In these last hours of the year, I figured I might as well publish one last playlist. It’s a little longer than usual, but its heart is in the right place.
It begins with ‘Heartsigh’, a song that will possibly remain the musical high-point of 2015 for me. This song feels like waking up on a morning with the sun streaming into my bedroom and the smell of bacon wafting in, while a puppy comes up on the bed and licks my nose. The video obviously has nothing to do with this mental visual, but it stands wonderfully on its own, and conveys an idea of what a Purity Ring concert feels like.
Mura Masa is the stage-name of Alex Crossan, a musician and producer from Great Britain, who is all of 19, which makes me mad and happy at the same time. Mad because fucking 19. Happy, because this is the kind of musician who provides a gigantic fuck-you to people who claim there is no good music coming out nowadays, or that the best music happened in the 70s, or whatever bullshit excuse they choose to come up with for their lack of musical taste or awareness. Mura Masa’s ‘Soundtrack to a Death’ is one of the best things I have discovered this year. His signature style – crisp beats, pitch-shifted vocals and instruments that delight and awe – mesh wonderfully with Shura’s vocals on this particular track, aided by the single-shot video.
I heard Duke Dumont’s ‘I Got U’ early this year, and that particular track hooked me quite a bit. But ‘Ocean Drive’ does one better, with its 80s aesthetic and insta-earworminess. A song that makes me want to take off in a convertible along LA streets at night, blasting it at full volume.
Eric Prydz’s ‘Opus’ is a ridiculous song, in the best sense of the word. 9 minutes long, with a 3 minute build-up, this is a track that confuses club-goers and kinda reminds me of the trick used during the filming of the motorbike sequence in The Dark Knight, where the sound designer revved the engine sound to a higher and higher pitch throughout. This song, similarly, keeps building and building and building to a maddening crescendo – and keeps going on, contrary to the drop-and-ebb rules of trance music. Has me smiling wide every single time.
Magic happens when you put two talented musicians together – and if they are Chet Faker and Flume, it’s organic, wild magic; a spell that wraps you with eldritch tendrils of delight. Sorry, just went full Arkham Asylum there. But ‘Drop the Game’ is just that good a song, the voice and the music and the dancing mesmerizing beyond belief.
I thought Lil Dicky was a lot of fun, and this video definitely plays it for laughs (pay attention to the motivational posters on the wall of the office). Love his rapping skills too, and that Snoop D guy isn’t a slouch either.
Humeysha is Goldspot crossed with Kula Shaker, and I suspect I would enjoy their music more with substances inside me. It’s by Zain Alam, a Wesleyan alumnus (neat, huh, N?) who spent time in India researching the partition and experimenting with Indian music. The band is the result, and the results are encouraging, to say the least.
Alina Baraz is 21 (sigh!) and from Los Angeles by way of Ohio. She follows the modern-day tradition (er, of my favorite electronic outfits, I mean) of collaborating with an electronic producer named Galimatias she met online, to come up with some tracks that make wonderful use of her voice and give us musical textures that are crunchy and delicious and very very satisfying. Just listen to the piano backing in ‘Fantasy’ to know what I mean.
I heart Jamie XX. I am letting his new album grow on me very very slowly, to savor it better. So far, I have obsessed over three songs, and this one’s the second, a beautiful quiet song about loud places and heartbreak and relationship expectations. The other songs will turn up on future playlists, I can feel it.
I heard Conner Youngblood’s ‘Confidence EP’ and was struck by how similar his voice sounded to that of a young AR Rahman, especially on the title track. This song is low on the ARR-semblance, but is the perfect late-night and dread chill combination. The sound of the trumpet resemble the the baying of wild animals in the distance; the voice creeps under your skin; the drone just is, in the background.
Cashmere Cat came into my life via Treasure Island Music Festival in San Francisco in November, the only music fest I went to this year, and an experience well worth the drive both ways. His set was incredible, and it befuddles me that there are still musicians like him that elude me but for pure luck. Mura Masa considers him a major influence on his music, and I can totally see it. ‘Without Me’ is a great video too.
Disa Jakobs hails from Copenhagen, and the original version of Sculpture is layered like Gregorian chants. The live version strips it all down, leaving behind a cheerier version of the song and her voice in full focus, but then the electric guitar kicks in and gives it another tinge altogether. I will be looking forward to more of her music.
‘Silhouettes’ by Floating Points is a work of art in every way possible. I could stare at the video for hours. I could (and have, actually) listen to them for days. Electro-jazz at it’s finest.
Both the Cashmere Cat video and that for ‘Disclosure’ by You & Me (which is also a Flume remix, btw, that guy keeps popping up everywhere) would probably melt Pahlaj Nihalani’s eyeballs because of the amount of onscreen kissing that happens in the two videos.
Tülpa’s ‘A Lil’ Rain’ is a beautiful instrumental, one that weaves its own dreams for you when you close your eyes and listen to it. But this animated fan video by Project 9 on Youtube takes it to another level altogether. This is like Sylvain Chomet meets Ivan Bilibin and the two enter a bar with George Herriman in tow. C’est incroyable!
Ben Khan’s ‘Eden’ and Bad Kingdom’s ‘Moderat’ are songs linked – at least in my mind – with a piercing brass shriek that turn up in both. You will know what I mean when you listen to them. My thought is that they are both the same sample, used in different ways and to convey different moods, in the two songs. You are free to disagree, but I am probably right.