Category: New Music

LMK (What’s Really Good Remix)

Singles October 13, 2018

(Written By Miguel Anderson)

As we watch two rap superstars, Nicki Minaj and Cardi B, engage in a full fledged battle over who is a better rapper, they have left the arena empty for female empowerment. The fighting has forced the masses to pick sides, and as a result, crowds have pit the two artists against each other. Fans and non-fans alike have compared their bars, sales, and reputations and used this as a tool to tear them down.

Back in the 90s, there was a strong unity between female rappers. They coexisted with each other, often sharing the stage. In 1994, Lil’ Kim released “Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix),” which was a testimate to it; the song featured Missy Elliott, Angie Martinez, Da Brat, and Lisa Lopes, all of who were amazing female rappers. Thinking back, this was a landmark moment in hip-hop history that celebrated females in a male dominated industry. It’s something that’s not apparent in today’s rap landscape despite the fact that we have a vast amount of female rappers who are in the spotlight, but not supportive of each other. This goes to show that now more than ever, rap is in a state where it needs more female empowerment, especially since the last big female rap reunion song was released more than twenty years ago.

“LMK (What’s Really Good Remix)” is the solution to our long awaited call for female empowerment: the song brings together some of the most polarizing and demanding figures in rap today who celebrate each other to deliver an anthem. The ladies call out the men who exploit them when picking them up, telling listeners how someone should pick them up. The song reads well in the club or on a tinder profile. With that said, it’s the girls night out we’ve all been waiting for. These ladies build up their attitudes and agenda, spitting slick raps and verses along a smooth and slick rework of the original “LMK.” They all show their best moments with Junglepussy leading the way with a killer verse: Junglepussy teases whoever might pursue her or not, taunting, “You could sleep on me but then you’ll see me in your dreams / You will never leave me, you my BRB / You’ll be back crawlin’ right back on your ashy knees like please.” Then it turns to the other girls, with Princess Nokia rapping “Will you let me know if you’re riding with?”, CupcakKe demanding that she’s not “looking for Cupid,” and Ms. Boogie stating, “I make the rules so they obey me.” These girls push the most powerful messages and call out the issues surrounding female empowerment across all platforms, not only that, but they push this message together. For a rap crisis, “LMK (What’s Really Good Remix)” saves the day.

All The Work

New Music, Singles August 5, 2018

(Written by Miguel Anderson)

The subject of loss is nothing new to Amber Mark. Her debut EP, 3:33AM was an ode to it. The EP focused on her sorrowful emotions and journey coping with her mother’s death. Just like 3:33AM focuses on loss, so does her latest EP, Conexão. Conexão centers around a relationship that started off with high hopes but eventually failed. However, rather than concentrate on the grief and sulk in the loss it brought, Conexão shifts focus to the victory Amber finds to embrace after fully coming to terms with her loss. The track “All The Work,” full of groove and spunk from her latest, exemplifies this victorious feeling.

“All The Work,” embedded in sophisticated loose cuts of house and bossa nova, is Amber pushing past personal boundaries that have kept her silent and instead, offers a different narrative to her music that is eager to be heard. She flaunts her pain created by her ex and turns it into courage that allows the listener to engage with her story. From the beginning of the song, Amber makes it clear that she has been hurt, cooing, “I have cried many miles worth of tears / Damn well tried, I gave up all these years.” Then, the house beat kicks in, letting her newfound bravery unfold. Amber sings, “Now that I, I put in all the work / Down in all the dirt / You want to try, to say that you and I / Should get back to how we were.”

Here, Amber is simply reminding him of all the work she has done to uphold the relationship, and now that the relationship is in danger, he wants her back, to which Amber replies, “I’ve moved on.” The punchy percussion aids her story and grants her to lay down her unpleasant experience in the relationship with authority and force. The beat adds emotion to the words where you can feel the intensity of her displeasure. She channels victory with these words, her realization, puts her on the opposite side where she is no longer being mistreated, instead now she is empowered by her words. This feeling of empowerment is the best aspect of the song, as it allows the listener to let go of all the bad that has happened and enjoy what they have achieved on their own. Amber does it too, In the final phase of the song, she lets the hammer fall down singing, “All of a sudden, I’m all you need.” This being the outro to Conexão, represents how things have changed since the start of her unhealthy one-sided relationship. She speaks with unforgiving confidence from now on, no longer miserable. Letting go of him, she allows herself and the listener to partake in her success and endurance.


Listen to Conexão here.



New Music, Singles July 12, 2018

(Photo by Roger Gallegos)

(Written by Ashley Flamenco)

Sara King has been posting covers on YouTube for over 4 years now, covering music by artists like Lana Del Rey, Brockhmapton, and Gus Dapperton. But at last, at 18 years old, she has released original music, making quite an impressive single, “Dreamz,” on her very first go. And this is just one of the tunes from her upcoming EP, Heat, that is set to come out later this July.

The influence of some of her favorite musicians is definitely apparent on the track. The song is kind of like a mix of Clairo, who she’s covered on her channel before, and Katzu Oso with a touch of Kali Uchis and a bit of glitter thrown on top. Heavy synth and soft ethereal vocals give “Dreamz” a quite magical, (unsurprisingly) “dreamy,” and disco-ey pop sound and her sweet personality shines through, creating a joyful mood. As Sara hoped for, this is surely a bop, one that you’ll want to groove to and have on repeat all summer (I know I will). Keep your eyes (or ears) peeled for more of her summery bops coming your way.

Make sure to check out her covers here


New Music, Singles June 6, 2018

(Written by Miguel Anderson)

As LOONA (stylized as LOOΠΔ) continues to solidify themselves as K-Pop’s most talented acts who have the presence and ability to compete in the fast-paced and saturated industry, they continue to distinguish themselves amid the competition.

It’s known that K-Pop is a fast-paced business. Companies spew out a catchy song along with a heavily choreographed dance to a group each month, so little time is taken out towards creating a quality song. However recently, LOONA has been breaking this routine, or at least moving past the ever so basic pop song. You can date this to the start of LOONA’s debut process, where each girl of the 12-member group has released an amazing song that veers past a catchy melody every month. Each song, true to the identity and character of each girl, shows its powerful abilities in singing and rapping. The songs come fully equipped with top notch vocals, amazing productions, and aesthetic visuals that go beyond what the K-Pop industry has been accepting for the past decade.

“love4eva” by their sub-unit LOONA yyxy is no different from this. The unit, consisting of Yves, Olivia Hye, Chuu, GoWon has made a joyful splash into the K-Pop world with the help of experimental pop artist Grimes. It’s fitting that Grimes and LOONA have collaborated together. Both artists have created their own distinctive musical worlds that elevate each of their sound and style and they seem to fit perfectly with each other through this collaboration. Grimes helps introduce the girls into their “sweet” feelings and set the tone for the bubbly track as they analyze love’s emotions with confusion and ambition. “Love4eva” explodes with colorful synths and carries an energetic bouncy beat which is finally aided by an EDM dance break definitely inspired by Grimes’ experimental style. Having E-Tribe hands in production, the duo has churned out a cute tune for the girls that sounds both lively and classic, completing the debut process for each of the girls and introducing LOONA yyxy to the world.



Albums/EPs, New Music April 25, 2018

(Photos by Nick Knight)

(Written by Louis Cano)

While many album reviews come out almost instantly, I decided to take my time with this one so I could dive into the universe Kali Uchis crafted with her debut album, Isolation. After taking my time with it, I’d be upset if Uchis doesn’t become a household name soon because Isolation isn’t your average debut album. It stands out amongst other debut albums with its poetic lyrics, ethereal melodies, and outstanding production. Alongside those factors, she has a great line up of features such as Steve Lacy, Jorja Smith, Tyler, The Creator, BIA, Reykon, and Bootsy Collins.

The moment you hit play, you’re uncaptured into Uchis’ world with a blissful intro, Body Language, it gives you a Bossa Nova vibe which isn’t something you hear in music often today. The song makes you feel like you’re on the beach in Miami with a cocktail in your hand and a blunt in the other. Which is ironic because the song fades into Miami which features the Perico Princess, BIA. It’s a mix between 80s and a trap beat. This is the type of song you play in the car (preferably a low rider) with your friends, “las cabrónsitas,” on your way to a party. The song has a similar concept to “Ridin’ Round,” making that bag and not needing anyone to reach the “land of opportunities and palm trees.” Just like RR, this is a bad bitch anthem.

Miami then transitions into Just a Stranger which features The Internet’s, Steve Lacy. Romil from BROCKHAMPTON worked alongside Lacy to produce the track. Uchis and Lacy have collaborated in the past (Only Girl) so it was really nice to get another collab from them. The song basically revolves around surviving in a universe full of hateful and judgmental assholes. “Go and say what you want, you are just a stranger. Watching from the bleachers ’cause you can’t take the danger,” these people constantly criticize Uchis for how she’s making her money but would never be capable of doing the things she’s done for it. In the song you can tell that she has no time for love and that her main priority is success and making it to the top while still being able to have some fun here and there.


You know when you’re madly in love with your vato to the point where nothing else in the world matters as long as you’re together? That’s Flight 22 for you. “And baby we’re not gonna make it, at least I’m going down with you.” It’s a soulful track Uchis wrote about the time Yung Gleesh and her met at the airport. In 2015, the demo was accidentally uploaded with a few other demos on Soundcloud. Having heard it back then you can hear how much more production and instruments were added, it’s sounds whole. Her love for this man is unconditional and regardless what her friends say, she’ll continue to be with him because they share a love so powerful.

One of the songs many fans were itching to hear was Your Teeth In My Neck. Uchis has played it numerous of times at her shows and it’s so good to finally hear the studio version. After hearing it, it feels more mellow but still up-tempo, compared to hearing the live version. Towards the end of the song there is a beautiful breakdown where her vocals magically clash with some mesmerizing ad libs. The song that follows is Uchis’ first single off the album, Tyrant featuring British singer, Jorja Smith. This song came out last year while we transitioned into summer which was intelligent because then we had a summer bop. The song gave us a small peek into the universe Uchis crafting with this album.

The next song really caught my attention with its bold lyrics and hyper-rhythmic beat. Dead To Me captures the complexity of dealing with someone who can’t seem to get your name out of their mouth, no matter how much you block them out, they can’t seem to grasp the concept of them being non-existent to you. It then transitions to the second single off the album, Nuestro Planeta, featuring Colombian rapper Reykon. Hearing an artist embrace their culture through music is always delightful, especially when Uchis does it because she knows how to execute it well. I remember back to when the song was released and there was a fair percentage of people who didn’t understand a word she was singing but they didn’t care because they were still able to vibe to the song which is why NP is so special. The song is even more special because she was able to do a video for it in her home country, Colombia. Just like in Ridin’ Round she was able to display some essence of Colombia in the video while adding her own spice to it.

In My Dreams, this song caught me off guard because it sounded different then everything before it. Before Isolation came out she had said that it’d be a mix of genres which is correct but I never imagined a song like this on the album. Somehow it seemed to fit perfectly with the other tracks. How? While it may have been a whole different sound, it was still her. It’s very 8-bit futuristic song with deep lyrics about not wanting to wake up from her own utopia that was created within a dream. “Every day is a holiday when you’re living inside your dreams. Why would anyone stay awake after being so sound asleep?” It’s like, why face reality when everything is so much better and calm in your sleep? Damon Albarn who produced the song, later chimes in with “the moments we are happiest, are the moments that we don’t exist.” It’s almost as if these dreams were real but you wake up and realize that it was all a blur. Ironically, the next song is Gotta Get Up (Interlude). It’s like a continuation to In My Dreams because she sings about the struggle of getting up because everything seemed so picture perfect in her dreams but it’s getting tiring sleeping in all the time. She wants to find herself something worthy of her getting up. Something real. I will also say that this is a great example of what an interlude should sound like. I’ve heard many that sound more like unfinished songs that were cut short to fill up an album but Uchis was able to keep it short and beautifully minimal.

Another one of my personal favorites is Tomorrow, it was produced by Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker. It’s a very psychedelic and soulful song about setting yourself free from reality and all the hopelessness you’re feeling, no matter what repercussions may follow, you gotta just go for it and never look back. The outro is hypnotic and mesmerizing. Uchis urges her lover to come along with her because she doesn’t plan on going back but she assures him that they’ll be together forever. “Las horas se me hacen siglos aquí, dame un beso que me dure una eternidad porque nunca voy a regresar, nunca. Te invito si quieres, y como un cometa en el cielo, nos quemaremos juntos.” 


Listening to “Coming Home (Interlude)” it felt like she’s singing about facing reality and realizing that no matter what you do, there will always be people who are going to harshly criticize you and you can’t do much about it but move along and not let them phase you. As we come close to finishing the album we make one more familiar pit stop when After The Storm starts playing. It’s the third single off the album and it features Tyler, The Creator and Bootsy Collins. Every time Uchis and Tyler have come together for a song, it always comes out being a banger. They’re both beyond creative individuals so they always end up creating eccentric and invigorating music. This song is a very “pick me up” anthem, she encourages listeners to never give up regardless of how stressful and dreading their situation may seem, they can overcome anything if they just try hard enough.

Feel Like a Fool. My god. The jazzy soulful instruments, lush vocals, and heartfelt lyrics constructed a work of art. Listening to this song was an emotional rollercoaster with the meaning behind the song and Amy Winehouse vibe I got from it. Uchis sings about her discovering her lover has been cheating on her and how much it’s hurt her. “I can’t look, closed my eyes. Can’t believe it could look in mine.” Despise the unfaithfulness she can’t seem to let him go which makes her Feel Like a Fool because she knows she could be doing better but there’s something about this lover that has got her hooked.

Closing the album out is Killer, another one of my personal favorites. Now this is another song Uchis played live at her shows and it’s also one of the very first songs she wrote for the album. The production behind this song is sonically pleasing and simply astonishing. In this song Kali sings about a lover who’s truly hurt her and destroyed the future they could’ve created together. “And if you loved me, you would never do this. Our future’s battered and bloody, you’re so fucking ruthless.” While the tone of her vocals are soft, it feels almost as if she’s angry with this lover for all the damage they caused which is why she calls them a Killer.

Kali Uchis has truly outdone herself with this album and it just excites me for what is next to come. While she has put out 2 other projects in the past, it feels like this is still only the beginning of her journey.

Pack your bags, buy Isolation, and never look back.

My Dear Melancholy,

Albums/EPs, New Music April 14, 2018
(Written by Miguel Anderson)

My Dear Melancholy, gives us a piece of what The Weekend once was, almost going back to the mystery man synonymous with Abel Tesfaye. This album uncovers the pop-facade that Abel has been hiding under and along the way, reveals secrets.

Since The Weeknd landed a spot as one of the biggest pop stars in recent history, his evolution from explicit R&B singer to pop star has been somewhat disastrous; dead ends and false hopes have pervaded his growth at almost every turn. This route started when he first popped up onto the scene with his three mixtapes that presented a bruised world surrounding themes of drug use, lustful experiences, and self-hate. Soon after this, false hopes start to appear on his debut, Kiss Land. It was a lackluster performance, considering that the Weeknd pursued a topic typical for a debut, as most of it revolved around the idea that fame changed things. Although his breakout produced some of his best work released as The Weeknd, like “Tell Your Friends,” it also produced his most pop-formulaic songs, such as “Can’t Feel My Face” and “In The Night.” Lastly, On Starboy, his persona fully transformed and so did his sound; it was now fully studded with an electro-R&B flair and this is where it suffered the most, a major pitfall for conforming to pop’s electronic infatuation.

Despite the disappointing change he made on StarboyMy Dear Melancholy, marks a move towards darker sounds and opens the door for a more vulnerable narrative, and in The Weeknd’s case, it marks a change for the better, a change that still manages to keep The Weeknd at his most interesting. The truth is that, The Weeknd didn’t soar to extraordinary heights on Starboy where he went full fledged into his newly refined R&B-electronic image. My Dear Melancholy, lets us know that the extraordinary heights that he put in place on Beauty Behind the Madness and in the Trilogy series are still in reach and the reaches towards those heights sound amazing on this album.

The Weeknd picks up where he left off on Beauty Behind The Madness, continuing to deliver his dark bruised world. However, what makes My Dear Melancholy, different is the fact that so much emotion and vulnerability is poured onto this breakup album. It sounds perfect for post-breakup sulk and relief, given that the album comes flooding with dark brooding synths and many pleas as he sulks in regret and realization. “Call Out My Name,” sets the scene for the album: The Weeknd is in a battle with himself, finding himself having to either indulge in past pleasures or move onto better things. He fights with his regrets, as he delivers several emotion packed punches and belts of notes, stating “You gave me comfort / But falling for you was my mistake,” over a sample of “Earned It,” that gathers intensity until he reaches his breaking point eventually pouring out: “So call out my name / Call Out my name when I kiss you so gently / I want you to stay.” “Try Me” sees Abel begging for acceptance after the two have parted ways; it may sound like a call to a fight, but it’s a call to home instead. He pleads with his ex to leave her current partner to “try him” one more time. Abel then moves past the relationship and accepts his regrets, sorrows, and states his goodbyes throughout the songs “Wasted Times,” “I Was Never There,” and “Privilege.” These three stand out as the most emotional in The Weeknd’s career and reintroduce his cloudy dark sound along with his vulnerable narrative. They embrace his past of substance abuse and his ominous production and you see Abel confront his feelings for the first time. “Wasted Times” sees The Weeknd starting to accept his regrets. Abel sings about substance abuse on “I Was Never There,” even acknowledging the use of it to ease the pain, stating “So, I posion myself again, again / ‘Til I feel nothing.” Finally, on “Privilege,” Abel states his goodbye by addressing the relationship first hand and how he is going to forget about it — he gives his action plan: “and I’ma fuck the pain away, and I know I’ll be okay,” coming to the conclusion that maybe love isn’t for him afterall.

Although My Dear Melancholy, is not a complete 180 turn around, nor so innovative as the Trilogy series, it does serve it’s justice putting him back right before his electro-studded Starboy, on the route where The Weeknd is at his most interesting. The outcome of it all is a cloudy emotional album that concludes that The Weeknd sounds best when he has experienced the worst.


Albums/EPs, New Music February 18, 2018

(Photo from Atlantic Records)

(Written by Ashley Flamenco)

Crush is the R&B romance-filled work of soulful singer Ravyn Lenae and executive producer Steve Lacy. The record was released right on time, just a few days before Valentine’s Day.  It’s the perfect music to listen to, not only on the Day of Love but, if you’re in an amorous mood or in your “feels.” The collection of love ballads include Ravyn’s wide-ranged vocals and Steve’s groovy instrumentals, running through all the different types of love and relationships one can have and the passionate emotions felt in each of them.

The EP begins with its first and only single, “Sticky,” a song centering around one being glued to and unable to step away from a partner who treats them badly. This is otherwise known as a toxic relationship, which Ravyn describes as “sticky-icky.” The track is introduced by a hooking glide of a keyboard that is eventually accompanied by lo-fi guitar riffs that are obviously the work of Steve Lacy. Containing a disco-esque vibe and high-pitched vocals, “Sticky” is the most upbeat song on the record.

“Closer (Ode 2 U)” describes the feelings of infatuation that often come before a relationship and displays what it’s like to crush hard on someone and may be referring to the innocent puppy love that is typically felt among adolescents. The track is joined by sensual sounding guitar and contains a lot of passionate “woooos” and “whys” where Ravyn questions why she feels this burning “love.”

“Computer Luv,” one of two songs on the EP that feature Steve’s vocals, is about an intimate online long-distance relationship; both partners long to see and be with each other but at the same time question whether their feelings are true since the two have yet to meet in person. The two sing “when will I meet you/ I’m down to see you/ I wanna see you right now” in unison — their yearning and desire for each other are felt deeply through the Ravyn and Steve’s soft and passionate singing. Ending off  “Computer Luv” is a heartfelt voicemail from Ravyn’s online lover.


Contrary to other tracks on the record that discuss relationships between two people, “The Night Song,” is a wonderful ode to the most important relationship: the relationship with yourself. It explores the fact that one’s happiness shouldn’t be relied upon someone else, as it explores being single and being content with oneself: “I wanna be no one but me/ And all I really need is my own company,” making “The Night Song” a sweet serenade to oneself.

The EP ends with “4 Leaf Clover,” where Ravyn and Steve sing back and forth to each other. The two converse, opening up about feelings of jealousy, fears of commitment and possibly ruining their close friendship. One partner trusts that a romantic relationship is meant to be between the them meanwhile, the other believes that it can only go wrong.

Whether you’re deeply infatuated with someone else or simply yourself, Crush, an affectionate work of art infused with passionate singing and funky yet amorous instrumentals, is a great record to listen to. And with both artists seemingly having similar visions with their sounds, Crush, although only consisting of 5 songs, has proven Ravyn Lenae and Steve Lacy to be a perfect duo.




Albums/EPs, New Music December 9, 2017

(Written by Miguel Anderson)

Björk is back with her “tinder” record that is a wound in the process of recovering. She is full of hope and newfound love, a departure from Vulnicura, the breakup record which marked the end of the inspiring (and die-hard) Vespertine era and her relationship with Matthew Barney. She starts anew on Utopia, inspired, optimistic, and hopeful for the future.

In 2001, Björk released Vespertine, an album that was a showcase of her strong-willed love for her then-new marriage with Matthew Barney. Vespertine captured the intimacies of love (“Pagan Poetry” & “Cocoon”) and covered the emotions felt being in love (“It’s Not Up To You” & “Hidden Place”) in lush expression and lyrical value. She sang with passionate raw emotion, sometimes describing explicitly what physicalities and emotions drew this special feeling. One could say that this is the Björk that was passionately in love. Now fast forward to 2015, to the breakup album Vulnicura. We see Björk take on themes of melancholy, sorrow, and sentiment as she recalls this breakup. She describes in prolific detail about it, taking note of every event and feeling covered that leads to the eventual split, including wanting to salvage the relationship once lost & questioning (“Stonemilker” & “Lionsong”), the final moments of intimacy (“History of Touches”), the dismantle of the family & rage felt (“Black Lake” & “Family”), and the confront of the sorrow and split altogether (“Notget”). She even added production play where the listener could hear the breakdown of the relationship with glitch-pop and swift changes in instrumentation, as tempos pick up and slow down again to display the intense emotions felt. This album single-handedly ended the Vespertine era, which was about love and lust, and was now overthrown by Vulnicura, an emotional plague of depression that opened a bittersweet wound full of gloom.


Now, Björk is facing utopia. Her open-chested wound has started to heal and transform into optimism, assurance, and hope. She is inspired, in love, an admirer and no longer in distraught. The first tracks of the album showcase an ode, one to display how far the wound has healed, giving off splendor, warmth, and love. Harps, light flute melodies, colorful grandeur synths, and vibrant animal noises cover every corner of Utopia to back up the song with vibrant colors and soaring sounds. Explosive splendor synths, chiseled cymbal paradiddles, and a mystical harp arrangement set the stage on “Arisen My Senses,” and for the rest of Utopia. “Just that kiss…” Björk sings in melody, “Was all there is.” she sings with a breathe, a song about the realization of love to all her senses. “The Gate”, “Utopia”, and “Body Memory” shows Björk for all what Utopia is at this moment, her wound healed. They find her at her best, assured and able to love again. “Features Creatures” calls Björk regaining her ability to love again once lost, bringing her sexuality and attraction to the front.

As the wound is continuing to recover, Björk still hurts. Darkness and the same breaks of glitch-pop and swift changes in instrumentation arise on Utopia. “Courtship” leads the listener up to this darkness, acting as a grand transition from the light & airy to the dark & suffered. It’s a fast tempo track with only a little air time to ventilate recalling her time with Barney once again as she did on Vulnicura. Themes of darkness then build out further on “Losss” and “Sue Me” as the past relationship with her ex still haunts her. Lyrics on these tracks take on themes of sentiment, assertiveness, and universal truth. “We all are struggling, just doing our best / We’ve gone through the grinder, suffered loss.” Björk sings on “Losss,” directly talking about the past detrimental Vulnicura. However, as Vulnicura and Barney hurt her so, she asserts herself in “Sue Me” finally regaining ground as she is no longer hurt. She demands Matthew, through a custody battle for their daughter Isadora, integrity and maturity; to step up to the plate to a fight she does not wish to take part in. She is found at her most vulnerable, the most powerful.


In the last final tracks of Utopia, Björk’s wounds have healed. She finds her utopia and shares her final hope for the future. Her utopia is revealed through her intricate relationship with music and nature; essential callings Björk has made clear album to album. Then, on “Future Forever,” a delicate ending, Björk shares a utopia where we can all take part in and does this using glimmery synths and organ-like chords to back her up, a future with endless possibilities. “Imagine a future and be in it.” she wisps calmly, forming her dream. A future that we can look forward to if we believe in it so, it can come true she forms. This pushes us to be optimistic and forward-thinking; Björk’s true wish.

Take Me Apart

Albums/EPs, New Music October 12, 2017

(Written by Miguel Anderson)

Kelela’s debut, Take Me Apart, puts her at the front of developing a new sound of R&B. The production of this album is sharply stunning and innovative while Kelela shines with her ability to flow and sing among this beautiful new cutting edge landscape while going in depth about the complexities and intimacies of love and loss with an unapologetic and confident approach.

In 2015, when Kelela released Hallucinogen, she set her eyes on a very undiscovered and uncharted sound which can be described as “futuristic.” The sound is emotionally evoking, heart-racing, and relies on experimental and electronic elements such as synths, layered vocals, and erratic drum beats, a nod to producer Arca. This new venture in sound set Hallucinogen to be her most daring release.

Now, on her 2017 debut, Take Me Apart, she continues to develop this sound by opening up the futuristic style to a variety of sounds. Offering different melodies, tempos, and multiple perspectives and outlooks on a relationship, other than only providing one as she did with Hallucinogen. She continues to cover the topics of relationships, love, and loss, but exceeds the expectation set by Hallucinogen and emphasizes those topics more with her newly regained unapologetic and confident attitude.

With this regained nature, Kelela is honest and isn’t afraid to cut to the chase. She’s assertive, sensuous, and bold– all which adds to Kelela’s delivery and her narrative. This is a motif that pervades Take Me Apart and it’s especially evident on tracks such as “Frontline,” “LMK,” and “Enough.” On the intro track, “Frontline,” Kelela sets the scene for the motif and the whole album. She is unapologetic in her delivery as she speaks of letting someone go with no regrets. “There’s a place you hold I left behind, I’m finished / Since you took your time, you should know why I’m quitting” she chillingly sings. In an added effort, she is bold when she goes back to her conscious and questions the relationship. “Why are you testing me / No, no, no, I’m not the one.” She warns with a sense of empowerment. At the end of the song, she revs up the engine and eventually drives away– symbolizing Kelela moving on as she leaves him behind. On the album’s lead single, “LMK,” Kelela builds on top this motif by adding a sense of sensuality as she sets the standards for one night stands and is blunt. She ambitiously pushes her agenda, letting the listener know she won’t let a mixed signal ruin her night. “I saw your eyes fall right past my waist, so let me know / I ain’t gonna wait if you hesitate, so let me know / I don’t wait for nothin’, baby.”

Even when the situation changes and Kelela is vulnerable, her confidence does not lessen. She continues to sing with dignity. In “Bluff” Kelela discusses a relationship where her partner is claiming to leave her. “I’m gonna prove you wrong / I’m calling your bluff”– she asserts these lyrics as she dares her partner to leave, shifting the two from the helplessness they feel in their relationship to a place where she challenges her partner.

On tracks like “Frontline,” “Take Me Apart,” and “Blue Light” the production is precisely futuristic. You hear this in the industrial, acute, glitchy, and innovative queues from Jam City– a new producer on Kelela’s team. On Take Me Apart Jam City produces tracks where the production is inevitably chilling and sharp and executions hit their mark perfectly. For example, look at how the executions are hit when the chorus unwraps Kelela’s chilling strong vocals on “Frontline,” “Take Me Apart,” “Blue Light,” it explodes with precise glitchy and flowy synths which build on each other to make a grandeur effect.

A contrast from the progressive wave of this album is that we get a style from Kelela that is reminiscent of 90’s R&B. By this, I am reminded of the late Aaliyah. On the light track “Altadena,” she utilizes this style to construct a meaningful track that lets her vocals flows easily with production and to the everyday listener; maximizing accessibility which is one of the key factors to this album’s appeal. This style, remnant of the 90’s, is achieved by layering Kelela’s soft vocals, giving a luxurious and warm harmonizing effect. She uses the same layered vocals to create a great fallback on “Truth Or Dare” and on the bridge of “Take Me Apart,” tracks that are modern but also honor the past.

I applaud Kelela’s set of producers on Take Me Apart. She’s able to create more for the futuristic sound by creating accessible tracks such as “LMK” and “Altadena”; Kelela is offering music that reaches every tempo but can fit into the boundary of this new sound she so indefinitely developed; there are club tracks, songs that are easy enough to play in the bedroom, and some that are perfect for a nice night drive. This is a mark which she missed on Hallucinogen but executed it perfectly on a debut album, showcasing where she is in the moment of contemporary R&B and her skillset.

From beginning to end, this album is a masterpiece. It perfectly showcases Kelela’s vision as an artist, which few can even capture on a debut album. It a nod to 90’s R&B, the future genres, and captures the present with a collection of iridescent tracks that transcend all these barriers. Its an honest narrative about the complexities and intimacies of love, lust, and loss with judgment peeled off. The album is passionate, Kelela sings with melodic coos and breathy stops switching off and on between strong and soft vocals while she keeps you on the edge of your seat with precise, stunning, and high definition production that evokes so much emotion. On this record, Kelela is bold. She lets you know how she feels and isn’t embarrassed if she comes off as vulnerable.


Soft Sounds from Another Planet

Albums/EPs, New Music August 11, 2017

(Written by Ashley Flamenco)

“Soft Sounds from Another Planet” is, indie pop artist, Japanese Breakfast’s exquisitely dark and vulnerable recent work.

The album opens with “Diving Woman,” a song referring to a tradition in Korea where women dive underwater to catch their food, used as a way of metaphorically diving into the album.

Japanese Breakfast’s first album, “Psychopomp,” was written after Michelle Zauner’s mother passed away from cancer, documenting the trauma she experienced after her mother’s death including the vast amount of grief she dealt with. Making music has been a way for her to cope. “Soft Sounds from Another Planet” follows “Psychopomp” and takes us through her healing process while still addressing the topics of grief and death that are especially prominent in “Til Death,” a gloomy lullaby where she sings “Haunted dreams, stages of grief/ Repressed memories/ Anger and bargaining.”

The first few songs off the album are then followed by an interlude called “Planetary Ambiance” which sounds exactly like what you’d expect from the song based off the title that continues along with the spacey theme of the whole record that was interestingly, inspired by the Mars One Project.


This new record has a very 90s alternative pop-rock sound that’s reminiscent of bands like Mazzy Star and The Cranberries. And it helps that Michelle Zauner has a voice that sounds so much like the singer’s of Mazzy Star, adding to the similarities between the two’s music. The wavy guitar chords she plays such as in “12 Steps” also might remind you of guitar riffs that are often used by the grunge band Hole. If you’re a 90s alt-rock fan, this is especially for you.

After a few listens, I’ve grown to really love and appreciate this project. This is some of the most personal and intimate work I’ve listened to but it’s beautifully vulnerable in a way that has taught to me to appreciate life a little more.