At the end of last year, the prolific Bijou paired up with Koda (aka Jordan Sudak) to create an atmospheric gem of love and fear simply called “There”. Before the opening lyrics sung by Bijou, the original track began like a Radiohead piano ballad, dark like “Pyramid Song”. It began with a low pitch that stretched slowly into an ominous-sounding whistling wind, which bridged into light, lonely piano chords before the chilly duet begins. It’s a song sung in tandem, but comes off as lonely and distant — like a disintegrating love affair. There are some gorgeous verses, my favorite of which is this line sung by both Koda and Bijou: “I’ll stop the daylight and turn away the sun.” This time around both artists have allowed musician Fragics (aka Jay Rodger) to remix the song into something different, kicking it up a notch with warps, electronic hiccups, a new beat, and adding effects to the vocals. – David D. Robbins Jr.
George Maple has yet to release her upcoming five-song EP, “Vacant Space”, but I just wanted to post about it to help set your sights on it now. I first heard a single from the EP on the artist’s soundcloud page back in January and wrote about it. Initially, the song was labled “George Maple X Slime ‘Began to Say'”. Since then, the artist has taken it down, perhaps because she could sense, from the response, just how good a track it was and that it deserved a more official release. It’s a good move. (Though, thankfully, there’s a YouTube stream proving the beauty of its existence, quenching my urge to hear it endlessly.) The Sydney-turned-London girl has been streaming a song called “Talk Talk” as a teaser for the EP, and it’s a beauty too. Strangely, I’ve only just heard it now. The release date for “Vacant Space” had been scheduled roughly for October, but a link posted by Maple at her facebook page links to an I-Tunes pre-order with a release date in November. Maple says on facebook there will also be a hard-copy version of the record in white vinyl. So, why am I writing this? Well, maybe it only matters to me at this point, but I wanted to say that I still think what I thought back in January. After all the songs I’ve heard so far this year, “Began to Say” is about as good as it gets. Yes, it’s one of my favorite 10 tracks or so of 2014 — with its subtle ear for blending the worlds of soul and glitchy electronics with smoky lyrical rapture. “Is it all or nothing?” she intones on the stunning track. Amen. It’s clear she has many musical influences. The track reminds me of Meshell Ndegeocello. There’s something else going on here, seeping through the cracks of Maple’s soul foundation. It seems she’s like the rest of us music lovers who can dig Ella Fitzgerald as much as James Blake or Alicia Keys. It’s the fusing of popular R&B sound with eclecticism. Be on the lookout for this record, or pre-order it now at I-Tunes. Follow Ms. Maple at facebook and twitter. – David D. Robbins Jr.
It’s not a secret that I’ve been a big Cuushe fan since I first began writing about the Tokyo artist back in 2012. Last year, I listed her record, “Butterfly Case”, in the No. 9 spot for Their Bated Breath’s Best Albums of 2013 — ahead of much better known artists who also created good records, like Neko Case and Kanye West. Though she had moved to Berlin the last time I had written about her, she’s still linked to a nation who produces artists who are taking modern digital and melodic sound to a new creative level. I’ve always felt it was a revolution of sound by quiet measures. This latest single, “Do You Feel Me”, is a prime example. Ryan Hemsworth, of the Secret Songs label, an artist in his own right, released a 10-song compilation of new singles, one of which is by Cuushe. “Do You Feel Me” still features some of the familiar Cuushe lushness, but it seems she’s graduated to better production and even more creative layering of skittered beats, echoed backing vocals, dreamy child-like lead vocals and repeated phrases. It’s a beautiful, uplifting sound collage of blips, percussion, and voices. Follow Cuushe at facebook. – David D. Robbins Jr.
Liverpool’s Låpsley (aka Holly Lapsley Fletcher) is streaming a seductively soulful new track, “Falling Short”, via Annie Mac Presents, from off her upcoming EP due out this October. It’s a wonderfully intimate ballad punctuated by deceptively straightforward but delicate lyrics about burden, highlighted by the pulse of a piano and a deep R&B vibe: “And there’s times like these / And there’s days like these / It’s been a long time comin’, but I’m falling short.” I wrote earlier this year about another track by Låpsley that’s just as good called “Station”. She’s got a great sound. Follow at facebook, soundcloud, and twitter. Note: Lyrics are unofficial. Artwork is a manipulation of a photo from the artist’s facedbook page. – David D. Robbins Jr.
Mick Jenkins was born in Alabama, but it appears his real learning came growing up in Chicago, a city quickly earning its rise in the rap game with talents like Chance the Rapper, Chief Keef , Alex Wiley and Jean Deaux. Jenkins delivers his third work, “Water[s]“, following 2012’s bandcamp release, “The Pursuit of HappyNess: The Story of Mickalascage.” and his 2014 17-song mix-tape called “Trees And Truths”. This latest project features guests Deaux, No Name Gypsy, The Mind, Ebony and Joey Bada$$. The mixtape was produced by a gang of folks, including OnGaud (back from “Trees and Truths”) and DJ Dahi, who was part of the team that helped to produce Kendrick Lamar’s 2012 breakout “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City”. Jenkins’ mix-tape takes the metaphor of water and pours it across all the tracks: You can find it in some of the song titles like “Dehydration”, “The Waters”, and the transporting opener “Shipwrecked”. There’s also the sound of waves on the beach, lyrics about dying of thirst, and the simple spoken-word intro to “THC” announcing a simple message: “Drink more water.” This approach is interesting because it’s not forced, but rather sprinkled. A listener could apply it to the usual rapper conceit of the record being the musical oasis in a supposed desert of pretenders. But there are deeper thoughts here than that. Water is life. And as Jenkins sings, water is what makes up the majority of the content of the human body. In short, we are water. So, maybe the implication is that giving a record that title is another way of saying everything contained within it is life. “Water[s]” flows all over the place thematically. The song “Vibe” is about getting below the veneer of people and finding out what they’re really about and smoking pot to get there. “Jazz” is an ode to the old greats, where Jenkins rhymes by name: “Talkin’ all that jazz / Talk your shit nigga / That Coltrane / That Charlie Parker / That Charles Mingus / That Frank Sinatra / Talkin’ all the jazz.” The mix-tape also seems to balance between the highly melodic jazzy and R&B-influenced kind of songs like “Comfortable” (maybe the best cut), and harder, edgier, pulsing, rough tracks like “Dehydration and “Jerome”. I prefer the chill, poetic stuff. But stream the album for yourself at the artist’s soundcloud page. – David D. Robbins Jr.