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Artist of the Week: Vote for Your Favorite

by Suzy Exposito | 2 days ago
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Who was your favorite featured artist this week? You have until 11am EST next Friday to cast your vote for the next Artist of the Week! Choose between the following:

Communions

You are who you hang out with — or are you? Communions heavily haunt Mayhem, the same Copenhagen practice and performance space as two of the city’s most celebrated yet controversial acts: Lower and Iceage. In any niche rock ‘n’ roll scene, however, there can still be variety — even if its musicians are pals and overlap on multiple projects. And this young group is proof of that.

XO

If a trend exists in the United Kingdom’s numerous sonically-rich electronic music scenes, it would seem to be that its artists are getting younger and younger. So it is with XO, AKA Sunil Heera, a 19-year old electronic music producer who is making music that belies his tender age. The velocity of his ascent is matched only by the astonishing fact that he has no formal musical background. Equipped with a laptop, XO launched himself as bedroom producer with tracks like 2011′s “Golden” and 2013′s “No Scrubs.”

Barf Troop

Is Barf Troop just another long-running, obscure internet joke? It might be only that, if it weren’t also possible that this DIY collective of teen girl MCs may be one of the next best things to happen in hip-hop. Like many young bands cropping up these days, Barf Troop’s origin story begins with Tumblr. Spread far across the United States, a small group of internet friends decided it was time for a feminist version of Odd Future — and it would be them.

Duppy Gun

Duppy Gun is a project that unites two very different worlds, and the result — Duppy Gun Productions Volume 1 — in turn sounds like nothing ever produced in either. The 16-track LP, out now on Stones Throw, is the brain child of LA-based Cameron Stallones — also known for his hazy, hallucinatory Sun Araw project — and synthesizer psychonaut M. Geddes Gengras. It offers a wide-reaching taste of “outer-orbit dancehall selections,” as the duo describes it, driven by the unusual pairing of experimental American producers with singers and emcees from Jamaica.

Tei Shi

Tei Shi slowly slunk into the blogosphere last year with her sonically nuanced debut EP, Saudade, which dripped with lusciously layered harmonies offset by minimal production. Growing up in various countries (born in Argentina and raised in Colombia before emigrating to Canada), Tei Shi’s nomadic upbringing influenced her to create music that is deeply introspective — a way to find herself among the diverse cultures she has experienced.


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Song of the Year: It Had to Be 2NE1′s “Gotta Be You”

by MTV Iggy | 4 days ago
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The results of our 2014 Song of the Year poll are in and, naturally, it had to be 2NE1′s “Gotta Be You.” It’s fitting since the trap/house song and its bold pop art meets fashion video combined all the things we loved in 2014 (like those Jeremy Scott sweaters) and reconfirmed that 2NE1 really is the best. The fans have spoken. Congrats to 2NE1 and all the loyal Blackjacks who voted.

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Artist of the Week: Vote for Your Favorite

by Suzy Exposito | 10 days ago
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Who was your favorite featured artist this week? You have until 11am EST next Friday to cast your vote for the next Artist of the Week! Choose between the following:

Arooj Aftab

The first time Arooj Aftab sang in public as a high-schooler in Lahore, Pakistan, something clicked and she started to feel like she was flying out of her body. She hasn’t repeated that experience much since then, but she’s managed to make the same sensation possible for listeners on her new release, Bird Under Water. Comprised of Aftab’s original music set mostly to her own loose take on ancient Sufi poetry, Bird Under Water completely re-contextualizes Pakistani/North Indian classical forms like thumri, khayal, and kafi.

Nesbeth

Nesbeth echoes similar sentiments to his predecessors like Bob Marley and Burning Spear, with chants about the edification and empowerment of his community with enthusiasm. His plaintive and soulful tone evokes Gregory Isaacs’s suave voice. However, his occasionally pungent vocal delivery is sparked with big emotion and a touch of dancehall. He does this by sharing his past experiences of hardships and struggle he experienced in his poverty-stricken hometown, Arnett Gardens, which eventually inspired is astute songwriting.

Celebrine & Alien Delon

Russian duo Celebrine & Alien Delon sound like they’ve taken more than a few hedonistic headlong dives through Moscow nightclubs. Like Karin Dreijer Andersson doing dance music, the band’s dark tunes don’t skimp on the surprises while still managing to double down on the emotion. Packed within each of their mini pop opuses is a sea of swells and 808 grooves that come bundled with haunting tonal experiments and otherworldly production choices (Oh, the glorious reverb!) that often echo the best of the 1980s.

Mick Jenkins

Full of jazz, soul, and street smart wisdom, Mick Jenkins is a deep-voiced 23-year-old thought-provoking rapper who pours a heap load of empathy into each track he makes. Like Kendrick Lamar, he has the ability to rap with the best of today and still infuse “conscious” and “responsible” messages into his music and his sound features both hardcore rap influences and marked propensity toward foot-tapping hooks.

Fernando Lagreca

Fernando Lagreca’s music isn’t going to jump out at you — there are no thunder claps or over-the-top drops. Instead of brute, dance-pop force, or club-ready bangers, the Uruguay-born, Barcelona-based artist takes a more subtle approach on his new album Control, gently coupling Italo disco worthy synths with oceans of chillwave-style reverb, and layering hypnotic house passages with wistful, dream pop vocals.


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Artist of the Week: Vote for Your Favorite

by Suzy Exposito | 17 days ago
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Who was your favorite featured artist this week? You have until 11am EST next Friday to cast your vote for the next Artist of the Week! Choose between the following:

Omnipotent Youth Society

With ballads that alternate between clean acoustic strumming and soulful strings with gut-wrenching guitar solos and poignant trumpet lines, Shijiazhuang’s Ominpotent Youth Society unravel stories of life in dead-end cities, merging dark poetry with kitchen sink realism and images of the wasted urban landscape. The lyrics — among OYS’s stronger points — are largely written by their bassist Ji Geng and delivered by guitarist/vocalist Dong Yaqian, whose clear tenor lends the songs a mournful, understated tone that, in their better moments of poetry, can be devastating.

Charlie Belle

In an age when the kids are mostly into hashtags or uploading selfies, there is a band of teenagers that is performing at Austin City Limits, getting shout outs on national publications for their bedroom rock covers and about to release an EP — before any of them turns 17. Charlie Belle is fronted by 16-year-old guitarist and songwriter Jendayi Bonds, who plays alongside her younger brother, Gyasi Bonds, on drums and Zoe Czarnecki, on the bass.

Un Planeta

Argentina is well known for birthing rock icons like Soda Stereo, Babasónicos, and Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, and Buenos Aires-based Un Planeta just might be the next Cerati. Although we recently learned about the band’s existence, it’s obvious they have the potential to become great, as they have already crafted a sophisticated electro rock sound that shows wisdom beyond their recent four years as band.

Gui Amabis

For his sophomore release, Gui Amabis shed his producer persona to walk in the shoes of a singer-songwriter. A departure from his last project, which featured assorted voices and perspectives, Trabalhos Carnivoros is Amabis’ most introspective work to date. Still, he remains true to Tropicália’s feral eclecticism and its penchant for devouring all things foreign and familiar for the sake of re-birthing something wildly innovative.

Santa Cruz

Whatever your feelings on Whitesnake, Finland’s Santa Cruz may just grab you by the balls. This new generation of wild beasts comes at you with dirty, hard rock à la Guns N’ Roses, unruly yet impossibly glossy hair, loose morals, and a touch of glam. Formed by Archie, Johnny, Midday, and Taz, these “relentless renegades” claim influence from Skid Row, Aerosmith, GNR, and Mötley. It’s not just an image; these Finns love to live life on the edge.


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Artist of the Week: Vote for Your Favorite

by Suzy Exposito | 24 days ago
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Who was your favorite featured artist this week? You have until 11am EST next Friday to cast your vote for the next Artist of the Week! Choose between the following:

Agent Lexie

Born on the island of Jamaica and based in Germany, this singer-songwriter is a world-traveled entertainer. Having played in over 25 countries, it is no wonder she’s able to pull from many different cultures to create a progressive sound of her own. A genre-defying artist, Agent Lexie started her journey as a musician in Los Angeles with LMFAO producer GoonRock in 2006. A few years on and she is flying solo and taking dancehall to another plateau.

Starwalker

Listening to Starwalker is like eavesdropping on the world’s coolest cocktail party. Which, given electro-daydream sonic pallet of its two members’ main projects (Air and Bang Gang) isn’t wholly unexpected. But with their new collaboration, Jean-Benoît Dunckel and Bardi Johannsson have taken casual cool to the next level, with plenty sinuous synths and Dunckel’s flatfooted vocal deliveries drifting skyward like Gauloises smoke.

French for Rabbits

Just try to be stressed out while listening to French for Rabbits — it’s pretty much impossible. Writer and wispy crooner Brooke Singer could abate even the angriest storm if given the chance. Whether it’s paced like a lullaby or there’s a slight skip to it, every number on her debut LP Spirits is an lesson in tranquility. Haunting works as a descriptor for all of Spirits — but only if you greet old ghosts with sentimentality, not fear.

Dai Burger

Once a backup dancer for Lil Mama in the mid ’00s, Dai Burger always knew she wanted to be the main attraction. A few years later, the leader of the Fuzzy Gang released her first musical offering titled “Mymixxxytape.” Hosted by fellow musician Junglepussy, the 12-track mixtape features lo-fi hip-hop and R&B jams heavily inspired by the ’90s. Since, Dai Burger has evolved into a kaleidoscope of rhythm. Multiple musical elements and styles have made way to her latest mixtape titled In Ya Mouf’.

Ghost Brigade

Since the band’s early days, the importance of being independent has been of utmost concern to them. “When we formed this band, we soon decided that this would be for once a band without any musical limitations,” said Naukkarien in an interview with Scratch the Surface. “In the end, all kinds of tags, genres and other people’s opinions don’t really matter.” IV: One with the Storm is also the first release for the band on their own label.



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Artist of the Week: Vote for Your Favorite

by Suzy Exposito | 30 days ago
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Who was your favorite featured artist this week? You have until 11am EST next Friday to cast your vote for the next Artist of the Week! Choose between the following:

Mitski

Singer-songwriter Mitski’s latest album, Bury Me At Makeout Creek, captures both the severe self-loathing and unwavering, childlike aspiration of underdogs everywhere. Adopting the syrupy croon of a young Patsy Cline, supplemented by the lo-fi volatility of Canadian noise pop outfit Eric’s Trip, Mitski rummages through feelings of alienation in college party scenes and barely-reciprocal romances with a devil-may-care, folk-rock abandon.

Tunacola

While many of their Chilean comrades like their dance pop with ultra-gloss and vintage synths, Tunacola prefers to create stunning kitsch pop songs with silliness and classic video-game console sounds that still have plenty of dance floor functionality. Focused around playful hip-hop verses, the Santiago-based quintet calls their über-quirky music hip-pop. Their dedication to nonstop fun was underscored last month when they channeled the Teletubbies, and frolicked around wearing onesies in their latest music video,“Danky.”

Orange Caramel

While most K-pop groups look west for their sound and fashion, Orange Caramel keeps its concept local. The trio has its retro roots in Korean trot music, which, paired with their sparkly and cartoonish look, creates a quirkier and weirder alternative to the standard K-pop girl group. You can’t really make sense of what’s going on with Orange Caramel, sound or fashion wise, using logic and everything about them screams “too much.” It’s like eating a gallon of cotton candy ice cream.

Gabriel Teodros

Teodros is a prototype of Ethiopian-American hip-hop, but his diasporic roots run deep. Claiming influences from Ethiopian music to Aretha Franklin to old school hip-hop, he is no stranger to the magic created when cultures mix. The first time Teodros crossed paths with Belay, the two shared a stage with fellow Copperwire rapper Burntface and singer Meklit Hadero at Addis Acoustic Jazz Night in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. When visiting Fendika later in 2011, Teodros found everything he loves about American hip-hop present in his ancestral home: “the poetry, humor, politics, dance, outcasts — and above all, the sense of community.”

Christopher Ellis

Christopher Ellis is a big deal. He may be a relative newcomer when it comes to his participation in old school reggae, but he’s been immersed in it his whole life. As the son of Alton Ellis, AKA the Godfather of Jamaican Rocksteady, this London-born reggae singer echoes the legacy of his late father with his rich bellowing vocal style and gripping one-drop reggae rhythms. He resurrects the rocksteady sounds of his Jamaican heritage with a lover’s rock kind of lyricism, and adds a contemporary soul-R&B twist.


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Perfume’s Sweet Techno Beats Move NYC on 3rd World Tour

by Corynn Smith | 31 days ago
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Japan’s techno-pop triumvirate, Perfume, lit up NYC’s Hammerstein Ballroom in concert last Saturday, closing out their third international tour with the bang it deserved. Sold out and tightly packed, the venue’s capacity was stretched to the limit; It was one of those shows where you wondered in the back of your mind if the mezzanine was going to fall from everyone jumping together. It was awesome.

Perfume’s A~CHAN, KASHIYUKA, and NOCCHi, were both adorable and badass with their soft, high voices and razor sharp performances, brought their EDM-heavy discography to glorious life without once losing their edge to fatigue or complacency. Perfume doesn’t play around when it comes to performances, as they’ve mentioned to us before. They firmly believe that live shows are an artist’s true stomping ground, and since their policy is to literally be the only three people on stage at any moment, they stomp it hard. It probably also helps that every atom of energy they display onstage is returned a hundred-fold from their hyped up fans, creating this perpetual cycle of excitement. Once science figures out how to harness that, we could probably serve the energy needs of small nations on Perfume concerts alone.

Ayano Omoto, "NOCCHi"

A remix of euphoric synthpop tune “Spring of Life” was the first track of the night and a marvel to finally see in person with all the precise hops and robot-like motions. It seems almost impossible for them to stay in lockstep for the whole song, much less an entire concert after that.

“Synchronization!” said KASHIYUKA at the pre-concert interview, when asked what Perfume cares most about onstage. “We three must synchronize. That’s the most important thing.” Yes, definitely important: Thanks to Mikiko, the choreographer who jumped on board back in 2003 around the same time as genius producer Yasutaka Nakata, Perfume’s moves are defined by high-impact, interlocking sequences that require perfect timing and concentration. One wrong turn, and someone could get a knuckle to the face or a sharp heel to the shin.

Perfume’s only English single, “Spending All My Time,” apparently takes the crown as the group’s most challenging choreo to date, but not because it was exhausting. “It’s not about the body movements — it’s the hands. It’s like a puzzle,” A~CHAN mused when asked about the dance she had trouble learning, “We only have two hands, but it was difficult. I just couldn’t get figure it out.”

Hammerstein wasn’t by any means the largest stage Perfume has performed on (hello, Tokyo domes), but the group made excellent use of the space thanks to tech direction by Daito Manabe of Rhizomatiks. Part of the creative team behind Perfume’s famous projection-mapping performance at the 2013 Cannes Lions International Festival, Manabe complimented Perfume’s electric performance with oscillating lasers for “Glitter” and “Fake It” to perfectly-timed lightsaber pulses during “Game.”

Ayaka Nishiwaki, "A~CHAN"

In addition to Perfume’s standard hyper-tech stage equipment, the venue was also rigged up with cameras that pulled double duty: Capturing the action for the group’s upcoming tour DVD and live-streaming the show straight to select movie theaters in Tokyo and Hong Kong. The idea of fans lining up halfway around the world for 4 am dance party only ramped up the excitement Stateside. After all, some of us had been waiting nearly a decade for Perfume to grace the US with their blessed LED light, and now we were actually going to participate in their global event. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Every stop on Perfume’s World Tour 3rd boasted a unique set list mostly composed of re-arranged tracks from their latest album, Level 3, but also notably including a tailored song for the local crowd (for example, a cover of Crayon Pop’s “Bar Bar Bar” when the trio took South Korea last month). LA and NYC’s special treat was Frozen’s “Let It Go,” complete with a hilarious “freezing” dance and Elsa’s storm off at the end.

Yuka Kashino, "KASHIYUKA"

The treats were not limited to concertgoers, though! A talk break revealed just how much fun the trio were having in the Big Apple that weekend, with A~CHAN waxing poetic about our bagels and cupcakes and turning “Bagel! Cupcake!” into an interactive game with the fans. Even the ever-cool NOCCHi felt it necessary to mention in our interview that NYC bagels were, in fact, where it’s at. (Hear that, Japan? Our bagels are the shit, so send your pop groups over more often! It’s not for us — it’s for them.)

The last hurrah before the encore may have been “Polyrhythm,” the addictively-repetitive track that gave Perfume their first major US exposure on the Cars 2 soundtrack. But, alas, it was their techno-house banger “Party Maker” that really set the crowd off just a few songs before. About a minute into the music, the trio’s signature, near-emotionless vocals (ordered specifically by Nakata so the audience can attach their own feelings to Perfume’s music) gave way to one of the sickest beats you’ll hear out of Japan this year. One of the girls screamed “JUMP!” just before club-like chaos ensued. In the madness I forgot who it was, but she didn’t have to tell me twice.

Photos courtesy of Universal J

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Fuse ODG is Not Buying Band Aid 30 (And He’s Right)

by Suzy Exposito | 32 days ago
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Since 1984, popular artists in the UK and Ireland have convened each Christmas as Band Aid, the supergroup behind the charity single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” Sir Bob Geldof, former lead singer of The Boomtown Rats, founded the project and initially penned the song  in order to describe the plight of Ethiopians suffering famine during the holidays. Recorded each year with a new lineup, the proceeds go to anti-poverty efforts in various African countries. Now in its 30th anniversary, Geldof rewrote his iconic song in light of the ongoing Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

Geldof recruited UK-born, Ghanaian-raised Afrobeats pioneer Fuse ODG to join the supergroup; but two days before the recording, the “T.I.N.A. (This Is New Africa)” singer bowed out of the project. In a profound op-ed published in The Guardian, Fuse ODG explains why he turned down Band Aid this year:

“Saying no to Bob Geldof was hard. But when I saw how negatively the lyrics portrayed Africa I had no choice… I, like many others, am sick of the whole concept of Africa – a resource-rich continent with unbridled potential – always being seen as diseased, infested and poverty-stricken. In fact, seven out of 10 of the world’s fastest growing economies are in Africa… I’ve performed in two of the three countries currently hit by the Ebola crisis, where I have friends and loyal fans, and will be donating the proceeds from my next single to help tackle this issue.”

You can read his op-ed in its entirety here. Watch the video for “T.I.N.A.” below:

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