Painting pictures

Sunset___San_Francisco_Bridge_by_GAMMA303

We’ve shared this before, but I was just thinking about how I call it the sunset song, and why, and I thought I’d share again. I’m not going to describe the song, because we’ve done that already previously in a post about Robotaki, so instead I’m just going to imagine, because this is how it’s making me feel as I listen to it once again, and again, and again.

This song is best listened to watching a sunset, in the summer, in San Francisco, when the temperature is still warm and the breeze is cool; the kind of day where stepping in the shade yields chilly results, but it’s okay, because you’re on the roof of the building, and the only shade there is, is yours, fading slowly into the dimming light; and as the skies blush red and gold and the streaks of clouds flush with color, you stand at the edge of the roof, watching; watching the shadows grow long across the city, the buildings darken each other, people pull on their jackets; and in the distance, the dark blue ocean shimmers; and the sun is still glowing and you just watch it burn as it descends and you catch your breath staring.

This song is best listened to without someone there, but wishing; wishing for someone to be as caught in the radiance of the sunset as you are while the colors trickle across the sky, and as they do the two of you would intertwine your hands and hold your breaths; how nice it would be for someone to be standing there, by your side, sharing the wonder with you — but you are alone.

That’s key – the flicker of loneliness, the yearning, under the beautiful sky, as the air turns crisp and the fresh smell of night fills you up.  And as the darkness overtakes you, you wistfully turn away from the skies to retreat into the warmth and coziness of home.

Your turn – turn up your volume, sink into this song, and imagine.

A worthwhile dreamstate

yumizouma-ep2

Happy Friday everyone! Here’s a little change of pace to help you float through your weekend.

This is Yumi Zouma’s Song for Zoe & Gwen.

Yumi Zouma consists of three friends from New Zealand who now live across the world from each other: Charlie, Josh, and Kim. They’re now in New York, Paris, and Christchurch.  Not sure how they make their music, but I think making music is a wonderful excuse for a reunion (or reunions are wonderful excuses to make music).  Either way, they need to keep it up.

Their songs have a light and soft quality, a little bit of post-synthpop and a little bit of indescribable Yumi Zouma. It sounds sweet, magical. Someone else described it as organic. I’m not sure what that means when describing music, but it somehow feels right.

Song for Zoe & Gwen is a song that’s a little floaty and a little dreamy. I’m assuming Kim is the vocalist here, and she sounds like she’s singing in an almost-mystical world, where I imagine she’s gliding through a meadow and you see her as the fog parts, and she’s glowing and a little angelic.

Okay, so my imagination goes a little overboard sometimes, but trust me, it does have that magical quality.

The lyrics are a little blurred by the way Yumi Zouma produced the song, with Kim’s voice layered between the synthesizer and drums (adds to the magic a bit), but I can catch part of the chorus, which makes me fall for the song even more. She says, “Even if your dream is failing / feeling like you’ll never sleep again / there’s nothing else more worthwhile chasing / …” We all need to take this message to heart.
How many times do you see an opportunity to jump, but instead opt to take the safe route? Our generation is chasing dreams like no other, but there are times when uncertainty deters us, and it can be scary as hell.

Yumi Zouma reminds us to close our eyes and take the leap.

Vibe & style | mellow your mind

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filous, your music blows me away.  It’s incredible.

filous, thanks for creating and sharing this music, these mellow songs, this set that pulls out of our heads.

I don’t know if you intended to make your music ambient and chill, but either way it is beautiful.

Gosh, the more I listen to it, the more blown away I become.  I just want to sink into it.

Anyway, I was thinking about what makes me love a remix.  I think the producer primarily needs to:

  • inject or amplify the vibe
  • blend in his signature style

filous did both on point.

Here’s why.  Let me preface this with – great music isn’t formulaic.  I don’t love these songs because they got each of these components down.  I love these songs because – quite simply – they appeal to me.  So take this all with a grain of salt.

The vibe

Let’s take filous’ remix of Jose Gonzalez’s Heartbeats [1].  This is a song that already conveys so much emotion and somehow so much tranquility.  filous sets the mood in the intro even before Heartbeats’ original intro blends in – before we even realize it’s Heartbeats at all.  Then he builds into Heartbeats and showcases pure wonder.  This is Heartbeats taken one step further; it has more character than ever, and feels more magical than ever.

My favorite part of filous’ remix is the syncopation during the “chorus,” when Gonzalez sings, “One night to be confused, one night to speed up truth.”  The beat between words catches you.  You don’t hear that very often.

On the opposite spectrum, you’ve got RAC’s Tear You Down [2], a bouncy, almost 80s-esque indie song.  It’s a fun song.  filous gives it a different mood, making it a little more mellow and borderline yearning, with the tenuto notes in the background echoing until they fade away.  Compare and contrast – you’ll see the difference within the first couple of seconds.

There’s also a beat in between beats in this song.  Look for it!

The style

When you hear a song, you can usually identify the artist by the voice of the singer or the style of the song.  Something is always recognizable[3].  When a producer remixes a song, they brand themselves, because every musical taste is slightly different.  They have some differentiating factor, and intentional or not, it’s there.  It’s an art.

filous has that something special.  It’s kind of a peaceful quality, like what you would imagine when someone sighs, a mellow, relaxing, wonderful feeling.  It reminds me of Robert Miles’ Children (you’ll find the vibe is relatively similar).  Listen to all of the above songs.  You’ll hear it, this style I’m trying and failing to describe.  Above all, though, it may even be best exemplified in their remix of The Glitch Mob’s Our Demons (which also is an insanely beautiful example of filous turning the original vibe 180 degrees).

Our Demons [4] is a fast-paced original with a rush of activity – it almost seems panicked, desperate, and a little furious.  Filous makes it into ambiant music you’d want to listen to on a gloomy grey day, or while you work, or all the time.  I have no words here.  Just listen.

***

[0] filous is 17 years old.  Let that also blow your mind.

[1] Jose Gonzalez’s original Heartbeats

[2] RAC’s original Tear You Down

[3] For example, when I first heard We Are Young and Carry On by Fun., I thought to myself how the singer sounds so incredibly similar to the singer in The Format.  Ever hear the Format?  They weren’t super popular back then, but they had some great songs (Check The First Single / You Know Me or Snails or Tune Out).  I was pretty addicted to them back in the early 2000s.  Anyway, when Fun. came out with their huge hits, I was confused — then enlightened: turns out the lead singer is the same guy.

[4] Glitch Mob’s original Our Demons

Mixing it up (free download)

win-and-woo (1)

Covers mashing up two hot songs are all the rage these days.

We’ve seen:

  • Louisa Wendorff & Devin Dawson’s mashup of Taylor Swift’s Style and Blank Space
  • Sam Tsui & Casey Breves’s mashup of Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud and Sam Smith’s I’m Not The Only One

…and dozens others. This is another great one: Phoebe Ryan mashing up R. Kelly and Miguel.

Tropical house is all the rage too. So Win and Woo went in, slowed down the vocals a bit, and added in some beats and some “Under the Sea” sounding steel drums.

It starts with a short low key guitar intro and Ryan singing Ignition. Tune is the same, pace is slowed, her voice is mellow, and there’s the sweet bongo-like percussion in the background (listen for it – it’s not obvious). Then she transitions smoothly into the chorus, with lyrics from Do You and instrumentals straight out of The Little Mermaid.

You’ll notice that the original for Miguel’s Do You has a completely different tone and sound. The mashup has a new beat and melody that is just so catchy; I love what Win and Woo did with it.

For this chorus, Win and Woo created a tropical melody composed of upbeat steel drums, a tune that is unbelievably catchy and certainly pulls the mashup together even more – and Ryan’s version was already seamlessly done.

One of my favorite parts of the song is at 2:40, when Ryan switches up the song melody and takes it up a pitch before returning to the chorus. This part is a great and unexpected change of pace that just works.

Oh, who am I kidding? The whole song works. Check it out.

Some random things / observations:

  • you’ve got Phoebe Ryan’s incredibly sweet voice, and she’s asking if you like drugs and love. This amused me.  And then she exhales, “Me too, me too.” And all I want now is to be her friend… I want to love drugs and love too
  • characteristic of tropical house remixes: maybe some ocean and definitely some birds tweeting. I used to think it was just Thomas Jack’s signature, but maybe not! In this case, it’s at the beginning. It’s a nice precursor to the rest of the sunshine coming up.

Here are the mashups by Louisa Wendorff & Devin Dawson and Sam Tsui & Casey Breves. These are also fantastic.

Don’t stop believin’

avatars-000108327384-gj23cw-t500x500Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ always reminds me of college. If you went to a party, it was 100% guaranteed that it would be played, sang along with, and danced to, with as much flourish and gusto as possible. No, I wasn’t born in the ’80s; college was only a couple of years ago. But this song? It lives through the ages. It’s classic.

So you’d think it can’t get any better.

And then MYNGA proves you wrong! MYNGA, consisting of two young, metro-looking German producers and DJs, takes Don’t Stop Believin’ and puts a spin on it, adding some new dance-y beats, switching up the original guitar with piano, and throwing in some excellent electric guitar solos.

Sure, it starts off like the beginning of the song was cut off, but you quickly forget about it as it launches you into the song. It doesn’t sound very different from the original, aside from the different types of instruments, until Steve Perry of Journey sings, “It goes on and on and on and on….” and then MYNGA kicks in. I don’t know how else to describe that transition besides… if this were EDM, that moment is when the beat drops.  It’s the anticipation leading up to it, the pause, and then the spring into action.

And throughout the song, the electric guitar is just — wow! It’s careful, subtle, mellow. With all the different types of tones and sounds an electric guitar can produce, MYNGA incorporated the perfect one: one that isn’t overpowering, and one that draws you in with clean execution and clear notes.

What I love most about this version is that while giving the song a more modern feel, MYNGA preserves the timelessness of the original song with the classical instruments and without trying to use too much electronic manipulation. Don’t get me wrong, I love that tropical feel or the house beats a lot of artists are remixing into their music these days, but in this case, we don’t need either of those. I mean, it’s Journey!

And MYNGA balances old and new perfectly. It’s not a new song; it’s a fantastic remake of an old one – and you’re guaranteed to love it. Check it out.

Escape everything

Flat-Ocean

In the world we live in today, we’re surrounded by people and activity – interruption after interruption after interruption…

Sometimes people just need to kick back and relax, to be alone with their thoughts or simply sit and let their minds go.

Nick Leng and Carmody created together “Inside Your Mind,” the perfect song for you to do any or all of the above. This is ambiance music for your mind.

Ever go to the beach when skies are greyer and the shores are emptier? All you hear is the ebb and flow of the waves before they crash down at your feet and wash the sand away from around your feet, and then they rinse and repeat as you look beyond the waves at the vastness of the sea, the immensity of the skies, infinity.

That’s Carmody. Her voice ebbs and fades — then echoes. It’s beautiful and you are left with just yourself, standing there, filled with wonder.

We are always looking for our personal oasis, for bliss. Find it here.

Soak in some sun

wear-sunscreen

Oddly good.  That’s how I first described this song to a friend.  You’ll understand.

Mau Kilauea’s remix of Wear Sunscreen starts off with some guy telling you to wear sunscreen.  If you’re old enough, this will probably sound vaguely familiar – not as advice from your mom, but as part of a song by Baz Luhrmann in 1998 called, “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen).”  Luhrmann had swiped the lyrics from a journalist named Mary Schmich, who had published a piece in the Chicago Tribune, intending to provide advice as if it were a commencement speech to graduating students.  The song is simply spoken word – with Schmich’s entire column as the lyrics – set to a beat.

But what a beat!

This song draws you in.  It’s at first strange, because it doesn’t seem like a song – the guy is just speaking rhythmically.  But what he says is mesmerizing.  We absorb it.  We subconsciously try to internalize it.  We want to live the way Schmich advises us to live.  So we keep listening.

The sound the piece is set to, meanwhile, is uplifting and makes you want to dance in your living room (surprise!  Also one of the life advice offered).  It’s got Kygo’s or Thomas Jack’s tropical feel and reality’s grounding essence (the guy is talking to you, telling you, that you need to hold on to the compliments, let go of the insults, be kind to others, be kind to yourself).

It’s captivatingly funny and captivatingly real.  It’s addicting.  Take a listen and let Luhrmann’s words sink in — if you can.

Dripping like honey (free download)

One year ago, we posted about Yuna’s “Lullabies,” remixed by Adventure Club. Recently, Adventure Club’s “Gold,” which features Yuna, came up on our radar. And this beautiful Malaysian vocalist is still as magical as ever.

For “Gold,” let’s visualize.

Imagine you’re holding a ball of light, bright rays radiating through your fingertips, pulsing. Imagine it’s sunshine, and feel the warmth seeping out into your palms, then sweeping out around you.

Now listen to this.

Yuna’s voice is that warmth, crescendoing, resonating, through your body; Adventure Club’s keyboard and rising percussions accentuate each of Yuna’s words.

She’s telling you to shake it off when someone hurts you, to stay strong – and then she helps you get there. She emphasizes, energizes, and echoes. Her voice is honey in tea, swirling, melting; it embodies this sweet warmth, brings you clarity. It’s haunting. It’s beautiful. It’s empowering.

Meanwhile, Clark Kent tweaked “Gold” to ease you into your chair and watch the ocean crash below you.

With less of the electronic keyboard and escalating beats that Adventure Club employs, and more of the classical keyboard’s tones and a slower pace, Clark Kent carefully paints the sun, bursting over the horizon, dawn’s colors spreading across the sky. It’s more peaceful than the original, and yet this Superman still retains Adventure Club’s ability to emphasize the rise and fall of Yuna’s melodic voice and words, to ground you down and lift you up.

Yuna says to “stay gold.” When we are with her, it’s hard not to.

Tug on every silver thread

It never ceases to amaze me how it can just takes the first three seconds of a song for someone to identify it, decide to skip it, or fall helplessly into its embrace.

PHOX’s single “Slow Motion” captivated me as soon as it began. At first, I thought that maybe there was too much going on in the song – too many instruments, too many arpeggios, just too much. But there was something so magical about this “too much” that I couldn’t help but keep coming back.

Music can be so meditative. When too much in life is going on, the right song can help you focus and refocus, breathe and let go, ground you. That’s how “Slow Motion” wraps you around its finger. Listen to its layers. Look for one thread – one instrument – and follow it to the end of the song. Now repeat with another thread. And another and another.  You simply focus and enjoy.

PHOX, made up of six friends in Wisconsin, is a mix of a little bit of Vampire Weekend and Foxygen and definitely a lot of their own soul. Throw in different types of guitars, a xylophone, violin, trumpet, piano, whistling – and it becomes a great melange that keeps you hanging on, wondering what might come next, and knowing it’s just going to be wonderful.

With this group, there’s just so much character everywhere you look and everywhere you listen.

Slow Motion is a preview of PHOX’s album, due for release in June. After hearing just these five minutes, I can’t wait for the rest of their album to come out.

Dream of what used to be (free download)

Passenger’s Circles resonates of nostalgia. With its minor cadence patterns and an acoustic guitar melody, you would almost expect to find someone strumming in the middle of a quaint but bustling village bazaar in the early 1900s somewhere in Europe. It’s almost melancholy, as if Passenger is trying to hold on to the past.

With Elkoe’s remix, Circles becomes less nostalgic and more reflective, filled with a little bit of wondering and a lot of daydreaming. It eases into the music with a gradual crescendo and then picks up the pace, echoing Passenger’s words, creating both a sense of longing and wistfulness. And at the same time, Passenger jams in Elkoe’s remix. He no longer has his violin at hand, which added to the folky style of the original song, but in the remix, Elkoe adds something electric, as Passenger sings about carving memories into monuments, running carefree, flying kites, and seeing those days go by.

Finally, Elkoe throws in a little Emancipator to close it out – and in the reminiscence, the sun sets.

Here’s to what we remember, what we hoped for, and what we don’t want to let go.

Passenger’s music seems to have great success both as originals and as foundations for remixes. Here’s a mix by Peer Kusiv that blew up before Let Her Go made it to our radio stations.