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Est. 2005



"White Snow"
from the single White Snow


The components of this song are simple: the hollow pitter-patter of a percussive riff. Criminally laid-back swirls of synth. The grounding pulse of a beat, and relaxed vocals that settle on the track like pillowy drifts of its namesake. The way that CHPLN combines these elements in "White Snow," however, elevates this song from a handful of pretty fluff into a well-balanced experiment in chilled-out electro-pop where the rich mood of piece eclipses any obtuse lyrics.

So who's behind this song, which has found its way onto international airwaves despite the band's lack of promotion? CHPLN (pronounced "Chaplin" and indeed named after the silent movie actor) is Dali Bor and Pippo Vari, childhood friends from the south of London who call their genre "multipop." And while the duo may not have released enough material to provide a good feel for their range, there's no question that they've found their niche: textured electronic fare that's warm enough to thaw even the most stubborn winter.


First Aid Kit

"My Silver Lining"
from the album Stay Gold


The world was first treated to the pairing of First Aid Kit and Bright Eyes’ Mike Mogis in 2012 with the release of their second album, The Lion’s Roar. Mogis’ bells and whistles paired with the sisters’ voices were complementary in a way that could only be matched by an Animal Planet special feature. Yes, true beauty came out of First Aid Kit’s sophomore album, but the tracks tended to echo one another. One finished the album with something to be desired, and it wasn’t another homage to Joni Mitchell.

What The Lion’s Roar lacked seems to be there in the duo’s upcoming third album, Stay Gold, to be released June 10. Their pre-released single, “My Silver Lining,” is a neon sign pointing in the right direction — meeting at the crossroads of folk, pop, and ‘60s rock ‘n’ roll, “My Silver Lining” promises good things to come.

The most striking parts of the standout tracks lie in the strings: The Omaha Symphony Orchestra provides a hopeful and persistent harmony underneath the Soderburgs' angelic voices. They tackle issues of regret and the drive that keeps them above their worries, but still the song could soundtrack a Maserati ad, speeding in slow motion through the south-west’s vast deserts. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.


Jamie xx

"Sleep Sound"
from the single Sleep Sound


Those familiar with Jamie Smith more often than not recognize his stage name due to its ties to popular Brit-electronica trio The xx. The group has risen from relative obscurity to almost celebrity-like status since releasing their debut LP, xx, almost five years ago. Certainly they deserve the success; the album pervaded so many demographics with its simple melody constructs and highly emotional love lyrics, making it one of the decade's best-produced records. Yet, it's unfortunate for Jamie xx as a producer that his band's work overshadows his own.

A product of the same London high school as a handful of legendary British electronic musicians (Four Tet, Burial, and Hot Chip to name a few), he's developed an uncanny ability to combine the most polarizing sounds to create cohesive tunes. This was especially on his 2011 genre-bending tape, We're New Here, where he somehow combined Gil-Scott Heron's celebrated spoken word with his own production that ranges from electronically twisted steel drums to post-dubstep. It's a project that cemented his place in the United Kingdom's DJ scene but went largely unnoticed by his American audience. Hell, I'm not even sure most people realize he produced a large part of Drake's second studio LP, Take Care.

"Sleep Sound" is a collective hybrid of Jamie's more recent output. It has the vocal samples that resemble those of xx chanteuse, Romy Croft, while containing the heavily dubbed feeling found on more experimental tracks like "Far Nearer." This track heavily borrows from the 2-step movement, but Jamie injects his own personality to make "Sleep Sound" an instant hit. It's truly a shame he doesn't release more solo work, yet the time gap makes us savor and revel in these sparse moments.


Future Islands

"Seasons (Waiting on You)"
from the album Singles


Future Islands is finally having its Cinderella moment. Their fourth album, Singles, is a head turner, and well-deserved one at that. After their storied performance on Late Show with David Letterman, they could have played the role of Fairy Godmother as well — the song at the center of that performance, “Seasons (Waiting on You),” is downright amazing. It’s all pop and grunge, melodramatic and sincere, gorgeous and grotesque. It brings together the contradictions that make up our lives, or at least those of us on the more emotional part of the spectrum.

In most live performances of “Seasons,” frontman Samuel T. Herring holds his hand to the sky during the words “as it rains,” gazing mournfully on an uplifted and unknown object invisible to everyone but him. The simple gesture embodies the genius of the song itself—cartoonish in its romance, it is a track that yearns for a particular love while accepting the passing of time. Future Islands have tightened up their sound in a way that brings their sharp synth-pop to the forefront and showcases their talent in the best of ways: no evil step-mother in sight.


The Black Keys

from the album Turn Blue


Everyone's favorite alt-rock duo The Black Keys is back with their first release in three years, set to drop next month. After a bizarre marketing ploy involving a Mike Tyson tweet and several mysterious YouTube teasers, they let loose the first single off the new album.

"Fever" is a definite twist on the classic Black Keys sound, which has become very recognizable over their past seven albums. The song has a lighter, poppier feel than most fans are used to and it skips along at a constant level, never reaching above a dull roar. Driven by a prominent electro riff, the track introduces new synthetic instrumentation to the band's traditionally guitar- and drum-based sound. With a curveball like this, there's no knowing what's in store for us on the rest of the album. I can't say I'm not excited, though.



"Water Fountain"
from the album Nikki Nack


Merill Garbus, the tUnE-yArDs mastermind, makes music in a world of its own. Garbusville (lol, just a goofy name I thought to call her world, lol) is a world where ramshackle African rhythms, gnarly basslines and soulful, dynamic vocals are fused for an at times jarring, at times sweet sound. But, whether it's discordant, harmonious, or both, tUnE-yArDs' music is almost always compelling.

"Water Fountain," the first single off forthcoming album Nikki Nack, finds tUnE-yArDs at fullll throttle. Garbus has one of the most unique, powerful voices in music today (think female Dave Longstreth) and she makes full use of it on the track, jumping everywhere from a gentle croon to soulful yelp.

While "Water Fountain" is probably not tUnE-yArDs strongest single to date, it's still a fun listen. Where previous tUnE-yArDs songs used dissonance as an advantage, to amplify powerful bits or provide counterpoint to Garbus' sweeter melodies, "Water Fountain" nearly overdoes the dissonance. The spastic track flows from section to section, while Garbus laments, "No water in the water fountain, no phone in the phone booth." It may not be a tUnE-yArDs classic, but "Water Fountain" shows Garbus experimenting with new sounds (more synths and drum machines than usual) and of course the new album will probably be great.

UPDATE: The second Nikki Nack single, "Wait for a Minute," just dropped and it's awesome.

Nikki Nack is out May 6 on 4AD.


"Devil on My Shoulder"
from the EP Epiphany


D/C's debut single, "Devil on My Shoulder," is a beautiful ode to the saving moments of satisfaction that can be found buried within the prolific genre of unsatisfied youth. Simple, stripped down, and to the point, the floating listlessness of the track is completely justified by the young Londoner's clear raw musical talent. Classically trained, A/C uses the cello to create a melodic foundation before mixing it with modern pop styling.

The accepting sense of sadness in the song that saturates the song opens with the lines:

"I am a son of anarchy,
There's no way of stopping me
Run the streets with nowhere to go
Society won't ever let me go”

Though the lyrics describe aimlessness, they hit an emotional bulls eye of sorts. D/C poignantly uses lines that could be found in a "We Are Young"-type anthem in a song ("There's no way of stopping me") where the tone cuttingly reminds us that we are participants in the very society we claim we to undermine in our nights of revelry and high energy declarations of freedom. Throughout the course of the song, the speaker seems to struggle with a sense of individual identity that is at times in contention with the inevitably of his age and circumstances. "No matter where I've been / you always think I come from sin... I was born good, I swear I tried." The result is a thoughtful, frustrated, and ultimately important piece of music.



"Way With Words"
from the EP Way With Words


Whether listening to Mideau’s (mid-oh) few released tracks, reading their interviews, or browsing their Kickstarter page, ever-present is warm blanket of charm. Unlike many independent artists seeking to garner an audience by shrouding themselves in mystery and intrigue, Mideau is contently grounded in a vein of transparency and beautiful simplicity. Where others market themselves as exotic entrees, Mideau is a comfort food.

The upbeat and tender “Way with Words” is headed by the Daughter-esque vocals of Libbie Linton while her co-conspirator Spencer Harrison provides the harmony and keys. Patience and intentionality are very apparent, and very appreciated, fostering eager anticipation for each next second. This thoughtful approach is at the heart of their appeal, and is equally present in other tracks, including the humble Mideau creation, Benny.

The video for “Way with Words” is pleasantly perplexing, as it contains nothing more than an expressionless, mustached man ably performing what may or may not be a premeditated dance routine.


Major Lazer feat. Pharrell Williams

"Aerosol Can"
from the EP Apocalypse Soon

BY BEN SIEGEL | Jonk Music

Is there anything Pharrell can't do?

Following a year where he helped bring Daft Punk and Robin Thicke out of irrelevancy, coax strong showings from of both Mr. and Mrs. Sean Carter on their latest albums, and give the world a 24-hour music video, real-life Benjamin Button and musical impresario Skateboard P joined forces with the equally versatile Diplo and his Major Lazer squad for an banger on the outfit's March EP, Apocalypse Soon.

Existing at the juncture of dancehall, pop, and electronic music that they built for themselves, Major Lazer's Diplo, Walshy Fire, and Jillionaire tend to operate in two lanes — they either bring dancehall/reggae/soca music into the robotic, pulsating embrace of electronic music and EDM, or add steel drums and riddim to the sounds of broader talents.

This EP has both. But while "Come On to Me" features a Sean Paul performance that brings you back to his 2005 heyday, and "Sound Bag," with soca star Machel Montano, bristles with the combined force of soca and house, Pharrell's turn is the most entertaining of the bunch.

Over the constant shake of a can, Pharrell shows he can toast with the best of them, bragging about his celebrated clothing lines ("N***a, I’m hot like the place Tuscon, BBC, Ice Cream skewed on") and joking about sounding like Eek-A-Mouse.

Just when you think he's finally blown you away, Pharrell has enough good humor and self-awareness to question his own success: "Skateboard, can a n***a make more?" (Yes.)


Sylvan Esso

from the album Sylvan Esso


There are a lot of male-female electronic duos out there. Some are good; others are bad. There's definitely a difference between the good ones and the bad ones.

Side-project-turned-day-job Sylvan Esso is one of the good ones. Composed of Mountain Man vocalist Amelia Meath and Megafaun bassist Nick Sanborn, Sylvan Esso's roots lie more in folk-rock than in bass drops. Yet upon first listen of their ear-grabbing single, "Coffee," it becomes apparent that the pair has an instinctive spark about them.

"Coffee" is simple, yet addictive. Instead of shooting for a complicated blend of bleeps and bloops, Sanborn sticks with an extremely minimal, effective beat. Meath works in similar fashion, slyly easing over Sanborn's artificial pulse more effortlessly than a barista whipping out cups of joe.

Every sonic aspect of "Coffee" signals warmth. And similar to male-female electronic duos, there's a big difference between good, warm coffee and bad coffee; you sure as heck won't find Sylvan Essos at a McCafé.