds up and climaxes in all the right places. British DJ Sigala brings together old and new to make a song that combines elements of both generations. It’s repetitive and drives the same point over and over again. Although very cliche, it’s a catchy song that you probably can’t nor won’t want to miss.
Album: Fell in the Sun (single)
Artist: Big Grams
Outkast and Phantogram collab? Seems strange and it shouldn’t work. However in music, sometimes the strangest collaborations work out so well. In the case of this song, they come together so well in a harmony of rap and vocal crescendo. Big Boi and Phantogram sing about awe, youth and flying too close to sun. The song delivers strong vocals from Phantogram’s Sarah Barthel. Big Boi’s rap has flow and sophistication. He delivers his signature sound of production that sound like late-Outkast. Although I could go for a new Outkast record, I’ll take this catchy jam. The song’s well polished, orchestrated and leaves the listener with the same sense of awe that Phantogram sings about. Plus it’s always nice to hear new stuff from Big Boi. I mean, who doesn’t like Outkast… However, it’s so much more different than anything we’ve really heard from Big Boi. Whatever new music comes from this new duo, sign me up.