naah, “electric life”

naah, “electric life”

The newest single from Swedish singer/songwriter Naah and producer C. Gold, titled “Electric Life”, features sparkling melodies that are mellow, bubbly, and counter-intuitive. But, while the track’s sonic mood is neutral or even optimistic, the lyrics give way to the contemporary lament of many across generations: “Electric Life” mourns a decline in meaningful social interactions caused by constant distractions from ever-present smartphones. This theme of sounding happy despite experiencing discontent, paired with bouncy synth-pop, draws musical reference to Paramore’s After Laughter, perhaps crossed with the vocal stylings of HAIM.

The track opens to the sound of a record needle being set into place, in longing for the days preceding digital streaming. A distorted electric guitar twangs sparingly, a kick drum thumps reassuringly, and floaty synth glides behind Naah’s smooth alto, building calculated suspense before breaking into the glittery, full-bodied chorus: “You can try not to care / But I’m missing human eye contact / Can you Google that? / I’m tired of electric life”. On the word “life”, Naah’s glossy vocals send the song soaring into an open sky of glitchy playfulness, each syllable mimicking the familiar sounds of electro-pop production.

In the second half of the song, Naah makes a point that feels familiar to Millenials and Gen Zs alike. Since the conception of the smartphone and social media, people from these age demographics have heard the tireless criticism of communication technology from their elders. In “Electric Life”, Naah defends the stance of younger people while still acknowledging the burden of facing the world as it exists in the modern 21st century. She sings, “Hold on, let’s get back to where they come from / They say we’re sad because of the digital / But the world wasn’t this messed up when they grew up / It’s not the same for us.”

“Electric Life” is the kind of thought-provoking bop the world could use a few more of. Here’s to Naah and C. Gold for calling it like it is.

Follow Naah here and keep up with C. Gold here.

the lampshades, “forget me not”

the lampshades, “forget me not”

The Lampshades, while facing their final hours together as a band, show no shame in succumbing to the mundane: The group’s latest music video release for single “Forget Me Not” tours through barren pastures, abandoned car lots, and woodland ruins in a battle with complacency and nostalgia.

The track, marked by early 00’s grunge and mid-tempo moodiness, is rife with undulating bass and bleak acceptance. The first few bars of “Forget Me Not” are quick to ignite and churn steadily, as frontman and lead guitarist Jaren Love reflects aloud to no one but the stretch of highway passing in the side view mirror: “It just doesn’t matter / It all keeps moving on”. During the first chorus, quick jump cuts of rusting abandoned cars and pick-up trucks switch in time with drummer Dane Adelman’s punching kick drum. In a wistful drone, Love laments, “So many photographs / I’ll never see them all / Just a bunch of paper / There’s no porcelain doll”.

Imagery of Love ambling solo through the rural landscape under massive open skies deliver a sense that he is the last man on Earth. No irony is spared in a shot where he explores the crumbled ruins of a building ensnared in weeds, the group vocals of the chorus ringing, “Forget me not, I’ll always be around”.

In what is arguably the most pointed scene in the video, Love’s drive down the highway shows the paint-peeled barns and old warehouses strewn in the tall grass as if left by a passing storm. One such structure bears massive white letters, projecting a branding slogan that is cheerless against the beige landscape: “Delivering the American Dream…”. The camera focuses on these words as Love reveals resentment for terrene interactions, singing “[I] adjust the volume on family and friends / Shake a million hands / But have no conversations”.

A tense moment just before the bass solo and guitar break depicts a steep cliff, with Love’s sneakered feet the only visible part of his body. A ladybug flies away from his pant leg where it was resting, begging the question of just how long Love stood contemplating the chasm. The scene switches, the break sweeps in, and Love’s self-reflection is tangible as he wanders a depleted pasture under a setting sun. Sonically and visually, this scene delivers some of the most potent emotionality of “Forget Me Not”.

With this music video, The Lampshades’ attitudes are bleak, but their sincerity palpable. “Forget Me Not” only gains traction as it progresses; the scenes flickering faster and faster between shots of Love wandering the field at twilight, swimming in a murky lake, and meandering on a dock under the intense sun. Bassist Chris Kibler thunders through each chorus, sparks flying at the song’s close, as the climax peaks and fades out. In the last scene, Love descends a flight of stairs into a basement and disappears from view, returned home yet still alone.

Preceding “Forget Me Not”, The Lampshades released 2018 album Astrology. Their discography also features three additional albums, three EPs, and four singles. With the release of this music video, the Pittsburgh trio has announced their disbandment, and we’re sad to see them go.

Stream The Lampshades’ music here.

marian hill, “take a number”

marian hill, “take a number”

Philadelphia duo Marian Hill returns with a new single that’s as seductive as it is sinister. “Take A Number” is marked by blasting bass, intermittent trap beats, and electronic elements; its strategically sparse musicality contrasting vocalist Samantha Gongol’s haunting near-whispers.

The lyrics of “Take A Number” are tempting, teasing, and smug; not unlike a predator confident in its success before even making a move. Gongol applies pressure to her subject: “I think I know what you’re thinking, how is it you look so fine? / In this room we keep shrinking, closing in while I take my time.” One line that aggregates the elements of curiosity, indifference, and an insatiable hunger found in Take A Number” recurs with each chorus: “You taste like a chance that I just might take.”

We know Gongol’s crisp vocals well, from past Marian Hill classics like “Down” and “One Time”, and they launch in the first second of the song without delay. The feature from fresh-faced, alt-R&B artist Dounia early on in this new track provides a satisfying shift in pace and texture; as she raps in an airy flutter that is no less insistent: “You got moves, you got bags, you got shit you gotta do / He’s a moment at the most, he’s not something to pursue.”

Keep up with Marian Hill here. Follow Dounia here.

miki moondrops, fuwa fuwa music

miki moondrops, fuwa fuwa music

All at once natural, manmade, and the product of a dream: With Fuwa Fuwa Music, Miki Moondrops guides listeners through an ethereal world that hums, glitters, and bleeds with vivid watercolors. The allure of Fuwa Fuwa Music lies in its fantastical nature – this album breezily transports listeners to an enchanted forest that is part organic, part machine, and always breathtaking.

The second studio release from Miki Moondrops, the finely layered production of Fuwa Fuwa Musicbubbles over with enthusiasm and curiosity. The group is comprised of Miki Masuda Jarvis, on bass and vocals, and David Lord on guitar, synths, and glockenspiel (for this record, they are joined by William Erickson on drums and Ben Snook on electronic percussion). The work as a whole is peppered with clicks, whistles, and cartoonish bounciness that serve as markers for the passing of time, as they weave in and out of earshot, brightly punctuating spells of haziness. Airy synths paint a permanent sunset as the backdrop for hearty drums, psychedelic guitar loops, and unrolling spools of abstract lyricism. While each track carries an individual theme all its own, the zeitgeist provided by Fuwa Fuwa Music is consistently sunny – even through spasms of chaos or harsher distortion.

Listening to Fuwa Fuwa Music feels brand new and yet somehow deeply instinctual. For example, characterizing features of track “Bumblebee House” include the faint buzzing of honeybees alongside a fuzzy distortion, reminiscent of the stuttering twitch of insects’ wings. On “Ants”, Miki Moondrops shrinks us down to microscopic size and into a glittery, glitching realm that could only thrive hidden beneath the earth. Rapid, perforating melodies from vocals and guitar plucking alike read like an ancient language, paired with more “known” elements of electronica. “Dragonfly Wings” is another play at perspective: listening to it inspires contemplation of whether we are watching a dragonfly as it flickers and jerks in and out of the sonic frame; or if we are the creature itself, ascending ceremonially before lilting back down to earth, settling like fog.

Woven snippets of found sound and electronically produced noise are essential to Fuwa Fuwa Music. At times, these elements drive the song’s direction, like on “Orange to Pink, Mushroom to Turtle”; while at other points, they flit in and out of the mix and of frontal attention, providing space to appreciate Jarvis’s drifty vocals humming with reverb – see “When You See the Eyebrow, You Will See the Gnome”. At the top of opening track “Shells”, at least three psychedelic guitar loops and reverses take the stage, weaving through each other and the Jarvis’s vocal melody like ribbons in the wind.

The last two tracks from Fuwa Fuwa Music serve more as mood suggestions than as landscapes. In just a fleeting 1 minute 19 seconds, “Glassy Eyes” wisps the faint chirping of birds and gentle harmonies knit together by the melody of a lullaby. Final track “It Is Glowing” feels more anthemic than illustrative or inviting. Its undulating electronic percussion, ensnared by subtle guitar strokes, provides a groove that satisfies Miki Moondrops’ quota for psychedelic rock.

TRACKLISTING

  1. Shells
  2. Orange to Pink, Mushroom to Turtle
  3. When You See the Eyebrow, You Will See the Gnome
  4. Ants
  5. Dragonfly Wings
  6. Bumblebee House
  7. Glassy Eyes
  8. It Is Glowing

You can follow Miki Moondrops here.

james delaney, “live it up”

james delaney, “live it up”

“Live It Up”, the newest single from LA up-and-comer James Delaney, opens to the playful bounce of a video-game bop and a twinkling tropicality – but don’t let that fool you. A closer listen reveals an ennui that borders on ironic.

To clue you in, the very first lyrics paint a picture of a certain brand of indulgence that feels very 2019: “We’ve been wasting time getting high and watching shitty tv shows / Feeling comatose in our dirty clothes.” Split right down the middle, the lyrical content of “Live It Up” resorts to indulgence and lethargy to escape life stress; while sonically, it’s neutrally cheery – a notion that is paralleled in the song’s structure, as the verses bear the weight of Delaney’s approach. Radiating synth and an unchanging mellow tempo meet Delaney’s clear-cut chorus, ringing with a might-as-well attitude: “Live it up, live it up, live it up.” The last few bars close out on a sax solo, whose hum suggests that Delaney is already off to follow his own advice.

Keep up with James Delaney here.