Color Plus – Diagonals Vol. 1
If you’ve ever wondered what ambient remixes of rap would sound like, Connecticut-based producer/DJ Color Plus’ new EP Diagonals Vol. 1 is your chance to find out. The six track EP of remixes is the first to have any official remixes released by Color Plus (a.k.a. Lars Probert), and constitutes a serious attempt at combining the two contrasting musical genres of ambient and rap. Fortunately, Diagonals Vol. 1 is not just another lineup of overdone rap remixes. It is a treasure trove of lush, ethereal beats – think Memphis-style rap on lithium.
Nearly all of Diagonals Vol. 1’s tracks feature the down-tempo rhythms, stuttering hi-hats, affected vocal samples, and rap verses characteristic of southern – and particularly Memphis – style rap, but like his contemporaries Shlohmo, Yung Sherman, and Tokyo Hands there’s a less brash, more contemplative approach to Color Plus’ head-bobbing goodness. He succeeds in adding a new depth and richness to classic rap beats from tracks like Birdman’s “Pop Bottles,” featuring Lil Wayne, and Soulja Boy’s “Pretty Boy Swag,” while maintaining the sense of resilience so characteristic of the originals. The manner in which he artfully arranges these rap classics with airy and meditative ambient sounds produces a distinct mixing style which he carries throughout the entire EP.
“Honestly” and “Chain” deserve particular mention, slowing down and distorting the voices of Atlanta staples Future and Gucci Mane to such an extent that their lyrics lose meaning and take a back seat to the interplay of rhythms between the vocals and the rest of the beat. Color Plus deconstructs “Pop Bottles” by Birdman and Lil Wayne in his track “Empty Bottle” insofar as to lose its boldness and makes Birdman’s signature pigeon coos become soothing to the listener.
The all-too-common critique of southern rap as lacking in lyricism and sophistication always seems to overlook the interesting ways in which different rappers experiment with phrasing over various rhythmic figures. An EP full of creative and experimental remixes like Diagonals Vol. 1 brings these forms of rhythmic interpretation to light by placing classic samples in a brand new musical context.
Weeknight – Post-Everything
For all those craving a refreshing and captivating sound that’s both calm and rhythmic, Weeknight’s new album Post-Everything is the one to discover – and adore. The New York City-based duo, known simply as Holly and Andy, creates an intoxicating atmosphere with their music, pulling us into an enigmatic world where sounds and voices come together.
The duo’s smooth voices, harmony, and intense rhythm manage to calm nerves and transport the listener. Borrowing from electronic and indie pop music, Post-Everything has a unique and dazzling sound. Weeknight’s peaceful and seducing melody resonates throughout the album, with songs that run together without being repetitive. “Dark Light,” punctuated by exhilarating lyrics, harsh beats, and strident electric guitar, takes listeners on an absolutely alluring phantasmatic ride. “Whale” and “S.O.M.V.” are more gentle and serene, but still captivating, bound to lull listeners into a deep sleep where the everyday world fades away.
The whole album works for virtually any ambience. It can serve as a beat when you’re walking through the city or provide a calming yet encouraging backdrop to a late-night cramming session. Pretty much the only thing it can’t do is help you wake up from that deep Monday morning slumber (you’ve been warned). Post-Everything is a charming album that offers an alternative to the more mainstream variety of indie pop, while still packing a punch for all the distraction and reverie cravings in the world.
Spring Offensive – Young Animal Hearts
Spring Offensive’s long-awaited debut album has finally arrived, thanks to a PledgeMusic campaign. While labels’ tastes are hardly infallible, there might be a reason why Spring Offensive has spent so long without a record deal.
Instrumentally, the Oxford-based band leans on foregrounded drums and super-polished, vaguely mathy, guitars throughout the album. The opening to “Cut the Root” is basically a sped-up version of Foals’ “Spanish Sahara.” Foals also hails from Oxford, and this isn’t the only band Spring Offensive seems to be borrowing from. Jonquil specializes in lacklustre vocal harmonies, and here Spring Offensive proves that it can be even more insipid.
The band is at its best when discussing money. It’s expressing what many moderately successful bands are sadly finding out: music is not enough to cover rent. In “Bodylifting,” the issue is dealt with wryly, with lyrics like, “I wish I had money, I wish I had self-control,” and in “Hengelo” a little more sinisterly, with, “When cash dries up you’re just skin and bones.” The culmination of, this mini-trope is “No Assets,” with a chorus of “If we’re serious we should start saving.” It also contains one of the bleakest lines in modern music, “The depth of our debt is deeper than love.” It’s refreshingly sordid and petty, a line that briefly separates Spring Offensive from the ocean of floppy indie bands that continue to linger. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the album is not so pragmatic. Check out “No Assets,” but avoid the rest, because you’ve heard it all before.
Mr Little Jeans – Good Mistake
Good Mistake goes down like musical ice cream, cold and sweet. This four-track EP provides a compilation of Monica Birkenes’ (a.k.a Mr Little Jeans) past singles in anticipation of her full length debut album, Pocketknife, out on March 25. Born and raised in Norway, Birkenes is not your standard female pop star. Rather than being the product of a team of producers working overtime, she is very much the master of her own music. As both singer and songwriter, Berkenes has created an electro-pop sound that is oddly touching. Her tracks are layered with plenty of high notes and soothing, steady rhythms. There is something sincere in her voice. Emerging from her lips, every line sounds personal, every rhyming couplet is poetry. In short, these songs are pleasant and sweet.
Yet the EP is saved from being just nice by its electronic edge. In Birkenes’ cover of “The Suburbs,” the wrought, emotional vocals of Arcade Fire are replaced by a voice that, thanks to mechanical tuning, does not give everything away. Her emotions simmer under the surface, but ultimately her voice sounds cold. As is common with electronic influenced music, Birkenes’ sound is apathetic but not unpleasantly so, and very laid back.
But her cover of “The Suburbs” is the best track here. Good Mistake is melting and dripping with potential but Berkenes now needs to create her own more distinctive sound. Right now Mr Little Jeans could be summed up as one scoop The Cardigans and one scoop Lorde. When it takes five artists and wild hand gestures to describe her, Birkenes will have come closer to fulfilling her full potential. So watch out for Pocketknife, and here’s hoping we’ll get more than just ice cream next time.